Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wiggle Skirt (With Photos)

I have so many thoughts about my just-completed skirt (skip to the photos below if the text is of no interest...). This is the third time I've made it, but it's the first time I actually finished the waist properly. When I started sewing, I had a really tough time with facings. I didn't really know what they were, so I interpreted them to be waistbands. With really bad instructions. Ah, inexperience...

At any rate, now I understand facings - though I don't tend to like them. In this skirt they work well.

I used the rest of my Lady Gray coat navy boucle, with a certain amount of natural crosswise stretch. Seriously peeps, how many modern ladies do you know who have a peplum coat with a matching skirt! Got me thinking about the origin of sets. They're an efficient and prudent use of fabric. I'm sure the home sewists of the 50s understood that.

Furthermore, I realized - as I was working with a truly lovely fabric - that the key to constructing garments that seem expensive is to use either very thin-weight fabric, or very thick-weight fabric. The heft of this skirt is SO retro. And it is very attractive around the hips and ass.

While making this, after having muslined it a year ago, and fitting it painstakingly each step of the way when making this version (the third), I realized something about home sewing that doesn't really thrill me. See, in the final analysis, despite everything, the waist is too big in this fabric. Partly, that's because of how the stretch worked unknowably with the facings. Partly the crosswise stretch really took on a life of its own. My hips are slightly slimmer than my dressform's, and my butt has actual flexibility in its shape, so I can actually lower the high waist to sit more at the low waist and it's alright. On the form, it just looks weird (and I even pinned the back in the top shot to make it seem more fitted).

My great realization? Well, if I'd found this rather nicely constructed, practical but elegant skirt in a store, I'd have tried on one size down. Maybe it would have fit, maybe not, but I'd have had that alternative. Here, I've spent hours to craft something that is really well-made (if I do say so myself), despite its flaws which I won't go into, and it doesn't fit perfectly. My only recourse - which, in real life I don't have because this fabric is long gone - would be to make the exact same skirt again, knowing what I know of the fabric ease now. That's neither practical, cost-effective nor enjoyable, as it happens. (Note: I do realize I could undo the waist facing, get rid of the lining and basically reconstruct this actual skirt, but that is NOT my thing. I can't get up any interest in doing that.)

Some Extra-Instructional Techniques:
  • One thing I did, and would recommend this for all skirts of heavy weight, is to open the darts and press the to each side, to diminish waist bulk. Fortunately this fabric doesn't fray, so that was fairly easy. And the lining covers the evidence.
  • I also shortened the lining above the back vent, and left it untacked (free), It acts like a slip.
  • I haven't actually hemmed this yet, but I will wear it as-is because I serged the bottom and it is totally invisible (or, when pointed out, looks like an interesting design element). I like the length - 1.5 inches below the knee - and I want to work with it for starters. If I decide to hem, it will be as easy as removing a couple of tacks from the bottom of each side of the vent (sewed in to keep the vent from flopping). Note that this length is not universally flattering but, if one is hour-glass shaped, it can elongate the frame. It tends to work with slender calves best. And boots or heels.
  • I used my serger extensively on this project. Y'all know I love that machine and do not begrudge for one minute having spent an exorbitant amount of money on it. It created a very neat finish.
  • The bemberg was in rough shape by the end of it. I stained it, I had to unpick the centre back seam and there are little holes left behind. There's a long line of damaged weave in the centre of the back. Admittedly, it was there in the beginning and I knew about it. If anyone can recommend a lining that's easier to work with, and nicer, I'd love to know. I don't really enjoy bemberg, despite hearing of all of its virtues.
  • In retrospect, I don't much like lining. I'd probably make this without lining the next time, and wear a slip.
Now onto the pics:

Waist is pinned at the back here (shhh...)

This photo is badly over-exposed but it does show the boucle and the line of the skirt and the unhemmed bottom. I said I wouldn't point out flaws but the zipper is not fab. The fabric really bunched on one side, despite all of my efforts to avoid that. It's in the nature of thick fabric.

The lining is gathered at the top, not darted. And is actually done evenly on both sides though this photo doesn't show that...

You can see the fabric flaw running through the lining. Somehow, I don't care.

I'm quite happy with the way the lining was stitched to the zip. I hate the look of this kind of hand stitching but it's not likely to rip off - as have some of my other experiments.

So, what do you think?


  1. Looking good, make sure you post some photos wearing it.

    And I do understand what you mean about fabric changing when sewing. For my Sencha the muslin fit fine but when I finished it on my fashion fabric it stretched and doesn't look so good. The trick might be a lot of basting and fiting whilst sewing, if patience is present.

  2. I'm never happier than when I'm sewing with wool. It's just so lovely to work with and wear, I sometimes feel like it reads your mind while you sew it and conforms just to suit those hopes.

    This is classic and lovely, and I really like the modern twist of the exposed zipper.

    I just finished a pencil skirt too, that I have to photo to lure more people into my class this Wednesday. Mine is terrifically gaudy compared to your understated tailoring. Yours is all high tea or cocktails at the Algonquin where the speed of mine is strictly drag race.

  3. I like it! I was going to compliment your excellent zipper installation then read you're not happy with it. I don't see the bunching you're talking about.

    For lining, Martin likes real silk but I've not yet tried using silk myself.

    I know what you mean about not having the alternative to try again if the fashion fabric doesn't fit as expected based on the muslin. So disappointing.

  4. I hear you on having a perfect garment where the fit isn't quite perfect. It's kind of maddening, but this is why sewists end up with TNT patterns-- once you get one to fit, you know it will work the next time around. Also, one of the reasons I tend to prefer flared or full skirt patterns is because I can get a better fit in the waist. The skirt looks cute in any case!

    I have never lined anything because I hate lining so much. However, I have some wool that will become a skirt this winter and I'm going to have to line it. Yippee.

  5. Looks pretty good to me. You are the only one seeing that lining so if the flaw doesn't bother you, I think that's just fine.

  6. I think the skirt looks fab.

    I have a real problem with waistlines and stretching. My tnt pants have a faced waist which sits about 1 1/2" below my waist. I find it more comfortable than a waistband. Because of where it sits I need it as firm as possible. As soon as I'm done cutting out I use fusible stay tape along the seam line of the pants waist using the pattern to line everything up so I know it hasn't stretched. I then do the facings using armo-weft interfacing, again shaping with the pattern piece. That assures me I haven't stretched out the waist before I start. Because they're pants and I want a firm waist this seems to work for me. This combination also limits the stretching that occurs when I wear them. Otherwise I feel like I'm hiking my pants up all day!

  7. Boy, I hear you on waist stretching. I have had to figure out that 1. I should make the waist with no ease (because there seams to always be some stretching), 2. I should try to control stretching (I usually interface, but whatever) and 3. really, I should just construct the thing so that I can reduce the waist size before I finally close it up. Even with cutting the waist small and interfacing, I seem to ALWAYS need to take the waist in as the last step in construction of a skirt or pants. I've been sewing for a long time and can make clothes that I like, so it's not inexperience. It's just that sewing is HARD! And maybe also, I think, that we are fluffier as we get older, so our flesh is more compressible than we are thinking? I'm 40 and in fine shape, but there you go.

    thanks for sharing!

  8. Lovely skirt! It looks pretty sexy on the dressform. Can't wait to see you in it! Va-va-voom!

  9. Thank you! I'm not that crazy for bemberg either and just didn't get the love. I no longer look for lining-specific fabrics but for what is sturdy, slick and feels good against my skin. I've used blouse weight polys before to good use.

  10. Great job!

    Yes, facings are a pain (a lot of steps for such a small thing), but very necessary. And I usually leave linings free hanging because it's better to allow the skirt to move separately. Sometimes when the shell and linings are attached, there is twisting and pulling when it's on the body.

    PS - Your form has an awfully perky booty!