Last Entry in the Summer Skirt Sewing Smackdown

After two tries at “free” skirt sewing patterns for the summer skirt sewing smackdown, I decided I’m dome with free patterns for a while. They can be fun, low-stakes projects, and you can get to know some cool indie pattern companies this way, but you also can end up with problems. Sooooo, time to sew up the most well-reviewed skirt in my five-skirt plan: the Gorgeous Gore Skirt from StyleArc.

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StyleArc Gorgeous Gore Skirt

This is not, strictly speaking, a free pattern. It was free to me, since StyleArc often gives away an older pattern when you buy a newer one. This is a very simple pattern – a gore piece you cut six times, and a waistband, which you cut four times. It doesn’t get much easier! And since it’s made of knit fabric, you an whip it up on the serger in a a couple hours or so.

My fabric was this crazy large-format geometric print in a heavier poly knit – not a jersey but not a double-knit or ponte either.

IMG_20190403_174821 (1)I had intended to make a dress with it. I must have been drunk or sleepy when I bought 3.5 yards of the stuff. A dress would be overwhelming to wear in this print, and it also would be kind of hot for a summer look. I figured a skirt was the answer:

StyleArc skirt 3

I’m glad I did this! The final result looks great and will coordinate well with other items in my wardrobe.

I ordinarily don’t go for elastic waists because that cinched-in elastic waist look doesn’t flatter me. No worries this time! This pattern has a clever solution to the waistband elastic situation. The casing sits on the waistband facing so it can’t be seen from the outside. To look at it, you’d think an invisible zipper on the side was in play. Nope!

Here’s a close-up of how it looks:

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Basically, you sew the waistbands and waistband facings together at the top and understitch. Then you sew 1/4 inch elastic in the round to your measurements and tuck it up against the understitching in between the waistband and facing. Then sew the casing on the facing only. The elastic is probably unnecessary for me, but I suppose it’s extra insurance.

I hemmed this to finish just above the knee (it’s designed as a below-knee skirt). I used the coverstitch setting on the serger and kind of screwed it up. My serger does not like bulk. I really to need to figure this out. Any flaws probably won’t attract the eye of anyone but me anyway.

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Back view

Because it’s a higher-waist design, the skirt flares out to skim but not settle on my hips, (unlike some skirts that shall remain nameless).

Now that I can declare victory, I am taking a break from skirts!

 

 

Summer Skirt Sewing Smackdown Part II

Here’s my next two entry in my Summer Skirt Sewing Smackdown. The Justine skirt, a free pattern from Ready to Sew:

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“Justine” skirt

This is one of those “You Get What You Pay For” deals with free sewing patterns. The instructions are messed up and the sizing is off. I need to take it in at the waist about 3 inches. Yes, it was a majorly rookie mistake not to wrap the damn waistband around my bod to check for the sizing before I sewed it on, so I have no one to blame but myself.

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Back view – not a pretty picture

It looks OK from the front, but in the back, you can really see how the skirt sits low on my waist and the fabric pools at center-back into a pleat. The whole look says “wide load.”

This is supposed to be a high-waisted skirt, with the gathers falling attractively instead of settling and fanning out along the hips. Looking again at the model, you may notice how she has no waist or hips to speak of. I neglected to pay much attention. My mistake!

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Justine skirt pattern photo

(Also, gurl, not for nothing, but what are you doing keeping the selvage on that skirt fabric? Let me know how it wears after you wash the skirt a few times.)

The instructions skirt is nearly a zero-waste design – the panels are big rectangles that gather into a straight-cut waistband, and the patch pockets are straight-cut along three sides.

The directions had one big problem and several small ones. The big problem: the instructions are out of order for gathering the skirt. You cannot gather the skirt until you know how much to gather it!

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Gathering in progress

The waistband pattern piece has no notches. You mark your own according to how long your waistband is. This is no big deal, but the waistband’s written instructions to mark the notches are wrong. You want to start at the ends, marking the seam allowances, then the button plackets, then center back, and then the side seams, which are equidistant between center back and the button plackets. The diagram is right but the written instructions have you “split the rest in four equal parts.”

Once you notch the waistband, you then can line up the skirt pieces to gather them the correct amount. It worked out to almost a 2x gather, in my size.

I wanted to try out techniques in the Threads July 2020 article “Couture Gathering” by Susan Khalje, so I made these changes:
* Made the skirt waist seam allowance 1 inch, not 1 cm.
* Ran three lines of gathering stitches, not 2.
* Ran gathering stitches the entire length of the skirt, not breaking at the side seams (Khalje says it’s easier to get even gathers this way, and having now done it, I agree).

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Gathering audition

I tried out a few lengths for the gathering stitches. A 5-mm regular basting stitch – sample on the right – left gathers that were too loose. The sample on the left is 4 mm – just right for this fabric – a cotton poplin I’ve had in my stash several years. I had bought it to make a shirtdress, without realizing it was only 47 inches wide – not enough for most dress patterns. A skirt was a good second-chance project for it. (BTW the pattern calls for fabric 140 cm wide (55 inches) but at least in my size a narrower fabric worked fine. This also would probably be suitable for quilting cotton.)

Other smaller errors and omissions with this pattern, if you decide to make your own:
* Assembling the .pdf, some pieces lacked the center heart shape for lining up the paper sheets.
* Some pieces lacked grainlines or cutting lines (this may be the fault of the nested .pdf format or just an error – I can’t tell).
* Sew the pockets right sides together not wrong sides together and turn out.

I did two lines of topstitching along the button plackets for extra stability, and I made the pocket buttons functional, not just decorative.

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I am quite proud of my pattern-matching skills anyway. I think this will be a fun skirt – after I get over the unpleasantness of  unpicking the waistband, shortening it, then redoing the gathers and sewing the stupid thing back on. Actually, that sounds like a lot of work. Oy.

“True Style Comes from Knowing Who You Are”

I will probably work at home through the end of the year. Without my job in New York City, I find myself adrift…

adrift

My “work” style and my “home” style are, well, two different styles. What’s why the same person who made this:

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At home

Also made this:

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At the office

Its’ said that true style comes from knowing who you are. So who am I?

I’ve never really felt that I fit in at the office, but I have played the game well enough. Everyone in New York dresses in black – often head to toe, year-round – so the “edgy work look” like the above was born. I needed to fit in and look tough. Eat broken glass and rusty nails for breakfast? You bet I do.

At home, though, I like more variety in color and style. I am not really an “edgy” person, though I like some edgy things. For home clothes, I like things that are clean and simple – hold the fripperies. I like nature, science, art – geeking out is a favorite past-time. Eat homemade yogurt and home-grown berries for breakfast? You bet I do.

I don’t know who I am.

I somehow am both of these people.

So I have two styles that don’t play well together.

I need a few things for spring and summer. Decided to make May “The Month of Bottoms” and June “The Month of Tops” for efficiency’s sake. A comb through my stash, however, revealed a problem. Most of the fabric was more in the “edgy” than “non-edgy” buckets.

I had three yards of these two fabrics earmarked for dresses. Don’t need dresses now – maybe skirts instead?

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For tops, I guess I can make some black or white T-shirts or simple button-downs. That’s exciting.

And I need new shoes. Oy. And a haircut. Double-oy. My roots are grown out 2 inches, and I am very tempted to get a short haircut and stop dyeing it – that is the home “me” but definitely not the office “me.”

The longer-term issue is: how can I get a job and a life that better complement each other? Which of these people am I, really, or am I a third person who doesn’t show up in either? Is 50 too late to “find yourself?”

Persist! Persist! Persist! Persist!

I’ve finished my quilt. It’s a hot mess, just like the women’s movement I’m honoring – in a good way.

Persist Quilt

The quilt is made of four modules, each using only fabrics, threads, batting and other materials I had in my stash. Many letters were scraped together from scraps of projects as far back as 20 years ago. I chose colors for each that were opposites on the color wheel, both to symbolize conflict and to make the letters stand out more against the background. The pattern is “The Proverbial Quilt” by Denyse Schmidt.

The textiles are mostly quilting cottons, but there are scraps of ultrasuede, silk, linen, African wax print, brocade, batiks, denim, shirting and upholstery fabrics in there too. Each quilt contains some fabrics that have metallic accents, and each has a bit of an overall rainbow-gradient fabric to tie them together. I 100% used stash fabric, batting and thread – truly a sustainable project.  This meant that I had to compromise a bit on some fabrics and colors. Compromise is meaningful – some fabrics a teenage girl would like, some fabrics my grandmother would like, and all kinds in between. Kind of like the women’s movement. We don’t have to love every piece of it; we just need to love the overall message and the energy that sustains it.

I call the pink and green one “Preppy Is Forever,” because this color combo was big during the preppy fashion fad in high school. It’s for a friend who’s a bit preppy.

It was a little challenging to make this one because I didn’t have a lot of pink or bright green/lime fabrics in my stash. I resorted to some charm squares leftover from a quilt I made my nephew 14 years ago.Preppy Persist

You can see the echo quilting pretty well on this one  – I stitched in the ditch along the letters in lime green thread and then echoed those stitches out 1 cm to the end of the quilt.

I call the orange and blue one “Sunrise to Sunset.” It’s for a friend who’s had a lot of physical, emotional, financial and relationship challenges in her life – she works every day against some major obstacles to keep going.

Persist Sunrise to Sunset

The orange, gold and lilac African Dutch wax fabric in here is leftover from a quilt I made for her 20 years ago. She lost it in a fire at her house last year. I am happy I still had a bit to use again. I was short on orange fabrics so I had to use a bit of coral. And I didn’t have enough to do the binding all in one fabric, so it’s pieced.

The purple and gold one is the prettiest, I think. 

Family Persistence

It’s titled “Family Endures” because most of the fabric came from family sewing projects over the years – scraps from niece’s and nephew’s quilts and Halloween costumes, a vest I made my mother, a craft project for a great-aunt, a quilt I made a cousin for her wedding, a Hanukkah table runner I made for my in-laws, linen pants  made for myself, our Christmas tree skirt, fabric from kitchen curtains and placemats I made when I first was married. It’s a gift for my sister.

The final one, titled “Blow Through Stoplights” was for me:

Runthroughstoploghts

The color scheme matches my sewing room and I had planned to hang it on the wall above the shelf where I keep my threads, manuals, buttons and whatnot.

But then a friend called me and she was really down. So I decided to give it to her instead. I’ll miss it, but I can always make another for myself. I still have scraps to spare, but not as many!

 

First Entry into the Skirt Smackdown!

I sewed up the simplest skirt first for my five-skirt smackdownplan. And it nearly made me want to sew pants again.

Here’s the finished product:

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Bernina A-Line Skirt Crapfest

I realize this is a crappy picture. Crap project, crap picture.

Hey, it’s wearable…

This is the Bernina My Label A-Line Skirt. There was so much screwed up about this pattern I am not sure where to begin.

First, I should note that while the pattern photo shows a center-front seam, there isn’t one on the pattern – the front is cut on the fold. Next, I should tell you about all the errors and omissions on the pattern itself, such as:

  • No grainline marked on pocket pattern
  • You need to cut twice the waistband pieces as the pattern pieces call for (this is correct in the instructions but not on the pieces themselves).
  • No zipper placement marks.
  • No notches at all – not for the waistband, pockets, side seams – zip! (yet, there are some that have no use on the front piece).

Of course, I noticed these things after I did my fancy embroidery on the pockets. So I felt I was in for a penny, in for a pound with this thing.

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This is pretty anyway

The fabric came from Qi-Ja Fabrics in Hamilton, Bermuda – I picked it up on vacation last year. It’s a coral linen – a very pretty color but close to my face it tends to bring out blue undertones in my skin, so I thought a skirt was a better option.

The cutting phase revealed two more bits of fun:

  • This pattern uses about 1 yard of woven fabric, not 2, at least in the size I cut (10 waist, 12 hip).
  • The pattern calls for you to cut a very long back waistband so you can fold a loop out of it to make a “strap” at the back. Why? I have no idea – I guess if you want to hang your skirt on a hook, you might find it handy. But who does that? And even if that sounds great, do you really want a big loop of fabric hanging off your ass all the time?

We soldier on…

The instructions were just kind of garbled and vague. It’s a pretty simple skirt, so it’s not like I needed a lot of hand-holding, but still… sheesh.

* The pockets, while cute, are useless. Stuff falls out of them. Duh. I sewed then shut at the bottom.
* The sizing is off – easily two sizes larger than the sizing table indicates.
* The drafting is off – the hem oddly angles in in a jagged way instead of gently curves, as does the waistline. I had to smooth this out.
* I used an invisible zipper since I was sewing from stash and didn’t have a matching zipper handy.
* I chopped off that asinine strap and turned a bit of it into a tab button placket so I could better secure the waistline. The button is an antique from my stash.
* Interfaced the waistband (the pattern did not call for this ?!?)

 

Worst pattern ever. Beats this skirt sewed from a Japanese pattern book a few years ago.

Bernina should be ashamed of itself. I found out later that this “MyLabel” product was a short-lived software package for pattern drafting and design. As a friend of mine said when I recounted this tale of woe – “Bernina should stick to making sewing machines.”

Persisting with a Quilt

My “Persist” quilt gas been on Hiatus while I sewed coronavirus masks. I have made 92 – mostly for nurse friends to take to work at a hospital and a nursing home. I also made many for friends and relatives, and donated a dozen to our neighborhood food pantry for whomever needs them. A sampling of those that I remembered to photograph before they went out the door:

I have a little elastic left that I will save for now, in case more masks are needed.

On to the quilt! The first of four rows is done:

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Here’s a close-up of how each letter is made, using the “R” as an example:

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The “R” in “The Proverbial Quilt” by Denyse Schmidt

I made cardboard templates of the letters and marked the positive and negative spaces (R for positive and G for negative, since my first row used red and green fabrics).

I got a but fussy with the cutting – with only six letters, and one word repeated four times, every piece needs to count, and I strive to find harmony in the chaos of colors, shades and prints. Or so I tell myself. I am working only with stash fabrics, so the look is not ideal, even if it is sustainable. I wish I had a solid orange, for example, but I don’t, so I’ve made do.

I cut the fabrics then lay them out to assess the look. Here’s the R with a mock-up of fabrics:

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Template with mock-up of fabrics

I am using mostly quilting cottons, plus a few other bits and bobs – the orange-and-blue line fabrics include some African Dutch wax with a metallic element, some plaid shirting and some denim leftover from the jeans I made last fall. Other parts of the quilt have bits of linen, silk, upholstery fabrics and ultrasuede.

To assemble each letter, sew the pieces in order; 1 to 2, then 2 to 3 and so on.

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Quilt letter assembly

The pieces include several bias-cut bits, so it’s s challenge not to stretch them while sewing and pressing.

Here are the modules ready for final assembly. I found that I needed to add 1/2 inch more seam allowance to long pieces that run the length of the letters, such as the left piece of the R, to get them to fit. Then I trim any excess.

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Occasionally the pieces need a bit of trimming too, such as the R crosspiece above. I am not the world’s most accurate quilter. Who cares? The little goofs add interest to the design in this case, which is intentionally a bit freeform in its vibe.

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PER-chance is this working out?

Here are the first three letters in the orange and blue colorway. The E is quite large and I don’t love it. The quilt includes two designs for vowels so that you can mix and match a bit, but I using just one here. I think I may trim down the E’s a bit – I will leave them as-is for now.

Coronavirus Couture and Other Projects

So much for my “Sew Edgy Work Wardrobe” plans for spring and summer. For who knows how long, I will be working from home, like a lot of people who are fortunate enough to be able to.

The #1 rule of working from home for me is to have something to look forward to after the workday is done. For me, that means creative outlets like sewing, gardening and cooking.

My “home” wardrobe is much more normcore than my work wardrobe. Plus I was in the mood for spring colors and textues. First up was this top from Butterick 6388.

It’s a bit boxier and roomier than the technical drawings and pattern pictures would lead you to believe. I ended up taking in the arm and side seams about 1/2 inch, and I made 3/4 sleeves for a more springtime look. I also did the triangular side panels and back yoke on the crossgrain to add some interest.

The fabric was from FabScrap, a charity in New York’s Garment District that sells scraps from fashion houses, schools, stores, tailor and upholstery shops etc. This scant 1.5-yard piece of very soft and comfy mystery poly knit cost $7.50. Sustainable to boot!

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The Fabulous Fab Scrap sign

Since I had white thread in the serger, next up was a basic white T-shirt. Boring, ok, but likely a wardrobe staple I will wear for years.

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Deer & Doe Plantain

I wanted to try the Deer & Doe Plantain t-shirt again. The one I made several years ago did not get much wear because the shirt was a little tight and the fabric didn’t have enough stretch. This time I sized up and used some really soft and lovely T-shirt fabric I got from the Portsmouth Fabric Company in New Hampshire while I was visiting my mom in January.

Unforch, this is a still bit tight. Grr. Maybe it will stretch out. Here’s hoping!

It should take no time at all to make a basic tee, right? So why does it take me forever? Faff about with the serger. Break a needle. Replace the needle. Untangle a nest of thread. Cut some clear elastic for the shoulder seams. Lose one piece of elastic. Hunt about on the floor for 10 minutes. Give up and cut a new piece of elastic. Then find the old piece, exactly where I left it in the first place:

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Where are you, clear elastic?

The coverstitch hem is still a bit wonky. Whatever.

Third up will be … drumroll… a white cardigan. Hey – the white thread is in the serger. That’s saving me like 15-20 minutes right off the bat.

I got some slubbed French terry last summer and earmarked it for a try at the Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan. Once that’s done, I will be ready for some color!