Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

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April 2019 Travels in California

I didn’t get much time for making during April, but I did do quite a bit of travelling. Whilst I usually limit myself to craft related exploits on here, I did visit some beautiful places and I thought I’d share some of the photos I took. Enjoy.

San Francisco bay


Alcatraz island

Western Railway Museum

Near Suison City

Near Suison City

Near Suison City

Wildflowers in California

Wildflowers in California

Of course, I made a visit to Britex Fabrics whilst I was in San Francisco. I was slightly perturbed when I went to their address as it was closed, but they had moved recently to a new location just around the block.

Britex Fabrics

Britex Fabrics

Anyway, I didn’t buy too much as it is a rather expensive shop, but I treated myslef to this cotton lawn and matching buttons. There are also a couple of jeans buttons in there as they do such attractive ones. Well, jeans buttons are never “pretty”, but these are as attractive as they get.




An update – Christmas party clothing plans and decluttering action

I have realized I haven’t actually written very much this month. I think the rush to get my contributions for Independent Pattern Month at The Monthly Stitch on the blog resulted in posting everything all at once, rather than the pacing that I normally do.

This post is therefore more of an update on my current makes and what I’ve been up to recently.

My current make uses a beautiful silk fabric bought from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco when I was on holiday is California back in 2015. This fabric was expensive and has intimidated me for years! It has also taken me a long time to decide what to make with it. Well, obviously it needed to be a top, given that it is just 1 1/2 yards in length, but I couldn’t decide what pattern to use.

Eventually, I plumped for Lekala #4420. This top is a popular pattern and there are quite a number of these tops posted in the projects section on the Lekala site. The design is relatively simple; long-sleeves, relaxed fit, with pleats and a keyhole at the neckline. But simplicity is probably good with a light-weight, slippery fabric, like the silk I have.


Lekala 4220 Line Drawing

Lekala 4220 Line Drawing

Lekala 4420

Cutting out has been a challenge with the fabric, but I pinned it well, and made sure all my pins were only placed in the seam allowances as the pins leave holes in the fabric.

I made a couple of changes to the pattern. First I decided to cut the front on the fold, rather than cut two separate front pieces. I also, narrowed the billowing sleeves a little. This modification seems popular and has been used here and here.

The first steps have probably been the fiddliest – making the distinctive keyhole and the pleats. I’ve needed to also make lots of bias-binding out of the silk to use for the neckline.

Lekala 4220 neckline

Lekala 4220 neckline

I’m really looking forward to wearing this top. I plan for it to be ready for the work Christmas party. Oddly, I’ve never made anything specifically for the Christmas season before. It will be a first even if it’s only a top!

Lekala 4220 neckline

Lekala 4220 neckline

My decluttering progress has been slow and painful and I think I need to refocus on this. They say that the first step towards change is “awareness” and I’ve been aware for weeks that my decluttering strategy has not been freeing up space in my wardrobe, liked I hoped it would.

As a whole, the “Disney Declutter” strategy had been perfect for characterizing my clothes, but in terms of getting me to relinquish them it hadn’t really worked. I realized I needed more immediate and focused action and a strategy that would work for a working, time-starved person!

Decluttering (12-12-12)

Decluttering (12-12-12)

I read about the 12-12-12 challenge here. The idea is to locate 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate and 12 items to be returned to their proper home. I think this is probably an American idea, so I think I can substitute “throw away” with recycle. I think placing the number 12 at the heart of this makes the challenge achievable and yet it does stretch me. I can easily locate three or four items in each category, but 12 makes me think a bit more. I also like the idea of returning items to their proper home. In my house, things do end up just lying around and this will be a good incentive for tackling this.

This weekend, I did my first run at the 12-12-12 challenge. I can’t say that I got up to 12 in each category and I didn’t just apply myself to sorting out clothing. But, I think strategy uses a far more achievable  I’ll make it an ongoing activity.








Fabric Temptation


I’ve been on holiday for the last two weeks in California. And these days no holiday is complete without a visit to a fabric store. Jess of Wardrobe Ecology kindly gave me a fantastic list of fabric stores in the Bay Area. It was such a pity I didn’t get time to visit them all and with transport limitations, Britex Fabrics, in San Francisco itself, was the easiest to see. Apparently it is a bit of a San Francisco institution, although I didn’t know anything about the store before I arrived.

The store exudes an atmosphere that reminded me of an old-fashioned department store and is spread over no less than four floors. One whole floor was devoted to notions. You cannot imagine my delight to find a whole wall of buttons.

Wall of buttons

First on my shopping list were some jeans buttons and “rivets” (as they seem to be called in the US). I have been meaning to make a pair of jeans for some time, but I don’t know anywhere that sells rivets in the UK.


Next, I went upstairs and looked at the selection of knit fabrics. I selected a Japanese tissue knit in black and aquamarine. Again, these light-weight knits are a rarity in the UK.

Finally, I made my way to the floor selling silks. Jess’s comment that this is a “high-end” fabric store was certainly spot-on. I spent a long time “fondling” a beautiful Versace silk print and trying to justify buying something at $125 a yard. Fortunately, a lady came in and decided to buy some plain green washed silk for her son’s Peter Pan costume. (Really, do people buy quality silk fabric for children’s costumes?) Anyway, I was so taken with the fabric, that I decided to get 1.5 yards of the same washed silk in blue. It will made a truly luxurious blouse.

I am very grateful to the lovely lady who engaged my son in a long chat about dinosaurs, so I could give my full attention to my purchasing decisions!

Fabric purchases at Britex

The staff were incredibly helpful and knowledgeable and the check-out experience was delightfully retro. No electronics at all, just old-fashioned cash registers and hand-written receipts. It was like stepping back in time. With my purchases packaged up in similar fashion to any designer shop, I felt I’d had a truly amazing shopping experience!