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?



IPM2017 Hack It contest – Tonic Tee

After finishing my zip-tastic hack for the Grainline Moss, I moved onto my  second garment for the Hack It contest at The Monthly Stitch.

My top is based on the Tonic Tee from SBCC patterns. I’ve never tried a pattern from this company before. I find it really helpful when a designer has a free pattern that I can try before I buy another pattern. The Tonic Tee is free as a PDF when you sign up for their email newsletter.

The pattern itself is a classic t-shirt with a scoop neck. The Tonic Tee pattern comes in lots of sizes, which is fantastic – ranging from XXS to 3XL. They are specifically designed for petites, so the patterns are for those that are short in stature. I’ve never really thought that I’m “petite”. I’m at the taller end of the range that SBCC state for their designs, but I do have a short body. After consulting the sizing chart and comparing this to my body measurements, I didn’t alter the pattern at all; must be a first for me.

The fabric is a purple cotton-spandex Art Gallery jersey. I do love the Art Gallery jerseys, but they are a bit pricey, so I immediately snapped up some when I saw that Fabric HQ had a sale.

I made two modifications to the design to fit in with the Hack It contest. First, I changed the neckline to a V-neck. Second, I altered the hemline of the t-shirt so that it is curved rather than straight.

I’ve been avoiding v-necks for years; when I bought clothes I always found them too revealing. Now that I make clothes all the time, I can decide how low-cut I want that V. I basically followed this tutorial on the Colette Seamwork website for the Aberdeen t-shirt, to draft the new neckline and also to sew it.

I did have some problems in the construction stages though. It took me a couple of hours to get to the point where I was happy with the way the v-neck looked. I also don’t think I have been less chilled during a sewing session for years – there was lots of swearing involved too! The problem was that I just couldn’t get that v-neck as tidy as I would have liked. I pinned, tacked, sewed and then unpicked numerous times. I just wasn’t happy with the way the neckline sat. I’m still not sure whether I nailed it or not, I defer to you, my readers, for that verdict. Rest assured I’m not making another v-neck anytime soon; I just couldn’t handle the stress!

I do like the construction method, even if not entirely happy with my execution of it. I had a good look at my lone RTW t-shirt which is a v-neck and noted that the manufacturer had literally sewn a standard neckline and just sewn the neck band at the V across to made a triangle – this construction technique looks rubbish to me. I’m such a critic of RTW clothes these days!

I finished the hems with a zig-zag. I sometimes wish that I could brave a twin needle, but with a sewing machine of the vintage mine is, I’m not sure that I can. Although, I think a good zig-zag does still look good, even if it isn’t the finish we are used to seeing in shop-bought t-shirts.

Overall, apart from my problems with the v-neck construction, I like my t-shirt. It is close-fitting, but that is definitely the intention with this design. Looking at the photos with the skirt,  I think that the t-shirt does accentuate my sticky-out belly (not good). However, I’m much more likely to wear t-shirts untucked with jeans. I took some more photos with the t-shirt paired with jeans.  I think that the gentle curve that I made on the hem looks good when the t-shirt is untucked.


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Just a basic t-shirt but in lime green!

This is my second make with the viscose-lycra blend jersey.  I actually sewed this before the infamous cowl-collared horror, but didn’t get around to taking photos until this last weekend.

I think the colour is fantastic and a bit of a departure for me. It is loud! I think I was attracted to it mainly because it was just a bright sunny day when I bought the fabric and seemed like a great colour to celebrate the changing season. I think it goes well with my new jeans, although I’m really wishing I had a pair of black skinny jeans / jeggings to wear with it.

The t-shirt is just a basic loose-fitting t-shirt made with the Laurie Striped Tee pattern from Named Clothing. I have made this particular t-shirt before, and like my previous version, I again omitted the stripes.

I suppose it isn’t really possible to get very excited by basics like this, but I’m very glad that I put this t-shirt together as I am rather short on t-shirts and short-sleeved tops in general.

I had been really very worried about the pilling that I experienced with the cowl-necked t-shirt, but weirdly this particular t-shirt hasn’t suffered as badly. Could it be that being looser and being worn under a cardigan it doesn’t experience the same friction as my previous make, or could it be that my eyes are deceiving me and it is harder to spot the pilling on the lime green without going cross-eyed. Either way, I am feeling happier, because I still have another length of this fabric, and it’s possible it may not pill.

I’m not sure that my learning process with knit fabrics is going as planned though. I’m still having difficulties with wavy hems. I’m tried my Swiss zig-zagger and really it can’t cope with the extra thickness. I’ve tried making the seam more stable with knit interfacing. The only thing that really helps is giving the garment a wash. The waviness is nearly eliminated (hence no photo to share here – I’ve already washed the t-shirt). I’ve watched a few youtube videos where people manage make non-wavy hems without the aid anything, but a standard foot. So sadly, my conclusion, is that perhaps my old Singer is just not up to doing this job any better. Can any of you shed any light on this? Is there something else I could try?


A little Tee with Cherries

I bought a fabric remnant at Guthrie and Ghani‘s when I was with Sew Brum. It is only 0.6 metres, although the fabric is plenty wide (1.5 m). I decided to try to squeeze a t-shirt out of it.

I used the pattern I made from La Mia Moda magazine, which I used for this t-shirt. It did require quite a bit of imagination to get my pattern pieces arranged onto this small scrap of fabric, but eventually I got the sleeves to fit, although they are rather short (just over 20 cms from the top of the shoulder). Still a success, I think, to use so little fabric so well!

The construction was very simple. I just seamed with my overlocker and then constructed bands to finish the neck and sleeves. Yes, I even had enough for the neck and sleeve bands. I think I would have preferred to have the sleeve bands a bit thicker; I was hoping to get a bit more arm coverage, but these will have to do.

Cherry Top

I do worry when I sew my zig-zag topstitch, as I do get some waviness (technical term!) going on. But judging by all the top-stitching I have done on knits so far, this seems to disappear with the first wash or after a good iron. So, I’m not going to get overwrought, I’m just going to trust it will “come out in the wash”, although the situation on the sleeves is rather more than I have seen before.

Cherry Top Neck

Not sure when this t-shirt is going to be worn next. It does seem that I am making another out-of-season garments; I’ll have a great wardrobe by Summer if I carry on like this! I’m definitely going to go for a warm long-sleeved garment next, though – just to make the photography less cold!

Cherry Top

Cherry Top

Cherry Top


My First T-Shirt

Why it has taken me so long to make a simple t-shirt? I bought my overlocker earlier this year and I have been using it for finishing raw edges, but I hadn’t plunged into making knit fabric garments. The primary reason for my reluctance is that I began to get “knit-phobia”. I’d read so much about how tricky knits are, that I failed to put it in proper context. After all I spend much of my time sewing with tricky fabrics like silk and doing tricky techniques (think, top-stitching here), knits are just tricky in a different way. The other reason I have been staying away from t-shirts is that for years I wore nothing but t-shirts (nothing else fitted), so I really do have a lot of them. In truth, I probably don’t need another t-shirt now, but it was definitely time to confront my phobia!

I bought this La Mia Moda magazine in Italy last year. It seems to be a translation of a German magazine called Diana-something. It has lots of patterns for knit fabrics. Lucie of Love, Lucie had received this magazine as part of a prize and had tried one of the patterns. She’d been quite disappointed with the results so I approached this project with a degree of trepidation. Sorry, Lucie – hope you don’t mind me referencing your post?

La Mia Moda front cover

I chose the pattern known uninspiringly as “Modello 3P Maglia” – Pattern 3P t-shirt. It is a fairly straightforward t-shirt design with long-sleeves. Admittedly in the photo the model is wearing a t-shirt with the body and sleeves made from two different fabrics, but I thought I could easily make the t-shirt from the same fabric.

Maglia 3P

The magazine suggested 0.8m fabric for the body and a further 0.7m for the sleeves. I guessed that I could probably get away with 1 metre fabric. I bought an elasticated viscose fabric from Fashion Fabrics. I must admit that viscose isn’t my usual choice, but I wanted to use something I didn’t care too much about as my first attempt. The fabric is relatively thick and doesn’t curl as the edges. I hoped it would be an amenable fabric for my first foray into knits.

Next, I created a pattern that fitted me from the magazine. This is where I was confronted with the biggest load of “spaghetti” ever. It was quite a challenge finding my pattern pieces on the pattern sheets. In the end I decided to use a highlighter to make tracing the pattern easier.

La Mia Moda spaghetti

I traced the smallest size, but soon realised that this was going to be enormous on me and like a previous Burda pattern I had used, I ended up making many adjustments. (Is this something about German patterns, perhaps they are for particularly tall people?) In fact, I’m not really sure that I could claim I was actually “using this pattern” after all these adjustments:

  • Shortened length of both front and back
  • Reduced height between shoulders and bust
  • Re-shaped armscyes so that were smaller and the shoulders were less wide
  • Re-shaped neckline on both front and back
  • Made front and back pieces less wide
  • Re-drew bust dart to account for new width of front
  • Re-drew back darts so that they were shorter and correctly positioned with the new width and length.

Was there anything unchanged? Yes, the sleeves were pretty much unchanged, just slightly trimmed to fit the new armscyes. However, I found that I couldn’t quite make long sleeves with my 1 metre of fabric, so I shortened them to make 3/4 length sleeves. So actually no, there wasn’t anything that I didn’t change!

Next, the construction. The instructions in the magazine are fairly minimal so I did a fair bit of online research to help me.

Maglia 3P instructions

1. Sew the shoulder seams

I made two small strips of knit interfacing (in place of using stay tape). I used these to prevent stretching at the shoulder seams, as recommended in Deby’s blog and stitched the front and back pieces together at the shoulders

2. Add the neck band

I wasn’t exactly sure how long I needed to make the neck band as I had made some changes to the size of the neckline. I measured the neckline circumference and cut a strip a little smaller than this. I stitched the neckline in a similar way to this post on the Indie Sew website using the overlocker to attach the neck band and then top-stitching with a zig-zag stitch.

3. Attach the sleeves

Here, I just simply overlocked the body section to the sleeve at the shoulder with right-sides together.

4. Sew the side-seams and sleeve seams as one

Again, using the overlocker, with right-sides together, I stitched the sleeves seam and then the side seam of the t-shirt body in one go. I then repeated this for the other side of the t-shirt.

5. Sew the body and sleeve hems

First, I overlocked the raw edges of the fabric. Then I used the knit interfacing again. I cut 1.5 cm strips of this and fused this to the wrong sides of the bottom edges of the body and the sleeves. I then folded up 1.5cm to the wrong side and sewed a zig-zag stitch to form a hem on the body and on each sleeve.

3P close-up hem

3P top 1

I have worn this t-shirt now and have found it very comfortable – well knits are generally anyway, so no surprises here! This, however, is the first time that I have worn a t-shirt with darts in it. It’s a little unusual to have darts in a knit garment. I suppose they aren’t needed as the fabric stretches around the body’s curves. It generally seems to be the rule of thumb that darts aren’t used. I assume they may be used in these patterns as they may be plus size patterns (although it doesn’t explicitly say so). But, I do wonder whether it helps make the garment extra flattering even for a smaller bust. I did always find with RTW t-shirts that they cut rather too high under my arms and tended to leave some unsightly creases emanating from my armpits. I’ve just been looking through a few photos and this photo below ably illustrates exactly what I mean. With the darts (and a better fitting armscye) I just don’t get that problem, although that is harder to see with the busy fabric.

Blue skirt

All in all, this project wasn’t too bad. I think actually sewing something knits was the least difficult part of the whole process, considering the pattern adjustments. However, I could improve my technique where the neck bands are concerned. To insert the neck band I had made a neck band strip slightly smaller than the circumference of the neckline and stretched it gently as a sewed it into place. I hoped this would make sure that the neckline didn’t stick out at all. It didn’t, but the neckline did appear to make the fabric wavy. There is a great article on Craftsy website on how to sew hems and my neckline does look a lot like the “non-interfaced” hem shown. What would be the best way to over come this?

3P close-up neckline 2


3P finished

3P finished 3

As for the magazine, I was really using it as a guide rather than strictly following the pattern or the instructions. I think I may have ended up with something horrid and shapeless if I hadn’t spent overly long customising the pattern (4 evenings). This is extreme even by my standards and I do generally trace my patterns and adapt them anyway.

I think I will give this magazine another go, as there are a few more patterns that I like in here, which are more adventurous than the plain t-shirt.



May Upcycle – Old t-shirt into knickers

For my first venture in sewing with knits, I decided that I didn’t want to spend much money on just in case…..

Belle at Belle and Burger has a tutorial on making your own knickers from old t-shirts and I thought this would be a perfect project for a beginner.


An old t-shirt

Paper for pattern

Pair of knickers on which to base my pattern

Elastic with lace trim

Ball-point sewing machine needle

Finished Knickers

I chose an old comfy pair of pants (too despicable for a photo!) for my pattern. I used the same t-shirt for both the lining and the front and back (although actually you could use different t-shirts for each of these if you so wished).

I have been experimenting lately with my Swiss zig-zagger and thought that this would be ideal for creating that perfect zig-zag stitch. It was a little tricky sewing the elastic to the waistband and legs. In some places my zig-zag stitching is far from beautiful. I think I should have cut out the fabric a little more generously. It would have been easier with a little more fabric to play with and I could have trimmed the excess off rather than sewing right up against the edge.

I enjoyed my introduction to knits and I shall definitely be making some more of these in the near future and perhaps embark making something else with a knit fabric. I wore them at the weekend and found them very comfortable.

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March Upcycle – Star T-shirt

I’ve seen so many freeze paper stencil on the web that I just had to give this a go. They look like such an easy idea and the possibilities are endless. I had another rather faded old t-shirt to experiment on. I decided to give it a dye first to a more vibrant shade of mauve and then add a star in grey to the front. I also got to try out a bit more Inkscape functionality. I’m really getting the hang of the software.


Dylon Ocean Blue hand dye (or similar dye)

Reynolds Freezer Paper (This isn’t generally available in the UK. I’m not sure if there is any other equivalent that would do the same job. I found that it sold on Amazon)

Fabric paint (I used Marabu Texil)Star T-shirt (Before and After)Dyeing the T-shirt

1. Wash the t-shirt first.

2. Next, dye the t-shirt according to the instructions. I used the whole packet of dye to get a deep colour, but it is possible to use less or mix colours.

3. Let the t-shirt dry and then wash the t-shirt on its own in the washing machine just to make sure that it is colour-fast. Allow to dry.

Creating the template

1. (Optional) Create a template on your computer. I used the freeware program Inkscape to create my star template. I simply drew a star using the Star and Polygon tool and five circles using the Circle tool. I also rounded the stars corners and used the randomise tool to change my star to give it a slightly asymmetrical “hand-drawn” look.

2. Cut out the design and use it as a template on the freezer paper

3. Cut out the design from the freezer paper

4. Place the freezer paper on the t-shirt and iron gently on a hot setting. The paper should adhere to the t-shirt.

Star T-shirt template

5. Apply the paint to the t-shirt using a paintbrush or sponge.

6. Apply another coat of paint if needed (I found to get a solid look that I needed two coats). Allow to dry. Peel off the freezer paper

7. Place a cloth over the paint and fix the dye using the iron on Cotton setting