Wardrobe Reincarnation: Pencil Skirt Edition

In college I had the most gorgeous grey pencil skirt with hand-stitched details on the front. Alas, it has been many years since my college days, and that skirt is no more. I’ve been working on renewing my wardrobe recently, and was reminded of this skirt. I looked online for fabric to make one, but couldn’t find anything I liked right off. And then I was sewing my herringbone pants, and when I turned the fabric over I realized it was perfect! And I had just under a yard of fabric left, which is the perfect amount to make a pencil skirt.

As I often do, I started with a sketch. I used the Knit Pencil Skirt pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual as my base pattern, making fitting adjustments as needed. I dithered around for sever days trying to find a way to make the skirt reversible, but in the end I went with the simplest route and made it normally.

The hand-stitched details on the front really elevate this item from a normal skirt to something special. My college skirt had 4-6 lines stitched on the front, but I sewed 9 lines in. This was actually the part that took the longest. The fabric is thick, and my hand and wrist started hurting after sewing 3 lines. So I spread the embroidery out over several days to avoid injury.

This was a simple make, but I am quite happy with it. I love the graphic, almost Art Deco, embroidery. The knit ponte fabric I used and elastic waistband make this skirt extremely comfortable to wear, while still looking professional and even a bit (dare I say it?) glamorous! There are a few fit issues that I may go back and tweak. You might see a little wrinkling at the hips, and the waistband could be a bit smaller (this seems to be a theme for me – I am so terrified of making my clothes too small that I make them too big!). But the skirt is wearable, and I am honestly the only one who will ever notice these small things.

I am enjoying leveling up my wardrobe and building it to be exactly what I want. I honestly can’t wait for my next project!

Sewing my First Pair of Pants

Ok, the tittle is a tiny bit click-bait-y because I sewed two pairs of shorts last year (here and here). The concept is entirely similar, but I did wonder if my legs would turn out to be some weird shape that would require pattern alterations. I used the same pattern for my pants as for last year’s shorts: the Cigarette Pants from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual (if you’re looking for a sewing technique/pattern book, I highly recommend this one). The pants were very simple and quick to sew up since I had already fitted the top half of the pattern to my body and I was using a knit ponte fabric that didn’t need the edges finished.

The fabric is from Style Maker Fabrics. It is really nice and thick and has a bit of fuzziness to it, which makes it very warm. 4 inches of this fabric will stretch to about 5 1/2 inches. I used my already modified pattern to cut out my pieces, and got to sewing. I surprised myself by completing the pants within 7 hours, even with a slight waist adjustment. This speed is due to starting with a pattern that fit well to begin with, not needing to do fitting adjustments to the legs, and using a knit fabric that doesn’t fray.

I absolutely love these pants!! They are super comfortable to wear, and the pockets are absolutely enormous! The legs are not fitted, which also adds to the comfort level, and I deliberately chose to make them a little bit longer than I normally would so that the length would be right when I’m sitting down. It’s the little details like this that really make a garment perfect, I find.

I still feel that the waist could be a bit smaller. I’m considering adding an internal elastic waistband for this. I’m also considering trimming the entire leg down about an inch in width along the entire length on my next pair. But all in all, I consider these pants a roaring success, and I can’t wait to make more!!!

Building My Summer Wardrobe: More Shorts

In April I made my first pair of shorts. I took the time to adjust the pattern to myself, but even so there were some fit issues I wanted to tweak a little more. For my second pair of shorts I used the same pattern, originally from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, and another stretch denim from StyleMaker Fabrics. The fabric is a dark-wash denim with woven-in silver pinstripes. I already had a perfectly matching thread in my stash, and I used a silver zipper.

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The tweaks I made were:

  1. Take in the waist 1/2 inch on the side of the front pieces (I did not adjust the back pieces)
  2. Adjust the curve of the center back seam to account for my slight swayback. This reduced bubbling in this area.
  3. Add extra length so I would be able to do a double-fold hem.
  4. Lengthen the pocket pieces by 2 inches. Because big pockets are the best thing ever.
  5. Finish all the interior seams.

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I am SO HAPPY with these shorts! The fitting adjustments I made really make these perfect for me. The original shorts are just a touch too big in the waist, and they end up sagging down as I move around, which leads to me having to pull them back up throughout the day.

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The insides of the first pair of shorts are super shreddy. I finished the edges by pinking them, but that doesn’t seem to be a very good finish for stretch denim. This time I felled all my seams, which make these so clean and beautiful on the inside as well as the outside! And the pockets! The pockets are so big and deep and beautiful. All of my pockets need to be this size!

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There are one or two more tweaks I’d like to do for a future pair of shorts (because you can never have enough shorts):

  1. When I adjusted the side front pieces this caused the pocket openings to be really close to the side seams, and almost too small to get my hands into. I opened up the  bottom of the pocket area where I attached the zipper and felled the side seam and reworked the top stitching to be closer to the seam. Next time I would adjust the angle of the pocket to combat this.
  2. The lower leg portion of the shorts is quite fitted to my legs. This is intentional based on the original pattern, but for the next pair of shorts I’d like to increase the width of the leg pieces to make for a more relaxed fit.
  3. If I make these in a striped fabric again I would adjust the grain of the front side piece so the stripes match up with the main front piece. It’s a small thing, but I love it when stripes match up perfectly.

 

Me Made May: I made Shorts!

Hello, friends, and happy May 1!

I remember when I first heard of Me Made May, probably 6 years ago. I had a few me-made garments in my closet, but not nearly enough to wear everyday. The idea of wearing handmade every day – or even taking it a step further and wearing only handmade items – boggled my mind. So the first and second Mays I watched from the sidelines, marveling at all the things other people had made. The third May was the first year I participated. By this point I had made several tops and had quite a few knitted accessories. It made me sad that it was Me Made May, and not Me Made February. It’s a lot easier to wear knitted shawls and socks in the winter than in the late Spring. The second and third Mays were easier than the first as I continued to make things I needed instead of always buying.

This will be my 4th year participating in Me Made May, and this year I have a game-changer: Pants. I’ve wanted to make pants for quite a while now, but it seemed scary and I didn’t have a pattern, so I always put it off. What made me change my behaviour (and my mind) this year was the COVID-19 pandemic and the realization that it was Spring and I only had one pair of shorts. Just before the pandemic hit the US and everything shut down I went to the library and got a bunch of books. This wasn’t intentional, but it was fortuitous, since I now get to keep the books until the library opens up again. One of the books I got was Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. The book comes with quite a few patterns, ideas on how to mix and match them to create different garments, and a lot of general sewing and fitting advice. One of the patterns is for fitted cigarette pants made in a stretch fabric. I like fitted pants, so I took my measurements and cut a size 6 with an 8 waist. When I buy ready-to-wear pants I often have trouble with them fitting well in the bum, so I added some length to the back and sides of my pattern to make sure I would have enough coverage. Then I ordered some stretch denim from StyleMaker Fabrics and waited for the mail.

A few days later my fabrics had arrived. I washed and dried my first fabric, laid out the pattern pieces, and cut everything out. Then I machine-basted everything together according to the pattern, and did a self-fitting. The pants fit surprisingly well out of the envelope. I took the waist in (I probably could have cut a straight 6), made a small adjustment in the front seam, lowered the waistband, and raised the hem. I made sure to mark all my adjustments, then I took everything apart. Before I started these shorts I told myself that these were just a muslin, that it didn’t have to be a wearable garment, and that whether or not they fit I was going to take them apart and transfer my changes to my paper pattern. Doing this made me feel like an adult and a virtuous sewist. And I know that next time I use this pattern it will already be adjusted to my body and preferences.

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With my pattern updated, I sewed everything back together with a normal stitch length. Then I wrangled with the zipper: I put the zipper in 4 times, and I’m still not happy with it, but there comes a point where good enough is all you need. On the first try the zipper went in beautifully. But I had used a basting stitch length, and I was worried about the longevity of my zipper. So out it came. On the second try my stitch length was correct, but the thread tension on my machine was horrible. Ditto for the third try. I noticed on the second and third tries that the bobbin-side of the sewing looked much better than the needle-side, so for my fourth attempt I sewed from the inside of the garment (which made much more sense to me anyway). There are still a few weird loops of thread on the outside of the fabric, but it mostly looks ok. This was the only part of this sew that my machine had trouble with, and I think it just didn’t like sewing through 2+ layers of denim and the zipper tape.

Once the zipper had been wrangled into submission, I pinked the inside seams and sewed the hem. Then I did a final fitting for the waist height, sewed the waist facing in, and tacked it down at the zipper and seams. At this point I realized I should have sewn the facing in before the zipper, but oh well. My shorts were finished, and at that point, being finished was all I cared about.

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I have fabric to make another pair of shorts, which will bring me up to three pairs – a respectable number. After that, I’d love to get some fun stretch wovens or Ponte knits and make full-length pants. I can make pants, y’all! The sky is the limit!

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