Friday, July 10, 2009

The Making of the Slim Skirt

Well, it's done. My second VoNBSS project!

All in all, I'm pretty happy with this skirt, though I'm not sure it's the most flattering thing ever. I think I made it a size too big, so I feel like it really overemphasizes my lower body. Because of the construction (no side seams), there really isn't a way to take it in. Oh well. A belt helps to cinch it in, though not like the model of the 22" waist in VoNBSS!

I shortened the pattern by 6-1/2 inches, to take it from tea length to knee length. I tucked the length out in the middle to keep the shape at the bottom of the skirt.

I made it up in a lightweight lavender wool and rayon blend that was $12 a yard at Mood. It only took a yard, so this is a pretty economical project! Notice I'm wearing it with my "feminine, portrait neckline blouse!" And, of course, I'm wearing it with my vintage-inspired half slip. (See the tutorial here!) I'm well on my way to a fabulous VoNBSS wardrobe.

I really went all out with this one. I once again used tailor's tacks and a faced, lapped zipper. And here are the new skills I attempted (notice I did not say "mastered"):

1. Hand overcasting. There is only one seam on the body of the skirt, so I thought, "Heck, why not give one of them there hand overcast seams a go?" Verdict: Thumbs down. I do not understand this technique. I mean, I don't understand how it is possibly supposed to stop edges from raveling. I love to serge my edges, which obviously wouldn't have been an option in 1952. But why not use a Hong Kong binding? Or a turned-and-stitched edge? Anything other than this silly hand overcasting. But, to be fair, I've read in Clare Schaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide that this is the couture way to do it. I must be missing something.

2. A handworked buttonhole. I was really excited to try this. I spent yesterday afternoon tracking down the prescribed thread (a heavy weight silk) in the Garment District. Verdict: disaster. Read the full saga here. I ended up making the buttonhole by machine.

3. Seam binding on the hem. VoNBSS indicated that I should sew seam binding flat to the raw edge, and then sew through the seam binding to hem the skirt. Verdict: Nice! I'm pretty proud of my hem on this project, actually. I was very careful to pick up only the tiniest bit of fabric thread when hemming by hand, so it's pretty undetectable from the right side. The seam binding looks nice and clean on the inside too.

Plus, it comes in this retro-fabulous packaging.

Will definitely be using this technique again.

4. Silk thread for handstitching. Verdict: I am SO into silk thread for handstitching! It's amazing. I had no idea! I love the way it pulls so smoothly through the fabric like . . .silk. I'm obsessed, people.

5. Hand basting. I actually did some. Verdict: great for areas where you need a lot of control, like on these pleats:

Two VoNBSS projects down, twelve to go!


  1. wow, I think I'm inspired to try silk thread! The button hole experience looked difficult, I don't think I could of done it!

  2. It's a pretty skirt - I like the length and the shaping very much. Looks good with the blouse!

    I used tailor's tacks, a bit reluctantly, on my last sewing project and found them to be incredibly useful and not at all time-consuming. I know that I need all the help I can get in making everything line up correctly so it's worth the preparation.

    Do you never hand-baste at all? (tacking stitches here in the UK, I think?). My old sewing teacher at school used to insist on it although it's something I skip if I think I can get away with it. Too much hurry! Her tip about never tying a knot in the end of your basting thread was a useful one though...

  3. I love it and don't think it overly emphasizes your lower half in a bad way. That period of dress the skirts (and shorts) were sort of meant to emphasize and show off hips and I think it looks great on you.

    Also, that 22-inch waist...please tell me that is a very tight corset.

    I actually love doing a hem that way, I just love how neat it all looks in the finished project and in a skirt, it doesn't really take too much time.

  4. WOW!!! That is beautiful. I love black and purple together.

  5. Man, I didn't see any $12.00 a yard fabric when I visited Mood. I love your skirt and think it looks great on you.

  6. I think it looks and fits great!

    I was wondering if you were using undergarments similar to what would have been worn at the time, and that would affect the fit drape of the skirt.

  7. Excellent job and great color choice!

  8. Thanks everyone! Anita, I don't usually hand baste. If I baste, I do it by machine. But with the pleats on this project, the hand basting was imperative. A good lesson for me!

    Kristina, interesting point about the foundation garments that would have been worn at the time. I've been using my usual method, which is to fit a garment while wearing the undergarments I plan to wear underneath it. In some of these cases, that includes a modern bodyshaper, like Spanx. I do have an old-timey girdle, believe it or not. But I hate it, and I can't see that it makes much difference in my shape. It actually makes me lumpier because of all the boning and zippers and stuff! Hmm, I see a post on undergarments coming.

    Faye, did you check out the upper floor of Mood? There is a whole wall of $14 wools there in a rainbow of colors. This fabric was even cheaper, I suppose because it's a blend.

  9. Love the color! Thanks for the tip on silk thread--never knew...

  10. I have to agree about Mood. It has everything one could want and almost everything is very high quality for a whole lot less than B and J.
    I think that the women who make handmade buttonholes and overcast edges learned hand stitches as children. It takes a lot of practice. The hand overcasting was never my strong suit. Getting a serger was a major improvement. I haven't tried a handmade buttonhole, but I've been thinking about it. I do do a lot of hand basting though, especially tailor basting on jackets to hold the edges in place for pressing, which is where silk thread is a must. The thing about new techniques is the need for lots of practice pieces. The skirt looks great on you. If you are comparing yourself to the corseted model you're expecting the impossible. It's a great skirt.

  11. I too bought the book, and have been slowly tracking down the patterns, this is actually my forth one I havw found! So awaiting its arrival, I hope to do the same as you :)

    1. If you could please point me in the direction of patterns I would be forever thankfull! I so far have the bolero, coat, evening dress and this skirt on its way xx


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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