Thursday, November 1, 2012

Beginner Sew-along: 1-Yard Pencil Skirt


Some months ago I floated the idea of a beginner sew along, but couldn't settle on a simple, widely-available pattern. Well as I embarked on my latest pencil skirt it hit me: of course, the "instant" one-yard skirt pattern is one of the simplest out there, and as it was a popular concept in the 1950s and early 60s, original patterns are available on etsy and ebay in a range of sizes.

The pencil skirt is an absolute vintage (and indeed modern!) wardrobe essential. It can also be made in a number of variations, so will hopefully appeal to novice and more experienced sewists alike.

I've worked out a preliminary posting schedule, and I'll update this post with links as the sew-along progresses. I’ll be covering everything from style inspiration, supplies and fabric, making pattern adjustments, and through the actual sewing. I'll make it as beginner-friendly as possible, with full explanations of all the sewing terms and techniques. We won't be making a muslin as part of the sew-along - for such a simple project it's not necessary - though if you're making significant pattern adjustments or just feel you'd prefer to do a test run before you cut into your lovely fashion fabric please do go ahead.

Schedule:


This leaves about two weeks before we actually start sewing, which should allow enough time to order a pattern and fabric online if necessary.

Also, I made a little graphic which you can display on your blog if you wish (right-click and save, then upload to your website):


The Pattern

The good thing about this sew along is that you can use just about any pencil skirt pattern. At its most basic, 1950s one-yard pattern consists of just two pattern pieces: the skirt and waistband. The skirt has a single seam at the back - no side seams - with shaping at the waist formed by darts. Many pattern companies relased a version, often with two or three variations within the same envelope, but the one that seems to turn up most often is Simplicity 1345. At the time of writing there are 30 of these listed on etsy, in sizes from 24-30" waists. I have three pencil skirt patterns (including Simplicity 1345 in a 30" waist) for sale in my shop my pattern box post.


Another popular one was McCall 4312, which is almost identical to the Simplicity one, and is actually the one I'll be using:


The McCall cover illustration shows the pattern piece we're looking for: basically a rectangle, with an extra sticky-out bit (this forms the kick pleat).

If you can't find a pattern in your size don't worry, we'll cover resizing the pattern larger and smaller later - it's very easy. You could even draft your own, which is not as complex as it looks.

You can of course use a modern pattern like McCall 2773 or Burda #122, but bear in mind that the waistline may be designed to sit lower than a vintage skirt, and that it may feature a back vent or split instead of the more old-fashioned kick pleat.

Pencil skirts not your thing? You can even join in with a standard A-line skirt pattern - the construction details are almost identical.

Getting Started: Basic Supplies

A sewing machine - You could hand sew a garment, but it's pretty time consuming, and hand stitching isn't nearly as strong as machine so the finished article would be a bit delicate. You'll probably have a friend, relative or neighbour who owns a sewing machine which you can arrange to borrow. If you don't, many quilting shops have machines available to use for an hourly fee. Failing that, try your local college.

Dressmaking scissors - It's not worth hacking away at fabric with half-blunt paper scissors. You don't need to invest in top of the range Fiskars just yet, but expect to spend at least £10 / $15 on a half decent pair.

Your measurements - If you're wearing vintage, chances are you've already got a reasonable handle on your own measurements for buying clothes. When you're sewing your own clothes you really need to be familiar with your (accurate) measurements. So get your tape measure out!

Pins - to pin pattern to fabric, pin fabric together for stitching, etc.

Tracing paper & pens/pencils - This is optional, but if you're planning to make any pattern adjustments it's usually worth tracing the pattern rather than cutting up the original (this also leaves you the option to sell the original pattern in the future, and you'll still have your own version).

Chalk or Marking Pen - To transfer pattern markings to the fabric, I like to use chalk on dark fabrics or a disappearing ink pen / water soluble marking pen specifically designed for the purpose on lighter fabrics.

22 comments:

  1. What a super idea, hope plenty join in and have fun.
    Unfortunately it's not a skirt shape which I have ever felt comfortable in, not enough leg, damn!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You could always join in with say an A-line skirt pattern - almost all the construction details are identical.

      xx Charlotte

      Delete
    2. Well now, I might just do that!

      Delete
  2. I've been wanting to make a tartan pencil skirt, what perfect timing ! Hurrah !

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ooh great idea! I have a 70s A-line pattern I might try (as you say quite a similar simple pattern- it's in a book so will need scaling onto paper). I also have a small crafting/mending sewing machine, which should suffice for a skirt.

    ReplyDelete
  4. YES. Time to pull out the Stylepencil skirt pattern I got for 10p. It's from the 80's, but hey, I'm used to a little drafting.

    This might actually kick my butt into sewing!

    ReplyDelete
  5. looking forward to this and thanx for the link for how to draft yer own as I'm a 34" waist and 40" hip :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. How fun! It just so happens that I have some vintage pencil skirt patterns in my stash waiting to be appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I haven't sewn anything (except for kids Halloween costumes) in months! Count me in!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'll be an interested lurker - I can barely sew-on buttons, but I'd love to see how people get on. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'd love to join but since I'm a big gal I'll think I'll have to draft my own pattern. How big should the kick pleat part be?

    /L

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On my pattern the kick pleat rectangle measures about 11 5/8" high (which includes a 2" hem plus a 5/8" seam allowance, so the actual finished pleat will be about 9" high) and extends outwards from the centre back seam line a little over 3" (including the 5/8" seam allowance). Does that help?

      xx Charlotte

      Delete
  10. Very helpful, thank you so much!
    I'll hope I can get this pattern drafted on Sunday, I do have an old skirt template but I don't remember if I drafted it on my actual waist (which is high with modern standards) or if I succumbed to the modern aesthetic and made the waistline on top of my hips....

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ooh! You read my mind! I was just thinking the other day I'd like to sew a pencil skirt. Sounds like you're also covering 2 important elements that have had me a little scared in sewing: lining a skirt and a kick pleat. I don't know if I'll be able to follow along at the same rate as you but I'm very excited about this!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yes! Now, to gather my materials...

    ReplyDelete
  13. Awesome idea! Thank you for doing this, dear gal. While I won't be making a skirt myself (lacking so very many components - and probably some of the skill, too - not to mention a machine!), I will be following along very, very closely and bookmarking each post in the series for future reference.

    ♥ Jessica

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is exciting. I ordered a 27 inch waist pattern. But the hips are 36 I'm a 38 1/2 hopefully I can still make that work. Now I can take my machine out of the closet.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm in! I have a pattern and some hot pink wool from my stash! Looking forward to it! Now off to finish these trousers....

    ReplyDelete
  16. awesome! I'm definitely in. Off to pick my pattern now! I have a gorgeous one SOMEWHERE that has the most darling bow on the corner of one hip. :D

    ReplyDelete
  17. I simply cannot resist this sewalong. I've been sewing mostly skirts since the first of September. The I sponsored (and still am sponsoring) what I called "The Carnival of Skirts Sew-A-Long" that is still actually in progress. But I can't resist this one! So please sign me up!!! I only have about 2 vintage pencil skirt patterns, but I'm interested in using one of them as a jump-off to some interesting details that have been on my mind for a while.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Excellent! I am totally joining this, as I just finished Karen's Apronalong from Did You Make That? and I was floundering a bit for a new project. I've got fabric and pattern- just need a zip. Yay!
    ~MacStabby

    ReplyDelete
  19. I timed my penicl skirt sewing wrong! I finished one the day you announced it, and made my second starting when you ended. But thank you for such a great guide and all the inspiration!

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails