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4/23/10: The Birthday Skirt

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Carianne's Skirt -- Modeled 2

Back in February, my pen pal, Carianne, was telling me how she likes to wear skirts and how her wardrobe was lacking this staple. Since I knew her birthday was coming up in April, I decided to help her out and I did this by simply entering my sewing room.

I first tried to figure out the style she would be comfortable in and because I couldn’t find any skirt pattern out there that matched my vision, I turned roads and started drafting my own.
I learned the basics of pattern drafting last year when I designed a dress for a contest (an experience I should really post about!), so I had all the necessary equipment and knowhow.

The tools I used:

1. A size 12 sloper from String Codes Designs, (a sloper is a basic pattern cut to standard size from a table of standard body measurements. Slopers typically have zero ease and no seam allowances, but in the case of my String Codes’ sloper, a small amount of ease is added).

2. A clear, rotary cutter ruler, (I’ve found this tool to be invaluable when adding seam allowances and measuring straight edges–such as pleats. Any straight, clear ruler would work fine, though)!

3. A French curve, (I have a small curve that was meant to be used in architectural drawings. It takes a little bit more time to draw your curves than the long French curved rules used in pattern drafting, but it still does the job).

4. A seam gauge, (really helps when adding ease).

5. Pattern making paper, (my family mail orders constantly so we have an abundance of packing paper. And this is what I use for the preliminary steps. For the final pattern I like to use Pattern Ease Tracing Paper.

6. Carbon paper, (to help transfer markings such as darts, designer lines, etc.)

7. And finally the ‘cream of the crop’, my go-to-book for pattern drafting. . . Make Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele P. Margolis. I learned practically everything from this book alone. It really has everything you need to make dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, capes, pockets, closures, darts, princess seams, pleats, ruffles, sleeves, cuffs, necklines, etc. There is one thing, however, that I wish this book could cover and that is: how to make your own sloper. I would really like to figure that out so I need to keep on looking for another source.

After I gathered all my tools I began sketching my design. Then I moved onto details and wrote down what features I wanted to include. My finished list included inseam pockets, one large inverted pleat, two dart tucks on either side of pleat, lining, small amount of gathering in the back, and a zipper in the back.

With my design set, I wrote out my game plan.

1. Add ease to sloper
2. Widen waist by 1″
3. Add pleat
4. Lengthen skirt
5. Transform sloper darts into dart tucks and gathering
6. Add seam allowances, making back allowances 1″ instead of 5/8″ to accommodate zipper.

That was the initial game plan but it changed as I went along. When I made the pattern, I tested it by sewing a muslin.

Carianne's Skirt -- Muslin

When I had the muslin finished I realized that my idea of having two dart tucks on either side of the pleat did not do the style justice. Just way too much draping in the wrong area! So I decided on having one dart tuck and one narrow dart on either side–and it worked.

So I altered the skirt pattern I made and went through my stash of commercial patterns, looking for a simple skirt lining as well as a pocket. Since I look over my sewing patterns so often, I found them in five minutes flat!

It was around this time that I started to excessively worry about this skirt fitting her just right. I only had an inkling of her measurements so I began to think of ways to accommodate for any future fitting problems. My first idea was to add two short strips of elastic to the back waistband. But I wasn’t sure exactly how to do this and because of this lack of knowledge, I made the goof of not altering the lining! I changed the skirt pattern for the elastic insertion, but not the lining! Duh! Couldn’t believe I forgot to do that. It goes to show that it REALLY helps to have a game plan and to sit down for awhile to think things over. Live and learn.

That still didn’t solve my fitting fear. So in the end I made the finished skirt waist measurement on the higher end of a size 12 (33″ to be exact), and planned on adding belt loops and a belt. Here were my final pattern pieces:

Carianne's Skirt -- Pattern for Front

Carianne's Skirt -- Pattern for Back

Carianne's Skirt -- Waistband Pattern Piece

Carianne's Skirt -- Pocket

I finally had my pattern in order and it was time to choose my fabric. I wanted to use some fabric I had already and I wanted it in a neutral. This 100% cotton in charcoal gray was perfect:

Carianne's Skirt -- Fashion Fabric

And I chose a lighter gray for the waistband:

Carianne's Skirt -- Waistband Fabric

And a polyester for the lining:

Carianne's Skirt -- Lining Piece

With my fabric and pattern pieces in hand, I began to cut out the garment. I first started on sewing and pressing the pleats, then I moved onto the darts and dart tucks.

Carianne's Skirt -- Front Pleat and Tucks

As you can see from the photo above, the pleat does not release its fullness until five inches below the waist edge. This allowed me to remove the excess fabric above. The pencil in the photo below shows where I made my cutting line.

Carianne's Skirt -- Excess Pleat Removal

I then inserted the zipper in the back.
Carianne's Skirt -- Zipper on Inside

Carianne's Skirt -- Zipper

After which, I sewed the pockets to the side seams.

Carianne's Skirt -- Skirt Before Last Seam Sewn

Then sewed the seams, forming the pockets.

Carianne's Skirt -- Pocket Closeup

I sewed long easing stitches along the waist edge and inserted the waist into the waistband. I then added the belt loops and belt.

Carianne's Skirt -- Belt Loops

Carianne's Skirt -- Belt

And lastly, the closure above the zipper.

Carianne's Skirt -- Closure

And voila! The finished skirt. . .

Carianne's Skirt -- Finished Skirt Front View

Carianne's Skirt -- Finished Skirt Back View

Carianne's Skirt -- Modeled

Carianne's Skirt -- Modeled 2

So Carianne opened her birthday gift and was “flabbergasted” by finding a skirt made by me. And I am very happy to report that the skirt fits her perfectly. Whew!

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