Noelle’s Skirt of Second Chances

Almost as soon as I announced to my friends that I had taken up sewing and dragged them to visit fabric stores with me, my friend Noelle was the first to ask if I would make something for her. I was perfectly willing, eager even, to prove my “prowess” with the sewing machine. She picked out a cotton broadcloth at the oh-so-adorable Whipstitch in Atlanta, one of the stores we visited during our adventures that day. A couple of weeks later, we picked out a pattern, lining, and zipper.

New Look 6981. First lesson you have to learn when sewing: IGNORE THE CHEESY STYLING ON THE ENVELOPE.

We chose New Look 6981: very simple, pleats, side zipper–no sweat. But, since I was making it for someone else and still didn’t have a firm grasp on pattern sizing, I made a muslin for her to try on. First, to check the fit at the waist and second to measure for the hem. Safety pin in place, I prepared to whip out the skirt with ease.

And really, the process did go very well. I have yet to use a pattern that actually calls for a lining, but I have put one in every time. It makes things a bit difficult, but I think the reward of not ever having to wear a slip and the freedom to wear tights when it gets chilly is greater than the trouble of adding the lining. So, I had to do a bit of finagling to work the lining around the zipper, and my method of cutting the lining away in a slight V at the zipper and edge stitching (in the absence of a serger) the edges to where the side seam begins worked really well. (By the by, I have since learned that this is not the best way. And let me tell you, the new method I found is like a miracle. But more on that later.)

Thanks to a tutorial I found on line, I can easily insert invisible zippers even without the magic invisible zipper foot. I just use a regular zipper foot. I scoff at people with fancy zipper feet. Ha HA!

And, for the first time in recorded history, my top stitching around the yoke (in a contrasting thread color even!) was not a fail. Usually I do it way far from the edge and it looks a little drunken. This time, being more familiar with the markings on my presser foot, I knew better how to aim.

Riding high on the success of my top stitching and eager to be finally done with the skirt (at this point it had been over a month since I started the project), I knuckled down to get the hemming done.

Side note: I HATE hemming. I hate it so much. I don’t know what it is, but I always balk at this point in any project. I should probably take a class or something.

I pulled out the muslin and my measuring tape and figured out how much I needed to trim.


What? It didn’t seem right. I measured again. I measured from different places. Each time coming up with the same length that seemed much shorter than it should be.

I reminded myself that I had given the muslin extra length because Noelle is pretty tall. But, that didn’t really help. Also, she planned to wear the skirt lower on her hips than I would. But still. . .

At this point, I should have walked away. I should have gone outside and pranced with the kittens or cleaned up the kitchen or watched the episodes I missed of The Voice. I should have done anything to clear my head and hit the reset button.

But I didn’t.

I carried on.

I measured carefully, determined I needed to cut off five inches. I pulled out my chalk marker and set to work, measuring, marking, measuring, marking. I hung the skirt up so I could cut evenly. I picked up my shears, took a deep breath. . .

In the absence of a dress form, I have to improvise. . .

And I cut. Five inches, gone. Just as I finished cutting the front and was rounding the side seam to the back, I glanced over at the muslin lying on my work table.

And it hit me.

I froze. Panic. Oh so much panic!

I crawled over to the table to confirm what I already was beginning to realize.

I had measured wrong. Very, very wrong.

I had measured, not to the hem as I should have done, but to the safety pin that was holding up the skirt so that it fell to the right length.

Oh. So. Much. PANIC!

Measuring again–correctly this time–I realized that the skirt was now two inches too short–without hem.

Oh panic.

Now, I realize that in the grand scheme of things, two inches is not a big deal. But, you see, I was really hoping that I wouldn’t fail my first Sewing for Friends assignment.

After about ten minutes of freaking out, begging God and the shoemaker’s elves for a miracle, and cursing Fiskars for their stupid scissors that don’t fail when you need them to save you from yourself, my brain clicked into survival mode in which I developed a plan. I made a mad dash to Hobby Lobby–I needed to go there anyway since Jo-Ann’s refuses to ever stock enough of the bobbins that I need–for some ribbon and other trim.

My idea was to create a ribbon insert and then attach the wide bit of skirt I cut off, thus enabling me to make the skirt the right length. I came up with several different methods.

Method #1: A couple of strips of bright orange ribbon.

Method #2: An inset strip of patterned ribbon. Side note: There were several other methods, but they were all gross. I’m not subjecting you to that.

I chose the above patterned orange ribbon because 1) the muted color matched more closely than that bright orange ribbon and 2) the shape mirrored the shape of the petals.

But, I wasn’t satisfied that Noelle would like it. The pattern we chose had an option to add trim, and she chose not to do that. So, I did what I should have done the first time something didn’t seem right–I put it away and moved on to other things.

The next morning on my way to work (blah!) I had this brilliant thought: I would go back to adorable Whipstitch and see if they still had that fabric. If they did, I was in luck. If they didn’t, I was. . . slightly less so. So, the following Friday when I had plenty of time, I found my way back, traveling through some rather unfortunate parts of town on the way. As soon as I walked in, I spotted it. I grabbed it, and in spite of stern warnings to myself to not buy any fabric, I found some that I loved on sale. Naturally. . . you know. . .

They were having some sort of sewing class (seemed like great fun!) so I couldn’t tell who worked there and who didn’t as everyone was wandering around with fabric and rotary cutters and chatting up everyone else. I stood awkwardly in the middle of the store for a while, then stood awkwardly at the check out until a nice lady offered to cut some fabric for me.

On the way home, I stopped at Jo-Ann’s to pick up another zipper and more lining (way more than I needed, so I’m hoping I have enough extra to use with my new fabric!) and five whole yards of fusible interfacing. I had been buying it in those little one yard packages. Lesson learned, friends. Lesson learned.

Starting over is mostly NOT FUN.

Once I was home, the whole process began again. In all, it took two evenings and a morning to get it all done–this includes breaks to eat and visit the kittens and see what was going on on TV. You know how it goes. . .

This time, I hemmed correctly–no shaving off five inches like last time. Somehow, though, I’m pretty sure it’s a little too big. Because it fits me quite well and the muslin did not. I don’t know how that happened, since I actually had to make a larger side seam on the yoke to make it match up properly–and I trimmed a bit around the zipper. I never understand how things turn out the way they do. I tend to freak out about things being too small as I’m making them and then they end up a smidge too big when all’s sewed and done.

I don’t know. The mysteries of the sewing room, I suppose.

Anyways, I’ll be presenting Noelle her skirt tonight. Here’s hoping it works!

Update: She loved it–hurray! I’m calling this one a win. Stay tuned to hear what happened to the first skirt.


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