(It's crappy iPhone shots galore and I apologise. I was only making a flying visit home and it seemed like overkill to bring a DSLR.)
My initial plan, you may recall, was to make the Colette Selene skirt, but I kept going back and forth on it. The pattern didn't quite match the fabric style-wise and the samples on the website don't look especially great, but most damningly - and I know this sounds bad given that it's a present - it seemed like an awful lot of work for not a lot of skirt. I bought the pattern originally for the version with the big notched pockets (which I will try one day), but Mum was emphatically against pockets of any kind for her skirt. Which leaves a basic panelled straight skirt. With the lining and the lapped zip and everything, it would take quite a chunk of time. And given that I'd already made her a jacket... nope. I'd rather make an easier skirt with nice seam detail that wouldn't require quite so much work to remake if it turned out the fit was off.
So I went shopping and found two patterns. One of them was the exact skirt I'd had in my head when Mum picked out the fabric, but there was a small amount of fullness round the bottom and she'd said to me repeatedly that she didn't want any fullness anywhere in the skirt. So I put that pattern down, and went with the slimmer option, Simplicity Amazing Fit 1541.
My first big mistake was looking at the European sizing on the front of the envelope, seeing those same numbers on the back of the envelope and assuming it corresponded to sizing. When I got it home I saw a different set of numbers and realised the pattern was going to be way too small. I should have remembered that this is why I haven't really bothered to look at Simplicity patterns, but I got lulled into a false sense of security by all the Butterick and Vogue patterns in my stash that go up to a size 22. There's no way the straight size pattern would only go up to a 30 inch waist, surely! What a fool I was. However, buoyed by my last experience with rudimentary grading, I did the same thing again. This being a fitted skirt, I was a bit more worried about how it would turn out. I managed to cut the skirt from only half my piece of fabric, so I reasoned that if it was all too disastrous I could always have another go. The pattern comes with different pieces for slim, average and curvy fit. I cut the curvy pieces; size-wise Mum's measurements correspond more to the average fit, but I thought I'd take the extra leeway.
As the pattern's main selling point is the fitting, the instructions tell you to baste most of the seams in place to begin with, try the skirt on and fit from there. So I basted, tried the skirt on to make sure it was big enough (Mum and I don't have the exact same measurements and we definitely don't have the same shape, but we're similar RTW sizes and I know enough about our differences that trying it on myself gives me an idea of whether or not I'm wasting my time) and waited for her to come and visit me. Which was a planned visit. I didn't just baste a skirt and then hold it ransom until my mother came to see me. I'm not that weird.
Much to my complete astonishment, I put the skirt on her and it appeared to fit her perfectly as it was. I hadn't put the zip in so there was a chance that the back wouldn't be quite right once it was finished (it was, as you can see, fine), but I couldn't see anywhere the skirt needed taking in or letting out. I was beyond amazed. Mum had asked for a midi skirt and due to my preoccupation with my rustic grading I'd forgotten, so I was worried about that, but because she's quite short the skirt was almost the exact length she wanted. I compensated for the extra by bias binding the hem and making it smaller than the pattern directs, and we ended up with her preferred "wearing with boots in the winter" skirt length.
You will observe here my bias binding and the results of my first ever kick pleat, which took me a couple of goes but I think it's come out really well.
The fabric was quite a loose weave and frayed all over the place as I was sewing it up, so I used bias binding on as many internal seams as I could. Which I think was a good decision, because:
You see the really dark seam on the right there? Yeah. We didn't notice when I was taking the photos, but it turned out that the fabric had started to pull apart at the top for absolutely no discernable reason. Luckily Mum has a sewing machine and it was an easy enough fix, but it does make me worry about the skirt's longevity. It's not the seam pulling apart, it's the fabric just deciding it didn't want to remain woven. Ugh.
I will probably have a go at making another of these skirts. I still have some blue suiting fabric left over from raiding my friend Micky's fabric stash which I think work. I still have the other half of this black and white wool-type stuff and was considering making a skirt for myself (in a different style) from the remnant, but now I'm not so sure. It might be toile fabric only.
So the jacket was definitely the more successful of the two birthday present projects, but I'm glad I got both done. I learned new things from each, Mum was happy with them, and frankly I'm amazed at my own ability to create two well-fitting garments blind from patterns that were substantially too small. I must remember not to abuse this power.
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