Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


#makenine2021 Pine green seventies sweater: the finished look

The makenine challenge each year always feels like an almighty hill to climb. Perhaps I am too ambitious for myself, but including a knitting project in the nine, when I am such a novice, always makes the challenge hard.

The project I chose was a sweater using a vintage pattern. I hadn’t knitted a full sweater before, nor followed a vintage pattern: this really was a learning curve. Not to mention that this is only the second project where I had picked up stitches on a neckline, or used mattress stitch to seam. I laugh in the face of my ambitions! This said, it was no surprise that the process was slow, and I needed to consult youtube frequently to check on the techniques that I either didn’t know, or needed reminding about.

Sirdar knitting pattern from the seventies

Yarn choice

The only familiar aspect of the project was that I chose to use Lett Lopi yarn. I used the same yarn here and was so pleased with the result I wanted to used the same wool again. The yarn is extremely warm, perhaps because it comes from Icelandic sheep.

I had a conversation with my next-door neighbour recently where we talked about working from home and he shared with me his delight in a quilted gilet and fingerless gloves. This sweater is my equivalent and will help ward off the creeping cold that seems to penetrate your bones when you need to sit still for hours in a cold Victorian house.

One thing to note for those that have never used Lett lopi before; it has the very unusual property of being made of only one strand. Plyed yarns are stronger than a single strand of the same thickness so you do need to be careful when pulling on the yarn. I am quite a loose knitter so never have problems with this, but trying to seam my sweater together I did pull the yarn apart a few times.


My experience with my first vintage knitting pattern was better than I expected. I was nervous about diving into this project simply because I couldn’t tell what quantity of wool was needed, but after those initial doubts, following the instructions was simple enough and I used youtube to fill my knowledge gaps when I came across techniques or stitches I didn’t know. I learned a lot about different types of decrease and picking up stitches with this project. I was extremely pleased that I incorporate a beautiful alternating cable cast-on too.

Pine-green sweater styled: stood out in the wind and the rain just long enough for this photo!


My sweater is very warm; I would go as far as saying that I will probably only wear it inside at home or when it is very cold outside. My only regret is that it is quite tight-fitting and before you ask my gauge was spot on and I picked the correct size. According to the pattern, it is to be worn with no ease. I really should have read that, but somehow I didn’t. I think it fits with the seventies aesthetic, but I’m not convinced it looks marvellous on me with my lack of waist definition. I have been going through my wardrobe and experimenting with different looks. Here are my thoughts:

Three looks with the pine-green sweater

Look 1: Brushed cotton checked shirt (Lekala) with RTW low-rise jeans

The low-rise of these jeans meant that there was a definite gap between the bottom of the sweater and the trousers, so I wondered whether the untucked shirt would work. I’m not sure. I like the brushed cotton under the sweater though.

Look 2: Brushed cotton shirt with flared high-rise jeans

The colour of the shirt is probably not a great choice, but I wanted to see if this style fitted well under the sweater and it did. The high-rise jeans cover the gap between the sweater finishing and the jeans waistband.

Look 3: Floral liberty shirt with RTW Black velvet skirt

This was a surprise combination: I have never worn this shirt and skirt together and the sweater brings the whole look together. I like this! I have often seen dresses worn with cropped jumpers and this emulates that look as the skirt sits quite high on the waist.


Seventies Pattern Style 1522: A Tricky Tunic Part 1

I bought this seventies pattern ages ago from a charity shop. The copyright states it is from 1976 and the styling is certainly reminiscent of the time. I’m not sure the illustrations do justice to this pattern at all; I can imagine that most of you aren’t feeling thrilled looking at this pattern envelope. However, I could see just what a versatile pattern that top is and how it would fit into my wardrobe.

Style 1522

I really love this corduroy Moss skirt I made a while back, but I am stumped about what to wear it with. Yes, the purple t-shirt below isn’t a particular good match. I wear it with black loads, but I really thought a lilac top would work well with it.

Moss Skirt

I managed to find a lilac rayon-linen blend in Like Sew Amazing that fit the bill. The lilac is sold out, but there is still some fabric in the mint colourway.

This project has been a “stop-start-stop-start” type of project. I traced and cut it out back in January, but faced with some pretty serious instruction blindness, so I have stalled several times now and I’m only making good progress now .

I’m not quite sure what the problem is with the instructions, but the construction of the collar and facing is confusing. The instructions themselves are clear enough, but seem to omit crucial details, so I’m left trying to manipulate the fabric in my head at each stage trying to convince myself that it will all turn out fine. The pictures aren’t particularly good either. I’ve been cautious and I think it is beginning to make sense now. Strangely, I don’t usually find problems with instructions in seventies patterns, so this experience is outside the norm for me.

Here’s the make so far. The yoke with its gathering is in place and I’ve got the collar attached. I just need to work out how to get the placket in place. I’ve taken a side-step to look at the sleeves (because that bit looks easier).

Style 1522

Style 1522 – Progress so far


I have a dilemma! Vintage 70s Wrap and Go “PantSkirt”

This make was taken to California a couple of months ago, but I still hadn’t got round to blogging about it. I suppose, it was a bit of a rushed make that only just got included in my suitcase, but I haven’t got many hot weather clothes and I wanted to pack another pair of “trousers”.

I found this pattern, Butterick 6720 on Etsy. There are quite a series of these; they’re called “Wrap and Go” by Butterick, although the other pattern companies have done similar designs. I really wanted to try one of these seventies wrap patterns and was inspired by this version by Kelly at Seam Racer. This Wrap and Go pattern comes either as shorts or maxi length.

The weirdest thing about the pattern envelope is that includes instructions on how to wear the item! I did my own version of this, as I actually prefer wearing them back to front so that the elasticated waist joins at the front. I think this makes more sense, as this way, both closures are at the front and easier to manage.

I found a light-weight viscose for this pattern with a border print from Fabric Land. Obviously, the pattern is a complete fabric hog, so I decided to go for something relatively cheap. That said, I do like the colour combination on this fabric. Cutting out was a pain as you need a lot of space too.

The sewing is simple and not very exciting; mostly just a load of hems and a casing for the elastic. However, being a seventies pattern, the hem is hand-sewn, which takes a long time. In fact I gave up on the last bit of the hemming as I was running out of time and took my trousers as they were on holiday. It wasn’t exactly a problem, but I think they were a little too long, so I’ve had to adjust the hem since I’ve got back.

Do I like these trousers? I think I’m still unsure. They are quite voluminous and most of my clothes are not. It may take time to get used to this. But this isn’t my main problem with my make. I haven’t found the ideal top to go with them at all. A tight top would look best to balance out the volume in the silhouette. As Naomi of Spare Room Style pointed out, when she saw this photo on Instagram, this top would look much better tucked in.

So here it is tucked in, and you can see my dilemma. My lack of waist! This combination of top and trousers is just not flattering.

Anyway, I decided to try out my Wrap and Go trousers with a variety of different tops, to see if I could improve the look.

…..actually pretty awful… can see every bulge…, no!

Wrap and Go Pant Skirt with light blue t-shirt

Wrap and Go Pant Skirt with light blue t-shirt – not a flattering t-shirt

….this one is black so not an ideal colour with the trousers, but does the silhouette work better now?

Any better with this style of top?

…and here’s a woven top (again try to ignore strange combination of colours), does this work? I chose to include a belt too. Does this help me achieve waist definition?

Wrap and Go Pant Skirt

With a woven top and belt

…and here’s a make-shift bandeau top. So, I’m now bravely modelling as per the pattern envelope. Too much belly on display and it would only be possible for the beach. But does it work? There’s enough left-over fabric to make this up properly.

Wrap and Go PantSkirt

With a make-shirt bandeau top

In short, I don’t think I have nailed wearing this garment at all and any suggestions would be appreciated. Does anyone know of a top pattern that would work well with this pair of trousers? Bearing in mind that I need it to flatter in the waist department.

And what colour should this top be? Any ideas here? Would a t-shirt be best or could a woven top work too? There are so many different colours in this fabric, that any of these colours may work – moss green, dark blue, terracotta?

Of course, now that I’ve actually make something for the summer, the summer has stubbornly refused to arrive! I’ve only worn this once here in the UK, but apparently, this week is going to be hot……

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Charity Shop Find

While rummaging in a charity shop the other day I found this great sewing book from the seventies.. I was drawn to it because it is a fairly comprehensive guide to sewing techniques. There is everything from inserting zips to pattern adjustments. It’s really just what I need to take my sewing up a level.

However, I think I did buy it for entertainment value too! The seventies fashions in here bring a smile to my face, anyway!

There’s a charming lady on the front cover.  I didn’t notice until today that even her necklace is sewing equipment, being reels of thread. Not quite sure why she is smiling so readily as I’d be worried sporting that collection of lethal objects on my hat!

Seventies Simplicity book cover

Anyway, just a small sample of the delights inside:

With this dress, sadly I can’t get past the fabric print. That stamped metal print just reminds me too much of a man-hole covers.

Is this a dress or a manhole cover?

Is this a dress or a manhole cover?

Next up, the toweling bikini in bright yellow. I do recall wearing one of these as a child, but of course, in brown, . Who’s idea was it to turn this fabric known for its absorptive qualities into swim-wear? I remember being weighed down in the water by my swimming costume and emerging from the water had to be done with great care given the weight of the lower half. Such a joy wearing it; felt like soggy nappy!

Toweling bikini

Now these dresses I could like! the pink maxi dress in particular is very elegant.

Maxi evening dresses

And camouflaged in Kew Gardens…..surely it’s possible to have too much of one fabric?

Camouflaged at Kew

And finally, wait for it…








….the matching family outfits.

I could just imagine my son’s look of horror at the very suggestion. This little boy, has clearly been bribed to wear that floral shirt, with a large burger.

Bribed at the barbecue

What lovely dungarees in primary colours!

Matching dungarees

And trimmed with rick-rack? What ever happened to rick-rack? I remember having a lovely party dress trimmed with rick-rack.

Rick-rack aprons

Hope you’ve enjoyed reminiscing with me. Which one’s your favourite?

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Tunics – fashionable since Roman times

I was given a vintage pattern for a beach set. I was particularly smitten with the pullover tunic. I bought some natural-coloured, slightly crinkly-textured cotton fabric for this. It’s quite thin and drapes well. It’s a bit plain so I did decide to dye it. I actually found the colour of the tunic on the pattern’s cover an inspiration and went for a similar green colour – I’m going to call it sage green, but it could be described as sludge green!

Style beach set pattern

Unfortunately, I hadn’t noticed that there were some pattern pieces missing before I bought the fabric. I found myself a little stuck with only two pieces of the tunic pattern. But not to be disappointed I decided to draft the pattern anew.

I found that the remaining pieces of the pattern sheets gave me clues to the size of the back neck facing piece. Mysteriously I also had the lower half of the tunic / dress (not sure whether this was the back or the front), but it did allow me to judge the width of the garment. Finally I looked through the instructions. These gave some further helpful ideas about pattern markings and seam allowances. The pattern was size 14, whereas I would tend to create roughly a size 12 for myself, so I made a couple of adjustments to take this into account. I made the front and back pieces slightly narrower and made the neck opening a little smaller. In the end, I was reasonably happy with my drafted pattern.

The sewing itself was quite easy. I’d never sewed a Style pattern before; the instructions were comprehensive and there were no head-scratching moments at all (hurrah!) The fabric though had a loose open weave and was a little delicate. In fact, it was impossible to finish seams with back-stitching. It tended to mangle the fabric. In the end I limited this to only the most vital seams. When a seam was crossed by another seam, for example, I avoided sewing backwards and forwards.

The one area where I did have some problems was the armscye. This was only part of the pattern that I had had to just guess. Largely the problem was that it was too tight for the style of the tunic. I enlarged the armscye, by decreasing the height at the top of side seams by about 3 cm for a more relaxed look.

Tunic - sleeve close-up

I intend to wear this to the beach in the summer, or maybe as a weekend top (I will test out the transparency of it first!)

Mr Steely calls it my slave-girl outfit! The word, tunic, is derived, in fact from the Latin tunica, the basic garment worn by both men and women in Ancient Rome. It was worn by citizens and non-citizens alike; citizens, though, might wear it under the toga, especially at formal occasions. Think I’ll pass on the toga, so perhaps “slave-girl” is an apt description for this garment!

I haven’t finished the hem on the photo below. I feel that will take a couple of hours of TV viewing to finish and I did so want to post something today. I’ve really struggled in the last month with work commitments to keep the blog going. But I’m hoping bank holidays on the way, this month will be full of a productive craft time.


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Who wears the trousers?

I was pondering yesterday my sewing strategy for the next few months. The fact is that I haven’t got one. I’ve just been drawn to various projects either because I like the pattern or fabric or because I feel that the techniques I’ll use in the project are ones that I can do. I have tried to challenge myself incrementally; I don’t want to try to run before I can walk.

I have come to the conclusion that I do need a strategy though. There is no point making clothes that I don’t think I’ll wear and I need to replace old favourites with similar items. This was brought home to me at the weekend especially when I found a hole in my black jeans. Sadly they aren’t repairable as the fabric is rather too thin. And of course, a couple of weeks ago I cut up my green corduroy trousers to create a pattern to copy them, but I haven’t got any further with that project. Two pairs of trousers down and I’ve replaced them with nothing. I practically live in trousers so I’m already noticing that the two remaining pairs of jeans are constantly going through the wash. Perhaps I just need to wear more skirts. I have made attempts to do just this. But to be realistic in the last month I have worn a dress to work once and a skirt once and this is excessive non-trouser wearing for me!

I do come from a line of trouser-wearing women though. My mum seems to scarcely wear a skirt, much like me, and has always been like that. Likewise my grandmother (my Mum’s mum) was the same. In fact, I never remember her wearing anything else. She made all her own clothes. I have wondered whether she always dressed like that. For those growing up in the early part of the last century that would not have been the case, so the trouser-wearing must have been a conscious decision.

This sparked an interest in the history of trousers as women’s clothing and I set out to find out a little about when trousers exactly became socially acceptable and commonplace. In the early part of the twentieth century, trousers were worn hardly at all by women. Early examples of women wearing trousers include famous frontierswoman Calamity Jane and aviator, Amelia Earhart. These women wore trousers as a practical necessity.

Amelia Earhart

Screen legends of the 1930s such as Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich were frequent trouser-wearers. Katharine was well-known for her unconventional attitude and strong personality. When the costume department at RKO film studio stole her slacks (because they found slacks to be uncouth and boyish), Hepburn walked around the studio in her underwear, refusing to put her clothes on until she got her pants back! I just love the photo of Katharine below. She looks so elegant, sophisticated and yet alluring! But this is Hollywood and not real life!

Katharine Hepburn in Trousers

In the same period, trousers as pyjamas and sportswear became acceptable. The photo below shows women in a bowls match in 1935.

Playing Bowls

During the second world war things changed radically. Women took on many jobs previously carried out by men and wore overalls or trousers as a practical item of clothing for their work. I found this sewing pattern from the early war years for a pair of overalls.

1940 overalls

By the end of the war, trousers were starting to establish themselves as more accepted day-wear and patterns for trouser suits were published.

Trouser suit 1942

Immediately after the war, ultra-feminine fashions dominated in the fifties. These were characterised by full-skirted skirts and dresses. Trousers still made an appearance with high-waisted Capri trousers proving popular. Since the sixties, trousers have been worn quite commonly. Although even now, they are still shunned in favour skirts and dresses by many women for certain formal occasions. I admit even I would feel out of place in trousers at a wedding, unless I was calling the shots as the bride…….

Bride in trousers