Stitching Spotlights 9.3.2010

For this glorious month of September, I thought it would be fun to feature those who were participating in the Self Stitched September madness. It really is rather wonderful to see those handmade creations being sported in everyday life. For myself, I get all dressed up, make-upped out, freshly pressed for a photo and now, I get to show you what I look like when I really wear something. You know, I get to work, things get wrinkled, the lipstick fades, the hair becomes flat. That’s real life, right? Oh if you tell me I’m wrong, I will most definitely feel jipped. Without further adieu, I give you two of my favorites this week:

This is Hillary’s beautiful Jenny Skirt. I love the fabric choice here and that green belt just pulls the whole thing together!

And this is Rhinestones and Telephones beautiful Love Dress. Simple, great fabric, lovely fit. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

So, I’m now going to take up needle and thread for my Katherine Hepburn Dress. It’s finally time and I have the perfect occasion for it this September, a wedding. Not mine, of course. Mr. S and I are actually legally wed. Some friends of ours will be tying the knot. I found this perfect fabric too. I’ll show you in upcoming posts. As I’ve been busily getting ready to cut fabric, I decided to buy this fit book. I have Adele Margolis book on fit, but wanted a second opinion if you know what I mean. This book does not disappoint. I’ve seen it on many stitcher’s preferred sewing book list and for good reason. This takes the jungle of fitting and puts it in terms that makes you feel like you were silly not to know about it before. It’s fabulous! So good in fact, I just bought the pants fitting book and am contemplating the jacket book too. Buy it, you won’t be disappointed.

Hope your dreams are stitch filled! Happy weekend!

  • Jennifer - OOH! I am glad you are featuring other people doing this too! I always love to find new blogs!
    That fit book seems to be a must own. I think I am going to need to buy it too. The cover really cracks me up though. Those ladies are so excited their clothes fit nicely! :)

  • Darci - I have all three of those fit books and use ‘em all the time!
    I’ll be working on my pencil skirt this weekend and using your tute the WHOLE time. Thanks again for putting that together. It’s just what I needed. :)

  • Tasia - I need that fitting book! It’s on my wishlist, although I’ve been buying a lot of books recently…
    Can’t WAIT to see your Katharine Hepburn dress – aren’t you glad we encouraged you to buy the pattern? :)

  • Angela - Those are great outfits that you’ve featured! Oo… can’t wait to see your progress on the dress! I need that fitting book, too… I need to put it on my wishlist.

  • Sarah - Oh, my goodness! Thank you so much for featuring my dress. :)
    I need that book, too.

  • Hillary - Oh my stars, that’s ME! Thank you for featuring me in your lovely blog, what a delight!

Self Stitched September Kickoff

So here we are. September. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. A full month long event filled with days and days of handsewn garments.

As you may well be aware, a rather sweet English girl set this fun up. The point of this is to show off and inspire others with the handstitched wardrobe you’ve built up over time. After thinking about this for a few months, I’ve come up with a few ideas. I decided that I wanted to continue my regular blog posts along with a few smatterings of Self Stitched September sweetness thrown in the mix. I’ll try to add the specifics like pattern numbers, fabrics and such.

I’ve decided not to exclude altered garments, as I’ve found that I don’t have a huge amount of clothing to work with. So, you’ll see a smattering here and there of clothing that I’ve bought that I’ve had to alter in some way to fit me correctly. Don’t forget to check out the Flickr Group to see what others have ensembled together. It should be a September to remember! For the participants list, have a look here. I, myself, am rather excited just to be inspired by the looks that everyone will be sporting. If its one thing that’s fun to me, its seeing the same garment in a variety of different ways. I’m very excited to be participating and I hope that in some way I can inspire you to participate next time or even oil up your machine and start sewing again.

I’ll be back with more fun this month and dare I breathe it…..a GIVEAWAY! I haven’t had one of those since Spring. It’ll be real good too. Oh you just wait!

  • CGCouture - I’m so jealous…hopefully by March I’ll be able to join in the fun with garments that aren’t for kids/husbands/unmentionables. So did you make the blue shirt you are wearing, or is it RTW? If you made it, I’d love to know the pattern! :-)

  • Debi - LOVE the skirt! What a great outfit to kick off Self-Stitched September!!

  • Rachel - Very cute. Love the colour combo and especially love your shoes.

  • Sarah - That skirt is sensational! Who makes the fabric?

  • Becky - I love the skirt! So excited about this challenge, too.

  • Tasia - Love the skirt! You look fabulous as always :) Great colour combination and I’m a fan of those red pumps, too!
    And yay, a giveaway too!

  • Alessa - That skirt is so awesome… :-)

  • velosewer - Great skirt. Now to be just as creative:)

Pencil Skirt Sewalong – Finishing Details & My Summer in Italy Skirt

Believe it or not, this skirt has given me fits. I’m finished with my pencil skirt and I’m sure you are probably on your way to being about done as well, but let me just say, this skirt has given me fits. It started with the zipper. It ripped right out in the middle because I ironed it, putting the iron right on those coils. Yup. It’s been a little downhill from there. I’m also debating whether or not I really feel like taking up the hem for the lining. When I sit down, you can now see the lace. Ugggh….alright, alright, no more complaints. Let’s talk about the finishing details. I’m calling this one my Summer in Italy Skirt and yes, we took the photos in a cemetery. Thank you.

First off, let’s have a chat about fabric choice. For a pencil skirt, you have the world at your feet. Given the sophisticated nature of the this silhouette, it’s fun to play with by sewing the skirt in a playful fabric. For this version, I chose a colorful cotton sateen. But this skirt can also have edge in a simple solid. I say it should be something sturdy, something beautiful and something that can go with everything in your closet.

Moving on to a few construction details. I think that pencil skirts are fairly durable, but the back most definitely gets the brunt of the wear and tear. For this reason, I gave the back seam my organza stabilizer that I used in the invisible zipper tutorial. I ran the organza down the length of the back seam and the vent. This will help the skirt to avoid warping, tearing and it will stand up better in the long run. For next time, it might not be a bad idea to do this to the lining as well. In nearly all of my skirts, the back lining has finally caved.

Hands down, the back vent is fabulous. At least in my book. So easy too. The lining, maybe not so much easy, but still adds the nice touch of actually having a lining. Still, I’m in love with that back vent. Marry me….please.

When I saw this charming detail over on Gertie’s blog, I simply had to imitate. I’ve found that giving the lining a little lace along the bottom as the hem is marvelous. So feminine. So sweet. So lovely to catch a peek of. I don’t use anything real special either. This was a vintage find, but really it bears the resemblance of those stretch laces that you find by the bias tapes in the notions isle. I’ve used those too. This little detail is definitely not going anywhere anytime soon.

As far as the Jenny Skirt pattern itself is concerned, I made a change to the waistband this time. I cut the waistband on the cross grain instead of the bias. I like this quite a bit better. The more I’ve worn my navy blue pencil skirt, the more I’ve realized that the bias waistband really doesn’t work well with stabilizer. Bias garments in general, from those I’ve seen and worn, are meant to hang, sway and move. They are fluid and trying to stabilize them doesn’t really work so well. I also found that I didn’t need to alter the width of the waistband either to make it fit with the skirt. In fact, it fit just fine. Very strange as I thought the bias waistband was supposed to be stretched to fit the skirt. Hmmmm….

Just a few details for thought. How is your pencil skirt coming along? I really do hope that the tutorials have given you ideas. This has been seriously fun for me. Most definitely will be having another sew-a-long in the future. I would love to hear some feedback on what I could do better in the future too! Let me know and I’ll be dreaming up another sew-a-long for Fall. I most definitely hope you participate!

Friends, it’s been fun! You have all been such great sports. Let me know if I can still help. Please post photos to the Flickr Group whenever you like. Can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with.

  • Jennifer - Cute skirt! I love your fabric choice!
    Last night I did my muslin fitting for the skirt, but I am having doubts on whether I want to cut it on the bias or not. Maybe I will change fabrics. I am thinking that I might possibly make a wool circle skirt on the bias. Wouldn’t that be cute for Fall/Winter! I am thinking I will change fabrics now! Ha!

  • Elle - I love your skirt! And with your dislike of those invisible zippers, why not try a lapped zipper on your next one?
    Anyway, I made my muslin. It had a bias yoke, and I think your thoughts on the bias waistband may just apply to my yoke as well. Nevertheless, I’ve put the making of a pencil skirt on hold while I lose the 10 stress pounds I put on this summer. Nothing a little healthy eating shouldn’t take care of.

  • Tilly - O.M.G. WHERE did you get that fabric???!

  • SueWis - Love this skirt! I made a purse out of this exact same fabric and absolutely love it — get lots of compliments on it.

  • Sandra - Yours is gorgeous! That print is ah-mazing. My skirt is sewn up, no zipper as I wanted to insert an exposed metal zip to add some interest to a black skirt. But encountered the problem that I have searched high and low to find a 30 or 35 cm closed end metal zip without success. So I’ll probably put in an invisible zip. But almost finished!!

  • The Cupcake Goddess - Hi Tilly!
    The fabric is from Anna Maria Horner’s Drawing Room Collection. I think it came out last year and was made in this wonderful cotton sateen. There were some fabulous pieces in this collection with this one being one of my favorite. Have a look here for it:
    It’s a dream to sew on too!

  • Tasia - Oh wow, this version is gorgeous!! You’re right, pencil skirts are stunning in just about any fabric. Love the little peeks of lace! I definitely have to try out this pattern too as it’s unbelievably flattering.

  • Alexandra Mason - Love your skirt its gorgeous….i’m on my second muslin now, i am determined to get the fit right before i cut my material!

  • Karin van D. - Very cute skirt. I like pencil skirts in unexpected fabrics. I recently made a pink one, and I love it! This one is fabulous and looks great on you!

  • learningnewtricks - Absolutely beautiful! What a great fabric choice, and one I never would have considered. I generally think of pencil skirts in wools or cottons, with sold colors. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to consider floral patterns. Love the skirt and how beautifully it came out. Also, I love your sew-a-long. I plan on using it make my Jenny skirt.

  • Erica - I LOVE that fabric! Never in a million years would I have thought to use something like that. My muslin is made, have decided not to use the waistband at all…I am just too short waisted and don’t feel like fiddling with dropping the waist. It fits though! Happy about that.

  • promotional - I found your post very interesting, I think you are a brilliant writer. I added your blog to my bookmarks and will return in the future. I want to encourage you to continue that marvelous work, have a great daytime!

Pencil Skirt Sewalong – The Invisible Zipper Tutorial

I’m actually not the biggest fan of invisible zippers, but at the same time, I love the way they look. It’s like there’s nothing there. When inserted well, they look amazing so I’ve got a few tips for these babies, because in my opinion, invisible zippers are a rather weak fastening. Weak in that, they seem to rip apart the easiest, get caught on fabric, thread, you name it. OK, ready? Let’s get started.

You will need the following:

  • a zipper opening (obviously something to put the zipper in, you know, like a skirt)
  • an invisible zipper
  • organza, fusible tricot or this fabulous fusible stay tape in the 1 1/4″ width
  • an adjustable zipper foot
  • an invisible zipper foot – optional. I have inserted a zipper using this method with an adjustable zipper foot, but I always have such mixed results. This however is totally up to you.

Step 1 – Cut two 1 1/4 inch strips of your stabilizer a few inches longer than the length of your zipper. Apply it to your zipper opening. Below I’ve used this precut fusible stay tape that I have in the shop.

Step 2 – You will need to mark the seam allowance for the zipper opening. I prefer to temporarily press/steam the seam allowance in place, however, you can also use your own method for marking the seam line. To temporarily press something just give it a little bit of steam and finger press along your seam line.

Step 3 – Open the zipper with the zipper pull pulled all the way to the bottom of your zipper (if you need to shorten your zipper, do that first) and with right sides together pin one side of the zipper tape to one free side of the zipper opening. Stitch in place. As you stitch from the top of the zipper to the bottom (or to the zipper pull, where you can’t stitch anymore) try to keep the zipper teeth out of the way of the machine needle with your finger. Stitch close to the zipper teeth being careful not to catch the zipper teeth. Backstitch a few times at the bottom of the zipper.

Step 4 – Pin the opposing side of the zipper the to the opposite seam allowance now. Repeat step 3 and stitch this side of the zipper from top to bottom.

Step 5 – Close the zipper. At the base of the zipper, pull up the free zipper tape with your fingers and spear a pin from one stitched side to the other. Stitch and backstitch in place with an adjustable zipper foot from just above the speared pin to the end of the garment.

Step 6 – Press your seam allowance open at the bottom of your zipper opening. Turn over and lightly press your zipper whilst closed. From here, you’re finished! Zip your zip up and down, making sure it doesn’t catch on anything and then sit back and admire your handiwork. You just inserted an invisible zipper!

A few things to consider:

Here’s some of my thoughts on invisible zips. These are things I’ve found out through experience as I’ve used this zipper application a bazillion times.

  • DO NOT press open the invisible zipper (I mean that part right before you sew it in, you know, all those instructions that tell you to open up the zipper and then press the coil open. Don’t do it). DO NOT put your iron directly on the coils either. I say these two things for two reasons. Every time I’ve pressed open the invisible zipper teeth, the coils have been stitched into the fabric and then they rip the fabric and have a hard time zipping up. Every time I’ve put my iron directly on the teeth coils to press out the wrinkles in the zipper, the zipper has come apart AFTER I stitched it into the garment and while I was wearing it. Yeah, just rips right in the middle of the zipper too. Rips right apart, I tell you! I’ve done this more times than I care to admit. Don’t do it! If you have to press an invisible zipper, only press the tape.
  • Invisible zippers have to be stabilized, in my opinion. They are so likely to warp. By that I mean that they bubble or the bottom jets out and looks really funky. Stabilize the zipper opening with the organza, fusible tricot, or stay tape and you’ll get a much better outcome.

That’s about all I have to say about invisible zips. I admit, I do like the way they look. Enjoy!

May the force be with you.

  • Faye Lewis - Oh, now I see! So pressing the teeth outward is what makes my zipper hard to zip up. Very useful information – Thank you very much!

  • CGCouture - Argh! I know what you mean about invisible zips being the spawn of the devil…that being said, I definitely love the way they look on the finished product. Thanks for the tips and tutorial! :-) I never thought of stabilizing the seam allowance that you attach the zipper to, but I’m definitely going to give it a try next time. :-)

  • Becky - Just wanted to say that even though I’m not doing the sewalong right now, I really appreciate what you’re doing with this series! Part of my fall plan is to make a skirt from a sloper I ended up with after an online class in fitting I took last year, and while I don’t know if it will be a pencil skirt persay (perhaps more of a straight skirt), I am going to have to adapt it enough to add a vent and all. So I will definitely be referring to this for the lining!

  • Jennifer - Your fabric is SOOOO cute! I must have some! Where is it from?
    I need to get on the ball with this sew along! I am going to try to catch up tonight! Well, as much as I can since I am cutting on the bias and won’t be able to sew any tonight. BUT, I will get caught up this week! I want to be able to post on the flicker page! :)

  • oonaballoona - i totally agree with you on the evils of pressing invisible zips. the first time i skipped that step was out of exhaustion– then it was so easy i never went back.

  • shivani - I love that fabric!! Where is it from?
    I’m starting my pencil skirt as soon as I get back from vacation!

  • The Cupcake Goddess - Hi Shivani,
    I wish I could say I actually bought this fabric. I did the invisible zipper tutorial on a skirt I had bought a few years ago. It’s one of those cityscape skirts and is the most lovely silk. The skirt has never fit me quite right and so I unpicked the zipper and the waistband, trimmed the waistband and gave it a fresh new waistband stay. When it was time for the zipper, I used it as the invisible zipper tutorial. It is one of my favorite skirts. I’m so glad you like it too!

  • Sandra - This is very handy! I have already sewn up my back seam because I was concentrating on the vent. So I’m going to try your technique for this one.
    My invisible zip technique is very rough and ready. After many many failed and annoying attempts, I now line up the top of the invisible zip with the raw edge of the skirt, eyeball the correct placement on the seam then sew to the end of the opening (marked on fabric). Then I start at the top again for the other side and repeat. Then, close the zip. Put in the regular zipper foot and line up the needle as close to the last stitch of the zipper as possible and stitch the seam. Works pretty well! But the key is to stitch the seam below the zip after inserting the zip. And the funniest thing is, the less I think about it, the better it turns out. As soon as I start worrying about it, I get puckers and other problems!

  • Liz - If anyone, I thought you could share my pain…
    I’ve been using your tutorial of the invisible zipper instalation quite successfully for 2 zippers now. Keep in mind there has been no pressing of the zipper of any kind…
    I was in the bathroom on day one of wearing new skirt, only to find that the middle of the zipper was gaping open. Eek, so I was able to get the zipper down and zipped it back up. So I thought I was all good. Well, I left the stall and did a slight bend for the soap only to have it gaping in the middle again. Noooo! So I then hunted down safety pins and have made the back of my new skirt look like frankenstein. Only to then have a snag on the back from the safety pins. I think my skirt is now for goodwill/dump, and I’ve only worn it once. :(
    I now officially loathe invisible zippers.

How to: Sewing a Vent Lining

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.

This is the 3rd installment of creating a vent in a skirt. For the first two posts in this series, click here and then here. Once you’ve drafted the lining for a vented skirt, we now come to the sewing up of it! Yay! For clarity, I’m going to start from the very beginning of the sewing process. I’ll include tips and tricks so, definitely read instead of just following along with the photos. Ok? Ok.

Step 1 ✂ You’ll need to cut out your cloth to begin with. Make sure you only cut 1 of each of the lining back pieces. From there, stitch in the tucks to the lining and the darts to the skirt shell. In the above photo I’ve stitched the tucks in the lining pieces and then pressed the tucks to towards the centers. No biggie, right?

Step 2 ✂ These instructions are going to look awfully similar to the ones in How to: Create a Vent, but for a few minor differences. Stitch from the bottom of the zipper opening/stop to within 5/8″ (1.6 centimeters) of the edge of the vent extension (make a notch for this), pivoting where the center back seam of the skirt and the vent extension meet. Please note that as per the Jenny Skirt pattern via BurdaStyle, this pattern has 5/8″ (1.6 centimeter) seams. Click here to view the full post »

  • Seemane - Brilliant work Sunni on deciphering the mysteries of linings and vented skirts! Thank you so much for doing all the hardwork for us, I shall be printing this tutorial off & filing it with the other pencil-skirts tutes you’ve made :)

  • Sandra - I love the vent tutorial! I’m still undecided whether I will be putting a lining into my skirt. I made the muslin with the vent to just try it out and love it. Too easy.

  • Miss Shigatsu - i wish i had you to sit next to me and walk me through this… i must have read the tutorial a hundred times and i simply don’t get it.

  • glow - this is just wonderful,i,ve been trying to put lining to my vents for ages but just couldn,t get the trick. with this , i am good to go. thank you so much.

  • Emma - ohhhh what a wonderful tutorial. The cutting of the lining finally makes total sense for me!

  • WallDruggie - I’ve been puzzling over this for several hours and can’t make it work. I have stopped my back seam sewing 5/8″ before the first 45 degree angle and tried basting up my skirt shell and lining vent extensions for alignment. I can’t make the short angled seam align. It’s like I should have added a seam allowance when I cut along the folded back extension.

  • Rosesred - Thanks so much for this tut, it’s great and I’ve never seen an explanation of this anywhere else. My new dress looks great with this finish, I just love how the lining and the shell fold around eachother. Very cool that you decided to check that RTW skirt out, I’d have never thought of that.

  • BonnieJ - This is brilliant, it has been so long since I made lined clothes with vents that I’d forgotten the construction. When you made the cut on one of the linings everything clicked. It is ashame patterns no longer provide lining options or instructions, but I love the web and generous people like you that are willing to share their experiences with others. For those that cannot relate your words to the process. Make a couple of sample pieces; trial and error will work itself out. I promise…you must go through the process several times before it will appear.

  • Candy - Thanks for taking the time to do this tutorial, it has helped me out.


  • Nancy Winningham - Great Tuturial! I have never done a vent lining like this before, but am going to bookmark this page for the next time I make a vented skirt.ReplyCancel

  • Victoria - Thanks for the tutorial. I am so pleased with how my pencil skirt turned out. Though I do have a question. I haven’t figured out how to hem it yet. I would like to hem the lining and fashion fabric so they hang separately, but with the vent they are sewn together down the back. Can you tell me if this is possible? and how to do it?


  • Barbara Mourand - I have struggled for years with lining a lapped vent. These instructions are good up to a point. I can make it work when using just a small sample. However….when the skirt and lining is put together I cannot get it to work. Are you suppose finish the vent lining on the skirt before sewing up the side seams on the skirt or lining? What am I doing wrong? Thanks for your help.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni - Hi Barbara!

      I’ll be reworking this tutorial soon and giving much easier and better instructions on how to line a vented skirt. It’s such a struggle, I know! Hopefully you can wait just a little while longer and I’ll get the new instructions up soon! Thanks a bunch!ReplyCancel

    • Darlene - You can actually complete the skirt including your hem leaving off the waistband. Since the lining is an inch or two above your skirt hem, it is uneffected. I personally prefer to attached the lining with hem in place. It a little bit of manuevering to work in a circle. I struggled w/ this tutorial because she doesn’t state that you don’t cut all the way to top. Thus I could figure out to join the two angled pieces of lining; and you can’t determine from looking at her photos. However, I came across an excellent Youtube video where the construction is demonstrated. Once viewing this, everything clicked! I was able to finish my skirt w/ great results. Hope this helps.

  • Rob - What happens if you want the center back seam allowance to be 3cm? the vent allowance cannot be more than 1cm for it would be too big and there has to be a point where the seam allowance will go down from 3cm to 1cm. or do you simply just stop somewhere and draw a straight horizontal line from 3cm to 1cm and then go down to the vent and hem with 1cm allowance?

    thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Grace - I’m so glad this tutorial exists, however I agree with Barbara that the instructions are good up to a point. For me that point is the lining hem. As shown in these photos the lining is not hemmed. I think I can assume that my lining must be hemmed before attaching to the vent, but for a anyone following blindly this omission might be a real problem.ReplyCancel

  • lakaribane - Something is not quite clear to me, Sunni. So I will sew the hem of the fashion fabric OVER the lining? Or will the lining be free and clear of the fashion fabric hem?ReplyCancel

    • Sunni - The lining is clear and free of the fashion fabric hem – basically a free hanging lining. Great question!ReplyCancel

      • lakaribane - Thank you for clearing that up! My vented linings are usually messes but free-hanging.ReplyCancel

  • K-Line - Oooh, this is kind of making my head swim. I guess, as I am going to do this (as well as doing a petersham waist facing on the lining) I’ll have to stitch the petersham to the waist before sewing the vent, or I won’t have a way to do the sewing of the waistband afterwards. Can this actually be done? In your pics you show the waistband still unsewn while you work on the vent – particularly in step 7 where the shell and lining are side by each. Can one do the waist FIRST (including stitching the zipper to both lining and skirt shell) and then still accomplish what needs to be done in step 7? Sorry if this is a totally stupid question but these are a lot of new steps for me to try to put together.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni - That’s the way I usually do it – waistband and zipper first and then onto the vent. Finish your waistband and zipper insertions before step 7 and when you get to step 7, your skirt will attach in the same way but look a bit messier than my photos (I left that part out for the sake of the photos). Just flip the lining over the top of the skirt and assemble. It looks alot harder than it really is and it will probably feel contrary to normal. I find that its also easier to grab the extension ends that go together – lining and fashion fabric – pull them out and stitch them one at a time. I promise though that once you get to this step, you’ll see that its easier than it looks too! No stupid questions either! This particular type of lining is one that took me forever to figure out, but its so worth the effort in my opinion. I do hope you’ll agree! I can’t wait to see your finished skirt!ReplyCancel

      • K-Line - I spent the evening drafting the lining pieces and reviewing what petersham I can use (I’m going to go with the fuchsia 2″ I got from you, not the 1.25 inch mossy-purple (which would be the ideal colour – but which isn’t long enough). Turns out I do have JUST enough of that lining (egad!). Wish me luck in this. PS: Going to put up a post about this sometime soon.ReplyCancel