Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Crafting: Finished Object (Something that Wasn't on the Agenda)

Behold the outcome of a little bit of pattern upsizing:

NL 6843 - TNT denim straight mini skirt. It's my go-to for work and play. Note that my version doesn't have a button waistband, I just use a hook and eye above the zipper. That's what comes of not reading the instructions. (And, I prefer it.)
What I should mention - and I'm really trying to figure out how this is possible - is that when I started to alter the original pattern pieces, I observed that it was a bit too small, on paper, in a variety of small (but meaningful) ways.

You may be thinking: Kristin, honey, that's the power of revisiting a pattern with a tape measure.

Trust me, I get that. I'm the fit-obsessed lady living in this body. One thing you can say about me: I don't wear blinders.

The thing is, I wear the skirt I made with the original pattern all the time - and it fits well (except for the now-altered lower abdomen area). Admittedly, fabric properties weigh into the equation. But the fabric I used was a stable denim with about 10 per cent stretch - same general stretch amount as the (rayon) denim I used to make the new version. I do recall serging the side seams on the last version because I had very little seam allowance left for those seams, once I'd inserted the zip. And the version I made yesterday now has healthy 0.5" side seams. So that does account for much of it, I suppose.

What did I do to alter the TNT?
  • Added a tapered 1 inch (0.25" over 4 seams) to accommodate the need for more space in the lower abdominal zone
  • Made the darts narrower (over 6 darts, this gave me about an inch of extra circumference in the waist)
  • Added 0.25" along back seam (to accommodate zipper width and to give a bit of extra room in the derriere)
I should say, it's also quite short. I'm fine with that (I like a nice mini) but for work purposes, and to suit my style, I had very little room to hem. I should add a buffer inch onto the bottom of the skirt for next time. This thing would look quite chic just above the knee made in denim or a more formal fabric.

About working with the rayon denim: You know I love this fabric. I've never gone back (online, no less) and bought 3 batches of the identical fabric before or since. But the rayon denim is more rayon than denim. That's what gives it the silky drape. It also makes it very tricky to sew in darts and - apparently - regular zippers (which this pattern calls for). Even after interfacing, I ended up having to use an invisible zip. The regular zip would not insert without producing wavy fabric between the zipper opening and the seam to hold the zip in place. Intriguingly, this fabric is not tricky to sew on the width (where you might imagine the stretch properties would make it so) but on the length.

About my new way of inserting a "bulk free" waistband: I like to think I made this up, need being the mother of invention and all. Of course, I'm pretty sure I just came up with it for myself (what with the world of sewists being very large and smart).

For starters, can we take a moment to admire how prettily finished this thing is:

Yeah, I know the zipper's not gorgeous (I didn't have one in the right colour), but the fabric was tricky, as mentioned, and there's no lining to fancy it up. (Note: From a wearability perspective, I hate lined garments, most of the time.)

OK, here's what I do:
  • I remind myself that I'm making a waistband and not a facing. Because the very first problem I ever encountered in sewing continues to dog me. I don't know why I cannot keep the construction of these two different waist finishing methods separate???!
  • I make the waistband 5 inches longer in circumference than required. I like to have extra room to maneuver.
  • Let's assume I want a waistband of 1 inch depth. I ensure that the waistband is @2.25" deep.
  • I like working with a 0.25" seam allowance at the waist. If you prefer more, make the waistband deeper, i.e., @2.5". 
  • I interface the waistband pieces and serge the LONG edge that will NOT be attached at the waist. Finishing this edge is key - you could overlock on a machine.
  • I pin the waistband onto the skirt, determine how much fabric I need to cut off so that, with a turned under edge, the fabric will meet the edge of the invisible zip. 
  • Then I unpin, cut off the waistband "extra", turn under the short raw edges (these will abut the zipper teeth), and press. Now I know the waistband will fit my skirt, made in the fabric of the day (with all of its properties), perfectly.
  • I chalk the 0.25" seam allowance. This is one of the only times I bother to do this, when sewing. But there's method...
  • I fold the serged edge of the waistband to meet the chalked line that denotes the seam allowance-to-be. I make sure that the serged edge is placed ever so slightly over the chalked line (vaguely eating into the seam allowance-to-be). Not even 1/8", just a smidge.
  • I press the waistband. Now my waistband is about 1" deep. I repin it to the skirt to prepare it for sewing.
  • I go to the machine and stitch the waistband to the skirt with 0.25" seam allowance. I just follow the chalked line.
  • I then press the seam up towards the waistband fold. I repress the waistband and, from the wrong side, I pin the serged edge of the waistband down onto the skirt ensuring that the serged edge just covers the stitching line that attached the skirt to the waistband. The original pressing job should ensure this, but you want to be sure.
  • Then I turn the fabric to the right side and I pin in the ditch of the seam where the waist meets the skirt top. I turn over the fabric to ensure that all of my pins have covered the serged edge of the waistband on the wrong side. That's how I know I will sew it down when I stitch in the ditch from the front of the skirt. I also know, since I've done careful math and pinning, that my ditch seam, on the wrong side, will run through the line of serged stitches and will practically disappear on that wrong side. It produces both a tidy exterior and interior!
  • But best of all, because you don't turn under the wrong side edge (you serge it and leave it flat), it produces a more sleek profile for the abdomen that doesn't need additional bulk.
Here's a photo to prove my point:

And finally, because I really am trying to post more photos of me (since I know worn garments show things "relevantly"):

I guess this is a selfie, albeit a headless one, since I took the photo through the mirror. I should have moved the yoga props first but, live and learn.

Today's questions: Whatcha think of the skirt? Do you know about my waistband technique? Have you used it with success in the past? What's your TNT dress up/dress down handmade skirt? Let's talk!


  1. I'll be coming back to this post, because I *always* have trouble figuring out waistbands! Your skirt looks lovely inside and out!

    1. I'm really glad I'm not the only one. And, um, it's not like I don't make one or the other every time I turn around!

  2. Your new skirt looks great! I really like this shorter length; it looks less business-y.

    I use a very similar method for my waistbands. I usually serge like you did, although I keep telling myself I'll make the insides even prettier by applying a contrasting bias binding. But when the time comes, I'm always too lazy and I just serge!

    1. Thanks! I agree - it's less fussy at this length - but not to short to be wearable at work. If you applied a contrast, bias binding - how would you do that? After you stitch in the ditch? Over the interior serged seam?

  3. Mmmm, a denim straight skirt sounds like a great idea. Yours is cute.

  4. this is cute! love the skirt. i have used that waistband technique before, in fact i just made a skirt yesterday and did this very thing! great minds and all... ;-)

    1. And I thought I invented the technique of the future! :-)

  5. Argh! Waistbands are a nemesis of mine! I'm going to use your method of not hiding the serged edge from now on--I always end up with bulky waistbands and then struggle to get snaps hammered in or whatever.

    Anyway, I love the modeled view, I hope you are wearing some red heels, just because. ;-)

    1. Thanks! I have no red heels, but I do wear it with yellow wedges :-)

  6. Love the picture of you wearing your skirt, it's gorgeous. I have made a similar waistband - overlocked on the inside edge - but longer on inside so that it hangs down into the skirt by 1/4". I don't turn it under to avoid bulk, as you mentioned .

    1. Thanks! I used to make the inside longer, as you've mentioned, but I felt that it would be even less bulky with the alignment of the serged edge and the stitching in the ditch.

  7. I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum, I think. I very rarely make things with a waistband - my waist changes size so much throughout the day (up to 4 inches if things are bad!) that stretchy waists are a must for me.
    My TNT fitted skirt is the Magic Pencil Skirt. My TNT flared skirt is an OOP New Look 6461 - it's 8 gores, faced waist (I just make a casing and add elastic), with or without godets, and 2 different lengths - knee length or mid calf.

    1. Interesting! Thank goodness for stretchy waistband.