Sewing the Seventies


As anyone who knows me will tell you I am passionate about historical and vintage clothing.  I enjoy making things using original vintage patterns but I also like to look through modern patterns to see if there are any with a vintage flavour.  At the moment I’m nostalgic for the clothes of the late 1960s and early 1970s and have been making garments with that vibe in mind, so imagine my excitement when I saw that the Steely Seamstress was running a competition called ‘Sewing the Seventies‘.  It was too good an opportunity to miss.

I may be looking through rose tinted spectacles but I remember the seventies with a fondness, you know, like every summer was long and hot, despite the 3 day working week and all that malarkey because whatever was happening politically the fashions and the music shone through.  The fashions were colourful and eclectic in fabulous tactile fabrics such as satin, velvet and suede. Knitting was also also popular with waistcoats, tank tops and even full trouser suits made from wool. Prints were plentiful as epitomised by Laura Ashley and Celia Birtwell.

A length of  lightweight cotton paisley fabric that I had lying around in the stash was just calling out 1970s to me and for some time I’d been planning some sort of blouse with it.  I can’t even remember where I bought the fabric from but it must have been a while ago as it was 36 inch wide and most fabric is now 45 inch or 60 inch wide.  So instead of continually swooning and admiring it I thought it was about time I put it to good use.

I knew it would be perfect for the Lutterloh pattern that had been on my radar for a while. The blouse was giving me a 70s feel with its beautiful full length puffed sleeves.

For people not familiar with Lutterloh it is a self pattern drafting system from Germany.  The Lutterloh system, or Golden Rule as it is also known, dates from the 1930s and produce four supplements (A5 size) a year with a variety of styles ranging from fashionable, middle of the road, fuller size, children, men’s and maternity as well as recently starting to add a vintage pattern from their archives.  The supplements cost around £15 and if you intend to make half a dozen or more of the designs then it is fairly economical.  I first found out about Lutterloh back in the 1980s when I attended a presentation on the system and bought my first supplement and the special graded tape measure needed for drafting the patterns.


Using the special tape measure you draft tops by corresponding bust measurement and bottoms by hip measurement.  You pin the tape measure to a cross marked on the the minature pattern piece provided and swivel it around to measure off the various points onto your pattern paper and then join the dots.  This is a simplistic explanation and I hope to do a comprehensive blog on a Lutterloh project at some time in the future but in the meantime in depth instructions can be found on the Lutterloh site.  I have drafted a few patterns previously but I have to say I am not 100% sold on the method yet because despite double and triple checking measurements sometimes the pieces look out to me and I have to realign them to what I am accustomed to seeing on a pattern piece.  However as I have a Lutterloh book dating from the 1950s that has the most beautiful designs and which I am determined to use, then I am going to need a bit more practise with the technique so this blouse was a good opportunity.

I set about drafting it for an average 34 inch bust (86 centimetres as the system is German) and all went well apart from the front edge line which despite several measurement checks sloped off at a strange diagonal.  I decided to just draw in the front edge as straight and ignore the measuring.  After that slight adjustment the pattern pieces all looked like the ones on the Lutterloh diagram and so I was happy to go ahead and cut out the fabric.  As the fabric was narrow it was quite a tight squeeze fitting all the pieces on especially the wide sleeves but I just managed it.  As with Burdastyle patterns you must remember to add seam and hem allowances.  Now when it comes to sewing up the garment there are no instructions with the Lutterloh system and you do need to have knowledge and experience of techniques such as attaching collars inserting sleeves etc, so for someone new to sewing this could prove a challenge. The blouse made up extremely well and all pieces matched.  I particularly love the peterpan collar and the tuck effect to give the elongated cuffs.

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To complete the seventies look I have paired the blouse with a pair of flood length flared trousers made in a mock snakeskin effect fabric.  This garment was one that was chosen and begun by my daughter a couple of years’ back that I happened to stumble upon in their half finished state in a drawer recently.  As I thought the fabric was really interesting I took it upon myself to finish them which involved sewing the legs together, inserting an invisible zip, attaching the waistband and hemming.  I also kept visualising a mock lace up on the front to give them that rock chick edge so attached eyelets, a facing and inserted a lace.  The pattern used for these was Burdastyle 110 9/2012.

So here is the completed 1970s rock chick look as immortalised by style icons of the time such as Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithful.WP_20180122_14_41_03_Pro (2)

How I miss the seventies!


1900s Beach Corset: An Interpretation

While browsing the internet I came across a photo of what was described as a ‘beachwear corset’ dating from around the 1900s.  I am wondering if these were worn under those charming two piece bathing suits of the time.  It would fit in with what was happening to corsets around that time.  Riding corsets were being produced that were cut away under the bust and over the hips to allow more movement for the activities women were beginning to engage with such as tennis, skating and cycling.

Beachwear corset from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I especially liked the  intertwining Y pieces at the front of the corset.  I couldn’t find a back view so assumed it may have been buckled or alternatively buttoned closed.  Suffice to say I immediately wanted to try out this design.  I took one of my existing corset patterns and traced off the centre front pieces in order to measure and draw the Y front design to create a pattern.PlanI don’t often make toiles but I wanted to see if the Y pieces would work and so I quickly ran up a mock corset with some old fabric.ToileThe original corset looks like it is made of a heavyweight cotton or calico and I do think this would look good in a heavy denim.  As I did not have any denim in my stash I took a faux leather pencil skirt I had lying around and decided to use that to upcycle into a corset belt based on the original style.

However no sooner had I made that decision but I realised I had forgotten what a pain faux leather is to sew with for the following reasons:

  1. Pinning, tacking and unpicking leaves holes in the fabric and so you only have one go with sewing it unless you have a lot of spare fabric to recut pieces.  As I was recycling a garment it was a tight squeeze to cut out the pieces anyway so cutting replacement pieces was not an option.
  2. Ideally a special foot for the sewing machine is needed as the faux leather sticks to the metal machine foot and causes the fabric to wrinkle up.  In this case use of either a teflon non-stick foot or a roller foot is recommended.  As neither of these are in my possession I had to resort to a tip I found online of sewing over non-stick baking parchment.  This worked surprisingly well but it did limit your vision of the actual sewing.
  3. You cannot iron it.  I think this is self explanatory but as I decided to line the corset I did need to apply an iron.  I followed online suggestions of using a non-steam setting, a cool iron and ironing over brown paper (although I think ironing over a cloth would work too).  I kept ironing to a minimum mainly over the lining as I did not want melted faux leather over everything.

Anyhow I struggled on and got an end result which I’m more than pleased with for my first attempt.  There are certainly some tweaks I would make to the design and I think I will definitely be shopping for some heavier weight fabric for my next attempt!


A Knitting Project: Slouch Cardigan

I don’t do a lot of knitting and crochet but every so often I have the urge to get my knitting needles out.  I had seen some wool I liked on the local market and thought I would make myself a jumper, so duly bought said wool.  No sooner had I done that than I received an email from my daughter with an attached photo of a Selected Femme Chunky Cardigan retailing at over £100 asking if  ‘we’ could make one similar.


An internet trawl identified two possible patterns.  One was the North Winds Chunky Cardigan pattern sold on Etsy (on the left) and the other was a chunky cardigan pattern by Erica Knight for John Lewis (on the right).

Both patterns required super chunky wool which was hard to find in local retail outlets and market stalls.  I eventually ordered some James Brett Amazon super chunky in shade J11 (dark grey) from the Wool Warehouse.  Their delivery was excellent and the wool arrives in a lovely drawstring bag which also doubles up as a knitting holder.

As the Erica Knight pattern had English terminology I opted to use those instructions.  However after completing the back and two fronts I wasn’t sure if the cardigan would hang right as it had a shaped front for the button bands.  The Selected Femme cardigan is an edge to edge version and on closer inspection I could see that the front parts were knitted as straight pieces.  I looked at the instructions for the North Winds version and saw that the fronts were knitted completely straight.  So I decided to pull down the Erica Knight version and use the North Winds pattern instead.

The North Winds pattern had North American terminology and I needed American size 17 circular needles (12 mm).   The only pair I could locate on the internet were gold sparkly needles by Addi from Love Knitting.  I don’t normally go for gimmicky needles and crochet hooks but I was quite taken by these when they arrived.Addi gold circular needles size 12 mmI decided to do a quick sample square to make sure that the James Brett yarn matched the tension of the American super bulky yarn used on the original and luckily it was perfect.  I was very pleased with the final version.  The front edge to edge band hangs well and the colour of the wool is a good match for the Selected Femme version.  I am happy to say that my daughter was also delighted with the cardigan and has promptly requested another in a different colour.

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The pattern comes in two sizes, regular and large.  After consulting the measurements I chose to knit the large version as I knew my daughter wanted slouchy.  Although some of the techniques were new to me, such as a selvedge which involved slipping the first and last stitch of the knit rows, this pattern knitted up quickly with easy to follow instructions.  However I would not use the selvedge technique again.  It might work well on a finer knit but I felt it made large holes at the edge of the pieces.  This might be suitable for the ‘mattress stitch’ method recommended for joining the pieces.  However I like to backstitch the garment together and in future would just do normal knit/purl rows for stocking stitch making sure I pull the yarn tight at the end of each row to get more of a solid edge.  In the instructions the sleeve is picked up from the shoulder and worked down to the wrist.  Something called the ‘magic loop’ method using large circular needles was recommended for this as it would mean the sleeve is worked in the round without the need for a seam.  I consulted YouTube and did a test piece but just ended up with gaps in my work.  So I decided to pick up the stitches and work the sleeve as a straight piece down to the wrist and then sew the side seams and sleeve seams in one process. Overall I thought this was a great little pattern and will definitely use it again.