The Josei Skirt

Hmm, another skirt. I seem to be sewing a lot of these for someone who always used to prefer trousers.

I’ve never really been in to skirts – I’m not a girly girl, much to the disappointment of my mother. BUT – since I started sewing, I seem to have made an awful lot of them. This could be for a few reasons… skirts are pretty easy to make when you’re learning so it’s a good beginner-friendly thing to sew, and I feel like I can get away with a crazier print on a skirt than I can on a pair of trousers (plus these awesome prints don’t tend to come in ‘stretch’ versions). It could also be because over the past couple of years that I’ve been sewing hardcore, I’ve paid more attention to the way things fit me and how they look and I’ve discovered that not a single pair of trousers or jeans I own actually fits my shape. But I can make a skirt that fits me perfectly.

Those of you that are regular readers will know that I’ve been procrastinating for a while now about making the Gingers (Closet Case Patterns) and the Safrans (Deer and Doe), but I’m pleased to report there has been *some* (minimal) progress in this department. Yes, I want a gold star.

So, the progress. I bought some pretty stretchy black jacquard leopard print in the Cloth House warehouse sale a few months back. I traced and cut out the Gingers from this a little while ago, and got round to basting the seams last weekend and put my legs into my first pair of trousers. They were pretty big around the legs, I didn’t even bother putting the waistband on because that looked huge on the cutting board, never mind around my actual waist. So, I slunk off with my tail between my legs. I did have a sneaky feeling that the fabric was going to be a bit too stretchy, and it turned out I was right.

Frustrated that I had no jeans that fit well, I went shopping on the way home from the Knitting and Stitching show and trawled Oxford Street for that elusive pair of well-fitting, good-looking jeans. They were not to be found. In summary:

  • There are no high-waisted jeans where the waistband is narrower than the hips. Who are they making these for?!
  • Jeans with a high waist either look like cheap jeggings, or maternity trousers with the ‘extra waistband’ added to the top
  • A size 10 fit my waist. A size 12 did not fit my calves and thighs. It seems I need a size 14 leg with a 10 waist – stocked by no shop in the world ever.

All of the above, coupled with my failed toile of the Gingers, resulted in a little calorie blip to help soothe the pain. No regrets.

When normal emotional service was once again resumed, I continued my search for stretch denim that I could use for the Safrans (there was none to be had at the Knitting and Stitching show – more on that in my next post). I eventually settled on this animal print fabric from Croft Mill. The Safrans are considered to be ‘jeans-lite’, which is a little bit easier than ‘proper jeans’, to sort of ease yourself in to the world of jeans making. So my new plan is to start with them.

This fabric ticked all my boxes except one – leopard print? YES. Denim? YES. Stretch? YES. The right colour? Ermmm, no. Despite this, I’ve bought four metres (to make two pairs of Safrans) and I’ll be cutting it in half and dyeing one piece a dark red and one possibly a charcoal grey or dark purple. I’m hoping to colour it enough to get rid of the really light bits but save enough of the tonality so that you still see the print. Of course this could all go horribly wrong and I end up with one really expensive, really ugly toile. But YOLO, right?

In the meantime, I’m going to wear skirts until I can nail down the fit of the Safrans and then I’m going to make a pair in every colour and laminate the modified pattern pieces so they can never be damaged and protect them with my life.

But on to my newest Chardon…

This fabric, for me, is out of my colour-comfort-zone. You very VERY rarely see me in blue. Or white. Red? Yes… but that’s only a small part of this print. When I saw this design I really loved it, so I just ignored all the voices in my head and bought it anyway. I can just about feel comfortable wearing it if everything else I’m wearing is black, but I can’t help feeling that the blue clashes with my hair… yep this is something I have to think about #thestruggleisreal

Deer and Doe Chardon Skirt Alexander Henry Zen Charmer

The skirt pattern I have used is the Chardon by Deer and Doe, who are a French indie pattern company that produce sewing patterns for hourglass shapes. Which means that if you’ve got big hips but a smaller waist, these patterns are for you. Their tops are drafted for a C cup, so the likelihood of needing to do a full bust adjustment is reduced, it’s already there for you on the pattern piece. You can buy both paper and pdf pattern versions, so all preferences should be catered for – I personally like to buy the paper versions, because cutting and sticking pdfs drains my life force with every second.

The Chardon is a box pleated knee-length skirt with a zip at centre back. It’s unlined, so you can whip up one of these in a few hours for a quick sewing hit – this is my third one, see here and here for the other versions!

I’ve been making a few skirts recently, trying to find the style that suits me best. It’s taken me a few attempts to come to the following conclusions:

  1. The skirt waistband must sit at my natural waist. I have a very high natural waist, so even though sometimes it might feel like my skirt is in my armpits, much like my granddad wore his trousers, this is where it NEEDS to sit. No exceptions. If it sits lower, it will ALWAYS work its way back up to this point anyway throughout the day, and I’ll end up looking like I’m wearing a skirt that’s four sizes too big. This happens with my Alberta Street skirt 🙁
  2. There’s a ‘hem danger zone’ which starts just below my knee, and finishes mid-calf. Any skirt that finishes in the danger zone makes me look frumpy and is not flattering at all. Yes, midi skirts look lovely on the models in the magazines and on the pattern envelope. Do they look lovely on me? No.
  3. I will always need to grade sizes and cut a smaller size at the waist than at the hips. There’s just too much of a size difference between the two points to cut one straight size. Yes, I know we’re always told by the pattern companies to choose your skirt size by your hip measurement (and your top size by your bust measurement) but this sends me straight back to point number 1 with a waistband that’s too big. Waist sizes matter too.
  4. Fabric type affects the style I can get away with. Gathered skirts I can just about manage IF it’s a lightweight fabric. I had the bright idea recently of making a plain black gathered skirt from some wool suiting I picked up at Goldhawk Road. The wool was waaaaaay too thick and made me look like I’d gained thirty pounds. I unpicked the gathers and tried box pleats instead, much like the style of the Chardon. Nuh-uh. Hideous. Thick fabrics for skirts must be used in simple straight patterns with no layers on me.

I don’t know why it’s only since I’ve started making skirts that I’ve managed to figure this lot out. If I went shopping for a skirt, I would just pick out what I thought looked nice rather than thinking about how it would fit me. When you make things for yourself, you have higher standards of how it should fit and look than when you buy stuff in store – after all, you’ve put a lot of effort in to it, and you want it to look good. If you’ve bought a cheap £5 skirt from Primark and you don’t really like how it looks, then it’s not too much of a great loss if it gets chucked in the back of the wardrobe. But if you’ve spent money on fabric and a pattern and invested time into making the skirt, you’ll be looking for some sort of moderate success from it. And for that, you must have some sort of idea of things to go for and things to stay away from. Which means trial and error, unfortunately.

I’m pretty happy with how the Chardon looks on me, and I’m pleased that the exposed zip works with the fabric on this one (unlike the city print one I made). I do feel that the hem perhaps looks a bit stiff, not sure if this is because I’ve finished it with bias tape or whether it might be the handle of the fabric… I dunno. All the Chardons that I’ve made have been in patterned quilting cottons so I’m thinking about making a plain one in something a little more drapey just to see how this changes things up. I have some burgundy crepe kicking around that might have just found it’s calling in life…

It’ll have to get in line though. I’m trying to finish a Vogue jacket for the husband, and I’ve just cut my Bruyere shirt after spending almost a year searching for the perfect fabric for it. Autumn and winter are my favourite seasons so I’m trying to sew all the things with the beautiful flannels and wools before the sweaty summer shows it’s face again.

Have you started your winter sewing? What’s on your list? Tell me so that I can drool over the pretty patterns and fabrics 😍

(As you can probably tell from my hair, it was mental windy the day we took these pictures. I’ve since learned to check the weather like a proper grown up before choosing a day to shoot blog pictures)

Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… the Republique Du Chiffon Suzon shirt 😍 Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!

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16 Comments

  1. PatsyPoo
    October 15, 2017 / 9:20 am

    Yep. I’m going to have to make another. Love this one, love the zip as well. And, for what it’s worth, I think it really goes with your hair actually.

    • Sarah
      October 15, 2017 / 9:31 pm

      Ahh nice, what sort of fabric are you going to make yours from? I’m defo going for one in the burgundy crepe, I was sort of saving it for the Azara but think I would rather make that out of some nice wool I have 🙂

  2. Celia
    October 15, 2017 / 9:26 am

    Love the style and fit – it looks great! Exposed zip looks fab”

    • Sarah
      October 15, 2017 / 9:32 pm

      Thank you Celia! I do love a good exposed zip and will try and get them in wherever I can!!

  3. October 15, 2017 / 9:38 am

    Beautiful skirt! I love the exposed zip. Great job!

    • Sarah
      October 15, 2017 / 9:32 pm

      Thank you! 🙂

  4. October 15, 2017 / 10:28 am

    Love the exposed zip detail. The trim really sets it off too.
    I hear you on hem length danger zones & waistbands that are always too wide on patterns. Right now I’m working on Morgan jeans & hoping the relaxed fit works out.

    • Sarah
      October 15, 2017 / 9:34 pm

      Thank you! 🙂 Yes I think I need to stay either at knee length and above, or ankle length. No in-between. Kudos to you for working on the Morgan jeans… I’m still hurting from my toile of the Gingers haha! Hopefully I can ease myself in gently with the Safrans before opening up the old wounds again!

  5. October 15, 2017 / 10:55 pm

    That was the first thing my mother said when I had dyed my hair for the first time: “Now you have to match all your clothes!”

    It’s a good thing I only wear like five colours and they all go with blue/green.

    Love the skirt! I used to be terrified of sewing jeans but now I actually really enjoy it, and it’s so rewarding!

    • Sarah
      October 16, 2017 / 5:58 pm

      Haha, it’s so true though isn’t it – you can’t wear stuff that clashes with your hair!! I’m defo going to try out the Safrans – I’m fully prepared for having to make a few before I get something that’s well fitting! Which patterns for jeans/trousers do you recommend?

      • October 20, 2017 / 8:22 pm

        I have made the Closet Case Gingers two times and they worked out really well! My shape is pretty average though, so I rarely have huge fitting issues. It’s a great pattern but the instructions for the fly front are a bit weird, so I’d recommend trying that out first beforehand or just using different instructions!

        • Sarah
          October 21, 2017 / 3:42 pm

          Ah, ok thanks for the heads up on the fly! Will practice that on a scrap bit of fabric first perhaps. The denim I found for the Safran’s turned out to be unavailable in the end (frustrating, as I’d bought it and paid already) so now I’m back to square one looking for fabric! Oh well. I’m still determined to get a pair of trousers that fit me!

  6. Justine McGrath
    October 16, 2017 / 10:34 am

    Try this site for jeans, they fit exactly as they say they will and are high waisted and really comfortable and flattering. I’m not affiliated in any way .I stumbled across the site and ordered 2 pairs just to see if they fit and ended up keeping both pairs! http://www.freddiesofpinewood.co.uk/

    • Sarah
      October 16, 2017 / 5:59 pm

      Ah, thank you Justine – I will check them out! I’d be so happy to find jeans that actually fit!!

  7. October 24, 2017 / 7:49 am

    Great looking skirt. Beautiful fabric and wonderful hem and exposed zipper details.

    • Sarah
      October 24, 2017 / 8:13 am

      Thank you! I do love this fabric… I’ve had it a while though and when I looked into buying some more it seems it’s been discontinued 🙁

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