30 November 2009

DIY Pattern-making: Pencil Skirt v.1.0

So....you know how I was all psyched about this book (still am) and also about 40's fashions and then we were invited to this party where we were supposed to wear 40's inspired clothes? Well, I decided to make myself a pattern for a pencil skirt and then make myself a skirt out of wool. I know, I know, this was not the EASY way to acquire a pencil skirt. But I'm not necessarily known for taking the easy way.

First I got the Wise and Bearded One to measure my body what seemed like a zillion different ways. I didn't need that many measurements to make the skirt pattern, but I've been married for a couple (13) years now and I know that when I've got the man doing a favor for me, I'd better take full advantage of the moment. Plus, I've now got ALL the measurements for any pattern that I want to try to draft in the future. High waist, natural waist, low waist, I've got it. Wrist to shoulder, I've got it. Thigh circumference, I've got it.

I followed Cal Patch's directions for drafting a skirt pattern. I found the directions clear and easy to follow and suddenly all the patterns I've "read" in the past seem to make so much more sense. I sewed a mock-up "muslin" of my skirt. I made a few adjustments, less dart in the front, more dart in the back, etc. I'm not a skinny girl so these types of adjustments are crucial to get a good fit. When I thought I'd worked out the kinks, I did a final draft of my very own pattern.

And then off I went to Mill End. (A little aside: If you're a Portlander and haven't found Mill End Fabrics, you really need to hunt it down. It's housed in an old factory--an old woolen mill if I have it right. It's full of fabric of all kinds--upholstery, silks, bridal fabrics, quilting cottons, knits and woolens. I think it has more wool than any other shop I've ever been in. Along with the funky, old fabrics, you never know who will be assisting you at the cutting table. Last week I had an elegant, well-preserved woman who told me about the linen dishtowels that she's had for forty years that look just as good as new. Then I had a free lecture from the woman at the register about giving in to the dark and rain of winter and enjoying it as a season to "go inside myself". But, I digress.)

Two hours and thirty dollars later, I had the soft gray-black wool (on sale!), rayon lining, zipper and thread that I needed for my skirt, and I headed home. I spread out my newly drafted pattern on my fabric, and I took a deep breath and cut into the lovely wool.

And then life happened. Not sewing.

In typical Deb fashion, I didn't make it back to the sewing machine until the day of the party. The skirt was still a pile of wool and rayon on the sewing table. But I had faith in myself. It was a simple pattern, and I'd already sewn the muslin. I could do this. I sewed the darts. I sewed the side seams. I sewed the lining to match, and I attached the lining to the skirt.

I was running out of time. I had planned to carefully put a box pleat in the back. It became a slit. I had planned to hand stitch the hem with some hem tape so it would be less bulky. I did a quick and dirty doubled up hem. It WAS a little bulky, BUT I got it done in time!

I wore it to the party. It looked ok. It fit my curves perfectly (better than these photos show) and the wool was so, so sweet to wear. But there was a slight catch. I had decided to skip putting a waistband on the skirt. My muslin had been a pretty tight woven piece of scrap poly-cotton I had laying around and it had held it's shape really well and didn't need a waistband. My wool was a bit stretchier. As the night of the party wore on, what was supposed to be a high-waisted pencil skirt slowly worked its way down to my natural waist, and then it kept creeping on down until it was more like a low-waisted skirt. Doggone it! I guess it really needed that waistband.

And that's why I'm calling it Pencil Skirt v. 1.0. Sometime in the not-too-distant future I want to draft a wide waistband to add to the skirt and then I also want to rework the hem and lining so it's not so thick and bulky.

Overall, I think making my own pattern has been an excellent learning experience and I plan to fix this skirt and then make a second skirt pattern (more A-line) and sew it from some muted plaid wool that I bought at Mill End. And then I want to draft a shirt pattern. And then a simple grey dress. And then a long coat. And then....

(Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Slowly now.)


Nathalie said...

Deb, it's gorgeous! Love the fit, love the fabric, love the tights! Congrats on such success.

adams.holli said...

Wow! What an accomplishment, Deb! Drafting your own pattern, cutting the fabric and sewing it up -- all to be worn to a party! You go girl! I'm impressed. And I love that you learned so much along the way. I'm excited to see what you'll do next.

heather jane said...

Nice work! I have been itching to get to Mill End around here and pick up some wool for myself. I have a pair of slipper shoes in mind for my Christmas morning slippers. we'll see. Either way, I'm very intrigued by this pattern drafting notion. I might just have the patience to draft some of my own if I didn't have it in my head that I will eventually lose this extra 10 pounds I'm wearing.

Cottonista said...

I am so excited for you! It is gorgeous. I'm glad it stayed on. I lost a skirt I made for a brief moment once. ( :

Mary A. Miller said...

Excellent! Looks very nice. I'll admit to laughing out loud at your description of the stretching waist. I too am glad you didn't lose it! :)

Joy said...

So impressive and looks great on you.

♥ Joy

Kelly said...

Ohhh nice! It looks fantastic!!! This book is now at the very very top of my wishlist!