Sunday, August 28, 2016

a self-drafted summer skirt

I've previously mentioned my patternmaking class (both here on the blog and on instagram). I started the class back in March, and after 3 months I got through all of the skirt lessons - learning lots of individual techniques, then drafting and often sewing them up in muslin and practicing fitting them. At the end of the skirts unit is a final project: designing, drafting, fitting, and sewing two real skirts using various techniques I've learned, as well as making production-ready patterns for them both. I naively expected this whole process to take a few weeks, and instead it was a solid two months (and somehow it felt even longer - halfway through the process it felt like things were just dragging on and I could tell I was procrastinating on cutting into my final fabric). But I made it, and in mid-August I "graduated" skirts and moved on to the moulage unit, which is the very start of bodices (and eventually dresses, shirts, and jackets, oh my!). I'm so excited to feel like I can draft and sew just about any kind of skirt I can imagine! It's a powerful feeling. And I also have two skirts to show for it, which I happen to like a lot. Here's the first!

This skirt was originally conceived because I had this lovely double gauze laying since after ordering it last September, but none of my patterns seemed quite right for it. I decided it would work well in a flowy summer skirt, so that was the start of my brainstorming. I wanted something more interesting than just an A-line, so I decided to add knife pleats across the center front. The rest of the skirt has princess seams, and there's a slightly contoured waistband, an invisible side zipper + matching button, and a lining that was drafted separately (sans pleats or princess seams). The front pleated panel is cut on the length grain, and all of the other skirt panels are cut on the bias for maximum flowiness. This was a bit of a gamble, but aside from some creases near the zipper and some excess fabric on one side of my back waist, the whole thing came together pretty smoothly and without much bias drama. (Fabric like this can stretch way out of shape when cut on the bias, so it's fairly easy to end up with two seams that are supposed to line up but just don't at all.)

Back to the process: I started with a sketch, and once I listed the various details that would go into it, drafting was more or less straightforward. Then I made a muslin (and was surprised by how much I liked the shape in the less drapey muslin fabric). After a few small adjustments with my teacher, I made a second muslin, this time out of a (single) gauze fabric and some cheap lining. It was slightly different from my final fabric but gave a reasonable view into the final skirt's fit and overall look.

Then it was time to cut out my final fabric, which was no longer for sale online, and I was irrationally nervous about screwing something up and ruining the fabric, so I did everything possible to procrastinate. I worked on my second skirt: drafting, making a muslin, buying fabric and buttons, and even began sewing the final garment. I got most of the way through the final pattern pieces for both (lots of notches and seam allowances and awl punches marking various details). Eventually I realized I was just stressing myself by avoiding it, so I took over the large cutting table in class one night and cut the whole thing out, including the fancy lining fabric, and things started moving again.

Construction was pretty simple from there on out, with a few small caveats (mostly lessons for the future).

  • I did french seams throughout, which look great but were time-consuming enough that I really regretted them for a few minutes while I was halfway through all 6 of them. I don't really think I care about the insides enough for the extra time to be worth it, and they do add a tiny bit of extra bulk. If I made it again, I'd just serge the raw edges and be done with it.
  • I only left myself 1/4" seam allowances for the top of the skirt and the waistband, and that was really pretty awful with gauze, which loves to fray and shift.
  • I ended up with a button that was larger than the one I drafted for, and it may be a bit comically large. It turns out drafting for a 3/4" or 1" button isn't really a common thing when you go to buy buttons (a mistake I made on both of my skirts, as it turns out).
  • And this was my first experience with a really bias-y hem, so I got to practice the "measure up from the floor" hemming technique on both the skirt and the lining, which was pretty annoying compared to just using the bottom of the fabric as a guide. 

But honestly I think the whole thing turned out okay, definitely good enough to wear in public :) And I learned a ton!

Some progress shots:
muslin #1, in actual muslin fabric (with bonus sharpie from fitting with my teacher)

muslin #2, in a very light gauze

cutting into that double gauze, eeeep!

ready to sew

french seams e'erywhere

pinning the lining up for hemming

thank goodness sewing school has dress forms, as I certainly do not.

Thanks for reading about this adventure :) Keep an eye out for my second final skirt on here soon!

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