The Return Trip To New York Skirt

It was love at first sight for me and this fabric. The pinks, the greens, the skyline… I had all the heart eyes for it. So much so that I had it shipped over to the little ol’ UK from the US of A, which was the only place I could find that had some left in stock.

After it arrived, I deliberated for ages over what to make with it as it was such a beautiful fabric. I absolutely did not want to make the wrong choice as more of this fabric could not be found – I had one shot. Should I make a dress? A skirt? I’d had previous success with the Chardon pattern by Deer and Doe, and when I finally made the decision that I wanted to make a skirt with this fabric, this pattern seemed the obvious choice.

Turns out, you can have too much of a good thing.

I made the Chardon, knowing already that the fit was good and wouldn’t need any adjustments. I threw myself into it with wild abandon and excitement for the eventual first wearing.

But when I put the fresh-off-the-machine finished item on, I was considerably underwhelmed. How had this beautiful fabric turned in to something so ‘meh’? It was an awesome print, and a tried-and-tested pattern. Where did I go wrong?

At a few places, it turns out.


The finished skirt sat in my wardrobe for a little while, sad and unloved. But then, inspired by Song of The Sewing Machine and her awesome refashionings and rejuvenations, I decided that I owed it to the fabric to make it in to something worthy that would be loved.

Refashioning a handmade item was something I’d never done. Previously, if I was unhappy with something I had made it was usually first and foremost because I’d used the wrong fabric – and obviously going over it again doesn’t change the fabric, your only option is to start again with something else. Without a better idea of where I should begin, I critically assessed the skirt for its failings and a plan was devised for rectifying them. It then went third-wheeling on a date with the scissors and seam ripper.

As the buildings were quite tall, in the first life of the skirt I increased the length in order to fit the entire skyline in. Looking back, this wasn’t the best move, as the length wasn’t flattering on me. I didn’t want to follow the standard length as intended by the pattern, as this meant I would have to cut into the buildings (the pretty, pretty buildings 😍), but I should have just took the plunge and done it. Better late than never, on the second time around I braved it and chopped into both the top AND the bottom, shortening the skirt to the correct length. *much* better. I’ve lost the top of the very tallest buildings but I’m cool with that (now).

On the original skirt, I went with the tried-and-tested exposed zip modification (instead of the invisible zip as the pattern recommends), but the black was too harsh against the mint green of the skirt and it looked a little bit weird and obvious next to the print of the skirt. I also got a little bit too keen on the ‘exposing’ and cut the zip opening too wide, so too much black zip tape was showing. I ripped out the zip to replace it with an invisible one, but as I had cut away some of the fabric to make the opening for the exposed panel,  I had to recoup this lost couple of centimetres by letting out two of the pleats on the back of the skirt to get back to the same size waistband. the zip isn’t *quite* invisible, partly because the waistband is so thick with layers (it’s interfaced) and partly because I really should have used a green zip not a purple one. But I didn’t have a green one so I went with what seemed like the next best option. At least it’s still a huge improvement on the exposed zip.

On a side note, I’ve been having real trouble lately with invisible zips. One has broke on me, and another two (at least) are playing games that im really not enjoying. Why recommend an invisible zip for patterns that have a lot of layers at the zip opening? There’s just too much bulk for the zip to close smoothly, or actually look invisible. Even with seam allowances trimmed to the bare minimum, there’s still too much bulk and the zip struggles. I’m currently working on an evening dress with an invisible zip, and it’s the worst thing ever. I’ve had to move the seam away from the teeth ever so slightly (in order to give a bit more room for the zip to slide) but of course this compromises the zips ‘invisible’ status and therefore defeats the whole point.  I’ve made the decision that invisible zips are useless on anything thicker than cotton lawn and will probably just use a regular zip on skirts from now on.

The bias bound hem looked so good on my other Chardon, and I followed suit on this one – but it just looked odd. I think it was partly because the green bias tape wasn’t a perfect match to the green of the skirt, and it made it look a bit, well, home-made. Not HANDmade, but HOMEmade. So I lopped this off too, and just used a regular hem with bias tape on the inside.

Yet another problem I was having with the skirt (this is a long list – I did warn you there were a lot of issues) was this big fat light green waistband. I stick to darker colours, and to have this massive section of a colour I wouldn’t normally wear right around my waist wasn’t good. I struggled to find what to wear it with – all my dark tops made the green look even lighter, or totally clashed with it, and I didn’t want to wear a lighter coloured top with it as 1. I don’t have any, and 2. I don’t want to wear lighter coloured tops.

In the end I decided that the skirt needed to have a contrast waistband – I initally decided on a dark burgundy colour that featured in many of the buildings and ordered half a metre of the corresponding colour from the Kona solids quilting fabric range. When it arrived, I placed it next to the mint green of the fabric and was instantly disappointed. It didn’t look good. Then I remembered a piece of bright pink fabric I had bought previously, and laid it over the fabric. Yes. Winning.

The original pleats were sewn together at the top for about 3 inches of length, to form the ‘waistband’. As I was now adding my own waistband, I removed the inner facing and chopped down the top of the skirt. I wanted my new pink waistband to finish at the point where the stitching finished and the pleats fanned out on their own. As I didn’t have enough of the pink fabric to cut the outer waistband AND the facing as two separate pieces, I had to cut it as one and fold it over at the top. Not the traditional method, and it made getting the zip in a little bit awkward (though not impossible – obvs), but it worked.

I’m now so much happier with the skirt. It’s the right length, and the pink waistband makes me love it a whole lot more because it breaks up that mint green (and it’s pink – if you know me, you know I love pink). I can now wear this with a wider colour range of tops because it’s so much easier to find things that go with the pink rather than the green waistband.

Sewing is very much a learning curve, and it’s only through making and trying things out that we learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s very easy to be drawn to the pretty fabrics that look good on the roll or shelf, but don’t fit in with our skin tone, other clothes, or hair colour. There’s so much choice out there in fabrics and sewing patterns, and it’s not easy to stay focussed on or even find the things that will suit your style. It’s also disappointing to spend time and money making things that in the end, we don’t really like. But don’t be put off by this – both newbies and experienced sewists need to go through this process in order to find out what DOES work, and build on that with every project.

Have you ever refashioned something you’ve made, that didn’t turn out the way you hoped? How did you decide on the modifications to make? Tell me your stories!

Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… the real-deal Seamwork Catarina, after the trial run Aztec version 😍 Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!


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  1. August 20, 2017 / 10:51 am

    Love it. I have many re-modelled pieces…or rather, things that aren’t quite right sitting in the Crate of Shame. I’m blogging about them right now as it happens!

    • Sarah
      August 21, 2017 / 8:14 am

      Haha the crate of shame!! That’s brilliant. I will defo head on over to read more about this! Kudos to you for tackling them – I think I would just get lured away by the pretty new fabrics and new patterns, and these ‘meh’ things would just sit in the Crate of Shame for the rest of time… 🙂

  2. Celia
    August 20, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    Much prefer your new version! Even though I do like binding on hems, etc, and exposed zips, I agree that your ‘skyline’ skirt looks better without. The colours of your complete outfit look fabulous, and I have shoe envy again!

    • Sarah
      August 21, 2017 / 8:13 am

      Thank you Celia! I too love exposed zips, but I do just think it looked weird on this skirt. I think maybe because I don’t usually make things out of light colours, the black of the zip was so dark and harsh that it just didn’t fit in. I would normally make a darker skirt where this wouldn’t be a problem… live and learn hey! I love it so much more now and will definitely get more wear out of it how it is now. Ahh yes those shoes… I got them off ebay for an absolute bargain price of £5 – had to snap them up as they were a perfect match to the skirt!! 🙂

  3. FRancine Shea
    August 20, 2017 / 10:03 pm

    Beautiful. What is the name of the fabric.

    • Sarah
      August 21, 2017 / 8:06 am

      Hi Francine, the name of the fabric is ‘Big City’ and it’s part of the ‘Nicole’s Prints’ collection from Alexander Henry 🙂

  4. Carmel
    August 21, 2017 / 4:28 am

    Love the modifications…and those shoes!! Yum!

    • Sarah
      August 21, 2017 / 8:09 am

      Thanks Carmel! Haha those shoes were a £5 ebay bargain… I was so happy to find them as they are a perfect match to the skirt! I much prefer the skirt now, I think it’s the pink waistband that’s had the most effect 🙂

  5. August 21, 2017 / 6:47 am

    love it, love the shoes – looks great with your hair and ink too ;o)

    • Sarah
      August 21, 2017 / 8:10 am

      Thank you Colette! Really pleased to spot those shoes on eBay for £5 – I had at the time just finished the skirt, and they were a perfect match! I’m much more happy with the skirt in it’s second life, it’s a better length and also I love that pink waistband! 🙂

  6. August 21, 2017 / 12:33 pm

    Love the refreshened. I think the contrast waistband is a nice improvement!
    ….and amazing shoes!!

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