WOW – A huge THANK YOU to all the participating designers and companies! I lost my job on September 30 when the publication I had worked for shut down. So finishing my skirt gave me something to do in the aftermath. And winning this contest is really wonderful. I look forward to sewing these great patterns. Thanks again to everyone who voted for my skirt! 🙂
Hi, as promised, here’s my post on the construction details for my Blueprints for Sewing A-Frame pencil skirt – my first pencil skirt and my first casual skirt. I usually make A-line skirts because they’re easy to fit to my body. What kind of skirts do you usually make?
I made version 1; version 2 is a lovely A-line skirt. (You can buy the A-Frame as a paper pattern or as a PDF pattern.) For my mock-up, I used some sheets from Goodwill (a chain of charity shops in the U.S.). If you follow me on Instagram (@csews) you may have seen some of these photos.
I wanted to play around with color blocking and use both sides of a narrow-striped denim fabric. As you can see from the line drawings, you can really have fun using up your fabric stash with this pattern. Version 1 has a center panel, flanked by side panels, which include pockets. The back also has a center panel with two narrow side panels on either side. There’s a center back zipper. I used an invisible zipper for mine. You can also use a regular zipper.
The pattern is printed on bond paper and is easy to trace. It comes in a nice package with a velcro closure. I got the printed version when it was first released in June at a 20% discount. The full price is $22. The PDF is $15.
I wanted to use the darker side of the denim for the center front and back pieces and the lighter side for the side pieces.
The pattern’s sizing goes from A (26-inch waist/35-inch hips) to J (40-inch waist/49-inch hips). For my mock-up, I cut size E for the waist (31 inches) and graded up to size F in the hips (41.5). But it was too snug as you may be able to tell from the photos of my mock-up. A year ago this would have fit better.
I could zip it up but I needed more ease. I didn’t notice that the pattern helpfully provides finished sizes. Oops. The finished size waist for size E was 32.5 and for the hips size F was 44 inches. My waist is now 32 inches (gained an inch over the past year as a result of little exercise and having a sedentary job).
I didn’t bother attaching the waistband because I wanted to get sewing so I just went ahead and adjusted my pattern pieces so the waist was size F (32.5 inches, 33 inches finished) and the hips were size G (43 inches, 45.5 finished).
The instructions include detailed descriptions for making alterations if you are different sizes at the waist and hip. Yes! They tell you exactly which pattern pieces you’ll need to adjust and where to make the changes. This was a relief because I wasn’t sure how I would make the alterations because the front and back each have 4 to 5 pattern pieces. Read the instructions before you start sewing – it will save you time. 😉
To keep track of which side was the “wrong” side, I put safety pins on the wrong side. If you use this tip, you might want to put your safety pins closer to the raw edge. Warning: Sometimes pins can leave holes that can damage your fabric, especially if you set it aside for a few days.
The instructions were very clear. You start off sewing the pocket lining to the top and bottom side-front panel pieces. (I used leftover cotton voile from my most recent Anna Dress.)
These two fabrics look really good together! But no one will see that because it’s the lining. (Maybe I can sew a different skirt combining these two fabrics.)
I decided to topstitch my pockets and some of the side panels. This was my own addition to the pattern. The instructions have you understitch the curved part of the pocket. I skipped that and topstitched it instead. I also decided to add top stitching to one side of the front panels and back panels. If you’re going to topstitch, make sure you do it before you sew the front and back together at the side seams.
The back has four pieces – the two center back pieces and two side panels – and a vent. Here’s where I marked the vent. If you are using medium-weight or heavy-weight fabric, the hem will be really thick if you follow the instructions and fold the hem up 1/2 in and then 1 inch. This could make your vent stick out. My fabric was medium-weight and it didn’t look great after I hemmed it. You’ll have to press it to death or you might want to finish the edge with bias hem tape to reduce bulk. If you do that, remember to shorten the skirt or it will be longer than you want it to be.
I put a clothespin on the vent folds to hold it in place overnight. That seemed to work – the vent stayed down! You can sort of see the vent near my leg in this photo. The skirt is easy to walk in.
Here’s a detail of the finished back view. I should mention here that I forgot to adjust the waistband size to size F not E so it’s a little smaller than it’s supposed to be. Oops! So that’s why I used a hook and bar closure, rather than a button. No room for a buttonhole. The pattern gives you the option of using a button or hook/bar to close the waistband. This fabric really disguises the invisible zipper!
[Note: for Version 1, step 14, I think the drawing might be showing the wrong side of the side-back pattern piece to attach to the center back piece. But if you just match your notches you’ll be fine.]
The pattern instructs you to edgestitch along the bottom of the waistband like so. The topstitching goes well with the edgestitching. 🙂
This skirt was easy to put together as long as I paid attention to the notches. Be sure to mark your notches! I now use a pink highlighter and arrows to note the notches so I won’t forget.
I really hate going back to a pattern piece to mark the notches after I’ve removed the pattern piece from the fabric. I not a fan of pink so it really gets my attention. [I got the highlighter tip from Brooke of Custom Style. She sews for a living – making and altering costumes for TV shows, the opera, theater productions, etc. I enjoy seeing what she’s up to on her Instagram feed (@sewbrooke).]
2 yards of medium-weight denim for the skirt from Fabric Outlet (I got it at a 40% off sale so I think I paid maybe $5 a yard for it.)
Cotton voile for pocket lining (leftover fabric from my stash)
9-inch invisible zipper
hook and bar closure
You can see more photos of it on this blog post but here’s another photo of the finished version.
If I make this again, I think I’ll make it a little shorter, and adjust the center front panel, which puffs out a tad – as you can see from this photo – though my hand in the pocket is also contributing to this. And the waistband needs to come in about a half-inch at the very top of the side seams. There’s a slight gap between the top of the waistband and my body, which you can’t really see from these photos. If I had made a second mock-up, I would have noted this and corrected it. I may rip out the side seams at the waistband and fix this – especially if I wear it with a Nettie bodysuit.
I didn’t make another mock-up because I was trying to finish this so I could enter it in the Everyday Casual Sewalong Contest, which was part of Sewing Indie Month (#SIM2015), organized by Mari of Seamster Patterns. You can vote for me here. 😉 Just click on the heart in the upper right corner of my photo – No. 20 – by Sunday, Oct. 11, central time, U.S.
Hi, did you sew anything in September? It was Sewing Indie Month and National Sewing Month. I made the A-Frame Skirt by Blueprints for Sewing. This pattern has two versions, a pencil skirt and an a-line skirt. I usually make a-line skirts so this time around I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and make a pencil skirt. I really need more casual skirts, plus I really like this design.
I usually avoid them because I have to size up in the hips. I don’t buy RTW pencil skirts because they just don’t fit well because if it fits in the hips, it’ll be too loose in the waist.
This pattern so lovely color blocking options. I made it from this denim, which has a touch of lycra in it. It has some slight stretch to it. I had fun using both sides of this fabric. (I wrote about my Sewing Indie plans here.)
This is a short post because I’m just barely making the deadline to enter this skirt in the Everyday Casual Sewalong Contest. I meant to make the Nettie bodysuit by Closet Case Files to go with the skirt but only had time to make a muslin so I’m wearing a RTW top with my skirt.
This front of this skirt has several pieces – center front, bottom side front, top side front, and the pocket lining. I used leftover fabric from my most recent Anna Dress for the pocket lining. Oh, and I top stitched my pockets and one side of each panel. You can (sort of) see the top stitching on the darker blue-gray fabric in the photo below
Here’s the back view. I installed an invisible zipper in the center back.
You can really have fun color blocking this skirt!
Hi, in case you didn’t notice, September is the month to celebrate sewing. Yep, it’s not only Sewing Indie Month, it’s National Sewing Month! So if you need to jump-start your sewjo, this is the month to do it.
I’ve been wondering if I should attempt making something for Sewing Indie Month, which celebrates “indie sewing patterns and people who make them.” A couple of weeks ago I bought Pattern Bundle #2 (paying $25 and getting 5 PDF patterns – 20% of the proceeds go to the nonprofit organization Women for Women, which helps women survivors of war.) But I hadn’t made anything yet. Then I got this fortune cookie and decided it was a sign – time to get going on my Blueprints for Sewing A-frame skirt and maybe a Nettie Bodysuit by Closet Case Patterns, and a pair of Rose Hips Tights by Seamster Patterns!
I got a PDF of the Nettie bodysuit/dress pattern as part of my bundle and I got the Rose Hips Tights paper pattern from Mari, the designer behind Seamster Patterns and the founder of Sewing Indie Month. Mari and I follow each other on social media and I got to meet her in person when she was in the Bay Area.
More than 20 designers are participating in Sewing Indie Month (#SIM2015), offering tutorials, interviews, and prizes! Yes – there are sewing contests – make something from one of the patterns or tutorials by one of the participating designers.
I bought the A-Frame pattern more than three months ago but I got busy with other things and only got as far as tracing some of the pieces. I think I saw a finished skirt on Instagram and I really liked the design of version 2, which has a lovely flare. But in the interests of stashbusting, I’m going to make version 1 using this denim fabric, which I got 40% off at Fabric Outlet in San Francisco. I’m going to use both sides of this fabric and use the lighter (wrong?) side of the fabric as the contrast part of the skirt.
Don’t be put off by the drawing on the front of the pattern! Yes, the gals pictured seem a bit rustic and the boot-wearing gal on the left seems like she’s ready to go for a hike but …
… check out the line drawings! The pencil skirt and the A-line skirt have lovely lines. Plus you gotta admit, those cover gals are unique and the artist is offering an image of a woman who you don’t typically see on pattern envelopes – women with real figures, not a super-slim models with sticks for legs. You know they saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, don’t just a pattern by the models on the front.
And here’s a finished version 1 – the pencil skirt (oh the color blocking possibilities!) – from Blueprints for Sewing’s website:
And here’s a finished version 2, the A-line Skirt (love the pockets!):
So it was the line drawings and the finished versions that sold me. I bought a paper pattern and then I contacted the designer to see if she’d be interested in donating some of her patterns to give away at an upcoming Bay Area Sewists meetup. (I’m the organizer for the group.) And she generously offered to send the A-Frame Skirt and the Cabin Shirt/Shift Dress. This Saturday our meetup is at Sips N Sews in San Francisco and we’ll hold a drawing for the A-Frame Skirt AND for Seamster Patterns Rose Hips Tights! If you’re in the Bay Area, you can RSVP for this meetup here. Thank you Blueprints for Sewing and Seamster Patterns!
Check out this illustration of color blocking ideas!
I’m going to make a mock-up of this skirt using this blue floral sheet under the color-blocking drawing. I got the sheet at Goodwill (charity shop) for a couple of dollars. You know what I’ll be doing over the next week!
What are you making for Sewing Indie Month or National Sewing Month?
I’m thrilled to announce that my Anna Dress made the short list for the Dressed to the Nines contest! I made this dress as a participant of Sewing Indie Month, which was created and organized by Mari of Seamster Patterns.
The Dressed to the Nine category is hosted by Laura Mae of the lovely blog Lilacs & Lace. She makes so many beautiful things and documents them so nicely on her blog. You can vote for your favorite entry on her blog here. (Hint: My dress is the last one listed on this page. It’s the same name as my blog post “The Anna Dress – Celebrating Sewing Indie Month!“)
If you want to read about some of the nitty gritty construction details and my small bust adjustment, check out my post on the Anna Dress. It was hot in the Bay Area on Monday so I wore my Anna Dress to work! And I stopped by Britex Fabrics during my lunch break to show off the dress to the folks who work there. I only work a few block from the store so they’ve seen me come and go quite often some months, picking up a zipper here, some thread there or scoping our some of the luscious fabrics on the first floor or the huge array of cottons on the second floor – not to mention sifting through remnants on the fourth floor.
They really liked my dress and their marketing maven Geana even took a couple of photos of the dress and put them in a blog post entitled Sewing Indie Month: Voting Time! It’s been a great experience working in this dress and getting such a great response! Thanks to everyone for all the kind words!
NOTE: I thought I had updated my initial Anna post on Monday but apparently I never hit update so the voting info wasn’t in that post (darn it!). So my apologies to folks who visited and didn’t know where to vote. Once again, please go to Lilacs & Lace post “Vote for the Winner of the Dressed to the Nines Sew-along.”
Wooooheeee! I finished the Anna Dress late last night – or should I say early this morning? Yes, it really was down to the wire. This is my entry for Dressed to the Nines. My husband thought I was a crazy person because I was still sewing at 3 am. I told him, I’m trying to finish this dress for Sewing Indie Month!
I never stay up that late on a work night but I made an exception because I really wanted to complete something to celebrate Sewing Indie Month. Mari of Seamster Patterns did such an amazing job creating and organizing this month-long online sewing party, I just had to buckle down and get it done – though it took me a while to get there!
****UPDATE! My dress made the short list for the Dressed to the Nines category of Sewing Indie Month! You can vote here for my dress at Lilacs & Lace blog, until Friday, June 13.
I completely forgot about mentioning the fact that Laura Mae of great blog Lilacs & Lace is hosting the Dressed to the Nines category of Sewing Indie Month. (Forgive me but I’ve been a bit sleep deprived from making this dress!) She has great tutorials and a lot more on her blog, which features sewn and knitted vintage and vintage-inspired garments.
I initially wanted to make the lovely Beatrice Dress by Sew Chic Patterns. In early May I visited all the websites of the participating designers and bought this pattern and the Anna Dress from By Hand London. The Beatrice Dress paper pattern arrived the week of May 5. Fast delivery!
I love the pockets on it and the beautiful neckline. After I traced the pattern and made a muslin of the bodice, I knew I would need to do a small bust adjustment.
However, I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it because the bodice only has a waist dart, no side dart. I placed the Beatrice front bodice piece next to my Emery Dress pattern bodice piece and could see that I needed to come in a little bit but how to do that?
I’ve only done an SBA on a bodice with a side bust dart and a waist dart (the Emery Dress sewing pattern by Christine Hayes, also a Sewing Indie designer participant! You can see my Emery Dress here.) I followed the SBA instructions provided with the Emery Dress sewalong.
I posted photos on my Instagram account (@csews) and got advice from many helpful folks along the way. Brooke of Custom Style suggested that I add a side dart by cutting and rotating dart manipulation to reduce the spread of the vertical one. And Maddie of Madalynne told me to redraw dart legs to it points to bust point and ends about a 1/2 inch before it.
In the meantime I also emailed Sew Chic Patterns – and then I tried what Brooke suggested. But I didn’t really know what I was doing.
And it still didn’t fit right. Then lo and behold, Laura of Sew Chic replied to my email over the weekend! How’s that for customer service? She told me I did not need a line to the side, all I needed to do was to cut through the dart to the apex and then from the apex to the shoulder seam and overlap closing the dart – and true the shoulder. And she even sent me a PDF with additional info. Oh, yay. So simple. So I did it.
And it worked! Bagginess gone and it was so easy to do! Thank you Laura!
It took me three muslins to get to this point, meanwhile, it was the last week of May – and I hadn’t done any fitting of the skirt part of this fitted pattern. I also did a wide shoulder adjustment to the bodice. I have pretty broad shoulders. This means that the ease in Big Four patterns is perfect for my shoulders. Heheh. I used to wonder, what are folks talking about the ease being super huge on Big Four patterns? I haven’t had to adjust shoulders or arms on Big Four patterns. 😉
Next I attached the sleeves only to discover that the sleeve felt a little tight in the fleshy area between the bewb (spelling courtesy of Leila of Three Dresses) and the arm. Oh, dear – more pattern adjustments? Um, yeah, plus I haven’t been to the gym in five months so that area is fleshier than usual. (sigh)
Once again I asked for advice on IG and emailed Laura at Sew Chic again. I got advice from all but then decided I didn’t have enough time to do a good job. Time was running out so I had to switch gears and decided to go to the Anna Dress, which I thought I had a shot at completing because it wasn’t as fitted as Beatrice. Anna has just four waist pleats in front, not darts, and two back darts at the waist. So I got started on Anna and discovered that the pleats went up too high, darn it!
Then I lowered the pleats about an inch and discovered that I needed to do an SBA – oh, noooooooo!!!
It doesn’t look too bad in this photo but when I glanced at my profile from the side, uh, the bust area looked like a balloon with half the air taken out. Not. Good.
On to muslin no. 3! I took the SBA tip from Sew Chic’s Laura and applied it to the Anna bodice – slicing from the middle of the first two pleats to the apex of my bewb (you can kind of see the pink highlighter in that spot) and then from the apex all the way to the center of the shoulder seam line. I moved the pattern over 1/2 inch. I didn’t redraw the pleats because I didn’t know how/where I would do that and whether that would affect the matching of the front seams. The middle pleat seam lined up with one of the skirt seams. So I just left it where it was and crossed my fingers, hoping that I could ease my way into matching those seam lines.
And it fit sooooo much better! Yay!
I used a bed sheet from Goodwill to make that muslin. And now I was ready to cut my fashion fabric.
I got this unusual directional print at Britex Fabrics remnant sale a couple of years ago. It’s cotton with a touch of lycra and imported from Italy. The lighting isn’t so great on the photo but it’s 58 inches wide and the print goes from large size “squares” at the selvedges to small in the middle. The rectangular shapes are either black or charcoal grey and the lighter color squares in the middle are sort of beige.
I only had a little over two yards so I thought of alternating the skirt panels with charcoal grey or something. So I went back to Britex (lucky me, I work within walking distance so I could drop by during lunch) and looked at some lightweight cotton solids but nothing was in the right shade of grey. The saleslady suggested we look at prints but nothing worked well with this busy print. Then she told me that they still had that fabric in stock.
“Really?” I asked. Well, getting more fabric seemed to be the best option. So I paid full price for two more yards (ahem – $39.95/yard ). I don’t usually spend that much on a single piece of fabric but I had a good feeling about it.
I decided to make Variation 2 with the V-neck,which seemed like a better fit with this directional print. And I decided to create my own length. I didn’t want a floor-length Anna because when I wear maxi skirts I tend to trip on the hem going up stairs. So I wanted more of a tea length – somewhere in between the knees and the ankles. A nontrippable length.
I just added 10 inches to the midi-length line on the skirt pattern pieces and drew a line there, which I called “CS length.” I traced out the maxi length in case I should change my mind and I just folded up the pattern at my CS length line and cut my skirt pieces out. I decided to lay my pieces out so that the smaller part of the print starts at the waist and then gets bigger at the bottom. This meant that I was placing my pattern pieces perpendicular to the grainline instead of parallel like you typically do.
The tricky part was deciding which way the print would go on the bodice pieces. The print is really large – about four inches wide, which I thought wouldn’t be too flattering across the shoulders. So I decided to go from large to small from my right side to the left. I also made sure that the pattern began shifting to the smallest squares past the center of the bodice. I’ve got the pattern piece here face down. This was so I could see where the right half would begin and end. The front bodice piece is cut on the fold so I wanted to choose exactly where that center fold would land. The bodice pieces were laid out on grain.
Then I began to sew the front pleats, which you iron on the wrong side so that the pleats are centered over the seam. To make it easier to do that I inserted a chopstick in pleat, which helped me center the fabric over the seam and then I ironed the pleats.
For the back pieces, I had the larger part of the print on the same side as the front. I cut the two back bodice pieces separately. Below I’ve cut the left back side of the bodice and I’m placing the pattern piece for the right back side. I deliberately did not line up the right side. I moved the pattern piece about an inch higher than the bottom of the left bodice piece. Before I cut my fabric I had already decided that I wasn’t going to match anything at the seam lines on this fabric – not without driving myself completely bonkers anyway – so I wanted to be way off as opposed to slightly off, which would have made it look like I tried (and failed) to match the print.
And here’s what the completed back looks like at the waist – check out those matching seam lines! The center seam is my installed invisible zipper – everything lined up. Yay!
And here’s the front – the two center pleats line up with the seam lines of the center skirt panel. I was a bit concerned that the SBA would affect the pleat placement. But when I pinned the bodice to the waist, I was able to ease the skirt so that the pleats lined up with center seam line. (Whew!)
And here are a few more view of the Anna Dress!
And here are some more photos of the dress, which I really love. This is a very lightweight and drapey fabric. And it was really breezy today so in most of my photos the skirt is drifting in the breeze.
Oh, and a note on accessories. I’m wearing a vintage hat, which I got at a great boutique in Oakland called All Things Vintage. Nearly every time I got there I get a new hat! This one is made out of straw and velvet. The underside of the brim is black velvet as well as the hat band. I’m also wearing a vintage bracelet – it’s striped (black and ivory) and Bandolino pumps I got at DSW several weeks ago.
This photo was taken when the wind died down for two seconds. I think it’s one of the few photos where the skirt isn’t blowing against my legs. You can really see the drape of the fabric here.
The photos were all taken with my digital camera on a timer. Hey, I accidentally discovered the multiple shot feature in my camera earlier this year and now I use that along with the timer. So much easier!
Thank you for visiting! And don’t forget to visit Lilacs & Lace on Monday to vote for your favorite outfit in the Dressed to the Nines sewalong contest! You have until June 13 to cast your vote!