Happy birthday to me! I’m 38 as of today. I think this is the chillest I have ever been about my birthday. Maybe now that I am officially in my late 30s, I am over thinking that everyone should drop everything they’re doing for the month of July & give me all the attention. (Though the finalists for the Monthly Stitch‘s “dresses” challenge were announced today, & I am among them, so if you want to nip on over & throw me a vote, that would be a nice birthday gift!) I re-potted some plants, worked on my project for the Monthly Stitch’s “hack it” challenge, updated the preschool tuition. Jared & Ramona gave me a miniature rosebush with lovely yellow roses, & they’re in the kitchen right now, making cupcakes. I chose vanilla with chocolate frosting. I thought about going bold & requesting chocolate with maple bacon frosting, but maple bacon just isn’t the taste sensation I crave when it’s nearly 100 degrees out. Today is Lawrence’s hottest day of the year so far in 2017.
I also plunged a seam ripper deep into my fingertip today. Like fully stabbed it in there with all the strength in my body. Pro-tip: when using a seam ripper to poke holes in something (which you probably shouldn’t be doing anyway), maybe don’t brace the object with your fingertip, duh. The seam ripper was dangling from my finger, with fully half an inch of the blade embedded down to my finger bone. Adding insult to injury, Jared is taking me out for Ethiopian food tonight, which I love. If you’ve never had it, 1) what the hell are you waiting for, & 2) you eat it with your hands. Luckily the injured finger is on my left hand, which I don’t use much.
Should we talk sewing? I made this skirt. I made the top too, but I’ll blog it separately sometime soon. Gotta give all of my precious garments their own time to shine, right?
The skirt is the Madeleine suspender skirt by Victory Patterns. I feel like a perusal of my blog in the last year or so would make me look like an indie pattern non-stop fangirl. The truth is that I like to sew a mix of indies, Big 4, & self-drafted, but I’ve been leaning on indies a lot in the last year since Hancock (my source for 99-cent Big 4 pattern sales) closed, & I’ve been too sick & out of it to a bunch of pattern math. Plus it’s Indie Pattern Month again, & that’s what prompted me to finally make this skirt that I have been swooning over for three years.
I wonder why suspender skirts are so hard to find in RTW? Maybe just because making the suspenders involves extra fabric & labor, which isn’t worth it for a style that isn’t trending hard? It’s even harder to find a RTW suspender skirt for a larger size. In fact, for a long time, I thought suspenders were not an option for me at all because I couldn’t see them playing well with a large bust. But Jared (slobbering only slightly) convinced me. I think his exact words were, “I think suspenders would…*clears throat*…look REALLY good on you.”
I remember the exact moment I first saw this pattern. It was for sale at Grey’s Fabric & Notions in Boston. I was in town on vacation, visiting Jared while he was on a research trip. Ramona’s grandparents had whisked her away to Vermont to show her off to all their Quaker friends. I had a day alone in the city while Jared was in the archives, so I took myself on a tour of all the fabric shops & sewing destinations in town. Can I just say that the world of sewing is, like, gentrifying? Ten years ago, going to a fabric shop was like going to a fish market. It was pure chaos & you had to know what you were after. Now it’s cute, teeny boutiques with a curated selection of textiles. That is a gross over-generalization, of course, & I have only been sewing in earnest for four years, so what the fuck do I know. All I can say is that Boston’s most-recommended fabric stores were not really what I expected.
Anyway, I saw this pattern & the heavens opened. It was the skirt I’d wanted to wear all my (adult) life. Maybe to fill the hole left by a denim suspender skirt I had as a child. I vividly remember wearing it to a square dance in an actual barn & being like, “I will remember this magical moment for the rest of my life.” I was maybe nine years old?
I don’t know why it took me three more years to actually make the pattern. I was just having trouble settling on fabric, I think. In fact, it wasn’t until I had my rotary cutter in hand, about the cut into some floral print denim that wasn’t exactly rocking my world, when I was like, “Wait! Black denim!” I have so much in my stash, & somehow have never sewn a straightforward black skirt. (I did make the Alberta Street skirt from Sew House Seven in black twill last summer, but I never wore it because I just couldn’t with a pencil skirt.)
I’m pretty thrilled with the finished skirt. The denim I used has so much body, it makes the shape of the skirt really full & dramatic. I remember finding a skirt a lot like at H&M in like 2004, but it was all sold out in my size. I do suspect, however, that my fabric may have had a bit more body than the designer anticipated though, because parts of the construction were unreasonably difficult. It took me literally 45 minutes to turn each strap right side out…Yeah, 45 minutes EACH. I eventually got out a really thick wooden knitting needle to force the fabric through, & I made sure to use the blunt end so as to not poke the tip through the fabric. But my strap was so resistant, the DULL end of a GIANT knitting needle actually ripped through the denim! & not even at the seam! No harm, no foul though. It was on the back side of the strap.
I shortened it a ton, like maybe seven inches? But I didn’t adjust the depth of the pockets, & they go almost all the way to the hem. They are so deep that I can’t even reach the bottoms without contorting myself sideways. Fare thee well, any random business card or crumpled up tissue that gets dropped in there. You’ll never be seen again.
The pattern calls for a lot of topstitching, which I was kind of meh about, but I did it. I just did it black on black because I didn’t want it to be a big feature & compromise the neutrality of the skirt. Trust me, it was difficult to squelch my impulse to topstitch with variegated thread & embroider the pockets & use rhinestones button, etc etc. I am nothing if not a magpie. I hated doing the topstitching because it took forever (I used a triple stitch with regular thread) & in the end, I don’t know that it added much, since I didn’t use a contrasting color. On the plus side, the construction seams seemed SUPER-fast after all that triple stitching. & I say that as a person who is endlessly frustrated with how slow my machine is (only 800 stitches a minute).
This was also my first go at a lapped zipper, believe it or not. I haven’t been avoiding them. They’ve just never come up in any pattern I’ve made so far. It worked out fine, but it was curious that the seam allowance for the two back skirt pieces are exactly the same, but to make a lapped zipper, one side was pressed in 5/8″ & the other was pressed in 3/4″. I don’t know, maybe I did something wrong somewhere along the way? I just fiddled around until it looked right, & I mean…It fits, & the zipper is properly covered when the skirt is zipped up, so it all worked out okay in the end, I guess.
The waistband was also a conundrum. I tried to follow the instructions, & I don’t know if I fundamentally misapprehended something, or the instructions just weren’t meant for the weight of fabric I used, or what, but after trying & failing for an hour to turn my waistband right side out, I noped out. I ripped out all the stitching & sewed it on like a jeans waistband instead. & guess what? It wound up being my best-looking waistband ever. Three cheers for just pressing up the seam allowance on the facing & topstitching. Why suffer?
This post is way too long, but I do just want to mention: the suspender straps are not interfaced, & my buttonholes sank into them like BUTTAH. So gorgeous. But if I try sewing a buttonhole into anything interfaced, my machine is all, “Not today, Satan.” I think I might start experimenting with different types of interfacing to use with buttonholes & see if I can coax a better performance out of my machine. Just goes to show you: prince doesn’t always equal quality. My $100 starter Brother machine never shied away from a buttonhole.
pattern: Madeleine skirt from Victory Patterns
fabric: 2.5 yards of black stretch denim (stretch fabric is not necessary for this pattern)
notions: denim needle, black thread, five buttons, zipper foot, buttonhole foot, interfacing for waistband, quilting cotton for pocket lining, seam ripper (for opening buttonholes), hand-sewing needle
total cost of all supplies: around $35 (including the pattern)
alterations: added 2″ to waistline, shortened skirt by around 7″
next time: maybe make the pockets a little smaller?
remarks from the public: “You look like a ballerina, Mama.” — Ramona
photos: Ramona took the photos of me, I took the rest