Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


#sewvintageseptember – A Very Seventies Shirt Part 2

I’ve finally finished my seventies shirt, and very seventies it is too! The fabric is a vintage fabric from the era and the pattern I used is Simplicity 5196 from 1972.

I’ve made a shirt before using this pattern, so there weren’t any surprises on the construction front and it all came together well. It took me a while to plod through making all those buttonholes and sewing the buttons on. In fact, after referring to the previous purple shirt, I discovered that I had added more buttons than the pattern calls for on that shirt. I came to the same conclusion and added another button onto the shirt. Of course, I then didn’t have enough buttons, so I had to dash to the haberdashery and secure another button.

Epaulettes on the Very Seventies Shirt

Epaulettes on the Very Seventies Shirt

I did omit the optional pocket, since I had a limited the amount of fabric. If I am going to be picky, I realised that perhaps I should have changed the construction of the button band, since it is possible to see the inside of the fabric when the shirt is undone, and the inside is a much lighter colour.

A real step back in time: Seventies shirt complete with flares

A real step back in time: Seventies shirt complete with flares

The fabric is beautifully warm and I’m really looking forward to this new cosy addition to my wardrobe.

This all brings me to my final dilemma – what should I wear with this shirt? This shirt has a completely wacky blend of colours – a moss green background with brown, purple and bright orange flowers. Yes, everything goes with jeans, but I do want to find a more imaginative pairing for this shirt.

What colours would work? I placed the shirt alongside various fabrics and other clothes. I liked the purple of this shirt, but obviously that is another shirt so I would never wear them together. My main problem is how can evaluate the colour pairings when I’m mostly limited to internet purchases. Or if I go for a more neutral colour, like the moss green, would I need to worry about the colour-matching too much? Or is it a case of trying to find online vendors who do swatches. I’ve tended to resist swatch buying as I feel that it can be expensive. Does anyone know some good online shops which do free swatches, swatch points or where I can offset the purchase of swatches against the final purchase?

Green, brown, purple and orange - only in the seventies!

Green, brown, purple and orange – only in the seventies!

All in all, my new shirt looks fine with the flared jeans, as modelled in the photos, although I feel I am almost breaking into 70s-style fancy dress. What other silhouettes would work? What style of skirt would work well with this shirt? I quite like the combination of knee-length skirt with the shirt, as shown on the pattern envelope. However, I fancy a mid-length skirt in wool to go with boots for a winter outfit.

Simplicity 5196


Pyjama trousers for me this time

This is the first make of the year – sorry, it has taken a while to post anything. There isn’t much daylight at the moment so photo opportunities are very limited.

I had bought some lovely soft brushed cotton in a red and black tartan in Birmingham at Sew Brum in 2018. I immediately made some pyjama bottoms for Mr Steely. The plan had always been to made a pair for myself as well, but I put this off as I knew that cutting a second pair of PJ trousers from the remaining fabric would be tricky. I think I must have made some sort of narrow vs wide fabric width calculation-fail when I bought this, because I felt sure I’d bought enough fabric at the time.

So time for fabric tetris – I cut the four trouser pieces, but found them rather short (think Jodie Whittaker playing Doctor Who for the look), so I decided to add extra on the bottom with the fabric on the bias.

Shorter length trousers on Doctor Who

Shorter length trousers on Doctor Who

Yep, I know, let’s face it I made a mistake, but I’m a great believer in turning a mistake into a design feature! The waistband was a combination of smaller rectangles that just about made it round my girth!

So here we are….a pair of pyjama trousers, so I can match Mister Steely. Actually, the bias cut “design feature” is handy for telling the two pairs apart too.

My pyjamas - I really dig my cute slippers too.

My pyjamas – I really dig my cute slippers too.

I think I will add either a label or perhaps a small pocket on the front of the trousers, as I have to peer down at the crotch to figure out which way round to put them on. I realise it hasn’t ever been a problem with trousers before as there is usually a fly front so that I can tell which way round it all goes. But I’m not a great fan of putting labels in things as I usually find them irritating or scratchy.

My pyjamas

My pyjamas lounging on the sofa

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Pyjama Trousers, but not for me

This post got a little delayed, but managed to sneak it’s way onto The Monthly Stitch before I got time to post it here. This is my last make of 2018 and was a xmas present for Mister Steely.

The fabric is a brushed cotton in a vibrant tartan from The Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham. I picked it up during the Sew Brum event. I bought 3 metres intending to make a pair of pyjama bottoms for both myself and Mister Steely so that we could match in sad couple fashion. However, in the midst of fabric-buying frenzy or spending too much time chatting, I didn’t note the width of the fabric. When I got home I found, it is very narrow, only just over 1 metre wide. I suspect it may be difficult to make the pyjama trousers for myself as well now. We’ll see what my tessellation powers come up with later. But for now, here’s the first pair:

Pyjama Bottoms

Pyjama Bottoms – please ignore how dusty the floor is looking. Whoops – just drawn attention to that now!

The pattern is self-drafted from an existing pair of pyjama trousers. I did find this step rather troublesome as the original pyjamas had no outer leg seams. I think this is quite weird, because, generally speaking, the sewing patterns I come across have outer leg seams and inner leg seams, sometimes some more legs seams at the front and back. I suspect this may be some attempt to make construction quicker or cheaper, but it didn’t make it easy to draft a pattern from them and actual trouser legs didn’t hang straight either, but twisted as well. Anyway, using this pair as a guide for width, length and rise, I came up with a pattern.

I have matched the pattern across the seems vertically, and made a rough attempt to make the setts run continuously around the trousers.

Possibly I’m a little fussy, but I made the inner leg seams and the crotch seams as flat felled seams. I think that this will make the pyjamas more comfortable in bed as the seams are less bulky. I fully intend to make my own pyjamas, when I get round to them, this way. The hem is hand-finished too. I made a separate waistband and threaded it with some 30 mm elastic. My other half informs me that he never likes the flies on pyjamas as he worries about revealing himself when answering the door in the morning to the postman!

My other half thinks they are very warm and comfortable. He hasn’t worn them much because it has been so mild, but this weekend looks like it will be a cold one.




Lekala #5446 and the world of custom-sized patterns

I’ve been meaning to try out a Lekala pattern for quite a while. The Lekala website allows you to enter your own body measurements and get a customised PDF pattern, designed to fit you. I generally make quite a few adjustments, particularly to tops and blouses, to get a good fit, so this seems like a fantastic idea to me.


Leakala blouse

I selected the classic blouse pattern (5446), which is a free pattern on the Lekala website.

Line Drawing

I entered the three circumference measurements (bust, waist and hips) and also made some extra adjustments. I think these adjustments are critical for me to get a good fit. To explain, I have quite wide shoulders and I find that RTW shirts and blouses that fit in other dimensions, for example, arm length, body length will be far too tight across the shoulders. this is such a problem that I haven’t bought a fitted shirt or blouse since I was a teenage and first noted this problem. I did, of course, buy a few completely oversized shirts, but these just swamped me and were very unflattering. I don’t think that circumference measurements really sort my fit problems out totally. I can adjust for circumference and the fit can still be a little tight across the back, but sometimes too loose at the front. I’m guessing that this is probably because more ease is needed across the back than the front. I suppose when we pull our shoulders forwards, the distance across the back and shoulders can increase more, than when we pull our shoulders back, which is a smaller movement. I wouldn’t say I am a fit expert, do you think that makes sense? Anyway, back to the Lekala pattern, I therefore chose to increase the shoulder width and the back width measurements. I also decreased the breast width measurement. Hopefully, this will give the same bust circumference measurement, but with more ease available at the back.

After plugging in my measurements, the Lekala website supplied me with a rather unflattering “map” of my upper body. Hmm, do I really look like that?

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 17.51.30

I’ve very pleased with the fit across the back, no tightness here at all.


I used the PDF pattern produced, but I was unsure about the back darts, which didn’t seem to be very pronounced at all. In fact, I had to flare the pattern and add a 1cm width at the bottom of each dart, just so that I could sew the dart at all. I shall have to see if I can take this into account properly with the Lekala adjustments next time. Perhaps it was because I chose not to have seam allowances added to my pattern when I ordered it. It wasn’t too much of a problem though, because I could increase the back darts easily and this was just a minimal change at the cutting out stage. The sleeves and cuffs were exactly as per the standard pattern.

The instructions on Lekala patterns are fairly minimal, but as I have made blouses before I was able to follow them. I did make a couple of changes though. Firstly, the instructions mention a front dart, which was completely absent from my pattern and the line drawing. It was a bit mysterious. I decided not to add front darts in as I was quite happy with the fit as it was anyway.

I also wasn’t completely satisfied with the way that the cuffs were added to the sleeves. It seemed a very basic method – just folding over the seam allowance to the inside, instead of binding the edge or using a placket. I decided to bind my edges with bias-binding.


The final change I made concerned the number of buttons used. When I first tried on my shirt I noticed that there was a huge amount of gaping and I felt that the shirt was really wearable. There was about 10 cm between each of the buttons / buttonholes down the front. I hurried out on a Saturday morning to buy more buttons and placed an extra three between the original button placements. Just to show how it would have looked with only the five buttons, as per the pattern, I took this photo. I hope you’ll agree that the extra buttons are a must.


Overall, I have liked my Lekala experience. The shirt is a good basic design, and I would make it again with the adjustments that I made to the sleeves, the number of buttons and the back dart. I think though that the pattern is more a blouse than a shirt pattern and I’m not sure my choice of fabric was the most suited to the design. Perhaps a floral or plain cotton lawn would have been worked well. After the voluminous shirts I bought in the past, I can truly appreciate that here is one that actually fits. I have worn the shirt on a few occasions in the last week and it is definitely a winner. It’s not often I say that after such a short period of wearing time, but I really love the shirt’s relaxed fit and the fabric is so soft.