If there’s selfish sewing and unselfish sewing, what do you call it when selfish sewing turns into unselfish sewing?
Before it became unselfish selfish sewing, this skirt was simply the desire to try a new style of garment: the pencil skirt. Pencil skirts represented polished professionalism and casual wearability, both with a touch of sensuality. I really needed the psychological boost from a sharp, crisp garment, so I started my journey with Butterick 5249.
You’d never know it from the skirts I’ve made, but most of the skirts in my pattern stash are pencil skirts! As a pear shaped woman, the only way I can own a pencil skirt is if I make it for my specific measurements. I chose 5249 because it has pockets featuring a pleated design detail – practicality with a pinch of extra. I also thought it was high waisted and midi length, but the drawings on the pattern envelope accurately show that 5249 is knee length.
I made View D, minus the ruffle. The fashion fabric was a quilting cotton that was cute in the store, but a head scratcher when I got it home. The print just wasn’t my style, and it would require pattern matching if I were to sew with it. I really only used it to stash bust it out of my collection, and also stash bust the peach broadcloth I used to line it. I’m so serious about stashbusting right now! I have so much fabric, even after downsizing by five trash bags worth of the stuff.
Though it was exciting to attempt a high waisted, tailored garment, the sewing process turned out to be more about pattern matching and figuring out how to line all the skirt pieces. I didn’t have enough broadcloth to fully line the skirt, because the pockets of 5249 are lined and I hadn’t accounted for that. I ended up lining each skirt panel individually.
To pattern match the panels during the cutting process, I did what I always do: pin along the crossgrain in a straight line at somewhat regular intervals, and then repeat that horizontal line of pins a few more times, 12″-18″ below the line above it. It’s not as accurate as thread marking the stitching line, but it’s good enough for me.
After prepping the fabric, it was time to grade the pattern up. The largest size for 5249 had finished measurements of 36 1/2″ at the waist and 47 1/2″ at the hip. Based on the finished measurements of my McCall’s 5971 dress, I added 9 1/4″ at the waist and 11″ at the hip. There were seven panels and fourteen seams in this princess seam skirt. I slashed and spread each panel vertically to insert the needed width: 1 3/4″ to the two back panels and 1 1/2″ to the remaining five panels; then I slimmed the waist by 1/8″ at each seam allowance. Adding the width this way kept the fourteen vertical seams intact. No need to true them up!
A dress hangs from the shoulder. A skirt hangs from the waist. I intentionally made the skirt portion of M5971 a little loose, which was fine because that dress hangs from the shoulder. It didn’t need to be extra snug around the waist.
But a skirt absolutely has to be snug at the waist. It’s the snugness that keeps it in place — high waist, natural waist, or modern waist. Unfortunately, this did not occur to me! So after the width adjustments, I added 3″ in length to the bottom of the pattern pieces and moved on to construction, never realizing I was making something special … for someone else.
And I put work into this skirt, people! It is constructed beautifully. Each panel is lined, with a sewn-on facing for the high waist. I eventually catch stitched that down, as my facings always flip out even when I understitch them. (If you have tips on how to prevent flippy facings, please share in the comments below!) As mentioned before, the pockets are pleated and fully lined. It took some head scratching to figure out how to pleat and line the pockets, and I actually did them a little bit wrong. Oops! I pressed throughout construction, but wasn’t crazy about how these two cottons pressed, especially the poly/cotton broadcloth. Finally, I tried to line up the hem with the middle of the motif, and that came out pretty well.
At the end of the day I had a cute, well constructed skirt. But it was several inches too big in the waist for me. I thought about taking it in. But the more I looked at the skirt, the more I thought about the fabulous plus size lady browsing through hanger after dreary hanger at Goodwill. Nothing is to her taste, and if it is, it’s not in her size or it’s damaged. Until she comes upon something bright. And cute! And in mint condition! And — it fits!!!!!
The more I envisioned this scenario, the more I realized it was telling me to donate the skirt to Goodwill. I love selfish sewing, but have long dreamed of sharing the wonderfulness of cute, well fitting clothing with other plus size ladies. So what could be better than making everything to the highest standard, and donating the ‘wadders’ to Goodwill?
Now I can sew more freely, because everything I make will either be for me, or some lucky thrift store shopper. I can draft or hack that crazy pattern idea, and I can pull out that ‘not me’ fabric and ‘make it work’ — then let it go. Kind of like a fashion designer! *wink* Which begs the question: should I invest in garment labels, so thrifty plus size fashionistas can answer the question, ‘who made my clothes?’