Friday, January 3, 2014

The NQNM Skirt

In my infinite wisdom as a brand-new seamstress, I thought it would be a great idea to make a birthday gift for my best friend who lives 971 miles away. She had pinned this skirt, the Chloe Scallop Edge Skirt from Neiman Marcus, on Pinterest, and I thought, "A navy A-line scallop hemmed skirt. Maybe I could make that." Thus, I began drafting the NQNM Skirt (Not Quite Neiman Marcus).

I drafted the A-line skirt pattern using this great tutorial by Melly Sews. I added a scalloped hemline to the pattern using a compass, and just played with the size of the half-circles until they "looked good" and fit along the bottom edge in such a way that a quarter circle hit each side seam (see figure below). I actually did a little bit of arithmetic here when determining the diameter of the circles and placing them along them, but I forget what I did! Oops. I used another great tutorial from Colette Patterns to learn how to actually construct the scalloped hem.
I made a muslin of the skirt, inserting a center back invisible zipper using this tutorial and in-seam pockets with french seams using this tutorial. I sent the muslin along with some fabric swatches to the BFF for her birthday, and wrote out some instructions for determining what alterations would need to be made. Unfortunately I lost the photos that I took of the muslin and the instructions for fit-checking (how?!) so there isn't much to look at for the first half of this project. I do have the pattern saved in a folder in my filing cabinet.

Fortunately, I didn't have to make too many alterations to the pattern for the final version of the skirt. I totally guessed at the placement of the darts, and that worked out well. The waistline needed to be taken in a little bit, which I anticipated and had no trouble changing.

I chose a navy twill for the skirt because I thought twill would wash and wear well across several seasons and I thought that it was a fabric that my beginner-self could handle sewing. I made the pocket bags, interfacing and bias tape out of a navy, gold and white quilting cotton from JoAnn Fabrics
Since I had made the muslin, the construction of the skirt was pretty easy (oh, that's why you're supposed to make a muslin, right?) with a few minor hiccups. 

The invisible zipper came out sort of wonky on one side. At first I thought I would just live with it, but it got worse after washing. I ended up unpicking that side of the zipper and hand-stitching it, and was MUCH happier with the result. Totally worth it.
Back outside of skirt, showing darts, invisible zipper and hook and eye closure.
I am afraid that the darts on the front of the skirt are a little pointy.
Front outside of skirt, showing darts.
Inside front interfacing.
Although I used french seams in the muslin, I was afraid that they would be too bulky with the twill and the quilting cotton, so I did bias bound seams instead for the final garment. I really really wish I had done french seams, but I am pretty happy with the result of the bias bound seams. I also put bias binding on the edges where the pocket bags attach to the side seams. Is that normal? It looked unfinished. Now it looks finished, but I don't know how well-finished.

Pockets showing bias binding.

Making the bias binding was REALLY REALLY HARD. Oh my goodness. I used this tutorial to make continuous bias strips and they really didn't line up well at all. I don't think it's a problem with the tutorial at all. It was the first time I tried it and maybe I didn't measure accurately enough or line things up properly. I also didn't have a bias tape maker so I just used a piece of cardboard as a guide, and pressing that tape was seriously a pain. I won't try it again without a bias tape maker (but I got one for Christmas, woo-hoo).

I ended up turning the top of the hem under and stitching it to itself (but NOT to the outside of the skirt). This was a little awkward to do, but kept the fabric from fraying.

Inside hem and center seam of the back of the skirt.

I also ended up tacking down the hem near roughly every other scallop. I really didn't want to do this, because I didn't want the stitching to show on the outside, but after washing the garment and seeing how much pressing was necessary to get it back into shape afterward, it was clear that something needed to be done to keep the hem from flopping down.

Inside hem with tacks.
I wish that the scallops had come out more smooth and even. Instead of machine sewing around the scallops I probably should have hand-stitched them. Overall, I think it came out pretty well, though!

The finished product, hands in pockets!
I haven't yet seen pictures of the BFF wearing the skirt, but I hope she finds it wearable. I certainly didn't intend to create a garment that requires as much ironing as this one will, but maybe it will be worth the work of ironing for her to wear it a few times.

Finished and mailed in late November 2013, only two months late for the birthday, and solidly into the season of weather-too-cold-to-wear-a-cotton-twill-skirt. Meh :/

To recap, I used FIVE tutorials to make this garment. All I can say is THANK YOU ONLINE SEWISTS! I learn so much and get so much inspiration from reading your blogs. I had a lot of fun designing and constructing this garment, and I'm pretty proud of it despite it's imperfections. Maybe next time I'll be brave enough to try to gather the waist and add a waistband like the inspiration Chloe skirt has.

** I finished this garment in late November, and since I received the Colette Sewing Handbook for Christmas, I now realize the design is very similar to the Meringue pattern and I could have used that instead of drafting my own. It's okay, though. It was fun. And there is plenty more for me to learn and make in that book!