Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


The Perfect Hot Weather Outfit

It’s been hot in the UK, stupidly hot! The weather is completely unprecedented. I can’t recall more than a few drops of rain in the last month and there is nothing but parched grass everywhere. We’ve gone to the beach every weekend, which is so unusual during a British summer.

My sewing has been tailing off because it is so difficult to manage more the barest minimum at the moment, but I have sewn one fantastic garment that I have worn loads. Last year, I started looking at the patterns in Drape drape 2 book and made this t-shirt from the No 4 one-piece scoop neck asymmetrical top pattern. I also bought some fabric with the intention of making a dress from the snappily entitled pattern “No 2 One piece side drape top”. The fabric is a stretchy viscose knit with lots of drape. It was purchased from Minerva Crafts and is made in Italy. The quality is excellent. Unfortunately, I never found time to create the dress before the end of the summer and it didn’t feel like a priority when Autumn approached. This year it was top of my list for summer makes.

Drape Drape 2 No 2

I made the largest size from the pattern sheet, but I had to “narrow” the drape a little at the draped side of the pattern, since the width of my fabric was a little short of the required width.

I thought at first that perhaps I had intended to rotate the pattern 90 degrees on the fabric, but I don’t think that was my intention as the guide in the book stated 1.50m was needed and this was the width of my fabric. The pattern was actually wider than this for the largest size.

Drape Drape 2 No 2

Having adjusted for this, by subtracting some of the drape I wondered if this would be noticeable on the finished garment, but I was pleasantly pleased that enough drape existed for the “desired look”. Please forgive the bra straps in the next two photos…..

Drape Drape 2 No 2

Drape Drape 2 No 2

The construction was very simple; just a side seam, finishing the neck and sleeve openings with self-bindings and hemming the bottom of the dress. I was a little unsure of the length, I’m quite short so the dress is almost down to my knees, unlike in most of the incarnations I’ve seen on line. In fact the book actually calls it a “top” which it certainly isn’t on me! I’ve decided that I’ll leave it at this length and see how I feel about the length after a few wears. It’s good to see myself in these photos to assess the length too.

Just for fun, I’m holding the “drape” out to the side in this photo, just to give you an idea of the weird pattern this dress is constructed from.

Drape Drape 2 No 2

All in all, this dress has proved to be a blessing in the hot weather; very comfortable and also rather striking. It really works well as something to wear over a swimming costume on the way to the beach or the swimming pool. I think the fabric really makes the dress extra special.



Hidden cats and blog envy

Blogging is not just about writing your own posts, but also about reading what everyone else in the blogosphere is doing. I love reading other people’s posts and never tire of seeing all the wonderful things others have made. But, I suffer from blog envy. Of course, I get jealous when I see a beautiful garment that someone has made and just wish it was in my wardrobe, that’s a given. However, I also get jealous of other people’s productivity. I know I shouldn’t. Deep down I know that I make enough clothes to prevent me walking around naked and most of the time I even dress in clothes that I like (my skills have improved to a level where I’m not embarrassed by my makes).

Even so, I’m jealous whenever I read something in a post along these lines…..”I’ve been wearing this garment for about three months and I’ve only just got round to writing about it….” Why does this make me jealous? Perhaps, it is that I’m not so productive that I “forget to blog about anything that I’ve made” or possibly it’s because I feel such a sense of achievement that I’ve managed to carve out a few hours to make something that I can’t wait to share it in a post!

So, it is a revelation this week that I am posting about a garment that I made last month and wore during Me Made May. It isn’t impressive, being just a t-shirt, but I had other posts to write so I didn’t rush to post about this one, for a change.

The most interesting thing about this t-shirt, is that it has cats! Yes, if you look closely all those swirly lines hide little cats – sitting, walking, prowling. How cool is that? I picked up the fabric at Sew Brum last year and it’s a Liberty cotton jersey. It’s beautiful and soft and it looks good with jeans.

Hidden Cat Fabric

I used K4028 again. Without the cowl and also without the sleeves (which is the View A option).

Hidden cats t-shirt

As predicted K4028 seems to behave itself more in cotton and I’m finally happy with using this pattern. I did notice though that without the cowl, it looks very similar to the Molly top from Sew Over It, which is quite a popular make.

My photographer didn’t wait for me to tuck the t-shirt in before snapping away…..

Hidden cats t-shirt

Hidden Cats t-shirt

I can see myself making more tops like this, and it was so good to be using a pattern that I didn’t have to trace so I could just maximise my sewing time.

Hidden Cats t-shirt

I like the photo below which was taken in Italy, where I’m wearing a different pair of jeans.

Hidden Cats t-shirt (taken in Italy)



K4028 strikes again

The regular readers of this blog may remember my K4028 disaster from last year. This was a top made from a tan-coloured viscose jersey. I chose a long-sleeved version of View A, which sported a big floppy cowl neck. Sadly, using viscose jersey the cowl proved rather too heavy and the neckline, although I’m not convinced it has grown since I’ve been wearing it, did end up in the sewing process rather on the large size. The top therefore is a smidge too revealing for my liking. The other problem was the fabric, which noticeably pilled at the hip and waist from the moment I first wore it. The whole top is just a big disappointment and I hardly wear it.


A whole year has passed and well, you know how it goes, you just get over these disappointments and I thought it was time to tackle this pattern again. I spotted a striped viscose jersey in my local Fabric Land. It was cheap (£3.99 a metre) and I thought it would be a good choice for having another bash at my nemesis, K4028. I didn’t yet trust my abilities with anything expensive with this pattern. I must say that although Fabric Land do stock very reasonably priced fabric, the quality is good too. I believe that they stock the fabrics at such low cost because they are wholesale prices.

I decided as I was using viscose again that I would just eliminate the cowl. I know, I know, it’s not really in the spirit of the pattern, removing the most distinctive feature from the design. However, I was keen to have a relaxed top which had those Dolman sleeves and I thought that it might indeed be more successful by taking out the most troubling design aspect. After all, if I could get this top right, perhaps I could reintroduce that cowl?

I was still worried about that neckline and made it smaller again than the pattern demanded. I cut out a good 10 centimetres in circumference from the neckline!

The fabric is very floppy and is ribbed so it was quite challenging not to stretch it out when I sewed. Whilst this didn’t seem to be problematic for the main seams and the hems, that neckline still gave me problems. It seemed really tricky preventing it stretching out, but I hoped because I’d reduced the neckline size on the pattern, it would still be a reasonable size.

When I started wearing the top though, the neckline still seemed to be much bigger than I had expected. How could this be happening? At least it was in the limits of decency! Perhaps this problem is less about stretching out the neckline during the sewing process and more due to the Dolman sleeves? With set-in sleeves or even raglan sleeves perhaps the structure around the shoulders keeps the neckline in place more? Does that make sense? Here, it seemed like the weight of the fabric on the sleeves was literally dragging the neckline out. I’ve just noticed in the envelope photo that the woman in the red top is holding her right shoulder up quite high; perhaps this is to stop the neckline sliding down the arm!

K4028 Front View

K4028 Front View

K4028 Front View


I’m not going to say this top has been a resounding success, but it is “moving in the right direction”. It certainly looks a lot more wearable than the last one, and certainly doesn’t suffer from pilling, despite using a low-price option from Fabric Land.

K4028 Front View

K4028 Side View


K4028 Back View

I think I should have been more wary of using a floppy viscose jersey though. Perhaps I could try either some cotton or bamboo jersey, both of which tend to be less heavy, next time?

The verdict is:

K4028 pattern – 2

Me – 0


IPM2017 Hack It contest – Tonic Tee

After finishing my zip-tastic hack for the Grainline Moss, I moved onto my  second garment for the Hack It contest at The Monthly Stitch.

My top is based on the Tonic Tee from SBCC patterns. I’ve never tried a pattern from this company before. I find it really helpful when a designer has a free pattern that I can try before I buy another pattern. The Tonic Tee is free as a PDF when you sign up for their email newsletter.

The pattern itself is a classic t-shirt with a scoop neck. The Tonic Tee pattern comes in lots of sizes, which is fantastic – ranging from XXS to 3XL. They are specifically designed for petites, so the patterns are for those that are short in stature. I’ve never really thought that I’m “petite”. I’m at the taller end of the range that SBCC state for their designs, but I do have a short body. After consulting the sizing chart and comparing this to my body measurements, I didn’t alter the pattern at all; must be a first for me.

The fabric is a purple cotton-spandex Art Gallery jersey. I do love the Art Gallery jerseys, but they are a bit pricey, so I immediately snapped up some when I saw that Fabric HQ had a sale.

I made two modifications to the design to fit in with the Hack It contest. First, I changed the neckline to a V-neck. Second, I altered the hemline of the t-shirt so that it is curved rather than straight.

I’ve been avoiding v-necks for years; when I bought clothes I always found them too revealing. Now that I make clothes all the time, I can decide how low-cut I want that V. I basically followed this tutorial on the Colette Seamwork website for the Aberdeen t-shirt, to draft the new neckline and also to sew it.

I did have some problems in the construction stages though. It took me a couple of hours to get to the point where I was happy with the way the v-neck looked. I also don’t think I have been less chilled during a sewing session for years – there was lots of swearing involved too! The problem was that I just couldn’t get that v-neck as tidy as I would have liked. I pinned, tacked, sewed and then unpicked numerous times. I just wasn’t happy with the way the neckline sat. I’m still not sure whether I nailed it or not, I defer to you, my readers, for that verdict. Rest assured I’m not making another v-neck anytime soon; I just couldn’t handle the stress!

I do like the construction method, even if not entirely happy with my execution of it. I had a good look at my lone RTW t-shirt which is a v-neck and noted that the manufacturer had literally sewn a standard neckline and just sewn the neck band at the V across to made a triangle – this construction technique looks rubbish to me. I’m such a critic of RTW clothes these days!

I finished the hems with a zig-zag. I sometimes wish that I could brave a twin needle, but with a sewing machine of the vintage mine is, I’m not sure that I can. Although, I think a good zig-zag does still look good, even if it isn’t the finish we are used to seeing in shop-bought t-shirts.

Overall, apart from my problems with the v-neck construction, I like my t-shirt. It is close-fitting, but that is definitely the intention with this design. Looking at the photos with the skirt,  I think that the t-shirt does accentuate my sticky-out belly (not good). However, I’m much more likely to wear t-shirts untucked with jeans. I took some more photos with the t-shirt paired with jeans.  I think that the gentle curve that I made on the hem looks good when the t-shirt is untucked.


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Just a basic t-shirt but in lime green!

This is my second make with the viscose-lycra blend jersey.  I actually sewed this before the infamous cowl-collared horror, but didn’t get around to taking photos until this last weekend.

I think the colour is fantastic and a bit of a departure for me. It is loud! I think I was attracted to it mainly because it was just a bright sunny day when I bought the fabric and seemed like a great colour to celebrate the changing season. I think it goes well with my new jeans, although I’m really wishing I had a pair of black skinny jeans / jeggings to wear with it.

The t-shirt is just a basic loose-fitting t-shirt made with the Laurie Striped Tee pattern from Named Clothing. I have made this particular t-shirt before, and like my previous version, I again omitted the stripes.

I suppose it isn’t really possible to get very excited by basics like this, but I’m very glad that I put this t-shirt together as I am rather short on t-shirts and short-sleeved tops in general.

I had been really very worried about the pilling that I experienced with the cowl-necked t-shirt, but weirdly this particular t-shirt hasn’t suffered as badly. Could it be that being looser and being worn under a cardigan it doesn’t experience the same friction as my previous make, or could it be that my eyes are deceiving me and it is harder to spot the pilling on the lime green without going cross-eyed. Either way, I am feeling happier, because I still have another length of this fabric, and it’s possible it may not pill.

I’m not sure that my learning process with knit fabrics is going as planned though. I’m still having difficulties with wavy hems. I’m tried my Swiss zig-zagger and really it can’t cope with the extra thickness. I’ve tried making the seam more stable with knit interfacing. The only thing that really helps is giving the garment a wash. The waviness is nearly eliminated (hence no photo to share here – I’ve already washed the t-shirt). I’ve watched a few youtube videos where people manage make non-wavy hems without the aid anything, but a standard foot. So sadly, my conclusion, is that perhaps my old Singer is just not up to doing this job any better. Can any of you shed any light on this? Is there something else I could try?


Excitement followed by disappointment – KwikSew K4028

For a long time I’ve realised that knits are my nemesis and I have wanted to change this. I thought that perhaps a extended practice with these fabrics might cure me. But buying knits via the internet can be a hit and miss affair. Often it is difficult to tell the weight and the drape without handling the fabric. Anyway, imagine my delight when I entered Fashion Fabrics a few weeks ago and found that they had a fantastic selection of fine viscose-lycra knits which draped deliciously. I immediately bought a few metres in different colours – a lime green, a beige and a burgundy. I pondered possible makes and I’ve now sewn the first two of my t-shirts.

The first garment I made was a fairly straight-forward t-shirt. I’ll model that one another day; it’s a bit chilly today. For the second make, I chose a pattern that would show off the drape of the fabric. The blurb describes K4028 as pullover tops with extended shoulder seams. Version A has a cowl collar and short sleeves. Version B has a draped collar and long sleeves.

Although it doesn’t say this is possible on the pattern, the two front pieces of the top are interchangeable (i.e. the circumference of the short sleeves are the same – I measured this), therefore it is possible to make the two designs either with short or long sleeves. I decided to make View A, the cowl collar version, but with long sleeves.

I don’t as a general rule tend to buy paper patterns, unless it is picked up at a charity shop. I’ve never sewn a Kwik Sew pattern before. I’m not sure why that is, perhaps I just never found a pattern that inspired me before. So, I was quite surprised by the quality of the paper in the pattern; it definitely didn’t feel as flimsy as the usual paper in modern patterns. Actually it felt more like my vintage patterns in this respect, consequently it was a pleasure to trace it according to my size (which is what I usually do).I did make one adjustment up-front on the pattern. Based on my experiences with RTW clothes, I find that low cut tops tend to be waaaaay too low cut, so I did a quick measurement on the top front and decided to raise the cleavage by about two inches. It seems I wasn’t the only person to do this, the Mahogany stylist found this too. I then whizzed the top up on my overlocker. It was very easy to put together. Apparently, Kwik Sew pattern are renowned for their instructions and I will agree that they were easy to follow, with very decent drawings. As suggested, I used strips of stretch interfacing on the shoulder seams. After standing in front of the mirror, I concluded that the arms were a little floppy. I skimmed an extra couple of centimetres off their width. Next, figured out the ideal length for the sleeves and body. I kept these quite long intentionally. They are certainly longer than on the pattern envelope, where the top finishes at hip level, but I like the idea of a cosy tunic length top.




At first, I must admit I was quite proud of my make. It certainly looks like one of my more successful knit garments, but when I stopped just wearing it in front of the mirror and actually wore it for a full day, I started to get worried about that cowl collar. It still seems a bit too low cut and revealing for my liking. I think I can see why I made the error with this. When the top sits as it is supposed to, it looks fine. But in everyday life we move (well of course we do!) and that neck aperture is wide and the cowl just slips further forward than I had originally thought would be acceptable. This all made me ponder. I looked at the model on the envelope. I think the cowl looks in a similar place on her as it does on me. But, is my neck unduly thin? Thinner than the model’s neck? Or is it that the model simply doesn’t move, unlike real people?


If the neck hole was smaller, I reckon the cowl would stay in place better. The seam at the back of the cowl, where it attaches to the body of the top does seem to sit a bit low too. Perhaps if the back of the cowl was closer to the neck the cowl wouldn’t shift forward when I lean over. You can see how deep it is at the back in the photo below. Actually the back view looks super cool. Is there any otehr way I could stop the collar flopping forward? Deep sigh, perhaps I should have anticipated all the problems with the cowl.

The other thing I am worried about is the sheer weight of the cowl. Will this induce stretching in the neck hole? I really hope not! Is this likely? I can’t say in my experience I have come across t-shirts stretching from the shoulder, even if they don’t have any extra support there, so perhaps it will be fine. Do other patterns recommend perhaps some clear elastic here, for support?

The next problem that I can see with the top, and it is pretty obvious on the photos, is the thinness of the fabric. Sorry, about this folks, but I’m suffering from that thin fabric, cold day problem. Yep, there are two prominent points of interest showing…you know what I mean! If I’m going to wear this I seriously need to think about layering, to make it more respectable. I’m not sure what would look best – perhaps a camisole underneath (similar to how the other version of the pattern is modelled, see below), or a long floppy cardigan on top. Neither of which I have…..

The final disappointment, came today, after I’ve been wearing my top for a second day. Pilling, that bobbling effect that you can sometimes get on fabric. The pilling appears to be at the hip, perhaps where the fabric rubs against my coat. I’m gutted, I hope that the pilling is just localised and doesn’t get worse. After all, I have bought three lots of this fabric and I haven’t made the third top.


As I’m typing this up, I’m feeling sad about the whole experience and I still feel thwarted in my efforts to get to grip with sewing knits. It does seem that every time I sew with a knit fabric, I’m confronted with more variables that throw me off course. However, the top itself is actually comfortable to wear (bar the frequent adjustments to stop flashing too much flesh). I think I would definitely nail the fit of this top next time I make it, so that is probably the only plus from this fiasco. But, what fabric should I use? I don’t want to use more of this fabric if it is just going to pill. Is it possible to figure out what fabric is likely to pill and avoid it? I have a couple of viscose-lycra knits that are thicker and they don’t suffer from this. Likewise a bamboo viscose t-shirt doesn’t suffer from this problem. Perhaps I could purchase some more of that.  I just have to put this all down to experience, persevere with the third knit garment I’m going to sew and then choose a woven fabric for my next garment to get over the disappointment!



A little Tee with Cherries

I bought a fabric remnant at Guthrie and Ghani‘s when I was with Sew Brum. It is only 0.6 metres, although the fabric is plenty wide (1.5 m). I decided to try to squeeze a t-shirt out of it.

I used the pattern I made from La Mia Moda magazine, which I used for this t-shirt. It did require quite a bit of imagination to get my pattern pieces arranged onto this small scrap of fabric, but eventually I got the sleeves to fit, although they are rather short (just over 20 cms from the top of the shoulder). Still a success, I think, to use so little fabric so well!

The construction was very simple. I just seamed with my overlocker and then constructed bands to finish the neck and sleeves. Yes, I even had enough for the neck and sleeve bands. I think I would have preferred to have the sleeve bands a bit thicker; I was hoping to get a bit more arm coverage, but these will have to do.

Cherry Top

I do worry when I sew my zig-zag topstitch, as I do get some waviness (technical term!) going on. But judging by all the top-stitching I have done on knits so far, this seems to disappear with the first wash or after a good iron. So, I’m not going to get overwrought, I’m just going to trust it will “come out in the wash”, although the situation on the sleeves is rather more than I have seen before.

Cherry Top Neck

Not sure when this t-shirt is going to be worn next. It does seem that I am making another out-of-season garments; I’ll have a great wardrobe by Summer if I carry on like this! I’m definitely going to go for a warm long-sleeved garment next, though – just to make the photography less cold!

Cherry Top

Cherry Top

Cherry Top