Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


#MakeNine: Morphing as I go along – The white linen shirt

This blouse has been an interesting make. I identified back in December, as part of my #MakeNine that a basic garment like a white blouse would be an excellent addition to my evolving wardrobe. Plus, I had a beautiful linen crepe that had long been lying idle in my stash, that would be perfect for the job.

I have loads of shirt patterns, but I turned to an edition of the Italian magazine Modellina for my make. I particularly liked the pockets and the relaxed fit which I thought would combine with the linen well. Sure, it wouldn’t look as crisp as the cotton shirt in the photo, because linen drapes in a different way, but I felt that the pattern would still work well with my chosen fabric.

Short-sleeved shirt pattern from Modellina magazine

My original idea was for the short sleeved version above, but as I was cutting out I realised I had enough for long sleeves, so I cut out the sleeves from the long-sleeved version in the magazine. After all, I do not need any more silly bits of fabric that I don’t know how to use in my stash. There’s pretty much nothing left of the fabric at all now.

Long-sleeved shirt from Modellina magazine

I think the body pieces from the short and long-sleeved patterns are also different. The long-sleeved version seems to have some side slits, so my version ended up as a mix of the two designs.

Shirts take a long time to make, it must be said, and this was no exception, particularly as I have struggled with doing things like sewing on buttons in the recent heat. I also sewed the collar more than once, as I wasn’t satisfied with the first one. Overall it wasn’t a particularly difficult make, although obviously being a magazine make the instructions are minimal. One thing that did confuse me were the buttons. There were loads of button and buttonhole markings on the centre front of the pattern and I sewed all fourteen of them! The buttonholes appeared to come in pairs. But the model in the magazine doesn’t have these. Did I sew too many? Were these markings for the two different shirt designs and I incorporated both lots? Who knows – I’m not disappointed with the result so I don’t suppose it matters. It just took me a long time!

White is hard to photograph – not sure I can see the details in this photo!

My major concern with this shirt is that it is WHITE. I have an amazing record when it to spilling food on things (see the silk top made for the Work Christmas party) and I’m not sure how well this one with last in its white incarnation. I made sure I sewed it with white cotton thread, so that when the time comes (and it will) I can dye the shirt and the stitching will dye as well. Always best to be cautious!

Long-sleeved skirt with big pockets and rather a lot of buttons!

Do you ever feel that sometimes you’re wearing someone else’s clothes? Well, that is how I feel when I wear this shirt. Is it the effect of wearing such an expanse of white? Still, I am pleased generally with the way it looks and I need to experiment with styling. Would wide-legged trousers look good with this? What kind of skirt? With such a versatile colour, I expect it will go with most of my wardrobe.

Back view of the long-sleeved white shirt


Smart or casual – which is it?


#1year1outfit – Linen Trousers Part 2

There seems to have been one great big, black cloud, chucking rain over the house the whole weekend, leaving little very little opportunity for outdoor photos. Of course, it’s sunny now during the week, but since I’m not at home during daylight hours, I’m afraid you’ll have to be content with some indoor snaps of my linen trousers, which I’ve now completed.

This garment has been one of the very few I’ve made using the same pattern – Vogue pattern V8546. This meant it was an easy make for once. I had already adjusted the pattern for fit when I made my grey trousers and I made no further adjustments. This time the pocket construction, which had puzzled me previously, was a breeze with the extra notes I had made.



Since this is a #1year1outfit make, zips are out and the button-fly closure is in. I copied the button-fly closure from a ready-to-wear men’s jeans. Incidentally Mr Steely is hanging around while I’m writing this and feeling “faux”-peeved that I posted the crotch area of his jeans on the blog without his permission!

For the lining of the yoke and the pockets, I used more of the dock-leaved dyed silk from Majestic silks and I used two small and two large ceramic buttons from Poppy Ceramics for the closure.



My finishing touch was to use some thicker linen thread and add some running stitches in place of top-stitching around the yoke and a few embroidery stitches near the pocket to liven up this rather basic pair of trousers.


I’ve just realised how little I have to say about these trousers. They were such a breeze to put together, is this what happens when you finally become proficient? I’m probably jinxing myself with just saying that; I expect my next make will be a disaster.

I’m hoping to get some better weather soon (on a weekend) so that I can model my entire #1year1outfit make. Watch this space…


#1year1outfit – Threads

This month I’ve thinking about the thread we use when we sew, particularly how easy it would be to source thread locally made from natural fibres.

Normally I just go with the Guttermans thread in the fabric shops and haberdasheries, so generally this is either cotton or polyester thread. However, linen and silk thread were the most widely used threads by the pre-19th century seamstress until cotton thread became the sewing thread of choice later in the 19th century. Perhaps I could source some linen thread locally? If so, what would linen thread be like to sew with?

After a bit of searching on the internet, I noticed that linen thread is used frequently for bookbinding. leather work and jewellery. Apparently, linen is tough and copes well with years of wear. It is strong, and its strength even increases (10-15%) when wet. It has just the right amount of give when stitching – it neither too elastic or inelastic. It is  resistant to UV and heat. I imagine that these characteristics make it an ideal thread for working with fabrics that will have outdoor use, such as equestrian clothing and equipment. In fact, it doesn’t cut through leather when it is stitched.

Barbours Linen Thread

Something to consider though is the thread size, which I noted seems to be more complicated matter than I had first imagined. I am considering making a jacket from a medium-weight linen. Linen thread size is indicated by a numbering system. The first number is the size and the second is the ply. A high size number is a fine thread and a low size number is a heavy thread. A 100/3 size linen thread would be a fine thread used in stitching fine handkerchief-weight fabric. A large heavy size would be 12/3 used for sturdier applications. It seems that linen thread is easily available is the heavier weights for use in bookbinding (18/3 and 12/3 sizes are used by bookmakers) and leatherwork, but I have found it difficult to source finer thread for medium-weight fabrics.

The WM Booth website contains a wide range of threads. These include 16/2 which can be used for Dorset buttons, 32/2 and 50/3 for buttonholes, top-stitching and hand sewing medium to coarser linens and wools. More importantly, it also stocks 80/3 linen thread which is better for medium weight linen and fine wools. The problem is this website is American and although the linen thread is probably European in origin, it will have travelled all the way to America and back to reach my letterbox!

Again, it seems that this whole challenge would have been much easily, and possibly not a challenge at all, had I tried it fifty years ago. There were quite a few linen thread mills in Northern Ireland, for example, the Barbour linen thread mill in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. However, this closed in 2006.


More searching on the internet followed and I finally found a UK website, House of Sculthorpe, who specialise in historical costume and haberdashery, but sad to say that the linen thread is European, rather than Irish. The Mulberry dyer has some weights of thread too. I think I’ll order some through this European website where there’s more choice and try this thread out.

Finally, this is a really interesting article on the history of sewing threads.