Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Sewing The Seventies: 2018 Contest Entries

Welcome everybody! Today is the day that I can reveal the contestants and their makes for this year’s Sewing The Seventies! It’s been great running this contest again and I’ve very much enjoyed seeing everyone’s comments, even when it all got a bit mad during the ten days when I wrote one post per day!

But first, I have an admission to make …. I have a technical problem that has been bugging me over the last week. I don’t have a smart phone and I’m finding Instagram incredibly difficult to use without a smart phone. I’ve managed to post things by getting my internet browser to behave as if it were an iPhone, but somehow it doesn’t seem to tag the posts properly. The Edit option also seems to be missing. Anyway, the upshot is that I don’t think all my posts have been tagged with the Sewing The Seventies 2018 hashtag. Do you have any great ideas on how I can bend Instagram to my will? I’d be extremely grateful!

Anyway, I don’t want my moans about Instagram to invade this post too much, because we’re all here to see the participant makes are:

Admin Boss from Sewliloquy

Admin Boss has made a paisley blouse using the intriguing Lutterloh system. Take a look at her post to get an idea how this pattern drafting system works. Admin Boss has picked a modern Burda modern to complete the outfit. These are a really cool pair of trousers with a mock lace fly detail at the front.

Liza from Liza Made

Liza has created a top made from lightweight wool. This looks so fabulously warm with its high collar. It is so interesting to see how this has worked with the blouse underneath. It’s really interesting to see the difference between how this design works in the wool and the drawing on the pattern envelope.

being very aware now of my Instagram problems; I do hope I haven’t missed anyone. I know that a couple of others started their makes, but didn’t manage to finish within the deadline. Of course, we would still like to see them, when you do get to complete them!

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



Sewing The Seventies: Prize Announcement

Our deadline for Sewing the Seventies is nearly here! I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of months making my seventies-styled garments and making some culinary creations, which weren’t always successful, but definitely evoked the era.

I’ll post all the recipes and photos of the food on Instagram shortly under #LivingTheSeventies. I can thoroughly recommend the Smoked Haddock and Cottage Cheese Flan. Even the Orange and Chocolate Cheese Cake wasn’t bad. I think the problem was mostly my substitution for the gelatine. But I think I’ll steer clear of the rest of the recipes I tried!

I’d like to give a big thanks to all those who contributed thoughts and memories on the year-by-year posts. They were really interesting to read; from the sobering recollections of bombings in Birmingham to the amusing discussion around Ryvita and other boring diet products.

They certainly brought the whole experience to life for me, since most of the seventies is a childhood haze to me. Of course, I’m not surprised that sexism was ripe in the seventies, but it was interesting to read that trousers were not acceptable in the office for a long time. When I look at my collection of seventies sewing patterns, I think the trouser patterns would be great for the office, but they must have been worn more as casual garments back then.

Anyway, I’m sure there has been too much waffle from me in the last few weeks, and I’m sure you’re all waiting to hear more about the prize. First of all there are some fabrics. The first is a viscose crepe with a dramatic floral pattern and lots of drape. I can definitely see long flowing caftans and maxi dresses in this. The second is a fun, retro-styled surfing print jersey. I think this would make some great t-shirts or even underwear. Katy has contributed a selection of great seventies patterns too. There’s a cute pinafore dress pattern in her selection. And that halter neck dress with the big collar is really cool!

Viscose crepe

Viscose crepe


Retro surf jersey

Retro surf jersey


Prize patterns

Prize patterns

Finally, I thought I’d just mention that Sewing the Seventies finishes on 26th March. If you are taking part let me know by replying to this blog post (if you haven’t already replied to a post already) or posting on Instagram under #SewingTheSeventies2018. I will then gather all the entries and post a round-up of all the makes in the following week. until then, happy sewing!



Sewing The Seventies: 1978

“Now is the winter of our discontent” is the opening line of Shakespeare’s Richard III, but it’s also the phrase applied to the events of the winter of 1978 – 79. In September, the Prime Minister, James Callaghan announced that he would not call a general election despite being ahead in the opinion polls – “I am not proposing to seek your votes because there is a blue sky ahead today.” It was a stance he would regret in the coming months.

Later that month, 23 Ford car plants closed across Britain due to strikes. The Government had introduced pay policies throughout the 1970s in order to combat rampant inflation. Part of this policy was a guideline for pay rises to be capped at 5%. Sanctions would be imposed on companies that chose to breach the pay policy. To bring an end to the strike, Ford offered their workers a 17% pay rise and decided to accept the sanctions. The Ford workers accepted the deal.

This outcome though, seemed to signal that the government had no way of enforcing its pay policy and other industrial disputes quickly followed. Bakers went on strike and bread rationing was brought in as a bread-buying rush got underway in Bristol. The city’s smaller bakers step up their production to meet the demand.

Main brand bakery workers strike

Main brand bakery workers strike

The Times newspaper closed for nearly a year. A smaller 3p edition of the Bristol Post appears towards the end of 1978.

3p edition of the Bristol Post

Large numbers of the lorry drivers working for oil producers, BP and Esso began an overtime ban in support of rises of up to 40% and the army were put on standby to take over from the tanker drivers if the disruption of oil supplies developed into a crisis.

I decided to try to make a cheesecake from the Farmhouse Kitchen book. Now, I must admit that I am renowned for my inability to make a decent cheesecake. I try all sorts of recipes, but it’s usually unsatisfactory. This cheesecake was an Orange Chocolate Cheesecake and on paper had the approval of all the family. It seemed quite easy to make as it was a no-cook type of cheesecake and here it is in the tin:

Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

Well, sadly it didn’t really set very well, but it was actually rather yummy. The cheese layer had a great citrus flavour and wasn’t too sweet. The chocolate biscuit base was particularly good. I think I can take the blame for the cheese layer not setting properly. I used vegetarian setting agent rather than gelatine. Perhaps with more of this added to the cheese mix it would set, I must have just got the quantity required wrong.

Today has been a little warmer and I chose an outfit that included my Butterick 3065 jeans and a shirred sun top made from a Burda pattern. I think that shirring was quite popular for sun dresses in the seventies. It wasn’t the warmest of outfits to wear even with the cardigan. Apparently the snow is due to arrive again tomorrow, so I’ll be reverting to something warmer.

Hippy Jeans and Shirred Top

Hippy Jeans and Shirred Sun Top



Sewing The Seventies: 1975

I’m at work again today and it turns out that 1975 was a particular important year for working women. Two new laws, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Equal Pay Act 1970, come into force aiming to end discrimination and the unequal pay of men and women in the workplace.

The gender pay gap for full-time employees was about 45% in 1970. [1] This has narrowed considerably over the years, with the average pay for full-time female employees 27.5% lower than full-time male employees in 1997 and 9.4% in 2016. [2]

Of course, this isn’t the full story, there are many other factors at play here. Women tend to work in occupations which offer lower salaries or they may take time out of the labour market to have children. Many women, including myself work part-time. When these factors are taken into account the statistics are less impressive.

The gap for all employees (full-time and part-time) has reduced from 27.5 % in 1997 (before this point, data was not collected) to 18.1% in 2016. 

Ford Machinists

Dagenham Ford Machinists’ protest about unequal pay paves the way for the Equal Pay Act.


At the same time though, unemployment in 1975 was regarded as high. The jobless total in this year rapidly rises to the 1,250,000 mark. This figure was shocking at the time and set to get worse. It’s a little hard to place this in context with today’s statistics as successive governments were committed to the principle of full employment during the 1970s and obviously the working age population is larger now. Unemployment today stands at 1,439,000 based on the latest figures. [3]

A more appropriate comparison could be to look at the employment rate (the number of unemployed people over 16 divided by the sum of employed people over 16 plus unemployed people aged 16 and over). In 1976 this was between 4.0 – 5.1%, today it is within the same range at 4.4 %.

This look at the working world in the 1970s got me thinking about what sort of wardrobe a working woman would have worn during the 1970s

The term “capsule wardrobe” was coined in the seventies by London boutique owner Susie Faux. She set out to help her customers define a wardrobe that was versatile and confidence-boosting.

According to Susie, the elements of a capsule wardrobe are:

  • a jacket
  • a skirt,
  • trousers, which could be part of a suit,
  • a blouse,
  • a sweater,
  • shoes,
  • tights,
  • a coat or raincoat,
  • a dress,
  • a bag,
  • a belt,
  • jewellery,
  • gloves and
  • evening wear

She states getting a wardrobe right “will make you look and feel confident and successful”. It’s all sensible advice. Susie continues to dispense her wardrobe advice today on her website I was hoping to include a few links to her old website, which had numerous detailed articles on the capsule wardrobe, but it seems to have disappeared since I wrote my draft for this post. I did copy out this snippet from the blog about jackets and cardigans, which I thought was aimed just at me:

To my mind, the jacket has to be the basis of every busy woman’s wardrobe. Research has shown that women are taken far more seriously when they’re working if they wear jackets.  Cardigans are all very well, but you may be asked to make the tea.”

Well, that’s told me! When I meet customers, I often wear a smart pair of trousers or a skirt teamed with shock, horror, a cardigan! Clearly, this is where I am going wrong as I surely can’t be taken seriously while I’m wearing a cardigan!

I think working in IT does give me quite a bit of licence to dress-down. Often face-to-face with customers and colleagues is limited, communing as I do, with my computer all day. I am wondering though how I would have dressed in the work environment in the 1970s. I work in an office after all. I wore my flared jeans and the Butterick 5024 shirt today. I’m sure such a casual outfit would not have been worn to the office in the seventies. Oh, and a wore a cardigan to work today too…..


[1] The gender pay gap (BBC website)

[2] Recent pay gap statistics (Office of National Statistics)

[3] Employment statistics (Office of National Statistics)

[4] Employment rates (Office of National Statistics)


Sewing The Seventies: 1974

Before I forget, I have had a few queries about this challenge on instagram. The hashtag to use is #SewingTheSeventies2018.

Today marks 1974, a very turbulent year – the Three-Day Week, two general elections, a state of emergency in Northern Ireland and numerous Provisional Irish Republican Army bombings on mainland Britain.

The Three-Day week was introduced by the Conservative Government of Edward Heath as a measure to conserve electricity during another period of industrial action. The coal miners were already on “work-to rule” and threatening all-out strike action. The measures involved cutting electricity to only three days a week to conserve coal and other fuel stocks. There was also an ongoing oil shortage caused by an embargo by members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) targeting nations supporting Israel during the recent Yom Kippur War.

Three Day Week

Three Day Week

The minutes of the cabinet meeting on 3rd December 1973 [1] bring home the seriousness of the situation:

“If demand for all sources of fuel remains at its present level – a very serious situation would arise in early February. There would be widespread electricity disconnections and some oil consumers would be without supplies for a period……This paper considers measures to reduce demand for all types of fuel so as to postpone the date at which this situation would arise and so as to minimise the damage to industrial production and the distribution of essential goods, to reduce hardship to individual firms and companies and to avoid gross inequities, but yet to bring home to the public the seriousness of the position and the need for all measures of conservation.”

The measures also “prohibited the use of electricity for display lighting and flood lighting and for the heating of commercial and other similar premises” There was also “an anti-hoarding Order.”

The good news is that heating in the home will not been restricted: “Orders to limit the use of domestic heating, seem to be unenforceable, even if we took the undesirable step of taking powers of forceable entry into people’s homes. But the importance of savings on the domestic front makes it essential that there should be further appeals for voluntary co-operation in the home

Even parliament were not excused from the restrictions:

“THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL said that in the interests of electricity saving, and in order to ease the travelling problems of Members and of Parliamentary staff, it was desirable to consider proposing some temporary changes in Parliamentary hours.”

At a cabinet meeting on 24th January 1974, with the industrial action entering its 4th week, the cabinet discussed the possibilities of relaxing the electricity restriction and returning to a five-day week. It was strongly argued that the restriction could not be endured much longer and “many companies, large and small, would soon be in difficulties, and this could have wide repercussions throughout the economy.”

However the government didn’t want to appear they were relenting to pressure from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

“Relaxation now, would be seen as a sign of weakness on the part of the Government: the miners would be encouraged in their resolve, since a relaxation would be taken as firm evidence that the economy could not stand a three-day week and that the Government, rather than impose even harsher measures, would quickly settle with them. Public opinion would almost certainly see relaxation in face of the risk of a strike as an act of great imprudence.”

No decision was made by the Cabinet at that meeting and on 7 February, Heath called an election for 28 February. [2]

On 10 February, the miners went on strike and the three-day week continued. The general election resulted in a hung parliament. Labour formed a minority government and brought and end to the strike and the three-day week in March.

Private Eye Cover Feb 1974

Private Eye Cover Feb 1974

Meanwhile, the newly formed Northern Ireland Assembly with a power-sharing executive made up of unionists and nationalists was dissolved. The government re-established direct rule over Northern Ireland  after declaring a state of emergency.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) continued its campaign of violence with extensive bombings on the British Mainland. In June, a bomb exploded at the Houses of Parliament in London.

In October, the Provisional IRA (a sub-group of the IRA) planted bombs in pubs in Guildford frequented by British Army Personnel, killing 5 people. In the following month, 21 people were killed and many others injured in the Birmingham pub bombings. 

A second general election was called in October and resulted in a narrow victory for Harold Wilson, giving Labour a majority of three seats.

I’m not been very adventurous with my clothing choice today and have just gone for my Burda dress and purple shirt, just like Saturday’s (1972) outfit.

I did try today to make a pack lunch improvement. I bought some ryvita and took the remains of the Avocado chilled soup and the cottage cheese to use as dips. I do seem to remember that ryvita was a definitely beloved of dieters in the seventies, which might explain why it really wasn’t a filling lunch.


Packed Lunch

This evening, we are experiencing a power cut. We’re eating our dinner by candlelight [3]. But we’re all cheered up by the Eurovision Song Contest which is held in Brighton this year. It was won by the Swedish group ABBA with their song “Waterloo”.

Abba Eurovision

Abba performing Waterloo at the Eurovision Song Contest

[1] Cabinet meeting 3rd December 1973

[2] Cabinet meeting 5th February 1974

[3] A collection of photos from 1974 with employees working by candlelight and queuing for bread



Sewing The Seventies: 1973

The Farmhouse Kitchen recipe book has quite a mixture of recipes, ranging from traditional regional dishes that are centuries old to recipes tackling new ingredients. One ingredient that crops up frequently in the book is the avocado. I suppose these days we don’t tend to think of the avocado as particularly exotic, it’s been in our supermarkets for so long, but in the seventies it was relatively new. It was Marks and Spencer that first introduced avocados to the UK public in 1968. Apparently, it was introduced as an “avocado pear”, which people would eat with custard. Anyway, it seems that crimes against the avocado are still being committed in the seventies with this recipe for “Chilled Avocado Soup”. I’m slightly doubtful about the whole concept of chilled soup anyway, but this was rather weird. It is basically made from cucumber, avocado and yoghurt and is meant to be eaten with hot toast. Master Steely declined, probably wisely. Mr Steely will eat anything, but he was not impressed either. The hot toast was enjoyed though.

Chilled Avocado Soup

Chilled Avocado Soup

Today I’ve just decided to go with a ready-to-wear turtle neck jumper and my rust-coloured corduroys. Although, the cords are not made with a seventies pattern, just the colour and the flares are reminiscent of the era.

Orange Flares

Orange Flares

This evening we are watching the cult film Logan’s Run. Set in a dystopian future, all citizens are required to “renew” at the age of thirty. Some people want to live beyond thirty and attempt to escape the confines of the domed city. The story follows Logan Five whose job appears to be to kill any escaping citizens, known as runners. That is, until he meets Jessica, who tells him about the existence of sanctuary outside the city’s domes. The city scenes looked like a model railway enthusiast had designed them and scanty costumes were frankly hilarious. Although clearly dated, it was quite good fun to watch.

Logan's Run

Logan’s Run

I really needed to make something quick tonight for dinner and I considered making a pasta dish from the Farmhouse Kitchen recipe book. On assembling the main ingredients I wasn’t particularly keen though. The recipe called for olives (another exotic ingredient!), ham and yoghurt. This combination sounded alarmingly nasty and in the end I just decided to make a conventional tomato sauce and add in the olives and ham. I suppose I felt like I couldn’t inflict anything that bad on Mr Steely after he bravely ate the chilled avocado soup.

Finally I’ve been placing the recipes up on Instagram under #livingtheseventies, if you feel tempted to try that soup.



Sewing The Seventies: 1972

I was browsing through twentieth-century history books on the internet the other day and I was struck by how pessimistic the titles of the books on the 1970s are; When the Lights Went Out, Mad As Hell and State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain. All the book titles shout gloom and chaos. Compare these to the positive titles for the surrounding decades – Never Had It So Good (the 1960s), or Promised You a Miracle: Why 1980-82 Made Modern Britain. The next few years in the seventies are going to be rather turbulent.

One of the most significant events of “The Troubles”, the name given to the conflict in Northern Ireland, which started in the late 1960s occurs in 1972. On 30 January, British soldiers shot unarmed civilians during a peaceful protest march in Derry. Fourteen people died. Many of the victims were shot while fleeing from the soldiers and some were shot while trying to help the wounded. It was the highest number of people killed in a single shooting incident during the conflict. As reported by Mr Michael Canavan of the Derry Citizens’ Central Council at the time “It was impossible to say who fired first. Personally I am sure it was the army, but it doesn’t really matter. What was so terrible and so tragic was that the soldiers fired into a huge crowd of people, and fired indiscriminately at that. The death toll must show us that their firing was indiscriminate.” [1]

This Sunday became known as Bloody Sunday. It increased Catholic and Irish nationalist hostility towards the British Army and exacerbated the conflict in Northern Ireland. A tribunal into the events took place shortly afterwards, but was widely regarded as a whitewash. A public inquiry, started in 1998 was eventually published after 12 years. [2]

In his speech to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the inquiry’s report contained “shocking conclusions to read and shocking words to have to say.” He stated “what happened should never, ever have happened”and apologised on behalf of the British Government. The Troubles continued throughout the seventies. The Good Friday agreement brought a measure of peace that previously had not known, but there are repercussions that continue to be felt to this day.

Simultaneously, in the early months of 1972 coal miners begin a strike which lasts for seven weeks. Other workers strike in solidarity with the miners. Railway workers refuse to transport coal and power station workers refuse to handle the coal. The government declare a state of emergency on 9th February as power shortages emerge and there is a cold snap in the weather. The lights turn off on 16th February. The Central Electricity Generating Board announces that homes and businesses are to be without electricity for up to nine hours a day. [3]


1972 Miners' Strike

1972 Miners’ Strike

In the afternoon, we settled down with popcorn to watch our film, The Poseidon Adventure, which was released in 1972. It’s a watery disaster movie about a group of passengers struggling to escape when their ocean liner completely capsizes at sea. Both Mr Steely and I had seen it before, but Master Steely who had not, gave it the thumbs up. There’s lots of action and he found it sad that not all the group survived.

The Poseidon Adventure

The Poseidon Adventure

And then the lights go out and we need to bring the tea lights out……Good job that we have a gas cooker and not an electric one.

Our dinner today was very much enjoyed by all. In fact I would go as far as saying that this recipe is one that I will make again – Smoked Haddock and Cottage Cheese Flan. I can say that cottage cheese has not been on my shopping list for years, but a good proportion of the recipes in the book seem to include it, I wonder why?

Smoked Haddock and Cottage Cheese Flan

Smoked Haddock and Cottage Cheese Flan

Today I wore my Burda 1970 dress again. This time I wore it with a purple shirt made with Simplicity 5196 from last year. I think this is a good combination.

Burda Dusty Dress

[1] Contemporary account in the Guardian newspaper

[2] Public Inquiry into Bloody Sunday in the Guardian newspaper

[3] The Miners’ Strike in Wikipedia