Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

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Velvet and no zips: I’ll wear this again and again

Once in a while I am totally surprised by something I make, and that’s pleasantly surprised. I had a reasonable amount of navy blue velvet left-over, after making the Lulu cardigan by Scout patterns. The fabric was bought in person (like from a shop, do you remember those?) from Stoff and Stil in Copenhagen. I decided to use it up with a boring make. I was really convinced that this make, because I was using left-overs, was not going to be one of my best. Perhaps it wouldn’t fulfill my expectations when it came to filling in wardrobes gaps or it would need to be pieced together from insufficient fabric. Basically, I was expecting to be disappointed.

I decided to make a long-sleeved t-shirt with cuffs and picked out the Ensis Tee (sadly no longer on sale) from Papercut Patterns from my pattern pile. Once I started I was relieved that I had plenty of fabric. I didn’t need to piece together to create sleeves, make the top ridiculous short or employ any other measure I might consider if I didn’t have enough fabric, after all.

The Ensis pattern uses colour-blocking with a different colour for the yoke and upper sleeves, but I just joined my upper and lower pattern pieces together and cut out the bodice and sleeves as one piece.

Ensis Tee in navy velvet and grey ribbing

Ensis Tee in navy velvet and grey ribbing

I used some grey ribbing for the cuffs and to finish the hem and neckline. I’d originally bought this ribbing to use with the Fielder top I’d made, but didn’t think the grey fabric and the ribbing looked good together, so it had been sat around in my stash for a while. However, this navy blue velvet and the grey ribbing turned out to be a winning combination.

Velvet Ensis Tee

Velvet Ensis Tee

It was a really easy make too, including none of the swearing and endurance associated with inserting the zip in the velvet Lulu cardigan. It was just done on the overlocker. Also, the pattern piece cuts just the right length of ribbing for the neckline, which doesn’t always happen when I make tops for knit fabric, giving the top a really polished finish.

Standing by a huge anchor in my warm velvet top

Standing by a huge anchor in my warm velvet top

I’ve worn this top loads over the last few weeks because it has been so cold; it turns out to be a warm top. In summary, it might not be the most adventurous make, nor the most eye-catching, but I am so glad I made it. If anything, I think it may get more wear than the Lulu cardigan, which was the make I had in mind when I bought the fabric. I’m calling this top a very happy coincidence!

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Sewing machine out of action: what can I do? Using the overlocker to make colour-block t-shirts

My sewing machine has been out of action for most of the lockdown, although it is working now. So I thought I’d document what I did manage to do and sew, when I just had my overlocker in action.

I had quite a few jersey remnants and I decided that I could put some combinations together to create some new t-shirts. I decided to take a look for t-shirt patterns that used colour-blocking in different ways. I then got totally obsessed looking at different t-shirt patterns and colour-blocking inspiration.

Here is the colour-block t-shirts spreadsheet with the list of patterns. They are arranged, in alphabetical order, by pattern company.

I have also tried to stick to those patterns that are more suited to t-shirts rather than sweatshirts. There are lots of raglan-sleeved t-shirt patterns, which are good for colour-blocking as you can make the sleeves in one colour and the body in another. I probably haven’t included them all here as there are so many.

Apart from the raglan sleeves, there are a few, like the Ensis Tee where the colour-blocking uses different fabrics on the top half and botton half of the t-shirt. There are also some different ideas with side inserts or triangular blocks, which look interesting, like the Geodesic Top.

Of course, it is possible to go completely wild and do your own colour-blocking, so I looked at RTW t-shirts too for inspiration and saved the most interesting designs onto a mood board on Pinterest.

I also found some good tutorials for making your own colour-blocked design. This tutorial shows how to colour-block with the Sweet Tee from Patterns for Pirates to create a contrast yoke and upper sleeves. There is also a colour-block hack for the Hemlock t-shirt, which is a free t-shirt from Grainline Studio. This video from Angela Wolf, uses some unusual style lines and doesn’t specify a particular t-shirt pattern as the starting point.

I already had the Ensis Tee from Papercut Patterns as a PDF pattern in my stash, so this was the first colour-blocked t-shirt I tried.

Ensis Tee

Short-sleeved Ensis Tee

I used some plain white jersey for the upper half and a remnant of this berry red-white striped jersey for the lower half. As I had limited fabric, it is short-sleeved,rather than long-sleeved as per the pattern. And sadly, I couldn’t cut the lower back all as one piece, so it has got a centre back seam. I think this is an acceptable compromise rather than using another fabric. I don’t think the back seam is particularly noticeable as I pattern-matched it very carefully.

The pattern is a very simple t-shirt, but I was particularly happy with the shape and fit. I made no adjustments to the sizing and used the my size (XS) as drafted. The t-shirt skims the body rather flatteringly I think. It is tighter around the bust and shoulder, but less figure-hugging around the waist and hips. I have seen a few versions of this t-shirt before and noticed the combination of a striped fabric with a plain fabric has been made many times, it works well.

Short-sleeved Ensis Tee

A nice simple t-shirt that uses some fabric remnants

When I finally got my machine working again, I finished the hems and top-stitched the neckline.

I accomplished a particularly pressing objective with this project. Firstly, I have used up some fabric scraps. I have found over the last couple of years the remnants pile has become overwhelming. Secondly, I have found lots of inspiration to help me eliminate more fabric scraps. A win all round, I reckon!



Colour-blocking experiment: Papercut Palisade Shorts:

I’ve been getting overwhelmed lately with lef-over fabric from previous projects. Of course, there is never enough left-over for a complete new make, but always too much to be wasted. I had two small amounts of medium-weight cotton-linen blend, which were both blue. I thought they made a good combination for a pair of shorts. I bought the Palisade pants from the Papercut Geo collection, when it first came out. I think there are some great designs in this collection, but until now this is the first one that I have tried. The design  has an elasticaed waist and interesting pockets; they cross-over on the side panel to form two deep pockets.

Papercut Palisade Pants

Papercut Palisade Pants


I did worry about the thickness of the my fabric choice for these pockets so, I decided to convert the unseen bits of the pocket to use cotton lawn instead. This makes everything on the side-seams less bulky.

The insides of my pockets

The insides of my pockets

It was quite odd sewing these shorts as I seemed to spend a huge amount of time on the pockets and then the rest of the make, after that, came together very quickly. The waistband was a breeze to sew. The instructions suggest sewing the elastic into one side of the waistband and then you can try on the shorts, and adjust if necessary before sewing the other side of the waistband. The next step is to stitch in the ditch to encase the elastic. The waistband patern piece is also generous in width, making these steps quite easy. Finally, I added some top-stitching on the waistband, to stop the elastic twisting. I also think that this finish looks better too. I rememeber the almighty hassle I had sewing the Ruri sweatpants last year – sewing the waistband was a horror I don’t want to repeat. When I make another pair of those I will certainly make sure to use the method I used here with that pattern.

Waistband and pockets on Palisade shorts

Waistband and pockets on Palisade shorts

I very much enjoyed making these shorts – it was jsut satisfying how it all came together so easily. The pattern has plenty of notches in it, so lining up all the pieces to form those iconic pockets worked a treat.

I’m not so sure about the faux fly. I added it, but I think I may omit it in a future make and then there is my colour-blocking. I think I would have preferred to make the waistband entirely in the nay blue, but I didn’t have enough of this. To me, it looks like I’ve overdone the colour-blocking, I would have preferred a simpler look.

Finally, I will have to get used to wearing shorts. I haven’t worn a pair o shorts since I was a teenager as they aren’t an item of clothing I gravitate towards, but these are comfortable and will be good for the beach. Even if they don’t get used much I will still have tried out this pattern and will feel confident to go ahead with a full-length version. Plus I’ve ued up some odd pieces of fabric.

Palsiade Shorts - back view

Palsiade Shorts – back view


The fit could do with a little adjustment. I would like to take a couple of centimetres off the rise, but other than that they seem good. I would thoroughly recommend this pattern – well-drafted with good instructions, and a cool design. What more could I ask for? Even the elastic measurements in the pattern instructions were spot on.

Palisade SHorts - Front view with untucked t-shirt

Palisade Shorts – Front view with untucked t-shirt – hiding the waistband, which I’m not sure about!

Shorts – t-shirt ttucked in


Hacking it in Batsford

I’ve just made another pair of Peter and the Wolf trousers from Papercut patterns. I made a pair last year and have enjoyed wearing them. I have been looking forward to making another pair. This time I chose to make a denim pair with grey top-stitching. The fabric came from Ditto fabrics and is a dark indigo stretch denim.




I usually find that I have to rely on belts to keep trousers sitting at the waist. So unfortunately, a side closure and waistband with no belt loops was always going to be a bit of a risk for me.


This new pair are therefore also a pattern hack. I’ve married the Grainline Moss Skirt front fly closure and shaped waistband with the Peter and the Wolf legs and yoke for this pair. I also added more top-stitching and belt loops, using the Ginger jeans tutorial instructions to give a more jeans-like look. There are more details on my hack on my Monthly Stitch post.




I decided to give my new pair of trousers their first outing on a visit to Batsford Arboretum. The arboretum is home to one of the largest private tree collections in the UK, and is famed for trees which originate in Japan and China, including the Handkerchief tree.


There are some beautiful views across the Cotswold countryside.



The arboretum dates back to the early part of the 17th Century. It was created to look like a wild garden. There is an artificial stream that runs through the gardens and our walk took us over wooden bridges and past a waterfall. Batsford Park’s most well-known residents were probably the infamous Mitford sisters, who lived there during World War I.



Being a weekday, it was very quiet and tranquil.



In wolf’s clothing

The Peter and the Wolf pattern by Papercut patterns is a design that I’ve admired for a long time. I haven’t seen another pair of trousers quite like them; they are certainly a unique design. In fact, I don’t see many interesting trouser patterns out there, possibly this is because so few home sewing enthusiasts are also enthusiastic about trousers. Having just finished MMM ’15, I’ve  noted that I do spend a lot of time in my ready-to-wear jeans. And before any of these jeans bite the dust (some are getting quite threadbare), I’d really like to make a few more pairs of trousers.

Peter and the Wolf Trousers

By rights, this pair of trousers should have been a disaster, and I’m amazed that it got to the stage where I am actually wearing them to work! There were some firsts for me with this make. I have been vigorously sewing for nearly two years now, so the firsts don’t come thick and fast anymore, but I was contending with my new overlocker and stretchy denim.

I chose a stretch denim in beige from Minerva Crafts.  I did want to make the yokes in a contrasting colour and I decided that the easiest way to do this was to dye some of my beige fabric in the desired contrasting shade. I chose a dark brown from Dylon to do the dyeing. I’m quite pleased with the results of this and there is a good contrast between the yoke and the rest of the trousers. It also saved me from worrying about finding another fabric of similar weight.

In the construction stage, the first problem I needed to tackle was to make a custom-fit pattern (I don’t make toiles – I’m too lazy and the one time I made a toile, it told me nothing that doing the maths didn’t tell me). I decided to go with making the S (small) size, but made a few adjustments on my custom pattern. I made the leg length 3 centimetres longer and made the waist a little more accommodating (about 4 centimetres). My main problem was that I had very little idea about working with fabric which is stretchy and I didn’t know how much ease I would need. So I just sewed the trousers up and hoped for the best!

It was at this point that I was a little too enthusiastic with the overlocker and made a nasty hole in one of the legs (oops!) After throwing a mini tantrum (yes, the trousers did get thrown across the room!), I thought I could salvage the situation. I thought I had enough unneeded ease that I could manage to place the hole in the seam allowance, provided that I moved the side seam allowance slightly. This means that the side seam allowance is not quite at the side, but about 1 centimetre nearer the front. No-one will know! I did think that I might have needed to do something more drastic. I didn’t have enough fabric to make another leg piece, but I could have made a half-leg piece and made a dramatic curved seam just above the leg. Fortunately, in the end I didn’t need to go with this solution, although it could have worked quite nicely.


Drama over, I sewed up the rest of the trousers. To get the final fit I just tacked the leg seams and tried the trousers on. They did need a little tweaking and I took in the legs by about 1 centimetre and the front crotch seam, by about the same. I think that possibly the size smaller would have been a better fit all round, but I’ll make the necessary changes to the custom pattern and hopefully it will mean I won’t need to make any fit changes next time I make a pair.

Peter and the Wolf Trousers

I did make another mistake with this project. Not quite as serious, but nonetheless just as difficult to resolve. I forgot to read the instructions at one point and missed out the top-stitching on the front yoke. Strange really, I don’t usually miss an opportunity to top-stitch! It isn’t the end of the world, but it does mean that there is top-stitching on the back yoke and none on the front, which to my mind looks a little odd. I’m debating whether the take out the top-stitching on the back yoke, just to even things up a bit.

Wolf 1

Peter and the Wolf Trousers

I’ve now worn these trousers to work and they are definitely a hit. They are very comfortable, but I still feel smart in them, or perhaps that’s just because they are new! The pockets are deep and even though I was concerned with the comfort of a seam running directly down the front of the trousers over the knee, that doesn’t bother me at all. I even like the scalloped hem, although it is a fiddly detail just at the end of the project, when I was impatient to get on and wear the trousers.

I can imagine myself making another pair of Wolfie trousers. I could probably make them a little tighter even, because I’m not 100% sure about the fit. I like the gold / black pair sported on the Papercut website and also Kat’s denim / blue pair. I’m also wondering whether I could make a front fly zipped version instead. I’ve seen a few versions using patterned fabric, but I personally feel that they look rather too busy, although this version looks great!

I’m not that happy with the photos I took in the park above, mostly as I tried to keep the tops short so you could see the trouser yokes. I’m not too fond of my waist so I usually wear longer tops, so here’s a photo of a more usual ensemble:

Wolf 8