Sunday, 3 July 2016

Completed: Chambray midi skirt

Like most people, I feel like I need to address the recent British vote to leave the EU. I am refusing to use the term “Brexit” unless absolutely necessary simply because it’s a stupid word. In short, I feel disappointed, sad, scared, sick, anxious, powerless, furious and embarrassed in equal measure. I feel like the times when I was under threat of redundancy, or the times I was dumped by a boyfriend: you wake up in the morning and for seconds everything is OK, and then reality comes crashing in and you have a sort of sickness lump sitting in your stomach for the rest of the day.

I know some bloggers have written that to talk about sewing during these times feels frivolous or trite. They are possibly right, but life does need to go on, and sewing has helped me enormously in some difficult periods in my life, and so it shall again. It’s that ability to concentrate on something to switch off the chattering worry in my  mind. And to get something pretty at the end of it! To that end, on to the fluffy stuff.
Serious EU face.
The idea for a chambray midi skirt came from this one byElena. I initially thought I’d use the Colette Zinnia, which I already own but have never made, but when I dug out the pattern, I realised it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. I liked the pockets of Elena’s, and although I wanted gathering (Elena’s is pleated), I didn’t want as much as the Zinnia gives. And so I decided to hack the Megan Nielsen Kelly instead, to give me my perfect skirt.

In short, I added more volume to the top of the pattern within the pleats, so I’d have more gathering than the skirt would otherwise have had (yeah, I know I said I didn’t want too much gathering, but this tutorial made me think that if I didn’t add more volume, then it wouldn’t be gathered enough! Fickle? Not me, nope. No way), and I then slashed and spread the bottom part of the skirt to provide more of an A line silhouette, and added length to make the pattern midi. This sounds scarier than it was. If anyone is interested, I can attempt a tutorial for how I did this, but I basically used this tutorial get the logic, and then applied that to the skirt.
Rather bravely, I decided to forgo a muslin and just cut straight into my fabric, a light coloured chambray from Fabric Alice on ebay (now out of stock). The fabric has a lovely weave and a beautiful drape. It’s much nicer than the chambray I used for my shirt dress last year, but it does have quite a few flaws and it seems to snag pretty easily. It also creases badly as its 100% cotton. The pockets are made from the same bird print voile as the pockets in this dress. Bird pockets FTW.
Pocket lining and button details.
Gathering and topstitching details.
I kind of made up the order of sewing as I went along, as I wanted to change the construction of the front. The Kelly pattern has you fold and top stitch the button placket and then turn up the bottom hem. This is fine, but on my red one, the hem pokes out at the side of the button placket – a result either of inaccurate cutting/pressing or of the presser foot pushing the top layer of fabric through quicker than the feed dogs are pushing the bottom layer. I wanted to avoid that, as it bugs me on the red one, so, instead I employed the technique described here, which results in a clean finished placket edge. As I was making it up as I went along, there were a few things I didn’t consider, and as a result had to unpick quite a few things. I unpicked my hem topstitching on one side 3 times, but I am pretty happy with it now. I also enjoyed the process of having to think things through, and anticipate what I would need to do next at each stage.
Another change I made was to draft a hem facing. This wasn’t part of my initial plan. I used this pattern to determine how much width and length to add to the pattern pieces, as I like how the skirt sits on this, and I find it to be a flattering length. I extended it to keep the deep hem that the Kelly is drafted to have (2 inches/6cm), however when I tried the skirt on before hemming, I really liked the longer length. As I didn’t want to use a narrow hem, I attempted a faced hem instead. I had never used a faced hem before, but approached it like a neckline facing. The only issue was that I forgot to add seam allowance to the bottom of the facing, so it ended up being narrower than intended, but I still think it worked pretty well. It might be a little too heavy for this fabric, as it wants to stick out a bit (like the effect of horsehair braid, but to a lesser extent), but it certainly made hemming on a curve much easier. I would definitely use this technique in future. To counter the longer, potentially frumpy length, I used the button placement for the original Kelly pattern, meaning they stop a good 13"/33cm before the hem and thus flashing a bit of leg as I walk. 
Somehow I managed to make my button placket narrower than intended. It’s certainly narrower than my red version, and as a result I had to offset my button holes, so they weren’t too close to the edge. I then in turn, had to offset my buttons so it sits properly when closed, as I did horizontal button holes. I think it looks OK though. The buttons themselves were also from ebay, and are made from olive wood. They are exactly what I wanted. I just hope they wash OK.
Although my face in these photos would lead you to believe otherwise, I absolutely love the finished skirt. It came out exactly as I had envisioned. Exactly! And I kind of did it all myself! If I were to nitpick I’d say I could have got away with adding slightly less volume to the gathers at the front of the skirt, and my topstitching could be better, but they do not take away from the skirt one bit. I'm sure this is probably caused by some kind of pattern adustment error, but I actually love that in some photos it looks like culottes. This make was a direct result of my MMM summary – building more me made outfits, by sewing more, versatile bottoms. This fits the bill perfectly. With Lottas it rocks a bit more of a 70’s vibe, but with white trainers it becomes much more modern. It works with a blouse for work, and with a t-shirt for weekends (ironically RTW in these photos). I am wearing it as I type with trainers and a Belle & Sebastian tee! I am now forcibly having to stop myself from making all the things in chambray because it’s my favourite!!!


  1. Thank you thank you thank you. I have a shirt cut that is drafted for a partial placket but I accidentally cut 2 separate fronts. I'm pretty sure I can draft a full length button band but I knew there was a way of getting a neat finish on it but I haven't been able to find a tutorial. So now I have no excuses for not finishing my shirt!

    (oh, and most excellent skirt you've made too, love the secret birds)

    1. Oh, you are welcome. Glad you have found that tip useful. I'm not sure it's traditional for shirts, but I think it's so much cleaner. It's also how you finish the vents on the Named Inari dress.

  2. Lovely skirt! It turned out so beautifully :) And thank you for sharing your thoughts on the recent British vote. I am not in Britain but I was also shocked by it. Sewing has also helped me in the past to deal with difficult things. I hope it all works out for the best in the end.

    1. Thanks, Anya! I'm sure we'll figure things out eventually, but it's going to be a bumpy ride.

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  4. You address the EU vote so much more eloquently than I did & I agree absolutely with you. Also I have never, will never say 'Brexit'.
    Your skirt looks so perfect! I love the length, the buttons, and the thought you've put into making it exactly as you wanted it. You must be so happy with it!

    1. Ha ha! Not sure I'd be so "eloquent" in conversation! :)
      Thank you. Yes, I'm delighted with the skirt. I'm thinking there will be more midi skirts in my future. I saw a gorgeous yellow COS one in a magazine the other day...

    2. ooh a yellow one sounds gorgeous!!

  5. Love your new skirt! Chambray was an excellent fabric choice. I have a very similar pattern from the 70's/80's that I haven't used yet. Very tempting. As for the whole EU thing, what a mess. I feel embarrassed too!


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