December 31, 2012

the "Charlotte" skirt

So the truth is, I hesitate to even claim that this is a Charlotte skirt because it bears essentially no resemblance to the hot-mama creation as drafted by the gals at By Hand London. But neither do I bear any relation to the namesake, whose curves are to die for and whose legs are approximately 80 miles long. So in retrospect, it kind of makes sense that my skirt would end up quite differently, right? The best I can bear to do is call it a "Charlotte" skirt and tell you how I got there, so here we go!

"Charlotte" skirt

The eagle-eyed among you might recognize the fabric that I used as the Nicole Miller wool/rayon blend that was gifted to me by the kind folks at Kollabora a few months back. It's been weighing on my conscience that I received this amazing gift and I hadn't done anything with it yet, so I made it a goal to get to it before the end of the year. I had originally planned to sew up New Look 6103, which was the pattern that Kollabora sent along with the fabric, but they didn't provide enough fabric to do that. New Look 6103 has a cool pleated vent that requires an extra bit of width to create, and I wouldn't have been able to take advantage of the border print had I made that one up. No point in having a cool border print like this if you can't use it, right? So I had to find another pattern.

Lucky for me, the super sweet gals at By Hand London had just sent me their two new patterns, which I'm sure you've seen popping up all over the webs. Charlotte and Elisalex are the first offerings from this company, named for the founders. I'll tell you, I literally squealed when I unwrapped these patterns, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a squealy girl. The packaging is just amazing. It's true, I'm a sucker for great packaging, but these ladies seriously nailed it. There's a slipcover, and cool art, and I could go on and on. But I won't. Just buy a pattern for yourself and see if you don't squeal too. Truly amazing. Alright. Moving on!

Anyway, I thought it would be fitting to marry my newly gifted Charlotte skirt pattern with the gifted Kollabora fabric, especially since Charlotte has such a narrow silhouette which made it perfect for my limited fabric. But before I started, I held the tissue up to myself so I could enjoy a nice laugh. I know I'm short, but the full length of the skirt pieces reached nearly to the floor. I folded back about 8" of length and decided that length would be better suited to my size.

Wool blend "Charlotte" skirt

I traced a 6 from the hem through the hips, then out to a size 8 at the waistline. Then I had just enough width left in my fabric to add the 1.25" wide vent from Sunni's pencil skirt vent tutorial to the back pieces. I love the look of the slim, below-the-knee, pegged Charlotte as drafted, but I'm pretty sure I'm way too klutzy to actually walk in it. As it is with the slit that I added, I can just lift my leg high enough to get up and down our stairs!

Back vent

Since I've learned so many things this year, I knew that it would be very important to baste this close-fitting skirt together first, so that's what I did. Right after I stitched up the (8!) darts, I basted the sides together and slipped it on with the back pinned shut. It immediately became clear to me exactly what it is that darts do. I mean, yes, I knew intellectually what they did, but I had a true light bulb moment with this skirt and all those darts and I was like: "OH!! Right!" It just made so much sense.

I mean, the whole idea is to take a wide width of fabric and narrow it, right? Progressively- so that you end up with a certain amount of width removed from one end. Duh. I know! But it wasn't until I saw this skirt and all those darts on my very rectangular body and realized that it was pretty crazy of me to think that it would have ever fit me as drafted! Because it didn't. The back seam where the zipper was destined to be was about an inch away from coming together where it belonged.

Front view

But thanks to all that I've learned this year and that insight-filled light bulb moment, it became very clear to me very quickly that all I would have to do was narrow those darts up a bit and I would gain back some of that width in the waist. Apologies to all of you who actually know something about fitting, but for me this was a real revelation! And now that I've had it, I feel like things are going to be so much easier from here on! Hooray!!

I recognize that this all must sound ridiculous- but I had never previously considered that I could or should change the size of a dart to match my measurements. I had always viewed the dart as just a part of a design that yes, you might need to move around. But the proportional aspect of it, and the fact that you can mess with that too, was a serious revelation. It makes so much more sense now that I can really get that there is math involved. Logic makes things much easier, don't you think?

So I narrowed each of my (8!) darts in a very non-scientific way (baby steps, people!), leaving really not much more than a pin-tuck for the outermost darts in the back. My side seams slid out to where they belonged, and the seam allowance for the zipper magically appeared.

Back view

All along I had been trying to decide how to handle the waistband, as I wasn't sure that I wanted to leave the overlap as drafted and thought that maybe I would put the zipper all the way up through it instead. I basted the waistband on to see what I thought, and realized that I didn't particularly like the way it looked anyway. I had cut mine out extra wide, to take advantage of the print again, and it just wasn't working for me. I've never worn anything that high waisted, and I realize that it may be an acquired taste, but I think it just made me look really squat. No good.

pencil skirt lining & waistband

I decided to turn the waistband into facings instead, and drafted some using my skirt pieces as a guide. That left me with a "Charlotte" that hits me an inch or so below my natural waistline, which feels more natural and comfortable to me. I also decided to add a lining, because the wool and the print make it feel like a wintry skirt and I was afraid it might stick to tights if I didn't. I found a complementary grey shade of Bemberg and went back to Sunni to see how to put it all together. Her tutorials for drafting a vent lining and sewing a vent lining were lifesavers! I really wish I would have listened when she stressed the importance of marking my notches, but it all came together okay in the end anyway. But mark those notches! No excuses! In my defense, I actually did mark them, but then I serged over them and they got lost. I was too lazy to re-mark, but next time I won't be. I promise!

"Charlotte" skirt

So there you have it. It's not really a Charlotte anymore, but those are the pattern pieces that I started with, so I guess it kind of is. At least as close as a Charlotte will ever get to fitting me, anyway! So yeah. I think I love it! And I highly recommend the pattern anyway, even if I barely made it. And even though I kind of hate them, I might like to try a peplum version someday, but I'm just not sure I could pull it off. Maybe if I have a fun party to go to or something. Spoiler alert: I won't! But Charlotte makes it look so great! Can you blame me?

A warm & cozy "Charlotte" skirt

And yes,  granted, it's not exactly a great fit for my life, given that it's not machine washable and it is quite narrow even with the vent, but I think I'll still wear it. I absolutely loved working with this fabric- it's much nicer than the bargain basement stuff I usually buy, and this was my first Bemberg lining too. I can see why it's so popular! I think this skirt was the perfect final project for the year. I feel like I was able to use a lot of different tricks and knowledge that I picked up reading blogs and sewing this year and was able to successfully navigate a project that might not have worked for me otherwise.

So yay! What do you think? Have you seen the new By Hand London patterns in real life? Do you love this border print? I do. But you should know, it's listed on Kollabora as navy, but I think it's actually black. No, it is black. Don't be fooled! And be sure you buy enough width for your skirt! You'll need more than a yard if you're bigger than a size 0. Especially if you're making that New Look pattern that they have listed with it.

Happy New Year to you all! Be safe and have fun, and see you in 2013!