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    Sewers will learn how to buy the right-size pattern, fine-tune it before cutting, and then tissue-fit it. 

  • Pants for Real People: Sewing Techniques

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    This DVD is a must-have to follow up the fitting DVD.

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The Skirt from Hell – Client Ordered

I’ve been extremely busy sewing over the last week. I had a client ask me to make a skirt for her in time for a social event. She originally wanted a two layer skirt with the outer fabric being one she’d ordered off the ‘net but that fabric didn’t arrive quickly enough so she went to a fabric shop and found another that she liked. Originally, the pattern she wanted was the “Flirty Skirt” from the Petite Plus Pattern collection in Kathleen Cheetham’s book. This fabric was a brown floral silk-look 100% polyester. She instead chose to have this made from McCall’s pattern M5396, but she wanted it floor length. No problem, right?

McCalls Pattern M5396 Size AA

McCalls Pattern M5396 Size AA

I started by altering the size 12 pattern to her measurements (about a size 30). That wasn’t too difficult or time consuming. I had it done in about an hour and a half.

Next was cutting the pieces. Being a silky type of fabric, of course, it was difficult to straighten and cut this fabric. This took a lot of time, patience, and pins! I left an extra 12″ at the bottom of each piece so I could lengthen the skirt to the length the client wanted. BUT, I wasn’t thinking straight. Having never made this pattern or one like it, I never thought about leaving extra fabric at the bottom edge of the godet (gore) pieces. Since they are cut on the bias, there really wasn’t room to add that much to the bottom of each without cutting the fabric single-layered and I didn’t have enough fabric to do that on the bias but the hem doesn’t look straight across on the pattern front so I thought it would be OK. Cutting done, or so I thought, I headed to the sewing machine. The first step was to insert the side zipper. I began reading the instructions and then realized I was short two side panels (the pattern says to cut 4 of these (I misread it) rather than the usual 2 – of course, these are the largest pieces in the pattern!) so, back to the cutting table…

In the scraps, I found one piece large enough, when single-layered, to make 1 side panel. The other I had to piece two scraps together for. That was OK. I would hide the extra vertical seam in the side back on the zipper side and, since the skirt was quite full, I was sure it wouldn’t show.

I seamed the pieces together and cut the missing two side panels. At least I remembered to do them mirror images so they wouldn’t both be for same side!

Back at the sewing machine, I followed the instructions for inserting the zipper. This was straight-forward. The zipper bottom was to line up exactly with the point of the top of one of the triangular godet pieces. No problem – except the zipper end caused this light fabric to buckle slightly. I didn’t like that bump but there is no “forgiveness” in this fabric so I couldn’t do anything about it.

No problem except that my very sharp scissors caught a tiny bit of fabric while snipping threads! I now had a 1/4″ cut in the fabric about 1.5″ below the waistband to try and hide! Quickly I grabbed my No Fray and soaked the cut, setting it aside to dry. Then I found a small scrap of the same part of the pattern and made a circle of No Fray around it too. When both were dry, I used a tiny piece of fusible web for hems and fused the patch on. I trimmed around the patch as much as possible. I hope it will not fall off during washing.

When finished, I realized that my fabric pieces were already fraying badly from handling. I knew they would fray right back to the seams and, eventually, fall apart completely if I didn’t serge them.

Switching to the serger, I next serged around all the edges of all the pieces, including the pieces I’d just sewed the zipper onto. Serging after already having inserted the zipper was a bit of a challenge! There was another 2 hours (or more) gone!

Attaching two side panels together for the left and right sides was next. At this point I realized that if I put the side zipper on the left side as per instructions, the seam from the piece I had to seam together to cut that 4th side panel would be in front. I decided the zipper could be on the right side instead, putting that extra seam on the back of the skirt.

Next was to attach the remaining godet pieces to the front and back pieces. Lining up the tops of the triangular godets with the large dots and stitching them on was no problem. Then attaching all the pieces to each other from the large dots upward was no problem too.

I was to attach the waistband next. At this point I realized I’d cut 2 waistband pieces when only 1 was required. I decided that a tiny 1/2″ wide waistband would look out of proportion on this large skirt so I would seam the waistbands together at the top edge resulting in a 1″ wide waistband. Luckily I’d cut these pieces using the selvedge edge of the fabric for one straight edge. I serged the 2 together along the other long edge.

Stitching the longest straight stitch around the top edge of the skirt to ease (or gather) it to fit the length of the waistband, I pulled the bobbin threads from one end then the other. This took a lot of time as well because I lined up the waistband 1/2″ from the end (to leave seam allowance for stitching across the end of the waistband), not thinking ahead that I would need to leave more than that on each end for overlapping and adding the hooks and bars! After pinning the waistband to the skirt top, I realized that I’d added 5 inches of extra length to the waistband for these overlaps and the waistband, as I had it, would be way too big. Dumb, dumb, dumb!

I added more gathers, adjusted them, and repinned the waistband. At least I hadn’t stitched it on before I realized my mistake!!

Taking a deep sigh, and crossing my fingers (not literally), I stitched on the waistband. I stitched both ends down and turned the waistband. So far, so good. I didn’t want to topstitch the waistband because the thread was not the best match for this big floral print so I ended up slipstitching the inside of the waistband. It took me until 3:00 am to do it but it looked great!

I still had 1 day to do the hem.

In the meantime, the fabric the client ordered from eBay had arrived. It is a very sheer multi-colored silk organza. She wanted this as the top layer of the Flirty Skirt and was off to buy fabric for the bottom layer. She wanted all these skirts completed before the event so she could choose which to wear. I still had to adjust the pattern (1 piece, thank goodness) and cut out both layers of the Flirty Skirt.

She purchased the only lining fabric our local fabric store had in a color that would be OK for the under skirt of the Flirty Skirt. She couldn’t get the stretch lining because the store didn’t have any. Sad.

Back to the hemming. Because I didn’t have enough of the brown floral polyester fabric to extend the length of the godet pieces, and I didn’t realize that the skirt also needed those pieces extended to lengthen it, I ended up having to cut off the extra 12″ I’d added to the front, back, and side pieces. It turns out that, except for the curvy bottom of the godets, the hem is supposed to be straight. I carefully marked from the bottom of one godet to the bottom of the next, working my way around the skirt. Then I serged across these pieces to cut them off at the original length.

I decided that, since this polyester fabric wouldn’t hold a crease when pressed and couldn’t take a very hot iron or it would melt, I would just double fold the hem up at the top of the 3/8″ serging and hem it there. I was trying to make it as long as possible since I couldn’t make the overall skirt as long as the client wanted.

Hemming this skirt took a whole day!

Testing on scrap pieces, I tried a zig zag hem, a straight hem, and a blind hem. Because the thread didn’t match well, I didn’t like the look of any of them. I decided to try mono filament nylon thread as it is less visible. Here is my experience with it! My solution was to fill a bobbin less than 1/2 full of this thread so it didn’t explode!

After much testing on scrap and as much error as trial, I finally decided to just topstitch the hem using monofilament thread in the bobbin and needle. It didn’t look great but I was under time pressure here. The client wanted at least one skirt ready for 9:00 the next morning!

At 1:00 am, I finished the hem. Whew!

The next morning, I called her to let her know it was ready. She came to pick up her skirt and, upon trying it on, she noticed that it hung funny. The zipper side was noticeably shorter than the left side. I don’t know how this happened. I was very careful cutting, marking, and piecing. The only thing I can think of is that, because I enlarged the pattern, perhaps it needed a longer zipper?

She decided to wear it anyway and was otherwise happy with the skirt overall. I, on the other hand, was quite disappointed. With my knowledge and experience, I should not make such a rookie mistake. At least it fit her . . .

I didn’t charge her on pick up. The skirt actually took me 4 days to sew because of the fabric difficulties, my inexperience with this pattern, and my own stupid screw-ups. I definitely learned a lot during this process. Should the client have to pay for my learning process?

I’m thinking that I will not charge her at all for the sewing time on this skirt. Perhaps just for the pattern alteration time since that is the only part that I did properly.

As the client was in a hurry when she picked it up, and I didn’t really want to remember this skirt, I didn’t even suggest taking a picture of it!

After completing these skirts, I have decided I will no longer accept 100% polyester fabric to do any sewing for clients. There is just no point in putting in days of sewing time with cheap quality fabric!

I doubt I will ever sew this McCall’s M5396 pattern again.

Now I need to sew the double layered Flirty Skirt. At this point, I am not looking forward to it. :(




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