Finished: My Skirt from ‘Basic Black’

Hi, I finally finished my Basic Black skirt for the Japan Sew Along! I began participating in the sew along (make something from a Japanese sewing pattern book) in early February but I didn’t complete it until this past weekend –  unlike some of the other sew along participants who finished their garments in February, such as Sew Busy Lizzy who made TWO versions of a skirt from Stylish Skirts and MaciNic of The Somnolent Dachshund, who made some great tops – one from Basic Black and another from Drape Drape 2, which she blogged about here.

Skirt from Basic Black by Sato Watanbe - Japan Sew Along -

You can see many other Japan Sew Along projects on the blog Tanoshii, which is where Catrin is hosting the sewalong. Be sure to check out her post Japan Sew Along Finale I – to see the shirt she made with a fabulous fabric!

My sewalong project is the only skirt pattern in the Japanese sewing pattern book Basic Black: 26 Edgy Essentials for the Modern Wardrobe by Sato Watanabe (Tuttle Publishing). I was going to include my review of the book in this post but it was getting super long. So I’ll post the review tomorrow, along with a giveaway for the book! Yes, lucky me, in mid-February, Brandon, the publisher’s marketing guy, contacted me asking if I’d be interested in reviewing some of their recent or upcoming titles and even offered to send copies for me to give away at a Bay Area Sewists meetup! (I’m the organizer for the group.) Of course I was interested and asked if he could also send me a copy of Basic Black. (I was using a copy I checked out of the Berkeley Public Library.) Come back tomorrow to enter the drawing to win a copy of Basic Black. Don’t you love the dress on the cover?

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe -

In the book, each garment is assigned a letter of the alphabet so it goes (you guessed it) from A to Z. I made the A-line Block Skirt, pattern T. It is one of the more fitted patterns in the book; the others are what the designer describes as “loose” or “garments with darts and shaping seams.” This skirt is made up of 16 vertical panels – 8 for the front and 8 for the back – an invisible zipper on the side and the waist finished with self-made bias tape. As you’ll in the photos below, the top panels gradually curve in from hip to waist. No darts, tucks, or pleats. It’s a very clean elegant design.

I made size L, the largest size (the smallest is XS). You can read about the muslin and pattern adjustments in my WIP post on this skirt which also includes details on sizing and how this size is somewhat similar to the By Hand London Anna Dress – US size 12/UK size 16 or the size 44 Deer and Doe Chardon Skirt. However, the Basic Black skirt has much less ease at the hip and thigh area. I didn’t make any pattern adjustments to the hips of the Anna or Chardon I made.

Unfortunately, this skirt doesn’t look very interesting in the photos because you can’t see the details such as the 16 panels and the top stitching. But believe me, the details in this skirt are lovely. I’ve got some close-up photos below that show some of the detail. I’m sorry that my photo skills are just not up to photographing black – things are either over- or under-exposed. 🙁

Skirt from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - Japanese sewing patern book -

Construction Details

The skirt features top stitching along each panel’s seams, except for the side seams. I admit the top stitching got pretty tedious but my stitch-in-the-ditch foot came in handy. If you follow me on Instagram (@csews) you may have seen some of my posts about it. The piece of paper on the left is one of my labels. I identified each panel on a small piece of paper and attached them with a safety-pin (front top center, front top side, back top center etc.).

Stitch in the ditch foot - top stitching -

Here’s a detail of the skirt panels with labels either on the front or back. I didn’t remove them until the back and front pieces were all sewn together. It would be really easy to lose track of them.

Skirt panels - Basic Black by Sato Watanabe -

Here’s what the top stitching looks like. The photo isn’t great because it’s taken with my iPhone but I just couldn’t get the exposure right on my digital camera. (It kept wanting to shoot it as a night scene.) There’s top stitching on both sides of the seams. This is a detail of one side of the skirt with all eight panels attached.

Top stitching detail - skirt -

Here’s a close-up I posted on Instagram. You can see the texture of the pique and the top stitching here. I should mention that this is my first time sewing pique. I wasn’t sure which was the right side. Luckily, Brooke of Custom Style pointed me in the right direction and even took a photo of her pique fabric and posted it on IG for me to see. The textured side is the right side. Thank you, Brooke!

Top stitching detail -

I had eight of these “intersections” to match across seam lines – with a little help from my pins…

Pinning skirt panel seams -

Here’s what the skirt looks like on the inside.

Skirt from Basic Black -

If you haven’t made anything from a Japanese sewing book, pay very close attention to the diagrams, particularly because the actual written instructions are often minimal and this book is no exception.

There are only six steps listed at the top of the page for this skirt and they are just one sentence each. The diagrams include a few more words and a lot of detail: cutting layout, seam allowances, which order you should sew the panels, where you install the zipper, and how to finish the waist and hem, etc. As you can see, in Step 1., you sew each top and bottom panel together. Then you sew each side panel to a center panel. The diagram tells you which pieces to sew first and where and when you sew the top stitching. Pretty succinct, eh?

Basic Black - skirt instructions - diagram -

I should mention that I first placed my pattern pieces right side up on my fabric, and then I noticed that the pattern pieces didn’t quite match the cutting layout in the book. But when I flipped my pattern pieces over and it did match. The book does NOT say to place your pattern pieces right side down. So I made a note in the margin. I don’t know how much it matters except that you use slightly less fabric by flipping the pattern pieces over, which gives you more fabric to cut the bias strips. There is no pattern piece for the bias strip. Just make sure you cut a length that’s long enough to go around the waist, plus seam allowance. Give yourself an extra inch or so – you can always trim the excess fabric. I had 55″ wide fabric so I only needed one piece of bias tape. I didn’t need to cut a second short piece.

A-line block skirt - Basic Black - cutting layout -

[New edit, 13 March 2015 – I forgot to mention this when I first wrote this post: The Center Back Top and Center Front Bottom pattern pieces are the only two pieces that have a grainline marked on them. That seemed odd when I traced the pattern pieces. But once I began to place my pattern pieces on the fabric, I realized that some of the pattern pieces were parallel to the selvage or the fold so it didn’t matter. This is another reason to pay very close attention to each diagram in the book.]

I picked this skirt because I wanted a wardrobe staple and I wanted to see if I could make a skirt that would fit well and not shift when I’m walking. My A-line RTW (ready-to-wear) skirts fit me in the hips but are loose at the waist so after I walk a block or so, the skirt slowly moves so that the side zipper usually ends up center front.

This skirt is simple to make but takes a bit of patience because of all the pressing and top stitching. Note: The instructions for this pattern do NOT mention pressing. I think the designer assumes you know this. I just mention it here as a gently reminder. Press after each seam you sew or your top stitching won’t look very good.

I unpicked a couple of seams because they didn’t line up. I also made my construction a little more complicated by adding a lining, which I machine-basted at the waist before adding the binding. Here’s the lining around the invisible zipper. I hand stitched the lining to the zipper tape. (See the zig zap stitch on the right? I didn’t notice that until halfway through before switching to a straight stitch. Oops. I was finishing some of my seams with a zig zag stitch but then I stopped because I figured the top stitching also helped finish the seams. There are no instructions about finishing seams. )

Skirt lining detail -

Then I attached the bias tape binding to the right side.

Bias binding at waist -

If I make the skirt again, I might consider eliminate the bias binding, adding seam allowance, and attaching a lining. Here’s what it looks like from the inside. You fold over the binding, top stitch through the layers just below the seam line, catching the binding on the other side. You can sort of see where my stitches went off the binding (to the right of the zipper). I think I’ll hand stitch that bit to the waist.

Lining - zipper -

My adjustments to the Basic Black A-Line Block Skirt:

  • added 1 cm (3/8″) to hips and upper thigh to give me a little more ease
  • added a lining (see my WIP post for how I drafted a lining using my muslin)
  • added fusible black bias tape around invisible zipper to reinforce fabric
  • hemmed the skirt using hem facing tape instead folding it because I wanted it to be longer (I hemmed my Chardon skirts with hem tape, which you can see in this post.)


  • 2 yards black cotton pique
  • 2 yards black Bemberg lining
  • 70/10 Schmetz needle
  • black all-purpose thread
  • 9-inch black invisible zipper
  • hook and eye
  • 3/8″ black fusible bias tape
  • black hem tape

My fashion fabric is from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics – using my birthday gift card from my husband. I picked this cotton pique because I really like the texture and I didn’t want the skirt to be a boring solid black skirt. My wardrobe really needed a long black skirt, which is why I picked this pattern. I got the lining on sale at Britex Fabrics.

Here are a few more photos of my finished skirt. You can sort of see the skirt panels and a hint of top stitching. It’s tricky to shoot black when you’re using a timer and focusing on a wall instead of yourself. (Yes, all photos were by me. Heheh.)

Skirt from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - Japan Sew Along -

Back view… and in case you are wondering – those sandals are from Kenneth Cole. I got them last year in San Francisco. They zip up in the back!

Skirt from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - Japan Sew Along -

You can see the top stitching here because I could actually focus on my skirt for this photo.

Skirt from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - Japan Sew Along -

Thanks to Catrin for hosting the Japan Sew Along! I have more things I want to make from Basic Black, which you can read about tomorrow – and enter the giveaway for the book!

Happy Sewing!

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29 Responses to “Finished: My Skirt from ‘Basic Black’”

  1. Annette
    March 22, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    Hi Chuleenan! Love your skirt, it came out perfectly, topstitching and all! Thank you so much, and I also saw it and commented on Annette PS Keep up the great work!

    • March 22, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

      Thanks so much, Annette, for your comments here and on PR!

  2. Jocelyn
    March 21, 2015 at 5:55 am #

    I just got this book so your post is inspiring me to get started! What a great staple! I would like to join a Japanese pattern sew along but I don’t know where to find one. Can you point me in the right direction? Thanks

    • March 22, 2015 at 2:54 am #

      Jocelyn, the Japan Sew Along I participated in ended March 16. I haven’t heard of another one starting but be on the lookout for Tanoshii’s sewalong next year. I think she’ll be doing it again.

  3. March 11, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

    What an amazing skirt, and that topstitching was so worth it. Great shape, lots of interest with the texture and the panels. Fantastic work.

    • March 11, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

      Thank you! I’m so glad you and others liked the shape. 🙂

  4. March 11, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    The skirt is gorgeous! And I think that even if you cannot see all details at a first glance, this does not make it less interesting but quite the contrary. I love that type of understatement, and in the end you have a garment that can be combined perfectly.

    • March 11, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

      Thanks so much for hosting the sew along! Without a deadline I may have never finished it! And thanks for your lovely comments! I don’t feel so bad about the photos now. 😉

  5. March 11, 2015 at 6:31 am #

    I adore this Chuleenan, such a classic silhouette with such gorgeous details, I’m sure you’ve sold quite a few people on basic Black with this skirt alone, it’s lovely.
    And thank you for describing the differences in the instructions compared to other sources we’re more used to, they are different, but the designs make them very worth it.
    I look forward to more detail shots, and might have just moved this up my sewing queue 😉

    • March 11, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

      Thank you! I wasn’t sure if the photos really did it justice. But It was a little too warm that day to keep taking photos. 😉

  6. March 11, 2015 at 3:04 am #

    Fantastic work. So much patience. You did it all so accurately well, which was worth it. Looks so nice on you!

    • March 11, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

      Thank you! It took a long time but now I have a pattern that really fits me. 🙂

  7. March 10, 2015 at 11:19 pm #

    It’s lovely & all the top stitching was worth it!
    I used the same pinned notes on my skirt panels… it reduces confusion & time wasted figuring out which panel is which 🙂
    Now I want to make more Japanese skirts… just need to make a jacket first!

    • March 11, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

      Thank you! Yes, the top stitching was worth it!

  8. March 10, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    Wow this is such a stylish skirt! I really love how it looks on you. It looks like it was a lot of work, great job!!

    • March 10, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

      Thank you, Angie! I think I’ll be wearing this one a lot! And it stays in place rather than moves around when I walk in it. 🙂

  9. March 10, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    Oh I love this! The outfit is very chic, and I love how you style it. Came out great!

    • March 10, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

      Thank you so much, Meg! I’m happy I finished it!


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