Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Sewing The Seventies: Make 1 – Popover Shirt in Liberty Tana Lawn

Liberty Shirt

The first seventies make I’ve made this year is this shirt. It is a classic popover shirt. I suppose at first glance it doesn’t look very much like a seventies pattern. It is from the later half of the decade and I can see that its boxy shape is a nod to the eighties. However, it does have a large collar which is definitely a seventies detail. I suppose it shows that fashion changes in a gradual manner and the styles at the beginning and end of any decade could easier be taken for fashions of the adjacent decades.

Butterick 5024

Butterick 5024

I selected this particular pattern simply because I’d never made a popover shirt before. In fact, I’ve actually never had a popover shirt in my wardrobe, so breaking new ground both for sewing and my wardrobe. I also liked the checked shirt modeled on the pattern envelope. Can’t we can all be swayed so easily by pattern envelopes? Although I love the checked shirt, I decided that I had better choose some fabric from the stash, which definitely needs reducing. I had purchased some Liberty Tana Lawn at Birmingham market at the Sew Brum event. Obviously, Liberty have been around since the nineteenth century, so someone sewing in the seventies would definitely have been familiar with their fabric and designs.

I’m feeling very relieved that I’ve finished this make. It was actually quite an involved sew; there were many details such as the pockets, epaulettes, the front band to be sewn. Perhaps this is something that needs to be considered with vintage patterns – the assumption being that women (and after all it would be women) had lots of time to sew and could spend time on intricate detailing.


I wanted to pattern match the pockets. This was tricky as there were pocket flaps to consider as well, but the effect is largely that the pockets are almost invisible except for the buttons!

Spot the pockets!

Spot the pockets!

I was somewhat perplexed by the order in which the shirt instructions were put together. The front button bands are sewn on, but the bottoms of the two front bands are left flapping without being sewn to the front of the shirt. Meanwhile, the rest of the shirt including the addition of the back and sleeves follows and then as the last stage the front band is completed. I found this order was a bit tricky and would probably have completed the sewing of the front bands before adding the back of the garment; it would certainly have made managing the garment on the sewing machine easier. What purpose is there to sewing the shirt in this order? It seems odd to me.

The last step of the instructions

The last step of the instructions

Anyhow, I thought I’d also mention why this shirt has taken me so long to construct. Fairly early on when I was ironing the fabric and before cutting out, I noticed a small nick in the fabric. It wasn’t a problem as I realized I could easily place my pattern pieces around it. However, once I had cut out the fabric, I discovered two other small nicks in the fabric, which I hadn’t noticed earlier. (Possibly, the fabric design is so busy that it’s hard to notice these problems).  I also realized that I didn’t have enough fabric to re-cut that pattern piece. (Of course the problem would have to be on the largest pattern piece, wouldn’t it?)

Fortunately, the nicks are at the bottom of the back piece and I thought I could just “get away” with slightly shorter length. Certainly, it would only make the shirt as short as some of my other tops so I wasn’t horrendously bothered. But when I was finishing the shirt and deciding on the length, the shirt proportions didn’t look right when un-tucked. So, I set about repairing the two holes. I used some of the left-over fabric and sewed on two small patches. Now I was thankful for the busy pattern on the fabric as the repairs are scarcely visible! (see below) They are also right at the bottom of the shirt and are half included in the seam allowance. I’m hoping my repairs will stand up fine in the wash. The whole experience though, made me feel less inclined to finishing the shirt and a bit dispirited.

My repair

My repair

I didn’t deviate much from the instructions, but I did make a curved hem on my shirt, partly to cover up the repair.

I’ve now been able to wear my shirt and I’m feeling far more positive about it now. I love the fabric – it’s a really mad busy design. I’m proud of the patterned-matched pockets. And that shoulder-warmer of a collar is a real statement!

Liberty Shirt

Liberty Shirt

I’m wearing it in the photos with my skinny black jeans and an old RTW cardigan. I think wearing the shirt with a cardigan tones it down a smidge!

Liberty Shirt



Sewing The Seventies – Hippy Jeans

I’m finally writing this post even though I finished my jeans a while back and worn them loads. I had a horrendous week of flu / cold. The weather has been really warm and it feels so odd feeling ill and indeed sunbathing whilst blowing my nose every thirty seconds!

Anyway, on with the jeans. I did a lot of measuring and fitting and re-fitting. I found this post here a very good explanation when it comes to understanding crotch seam shape.

I didn’t just alter the shape and shorten crotch, because that would have distorted the alignment of the front pattern piece and caused the front pieces to be longer than the back pieces. Fortunately, there was so much fabric in this area, that I was able to completely remodel the crotch seam – make it flatter or less curved and also shorter, which seems to suit my body shape. I think it is possible to see the original seam allowance line in the photo below (in pencil) compared to the new seam allowance line (in red)

Making buttonholes has always been one of my least favourite things. I think it is because you need to cut into the fabric and there is no going back if you make a mistake. (So, I check and double-check that I’m putting those buttonholes on the correct side of my jeans!). However, I think hammering the buttons into the jeans has now surpassed my fear of buttonhole-making. I dread to think how difficult it would be to get them out if a mistake was made and whether it would be possible to save the jeans from a very radical remodeling (or massive tantrum, for that matter!) if a mistake had been made. Anyway, I did manage to hammer the jeans buttons in and I think they look fantastic. They really do make my jeans look professional.

Seventies Jeans

The waistband was a bit of a pain. This was simply because I hadn’t managed to translate my waistline adjustment on my front and back trouser pieces properly to the front and back facings and I spent a good deal of head-scratching trying to work out where I had gone wrong. It didn’t help that the instructions were rather confusing too at this point. I did make one small change which I like to my facings. Rather than just finish the facings by making a standard hem, I finished mine with some bias binding. Even the inside of my jeans looks cool now! Thought about taking another photo of this, but it’s getting late now and the light has gone…..perhaps another day.

Bad pose, but I was in a silly mood!

Final comments on my jeans – wow these are comfy! I am been wearing them non-stop for a week. Yes, seriously, I think they may have to be prised off me to go in the wash. I would definitely like to make another pair, although these did take several weeks to make.


Sewing The Seventies – The results are in!

Camouflaged at Kew

We have a winner! Congratulations to Katie from Katie Writes Stuff who wins my seventies themed fabric. A thoroughly deserved win!

Thanks also to Meg from Pigeon Wishes who took part too. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog.

For all of you who thought about entering or read these posts, I think you’ve persuaded me that “Sewing The Seventies” is a good idea and it will be back next year! I have lots more ideas (yes, already!) to make it into a bigger and more involving challenge.



Sewing The Seventies – What have we made? Get voting!

The last few days have been a bit manic for me I must admit. My brain is a little mashed, but I’ve got that euphoria that you only get when you’ve managed to get through a particular mind-scrambling exam. You’re probably wondering why on earth I made Sewing The Seventies coincide with an exam date – the reason is simple Sewing The Seventies was a definite in my diary before the wretched exam! What do they say about all the best plans……

Anyway, with no more ado, here are the participants:

Katie from Katie Writes Stuff

A very seventies bias-cut tartan skirt (Simplicity Pattern 6573) and a beautiful jumper with cables (Seventies pattern). You look cool even in 28 degrees heat!

By the way, melt downs are necessary when deadlines loom and does everyone I know who sews have a helpful cat? Watch the video here (That’s just a screengrab below from the video, just so that you get an idea of the outfit).

Meg from Pigeon Wishes

Meg has sewn a qipao or chongsam dress (Simplicity Pattern 5010). And if like me, you didn’t know, that’s the name given to Chinese-style dresses with a mandarin collar and slit skirt.

The dress is such a timeless classic design and the fabric certainly gives it a seventies vibe. There are more photos on Meg’s blog here.

You know what, Simplicity did such great wearable patterns in the Seventies, I don’t find it a coincidence at all that we’ve all picked one for Sewing The Seventies.

Vote below for your favourite. The voting lasts a week – I’ll announce the winner then! Good luck!


Sewing The Seventies – Link your makes up with this post!

A big thank you to everyone who has joined in and for all your comments and encouragement. I have really enjoyed the last couple of months sewing with a seventies vibe. It’s been great knowing that I have finally made some garments from my stack of vintage seventies pattern. I’ve also loved creating garments with designs that I just don’t see too much on the High Street – big collars and far-out flares! I hope you’ve felt the same too.

Is this a dress or a manhole cover?

To enter the competition to win the seventies-themed fabric (see this post), please enter a link to your post detailing your makes in the comments. For your post, please refer to the rules post here for further information.

I’m hoping that tomorrow I’ll be able to compile a post showcasing all your makes. I thought I’d carefully planned a good window of opportunity to devote the time I need for writing my posts, but somehow things never turn out quite as you expect. Anyway, if not tomorrow in the next couple of days I will write that post!


Sewing The Seventies – Nearly There! (and I reveal the prize!)

The deadline for Sewing The Seventies is almost on us. I’m really excited and I just can’t wait to see all your makes!

What I am planning to do is write another post on 26th March and ask you to link your finished post in the comments. Please refer to this post when writing your post. After this, I will then compile a post about the competition entries.

Today, though, I’m going to share the details of the prize – yay! The prize is two different fabrics that I picked which both have some connection with the seventies.

The first is actually a vintage fabric from the 1970s. It is a beautiful cotton lawn with a floral design in pinks and blues.

Prize 1

The second is a contemporary fabric. It is a Missoni-inspired chevron design. This is a viscose- elastane blend jersey and for those you might be interested in buying this, it came from Minerva Crafts.

In other news…..

I’m nearly there with my jeans, I just need to add the jeans buttons. To be honest I’m wary of making holes in the fabric and need to “work up to it” (That’s just procrastination by another name, if you hadn’t guessed!)

I also thought this article from the BBC about how politics affects the journey our clothes take was interesting – Enjoy!

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Sewing The Seventies – Inspiration Part 4 Dresses and Jumpsuits

In the final install of my inspiration posts for the seventies, I’m taking a look at dress and jumpsuit styles.

I’ve found some great maxi dress styles. There’s the Alix dress from By Hand, which has a very seventies vibe:


There are also some re-released vintage patterns by Simplicity. I particularly like this flowing faux wrap front dress:

Of course, the most iconic dress of the seventies is probably the wrap dress. Originally designed in 1974 by Diana Von Furstenberg. The dress was so successful, Diana and the dress featured on the cover of Newsweek (see the montage at the top of this post).

There is a superb article here, if you want to find out more about Diana Von Furstenberg, her design style and philosophy

Diana also released a sewing pattern of her dress, but it goes for silly money on Etsy and Ebay, so I thought I’d focus on some more affordable contemporary patterns. First of all, there is the Diana wrap dress by Wardrobe By Me. This is definitely inspired by the original (note the name of it!) and even features a version with a collar:


The Ultimate wrap dress by Sew Over It is another wrap dress for jersey knits:


Or how about the Gillian wrap dress by Muse, which has long and short-sleeved options plus wrap top and skirt versions too?

Finally I love this fantastic dress from Victory Patterns. It is described as a fusion between a wrap dress and a kimono. It does look amazing in silk.

Now for the jumpsuits! I’ve seen lots of incarnations of the By Hand Holly jumpsuit online. It has a bias cut bodice with a slight cowl at the neckline. To me it looks perfect for summer.


I think this Vogue jumpsuit is very glamourous. I could see myself wearing this to a party – perhaps it is just the sparkly fabric, but it just says Christmas party to me.


The Sallie Jumpsuit has both a full-length and culottes version. Even better, there are pockets and interesting V-back feature.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my tour of dresses and jumpsuits. There is so much choice out there! I promise my next post I’m going to share something I’ve been making.