silver project 1: sleek maxi skirt

IMGP0910 IMGP0915So this worked surprisingly well.

Back in June, I made my first project using the silver knit (probably considered a sweater knit) and plain grey knit described here. I bought the silver because I had been thinking about some sparkle for stage and thought this would complement my soft summer colouring. I don’t know that the fabric is a direct hit on soft summer – I’m not sure that it’s sufficiently muted. But then “muted” isn’t necessarily the first choice for stage either ::shrug::

I used rectangular construction: 4 equal gores/panels; seams on the princess lines (rather than at centres and sides). For width measurements: I measured below my waist (where I wanted the waistline to sit) as well as around my stride at the ankles, divided each measurement by 4 (zero ease), added 1/2″ SA to each seam. For the length: I measured waistline to floor plus 4″ for casing, hem allowance and just in case. This results in a trapezoid shape. For efficiency of cutting and minimising waste, I drew 4 nesting trapezoids directly on the fabric. The fabric has a faint horizontal stripe effect but I wanted the stripe to be vertical because I need all the help I can get in the height department, so I cut my fabric on the cross-grain, knowing that I was breaking the rules and that the outside of the skirt would probably grow in length.

Once I had the skirt and lining assembled, I put on the skirt to figure out where I wanted the waistline. I did my new standard adjustment: waist is 1″ lower in the front. I drew the seam line, sewed it, trimmed it, turned the skirt and lining right way out, and ran another line of stitching around the waist to form the bottom of the casing.

Once I had it wearable, I put it on from time to time and just to wear it or to practice my dance piece. This helpfully let out some of the inevitable stretch in length that resulted from cutting it out on the cross-grain. (It also ended up affecting the choreography because some moves looked more interesting in this “frame”.) The idea was to see if I needed to adjust the shaping at all. I’d thought that I would need to shape the seams at the top, but the stretch + zero ease + angles actually worked out just fine. The skirt is a long, narrow A-line, but it stretches around my bottom a little and looks like a slight mermaid cut.

I trimmed the bottom of the skirt and lining to give them a proper curve. I wanted the outside to be a little longer so the lining wouldn’t show. Because the outside and lining were cut exactly the same but the outside stretched in length a little, I was able to trim the same amount off of the bottom of both layers and still have the lining hidden. Slick!

It turned out better looking -and with a lot less effort – than I expected: win! I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the fabric (especially the lining) is more comfortable than I anticipated, though the fact that it’s synthetic makes it a little more sweat-inducing than I like, but it’s a small price to pay. It’s super comfy and allows a surprising range of motion considering how narrow it looks. When I was making it, I thought I’d wear it for 2-3 performances a year. Now I like it so much that I’ll be looking for excuses to wear it as “real clothes”. Quick, someone invite me to a wedding!

Ordinarily, I agonize when making clothes, and yet this project went smoothly and never got stalled. What gives?

  • Knits are so much more forgiving than wovens. It would take a major screw-up before this project was going to feel uncomfortable.
  • It was meant as a costume. It just has to look good in short bursts.
  • Skirts are easier than pants. The only section of this skirt that affects comfort is the top – from waistline to hip (widest part). Below that, comfort isn’t an issue – it’s just drape.
  • Oddly, I have a lot more experience making costumes out of geometric shapes than making real clothes using commercial patterns. My plan was to put this together on the basic lines and then fit the skirt more carefully by taking in the existing seams (the way I made my Viking apron dress). But when I tried it on, it was good enough as is and I didn’t see the need for any tweaks.
  • I started with 4m of fabric, 150 cm wide, for which I paid the princely sum of $10. It’s unknown fibre, and I expect it’s 100% synthetic. I like it enough but I don’t love it. It’s not perfect. It looks like speaker fabric mixed with steel wool. It’s the opposite of precious. When I bought it, I had one project in mind that would take about 1.5m and I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest. This turned off the perfectionism and I allowed myself to just use it.

What I learned about myself:

  • My HSP conscientiousness manifests itself with a preference for natural fibres and worry about proper disposal of waste, or, even better, avoiding it altogether. When it comes to sewing, this tends to paralyse me: it’s impossible to sew and be 100% waste-free, especially when trying something new. Rectangular construction, however, is a very low-waste approach, which allows me to relax.
  • Since I have more experience with rectangular construction than commercial patterns, patterns may also overwhelm me because there’s too much that’s new -I’m starting from scratch.
  • My HSP heightened body awareness and need for comfort coupled with my current skill level re fitting make knits an excellent choice – no matter how much I enjoy feeding crisp linen through the machine.
  • My HSP awareness of subtlety gives me a good eye for proportion and details. It may be that I get overwhelmed with the info that wovens provide in a garment (e.g. I see all these drag lines but what do I do about them all?). An eighth of an inch doesn’t matter in knits so I get to use my eye in an artistic way, rather than a scientific way. Refreshing!

navy pleated skirt

Since my last post, I have actually found my sewing mojo again. It was in a pile of low-risk projects, starting with this one.

My one skirt doesn’t ordinarily get a lot of love because it is the coolest (temperature-wise) thing I own and we don’t get that much truly hot weather around here. It got hot for a week or two though, I don’t have air con at home and we didn’t have at work either (though it’s been installed since), so the skirt was seeing a fair amount of use. As the print is rather memorable and I’m not going to wear the same thing all week, much as I may like to, I figured another pleated skirt was in order.

The first version was a complete success – a happy accident, really. I was satisfied with the design, but the fact that the fabric I chose (quilting cotton in the bargain section) had good weight and body for that design was mostly luck.

A couple of months later, I tried a second version using three different fabrics, all quilting cotton, which were leftovers from a full-length skirt I had made for dance. I assembled them in tiers in the same order as the original skirt: plain red for the yoke and much of the bottom, then a red scale pattern, then a larger red pattern with a variety of motifs. This was less successful: I didn’t like all the different patterns in one knee-length skirt, and the seams made the skirt a bit too stiff and it didn’t hang how I wanted it to. Also, I wasn’t expecting to see the structure of the pleats so much, as they had been mostly hidden in the pattern of the first iteration. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it wasn’t what I wanted and I only wore it a couple of times.

For this third skirt, I thought I’d try an experiment with a different fabric to see how it draped, in a basic colour so that it might turn into a wardrobe staple.

I sketched it out on a Saturday and finished it on the following Wednesday morning so I could wear it that day. This is lightning speed, people! Oh, such a treat to have a clue what I’m doing and not have to worry about fit.

The fabric this time is navy linen-cotton from the stash – a rather small amount from a rather large bolt that a friend gave me almost 2 years ago. I had bought a navy linen skirt on sale at the Gap a few years ago but never quite liked it, though I thought a navy skirt was still worth a try.

Navy Gap skirt. Gathered to a yoke, same length front and back, a little longer than knee length. Yoke too long. Looks not-terrible here, but I still don’t think I like it enough to keep it, whether I try to alter it for length or not.

There are three basic pieces: yoke, skirt front and skirt back. I decided to try an inseam pocket this time. I’ve modified the shape of the pocket slightly so that I could get both pieces out of the scrap I had:

Pocket pieces. What’s left is almost all of the waste for this project.

I put the pocket into the right side seam, below the level of the yoke seam, because I didn’t want to contend with crossing that seam.

The yoke is a cylinder with a drawstring at the top, slightly lower at CF. The skirt bottom is a bigger cylinder comprising two selvage-to-selvage panels of the appropriate length (to the knee + a deep hem allowance), pleated onto the yoke. Skirts 1 and 2 were made with fabric that was about 45″/110 cm wide, while this fabric is more like 54″/135 cm. No worries – the design stays the same and the pleats are just a little deeper.

Navy pleated skirt.

I’ve now worn it a few times, and I’ve realised that I don’t quite love it. Some observations:

  • I didn’t notice at first that the fabric is actually kinda scratchy. I’m hoping this softens a bit in the wash, but I’m not holding my breath.
  • The inseam pocket looks good, in that you can’t really see it, but it feels low and it flops around because of the looseness of the skirt and the fact that the pocket doesn’t connect to a horizontal seam at the top. Still, it’s nice to have a pocket for my lipbalm.
  • The colour is dark enough that the structural details of the pleats are not overly visible, although this time I don’t think I’d mind if they were a little more visible.
  • The fabric is noticeably wider and stiffer than what I used before. Not bad, just different. The skirt hangs a little fuller than my first one. However, the fact that it also feels heavier and warmer means that I haven’t been to keen to wear it as hot weather gear, which was kind of the point. We’ll see how it works in the fall.
  • I think I’m pretty much off black, and I was thinking that navy might replace black for me. However, it feels too dark, too saturated, too serious, too conservative. Two of these points surprise me. I don’t recall ever complaining about a colour being too saturated, and I know I’ve said I like certain colours for that precise reason – though they were admittedly lighter than navy. I tend to be a serious person, so you’d think serious clothes would work; maybe I’m less serious than navy, or maybe it just feels too heavy for summer. Also, I still have a lot of black in my wardrobe and I think this runs too close to black to feel sufficiently novel.

stash -1.5m

Noko, who will be 19 in a couple of weeks.