So the Easter weekend that it seemed we spent so long waiting for has disappeared behind us already. Time flies, amirite? We’re almost in May already ?
Here in London we were blessed with what felt like the first bank holiday weekend where it didn’t rain, EVER.
Despite the blazing sunshine outside, I actually had a pretty productive weekend sewing-wise (and also chocolate-scoffing wise ?), achieving all of this lot:
- Tracing, and cutting out fabric for my first pair of Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans (one of my 2019 Make Nine – yay ??)
- Sewing the fly and front pockets of said Dawn Jeans
- Cutting out two Kielo dresses from fabric I bought in New York last year
- Photographed three things for the blog
- Doing a trial run of a Scout Tee from knit fabric (another one of the 2019 make nine)
- Liking the trial run so much that I cut and sewed most of another from the leftovers of one of the Kielo dresses I cut the day before
- Almost finished the Amelia Bomber jacket that I started last year, when I remembered on a whim that it was still languishing unfinished in a bag somewhere (one of last year’s make nine, lol) which I am totally loving and wondering why the hell I didn’t finish it earlier ?
- Cut out a leopard print silk shirt for the husbeast (Ohhhh I remember our younger days when he wouldn’t wear anything other than plain black or navy ?)
- Speaking of the husbeast, he also finished off one complete t-shirt for himself, and then cut another one and made most of that too
- Annnnnnd I finally started knitting a jumper that I’m super excited about!
So between us, we were pretty prolific! The living room looked a right state after all that lot, lemme tell ya. Thread everywhere, offcuts everywhere, fabric and machines strewn all over the place… bits and pieces stuck to the dogs where they’d laid in the mess. But we had fun, and that’s what counts ? We also ate a LOT of chocolate and ice cream and pizza ?
On to this skirt – it’s the Madeleine skirt by Victory Patterns.
After I made my first Madeleine, I totally loved it but had made it just a smidge too small in the waistband (and there’s zero chance of me getting into it now when I’m a fair few pounds heavier ??). I knew I wanted to make another – not just to make it in a more realistic waist size, but also to make it in a colour that wasn’t so autumn-y. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE autumn (it’s the bestest of all the seasons ??) but the colour of the skirt meant that it only coordinated with a small portion of my wardrobe. I wanted something that was a bit more versatile – and what’s more versatile than black? Nothing, that’s what. Goes with everything ???
So black it was to be. I considered denim fabric, but I wasn’t sure that it would drape well enough – the last thing I wanted was to make a skirt-slash-lampshade. So back to my trusty corduroy it was. Easy care, easy wear. The Madeleine is a circle skirt and the pieces will only fit on 60inch/150cm wide fabric, so bear this in mind when you’re choosing. That rules out pretty much all quilting cottons, in case you’re wondering.
I chose some pretty metal buttons for the outside of the waistband, and rummaged in my eBay button tin for some flat plastic ones to go on the inside at the base of the back straps. (Heads up – you want FLAT buttons for the back – FLAT, d’ya hear me, because you’re gonna be resting on them when you’re sitting in a chair. Shank buttons are NOT your friend here). A nylon zip in a colour that matches your fabric will also be helpful – on my first skirt I used a metal zip, and all you could see was the teeth, despite it being a lapped zip ?
I mean LOOK AT IT…. It’s not even the same colour as the skirt ? Such a rookie back then…
Don’t panic about that topstitching on the pockets – you get a guide in the pattern envelope to follow! After getting ratty with my machine for spitting out some truly appalling topstitching, I found that a longer stitch length and lower tension worked the best. And I could absolutely, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES, backstitch at the start of a line of topstitching. Well, I could, but I’d then have to unpick the massive birds nest of thread that would appear on the underside of the fabric. Not cool. And defo don’t even bother putting topstitch thread in the bobbin, it’ll only end badly. Trust me on this one. Stick with regular thread. I did consider using a contrasting topstitch colour (because more is more, when it comes to colour, amirite?), but other than on jeans, I feel it gives garments a bit of a homemade look. Not handmade (because most clothing is made by a pair of hands somewhere!) but homemade. The same way that a dodgy fabric choice can scream homemade too.
I’ve shortened the skirt from its original length, because it was just a bit mumsy and frumpy on me. Especially with my hips, I’ve discovered that midi length skirts are just NOT the way to go unless I want to look like a milkmaid. Which I do not, just FYI.
The skirt is actually a quite a simple make though – three pieces for the main body (one for the front and two for the back), a lapped zip at centre back. The pockets are overlaid and stitched on top of the main fabric and caught in the waistband and side seams. The skirt isn’t lined, so this might give you jip if you’re looking to wear it over tights in the winter – but you could always wear a slip if that’s yo’ thang.
For the pocket lining, you’re gonna need more than just a scrap of lining fabric for them because THEY SO HUGE. I used quilting cotton for mine – my all time fave, Zen Charmer by Alexander Henry. Yeah, I realise that you only see the top few centimetres of the pocket, and that therefore I shouldn’t have really bothered using a nice fabric for the pocket linings, but meh.
I hemmed the skirt with my sewing BFF – bias tape. Honestly, I just can’t get enough of the stuff. Pretty much every single hem gets it – shirts, skirts, tops… I mean yeah it possibly takes a bit longer than double folding a hem and then stitching, but I end up with a (MUCH) neater line and there’s a considerably reduced chance that I’ll melt my fingers with the iron.
One thing I would change about this skirt is to substitute a curved waistband for the straight one that the pattern is drafted with. I think that’s the one downfall of the pattern, for me anyway – the waistband doesn’t quite sit right around my waist, because I’m curved and that’s straight. It ends up either looking loose and baggy and never really staying still on my waist, or I have to cut it a size smaller to get a snug fit but then can’t breathe and get serious muffin top.
Another thing that kinda bugs me about this skirt as well is that while I totes adore the straps, they don’t sit right either. Moving between sitting and standing makes them slip off my shoulders, as does changing positions. I’m fed up of picking them up and putting them back on my shoulders. You can see from the photos below that the straps rest in positions of various gape-age away from my body:
And yep, I’ve tried shortening the straps to take up some of the excess – all this succeeds at is pulling the waistband even further up my body.
I have a pretty low tolerance for annoyance (ask the poor husbeast ??) and one of my guiding mantras of the clothing I sew is LOW MAINTENANCE. I don’t want to be constantly hitching up trousers, pulling down skirts, readjusting waistbands or worrying that my boobs are falling out of my top or my arse is on display. I want to get dressed and then be comfy and not have to think anything more about it until I get undressed at night (geeeez, am I getting old? ??♀️?) Slippy braces fall in to the category of things I’m not willing to tolerate from clothing.
When you think of braces, you think of elastic ones, right? Well, I do. Just like my Grandad used to wear ??? I made some Burda trousers a while back, which were drafted with braces as well, but I didn’t make them – I bought some rainbow elastic ones online:
They look good, huh? ?
I think that’s the way to go with this skirt. Non-stretchy braces just don’t seem to work. Which is a shame, because I also have the ‘Jim’ skirt by Ready To Sew on my list but am now reluctant to attempt it in case I end up with the same issue with the straps. There might be a way that I can switch the straps for elastic ones – I’ll have to check out the construction – but in all reality I’m probably gonna pass on by.
And I guess all this is the reason that I don’t tend to wear skirts much – they just Don’t. Stay. Put. I’ve got such a curve between my hips and waist that waistbands move around incessantly. They always ride up into my armpits, pulling them hem with it. If I wear a shorter skirt, this rapidly becomes a mini skirt as the day goes on, and if I wear a longer skirt to counteract the rising hem, it just drowns me and I look like a child wearing her mum’s skirt. Dresses seem to be ok – I don’t have the same problem with them – but the catch is I’m not really a dress person. I’m very particular about dress style. I’m more of a jeans-and-tshirt kind of girl (which I guess, means I’m a tomboy). It’s taken me a while (okay, like a couple of years) to get the courage up to tackle sewing trousers, but I’ve made a couple now and I’m feeling more confident. I’m hoping that the Dawn jeans will become my staple – they are the Mom jean cut that is oh so comfortable on my large hips but smaller waist. Annnnnd they’d look pretty rad with the rainbow braces too ?
I really wanted to love this skirt. I really did. But the waistband and the braces are just too annoying. And that got me thinking – it’s funny how we’re so critical of our makes, isn’t it? Not so much in the construction sense, but in the fit sense. We expect the things we make to fit our bodies perfectly. If something we buy from a shop doesn’t fit quite right, we can be more likely to shrug it off, because we kind of expect that from something that’s marketed to fit every single body shape out there. But when we make something ourselves, there’s more pressure for it to be the perfect fit. Which is silly really, because there’s no more chance of something handmade fitting straight out of the envelope – with no adjustments – than there is of that store-bought garment fitting. Funnily enough, Millie left a comment on the blog a few days back about ‘standard alterations’ that sewists have to make to patterns to get them to fit – I guess it can be more obvious for the bigger adjustments such as lengthening/shortening, but there’s also more subtle ones like sway back, bicep adjustments (which was the one in question for Millie), rounded back, full stomach… the list goes on. I know that I’ll usually have to grade between sizes on skirts/trousers (I’ll need a larger size at the hip than at the waist), but it took me a lonnnng time to figure out that I had to do that. I don’t even know why it took me so long, but I’m so glad that I got there in the end. There’s probably a fair few other adjustments that I could do with making as well – especially with shirts (full bust, and Hulk-shoulders adjustment wouldn’t be a bad shout either), but who knows how long it’s gonna take me to figure those out. But it’s cool, it’s all part of the journey. Maybe by the time I’m 40 I’ll have a better idea of fit adjustments that I need ??♀️?
Do you make any standard adjustments to patterns that you sew?
Have you made the Madeleine skirt, or similar garment with braces? Did they work for you?
**The supplies for this make were provided to me free of charge by Minerva Crafts, but I’m super-opinionated so all words are defo my own and believe me you’ll know about it when I think something is rubbish ? **
Next week on the blog is something you’re not gonna want to miss… I made an outfit for a friend’s Indian wedding, and it’s a massive colour fest ?
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