Friday, January 31, 2014

Turn of Events

I just finished my third Pencil Skirt, which I do believe I'll don to go to a jazz concert tonight:

This one is made from Anna Maria Horner "Turn of Events" velveteen.  As I was cutting it out yesterday, I posted a picture to instagram, saying "I love this fabric."

And as I was working on the skirt, it occurred to me:  yes, I REALLY love this fabric.  Look:

I think it's funny that I didn't realize until halfway through making the skirt that this is the third garment I've made from a "Turn of Events" fabric! 

First was my Continental Blouse, made from cotton voile in December 2011.  I still wear this fairly often. 

Then there was my first coat from February last year, made with home dec weight cotton sateen.

And now this skirt, made of cotton velveteen.  So yes, it's fair to say I love this fabric!

And I think I'm ready to move on from pencil skirts now.  At least for a while :-)  I've got two more cuts of AMH velveteen that are destined to become a couple more pencils, so it may be a short-ish break.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pencil No. 2

I made another pencil skirt yesterday, same as the first.

I used one yard of this printed stretch denim from JoAnn's.   It has a lot of pretty colors.

I have nothing more to say.

You may now breathe your sigh of relief.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pencil Skirt: Construction

One of the reasons I'm so proud of this skirt (aside from the fact that it's awesome) is because I put a lot of thought and consideration into it.  All too often, I rush headlong into a project without thinking things through, and then don't get the stellar result I was hoping for.  This time, at each stage I stopped to consider how to proceed.

My original intent was to make this a lined skirt, just because I usually line skirts.  But after I stopped to think about it, I realized a few things: one, this is stretch fabric, and I didn't have any stretch lining.  Also:  it's denim.  Maybe they exist, but I've never seen a lined denim skirt.  So I scrapped the lining and decided to concentrate on keeping the insides neat.

Here's a quick rundown of the order in which I constructed the skirt - it's a little different from the instructions (which I've now read).

1.  Sew darts.
2.  Apply fusible knit strip to entire center back edges.
3.  Finish back and side seam allowances on serger.
4.  Insert invisible zip.
5.  Close center back seam.
6.  Sew side seams.
7.  Finish bottom edge on serger.
8.  Fold waistband in half lengthwise, apply fusible interfacing to one half.
9.  Finish un-interfaced side of waistband on serger, removing 1/4" of width.
10.  Stitch interfaced side of waistband to skirt, then grade seam allowances.
11.  Stitch waistband edges closed.
12.  Fold waistband to inside, pin, then stitch in the ditch from outside to attach.
13.  Press up hem 2" then stitch down with coverstitch or twin needle.
14.  Sew hook and eye at back closure.

It looks like a lot of steps, but they're all easy, short steps :-)  And of course there's pressing after each step.

Now, some particulars.

I noticed that I've been getting kind of sloppy with my darts lately, so that they're dimpling at the ends.  I took extra care this time - I didn't want any dimples!  I usually don't bother with shortening the stitch length for the last 1/2" of the dart, because I invariably forget to increase it again before the next one.  But this time I did, and it paid off.

Sunni has a lot of great information on pencil skirt sewing on her blog.  In one of her posts I read that she uses fusible tape not only on the zipper edge, but all the way down the back of the skirt to give extra stability.  So I did that too.  I must say that ever since watching her Craftsy class, I've been using the tape on my zippers and it makes a big difference on how they sit in the fabric - so much more smooth.

Here's a picture of all the serger-finished edges.  I went with 4-thread instead of my normal 3 for finishing, because of the weight of the fabric.  You can also see the tape going all the way down to the hem.

All these pictures were taken after the skirt was finished, not during construction.  So I don't have a picture of the waistband in progress.  But here's how it looks from the inside and outside.  I chose to serge the bottom inside edge and stitch it down with stitch-in-the-ditch rather than folding the inside bottom edge in to eliminate bulk.  I really like how it worked out, and it was faster and easier than doing it the normal way.

Here's the coverstitched hem:

And finally, here's a shot of the whole skirt:

And with that, I think I've finally exhausted all I wanted to say about this skirt!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pencil Skirt: My Fit Fixes

I'm surprised at how many people expressed interest in knowing my fixes!  Luckily for you all, I like to blather on about this stuff :-)

As I mentioned yesterday, the pattern I used is the By Hand London's Charlotte skirt.  I'd read so many reviews from people who had great success with this pattern, not having to make any adjustments and getting a great fit, that I shelled out the $16 too.  I should have known better, but hope springs eternal.

I feel I should mention that although I love the style of the BHL girls, I really felt this pattern was lacking enough basics that I wondered if I would have been better off tracing something from a Burda magazine, or picking up a Big 4 pattern on sale.  Call me a curmudgeon, but I think that a long, pegged pencil skirt needs to have a back vent and an angled turn-up for the hem, maybe even a lining.  Especially since this is rated as a beginner pattern - imagine someone new to sewing, turning back that pegged hem and then wondering why they couldn't get it to lay flat.  I drafted mine in because I knew better, but I did so grudgingly - I felt that having spent so much money on the pattern, the Girls ought to have done that bit for me.  Yes, I'm a grouchy old lady.

I can't speak to the directions, because I didn't follow them.  But it did seem to me that a lot of the more refined information wasn't in the instruction book but in a number of sew-along posts on the blog.  Again, for a beginner-rated pattern, I think that kind of stinks.  To my mind, a "beginner" pattern means there are extra instructions, i.e. more hand-holding.  And even though I'm not a beginner, when I'm in the midst of sewing, if I have to look at directions, I don't want to have to look at 2 or more sources at once.  I want all my information in one place.

At any rate, all of this probably won't keep me from buying their patterns in the future, and I already own all the ones they've put out.  But I do think there's room for improvement.

Anyway, back to my skirt saga . . .

In my naive and overconfident state, I traced out the pattern and immediately made up a muslin, only grading from size 8 waist to size 10 hip.  The picture wasn't pretty, as evidenced by this Instagram pic:

EDIT:  I realized I forgot to say something very important!  You may notice on the picture above that I sewed my side seams with right sides out.  I know a lot of people fit their pencil skirts inside out, but my body is so asymmetrical from the right side to the left that I can't do that.  Inside out, you're fitting the skirt to the opposite side of your body!

I spent a lot of time looking at this and thinking about why it didn't work.  The main problem was that the fabric poofed out away from my body at the lower abdomen (you'll see why in a bit).  There also wasn't quite enough room in the seat, and I had diagonal drag lines on the back.

I mulled it over for several days, and then had a nice sit down with my Fit for Real People book. I started to think about the shape of my body and looked for the fixes that would correspond.  And so that you can see the fit issues I'm dealing with (in case you have the same), I drew a couple pictures.

But before I share them, let me state the following:  the terms I've written next to my "problem areas" are fitting terms, not judgments on the shape of my body.  I am quite happy with my body.  But the reality is that pattern makers don't draft for my particular shape, so "problem area" really means "area I have to diagnose and then change to get a good fit."

Here's a rough look at my outline from the front.  For me, the fullest part of my body is my upper thigh, at about 10" below my waist.

Looking from the side, you can see that the upper section of my abdomen is fuller than the lower section, which dips in, and then my upper thighs protrude out again, leaving a gap that fabric from a skirt will have to bridge.  That's the area that was causing me the most problems with my 1st muslin.

I already knew that the fixes for sway back and flat derriere are often the same.  I've copied them here for you from FFRP:

And indeed, I did end up redoing my back waistline seam in exactly the manner shown.  Below you can see my original tissue.  After I'd decided what fixes I wanted to try, I did a tissue fitting to see how they would work.  And to me, this is interesting:  I used to be very anti-tissue fitting, and only grudgingly did it in the fit class Andrea and I took.  And I discovered it wasn't so bad!  When I got to the point of reworking my skirt, I almost went ahead and made a new muslin, with just shortening the front darts and raising the back waistline.  I'm SO glad I stopped and made myself do the tissue fitting instead, because the changes needed were a lot more drastic than I was expecting, and it led me to an adjustment I hadn't considered but which was the biggest key to the good fit I got.  (teaser)

The top edge of the tissue is the cutting line as given in the pattern.  The pink line below it is my new back waist seam - a good inch below the old one.

Based on my tissue fitting, I also had to pull up the front waist seam, but not as much as the back.  That corresponds to the fix for the full tummy (as compared with the back waist seam line).  The other thing I did for the full tummy was to eliminate the inner front dart, and shorten the remaining dart.  Both darts stayed in the back and kept their length, as they gave me a good fit there.

Once I'd done these things, I took a really good look in the mirror to see where the rest of the problem was.  I realized that my full thighs were keeping the pattern pieces from reaching my center in both the front and the back below hip level.  AHA!!!  THIS is the adjustment that changed everything for me:

A wonderful slash and spread, keeping the side seam line mostly unaltered, but giving more room where I need it.  Hallelujah!  Mine looks exactly like the one in the picture, but it's harder to see through all my masking tape!  I did this front and back.

This final adjustment got me almost all the way there - I just needed to shave a little bit of curve off the hip, as evidenced by the new, pink seam line above.

Once I'd done all these adjustments, I traced some fresh (tapeless) pattern pieces for myself, including that angled turn-back for my 2" hem allowance.

new back pattern piece
new front pattern piece

It's hard to see in this cloudy-day photo, but the reason the front looks so much wider than the back is that I left 2" of paper off the "fold" edge.  I like to do that now for anything that's cut on the fold - it makes it much easier for me to cut pieces single layer (as I did for this skirt) by pinning that fold line to the fabric, cutting one side, then flipping it to the other side to cut the mirror image.

I didn't take any pictures of the waistband because it's just a big rectangle.  I wasn't sure how my waist seam changes were going to affect the waistband, and by the time I finished all of the above I was too pooped to take measurments.  So when I cut my waistband the next day, I just cut it a few inches longer for insurance.  I will say however that I'm considering tissue-fitting again, to create a curved waistband piece.  The waistband on my Snakeskin Skirt doesn't lay quite flat against my body.  It doesn't concern me too much because I'm likely to always be wearing something that will cover it.  But knowing that I can make it better makes me want to :-)

Next up, some construction info.  Look at me, getting three blog posts out of one yard of fabric!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pencil me in.

I have a pencil skirt!  At last!!

Like a lot of you, RTW pencil skirts have never fit me, so it's been a goal for a long time to make one myself.  This one started life as a BHL Charlotte, but I made so many changes, I really hesitate to call it that any more.

I took a lot of photos, both of my pattern changes and of my construction.  Today I just want to show off my new skirt; I'll tell you all about the rest in another post (or maybe two more).  Just let me get my shoes on first:

This skirt is made from a fabulous stretch black denim printed in gold foil with snakeskin.  I got this at JoAnn's last month specifically for this project, which may be my last for this session of Jungle January.  I LOVE this fabric!  After I finished the skirt, I said to Hubby:  "I love this fabric.  I want to make everything from this fabric!!"  And he replied, "You should.  Then when one thing gets old, you can just shed your skin and put on a new one."  That boy cracks me up.  That's why I love him so much!

I discovered AFTER I made the skirt that I was supposed to hand wash and line dry this fabric rather than machine wash cold and tumble dry like I did.  No matter though - some of the gold is flaking off, which I think makes it even more snake-like.

Not bad for an old broad, eh?  I think this skirt is so flattering, and yet, it's super comfortable and easy to wear.  As I drifted off to sleep last night, I was thinking about all the versions I could make using fabrics in my stash.  You will be seeing more of these!

I took care to match my patterns throughout, centering the print front and back.  Still, I made this from a mere one yard of 56" wide fabric, and I've got enough left over for a fabulous clutch.  You know that's going to happen!

I cut this skirt to a 24" length, which for me is just at the bottom of the knee.  Even though I didn't add a back vent on this one, I still have room to walk normally.  In the future I'd like to make at least one midi length version, and that will require a vent.

I guess you can tell that I really love this skirt.  It hugs my curves perfectly, but not in a way that makes me feel exposed, like my first pencil skirt did.  I think that partly has to do with using a stretch fabric this time.  But it's mostly due to the fitting changes I made, because the muslin I made for this one was done from a non-stretch and it fits just as well.

I'm pleased to say I think I've finally cracked the pencil-skirt-fitting nut, for my figure at least.  And because it makes me feel sexy and fabulous, I leave you with this:

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Yesterday, I made the new Deer & Doe Plantain t-shirt pattern.

I didn't really mean to; I just meant to trace it.  But that didn't take long, so I decided to cut my fabric.  That didn't take long either, so I decided to sew it up.

Also, I got a new camera which can do lots of fun effects, so I took a bazillion pictures in the sunshine this morning :-)  I managed to narrow it down to ten.


For this top, I used leftover sequin-embroidered mesh from my Sparkle and Swish skirt.  I had just enough of the embroidered section to cut the front; the back and sleeves are cut from the plain section.


I sewed the whole thing together with a short, narrow zigzag (1.5 width and 1.5 length on my Janome) using "invisible" thread.  I trimmed all the seam allowances in half after sewing and before pressing to make them less conspicuous.


For the neckband, I wanted a raw, unfinished look.  So I sewed the folded edge to the neck opening, then pressed all the layers toward the neck.


Because this mesh doesn't ravel I didn't bother with hemming on the sleeves or the back.  The front has an embroidered edging.

{toy camera effect}


When I was tracing the pattern, it looked awfully narrow.  So I traced a size 38, rather than the 36 I've been using lately.  But I made a fatal error:  It didn't even occur to me that I was cutting my pieces against the grain rather than with.  So there's zero widthwise stretch . . . which means it's far too small for me.  I was able to get it on, but just.  Getting it off again was quite a chore.

{miniature effect}

But you know, I don't mind.  I had fun making a beautiful piece, and I'm going to offer it to my tween niece, who may like it.

{toy camera effect}

{toy camera effect}

{toy camera effect}

And I'll be trying this pattern again, in a fabric with some stretch.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Diet Progress

I lost 3 pieces/4.5 yards in only 3 weeks with Stash Diet!*

*results not typical

So, how are we doing, Dieters?  As I write this, I've got three finished objects made from stash fabrics.  I've actually cut a fourth piece, but the garment is not finished, so I'm not counting it yet.

We've been seeing a few stashy FOs cropping up over on the group, but we also thought it would be fun to have a monthly round-up.  You know, just to keep everyone honest and on track.  Andrea and I are going to rotate hosting the round-ups, and I'll be starting off with the January issue.

So if you have a Stash Diet FO or two, or three, and would like to show off your Dieting success, send me the links to your blog posts by January 31, midnight wherever you are.  Once I've got everything I'll compile it all into a post and get it up a few days after.

For those of you with blogs, I'll just "grab" pictures from your posts and re-post them here.  (Depending on how many we get, I may make each Dieter's FOs into a collage.)  For those without blogs, please send me your pictures, as I can't grab from Flickr.  We definitely want to include everyone!

Send in your January results to:  dokucug at gmail dot com

I wonder who will be the biggest loser?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

An almost broken heart, mended.

Exactly two years ago today, I posted this silk blouse I made:

I loved it then and I love it now.  So you can imagine my dismay when, trying it on for my closet clean-out, I almost ripped the center back seam. 

The fit was close when I first made this blouse two years ago; thanks to middle age spread and a whole lot of rowing, my back is even broader now than it was then.  I got the blouse on well enough, but trying to get it off was a chore, and almost resulted in a ruined blouse.

Today we had good sunlight despite the frigid temperatures, so I decided to take advantage of it and pick out part of the center back seam where it had ripped to insert a vent.

You can see here that the threads of the fabric got pulled away at the seam line:

I carefully unpicked the seam in the center back for about 6 inches.

To make a stable surface for sewing, I fused some strips of tricot to the seam allowance:

I cut a piece of black silk 2.75" wide and 7" long and interfaced it as well.  Then I folded back 3/8" seam allowances and sewed those to the interfaced seam allowances at the opening I'd created.  I did the stitching on the machine, but left long tails so I could do the first and last few stitches by hand.  Once the vent piece was sewn to the blouse, I pressed it flat like a box pleat:

It's almost invisible, but gives me enough room in the back that I can once again wear my lovely silk blouse.  It would have broken my heart to have to scrap this pretty blouse.

The hardest part of this project was making myself do it.  Isn't it always the way with mending?  Here's my little trick to keep the UFOs and mending pile from sitting for too long:

I hang the pieces to be mended on the knobs of my dresser!  In the middle drawer are my socks; every time I need to get out a pair of socks (i.e. every day), I have to shift the pieces hanging in front of the drawer.  Usually after about two weeks of this, it becomes tiresome enough that I just do the darn mending.

Do you have tricks to make you do your mending?  Or do you let it pile up?