Wednesday, December 15, 2010

McCall's 6163: A diamond in the rough

As I mentioned before, one of the projects I have in the works is a version of McCall's 6163, a faux-wrap dress with raglan sleeves.  From what I understand, there was a certain amount of skepticism about this pattern on PR when it was first released, although I'm not usually very clued into these sorts of things.  You'll get no argument from me about the way the pattern is styled on the envelope: it's terrible!

The strange ruched 3/4 sleeves and tasseled belt leave me entirely cold.  But underneath all that silliness, I maintain that the pattern has "good bones": I love the shape created by the raglan sleeve, deep v, ruched waist, and slim skirt.  View B, without all the silly details, has serious potential.

The only major change I made to my version was to omit the collar.  Knit collars are silly, and to my mind, give the dress a distinctly down-market look.  Leaving off the collar was simple.  I just omitted the collar and band, and re-graded the sleeve front and re-graded the sleeve front and bodice front to create a smooth line.

Here's how my first version turned out--you can read my review on PR here.  I used a great lightweight career knit from Haberman's, and I think the resulting dress is totally classy, flattering, and versatile.  I've worn it a lot, although it's too lightweight for the serious winter weather we're getting right now.  For my second version, I'm using a bolder knit print that I recently scored on sale at Joann's, which I think gives it a slightly more edgy, BCBG-inspired look.

So, it turns out that McCall's 6163 is a great wardrobe builder in disguise!  On that bombshell, it's time to end.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Busy...but sewing

The other day, my mom says to me: "If you haven't called in a while, and you haven't updated your blog, I know you're busy with school so I don't worry."  Ah, the wisdom of mothers!  How right she is.  I have been very busy with school.  I'll be honest, being on the job market is definitely an emotional roller-coaster.  But despite all that, I have been sewing, so over the next few days I'll try my best to get the blog up to date.

So, stay tuned for posts about:
  • the Burda low-back sheath dress, 1-2010 #125, which I successfully completed in time to wear to a wedding on Thanksgiving weekend
  • my Lady Grey coat, which now has sleeves and a collar.  I'm hoping to hem this week and be working on the lining by the weekend
  • my second version of McCalls 6163, which I maintain is an awesome wardrobe-builder in disguise
  • my next project, a wool blazer.  I'm hoping I can continue to build my tailoring skills on this project, and I've asked for more tailoring books and supplies for Christmas ;-)
On a purely personal note, the Mr. is graduating from college this weekend!  Go baby go!  Returning to college as a "non-traditional" student, and balancing school with a job and adult responsibilities, is an impressive feat.  On Sunday, my man will graduate  Summa Cum Laude with his B.B.A. in Computer Information Systems, and I couldn't be more proud of him :-)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First ever bound buttonhole

Check it out: my first ever bound buttonhole!  (Above it is the button I've selected, a large-ish leather knot that I think goes along with the trench-coat vibe of the Lady Grey coat.)

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been planning to do bound buttonholes on my coat, but I didn't realize that I needed to do them before basting in the hair canvas.  So my compromise will be to do a bound buttonhole on the right side, which will show when the coat is buttoned, and a plain buttonhole on the left side, which will be hidden.

I've contemplated bound buttonholes before, and I've read a few tutorials, but I've always been daunted, especially by the step where you sew over the tiny triangles to attach the the "lips" of the buttonhole.  They just look so tiny!

So I was pleased to find that the whole process was easier than I had feared.  The organza backing really makes it easy to control the fabric, and sewing over the triangles is really no sweat.

The main thing I want to improve for my next buttonhole is the marking/alignment.  If you look carefully, I think this one is just a tiny bit caty-wompus, and I know I wasn't super-careful when I marked it.  Next time, I think I'll mark the true grain carefully on the fabric before I start, to give me a reference-point when I mark the actual buttonhole.

But for a first effort, I think, it's not too shabby!

My new-found romance with tailoring

This weekend I made my first attempt at tailoring, and I'm in love!  Gertie's tutorials are freakin amazing, and I know I wouldn't have had the confidence to undertake a project like this without them.

So here's what I did: after pre-shrinking my wool in the drier and cutting my pieces, I finished the edges of the bodice pieces on my serger.  I'm lining both the bodice front and the side with hair canvas, as Gertie suggested.  But since my particular hair canvas is very stiff, I decided to cut all my interfacing pieces on the bias to soften them and give them more drape.  (I got this idea from Couture Sewing).

I assembled the coat front as Gertie describes: first, I basted the hair canvas to the side front, then sewed the front princess seam and trimmed away the excess hair canvas from the seam allowance.  I'm planning to use a double-topstitch, so I pressed the seam open but didn't do any of the catch-stitching that Gertie mentions.  Then, I added the interfacing to the front piece.  I taped the roll line, then basted the front interfacing in place below the line.  I haven't tried the pad-stitching yet, but that's what comes next in the process.

I expected the hand-stitching to be much more tedious than it was.  It actually went pretty quickly, and the results look totally bad-ass!  While I can't say anything about the finished product yet, I'm totally geeking out on the process, and thoroughly enjoying myself.  I see lots more tailored jackets in my future!

Unfortunatly, I realized this morning that I should have done my bound buttonhole first, since now that entire area is covered in hair canvas.  Oops!  Since it's the left side, which won't show when the coat is buttoned, I've decided to leave it as-is and do a regular buttonhole.  But for the right side, which will show, I definitely want a bound buttonhole.  So I guess that's what I'll be tackling next!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lady Grey fitting and cutting

Contrary to my initial expectations, I had a sewing-tastical weekend.  I skipped out on my marathon training on Saturday and sewed for most of the day, while the Mr. and his classmates de-bugged the software they're developing.  Then, on Sunday, I sewed all afternoon and into the evening.  So I was able to make a ton of progress on my Lady Grey coat.

After my recent experiences trying to tweak the fit of the low-back dress, I've resolved to make muslins until all--and I mean all--of the fitting issues in a garment have been addressed.  So, I made a second muslin of my Lady Grey to check my alterations to the coat front.  Since I was happy with the sleeves on my first version, I omitted them this time.  I made sure to add the collar so I could mark the roll lines.

I'm happy with how the lapels lie, so that alteration was successful.  (Don't forget, if you make a similar alteration, that you need to alter the front facing and lining pieces to match!)  For this muslin, I also removed 1 in. from the lower edge at every seam except the center back, and I like the amount of volume this leaves.

This muslin did have one weird fit issue, which I suspect was an indirect consequence of shortening the lapel: there was too much fullness in the princess seam above the bust, which created a weird pooch/second boob.  Not the best look.  Here it is with the fullness pinned out.

I marked the new princess line with chalk on the inside, took my pieces apart, trued the lines,  re-sewed and checked the fit.  The result wasn't perfect, but my muslin has a very stiff hand and doesn't ease gracefully, so I decided not to worry about it.  Sure enough, that seam is great on the actual coat.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Next, I marked the roll lines using a sharpie.  (Actually, the Mr. did it.  This is one of those operations where the Heisenberg principle of fitting applies: if you turn to see the roll line, you'll change it.  So best to enlist assistance.)  It was neat how clearly you could see these lines form in the muslin, even though it's so much lighter-weight than the actual coating I'll be using.

Based on Gertie's suggestion, I decided to use my muslin pieces as the pattern to cut and mark my coat fabric, so once I was happy with the fit, I took the muslin apart, pressed each piece flat, and transferred all the markings to the pieces with a sharpie.

Here are my completed pieces.  According to Claire Shaeffer's book Couture Sewing, this is called a "toile."  (Anyone know how to pronounce this?  Does it rhyme with "foil," or with "fall"?)  Apparently, this is how patterns are made in the couture houses.  I don't think it took any more effort than transferring my markings back to the paper pattern would have.  And the muslin pattern pieces were definitely easier to pin and cut.

By last night I had everything cut, and I had a chance to start the tailoring, which I'll write about in my next post.  But so far, I'm in love!  And I can't say enough about Gertie's excellent tutorials!  But more on that soon.

What did you do this weekend?

I worked on my Lady Grey coat.  More to follow in a longer post, but for now, feast your eyes on this!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Provisioning for Lady Grey

While I work on the low-back dress, I'm also getting my Lady Grey coat project ready to go.  So far, I've traced the key pattern pieces and made my first muslin:

Between the lighting and the fabric, it's difficult to tell what's going on in this picture, but over all I'm pretty pleased with the fit.

(If you're curious, that's an upholstery fabric printed with binary code that we picked up at the Herman Miller outlet in Zeeland, MI.  I picked it because it was a heavier weight, but I'll use regular muslin for my next test garment, on which I will want to mark the roll lines for the collar, as Gertie describes here.)

I cut a straight 6, which is a bit snug, but I'm still loosing weight, so I wanted to account for that in the sizing.  It buttons now, albeit without much ease, so I can wear it as soon as it's finished, and the fit should become more graceful over the next few months.

There's only one fitting alteration I'm planning to make: shortening the front of the coat, which was too long and bloused away from my body.  (Gertie also describes making this alteration by taking a wedge-shaped section out of the bodice front and tapering to nothing at the front princess seam.)

I'm also planning to remove about 12 in. total from the lower edge at the side- and princess-seamlines.  The pattern is very full at the hemline, and I think that I can tone it down a bit without straying too far from the original style of the coat.  I also think that a little less fullness at the hip will flatter my shape better, and be more versatile overall.

In the meantime, I've also been gathering my materials.  I ordered this wool tweed (on sale!) from Denver Fabrics/Fashion Fabrics Club/whatever they're calling themselves these days.  It arrived last week, and it's exactly what I wanted.

This will be my first tailoring project, so I'll need some new supplies.  (You can see Gertie's supply list here.)  I was surprised to find silk thread and weft interfacing at my local JoAnn's (not even the superstore!), and I also bought a few yards of cotton flannel to interline the coat for warmth.  At our last sewing meet-up, Melody accepted the remaining 2 yards of my binary fabric in trade for a nice-sized piece of hair canvas, so I didn't need to buy any, which was awesome.  I'm also viewing this project as an excuse opportunity to finally buy a pair of pinking shears, but I definitely need to wait till I have another 40% off coupon for that.  And as you know, I now have an excellent set of pressing hams.

I'm planning to start on this project in earnest as soon as I finish the low-back dress, which is nearly complete.  Here's hoping I'll have my second muslin finished and my fabric pre-shrunk before the thanksgiving madness begins next week!

Monday, November 8, 2010

For my glamorous alter-ego

 Okay, I'm not even supposed to be blogging right now, but I can't resist sharing this with you.  The only thing I want more than this dress (by independent designer Milka Quin, for sale in her Etsy shop) would be an opportunity to wear it!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A welcome addition to my sewing kit

These are pressing hams.  (If you're not familiar with them, pressing hams are used for pressing curved areas like sleeves.  They're stuffed very firmly, so you can fit the ham into the curve, and then press against it.)  They belonged to a good family friend, who passed them on to my mom years ago.  My mom is a master quilter, but doesn't do much apparel sewing, and in preparation for the Lady Grey coat project, she passed them on to me!

A while back, the selfish seamstress discussed the merits of adding pressing hams to her minimalist collection of sewing tools.  Like her, I've been making do with a rolled-up towel for a while now.  But there's a lot of steaming and pressing involved in the Lady Grey project, and I know having the right tools will make that process easier, and perhaps yield better results.  Plus, when you consider that these hams were free, willingly offered, and have sentimental value, it was a no-brainer!

I love the geekery of old-school sewing tools like these--in fact, the Mr. and I share a geeky love of tools of all sorts.  I'm excited to add these hams to our collection.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fitting the low-back dress

For the Burda low-back dress, I made a straight 40 for my first muslin, and the fit overall is pretty good.  The front looks great, although I need to make a bust adjustment.  The back was a bit trickier, especially since it's difficult to see the back without twisting or arching your shoulders, which changes the fit.  (Mad props to the Mr. for helping me mark my alterations after I forgot to bring my muslin to the Southeast Michigan sewing meet-up on Saturday.)

Here are the alterations I'm planning to make:

1. Fix gaping at the armhole

This is a pretty standard alteration, and I've done it several times before.  I pinched out the extra fullness at the armhole to create a second bust dart.  I'll transfer that to the flat pattern, then use slash-and spread to combine it with the original dart.

2. Create a curved seam at the center back

As drafted, the pattern is baggy in the small of my back, and too tight at the top of the back.  So I'll create a curved seam-line, adding about 5/8 of an inch more width at the top, and removing about an inch lower down.

3. Shorten the back

When I stand straight, the edges of the v-back ripple and stand away from my body.  Lynne helped me decide the best way to fix this.  I pinned out a wedge-shape section just below my shoulder blade, which tapers to nothing at the side seam.  I'll transfer this to my flat pattern and remove the wedge, which will shorten the back edge, while leaving the side seam length unchanged.

 No dilly-dallying on this project, since it needs to be done for a wedding in a few weeks, and I can't count on finding much time to sew over thanksgiving.  So hopefully, I'll have a finished dress to show you soon!

Back and better than ever!

I've taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging this fall, more or less unintentionally.  What have I been up to?  Well, the Mr. and I completed our first marathon in October, which was quite an accomplishment for both of us.

 I'm also working hard to finish my degree, and I'm on the academic job market as we speak.  I won't bore you with the details, but being on the market is an incredibly time consuming and fairly stressful process.  (If you're curious, you can read more about it here.  And if you want to get a sense of who I am in my professional life, you can check out

Despite all this, I'm glad to say that my sew-jo has returned with a vengeance, and I've got several projects lined up that I'm really excited about.

First of all, I'm working on a version of Burda 1-2010 #125, the low-back sheath dress with the interesting darts.  I've made my first muslin, and need to make a few fitting adjustments, but I'm really pleased with how it's shaping up so far.  The line drawing of this dress looks a little boxy and ho-hum, but in real life the darts are super-flattering.  I'm making it in purple poly satin, to wear to a wedding later this month.

I've also gotten totally inspired by Gertie's Lady Grey Sew-Along, and I'm in the planning stages of my own version of the Colette Patterns Lady Grey coat, which will fill a gaping hole in my current winter wardrobe.  I realize I'm a bit of a late-comer to the sew-along, but I'm totally geeked about the project.  If you haven't checked it out, Gertie's tutorials on how to construct the coat using traditional tailoring techniques are amazing.  All platitudes about the internet age aside, I'm overwhelmed by the generosity of people like Gertie, who share so much time and knowledge with anyone who wants to learn, and with the inclusiveness of the online sewing community in general.  Even if you don't plan to participate in the sew-along, I encourage you to check it out.  Like I said, I'm super excited and inspired about this project, and I'm looking forward to taking my technique to the next level.

I've also got a couple of other projects in the queue, including the trench-coat from the famous September 2010 Burda magazine, and my second version of McCall 6163, which I contend is actually a great pattern if you leave off the collar and silly sleeves, and resist the urge to add tassels to the sash.

I'll write more about these projects soon, but for now I just wanted to say: it's great to be back!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beignet-Inspired Skirt: The Ethics of a Knock-Off

I've been making slow but steady progress on the next element of my Up North wardrobe, an ivory cotton sateen skirt, in the style of Colette Patterns' "Beignet".  I've been thinking about making a skirt like this for a while--I'd like to think I came up with the idea on my own, before I saw Colette Patterns' summer version of the skirt, which is also ivory.  But given my track record on having original ideas, I'm not so sure!

Once I got serious about this project, I found myself faced with a dilemma--to buy the "Beignet" pattern, or to draft my own.  Colette Patterns is a small, independent pattern company, and Beignet, like all its patterns, is the original design of the company's founder, Sarai Mitnick.  I try to support these sorts of businesses whenever I can, and I've heard glowingly positive things about Colette Patterns in particular.  Their designs are distinctive, their patterns are well-drafted and high-quality, and their instructions are clear and complete.

That said, Beignet is a very simple skirt to draft.  That's not to take anything away from it's design, which is original and compelling.  But structurally speaking, once you've seen it, it's pretty clear how one would draft it.  In fact, it seemed to me that altering the skirt to fit my proportions would potentially take just as much time, and yield less consistent results, than simply drafting it from scratch based on my personal sloper.  In the end, that's what I decided to do, but I'm still pretty conflicted about the decision.  So, I'm writing up the project on this blog, but only with several statements by way of a disclaimer:

1. "Beignet" is Sarai's original design.  She deserves all credit for this classic, flattering and versatile skirt.
2. Although I drafted my own version of this skirt, I won't talk about that process here.  I'll stick to discussions of the construction process and how the skirt fits into the planning of my Up North wardrobe.
3. If you like the look of this project, you should absolutely, positively buy a "Beignet" pattern from Colette Patterns!

Ok, now that I've got that all cleared up, here's an update on how the project has been going so far.  Frankly, it's been a slog.  I've got no sewing momentum right now, but I'm trying to make progress, since I have one or two more projects in my queue that are definitely for summer, and won't transition well into fall.  (This skirt is one, and my magenta ruffle-front blouse is another.)

I'm also not totally thrilled with my fabric choice for this project.  The fabric I picked is a stretch bottom-weight, but it's semi-sheer even with the lining, and you can definitely see the interfacing and the seam allowances (and sometimes, my underwear!) through from the outside.  I've also made one or two dubious construction decisions that I find myself second-guessing, and I'm dreading making all 12 buttonholes on the front.

What's more, I'm changing size right now in all sorts of weird ways (marathon training is at least partly to blame), so I keep making fitting alterations on the fly.  I'm already sewing at the tail end of the season, and while I'd usually be o.k. with stashing a project like this in my closet for a year, I'm not at all confident that this skirt will fit me next summer.

So I'm trying to soldier through and finish the skirt soon, hoping to get at least a few wearings out of it this year.  But given my frustrations with my fabric, I'm seriously reconsidering the summer jacket I had planned to make from the leftover piece.  On the one hand, a wardrobe doesn't really seem complete without some sort of "topper."  But on the other hand, it might not be worth the grief of working with this fabric.  Would a jacket like this look terrible if the darts & seam allowances showed through a bit?  Should I give it a stab, or run screaming?  What do you think?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another Ute

I've been pretty unproductive with my sewing over the last two weeks, due in part welcome visits from family--my father and mother-in-law, on consecutive weekends--and in part to insanely hot weather, which has left me sweating so profusely that I hesitate to touch anything in our apartment, let alone fabric.

Today promises a break in the weather, and a long, lonely evening of uninterupted sewing time, so hopefully I'll be getting my mojo back soon.  But in the meantime, I wanted to write up an older project, a paisley version of the BurdaStyle Ute blouse.

I got off to a rough start with my first Ute when I cut and sewed the wrong size, but now that I've got the sizing issue figured out, I'm loving the pattern, which is actually really versatile.

For this version, I used paisley cotton voile left over from my brunch dress.  Unlined, the blouse is semi-sheer, so I need to wear it over a camisole, but I actually like that look for summer quite a bit.

For this second Ute, I once again shortened the hem and the sleeves, and omitted the cuffs.  I also re-drafted the peter-pan collar, making the shape less extreme in the front.  I like the original collar, but I also the more subtle version I drafted, which I think works better with the busy fabric on this project.

I love the collar and placket construction on this blouse, which I think yield a nicely finished result.  But on this one, I made a bit of a goof: despite my careful measuring and marking, I managed to space my buttons and buttonholes unevenly.  If you look carefully, the top two buttons are closer together than the others!  By the time I realized my mistake, I had already cut the buttonholes, so I had no choice but to wear it the way it was.  Because of the location of the mistake (at the top of the placket) and the pattern of the fabric, I think it's hardly noticeable, and it's not stopped me from wearing the blouse a bunch over the last few weeks.

I've also incorporated this blouse into my Up North Mini-Wardrobe plan.  I love how it looks paired with my denim pencil skirt, as pictured here.  And I think it will also work well with the ivory Beignet-inspired skirt I'm currently working on--more about that project soon!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Guided Tour of My Singer Featherweight

The Featherweight is truly a product of an earlier era, and you couldn't find many of the features that make it special on a contemporary machine.  What follows here, then, is a "guided tour," as it were, of my machine, which I am still learning my way around.  Hopefully, I can share my learning process with you all, and if there are any experts out there reading this blog, please share what you know with me!

Here's a basic picture of my machine:

Based on the serial number, I know it was a later model, manufactured around 1952 in Elizabethport, NJ.  Some of the earlier, pre-war machines had elaborate scroll-work decorations on the face plate, and more old-fashioned embellishments on the machine body.  Mine has a pattern of vertical lines on the face plate and simpler, more angular embellishments.

I've already mentioned that the Featherweight is light, and its extension table folds up so it can fit into a compact travel case.  As an added bonus, this feature allows easy, unrestricted access to the bobbin case and mechanism underneath the machine.

When the first Featherweights went into production in the 30s, the zig-zag sewing machine did not exist.  So the Featherweight is a straight-stitch machine: it does one thing, and it does it well.  It also has a back-stitch, which was a new and desirable feature at the time.

As someone born and raised on zig-zag machines, the tiny aperture in the throat plate of this machine kind of blows my mind.  Intellectually, it makes sense: since the needle will never move from side to side, the aperture can be quite precise.  But it still somehow amazes me to see it.

Here's the stitch length adjuster.  The length is marked in stitches/inch, rather than an arbitrary number, like on most modern machines.  To adjust the stitch length, you move the lever up and down; when the lever is in its fully upright position, you get a back stitch.

The lever itself is so utilitarian--a threaded rod with a nut on the end--that at first I thought it might be a careless, contemporary fix.  But in fact, it's an ingenious design feature.  By moving the nut up and down on the lever, you can limit its travel, in effect "locking in" your desired stitch length.  When you raise the lever to back-stitch, the nut effectively "remembers" your earlier setting, and when you move the lever down again, it will stop in exactly the position to which it was previously set, ensuring your stitching will remain consistent.  How clever!

Even the case is well-thought out, and I'm lucky that mine is in great condition, unlike some of the ones you find on ebay.  This one has a clip on the underside of the lid, to securely hold the foot pedal, and a small tray on one side, with metal slots designed to hold about half a dozen bobbins.  It has sturdy metal latches, which make a satisfying "snap!" when you open and close them.

A machine like this, with all metal parts, will purr when it's tuned correctly--no chintzy plastic rattles!  Right now, however, my machine is a bit noisy, and based on some controlled experiments yesterday, we've isolated the feed dog alignment as the culprit.  So our tune-up will begin with that adjustment.  Till then, I'm trying not to use it--but in the meantime I plan to sit here and admire it!


What do this lady and I have in common?  We're both the proud owners of sleek, portable Singer Featherweight sewing machines!

First of all, I'd like to be clear that I blame Melody for all of this.  I hadn't ever heard of or seen a Featherweight machine before she brought hers to the Southeast MI PR group.  I've been loving sewing with the group--what a great bunch of people--but traveling with my Kenmore has been a huge nuisance.  It's not intended to be portable, so it weighs a ton, and it's tricky to unscrew it from its table.  Needless to say, I don't have a case for it, or even a place to store an empty case when it's not in use.

So after this week's meet-up, I started seriously coveting a featherweight.  Even though they were originally manufactured and marketed more than 50 years ago, these machines have really stood the test of time, and remain desirable (and valuable) today.  Singer began production of the first featherweights in the 1930s, making several design improvements that set it apart from its predecessor, the Sewhandy.  The Featherweight is made almost entirely of aluminum, so it weighs just over 11 pounds.  And the machine, with all its accessories, slides into a carrying case with about the same footprint as a 6-pack of soda cans.  The featherweight was perfect for the lean years of the 1930s and 40s, when it was introduced, since it was affordable, portable, and it's back-stitch function (a new feature on home sewing machines) was ideal for darning and mending.

Today, there's a significant resale market for Featherweights (search for them on ebay and you'll see what I mean!), with some rarer models, like the 222 free-arm, selling for more than $1000.  I was lucky to find mine locally, on Craig's List, and I think I got a great deal on a machine that's in almost perfect condition.

I spent last night exploring my Featherweight, and I'm planning to post an illustrated "tour" of my machine and its features soon.  Later in the week, the Mr. and I are planning to give it a thorough tune-up, which I'll also definitely write up for the blog.

If you're curious about Featherweights, there's tons of information out there, including histories, pictures, YouTube videos, and of course, plenty of machines for sale, too.  I highly recommend Graham Forsdyke's website,, which was the source of the advertizing images in this post, and much of the historical information, as well.  What's more, he has a copy of the orignial service manual for the Singer Featherweight, which has already proved invaluable to us as we tune up my new machine.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Knock-Off Contest Update

Apparently I wasn't the only person who got confused about the deadline Knock-Off Contest, so the folks at PR kindly re-opened yesterday, and I was able to enter my skirt after all.  Voting begins this weekend, so please consider voting for my project :-)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Shoot!  I missed the deadline to submit my denim pencil skirt for the PR Knock-Off Contest.  I'm not quite sure how I got confused, but apparently the contest ended yesterday and voting began today :-(

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't bummed out, since I hauled it to get the project done in time to enter.  At this point, I have yet to successfully enter a PR contest (since I hadn't been a member long enough when the Formalwear contest came around).

Oh well!  At least I got a nice skirt out of the deal.  And I'll definitely enjoy checking out other people's entries.

(P.S.  If you're not familiar with the term, RTFM stands for "Read The [Expletive] Manual!")

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Denim Pencil Skirt Completed

I was sewing until almost midnight last night, but I finally got my denim skirt finished for the PR Knock-Off Contest, and I was able to snap some photos this morning before it started raining.  I'm totally pleased with the result: the fit is good, and I was able to reproduce all of the details I liked in the inspiration piece.  Plus, this skirt bridges nicely between casual and wear-to-work, which is exactly the kind of clothing I currently need most.

Just as a reminder, here's the inspiration skirt:

And here's my version:

Design Elements:

The pleat and pocket are spot-on, and add a nice bit of interest.

The back princess seams were the only design element I changed.  Instead of having them curve to intersect the side seam, I made the curve more gradual, and brought them up to the outer corners of the waistline edge.  I think this change makes the skirt a bit more understated, and is also perhaps more flattering on someone with a larger tush.  (I did end up top-stitching them to make them lie flat.)

Back kick pleats--sassy and functional.

Construction Techniques:

I went all-out with the couture details on this skirt, which was otherwise fairly simple.  I did Hong Kong seam finishes on all the raw edges, and used a bias strip to finish the hem allowance, too.  I also added a faced waistband made out of a tiny piece of ridonkulously expensive Liberty fabric, which I trimmed with a contrast bias strip and then hand-stitched down.

I'm really proud of the way the inside of this skirt looks!  If nothing else, this project was a great opportunity to experiment with higher-end finishing techniques, in which I am largely self-taught.

So there it is, my J Crew knock-off skirt!  I'm wearing it today, as pictured, along with my paisley Ute blouse for an entirely made-by-J outfit.  And I'm sure the skirt will be seeing lots of use as part of my summer mini-wardrobe, and into the start of the school year in the fall.