Have Your Cake and Eat It

So the Easter weekend that it seemed we spent so long waiting for has disappeared behind us already. Time flies, amirite? We’re almost in May already ?

Here in London we were blessed with what felt like the first bank holiday weekend where it didn’t rain, EVER.

Despite the blazing sunshine outside, I actually had a pretty productive weekend sewing-wise (and also chocolate-scoffing wise ?), achieving all of this lot:

  • Tracing, and cutting out fabric for my first pair of Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans (one of my 2019 Make Nine – yay ??)
  • Sewing the fly and front pockets of said Dawn Jeans
  • Cutting out two Kielo dresses from fabric I bought in New York last year
  • Photographed three things for the blog
  • Doing a trial run of a Scout Tee from knit fabric (another one of the 2019 make nine)
  • Liking the trial run so much that I cut and sewed most of another from the leftovers of one of the Kielo dresses I cut the day before
  • Almost finished the Amelia Bomber jacket that I started last year, when I remembered on a whim that it was still languishing unfinished in a bag somewhere (one of last year’s make nine, lol) which I am totally loving and wondering why the hell I didn’t finish it earlier ?
  • Cut out a leopard print silk shirt for the husbeast (Ohhhh I remember our younger days when he wouldn’t wear anything other than plain black or navy ?)
  • Speaking of the husbeast, he also finished off one complete t-shirt for himself, and then cut another one and made most of that too
  • Annnnnnd I finally started knitting a jumper that I’m super excited about!

So between us, we were pretty prolific! The living room looked a right state after all that lot, lemme tell ya. Thread everywhere, offcuts everywhere, fabric and machines strewn all over the place… bits and pieces stuck to the dogs where they’d laid in the mess. But we had fun, and that’s what counts ? We also ate a LOT of chocolate and ice cream and pizza ?


On to this skirt – it’s the Madeleine skirt by Victory Patterns.

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After I made my first Madeleine, I totally loved it but had made it just a smidge too small in the waistband (and there’s zero chance of me getting into it now when I’m a fair few pounds heavier ??). I knew I wanted to make another – not just to make it in a more realistic waist size, but also to make it in a colour that wasn’t so autumn-y. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE autumn (it’s the bestest of all the seasons ??) but the colour of the skirt meant that it only coordinated with a small portion of my wardrobe. I wanted something that was a bit more versatile – and what’s more versatile than black? Nothing, that’s what. Goes with everything ???

So black it was to be. I considered denim fabric, but I wasn’t sure that it would drape well enough – the last thing I wanted was to make a skirt-slash-lampshade. So back to my trusty corduroy it was. Easy care, easy wear. The Madeleine is a circle skirt and the pieces will only fit on 60inch/150cm wide fabric, so bear this in mind when you’re choosing. That rules out pretty much all quilting cottons, in case you’re wondering.

Black Corduroy Madeleine Skirt 2928

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I chose some pretty metal buttons for the outside of the waistband, and rummaged in my eBay button tin for some flat plastic ones to go on the inside at the base of the back straps. (Heads up – you want FLAT buttons for the back – FLAT, d’ya hear me, because you’re gonna be resting on them when you’re sitting in a chair. Shank buttons are NOT your friend here). A nylon zip in a colour that matches your fabric will also be helpful – on my first skirt I used a metal zip, and all you could see was the teeth, despite it being a lapped zip ?

I mean LOOK AT IT…. It’s not even the same colour as the skirt ? Such a rookie back then…

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Much better.

Don’t panic about that topstitching on the pockets – you get a guide in the pattern envelope to follow! After getting ratty with my machine for spitting out some truly appalling topstitching, I found that a longer stitch length and lower tension worked the best. And I could absolutely, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES, backstitch at the start of a line of topstitching. Well, I could, but I’d then have to unpick the massive birds nest of thread that would appear on the underside of the fabric. Not cool. And defo don’t even bother putting topstitch thread in the bobbin, it’ll only end badly. Trust me on this one. Stick with regular thread. I did consider using a contrasting topstitch colour (because more is more, when it comes to colour, amirite?), but other than on jeans, I feel it gives garments a bit of a homemade look. Not handmade (because most clothing is made by a pair of hands somewhere!) but homemade. The same way that a dodgy fabric choice can scream homemade too.

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I’ve shortened the skirt from its original length, because it was just a bit mumsy and frumpy on me. Especially with my hips, I’ve discovered that midi length skirts are just NOT the way to go unless I want to look like a milkmaid. Which I do not, just FYI.

The skirt is actually a quite a simple make though – three pieces for the main body (one for the front and two for the back), a lapped zip at centre back. The pockets are overlaid and stitched on top of the main fabric and caught in the waistband and side seams. The skirt isn’t lined, so this might give you jip if you’re looking to wear it over tights in the winter – but you could always wear a slip if that’s yo’ thang.

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For the pocket lining, you’re gonna need more than just a scrap of lining fabric for them because THEY SO HUGE. I used quilting cotton for mine – my all time fave, Zen Charmer by Alexander Henry. Yeah, I realise that you only see the top few centimetres of the pocket, and that therefore I shouldn’t have really bothered using a nice fabric for the pocket linings, but meh.

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I hemmed the skirt with my sewing BFF – bias tape. Honestly, I just can’t get enough of the stuff. Pretty much every single hem gets it – shirts, skirts, tops… I mean yeah it possibly takes a bit longer than double folding a hem and then stitching, but I end up with a (MUCH) neater line and there’s a considerably reduced chance that I’ll melt my fingers with the iron.

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One thing I would change about this skirt is to substitute a curved waistband for the straight one that the pattern is drafted with. I think that’s the one downfall of the pattern, for me anyway – the waistband doesn’t quite sit right around my waist, because I’m curved and that’s straight. It ends up either looking loose and baggy and never really staying still on my waist, or I have to cut it a size smaller to get a snug fit but then can’t breathe and get serious muffin top.

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Another thing that kinda bugs me about this skirt as well is that while I totes adore the straps, they don’t sit right either. Moving between sitting and standing makes them slip off my shoulders, as does changing positions. I’m fed up of picking them up and putting them back on my shoulders. You can see from the photos below that the straps rest in positions of various gape-age away from my body:

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And yep, I’ve tried shortening the straps to take up some of the excess – all this succeeds at is pulling the waistband even further up my body.

I have a pretty low tolerance for annoyance (ask the poor husbeast ??) and one of my guiding mantras of the clothing I sew is LOW MAINTENANCE. I don’t want to be constantly hitching up trousers, pulling down skirts, readjusting waistbands or worrying that my boobs are falling out of my top or my arse is on display. I want to get dressed and then be comfy and not have to think anything more about it until I get undressed at night (geeeez, am I getting old? ??‍♀️?) Slippy braces fall in to the category of things I’m not willing to tolerate from clothing.

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When you think of braces, you think of elastic ones, right? Well, I do. Just like my Grandad used to wear ??‍? I made some Burda trousers a while back, which were drafted with braces as well, but I didn’t make them – I bought some rainbow elastic ones online:

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They look good, huh? ?

I think that’s the way to go with this skirt. Non-stretchy braces just don’t seem to work. Which is a shame, because I also have the ‘Jim’ skirt by Ready To Sew on my list but am now reluctant to attempt it in case I end up with the same issue with the straps. There might be a way that I can switch the straps for elastic ones – I’ll have to check out the construction – but in all reality I’m probably gonna pass on by.

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And I guess all this is the reason that I don’t tend to wear skirts much – they just Don’t. Stay. Put. I’ve got such a curve between my hips and waist that waistbands move around incessantly. They always ride up into my armpits, pulling them hem with it. If I wear a shorter skirt, this rapidly becomes a mini skirt as the day goes on, and if I wear a longer skirt to counteract the rising hem, it just drowns me and I look like a child wearing her mum’s skirt. Dresses seem to be ok – I don’t have the same problem with them – but the catch is I’m not really a dress person. I’m very particular about dress style. I’m more of a jeans-and-tshirt kind of girl (which I guess, means I’m a tomboy). It’s taken me a while (okay, like a couple of years) to get the courage up to tackle sewing trousers, but I’ve made a couple now and I’m feeling more confident. I’m hoping that the Dawn jeans will become my staple – they are the Mom jean cut that is oh so comfortable on my large hips but smaller waist. Annnnnd they’d look pretty rad with the rainbow braces too ?

I really wanted to love this skirt. I really did. But the waistband and the braces are just too annoying. And that got me thinking – it’s funny how we’re so critical of our makes, isn’t it? Not so much in the construction sense, but in the fit sense. We expect the things we make to fit our bodies perfectly. If something we buy from a shop doesn’t fit quite right, we can be more likely to shrug it off, because we kind of expect that from something that’s marketed to fit every single body shape out there. But when we make something ourselves, there’s more pressure for it to be the perfect fit. Which is silly really, because there’s no more chance of something handmade fitting straight out of the envelope – with no adjustments – than there is of that store-bought garment fitting. Funnily enough, Millie left a comment on the blog a few days back about ‘standard alterations’ that sewists have to make to patterns to get them to fit – I guess it can be more obvious for the bigger adjustments such as lengthening/shortening, but there’s also more subtle ones like sway back, bicep adjustments (which was the one in question for Millie), rounded back, full stomach… the list goes on.  I know that I’ll usually have to grade between sizes on skirts/trousers (I’ll need a larger size at the hip than at the waist), but it took me a lonnnng time to figure out that I had to do that. I don’t even know why it took me so long, but I’m so glad that I got there in the end. There’s probably a fair few other adjustments that I could do with making as well – especially with shirts (full bust, and Hulk-shoulders adjustment wouldn’t be a bad shout either), but who knows how long it’s gonna take me to figure those out. But it’s cool, it’s all part of the journey. Maybe by the time I’m 40 I’ll have a better idea of fit adjustments that I need ??‍♀️?

Do you make any standard adjustments to patterns that you sew?

Have you made the Madeleine skirt, or similar garment with braces? Did they work for you?

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**The supplies for this make were provided to me free of charge by Minerva Crafts, but I’m super-opinionated so all words are defo my own and believe me you’ll know about it when I think something is rubbish ? **

Next week on the blog is something you’re not gonna want to miss… I made an outfit for a friend’s Indian wedding, and it’s a massive colour fest ?

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  1. Romy
    April 28, 2019 / 7:27 am

    I love the skirt, looks like the kind of staple I always think I should make but never get round to. And I’m with you on annoying braces, I made the Pippi Pinafore and those straps stick out loads at the back, although they clip higher up on the front so it’s not so noticeable. I usually shorten skirts as they’re drafted for someone about 5’11” I think ? I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that I should do an FBA although as a C cup I find this annoying and am still in denial because I can’t really be bothered to learn how to do it, but maybe this year I’ll finally bite the bullet and see how it goes ?‍♀️ Im excited to see you let Dawn jeans, they’re next on my list too 🙂

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 8:21 am

      Hey Romy! Haha… you sound EXACTLY like me – I think I really *should* do an FBA but I can’t muster the effort to learn it ? I think I’m gonna stay away from the braces now… the skirt will be donated to a new home most probably. I’ve made the Dawn jeans now – they’re pretty good although I must have really big thighs in relation to my hip measurement because the legs are tiggggghhhhht ?

  2. Bren Holmes
    April 28, 2019 / 10:32 am

    Like you, I loathe anything I have to keep fiddling with, so I avoid thin straps, ties, braces and the like. I always have to grade between sizes, as my bust is a bit larger than my hips and my waist isn’t as small as it ‘should’ be for my dress size. It used to be, but not now I’m in my sixties. Armscyes never seem to be quite right, either. Somehow, the width across my upper chest, doesn’t match the size of my bust, so necks sometimes need adjustment, too, especially if a deeper scoop or a v neck. I must have a most peculiar body shape! However, I shall persevere and make myself a Sallie jumpsuit and maxidress for the summer. Happy sewing.

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 8:23 am

      Hi Bren! I’m with you on the armscyes… I always find these to be WAY too deep! And I seem to have a massive ‘upper’ chest too, as stuff is always tight there! ??‍♀️ I guess there’s literally an endless combo of measurements that a person could have! I’ve learned my lesson now and will for sure stay away from fiddly clothing… ain’t nobody got time for that! Ooh I love a good maxi dress… which pattern are you going to use?

  3. April 28, 2019 / 11:31 am

    Re: the braces – I think they look great, but I’m totally with you with the whole annoying slipping off the shoulder thing. My first advice was going to be to cross them over at the back to take up the slack, but it looks like you’ve already tried that. I have really narrow shoulders and swimming costumes drive me mad because the straps fall off constantly and there are so many styles I can’t wear, unless the straps cross at the back. I have a couple of pairs of dungarees and I get away with them because they have those adjustment bars (don’t ask me what they’re called!) Like you have on a bra strap to adjust the fit. But I’m with you regarding elastic braces being better – my baby son (aged 1) has braces with one of his pairs of trousers and first they’re elastic, but second at the back there are multiples button holes, so you can alter the fit. So there you go – that’s my ideas about getting a better fit.

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 10:07 am

      Yep, the pattern is written for them to cross over at the back, but they still keep slipping off. ALL. THE. TIME. And there’s even three different buttonholes on the back like you mention, and I wear them on the tightest. I just don’t think they are meant for me!! ? I’ll probably stay away from patterns like that now, lesson learned. Haha I know what you mean about the adjustment bars, I think they are just called ‘sliders’? ? that’s what I call them anyway ?
      Elastic braces all the way from now on.

  4. April 28, 2019 / 1:24 pm

    I love your skirt too but I am totally on side with you for LOW maintenance clothing! Definitely won’t get worn if after its first real wear, I’ve been fiddling/pulling/yanking at it somewhere. With my 64 yr old size F girls I’ve been shying away from straps of any kind across my bust for the past 50 yrs. I always have to do an FBA, FSA and check the lengths since I’m 5’8″. What a fun weekend you and the husband had! I love having days like those 🙂

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 10:08 am

      I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one with a zero tolerance policy on fiddly clothing!! ?? The skirt is going to be gifted to a new home, I think, as if I’m realllly honest I won’t be reaching for it in the mornings when it’s dressing time. Those straps just put me off, and they are the reason I made it! I might try it on with my rainbow elastic braces, just to give it one last chance, but it’s not looking hopeful…

  5. Susan Ashworth
    April 28, 2019 / 3:40 pm

    I always end up with extra fabric in the front neckline. I have done a spectacularly unsuccessful adjustment as well as a moderately successful adjustment. It’s a journey, like everything else. I really want to know what foot you us to attach the bias tape.

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 10:10 am

      Haha, totally agree that it’s a journey! I’ve made some really bad hash ups along the way, but at least they have been ‘learnings’ for the next attempt. I just use my normal sewing foot to attach the binding – nothing fancy!

  6. Rebecca in SoCal
    April 29, 2019 / 5:10 am

    I, too, was going to suggest crossing the straps in back, until I saw that was done. Perhaps in the future you could put elastic inside the braces. That doesn’t help with this skirt that should be such a good staple in your wardrobe! Also, I wonder if elastic would make the skirt ride up, but you have used elastic before and know how it would work.

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 10:11 am

      Yeah, I’ve tried everything with these straps. Crossing ‘em over, putting them on the tightest of the three buttonholes at the back – NOTHING works. I just don’t think they are meant for me (or meant for people with boobs). I think elastic is definitely the way to go… whether that’s making elastic braces myself or cheating and buying the ready made ones!! ??

  7. April 29, 2019 / 9:35 am

    I’d cut the straps down to tabs and insert a black elastic – It could work? Looks great though. I really love the rainbow braces too!
    I hear you about the fitting issues… I always seem to get an ok fit, but there’s always something! I’m working (slowly!) on that!

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 10:13 am

      I defo think elastic is the way to go here, though I’m also wondering whether boobs are an issue ???‍♀️? I don’t wear my rainbow braces enough, I really should dig them out and find ways to incorporate them into daily wear more often!

  8. April 29, 2019 / 10:57 am

    nice skirt- meh on braces for me. I’m afraid they don’t work well with boobs, obvious reasons lol The elastic ones are more sensible. My missus has several pairs which she likes to wear punk style, ie just hanging down! She has the cools lol

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 5:31 pm

      Yeah, I don’t think they work so well with boobs lol. Elastic would have been a FAR better choice – or even braces that are fixed together at centre-back height, so at least they can’t fall ALL the way off the shoulders. I could have put a snap or something I suppose between the straps to help keep them together, but meh. I’m over them now lol.
      Not sure I could cope with leaving them hanging down… would probably trip on them or something and break my neck lol ?

  9. April 29, 2019 / 12:18 pm

    Pippi was on my list to try, but it sounds like I might have an issue! I had a problem with one of my Cleo’s gaping at the back, still don’t know why (and the Cleo allows for fudging a bit since you can sew the buttons on the straps to the length you choose, but I guess the dress itself rides up a bit with movement ?)

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 5:33 pm

      I think I’m just gonna call it quits with straps now lol… I’m done. The Madeleine skirt rides up as well as you wear it… the whole thing is just a bit of a fitting nightmare! Lesson learned, I’ll move on to other patterns!

  10. April 29, 2019 / 12:25 pm

    I AM INTERNET FAMOUS! Hehe thanks for mentioning me. It’s taken me at least 2 years of clothes sewing to realise that we shouldn’t expect our bodies to fit a pattern without some adjustment. We’re so used to just expecting a “one kind fits all” process. Someone commented to me recently that up until a century or so ago, everyone’s clothes were tailored, since that’s how you made clothes!! MIND BLOWN ?

    I did my adjustments to my blazer pattern yesterday, and it wasn’t as traumatic as I was expecting ?

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 5:35 pm

      Haha ?? It just goes to show though, how us normal folk can have issues with patterns that are apparently made for average ish bodies ??‍♀️ But then I guess there is no ‘average’, so we will all have to make adjustments one way or another. I’m finding with more and more patterns that I should have made a sway back adjustment – jeans especially, and on my Kielo dresses too (fabric bunching at the back). Guess I’m just gonna have to bite the bullet on that one and do it…
      YAY for successful blazer adjustments! Woooooo! ??????

  11. Barbara
    April 29, 2019 / 8:44 pm

    I haven’t made anything with brace style straps, except two Cleo pinafore dresses and I don’t think this counts because there is not enough loose strap to stray- at least they do not budge an inch whatever the activity when I am wearing them, so I don’t have personal experience of brace straying but I was wondering if sewing something at the shoulder to the reverse side of the strap that has a bit of “Grip” might help, for example a piece of velvet ribbon with a high pile. Having written this I have just thought that this might help with my own wandering waistband problem- it doesn’t go up and down, like yours, but round and round as I walk so I sometimes end up with the front of my skirt at the back. You may say that I should make the waistband tighter but I need to leave a little slack so I can breathe. Any suggestions on resolving this problem are welcome.

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 5:39 pm

      Hi Barbara! Ah, yes that velvet is actually a good idea – as I was writing a response to another comment just now I also thought about putting a press stud in between the straps where they cross over at the back as well – that way there wouldn’t be as much ‘slack’ to fall down.
      The travelling waistband problem you’re having I’ve always found to be a result of the skirt being too tight at the hip – so each time you move your leg to walk, the skirt gets pushed round. Perhaps grading to a larger size at the hip might help, and definitely sew a lining (or wear a slip) to help as well ☺️

  12. Barbara
    May 1, 2019 / 8:35 am

    I have had second thoughts to my comment on 29 April about the straps as a result of seeing the back of a workman’s dungarees yesterday. At the back of the garment the bottom 5inches or so of the strap, where the strap meets the body of the dungaree had elastic stitched down the middle. You could not see the elastic, this was either elastic placed inside the strap or placed at the back of the strap and then secured by stitching down the middle of the elastic thus ruching the strap and allow it to contract and expand in length as you move. I have used elasticated ruching as a design feature but, if you were to put some black elastic at the back of the straps and stitch it on with black thread, I think it would not be that obvious.
    Have I explained this clearly enough? I am so bad at describing things.

    • Sarah
      May 18, 2019 / 5:41 pm

      Ahaaaa – no this is perfectly clear, thank you! I totally get what you mean. I think elastic is DEFINITELY the way to go with these straps, otherwise when you think about it there’s no wearing ease at all! I’m glad I’m not the only one that looks at other people’s clothing to see how it’s made ?

  13. Jen
    April 3, 2020 / 5:32 am

    I know I’m really late to the party here but anyway… I’ve seen some patterns where at the point where the straps cross over, the inner side of the outer strap has something like a belt loop sewn on to it, and the inner strap passes through it. I think it prevents the crossover point from shifting too far down your back, so the above crossover part of the straps never gets long enough to slip off your shoulders. Hope this makes sense. I haven’t tried it myself, but it might help here, and would be a pretty simple fix

    • Sarah
      April 4, 2020 / 9:11 am

      Hi Jen!
      Ah, yes this actually makes perfect sense! I wish I’d have thought of that 🤦🏻‍♀️
      I’ll definitely keep that in mind for future makes – I really like the Ready To Sew ‘Jim’ pattern, but after the fiasco with the straps on this skirt, I was put off making it. Now with your suggestion, I think I could reconsider it 🙌🏻

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