Saturday, 24 September 2011

Blue Denim Miss Chalmers Skirt

My blog name implies having more than one handmade denim skirt.  Before Trading Standards shut me down for having a misleading blog name I thought I would make another one.  Not too much of an effort I admit as denim is one of my favourite fabrics.  Here are the pictures.

I'm delighted with it!   I used the Miss Chalmers Skirt pattern from Papercut patterns, a new independent  from New Zealand.   The pattern and packaging is wonderful.  It's in a cardboard envelope with a hanger so you can hang it up.   My wardrobe has no room for this but the idea is nice.  There is also a little booklet of instructions which are really clear.  The pattern is drawn on brown paper, like brown envelope paper, rather than tissue. 

The pattern includes a 1 cm seam allowance.  This was new to me.  The standard for commercial patterns is 1.5 cm.  I was worried the fabric might move or be vulnerable to fraying.   My concerns were unfounded.  It was surprisingly easy to sew a 1 cm seam allowance.  The best part was not having to trim.  I think the professionals laugh at home sewers for having a 1.5 cm seam allowance and then trimming half of it off!  I will now seriously consider only adding a 1 cm seam allowance to net patterns in future. 

I cut out a medium and made up a muslin.  I was delighted that it needed no alterations.  I added 1.5 inches to the length as the skirt is on the short side.  As I mentioned in my last post my hands instinctively reached to where pockets should be.  I decided to add slash pockets.   I used my Sewaholic Crescent skirt pocket pattern piece.  I traced the outline of the front skirt piece of the Miss Chalmers pattern.  I then made up a new pocket pattern piece with the outline edge of the Miss Chalmers skirt rather than the Crescent skirt.   I used my french curve to make a more rounded pocket opening than on the Crescent skirt. (Remember to add seam allowance to your pocket opening as well.  I forgot and so did a tiny seam here for my test and wrote on the pattern piece to remind me to add it when cutting).   I used Sewaholic's sew-a-long post for slash pockets to sew the pockets here.   I also french seamed the pockets and added twill tape to the pocket openings, both using Sewaholic's post (see also previous link).

I made up one practice pocket on the muslin and was so pleased that it looked good.  I was on a bit of a pocket roll and decided to add a welt pocket at the back.  The back of the skirt has no gathers and apart from the waistband is a bit bland.  I thought the welt pocket would add interest.   This was with some trepidation given my last experience with welt pockets on my Forever Skirt.   I made a test using the same method as last time, where you cut out a separate welt strip, sew that on first and then add the pocket pieces.  My test did not come out brilliantly because the welt strip came out too big for the gap in the skirt.  I did not want to ruin my skirt in this way but was sold on the idea of welt pockets.  I then looked at the tutorial on Burdastyle by the member wzrdreams.  There is something wrong with the Burda site at the moment so this link is to my Forever Skirt on Burdastyle where I have linked wzrdreams' welt pocket tutorial.  This tutorial uses the same strip of fabric to make the welt and the pocket.  I followed through the tutorial on another test and it worked perfectly.  

I have used quite a heavyweight denim and so it is quite bulky having the pocket pieces all in the same fabric (but not bulky enough to make it a problem).  I'm sure the tutorial can be adapted to have the pocket bag area in a slightly lighter fabric, such as batiste or even lining material.   Instead of having one piece of same fabric for the welt and bag, you can work out how much shell fabric you will need for the exposed welt plus seam allowance and then cut out this and then attach the remaining lining sections.   I may try this in future.    I am also pretty sure the same tutorial and principles can be used to make a more vertical welt pocket for the front of the garment. Something I may also try in the future.  Having found this method I would not want to go back to the other method of sewing the strip separately.

The skirt has a gathered front.  I sewed on one line of basting stitches around 0.5 cm from the edge, using a size 4 stitch to do the gathering  It was surprisingly easy to gather the heavyweight denim.  

I have seen quite a few examples of seams bound with seam binding following Sewaholic's tutorial here for the Lonsdale dress.  I decided to have a go myself.  I didn't have any seam binding.  I decided not to use twill or bias tape as I thought that would be too thick.  I therefore used quite a fancy ribbon I had in my stash.  I was going to use it as a trim for something else but ended up not doing it.  It's quite fancy for something that's not going to be seen.  I have now stocked up on seam binding as I like the technique and how it looks.  It does look so much better than a zig zag stitch.  As the denim was quite thick I did have a problem attaching it to areas where were was a lot of fabric, such as where the pockets join the side seam.  Four layers of fabric was too much for the width of my ribbon and so in some areas the ribbon hasn't properly attached.  I think in future I will also stock up on some slightly wider seam binding so there is enough for it to wrap around thick layers of fabric.  

I topstitched using light blue Gutterman topstitching thread.  I absolutely love topstitching.   There's something about it that's rewarding.  Probably because it is purely decorative and I love doing the parallel lines on a double topstitch.  I have read somewhere that in commercial garment production topstitching is a bit of a treat and something that supervisors give to their friends which is unfair!

I added a black lining in a nice soft lining fabric.  I used the back skirt pattern to cut out the back but for the front I didn't want a fully gathered lining.  I thought this would be too bulky.  I adapted my Angela Kane pencil skirt pattern front piece to this skirt.  It has worked out well.

I used this method from Kathleen Fansella's Fashion Incubator site to attach the ordinary zipper to the skirt and facings.  As I have mentioned before I have never been happy with my zips.  I have always wondered what I'm doing wrong.  I decided to do Kathleen's tutorial and downloaded her small pattern pieces for the test.   My test came out brilliantly.  I now realise what I was doing wrong.  I have been folding back the zip wrong before stitching the top edge.   Kathleen's facing pieces are slightly smaller than the main pattern pieces at the shoulder.  You sew the zip to the main pattern piece at the centre back and then sew the facing on at the centre back.  You then fold back the zip towards the facing but pulling out the facing piece so it now lines up with the shoulder.  You then sew the top edge.  Another revelation is that the centre back edge above the zip should overhang the edge below the zip.  The stitching line below the zip is not supposed to meet the stitching line above the zip.  In future I will adapt my centre back pattern pieces to do this.  

I also put twill tape around the top edge of the waistband using this Crescent skirt tutorial from Sewaholic here.  (You need to scroll half way down to see the part about twill tape).
Finally I finished the hem using a blue seam binding which you can see in the photo above.  I added the binding to the bottom edge of the skirt and then blind hem stitched on the machine as normal.  This finish is so much better than a zig zag stitch.  One thing I should remember though is to chalk the hem fold before I attach the seam binding rather than after.  

I love my new skirt and I know I will be wearing it a lot.  Being a heavyweight denim it is a sturdy garment and so ideal for the colder weather.  I love the style of the skirt and I would like to make one in a lighter fabric.    I'm thinking a black one adding all the pockets but without the topstitching.

Happy sewing. 


  1. Looks great! I love denim too.
    I've seen those pattern before and I like them a lot, but I'm afraid the postage from New Zealand wouldn't be worth it.

  2. Thanks toferet! They are a bit pricey. Unfortunately I bought the pattern direct before realising there was a UK supplier so I could have got the postage much cheaper.

  3. Beautifully finished skirt. And I'm so impressed you tackled a welt pocket. I have not even ventured there yet! I like the idea of leaving a hefty couture book at work too. I would never get round to reading it at home and it would certainly convince me to take a proper lunch hour every day!

  4. Thanks Ooobop. They're surprisingly easy with this method. The book is too nice to just be browsed. You should try it with one of your unread sewing books!