Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Sewing The Seventies: Make 2 – A sporty t-shirt

My next make this year is again a seventies pattern. I found this pattern for a t-shirt, tennis dress and shorts on Ebay. I have some white jersey and a small amount of purple jersey, that was used for this t-shirt to serve as contrast raglan sleeves. I decided to make View B, which is for the t-shirt with contrast sleeves and round neck.

McCalls Tennis Outfit

The construction was simple, but it did use a method for the neck and sleeves that I hadn’t used before. In the past, I have always made a band and then just attached that with the overlocker to the raw edges of the neck, sometimes using a zig-zag stitch to finish. This pattern called for folding the neck band over the raw edge and top-stitching through all the layers. I’m actually quite pleased with this finish. I was worried that with my sewing machine I would stretch out the neck opening and it wouldn’t look good, but with careful use of the walking foot and lessening the foot pressure, the top-stitching turned out well.

One of the design features of this t-shirt is the loop at the front. I hadn’t realised it was there until I started looking at the instructions.

The loop can be used to attach your sunglasses to the t-shirt. Do you think it will catch on? Well, obviously not, else we’d all be wearing t-shirts like this now! I think it’s still a cool design feature so I kept it in my make. I’m just trying it out here:

Does the sunglasses loop work?

Does the sunglasses loop work?

I actually really enjoyed making this top. It was a great quick make and a great addition to my wardrobe, which is lacking activewear. I can see myself making more of these tops. The raglan sleeves and contrast bands are also a fantastic way to use up leftover jersey fabric from other projects.

I’m still contemplating whether I should make the shorts or not. I’m very much more in favour of wearing full-length bottoms for exercise. The climate here hardly ever means I would need to wear shorts. However, they would be a quick simple make and they could be worn on holiday.

Just had to give you one more pose, something more sporty in my new top….

Ready for action?



Sewing The Seventies: Sportswear

At the start of the year, everyone focuses on kicking off the sloth from Christmas and the New Year and starting the year with laudable intentions to do more exercise. The shops seem to be full of activewear and January’s issue of Burda magazine always has a collection of patterns specifically for wearing to Yoga class. Although I never make exercise one of my new year resolutions, I will concede that activewear is one of the biggest gaps in my current wardrobe. I’ve been wearing the same tracksuit bottoms and t-shirts to my Yoga class for what seems at eternity (probably about ten years) and I’m keen to make myself some alternatives. As I’m well into Sewing The Seventies now, I’ve been looking through sportswear sewing patterns from the decade, and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on these.

The sewing patterns for sportswear in the 1970s seem to reveal the fitness crazes of the decade. There are tennis dresses and tracksuits, leotards and dance outfits.

In the UK I can only surmise that the popularity of tennis ensembles may be, at least, in part due to the success of Virginia Wade. There is nothing like a successful UK tennis player to bring out the forgotten tennis racket from the under-the-stairs cupboard!

Virginia won three Grand Slam singles titles, but her most famous success was winning Wimbledon in 1977. I remember seeing this particular match as a kid and my Mum commenting about Ms Wade’s frilly knickers!

The American sewing patterns on sale from this era are often branded with Chris Evert’s name. She was extremely successful winning 18 Grand slam singles championships and three doubles titles in the seventies and early eighties.

Chris Evert Butterick sewing pattern

Chris Evert Butterick sewing pattern – These tennis outfits are so cute!

Later in the decade there seem to be a variety of tracksuit patterns for running or jogging. The craze for jogging seems to originate from the late 1960s. In America there had been a decline in physical activity and sedentary lifestyles in the general population. This prompted William Bowerman, a Professor of Physical Education at the University of Oregon along with co-author, Seymour Lieberman to devise a fitness programme.  They launched the “Joggers Manual” and the jogging craze really took off.

Tracksuit from the seventies

William Bowerman, incidentally was also a track and field coach and co-founder of Nike. He pioneered many developments in running shoe design. His inspiration led to the introduction of the “Moon Shoe” in 1972, so named because the pattern of the tread resembled the footprints left by astronauts on the moon. Bowerman, also developed the idea behind the “Waffle Trainers

“We were making the waffles that morning and talking about (the track). As one of the waffles came out, he said, ‘You know, by turning it upside down — where the waffle part would come in contact with the track — I think that might work.’

There was also interest during the seventies for forms of exercise such as Yoga. Several influential Indian teachers of yoga including B.K.S. Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009) had already come to the west. The teaching of Yoga during this time was mostly Hatha Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga, which are both forms of Yoga practice that focus on poses, although Ashtanga Yoga tends to be more fast-paced.

In the UK, London Weekend Television treated its audience on Sunday mornings to a Yoga lesson. These were presented by Richard Hittleman, with Lyn Marshall demonstrating the poses. Lyn went on to front her own series, called Wake Up to Yoga.

Although there were not any particular outfits designed for specifically for Yoga among the 1970s sewing patterns . I did have a look online to see what people wore for Yoga in the seventies and it does seem that people either favoured wearing a leotard or just some loose-fitting clothing.

Yoga in the seventies

My next make is going to be a seventies style outfit that I could wear to Yoga practice. The pattern I’ve chosen is a tennis outfit, but there are two lengths available. I’m going to make the shorter, t-shirt length top. I’ve chosen some white jersey and I’m going to use some left-over jersey from my purple v-neck t-shirt for the raglan sleeves.

McCalls Tennis Outfit


1. William Bowerman  – Obituary in the Guardian and Biography

2. Lyn Marshall – Wake up to Yoga

3. Wimbledon fashion – A history in pictures


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 2018

Matching dungarees

When the Sewing the Seventies challenge finished last year, I got a few inquiries about whether it was going to run again next year. I had such a great time last year making my garments and seeing everyone else’s makes that I thought I’d run it again.

Like last year, I’m going to run the challenge over the next few weeks and dedicate my blog to all things 1970s related. This year, as well as the contest to make a seventies outfit, I’m also inviting you all to join me in “Living the Seventies”. I’m planning to spend ten days (in March) immersing myself in the decade; listening to the music, watching the films, eating some seventies-inspired food and of course, wearing the fashions of the era.

Here’s the important information:

What is Sewing the Seventies?

It is a sewing and knitting challenge to make clothing inspired by the fashions of the seventies.

The challenge starts today and you have until 26th March to sew or knit your garment or outfit.


How do I join in with Sewing the Seventies?

You are all invited, no matter where you live.

  1. Leave a comment on this post if you are interested.
  2. Write a post about your seventies make in the next two months including at least three pictures of each make.
  3. The post must have “Sewing The Seventies” in the title
  4. Add a link back here to the Steely Seamstress site so that others can see what Sewing the Seventies is all about.
  5. Grab the Sewing the Seventies button. The code on my side bar can be copied and pasted into a Text Widget on WordPress, or you can download the image and use it on your site.
  6. I will share all your posts on this site towards the end of March.

I’m slow at sewing, or I have lots of other sewing to do?

I know the feeling! Life just keeps getting in the way of my sewing plans too. That’s why the challenge is open for two months for more sewing time. I’m not the world’s fastest at sewing either – entering just one garment is fine too! If you don’t wish to sew or knit, join me for “Living the Seventies” and immerse yourself in the decade in whatever way you wish.

I don’t have any vintage seventies patterns?

No problem! This challenge is all about the seventies vibe, so using a modern pattern with a seventies look or a seventies-inspired fabric is great too.

In fact, I’m planning to write a few “inspiration” posts in the next month, with lots of suggestions, watch out for those!

Tell me now! What’s the prize?

That would be telling! I’ll announce this in a couple of weeks time!

Abigail's Party


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!