Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Sewing The Seventies: 1973

The Farmhouse Kitchen recipe book has quite a mixture of recipes, ranging from traditional regional dishes that are centuries old to recipes tackling new ingredients. One ingredient that crops up frequently in the book is the avocado. I suppose these days we don’t tend to think of the avocado as particularly exotic, it’s been in our supermarkets for so long, but in the seventies it was relatively new. It was Marks and Spencer that first introduced avocados to the UK public in 1968. Apparently, it was introduced as an “avocado pear”, which people would eat with custard. Anyway, it seems that crimes against the avocado are still being committed in the seventies with this recipe for “Chilled Avocado Soup”. I’m slightly doubtful about the whole concept of chilled soup anyway, but this was rather weird. It is basically made from cucumber, avocado and yoghurt and is meant to be eaten with hot toast. Master Steely declined, probably wisely. Mr Steely will eat anything, but he was not impressed either. The hot toast was enjoyed though.

Chilled Avocado Soup

Chilled Avocado Soup

Today I’ve just decided to go with a ready-to-wear turtle neck jumper and my rust-coloured corduroys. Although, the cords are not made with a seventies pattern, just the colour and the flares are reminiscent of the era.

Orange Flares

Orange Flares

This evening we are watching the cult film Logan’s Run. Set in a dystopian future, all citizens are required to “renew” at the age of thirty. Some people want to live beyond thirty and attempt to escape the confines of the domed city. The story follows Logan Five whose job appears to be to kill any escaping citizens, known as runners. That is, until he meets Jessica, who tells him about the existence of sanctuary outside the city’s domes. The city scenes looked like a model railway enthusiast had designed them and scanty costumes were frankly hilarious. Although clearly dated, it was quite good fun to watch.

Logan's Run

Logan’s Run

I really needed to make something quick tonight for dinner and I considered making a pasta dish from the Farmhouse Kitchen recipe book. On assembling the main ingredients I wasn’t particularly keen though. The recipe called for olives (another exotic ingredient!), ham and yoghurt. This combination sounded alarmingly nasty and in the end I just decided to make a conventional tomato sauce and add in the olives and ham. I suppose I felt like I couldn’t inflict anything that bad on Mr Steely after he bravely ate the chilled avocado soup.

Finally I’ve been placing the recipes up on Instagram under #livingtheseventies, if you feel tempted to try that soup.



Black Corduroy Trousers and Possibly a Compliment?

I’ve finally got round to posting about this make! Mr Steely has been extremely reluctant to strut his stuff in these new corduroy trousers, but finally I seem to have managed to get him to pose.

Black Corduroy Trousers 4

These trousers were made as a copy for a much-loved pair that were very thread-bare. In fact, Mr Steely willingly let me pull them apart to make a pattern, because they had become so worn. It’s always much easier to make a copy if you can just take the old pair apart!

Black Corduroy Trousers 2

I made some adjustments to the pattern at his request. First of all, the originals were a bit on the long side so the length was adjusted (easy enough!). Secondly, as Mr Steely is left-handed he wanted the coin pocket on the left-hand side. I was going to leave this pocket off, as I’ve always thought these pockets were a bit small and fussy, but Mr Steely assured me that he keeps his keys in this pocket and the pocket was essential. So it stayed and was even made a little larger.

Black Corduroy Trousers 3

He also wanted a longer zip for the fly opening. Slightly delicate matter here, but the original opening was apparently “not toilet-trip friendly”. I only just made this amendment in time, as I was all set to re-use the zip from the original trousers. (I won’t waste a good zip!).

The corduroy fabric is a black needlecord from Truro Fabrics. I used a grey top-stitch thread. Black clothes don’t tend to photograph that well, in my experience. I’m not sure that these photos give a good impression of the trousers, but I know you all have good imaginations and can perceive all the stitch-craft in them without needing to see every stitch!

Mr Steely tells me he’s pleased with the trousers, although he hasn’t worn them much since I made them. I did wonder whether that was because he didn’t like, but he always brings new clothes and shoes “online” gradually, saving them for best. Perhaps it’s a compliment then that he hasn’t worn them much? For my part, I think these are a successful make and since the autumnal-coloured corduroys I made for myself, I have honed my instructions significantly. I suppose this is the problem with copying RTW (ready-to-wear) garments; the pattern is there, but I have to glean how to make the garment as I take it apart and from any experience making items that did have instructions.

I particularly like the way the back pockets turned out. The motif on them was quite simple, but effective. It was easy to get this design to work symmetrically on the two pockets.

Black Corduroy Trousers 1

I think I’m seeing the beginnings of a new phase in my hobby. People are now asking for me to make things for them. I’m pleased, of course, it is a compliment, after all. I’m just not going to have so much time for my selfish sewing anymore…..


Corduroy Trousers Knock-Off and the Joy of Top-Stitching

This pair of trousers have been a long time in the making. At the end of last year when I was contemplating the magnitude of spending a whole year without buying a single item of clothing, this pair of trousers was near the top of the to-do list. Why? Well, for starters they are a direct replacement for a favourite pair of trousers that were worn so much that they became thread-bare. Also, for me, the ability to just make a copy of a ready-to-wear item either an old favourite or a copy of something I see in a shop window has got to be the pinnacle of sewing. On top of that, they are almost a pair of jeans in terms of design. All that top-stitching, all the pockets….. But, I knew at the beginning of the year I wasn’t able to tackle this project. I made a brief attempt to get started in May when I took the thread-bare trousers apart and made a pattern from them, but then the pattern just sat on my shelf waiting for me to have sufficient courage .

I then made some trousers (to make sure that I could do a fly zip) and also a corduroy skirt, which helped me practice flat fell seams and finally I was ready!

Of course, I had no instructions for this project either, so I had to make it all up as I went along and make sure I didn’t do things in the wrong order and have to unpick.

I’m very pleased with the result. The fabric colour is stunning and really brings to mind these autumnal days.

Autumn Trousers 2

I got to use my new toy top-stitching foot. It worked a dream. I had struggled on my Grainline Moss Skirt with doing all the top-stitching by eye. The new foot makes my stitching so much more reliable.

Everyday trousers tend to wear out the fastest so I will make another pair, perhaps in blue next year.  My self-imposed shopping fast is definitely continuing. There are a few things I will change. I can’t actually remember how tight the original ready-to-wear trousers were, I took them apart so long ago that I can’t remember, but the fit is probably a little more comfort fit than I had intended. I think this was due to the extra seam allowance I gave to myself when I was cutting out. I felt convinced that I needed to be more generous to get the fell flat seams right. The original had faux fell flats, by comparison. Next time I’ll just stick the the pattern’s seam allowance and I’ll get a slimmer fit.

I also religiously followed the top-stitching on the original trousers. I think next time I’ll cut back on that a bit. Perhaps do two lines of top-stitching down the outside leg seams to the level of the bottom of the pockets and then just have a single line after that. I’ve seen that in quite a few ready-to-wear jeans and it looks good. Also using two different colours of top-stitching looks attractive too and I may dabble with that.

Autumn trousers pockets

At one point I did make life difficult for myself by making the seam (outside leg seam) that I was top-stitching the second leg seam that I sewed. Thank goodness the legs weren’t any slimmer otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to top-stitch all the way down! I won’t make that mistake again! But I suppose that is the danger with having no instructions to follow. Speaking of which, instructions are not only a good guide for doing things in the right order, but also stop you forgetting things. I completely forgot to add interfacing to the waistband. I’m annoyed, but actually it isn’t too major a problem as with all the top-stitching and belt loops the waistband could hardly be described as floppy. I’ll always wear it with a belt anyway. I can give myself a hard time over these oversights, but my trousers are definitely wearable and comfortable, what more could I ask for?

Autumn Trousers 1




Grey Corduroy Moss Skirt

My makes have been a little on hold for the last few weeks. I’ve been working away from home and I didn’t fancy trying to lug my sewing machine half-way across the country. Think it may have got some funny looks in the hotel too! Anyway, it’s taken me a while but I have finally finished my Grainline Moss Skirt.

I chose a pale grey corduroy and decided to make view B, the slightly longer version with the additional hem bands. But as always I found myself making a collection of additional changes. First of all, I made some fit adjustments. I notice that on other blogs people have been calling their adjustment by three letter acronyms. So, FBA is full bust adjustment etc. So here I have the NWA , or “no-waist adjustment”! I don’t know anyone else who does this adjustment, but it basically means making the ratio between the hips and waist smaller. I might add more ease at the side seams like with this skirt, or I may make shallower darts – whatever fits with the pattern.

Moss skirt

Next, I decided to sew the yoke, centre back and centre front seams flat felled. I hadn’t experimented with this type of seam before, and after an initial wobbliness I think I got them reasonably straight. I also added some contrast top-stitching in a dark grey to the fly zipper and waistband. In retrospective, I think it would have been great to add this to the flat felled seams too, but I wasn’t feeling confident enough for that. After all, there is quite a contrast between my top-stitching and the fabric and this would have looked awful if it was wobbly. I think it was a good compromise. Looking at the end result, I would have liked some top-stitching on the pockets too.

Moss Skirt - close-up

Moss Skirt

I also added a skirt lining in cotton. I may add some belt loops, but I’ll see how I feel when I wear it. It is designed to sit below the waist so my usual problem of skirts sliding down and sitting at the hips won’t apply and the belt loops may not be needed.

Apologies for this photo. I tucked the top in so that it’s easy to see the skirt,  but the waist just looks weird. I’ll take some more photos tomorrow with a better choice of top.


Moss Skirt

And an extra photos here, as promised with a better top:

Moss Skirt - Autumn Day

Moss Skirt - Autumn Day 3

I think this will be a great skirt to wear over tights and just right for the approaching autumn weather. I can see myself making another couple of these, in denim or cotton sateen.  Perhaps I’ll even be brave with my top-stitching next time.


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Trousers – a real challenge…?

Sad to say that the day has come to say goodbye to my pale green corduroy trousers – they have served me well. I simply can’t wear these threadbare items any longer and in a moment of overambitious optimism I have decided that I’m going to try to make a replacement for them.

I’m under no illusions that this project is going to contain a huge number of firsts for me. First project where the fabric has a nap. (That’s raised fibres on the surface on the fabric, not a short snooze!) First attempt at flat fell seams. First pair of trousers. First fly zip. Yikes, just this list is making me feel daunted…..

This whole project represents so many reasons why I want to sew. I haven’t been able to find a replacement for these trousers and sewing your own clothes, at least in part, is about taking control in our clothing choices and not being a victim to the whims of the fashion industry. Corduroy must be so unfashionable at the moment, I simply haven’t seen it much in the shops. Do I care? Absolutely, not!

To start with, I decided simply to record how the trousers have been constructed and find out how to do the basic techniques that I know I’ll need. Rather than just a pencil and paper, I wondered how I could draw on the computer. I had often wondered whether to use Adobe Illustrator for this sort of purpose, but Illustrator is rather expensive for the use I’ll get out of it and experience Adobe Photoshop has taught me that I would probably use only half of its functionality and struggle to learn how to do that at best.

I found an Open Source graphics editor called “Inkscape” and I have been playing with that. It has the advantage of being free and from the little I have attempted it is quite intuitive. Although, my first attempt at free-hand drawing is a little wobbly, I did manage to sketch my trousers. I’m sure I’ll get better.

Corduroy trousers

I’m now taking the trousers apart in order to trace my pattern pieces. There’s no going back now!