Tuesday, February 21, 2017

FO: Khaki Sally Skirt

So let me start off by saying that this is a muslin that is technically wearable (meaning I've worn it in public, lol) but it's not perfect. But this project held a lot of firsts for me so I wanted to show it off for other beginners to the "jeans detail" sewing idea. So ... don't judge me, lol.
This is the Sally Skirt by Style Arc Patterns, an Australian pattern company I've been curious to try. I've looked at their selection a few times, but most of them are a bit more modern then I usually wear. Then one day I came across the Sally Skirt and all sorts of birds started singing. I've been on the look out for a jean skirt style pattern for quite a while now. I love the style of a straight, knee length skirt with a front fly and top stitching, but I can never find any that fit me very well in ready to wear clothing so I've wanted to make my own. I put the pattern on my list "to buy" and when they had a Black Friday sale last year I snapped it up. 

For anyone new to Style Arc patterns, know that you have to pick your size up front. The patterns are not nested, and in my case with buying the PDF file I had to choose a block of 3 sizes (this is the 16-18-20 size) but you would have to print each size separate from the others to actually see the difference in the sizing. I'm sure you're not surprised that I only printed one size - I went with my hip measurement and let that be it. I was worried pretty much the whole time I was making this that it wouldn't end up the right size. I knew this was a muslin, but I also knew it would be a lot of work so I wanted to end up with something at least wearable. I was so worried it would be too small that I added about 1" or wider seam allowances to the side seams just in case. It turned out that I should have just trusted the drafting since it came out the perfect size for my hips with just enough ease for wear. The fit at my waist was a different story, but before we get to that let's talk about the pattern itself.

So the details - this pattern has everything you expect to find in a jean skirt: top stitched patch pockets on the back, a full fly front, scooped front pockets with a mini coin pocket on one side, top stitched seams, and hitting at the knee. All these details are what I fell in love with. For my first try I dug out this khaki twill from my stash - I grabbed it at a thrift store for ridiculously cheap only to discover some awful stains on it all the way through once I got it home. The piece had been folded and something spilled on top, which then seeped through each layer leaving the same orangey large round spot on each folded layer. I washed and treated but to no avail. Since this skirt has center front and back seams, the pieces are relatively small, so it was perfect to cut around the stained areas of the fabric and no one will ever know the fabric had issues :) One thing I didn't anticipate with the fabric is that it really is too light weight for this type of skirt. It felt pretty sturdy as just yardage, but now that it's a skirt it's just too light. Not only does it show lumps and bumps and pocket linings, it also blows up pretty easily in the wind. Lesson learned: use heavier fabric on your bottom.

Style Arc's patterns are notorious for their extremely brief instructions, and I can definitely add my testimonial to that, lol. They are very brief indeed. There are some diagrams included about the fly front, but when I followed only their instructions I ended up with a fly that looked fine but was completely nonfunctional. The written instructions completely disagreed with the diagrams. It was really confusing, especially since I've never done a fly front before. I looked up online tutorials, but the ones I knew were good (the Ginger Jeans sew along for example) had extra pattern pieces involved that this one did not, so I decided to just muscle through. I ended up having to pick out most of my first attempt, but I brought in a ready to wear skirt to compare and I was able to figure it out. It even has bar tacks along the curve in the fly! I've never done those before either :)
So - the fit issues. Like I said above, I picked the size based on my hip measurement, but the waist was pretty close to mine as well so I wasn't anticipating it being too off. Woof! Was I wrong there. The waist was absolutely enormous. I still don't understand what happened. It has a curved waistband, which certainly could have stretched a bit, but it really wasn't handled much and the main skirt pieces matched up to it perfectly, so I don't think it did stretch. It's still a mystery, but it caused all sorts of problems for me. I was doing so well, everything looked great and it seemed like it was going to fit, but with this style you really don't know what the final result in fit will be until it's finished since the waistband is the last step. I sewed the waistband on and tried it on, and I can't lie I was pretty disappointed. The waistband was meant to be continuous, but the only thing I could do to fix this problem was to create a center back seam in it, so I pinched out and pinned the excess fabric and angled out. I took out almost 6 inches from that waistband at the top and angled down pretty rapidly - I'm obviously curvier then this was drafted for - but because I had already top stitched my back seam on the main pieces things got a little ... bumpy at the butt area. I was almost completely out of khaki thread at this point, so I didn't want to rip out that seam (it was overcast and then top stitched down with a triple stitch), so I just tried to get it as smooth as I could over my butt, but I still ended up with a bit of an angle there. I was so ticked off at that point that I just called it good, but in all honesty it does bug me.
I do adore the back pockets though! They are the perfect size and placement. It always bugs me when I see home sewn jeans that have one back pocket look closer to the center seam because of how the top stitching lies to one side, so I compensated by pulling one pocket slightly further away to make it visually even there. I was kind of at a loss with what to stitch on my first jeans style pockets, so I just went with a simple double V. All my top stitching was done with regular Gutterman polyester thread using a triple stitch for more definition and I really like the effect. 
All that pulling in at only the center back caused the fabric to suck to my tummy more then I like as well. It did line up the side seams with the side of my body though, so clearly I need a longer front than back.
Another sad outcome on my skirt is the pockets. They are great in theory, and when it's on the hanger they look great, but they are not really functional given how small they are and how high they are on my body. They are basically right at the waist, making the pocket bags right on the gut area, and since I have such a drastic curve out ward to my gut area in makes putting my hands (or anything else) into the pockets a tight experience. Next time around I will be dropping the pocket opening as well as making the pocket bags deeper. I think it's all due to my pear-shaped-ness, so not necessarily the fault of the pattern, but still... annoying after all that work. My little coin pocket will never be seeing the light of day on this skirt, lol.
Realistically my skirt can only be worn out with a shirt untucked that covers all the issues with the waist area (as demonstrated above). This is how I've worn it out and always with a loose and flowy top. The butt area isn't that bad to the untrained eye, so I think it's passable as a normal skirt.
So... details! The button is the final step on this skirt, and I could not get the button holer to cooperate with all that bulk. I was so disappointed at that point that I just put a pearl snap on it and called it done. This lead to another lesson: regular snaps are not strong enough to put at the waist of a skirt. This button pops open all the time when I sit down. Luckily my zipper is good and strong so I have no wardrobe malfunction dangers with the bad button choice. And there's a better look at the back pockets, plus you can finally see my little coin pocket. The zipper is a very old one from my stash. I bought a bag of salvaged metal zippers from a sewing friend at her yard sale years ago, and this one was the right size so I went with it. All was well until I needed to remove some teeth at the top and it actually shredded the zipper tape a bit (oops). It was old, what can I say? I was able to hide that section securely in the waistband though, so now one will know. Also you can see my hem - When I tried it on toward the end it was really the perfect length as it was, but that left no fabric for a hem allowance (which would have made the skirt too short). So I dug out some beige bias tape from my stash (also thrifted) and used that for the hem and it worked out great.
And the inside views. The zipper - still looking good from the inside, lol. I'm not sure how well you can see it in the photo, but that's a pic of my improv fix to the back waist. ugh. My pocket bags are pretty fun - I used lime green broadcloth scraps from my Joy Halloween costume. This is another good example of how the instructions assume you know what you're doing - the instructions never say anything about finishing seams. You just have to anticipate which seams need to be finished off and when to prevent fraying. It also never officially tells you to stitch the pocket facing to the pocket bag lining, and I didn't realize that was the intended move until I had already assemble the rest of the pocket, so going back to top stitch down the facing while it was inside the pocket was quite a challenge.
So there's my first Sally skirt - the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's still not a bad skirt overall, and it is wearable so that's a big plus. I have to keep telling myself that it was always intended to be a muslin, but golly was that a lot of work! I definitely plan on tweeking this pattern more and trying again. I have a stack of really cute denim prints I've always intended to make into this type of skirt :) I think I'm actually going to make a skirt block and then compare the pattern pieces to see where that gets me. I do know I need to at least make these changes: add length for hem, curve top of center back seam edges quite a bit, lower pocket openings, make pocket bags deeper, use heavier fabric. There are probably more, but that's a pretty good list for me to look back on later :) This was also so many first for me: first fly front, first bar tacks, first triple stitching, first back yoke fitting, and more. AND this marks another pattern sewn from my Make Nine 2017 list! Woo hoo! Here's to the quest for the perfect jean style skirt!

Fabric: 1.5 yards of khaki cotton twill - $0.50 (thrifted)
Pattern: Sally Skirt by Style Arc - $6.30
Notions: pearl snap button - $0.10, metal zip - $0.10, khaki thread - $2.50, white thread - $0.50, cream bias tape - $0.25, pocket bags - free (scraps)
Time: 7 hours
Total Cost: $10.25

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