Fabrics for your pencil skirt
If you've decided to join in my pencil skirt sew-along, yay! And welcome. Today we'll look at some possible fabrics you could use. Just like it says on the tin, the one yard pencil skirt pattern requires one yard of 54" width fabric - as long as your hip measurement is less than about 48-50". Likewise if you want to use a 44" width fabric it's got to be able to encircle the widest part of your hips with enough room to spare for the centre back seam and kick pleat, so you may find you have to use narrower-width fabric lengthways (i.e. buy a 54"/140cm length to make up for what it lacks in width. Does that make sense?). Also bear in mind that if you plan to add any details like a fancy waistband or pockets, you'll need to ensure you have enough fabric.
Suitable fabrics for a pencil skirt are medium weight; a quilting cotton, shirting or silk crepe de chine will be too light, while a felted wool coat fabric will be too thick and stiff. Likewise, you need to choose a fabric with the right drape. For a 50s style you need fabric with a bit of body to it - a wool crepe, jersey or silk velvet could be medium-weight, but might be too fluid for the tailored silhouette of a pencil skirt. On the other hand, if you're after more of a 40s look, a lighter weight woollen or rayon suiting will have that little bit more drape and flow, perfect for 1940s styling.
I strongly recommend seeking out natural fibres like wool and cotton (and okay, I include rayon too because of its vintage credentials) - when you're putting the effort into sewing something you might as well choose good materials. It'll wear much, much better than polyester or blends (which tend to pill/bobble before long). Besides, the skirt only requires one metre, so you can afford to choose a quality fabric and still be paying a fraction of what a similar skirt would cost in the shops.
If what you want is a good, sturdy, everyday autumn/winter skirt, you can't beat wool. Look at tweed, tartans/plaids, gabardine, suiting, flannel and houndstooth checks. Don't feel you need to be restricted to 'classic' colours, either - if you don't already have a bright red pencil skirt I urge you to consider one in wool flannel or gabardine - it'll go with everything you own and really brighten up the gloomy days. I've also seen loads of pastel-toned bouclé tweeds, plaids and oversize houndstooth checks which just epitomise the early 60s Mad Men era.
Yes I'm all about the wool, but I know some people have allergies, so there are plenty of non-wool options too. Cotton corduroy or needlecord is a great A/W fabric, while denim will take you right through to spring. Or for a lighter weight spring/summer version, cotton twill and linen suiting are both firm enough to take the tailoring.
If you want a touch of luxury, look at cotton velveteen, heavier satins (maybe with a touch of lycra for stretch), cotton sateen for a more understated glamour, suiting-weight shantung, silk dupion (similar to shantung but slightly coarser, with more slubs) or even a fancy jacquard or brocade.
I'm including a post on lining your skirt - this is totally optional, and to be honest if you're a total beginner I'd recommend just skipping the lining and wearing a slip under your skirt.
You can get lining fabrics in most haberdashers - polyester is usually the cheapest. If you'd like something more authentically vintage look for Bemberg rayon, or for if you want go go a bit luxe you could use Habotai silk lining (about £7-10 per metre). For a full lining you'll need the same amount of lining as your outer fabric, while a half-lining (strangely enough) requires only about half as much.
Note: as the half-lining covers only the seat area, it's only possible for skirts with side seams.
Where to buy
Your local fabric shop will probably have at least some of the fabrics mentioned above. In London I can highly recommend the shops on Goldhawk Road (right next to Shepherd's Bush Market, and one tube stop from Hammersmith) for affordable fabrics. There's also Berwick Street, off Oxford Street, which has a selection of more upmarket shops (and more upmarket prices) with a great range of fabrics.
If you need to shop online, I've heard Gorgeous Fabrics, Denver Fabrics (where many of the above swatches came from) and fabric.com recommended. There are also lots of sellers on ebay and etsy selling fabric by the yard - and you can often find odd yards or vintage "skirt lengths" at bargain prices.
Once you have selected your fabric, you will also need...
Thread to match
Whenever you buy fabric, remember to get sewing thread to match. As always I prefer the natural fibre (100% cotton), but there's really nothing wrong with polyester thread, and it is cheaper (there's also an ethical argument in favour of recycled polyester thread). If your fabric is 'between shades' of the thread colours available, go with the darker option.
You'll need a zip - most patterns call for one 7"-9". I like to use vintage metal zips to add verisimilitude to my sewing projects (I buy up bundles of vintage zips on etsy and ebay), but of course a modern plastic one is fine too. As with the thread, choose a zip that matches the fabric colour as close as possible, or go a shade darker. If you have a zip the right colour but it's too long, don't forget you can always shorten a zip quite easily.
You'll also need either a hook-and-bar skirt fastener or a matching button for the waistband.
The waistband calls for iron-on interfacing, and for heavier fabrics (like thicker woollens and bouclé tweeds) we'll use grosgrain or petersham ribbon for the inside waistband (again, it's best to match the fabric colour as closely as you can, although since it'll be on the inside if you want to go a little crazy and get bright pink go ahead).
I'll also cover hemming with seam binding / hem tape or bias binding, so if you'd like to give that a go you can pick some up while you're fabric shopping. I haven't seen rayon seam binding in shops here in the UK, but it's easy to find online, on ebay etc.