I would really enjoy the season of fall much better if it wasn’t for Daylight Savings Time. It has been observed in my country for just over a hundred years by now but I don’t care. I detest the way just one little tweak to the timing of my day throws everyone in the family off for a while. What about you? By the time we are all free from our commitments for the day, we are left in early evening darkness. So often in years before, we get stuck inside too early going stir crazy so it’s going to be real special here this year with the current limitations. Time is a precious resource and I hate to waste it, especially not from being needlessly restless. So – how about joining me in placating the misfortune of the autumn time change with some nice reminiscing to instead fall back in time? Let’s check out some fall garments I sewed years past to keep me happy, warm, and looking good during such a transitional season.
Just a forewarning – these are not the most spectacular things to share here on my blog, and being my older projects not up my current par of perfection. Yet, it’s the basic stuff like this that becomes a tried and true dependable piece which has lasted me so many years. Honestly, I feel like giving these garments a longevity award and not just a post! The fact I am still able to wear and enjoy these garments for up to 16 years now has me realize that I am one of a small percentage of folks who could or would even do such a thing, so I hope I don’t seem out of touch here. Blame it on my willingness to adjust, tailor, mend, and generally take care of these pieces over the years to keep them as something I even want to still enjoy. This tendency is not a bad habit, though. Being happy with what you have, being confident enough to be yourself, and being economical to mend and keep up what you already possess before buying new are all great to practice no matter the season or place, no matter your wealth of lack of it.
FABRIC: The plaid skirt is a printed quilter’s cotton, lined in a cling-free poly in a beige color. The top paired with the skirt is made of a polyester stretch suede, in a deep burgundy-cranberry. The tweed flared skirt is a lofty, heavyweight acrylic blend, lined in a dark brown cling-free poly. The long half-circle skirt is a polyester micro suede with a ‘burnout’ floral print, lined in a cling-free poly in a tan color.
PATTERNS: Butterick #3654, year 2002, bias flounce hem skirt, paired with a top using McCall’s #3655, year 2002. Simplicity 4881, from 2003, a “tulip” hem skirt. Simplicity #4543, from 2005, for a pull-on half circle skirt with the tummy panel.
NOTIONS: Pretty simple – thread, a 7 inch zipper, and ½ inch elastic
TIME TO COMPLETE: Each one of these skirts was a 2 hour project – easy peasy! The stretch suede top took about 3 hours just because I had problems with the fitting and details, as I remember. The top and skirt set was sewn circa 2004, while both the tweed skirt and the suede floral circle skirt were made circa 2006.
Where do I start? I suppose I’ll begin with the full set I made – the suede top and the cotton plaid skirt. This set is from a time when I survived off of versatile separates. It was such a challenge to find either a top which fit me yet also matched a skirt I had made, or a skirt which suited my taste yet also looked good with a top or blouse I already had. Back then I was just starting to branch out into more experimental sewing (such as hats) as well as beginning to try creating garments that needed me to figure out better tailoring and patterning skills (such as dresses and jackets). The project choice for this outfit was therefore both benign and experimental for me. The skirt was a safe bet. I was most comfortable sewing them by then and it was simple enough that I chose to make it again in velvet for a Christmas party (posted here). Stretch suede is a novel material to pick for a top, and I used a pattern designed for much stretchier knits so I needed courage and forethought. I was pushing boundaries and figuring things out first hand…and I succeeded.
I wisely went up a whole size and then some as the suede did not have the stretch rate the pattern recommended. The slight stretchiness to the suede means I have no closures and this is a pullover top. Yet, the material was dense enough that I was confused what stitch to use and I chose a stable straight stitch, finishing off the inner raw edges with my mom’s serger (overlocking machine). The smooth satin underside to the suede is what I feel against my skin on the inside and it is fabulous!
I originally made the sleeves extra-long so I could have room to choose some novelty hemming or whatever interesting detail struck my fancy, as I thought. Turned out, I shirred up the inner wrist area for a bit of a different look while still keeping the hem up and giving me plenty of extra reach room. A small strip of hem facing keeps those gathers in place. The sleeve cap did not stretch into the armscye like a normal knit, yet I did not like the appearance of a gathered sleeve cap. Thus I made small pleats to take in the excess. This is not the proper way to do such a fix, but it worked and it nicely squared off the sleeve tops for a defined shoulder line.
I originally cut the neckline really close to the throat at first because – like the sleeves – I wanted to experiment. Turned out, I created a wide, squared off neckline, and finished it by sewing down and turning inside a strip of tiny bias tape. It was not your run-of-the-mill tee but still simple enough to pair with many different me-made skirts…in other words, just what I wanted!
The skirt is basically everything the same as the velvet version I posted here. It has a pull-on elastic waist for ¾ of the waistband, with the front over the tummy being a smooth panel. There is full lining which ends just above the hem ruffle. The skirt was lengthened through the body because I thought the bias ruffle would look weird at any other length other than knee length or ankle length – and ankle length would be more elegant, warmer on my legs, and not so sporty. This is a comfy but not dumpy skirt that has such a subtle plaid. The orange and burgundy print reminded me of rows of stitching up close!
The body of the skirt was cut on the bias for a cross-wise plaid but it also gives a better body complimentary fit. I have a booty in this! Also, too, a straight and long skirt like this always made me think that I appeared taller – and this was important to a girl who was always the shortest in her class and too often taken for granted growing up. Now I have high heels which fill in for those silly feelings, he he.
Nevertheless, I still appreciate this skirt, although the elastic waist limits how I can wear this according to my preferences of today and what tops I now have that go with it. This is why I sewed a top for it back then, one that did not need to be tucked in. The top has such a rich texture and color and it was completely personalized according to my own inventions! The skirt’s bottom flounce floofs up when I walk in a way that tickles the little girl inside me which still appreciates ruffles and such frills. Together, these two items are like the best of the colors on trees’ fading leaves in fall.
Next, I’ll talk about the tweed skirt. Out of all the things I had made before I started blogging, this particular skirt is by far my favorite item. It is probably also my most frequently worn self-made skirt, even over my vintage skirts. It is something that I reach for again and again even today. The variety of colors in the tweed pair with so much in way of tops, blouses, and suit blazers while the lovely silhouette is the only one of its kind in my wardrobe. To my knowledge this shape of a skirt is called a “tulip hem” because it looks like an upside down opening flower bud. It is slimming yet also easy to move in.
The original way I had this skirt go on was with a simple elastic waist, much like the skirt above. This tweed is rather heavy weight, especially with almost 3 yards of fabric needed for it, and I remember the elastic waist was always slinking down on me when I would wear it. Several years ago now, I completely reworked that waist to turn this into a smooth fitting, side zipper closure skirt. It is much more of a professional skirt his way, and better for tucking tops in, as well as stable on my body. No more drooping skirt!
Otherwise, I kept everything the way I had made it originally from before I reworked the waist. This is fully lined, but even still, tweed ravels like crazy as does poly lining. Thus, all seams had been cleanly serged (overlocked) and top stitched down. I kept the pattern’s intended proportions and length of view D, where the flare begins above the knee in the lower part of the upper thigh. I did not do any adjustments and made an exact copy of the pattern.
My fabric is heavy so the skirt has a slightly different fall at the panels than what is seen on the model images on the cover (their skirts are a crepe or lightweight silky print). I personally like the structure of my version to this pattern better. It reminds me more of a suiting skirt rather than one with a romantic flair. This is what has lent it to be such a go-to piece. It is feminine yet serious, fancy yet not pretentious, versatile but not overly simple. I definitely recommend you to find this pattern and try it for yourself. Early 2000 era patterns are super cheap right now!
Finally, the last item in this post is another suede creation – a pull-on half circle skirt. It has a smooth tummy panel which extends down to the hipline, where the circle portion joins in along a straight, un-gathered seam. I lined the skirt from the hipline seam down, and finished the suede in a skinny 1/8 inch hem. This was such a tricky, frustrating material to work with! The weave was so tight, even with a sharp point needle my sewing machine didn’t want to poke stitches through. The suede stuck to itself at every turn yet was as soft as butter so I couldn’t always be sure I wasn’t sewing over a wrinkle. Luckily there were very few seams to the design.
This was total whim project from what I vaguely remember. I saw this fabric in the store, it tickled my fancy and I immediately knew what I wanted to sew with it. I whipped it together pretty much as soon as it was bought home, even before washing it (I always wash my fabrics before sewing with them). No matter how much I do like the final skirt that might not have been the best idea. The suede sticks like Velcro to most any top I wear with it and I made my easy-but-ubiquitous elastic waist – again. Sigh. Thus, I feel restricted to only sweater tops or blazers over this skirt. The basic colors in the skirt lend it to only match with similar browns or ivory tones – not very versatile. Oh well. I do love how swishy and romantic it is – so perfect for twirling! It is a subtle kind of floral, too. Also, it is in the on-trend copper tone which is one of the “it” colors of this year and midi length dresses and skirts are coming back. See? I am now on trend wearing something I made for myself 14 years ago. Weird, right?!
As much as these items are something I probably would not make today, I can’t help but give my younger self some credit for my sewing choices. I think the fact I could make items which I can enjoy for such an extended period of my life must have laid the ground work for how and what I sew today. Granted, these are ‘modern’ pieces from before a time when vintage fashion was something I wanted to be in for more than just for going “in costume” to living history events. In a time when day-to-day reality feels weird and living in 2020 is like an apocalyptic movie, I find some comfort in connecting with my past by wearing my older creations. Not forgetting where you came from can help you move ahead in the present, even if the channel for that happens to be through clothing. Sometimes you have to fall back to move forward.