January 22, 2014


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 😉


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?