Thursday, March 14, 2013

Purple Zebra Print Skirt

In September last year, I sewed a purple zebra print top using Vogue 8817. The style fit really well only the print didn't do me any favours. It overwhelmed my features BUT...

... I had enough of the fabric left to make a skirt and after seeing Vogue 8837 several times in Marcy and Katherine's fashion show at Sew Expo, I decided to try it especially as I love the look of a long pencil skirt.

Before anyone gets the impression that I didn't like this pattern let me correct you right now. The pattern is well drafted and I like it - enough to sew it once, pick it apart, and sew it again. It's simply that I'd do things differently for my figure.

A lovely feature of this pattern is the curved hemline with overlapped sides. To get the look, you turn under 5/8" along the front side seam, overlap it with the back, and top stitch in place. That was really fiddly to do and ended up looking quite bulky down the side of my hips... with my hips being my largest feature... and not the one I really want to highlight.

I took apart the seam, sewed it normally, pressed it open, and then fudged the bottom to get a similar look. Now to figure out how to change it for next time.

There's a deep yoke that is folded to encase the elastic waistband, the sides of which have wonderful shaping for the waist. The yoke is stitched to the skirt just above the hip line creating a horizontal line at my widest part. With so many layers, it was also a thick line. When I re-stitched the yoke back on, I only stitched one layer and pressed the seam open to minimize bulk. I'll cut the other layer off at the waist. Next time, I would overlap the skirt and yoke pieces and cut them as one.

Because the yoke is folded in half to create a waist casing, there isn't the option of lowering the waist at center front and - as you can see - I have a tipped waist and need the center front waist to be 1" lower otherwise the hem dips down. The elastic called for in the pattern was 1/4" clear elastic which you sew in place just below the fold on the inside and then fold the yoke wrong sides together and stitch beyond the elastic to form the casing. I would much rather use a wider elastic and the method described for the pants in the same pattern - illustrated above. This is just personal preference and works better for the shape of my waist.

There is a seam down center front. I pressed it open and top stitched it. As you can see, I didn't worry about matching the print across the seam as it's meant to be a style line. If I match the print, the seam may as well be invisible or not even there. A vertical seam is helpful for my figure so I wanted it to be seen. If I were to sew the skirt with a fabric that I didn't want to break up the design of, I'd simply cut the pieces on fold. As I write that, I'm thinking about a textured fabric with a diagonal motif. I definitely would not want to break it up and - if using it - the waist shaping of this yoke would eliminate the need for darts.

The skirt was completely finished and then I took it apart again and restitched it. The side seams were stitched normally and pressed open as was the yoke seam. I fudged the hemline as illustrated earlier. All that's left is the waistband. To finish, I'll trace the waist with chalk using the fitting elastic you see in the earlier pictures and use the "pant" method above. The fabric is a sweater knit and feels fabulous on.

In the comments yesterday, badmomgoodmom noted that the shoulders of a Burda pattern are drafted differently than the shoulders of the Big 4. The only Burda pattern I had that would work to compare was 8051 which has extended shoulders.

The red line underneath is my shoulder angle. The pattern is placed over the line in the same way as the McCall's pattern I showed yesterday. On the McCall's pattern, my shoulder line evolves from the size 14 at the neck to the size 16 at the shoulder point. On the Burda pattern, my shoulder line stays within the size 14. This is true even when I slide the pattern 5/8" to the left to take the neck point out of the seam allowance.

You might need to enlarge the image to see clearly but here are the three layers. My genetic heritage is European so Burda patterns often fit me better and even so, I have very few of them since they rarely come on sale and aren't part of the BMV group. I had a stern chat with myself about how I do not need to now run out and buy a bunch of Burda patterns. I simply need to adjust the patterns I have to the body I have which is - after all - our "normal" fitting goal.

When I asked my friend Lorraine why she had suggested raising the shoulder seam for a squarer shoulder as opposed to lowering it for a sloped shoulder, she said it was because of the stress lines - which I'm now clarifying - because I didn't recognize the lines she's referring to and would like to for future reference.

Have you noticed that I've been doing all my thinking on paper? I have NOT been sewing a gazillion muslins one after the other. I think this shows a tremendous amount of maturity on my part. It's certainly different than what I've done in the past but it's far calmer, more thoughtful, and is yielding better results which means I need to develop this new habit.  I'm almost ready to try another version of the blouse.

Also as a result of this experience, I've sent an email to Wild Ginger to ask how to make the version of Pattern Master Boutique that I have work with Windows 7 - 64 bit. My husband says the 64 bit information is important. I have no idea what it means; I just want the software to work. They replied that it should work just fine which either means I don't have the version I told them I have or I've done something wrong which is a bad news good news scenario. Bad in that I've been doing without and heading off on this fitting journey "for nothing" and good in that I already own the software and don't need to buy anything new. YES YES ! ! !

I have studied fit with numerous instructors and have watched a lot of videos and read many, many books and THE BEST method I have ever come across for pattern alteration is Lynda Maynard's outlined in her book DeMystifying Fit. I've mentioned it several times in the last few days. You can tell I'm kicking myself for detouring away from this method. The book is not glossy. It comes on a CD and you print it out. The method is presented in a series of case studies with photographs of the fitting and pattern altering process. It's a book that could be easily overlooked and the information is pure gold. It's sold three quarters of the way down this page on the right hand side on Kenneth King's website.

You don't need pattern software to make it work. What you need is a moulage - a two dimensional pattern of your body with no ease. You can make that from a fitting shell pattern. In this case, it's best to have help. I hired a seamstress to fit me. I already had the pattern software and needing to recreate the moulage allowed me to finally figure out how to use it. What I like about combining the two is that you can add your desired amount of ease to the computer draft and print out and compare that version instead of calculating ease. I noticed at the Wild Ginger booth at Sew Expo that the price has come WAY down.

AND... I've been taking a measure on the panic level of choosing only twenty-four patterns and it's too high. As soon as I put the idea out there and made it "real" I started to feel like I was constraining myself so here's what I'm now evaluating. I have two TNT t-shirt patterns already - one darted and one princess - plus the Butterick 5678 princess blouse is nearly finished being worked out and my friend Lorraine is going to help me with a classic darted blouse. My fitting issues are in the upper body and I don't have nearly as much "trouble" with skirt and pant patterns so these TNTs combined with the pant and skirt patterns that I've sewn more than once provide a good starting point. SO...

... I'm thinking over a plan to a) work with these existing TNT patterns more and slowly add to their numbers by b) figuring out how to once again use the moulage/software combo to fit the other patterns in my stash. I'll never get to sewing my entire pattern stash but I could slowly build up the number of TNT patterns and work with them consistently and creatively AND still sew those one-of patterns that are pure fun. I think this is a good compromise that will allow my two interests - fit and creativity - to balance. Thoughts?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - more TNTs than I thought, no need to buy new software


  1. I'm glad that the Burda 14 works for your shoulder line. I do something similar. I made a template of my favorite details: the Burda shoulder, in seam pockets, flared skirt for lining; and keep them handy to add to other patterns.

    I read every pattern I purchase. But I don't sew them all. I don't consider learning how things are put together a waste of a pattern purchase. If I know I will never use a pattern again, I send it out to the bring and share table at quilt guild monthly meetings. It will all get used by someone.

    1. It was interesting to compare and see the difference and yes, it's just a matter of making the template and copying it pattern to pattern.

      We do much the same things. I get some strange looks when people find out how many patterns I have (or have had over the years) and that's okay. I give out strange looks at some people's collections. Some I buy for the design details. Some I buy to actually sew. Some I buy as a base for design. And some I buy just to read the instructions and see how they're done. When I'm done, I donate them to a local charity. It works.

  2. I'm trying to be more thoughtful about buying patterns. But if I have ones that I know I'll never use, I pass them along with no guilt. (It also helps that I buy Vogue, etc. ONLY on deep sale @ Joanne's.)

    Maybe now that you know Burda is better for you, you can buy selectively and pass on more of the BMV ones....

    1. One thing I like about buying via BMV is the sale prices because they make it possible to fit both my upper and lower body - and it keeps me out of the fabric store which typically saves me money and helps control my stash - LOL. I have a few New Look patterns that have the complete size range but I find Vogue patterns are more sophisticated design wise and Burda is similar. I will pick up some Burda patterns now and then but more likely I'll simply transfer the shoulder information I learned to all whatever I'm sewing. It's just a different line and I have SO MANY patterns I to explore so this is good.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.