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!