Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sometimes Simpler is Better: Simplicity 5914 Skirt

Sometime in the past year I discovered The Secondhand Years, the blog of irrepressible Curtise. Her knack is to use the slightly eccentric vintage clothes she favors as a sort of prism through which she looks at and thinks about life, children, work, friendship, happiness, motivation, expression...and whatever else might be on her mind. She has a talent for exploring trains of thought which are both very individual and idiosyncratic, but also relevant and thought-provoking to her readers. So it is exciting that she has taken up sewing (for the first time since high school) in the past month. Thinking about her new foray into sewing, I was reminded that some of my earlier creations were at least as successful as recent ones, despite my perception of having learned a few things along the way.

Why is that, exactly?!?

I can't find a blog record of it, but I made Simplicity 5914, view E, quite a few years ago--probably seven or eight years ago. It must have been pre-blog. Even then I didn't think of that skirt as particularly great. The fabric was a mid-weight stretch denim from Hancock's, and I remember that it retained some fold and fade lines from the bolt after pre-washing. At different body weights it fit, naturally, differently--higher or lower on the hip. But despite those differences, its simplicity and its less-than-noble fabric, I wore that skirt constantly until it was a real rag.

Simplicity 5914, now out of print but easy to find on eBay or Etsy.
The earliest of the 56 reviews of this pattern on PatternReview were from 2003.

I always meant to go back and make another one, but every time I bought a piece of denim, I'd think, "Maybe I should make it like the old one, but with a front buttoning placket," or "This time with pockets--I'll love having pockets!" None of those skirts had the staying power or versatility of the original skirt.

So this time I just made the same old skirt, already. The only difference is the fabric, a very nice heavy-but-drapy ramie denim from FabricMart (all but sold out as of this writing).

The front and back panel seams are sewn, serged, pressed to one side and topstitched twice, using two strands of regular sewing thread in the needle. The hem is turned up and has three rows of topstitching spaced 1/4" apart.

The waistband facing is trimmed with a strip of self-made rayon bias binding left over from another project. To help this skirt fit smoothly at the waist in the back (where my skirts have a tendency to bunch up due to swayback plus large bottom), I cut the skirt waistline 3/4" lower at the center, tapering to the original seamline at the sides. This worked well to make the skirt fit more smoothly.

I've decided that a side zipper suits me best. A center back zipper pokes me in the spine when I sit because of the swayback issue. This skirt is designed with a side zipper, so no changes there.

The triple topstitching at the hem was easy enough to do, but I have one tip: start with the line of stitching closest to the bottom of the hem and then move to the next and finally the top line of stitching. Because of the flare of the skirt, there is a little bit of ease at the upper edge of the hem, which would throw off your results if you stitched that line first.

The turned up portion of the hem won't look perfectly smooth at the top on the wrong side unless you cut and apply a shaped hem facing (which I didn't, but I'm fine with the slight wave of the eased-in edge). 

Time will tell whether this skirt will have the magical rightness of its predecessor, but early signs are good. Maybe with the example of Curtise and her new sewing hobby before me, I can be more aware of those earlier instincts and impulses that worked out well in my sewing.

Have you ever realized that your oldies were decidedly goodies?


  1. awesome topstitching! you'll wear this loads i bet!

  2. Love your skirt! You are right - a lot of times simpler is best. Coincidentally, I just picked up that pattern at the thrift store. I have been looking for skirt patterns that have a little flare at the bottom.

  3. Looks like this one will get worn often. I may have this pattern in my stash. I need to look as this would probably be a workhorse for me too. I don't wear a lot of skirts, but this one has promise. Thanks for sharing!

  4. The topstitching looks great.

  5. Oh I am so thrilled and touched that you mentioned me! Thank you. What a lovely description of my rambling, somewhat shambolic blog, you are too kind.
    Now - your skirt. It's a triumph! I love the fit, and the bias binding and top stitching - such details are what I aspire to achieve, one day. I'm sure you will wear and love this skirt as much as the original, and look how perfectly it goes with that gorgeous blouse (which matches the gold stitching, lovely!) I'd like some flares made out of that fabric, which I suppose only goes to confirm my eccentricity and idiosyncratic preferences!
    Sewing is proving a delightful pastime, one which I never thought I would engage with after all these years. Now, if I can get to be even half as skilled as you, I'll be well pleased with myself. Thank you again for being so encouraging, ---- (I would insert your name here but I don't know it!) xxxx

  6. a nicely done staple and it looks great with that shirt :o)

  7. I love a denim skirt, so versatile. I keep meaning to get around to making one as once I have one that fits, it gets worn so frequently.

  8. You won't believe it, but this pattern is still available, they just gave it a new number as Simplicity 1560. Even more bizarre, they used the same photo and sketches on the cover!

  9. OMG she makes me hard, just jacked off to these pics