Hey friends! Please note that as of 4/6/2012, this tutorial has been refashioned. The instructions and photos have all been updated to produce a much more professional result. If this is your first time visiting this tutorial, read on, if this is your second or third time (or 4th or 5th) give a read through the material as some of it has changed a bit.
One thing I found when making my navy blue pencil skirt from the Jenny Pattern from BurdaStyle is that the back had a slit and not a vent or kick pleat. I have strong feelings about slits. Slits, for skirts, belong in the front along one leg, if they belong anywhere at all. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. I really feel that adding a back vent or even a kick pleat (kick pleats are closed back vents) adds real value and durability to a garment. Slits are much more likely to tear or distort over time from wear.
You might also be surprised that though this little tutorial brings your skirt up a notch, its very easy to do. Weird huh? Usually things that look better on garments are much harder to do. I mean don’t you find it a relief to know that this is easy peasy? Come now, let’s cheer! OK enough silliness, down to brass tacks.
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.
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?
Oh, Oh, Oh! I’m so excited to have a little sew along! Hip Hip Hooray!
So, the whole goal of this is to get you all involved and let us all in on your secrets for pencil skirts too! I’ll be working with the Jenny Skirt Pattern from Burda Style, but really you could bring any pencil skirt pattern to the table for this. I plan to create “lessons” (yes, this is my flute teacher side coming out) for you to follow along with. I plan to give you the low-down on how I fit a pencil skirt, create a kick pleat on a pattern that does not have one, insert an invisible zipper and some of the finishing details of skirt making that I find rather nice. I’ll be getting these pencil skirt lessons going next week, so keep it bookmarked here. I’ve made up a little list of things you’re going to need for this sew-along:
I also wanted to give you some inspiration from fellow stitchers around the web for other ways to try a pencil skirt. I mean what about a lower waisted pencil skirt, like Selfish Seamstress has here:
How about a side zip and pleats along the bottom, from Pretty Ditty:
Pockets anyone, maybe with a button-up front? Courtesy of Stephanie Hillberry:
Perhaps a ruffle down the side, from Erica B.:
You can create princess seams, or give it a hidden waistband. There are hundreds of things you can do with a pencil skirt. Hundreds. I plan to give a few tutorials on some of these. Oh what fun!
Here is number 1 of three pencil skirts fit to be made for my Self Stitched September-ness. This is the Jenny Skirt Pattern from Burda Style. Can I just say, Love at first stitch. As per usual with Burda Style patterns, this pattern did not come with great instructions. No problem, as pencil skirts aren’t really that complex.
Onto specifics. I made this from a navy blue polyester wool blend. Not my favorite fabric to work with, but it was on sale and that does the trick sometimes. I needed a skirt in a basic neutral color too. This definitely fit the bill. It’s lined in silk charmeuse, which was a thrifted skirt from just a little while ago.
Things I love: The shape is superb on this skirt. I’ll admit, I got this one just a bit snug, but you might be surprised to find out that not only can I walk, I can sit! Ha! And talk about comfort. For something that does not really look comfortable, it is. Especially lined with the luscious silk. Pajamas, more like. Pencil Skirt Pajama. I also love the zipper. For those of you who’ve been visiting here for awhile, you know I simply abhore invisible zips. I’ve never had good luck with them. NEVER! But I did some digging around in some of my old mags and found this article for putting them in. It was back in a Sew Stylish issue which is apart of the Threads empire. (I can’t find the article on the Threads website, I’ll keep looking, but maybe I’ll just give you my version of the zipper insertion) Ummm…have you ever seen a zipper look so beautiful? Yeah, me neither. I’ll admit, it is warping just a bit and I think this is because in general, I got the skirt a bit on the snug side. But this takes the cake as the most gorgeous invisible zipper insertion I’ve ever attempted. I also love the bias cut waistband. Normally I don’t take too kindly to bias cut parts to garments. I would rather have the whole dress, not just the silly lining cut on the bias, if you know what I mean. This waistband is different. The bias part of it hugs that curve at your waist, making you appear even thinner that you would think.
Things I don’t love: This brings me to the parts I’m not so crazy about. I do love the bias waistband, however the downside of this is the slight puckering at the back. This is caused from the bias. I know this for sure, because I’ve attempted this sort of look on a few other garments before and always had the same result. Drag. I also do not love the slit at the back. It cheapens the look of the whole thing and it was a little on the high side. It was a bit too friendly on the “hello” side of things, if you know what I mean. It really should be a vent or kick pleat, which for pencil skirt #2, you’ll definitely see.
And that, dear friends, is that. A seriously dangerous skirt, with more curves than I even knew I had! I was thinking it might be kind of fun to do one of these skirts together. Giving you some fitting tips and sewing tips that you wouldn’t normally get from the pattern and not to mention, it would be like a collective little sewing league where we could all share our problems, issues and tips. What do you say? Maybe a little flickr pool to boot. Come on, come on, it’ll be fun, it’ll be fun!
I’ve been doing some heavy duty cleaning out, which is why the delayed posts. The latest spritzer upper was going through my jewels. What a mess! I spent two hours unknotting and detangling some 20 odd necklaces. I’m rather terrible with jewelry and throw it all in a box, so it gets tangled and knotted and then I don’t wear it. Every few years or so, it’s time to clean it up. This time for good.
I made this handy dandy cork board jewel keeper. Rather simple. Bought a frame, some cork board and covered the cork board in blue silk, which matches my bedroom. I’ve seen this idea floating around the net these days and felt it was such a good idea because it keeps things detangled and you can hang up your jewels for inspiration and to remind you to add that necklace to your outfit on any given day.
I also made the top drawer of my dresser into a jewel keeper as well. The cork board can’t hold everything now. I made a blue mat from the same blue silk, cotton batting and printed cotton fabric and put some bias tape around the edges. Easy, easy. Surprisingly, the jewels really don’t slide anywhere. And it makes opening this drawer such a treat, kind of like going to a department store and getting some jewels out of the glass case.
I found that my silver pieces needed some real cleaning too. I didn’t want to mess with that silver cleaner garbage and so looked up some recipes for homemade silver cleaner online. I had no idea it would be so easy. I lined a bowl in tinfoil. Boiled some water, added that to the bowl. Sprinkled some baking soda and salt in the bowl and Voila! Silver Cleaner. Soaked my silver jewels in that solution for a bit, gave them a rinse and now they are silver again. Ha ha ha! This method works super well, would recommend anytime!
I realize this is more of a jewelry spotlight than a stitching spotlight, but hey, us ladies need something to accessorize with them handmade clothes right?
Wishing you a fabulous weekend!