Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Scholarly Skirt

It’s a rather amusing fact, that although I spend most of my time in an academic setting (school), and hang out with academic people all the time, I don’t really care for academics. My own inner academic is a flighty and theoretical person, who gets very excited about picking out classes and purchasing textbooks, but vanishes completely at the first sign of an essay. I am a theater major (hurrah!) who finds history and literature very fascinating indeed, provided I never have to formulate a thesis sentence connected with them.

Be that as it may, this skirt definitely speaks to my secret English major.

skirt

(Corduroy doesn’t photograph well at all, hm. It’s really pretty, believe me!)

It’s something about the color, or the corduroy, or the pleats, or the high waist. I don’t think the pattern itself is inherently collegiate-looking, but maybe the fabric is. Doesn’t it just look like I should be reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the library on a rainy afternoon? Or walking across campus with a bookbag and a blazer with orange leaves falling around me? I could be in one of those college brochures, except no one would ever believe it. (OK, maybe it’s not that over-the-top, but wait until I get my hands on a sweater-vest.)

OK, but as for the actual skirt. They had a bunch of corduroy at JoAnn’s when I was there with my mother, and I wanted to make something I could wear with blouses. I debated navy or forest green, but settled on green because–forest green corduroy! How do you get any better than that?

I picked out Burda 7300 for my skirt pattern (look at me, using a pattern!), not understanding that the little arrow on the diagram means “cut on the bias.” It did initially bother me that all the little lines of corduroy were going to be doing whatever they jolly well pleased and not going up and down, but I got over it. I even bought a lining fabric! (Let’s be real, I spent a lot of money at JoAnn’s, but hey! I can line garments in forest green polyester for years to come! And the skirt is absolutely worth it.) I made view A with the view B waistband and without the tulle . . . or else I made view B shortened and with a lining. You decide.

I cut out all the pieces in a straight 10 as my measurements decreed, and didn’t have to alter anything, which was delightful. Of course I cut out one of the skirt pieces on the wrong side of the fabric since I didn’t pay enough attention to the instructions (the tale of woe is here). Luckily for me, I am about five inches shorter than the person the pattern was intended for, so my only real alteration was to chop an inch or so off the hem, which somehow magically fixed my wrong-side-of-the-fabric problem. I think it also messed up my bias-cut on one of the back pieces, but it’s not like I had enough fabric to cut a whole other skirt panel properly on grain, so I decided it was close enough. 30 degrees, 45 degrees, what’s the difference really, right? Ha.

I also french-seamed the entire thing, which was a poor decision on such bulky fabric with only 5/8th seam allowances. But I love french seams so much, and corduroy ravels super easily. When I did it on the waistband, the interfacing and the corduroy made really thick seams and it was too tight. I don’t like a lot of ease around my waist, but I do like to be able to eat and breathe and move comfortably, so I half-unpicked about four of the seams, trimmed the fabric, and sewed them up again with smaller seam allowances. This gave me plenty of room, in fact, I’m glad I didn’t do it with all of the seams as that would have been too much. In retrospect I suppose I should have bias-bound all my seam allowances instead, but hey. All’s well that ends well, as they say (they also say, platitudes are fun!).

I did bias-bind my center back seam, actually, though to be honest I didn’t know what I was doing and my bias tape was too wide, etc. etc. It’s hidden by the lining, though.

back lining

(Or maybe it’s my lighting that’s terrible . . .)

Please excuse the sloppiness of the zipper. I biked to Mill End to purchase bias tape, an invisible zipper, and a zipper foot, but they only had one zipper foot and when I came home I discovered that it didn’t actually fit my machine, so I had to sew the zipper in by hand. Luckily it was only nine inches. I usually find myself sewing in 20-inch zippers and that is never any fun at all.

skirt back

Something about my hand-sewing abilities resulted in my invisible zipper being visible. Alas. But it’s the same color as my skirt so I can live with it.

Here’s the front of my lining.

front lining

It was super slippery and not fun to sew at all, especially since I couldn’t tell the right and wrong sides apart and kept doing all my french seams backwards and inside out. I was also supposed to hand sew the whole waistband lining in, but I got bored and very slowly machine-stitched about half of it instead. The fabric is some sort of cheap anti-static polyester which will hopefully keep it from clinging to my tights as skirts are wont to do. I have quite a lot of extra too, and four enormous pirate shirts sewn from lining fabric that I can cannibalize, so I think I can happily avoid buying lining fabric for the next sixty projects I do!

Anyway, I like this a lot, and I can see myself wearing it excessively when the weather gets colder. I have a pair of forest green suede Hush Puppies that will definitely come into use a lot more now that this skirt exists. I actually might have to make another version soon-ish, so I won’t wear this one to death, or else maybe make a rule about the number of wearings in a week. We’ll see. I certainly won’t be sewing with corduroy in August again anytime soon! The fact that school starts in a few weeks keeps tricking me into thinking I can start wearing fall clothes again soon (thank goodness, my wardrobe is not geared towards warm-weather dressing), but in fact there is still over a month of summer left! Good news for our upcoming outdoor theater piece, sad news for someone who wants to wear her new corduroy skirt.

Look, a pleat! Isn’t it pretty?

pleat

And some more just because this post isn’t long enough yet . . .

hems

The hems were not miserable to sew, for once. This might mean I’m getting better at it.

yay, skirt

In which I am pleased with my skirt (not so with my bags of paper and fabric scraps in the background, but I’m moving, so my room is chaotic).

OK, this post is definitely long enough to convey my enthusiasm for my new skirt. Now, I have to pack my entire room up by Saturday so I should go work on that, probably.

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A Work in Progress, Disrupted

I’m leaving this evening to go see Henry V at OSF, but I was really excited for my green corduroy Burda skirt, so I decided to just cut it out, and sew it up when I got back, you know, actually taking time and care to do a project like a proper sewist. I cut out the lining, even though it was slippery, and that was all right. Then I laid out the corduroy and began to seriously doubt that I could get all the pieces out of it since the skirt is on the bias. But, I did! Sure the nap is sort of willy-nilly, maybe, but that doesn’t really bother me a lot, especially since the pleats will sort of break it up anyway and it is such small corduroy.

skirt panels

Look how nice they look! Don’t mind the wrinkles, they kind of laid on my bed while I went to the Post Office.

But wait…

oops

When they’re actually laid out like they would be in a skirt, my mistake is revealed. And SUCH a basic mistake! I cut out the same piece twice, instead of reversing it the second time. It’s not even a matter of nap, it’s a matter of paying attention. I even read the instructions, where they specifically told me not to do this. I did it with my brown skirt two months ago. But I can’t just fix this one like that, because it’s a pattern. And I’m going away in a couple of hours, so my mistake is bound to haunt me all weekend. I still can’t come to terms with the notion that I ruined my skirt, maybe if I shortened the hem all around I could get away with a couple of seams in the wrong places? (Probably not.) I guess it’s yet another sign that I’m not giving the directions the proper respect they deserve.

In other news of failure (but less disappointing, this one), I taught myself to put in a lapped zipper last night. Without a zipper foot, even!

IMGP0281

OK, so it’s an enormous lap, but I have the basic concept down.

zipper skirt

Useful skill aside, the finished project was not something I’d want to wear, so I ripped out the zipper and cut up the skirt, which never fit me very well anyway. I guess my closet is smaller by one garment, then, thank goodness (I am running out of hangers). It would make a nice spot for my new skirt if I can ever rescue it, and really I have to, because my heart is set on this green corduroy and I would be so sad if I had ruined it forever!

Patterns!

Mother and I went to JoAnn’s today to buy a pattern so that I could make a nice high-waisted skirt (because obviously I need another project). Looking at patterns is so much fun! It’s almost like shopping for clothes, except that you get to make them, too. I returned from the store with these exciting purchases:

pattern

A skirt, which I’m going to make up in A length but with B waistband. (I’m sorry this image is enormous, but I can’t seem to find a smaller one.) It was surprisingly difficult to find a high-waisted full skirt, although there were a few compelling high-waisted pencil skirts and a lot of pretty true-waisted skirts.

pattern

Knickers! I was so excited when I saw this pattern that I bought it despite exercising exceptional restraint and NOT buying any pretty dress patterns or basic simple blouses. I don’t wear pants very often, and I’m okay with that as I am not incredibly comfortable in them. But little knee-length short trousers (are these what Dickens referred to as “smalls”?) are just so charming and Dickensian. I want to make these out of some crisp suiting, and maybe some velveteen, and some plaid (oh plaid!), and some corduroy. (And then I want to buy some tall riding boots that actually fit me.)

Speaking of corduroy, I bought some to make the Burda skirt, in a lovely forest green. I even bought lining, because I am determined to do this thing properly even if it means I don’t have an instantaneous garment, and everything feels more professional if it’s lined.

Last, but not least, I found this Vogue jacket pattern that Mother bought me for my birthday a few years ago:

pattern

Isn’t it pretty? The dress is nice too, although it is certainly not what drew me to the pattern. It is perhaps a bit more complex than I can handle right now, but someday! The back of the pattern envelope claims it is “Easy/Facile,” but it looks like an awful lot of pattern pieces to keep straight.

I feel like I’m developing quite a little pattern stash by now, as I have three or four others at home, and it’s pretty thrilling. I want to get more, and make them all! Of course, I still have to learn how to make them fit me…

Some garments that are kicking around in the back of my head:
-A yellow blouse with small puffed sleeves, a peter pan collar, and flower-shaped shell buttons (I love yellow, I really do)
-A royal blue wool circle skirt, knee-length, for winter
And a million and one other things, slightly less clearly pictured. School starts soon, though, and I don’t expect I’ll have a lot of time to sew. It is very sad indeed.

Oh, and I am considering buying another sewing machine. I adore my little Singer Featherweight, absolutely adore it, but I would really like something that at least does zigzag and has a zipper foot. Or, I may just invest in a pair of nice pinking shears and persist in my somewhat impractical sentimentality, because why do something easily when you could do it vintage-ly?

Home Again, Home Again

Well!

It is good to be back, I must say, though my room is half-packed and my sewing machine is in a box! Obviously I’m going to take it out of the box, but I spent yesterday (my first full day home) trying to figure out what to sew next. I’ve used up all my fabric, for better or worse, except for the lawn that I’m saving for something special (I’m not sure what, yet–better sewing skills I expect!). I went to Goodwill in search of cute sheets I could make clothing out of, but didn’t find anything, so I went to Mill End to buy a seamripper. And oh! My! what a glorious store! I am fairly budget-minded at the moment, but I think even if I had an enormous fabric budget, I wouldn’t know where to start in that store! I spent a very long time wandering about ogling the silks and the light summery cottons and the 25%-off linens (ohhh linen) and the forest green velvet at thirty dollars a yard, and walked out with an itty-bitty seamripper, a pack of blue bias tape, and a resolve to never ever go back without a clear project in mind and someone to drag me out after half an hour.

My lack of fabric has inspired me to focus on mending and altering what is already in my closet. Coming back from three weeks with nothing but a suitcase full of work skirts and t-shirts and seeing my closet bursting with beautiful clothes also made me realize that, while there are definitely things that my wardrobe is lacking, I can’t really justify creating a new item a week when I already don’t wear everything that I have. But nor can I bring myself to get rid of a glorious vintage dress if it fits well and looks good. So all I can do is make what alterations are necessary to make everything wearable and make an effort to not wear the same skirts and dresses every day. I will of course keep sewing things, but I’d like to get everything I have in good condition first.

The result of this decision is a very large and exciting mending/alterations pile.

mending pile

Exciting to wear, anyway. I can’t say the prospect of hemming and sewing on hook-and-eyes is very exciting, but it will prolong the lives of these lovely garments (and some ordinary ones), so that’s all right.

The pile of shiny off-white things at the end are some Shakespeare/pirate shirts created for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a couple of years ago now (wow!) We were on a budget then and whipped them up with no great care from a bolt of some sort of slippery lining material we found in the theater loft. Eight of them. I gave a couple of them away, but somehow I still managed to find four packed away in a box of costume stuff, and I know I have at least two in storage on campus. I can’t get rid of them, because they keep coming in handy for costumes, but I can’t bear to look at the raw edges and loose threads. My only alternative is to fix them all myself, but there are six of them all told and the fabric is miserable to work with, which is why they look like that in the first place! I am tempted to go back to Goodwill, buy a number of cheap white sheets, and make new, better pirate shirts–but then what do I do with the old ones? And so I do nothing. Maybe eventually I will give so many of them away that I won’t have any more and I can start fresh.

I have accumulated so many costume pieces in the hopes that they will be useful, and now I find that I can’t get rid of them because they ARE useful. This is either really great (I love costuming) or incredibly frustrating (I have to fit so many clothes into my dorm room!). Or both! Clothes. I love playing with them, but I hate having to cart them around.

On a sadder note, the blue silk chiffon vintage evening dress that I have hoped to restore for years is pretty much hopeless. I overcasted most of the lining seams, so it’s a little less fragile than it was, but when I took it to the dry-cleaner’s she informed me that there was nothing she could do for it, and dry-cleaning it would only make the stains darker and possibly further disintegrate the fabric. So I guess I can still wear it, but it has to be in a consciously antique, worn-looking manner. Oh, tattered finery. Or stained finery, in this case.

evening gown

I couldn’t get any decent photos of me wearing it, and hanging up it loses all its shape, so you’ll have to make do with a picture of it laying on the floor with the thread and scraps of fabric. Isn’t it lovely? If only it was clean . . .

Now, time to actually try and make a dent in the massive pile of clothes needing attention. Perhaps pictures of the more noteworthy items will appear, or perhaps they’ll wait until I actually wear them in real life. Who knows!