Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Impulse Fabric Store Visit
I don’t have a fabric stash. I am simply not a “stasher” of anything. When it comes to sewing, this means I almost never buy fabric until I have a specific project in mind. But one morning, I did something uncharacteristic. There was some corduroy and cotton voile on sale at my local fabric store, and I bought some. After all, blue and tan complement each other, right? I could make a skirt and and top outfit. However, upon getting home I was plagued with doubt as to whether corduroy skirts were even a “thing”. And the corduroy was a hideous colour. What was I thinking? It would never create anything nice.
But I turned out to be wrong.
Designing the A-Line Skirt Pattern: My Big Mistake
Once I sat down to design the corduroy skirt pattern, I decided on a knee-length, classic A-line shape.
I began by tracing around my tailored skirt block onto pattern paper. Then I made a big mistake. Instead of “slashing and spreading” the skirt to add the flare like you are supposed to, I forgot this and simply added all the flare I wanted to the side seams.
I realized my error once the mock-up was sewn and it didn’t look at all like the cute silhouette I had envisioned. Dusting off my pattern drafting book, I re-learned the correct way to add flare to a skirt. Laughing at myself, I fixed the pattern.
I also cut off the top of the skirt block to create the curved waistband. This was only my second time sewing a skirt with a waistband, and I wasn’t sure if I should add the width of the waistband to the top of my tailored skirt block, or cut the width of the waist band away from the top. The mock-up proved the latter the best option. Wanting a gored skirt, I eyeballed where to split the skirt into panels, creating eight gores.
I also planned for this skirt to have a button-up front. I added a button extension to the centre-front by adding a strip the width of the buttons I would use, and adding enough to fold underneath as well. I didn’t mark the placement of the buttons on the pattern. In the past, I have found these marks difficult to transfer to the fabric and ended having to re-measure the placement. In this case, not marking the buttons caused issues.
Sewing the A-Line Skirt
This was straightforward. I don’t have a serger and my beloved vintage Singer sewing machine only does a straight stitch, so I used french seams. For those who don’t know, french seams are a way to conceal the raw fabric edges. You first sew the seam with wrong sides of the fabric together, leaving the raw edges on the outside of the project. You proceed to trim the seam-allowance to at least half its width, then re-sew the seam with right sides together, enclosing the raw edges.
I do have a modern Janome machine which can do a zig zag stitch, but lately I’ve been enjoying creating couture seam finishes.
I sewed the buttons on the centre-front. One turned out wonky in its placement, because I didn’t mark the spacing properly beforehand.
Then it came time for the dreaded buttonholes.
Overcoming the Fear of Bound Buttonholes
About five years ago, I found a blog post from an amazing mom who literally sewed all or most of the clothing for herself and her family. I was floored with awe, but also with a knowing that I could never be that mom. The thought of sewing for my kids was overwhelming, and to this day I only sew for myself. Call me selfish, but it is so.
In this article the sewist-mom demonstrated how she had sewed welt pockets in a garment for her daughter. For those who have never seen the steps for making welt pockets or bound buttonholes (same technique), know that it appears mind bogglingly confusing. I left this blog post with an intense dread of bound buttonholes and welt pockets.
This skirt would look better with bound buttonholes, I knew. Thinking I would perish in the attempt, however, I took out my Janome sewing machine to sew basic buttonholes. Then it happened. The machine went totally wonky. I tried another test buttonhole: same result. My Janome has been known to be temperamental, but I took this as an omen. It was time to face bound buttonholes, like Saint George facing the dragon.
I sewed a few practice bound buttonholes, the first being horrible but the last being
tolerable. Taking my skirt, I machine basted ( big mistake) the placement of the buttonholes.
While watching Far From the Madding Crowd, I managed to power through the several buttonholes my skirt required. Surprise: doing it turned out to be less daunting than learning how to do it. And the skirt did look so much better!
I hand sewed an invisible hem, and the skirt was finished!
I tentatively began wearing my corduroy skirt, pairing it with a white linen crop top until my blue top would be finished. To my surprise, it became one of my favourite garments.
And then it needed an alteration...
Altering the A-Line Skirt
Originally, I had designed this skirt to be on the slouchy, comfy side. However, I had been wearing my corset more often, and the skirt had become far too loose in the waist. I would have to alter the finished skirt: scary, but necessary.
Pinning out a couple darts of fabric at the back waist, I tried on the skirt to perfect the amount of width to be removed.
Then I sewed the darts, going slowly through the waistband area because it was quite bulky here. I used my sharp fabric scissors to trim off the underside of the darts, before hand stitching them flat against the skirt and pressing everything.
What Did I Learn?
Next time I would more carefully mark the placement of the buttons to make sure they are evenly spaced. I’d also use another layer of interfacing in the button placket, because after months of wear it feels flimsy. Lastly, I would hand baste rather then machine baste the placement of the bound buttonholes, because all that machine basting was a pain to remove.
What about you? Do you like working with corduroy? Have you ever attempted a scary new sewing technique? Let me know in the comments below!
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