Pencil Skirt with Fish Tail

1 fishtail1 3 fishtailFor Christmas my husband gave me Winifred Aldrich’s ‘Metric Pattern Cutting For Women’s Wear’.  (Fantastic!  How did he know?!)  I made the ‘Natural Waist’ Basic Skirt Block from Part One: Form Cutting.  The fit is really good.  The only adjustment needed was not to curve out 0.5cm from waist to hip but to keep the line almost straight.  Also I narrowed the side-to-hem by 3.5cm rather than the 2.5cm  suggested for the pencil skirt adjustment.  2 close up

But a skirt this narrow has to give, or else there’d be hobbling, which is why there’s interesting stuff at the back…  I transferred the outer of the two back darts to a diagonal line on the centre back seam in a process outlined a year ago (the Simple Dart Throw post).  I cut away a section and inserted a fish tail which is made up of a quarter-circle shape folded twice, concertina style.  It took a bit of playing around to get the half-decent result I’d hoped for (ok, so there was a bit of bodging!). 1 pattern-horz

Next time I’ll do the sewing in a different order, with the dart done last,  the side seam first and the horizontal seam second at which point the two back pieces are joined at the centre back.

Drape and Hem Considerations1 side fish

I need to give some thought to materials.  For this first draft, I used some wool from the stash.  I’d love to redo this in chambray – or anything you may suggest tha would mean the folds fall nicely.  But what about the hem?  A pencil skirt looks best with a deep hem allowance, yet the fishtail extension needs a very small seam allowance (here I kind of graded from 2cm to 1cm as you can see below in the inside out picture).

Or, can you see this in a combination of fabric?!  Denim and jersey or something that doesn’t need hemming?  I wonder if it’d matter that both the wrong and the right sides of the fabric show in the folds.  Let me know what you’d do.

1 inside out

Sun-snatching

What a treat to have a bit of sunshine these last few days (even if it’s cold), not least because the colours in everything stand out.  I think I’m being ‘courted’ by some robins because every time I approach the back windows, two or three appear on the fences, puffing out their russety chests!

I took these pictures after a quick run in the sun (and shower) so excuse the ratty hair.  Because this skirt definitely deserves dedicated styling to pull off a femme fatale look.  Which I’m not sure is my thing, but imagine pairing this with seamed stockings and killer heels.  You’d be known by the trail of dead!  1.2

Loopy Dress

1 loopy loops1 Measurements BackMy newest client, who got in touch via this blog, lives on the other side of the world so I’ll never even see her 😥 She asked for a copy of a dress I made for myself that I blogged a while back.  We exchanged a few emails to get an idea of how this would work, discussing fabrics, a deadline, payment and measurements – but mostly measurements.  I sent a couple of pictures like this one.

Then off I went.

The main worry was making the dress too small.  The black fabric I picked has the tiniest amount of stretch and I used the Winifred Aldrich close-fitting dress block (which, as you may know, isn’t all that close-fitting) to design a sloper on which to base the dress pattern.

Making the inside of the garment nicely finished is very important to me, even more so when sewing for a client who might only have RTW garments to compare to, but on this occasion I abandoned my usual French seams.  The dress will probably have to be adjusted by the client and while contour darts can quickly be narrowed or widened, letting out a French seam can be a bit of a nightmare.  Not only are there two stitching lines to unpick, but the inner seam is likely to be closely trimmed.

1 inside outInstead, I left the seam allowances untrimmed (in case there are places where the garment needs to be made bigger) and bound them Hong Kong style.  The white binding is consistent with the colour scheme of the dress: can you guess what it is yet?!

1 scrap practice

Samples

The dress has a ‘loop and button’ closure but not of the delicate, bridal variety (this is meant to be a utalitarian garment).  I’ve only done loops once before so thought I might do some desk research to enable me to do it as professionally as possible.  The buttons on the left side are placed exactly at the centre front, as for a shirt with buttonholes, but the loop side edge therefore has to move back and it’s really the loops that are placed at the centre front of the right side.  But which part of the loop is the exact middle?  The  outer edge?  The hole?   And as for the rouleau strips: how long to make them in relation to the button size?

Well, maybe there’s a magic formula somewhere but I realised I’d have to make some samples and take measurements from those that worked!

I did pick up one helpful tip (from here, as usual) for sewing loops.  Use sticky tape when aligning the strips with the raw edge of the garment as there’s less movement than if using pins or tacks.

1 raw edges together

Place loop strips at tailor tacks, raw edges aligned, stitching facing up, and affix with narrow strips of tape

Trim away SAs and remove tailor tacks

Oh, and place the stitched side of the strips up so when the sewing is done and flipped over, the stitching doesn’t show.

No need to peel off all those bits of tape: this whole section will get cut away.

It was hard to ‘let go’ and put the dress in the post.  I guess I feel it’s not quite ready as I haven’t seen it on the client.  And I no longer have control, if that makes sense.  But we posed for a photo together, the dress and I, with the ever-present Blogstalker looking on.

1t blogstalker is so silly

Polly Jean

New glad rags needed!  My daughter is going to quite a few parties this month (oh, to be invited to so many parties….) so I wanted to make her a couple dresses which she’ll wear with her usual happy aplomb and which will enable me to try out some design ideas I’ve been curious about for a while.  

In making this flower-printed dress, I was after a self-tutorial in the making of Leg of Mutton sleeves.  Now, some of my favourite sewing bloggers are doubtful, snickering even, of LoM ever coming back into fashion –  which might be a relief if your shoulders tend towards the broad.  But I’ve grown to love this look on PJ Harvey

As surprising in her costumes as she is in her music, for the last few years Polly Jean has worn long, narrow dresses winged starkly by Leg of Mutton sleeves and I’m quite admiring of how this transforms her slender silhoutte into one that’s aloof and  imposing.  

My version of the sleeve didn’t turn out quite so dramatic so no definitive recipe for Leg of Mutton yet, but here’s what I did to the sleeve block to get this high, slightly cupped version.  

Firstly, I made the dress block and the sleeve block by following Winifred Aldrich’s instructions in “Metric Pattern Cutting”.  I cut the sleeve block into two: the Upper Sleeve to cover the shoulder and the bicep, and the Lower Sleeve to stay in its original narrow form. 

The Upper Sleeve is the grey area in this image. 

This I slashed and spread to add 4cm of extra width to the original width of 21cm (I could have been more generous!).  I added 0.5cm to the top of the sleeve (marked “added fullness” in the picture) before adding the sleeve allowances. 

The other design idea I wanted to try is to add a scalloped line in a contrasting fabric on the dress front and back.  I tried to cut a pattern with a scalloped edge to join to another of the same but the result was rubbish.  In the end  I had two identical pieces of the blue satin sewn right sides together and the seam allowances clipped very close to the seam line.  This was turned, pressed, then topstitched onto the bodice which looks ok but is rather bulky and a bit trying on the zip in the back. If I were to attempt this again, I’d use appliqué instead.  I’d love to hear from anyone who’s had more success with scallops (do forgive another culinary pun).