Steely Seamstress

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Sewing The Seventies: Make 2 – Denim Jumpsuit Part 2

Yes, I will admit that I’ve taken my time writing about my makes for Sewing The Seventies. Somehow the start of 2019 has been so busy for me. I’ve found some time to sew, but not a lot of time for all the blogging I’d intended to do.

Anyway, I’ve finally finished my jumpsuit! The jumpsuit pattern I used was a Burda pattern taken from their seventies vintage special magazine. My previous post describes the decision-making process for this jumpsuit as I deviated quite a bit from the original pattern. The pattern is designed to be made with jersey and lined, but I made an unlined jumpsuit in non-stretch denim. For this reason, I had to be very careful about making sure I could still move in my creation. I sewed the top and bottom of the jumpsuit, tacked them together and then did a lot of bending and stretching in the garment to make sure I was satisfied with the fit.

Cher Catsuit (V2-70)

Cher Catsuit (V2-70)

I made some changes to the pattern, I was concerned that if I made the pattern as it was in denim it would just look like the boiler suit Mr Steely wears for working on motorbikes! I thought the addition of all the top-stitching and the short sleeves took this it out of blue workmen’s boiler suit territory, until I put the finished garment on for the first time and Master Steely’s commented it was just like something a mechanic would wear. (Oh well, what does he know? He’s a teenager!) Perhaps I should have chosen a different colour, Mr Steely was all into the idea of a Kill Bill-style yellow suit. Really? I think I shall ignore that suggestion.

Kill Bill

Kill Bill – A yellow catsuit?

Anyway, I decided to make short-sleeves and used the sleeves from this seventies blouse as a substitute. I also decided to max out on the pockets adding patch pockets to the front and the back. The front pockets were taken from the Lander pattern and the back pockets from this seventies jeans pattern. Altogether this make was a real mish-mash!

Cher Catsuit (V2-70) – from the back

There is one thing I haven’t quite managed to do and that is create a belt for my jumpsuit. I’m still pondering what belt buckle to use, so the jumpsuit is still missing the belt loops and a belt, but at least I can wear it. Perhaps it just looks fine with the belt I’ve already chosen?

Bond villain pose?!

Bond villain pose?!

The jumpsuit was actually quite hard to make. The Burda instructions were essentially impossible to follow and this is the first jumpsuit I’ve made so it wasn’t easy to rely on my own experience here. I found the zip insertion instructions a complete nonsense and I probably over-manipulated the placket. It isn’t as tidy as I would have liked, but I’ll just have to live with that.

Cher Catsuit (V2-70)

Cher Catsuit (V2-70) – top.

I’m hoping that the jumpsuit can be worn with a long-sleeved t-shirt or jumper underneath in winter and on its own for summer.

Cher Catsuit (V2-70)


Sewing The Seventies: We have a winner!

We have a winner! I am delighted to announce that jenlegg4 won this year’s competition with her beautiful wrap dress. Well done, Jenn, it’s a beautiful dress, I love the way it hangs in the scuba fabric.

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My entry for #gbsbsewalong organised by the lovely Sheona is this vintage pattern I loved when @elisalex posted a few months back I think the 70’s is my favourite era I sourced the vintage pattern from Etsy ♥️ I’ve made mine from the floral scuba from @sewisfaction . . You can’t notice my blinking eye #iritis never heard of it before @versusarthritis the disease that keeps on giving ! #versusversace To see @pmjofficial tonight @sage_gateshead with my gorgeous man ♥️ Thank you to the sponsors @creativeinduk @ernestwrightltd @suzymagazine @sewhayleyjane . #healthiswealth #pissedoclock #everyoneidfightingtheirownbattles #bekind #sewistsofinstagram #behindeverypictureisastory #love #sewingbee @sewover50 #sewover50 #mysewisfaction #sewingtheseventies2019 @steelyseamstress #sewingtheseventies @janomeuk @sewessentialuk #janomemakes #sewmaxiformothersday @crystalsewsandstuff @crumpetsteaandsewing

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If you want to go out and make your own, the pattern Jenn used was Simplicity 6563

Thanks to all those that participated this year. It has been a delight to hold the contest and share the seventies with you! The entries were all fantastic and you’ve inspired my hunting on Ebay and Etsy.


Sewing The Seventies: The Entries

The end of March is truly upon us and it’s now time to share all your fabulous makes from Sewing The Seventies.

By the way, I noticed that all I could find were Instagram makes. I hope I haven’t left anyone off the the poll, as there were a couple of people with blogs who expressed an interest. Let me know if I’m missed an entry (I truly hope I haven’t), and I can update the poll.

Here are the makes so you know what you are voting for and good luck!

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The 70s week #gbsbsewalong sewing challenge calls for 70s dance moves! Here are more details for those interested: . I chose view A of vintage #butterick5848 , but happened to have the fabric color and bias binding of view C, so I went for it. This was my first time sewing a vintage pattern, and I approached it as a wearable toile for a future #ImAllAmal dress. I learned that all the markings on the pattern tissue are important, while the printed instructions expect you to have a working knowledge of basic sewing. Example of the directions: “Insert zipper in back opening.” That’s it! . Mods: shortened bodice by 1”, shortened skirt by 3”, left off the zipper because of my very stretchy knit fabric, and thus simply sewed the center back 6” from the neckline, then closed opening with a hook and eye after finishing raw edges. Finally, because the length was so short already, I put in a 1/4” hem rather than a 1 1/4” hem on the dress. . I recently laughed @curious__fi ’s post where she said, “Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet kids”, because I feel the same way about my dress. I did the opposite of my prior GBSB Sewalong Cotton wrap skirt—instead of working early, diligently, carefully, I procrastinated and left off the sewing of this dress until rather late. If Patrick Grant were to scrutinize it, he would turn to me and say, “I think we can agree that this is not your best work.” I would mutely nod in acknowledgement of the shiny seams where I didn’t use a presscloth, the dodgy 2 AM stitching that is NOT in the ditch, the meandering stitches along the hem. 🙍🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️I admit all this to show that truly I am still learning and I make mistakes. I will say that the dress fits well, and I’ll most likely wear it at home. . Swipe to see the fabric for my headscarf – if that bright floral poly crepe doesn’t say 70s, I don’t know what does! That, and the teal interlock fabric, purple bias binding, pattern, even vintage seam lace on the inside are courtesy of @austincreativereuse . . I’m entering this into three sewing challenges – #sewthatpatternnow #makeyourstash #sewingtheseventies2019 . #b5848 #butterickpatterns #WakeToMake #ShortSewists #POCWhoSews

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My entry for #gbsbsewalong organised by the lovely Sheona is this vintage pattern I loved when @elisalex posted a few months back I think the 70’s is my favourite era I sourced the vintage pattern from Etsy ♥️ I’ve made mine from the floral scuba from @sewisfaction . . You can’t notice my blinking eye #iritis never heard of it before @versusarthritis the disease that keeps on giving ! #versusversace To see @pmjofficial tonight @sage_gateshead with my gorgeous man ♥️ Thank you to the sponsors @creativeinduk @ernestwrightltd @suzymagazine @sewhayleyjane . #healthiswealth #pissedoclock #everyoneidfightingtheirownbattles #bekind #sewistsofinstagram #behindeverypictureisastory #love #sewingbee @sewover50 #sewover50 #mysewisfaction #sewingtheseventies2019 @steelyseamstress #sewingtheseventies @janomeuk @sewessentialuk #janomemakes #sewmaxiformothersday @crystalsewsandstuff @crumpetsteaandsewing

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Sewing The Seventies: Make 2 – Denim Jumpsuit Part 1

Don’t forget, it’s the Sewing The Seventies deadline tomorrow. It’s been such fun seeing all the cool seventies makes. I’ll be doing a round up post after that, featuring all your creations.

To be honest I have had some problems with my seventies makes this year. I had a disorganised start to the year and was away from home for about two weeks. I then bought a 70s pattern from Etsy that took an age to arrive. I’m not making anything from that pattern at the moment, because if I was never going to finish that before the end of March. So I embarked on a project for my second make than I would not have otherwise undertaken. That said, it is a fantastic make that I’ve really been able to get my teeth into.

Abba-esque jumpsuit


Line drawing of Burda “Cher” catsuit (V2-70)

I decided to make a denim jumpsuit. I had a pattern already for this. There is a jumpsuit pattern in the 70s Burda special. It’s called the “Cher” catsuit and is a rather Abba-esque all-in-one made from jersey. But it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I was leaning towards making a jumpsuit in denim. I took to the internet and pinned various images into Pinterest and here’s a compilation of the images that I liked:

In a nutshell, my aim was to create a jumpsuit using the Burda pattern, with a few key changes. I favoured short sleeves and pockets with top-stitching. The Burda pattern also includes making a lining for the jumpsuit, which I have done away with.

I chose some light-weight, non-stretch denim locally in Calico Fabrics. Yes, I know you’re thinking that this pattern has been designed to be used with jersey! It’s a dark indigo denim, which I always associate with a 70s look. I opted for the contrasting orange top-stitching.

The instructions that come with the pattern are truly awful. Yes, Burda strikes again, but they really surpassed themselves with this pattern and it was a challenge to sew this. I took to repeatedly reciting the pattern instructions out loud in the hope that they would make more sense… didn’t work.

I’ve never sewn a jumpsuit before and I was worried about how I was going to get the fit right, particularly given that the pattern is designed for jersey. I made the trousers and the top separately and then tacked the two together to investigate the fit. Wisely, I’d anticipated that once you get the zip in, a change to the jumpsuit would be very difficult. The fitting involved some interesting antics such as bending and touching my toes and curling up into a ball to be sure that the crotch didn’t cut me in half!

The pockets were taken from two other patterns. The back pockets from this Seventies pattern. I did some top-stitching on the pockets in two different colours. The effect is perhaps a little too subtle, since the two colours weren’t too dissimilar. The slightly darker top-stitching thread was a left-over from another project. The front pockets came from the Lander pattern.

I’m nearly there with this make now, but I’ve still got to add the collar and the sleeves. Actually, I haven’t even cut out the sleeves yet! I need to find some short sleeves, preferably with bands (that I can top-stitch).


Sewing The Seventies: 1979 in Italy

We’ve come the end of the 1970s in Italy. It’s been quite a task to write about all the events of this decade, mostly because of the difficulty of presenting what occurred in a simple coherent way. The politics of the era are complex, and unlike the politics in the UK, the mafia, the Church and extremism all play their part and are intricately interwoven.

The last two years of the 70s saw two governments formed by Giulio Andreotti.  He was a right-wing politician in the Democrazia Cristiana (DC) party. He staunchly supported the Vatican and opposed the Italian Communist Party. He has often been portrayed as a Machiavellian character, managing to survive politically (and literally) in an era where corruption changes (and sometimes assassination) claimed many senior figures in Italian politics.

I was re-watching the film, “Il Divo“, directed by Paolo Sorrentino yesterday. The film covers the life of Andreotti from just after the murder of Aldo Moro through to the nineties. The title of the film comes from the nickname coined by the journalist Mino Pecorelli, “Divo Giulio” – the Divine Julius after Julius Caesar. Sadly “Il Divo” is not an easy film to watch and understand. To quote The Guardian newspaper, it is “traumatised with its own information overload”. I wasn’t sure if I understood much more than when I’ve watched it previously, but at least all the political figures were fresh in my mind this time!

Il Divo film.

An investigation in 1992, uncovered endemic corruption practices at the highest levels and several mafia investigations notably touched Andreotti. His faction in the DC party included the politician Salvatore Lima, who was strongly associated with the mafia in Sicily. (Incidentally in 1979 Lima was elected as an MEP in the first European elections that were held in Italy.) At the trial one mafia informer, sensationally claimed that Andreotti had been initiated, receiving the pinprick to his index finger in an initiation ceremony. Another claimed that there had been a meeting between Andreotti and mafia boss, Toto Riina, (mentioned previously here) exchanging a kiss as a gesture of respect. Neither of these two claims, however, could be confirmed.

Andreotti cartoon

Andreotti portrayed, as ever, with his Yoda-like ears. “The name of Andreotti comes up in the State – Mafia negotiations. Andreotti: No personal involvement, I meet them at home, it’s convenient, so that we can meet half-way.”

Over the period of the next year Pecorelli investigated the many links between politics, terrorism, the mafia and finance. He became known as “l’uomo che sapevo troppo” (the man who knew too much).

“They’re not skeletons, they’re relics”

Andreotti was tried on charges of complicity in the murder of journalist Mino Pecorelli. The case was circumstantial and based on the word of a mafia informant. He declared that the murder had been commissioned by the Salvo cousins as a favour to Andreotti. Andreotti was later acquitted along with his mafia co-defendants. Was Andreotti culpable?  We’ll probably never get to the truth, but Andreotti himself summed it up in these words: “Apart from the Punic Wars, for which I was too young, I have been blamed for everything that’s happened in Italy.”

1979 saw inflation top 22 percent. The value of the lira had plummetted during the 1970s and virtually any price label sported multiple zeros. I took a look at some figures for a typical Italian shopping basket. A coffee would have cost 250 Lira (about 30 (US) cents at the time), a litre of wine 660 L (80 cents), a kilogram of pasta cost 725 L (88 cents) and a kilogram of sugar 750 L (90 cents). Well, it is an Italian shopping basket, so of course, there would be coffee and pasta!

Just before Italy changed over to the Euro, virtually nothing could be bought with coins and even small purchases required a handful of 1000 Lira bank notes. You could even be a (Lira) millionaire!

[1] Il divo film review in The Guardian

[2] Mino Pecorelli Mystery (in Italian)

[3] Uncomfortable truths for the powerful (in Italian)

[4] Giulio Andreotti quotes (in Italian)



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Sewing The Seventies: 1978 in Italy

This year is an unusual and disturbing year in Italian history. Two things stand out in particular; the tragic case of Aldo Moro and the investiture of two popes.

At this time the United States and the church continued to have significant political influence. Both were concerned about the potential of communists entering government. Aldo Moro as president of the DC (Democrazia Cristiana) party proposed a cabinet supported by the Italian Communist Party.

On 16th March, the new government of Giulio Andreotti was about due to announce the legislation for the next parliament. Aldo Moro, president of the DC (Democrazia Cristiana) party, expected in cabinet that morning, was collected from his home a little before 9.00 in the morning by his police escort. As usual, Moro sat in the back of one car. A second car followed carrying armed officers. As the cars entered Via Fani, they pass a parked car with two men sat inside. They suspected nothing. Then, at the junction with Via Stresa, a white car with a diplomatic number plate suddenly reversed and hit the car behind which was carrying Moro. Other cars blocked any escape for the politician and four armed terrorists appeared from the side of the street. Many shots were fired, carefully avoiding the rear window next to Moro. All the armed guards were killed. Moro was forced into waiting car and kidnapped.

Just after 10.00 the kidnappers sent a message to Rome, Genova, Milano and Torino “We are the Red Brigades. This morning we kidnapped the president of the DC party, Aldo Moro, and assassinated his escort and special branch officers. A public announcement will follow”

The first communication from the kidnappers with a photo of Aldo Moro, looking dishevelled but otherwise unharmed. Ten days passed and the investigation didn’t seem to be making much progress, when on 25th March a communication was received simultaneously in four cities that Moro would be killed. The Red Brigades had initiated a secret trial where Moro was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Photo taken on Aldo Moro in captivity

It wasn’t until the third communication was received five days later that the kidnappers demands were revealed. They wanted a prisoner exchange. The communication also included three letters written by Moro; the first to his family, the second to his secretary and the third to Francesco Cossiga, the Interior Minister. This letter was published in the newspapers.

From hereon in, every few days there was a communication from the kidnappers, accompanied by letters that Moro had written. These letters included desperate and increasingly bitter appeals to his fellow party members to meet the kidnappers demands.

The government immediately took a hard line position: the “State must not bend” to “terrorist demands”.

In all, Moro wrote 88 letters. Some of those letters were very critical of Andreotti, the prime minister, and the pope. Many were kept secret for more than a decade. In his letters, Moro said that the state’s primary objective should be saving lives, and that the government should comply with his kidnappers’ demands.

From Moro’s last letter to his wife:

Everything is useless, when they don’t want to open the door.

The pope has done very little, perhaps he doesn’t have any scruples….

Moro’s body was left in the trunk of a red Renault 4 on Via Michelangelo Caetani after 55 days in captivity. Cardinal Siri, one of the most powerful figures in the Vatican, when he heard of the Aldo Moro’s fate, responded: “He got what he deserved”.

Letter from Aldo Moro whilst he was in captivity

On 6th August, Pope Paul VI died after 15 years as the pontif. On 26th August, Albino Luciani was elected pope. He chose the name John Paul I, becoming the first pope to have a double name.

Albino Luciani was born in Canale d’Agordo in the Veneto region. Many of my relatives talk about him as being “nostro papa” (our pope). He is the last pope of Italian nationality. He was known as a warm, gentle and kind man and this image was immediately formed when he was presented to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square following his election. In Italy he was known as the “Papa del Sorriso” (smiling pope).

However, Pope John Paul I has one of the shortest papacies in the history of the Catholic Church, only 33 days. In fact, Time magazine labelled him “The September Pope”.

The “Smiling Pope”, Pope John Paul I

It was said that around 10:00 on the night of his death, the pope learned that several neo-Fascists had fired upon a group of young people, outside one of the Communist party’s offices in Rome.  One young man was killed and another seriously wounded. Shortly before he retired for the night, he lamented that “Even the young are killing each other.” Pope John Paul I died of a heart attack between 11:00 pm 28th September and 5:00 am the next morning in his private apartment.

A few months later various alternative theories started circulating about his death. Discrepancies in the Vatican’s account of the events surrounding John Paul I’s death – its inaccurate statements about who found the body and when, where, and whether an autopsy could be carried out. The most sensational account was a theory by the David Yallop in his best seller “In God’s name”. He speculated that John Paul I had been in potential danger because of the programme of reforms he wished to make to the Vatican Bank and that he had been murdered. The corruption was real and is known to have involved the bank’s head Bishop Paul Marcinkus and Roberto Calvi of the Banco Ambrosiano. Calvi had ties with the mafia and an illegal masonic lodge, P2.

Calvi was found dead in London in 1982 after disappearing just before the corruption became public. His death was initially ruled suicide and a second inquest – ordered by his family – then returned an open verdict. The Vatican Bank lost about a quarter of a billion dollars. The theory has been debunked by various authors. On 16th October, Karol Wojtyle was elected pope. He took the name John Paul II.

[1] The Moro Case – Rai podcast (in Italian)

[2] The Moro Case on wikipedia

[3] My Dear Noretta – Aldo Moro Letter (in Italian)

[3] Roberto Calvi – The Guardian (in English)

[4] Debunking four myths about John Paul I (in English)


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Sewing The Seventies: 1977 in Italy

This year saw a series of rallies and protests, often ending in violence. These included the clash at the La Sapienza university in Rome in February and violent street skirmishes in Bologna in March which affected the entire city for two days  [1]. One of the most memorable and frightening images of the decade is from 1977. An image so striking that it has become a symbol for the anni di piombo (The Years of Lead). The photo was taken on 14th May in Milan. It shows a man, arms extended, aiming a pistol down a busy shopping street [2].

On 12th May, the Partito Radicale (Radical Party), a political party, organised a rally to celebrate the anniversary of the referendum on divorce. Groups of students and supporters joined the event. Some disturbances prompted the police to intervene and during an exchange of fire, a 19 year old student, Giorgiana Masi, was shot.

Two days later in Milan protests and a solidarity march were held. The police though, blocked the advance of the march in via De Amicis and this degenerated into an armed confrontation. A young police officer, Antonio Custra, was shot dead. The photo here was taken as these events unfolded [3].

14th May 1977, via De Amicis, Milan

In February the state broadcaster, RAI broadcasts for the first time in colour. Unbelievably this is a full ten years after the BBC started broadcasting programmes in colour. (The first colour broadcast in the UK was in 1967!) Even more private TV stations appeared, transmitting to their local communities.

I think this photo is taken in 1977 and I’m the girl in the middle. You might notice that us kids are all wearing traditional costume. England doesn’t have any sort of national costume, but it’s quite common in Italy to dress up for local events; many towns have an event that ties in with their history or traditions. Whenever this festival occurs, the town will dress up. Sometimes it is medieval costume like in Feltre, other times it can just whatever you feel inspired to wear, like at the Venice Carnival. In the mountains, parents just think it is cute to dress their children up like this, but I’ve also seen people wear traditional dress for activities such as walking in the mountains or housework (yes, really!)

I thought I was alone in the UK with this experience of national dress, but when I happen to mention it to someone who is Welsh or Scottish they often understand, having worn traditional dress in their childhood.

Traditional Dress in Cortina d’Ampezzo

The costume itself consists of a gathered skirt, a white shirt and a little laced bolero. Being near to Austria, Bavaria and Sud Tirol, I suppose it is similar to the dirndls that often feature in the September editions of BurdaStyle magazine [4].

Classic Dirndl Burdastyle 09/2016 #129


[1] The 77 Movement on wikipedia

[2] The story of a photo (Rai Storia) (Video in Italian)

[3] Thirty years ago I shot your father (in Italian)

[4] Burdastyle Traditional Dirndl