Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tutorial: Drafting a Pencil Skirt, Part Three

Just leave this pattern on the shelf--
lonely, heartsick, its purpose unfulfilled.
This is Part Three of a four-part series on drafting your own pencil skirt pattern.  (See Parts OneTwo, and Four.)

Step Five: Waistband?

When it comes to the waistband, you've got options.  If you have a tried-and-true waistband from another pattern, just throw a seam allowance along the top edge of your skirt and use that.  If, like me, you are too cheap to buy patterns when you can just draw a rectangle, you can draft your own waistband.  I constantly refer to the waistbands chapter of this book, which describes several very useful ways of making and attaching a waistband.  I won't go into too much detail about it, but here's what my waistband pattern looks like:

You only need it to be as wide as your waistline measurement, but I find that an extra inch or two helps me adjust for comfort when I'm attaching it.  Once you've cut out the waistband and interfacing, you're going to press it in half and press the seam allowances under.  Here's how it looks pressed:

And here's how it's attached to the skirt, when you get to that point in construction:

You'll want to sew up the edges of the waistband right sides together and then flip it right-side-out, too, but that depends on what kind of closure you're using.  If you don't want (or forget, ha ha) to finish the sides of the waistband, you can always just run a zipper up into it.  Them's the basics, anyway!

Your third option, if you have limited fabric, limited time, or just prefer a less cluttered edge, is to just make an interfaced hem at the waist.  I made a number of skirts this way before I felt confident with waistbands, and they're still wearable (although I neglected to put interfacing in one of the lighter wool ones, and it's stretched a little at the waist, sadly).  Just extend each pattern piece two inches at the waist, like so:

and put in a one-inch-wide strip of interfacing just below the seam allowance.  Then, when you're constructing the skirt, either A) sew up the side and back seams, press the darts, then add interfacing to the whole skirt at once, roll the edge, and hem:

or B) interface, dart, and hem each piece separately, then sew the side and back seams:

Option A is neater-looking, but B lets you take your seams in later without too much trouble (if, say, your waistband stretches out, or you lose a ton of weight or something).  Maybe I'm the only one who thinks about these things.

Step Six: Kick Pleat/French Vent/The Hobble Skirt Option

Do you like walking?  So do I.  I mean, I like slim skirts and all, but I also like walking.  This step is all about ways to keep the pencil silhouette without tripping on curbs or having to hike your skirt up to the waist to climb stairs.  Essentially, your skirt has to open six inches or so above the knee (unless you go for the hobble skirt option, which I don't recommend); and it can either display your bare skin or some kind of fabric panel.

The easiest option, of course--particularly if you're using a back closure--is simply to sew up the back seam most of the way, press the seam allowance open, finish it, and let it get caught up in your hem like so:

Your other options are a little more complicated, but allow for walking room without the constant threat of flashing people.  You're going to want some kind of pleat, basically.  One option is an inverted pleat down the length of the skirt, topstitched down to (my rule of thumb) about six inches above the knee:

This works best if you're using a side or front closure and cutting the back piece on the fold.  Just decide how wide you want your inverted pleat, and then add that amount to your Back pattern block.  (Since the pattern block only covers half the Back piece, when you cut it you'll wind up with twice the width of the pleat in extra fabric--which is exactly what you need.)

I've also seen people use kick pleats, which I've never been able to successfully pull off--so I will demur on teaching you how to do that.  If your local library has Easy Guide to Sewing Skirts, however, that's the closest to understanding it I've ever gotten.

Relatedly: what's the ideal length for a pencil skirt?  I like mine to hit at the lower edge of my kneecap.  Some people like 'em shorter, some longer.  If you go for true tea length, that may introduce some complications with walking or some imbalance in the appearance of the skirt.  If that's your favorite length, I'd use a pleat of some kind instead of the open slit (also known for no reason I can tell as a French vent).

That's it for today!  On Friday we'll look at seam allowances and construction--and then we're done!  I have to tell you if I never see another Paint illustration it'll be too soon.

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