Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pencil Skirt Part Five: Sewing the Skirt Together

This is the fifth and final post of my "How to Make a Pencil Skirt" series. For earlier segments see

Place your back piece and set it on top of your front piece (right sides facing). Sew both sides together using 1/2 inch seam allowance.
Use your pinking shears to keep your seam from fraying or use a serger to finish your seams (be soooo careful to only cut the seam and not the skirt!) Iron open you seams to be nice and flat.

Now to sew the facing to the top of the skirt. Line up your facing starting at the seams (right sides together). Match them up and pin.

 Continue pinning the facing along the entire skirt. There should be some hang over on both sides of the zipper. Sew together (1/2" from the top)

Cut the excess fabric with pinking shears (being careful not to cut too close and cut the thread!) Then top stitch the seam folded toward the facing. This will make your facing lay nice and flat without seeing any seams from the front of the skirt.

Fold the facing edges under. Hand stitch down.

Hem the bottom of the skirt by folding under 1/2 inch twice and hand stitch (or machine stitch if you wish).

Do you see the stitching line on the bottom of the hem? I recently learned a great tip from Colette. They said instead of using a seam gauge to measure your hem, simply use your sewing machine to sew a basting line at the distance you want for the hem using the guide lines on your sewing machine to do the measuring. Then fold along the basting line, stitch, press, and remove the basting. This is so easy and precise!

Congratulations! Your skirt is finished!!!

Pencil Skirt Part Four: Sewing the Zipper

This is part four of my "How to Make a Pencil Skirt" series. For earlier segments see

Okay, it's time to install the zipper! 
First you will need to sew your back pieces together using the widest stitch length on your machine (This is called "basting" and is a temporary seam). Remember you gave yourself a 1" seam allowance, so sew it 1" from the edge!

Open the seam and press it open with an iron.

Take one side of the seam allowance and fold the skirt aside.  You are going to baste your zipper to this flap (this temporary stitch will hold your zipper in place). Line up your zipper right along the seam allowance. Take your time and make sure it is perfectly straight.
Pop on your zipper foot, and sew up along the zipper.

Now fold the skirt to the other side and baste the other side of the zipper down (on the seam allowance edge and not to the skirt).

Now that the zipper is basted to your seam, you are ready to sew the zipper on for reals. Turn your stitch length back to normal (2.5)  and flip your skirt right side out. Because your zipper is basted on, you do not need to work with pins or have any fear or your zipper slipping!
Starting on the bottom of the zipper (feel for the closure) sew across the bottom, and up along the seam.
Then go back to the bottom and sew up the other side.
Grab your seam ripper and unpick the basted seam to reveal your zipper! (be soooo careful to only cut threads and not your fabric!)

And your zipper is done!

Now while we are on this seam, we are going to go ahead and sew the slit.  You are going to want a slit or you will have a hard time walking in this skirt! I did a conservative 2" inch slit, but you can make it higher if you'd like.

Start my marking 3" (height of slit plus 1" for hem) with your tailor's chalk. Now sew your back seam right on top of your basted seam up from your zipper down to your slit marking. (remeber basting=temporary. you definitly don't want the back of your skirt to be held together by a temporary stitch!)

Now that your seam is permanent. Sew along the outside of the seam, going back and forth along the top to secure that slit.

Next up: we are finally finishing this skirt!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pencil Skirt Part Three: Sewing the Facing

This is part three of my "How to Make a Pencil Skirt" series. For earlier segments see

In step one, you cut out a set of two back facing pieces and one front facing piece from your fabric and from the fusible interfacing. Pull those pieces out.
Pull out your iron and fuse each fabric piece to its fabric counterpart. When fusing with the iron, be sure to place the bumpy side of the interfacing down, against the wrong side of the fabric.
Now you will sew one back piece to each side of the front piece.
pin right sides together, and sew!
Press your seams open. 
Next, sew a line 1/4 inch from the bottom edge.Then take your pinking shears to the edge and cut (if you have a serger, you can just serge those raw ends and know that I am jealous of you and your beautiful serger)
Are you wondering why you just sewed a line along your edge?  You are going to fold the edge up along that stitching line. The sewn line will help the fabric fold up along the curve and create a smooth and beautiful hem!  Try it and see! Fold it, and sew along the turned edge.
Flip your facing over and marvel at how good your facing looks!

Pencil Skirt Part Two: Making Darts

This is part two of "How To Sew a Pencil Skirt"
For the introduction and supplies go here
For Part One: Drafting and Cutting go here

Now that your fabric is cut out, you need to make your darts. There are lots of great tutorials on how to sew darts like this one by Coletterie and this one by Shwin and Shwin so read over their posts if my explanation doesn't make sense.

 First you need to draw your dart lines onto the fabric using tailor's chalk or a disappearing ink fabric marker. There are many ways to do this. I use a cheating method that my sewing teacher would probably frown upon. But it works, and I really hate sewing tailor tacks.
To transfer the darts zuzzy style, we are going to fold one side of the pattern piece over with the other side still pinned down. I drew the dart in yellow to make it easier to see. The dotted line is where we are going to fold the pattern. As you can see, we will fold the pattern right along the left dart line.
 With your pattern piece folded, draw your dart line. (I put a pin where the dart ended so I would know where to stop)
Now, fold the pattern piece back in place. move your pins to the other side of the pattern piece. Next, fold your pattern along the right dart line...
... and draw in your line.
 You have just transferred your dart markings! Repeat this until all four darts have been drawn onto the fabric.

Now with your darts drawn on your fabric, you are ready to sew them up. To get them ready to sew, you first need to fold the dart through the center. To get the dart lined up, I like to push a few pins down through the right dart line, and up through the left..

...then slide the fabric together along the pin...

...until it the dart lines are perfectly matched up!
Then pin the fold together...
and sew along the dart line.

(Now, I must admit here that the "correct way" to sew a dart is from the top down. As you can see I am sewing from the bottom up. Don't tell my old sewing teacher)

When you sew this seam, DO NOT back stitch at the bottom of the dart (the skinniest part/the point of the triangle) instead after you have sewn the seam tie a knot with the threads by hand. This will ensure that you do not get a lump at the bottom of the dart.
Here is the dart all sewn up... it needs to be ironed.
(see I do own an iron!)

because the dart makes the skirt curved, it is best to use a tailor's ham if you want the dart ironed perfectly. (You can buy one from JoAnns for $10-- $6 if you use a 40% coupon)

After you have sewn all four darts in your skirt, keep that iron out because you will need it for the next step: fusing and sewing the facing

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pencil Skirt Part One: Drafting and Cutting

This is part one of my "How to Make A Pencil Skirt" series. See my previous post for the introduction and the supplies.

To get started you will need to draft a pattern. Mademoiselle Chaos has a great detailed post on how to measure yourself to draft the pattern pieces for a pencil skirt. Grab a notebook and write out all your measurements and calculations. 
I am a visual person, so I like to draw out my action plan in my notebook.

 Measure out all your lines and create your pattern on drafting paper just as Mademoiselle Chaos describes. To make my patterns, I like to use this roll of cheap kid's drawing paper from Ikea ($5 for 90+ yards of paper!)
  •  I added 3/4 inch darts in the front, and 1 inch darts in the back (I'm not a very curvy girl, so if you have more curves than I do-- most likely-- then make your darts wider).
  • I added 1/2 inch seam allowances for all seams EXCEPT for the back seam. I added a 1" seam allowance to the back to give me plenty of fabric to sew the zipper to.

 Lay out your pattern pieces on your fabric. My fabric had a little stretch to it, if your's does too make sure you place your patterns so that the fabric stretches from side to side, not top to bottom.
 As you can see, my pattern pieces would make a very short skirt. (Honestly, I got caught up in all the numbers of the waistband and the french curves that I forgot to go back and figure out how long I wanted my skirt). To fix my error, I just pulled out my clear ruler and measured from the top of the skirt and cut at the length I wanted.

 Since I was free-handing the added length, I placed it on my self-healing mat, lined it all up, then cut everything nice and straight. You can skip this part if you make your pattern the right length in the first place :)
The part that makes the pencil skirt so flattering is that the skirt tapers in at the knees, instead of hanging straight down from the hips. To get this shape you need to cut off a little fabric from the side. Lay your ruler at the hip line and angle it slightly so that you are taking off 3/4 of an inch at the bottom (or do a full inch if you want a little more). Then cut from the bottom up to the hip line to take off a small wedge of fabric. Do this to both the front and back pieces.

Now to draft your facing
(What is a facing? A facing is sewn to a curved garment edge and turned under to finish an edge neatly)

To draft the facing, we will trace the top of the front and back pattern pieces, but first we must remove the space between the darts. To remove the space we will simply tape it together. Here is how to do it:
Fold the right dart line to make a crease, this will make the folding easier. Bring the right dart line and fold it up against the left dart line (note that you are not folding it in half, but folding at an angle!)
This will curve your paper so it won't lay don't flat. (darts make your skirt curved so obviously putting darts in your paper will do the same!)

Tape it down. (Remember, you still need transfer these dart marks onto your fabric- that's part two- so use a tape that is easily removable!!! I used washi tape, it doesn't rip my paper when I remove the tape. If you don't have good tape, then trace your pattern onto another piece of drafting paper and use that to tape up. OR skip to part two, transfer your dart marks, sew your darts, then just trace your fabric!)
 Trace along the top of your pattern piece and down the edges about 3 inches. (You can trace it right onto the fabric as I am in the picture OR you can trace it onto your drafting paper so you have a pattern than can be reused)
Remove your pattern piece and draw a bottom line at a curve. If you don't want to eyeball it, just slide your pattern piece down 3 inches, and trace the top.

And you will have a piece that looks like this! Now you have one back facing piece. You will need to cut TWO back facing pieces (just cut two from the same pattern piece) and ONE front facing piece.
Once you have cut out your pieces from your fabric...
Cut the same pieces out of fusible interfacing.

Now you should have one front piece, two back pieces, one front facing piece in fabric and interfacing, and two back facing pieces in fabric and interfacing.

Next up: Making Darts