Saturday, July 30, 2016

Work In Progress: StyleArc Charlie Skirt

I realize, as I'm sewing the Charlie skirt (at a glacial speed), that I still have no idea of how this is going to fit for a whole bunch of reasons:
  • I rarely sew skirts. Moreover, I haven't ever sewn a StyleArc Patterns skirt.
  • I rarely sew with wovens or stretch woven fabrics. Show me a jersey and I'll tell you how to alter the pattern to ensure it'll sew up so it fits. I use wovens for 1 in 10 projects. Maybe. So I don't have much in the way of perceptual memory here.
  • Every stretch woven is a little mystery - How will it drape? How stretchy is it, functionally?
  • To some extent, I'm trying to refine fit (pre-alter) in lieu of having a sense of how the original design would fit. (I find this generally works better than sewing a pattern straight out of the envelope, but it means that there are that many more unknowns during the making of the original muslin.)
It's all the more piquing for miles of top-stitching - this is a denim skirt in spirit if not in construction. Do you know how precisely NEVER I take proud photos of my top-stitching? Um, that's cuz I never do it so I'm not very good at it so I never do it (repeat). Furthermore, it would probably be a good idea to find an edge-stitch foot. Because my machine is vintage (from the 70s), not sure how easy it'll be to find said foot. I'm kind of amazed that I've spent many hours making something the fit of which is still totally unknowable and the visible stitching of which, while better than I've managed in the past, is not exactly approaching perfection.

I'm feeling rather kindly towards myself today. (I know, whack!) So I'm going to be grateful that this is good enough:

I know that these look differently positioned but they're accurately aligned in real life!
Can you believe that this blue rayon denim is the same as the one in the photo below? Weird.

The deep blue of the fabric is actually more accurately shown in the photo above.
Of course, StyleArc isn't taking your money to provide you with decent instruction. Oh no. With this brand you're paying for the RTW-sensibility and generally good drafting. If you don't know how to do something, look it up. I have only once before sewn patch pockets and it was a fucking disaster. This time I went through the following steps, which I made up as I went along (though they're all quite standard, I'm sure).
  • Chalked the patch pockets onto the wrong side of the skirt back pieces. (Who knows if these are the right size or correctly placed to suit my derriere but I can't pre-suppose that everything must be changed or I'd get nowhere.)
  • Pinned the chalk lines so that the shape would be outlined on the right side.
  • Heat fused the facing of the pocket to the wrong side of the fabric to hold it down, prior to stitching.
  • Top stitched the pockets - boringly, but at least it's clean enough. I do not know how peeps manage to top-stitch outrageously complicated curves?!
  • Heat fused the raw edges of the pockets under.
  • Heat fused the clean-edges of the under-turned pockets to the right side of the skirt - the pockets in alignment with the pins.
  • Top stitched the pockets down. Yeah, my needle got pretty gummy from all of the fusible tape I'd used to hold things in place without pins. It was fine though.
Did I mention that I'm not twin-needling? I'm doing each row of stitches independently. I find that twin-needles tend to tunnel as often as they don't and that makes me insane and puts me in a sewing state of persistent agitation. I mean this thing sews slowly but only because of all of the visible stitching. And consider, it takes twice as long to sew each stitch separately than it does to use a double-needle.

Also, didn't realize till half way through that you're not supposed to anchor the ends of top stitched rows by machine back-tacking. Oh well.

I don't have 3/4" elastic. Frankly, I find that width too narrow for everything. Instead I have some firm elastic that's 1 inch wide and some soft elastic that's 1.5 inches wide. I'll use the wider, presuming it'll work...

Oh, and while I'm disclosing the "let's think more about this next time" things, I should have serged, not sewn, the back yokes to the back skirt. Plus, gotta figure out how to serge or pre-finishe the faux-pockets and associated part of the front skirt pieces because those seams are, yeah, safely top-stitched down, but still vaguely frayish on the inside.

I truly hope that the fit is modifiable at the last step - the moment at which one sews the side-seams up (in a really strange way that apparently catches the elastic in the side-seams that might be unsightly or bulky. This is yet another thing I can't bring myself to turn my attention to while sewing a first version.) It's only at the last seam that I'll have a sense of whether the amount of fabric I cut is destined to actually fit my body with tweaks - either increased or decreased side seam allowances... Such suspense! If only this were a reality tv show!

But never mind me - how's your top stitching? Really, are you crazily good at it cuz you were born with great spatial skills (or you have great tools)? Do you get someone else to do it for you (or sew a lot of casual knits)? Do you avoid it cuz you don't have much initial aptitude (that would be me)? Let's talk.


  1. Why not baste the pieces, test the fit, alter, and then sew it properly? With a skirt there aren't many pieces so it won't take too long...
    I use a foot for topstitching. Another method I use sometimes is to position the needle to the right, and stitch using the edge of the.25" foot as a guide. It give a nice .125" edge that I find suitable for topstitching heavy fabric.

    1. That's an extremely intelligent response, Roni! I guess I'm kind of into the adventure of seeing if it works at the last minute (on the basis of the math I've already done). But your idea is infinitely smarter and smacks away the unknown. Now I may have to go that route :-) I do have a foot that has some guidelines so that I can gain perspective (if I have an edge to work from). It's the one I use all the time - not sure what its name is but I should look in my instruction manual.

    2. That's how I fit things....when I remember! It works remarkably well.....
      I topstitch in two separate rows. It takes forever and batters your nerves trying to keep it straight, even with and edge-stitching foot, but it's worth it. I'm not massively fond of twin needles!

  2. I'm not great at topstitching but I find chalk markings help me get around corners accurately enough to be passable. And practice has helped!

    1. I'm glad to hear you say that practice does help. At this stage I feel like I'll never be able to do this with confidence and ability :-) I'm going to chalk mark the faux fly, for sure. I should have chalked the curved seam around the faux pockets...

  3. Considering all of the things I suck at in regards to sewing, topstitching isn't one of them. I am pretty darn good at it. The trick to perfect corners is to mark them until you get a feel for where your presser foot needs to be when you needle down. I've never had an edge stitching foot (I do have a 1/4" foot, but it's more trouble than it's worth IMO), but my Pfaff has little red marks on the foot which work perfectly for 1/8" edgestitching. And while some would say take your time, I think I actually can sew straighter if I sew a bit faster. Less opportunity for my shaky hands to shift something in a noticeable way. Keep at it, it gets easier!

  4. For topstitching I highly recommend an edge stitching foot; a straight stitch foot can also work, as can a zipper foot, but I love having that keel to rely on. If your machine is a low-shank (as most of my 60s and 70s machines have been) it's dead easy to find replacement feet. Good luck!!!

  5. I am the worst. (At topstitching.) Therefore I don't do it, pretty much ever.