I’ve had so many interesting comments on my post about focusing on building a cool and cold weather wardrobe over the next year! A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks that’s really helped me feel good about my plans, although part of me suspects that I’m so excited about it, it won’t actually take an entire year to build a 3 season wardrobe. So even if it ends up that in 6 months time I feel awesome about what I have to keep me warm when it’s nasty out, I’ll be perfectly happy with that, too!
And what, you ask, are those “feel good” things? Well a couple of serendipitous finds both vintage and repro, some light bulb moment wardrobe ideas and knitting plans, and happening on a new instant LOVE sewing pattern. That’s where today’s post comes in!
Last autumn is when I started ditching wide-legged trousers for slim ones, and I haven’t looked back (Jane recently came to the same conclusion!). This autumn, it’s going to be all about the pencil skirt. Well not all, but a lot about it. It’s a style I used to sport pretty frequently several years ago, and then it just kind of fell out of my wardrobe for no real that I can recall whatsoever. I just knew they were no longer one of my “things”. But why the hell not? They’re fantastic, if the fit is good they make you feel great, and they’re the perfect skirt to sew for cool and cold weather as they’re well suited for fabrics like wool and corduroy.
At the time I was looking for a basic pencil skirt pattern, I wanted kind of instant gratification instead of looking for a vintage pattern, so I was debating between the Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt and the By Hand London Charlotte. But I kind of wanted something in-between: a waistband (Charlotte had this), and a back vent or pleat of some kind (Ultimate Pencil Skirt had this), plus a flared hemline to accommodate the pegged skirt shape (Ultimate Pencil Skirt had this too). Two out of three, and so it was decided. I’ve since looked at vintage pencil skirt patterns for extra bits like pocket details and an inverted kick pleat to jazz future ones up a bit.
By the way, a good fit for a pencil skirt can be hard to find, but when it’s good, it’s good. I recall many that made me look like I was wearing a potato sack. This one? Nope. No potatoes here.
I did a muslin for two reasons: to check the fit, and to figure out where to add a waistband. To my utter surprise, the muslin fit me literally straight out of the envelope. No bumps, no lumps, no excess pooling, no nothing. Pencil skirt fate!
Now I often have fitting issues in the hip area of patterns. I thought for awhile I had larger hips proportionally, but it turns out I really don’t, and I’ve learned this over time in part as I often find myself shaving off weird little bumpy bits from the side seams of my bottoms and also sometimes adding room for a full butt, too. Understanding your body and how it relates to sewing and fitting is a constant learning process!
I did make one very minor change but it’s worth mentioning due to good advice it came with. I trimmed the length 1/2″. I wanted a pretty 1950s length (which is to say, a bit on the long side), and since I’m short, that meant only taking a bit of length off. So here’s the advice part: awhile back I’d emailed the ladies at Sew Over It about the length since I thought (before I had the pattern) I’d need to hack off a good bit like I often do, and Lisa Comfort suggested I take length from the lengthen/shorten line but also from within the kick pleat/vent at the back, so I didn’t raise the vent so much I’d risk flashing people. Great tip! Even though I only took off 1/2″, I still followed that word of advice and did 1/4″ at the line and a further 1/4″ about halfway down the pleat.
Onto the other reason I did a muslin, adding a waistband, which I just prefer on my skirts to faced waistbands which the pattern has. And since I’m short-waisted, anything above my natural waist is just ridiculous looking on me and doesn’t lengthen my legs, but shortens my upper body. So the higher-than-waistline was just not going to work for me.
The natural waistline isn’t marked on the pattern, but the waist is shaped with double ended darts, so I kind of assumed it was at the widest point of the darts. Since I wasn’t positive, on my muslin, I drew a line at that point so when it was on my body, I could see if that line really was hitting at my natural waist. And it was indeed!
The way I transferred this to the pattern was just to cut the pattern pieces off at this point, front and back, making sure everything along the side seam still would line up from the hem to the top. This took just a little bit of finagling, since the widest part of the front and back darts weren’t exactly in the same spot.
The seam allowance for an added waistband takes that new waist line down 5/8″, so I figured that would position the waistband in a good spot on my body. And if I needed to lower it slightly next time I could. As it happens though it felt just right, so no changes next time for me.
The fabric was a nice relatively thick stretch corduroy, and it seemed perfect for fall. I initially thought it was leftover from a pair of Smooth Sailing trousers I made a few years ago (I much later decided they were pretty hideous and did me no favors so I got rid of them), and was totally confused when I was read my own comment about the diagonal nature of the corduroy wales, when this fabric didn’t have that! Duh. Different fabric. This was one I got from Denver Fabrics some time back. It was described as “cordless cord” but really, there are minuscule wales if you look super close (way smaller than any pinwale/pincord/needlecord I’ve seen), so it’s basically just a cotton velveteen.
The color is weird because it seems like it can’t decide if it’s gray or brown, so I’m hoping that means it’ll easily worth with both, which is just what I need this season. I guess you’d call it taupe? Paired with my fall-colored blouse and soft gold shoes, I felt it read more brown in this outfit, but Mel still thought it read gray. I’m guessing that means I’m indeed right and this skirt really will work well with both!
Corduroy is one of those fabrics I love to wear but don’t necessarily love to sew as you have to treat it a bit delicately. Not actually in the sewing, but in the pressing. Lots of finger pressing and steam and patience! But corduroy is worth it, I’ve learned over the years. For awhile, each time I’d sew with corduroy I’d swear off doing it ever again, but I’ve definitely grown as a sewist as that’s no longer the case. 🙂
When it came to a lining, I really waffled. Lining or no lining? It’s a stretch fabric, so would a woven lining defeat the purpose of the stretch? Not that I was going for stretch per se, just trying to use up fabric in my stash. Some vintage resources recommended lining an A-line or pencil skirt to prevent the rear end from bagging out which seemed like a really good idea for stretch corduroy. In fact, at the time I was working on this I happened on the use of only a half lining in the back. This was new to me! I read about it about the same time I bought a vintage skirt that had this feature, and then bought a vintage pencil skirt pattern with just a half back lining. And I’m trying it out on my next version of the Ultimate Pencil Skirt, so I’ll report more on that when I share that one!
(Momentary grumble here that I can’t get skirts on my dress form when the zipper is in, grrrr! So you’ll have to make do with inside shots on the floor of my sewing area.)
In the end I decided to do a half lining in rayon bemberg, and stopped it just above the top of the vent, which you can see above. I added about 1/4″ of ease around the hips for movement, which I think is especially helpful since my fabric is stretchy and my lining isn’t. To keep the lining in place when I get undressed, I made little hidden thread chains towards the lining hem to attach the lining and skirt seams. (By the way, the best tutorial I’ve found for these is Jen’s video from the Cascade Duffle Coat sew-along, way easy and quick.) I hope I don’t later regret not doing a full lining when it comes time to wear this with tights… only time will tell if it creeps up my legs.
You can see I used some leftover fabric from my Cliffs of Insanity dress as the waistband facing. My absolutely favorite waistband for stretch fabrics is a two piece, with the facing made from medium-weight cotton interfaced with fusible tricot/knit interfacing, and under stitched at the top end to keep things tidy. It always gives me a giggle when I use a fun print like this! But I’ve been thinking lately I’d like to get several polka dot prints in different colors for fun matchy matchy facings.
So, the first piece of my 3 season wardrobe challenge is complete! And I have a new favorite pattern, which is quite a treat when it’s for the very item I already envisioned myself wanting to make a slew of! And I’m already nearly finished with my second as I’m trying to bang out a few things before a big exciting holiday that’s just around the corner.
But wait wait, before I wrap up today, you might be asking yourself what’s that blouse and did I make it?? I did make it, so don’t worry, I didn’t forget about it! I’ll tell you more about that one later in the week. It’s a great blouse but I went through some sewing rage with it, and so it deserves a post of its own.
Stay tuned for more! 😉
Ultimate Pencil Skirt – made by me
blouse – made by me (more soon on that!)
Bakelite earrings – misc.
lucite bangle – local antique shop
gold wedges – Remix