Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Sewing The Seventies: Make 3 – More on Burda “Dusty” Dress

I was just looking through all the posts from my Sewing The Seventies makes and remembered that I hadn’t written a proper post about my third make the Burda “Dusty” dress. And because this is my first garment for the Burda Challenge I thought I’d better write a proper post.

The “Dusty” dress was published in the Burda 70s vintage edition last year. Does anyone know what this dress could be called? I’ve thought it might be a pinafore dress, because of the lack of a back, but that doesn’t really provide a good description of it.

Seventies Dress (Burda)

I was glad that I made a toile of this dress. I don’t usually make toiles, because I have found that I tend to make the same adjustments on all my makes and therefore a quick check that certain measurements, for example, the width across the back are adequate, I’m usually happy with the fit. However, I was scared of this pattern! It looks so different from anything else I’ve sewn, and I wanted to get the fit right. The toile gave me more confidence over the fit and also made it possible to mark some button and button-hole markings on the pattern, which didn’t exist for my size on the pattern traced from the magazine.

The construction was relatively easy, but the instructions needed re-reading a few times. I’m still a little confused about the step to tidy up the side seams; how should I secure the front facing where it joins the side seam at the waist? I actually haven’t completed this step as I keep on considering the fit of the skirt and wondering whether I need to take the skirt side-seams a little. So much for doing the toile! I suspect the fact that there weren’t button and button-hole markings for my size didn’t help here. I’ll probably give the dress another wear and come to some conclusions on this.

The fabric I had chosen sadly, frayed rather badly. I wish I’d finished the edges as soon as I’d cut out the pieces, because just manipulating the fabric just resulted in more fraying. This made the hand-sewing of the facings at the shoulder seams quite tricky and I’m still not convinced this is as neat as I would like.

Shoulder Facing Finish

Shoulder Facing Finish

With this in mind, I decided to use bias-binding to finish the skirt hem. This way any unfinished edges would be fully enclosed and wouldn’t present any fraying problems.

Hem Detail

Hem Detail

Burda Dusty Dress

Side View Dusty Dress

Here’s the unusual back view. Personally I think it looks best from the front and actually I’ve mostly been wearing it with a cardigan over the top anyway.

Dusty Dress Back View

I’ve worn the dress in combination with my deep purple shirt quite a few times now and it’s a combination I like for a day in the office. I do wish I had a non-bulky turtle-neck top that I could wear it with. I think this would be a good outfit for cold days and we’ve had a few of those lately.

Dusty Dress


Sewing The Seventies: 1974

Before I forget, I have had a few queries about this challenge on instagram. The hashtag to use is #SewingTheSeventies2018.

Today marks 1974, a very turbulent year – the Three-Day Week, two general elections, a state of emergency in Northern Ireland and numerous Provisional Irish Republican Army bombings on mainland Britain.

The Three-Day week was introduced by the Conservative Government of Edward Heath as a measure to conserve electricity during another period of industrial action. The coal miners were already on “work-to rule” and threatening all-out strike action. The measures involved cutting electricity to only three days a week to conserve coal and other fuel stocks. There was also an ongoing oil shortage caused by an embargo by members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) targeting nations supporting Israel during the recent Yom Kippur War.

Three Day Week

Three Day Week

The minutes of the cabinet meeting on 3rd December 1973 [1] bring home the seriousness of the situation:

“If demand for all sources of fuel remains at its present level – a very serious situation would arise in early February. There would be widespread electricity disconnections and some oil consumers would be without supplies for a period……This paper considers measures to reduce demand for all types of fuel so as to postpone the date at which this situation would arise and so as to minimise the damage to industrial production and the distribution of essential goods, to reduce hardship to individual firms and companies and to avoid gross inequities, but yet to bring home to the public the seriousness of the position and the need for all measures of conservation.”

The measures also “prohibited the use of electricity for display lighting and flood lighting and for the heating of commercial and other similar premises” There was also “an anti-hoarding Order.”

The good news is that heating in the home will not been restricted: “Orders to limit the use of domestic heating, seem to be unenforceable, even if we took the undesirable step of taking powers of forceable entry into people’s homes. But the importance of savings on the domestic front makes it essential that there should be further appeals for voluntary co-operation in the home

Even parliament were not excused from the restrictions:

“THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL said that in the interests of electricity saving, and in order to ease the travelling problems of Members and of Parliamentary staff, it was desirable to consider proposing some temporary changes in Parliamentary hours.”

At a cabinet meeting on 24th January 1974, with the industrial action entering its 4th week, the cabinet discussed the possibilities of relaxing the electricity restriction and returning to a five-day week. It was strongly argued that the restriction could not be endured much longer and “many companies, large and small, would soon be in difficulties, and this could have wide repercussions throughout the economy.”

However the government didn’t want to appear they were relenting to pressure from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

“Relaxation now, would be seen as a sign of weakness on the part of the Government: the miners would be encouraged in their resolve, since a relaxation would be taken as firm evidence that the economy could not stand a three-day week and that the Government, rather than impose even harsher measures, would quickly settle with them. Public opinion would almost certainly see relaxation in face of the risk of a strike as an act of great imprudence.”

No decision was made by the Cabinet at that meeting and on 7 February, Heath called an election for 28 February. [2]

On 10 February, the miners went on strike and the three-day week continued. The general election resulted in a hung parliament. Labour formed a minority government and brought and end to the strike and the three-day week in March.

Private Eye Cover Feb 1974

Private Eye Cover Feb 1974

Meanwhile, the newly formed Northern Ireland Assembly with a power-sharing executive made up of unionists and nationalists was dissolved. The government re-established direct rule over Northern Ireland  after declaring a state of emergency.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) continued its campaign of violence with extensive bombings on the British Mainland. In June, a bomb exploded at the Houses of Parliament in London.

In October, the Provisional IRA (a sub-group of the IRA) planted bombs in pubs in Guildford frequented by British Army Personnel, killing 5 people. In the following month, 21 people were killed and many others injured in the Birmingham pub bombings. 

A second general election was called in October and resulted in a narrow victory for Harold Wilson, giving Labour a majority of three seats.

I’m not been very adventurous with my clothing choice today and have just gone for my Burda dress and purple shirt, just like Saturday’s (1972) outfit.

I did try today to make a pack lunch improvement. I bought some ryvita and took the remains of the Avocado chilled soup and the cottage cheese to use as dips. I do seem to remember that ryvita was a definitely beloved of dieters in the seventies, which might explain why it really wasn’t a filling lunch.


Packed Lunch

This evening, we are experiencing a power cut. We’re eating our dinner by candlelight [3]. But we’re all cheered up by the Eurovision Song Contest which is held in Brighton this year. It was won by the Swedish group ABBA with their song “Waterloo”.

Abba Eurovision

Abba performing Waterloo at the Eurovision Song Contest

[1] Cabinet meeting 3rd December 1973

[2] Cabinet meeting 5th February 1974

[3] A collection of photos from 1974 with employees working by candlelight and queuing for bread



Sewing The Seventies: 1972

I was browsing through twentieth-century history books on the internet the other day and I was struck by how pessimistic the titles of the books on the 1970s are; When the Lights Went Out, Mad As Hell and State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain. All the book titles shout gloom and chaos. Compare these to the positive titles for the surrounding decades – Never Had It So Good (the 1960s), or Promised You a Miracle: Why 1980-82 Made Modern Britain. The next few years in the seventies are going to be rather turbulent.

One of the most significant events of “The Troubles”, the name given to the conflict in Northern Ireland, which started in the late 1960s occurs in 1972. On 30 January, British soldiers shot unarmed civilians during a peaceful protest march in Derry. Fourteen people died. Many of the victims were shot while fleeing from the soldiers and some were shot while trying to help the wounded. It was the highest number of people killed in a single shooting incident during the conflict. As reported by Mr Michael Canavan of the Derry Citizens’ Central Council at the time “It was impossible to say who fired first. Personally I am sure it was the army, but it doesn’t really matter. What was so terrible and so tragic was that the soldiers fired into a huge crowd of people, and fired indiscriminately at that. The death toll must show us that their firing was indiscriminate.” [1]

This Sunday became known as Bloody Sunday. It increased Catholic and Irish nationalist hostility towards the British Army and exacerbated the conflict in Northern Ireland. A tribunal into the events took place shortly afterwards, but was widely regarded as a whitewash. A public inquiry, started in 1998 was eventually published after 12 years. [2]

In his speech to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the inquiry’s report contained “shocking conclusions to read and shocking words to have to say.” He stated “what happened should never, ever have happened”and apologised on behalf of the British Government. The Troubles continued throughout the seventies. The Good Friday agreement brought a measure of peace that previously had not known, but there are repercussions that continue to be felt to this day.

Simultaneously, in the early months of 1972 coal miners begin a strike which lasts for seven weeks. Other workers strike in solidarity with the miners. Railway workers refuse to transport coal and power station workers refuse to handle the coal. The government declare a state of emergency on 9th February as power shortages emerge and there is a cold snap in the weather. The lights turn off on 16th February. The Central Electricity Generating Board announces that homes and businesses are to be without electricity for up to nine hours a day. [3]


1972 Miners' Strike

1972 Miners’ Strike

In the afternoon, we settled down with popcorn to watch our film, The Poseidon Adventure, which was released in 1972. It’s a watery disaster movie about a group of passengers struggling to escape when their ocean liner completely capsizes at sea. Both Mr Steely and I had seen it before, but Master Steely who had not, gave it the thumbs up. There’s lots of action and he found it sad that not all the group survived.

The Poseidon Adventure

The Poseidon Adventure

And then the lights go out and we need to bring the tea lights out……Good job that we have a gas cooker and not an electric one.

Our dinner today was very much enjoyed by all. In fact I would go as far as saying that this recipe is one that I will make again – Smoked Haddock and Cottage Cheese Flan. I can say that cottage cheese has not been on my shopping list for years, but a good proportion of the recipes in the book seem to include it, I wonder why?

Smoked Haddock and Cottage Cheese Flan

Smoked Haddock and Cottage Cheese Flan

Today I wore my Burda 1970 dress again. This time I wore it with a purple shirt made with Simplicity 5196 from last year. I think this is a good combination.

Burda Dusty Dress

[1] Contemporary account in the Guardian newspaper

[2] Public Inquiry into Bloody Sunday in the Guardian newspaper

[3] The Miners’ Strike in Wikipedia


Sewing The Seventies: 1970

Today I embark on my voyage through the seventies. Each day over the next ten I will be writing a 1970s-themed post, each one based on a year in the decade, starting with 1970 today. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the food, music, TV and current affairs and anything else that grabs my attention while I experience my time slip back nearly four decades. And of course, I will be wearing items from my 1970s wardrobe.

So, 1970. I have one serious problem with 1970 and that is that I don’t have any legal tender. In 1970 the currency in the UK was pounds, shillings and pence. My work-around was that I wouldn’t spend any money in the shops today. This was fine in principle being a work day and the only thing I usually buy is some lunch. In the 1970s it just wasn’t possible to pop into the supermarket for some sandwiches anyway, so unless you were planning to eat in a tea shop or pub, you would take a packed lunch to work.

Old Money

However, over the weekend I developed toothache and ended up having an emergency dental appointment this morning. So, I had to go modern and pay for that, with a debit card! Unfortunately, the wisdom tooth problem isn’t fixed (at least not yet), which isn’t great and I’m trying to feel enthusiastic against slightly masked tooth pain. Anyway, I’m going to do my best with how things are. By the way, my appointment cost £20.60 (or £20 12s)

A simple Purchasing Power Calculator would say the relative value is £1   9s   0d. This answer is obtained by multiplying £20 12s   0d by the percentage increase in the RPI from 2016 to 1970. [1]

To be honest that’s a pointless calculation given that going to the dentists was actually completely free in 1970!

I’ve now made my packed lunch. I’m going to make something fairly boring that I know will fit in the time period; a cheese sandwich, a packet of crisps (Walkers), two small satsumas and two Club biscuits. The crisps and biscuits are both brands that were available in the 1970s and are still around today. What a dull looking lunch by today’s standards! I’m going to try to come up with something more exciting for my next work day on Monday.

1970 Packed Lunch

Packed Lunch

And here’s what those branded products would have looked like in 1970:

Walkers Crisps and Club Biscuits

Club Biscuits and Walkers Crips Packaging from the 1970s

I haven’t got an extensive seventies-style wardrobe yet, but I think it is only fair to start by wearing the items that come from the earliest patterns in my collection. This is my newly finished pinafore dress:

Burda Dusty Dress

The dress is a Burda pattern from 1970, so I’m wearing the latest fashion here! I’ve just paired it with a plain camel-coloured long-sleeved t-shirt and boots. The t-shirt is a shop-bought item from my wardrobe, but it is very plain and hopefully therefore in keeping with the era. I’ll write a separate post about the dress soon.

Obviously, at work I’m going to be doing my normal stuff, which involves time spent on the computer. I do attend meetings and use the telephone too. I work mostly with databases and at the beginning of the 1970s the types of databases I am using would generally have been hand-written on index cards. My job is therefore quite different from its equivalent in the past. I’m sure 1970s me would have been rifling through filing cabinets and moving piles of paper around!

I’ve finished work and I’m really hungry. The pack lunch didn’t really sustain me for the whole day and worse I have no currency to spend in the shops. I can’t wait for this evening’s meal, which Mr Steely is cooking.

This evening’s entertainment is going to be some reading. I had a look in a charity shop a few weeks ago and found a stack of books from the 1970s. I was particularly looking for a book published during the era and also set in the decade. Anyway, I picked out Voices in an Empty House by Joan Aitkin. It’s a story about a search, against time, for a boy who has been kidnapped. I’ll let you know how I get on.



Sewing The Seventies: Make 3 – Burda “Dusty” Dress

This time last year Burda brought out one of their special vintage editions and this time it focused on the fashions of the seventies. Of course, I had to buy this, but I didn’t make anything from the magazine last year. I have to say that my initial reaction to the magazine was disappointment. The designs are all rather extreme and I wasn’t taken with any of them. Add to that the bizarre fabric choices for the “modern” interpretations of the designs, which virtually without exception seem to be shiny or metallic. So, I just slotted the magazine onto my sewing shelf in the bookcase and there it stayed. However, since then I happened to look at the Burda site and found that Elpida had made the “Dusty” dress and the “Meryl” cape from the magazine. What a difference a change of fabric makes to a design! The “Dusty” dress with the shorter length suddenly leaped to the top of my to-do list.

Seventies Dress (Burda)

The Original Dusty Dress

Dusty Dress (Burda)

The Modern Dusty Dress

As with most Burda patterns there isn’t a great deal of guidance on fabric choice. It states “Lightweight fabrics with some body”. I decided to use this medium-weight navy cotton/linen blend. My intention is that just like the “modern” version in the magazine, it will be worn over a shirt or sweater. It did take me quite some time to figure out how much fabric I needed. I didn’t want to buy the full 2.6m required by the fabric requirements stated in the pattern as I knew that making a version with a shorter skirt wouldn’t need this much. I have so much fabric left over from makes where I followed pattern envelope advice that lately I’ve been laying out pattern pieces prior to buying the fabric to get more realistic quantities.

Dusty Dress Fabric

Dusty Dress Fabric

Unusually for me I’ve decided to make a toile. The reason for this is that the garment is quite unusual in design and I haven’t got anything similar to compare it with to give me confidence about fit. I pulled out a small amount of left-over black gabardine and have cut all the three main pieces (essentially everything except the facings). I’ve sewn these up and felt that the fit was fine.

I have some criticism of the pattern though. Being an unusual design, it isn’t always easy to look at the pattern pieces and realize their orientation in relation to the finished garment. Plus, being a Burda pattern you have to add seam allowances, so it would have been great to have a little more guidance concerning which edges of the piece were to be placed on the fold. I found myself putting seam allowance on all my edges before I realized what I was doing. I’ve added some extra markings on my pattern pieces to make sure I cut the pieces out correctly. Add to this that the only button and button-hole markings are for the smallest size only, you have to add the rest yourself.

I’m hoping that once I’ve got the fit right and done my cutting out that this will actually be quite a quick and easy make. Or am I missing something here, as this pattern is described as “Advanced” by Burda on the website?

This is my first Burda make of the year and therefore finally, although it’s near the end of February, I’m actually making something for the Burda Challenge!