“Past Project” Highlight: Two Winter Wool Skirts

Winter’s worst is past where I live but I know this is not the case everywhere across the globe, so here’s a post that feature two skirts for brisk weather.  These skirts were made by me about 10 years back but they still are enjoyed and worn.  They recently even got an upgrade done to the waists to make them even better.  This waistband re-fashion might come in handy for others to try so I figured these skirts deserved a feature here on my blog.Butterick 4803 border print & front overlay skirts

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Grey border-design skirt – 100% wool;  Blue toned boucle skirt – wool and acrylic blend; lining for both skirts – polyester cling-free lining

NOTIONS:  elastic and thread with maybe some hem tape or bias tape

PATTERNS:  Simplicity #4593, year 2005, for the blue/navy/black skirt; Butterick #4803, year 2006, for the bordered grey wool skirt 

Simplicity 4593 skirts-envelope front and line drawingTIME TO COMPLETE:  a few hours to make each skirt with just a little more time to re-work the waist

THE INSIDES:  all seams are finished off by a serger/overlocker…these were made while I could use my mom’s Bernina.

These skirts are so cozy and a way to look nice while still busting chilly winds.  The long length looks elegant with the bias of the blue/black boucle skirt while the grey border print one is great for making me feel taller.  Both skirts can be even toastier when worn with long underwear or pants underneath and boots, too.  I know many people reach for pants in wintertime and the fall, but I go for skirts – they rock!  You can still wear your pants or even layer, but with a skirt over them is like having a warm blanket fashionably wrapped around you to keep you warm…and no one knows the better!

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Anyway, both skirts were pretty much made as-is, but I added in full lining as well as my own darts to further tailor the waists of both of them.  The blue/black boucle is a very loose material, but lofty and matches well with many tops, sweaters and suit coats.  The loose boucle goes perfectly with the asymmetric bias panel in the front.  This skirt received one skinny dart on the other side of the waist that doesn’t have a seam.  The grey wool skirt is from a fabric that is thick more alike to felt, while its  border print is embroidered on – not printed.  I remember it was so expensive, but so unusual I had to have it and my mom pitched in, but I only bought one yard (in 60 inch width) with a coupon to help.  This cozy skirt has two long darts that are more like pleats to control the fullness and add interest.  I just can’t seem to leave a garment mint from pattern design without adding my own touch to personalize it.  That’s o.k., this is why I sew my own fashion.

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The waists of both of the skirts had been nicely made but they were just basic casing-style with an all-around elastic gathering.  This was alright for me as I was growing up, but now I want a slightly more refined style and one that I can wear with a top tucked in, perhaps with a belt, too.  So I cut off the old casing and turned under the edge nicely.  Then I put the skirt on and pinched in the sides to figure out how much fabric needed to be brought in on each of the two sides.  Next, I took some wide 3 inch non-roll elastic and cut two pieces into the amount I figured needed to be brought in on each side of the skirt.  Since when you sew elastic down as you stretch it out it ends up longer, I decided to cut off an extra inch to the two elastic portions.  For the first skirt I did this to, I didn’t finish off the cut ends of the elastic before sewing it down, but for the second time I covered those edges in hem tape or bias tape (this is much nicer).  Now, I pin the elastic edges to the skirt, and stretch the elastic out ‘til it’s even with the skirt fabric and pin!  This process was helped by my hubby, otherwise I don’t know how I would have done this without having someone to hold it for me.  Then I stitched the elastic down to the fabric in four rows running parallel to the length of the waistband.  I was able to re-work one skirt waist in just under one hour.

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Now the waist is smoother front and back, with the gathers over the hips (where they end up making nice shaping anyway).  The large elastic stitched right to the fabric makes for very small and unnoticeable gathers which are tightly and evenly spaced.  This waistband also keeps my skirt sitting at my true waist because the elastic seems to sit on top of my hips.  A casing waistband always seems to twist around and droop down on my middle unless it’s quite snug, and this new waist solves these problems.  I’m systematically working on weeding out the old all-around casing waistbands from my past made skirts (such as this paneled micro-suede one) and doing this new style.

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There’s only one small tip to my new waistband method.  Don’t cut the elastic pieces even, cut them like an ‘isosceles trapezoid’ to be exact.  If the upper edge of the elastic that goes along the waistband top is the one with the smaller length, the finished look turns out much better. Cutting the elastic in this shape tapers in the waist for an even smoother finish.  Such a small point does make all the difference.  I didn’t cut ‘isosceles trapezoid’ shaped elastic for the grey skirt, just block rectangular pieces, and see how the top edge stretched out from stitching more than the blue skirt, which does have the special shape cut.

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I see a number of these dated out-of-print patterns for sale in the internet stores (Etsy, Ebay, and other private site sellers).  Just because a pattern is dated doesn’t mean it can’t still have value and be made in an interesting manner…it just needs more creativity 😉

Every so often on my blog in the future I will feature a past project which is still a winner in my book, being worn through the years.  I figure why should just my newer creations get the spotlight?!  Besides, every review or picture of a pattern sewn up by someone has the possibility to help someone else who might want to sew with or be interested in that pattern.  I know so many other bloggers’ have helped and inspired me!

My Fall “Fast Fashion” Skirt – An Easy Project with Modern Styling

I recently found a very interesting math equation that produces an excellent result.  Here it is: 1 yard of easy care, super soft knit fabric, plus 2 hours of time devoted to cutting and sewing, equals 1 very happy Seam Racer, a.k.a. Kelly.

At that time, I needed a no-fail, instant satisfaction project which was a change out of the ordinary for me, and this skirt was my lucky number.  Besides, I had been wanting to make my very own version of the “high-low hem” style that has been out since the first spring fashions emerged earlier this year.  The fact that I have been noticing how many 1920’s and early 30’s styles had the same “high-low hem” made my determination only stronger for me to sew something with that fashion element.

100_1720      A few of  the Pantone Fall 2013 colors are included in the tribal Indie print of my skirt – linden green and samba especially, among other background colors of turquoise and navy.

This skirt, although it didn’t call for much skill, makes me feel SO good, it’s amazing!  I haven’t made a new skirt for my wardrobe in so long of a time.  I intended on turning my skirt into a one piece dress by sewing a top to the waistband elastic, but the versatility being able to change top colors is much more fun than having another dress.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a poly/rayon blend knit, bought at JoAnn’s store on sale

NOTIONS:  I used dark navy thread which was on hand already, and only bought the specialty color waistband elastic

Simplicty 1659PATTERN:  Simplicity 1659

TIME TO COMPLETE:  only 2 hours, from the beginning of cutting to finished and on myself: I made this skirt on a Saturday afternoon, July 27, 2013

THE INSIDES:  both side seams are French seams, while the bottom hem and waistband seams are zig-zagged over (this fabric doesn’t fray)

FIRST WORN:  I felt so good in my new outfit, hubby suggested taking the family out for a meal of food we don’t normally eat, but love: pizza, wings, potato skins, and root beer. Yum!

TOTAL COST:  the one yard of fabric only cost $5 and the elastic about $2, so the final cost is $7.00

The skirt portion of dresses A, C, and E was used and adjusted to be turned into my easy knit skirt.  Firstly, I straightened out the top of the skirt front pattern so it would go straight across.  On the dress, it arches up to the join the bodice center like an upside down V, with five tucks along the front.  I kept 4 of the tucks for my skirt front, the two on right and two at left, but eliminated the big tuck at the center to simplify things and keep some fullness.  Also, I re-drew a new length onto the pattern.  The longest length was too long, and I didn’t want to short version, either, so my skirt is in between those two lengths. With all these changes, I still cut out my correct corresponding size.  Only one yard (60 inch wide, and folded selvedges in at the center) was just enough to squeeze the two pattern pieces.

100_1724     Doing the waist band was fun!  There were at least 10 different fashion colors of elastic 100_1752to pick from at JoAnn’s, and I can’t wait for another project which gives me the opportunity to use a different elastic color as well as this interesting sewing technique.  All you have to do is cut your elastic to a comfortable measurement around your waist, add enough (two inches maybe) to securely sew the ends together, then pin and stretch both skirt and elastic!

100_1746     I know one thing…I have not yet figured out how to do a waistband like this without having someone with me to help me.  After I pinned the sides, hubby was sport enough to hold my skirt and elastic stretched out together so I could work at pinning the waistband in place.  Two rows of zig-zag stitches later, I was done and amazed – its nice to have an easy and uncomplicated project every so often.  By the way, the flower isn’t part of the belt – it just clips on for an easy decoration.

Look at the waistband picture above at right – there is a side seam going through the design, I just matched it up really well.  The other side isn’t matched up as well, but I’m o.k. with that because my finished project is just too good for me to care.

100_1733     A historic village in a different part of town was the perfect spot for a Sunday afternoon of letting our little tyke play in the dirt and take some photos.  I don’t know if I was enjoying being out more than him, but the picture below shows our little guy giving me quite a look.  Just HAD to add this outtake – it’s so cute!

I would like to make one last observation regarding the pattern, Simplicity 1659, which I used for my easy knit skirt.  I couldn’t help but see a resemblance between the long style dress with the open sleeves (view E) and this original Chanel creation from the 30’s (see pictures below).  I makes me wonder about the amount of fashion that comes around every so many years and sneaks its way back in without people ever suspecting.  There is a temptation for me to adapt Simplicity 1659 into a Chanel imitation, but, if I do, it won’t be anytime soon.
So many projects…so little time!

1659lineblack and white Chanel gown