Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tutorial: drafting a kick pleat for a pencil skirt

The Charlotte from By Hand London is a lovely high waisted, slim fitting pencil skirt, with a below-knee length.  It's a great shape for work, but with all the walking and stairs I have to do around campus, it's a tad narrow around the legs.  In this tutorial, I'll show you how to draft a simple kick pleat, which would work for any skirt or dress with a back seam and I've written the instructions to coordinate with a special underlining method which will be posted tomorrow.
Start off by tracing the Back Skirt pattern piece, but don't cut it out.   I've shown just the lower right corner of the Skirt Back, above, with the grainline, center back and cutting line indicated.
Measure 2" from the original cutting line and draw a new line the desired length of the kick pleat up from the hem (mine was 8", but could have been longer).  The main consideration for the length of your kick pleat is to ensure that it is a reasonable length below your back zipper.

Using a French curve, connect the original back seam line to the end of your newly drawn line.  If you are using the Hong Kong finish/ underlining method (and I highly suggest that you do!), your pattern is done!  If not, add seam allowance to the vertical edge of the kick pleat.   Cut two Skirt Back pieces as normal from your fashion fabric, both with the new kick pleat extension.

There will be more details shortly about the Hong Kong finish/ underlining method, but cutting the underlining fabric with this new kick pleat is a little special: add the 5/8" allowance around the vertical seams but NOT the curve connecting the back seam and the kick pleat extension.  Looks like this:
To visualize how the kick pleat will be sewn, I've drawn a circled dot to indicate where the original seam line will stop at center back, and the dashed line is where you will continue the seam along the upper edge of the kick pleat with the same 5/8" seam allowance, below.  
After sewing this seam, clip the seam allowance close to the stitching line on one side.  Fold the kick pleat extensions to the other side, with the fold (on the outside) along the center back.  
Bind the raw, curved edge with bias tape or a bit of the lining fabric.  I used the lining selvage edge for the inside, then turned and edge stitched on the right side.

Tacking down the kick pleat with a diagonal line of stitches keeps it in place a bit better.  The thread was so perfectly matched you can hardly see it!
The beautiful Hong Kong finish peeks out a bit at the edges of the kick pleat.
Now, you can get around a bit easier in your adorable new skirt!  Check back soon for details of underlining and finishing your garment seams in one step!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Month of the pencil skirt: (Part 3 of 3). The Charlotte Skirt in silk/wool tweed.

Okay, there are three posts associated with this lovely tweed skirt, but after that, I promise: no more skirts!  I'm sick of looking at my bottom half, and I'm sure you feel the same!  Don't I look grumpy about it?
This final pencil skirt is a project for Britex.  The fabric is a truly incredible silk/wool blend in a very subtle tweed pattern.  The weight and hand are glorious--perfect for a pencil skirt.  The pattern is the Charlotte from By Hand London.  I love the version with the ruffly peplum, but that just isn't going to fit comfortably into my wardrobe at this time, so I went with the basic slim fitted version.
In addition to some dart reductions at the waist, I added a kick pleat at the back.  (A tutorial for this simple addition will be posted shortly).  Maybe my stride is too long or something, but I'm not sure how a person could walk in this skirt without a back vent or kick pleat, so it was a necessity for me. And even with a kick pleat, I still can't impress the crowds with moves like this (scroll down a bit to see Shelley in action).   Alas.  Anyhoo, here's the kick pleat from the inside:
More significantly, though, is what's going on under the hood (or rather, inside the garment).  Again, I'm not sure how or why a person would make a wool skirt without some kind of slippery fabric on the inside, but I went with my standard rayon Bemberg as an underlining instead of a lining.   And instead of a standard, basic underlining, I did the most intensely satisfying sewing technique I've tried in a long time: the Hong Kong finish + underlining in one!  Underline and make beautiful seams all at the same time.  And yes, a tutorial for that will be posted after the kick pleat one.  Take a good look at the inside of this skirt:

Maybe for Halloween I'll be "inside out clothing girl" just so I can show it off.

For the hem, I took a page from Laura Mae at Lilacs and Lace and used rayon seam binding, with a hand-sewn blind finish.  (The best part of the underlining, by the by, is that you sew a blind hem to the underlining, not the wool, so it is truly blind!)
The skirt is VERY high waisted, with a wide waistband.  It hurts me to show this picture, but here's what it looks like:
The upper edge sticks away from my body a bit, so down the road, I may reduce the width of the waistband a bit.   But hidden under clothing, it doesn't look too bad!

This skirt has really opened up some blouse and sweater options in my wardrobe.  This pink sweater, for instance, is so short-waisted that it's a little revealing when I lift my arms (like to point out something on the white-board for instance).  Now, I'm fully covered and stylish, too!

Keep an eye out for my two upcoming tutorials: drafting the kick pleat and the Hong Kong finish-underlining in one.  Happy month of the pencil skirt!

Resewlution 2014: September garment #3.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Month of the pencil skirt (Part 2 of 3)

So my pencil skirt project for Pattern making II is jumping the line because it's done and due tomorrow (and thus won't be back in my hands until next week).  I sewed it today, taking a little more time than normal since the inside finish of the lining is very professionally assembled (I had to have my class notes out to remember the order of operations, and I usually don't need directions!) and there was some plaid pattern matching to manage.
But even with the extra time needed, I'm pretty darn pleased since the one thing I did not have to do during this process was make any fit adjustments.  You know, this whole making patterns to your measurement thing kind of works!  Of course, I say that even though I fully intend to take it in a bit on the sides; it fits according to our instructions with 2" ease at the hips, which is a little much for my personal preference.
This skirt style is high-waisted (no waistband, just self-facing on the inside), with front/back darts, invisible zipper, full lining (Bemberg, of course) and kick pleat.
The fabric was purchased specifically to make a skirt to go with this navy sweater with orange embroidery.  I had it in my mind that this sweater needed a PLAID skirt, and this vintage wool from Scotland fit the bill.  It's the type of weave that frays a lot, but the hand is very smooth and was a good match for this skirt style.

Overall, I'm pleased with my pattern and the final product.  Everything worked!  Again, I'll make some fit adjustments after it's been graded, but it's nice to have a good, solid skirt pattern to add to my collection.  
If it wasn't virtually guaranteed to be 80F next week, I'd love wear this for my first day of school!

Resewlution 2014: September garment #2

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Month of the pencil skirt (Part 1 of 3)

Gosh, it's been a while!  Sure, school starting back up (for the kids, and fashion classes for me) and prepping for my quarter teaching biology (which starts next week), have really slowed down my sewing.  But the main reason I haven't been too active here lately is because the contractors put one of our toilets in my sewing room.  Yes, you read that right.  As the closest room to the bathroom, my sewing room was home to the toilet, a hallway book shelf and lots of other debris from our two simultaneous bathroom remodels over the past 3 weeks.  Needless to say, that kind of situation doesn't inspire creativity (at least for me :).  But now we have all 3 of our bathrooms back to working order and my sewing space is again my own.
So the skirt.  With a new quarter starting up soon at the college, I wanted a few new pieces for my wardrobe and I realized I didn't own any pencil skirts.  I don't even know how that's possible!  I had about a yard of some fabulous peacock blue stretch double wool fabric from Britex (leftover from my "Back to School Cambie" made last year) and this pattern (Amazing Fit, Simplicity 2475).  For alterations, I added a full lining and reduced the waistband to about 1".
What I love most about this pattern are the two kick pleats.  So fun and gorgeous, but such a pain in this thick fabric!
So as the post title implies, there are two more pencil skirts coming.  Number 2 will be a Britex project, with a couple of tutorials.  That skirt is also done (spoiler alert: in this fabric!) and I'm not sure I could be any more proud of how it turned out.  
The third pencil skirt will be the first project due in my Patternmaking II class!  The style is a high waisted, lined skirt with a kick pleat and the flat pattern is nearly finished with the "muslin" due this Thursday.  I plan to sew it in a fabulous wool plaid, which is not at all a muslin, but since I am doing all my pattern making to my own measurements this semester, I'm breaking out the good stuff!  
It was not my master plan to make three skirts in a month, it all just happened that way.  But all three skirts are remarkably different, despite all falling into the "pencil skirt" category, and definitely will fill some serious gaps in my professional wardrobe.  

Anyone else making a pencil skirt (or three) this month?   Anyone else thrilled that they don't have a toilet in their sewing room?!

Resewlution 2014: September garment #1.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Starting 'em early!

It might be somewhat surprising, but my son's pre-school classroom at the Google Childcare Center doesn't have computers for the children's use.  Instead, (and among many other awesome features, like a real woodworking station) they have a sewing station, with two regular sewing machines, an iron, fabric cutting table with a large Olfa mat, and a child-size dress form.  Overall, it's pretty much comparable to my own sewing workroom!  Actually, I don't even have a table for my Olfa mat--I cut on the bed or floor--so their set-up is better!
Today, the teachers sent us videos of the kids practicing with the sewing machines, investigating thread colors in the spool and bobbin, and testing out the various stitches (unfortunately, I can't share those outside of our classroom community, but trust me it was cute!).  It's incredible to see girls and boys learning this great art at such a young age--the same age I began sewing.
My own child has not shown much interest in sewing (yet!); instead, he's been hanging out at the woodworking station, sanding blocks of wood. And that's pretty cool, too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Last vestige of summer dress--Vogue 8663

At the suggestion of several readers (thank you for rescuing me from indecision!) for uses for this striped canary ponte knit from Mood , I went with the Vogue.  Here's a refresher of the pattern (Vogue 8663) envelope, now out of stock:
What is most distinctive (and worth sewing, in my opinion) is the pleated neckline.  Finished, the neckline is interesting and flattering without being showy.  Love it.
I had significant fit issues that involved taking the entire dress apart, trimming, trimming, trimming and putting it back together.  The width of the shoulders and waist were the biggest issues, and they still aren't perfect.  See that wavy waistband?  Ugh.  As much as I love the neckline, I can't stand the waistband.  It needs to be slightly tighter to pull the clear elastic a tiny bit, but I think I'm done taking it all apart!

Between the wavy waistband and slight bagginess at the lower back, the dress needs some kind of belt or sash. Apparently, the pattern envelope has a "purchased belt" for a reason.  Some options:
White sash, stolen from another top.
Skinny hot pink belt
Self sash?  
I kind of like the self-fabric sash, since it can be sewn down and not shift (always practical!), but the pink belt looks kind of fun, too.  Self sash + pink belt? :)
Looking at it finished, and seeing the calendar whizzing toward September, I know this was a bit of a silly make.  I figure, I have about two wearings before Labor Day, and then I'll tuck it away until Spring.  But I'll wear the heck out of it next year!

Resewlution 2014: August garment #1

Friday, August 15, 2014

Return from Alaska and sewing indecision

My family and I just returned from a nearly two week vacation to Homer, Alaska to visit my husband's parents.  It was lovely and peaceful, and we did a million things a person can't do in Silicon Valley: digging for clams, picking rhubarb, wild raspberries and blueberries (I made jam!), fishing for halibut, salmon, dolly varden, rockfish, pollock etc., seeing the sun set at 11 p.m., playing in the rain... :)  It was refreshing to have a completely different life for a few weeks!  
Since I couldn't bring my sewing machine (though I just may next time!), I purchased some local handmade yarn.  I'm not much of a knitter, it's like a craft-of-last-resort for me, but I saw this color (named "Fireweed" after a local wild flower--a photo of the real deal is at the top of the post) and my fingers started itching to make something.  Well, after about 20 rounds on the circular needle in a basic lace pattern for an infinity scarf, I had "lost" 4 out of 260 stitches.  Now that I'm back in the land of sewing machines, it might be hard to persuade myself to figure out how to remedy that situation!
Canary ponte knit from Mood Fabric
Which brings me to my next problem: while I was away, I ordered bunches of fabric, which was all sitting on my doorstep when we got home.  I feel most inclined to sew something with this lovely, but summery, striped ponte knit (image above).  But what to make??  Some options:
Lady Skater
Vogue V8663 (out of print)
Another Myrtle?
Another Renfrew modified with a boat neck?
Dresses are always my initial inclination, but with Fall approaching, a top might be more versatile right?   I may modify the Renfrew to have a boat neck--seems to go well with the stripey print and will be well-worn, I'm sure.  With an upcoming bathroom remodel, I've had to make a so many decisions lately--I just need someone to tell me what to sew!  

Once I'm done with this fabric, it's the transition to a Fall work wardrobe--wools and darker prints, skirts, trousers and blouses.