Monday, April 22, 2013

Walk the Dog Skirt

In spring and summer, I hardly wear pants at all. It's skirts and dresses for me, as soon as the weather is warm enough for bare white legs. The best thing about jeans is pockets. The worst thing about skirts is having no pockets or, nearly as bad, unsatisfactory pockets. A cell phone in a side seam pocket in a full skirt is a dangling irritation, banging around with every step. So I wanted secure, slant pockets for this skirt, just like...New Look 6100, a shorts pattern. In theory I could make this pattern into a skirt, but in practice I felt confused by exactly how I should remove the crotch area and orient the grainlines.

Surely there exists a current pattern for this skirt style, but I dipped into the "archives" (a.k.a., the file drawer holding my dodgy recent-vintage thrift store patterns) to find this one. Simplicity 9825 offers "misses' slim and a-line skirts each in three lengths". To Simplicity's terse description, one could add that there are a contour yoke and center front and center back seams.

Searching on the pattern number reveals that this skirt was fairly popular before going out of print. A recent devotee, Sew Hopeful, sewed three versions and makes some excellent points about the virtues of this style.

When I layered the pattern pieces for the New Look and Simplicity patterns, it seemed likely that Simplicity (which owns New Look) had drafted the shorts pattern directly from a master pattern that also was the basis for 9825. The yoke and notches and everything matched perfectly. I cut out the line for the pocket on the skirt front piece and then used the pocket pieces from New Look 6100 without any changes.

For my short-waisted, round tummy-ed self, the contour yoke is about as good as it gets for fitting the waist and high hip area. As I mentioned in my review of Simplicity 2475, the contour treatment actually stays at my waist, without creeping, crawling or shifting. With an elastic waist, I usually find myself tugging at the garment to alleviate bunching at the back waist or the gradual assent of the waistband to higher territory. With a straight waistband, the skirt wants to migrate left and right over the course of the day. With a high waisted style, I can forget about sitting comfortably unless I fit the waistband loosely.

Aside from adding pockets, other minor alterations were to take off 3/8" at the top of the back skirt piece (swayback adjustment), to add 1" length at the center back (full seat) and to shorten the height of the contour yoke by 5/8" (which made it a similar proportion as the yoke for the shorts pattern). Otherwise it's a pretty standard size 12.

FabricMart Fabrics had the most amazing sale a week or so ago and I couldn't say no to some of their incredible clearance prices. This charcoal ponte knit is one of those purchases. This skirt only required one yard of 60" wide fabric ($2.40/yard during this sale!) and one 9" invisible zipper (on hand from a previous FabricMart bundle purchase, and probably cost about $1), so it was quite economical indeed. As you would guess, the slight stretch of the ponte makes it a very comfortable bottom-weight fabric to wear.

Now when it's time to walk the dog, I won't need to stuff my cell phone into my waistband or, worse, my bra. I won't have to juggle the plastic bags for poop with holding the leash. I won't have to tug at my skirt to put it back into place. And, thankfully, I won't have to wear pants. Trouble is, I need about five more of these skirts, and I must get cracking on some non-sewing projects (the garden is calling).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Something More Frivolous: Simplicity 1882 Dress

It's time for me to show you something a little less practical, a little more frivolous. This dress is so frivolous, in fact, that it's never been worn out of the house. It got all finished but not hemmed by the end of last summer--and it's been hanging in the closet ever since.

It just feels so...saucy. I ought to like that, but I'm not sure how to pair the dress with an occasion. I will wear it swing dancing soon. Even though it's very fitted through the bodice, there's lots of room for movement in the gentle a-line skirt.

Love that collar and the bow! My sleeve insertion, not so much.

Piping is a royal pain, but it's also very pretty. The cotton sateen used to make the piping and collar may have been a little beefy for that purpose. Getting those midriff seams to line up at the center back was no picnic, and the invisible zipper is quite balky at that point. The added bulk of the piping creates a drag there (though I clipped as much as humanly possible). Getting in and out of the dress requires caution! Once I'm in, it's comfortable.

This is another Amazing Fit pattern, and again I didn't hesitate to choose the "curvy" option. The bodice is size 8, C cup option, and the skirt is size 10 in a fairly stretchy woven fabric. I should have given myself a little more room in the side seams, and in fact I still could--the whole 1" side seam allowance is still all there. I just can't make myself rip out the piping! It seems easier to diet...

The skirt would be great made up on its own. The pockets are so well integrated into the overall design, and the soft pleat at the inner edge of the pockets gives a nice shape to the front of the skirt.

Do you think I should to bite the bullet and wear this dress out of the house, or wait for a "middle aged mommy vintage pinup" contest?!?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Another Practical Garment! Simplicity 2475 Denim Straight Skirt

Making an A-line denim skirt last week reminded me how much I also could use a straight denim skirt. Straight skirts make up a very small portion of my wardrobe, as I find them more challenging than flared skirts to fit and to wear. But they have been popular in recent years, and some tops do work better with a straight skirt. One such top is the Simplicity 1666 peplum above, which didn't look good with anything in my closet!

The reviews on PatternReview for Simplicity 2475 were decidedly mixed. There seemed to be three issues: 1. The Amazing Fit sizing gives different pattern pieces for Slim, Regular and Curvy, but no guidance about how to determine which one you need; 2. Petite users wished they had shortened the skirt more than indicated at the petite adjustment line, since they ended up shortening the skirt from the bottom and losing length from the pleats (which threw off the proportions); 3. Lots of people thought the skirt ran big.

The contour yoke plus the princess seams looked promising, so I decided to give this pattern a go. No muslin; I figured the 1" side seam allowances would surely give me enough insurance to at least make a wearable garment.

Issue #1 made me smile. It's true Simplicity doesn't tell you how to decide whether you are slim, regular or curvy, but I have no doubts on that issue for myself. If there is a curvy option, that's the one for me.

Issue #2 was easily addressed. Instead of removing one inch at the petite line, I took out two. I compared the altered finished length to other skirts. The finished skirt sits just above the knee.

Issue #3 turned out to be true. I made the 12, and even using the 1" side seam allowances, the skirt seemed loose. So I basted it together using 1 1/4" side seam allowances (which removed 1" of circumference total). I also stabilized the waist seam with rayon seam binding to eliminate the possibility of the waist stretching. The result is a snug fit that is nonetheless fairly comfortable. Do your skirts ever slip around, seeming to have a hard time finding and riding on the waist? Mine sure do. But with this closely-fitted contour waist (in the "curvy" cut), everything stays firmly in place. It's a nice feeling.

I went for a close thread match on the topstitching, which turned out a bit more subtle than I might prefer on the front. The pattern shows topstitching on the front but not the back, which doesn't make design sense at all to me. But I know why they do it that way: it's difficult to figure out how to topstitch the pleats on the back.

First I tried edgestitching the pleats, but that made them hang funny. I was determined to secure them somehow, because I can't imagine how they would otherwise respond to being sat upon throughout the course of the day. Eventually I settled on this pointed line of stitching that follows the outline of the top of the pleat underlay. It does the job, though I'm not completely sold on how it looks.

Invisible side zipper at the left side seam plus a view of the contour yoke
In conclusion, I'm proud of myself for completing another practical garment. And perhaps this pattern can be a jumping off point for other straight skirts. I've been wearing this one all day so far, and it is comfortable (if a little difficult to wiggle up over my hips for trips to the toilet!).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Butterick 5649: Button Front Denim Skirt

This finished skirt exhibits signs of a very rare phenomenon: the back looks better than the front.

I'm almost never happy to show the rear view, but this one is an exception. Interesting!

My late A-line, six-gore paneled skirt wasn't anything to set the world on fire, but I found myself wearing it multiple times in a week. It finally became too bedraggled to continue in my service. You would think I would have made another right away, but no. Not exciting enough.

Side view

Finally I have replaced it, and I'm sure I will be oh so glad to have this skirt around. In fact, I have another yard of denim, and I'm thinking that the smart thing would be to make a second skirt, but a straight version (maybe Simplicity 2475).

Butterick 5649 is a nice basic pattern. The straight version didn't work out for me (strangely proportioned), but this gored one is nice. I made few changes: added 3/4" to the hem at the center back, tapering to nothing at the sides; widened the waistband. Otherwise it's a straight size 12. Left off the side seam pockets, with the understanding that patch pockets might be added in future.

Looking at the pattern just now, I see that I was meant to work the buttonholes vertically. Next time! I also think belt carriers could be nice, especially with the wider waistband. But then I would always need to wear a belt. Hmmm.

My idea for this skirt was something to wear with tucked in or shorter tops. The t-shirt I'm wearing is the Ottobre Woman Rose Top 2/2007. I blogged another of these back when.

This skirt provides lots of room for motion; here's my silly attempt to depict that:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Sleeves Have It!

Since your extremely helpful feedback was unanimously in favor of giving sleeves a try, I shook off the lazy impulse to go sleeveless and I'm very happy that I did!

The suggestions to use a tiny little bias cap sleeve were good ones, and I nearly cut some of those to try as well.  But when I thought of using a little button in the pleated area of the sleeve, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

This sleeve is actually one of the options included with Simplicity 4171. I have made it twice before, so I knew it has a very cute shape as well as a good range of movement. What I also knew was that Simplicity's way of finishing the sleeve edge, a shaped facing, doesn't work very well. Despite following Simplicity's instructions to tack the facing to the sleeve allowances and the dart itself, my previous two dresses with this sleeve still give me a lot of trouble with the facing flipping out.

This time I made a full lining for the sleeve. Short sleeves should nearly always have a full lining. That's one lesson I've learned in this life.

Full length

Back view. The center of the skirt is askew (darn it), but at least you can see the matching at the center back of the bodice. Also, the plaid from the sleeves to the back happened to match amazingly well.

Showing off my matching at the side seams.

The waist is actually a little bit big (not my usual phenomenon), which you can see at the belt here. Do you think I should take it in?

Not yet hemmed, and I'm glad I took these pictures before embarking on that task. Obviously I need someone to help me mark this skirt before I hem it!

It twirls!

Thank you so very much for your input on the sleeves, and thank you for urging me to do the right thing! It really helped.

Next question: should I make a self belt and, if so, which direction should the plaid run? Or should I find a narrow black belt?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Plaid Progress + Sleeve Question

It's not often that I show projects in progress, mostly because I don't like the look of raw edges and unfinished details. But my current dress-in-waiting is very presentable, even in its unfinished state, so I thought I'd make an exception.

This may be my first plaid project ever. I can't recall another. So many points to match, even on a relatively simple garment! Spatial thinking is not my greatest strength. Questions with which I have wrestled in the making of this dress have included: "Is this a truly symmetrical plaid?" (subtly, no) "How do I place these skirt pieces to cut them on the bias and maintain the fabric's direction?" (with much experimentation and drawing of chalk lines for trial layouts) and "Can I align the dominant white column at both center front and center back and match the plaid at the shoulders?" (really don't think so).

Despite all the head scratching, it's gone well and I am happy with how it's looking so far. The fabric is from FabricMart and it has both crispness and drape (how is that even possible?). There is a quiet mauve stripe (in the center of the chocolate bars) which coordinates perfectly with some vintage buttons I've had for a long time. Very serendipitous! If only I had a mauve belt buckle!

Inspiration dress: vintage Marimekko

Much as I adore this vintage Marimekko dress and find it amazing, I didn't think the gathered skirt would do much for me. So I made a mashup of some previous successful dresses.

The bodice is Simplicity 4171, a now-out-of-print shirtdress that I've made a number of times. The pattern has a full-length placket and an a-line skirt. I am fairly happy with where I've gotten the fit of the 4171 bodice, but I didn't want such a straight dress this time out. I wanted fullness and an opportunity to create those lovely chevrons, so I used the skirt from Simplicity 1880. Many of the participants in last year's sew-a-long for this pattern, hosted by Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch, noted that the skirt, with its four panels, hangs a bit oddly. There is too much fullness at the center front and center back skirt seams. Cutting the panels on the bias rather than the marked straight grain fixes that problem right up. The drape is so much nicer.

Matching the plaid at the center back was a particular challenge. On the first go-round, I was unhappy with my cutting choices. Since I had plenty of fabric, I decided to try again. On the second set of back bodice pieces, I just could not sew it to my satisfaction. Tiny shifts kept occurring, no matter how careful I was. Then a technique from my very brief career in home dec sewing came back to me. I haven't seen it explained in the garment sewing context--I took photos as I worked, so I'll be posting a little how-to soon.

When I started this post, I was planning to say that my remaining tasks were to cut and insert the sleeves, hem the skirt and perhaps insert a waist stay. As I've been typing, I've started to wonder whether I want short sleeves or not. Usually I like sleeves, and I'm an aficionado of short sleeved dresses (which can be difficult to find in RTW). But in this case I'm wondering. This dress is meant as a day dress and also for swing dancing. When dancing, especially in the summer, even the cold-natured among us get sweaty. Sleeveless is nice for that. The dress would work better with a cardigan without sleeves, and I have already made a coordinating cardigan just for it.

From a design standpoint, I'm not totally sure how to orient the plaid on the sleeves, which sleeve design to use and whether adding sleeves to the dark color and sober design of the dress will make it feel too matronly.

But I may also be motivated by laziness! Help me decide--cut out sleeves and give them a try (a considerable amount of additional head scratching) or go sleeveless?