A-line skirt sewalong part three: the zip and side seam

Welcome back to the third week of the A-line skirt sewalong! This week, we’re going to insert the zip and finish the second side seam. Invisible zips are the easiest to insert because any little wobbles are, well, invisible. Lay out your skirt right side out, so that the unattached edges B and D are on centred and on the top. The back of the skirt (piece 2) will be on the left and the front (piece 1) on the right. You can see this in the photo below.

Now lay your zip, with the invisible side (teeth hidden) facing down, at the top of edge D. Line up the top of the actual zip (not the extra tape at the top) with the top of the waistband. Line up the teeth of the zip with the sewing line of D. Pin into place. Remember to fold down and pin the protruding top end of the zip, too. In the photo below, I have pinned the zip into place but haven’t folded the top of the zip down yet.

Now, this next bit is crucial. It takes a bit of time but saves a lot more time with a seam ripper later on. Hand sew the zip into place. Use medium sized stitches. Doing this means that you’ll sew it in neatly and accurately when you get to the machine. Then remove the pins. Unzip the zip all the way, taking care not to inadvertently pull the zip-pull right off the end, or your zip will be useless.

Fix your zipper foot to the machine. The key to inserting an invisible zip invisibly is to sew as close as possible to the teeth, by actually rolling them out of the way as you sew. In the photo below, I’m pulling the teeth out of the way. The point of the pin shows you how close I’ll get to the teeth. You can achieve a really neat job if you go slowly and carefully. Your basting stitches will stop everything shifting about, so you can focus on getting as close to those teeth as possible. Stitch the zip into place from the top to the bottom. The zip pull will stop you from being able to get all the way to the bottom; just do your best. Remember to backstitch at either end.

Now you’re going to sew the other side of the zipper to the front of the skirt. Press the seam allowance of edge B towards the wrong side, so that you have a crease where the sewing line is. Lay the skirt wrong side out this time, but still with edges B and D on top. Piece 1 (the front) will be on the left and piece 2 (the back) on the right.

Zip up the zip. Mark the point where you stopped sewing on the other side of the zip, with a fabric marker or pen. (This will be the point where you couldn’t get any closer to the bottom of the zip, because the zip-pull was in the way.)

Arrange the zip so that the unsewn side of it is invisible side (teeth hidden) down on the seam allowance of B. Making sure that the tops of both ends of the waistbands line up nicely, pin it to the top of the waistband. Don’t worry about folding the top of the zip over at this stage.

Then unzip the zip again. Aligning the teeth to the sewing edge of B, pin it into place from top to bottom. Make sure that you only pin the zip to the seam allowance, and not the outside of the skirt.

Check that you’ve positioned the zip correctly by arranging the skirt pieces as if they were all sewn up. The zip should be enclosed within the skirt, with the pull on the outside. If it’s incorrect, now’s the time to change it. If it’s correct, fold down the top of the zip, and hand sew the zip into place. Remove all the pins as you go. Zip it up and down again, just to check that everything is nicely aligned.

Using the machine, sew it into place, just as you did for the other side of the zip. Take your time and get as close to the teeth as you can. Stop when you reach the mark you made.

Now zip up the zip and turn your skirt inside out. Pushing the unsewn bottom part of the zip up and out of the way, insert a pin to hold the seam BD together along the sewing line. You can see that I’ve done this in the photo below. The pin needs to go as close as possible to the bottom of the stitched down portion of the zip.

Pin the rest of seam BD along the sewing line. Sew this seam, from as close you can get from the bottom of the zip all the way to edge E, making the join as smooth as possible. It should look like this from the right side:

Then turn it inside out and press the seam open. By now, it should be looking nice and neat.

That’s it! The zip and second side seam are done! Next time, you’ll finish the hem of your skirt.

Madeleine

Have you inserted an invisible zip before? What about other types of zip? Or have you been wary of them in the past?

 

A-line skirt sewalong part two: the darts and the waistband

Hello there! Welcome back to week two of the A-line skirt sewalong. In today’s tutorial you’re going to learn how to insert darts, interface the waistband, and attach the waistband to the skirt.

The first thing you need to do is zigzag around all those edges, apart from edge E. Just set your machine to a wide zigzag stitch and whizz your way around all of your pieces. This stops the fabric unravelling. You can see that I’ve done that in the photo below.

Set your machine back to a straight stitch. Now it’s time to insert those darts into piece 2. Working on just one dart at a time, fold the fabric right sides together so that the two diagonal lines of the dart lie on top of one another. The excess fabric should be on the wrong side of the fabric, as shown below.

The trick with darts is to iron them flat, pin them along the sewing line, and sew from the fat end towards the point. Never sew all the way to the point: stop a few stitches early, leave your ends long and tie them in a granny knot. This prevents the end from puckering. You can see one of my finished darts in this photo:

Press the darts towards the centre back of the skirt:

Now you’re going to prepare the waistband. Lay your waistband (piece 3), wrong side up, along your ironing board.

Centre your interfacing, glue side down, on your waistband. The glue side is normally a bit bumpy to the touch. You should have the seam allowance of the waistband showing evenly all the way around the interfacing. You can see this in the photograph below. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, iron the interfacing onto the waistband. It’s advisable to place an old cloth between your iron and the interfacing, to protect your iron.

Now fold your waistband (piece 3) in half lengthways and wrong sides together so that seams F and G are touching. Your waistband will be the right way out. Press along the fold to create a crease. I’ve just pressed mine in the photograph below.

Sew seam BD down the left hand side only of the skirt. With right sides together, pin seam BD of the skirt fabric from top to bottom. If piece 2 is on top of piece 1, you are pinning the seam on the right.

I forgot to take a photo of this stage (sorry!), but here’s a photo of the finished seam, so you can see which side seam you are sewing. It’s the sewn, pressed and therefore slightly sticking up seam on the right. Remember, piece 2 is on top.

With right sides together, sew seam BD of the skirt fabric from top to bottom. Press seam BD open. You can see how I’ve draped the skirt over my ironing board to do this, here:

You are now going to sew the waistband to the skirt. Open out your skirt, so that it is lying right side up.

Open up your waistband. Now line up edge G of the waistband with edge C of the skirt, so that the raw edges of each are together and the stitching line of H is in line with the stitching line of D (not seam BD). The right side of the waistband should lie against the right side of the skirt. Pin seam GC. It should look just like this:

Then continue round the top of the skirt, pinning piece 3 to piece 1 along seam GA. Because the waistband is straight and the skirt is curved, you have to pull gently on the curved skirt to fit the waistband to it, like so:

Once it is pinned into place all the way along, sew all the way along the seam GC and GA. (Make sure you keep edge F out of the way.)

Now unfold the waistband, smoothing it upwards, and press seam GA and GC open on the wrong side. You want all the seam allowances to be pressed upwards towards the top of the waistband too. Then you need to fold the seam allowance on edge F down, over the interfacing, and iron it down. You can see that I’ve done all of this here:

Next, you need to fold the whole waistband in half lengthways, wrong sides together, so that F is folded down to G. It should look like a finished (but unsewn) waistband, like so:

Pin this into place.

I always like to finish my clothing by hand, as it gives such a neat finish. Sew the folded edge of F to the inside of the skirt, taking care that your stitches can’t be seen on the right side. It’s easiest to insert your needle a couple of millimetres above the folded edge of the waistband, and sew through the seam allowances hidden inside. Then bring your needle out on the folded edge of the waistband, a bit further along. Here is my needle in the middle of taking a complete stitch.

Then insert your needle a couple of millimetres above where you have just brought it out. You’ll leave a little trail of tiny stitches on the inside, and nothing at all on the outside. It should look like this on the inside:

When you fold the back of the waistband over, it should look like this from the back of the skirt

and like this from the front:

It’s beginning to look like a skirt! Next week, you’ll be inserting the zipper and finishing the other side seam.

Madeleine

How are you getting on? It’s always great to get feedback, be it questions, comments or suggestions – do let me know if these tutorials are helpful to you.

A-line skirt sewalong part one: gathering and cutting

Hello, and welcome to the first part of the A-line skirt sewalong. If you’re new to garment making and would like step-by-step support in making this simple skirt, you’ve come to the right place.

Please read all of the instructions both here and in the pattern booklet before cutting out your pieces.

This skirt looks lovely but different in all sorts of fabrics. The stiffer the fabric, the more it sticks out. I made a lovely structured version a couple of years ago in a boiled wool felt, which looked a bit Jetsons. This time, I’ve gone for a floppy but thick linen, which hangs beautifully. Choose your fabric according to what you want, but make sure that it’s sturdy enough to stand up to being sat on a lot, and firm enough that it won’t go baggy around the rear end too quickly.

Whatever you choose, wash it the way you’ll wash it after it’s made up, dry it, and iron it. Make sure that you have everything else that you need, too.

I’m going to assume that you’ve measured yourself and chosen a size, but if not, go and do that now.

The first thing that you need to do is print out one page of the pattern pieces. Then – and this is imperative – measure the little test box at the top of that the page. If it measures 5×5 cm, go ahead and print the rest of the pattern in the same way. If it doesn’t, check that your printer is set to print at 100% and try again. If the box is the wrong size, the pattern will be, too.

Next, cut out all of the pattern boxes and arrange them in a grid pattern. You’ll notice that each pattern box has two numbers in the top left corner. This indicates its place in the grid. The first number indicates the row, and the second indicates the column. The rows run from top to bottom and the columns from left to right. So box 1,1 is the top left hand box. Box 4,5 is on the fourth row from the top, fifth box from the left.

Then stick them all together. Try to be as accurate as you can, as this will affect the fit of your skirt. Obviously the odd millimetre doesn’t matter, but do your best.

Next, highlight the size that you are going to make. It is all too easy to cut out the wrong size, or sew the wrong dart.

Now you can cut out your pattern pieces. For this tutorial, I’ve laid out my pieces on a 45″ wide piece of fabric, as this is the simplest layout. Fold your fabric in half, along the grain (lengthways). Lie your pattern pieces out at shown below, with the fold of the fabric in line with the fold line on the pattern pieces. Remember to leave a seam allowance around all the other edges.

(If you want to use a 150cm/ 60″ wide piece of fabric, the layout is slightly more complex. Fold one side of your fabric in by 44cm/ 17″ and lay out one skirt piece as shown.

Then fold the other edge in by 44cm/ 17″ (they will overlap) and lay out the other pieces as shown. Make sure that you leave a seam allowance between the two skirt pieces. You need to place, cut, refold and place each pattern piece for this method, but it is more efficient than using a square 150cm/ 60″ piece of fabric.)

Pin or weigh down your pattern pieces so that they don’t move. Then, using either chalk or a fabric pen/pencil, draw around each piece (but not on the fold). This will be your sewing line.

Then draw another line (again, not on the fold) 1.5 cm or about half an inch outside of your sewing line. This will be your cutting line. You can make this seam allowance bigger or smaller as you choose. Personally, I like small seam allowances, but it can be handy to have a bigger one in case you want to let the skirt out later.

Along the bottom hem of the skirt, allow a bigger 6cm/ 2″seam allowance. This will allow for a nice deep hem, and for some flexibility when determining the final length of your skirt.

Go and have a cup of tea. When you get back, double check everything. Only then can you cut out your skirt and waistband pieces. You should also cut out your interfacing at this point.

Now you can unpin the paper piece from the back skirt, and transfer all the markings so that you know which seam is which later on. You also want to transfer the dart markings to the back pieces. I do this by poking a hole in the paper at several points in the dart, making dots on the fabric through the holes, and then joining the dots. Then unfold your fabric piece and flip your pattern piece over to transfer all the markings to the other half the back skirt piece. Remember that there’s a dart on the other half of the back, too.

Phew – that’s the hardest bit done. Next time, we’ll be putting in the darts and attaching the waistband.

 

The A-Line skirt pattern is now available!

It is with no small amount of excitement that I’m writing to let you know that my first ever dressmaking pattern is now for sale! You can find it in my Etsy shop. I cannot begin to tell you how much I’ve learned through this process – in fact, it could be the subject of another whole series. For now, allow me to share a couple more images with you.

We took the photos while we were on a family holiday in Derbyshire this half term. My parents booked the most beautiful house for all 14 of us, and this was the view from the kitchen windows:

So naturally it became the location for a little photoshoot. The stone steps with flowerbeds take you down from the back of the house to the lawn.

I had planned to give this skirt to Fliss, but having styled it for the photoshoot I think it’ll be filling a skirt-shaped hole in my wardrobe until I try out another pattern. It is as elegant and easy to wear as I remembered – perhaps even a little more so.

We had such a lovely time, pottering about and having a little outing every day. One day most of us went down a local mine. Another – rainbow-filled – day we spent in the grounds of Chatsworth:

And my personal highlight was our visit to Haddon Hall. I’d never been there before and I was blown away. I’ve been to a LOT of stately homes and never seen anything like this. No wonder they shoot so many period films there. I’m going to write a post all about it next week, but for now let me share just a glimpse here and there…

When we got home, I spent a couple of days finalising the pattern pdfs for the Little Flurries jumper and the A-Line skirt, before doing more pottering around my own house and garden. The week culminated in a big 40th birthday party of a friend, which meant a night away in Harrogate, before starting the Christmas knitting in front of the fire (and Doctor Who, of course) yesterday. It has been such a lovely holiday, and I feel refreshed and ready for the next couple of months.

But for now, let me leave you with one last photo of the skirt. The sewalong begins tomorrow, and you’ll find full photographed tutorials to accompany the pattern published every Tuesday in November. Do let me know if you make one, and how you get on. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you!

Madeleine

Do you have a good basic skirt pattern in your collection? Which patterns do you turn to again and again?

A Lined A-Line Skirt – we have a winner!

First of all, thank you to everyone who entered the ‘A Lined A-Line Skirt’ giveaway. Your interest and support is much appreciated, as always.

Congratulations to Kathleen, who is the winner! Please check your inbox for an email from me.

The launch date of the pattern has been amended ever so slightly from today to Monday 5 November. Thank you for your patience and understanding. I will post a link to it in my Etsy shop as soon as it is available for purchase.

Have a great weekend!

Madeleine

A small, sustainable wardrobe: introducing a lined A-line skirt – and a giveaway

A series about the clothes we wear and the impact they have both on us and the world around us.

***

One of the most important things about building a small, sustainable wardrobe is having things just the way you like them. It’s no good having a beautiful skirt in a lovely fabric which fits you perfectly if it doesn’t go with any of your tops. It’s equally limiting to know that your skirt, which goes with everything you own, is in a fibre that you just don’t get along with. Shopping for clothes, when everything has to work as hard as it does in a tiny wardrobe, can be a frustrating business. Which is one of the reasons that I make most of mine.

Sewing your own clothes gives you complete control over fit, fabric and finish. But it also gives you control over your supply chain. Without the ability to sew, the ethical consumer is limited to an ever-expanding but still fairly small number of suppliers. It can be hard to get what you want – and it can be expensive, too, if you buy all your clothes from such companies. Learn to sew and you can choose reasonably priced organic, fair-trade fabrics and threads from small, responsible companies. A simple skirt needn’t cost a fortune to be sustainably produced – provided you have the skills to make it. And you can still support skilled workers by buying other things – like jackets and underthings – from your favourite ethical companies.

When I was dreaming up my first knitting and sewing patterns, I knew exactly what I wanted to design: a micro-collection that new knitters and dressmakers could make for themselves. An introduction to making that bypassed the scarves and cushion covers and went straight to what I wanted when I started out: a simple wardrobe that I could make for myself. And so the very first of my dressmaking patterns to be released is a version of the very first garment I ever sewed for myself: an A-line skirt.

My first skirt was not exactly responsible, but it was fun. Do you remember the trend for buttons and ribbons on skirts, circa 2005? I really wanted a woolen A-line skirt embellished with ribbons – I’m sure they were everywhere that winter. Short on cash, I went to a local craft store and bought a length of acrylic felt and some inexpensive ribbons, and set to work. One wonky zip later, I was the proud owner of a pseudo-woolen skirt, the likes of which I had been ogling in Monsoon. I topstitched the ribbons around the hem and was delighted with the effect. (Needless to say the acrylic bagged horribly after a few wears and will no doubt still be around in a few hundred years, and for that I apologise. That was before I switched on about unnecessary plastic use.)

Simple as it is, the A-line skirt is one that I have returned to again and again over the years – in much nicer fabrics and with properly inserted zips. I don’t think you can beat it for its versatility. It is the sort of skirt that you can go to work in (think heels and a blouse), wear in the garden (add wellies and a jumper), take on holiday (avec strappy top and sandals) or just wear at the weekends (with nice boots and your favourite top). My most recent – in real wool felt – was such a favourite that it looked quite disgraceful by the time I cut it up for potholders. And the sample I sewed last week – to test the pattern pdf and take tutorial photos of – is a lovely teal linen version, for Fliss. Of course, as soon as she put it on I thought, that is the perfect school uniform skirt for her, and I’ll be making up a couple more in navy after her next growth spurt.

Being ageless, A-line skirts suit pretty much everyone. They don’t smack of a particular trend or era, and so can be worn by old and young alike. Depending on your choice of fabric, colour and pattern, they complement anyone’s wardrobe. Fliss has plans to embroider hers all along the hem, as she did to great effect with her old dance skirt this summer. But you could make one in a floral, tartan, tweed or whatever motif takes your fancy. They are the blank canvas of the skirt world.

As this is a beginner’s pattern, I have written and photographed a full tutorial series which will be published over four weeks following the pattern release next Friday. This tutorial/ sewalong will take you through printing and cutting your pattern pieces to laying out your pieces, sewing them together, inserting a zip and hand-finishing the hem. As with my Snow Day pattern, the directions are written out in full, plain English. I’ve even gone so far as to label each edge, so that you can simply look for edge g and h and sew them together, without wondering which is the top of the front of the waistband, and so on.  But you don’t have to be a beginner to use this. Although the beginners’ tutorial takes you through how to sew the skirt unlined, the pattern pdf instructions are for making this up as a lined skirt. So you can choose whichever set of instructions you prefer, or which best suit your abilities.

Speaking of abilities, you need to be able to sew an accurate straight line and a slight curve on a sewing machine if you want to make this skirt. Of course you’ll also need other skills, like wielding an iron and being able to use scissors and tape, but we’ll take those for granted. This is a pattern suitable for confident beginners.

I’m really proud of this pattern. Not because it’s fancy or complex (it is neither), but because it takes something which could be fancy and complex and makes it simple. What you will receive is exactly the sort of pattern I would make for myself, with the sort of clear and logical explanations I use as self-talk when I’m working out how to assemble a garment. The pattern itself is hand-drafted, hand-graded from the middle size (UK 12) and represents a lot of detailed work. It is not a commercial pattern. It is a home dressmaker’s pattern, carefully prepared for sharing.

With sharing in mind, I’d like to announce a little giveaway with respect to this pattern. I’m going to send a free copy of the A-line skirt pattern to one of every ten people who leave a comment at the end of this post. Whatever the number of comments, I’ll round it up and choose that number of commenters at random to receive a free copy.

If you would like to enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post by Thursday 1 November 2018. Please only leave one comment per person, and make sure that you use a valid email address so that I can contact you if you win. I’ll be drawing the winner(s) and sending out the pattern(s) on Friday 2 November. Please note that you need to leave a comment in order to be entered – emails will not count. And if you’d like to leave a comment but don’t want to be entered in the draw, just say so in your comment!

Edited: The pattern itself will be released next Monday, 5 November 2018, and will be available via Etsy. Apologies for the delay and thank you for your patience! I’ll update this post with a link when it goes live. The pattern is graded for waist sizes 25″-31.5″/ 64cm-80cm (UK sizes 8-16).

Edited: The pattern is now available via my Etsy shop.

Madeleine

What was the first garment you ever made for yourself? Do you have any go-to patterns that you’ve used over and over again (this is one of mine). Or are you a dressmaking newbie? I’d love to know!