I’ve been meaning to learn how to sew for ages, because most of the clothes I want to wear stopped being made at least sixty years ago. I have time and a need for activities at the moment, so I decided it was about time I did something about it. I tried to photo-document the process as I went along, courtesy of my phone camera, but I admit I got into the actual sewing a bit much towards the end and forgot about the photos a lot of the time.
So this is what I was trying to make. It’s from a 1970 Simplicity pattern, and it’s your basic 60s-style A-line skirt. A-lines are great because they’re flattering to almost everyone and good for both casual and business. So the perfect pattern to make again and again if it turned out well.
Ready to go. I love my fabric. I went to Spotlight looking for a nice 60s-inspired pattern, and then I found several bolts of fabric that were actually reproductions of real 50s, 60s and 70s prints. So, me being me, of course I ended up with the super-bold 70s pattern 😀 It’s a 100% cotton drill, which is a great weight for an A-line, but is very prone to fraying, alas.
All laid out and ready to cut. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough fabric, just in case I didn’t allow enough extra for the one-way pattern, but I ended up with an extra 20cm or so. Huzzah!
In pieces! Gee, it all looks so simple when you see it just sitting there like that. It isn’t.
I am lucky in that my mother is a sewer from way back, who has a nice sewing machine for all of her patchwork needs. I’ve only used her new machine once before, so it was a bit of a learning process. I kept trying to press buttons where they were on the one I grew up with, as opposed to where they actually are.
The first step was staystitching the waist and side seams. You use a larger stitch for this (kind of the machine version of tacking) and it’s done to prevent stretching.
Then the darts were put in. It was at this point that I really thought the skirt was going to be too small for me, because the two back pieces looked absolutely tiny at the waist once the darts had been stitched in and pressed.
Then came the really scary part: sewing in the zip. I was able to find one that was a brilliant match for the fabric, so that was good, but there is just something about zips that seem extremely scary to a novice sewer such as myself! Here, it’s all pinned into place, which took a couple of tries, as you have to get it so that the seams come as close as possible to meeting in the middle of the teeth.
The zip is then basted into place. I love basting! I’m usually as much of a perfectionist when it comes to hand-sewing as with everything else, so it was really fun to have the excuse to tack wildly and messily, knowing I’d be unpicking the stitches just as soon as the proper seams were in place.
And here’s the finished zip. It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty pleased with it for my very first attempt at putting one in. You use a special zip foot for your sewing machine, which allows you to stitch it in without getting the zip caught under the foot. Mum’s machine is good because the stitching feet are extremely easy to change. Even a Tara can do it!
With the zip and darts in place, it was time to sew up the side seams. At this point, it actually began to vaguely resemble a skirt. Albeit one you wouldn’t be seen dead in. After all that zip sewing, the side seams were a walk in the park.
Facing time. This is used to strengthen the waist of the skirt, which doesn’t have an actual waistband. (The facing is kind of like an internal waistband, though.) Here, I’ve added extra strength to the facing with some iron-on interfacing fabric, and then the bottom of the facing has been understitched for sharpness and then folded over a quarter inch and sewn into place. The three pieces have also been sewn together.
Missing a blurry photo here, but at this point, the facing is all in place. It’s pinned to the skirt’s waist, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other, and then sewn on. I found that there wasn’t as much extra left over at the zip as there was meant to be, meaning that my seam allowances on the facing and the skirt itself weren’t perfectly matched. I could’ve told you that before sewing it all together, though! I’m still very much a learner when it comes to guiding fabric through the machine.
Here’s the waist all finished from the right side, complete with a hook and eye at the top, to protect my modesty if ever the zip falls down 😉
Hemming takes forever. I decided on a one-inch hem, which makes the skirt the perfect length (according to my tastes). It was all pinned into place at that one inch length, with the help of a tape-measure to make sure it was as even as possible. Then it was basted (more messy tacking huzzah!), so that the pins could be removed and the bottom could be turned over and stitched to prevent fraying. Once that was pressed into place, it was time to hand-hem the skirt. It takes time to hand-sew neatly, so I put on ‘Mythbusters’ to keep myself from getting too bored. Again, I am lucky to have a crafty mother, who showed me the difference between slip stitch and a proper hemming stitch. I’m quite pleased with the final result.
It’s a skirt!