Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Before the Blog: Self-Drafted Pencil Skirt

Just because I happened to be wearing it and feeling nice about it.
Most of the things I sewed before I blogged aren't really worth documenting, as they're mostly elastic-based. However, since I was wearing one of my first "real" projects, made back in 2010 (wow, that was ages ago!), I thought I'd get a couple of pictures of it. I had gotten sick of of making no-pattern-required-since-it's-just-two-rectangles-elastic-waist gathered skirts, so I decided to make the opposite: a fitted pencil skirt with an invisible zipper. This was definitely in my fearless sewing period -- I had no idea what I was doing, but I was determined and just brazened on through and made what was actually a surprisingly nice skirt...in quilting cotton. Also, it had no vent, so every time I had to go up two flights of stairs to the copy room at my old school in SD, I cursed my lack of foresight.

I used this excellent tutorial from Mademoiselle Chaos to make my skirt pattern, and I think I might even have it somewhere still. I should really try to find it, as it made an astonishingly good fit! Besides putting in a vent, the only other thing I would change is to add a waistband, just for a more finished look. And also take out the belt loops. And also use a more appropriate fabric, like a nice wool blend. And use a blind hem instead of just stitching a blatant line across the bottom. And use a nicer lining fabric, not some thick polyester nightmare from the thrift store. And make sure my invisible zipper is actually invisible. But aside from all those things, I actually really like the fit, the length, and even the subtle pattern. And since it's made of extremely durable fabrics, I can just toss it into the laundry with no fear. Anything I don't have to hand-wash or dry-clean is excellent in my book, even if I have to iron the heck out of the cotton afterward.

My horribly non-invisible zipper. I decided that it was neat enough to just wear the skirt anyway.

Sometimes 2010 me impresses 2012 me, that I took the time to do such nice darts and get such a good fit.

Even if my hook and eye stitching is atrocious, at least I took the time to hide all my lining raw edges! Also, you can see the scale pattern on the fabric here. It is ridiculously hard to photograph.

Fabric: 1 yd remnant of gray quilting cotton with a vague scale pattern, thick cream polyester lining
Notions: invisible zip, hook and eye
Hours: Gosh, I do not remember, but probably at least seven hours
Techniques used: Drafting a pattern based on my measurements, making my own belt loops?
Will you make this again? I want to, with all the changes mentioned above, but I also don't like wearing pencil skirts much, even though I love how they look.
Total cost: about $6, if I remember correctly...even back then I loved remnants and thrifted fabrics!
Final thoughts: This is one of the few me-made neutral pieces I have. I guess I gravitate toward quirky and fun fabrics? I do love how pencil skirts take so little yardage, and that something so simple can look so good when fitted well. I've worn this skirt many times since making it, and it seems to be holding up fine, so I don't know how much I would need another one. What strikes me most about this skirt, though, is that 1) when I made it I didn't know that I wasn't "supposed to" make such tricky pieces, and 2) how much care I took to make everything as perfect as I could in construction, at least to the best of my abilities at the time. Now that I supposedly know better and am more experienced, I think I've developed a fear of trying difficult things that I didn't have back then, while simultaneously skimping on finishing the insides of my garments. I need to recapture the best of that n00b spirit in my sewing.

No qipao pictures yet, although it's been done for a while! Between the dumpling party and people over to visit and all, I didn't have a chance to take normal pictures of me wearing my new qipao. But it's coming, I promise! In the meantime, have some pictures of the dumpling-making. Apologies if you don't like looking at raw meat.

Ground pork, chives, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, ginger, garlic, sherry, soy sauce, white pepper, salt, brown sugar, and cornstarch = the beginning of awesome.

All mixed up! My hand was freezing at the end of this.

We made two whole trays of dumplings.
They fry up so beautifully! Thankfully, we have a whole tray leftover and stashed in the freezer.

We'll end with a picture of Walnut cuddling with two red envelopes.

"Miiiinne...my own, my precious!"


  1. Love the skirt on you. Love looking at old projects and thinking next time I would do this and the other. You sometimes don't realise how much you have progressed until you look at an old gathered elastic waisted skirt. Lovely dumplings by the way lol.

    1. Thank you! Yeah, those old skirts are a great way to see how far one has come!

  2. That is a great skirt. The print totally reads like a textured grey wool on the screen, too ;). I was all "what does she mean, quilting cotton?" until it got to the closeup.

    I think I spent most of sewing career in that naive-optimistic sewing state. Or maybe I'm still there...

    Those dumplings look yummy! Syo and I made something similar ages ago, and they were so yummy, but my motivation re. food is limited at the best of times so we've never tried again...

    1. It's quite a deceiver, that cotton! And nothing wrong with that sewing state -- sometimes I think I would be further along in my sewing if I had stayed fearless. Or I would just have a lot more UFOs.

      Dumplings are totally worth the effort, though, especially if you invite people over for a dumpling-folding party! We fed seven people that night and still have about 75 left in the freezer for easy meals.

  3. Beautiful skirt, even with the visible invisible!

    And your dumplings just made me hungry.... nom!

    1. Thank you! At least it's a very neat visible invisible...

      I know, looking back at my own pictures is making me hungry!

  4. Nice skirt- I love fearless sewing. I think I have some of that fabric around here in a red or pink... :)

    Ooooh! Thanks for the tips on dumplings... I made a big tray of them over the weekend for Chinese New Year and the filling was alright but needs improvement. Do you have a recipe, or should I just go for it? (I'm a "fearless" cook, though sometimes that's not a good thing...)

    1. Thanks! Incredible, that there's more of that fabric out there!

      I am also a fan of fearless cooking, although less so of fearless baking. I don't have a recipe per se, since I'm of the Chinese mom school of cooking, i.e. "just add more until it looks right." I can tell you that we started with 3 lbs of ground pork, 2 cups of chopped chives, 2 cups of very tinily diced mushrooms, 3 stalks of diced green onions, a large chunk of ginger, eight cloves of garlic, a healthy splash of soy sauce and sherry, a couple tablespoons of cornstarch, a tablespoon of sugar, and all the other seasonings to taste. I always mix it up and then fry a tablespoon of the mixture before folding the dumplings to make sure the flavor is correct. Oh! and two eggs. I left that out of my original list.


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