Saturday, January 05, 2013

year of sewing project 1/50: mustard yellow a-line skirt


I first sewed this pattern (New Look 6462) in 2005, and I’ve kept the pattern in my stash ever since but am just now coming back to it.  I love the way the finished skirt hangs since it’s cut on a bias (45 degree angle to the grain of the fabric), and the ease with which is comes together (It’s rated easy, after all!  No shame in that, even for more experienced sewers).

The last time I made it was for my Clothing Construction 1 course in undergrad.  The things we made in the class were: window valance, table runner, decorative pillow case with a zipper, pajama pants, and a skirt with both a zipper and a lining.  For the pj pants and skirt, we had to bring in a pattern of our own, and I chose this one.  Luckily there were no guys in my class—I wonder what they would have made in place of a skirt?  Surely not pants, as let me tell you, sewing pants is not equivalent to sewing a skirt (much harder)!

Let me tell you about my first attempt at this skirt in 2005.  I made it in a beautiful white toile fabric, with the toile details in pale blue.  I had recently ruined my favorite white skirt (I sat in blue pen ink…how tragic!) and wanted to make its replacement.  The finished skirt was impeccable.  I had never been prouder of anything I had ever sewed.   Just one problem: it did not fit me!  It turned out much too large.  The pattern says that the skirt should sit 1.5” below the waist, but with the slightest tug this thing slipped right past my hips and all the way to the floor.  In order to “pass” the assignment, we had to try on our garments to show that they fit us, so I just wore a very thick shirt which I tucked into the skirt, and a sweater over that which I pulled down over the waist to hold it up (a belt?  I don’t know why I didn’t think of that).  It worked and I passed!  And I never wore that perfectly constructed skirt again.  I cringe to think of it.  I kept meaning to take it up, but it had a lining sewn in and it would’ve been difficult to do without taking it apart.  I should have tried it on before I sewed the lining in, but that would have had to happen in a public restroom since we had to do all our sewing in class.  I want to say, however, that this ill fitting skirt was no fault of my own.  I don’t want to point fingers, but my teacher had given us the worst advice I can think of: take your measurements, then add 2” to them.  Then whatever that measurement is, make the skirt that falls into that size range.  The only thing I can figure is that what she meant to relay to us was that it is common to allow 2” of ease in the hips.  So that’s 2” of difference between your hips and the hip measurement of the finished garment.  It would be even less in the waist, and most of us made skirts that are only fitted in the waist.  But that’s not actually what she said (I remember it vividly) and sewing patterns account for ease already, so when deciding which size to make, you really do use your actual measurements!  Something was clearly lost in translation here.

This time, I managed to make a skirt that stays on, so that’s a definite step up.  I wear skirts a lot, especially for my teaching job, so this will be a welcome addition to my wardrobe.  I also have a soft spot for mustard yellow and snatched up this great mustard rib knit fabric as soon as I saw it at my thrift store (my friends all refer to this one thrift store in the city as my thrift store, because I go there so much!).  I normally sew with woven fabrics as opposed to knit, but this was a great “starter knit” for me because it has very limited stretch to it.  You never really know what length of fabric you’re getting when you buy material at a thrift store (okay, admission: I carry a mini tape measure around in my purse at all times, but I’ve never measured a big piece of fabric in the store), so when doing so I just hope for a serendipitous project to fabric match later.  I’ve had some awesome successes.  This rib knit ended up being 60” wide, 2 yards and 5” long and was $4.  My pattern called for 1 7/8 yards of 60” wide fabric!  Right on target there.  You also don’t know the exact composition of the fabric when you buy it secondhand.  I can tell this fabric is at least partially synthetic from the hand of it, but it doesn’t have that icky-synthetic-cheap-plastic feeling that many synthetics have, which is basically my rule of thumb when saying yay or nay to synthetics or blends!

I had a mustard yellow vintage zipper in my stash.  1953, wow.  The packaging is amazing.  I know it’s fun to keep old things around just to look at them, but this zipper was meant to be used for this awesome skirt, you guys.  Did you know that you can easily shorten zippers?  I learned that in Clothing Construction 1 as well, and it has come in handy a lot!  I stock up on zippers when I find them in bulk at secondhand shops or yard sales.  I almost always have a suitable color on hand, then I just have to size it myself!  The zipper for this skirt needed to be super short, only around 4”, so I shortened this 12” zipper and it does the trick.  This was also a dress zipper, which means it is connected at both the top and bottom, but I was able to snip the top closure in half with wire cutters and that did the trick.

The rib knit is very thick and the skirt would’ve been fine without a lining, but I decided to add one anyway to class it up.  And since you can’t see through the mustard, I went with a fun print I had lying around instead of a solid white or yellow (although I forgot to photograph it, sorry!).  As my 1973 Guide to Modern Clothing, third edition (my sewing bible) points out, “Prints, plaids, checks, and contrasting solid colors can be utilized effectively for linings to add flair to a garment.” Agreed!

In all, I’m very pleased with this skirt and happy that I chose it for my Year of Sewing Project 1/50.  It will get a lot of use, and I’m happy I finally have a wearable version of this pattern!

The finished skirt!

Millie wanted to be in a picture, but she never looks into the camera.

Wearing skirts like this makes me feel the need to curtsy.

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