A skirt most fitting for my friend

Fitted pencil skirt

Meet Ms Moneypenny. AKA my lovely friend, Katy. Modelling the skirt she won in the school auction, made by yours truly.

And prepare for a whole host of lovely shots taken by Mr Ooobop, AKA Daniel who I am nagging like mad to get his portfolio up and live so I can share more of his lovely photography with you.

fitted pencil skirt modelled in the garden

Getting the fit right on ones own self is one thing but the pressure to get it right for someone else is far more terrifying! I suppose it’s a good kind of terrifying because it does make you learn very fast and not settle for anything less than a good fit.

I got a bit lucky with Katy. One measuring session, one draft of the pieces, one test skirt for a fitting, and one final fitting for the actual skirt. Probably by the power of flook but selling it in as skill!

Katy happy in her new skirt

This lovely little impromptu shoot revealed Katy’s hidden modelling talents. Took to it like a duck to water, she did. And check out those pins… we don’t get to see them very often!

sitting pretty with flowers

Such a pretty garden too. Could easily be confused for one in the Med! I wish I’d have taken a shot of Mr O as he was clicking away. He was revelling in the whole session. Lying on the floor, up in a tree, peeping round Grecian columns…! I was blissed out with G&T in one hand and hot dog in the other!

Katy modelling pencil skirt

And of course there were props…

back view with Frankie the puppy

Meet Frankie Knuckles, Katy’s 11-week old border terrier puppy. She has stolen everyone’s heart, obvs!

Holding Frankie the puppy

And there was photobombing, of course!

photobombed by children

Oh how I love this shot…

Katy modelling with her daughter

It’s such a great feeling to make something for someone who means so much to you. Especially when it fits them so well. It’s also the only time you can really get away with unashamedly staring at your mate’s bum.

You can just about see where I hand-picked the lapped zipper, and of course where I – ahem – matched the checks across the back seam (*polishes nails*)

See now, you’re all looking at her bum!

back view of skirt

The waistband pattern runs through centre front but waist darts rather mess up the plan. When I next make a skirt with this kind of fabric (it’s 100% gorgeous wool by the way) I might be inclined to create side seams on the waistband, as on properly tailored skirts, so that I can match the checks on the back too. This would also allow for expansion if ever needed.

front detail of skirt

I leave you all with a parting shot of the adorable Frankie. A fine model herself and because I just know she stole your heart too!

puppy border terrier

Here’s to more sunshiny days, fabulous photos, cute puppy dogs, fantastic friends and great opportunities for wonderful sewing projects. Cheers all x

Moneypenny chic

wool tartan pencil skirt

Some time ago. Like a very long time ago. Like I’m too ashamed to admit how long ago, I was approached by one of the mums at the school gates who asked me if I’d like to contribute something to the school auction fundraiser. ‘Of course. I’d love to’, I said. ‘If I could only think of something of worth that anyone would want to bid on!’

The auction happens once every two years and for a school as tiny as ours, it raises an astronomical amount of spondoolies for much-needed improvements in and around the school.

A holiday for four, in Sardinia; Two tickets for the Tennis Championships at Queen’s Club; An Aston Martin Photoshoot and Drive; a John Broadwood upright piano… this is the level of contribution. So you can sympathise with my dilemma!

‘Oh,’ I said ‘Argghhh!’ I said. ‘I’m afraid I’m clean out of anything like that.’ But the clever mum, with a tilty head and a cute face pleaded,'”But could you not make something?’ Uh oh. Here we go, I thought. What could I make without knowing who I’m making for?
‘I guess I could make a made-to measure-skirt.’ I said. Apologetically and realising how dull that sounded up against all else.

The theme was Bond with the opening lot announced as a James Bond goodie bag. Mine was listed at no. 17: Miss Moneypenny Chic

catalogue entry for skirt

Oh how very clever. However just a little bit scary. Of course I had no idea who was going to be bidding on my skirt. I couldn’t even be at the event so I was keen to know who bid and for how much the following morning.  £20, £50? Are you kidding? My friend Katy bid – after a proper fiesty bid-off with another mum – a stonking £300!

Pressure or what! This skirt had to be bloody good. Not only because Katy is my dear friend but it had to reflect the quality to match that price.

First things first. I took some measurements and drafted the skirt. No ready-made patterns going on this time. It had to fit good and proper.

I made a test skirt in a cheap fabric. Which incidentally she really loved too so I must finish that off… at some point!

We went fabric shopping together – perks of the job! – and came out with this beautiful Westwoodesque wool fabric and some beautiful two tone lining to match.

wool tartan and lining

One of the great things about pencil skirts is that they only take a metre of fabric. So you can afford a better quality of cloth. This gorgeous wool was from my favourite, A-One Fabrics. In the Goldhawk Road, of course!

I took my time with this skirt as is clear from the start! I made sure the pattern was centralised and so the front darts were incorporated symmetrically. I’ve learnt by experience and plenty of dogs’ dinners! The design follows through from the centre-front of the waist band too. If you don’t look too close!

pencil skirt front darts

I inserted a hand-picked, lapped zipper. I didn’t want any wonky machine stitching going on! And amazingly enough I got the overlap of the lap matching the fabric pattern on the other side too!

hand picked lapped zipper

Asides from attaching the lining to the vent – which always scares me but always works out somehow – I mitred the corner of the hemmed vents. So much neater and to be honest, the only way I’m ever going to do it from now on. I also hand made the inside button loop. I did this to stop the pull on the waistband which happens if you just rely on a hook and bar.

mitred corner and handmade button loop

And of course the icing on the cake was having the first ooobop label sewn in. I have made my own rule about only inserting one when the garment deserves it. And in this case I think it does!

ooobop label in skirt

I hope soon to be sharing some photos of this skirt with the lucky winner wearing it. Mr ooobop is poised and ready with his camera!

Last of the summer shorts

gingham shorts

When I was a child, I remember that the end of the summer holidays was always marked with a change in the weather. Going back to school, following countless sunny days in the park, sporting a coat for the first time and being bemused by the blustery weather. Well something has gone awry this year but I am certainly not complaining. 29 degrees in September? That’ll do nicely!

I did have plans for something a little more exciting than a pair of shorts this weekend but who wants to be in when its so glorious outside? Not me! So a quick pair of shorts it was.

I have made these shorts before in a more wintry plaid, so I knew how quickly this pattern was to piece together. Just under 2 hours no less.

simplicity 2659

I have given myself a ban on fabric buying for a while. I have been so lucky to have inherited so much over the last year or so and I must start using it, or Mr. Ooobop! is going to have a meltdown! It is a little bit out of control to be honest. And to be fair, I haven’t scratched the surface with these shorts as a stash-busting project but hey, it all helps!

gingham shorts back view

On the subject of stash busting, I honestly think it’s the part of sewing that hurts my head the most. I keep the fabric because I like it (obvs) and I know that one day it will be perfect for a project. But that project might take years to materialise. And in that time the stash just gets taller! I don’t want to pick any old fabric for one of my makes. It has to be right!

I really think that this fabric is right for these shorts. It is a poly cotton mix (I think) but of the sturdy kind. So those interfaced cuffs on the legs are sturdy indeed! Pretty design too. Gingham, which is always good, with little embroidered daisies. Not so good to iron though. I tried with a hot-ish iron and it turned one of the daisies pink! I guess that’s the ‘poly’ bit in the mix!

I made a lapped zipper… a bit more confidently and certainly more neatly this time round. Can you see it?!

lapped zipper on side of shorts

Well I don’t think I will get many more days of shorts this year, though stranger things have happened, but I got a great deal of satisfaction in making and wearing these today. Plans for autumnal garments are starting to emerge. But I’ll wait ’til it cools down before I can start handling wool!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. x

Drafting a skirt block made clearer

self drafted skirt front view

Why on earth would I want to go to the bother of drafting a skirt block when I already posess a pattern collection of monster proportions? Good question.

Well apart from the fact that I am the world’s greatest procrastinator, it’s mostly because I plainly just don’t like not knowing about stuff! Well, that plus the fact that I wanted to create a perfectly fitted skirt! I have managed it once or twice before, by adjusting patterns, but only by the power of ‘flook’ and not by any knowledgable means.

Making a fitted skirt pattern is something I have been wanting to do for such a long time. I looked into taking a course but was really shocked by the prices. I guess I set my hopes high starting with the London College of Fashion!  Getting a course to fit in nicely with work and children is a bit tricky too. So I set out on a mission to self-teach! It has taken me a long time to get my head round it (the old grey matter aint what it used to be!)… and get round to actually doing it.

The truth is, I am quite impatient and the idea of some mountainous mathematical process leading up to the joyful part of sewing wasn’t very enticing to say the least. But if I am ever to realise some of these far fetched designs I carry round in my head then I have to start learning to draft a properly fitted skirt block at the very least!

To be honest. Now that I have sussed it, it seems remarkably easy!

The hardest part of this process was being totally honest about my own body measurements! I’m forever thinking I’m smaller than I am or believing that if I make anything at least a half a size smaller I will loose some pounds to fit into it properly! But I had to be true to myself this time if I was going to go to the effort of making something to properly fit.

The following instructions have been compiled from various sources and put together here in a fashion that is clearer to me. I can’t claim this as the best way forward for everyone. So if you are going to use these instructions and make a skirt from the pattern, please make a toile first! I needed, in any case to document the instructions as a note to self because even after my first attempt, I forgot some of the process! This method really did work for me and it would make me such a happy bunny if they work for you too, so be sure to let me know!

All measurements are in inches (sorry). I use millimetres in all that I do at work but I can’t break away from imperial measurements for sewing and cooking!

Drafting the basic skirt block

First make a note of your measurements.
It is easier if someone does it for you. Less chance of cheating!
Make sure the tape measure is comfortable and not tight.

You will need 3 measurements:

  • Waist
  • Hip
  • Length

and the following materials:

  • A large piece of paper, that is just over half of your hip measurement by just over how long you want your skirt to be. (Tape pieces together if necessary)
  • A long ruler
  • A pencil
  • A right angled triangle/set square.

NB: this pattern allows for 1 inch of ease which can be altered to suit.

(Click on the images to enlarge)

STEP 1:

On the left hand side, draw a vertical line the length you would like your skirt to be.
Mark the top point as W. (W to L = length of skirt)

drafting a skirt block step 1

STEP 2:

Draw a line at right angles to point W, to the length of half your hip measurement + 1/2 inch ease.
Complete the rectangle.

drafting a skirt block step 2

STEP 3:

Draw a vertical line between the two outside edges, at a distance that measures 1/4 hip measurement plus 1/2 inch ease, from the centre back seam. This will separate the front from the back pieces.
Mark the left vertical line as centre back and the right vertical line as centre front. Draw arrows on centre front to remind you to position centre front on fold.

skirt block step 3

STEP 4:

Measure 8 inches down from the W point. Mark this new point with H. Draw in the horizontal Hip Line.
Measure half way between the Waist Line and the Hip Line and draw a line across. This is the Middle Hip Line. Mark it MH.

drafting a skirt pattern step 4

STEP 5:

Draw a line from point W that rises to half an inch above the Waist Line.

Measure across from point W, diagonally up to the new guide line, the distance of 1/4 waist measurement + 1/4 inch ease + 1.5 inches for 2 back darts. From that end point, draw a line down to the point where the Hip Line meets the centreline. This creates the hip curve and a shape to the waist.

Repeat the process for the front pattern piece to create the hip curve for the front side. The diagonal waist line for the front piece will be 1/4 waist measurement + 1/4 inch ease + 3/4 inch for 1 front dart.

You can use a french curve or freehand to give a smoother curve at the end.

make a skirt pattern step 5

STEP 6:

To create the front dart: find the centre point of the wast line on the front piece and draw a vertical line, from the Waist Line to just before the Middle Hip Line. This is the central fold of your 3/4 inch wide dart. Draw in the dart as shown below.

To create the back darts: draw 2 vertical lines equidistant across the Waist Line. The dart nearest the centre back line extends to an inch and a quarter down past the Middle Hip Line. The other back dart, nearest the side seam, extends just to the Middle Hip Line. Draw in the two darts, each 3/4 inch wide at the top, as shown in the diagram below.

NB: please note that although these darts appear to be standard measurements, you may very well have to alter them to suit your own body shape. Making a toile will highlight if this is necessary for you or not.

adding darts to skirt pattern step 6

Et voila! The tricksy bit is done!

All that remains is to smooth those curves, cut the front and back pieces apart and add seam allowance. You should be familiar with this process if you regularly use Burda Style patterns from the magazine! 5/8 inch is usual. A good hem allowance is between 1.5 and 2 inches.

Remember not to add seam allowance to the centre front, but do add it to the centre back.

To create the facing, I traced from the Middle Hip Line up to the Waist Line on both pieces, cut out and folded the paper on the dart lines to create the curve at the waist. But you could alternatively make a waist band, whereby a facing piece is not necessary.

I do hope this is of help and that I didn’t make it too confusing. Do shout if I’ve missed anything or if there is anything you don’t understand.

First skirt from the self-drafted pattern

self drafted skirt side view

Probably the most boring skirt I have ever made, re. choice of fabric, lack of features… not even a walking slit, standard length etc. BUT, by the same token, probably the biggest learning curve so far!

This is a very wearable toile. I’m so glad I did this. Pencil skirts are a great go-to for work. Especially in neutral colours. This is a very lightweight, cheap suiting fabric and I never thought it would be wearable but with the addition of a lining it gained a bit more structure. To create the lining pieces, I cut the same skirt pieces from below the line of the facing and added a couple of inches across the width of front and back for ease, which was incorporated as a pleat along the top seam line. Incidentally the two-tone polka dot lining is far more interesting than the self fabric! I found 3 metres of it in a Charity shop recently for £1!

polka dot lining

I inserted a lapped zipper but I still need a little practice in that department! One great tip I picked up along the way, however was to take the loose thread from the baseline stitching of the zip, thread a needle and take the thread to the inside of the garment. You can then either knot the ends together with the bobbin thread or, in the case where the bobbin thread is too short ( I have an automatic cutter and this often happens) you can just do a couple of reinforcement stitches and snip. It  all helps to create a flawless finish on the outside.

lapped zipper

I love the idea that I am on my way to making custom fitted garments. Im sure it will be a very rewarding journey.

I am going to experiment a bit more with variations on this block before I steam into the creation of a bodice block. I like the idea of changing the darts to princess seams, perhaps with piped seams, making it more of a wiggle skirt with a vent, and making a high-waisted version too. Oh hours in the day… where art thou?!

back of skirt

The 4-birds-with-one-stone plaid shorts!

plaid shorts simplicity 2659A little bit of sunshine was all it took to inspire these shorts. Don’t panic! I’m not about to get those pasty pins out just yet! I much prefer to wear shorts as spring attire with a pair of 60 dernier tights and the trusty Docs! That photo will have to wait until I can grab Mr Ooobop! to work his photographic magic. In the meantime, I’m afraid we’ll have to make do with my boring pics.

The 4-birds-ness came about as follows:

  1. After my recent pleasure working with and deciding to invest in better fabric (re the audition dress) I also made a conscious decision to wade into ‘stash mountain’ for practice projects and toiles rather than buy any more substandard material. This plaid/tartan fabric was quite a large piece left over from my vintage plaid dress. Its totally synthetic, I’m sure, but it was a good weight for these shorts and so minor stash bust #1 achieved!
  2. I’ve been hearing the words ‘lapped zipper’ on other peoples blogs and in sewing mags quite a lot recently. And I figured it should be something I should know how to do by now. Since getting the hang of the ‘invisible one’ (after some practice, mind) I have kind of forgotten that there is any other way of inserting a zip. Of course I headed straight to YouTube as my first love of demos. I am far more receptive to watching someone demonstrate it for real! Turns out that this was the perfect kind of zipper for these shorts. I think I did it properly. Well, the zip goes up and down and the lapped bit covers the teeth so that’ll do me and will also tick the box of having mastered a new (for me) zip technique.
    plaid shorts side zip
  3. Plaid matching has always been a bit flooky for me, I have to say, and using this fabric on a small, uncomplicated project gave me the chance to practice matching up those seams. Both left and right side seams are as near as dammit and at least across the front and the butt the horizontal stripes line up. Shame I couldn’t do the maths on the side seam of the cuff. I have to say though, having the checks line up across the zipper had me doing a little dance round the ironing board!
    plaid shorts side
  4. And finally the fourth birdie was the mere fact that I have never made a pair of shorts before. This pattern is Simplicity 2659 and I’m pretty sure it came free with an issue of Sew magazine. I’m not sure I would ever make the dress. I can make my belly stick out without any extra help thank you very much, but the top could be cute and I’m sure the bolero would work with a classic dress! Anyhows, one baby step closer to making a pair of trousers but its defo a baby step I am very likely to repeat with some different fabric.
    simplicity 2659 pattern

The cuffs of these shorts are my favourite addition. I love that they are separate and cut on the bias. I wasn’t expecting that as the turn ups on the sleeves I did for my wing collar blouse were technically a very deep hem, turned back on itself. The bias of any sort of checked/plaid/tartan fabric is fabulous against a straight grain of its own kind and I think it really looks neat. Finishes off the hem inside perfectly too.

plaid shorts cuff

I would say that I lost big points on the waist finishing. I have never finished a waist without facing or waistband before and this pattern called for the use of twill tape at the inner waist edge. Very simple to understand and to achieve but I really must remember to stitch from the top when I’m doing things like this. That way I will get a much neater and straighter line. It won’t get noticed, I know, as my children will be horrified if I start tucking my tops into shorts but I know I could have done better. I just find it very amusing, and everso slightly annoying, that a little bit of topstitching is my main cause for concern on this tiny project!

plaid shorts waist

I highly recommend this shorts pattern for anyone wanting a little project to run up in an evening. I’m sure they would look great (on someone else) in a more summery linen or gingham… ooo gingham… imagine the cuffs!