Oh Mandy, you came and you gave without taking…
This skirt is named after my sister, Mandy, who bought me the fabric. She didn’t have much choice. Last Christmas I gave her strict instructions to go and pick something out for me from Our Patterned Hand in Bethnal Green.
Don’t you hate big sisters? I’m the eldest sister of three girls, and I feel riddled with guilt that I still boss them around like you wouldn’t believe. Mandy is the middle daughter and, hand on heart, I’ll say this now: can we all give out a bit of love to the middle daughters? They have it HARD. Big sister bossing them about; little sister receiving all the adoration. Who’d be in the middle? (Now, please, please – someone comment and tell me how it rocks to be middle daughter.)
But, if you can forgive my bossiness, I love asking people to buy me fabric. It takes me out of my comfort zone. I’d never have chosen this cotton myself. The print is so delicate, so sweet – I don’t apply either of these adjectives to myself and wouldn’t have bought this fabric. How glad I am that my sister knows me better than I know myself! This was a dream to work with and extremely inspiring.
In case you don’t recognise it, this is a second rendition of my Butterfly Polka Skirt. I wanted to tweak and refine my pattern drafting. Well, what can I say? I adjusted things. Then I adjusted them some more. And more and some more. Jeez, I can’t say I’m sure I improved anything, but I certainly learnt loads.
- My first rendition had a straight line at the base of the yoke. I realised that very straight lines just don’t sit well with female figures. We need curves! So I adjusted accordingly – during work in progress. This means that the ‘line’ of my yoke is in theory improved. If you ignore the fact that over my hips the base line dips by half an inch. I’m not dwelling on that.
- I had to take the yoke in quite significantly at the waist – acres of excess fabric. This ended up being a happy mistake, because the adjustments revealed that a nipped in waist made this skirt much more flattering.
- Yokes are unforgiving! You can’t really fudge a yoke – the fit is either spot on or it’s not. I remain determined to tweak further.
- My body image issues really get in the way of pattern drafting and fitting. I live in morbid horror of making something too small, so I add generous ease that then needs to be nipped in and nipped in and nipped in. Rip out an invisible zip three times? I’d prefer not to do that again.
Generally, I took a lot more care and effort over this make. The cream cotton needed lining, unless I wanted the world to see what I’d had for lunch. The yoke was faced with fashion fabric and the skirt was lined with cream satin.
I loved worked with the cream satin lining. First time ever working with this fabric, and it was a real insight into why people become seduced into making wedding dresses. There’s something about the combination: purity of colour, yet sensuous to the touch. Just gorgeous.
I added a false plackett on the skirt front. I’d planned to add buttons, but in the end that felt … wrong. Mainly because the first button placement would have hovered above my groin!
There was quite a lot of hand stitching involved in this make. I took the skirt outside and sat in the back garden and felt totally in touch with nature. As long as I ignored the cigarette smoke from the nearby outside market, the kids screaming on apartment balconies, the neighbour trimming his hedge … I felt totally in touch with nature! (Yeah, I’ll admit. Inner city London living is not always the best.)
Finally, can I just mention a technique for inserting a hook and eye? The clue’s in the verb - insert. I noticed this when gazing at Prada dresses in Las Vegas this summer. I’ve always just plonked a hook and eye on the inside of a finished make. Turns out, it can be far more sophisticated than that, if you sew the hook or eye between layers…
This whole process was a real learning curve for me! I still need to learn how to conquer those random threads that cling to a finished make, though…