Skirt construction

No pictures yet, but my skirt project is coming on steadily. It’s a knockoff of a Vivienne Westwood design which has a drape on the front made by two roughly horizontal unpressed pleats. I’ll post pictures when it’s done, but in the meantime here’s a quick list of things I’ve discovered during the process.

  • It’s a lot easier to put in an invisible zip if you interface the edges of the fabric first. My zip’s in a curved side seam and in the muslin it went a bit bubbly. I fused Vilene bias tape down both sides before inserting the zipper in the real thing and it went in very evenly.
  • Point turners are better than pencils. I usually use a blunt pencil for turning out corners, but recently picked up a proper point turner. I got pretty good corners on my waistband with its assistance. The end of a 60-30 set square might have the same effect although it would be harder to fit in the sewing basket.
  • Muslin the waistband as well as the rest of the skirt…mine turned out a bit tight! Too late now but I’ll know for next time.
  • Woven stripes make fitting a lot easier. Probably obvious but I’d never tried it before. You can see every little distortion and bump very easily.
  • Those chalk wheel things are brilliant. If you’ve not seen one, they’re a triangular plastic device with a little plastic wheel in one corner and a container of powered chalk in the opposite edge that coats the wheel as you run it along your fabric. They make a really fine accurate line, but the real win is that it means I don’t have to sharpen the chalk every five minutes.

And in other news, many thanks to Alice for coming up with a fix for my meh dress! The lining isn’t sewn to the waist seam so it should be possible to scoop out a bit of the front bodice seams and reduce the bagginess. That’s next after the skirt.

Westwood skirt muslin

As my last project turned out to be a big disappointment I couldn’t wait to get started on something new. I’m going to try to make a version of a Vivienne Westwood skirt. The style is called Philosophy. I originally saw it while browsing in the Vivienne Westwood shop in Glasgow. There are some good pictures on Net-a-Porter. It comes in a few different fabrics.

It’s basically a pencil skirt. There’s a drape at the front which is made by a pair of pleats that are caught in the right side seam. On the back of the skirt all the shaping comes from two darts, both on the left, which slant towards the right. There’s a zip in the left side seam and a narrow waistband. The hem is on a slant at the front and back and so the length doesn’t match up at the side seams.

My starting point was to draft a basic pencil skirt block to my measurements. I used Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear by Winifred Aldrich. I measured myself (that was a nasty surprise…I blame the Glasgow restaurants) and started following the book’s drafting instructions for a tailored skirt block.

I immediately hit a problem because the book would have you use a fixed measurement for the length between your waist and hip which you read off from a table based on your pattern size, ie your bust size. I really don’t see how this can produce a correctly fitting skirt on a person who isn’t averagely proportioned. I’m pretty tall and my waist-hip length is 20% longer than the one in the table. In the end I just used my own measurement at the appropriate point rather than the one from the table. Much crumpled paper later I had a very plain pencil skirt block which looked far too big. I carried on regardless.

The next part was a lot more fun. I cut the block into pieces along the existing dart lines and the lines where I wanted the new darts and pleats to be, and moved the pieces to close up the old darts and make gaps where the new ones are. I wanted the pleats to be extra deep so I spread those out further by cutting all the way to the opposite side. I have no idea how you’re supposed to draft this stuff properly; I just made this up as I went along with a bit of inspiration from Make Your Own Dress Patterns.

From the pictures of the original made up in stripes it was obvious that the hem’s on the straight grain so no head-scratching about where to draw the grain line! Here’s what it looked like at this point.

I cut it out, adding approximate seam allowances, and sewed it up. It was a bit too big on the waist and tight on the hips so I altered those, but on the whole the fit was surprisingly good. The front shaping came out right straight away but there was a funny wrinkle at the back. I also should have pressed out that crease in the fabric before taking pictures…never mind.

Lengthening the darts and taking the waist in a little improved the wrinkling.

It’s still not perfect but I think it’s good enough to go now, so at that point I ran around the seam lines with a black marker and took the muslin to pieces to use as a pattern. I drafted a waistband by the unscientific method of tracing the waistline of the muslin and adding width to that curve. Now I just have to work out how to line it.