I’ve been making a ton of t-shirts this fall, but don’t plan to post about most of them. They’re largely FBA experiments based on a Renfrew I altered to fit me, with darts rotated into gathers at the shoulder, neckline, or centre front. Mostly I got bored of basic t-shirts and could never find the patterns I wanted, so experimentation it is. It’s worked out fairly well and you’ll see them in posts about skirts or pants.
The pluses are the waist tie, which obviates the need for fitting in the waist seam, and the distinctive seam lines (drop shoulders, triangular waist panel, peplums); the negatives are the d-ring, which I was not sure I would enjoy having attached to a shirt I’m wearing. But it was worth the risk to see if it worked.
It did! Here it is, made up in a plum rayon/bamboo jersey bought at Downtown Fabrics on Queen W.
Alterations on this one were minimal:
FBA, some of which was rotated into the waist above the peplum waist gathers, some of which was eased in, and some of which was removed from the side waist as an impromptu “dart.” Next time I’d do more of this latter and less of the gathering/easing.
Shortened the back by 1″. Sadly I goofed and shortened it also by 1″ at the side, which was way too much and raises the waist all over: not what I wanted.
Otherwise, this is the pattern as drafted, d-rings and all.
Next time I’d lower the neckline in the back a smidge. I might also extend the drop shoulder just a tad. But overall I love it and wear it all the time.
Also: you don’t need the zipper. I put the zipper in, but I don’t use it. I just pull it on and off.
I should be a 40/44 in a Burda shirt; this shirt is a size 38 with an FBA. The upper front is cut on the single layer due to the asymmetrical seam so I did a parallel FBA on both sides of the pattern piece. Side darts were rotated into the waist seam, and then removed during cutting & sewing along the side seams. Remaining excess was eased into the waist seam; particularly under the tie detail.
Everyone who sews knows there are big sizing inconsistencies with the Big 4 pattern companies, and that these companies have no intention of admitting to, let alone fixing, those problems.
So let’s help each other out.
I’ve written a novel here about how unpredictable Big 4 sizing is, and how none of the information available publicly ends up being helpful in deciding what size to purchase. But this isn’t just venting. There are two things I’m hoping to do:
Reassure beginning sewers that it’s not their fault that projects don’t fit the way they’re supposed to.
Encourage those of us who write pattern reviews online to be more detailed about how we ended up sewing the size we did. I’m willing to bet none of you make up the size you’re supposed to be, according to the sizing charts. But in reviews, most sewers only include what size was eventually used, and not how that compares to the size we’re supposed to be according to the charts. Unless someone has been following a particular reviewer for a while and knows what size they are supposed to be, that’s not helpful; a sewer still can’t pick a size for themselves.
If this post can inspire you to always include information about what size you used and what size you are supposed to be in every review, whether on blogs, review sites, instagram, or facebook, we can make this a little less frustrating for each other.
Hydrated? Caffeinated? Recently snacked?
How To Sew Something That Fits
In theory, one should be able to buy or trace a pattern according to one’s measurements and the published sizing guide and, barring individual body idiosyncrasies, make up a garment that more or less fits. Alas, this is not the case, as you’ve read me bitching about more than once. Over many years now of sewing clothes for myself and my daughter, I’ve developed a way of choosing a size and making it up that will end up with something close enough to a good fit that I can alter it with a few tweaks, so long as its construction is fairly standard. (i.e. basic darted skirts and bodices, pants or shorts with front fly construction, princess seams, etc.)
It’s a total pain in the ass.
1. Choose a size based on the finished garment measurements.
If I can get them. Indie pattern companies are pretty good about putting those measurements on the pattern envelope and/or the website. Big 4? Not so much. With Butterick-Vogue-McCalls, the finished measurements aren’t even necessarily on the pattern tissue. I recently tried to make up a BMV knit pattern where the finished measurements were not on the tissue; it wasn’t worth my time and I threw it away. I just opened the packet for a Vogue knit dress pattern, and the finished garment measurements aren’t on that tissue either.
On the BMV website, the finished garment measurements most often available are back length and hem width.
This doesn’t help me decide which size to get.
2. Double check those measurements by measuring the pattern tissue.
4. Alter in ways that I always have to alter everything because bodies are weird.
For me, this means shortening bodice backs, measuring back widths and ensuring there isn’t too much excess along the zipper, doing an FBA, adding to the rise and crotch length for pants and shorts, checking hem lengths, and usually reducing the armscye (particularly with the Big 4).
4. Cut and sew.
Having done the above in advance, the fit on the first garment will usually be good. No muslin required. Again, that wouldn’t apply to something complicated, but even there starting with this will get me a lot closer than starting with the pattern tissue out of the envelope.
The only part of the fitting process that is, or should be, inevitable is altering for my body’s specifics. No pattern company is going to get that right. But steps 1 and 2 should be unnecessary. It should be possible to choose a size based on body measurements and know that the resulting finished garment will relate to the body’s measurements in a predictable and useful way.
What Doesn’t Work
People have developed a number of work-arounds that they feel quite passionate about, but none of them work for me.
Pick a size based on your high-bust measurement!
The theory is that if you choose your pattern size by comparing your high-bust measurement to the published full-bust charts, you’ll get something that fits in the shoulders, back, armscye, etc., and the rest is easier to fit.
I wish. First of all, there’s still way too much fucking ease. This would only work if the size charts were reliable in the first place. Secondly, this will work only for women whose bust is approximately where the bust point on the pattern is. If your boobs are higher or lower than average, this will increase or decrease your high-bust measurement, making the approach utterly useless.
Speaking for myself, my high-bust measurement is about 36″. This is still a size 14–two sizes bigger than what actually works for me with most (but not all!) BMV patterns.
2. Look at the measurements charts and the ease charts and pick a size based on the measurement plus the ease!
Below, find a handy chart showing the ease and finished waist measurements of what is supposed to be my waist size of my most recent BMV projects. (Click to enlarge)
Of the twelve, a full eight have finished garment measurements that are either below or above the predicted range based on body measurements plus ease. That’s 2/3.
Moreover, they don’t always err in the same direction. While M7351 has 1 1/2″ more ease than it should, V7937 has 3″ less.
The ease charts no longer reflect reality, and a “close-fitting” garment–in jersey! FFS–can have multiple inches of ease, and that ease may or may not be what was predicted in the ease chart.
This chart is only available on the Butterick site. I’ve used the first column of ease because it is a confusing mess of a table (why are skirts in the bust area? What are shirts in the hip area? What about waist ease?) and also because all or almost all of the garments I’ve listed here fall in the first category of garment and/or have a bust measurement.
(One garment, V7937, is a skirt and so could arguably be considered to fall in the last column. But the actual ease in the hip area is still far under the ease chart guidelines, so it would fail no matter which I chose.)
3.Once you know what size works for you with a company’s patterns, just buy that size and then make the same alterations with all of them!
Looking at the same chart, you can see that for Buttericks, Vogue and McCalls–all operating as part of the same company, using the same measurement and ease charts–anywhere from a size 10 to a size 14 will work for me.
There’s no pattern for which size will work based on fit, style, fabric, or anything else. Knit garments (highlighted in green) could be anywhere from a 10 to a 14. Woven garments can also be anywhere from a 10 to a 14. Whether it’s close-fitting, fitted, semi-fitting or loose also results in no predictable sizing. The one thing that is predictable is that whatever size ends up fitting me, it won’t be the size 16+ that is supposed to.
And it’s often not possible to get size 10, 12 and 14 in the same envelope, so I have to guess. I often guess wrong, which is what all of those “14 but quite big”s are about: 14 was the smallest size in the envelope and it was still too big.
I don’t like guessing, so I rarely buy BMV patterns these days.
(Simplicity is no longer available in Canada, so I have no Simplicity results to share. I’d be happy to include/link to yours, though.)
Why The Hell The Big 4 Pattern Companies Suck at This
Decades ago, clothing retailers cast off the shackles of standard sizing for women’s clothing and we entered a brave new era of vanity sizing.
What is a pattern company to do? Keep the sizing and ask women who wear a size 8 in a store to sew up a size 16? Or change their sizing to keep pace with changes in the manufacturing industry?
While they won’t admit to it publicly, they bravely opted to do … both.
They kept the sizing charts the same, so that nominally a woman who buys a size 8 in a store will need to sew up a size 16. But they (appear to) design for RTW sizing, more or less, so that if a woman in a size 8 buys a size 8 pattern and sews it up, it will often (but not always!) fit.
This is often described in short hand as “too much ease,” but it’s not really an ease thing. If it were, if I made up a 16, the basics (shoulders, back, armscye) would be essentially correct; it would just be loose or baggy. But the shoulders and backs are often too big, the armscyes too deep; it’s clear that the size 16 is designed for a woman much larger than I am, even though that size 16 reflects my smallest measurement.
This worst-of-both-worlds solution created a system so confusing for the average beginning sewer that it remains, to this day, the single number one most common and controversial issue among home sewers. The pattern companies don’t admit it, of course, but it is blatantly obvious to anyone who’s been sewing for long enough to have experienced this (unless they are brick stupid, and have managed to convince themselves that sewing is supposed to be so hard that sewing up a muslin for every new t-shirt or blouse pattern forever makes some kind of immutable and inevitable sense). (I mean–you know all of your storebought clothes were made by third-world teenagers who likely don’t have a high school education and have never received formal training in fit or alterations, right? Please someone explain to me why what is so simple that companies on the one hand justify paying poor girls pennies an hour to produce them, on the other hand is so complex that different companies state we should have to make multiple versions of a simple t-shirt before we get one that fits reasonably well.)
End result is that the sizing charts are garbage. They provide no valuable information for the purchaser. The information that the purchaser now needs is the finished measurements for bust, waist and hips, so that they can select a size based on how big the piece of clothing is going to be. But this information isn’t available, for most of their patterns, until after you’ve bought a size; and even then, sometimes it’s not printed on the pattern tissue. And when it is provided, it may not be accurate.
One might think that this enormously disrespectful manner of dealing with one’s customers would result in a complete absence of customer loyalty. I mean, if you were trying to buy a pair of shoes, and you weren’t allowed to try the shoes on or open the box first, and there was a published size chart measuring the width and length of feet but that, you found after purchasing a few pairs of shoes, had no relation to how big the shoes were so they were constantly falling off your feet, and you tried to find out how much room they added to those measurements so you could use this a guide to picking a size but the company acted like this was a fucking state secret, and then when you found the information it too was completely inaccurate–would you ever buy a pair of shoes there again?
No. And indeed customers have switched. Indie companies have sprung up in the wake of this (they have their own sizing issues, idiosyncratic to each company, but the dissatisfaction with sizing in the Big 4 has created a market niche that has been amply exploited) and many home sewers have abandoned the Big 4 pretty well outright by moving to pattern magazines or self-drafting, purchasing Big 4 patterns only when they are deeply deeply discounted and resigning themselves to a certain amount of guesswork in size selection.
It would be one thing if the Big 4 would say something like, “We know we’ve made sizing choices historically that have resulted in a confusing mess for customers. We’re not sure how to best fix it yet but we are committed to doing so by [date].” But no. Customers hear instead, “Choose a size based on your measurements and the ease guidelines that we no longer will share with you! You can always pick a size based on the finished measurements that we keep in the envelope and won’t let you see until after you’ve bought it! If we even bothered to put it on the tissue! And then you can’t return it when it’s not the size you need! Just sew a bunch of muslins for every garment you make! It’s normal to have to make the pattern half a dozen times before you can get it to fit! Obviously you don’t REALLY want to sew, do you?”
Pattern Magazines Suck a Lot Less
BurdaStyle does have ease issues, but considerably less so. Their charts put me in a 40/44, and I typically cut a 38/42, with the ever-present FBA. Still, that’s only off by about an inch.
Also, because there are no seam allowances in the patterns, measuring to confirm the finished garment size is a piece of cake. There are no ease charts to mess with. You pick a size based on your body measurements, and then adjust as needed. So here’s the chart for my last five Burda projects.
Look at all those lovely n/a’s! I don’t have to worry about the predicted ease. I don’t have to worry about finished garment measurements. It doesn’t matter if it’s a knit or a woven, a coat or a swimsuit. While it’s off by one size, it’s a predictable one size; I can trace out the 38/40/42 (or its tall/petite equivalent), measure the key points to ensure it’s the amount of ease I want, do my standard alterations, cut and sew. And at the end, it will either fit or be close enough to fitting that I can adjust it.
Moreover, I’ve so far found this to be true across european sewing magazine patterns, comparing between Burda, Knipmode, La Mia Boutique and Patrones. If I used my body measurements to pick a size, it will either fit or be off by one size. (So far. If longer experience shows I need to take that back, I will.) I’m making a pair of pants from a recent Patrones magazine; I traced off a size 44 based on my actual measurements compared to their size chart; and the only sizing issues I am having are for my own idiosyncratic adjustments (crotch length, inseam, etc). Otherwise, IT FIT.
Let that sink in for a moment.
I have an easier time getting a pair of pants that fit out of a sewing pattern when I start with a magazine published in SPANISH, where I can’t even read the damned instructions.
Indie Pattern Companies are Variable
There are a few indie companies that are much more reliable with sizing and fit. Grainline, for instance, tends to be baggy in everything. She puts the finished measurements on the website so you can check before you buy; they’re consistent and accurate, in my experience, if you like that aesthetic. How To Do Fashion is, so far for me, pretty much bang on. I can pick a size based on body measurements and it will fit really well, even through the shoulders and armscye, so that all I have to do is an FBA and shortening the back etc. (I’ve made one blouse muslin so far, and another pattern was almost done but it’s for summer so I may not finish it before next summer. Posts will come eventually.)
Once you know how big the garment is going to be, compare: to things you already own and like, or have tried on in a store, and to your own actual measurements. Find the size that is most likely to fit the way you like. Start there.
It shouldn’t be this hard. But it is.
In the Meantime
When you write a review of the pattern, help your fellow sewers out.
Include the size you made.
Include the size the measurement charts would put you in.
Maybe discuss how much ease there actually is, how many sizes down (or up? Does that ever happen?) you had to go to get it to fit. Compare to the ease indicated in the pattern description. Did it say it was close-fitting but then you had to go down three sizes and it was still big? Did it say it was loose and then you made it up and it was not so loose after all?
If a pattern company consistently produces patterns that fit you well based on body measurements, please tell us! They deserve our business.
Make it so that a beginning sewer, finding your review from google, not knowing anything about you or your size except for what you put in that one review, can make an informed decision about what size they should purchase for themselves.
I’m planning on making a page sometime soon to summarize all this and keep it in one handy place. If anyone else would like to contribute with your own sizing/fit adventures, let me know.
Technically this is a petite pattern, which at 5’8″ I am not; but believe it or not, I still had to shorten the armscye by 1/2″ front and back, and the bust dart was still about an inch too low, necessitating much weird sewing to avoid weird pointy bits.
I also did an FBA, which introduced a fisheye waist dart in the front. I tried it with and without the dart, and with is better IMO.
For construction, I serged any exposed seam allowances and used the sewing machines for the seams. It’s very tidy.
The pattern works. It all goes together properly. The sizing is as portrayed in the description and photos. It’s a cute idea. And yet … I don’t love it. That old bugbear: I don’t like blouses without closures on me. If it were a really drapey fabric it might be ok, but this is not drapey enough to make up for the lack of shaping inherent in a pullover woven top. Even with the waist dart. It’s just very boxy. I think it can work with a fitted skirt or pants with a good snug waist, but otherwise probably not.
The fabric is a cotton voile bought years ago and just sitting around waiting for the right blouse pattern. At the time of purchase I thought the right blouse pattern was going to be much bigger, so I have some left over. And I’ll be using it on something with closures.
This skirt tested my fitting abilities to the limit. Such a pretty pattern–
–and so many opportunities for the fit to go disastrously wrong, most of which I found on version #1. So:
To tweak the fit with something low-risk, I made the shorter variation out of some leftover wool. And promptly discovered it was much too big all around. Why does this keep happening? At any rate, I ended up taking it in–several times. The lining was much too big as well, which was hard to discover in advance as it was a single piece cut on the fold with two darts and joined together in the back. I had to sew it up with about a 4″ seam allowance to get it to be the right size.
I feel like I’m making up the size as indicated on the pattern but maybe I need to recheck the measurements because this was pretty ridiculous. Anyway:
Multiple unstitchings and restitchings later, I finally got something that is mostly ok, but it’s still a bit wavy and weird in the back. It’s wearable, I think, but not great. So instead of moving on to the nice fabric, I thought I should make another test version:
This time with the longer version and the drapey godet in the back, out of a poly/rayon/spandex fabric. ($6/m. Can’t beat that.)
It’s red. Hurray!
The adjustments on this version worked really well. It only needed a few tweaks to fit just about perfectly. Except for the lining, which was still way too big.
When wearing, I discovered that the front waistline is about half an inch too high, and that the waist as a whole is about an inch too loose to stay put. So these were tweaked for version #3. You’ll notice that the drapey godet in the back does not drape the same as it does in the pattern drawing. More on that in version #3.
Version 3: Wherein I Found More Fitting Issues
Apparently I over-corrected the fit for version 2 out of the stretchy fabric, because when I cut it out of the not-stretchy silk-wool blend, it didn’t want to zip up. I was able to loosen it enough to make it technically work, but I was worried about the stress on the seamlines so I re-cut the ruched side pieces and the upper back pieces. It worked perfectly and it is now very comfortable.
It is a really fantastic fabric–and even after needing to recut some pieces I still have enough leftover to make a handbag–and it doesn’t drape the same as the red one does, so the back godet is an issue. It’s interesting still and I like it but, meh. It might have been better if I’d gone for the version where the godet is two pieces sewn together down the middle, so the grain runs differently. But it’s too late to find out now. (But it’s not too late for you, Dear Readers!)
I still love that side pleating bit.
I think, given that it’s silk-wool and fully lined, this is one I can wear in fall and winter. So I’ll just pretend I got a head start on next season’s sewing rather than having taken forever to make up something from last winter. It is a really cute pattern. I highly recommend a muslin, as the fit is challenging to tweak with the seamlines; I also recommend making it up in something very drapey and using the two-piece godet in the back to get a better drape. But it is overall a cute and very different pencil skirt pattern.
This is a super simple darted blouse with a yoke and an ease pleat. You’ve seen and sewn it before. But the flounce and ruffle variations looked like fun, so:
Basic, no ruffles or flounce, using leftover Liberty lawn from a different blouse years ago.
Oh my god. How things have changed. Let’s not discuss that.
Anyway: having learned my lesson that tana lawn does not drape and is not suitable for patterns where drape is required, the remnants were used for a structured pattern with buttons and everything. It was, despite using the sizes dictated by my measurements (40/44), quite loose–not what I was expecting at all. Not a bad thing so long as I wear it with something that it can be tucked into, and frankly the short sleeves and thin fabric make it better for spring anyway.
Still, overall it worked well and justified a fancier second try.
Altered sleeves, front flounce, fabric mixing.
I have this shirt I bought years ago at Tristan America that I cannot let go of. Since starting to sew I’ve realized that it doesn’t actually fit–the darts end at the wrong place–not that non-sewers ever notice, but you know how it is: I notice, and it drives me nuts. But I love it; it has so many fantastic design elements that I hold on to it for inspiration, if nothing else.
The sleeves! Pleated at the cap, smocked through the bicep. I would love to find a sewing pattern that actually had something like this, but alas, no.
And the fabric mixing!
The front and upper sleeves are a normal shirting fabric.
The back and undersleeves are jersey.
As a whole, the bodice of the shirt has almost no ease, but because of the jersey, it fits perfectly and is incredibly comfortable to wear.
As it happens, I had leftover bamboo jersey and a cotton voile in almost the exact same shade of light grey. Fate. Right? So:
Got rid of the ease please in the back, altered the sleeve to pleat the cap and add more volume, used the flounce this time, sized the whole thing down to slight negative ease, and made the back out of jersey. My scrap wasn’t quite wide enough at the top so there’s a bit of fabric piecing near the shoulders. Good enough for government work, I say.
Some things become apparent with try #2:
The sleeve has a lot more ease in the front of the armscye than the back. This wasn’t a huge deal with the first version, but with the second version, where the pleat needs to be centred on the shoulder, it became much more visible.
The waist is a smidge high. On the loose version you can’t really tell, because the waist is lost anyway in approximately an acre of fabric. But when I made it fitted, I could see that the waist was about 1″ higher than my waist, which is already pretty high. Be warned and check for that before cutting.
The misplaced waist is what’s behind the pull lines on this version. It does up quite easily across the bust but it pulls against that spot on the sides. You can see how they continue on to the back. And the upper “pull lines” are a result of me not shortening the top of the armscye quite enough. Sigh.
I’m getting a lot of wear out of this one. I needed something to wear with all of the brightly coloured skirts I’ve made up recently.
Coral cotton voile. I was going to do the ruffles instead of the flounce, except that the ruffles are not hemmed (and are cut on the bias to reduce fraying). I know bias cut is supposed to make sure things don’t fray but this cotton is prone to disintegration and I didn’t trust it to hold. So I did the flounce again. Regular short sleeves. Put the ease pleat back in but took a lot of volume out of the sides. And lowered the waist by about 1″.
I might fuss a bit with the front darts if I make this up again. And you can see there’s still a lot of room in the waist, despite sizing down and taking a lot out of the sides.
I don’t know how or why but these buttons were a perfect colour match. How often does that happen?
The only thing I’m not sure I like is the sleeves. If it bugs me I’ll come back and nip them in a bit to lie closer to the shoulder, but I’ll try wearing them this way first. After all, I want to be able to move my arms.
I’ve wanted to make this dress for ages, but could never find a fabric I thought it would work well in. It’s a regular jersey dress, yes; but the twist meant I wanted something with a bit of body that would hold the shape. Or at least, hold it longer than something soft and drapey would.
This is a cotton jersey from Fabricland that is just a bit stiff (and was on sale) and it seems to work fine.
Given the twist in the pattern pieces, it’s hard to measure the flat pattern to ensure the fit. I made it a 40 at the waist and 44 at the bust/hips and hoped for the best.
Construction is super simple. It’s four pieces: front, back, two sleeves. (Technically I guess it’s six since there’s a front and back facing, but those are just shorter versions of the front and back.) Because the sleeves have a twist in them, it’s important to sew them together and insert them in the round, which otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with. Otherwise: sew the front and back together, insert the sleeves, sew the facing pieces together and attach it to the dress, clean finish the armholes, hem the bottom. Voila: dress.
Basically no fitting changes were made. I did have to take it in a bit at the sides after trying it on, but no biggie.
The bottom of the facing is just serged, and the dress hem is serged and then turned up once.
The twist does not like to stay put, so there’s a bit of wrenching it back into position while it’s being worn, particularly when say walking or dancing, or doing anything other than standing still for photos. Otherwise it looks just like the pattern photo and is a really cute take on a basic jersey sheath dress.
I’d definitely make this one again. A lightweight, structured knit without a lot of drape is key to hold the twist in the waist, if you decide to make this yourself.
This is one of those projects where a well-timed Burda issue, a Fabricland sale and a nice fabric on the ends table combined to make a skirt project that I in no way need but will wear a lot anyway.
It’s sewn up twice in the magazine; the floral version looks pegged, and the solid version doesn’t. Go figure. But I loved the “pockets” (more on that below) and it looked work appropriate and the print is perfect for a bunch of very brightly coloured tops I have already. This is a lightweight cotton satin.
1) Size down. There’s three inches of ease in the waistband. No one needs three inches of ease in a pencil skirt waist. What were they even thinking? Even after sizing down I still took about an inch out of the waist.
2) Be extremely precise with your hem allowances. Because of the “pockets” panel, all pieces are hemmed *before* being sewn together. There was a whole lot of finishing, hemming, pinning, unpinning, rehemming, and repinning in the skirt construction for me, and even so, one of the edges doesn’t quite line up.
3) It’s not lined: serge, overlock, or otherwise finish the seam allowances before joining.
4) It’s not particularly pegged.
Is it? The actual skirt pieces have a pegged shape, but the side seams are left open for a slit for walking and it takes the shaping right out. I took about an inch out of the bottom back seam, tapering to the hips, and it helped–these photos are post-pegging. The original was very boxy.
5) With the instructions as written, they’re not pockets, they’re “pockets”: They’re not sewn horizontally to the underlying skirt anywhere. This is easy to fix by sewing them down yourself, but it’s a weird and puzzling gap.
6) I still found it a bit loose at the waist. I took in the waist about an extra inch to get a snugger fit, which was a pain in the butt, but less so than having a loose pencil skirt.
7) It is very long and because you do the hemming first, it’s not possible to shorten it after you try it on.
8) Also, I misunderstood the directions with how to attach the “pocket” panel to the skirt below the first seam mark and edgestitched it. Which is fine, but apparently you’re supposed to sew the rest of it down on the *inside* edge, not the outside edge. No biggie but I’d do it the other way next time.
It’s a nice, if finicky, skirt pattern with a few interesting details that make it a bit different from a standard pencil skirt. I recommend being very careful in choosing and tracing a size due to how difficult it is to alter afterwards, and making up a first version in something less expensive to see what you think of the length. I’d probably shorten it by about six inches myself.
You’d never know from reading here, but I’ve never had an extravagant wardrobe.
Ok, enough, pick yourselves off the floor and stop laughing already. I’m serious.
All four seasons of clothes have always fit in one small closet and a dresser. I bought my first-ever raincoat and pair of rain boots in my thirties. I bought my wedding dress for $200 off the rack at a mall–it was blue. (It’s amazing how cheap nice dresses can be when they’re not white.) There was nothing in my earlier life to predict that this blog subject would ever be something I would consider, even blind drunk and high on cocaine.
(Note: I’ve never been drunk or done any drugs harder than caffeine. Just in case you thought I spoke from any personal experience.)
So it is with some chagrin, served up with a side of identity crisis, that I report that as of finishing this skirt … I need to buy a new skirt hanger. Because otherwise I can’t hang it.
Worse: I made another one just like it. Well, except in a different colour.
What have I become?
This is a silk/wool plaid end I bought years and years ago at the Creativ Festival, 2m for something like $20. I made the meringue skirt from the Colette sewing book and regretted it: it was too big, wouldn’t stay in place, and the scallops didn’t look right with the fabric. Eventually I gave it away. But I kept looking at the scraps and thinking, I bet there’s enough to make a skirt here.
I was right!
Of course, it’s short. I was able to cut everything out on grain but there wasn’t enough to ensure pattern matching; three of the four main seams worked but the big piece on the front could not be cut out any way other than what it was, so:
The flounces are curvy pieces so while the centre is on-grain, the sides are on the bias, and there’s no sense even trying to pattern match those. But the back and the right side worked out:
The flounce is super cute. I just serged the bottom edge with matching threads and it worked fine.
The skirt is lined inside to just above the flounce.
It’s a cute pattern that works well and goes together fairly easily, even with the flounce. The flounce gives it a bit of an a-line-with-edge vibe.
…so of course I had to make it again.
It’s a new thing I’m trying. I have this habit of seeing a pattern I like and telling myself, “It’s cute. I’ll make it up out of these scraps and see what I think.” And then never getting around to making a ‘good’ version out of not-scraps. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with having clothes made out of scraps, if they turn out well; they’re essentially free clothes if you discount the time value. But it would be nice to take those patterns I worked to fit so nicely and use them on not-scraps more often. Which is how I ended up with two keyhole dresses, two winged skirts, and now two flounce skirts.
This one in a royal blue/purple wool crepe.
It was distinctly not free. The wool was about $30/yard. The lining, though, was the remainders from the lining for the leather and suede skirts, so free. And I already had the zipper. So about $45 for a wool skirt that fits. Plus that colour makes me happy.
My father’s wife always had a fantastic style sense. She spent a lot of money on her clothes, which took up the walk-in closet in the master bedroom, the closet in the guest room, and a couple of racks in the basement. More power to her, but when my winter boots got holes in the bottom or the lining fell out of my winter coat, she’d refuse to replace or even repair them. Sometimes for Christmas or my birthday I’d get some really nice clothes, and there was usually a back-to-school shopping trip, and that would be it. This meant I could, most years, dress ok for fall through spring assuming everything held up, but for summer I had to be creative. And then she seemed to decide that I was her physical clone and started buying me clothes and shoes–in her size. We are not the same size. I’d have skirts that hung off my hips, shirts that fell off my shoulders. It was all very, very odd. In any case, I got used to having an eccentric wardrobe that didn’t take up a lot of space.
And now I am in the position of having to buy a second skirt hanger for the first time actually in my entire life. Or I suppose I could ship off an old skirt to a happier home.
I guess I’m still doing the eccentric part all right, though.
I have no idea where this came from. But here it is. If I ever start talking about buying racks for the basement for extra clothes, please someone shake sense into me.
(Brace yourself: there’s a dress pattern based off the skirt pattern and of course I have to make that up too.) (HELP)
I’m trying to remember when sewing changed from being a way to make myself and Frances clothes that were practical, comfortable and fit properly, and became a way instead for me to figure out how a dress like this gets put together.
PEPLUM POCKETS! Genius. Functional and decorative at the same time. No seamlines to break up a cool print.
You know–or if you’re on FaceBook at any rate you should know–what a very big deal pockets are in skirts and dresses.
This is a mid-weight rayon with a herringbone weave that is only visible if you get really really close. It came from Marina’s fabrics on Ottawa Street and was, I think, about $8/m. So plus the lining (bemberg) and the zipper, this might be a $25 or $30 dress. It’s very soft and super ravelly. The bodice is lined, but the skirt is not, so those edges were overlocked.
Of course, it was the print I couldn’t say no to. And in a rare burst of thematic inspiration, given the colour scheme, I even finished it up early February so I could wear it on Valentine’s Day. This will probably never happen again.
First crack at the bodice was quite loose so I snugged it in by about 1 1/2″ at the waist, and of course the sleeves had to be shortened as always. Then once it was sewn up, the bodice was still too loose to be smooth, so I unstitched, re-pinned and restitched. I can’t even tell you how many times I have sewn the bodice lining to the waist seam at this point. It’s still not as smooth as shown in the magazine photo, but I’m happy with it now. I think part of the problem is just the weight of all the folds at the front pulling down the front waistband seam.
Other than that, this is the dress as the pattern has it; it works and sews up perfectly, and the pockets make me positively giddy. They’re perfectly functional for anything you might think of putting in a skirt pocket–small wallet, lipstick, keys, phone, would all fit and not alter the line of the dress. It’s great for an office environment and yet manages to have some personality. There was no universe in which I actually needed this dress, but I’m pretty happy to have it.
I decided to make this one in the midst of Fabricland’s annual December members’ sale, but wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t find a jersey that seemed meant for this dress: too patterned, too poly, too thick, too sheer, too whatever. I ended up settling on this bright pink poly/rayon jersey. It is unbelievably soft; it is as comfortable as a t-shirt; it is probably not meant for a dress. But who cares. It cost $6/metre and bought three, so plus the zipper this is about a $20 dress. I made it up just in time to wear to Christmas dinner with a friend and her lovely parents, and have worn it several times since, because it meets that cardinal rule of dresses in wintertime: snuggliness.
Keyhole slit, slanted waistline, gores in the skirt, pleats in the bodice, and fancy bell sleeves to capitalize on our current Sleeves Moment.
Before making it up I shortened that keyhole slit: bizarrely short upper torso necessitates these kinds of machinations unless I want to put my underwear on display which, despite the Accidentally Underdressed posts, I really don’t. Even so I need to be careful with my underwear choices in this one.
After making it up I realized that I need to take some height and width out of the centre back and back neckline seams, which is pretty standard for me. But long hair=No One Can Tell, or so I say to myself. I also hemmed the sleeves more than the pattern said to so it would hit at my elbows, thanks to bizarrely short arms.
It’s almost entirely serged. The bodice is lined; for this version, I self-lined. I wouldn’t do that again, since the pleats x 2 make for a thick join at the front waistline.
The sleeve cap is pleated too, which is hard to see in these pictures or in the line drawing. Take my word for it: it’s cute.
You’re supposed to do a button-and-loop closure at the top of the keyhole slit but I just sewed it shut. The dress has a zipper up the back, for goodness’ sake; a functional button closure is not required.
Having liked the first one so much, I had to make it again.
Hush. That’s how it works.
I altered the pattern to take out the excess width in the back, and lowered the back neckline by about an inch and a half. And then I went shopping.
Not intentionally, actually. I had to bring my coverstitch machine into the shop (… yes it did take me that long) and saw that the fabric shop across the street from the sewing machine store had a “CLOSING BY JANUARY 31!” sign along with “70% off lowest marked price for everything in the store!” This was the one shop on Ottawa Street where they sold really, really, really nice stuff. The kind of stuff that can cost over $100/yard so you go in, pet it reverently, and then leave quietly so as not to mark or damage anything.
I went in. It had been pretty picked over, but in addition to six yards of silk picked up for $35 including taxes (!!!!!), I found a plum poly jersey with a super sparkly gold lurex weave, marked down to about $3.50/yard. Two yards of fabric plus one metre of cheap polyester lining plus a zipper comes to a grand total of about $13 for the whole dress. And yes, this was the first of the Lurex Trend to be completed. It’s very sparkly. In some lights it’s more gold than purple.
Sewing your own clothes doesn’t always save you money, but holy hell that’s less than the price of a trade paperback.
Anyway. It’s a very, very light jersey–so light I took it home and discovered it’s almost transparent with the light behind it–and I used wisperlite (their spelling, not mine) lining which, incidentally, is both very very light and sheer and woven so tightly my regular machine needles did not want to puncture it for love or money. This increased the frustration factor, but also made it much easier to pleat the bodice as both together were about the thickness of a regular jersey. Because the fabric was so sheer I had to draft a lining for the skirt. Because it’s jersey and so light, and because I didn’t want to have a topstitch or even a blind stitch hem to break that lovely sparkle, I just left the hems raw. And again the keyhole was sewn shut.
The one bit of advice I have for anyone making this up at home is to baste the front bodice pieces to the skirt before serging. Both times now the machine has struggled to gain purchase on all those layers at the middle front and so one piece has ended up skewed, necessitating fancy hand sewing after the fact to make it line up properly. Can’t tell now but it was a bit annoying at the time.
So now I have two versions of the same dress: one soft, snuggly, and work-appropriate, and the other sparkly and suitable for dancing. Both dirt cheap.