Workin’ on the Railroad

I feel all fancy when I can use an arcane textile term like “railroading” a fabric. What’s railroading? Allow me to demonstrate.

With printed fabrics. the print design typically goes from selvage to selvage. So, typically, you cut your pattern pieces on the straight of grain, meaning the grainline marks on the pattern pieces run parallel with the selvage.

Let’s say you have a one-yard cut of fabric like this 54-inch-wide cotton jacquard from the fashion design house Milly. The selvages are at the top and bottom of the picture:

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Milly cotton jacquard I bought at Banksville Designer Fabrics in Norwalk, CT

That’s a pretty big print motif. It’s hard to work it with a simple skirt pattern, such as this one, the Osaka wrap skirt from Seamwork magazine:

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A straight of grain pattern layout won’t work.

There’s not enough room on the straight of grain to center the pattern motifs and squeeze in all three pieces – a right front, left front and back (upper right) which is cut on the fold.

Does it work better railroaded, where I lay out the pieces on the crossgrain?

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Railroaded fabric with a great pattern layout and room to spare.

Yes! With room to spare! Hooray!

Depending on your fabric, the railroaded cuts might behave just as they would have on the straight of grain, or maybe not. It depends on how drapey the fabric, whether it stretches at all, and how it’s woven. You can play around with the two grainlines to see if it works. For this fabric, it’s fine either way.

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Seamwork “Osaka” wrap skirt laid out flat.

Here’s the skirt all laid out – notice how I was able to match the motifs pretty well by railroading the fabric. The white sections and the coral sections line up, including that band of coral that runs down the middle. Keep in mind, I wasn’t trying to match up the motifs exactly, because that’s not happening without a lot more fabric – wasteful and not necessary, as you will see.

Looks pretty good on, too:

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I arranged the overlapping front pieces so that the motifs would scroll along at the hem and hip. Excuse the photobombing dog!
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Same in the back

This was a quick and easy make – Seamwork said it would take about 3 hours, and that was right, even with the modifications I made.

The original skirt includes a seam halfway down to color block or otherwise change up the design. It’s also reversible, so in theory you can have two different skirts using up to four fabrics. You’re meant to basically make two skirts, sew them together, turn out and topstitch. Here’s the technical drawing:

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Osaka line drawing from Seamwork magazine Issue #4

I just wanted to use the one fabric, and I didn’t want to line it or make it reversible because the fabric was a good weight as-is. I made these changes to the pattern:

  • Eliminated the colorblock seam by butting the top and bottom pieces together at the seamline.
  • Widened the back darts 1/4 inch each.
  • Made a bias facing for the waist that finishes at 1.5 inches wide (the skirt has no waistband).
  • Lengthened it 1.5 inches and did a narrowish hem.
  • Eliminated the snap closure inside because I don’t think I need it.
  • Added 1 inch to both ends of the skirt to allow for hems and as some added insurance against the wrap popping open.

Also, I mitered the hems, ’cause like I said, I am fancy like that.

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Mitered hems, bitches!

I got the button from a bargain bin at Len’s Mill in Ontario, Canada when I was at PatternReview Weekend last summer. To secure it, I made a slim rouleau loop and secured it between the skirt and facing.

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I got a big button and I cannot lie…

I wore this skirt Saturday night to dinner with friends. I was inspired to sew with this as part of The Sewcialists’ mini challenge to sew up something using one of the group’s logo colors. There’s a spinner to help you choose a color, and I got coral. I am glad the challenge gave me the little push I needed to find a solution for this bold, unusual fabric.

Author: shoes15

I live in Connecticut, USA with my husband and my dog, in an old house outfitted with a sewing room, a garden, an orchard, and a big liquor cabinet.

7 thoughts on “Workin’ on the Railroad”

  1. Cute skirt! And damn, am I going to have that song stuck in my head for DAYS. 🎶I’ve been workin’ on the railroad, all the live long day 🎶

    Like

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