achievement unlocked: Alberta Street skirt


We are talking about the skirt this time. It’s the Alberta Street skirt by Sew House Seven, another pattern I picked up in the Monthly Stitch fundraising bundle. I’ve already blogged about the blouse & the jacket. The Alberta Street skirt is a high-waisted pencil skirt with a back zip & vent, faced contoured waistband, & large patch pockets. I made mine in a fabric that was billing itself as narrow wale stretch corduroy, but the wales were so narrow& the nap so fluffy, it’s almost more like stretch velvet. & it is VERY stretchy. I think the pattern states that it can be made with a woven or a fabric with some stretch (think, like, denim with 2% elastane or something). My fabric probably had more stretch than anticipated by the pattern design. I cut an 18 at the waist & graded to a 20 at the hips (which is weird, because my measurements put me in a 20 at the waist & an 18 at the hips–the reverse just seemed to fit better) & I probably could have sized down a bit thanks to the stretch.


After I took all my photos, I realized I didn’t have ANY that were full-length! I feel like you’d get such a better sense of the fit & proportion of the skirt if I wasn’t cut off mid-calf in every photo. & there’s nothing I can do about it now because the skirt is packed away in a storage unit thirty miles away while we move houses.

I’m also standing with a hip cocked in this photo, which makes the seam down the middle of the back look off-kilter. It’s just the way I’m standing, honest!


The pattern directions were for a tidy lapped zip, but I chose to do an exposed zipper to give the skirt a little edge. Please enjoy this photo, which may be the world’s all-time worst photograph of a metal zipper.


I also reversed the angle of the pockets. In the original design, the pocket is high at the side seam & slopes down toward the middle. To change the angle, I traced off the pocket piece, keeping the height & original proportion. Then I drew in the hip curve & placement notches on the lower side. Easy enough, really. I chose to do this because I do use the pockets on my garments all the time & having the higher edge toward the middle of the garment just feels more utilitarian.


I also lined my pockets, though the pattern said nothing about doing this. Just another “why not” decision.


Here’s a shot of the back vent, open so you can see my seam binding. I bound all the seams with the same voile I used for the Anderson blouse & the facings on the Salt jacket, both because this fabric started shedding & fraying the instant it was cut, & also just for my own amusement. I’d never done bound seams before. It definitely added time to the construction of the skirt, which would have otherwise been a pretty fast project. The finished garment looks polished, but construction is remarkably uncomplicated. The hardest part was probably the vent, & that’s just because I had never done one before. The instructions were really easy to follow & I got everything folded over & stitched down properly on the first try.


More seam binding. This also shows the stay I made out of quilting cotton to try to flatten the tummy area a little. It was an experiment. I don’t know how effective it is. But it’s not uncomfortable, so there’s that.

Now, the $10,000 question: Is this skirt wearable? Does it fit into my handmade wardrobe? This is a big question, given that it’s literally the first pencil skirt I have ever owned in my entire life. I never thought it was a silhouette that would flatter me, as I am bigger on top than I am on the bottom. I always assumed a pencil skirt would only emphasize that fact & make me look even more unbalanced. But I think it’s actually okay-ish.


With a sailor shirt I made like two years ago & never wear because it really needs a tight, high-waisted bottom, & until now, I’ve never owned such a thing.


With my Archer tuxedo shirt. This is maybe not the best? Maybe it’s just a shitty photo. I should try it again with hands out of pockets, in a full-length mirror, before I decide. The hands-in-pockets/cut-off-at-knees look is very stumpifying. But at least I now have a go-to outfit in case I am ever called upon to pose as a cater-waiter in service of unraveling the mystery behind a jewel heist or something.


With my black Jasper sweatshirt. I look cozy, that’s for sure! Add some sweater tights & my Sorels & I am all set for a walk in a snowstorm.

It also works with a plain black t-shirt, of which I have approximately 10 million, but I chose more interesting garments for my styling photos. So the bottom line is that this skirt will get worn once the weather cools off enough to permit corduroy.

I have to address something though: the skirt is called the Alberta Street skirt because it’s named after Alberta St. in Portland, Oregon. Sew House Seven is a Portland-based pattern company & a lot of their designs have Portland-inspired names.

I had a viscerally negative reaction to the name of this skirt, & probably never would have purchased it if not for the bundle sale. I used to do community organizing in North Portland, in the late 90s/early 00s. This was right at the beginning of the city’s efforts to gentrify North Portland, to transform it from a historically black neighborhood into the fancypants white neighborhood that it is now, rife with yoga studios, doggie daycares, cute little hipster sewing shops, etc. Here’s a video of one former business owner on Alberta St. talking about how the city pushed out the black population:

My office was just off Alberta St. & I walked around that neighborhood everyday. The city was not caring for the neighborhood when it was majority black. There were roads that weren’t even paved! My job was to work with residents in the community to address the needs they perceived. They had really basic concerns, like wanting the city to put in stop signs at dangerous intersections where kids were being hit by cars, or wanting less police harassment. No one could live or work in this neighborhood & fail to recognize that institutional racism was REAL & it was ruining lives.

The city succeeded in its efforts to transform North Portland into a playground for wealthy white people. The Alberta St. of today is unrecognizable compared to the Alberta St. where I worked just seventeen years ago. I’ve been back to Portland several times since I moved away in 2001, & it’s always unsettling because the entire city is different…& not necessarily in a good way, if you care about the lives of poor people & people of color. I know the name of this skirt is just a name, but people who tried to organize against the sweeping destruction of gentrification in North Portland, to say nothing of the people who were actually LIVING that destruction, who were displaced because of it, have reactions to the words “Alberta Street”.

I’m probably not doing a great job articulating myself, because my primary reaction to the fight over Alberta St. is just sadness & hopelessness. I think about the community of people that once lived there, raised kids there, made their livelihoods there. I went camping once with a woman who lived just off Alberta St., & she told me all about being in the Black Panthers Ladies Auxiliary in the 60s. She was an absolute wealth of information about Portland’s black power movement & the history of her neighborhood, where she had lived for decades. She & her family were pushed out by the city’s gentrification programs. To make room for $40-a-plate farm-to-table restaurants & boutiques selling hemp sheath dresses.


Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

8 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: Alberta Street skirt

    1. I really enjoyed the process of trying that with these garments! I did it because they were all three so far outside my usual aesthetic, but it was enlightening, & I think I might make it a regular part of my posts about new garments I make.

  1. That looks great! I am a big fan of pencil skirts. I never seem to wear them anymore, but I am a big fan of them. :p I purged a lot of my dressier clothes a few months back, but I kept almost all of my pencil skirts. I still have quite a few of them.

    I think you did a great job of articulating your feelings about the pattern name.

  2. This type of skirt is perfect for you. It can go dressy or casual. I love the whimsy of your colorful binding placements. This is an idea I’m stealing. Your heart is so big and you articulate very clearly. Thank you and good luck with the move.

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