White Pencil Skirt by Sewing Tidbits

A white pencil skirt

Dear readers,

 

A few weeks ago I heard myself proclaiming that I was officially sick of seeing exposed metal zippers. I have tendency of making radical statements, about the smallest things, even when I’m not that convinced myself. It’s a French thing and it’s embarrassing. As a result, I often end up in the awkwardly looking at my shoes because I just did what I said I would never ever do. Case in point with this pencil skirt, which most interesting feature is an exposed gold metal double zipper.

White Pencil Skirt by Sewing Tidbits

I had initially no plan to participate in this year Sewing Bee contest organized by Pattern Review, but when the pencil skirt theme was announced, I knew I had to. I wear a lot of pencil skirts, I have my own pattern and I can make one relatively quickly. But the twist is that the skirt has to be inspired by music or a musician… I’ve more of an analytical mind than a creative one. So asking me to think of skirt when I listen to song or look at a bridge leaves me completely blank.

I decided to look at celebrities wearing pencil skirts, and Victoria Beckham is a big proponent of them. I know it’s a stretch to call her a musician, since she publicly acknowledged that she actually never sang while part of the Spice Girls. But I was a HUGE Spice Girls fan in my early teens (walls covered in posters type of fan!) so it’s actually a pretty good match for me. I also very much like the way she handles her fashion labels.

Pencil skirts are a basic piece of Victoria Beckham’s main label and she has at least one per season. Since I live a few blocks away from Saks Fifth Avenue, I decided to have a quick look at her skirts. Just like Roland Mouret, she uses a type of thick knit material, something between scuba and Herve Leger Bandage dresses, and leaves the garments unlined. I’m not a fan of the knits, and that exact material is quite hard to come by, so I decided to do a classic lined wool skirt with that distinctive metal double zipper at the center back.

White Pencil Skirt by Sewing TidbitsWhite Pencil Skirt by Sewing TidbitsPattern


Pattern Link – My own free pencil skirt pattern
Size – 00

I removed the waistband and did a faced high waist instead. I extended the waist line straight up by 1″1/4, including the darts, and I drafted a facing.
I used my lining pieces (unfortunately I haven’t been able to make it available as part of the download yet) and remove the CB seam allowance on both the self and the lining to allow for the exposed zipper. In effect, that eliminates the back vent too.

White Pencil Skirt by Sewing TidbitsWhite Pencil Skirt by Sewing TidbitsMaking


Fabric – Wool suiting from Mood Fabric, I believe it was The Row, lining is a lightweight silk twill from my stash.
Notions – Custom made double zip from Botani in  the NY Garment District.

The wool, the silk I used for lining and the interfacing were all from my stash so it was basically a “free” project. Until I decided to splurge big time on the zipper. I know you can get a double zip shortened at Pacific Trimming in NYC, but the day I went their technician was not there. I couldn’t come back any other day and I was on a deadline for the PR challenge, so I went to Botani instead. Their service is great, you can customize any element of a zipper, the tape, the metal color, the size of the teeth, the pull, separating, etc. 20 minutes (and 20 dollars) later you have your perfectly matched zipper!

I’ve made quite a few pencil skirts by now so the construction was very straightforward. I bagged the lining, enclosed the zip between the self layer and the lining and left an opening in one of the lining side seams to turn the skirt over. It’s quick and it looks very clean.

White Pencil Skirt by Sewing Tidbits

The hardest element of this project was managing to take pictures of it before the deadline of the contest. I only managed to get a few decent ones and a little person decided that she needed to be part of the photoshoot. I really like my final skirt, and I’m super happy that it was part of the pieces I had on my #2017MakeNine plan! I hope to do a post soon on how I’m doing with that plan, let’s see if I carve out the time. What about you? Are you following up on your sewing resolutions for 2017?

 

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Linda Wrap Dress by Sewing Tidbits

My Just Patterns samples – Linda, Kate and Christy!

Dear readers,

 

First, let me thank you for your reactions on my last post. I received lovely messages in the comments, on Instagram and by email. In addition to people volunteering to become part of the Just Patterns Development Group, I had some great discussions about sewing, patterns and fashion!

With over 70 volunteers for the development group, it has been very difficult to restrict the  selection to 20 but we managed and now everybody is hard at work and already providing great feedback! To offer an alternative to those who want to ask questions while they sew our patterns or post their finished makes we also created a Facebook Community Group. I’m not much of a Facebook person myself but I’m surprised already at the fluidity of conversation it enables…

But let’s talk about today’s topic! This dress is my first version of our latest pattern release, the Linda Wrap Dress. I have been obsessed with this dress since Eira – The Pattern Line – made it. It’s for garments like this that I originally wanted to launch Just Pattern. I am just thrilled that it has finally joined of my closet!

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I could go on and on about this design because I love everything about it! I think it has great details, such as the collar, the metal buckle  and the big pockets. It also has a kind of uniform vibe that makes me feel extra confident on days I have to attend important meetings. A little like a man suit, but more interesting that its traditional female counter part, the sheath dress.

In case you are wondering, the only closure is at the waist. I recommend wearing a slip underneath unless you like to live dangerously! The skirt overlap does generally a good job at revealing only an attractive yet appropriate amount of leg. But I’ve been caught in some crazy NYC winds and luckily I was prepared!

 

Pattern


Pattern Link – Linda Wrap Dress by Just Patterns
Size – We ended up not releasing this size, equivalent to a 32 in our size chart.

The biggest disclaimer of this post is that I did not sew the pattern as is. As you know, I’m petite and I deliberately wanted to try a more fitted look than the one intended. I used the size we initially planned to release as a 34, I removed 1″ to the skirt length and 2″ to the sleeves length.

I think sizing down works  great for the bodice and the waistband, but I could have done with the extra ease in the hips area. For future samples I will also skip shortening the skirt and remove only 1″ of the sleeve length.

When we reviewed the fit and measurements of the final garment, we decided that it would be too small on most people. We moved all of our grading up one size as a result. But in case you are not into the relaxed look, sizing down is a great option.

 

Making


Fabric – Wool from Mood Fabric, I believe it was Rag&Bone
Notions – The 35mm buckle, eyelets and snaps (inside the belt) are from Botani in the NY Garment District.
Helpful resources – a list of useful resources for this pattern is available at Just Patterns.

Of course I am biased, but I find the construction of this dress very straightforward. I love that using french seams and sandwiching the bodice and the skirt between the 2 layers of the belt provides clean finish on the inside, no serging or binding required!

You may have seen on Instagram that I bought a Dual Compensating Raising Foot for my industrial machine and it really made the double topstitching easier. Since buying it I keep looking for excuses to double topstitch ALL THE THINGS!

The belt buckle is probably the only unusual part of the construction but I posted some pictures of the process and if you take your time it shouldn’t be hard to figure out.

Just Patterns Bias Slip dress by Sewing TidbitsJust Patterns Bias Slip dress by Sewing Tidbits

Pattern


Pattern Link – Christy Slip Dress and Kate Bias Top by Just Patterns
Size – 34

I used our bias slip dress pattern to create a lingerie style slip. I needed a V neck to match the wrap dress plunging neckline,  so I used the neckline of our bias top pattern. And since I was going to cut some silk I decided that I may as well make a lingerie tank too!

Making


Fabric – Nude Silk Charmeuse from Mood Fabric
Notions – Gold lingerie strap hardware from Botani.
Helpful resources – a list of useful resources for this pattern is available at Just Patterns.

I used a single layer of fabric instead of 2, finished the edges with bias binding and made adjustable lingerie straps instead of spaghetti ones. I wouldn’t say that it is a very quick sew because of the time it takes to cut properly but the construction is relatively fast. I always find my slip/tank projects very rewarding. The garments feel luxurious and get worn a lot (including just to sleep!!) and the time involved is reasonable.

 

I really love those 3 additions to my handmade wardrobe and I can predict that the wrap dress is going to remain a favorite for the years to come. After all, isn’t creating pieces that will last longer than some cheap fast-fashion option what we try to achieve as sewers? Which of your handmade garment(s) has endured the test of time? I would love to hear your thoughts on creating a wardrobe that lasts!

Things I made, Episode 3

Dear readers,

For the third edition of Things I made, I am showing you what ended up being a final sample for Just Patterns (you know, that project I keep promising to write more about and never do…). So far I only saw the version of Leisa at A Challenging Sew popping up on social media but I’m expecting more soon. Her bold floral version looked so great that we instantly had more sales after she published her post!

Full midi skirts is a look I’ve tried before, but I am falling in love with it all over again. I’ve been experimenting with this skirt quite a bit these days and I’m surprised that I keep coming up with different combinations with other items in my closet and many of my shoes. A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for me to pair it with flat shoes or with a loose sweater but this time it was a success. This is how much I love this skirt! I’m even thinking of a very casual look with white Adidas sneakers [insert gasp emoji]…

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Pattern


Pattern – Just Patterns #1101 – Pleated Skirt
Size – 34

This is the final sample for the pattern, so it’s sewn as-is. I didn’t make any modifications. I just want to point out that this is not a pleated rectangle but rather a flared skirt with inverted box pleats. The flare is better distributed and the overall movement of the garment is nicer.

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Making


Fabric – “brocade” from Mood in NYC, unidentified fiber
Notions – Invisible zip, hook and eye closure.
Helpful resources – Just Patterns come with limited information on construction but we compile useful links from around the web on a dedicated resource page for each pattern. #1101 – Pleated Skirt resource page.

Because black is difficult to photograph, the fabric doesn’t show very well but it’s  medium to heavy weight with an interesting texture. It’s most likely some kind of polyester blend but it also looks like it was entirely block fused. The final result has both body and drape and this is something to keep in mind when you just can’t find fabric with the right weight. I found it in the brocade corner of Mood (main floor on the left when you enter, after the lace). This section has many other intriguing options, not necessarily what you imagine when thinking “brocade”. I recommend checking it out if you wander by New York’s garment district!

SewingTidbits-Pleated Skirt-7

I don’t have a lot to say about the construction, when you drafted the pattern yourself, sewing is very straight forward. My main time waster was trying to use horsehair braid. Since reading Gertie’s blog years ago, I’ve had it in my stash. So yes, for 6 years I’ve been carrying horsehair braid around the world and I never found a use for it. I thought this would be the perfect occasion but I was completely wrong.  I couldn’t get to my seam ripper fast enough! Which means that I didn’t take a picture of the mess first and you will have to take my word for it. I’m not sure if it’s because of the flared hem but it made it wave in a super weird and unflattering way… So I removed it, and hand sewed the hem while watching Netflix. Horsehair Braid is back in the stash for the next 6 years unless one of you come up with a recommendation of what to do with it.

The plaid scarf is also an obsession from last winter. You can blame it on nesting instinct but I was smitten with the idea of wearing a plaid blanket around my neck. So that’st what I did. I went to mood, found some plaid wool, cut it so that it would be a square and frayed the edges. It also doubled as a couch blanket when the weather was chilly…

SewingTidbits-Pleated Skirt-1

SewingTidbits-Pleated Skirt-6

I love the final skirt. It’s extremely versatile and I keep thinking that I need at least a white and a navy version. I’m obsessed with navy. We are finally approaching summer in New York City, millennial pink and other sorbet colors are trending. And all I can think about is navy. Something is wrong with me…

Over to you readers, let me know what you think about the full midi skirts, horsehair braid or about your latest color obsession!!

Things I made, Episode 2

Dear readers,

 

Welcome back for the second edition of Things I made! In my mind, the dress I’m showing you today is closely associated with finding out I was pregnant. I cut it before I knew, sewed it anyway right after I took the test, put it to hang and left it there without a hem because I wasn’t even sure I would ever be able to wear it (insert sad face). So I was thrilled this November when I realized I would be able to wear it for Christmas!SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-3SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-7

Pattern


Slipdress Pattern –  my own (based on this previous version). If you are looking for a bias slip dress pattern with spaghetti strap, I am selling one through Just Patterns
Knit top Pattern – Nettie by Closet Case Patterns.

I made this slip dress before so I don’t have much to add this time. For the top, I used the Nettie. I made it twice as a dress (here and there). This time I used the high front and back neckline, and the long sleeves. When using this pattern as a t-shirt the key is to make sure it’s long enough. My previous attempt ended up a bit short and I removed it my wardrobe. I was annoyed at having to constantly pull it down, and accidental drip of bleach on a navy stripe (deliberate mistake?) did not help its case. I really like this pattern for a skin tight look. Note to self, look for striped knit to make another one!SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-2SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-6

Construction


Fabric – the silk for the slip dress is from Moods and was gifted by Eira from The Pattern Line. The knit top is a merino wool jersey also from Moods!
Notions – N/A
Resources – I compiled the best sources of information I know of to for our Just Patterns slip. I has links for cutting silk, spaghetti straps, baby hems, etc. Let me know if you think anything is missing or if you have a favorite tutorial you would like to recommend.

There isn’t much to say about the slip dress, don’t let the bias scare you. With silk and such a simple shape, the longest task is usually cutting rather than the actual sewing. As long as you take your time, nothing is particularly difficult. I’ll just stress that stabilizing the neckline really makes a difference. You can choose to fuse with a stripe of thin interfacing (like I do) or stay stitch, but it’s the one step I would recommend not skipping!

The t-shirt is very simple too. To make things even easier I didn’t finish the sleeves and bottom edges. The knit is very thin, there is no with I could have done a good job without a coverstitch machine, plus I like how it just rolls.SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-5SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-1SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-8

I love these 2 pieces (and the 2 in my previous post). And I particularly like that they all work together as well as with many other items in my wardrobe. Sewing garments without frills, in nice fabric and in a core “color” of your closet can be very rewarding. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can wear the slip with a chunky sweater as in the picture above!

As you may have realized, I’m experimenting with a new format. My sewing blogroll counts around 300 blogs and I can divide them roughly into two categories. The ones that I read for the sewing and  the words (like Sanae Ishida, Sunnygal Studio, Sewing on the edge and many more) and the ones where I admire the pictures and try to skim through to find pattern/fabric information. Surprisingly, it’s often not that easy to find. Even more surprisingly (to me, and probably not to you) I looked at my own blogposts and realized I was completely guilty. I kept burying the most useful pieces of information in the middle of my ramblings (and typos…). So here it is, let me know what you think in the comments.

Things I made, episode 1

Dear readers,

Exactly a year ago, I was sleeping all the time and outgrowing every single piece of clothing I owned. Morning sickness, elasticated pants, it was a bad baaad time… In addition, I just had sewn garments I really liked and couldn’t wear even once. The good news in this story, is that 1/ the most wonderful little human now lives with me and 2/ I can wear those clothes now! I’m going to play catch up and show you my early 2016 sewing.

lined pencil skirt Sewing TidbitsSo first on the list is very classic pencil skirt made in black wool twill from Moods in New York City. I always mean to invest more time (and nice fabric) in wardrobe workhorses and this time I did it! I didn’t get distracted by a cute print or a pattern release! I used my own pattern, available for free here if you sign up for the mailing list. Don’t worry, there is no risk of receiving too many emails from me. I’m even worse at newsletters than I am at blogging…

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I drafted a lining for this version, which I keep hoping to also make available but time has been flying. Basically everything is ready but I should really proof it (ie. sew another skirt from it) before I spend time laying it out in Illustrator. If you are a risk taker, know how to bag a lining and want to help, email me!

I’m very happy with this garment and I’ve been wearing it several time already since I went back to work. I’m afraid there is not that much to say about this skirt, except that trying to show the vent leads to pretty awkward poses… So let’s move on to the next item!

linedpencilskirt-6

This one is a bias silk tank top. It’s unlined and I finished the edges with a narrow bias binding (about 1/8″ finished width). It was my first time using a bias tape maker and I did a bad job. Hopefully no one will come close enough to notice… The fabric is a lovely silk that Eira from The Pattern Line bought for me at Moods when she came to Haiti for a sew-cation. Sewing friends are the best friends!!

The pattern for this one is also my own, based it on my white slip dress. But if you are looking for a pattern to make something similar, we just released a bias tank top pattern through Just-Patterns. It features the same techniques (french seams, spaghetti straps and a baby hem). I know, I know, it’s one more shameless plug and I still haven’t taken the time to explain why this project is so important for me.I’m working on it, I promise!

That’s it for today, next time I will be back with another slip dress which you may have already seen on Instagram. I’m still debating if I should post about the maternity sewing, I haven’t been very successful apart from the 2 shirts I posted last year, we will see. It looks like I’m back to blogging more regularly. Oops, did I just jinx it by writing that? But I’m actually enjoying it again. Let me know what you think in the comments!!

Ralph Pink Sahara White Shirt by Sewing Tidbits

The other white shirt

Dear readers,

It looks like the new blog format is working for me so far, I hope it is for you too. However it’s too soon to tell if I will be able to keep it up. It wouldn’t be the first time that I manage to maintain decent activity levels on the blog, only to let it completely go a month later… One thing I forgot to mention though is that I don’t currently plan on posting on other platforms than here and Instagram. No more PR, Kollabora (which never seemed to foster interactions or traffic anyway), Burdastyle or Thread and Needle. Traffic was never high on this blog and will certainly drop now but I kind of like the idea of a narrower little corner of the Internet, mostly with regular readers.

Squareshirt SewingTidbits-2
But let’s talk about today’s topic, another big square white shirt. Whenever I sew a white top, I kick myself for not making more. It’s so easy to be seduced by colors and prints in pretty fabric, but there are not many garments as versatile as white tops and blouses.

When I made the Ralph Pink pattern I mentioned last week, I already had in mind a crisp poplin version. Probably because of this Burda pattern (coincidentally Mokosha just posted about it, and it’s reminding me that it would probably fit my current needs) and this Everlane number :

I decided to start with my silk-blend version so that the drape would help with the extra-volume. I really like my previous version, but decided to take in the sides even more (total of 5″ on each side seam, as opposed to 3″ last time) and shorten the sleeves (3″) to account for the stiffer fabric. Unfortunately this required redrafting almost completely the front since I was reaching the sleeve cuffs in a straight line. While I was redrafting, I took the opportunity to modify the curved seam line you can see in the front. On the original pattern the front seam is purely decorative, with no shaping. But since I was going with a shape closer to the body, I included a sort of bust dart.

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I’m not sure you can see very well above but the dotted paper is my modified front pattern and the white one the original pattern. I also modified the top collar pattern to create a smaller/more current collar.

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The fabric is the most beautiful Japanese 100% cotton shirting. I found it at Mood’s and I have just no word to describe how smooth and perfect it is. It sewed well but I had a little bit of puckering that I could not completely iron out, for which I have no explanation. There is also the always tricky curved underarm seam, which was made extra difficult by the use of French seams. For this shirt, I finally  remembered to make my buttonholes and sew the buttons BEFORE hemming. No one will believe but I swear that the CF matched exactly in length before, but I am no Beth of SunnyGal Studio and I cannot explain how the lower picture happened!

Some of you may have a serious eye twitch already and believe me I do too! Let me explain how ironic the situation is. Being French (I know it’s a lame lame excuse), I’m a very critical blog reader. Lately, I kept noticing garments with the traditional closure for womenswear (right over left, ALWAYS right over left) had been avoided/omitted. It’s quite disturbing to the eye in my opinion. Well guess what happened next… I marked my buttonholes actively thinking:”Ha! You are not going to catch me making THAT dumb mistake!!” [Smirk face]. I sewed all the buttonholes , all the buttons, hemmed the shirt only to realize that I had just done it! I inverted the closure!!! Oh well…. *Shameful Face*

I really love the final garment. It fits my current needs perfectly and has been through several wash and wear cycles. I hope not to outgrow it too fast because it’s a very office friendly option in my shrinking wardrobe. I don’t have a definite word on Ralph Pink’s Sahara Shirt Pattern, like most patterns it did require a certain level modifications to match the idea that I had in mind. I did appreciate that the pattern pieces were relatively simple and went together easily.

As you can see in the inspiration pictures, a crucial aspect to modeling a square shirt is to pretend you’re about to casually perform a set of crunches.  I will comply as long as I’m not required to do the actual crunches!

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That’s it for today! Hopefully I will be back soon with more pictures of recent makes. This post is proof that I CAN take pictures inside my apartment, even if they are on the boring side… Oooh tropical background of Haiti, how I miss you!! Any tips for indoor pictures you would like to share?

Ralph Pink Sahara shirt by Sewing Tidbits

What is going on with all the big shirts?

Dear readers,

From the reactions to my last post, I gather that you are still around and ready to engage and that’s pretty good news! So first I would like to thank all the commenters, I think there was a great conversations going on!

One of the reasons for my lack of posting is the fact that I sewed several items I ended up disliking. In my opinion, that’s the most discouraging thing that can happen to a seamstress. You have an idea, get excited, find the fabric, the pattern, spend hours making it, try it on and….. Meh. How anti climatic is that? It doesn’t help that once I reach  construction stage, I don’t like to interrupt myself.I finish all the seams and stop to try on items only just before hemming/adding closures. I usually can get away with it because I know what shapes work on me and I spend time adjusting patterns before cutting fabric. Except these days, I have no idea of how to fit myself because….

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I’m growing a little human!! That’s another reason the blog hiatus, I really really didn’t feel like being in front of a camera and all my clothes feel weird.

I used to wear fairly fitted clothes, most of the time in the smallest size available, with a defined waist. Obviously all that is gone already and I’m not sure of what’s left… I don’t really feel like wearing a lot of those tight jersey dresses that seem to be screaming “LOOK AT MY BELLY” but I’m also not use to see myself hidden in voluminous shapes. Tricky time! So I thought about big shirts:

After seeing the version made by Paprika Patterns, I decided to try Ralph Pink’s Sahara Shirt pattern. I’ve been tempted several times by his patterns, on the basis that they look “different” from most other Indies, but the sizing seemed too big for me and I struggled finding a pattern I really liked. It probably doesn’t help that not a lot of other bloggers have made his garments (with notable exception by Inna and Oona) so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I printed the pattern, found suitable cotton-silk in the stash (same as a Vogue 1247 skirt sewn in 2014), cut the smallest size (US 0), sewed and sewed and sewed. It’s a relatively quick make, without many seams (although I used french seams everywhere), and they matched well enough. I would recommend checking the length of the front button plackets (I think they were too long) and the side seams but there was nothing truly catastrophic… Until I tried on the shirt. I could not picture myself going around the city is what looked like A GIGANTIC TENT!!


I put it away my sewing friend from the Pattern Line came over and convinced me that all it needed was taking in the sides a little. By a little, I mean 3″ on each side seams… The total reduction is 12″ (!!) tapered to nothing at the underarm. I also removed some of the extra length at the back to soften the curved hem effect. But you know what? Now, I actually really like it!

 As you can see, I didn’t lie when I previously said that blog posts would have less pretty pictures… Next time I will tell you about my iteration in white poplin (in the first picture).

In the mean time, I would love to hear your thoughts on those pattern companies that seem less popular among sewing bloggers, does it stop you from trying them out?