Cutathon, the first batch of summer projects

I don’t know about you guys, but I find cutting and sewing to be two very different types of activity. Each feels like a separate sort of creative process. They’re both satisfying, but because of the differences between them, I want a different mood and a different mindset for each.

When I’m cutting, it feels a bit like puzzling through a planning stage. I trace all my patterns, and then I make alterations on the tracings based on the actual measurements at certain critical points like shoulder and bust and waist. So a lot of decisions have to be made here that will affect the final garment. How much wearing ease do I want, and wear do I want it? I’ve been sewing long enough that I don’t have to really ponder these decisions most of the time, but sometimes these can be tricky calls.

This is also where I’m learning how a particular fabric will behave. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been sewing or how many times you’ve knit with other versions of a fabric. No two rayon jerseys, for example, will behave in exactly the same way. Cutting the fabric lets me start to get to know it and think about how I might need to adjust the construction methods to accommodate different characteristics.

So I like cutting, but it feels more cerebral than sewing, which I find almost mindlessly soothing by comparison. And this is one of the main reasons I tend to cut things in clusters, several projects at once. When the mindset is there, and I have a bit of time for it, it makes more sense to knock out a bunch of cuts at once. And as long as I’m pulling out the mats, French curves, tracing materials, etc., I might as well make good use of them.

This past weekend, I cut out three new projects for summer. The first is a white mesh baseball jacket. The cuffs, collar, and front band will be in white cotton ribbing. I had to do quite a lot of puzzling and thinking to figure out how to adjust the pattern to accommodate the mesh — eliminating the lining and pockets, for example — but for the most part, this pattern is better suited to this task than any other jacket pattern I looked at. This will be one of those things I can toss on over jeans and a tee or over a sundress, and it will work easily with any casual style. Side note: I’m really taken with mesh lately. Don’t know why. Mood had some really nice ones and I snapped up two, this white one and the black bonded mesh knit I used to make the tunic I blogged about last week. This white mesh is heavier, with a denser drape, and I think the cotton ribbing will give it good structure.


I also cut a cotton batik sundress with a mullet hem. This one required a bit more pattern adjustment prior to cutting — it’s really, really loose. I wanted it sort of skimmy and loose, rather than just a big cotton sack, so I tried to narrow it through the shoulders and reshape the upper bust. I’ve already started sewing this one, and I still need to take it in a bit through the shoulders, but it’s going to work out pretty much as planned. I love this print, a deep stash length from the Needle Shop. I usually shy away from browns and golds, but this one had to come home with me as soon as I saw it.


Finally, I cut a jersey maxidress in a striped knit from Fishman’s that was originally intended for a much different project. I’d thought to make one of those folded, crossover drape front blouses with it, but then I tried one on in the store to see how it would look on my figure. It was awful. I looked pregnant and drowning in fabric. So I decided to make a summer maxi out of this fabric instead.


This had to be cut in a single layer to make sure the stripes matched just so. My trick for cutting patterned fabric is to always cut in a single layer and lay the first piece on top of the fabric to cut the second piece. This guarantees that all the matching points will match. In this case, because everything had to be cut on the bias, it took a little extra time and care, but my cutting trick always works pretty well. If you look closely here, you can see the white outline of the pattern piece under the first bodice piece that I already cut. It’s a little hard to see because the patterns are matched along the cut edges.


And then, after cutting, this is how the two bodice fronts look, right side up and side by side.


That’s a pretty good match. I’ll have to be careful during seaming to make sure the stripes align properly, but it shouldn’t be too hard to make it work.

So this is my first batch of warm-weather sewing for the year, yay! I can tell I’m antsy for summer because every time I look at my pattern stash, the sundresses are the only things that appeal to me. Nothing beats an easy, soft summer dress! I can’t wait to wear them!

Are you ready for some heat waves?



Closing in on a few FOs

I confess, knitting and sewing time has been scarce for the past six weeks or so. I’m just really over-scheduled right now. It’s temporary, thank goodness, and I can already see the end of this cycle starting to manifest. I like being busy and arrange my life to keep it that way, but sometimes I overdo it just a wee bit.

So this has slowed down the knitting and sewing progress, but it hasn’t stopped it altogether. Today, I finished this mesh tunic.


I’m really pleased with how it turned out. This is Butterick 5954, a highly rated pattern that made the “Best of 2014” list at Sewing Pattern Review. I can see why. The cut is perfect. It’s loose and fluid without being baggy, and that’s a tough line to toe. I did add a FBA to the pattern front, but other than that, it was the only pattern adjustment. I didn’t even narrow the shoulders, though I would likely do it if I sewed this pattern again. (I will sew this pattern again. Without question.)

This is view B of the pattern, a fairly plain tunic shape with a lot of flare at the hem. There’s another view with overlapped fronts and a cowl neck that many, many sewists have made.

Butterick 5954

It’s pretty, and I like it quite a lot. I keep wanting to make it, but I’m hesitant because I think all that fabric would overwhelm me. I’m pretty self-conscious right now about the weight I gained last fall during my illness, and I think adding a lot of fabric onto my too-heavy (for now) figure would practically guarantee that I never wear the top. But I’ve got the all-clear from my doctor to shed that weight — a work in progress right now, and the hours in the gym every day are definitely contributing to my over-scheduling issue these days. But if it means I can get back into my regular size and make this top, maybe in a floaty, sheer chiffon, then it will be worth it. I keep seeing it in a citrus-y bright color, sheer and light, and very summery. It doesn’t look very summery in that tweedy knit pictured, but that’s how I want to do it.

Speaking of sheer fabrics, this whole project came about because I scanned the “new arrivals” page at Mood Fabrics and spotted this knitted mesh.


That’s a bonded mesh knit, two layers of knitted fabric that are joined with a double-knitting technique in various places across the knitting rows. It’s very, very soft, like the softest t-shirt jersey. I snapped this photo of a scrap left after cutting, but you can get a closer look at it on Mood’s product page (link). This fabric comes in a lot of colors, and I debated far too long between the spearmint, white, and black before going with black. It’s sort of my default color.

I’ve worked with other bonded/layered knits before, but this one was comparatively easy to handle. It was stable enough to stay where you put it and grip the straight pins, but soft enough to roll easily at the hems. I debated doing a hand-rolled hem on this, in fact, because a hand-rolled hem will always be softer than a machine-rolled hem. But then I thought that bit of hardness from the machine-rolled hem might help support the flare down at the hem, and it seems to be working as expected. I’m glad I opted for the machine-rolled hem, but when I make it again (maybe in this bright blue crinkle chiffon? hmm…) I would definitely consider a hand-rolled hem to keep the chiffon floaty.

In any case, I can already tell I’ll wear this a lot. It’s the perfect thing to throw on over a tank/tee and leggings/jeans on a summer day when the air conditioner is going to be blasting wherever I go. And in the transitional season we’re in now, when it could be 70F or it could be 50F — roll the dice! — this mesh is just the right weight to stay comfortable. As an added bonus, the texture of the mesh looks great with these Steve Madden booties I bought a few months back. See the quilting detail on the leather?


The shape of that quilting mimics the mesh pretty closely, which is just one of those little details that makes me feel like I might be doing something right. Also, you can’t go wrong with black heeled boots or booties, right? It doesn’t seem to matter how many pairs I already own — when I see a perfect pair like these, I have to snap them up. I especially love the inside of these boots.


It just has the vaguest whiff of Alexander McQueen’s Highland Rape collection. Remember that one? Genius. These boots are, of course, not as splendid or shocking as that collection was, but the secret glimpse of plaid inside the rather tough, edgy boots always makes me remember the mood and tone of that collection. I really do love these boots. ::happy sigh::

Have you made any new pieces for the transitional weather?




When first impressions are wrong

Okay, so I made this sweater/coat/cardigan thing, and I was a bit iffy when I first finished it just because it’s really, really big. Crazy big. Like, I made the size medium (12-14), which is my normal sewing size, and I had to take 4″ (10cm) out of each side seam. And it’s still very generously sized, even with that extra 8″ removed. Here, this will give you an idea–


McCall’s 7057 View B minus 8″ in girth

This thing has so much more volume than most of what I wear these days. I like a trim silhouette, and this is far from trim.

But check out that collar! That’s the detail that made me rush to make this garment in the first place. It’s actually a convertible hood. It drapes around the shoulders, as shown, or you can wear it up, like this.


Goal for 2015: I will get a decent camera and learn how to use it

That’s like a magic trick, right? Such a fun design detail, and I really liked sewing it. With the hood down in collar form, you can’t really see how huge the shoulders are. The big proportions are a little more apparent with the hood up. So at first I was worried that this would feel like one of those enormous snow jackets our moms all made us wear when we were little.


I can’t put my arms down!

But then I wore it. Tuesday was warm for Chicago in January, a tick above freezing. So I threw on dark jeans, a black long-sleeved tee, some heeled boots, and my favorite long silver statement necklace, seen in the photo. I added red leather gloves, my red bag, and a black fedora, and I was out the door — and this cardigan coat thingie was absolutely perfect. It kept me warm enough outdoors without overwhelming me with heat indoors. Comfortable. I could let it drape open if I became too warm, and wrap it close if I became too cold.

But just because a thing is comfy, that doesn’t mean it looks okay. I had to pick up my nephew from high school that day, and I heard more than one MILF called at me — not that we encourage these things, but at least it’s some evidence that I didn’t look like I was wearing a big sloppy bathrobe. One of the sports coach teacher men was rather friendly with me, too, more evidence that it wasn’t completely hideous. And I liked wearing it. Of course, I like wearing some pretty awful things in the name of winter warmth, so I know better than to think this is evidence of style. But I didn’t scare off children or sportsball men, so how bad can it be? That was my logic, such as it is.

That was Tuesday. As I woke up Wednesday, my first thought was, “I wonder if it will be warm enough to wear the big thing again.” And today, Thursday? Same thought. I woke up hoping I could wear it. I think I might have a new trend here. I don’t know what it is about this cardigan, but I know I’m going to wear it until it is dead from overwork and exhaustion. One wear, and I was hooked. It’s like the crack of sweater jackets.

The fabric is this black wool sweater knit shot through with silver lurex threads from Mood Fabrics. It’s right around sport or DK gauge, just under 6 stitches to the inch, so it’s fairly heavy for a milled knit fabric. It sewed like a dream and feels incredibly good — warm and cozy, but it’s definitely wool, just a mere touch of rusticity in the hand. I loved sewing it and would absolutely sew it again.

I only had two minor quibbles with the pattern. One, there are no belt loops. I made the belt and didn’t even notice that a belt loop pattern piece was nowhere to be found. I might just do a crocheted loop at some point, but honestly, I doubt I’ll ever use the belt. It just feels bulky and awkward when it’s belted, and the belt kind of ruins the line of the garment.

My other minor quibble is that the instructions have you sew the pieces together in an unusual order. Instead of sewing fronts to backs at the shoulders and then sewing the hood/collar thing on, it calls for you to sew the fronts to the hood/collar, then sew the backs, then sew the shoulder seams. That seemed like it would be unnecessarily fiddly, so I didn’t do that. I couldn’t think of a single reason why anyone should!

But neither of these quibbles is really anything to detract from an overall great pattern. I already have my eye out for some red wool sweater knit, because OMG, this thing in red? I NEEEEEEEEEEEED one!

Have you ever had a wrong first impression of one of your creations?


Bargainista Fashionista contest

I entered the January contest at Sewing Pattern Review, which was kind of a fluke. I had a pattern and fabric already purchased for a garment that fit the rules. I needed a heavy satin lining fabric, but stumbled across a place (MacPhee Workshop in Canada) that carried it and was willing to ship it for a reasonable price. The satin arrived a couple of days ago, and with everything I need in place, I decided to enter the contest.


The idea is pretty simple. We’re making things that were inspired by designer pieces. In this case, I’d been noticing a sudden profusion of leopard-print coats all over the place, on celebrities and on runways and in department stores.

Yves Saint Laurent showed this one in printed marmot for a mere $21,500.

Leopard YSL 21500

But I don’t wear real fur, so my pocketbook was spared the real thing. I really liked the color combination in this one, Sofia Cashmere from Nieman Marcus for $895. I also was intrigued by the size of the collar and I liked the tie belt.

leopard 895 Sofia

But I wanted single-breasted, and this one is double-breasted. Then I spotted this one for $2295 — single-breasted, a gorgeous collar, a good length, but the wrong color combination for me.

Leopard Reiss

I wanted this basic coat but in my colors. Donna Karan answered the call with this Vogue pattern for the fall. I snapped it up as soon as I saw it.


Finding the right fabric was a challenge, mainly because I don’t do well with beige/gold colors. Most leopard prints fit that category. I looked at some low-pile fake furs (which is what the pattern calls for), but in the end, decided on this heavy wool sweater knit in a dark coffee and charcoal colorway. It was from Mood, $24.99 a yard regular price (on sale for $19.99), and I needed 4.5 yards. So the fashion fabric cost $90, the lining was $34 ($40 Canadian), and the pattern was $5, for a total of $129. I’m reporting the prices of the original coats and the materials because that’s part of the contest, so please forgive this money talk. The idea behind this contest is to understand just how much we save by making our own clothing (not to mention the benefit of being able to select our own colors and materials to suit our preferences).


The lining, I’m happy to report, will be tomato red. I have a red handbag with a leopard print lining that I love, so I knew this combination would not only work, but would make me happy for a long time to come. I love this bag.


It’s good, right? That red with the print is just the right level of boldness. The lines of the bag are clean and uncluttered — the pizzazz comes from the color and print. I like that a lot, and I think this coat will achieve the same basic balance.

The muslin is cut and ready to go, and the coat has to be completed by January 31. It’s a complex pattern — 3-piece sleeve, a proper collar with a stand, etc. Here’s hoping the muslin and fitting are quickly done so that I can move onto the fabric and lining before the month is half gone!


Stash management

I have had really good luck overall with the fabrics I’ve ordered from Mood. I know I’m not alone in this! I order from them year-round, but when they have their Black Friday sale, I let myself splurge a little. So it should come as no surprise that the UPS guy brought me what can only be described as a big ass box from Mood today.


That is one big ass box

We start with some sweater knit that will be made into a coat.


That will be made into this Vogue 1365 trenchcoat.


The pattern calls for short-nap faux fur, but when I started pricing this stuff, I realized very quickly that there’s a serious problem in the faux fur market. If it’s something I will let anywhere near my body, it’s around $40/yard. If it’s priced more reasonably, it’s suitable only for costumes for the kindergarten pageant. (If your kid every needs to be a hairy unicorn, I can tell you just where to find some ridiculous acrylic fur that will look vivid from the back row.) So when I spotted this sweater knit in a print very similar to what I wanted — for once, I wanted a pretty close visual copy of the pattern sample — I snapped up 4.5 yards. I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this. The textile’s hand is a bit coarse and dense, like a good rustic wool should be, but the overall appearance is not all that rustic. I wouldn’t use this for anything to be worn next to the skin, but it will be brilliant as this coat. With a lipstick red lining, I think. Or maybe hot pink.

I also bought two other lengths of wool for jackets, a red boiled wool and a cobalt crepe. Look at the depth of color on these. Gorgeous, right? I don’t mind a black coat, but I wear so many black and gray clothes that I thought a pop of color in a coat would be a nice touch.



But here’s the real splurge, something I can’t stop petting and admiring.


That’s a light, fluid, delicious lambskin pelt. I draped it over the edge of the cutting counter so that you might get an idea of how supple this pelt is. It’s bigger than I expected it to be, and the color is rich and deep. I spot very few marks or flaws in the pelt, just a slight rippling along one raw edge. My plan is to use this to make sleeves on a shirt, and I will have plenty left for a collar, a skirt waistband, or whatever I choose. I’m tempted to buy a second pelt and make a complete shirt out of the two pelts. This leather is that beautiful. And with the sale discount, it was about half the price of some pelts I was admiring at a local store a week or two ago, so this was a real bargain.

I have so many lovely things to sew now. It’s an embarrassment of riches, as they say. And I’m so eager to sew all of them, but my time is pretty tight, and I have to be realistic. A garment a week is manageable for now, if I stick with my 30-minutes-a-day habit (and an extra 30 here or there when I can squeeze it in). This fact — specifically, that I really have an urge to sew the fabrics I already have — has led me to also sign on for a stash reduction challenge at Sewing Pattern Review. The idea is pretty flexible. We can set our own parameters to wrestle the stash into submission. I like the idea of 2 yards out for every yard in, and I’ll be tracking my progress starting the first of the year. This only applies to fashion fabrics, not to linings, muslins, trims, etc. I’ll keep myself honest by making myself “bank” the yardage out before I order anything new. It will be like a savings account of sorts.

With this in mind, I’m debating whether to do a fabric stash inventory. My stash really isn’t huge (not like my yarn stash, which is bordering on psychotic). So I think I could take swatches, measure, maybe even pre-treat everything in a few days at most. I can’t decide if that would be time well spent. But I’m one of those hyper-organized types with a spreadsheet and index for everything. So this idea is appealing to my basic nature, but I wonder if the time might not be better spent just, you know, sewing.

What do you guys do to track your fabric stash? Do you track it at all?


Another type of skirt waistband alteration

A few weeks back, I showed you a method I use to reduce the waist on a simple straight skirt (link). Today I’ll show you how I made that same alteration on a skirt with a fitted yoke waist.

I recently sewed Vogue 8837 (link), a knit skirt with a shaped yoke and shirt-tail hem. When I was cutting this skirt, I was primarily concerned with the finished length of 33″ — as drafted, it would have come nearly to my ankles. I shortened it eight inches (link), and I could have sworn I checked the finished waist measurements on the pattern tissue before cutting.

Apparently not.


How does it even stay up? GIANT!

So, okay, I made a mistake and didn’t measure the waistband, sigh, bummer, etc. This is easy to fix, though. I I didn’t even have to remove the yoke to reshape it. This yoke is one large piece, folded over at the top so that the fabric is doubled. You can see the seam across the hips where the yoke joins the rest of the skirt. That’s almost exactly at the true hip, which on my petite frame is 7″ below true waist. So I started by detaching the folded-over portion of the yoke from the skirt (that’s the facing portion, the “private” side that touches the skin, not the “public” side that faces outward). I left the public side stitched in place.


Skirt waistband interior

You can see the stitching and seam allowances running horizontally on this picture. You can also see that the side seam of the yoke curves inward a bit — not nearly enough for someone with my hourglass, but it isn’t straight from hip to waist. What I needed to do was increase the shaping there to make it smaller through the waist. So I started by marking the point where I wanted the new waist curve to end up. It’s a little hard to see on that picture because the dressmaker’s ruler is clear with red markings, but the white chalk mark is 1.5″ in from the original waist point. It’s smack in the vertical middle of the waistband because when we fold the waist back over to stitch it down, that’s where the fold will be.

Next, I extended that dot into a dash of about 1″, or a half-inch extending on either side of the dot. The purpose of this little flat line portion is to smooth out the curve on the waistband. You know how some waistbands are rectangles and some are curved? I wanted the rectangular effect at the very top bit of the waistband, but I wanted the rest of it to curve.


Marking the flat/rectangular portion of the waistband

Then I used the curved portion of the ruler to extend this line to the hip seam and the top raw edge. This isn’t precise engineering. All you really have to do is find an angle that looks right — pay attention to the way the angle changes over the length of the ruler, because the curve will be steeper at one end than the other. I wanted it steeper as it approached the flat rectangle portion, so I flipped the curve around and positioned it until it looked about right, aiming for the point where the seam allowances at the side seam and the hem seam would cross.


Yeah, okay, that should do it

Then I flipped it around and used the same points on the ruler to draw the same arc from the waist to the stitched hem end. This is what the line looked like.


New stitching line marked in chalk

That sweet little line represents a 6″ reduction in the waist size — or, 1.5″ times four. Do you understand why it’s times four? There are two side seams, and each side seam consists of two pieces. So if we make this 1.5″ reduction on each of two pieces and two seams, that’s four reductions. We don’t have to do it this way. If we have a big belly or an extremely tiny back waist, we can shape the back and front waist yoke pieces in different ways to accommodate those body shapes. But in my case, this symmetrical shaping usually works pretty well.

While I’m thinking of different ways we can shape these yokes, I should mention that I considered adding darts instead of altering the side seams this dramatically. I thought I could trim the side seams a half inch and then do some half inch darts in the front and back and achieve the same reduction. With a different fabric, I might have done exactly this. But this particular ponte (from Mood — link) is heavy enough to be made into coats, and so I wanted to keep the seaming to a minimum. Thicker fabrics work better with fewer of these fine shaping details. In another fabric, though, I might have used darts to distribute the reduction around the circumference of the waist.

Next, I stitched on the chalk lines and trimmed away the extra fabric.


Hunka hunka burning red ponte knit

One thing that might be apparent from this picture is that the angle of that curve is pretty steep along the waist to the hip. And the angle from hip seam to hem is about as straight as any skirt gets. This meant that we shifted from steep angle to straight side seam right at that hip seam, and it made the crossing bit — where the side seam crosses the hip seam — want to stick out a little bit. So I ended up stitching a bit of an angle below the hip seam, too, just to smooth out the transition. It was only a tiny bit of stitching, but it made a big difference in the smoothness of the fit over the hips. That stitching line started about 1/2″ above the hip seam and extended down about a half inch below it.

After all the stitching was done, and the yoke was folded back over and restitched at the hip seam, this is the fit. I’m standing a little twisty to take the photo, but when I stand normally, that side seam does hang at the proper angle. I wanted to take a side view shot so you can see the shirt-tail hem effect at the knee, which was what drew me to this pattern in the first place.


The fit at the waist is ever so much better now! It will even stay up if I don’t hold it in place, much to the disappointment of the neighborhood perverts. I’ll trim the seam allowances to remove some of the bulk and give it one more intensive pressing, but this thing is basically ready to wear. It’s a heavy enough fabric to wear with some fleece tights and boots even on a cold day.

But can you imagine what it would look like if I hadn’t shortened it eight inches? Yikes. That would be bad.

These are the two main alterations (length and waist reduction) I have to make in about every skirt or pants pattern. Do you have standard alterations, too? Or is your fitting done on a project-by-project basis?


Sewing Bee Round One — A-line Skirt

It’s been a slow week on the blog because I’ve been sick — not sick enough to stop doing All The Things, but sick enough to require naps (plural!) each day. My schedule is so tightly packed that adding naps can put me behind on all sorts of things, and in this case, the blog fell off my schedule. But I’m better now, and I have lots of good things to post over the next few days.

Starting with my round one entry into the Pattern Review Sewing Bee Contest.


The idea behind this contest is pretty simple. It runs for four weeks. In each week, a project is defined, rules are presented, and we have one week to sew the item and post the review. Each week, a winner is announced (with really amazing prizes!) and a percentage of entries are eliminated. Something like 340 people signed up for the contest, but only 141 people completed the first week project and posted the required review. As I write this, I don’t know if I will advance to the next round. The results will be posted sometime later today.

For this round, we were required to make a lined, A-line skirt with a zipper, waistband, and hem. This was a very simple project, in other words, and my first thought was that very few people would drop out on this round. A lined A-line skirt, under normal circumstances, is roughly one afternoon’s worth of work. You have side seams, maybe a center back seam, a zipper and waistband, some kind of closure for the top of the waistband, the lining, and the hems. It’s not complicated, and the fitting on such a project is usually moderate at best.

Because this style is so clean and minimal — something like a blank slate, really — I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do before I started work. I pored over my pattern collection and dug through every inch of my (not very extensive) fabric stash. Because my wardrobe is still so meager, I knew I wanted to make a basic, everyday sort of skirt, something that would be a real wardrobe builder rather than a statement piece. But I also know that a statement piece would be more likely to advance to the next round. Dilemma!

Here’s how I resolved that particular need to balance everyday wear-ability with enough pizzazz to (please, I hope) advance to the next round of this contest. I found a pattern in my stash, Simplicity 1322, that is an a-line skirt with a mock wrap front. Take a look at the line drawings.


I made view E, which has a front overlay piecing that is designed like a regular wrap skirt, but the whole thing is held together by the waistband. In other words, that vertical line down the front of the line drawing shows where the pieces overlay. I chose to use a very plain, but deliciously smooth and expensive-looking gray cotton sateen that I picked up from Mood (link to the fabric). I find that Mood’s basics, such as this sateen, tend to be reliably and consistently of a good overall quality. It has become my go-to place for this kind of fabric. I do have some local sources with decent basics, but their prices tend to be higher, so Mood is usually my first choice. I worry sometimes about ordering fabric without being able to handle it first, but while other online shops have disappointed me, Mood has not. Knock wood.

Because the sateen was so plain, I decided to add a bit of trim along the wrap front openings to give it just a touch of interest. My first thought was leather piping — I thought black leather would add a touch of toughness to a sweet a-line shape. (I love mixing a bit of grit with a bit of sugar in my outfits.)But I couldn’t find black leather piping anywhere I looked, and time was limited for this challenge, so I gave up the hunt and used a very tiny black cotton piping instead. It’s delicate, but it’s a nice touch. Here’s a shot of how it looks set into the seam. I took this picture when I was ironing the front overlay — the hem is on the right side of the photo, and the bottom edge of the fabric is the vertical edge of the front overlay piece. The black cotton piping provides just enough sharpness to make that line more evident, but it’s not so much to be obtrusive.


This skirt was unlined, so I had to add a lining. And that became the real challenge for this assignment.

Normally, a skirt lining is attached only at the waistband, and it hangs free from the waist to hem, except for maybe a bit of tacking along the zipper. That zipper tacking, by the way, serves a dual purpose — first, the zipper is a continuation of the waist opening, so it’s aesthetically pleasing to continue the seam along that opening, and second, as a matter of function, it keeps the lining from getting caught in the zipper teeth. It always shocks me to find ready-to-wear skirts with a lining left free along the zipper. This is one construction shortcut that makes me realize just how evil some garment manufacturers are — it’s as bad as this stupid current trend to eliminate hems. Rant, rant, rant, enough about that.

In this case, because the wrap front opening would move when I walk, I thought it made sense to attach the lining vertically along that opening. I chose a printed poly chiffon because I knew the lining would be momentarily visible, just in flashes, as I walk and move. But I wanted it to be clean and well-finished, not just flashy. So I really had to think through how to attach the lining to make this work. These are the steps I used.

  1. French seams along the side seams of the lining, and along the center back up to the point where I expected the bottom of the zipper to hit. I had to use French seams because this is a poly chiffon lining, and chiffon just looks neater with this sort of seam.
  2. Attach the piping to the vertical overlay seams, then attach the lining to the skirt fronts along these vertical seams.
  3. Sew the side seams of the skirt.
  4. Overlap the front overlay pieces and baste along the waist line to join the lining to the skirt. I stopped this basting an inch or so from the center back seam to make it easier to insert the zipper.
  5. Insert the zipper into the skirt fabric.
  6. Attach the waistband.
  7. Sew the lining to the zipper.
  8. Rolled hems. I had to hand-finish the lining hem where the lining was attached to the vertical front overlays. I had to pick enough of it clean from the skirt front and piping to be able to roll the hem, then I had to reattach the rolled hem to the overlay. This was a bit of a hassle, and I wish I’d thought to hem the lining before attaching it to the skirt on those vertical seams.

Here’s a view of how that skirt overlay looks when the piece moves to reveal the lining.


You can see how the bit of piping adds a nice clean edge to differentiate the printed lining and the main skirt fabric. Also, how fun is that print? Stars, you guys. I do love some stars. You can also see just a bit of clumsiness in the corner join where I had to pick apart that vertical seam, roll the hem on the lining, and reattach it to the skirt. It’s not dreadful, but it’s not perfect, either. I would call a do-over, except for one giant problem with the lining fabric. Check this out.


Could you die? Look at that mess. This fabric absolutely disintegrates along cut edges. Talk about crap. I bought this from Vogue Fabrics on Roosevelt Road (which is closing forever in a week), and while I loved the print, I HATED handling the fabric. Cutting chiffon is a bitch in any case, but I was prepared for that. What I was not prepared for was the way this textile simply could not hold itself together in any way. Handling it at allĀ  meant that it would fray. A lot. Utter garbage fabric, and I bought plenty of it because I thought the print was so fun. (Am I the only one who has noticed the sharp fall-off in quality from Vogue Fabrics in recent years? Shopping there has become a treasure hunt — you have to sort through so much bad poly and rayon to find anything worth sewing. There are still some decent fabrics to be found there at reasonable prices, but you have to be so careful. I can’t imagine making the trip to the still-staying-open Evanston location all that often, given the way their stock has changed.)

Anyway, here is the finished skirt.


It’s very plain on the hanger, but you can see the piping along the overlay. You can’t see the lining at all when I’m just standing in the skirt, but when I walk, little flashes of stars pop up along the piped edge. It’s a fun effect, and I’m really pleased with how this skirt turned out. It will be a good everyday skirt, but it avoided being boring. And that adds a gray skirt to my wardrobe, so I can tick that off the wardrobe-building list.