Monday, March 5, 2012

1912 Project: #E0200 Skirt Construction

After much excitement and nervous waiting, I finally got my first pattern for VPLL's 1912 project last week. It's a very Lady Mary-esque walking skirt (actually I don't know if this is true; I'm just calling everything I remotely like "Lady Mary" since I love her wardrobe), described as having a scalloped edge with trim and covered buttons. According to the original description, it should have been made from heavy grey silk or taffeta; being poor and unsure of the pattern, I used a heavy dark blue cotton ($1/yd sale at F&S!) for my (hopefully) wearable muslin. Good thing, too, since those scallops were a beast to bind, and I'm not entirely sure of how that edge is supposed to be attached. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My changes to the pattern, shown in red on the layout diagram.
To begin with, I had to size this pattern down significantly. Just my luck, that in an era of 25" waists, I get the pattern with a 35"-36" waist! After some fussing around with math and trying to hold the pattern pieces up to myself, I settled on taking three inches out of the center back piece by moving the "cut on fold" line over by 1.5 inches, taking another 1.5" off of the straight edge of each side piece, and sewing slightly larger seam allowances than the original 3/8" that the pattern called for. It seems to have worked pretty well; the skirt mostly hangs down from above my natural waist, as it's supposed to do, with minimal wrinkling to accommodate my uncompressed butt. I suppose I could make the 1911 long-line underbust corset that a lot of other sewists are making, but honestly, I think it looks pretty ugly. I know, correct undergarments are the foundation of a proper period look and blah blah blargetty blarg, but allow me to be obstinate and say that I'll go uncorsetted for as long as I can in this project, even if that makes me a loose woman (literally!).

Sewing the pattern pieces together was easy; the difficult part for me was the binding on the scalloped edge. Is there a nice way to do all those sharp corners? I just stretched and folded as I went, but it looks pretty wonky. I also found the directions on how to attach the scalloped edge to the rest of the skirt really confusing. Maybe I'm just too used to instructions with diagrams? Except that I don't even use the diagrams half the time. Anyway, I figured that a straight line up the side would look weird, and I was pretty sure that I wasn't supposed to do fourteen snaps, so I ended up topstitching the scallops up to the designated line. The buttons I used are most decidedly non-1912, being plastic and all, but they were the best combination of cheap+black+not too horrible.

They don't look as plasticky as some of the others, I promise!
I left the top three scallops open and sewed snaps to the tip of each scallop. To close the top, I sewed in a hook and bar with an additional snap to the side. Also, I only own light pink seam binding.

The inner waistband calls for a canvas bias strip as interfacing; I was so tempted to just use iron-on interfacing, but in the end I decided that I should do it right. Thankfully, there was a large piece of floral home-dec canvas in my bag of donated fabrics (along with the red corduroy I used for my corset).  It does make the waistband nicely sturdy. Unfortunately, the shape of it doesn't help much with getting the skirt to stay above my natural waist.

This is what the wrong side of the facing looked like before I flipped it down and tacked it to my seam allowances. I still have a bunch of that fabric left. I thought about making it into another bag, but it screams "mom with a diaper bag" to me.

As for the hem, at first I wanted a floor length skirt, but besides being impractical, it also seems to be inaccurate. After some consultation with pictures from 1912, the ladies at the 1912 project Facebook group, and several screenshots of Season 1 of Downton Abbey (yes, yes, I know, TV is a horrible place to do research), I decided to hem the skirt to brush the top of my instep. In order to do so, I ended up needing to eliminate one of the scallops, so now I have 13 scallops instead of 14. Were Edwardians superstitious about the number 13? Anyway, my hem is a little over three inches deep. I folded the top edge over, stitched it on machine, and then catch-stitched it to the skirt. It was my very first time doing a hem by hand (thanks to this helpful video!), not to mention trying to make it show as little as possible on the right side! I think I did pretty well, considering, and I'll even confess that it was a relaxing experience. I think I'll be doing this on all my skirt hems from now on, unless they're circle skirts. Thankfully, the final circumference of the skirt was only 62" and catch-stitches are quite ground-covering.

Weee! So pretty! Also, it is ridiculously hard to photograph and then edit dark blue fabric so that you can see any detail.

On the other side: almost invisible!

Diagrams of the skirt courtesy of the Vintage Pattern Lending Library's page about the skirt. Pictures of me wearing this skirt will be posted tomorrow, assuming my husband gets home today while it's still light out!


  1. definitely excited to see the finished product.

  2. Oh, I can't wait to see this. Lauriana of Petit Main Sauvage posted her muslin of the same pattern the other day, and I just love the vertical scallops. And am totally scheming to steal them for a modern-type skirt. :D

    1. Oooh thanks for letting me know! I hadn't seen anyone else's completed skirt, so it was definitely sewing blindly for me!

  3. I read your post. You share such nice and great project with us as well as Your pix is clear and understanding to every one. I love this blog.

  4. Great job, and a fun write-up. Looking forward to seeing more of your work.

  5. You did a beautiful job and I enjoyed your blog as well. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Good job! Clear, concise and informative post. Hurry up with those pics, I want to see it at all angles on you! (BTW, you and hub are so cute in your photo...)

  7. Wow that looks amazing, I love how you've done the buttons and trim! Looking forward to seeing it on you! XxxX

  8. Exciting!

    Question: do the pattern directions call for bias bound scallops? Because if they don't, I wonder if another option might be to use contrast piping for the emphasis. Either way, I think you did pretty darn good with them - they look hellishly tricky.

    And I am totally loving the floral upholstery canvas and the light pink bias binding ;-)

  9. You did a great job on this skirt Cindy! So much detail!!!!! You look very historical :P


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