achievement unlocked: black denim Madeleine skirt

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
size: 16
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

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.

13 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: black denim Madeleine skirt

  1. Happy (belated) Birthday! Your skirt is so awesome! I’ve been eyeing that pattern for a while, too. Now I feel inspired to pick it up! Also….I kinda miss Grey’s Fabric. They were one of the first little fabric shops I found online and the lady who ran it was nice. Eh, so it goes…

    1. I never really had any dealings with Grey’s aside from that one visit. I do remember that it was my first time fabric-shopping as a tourist. I learned that I am really spoiled as far as fabric stores go. We have an excellent one here in Lawrence. Lots of quilting cottons, but also LOTS of garment fabric. It’s pretty large & just packed to the gills. I guess I assumed all fabric shops were like that, but Grey’s was definitely more of a minimalist boutique, if you will.

      1. My city was a fabric desert for a while, so I was totally reliant on the internet for fabric. I’ve only been to a few shops in person (mainly in other cities) and some of them were very snooty! Greys wasn’t, which was nice. But!! A little boutique fabric shop opened in my neighborhood last year so I’m dedicated to them now 🙂 It’s so nice to be able to touch fabric before you buy it!

        1. Yeah, the people working there were definitely really friendly & not snooty at all. I’ve just been absolutely spoiled for choice at my local shop. I still buy a fair amount online, but it is really nice to be able to touch fabrics & color-match in person. & the women at my fabric shop are always so excited to see Ramona, even though she does things like dump out entire bins of embroidery floss before I can stop her, or knock over dress forms.

  2. Happy Birthday! I would never have thought I would like suspenders, but I love this look! I have been avoiding things with long straps that I would have to turn out for the reason that it takes so long to turn inside out.

    I did just see a sewing tip where you keep the selvage edges of all your woven fabrics and use them to turn out long straps. Of course, I can’t find the link, but the instruction are exactly like this link:

    But with a long strip of selvage edge instead of rope:

    1. Thanks! Seriously, I have avoided things with long straps for so long, thinking, “Ugh, there’s got to be a better way.” But sometimes you just have to bite the bullet & do it. When it’s all over, the finished result is (hopefully) worth it.

      But I’m definitely going to start experimenting with tips & tricks to make the process easier. My fabric was both heavy & stretchy. & the weave wanted to cling to itself. After I turned the straps right side out, I just put the project aside for the rest of the day to rest my hands!

  3. I. Flippin. Love. This.

    Idk why it has never occured to me to sew a skirt like this? I’ve seen this pattern and I have said for ages that I wanted an overalls skirt and it has not ever occured to me to make one? Idk why. I think the big boobs issue. But this looks SO GOOD on you so maybe it would look ok on me too. Would you be mad if I just wholesale copied you?

    I think with a heavy fabric like that I might have cheated and just pressed the straps in and topstitched. I think that works fine for a heavy fabric, but then turned ones do look nicer.

    I love the top too, but then I am a sucker for everything gingham. I will wait to comment more on its own post.

    1. Yeah, this whole outfit really seems like your style. I definitely never thought I could wear something like this thanks to the boobs conundrum. (<— Possible band name?) Because mostly you see things like this styled on really slim, flat-chested models & the suspenders go straight up over their chests. With more boobage, you definitely have to shift the straps over to the side, but that works fine & looks just as cute! I think I also worried that the straps would basically create a frame for my boobs & be like, "Hey everyone! Look over here!" But I think that all depends on your choice of top, & the fact that the skirt sits at the natural waist helps too.

      Feel free to copy me! Suspender skirts for all!

      1. I think a RTW version would definitely not work but making it means you can put the buttons and straps in a place that works for boobs. Defs going on my shortlist to make!

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