In Sewing



The weather is still brutally cold and windy so I haven’t been able to get more real outfit photos like I want, but I can show you the bones of my skirt in the meantime while I wait out Mother Nature. This is McCall 5557, a vintage skirt pattern from 1944 that I bought from Judy at Vintage4me2. It also happens to be the first completed project in my Twelve Pattern Challenge.


I used a micro brushed cotton twill from in hunter green. My initial impression of the fabric was underwhelming at first. The color is beautiful, the weight is perfect, but the fluffy brushed finish really didn’t show itself until I washed it and took it out of the dryer. Then it felt glorious! SO FLUFFY! This fabric is everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s inexpensive and machine washable but feels so much nicer than anything I’ve ever used from Jo-Ann Fabrics. It still wrinkles like cotton, but it’s the perfect three season weight and looks almost like wool at a casual glance. I love it!

Aside from choosing better quality fabrics in 2014 (off to a good start!), using better seam finishing techniques is also on my to-do list.


I bound all of my raw seams with 1/2″ single fold bias tape. Rather than use the traditional Hong Kong technique, I went the lazy route and folded the bias tape as I topstitched it. The lazy way works well if you’re very careful and make sure you’re catching both edges of the bias tape in the same line of stitching. I bound all four of the gore seams with one strip of bias tape after stitching them, except on the side seams. I bound the edge of each side piece first, so I could sew them together and press the seam open for the zipper insertion.


I always refer back to Sunni’s free zipper class on Craftsy when installing zippers. She does an excellent job of explaining the process and I get a perfect lapped zipper every time! I only take one small extra step after Sunni’s instructions, and that’s to measure out a stitch guide on the outside of the fabric to make sure I’m sewing a straight line.


I used a nine inch zipper in my first skirt attempt, but felt it looked much too long for a 1940s style. This time I used a nine inch zipper, but sewed it at seven inches so it appeared shorter. I can still get the skirt on easily and I think it looks much better at the shorter length.


My next challenge was deciding how much I wanted to hem the skirt. The pattern suggests a two inch hem, but I wanted to be sure the overall length was spot on for the WWII reenactment at the end of the month. Skirt/dress length makes a huge difference in how period appropriate your clothing looks. So, to be as authentic as possible, I consulted my original 1942 Sears and Roebuck catalog and went skirt shopping!


After browsing around a bit I found a page that listed the finished skirt length for each size. That settled it, 25 inches below the waist band would be my finished length! And look, I’m not even far off from “wool worsted flannel in laurel green”. Just like I planned it or something πŸ˜‰


My pattern pieces didn’t line up at all at the bottom. I noticed this as I was tracing the original pattern but decided not to square it up since the hem would ultimately conceal any weird length issues. I measured 25 inches down from the bottom of the waist band and made a chalk mark, then measured 2.5 inches down from that for my bias tape allowance and hem fold line. I cut off any extra.


I was going to use lace hem tape originally, but liked the look of the 7/8″ wide bias tape better. Plus, I figured it would be more durable in the long run with the weight of the fabric and all. I tried to gather the bottom of the skirt slightly but with the bias bound seams it was too thick to pull the basting stitches. I sewed the bias tape to the hem and steamed the crap out of it with my iron to get it to shrink up a bit. It ended up fitting quite nicely inside the skirt after that! I stitched the top of the bias tape to itself to prevent it from stretching, and then attached it to the actual skirt by hand with a blind hem stitch. I made little tick marks (on the inside of my skirt) with chalk, every half inch to ensure my blind stitches were straight and even. It looks pretty darn good from the outside if I do say so myself.


I sat down in bed with a needle, some thread, one cat, and one dog, and by the time I got to episode three of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix I was finished with the hemming! I think I’ve watched Season One about 17 times now. (…any one else obsessed? Season Two needs to reach the US quick before I go crazy! Ah!)

As far as the waist band issues I was having earlier, I figured out the problem thanks to a reader comment. I had assumed the top of the skirt would measure the exact same size at the waist band so I didn’t think to measure that part of the pattern as I was double checking everything initially. I measured the waistband and the hip but not the actual waist. I do have a major tendency to stretch things out as I iron, but the bigger issue was the waist measured an inch bigger than the waistband right off the bat! No wonder it wasn’t matching up! The pattern probably assumes that you know to ease the waist of the skirt into the band, but I didn’t know that. Now I do.


One thing I did with this pattern, that I’ve never done before, is keep a notebook and write about all the changes I made or odd things I encountered while sewing. This is definitely something I’m going to keep doing in the future because it makes everything so much easier to refer back to. The purpose of my Twelve Pattern Challenge is to pick patterns that I can master and then remake again and again to build a better wardrobe. So far I’m off to a fantastic start! I’m really pleased with my fabric choice because it does not look or feel cheap. I put away my pinking shears, left my serger in the closet, and took the time to use seam binding to finish all the raw edges. I made not one, but two muslins to perfect the fit of this pattern. I didn’t skimp or cut corners on anything, I actually used interfacing in the waistband (I couldn’t be bothered with it before)! I did proper measuring when deciding how much to raise the hem, instead of just doing what the pattern suggested. I took my time and I made something I’m really proud of. I haven’t been really proud of my sewing in quite some time now but that’s quickly changing.

The only thing I would change on this skirt is my buttonhole. I cut a little too close to the stitching in one spot so now the thread is unraveling a bit with wear, but I bought some Fray-Check to fix it! Soooo I guess I would change nothing!

Now I just need to wait for some less brutal weather so I can get some proper outfit photos and then move on to the next pattern on my list!

Do you have a goal to “up your game” with sewing this year? What steps are you taking to do that?






  • Jay

    I grew up on hand-made clothes. When we changed for gymn class, I was always embarrassed when school mates would see I had no tags in my clothing. Then one day I ran into someone from grade school who said, “You always had the latest fashions and the best clothes!” I was astounded. I started making my clothes when I was ten. I started studying couture when I was 32. The best thing about couture – besides the fact that it can only happen with a few houses – is that it’s made for YOU. The closest we can get is what we make ourselves. [P.S. Let’s never call it couture because we KNOW the rules.] And we can make the best ever! Inside finishes are good. Look for a finished seam. But save on the binding by practicing French seams. My serger died two years ago and I’ve lived the love ever since. No binding, No serging. Just well finished French seams.

  • I LOVE THIS! What I love is that it look so well crafted and that it makes a great staple to your wardrobe. Makes me realize I need to sew more things like this!

  • Pingback: MCCALL 5557 – PART TWO | Lucky Lucilleβ„’()

  • This skirt looks durable, practical, AND beautiful. A wonderful start to your 12 pattern challenge!

  • Stine

    This looks just as good on the inside as it does on the outside. It turned out really well and the fabric looks great. Reminds me not to assume anything when shopping for fabrics because it might just turn out to be wonderful after a date with the washing machine, lol.

  • Maybel

    Hi Rochelle!

    It;s absolutely lovely!!

    I have a question for you. Do you dress vintage everyday like that?
    Also how do you do your hair like that! It’s simply wonderful!

    • Hi Maybel,
      A lot of sewing I do is for special events/WWII reenactments, but I do put a 1940s twist on my everyday clothes too. The purpose of my Twelve Pattern Challenge is to create a 1940s wardrobe that also works well for modern times. I would call the outfit in this post an everyday type outfit for me.

      As for my hair, it’s all about proper rollers sets and brush outs! πŸ™‚

  • you’ve nailed the skirt. In particular i adore the color.

  • This is so gorgeous! I’m really loving this green! And your binding looks so classic and fun, too, kinda vintage Ralph Lauren.

    I have to sneak Miss Fisher episodes when my husband isn’t home (we watched the first episode and he HATED it) but it’s worth it! πŸ™‚

  • Such great inspiration to slow down while we sew! Sometimes it feels like the sewing blogosphere encourages us to be production machines, but for me the biggest draw of handmade clothing is having garments made better than I could ever afford in stores.

  • Oh my gosh, this is so stunningly made! Love the contrasting bias tape and I adore the way you’ve styled it too!

  • Hahaha Duncan is the same way! ‘course, he’s a puppy, so it’s a little more socially acceptable. Except when guests notice he’s been sitting there, licking the bookshelf for the past three minutes… <3 Keep up the awesome work, chica!!

    • Hahaha!!! Awww does it get any cuter than that?! Mmmm bookshelf! Animals are the best. Especially the special ones πŸ™‚

  • Great job, Rochelle! I’m glad you’re taking more time on your projects and learning from them. I’m trying to do the same by getting into the thick of details. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but I love the color combination of the self and binding.

  • I just started reading your blog last month and I’m so glad I did! Your Twelve Pattern Challenge is just a great idea. And the detail you are paying to fit and construction is really inspiring me! I think I might follow suit and pick a handful of patterns to master this year.

  • I really think you deserve a sewing standing ovation for this!! Well done, Rochelle! It’s an amazing skirt and looks so lovely on you!

  • Shannon D.

    So inspiring and helpful to see the whole process! What a great start and thank you for posting!

  • So beautifully done! I love how you took pains to keep it authentic! Do I see a green theme going on here?

  • Love the skirt!! Heading over to look at that fabric now. That green is FANTASTIC. Also yes, complete Miss Fisher’s addict over here as well. Want ALL of her outfits. And the headpieces. And someplace to wear it all to. Ha!

  • The inside construction looks stunning! It looks very expensive and seems to fit you super well from the pictures here. I’m looking forward to the full outfit photos when weather will permit! I will probably return to this post many times to help with construction hints for sewing a really nice skirt!

    I also adore Miss Fisher. It’s such a fun show with such amazing clothing!! I want so many of the clothes I see in it!

  • misscrayolacreepy

    Wow!!!! You should be so proud of that skirt, inside and out! I am also in awe of how there is no dog/cat fur on the finished product haha. If I was hemming with Frankie and the cats it would look like little white pom poms of animal hair were attached to it haha

    • Oh I definitely took a lint roller to the skirt before getting my camera out haha! My life is full of pet hair. I wonder how much I accidentally ingest on a daily basis…

      • misscrayolacreepy

        Are you coughing up hairballs? hahahah

  • Your bound seams are so beautiful and the lapped zipper is PERFECT – way to go on upping your game with this one; your construction is flawless, and I’m sure that plus the fluffy lovely fabric will make this a much loved staple in your wardrobe πŸ™‚

  • Your bound seams are a thing of beauty! I’ve only bound seams once and it was the impetus for me getting a serger. Of course it was for pants so it felt like each seam would neeeever eeeend. lol

    I’m so happy that you’ve kicked butt on your first challenge pattern, woo hoo!

  • Gorgeous finishing! It must feel so good to put all that love and work into a garment! I can absolutely see this being a wardrobe staple for you! And I’m now going to go check out that show on netflix!!

  • Wow, the finishing sure looks sharp with that bias tape! Great job!

  • Melissa

    What a great post! I love hearing about the process, what changes you’ve made, what you’ve learned. Your skirt looks great! And that fabric does look really lush!

  • WOW I love this so much! I really, really love when you show the nitty gritty details of construction, too; I find it so unbelievably helpful, and it’s one of my favorite parts of your posts. Pictures of puppies that nest and kitties that lick walls, gorgeous garments, hilarious lady, and fabulous photography…I’m just gonna live on your blog from now on, k?

    • Ha! Kristi you seriously just made my day <3

      Yeah you can live here, just don't mind the special cat. She can't hold her licker. …no seriously, your eyes are in jeopardy.

  • Love it! I’m really trying to slow down more this year and “enjoy the process” as they say. I love reading wip posts and seeing the guts of your makes, and the navy binding looks so great with the green.

  • Gwyn

    Beautiful. I enjoyed following your process. I started keeping a notebook last year and though you think you will remember those little details, you don’t. I am amazed when I look back at important details that I forgot.

  • I love the look of the skirt and it is just great to see it go from pattern to actual skirt in such great details. I have to say that your sewing is done so well you could wear this one inside out with pride. πŸ™‚ What an amazing and tidy job.

  • It’s beautiful Rochelle! I love the colour, the fabric sounds lush and it fits you like a glove! Great start to your challenge!!!

  • The inside is just as beautiful as the outside. Well worth taking the extra time to achieve something you are rightly proud off.

  • Such a good job! It looks so neat and pretty!

  • Lovely! And so beautiful on the insides as well as outside. And now you have perfected the pattern you can pull it out and make more whenever you like!

  • What a fantastic start to the year! Love it. And yes I love Miss Fisher as well! It is brilliant.

  • What a wonderful post-seeing your glorious insides was really inspiring. Well done to you! What a winner! Love the colour too and now I’m lusting after brushed cotton. It seems sort of like a super fine corduroy in a way. Awesome!

  • My favorite dresses (that I have sewn myself) are the ones that I finished all the seams with binding and/or french seams. I have one that I no longer wear, but can’t make myself part with due to how “pretty” the inside looks. :o)

    I am smitten with the color of green you used for your skirt, and I absolutely love it with that shirt! Oh, and that shirt is pretty awesome!!!

  • Lovely skirt! It looks really well done and now you can make more if you want to! πŸ™‚

  • Great skirt! I just bought a fabric swatch of that color/fabric type. I don’t need another green skirt just now, but it is definitely going into my “to-make” list! It is so versatile.

  • I love everything about this. The fabric, the colour, your professional finishing! Love it. Well done!

  • Lovely! That fabric looks so cozy and I do love the bound seams (which thus far I have been too lazy to do…) And I too am upping my game this year…I am all inspired by the number of “hone skills/make functional wardrobe” posts going around. I’m planning to expand into things beyond “simple dresses”. I’m making the Albion coat next which will basically be a million things I’ve never done and I am hoping it launches me into getting off my duff on sewing.

  • This skirt looks so great! I just happen to have some green twill in my stash that I may need to make into a skirt now that I’ve seen your lovely version. If this is any indication of how the rest of 2014 is going to go for you, it’ll be great!

  • This skirt is such a classic gem. You did a marvelous job with it, dear Rochelle. I really like that you were so keen on getting the hem length to be as period appropriate as possible.

    β™₯ Jessica

  • Wonderful! I love all the effort you’ve gone to. The inside of the garment is fantastic!

  • Megan

    Really neat job- particularly the binding
    And I love Miss Fisher too- the costumes are to die for- I took my daughter to see an exhibition of them just before Xmas- devine

  • It looks lovely. I’m not brave enough to do a 12 pattern challenge but you really inspire me to take my time and think before I sew. Also thank you for the link to the craftsy class. I’m not sure how I missed that one but I will be watching it before my next zipper.

  • Beautiful! I love the bound seams–some day I need to stop being lazy and give that a go. And I definitely thought the skirt was wool from that first picture.

  • What a beautiful finish! You are off to a great start on your challenge. πŸ™‚

  • Woah, this looks great – inside and out! Nice job on the first of your twelve challenges πŸ™‚ Love the colour and the softness of the fabric, looks like a skirt you could really get a lot of wear out of.

    One thing I really want to try with my sewing is to use this seam binding finish. So far, I’ve worked with fabric that has been lined or could be French seamed, but I love how clean the binding looks here.

  • It looks pretty perfect to me!! Your gonna rock this 12 pattern challenge!