Friday, July 5, 2013

Lemony Yellow Pencil Skirt, a Sort-of Tutorial

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July! Mine was spectacular, not only did I get to walk around my beautiful city and spend time with great friends, but I made quite a bit of progress on a project I've been dealing with for some time.

I looooove pencil skirts. I think they are professional, classy, and all around awesome. And I think they can be super fun if you do them right. So, with no experience whatsoever at sewing pencil skirts or other such garments, I set out to create a bright and fun pencil skirt using a yellow and white twill fabric I bought online.

Cautionary tale: It's kind of not finished, which is why this is a "sort-of tutorial." I mostly want to get the advice of some people who have done this more than me before I ruin it by trying to finish it! So pleeeeeease, if you're good at this, let me know what I should do!!

1. Draft a sloper, or trace an existing skirt.

I wanted to draft a sloper so that I could use it over and over again to make more skirts in the future. I used this tutorial from so-sew-easy to do that. The tutorial is pretty easy to follow, and although it's kind of a complicated process (there's math, guys!) it's totally do-able. 

So, anyway, I don't have pictures of the sloper-drafting process, but her tutorial has plenty.

It would be thirty billion times easier (that's an exact number, not an estimate) to trace an existing skirt, but I like to get into the nitty gritty sometimes. Drafting is a skill I'd like to build on. If you would too, then persevere!

2. Cut out your fabric. (You should definitely make a muslin first!!)

  So here is the "back" part of my sloper. For this, cut two of them because they'll meet at the middle back seam, where you'll insert the zipper and also the skirt vent.

And speaking of skirt vent... don't forget to account for one!! There are some people out in blogland who maintain the adamant position that slits in skirts look trashy, and so it's vent or nothing. I am not one of those people (mostly cause slits are easier...) but nonetheless, I opted to go with a vent on this one. And learn from my mistake, cause I didn't add the necessary little flap to the back pattern piece.

I learned to make a vent by watching this tutorial about three times, which was way more helpful than the four or five written walkthroughs I read. You'll notice that there is a small piece of fabric added onto the part of the back sloper which will become the back middle seam. Later, when it's time to deal with that, I'll show you mine that I added on and you'll see what I mean.

Back sloper cut out
3. Transfer the darts.

This part was harder than I anticipated. I'll show you how I did it, because I don't know at all how other people do it!

 Prepare yourself with a tape measure or straight edge and pencil or marking pen.

Also check out my sweet Class of 2013 pencil ;)

Line up the sloper with the fabric like it was when you cut it, and mark right at the edge of the dart marks that are on the sloper. Then you'll have to put a firm finger on the bottom dot there, and lift up the sloper to the point where your finger is so you can make a mark under it on the fabric.

To get the marks on the other back piece (you can't do this same thing because this one doesn't have an exact matching sloper piece, if you cut the fabric together - it would be backwards if you tried to match it up with the sloper... does that make sense?) stick pins through all the points of the dart. The top three points, and the bottom points.

This makes the other side of the fabric look vaguely nightmare-ish so be careful! Make little marks at the points where the pins come through. You'll also want to use this technique to do the darts on the front half of the skirt, since that's cut on the fold.

Now use your straight-line-drawing skills to draw the dart lines.

Back pattern piece (one of them)
Front pattern piece - fold is on the left
4. Sew the darts.

This piece was easier than I anticipated. Basically, you just fold the lines you've drawn so that the two outside ones are lined up, and at the fold is the middle line. 

 Is that in any way clear in this awful picture?

Then, sew from the waistband down to the dot at the bottom of the dart, staying on the lines you've drawn.

Once you've sewn your darts, press them toward the center of the skirt, as shown above.

5. Sew in the zipper.

I did a pretty bad job at this, but it was my first time doing an invisible zipper so I am forgiving myself for it. One thing to keep in mind here is that if you're lining your skirt (which I am), the zipper needs to be attached to the lining as well. It wouldn't do any good to put a zipper into the outside shell, unzip it and not be able to squeeze our hips through the lining!

 Place your zipper face down on the right side of your fabric. Sew as close as you can to the teeth of the zipper. When you get to the zipper pull, you'll want to stop with your needle in the fabric. Lift the presser foot, slide the zipper foot carefully up past the needle, and then put down the presser foot and resume sewing, like so:

At the zipper pull...

The zipper pull successfully moved back!

(Those pictures were taken when I was sewing on the second side of the zipper, obviously.)

So once you have the first side sewn in, sew in the second side using the same process. Now, the two back halves of your skirt are connected by the zipper! It's time to tackle the skirt vent.

Quick note about the lining - pretty sure that the way I lined this skirt is unconventional if not downright wrong. I used my muslin fabric and basically just attached the piece of the muslin to the piece of my yellow fabric it matches. Most skirts are not lined like this, I know. So you do it whatever way is correct/whatever way you want!

6. Sew the vent. 

So here is where we're going to pretend that I correctly cut the fabric instead of having to add on my flaps... ok? Ok.

This, minus the pins, is what the fabric should look like right now. This is the back seam of the skirt (the sides are folded together obviously). We are going to sew from the bottom of the zipper, all the way down to the bottom. But! We're gonna change our stitch part way through.

Back side of the above photo

So, la di da, we're sewing our seam with a normal stitch length. See where my finger is pointing? It's right at the top of the flap in the fabric. When we get to this point in the seam, we are going to backstitch,  and then change to our longest stitch length until we get to the bottom of the skirt.

Here, I've backstitched and now I'm ready to start my basting stitch.

Now, when we flatten out the seam we've just made, we have this flap thing. We are going to fold it to the right, not the left. That's important, turns out, cause this is just the way skirts are made... I'm not actually sure why.

Now, where my three fingers are lined up there, we are going to stitch through our flap, and through that side of the back of the skirt. This holds the flap down, and we will be able to see it when we're wearing the skirt. So that means we don't want it to be ugly. I used a satin stitch, which I did by setting my machine to zig-zag and then choosing a really low stitch length.

Sew until the corner of the flap, then backstitch and stop.

It's pretty faint, but that's what it looks like from the back of the skirt.

Now, seam rip your baste stitch - from here, where my seam ripper is pointing, down to the bottom.

Yay! You have a skirt vent. Serge, if you have one, the edges of your flap or otherwise finish them so they don't fray. It occurs to me that you can probably do this before you actually sew the flap, but whatever.

7. Sew the side seams.

So close to the end! Place the two halves of the skirt right sides facing. Sew up the side seams using a 5/8 inch seam allowance like normal. Turn it inside out aaaaaand... that's as far as I got!! My skirt looks like this:

  You can't tell really from the picture, but the waist is not finished, the skirt isn't hemmed, and it's baggy in the hips and the front of my hips. So here are my questions:

1) How do I fix the bagginess? Do I just take it in, or have I done something wrong with the darts?
2) Can I just fold down the top and hem it like it's a bottom, since I don't have a waistband?
3) Do I hem the vent? I think I kind of have to.

So, call to action! If you can answer any of my questions I would suuuuuuper duper appreciated it!!! Once it's totally finished I will show it off more :)

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  1. Good job! Here is what I think:
    1) Either way would work. Just pin it out while wearing it and see what looks best. Then even out your changes (eg. if you pinned 1/2" on one side and 3/4" on the other side seam, sew at 5/8". Basically, you want to have a nice silouette without any drag lines (which means it's too tight somewhere).

    2) Yes, you can do that, but you maight want to add some facing, twill tape, or interfacing. Just something to stablize it a bit more or it might roll when you are wearing it.

    3) Yes, and the way I have seen it done is the bottom edge of vent pieces are sewn to the skirt bottom while inside out at the length that the hem will be. Then turn these new corners right side out and hem the rest of the skirt. Here is a blog post I found that shows some other ways (the first one is similar to what I described)

    Hope that helps!

  2. This looks great so far and I love the color! I've only made 2 pencil skirts, but here's my take on it (and it's almost identical to Tiffany!):

    1. It really depends on where the bagginess is as to how to fix it. If it's baggy in the waist, just take in your darts some more. If it's baggier closer to the outside though, you can just move your seam on the top half of your skirt. (Does that even make sense?) Basically, pin or clip where you want the bagginess removed and then sew along the pin line you've created.

    2. You can fold it down and hem the waist, but it tends to unravel and be messy. I would do a facing. They're pretty simple and look much nicer when you finish.

    3. Yes, hem the vent as you would the rest of the bottom edge. I usually do a blind hem stitch on my pencil skirts (though totally not necessary) and I just treat the vent as part of the hem.

    Btw, I love how you improvised and add a bit of fabric for a vent! I do love my vents, even though they're so annoying to do. Can't wait to see the finished skirt!

  3. Looking good so far! Ditto on all the advice above. :)

  4. Thank you ladies for your awesome advice!! I don't think I would have thought to use facing on the waistband, but I'll definitely do that! Hopefully it will be done soon :)