Monday, August 22, 2016

Starting the Skirt (Finally)

Skirt Cut Out, Ready to Sew
My mom came over a few days ago to help me overcome the inertia, procrastination, and confusion that has prevented me from making any progress on the OOP(Out of Print) New Look #6708 skirt that I started at the beginning of LAST summer.  Ahem. 

When I abandoned set this project aside back in July of 2015, I had purchased the fabric, lining and notions, and prewashed the fashion fabric and lining (both cotton voiles).  I had sewn up a muslin, which was good because I discovered that the size corresponding to my measurements on the back of the pattern envelope would be WAY too big (the muslin fell off and hit the floor; that's how big it was), and even more importantly, I realized that the fitted yoke at the top of this A-line skirt wasn't shaped at all like me through the tummy area.  I redrafted those pattern pieces until I got a fit I was happy with (basically size 14 at the top of the yoke transitioning to size 12 at the bottom edge of the yoke, but if you just grade from one size to the other you get a weird inverted V shape at the sides instead of a straight seam around your middle that you can attach the skirt to) and made sure that my new yoke pieces would fit at the seams that attach it to the skirt front and back.  And then life, and other projects, intervened...

So here we are, ready to cut out the skirt.  First consideration: I wasn't thinking about this when I picked out my fabric, but this bold, large scale floral print fabric is kind of like a plaid or stripe in that the pattern needs to be perfectly centered on the front and back of the skirt, and perfectly STRAIGHT on the front and back of the skirt, or I am not going to wear this skirt when it is finished.  And the voile is shifty stuff, folks -- the same qualities that make it soft and flowy for a skirt make it scoot all over on the cutting table, especially prone to stretching askew on the bias.  So I made full pattern pieces for the skirt front and back as well as for the yoke front and back, and cut out the skirt the way I would cut out drapery swags from a print fabric.  I centered a row of flowers on the center fold line of the pattern, and carefully shifted the fabric behind the pattern until the same pattern motifs were positioned in the same positions at the edges of the pattern all the way along the hem line and the right and left side seams. 

Skirt Front Cut Out with Pattern Centered
After I cut out the front from a single fabric layer, I used this cut-out fabric piece as my pattern to cut out the skirt back by laying that piece onto my fabric and adjusting the position of until the pattern was perfectly aligned and the top piece "disappeared."  This took a lot longer than just using the cutting layout in the pattern instructions, but it was the only way I could get my pattern centered and straight with this squirmy, wiggly voile.  So the pattern placement is identical on the front and back of the skirt.

Once all the pieces had been cut from the fashion fabric, cutting out the pieces from my solid navy blue cotton voile was a snap.  Since I had already had made a full pattern piece for the skirt front and back, I just cut the lining from a double layer of fabric.

Next dilemma: This pattern specifically suggests lightweight fabrics, sheers, and voiles like mine in the fabric suggestions.  However, the instructions tell you to put in a standard centered zipper through both layers with an ugly rectangle of stitching around the zipper opening that would look terrible from the right side of the finished garment.  Why, oh why, would anyone want to do that?!

Yucky Centered Zipper in Pattern Instructions
Can you imagine how awful that would look, stitched through two layers of semisheer cotton voile?  YUCK!

Inside View, with Exposed Zipper Tape
And if I followed the pattern instructions for the zipper, I would have exposed zipper tape scratching against my skin even though this is a lined garment.  This isn't how store-bought clothes are made, and this is a major pet peeve against the pattern companies.  Why do they give these cheesy instructions for making things that look dorky and homemade instead of writing instructions for professional looking garments that their customers can be proud of?  They are undermining their own customer base by deliberately making it difficult for beginners to achieve good results when following a pattern.  It's very frustrating to feel like only someone with years of experience, who knows which directions to follow and which ones to disregard, can sew a successful garment from a pattern.

So I looked through the RTW (ready-to-wear) skirts in my closet for something similar to what I'm trying to make.  Every single one of them has an invisible zipper at the side seam, and every one of them except one has got the invisible zipper sewn so that the zipper tape is completely enclosed between the fashion fabric and the lining for a clean, professional finish on the inside of the garment. 

Invisible Side Seam Zipper in RTW Skirt, Enclosed Between Lining and Fashion Fabric
That's what I'm going to attempt to do for my skirt.  My sewing technique books recommend leaving the rest of the seam open until after you have inserted an invisible zipper, so my mom wrote that in the pattern instructions for me, crossing out where they told me to sew the side seam below the notch and then noting later in the pattern instructions, after the zipper insertion, when it's time to close the side seam.

I'm a little nervous about the zipper for several reasons.  I've got my Threads magazine article from back issue #179 (June/July 2015) with tips for zipper insertion in tricky sheer fabrics like mine (I'll be stabilizing the seam allowances in the zipper area with strips of fusible interfacing and sewing with a layer of Sulky Solvy water-soluble stabilizer between the voile and the feed dogs of my machine to prevent puckering).  And I've got the fantastic Bernina invisible zipper foot that I've used successfully to sew invisible zippers in home dec pillows.  I'm just not sure whether changing the zipper application will affect anything at that top edge of the skirt, and I'm not 100% clear on how I am going to sew the lining to the zipper tape after I've sewn the zipper to the fashion fabric of the skirt, in order to get that clean finish of my RTW skirts.  But I think I just need to get started, because some of the instructions and illustrations in the pattern don't make sense to me.  With my caroling outfit, I found that some of those instructions make more sense when you have a partially sewn garment in front of you that you can match up to the illustration. 

On My Worktable
Anyway, everything is cut out now except I'm not sure whether I'll use the Pellon lightweight nonwoven interfacing that I already cut out (I think it's P44) or a lightweight woven fusible interfacing (Pellon Shape-Flex SF101) that is less stiff and drapes more like my voile fashion fabric.  I've got my machines threaded up and ready to go with new size 70 Microtex needles and cotton 50/3 Gutterman thread, so my next step is to test machine settings on fabric scraps in case I need to adjust tension, presser foot pressure or (on the serger) differential feed settings in order to get a nice stitch.  The RTW skirts in my closet have 3-thread overlocked seams, but I'll be sewing my seams on my sewing machine first and then using a narrow 2-thread overlock to finish the seam allowances.  That way if I mess something up along the way, I have a chance to rip out my machine stitches and fix it before the serger has trimmed away my seam allowances.  If I was more confident in my garment sewing and fitting abilities, I'd save time by just doing it all in one pass on the serger.  In fact, I have some other fabric stashed away that might work for this pattern.  If the voile skirt turns out to be a wearable success, I may make this up again in the stashed fabric, and I'll be able to serge the seams on the second skirt once I feel comfortable with how the whole thing goes together.  Wouldn't it be nice to have a TNT ("Tried and True") skirt pattern that I could just whip up in different fabrics with variations?  That's the goal, folks!

My kids go back to school a week from today, but historically my design business picks up steam in the Fall, so Back to School doesn't necessarily mean more free time for my sewing projects.  But it's all about finding that balance, right?  At least, that's what I keep telling myself.  Have a great week, everyone!


SJSM said...

Of the two interfacing a you listed, I'd choose the SF-101. It disappears more. Some people will sew in a silk organza strip to use as a interfacing on light flowy fabrics.

You are making good decisions. You can find information on inserting a zipper in a lined garment in most "complete guide" to sewing books. Both the Vogue and Readers Digest have it. These two books are used by sewing schools as their sewing 101 course textbook. Or use this free tutorial on Craftsy

I usually use Claire Shaeffer's books and videos for reference for high end details finishes. She gives good detail and teaches you how to line up so you put the technique exactly where you want it.

Can't wait to see your skirt!

Jenny K. Lyon said...

I am so impressed in so many ways! You are so patient with the process, you took great care (and time) to match the fabric at the seams, and you just bravely go forward even if you're not sure how to do something. Your attention to detail and attentiveness to fit WILL yield you that go-to skirt pattern. What a luxury that will be to have a basic bottom pattern that you like and fits!

Janice Holton said...

Rebecca, It's fascinating to read your thought processes as you go through a project. You're such a problem solver! I have never sewn any clothes except one dress I had to make in high school home ec. YEARS ago. I'm thinking about giving it another try. I have a tall, slender 17 year old who would make a good mannekin. :) Would you have a pattern recommendation for a boatneck dress with a full skirt? Kind of retro looking?