Tartan Philosophy skirt finished

Just before Christmas I finished what will probably be the last project of 2010, another version of my knockoff of the Vivienne Westwood Philosopy skirt, this time made out of the fabric left over from the tartan dress project.


I tweaked the pattern from my previous attempt. I pegged the skirt hem a little, although it’s still not as dramatic as the original.I haven’t tried the original on but mine is only just OK for walking in, so I don’t think I’ll try to take it in any further. I also redrafted the waistband, which on my first version was much too tight. The waistband’s still far from perfect. You can see in this view that it doesn’t form a smooth curve but has a sort of peak at the closure. This is probably because I tried to make it too curved.


The back view’s OK. There’s a slight wrinkle caused by the zipper on one side and the weight of the pleat on the other. I put interfacing in the wrong place on the zipper side and forgot to put anything at all on the other side to support the seam. I should go and write a reminder on the pattern piece!


The side seam on the side with the pleats is surprisingly straight given the weight of the pleats.


The execution of this one isn’t great. There are a few wonky seams and the inside isn’t pretty (which is a shame because I used a really bright scarlet lining) but it will do. And it looks surprisingly good with my clunky steel toe-capped safety boots, which are the only footwear I’m going to be venturing outdoors in until the weather improves.

80s flashback

I finished the tartan dress. The background to this is that few years ago (long before I started sewing) I saw a Yohji Yamamoto dress in Selfridges that I really liked but couldn’t possibly afford. I can barely remember a lot of the details now, but this is my take on the features that did stick with me: tartan, exposed zip, narrow waist, wide skirt, and drapey bits.


I think there’s something quite 1980s about it. (For the avoidance of doubt I’m pleased with that! Hence the pirate boots in the pictures rather than heels.)

I was planning to wear it with a belt but having tried that I now think it’s better without. Here it is again with the belt for comparison.


I’m really pleased with the exposed metal zip. I did wonder if the weight of the zip would make the skirt hang awkwardly, but in fact it doesn’t seem to make any difference. None of the back views we photographed looked strange. I always find that any faults show up in photos even if they are totally invisible to me in the mirror, so I think the zip is a success.


I ended up having to let the side seams out a little – I should have done a full bust adjustment but I thought I wouldn’t need it with the cowl neck. I don’t think it really shows though.


I love the circle skirt but hemming it took a whole evening. I machined it (can you imagine hand hemming six metres? I can’t!) but even so the marking, pinning up, easing, basting, pressing, and finally stitching it took an age. I could have left it raw for a more punky look, but I like this dress too much to want to risk it fraying into nothing!

Many thanks to all who gave me such good advice and encouragement about this one – it turned out to be a much more difficult project than I expected, but I’m so pleased with the results!

Matching induced exhaustion

I finally started getting somewhere with my tartan dress. I made the cowl neck bodice, sewed the skirt to the bodice, and basted the centre back seam prior to starting on the zip.

That might not sound like very much but it went very slowly because of having to match the pattern at the seams. I pinned every centimetre, basted, pulled bits out, basted again…and it’s still not 100% matched. Thank goodness the bodice front is on the bias so I didn’t have to match that to anything.

I’m pleased with the cowl neck. The side seams are just pinned at the moment to make it hang correctly.

Here’s the full length view:

With 20-20 hindsight I think I should have put the centre front of the skirt on the bias and had a seam there. On the other hand, having to match yet another seam might have caused me to give up in despair!

Here’s the back with the centre back seam basted. There is going to be an exposed zip there when the dress is finished.

This has photographed oddly. I think the stripes look more matched in real life but maybe that’s just wishful thinking. I was always intending to wear the dress with a belt so it will be much less obvious when it’s done that the stripes don’t quite line up.

I need a lie down now.

Matching tartans

I’ve had to wait for the weekend to cut out my tartan dress because I wanted to do it in daylight rather than artificial light. I haven’t ever sewn anything tartan before so I need all the help I can get.

I was quite pleased to realise that the front of the bodice pattern I’m using (Vogue 8413) is cut on the bias and the back on the straight grain, so there isn’t any possibility of matching stripes at the side seams. All I had to do was make it match across the centre back seam, and on the side seams of the skirt.

This proved easier said than done. I mostly used the Selfish Seamstress’s clever technique for matching, and got everything lined up beautifully (which only took an hour). But the end result was a little off after I cut it out. Look at the red stripe closest to centre back:

I figure I can just fix this up when I sew it together by changing the seam allowances a little. And if I can’t, I have enough fabric left to cut those pieces out again. The only reason I haven’t done that already is that I’m pretty sure the problem is that I’m not cutting accurately enough, and I’m not sure a second run is going to come out any better except by chance. Something about taking scissors to fabric always makes my hands wobble uncontrollably.

Matching the stripes on the skirt was even trickier. The pieces are huge. My fabric was only just wide enough for me to cut the skirt front on a fold which limited how I could arrange things. I’d also made the mistake of cutting one of the skirt backs out before the skirt front which restricted my options even more. I think I’ve got the stripes to match. I’ll find out for sure when I sew them!

Tartan skirts

Remember this?

It’s polyester tartan fabric I bought in Glasgow to make a knockoff of a Yohji Yamamoto dress I saw years ago. I can’t really remember what the original looked like, but my plan is to morph the bodice of Vogue 8143 (line art below) and a full skirt from some other pattern.

I had originally been thinking of using the skirt from the new Vogue 8701 but yesterday I realised that I already own Vogue 8633 which comes with an option for a very full skirt. Here’s the line art

Vogue 8633 view d and e line art

Now I’m just wondering how to lay the pattern pieces out on the fabric.

There is a seam down the centre front of the skirt although the line art doesn’t show it. The skirt is a full circle skirt made from four identical pieces. The pattern piece has the straight grain line running parallel to the centre front and centre back seams.

I wonder if it’s advisable to try to cut the front out on a fold to avoid having to match the pattern on the centre front seam. I have quite a lot of fabric to play with (it was cheap!) but clearly not enough to cut an enormous circle skirt out twice.

I think it makes sense for the centre front of the skirt to be on the straight grain of the fabric regardless of whether there’s a seam or not. That way the skirt will contrast with the bias cut bodice. However I’ve been Googling for pictures of tartan circle skirts and most of the ones I have found don’t work like that. They have a centre front seam but cut so that the fabric is on the bias at the seam. I did find one picture where the grain was positioned the way I’m intending and it didn’t look obviously wrong, but I wonder if there’s something I’m missing here. Insights most welcome!

Fabric shopping in Glasgow

I can really recommend the fabric shops in Glasgow. Good thing I have a lovely husband who was prepared to put fabric in his suitcase because I ran out of space in mine.

I only managed to visit Mandors and Remnant Kings but that was more than enough. They’re both central, easy to get to, and strangely situated well above ground level.

I started with Mandors. This is huge. As well as dressmaking fabric it sells haberdashery, furnishing fabric, and patterns. I only looked at the dressmaking fabric and there was enough of that to occupy me for a long while. The range was amazing but I think the best things were the woollens. After a lot of agonising I settled on some beautiful red tweedy stuff for Vogue 8667. I never know the correct names for fabrics so it may not technically be tweed. It’s 100% “pure new wool” woven and a lot more chunky and textured than suiting fabric. There are fibres of two different shades of red.

Incidentally what is the difference between “new” and other wool? Do they recycle wool? Is “new wool” the first stuff off the sheep, kind of like extra virgin olive oil? Does it make any difference in practice?

Mandors is quite pricey but much better value for money than the West End in London. Pity the train fare to Glasgow more than redresses the balance! The whole shop is very well organised. Fabric is arranged by type and colour. Every bolt had the price, fibre content, width, and care instructions attached. You take a ticket to get in the queue for cutting and can mark bolts you’ve selected so they don’t get tidied away while you’re browsing for other things. It wasn’t busy enough to justify any of that while I was there but that was a weekday. I suspect Saturdays may be a different matter.

I nearly didn’t find Remnant Kings at all. The address is Argyle Street, one of the longest and busiest shopping streets in Glasgow. I wandered up and down searching while my iPhone was insisting I was right on top of it. I couldn’t see it until I looked up and noticed a sign in a first floor window. The entrance turned out to be round the corner from the street address.

Remnant Kings was smaller than Mandors and had a lot less stock, but they had just finished a sale and hadn’t got their new stock in yet. As well as dressmaking fabric they also do haberdashery and a very small range of furnishing fabrics. There is also an odd little corner full of cheap plastic accessories for fancy dress – devil horn hairbands and the like. However there’s another branch that I didn’t visit that specialises in furnishing fabric.

I got 4m of cheap and cheerful poly viscose tartan to attempt my Yohji Yamamoto knockoff and a beautiful black wool remnant with a gold stripe from the bargain bucket that’s going to be a Vivienne Westwood skirt knockoff.

Remnant Kings is a lot cheaper than Mandors but everything’s still well laid out and labelled. Except my tartan but trust me to pick up the only bolt without a label in any shop. In shops where only samples are on display I always pick ones that the staff can’t locate the bolt for. Apologies here to anyone who’s ever been behind me in the queue.

And if that wasn’t enough I found the August Burda in WHSmiths! It’s been quite difficult to get hold of round my way since Borders closed down. There’s lots of really good things in it but that’ll have to wait for another post.

Style scrapbook

Ages ago I read an interesting post on A Dress A Day about finding your personal style, or something along those lines. I can’t find the post now to check. The gist of it was to read fashion magazines, tear out all the pictures you like, and once you’ve collected a few sit down and work out what they have in common.

I’ve been tearing pictures out of mags for years but never did a lot with them. I have a scrapbook but I manage to stick pictures into it at a much lower rate than I accumulate new ones. So recently I dug out my folder of pictures to see if there’s a common theme. Turns out that once you remove the completely unwearable, there are several categories:

  • Silver. Any item of clothing made out of a silver fabric gets selected. Since I started making my own clothes I have made three silver dresses and two silver skirts. There is a much smaller group of gold metallics too, but gold only appears in heavily textured form – hello, Balenciaga C3PO leggings.
  • Sheath dresses. Mostly in black, grey, or red, and especially ones by Roland Mouret. Again, my collection of homemade sleeveless sheath dresses is alarmingly large. However I don’t own a copy of Vogue 8280, the Roland Mouret Galaxy knockoff pattern, despite having carefully preserved every picture of the Galaxy that ever appeared in Vogue.
  • Colour-blocked dresses. I’ve made two of those so far. Both sleeveless sheaths so two for the price of one! Lots of Marios Schwab here.
  • There’s a large category I can only describe as ‘cyberpunk’. A lot of black shiny stuff with some very acid brights. I’ve mostly failed to find fabric to make anything like this. I do have a favourite black dress in a 100% nylon stretch twill which came from Oasis over ten years ago. Sadly it is now too tatty to wear. I’ve never found fabric like it on sale anywhere so this category is not contributing to my dressmaking yet.
  • Tartan, mostly as dresses, and mostly Alexander McQueen, but the occasional Vivienne Westwood suit.

So, does this tell me anything useful (apart from the fact that I have horrifyingly expensive taste and therefore better learn to sew…oh wait)? The strange thing is that I don’t own anything at all in tartan, nor have I ever bought any tartan fabric. I once saw a tartan Yohji Yamamoto dress in Selfridges that I’d love to make a copy of, but I suspect my sewing skills aren’t up to it yet. It was fairly punky with a very uneven hem and a zip down the front. It had a V-neck and I think was sleeveless. The fabric was mostly blue.

So tartan is something I should probably try out some time soon. That’ll mean learning how to match those stripes though. In the meantime I’m working away on my plain blue Burda shirt, which doesn’t fit into any of my style categories, but certainly comes under the heading of learning new skills. Hopefully I’ll have that finished next week.