Sunday, 20 January 2013

A colourful skirt made using a pattern

Since receiving my sewing machine for Christmas 2011, I have been experimenting with all sorts of projects. I've made embroidered cards, laptop cases, ipad casesbunting, endless cushions, a printer cover and a baby patchwork quilt. I also signed up for a workshop where I made a skirt using DIY Couture's no-pattern technique. But I've always been a little scared of dress patterns.

However, this Christmas I received a book on Dressmaking from Al and, in thanks for making their daughter a pillowcase, a voucher for the Village Haberdashery from some friends. Both of which led me to make the resolution that if I could become confident using a machine for all sorts of projects in 2012, I could learn how to use patterns in 2013.

So I started with a simple skirt pattern from the Village Haberdashery. It promised to be a simply explained pattern for beginners. It arrived, in the Haberdashery's lovely spotty packaging, along with the material I had chosen.

Brightly coloured material!
On the back of the pattern it tells you what else you need to make up the skirt. In this case it told me I needed fusible interfacing. A look in my dressmaking book told me that this was some iron on material, that could be woven or synthetic, that you used to add structure to parts of the garment - in my case the waistband. You could also get non fusible interfacing which was sew in - but I went for the iron on one from Our Patterned Hand on Broadway Market. In fact Alex popped in to get it for me, thanks very much to the lady in there who helpfully responded to his enquiries and made suggestions.

The next thing to do is to decide what size you want the skirt - the pattern gives you cutting options for sizes 8-16. It also tells you what the measurements are in inches for each of these sizes. On doing a bit of measuring, it turned out that, for this pattern, I was size 11. Pah. This often happens in shops too. Luckily, being a pattern, I was able to make this work by cutting between the lines for the sizes 10 and 12. This was something that the dressmaking book also told me was possible. That was the limits of the pattern adjustments I made - although really, when you are more confident, the sky is the limit for adjustment and personalisation.

The next step was cutting out the flimsy tissue paper outline of the pieces I needed for my skirt and pinning these pieces to the material.

My material had what is called a nap (another thing I learned from my dressmaking book). This basically means that there is something about the material which meant that it had a definite top and bottom. In my case it was due to the one way design of the pattern - I had peacocks whom I wanted to be the right way up all the way round. In some cases the nap can be caused by the pile of the material.

This meant that I had to fold the material lengthways and put the pieces one above the other. If I had been using plain fabric, I could have folded the material as it arrived, in more of a square.

Each piece of the pattern had lines on that told me where to cut and which way up it should go - and black triangles along the edges which pointed to where a seam started. As recommended in my book, I marked these when cutting out by snipping a little triangle tab that poked out from the material where the black triangle poked in. The pieces also told me how many of each piece I needed - two of everything except the waistband. The waistband only needed one piece, but also needed a similar piece cut out of the interfacing. After cutting out, the next stage was to sew the pockets to the front pieces and sew these together - as seen in this slightly blurry picture here;

After this, I added the back pieces in the same way which made a semi circle of skirt. This was the stage where I went slightly off pattern. Although promising myself that the best way to learn was to follow it exactly, I decided I really wanted a lining. Much of the material you can buy is reasonably thin cotton - and can be pretty see through in certain lights. This is ok if you are always going to be wearing leggings, but not so good if you want to wear it with bare legs in summer too.

I had some pink material left over from making table runners for two friends' wedding. It was pretty thin stuff, but good enough for a lining. I pinned the skirt to the material to cut around it.

At this point, I also decided that I wanted to shorten the length. At the moment it seemed to sit at an awkward, just past the knee length - and I prefer them shorter or full length. So I decided to cut out the lining and the pattern together and shorter.

I marked the length I wanted it all the way round with tailors chalk by measuring the distance from the waistband at regular frequencies and then joining the marks I made together.  I then cut it out with pinking shears.

After this came the initially complicated step of adding the waistband. I studied the instructions that came with the pattern for a long time, and came to the conclusion (as one so often does with new and confusing instructions) that they MUST have printed it wrong as it just didn't make any SENSE the way they had shown it. I sometimes get this feeling with crosswords too...

Luckily, when I next came back to the project a few days later, it made more sense and I pinned the skirt to the waistband (onto which I had ironed the fusible interfacing).

This is shown here by another speedily snapped phone picture. Initially I tried to force the straight waistband to pin around the curve of the skirt waist (as seen above) - but then I realised that there was supposed to be a more material in the skirt and pinning it straight created these folds.

Nevertheless, I had to remove a little material from each end.

After sewing the first side of the waistband in place I sewed the two sides together halfway up the back, leaving space for the zip.

I added the zip using my zip foot on my machine - of course! Once the zip is in place, as seen in the picture (almost), you sew down from the top, over the bottom, reinforcing it a few times, and up the other side.

The next step was to fold over the waistband and iron it so it created a folded bank with the interfacing in the middle and the pattern on both sides.

I then sewed round the place where the waistband meets the skirt to keep everything (including the newly added lining) in place.

Finally, the last thing to do was to hem it round the bottom. The skirt I made with DIY Couture suggested using bias binding around the base - but this pattern suggested hemming so I gave that a go this time.

I hemmed the lining and the outside of the skirt separately, pinning them first. As you can see, I did the outside hem quite a lot neater than the lining one!

And that was it done. Trying it on again (I had done this a few times throughout the process, don't worry) I found it fit excellently. Hooray for making my own size 11 clothes :)

And here's the finished skirt, hanging on my door.

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