April 25, 2013

A Sewing Triumph: My First, Finished Skirt

The cover picture
Today I have finished my first solo sewing project: Folkwear's Walking Skirt. A long journey has finally finished and I wanted to share some of the adventures and lessons learned along the way.

It all started while browsing through my local thrift shop. I happened across nearly 4 yards of blue, damask fabric. In all honesty, it is probably upholstery fabric. The drape isn't terribly good and the pattern would look nice on a chair.

Now, I know I'm not a good seamstress yet. But I have been hankering for a floor length, Victorian-esque walking skirt to incorporate into my wardrobe. At only ten dollars for 3.75 yards, it was too good a deal to pass up. What better way to practice my skills?

Next, after considerable searching, I settled on folkwear's Walking Skirt pattern. Though I have never sewn with them before, their selection of ethnic and historical patterns are lovely. If you are a seamstress or want to be, check out their catalog.

A good, basic skirt
This is when I begin to regret not having a camera to show the step by step process.

As you can see from the line drawings, the skirt is pretty basic. A very good beginner's pieces. The pattern requires straight seams, gathering, slip stitching, and a button hole. If I didn't have the internet at my disposal, I might have panicked a bit more than I did. But looking up a few tutorials for each of the terms and mucking about myself, makes me feel confident enough to try it again.

Veteran seamstresses, hold your chuckles, but here are some lessons I've learned:

~ When the pattern gives you little marks, stars, or dots, mark them on your fabric when you're cutting them out. It save so much unfolding, repinning and then marking.

~ Invest in some sewing chalk. Pen, while seemingly a brilliant idea at 11 in the evening, is not. Especially when it is a contrasting color to your fabric.

~ If your fabric has nap (ie the front looks noticeably different from the back), make sure you can easily tell the different. I spent so much time peering at the fabric trying to see if I was looking at the front or back side.

~ Notches are easier to cut and match than the raised triangles.

~ After cutting, I would serge or finish the edges some how to keep the edges neater and from fraying.

~ Buttonholes are addicting.

~ I desperately need to learn to cut in a straight line. My edges were wonky, ragged and generally a mess. But I dismissed the confusion with the rationalization that "it will be hidden by the hems." Here's a hint: those wonky edges are what you will be following during your hemming. Which leads to:

~ I desperately need to learn to sew in a straight line. Wonky edges lead to wonky seams. Those little corrections that seemed so slight under the needle are noticeable on the fabric. Also, having all the fabric lined up before sewing.

~ In short: small imperfections compound.  If you aren't making mistakes or being frustrated, you're not learning.

Street and walking view lengths

As you probably guessed, the skirt came out a little wonky. I need to hem it again and actually measure for my height this time, rather than just follow the instructions. I'll also probably cut the button off and move it an inch to the left, to tighten the waistband. In fact  I'll probably create a new waistband and try it again at some point. But now?

I am pleased. Very pleased. The skirt is full and amazing. I love that I know how to make a placket and a button hole. My understanding of skirt anatomy has increased ten fold as has my comfort levels with adjusting and tailoring skirts. I also think I'll be able to salvage my utter failure of a recent drafting attempt. 

What are some stories from your first sewing adventures?

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