Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


#MakeNine2019 – Starfish swimsuit: Model #15 from La Mia Boutique June 2018

It has taken me a long time to get around to making this one. The swimsuit fabric emerged out of the stash no less than three times in the last year in readiness for this project and then somehow I chickened out at the last minute and made something else.

Swimsuit makes are regarded as a zenith in terms of home sewing and I was a little intimidated by the whole idea of this project. Had I bought the right materials? Could I get a good fit? Was my choice of pattern too ambitious? I was inspired and brought to my senses by two bloggers – Elaine at The Demented Fairy and Charlotte at English Girl at Home, who both made new swimsuits this year. I knew I just had to get on with it!

The pattern

I looked at the offerings from various indie companies and from the Big 4, but I didn’t find a swimming costume that really spoke to me. I appreciate that there is a market for conservative swimsuits, but I seem always drawn to costumes that are a little more daring. Perhaps it’s because much of my beach time has been spent in Italy, where beachwear fashions always trump moderation. That said, I needed a design that was not going to suddenly part company with my body with embarrassing consequences; it had to work for swimming, and keeping up with Master Steely on the beach.

My June 2018 copy of La Mia Boutique, and Italian magazine, offered a few different swimsuit options and I opted for this one. Quite practical, and should stay on well. The only question mark was the degree of derriere on show on the model. So I tweaked my pattern to include a little more coverage in that department.

La Mia Boutique June 18 Costume15

La Mia Boutique Swimsuit

The Fabric, lining and elastic

The fabric was picked up from Fabric Land and was labelled as “swim lycra”. It’s thicker than the dance wear fabrics that were on offer. Last year, Fabric Land stocked a few specifically labelled “swim lycras”, but they didn’t come back in this year, and I wished I’d picked up more when they’d been around. The lining and swim elastic came from Fit 2 Sew. I opted for the beige-coloured swim lining.

I decided to fully line the swimsuit. The swim lycra was relatively opaque, but I thought that lining throughout would produce a good finish.

Starfish Swimsuit

The Construction

The instructions in La Mia Boutique aren’t much better than your average Burda magazine and were somewhat confusing. They are in Italian, but even with my knowledge of the language there was some guesswork involved. Who knew that the Italian word “cavallo” could mean so many things; horse (obviously), knight (in a game of chess) but also crotch, astride, across etc? Anyway, I did decide to sew all my seams with the lingerie-style “fold-over and top-stitch” method apart from the side seams. I used green polyester tread for the needle, and woolly nylon for the bobbin thread. The side seam was sewn using the overlocker threaded with woolly nylon. I was amazed when I finally managed to thread the overlocker with the help of a needle threader – it took ages!

I did have some problems with skipped stitches on my sewing machine, but overcame those by sewing through tissue paper. I did hear belatedly that there are “super-stretch” machine needles. Are these what I need? Would like eliminate the skipped stitches?

Starfish Swimsuit

Anyway, I suppose you’re ready now for the dreaded pictures, as I show off my granny knees and the disgraceful state of my garden….. It’s also cold!

Starfish swimsuit - front view

Starfish swimsuit – front view

I’m afraid that I was in such a rush to get these photos over and done with that I forgot to securely tie the neck-tie on the swimsuit. It has resulted in some “side-boob” going on that you may see. Normally, the front is pulled up a bit more than this so this doesn’t happen. I noticed this as I came back in the house and wasn’t going out there for a repeat. No way!

Starfish swimsuit - front view

Starfish swimsuit – front view

Starfish swimsuit - close-up

Starfish swimsuit – close-up with accidental side-boob


Starfish Swimsuit from the back

Starfish Swimsuit from the back (and you can see I was in such a hurry to get this over and done with that I didn’t do the neck tie up properly!)


I have road-tested the swimsuit at the swimming pool, whilst scuba diving and it was comfortable and stayed in place well. Actually, I didn’t even notice it at all, but then I was concentrating hard on my buoyancy (or lack of it) at the time!

I would also thoroughly recommend the pattern I chose. If you are looking for a stylish swimsuit La Mia Boutique is a good place to look and it is possible to get back issues of the magazine (from Edicola Amica or La Mia Boutique). They always have a few swimming costumes in the their June edition.


Italian Sewing Magazines: Review of La Mia Boutique 06/18 and Cartamodelli 09/18

I’ve been in Italy for the last ten days, not that it was noticeable on my blog as I scheduled a blog post to appear in my absence with the final photos from my #SummerOfBasics outfit! As usual I was on the look-out for sewing mags. I had meant to post about one of these magazines a while back, but somehow I managed to actually leave the magazine in Italy. I was so gutted, because it was the June copy of La Mia Boutique containing several swimming costume patterns and I really do need to make myself a new swimming costume. Fortunately, I managed to find my magazine – it had somehow managed to find its way into the recycling when I was packing. The second magazine I picked up was a new Cartamodelli. So, here’s a look at the two magazines.

La Mia Boutique

If I was going to compare La Mia Boutique to any other magazine it would have to be Burda. The designs are quite fashion-forward and can be quite unusual.

La Mia Boutique Cover

Looking well-thumbed after it’s rescue from the recycling!

There are four swimsuit designs in the magazine; two bikinis, a trikini and a swimsuit. One bikini is a fairly conventional affair, but the other is this rather strange, off-the-shoulder affair with ruffles. I really thought that it would appeal to no-one, but weirdly I actually saw a few women sporting similar bikinis in Jesolo (Italy)! Anyway, it is definitely not something I would wear.

La Mia Boutique June 18 Bikini14

The “Costume” is the design that appeals to me most. When I’m at the seaside I’m not just a sun-bather; I need to be able to go snorkelling with Master Steely or kick a football about on the beach, so any bathing costume needs to stand up (or rather not fall down) when I’m on the move. This design, with its three anchorage points (halter neck, mid-back and waist) seems like a good idea to me. However, I will change the lower half to make it a little less revealing; it seems that all the designs have scant bottom coverage, but I’m sure that will be an easy fix.

La Mia Boutique June 18 Costume15

What other designs are there in the magazine? Keeping with the beach-theme there are two designs for over-swimsuit cover-ups. I particularly like the shirt-like look of this one, although I’m not entirely sure what is going on at the sides – are they open? Or is that just bobbly trim?

La Mia Boutique June18 CoverUp12

I like this “camicione” (big shirt), although I would probably skip the embellishments. It looks like a solid design. I used to have quite a few loose-fitting tops with long sleeves in light-weight fabrics. They seem to have bitten the dust over the last few years and not been replaced. That’s a pity, because I think they work well, better in fact than tight-fitting t-shirts in the UK, when it’s hot.

La Mia Boutique June18 Shirt08

Talking of embellishments, I don’t know what to think about this skirt, there’s an awful lot going on here. It seems to have fallen into that Italian clothing trap with adding lots of bling and random words, always in English or French. I do like the idea of a midi denim skirt, perhaps not this design though.

La Mia Boutique June18 Skirt11

As an outfit, plain though it is, I’m actually drawn to this page with the model wearing a combination of a simple button-up shirt with a pair of cropped trousers.

La Mia Boutique June18 ShirtandTrousers 1819

I also love this maxi tiered dress with the straps that cross at the back. Clearly appeals to the part of me that loves a classic seventies design.

La Mia Boutique June18 Dress07

Then there is this dress. It’s also long, but cocoon-shaped with deep pockets. I admire the design, but I’d really like to see this in a different fabric and with the model in a more natural pose. I want to see how that shape hangs. Would it look good in a stable knit?

La Mia Boutique June18 Dress20

I noticed there are so many designs in this magazine where white fabrics have been chosen. Great for showing off design lines, but a colour I stay away in the UK, it’s just too easy to get dirty. Perhaps if I lived in Italy I would wear it more. Actually, I saw children wearing white trousers and shorts there. Either Italian children aren’t messy or the mud doesn’t stick like it does here?

Sometimes in the Burda magazines, I find the plus section really good and wish they did those designs in the smaller sizes too. Here though, the plus size section was quite boring, and all dresses. Although I do think this dress looks flattering with its curved waistline. I like the combination of plain and floral fabrics too.

La Mia Boutique June18 Dress29

If you want to look at the complete magazine, there is a flick-through video here.


I picked up the September edition of Cartamodelli last week. This edition has 40 patterns in it, quite a bargain, but they are certainly more conventional in design in my opinion The thing that struck me about this edition is actually how summery it looked for a September issue. After returning to the UK, my thoughts are returning to warmer clothes already.

Cartamodelli Cover Sept18

The first design in here that really grabs me is this wrap blouse. I’m not really looking to expand my work wardrobe at the moment, but I think this would make a tremendously chic top for the office.

Cartamodelli Sept 2018 Blouse05

I love this jumpsuit. It is a classic design and would be a perfect summer make.

Cartamodelli Spet 18 Jumpsuit12

This dress is one of the more unusual designs in the magazine. The most prominent feature is lace-up front. At first I thought that perhaps the lacing was a bit too much, but the design has grown on me. Plus I have loads of left-over eyelets to use.

Cartamodelli Spet 18 Dress13

For me, the garments that scream “make me” though, are in this outfit. The fabrics that have been chosen are quite plain, so I know this wouldn’t necessarily be a page in the magazine that would grab everyone. I love the design of the pockets on this pair of jeans and the cut too looks flattering, slightly flared and medium-rise. The top can be pulled on, but I like the addition of the faux-button band; it makes the top look smart and yet I know that, because there are no buttons, it will be an easy make. Lastly, there’s the bomber jacket. It’s in a lace fabric, but could easily be re-created in a silk or a sweatshirting.

Cartamodelli Sept18 Outfit 19, 20 & 21

For some unknown reason there is a section in the magazine where the garments are just laid out flat and not modelled at all. Somehow, I’m just not good at imagining the cut of these items without them being on a person. How long are the tops? How loose are the shorts? I haven’t a clue! It’s a pity as they are good basics. Perhaps they decided that it wasn’t worth modelling these, but I’m disappointed.

Cartamodelli Combinations 24&25

I know that those that buy plus-size patterns moan when they see something they like and it’s not in their size, but hey it works the other way round too. The plus section in this magazine, is definitely more appealing, than in La Mia Boutique above. The outfit I really like is this denim blouse and asymmetrical skirt combination. I imagine the skirt, wouldn’t be too hard to grade down, so perhaps I’ll be able to make this without too much effort.

Cartamodelli Sept 18 Shirt and Skirt 32 & 33

I’ve found a flick-through video for this edition of Cartamodelli too, if you’re interested in looking through the rest of the magazine.

Finally, I made this guide to Italian Sewing Magazines which includes where they can be bought from on the internet, along with some other information on sizing for each publication. I have also created this glossary of Italian sewing terms. I’ll keep adding to it as I make more garments so it becomes more of a resource.


Italian Sewing Magazines – Part 1

I often holiday in Italy and frequently peruse the sewing and pattern magazines in the newspaper kiosks there. I’ve grown more partial to magazines recently. When you have a magazine that has twenty or so patterns in it for roughly 5 Euros, it certainly makes sense to buy them rather than spending £10 alone on one regular Big 4 pattern or an independent pattern, which can be even more expensive.

I’ve bought a handful of publications in Italy in the last few years and have even used some of the patterns, so I thought I’d write a little about them.

Where can I buy magazines?

There are lots of newspaper / magazine kiosks dotted around in most towns or cities in Italy. They have a bewildering array of magazines, but usually only one or two copies of each magazine, which means unless you are lucky that your holiday coincides with the publication date you might not be lucky.

There are plenty of magazines in the “tabaccherie” as well. However, again they may only stock one or two copies. I have asked for magazines to be held for me for my next visit, and the owner very generously agreed. Obviously, this only works if you visit the same area frequently.


I’ve also found that larger supermarkets, like Emisfero, have a good selection of magazines and frequently enough copies that they do not run out quickly after publication.

What publications are available in Italy?


The Marfy designs are Italian, high-end / couture and very stylish. They include dresses, coordinating suits, coats and a limited selection of separates. There are no instructions for these patterns and Marfy really do assume that you are a competent sewer to tackle their designs.

I’ve not bought this magazine myself, simply because the designs don’t fit into my rather casual lifestyle, although I could perhaps justify a smart jacket or coat.


Modellina is a magazine produced by Simplicity. There are sister publications too, including Modellina Facile (Modellina Easy) and Modellina Extra.

Modellian Cover

The magazine is full of simple, easy-to-make designs. In the edition that I have there many patterns with two or three variations, which means you can mix and match the features to get the design you’re after. For example, this jumpsuit has two different sleeve lengths, three different leg lengths and different collars.

Modellina Jumpsuits

I’m currently making a pair of Capri trousers with a pattern from this magazine.

Modellian Capri Trousers

La Mia Boutique

This magazine contains patterns from Italian designers and has more adventurous designs in it in my opinion.

I nearly bought the August edition of this magazine when on holiday, but I wasn’t particularly interested in more than a couple of the patterns in it. In contrast, having looked at the website, the preceding month has some excellent designs. I’ll look again at this magazine on my next visit, perhaps La Mia Boutique will have moved on from the weirdly asymmetrical garments (see below) in this last issue. Not that I dislike asymmetry, just these particular designs.

La Mia Boutique Menu

The Sewing Princess reviews all the editions of La Mia Boutique and I’d recommend looking at her blog for in-depth reviews of each edition of the magazine.

La Mia Moda

La Mia Moda and additional publication La Mia Moda Speciale – Solo Abiti (Only Dresses) is also known as Fashion Trends in Germany.

I went out late one evening to purchase this magazine from the store near our hotel and found that the experience left me with a huge crop of fresh mosquito bites. For my pains though I did get this rather super magazine. The patterns are based on ready-to wear designs and this means that they are mostly made with knits or stretch fabrics. For this reason I haven’t made many of the designs – I consider myself still rather more keen on sewing wovens. However, I have used one of the t-shirt patterns for both this and this t-shirt.

La Mia Moda Cover

This particular outfit has been on my to-do list for a while. I’m sure I’ll make it one day….

La Mia Moda Top and Skirt

Fashion Style

Fashion Style seems to be the Italian version of Knip magazine from The Netherlands. It is also known as Fashion Style in Germany and Patrones in Spain. I did ponder when I bought this magazine where it originated, since there are German words on the patterns. I think the Italian version is actually translated from the German. There is also an article with two Dutch ladies in it, giving it truly international feel!

Fashion Style Cover

I’ve yet to make anything from this issue, but I am drawn to this jacket.

Fashion Style Jacket

Burda Style

Burda magazine is published in a large number of countries including United Kingdom, France, Spain, Gemany, Russia and The Netherlands as well as Italy. They also occasionally publish collections of patterns following a theme. I bought the magazine below in Italy, long before it appear in the UK. It is a collection of the “Sewing School” patterns, which are quite simple to make. Of course, if you are ever stuck with the instructions, they are free to download them from the Burda website in English, but don’t expect much, Burda are renowned for the incomprehensibility of their instructions!

Burda Style Scuola Cover

Burda Scuola Trousers and Blouse

I made this shirred top from this magazine.

How are the patterns printed in the publication?

The patterns are printed on large fold-out sheets and you’ll need to trace off the patterns. As is usual with magazines there are no seam allowances included in the patterns for those magazines that I have tried – Modellina, La Mia Moda, Burda Style and Fashion Style.

What sizes are the patterns? / Are there plus sizes?

Pattern Sizes

This chart is only a rough guide. I have found that the sizing does vary between the different companies and it is wise to select your size based on the company’s own body measurement charts.

Where can I buy these magazines if I’m not going to Italy?

After looking online I’ve found a couple of websites where it is possible to order Italian magazines; Edicola Amica and Prima Edicola

I haven’t tried these out yet, but I think I would like to order an edition of La Mia Boutique. I’ll let you know how I get on with that.

Is it worth picking up a sewing pattern in a language I don’t understand?

If you’ve been sewing for a while you’ll realise that even when the instructions are confusing, there are always ways to resolve your problems. It is possible to sew something just by finding alternative instructions either online or from your own trusted repertoire of sewing patterns. Having said that, sometimes it’s wise to have some knowledge sewing terms, especially those that crop up on the pattern pieces. I’m lucky I lived in Italian and have some knowledge of the language, so I’ve put together a sewing glossary in Italian that might help here. This glossary is more a work in process than a comprehensive guide at the moment. I’ll keep on adding words to it as I go along.