Pencil skirts galore!

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Skirt #2, complete with boots that really don’t go with the rest of the outfit. Ah well. Them’s the breaks when you don’t have a full length mirror by the front door.

This post is a tale of two skirts, in my quest to get a perfectly fitted and comfortable knit pencil skirt. A pencil skirt might not seem all that practical when looking after a toddler, but I much prefer a straight or pegged style to a full skirt. And provided it’s short and stretchy enough, with thick tights or leggings underneath it can be a really versatile item of clothing perfectly suited to getting down on the floor and playing.

The first version I made was using some plain black ponte from Minerva. I used the free pattern at So Sew Easy as I liked the look of the four panels and topstitched seam lines, although I knew these wouldn’t be so obvious in just black.

It was a qualified success. I loved how easy it was to sew and think I did a really good job on the topstitching and twin needle hemming, but it really didn’t fit well as you can see by all the pull lines in the photos (taken back in the summer). I think this was down to me getting really confused about what size to cut. I measured the pattern pieces but the one suggested by my measurements looked like it would be huge, so I cut down a couple of sizes to one with a small amount of negative ease. What I didn’t realise until after sewing it was that ponte should be treated more like a stretch woven, with a minimum of no ease rather than negative ease.

However, the fault could lie with my printer compatibility with So Sew Easy patterns. There was no test square on this pattern to check, but I’ve since tried to print another of their patterns with a test square, and no matter what settings I altered I couldn’t get it to print at the correct size. I think this printed too large, and I had to take 10cm off the length too. In the end I made this skirt with just 60cm of 145cm wide fabric (I had enough left over to make Daisy a school skirt), so at least it was a cheap make! And I’ve slimmed down a couple of inches since I made the skirt (thanks, Fitness Blender!) so it now fits me much better. A bit too baggy, even 🙂

My second try at a perfectly fitted knit pencil skirt took me back to the drawing board. I considered using the pattern in my copy of Gertie Sews Vintage Casual which has had good reviews on the blogosphere, but in the end I decided to have a go at fitting one directly to my body. I used Portia’s fantastic tutorial on Makery, with a minor alteration to make it wider across the back than the front. Yes, my backside needs that extra fabric–something I discovered years ago when fitting wovens, and since I was using a beefy ponte with little stretch, I thought I’d better treat it like a woven. I figured out I needed the back pattern piece to be 2″ wider than the front at the hips, although I tapered this down to the waist and hem so that both pieces measured the same there.

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Side view showing the extra fabric at the back. And the label of my cardie. Oops!

I basted this skirt to check the fit, but really needn’t have bothered as it fit absolutely perfectly. Shouldn’t have been such a surprise really as I’d used my measurements, but I was thrilled! I’ve got to say this is the most ridiculously comfortable skirt I’ve ever owned. I also love the jacquard ponte fabric (from Dragonfly, here), which has enough texture and pattern to elevate this from a purely functional grey skirt. I only wish it was a darker charcoal so it went with more of my tops, and that it didn’t pill quite so badly. This seems to be a problem with all ponte fabrics, though, despite me washing them inside out on the gentle cycle and air drying them.

There’s very little to say about construction other than I sewed it all on the overlocker, except for the twin needle hemming and the basting. One thing I will mention is the size of the waistband. I went for a really deep one (about 4″ high), and because it’s the same size as my waist it sits very high up–grazing the bottom of my ribcage. This is wonderful for a winter skirt as it keeps my midsection really cosy, but I know I would find it intolerable in a summer skirt.

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Does my bum look big in this?!

And finally, just to show how thrilled I am with this skirt, here’s a stupid catalogue model pose I struck. Don’t you love this location? It’s the Collier’s Way which is an old railway line in the Somerset countryside–perfect for walking along with a baby in a buggy!

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I’ve just spotted a woodpecker or something.

I can see I’ll definitely be making more simple knit skirts in the future. I might experiment with a few more patterns, like the Lindy petal skirt, the Paprika Patterns Jade skirt and the Alabama Chanin wrap skirt (I already have the pattern printed for that one!). Now I just need to find a suitable thick and stable jersey that doesn’t pill…

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