August 15, 2010

Pencil Skirt Sewalong - the Fitting

So, here we go. Tackling a basic pencil skirt. All together now.

These collective gatherings (that's what I'm calling them) are going to be about things that the pattern doesn't tell you. I think it's a great idea to start with something really basic, but also flattering. Hence why we are creating a pencil skirt. As you know, I'm using the Jenny Skirt pattern from Burda Style, however you are welcome to follow along with any pencil skirt pattern you might have. This is a fairly basic skirt and so the principles should be able to translate to another pencil skirt pattern without any problem.

In this first little lesson, I'm going to tackle the fitting. Now before you go cutting into that expensive fabric you just bought, it's good to whip up a toile or commonly known as a muslin. This way we get a perfect fit. A perfect fit for you. And that's exactly what you want in a pencil skirt. What could be worse than a baggy or too tight, shapeless, ill-fitting pencil skirt? That's right, nothing! Ha ha ha!

From the list I gave you in my last post, you'll be using the following for the fitting.

  • muslin - the yardage required for your skirt

  • permanent marker

  • enough elastic to go around your waist

  • straight ruler

  • french curve or hip curve - this tool is optional, in fact you might not even require it, unless your hip needs a big adjustment.

To start, cut out your pattern pieces for your size. Make sure you measure yourself and pick the correct size. Now cut out the muslin. I only cut the basics. For a skirt like this, I cut the outer shell, and one layer of the waistband. Mark your pattern pieces, especially the darts with the permanent marker (I use the straight edge ruler on the darts to make them nice and poker straight). Stitch up your muslin according to the directions from your pattern. Leave the back open, where the zipper would be inserted open, but mark the seam allowance with your permanent marker.

OK, now we're ready to give the skirt a try on. I find that it's best not to try and complicate a fitting. There are many different methods for going about this, but most important is that you fit a garment so that it is easy for you to wear. With a pencil skirt there's a few things to keep in mind. A pencil skirt, should fit close, but not tight, through the hip and waist. From the widest part of the hip, the skirt should hang straight, with enough room to walk and sit. And don't forget to press this muslin as you go along. That also will affect the fit.

To try on your muslin - wear the undergarments you would normally wear and I find it's very helpful to know where my natural waistline falls. This is where the elastic comes in. Tie the elastic around your natural waistline (the thinnest part of your waist) and move around for a minute to let it settle. Even if you plan to make a lower waisted skirt, this is helpful to find out where in relation to your natural waistline you want the waistline of your skirt to fall. Also try the skirt on inside out. It's much easier to pin out seams and such when it's inside out.

Try on the skirt muslin. Pin up the back, where the zipper should be and give it a good hard look in the mirror. What to look for - bulges in the fabric. And no, I'm not talking about the bulges in our body, we all have those, specifically you are looking for parts in the garment where there are wrinkles in the fabric, because it's hanging wrong. Even more specifically, look for these in the waist through the hip. Now, the skirt might be altogether too big, and therefore have no bulges, so take this into consideration too. This was my issue. It felt like it was about to fall off. I wanted just a bit more snugness.

Specific points to consider - take a good look at the darts. Don't be afraid to lengthen or shorten the darts if they fall at a strange point on your body. You'll find that they are too long if they create little divets at the bottom. If they are too short, you'll see that there is a bulge in the fabric between the bottom of the dart and the hip. To fix either of these, unpick the darts, try on the garment, and pin out the darts that fit your body, making sure to create symmetry for either side. You'll find it easier to pin your skirt tight at the hip for this alteration and then pin out over darts you've marked with permanent marker. Once your finished, take off the skirt and remark the darts on your sewing pattern. Another point to consider - the darts might be just fine, but the sides might need to be taken in. This is the case for me. Pin out the sides, take off the skirt and adjust your sewing pattern. Make sure you pin out the same amount on each side of the garment for symmetry. You might need the french or hip curve here, especially if you only need to take in the waist. When marking your pattern, you'll need to adjust and blend the new line for your skirt side.

It also might be that the fit widthwise seems fine, but the hip is a little off. For this, you'll need to cut along the top "cut here to lengthen or shorten line" and lengthen or shorten. (Every commercial skirt pattern typical has these. It's those double lines that say, "cut here to lengthen or shorten" and usually there is one near the top of the skirt and near the bottom) Make sure if you need the hem longer, that you cut along the bottom "lengthen or shorten" line. You'll need to blend the lines with your straight ruler or french curve afterwards.

It's also a good idea to sew the new adjustments into your muslin and try it on again. Walk around in it and sit down. Also start looking at things like the back vent, is it too high, too low? What about the hem? Too short, too long? Make sure you make the adjustments for those as well.

Hopefully this gives you a general idea of what to look for when fitting your skirt. Just remember, it should be comfortable. If it's not comfortable you probably won't wear the final garment. And who wants that when you've pored so much work into the thing?

Happy Fitting! If you have questions, I will try to stay on top of answering them in the comments section. And don't worry, this is just muslin, right? You'll do marvelously!

And don't forget, this is collective. If you fit differently, give us your opinion. What helps you when you are fitting a garment? How do you go about the fitting process? Books, websites, resources that you recommend?
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