Leaves are falling, Winter is calling

Well, that’s Autumn pretty much over for another year. Those few weeks where the leaves turn beautiful shades of gold and red are my favourite time of the year – I wish that these colours lasted as long as summer or winter lasts 🙁 Oh well.

Seoul, South Korea [Autumn 2010]
Autumn sewing is my favourite – the colours, the cosy fabrics. Each year I’m adding more and more to my wardrobe, in the colours that I love and suit me the best. Since I started sewing, I’ve paid more attention to not only the colour but also the fit of the RTW clothes that I already own – and there’s several items that I love, but now realise that they are not actually flattering on my shape. Sad face.

I’ve got shirts that are too tight at the shoulders and bust, but fit everywhere else. I’ve got skirts that sit too low on the waist, and pencil skirts that are way too tight at the hips but too baggy at the waist. I have one (ONE) pair of jeans that fit my legs and (just about) acceptably fit my waist. It’s been a real eye-opener to discover that most of my pre-sewing wardrobe actually doesn’t really fit me at all, and I fear that some (most?) of the items are going to be destined for either the charity shop or refashioning (if I genuinely think I will get around to it though… I say these things with good intention but then when it actually comes down to it I’m just like ‘meh’ and sew something else with pretty fabric that doesn’t require unpicking before I’ve even started. Anyone else like that?!).

I’ve slowly been trying to add things to my wardrobe that DO fit me. Each new item I sew is a learning curve – not only with different types of fabrics, or different sewing techniques, but also with how they fit me. And it’s not a success every time. I’ve sewn a few things up only to discover that actually, they don’t really work with my shape. My Alberta Street pencil skirt is lovely, but it’s meant to sit below your natural waist. Which on me means that within five minutes of walking its made its way up to my actual waist and I’m constantly yanking it down. I attempted the Trevi dress – god knows why – I didn’t even finish it because the husband told me it looked like a hospital gown. Which in all fairness, it did. That really cemented for me the mantra of NOT MAKING THINGS THAT DO NOT HAVE WAISTBANDS.

When I find a pattern that fits me well, I’m now making it in every colour. Well, every colour in my red-pink-purple colour palette… I’m on my third Kielo wrap dress (OMG they are amazeballs, I see no sign of stopping making these any time soon), I’ve made Vogue/DKNY V1462 shirt three or four – or maybe five? – times already (and making small adjustments every time – that perfect fit is so close now) and I’m now on my third one of this Republique Du Chiffon Charlotte Skirt. I realise this means there’s a risk of repetitiveness in my wardrobe, but I would rather have a limited range of things that I love and fit me well than loads of stuff where only half of it looks good on me. Hey, it worked for Steve Jobs, it can work for me.

The Charlotte skirt pattern is a 70s-inspired design from Republique Du Chiffon. It’s pdf only, and unfortunately only in French. And seam/hem allowances aren’t included. I realise that none of these things make it particularly appealing, but I love the pattern so much that I’m willing to look past them. My high school French is a bit dodge but I managed to blag my way through the instructions – and there’s always google translate if you get really stuck. It is quite a simple construction though and if you’ve got an idea of how skirts go together then you’ll be fine. Basically the only thing I *really* recommend you do is correctly identify the skirt pieces, because, y’know, it’s important to get the fronts on the front and the backs on the back.

  1. Cote devant = side front
  2. Milieu devant = centre front
  3. Cote dos = side back
  4. Milieu dos = centre back

There was an error in my pattern, telling you to cut pieces 2, 3 and 4 on the fold. The only one you want to cut on the fold is centre front – the rest you need to cut two pieces. It’s bad enough trying to wing your way through a pattern that’s not in your first language let alone trying to spot errors!

I use a Prym parallel tracing wheel to add seam allowances, directly on to the tracing paper rather than the fabric – so that I don’t have to re-add the seam allowances every time I want to make another one (I’m dubbing this as ‘efficiency’ rather than ‘laziness’).  You get three different lengths in the Charlotte pattern – for this skirt I’ve used the middle length template, but not added any hem allowance. The shortest version is *REALLY* short and not for the faint hearted – I probably wear my skirts a little higher that most people (as my natural waist is genuinely in my armpits) and I don’t even think the short version would cover my bum. No one on London transport, streets, or offices needs to be scarred for life by THAT view. For reference, I’m 5’5″, and graded between a size 36 at the waist and a 40 at the hips.

This fabric is a wool blend coating I picked up from Simply Fabrics at the Great British Sewing Bee show – I bought the fabric with a coat in mind, but then couldn’t resist making a skirt with it. I chose it on the assumption that it was a red fabric with black splodges, but it’s totally reversible – the other side is black with red splodges (really? You don’t say). I bought the last three metres that they had, and have only used around one metre for the skirt – possibly under, I didn’t really check – so I still have a good two metres left which I’m hoping to get a matchy-matchy jacket out of, sort of in a Jackie-O matching suit style. I’m thinking the By Hand London Victoria Blazer, but by the time I actually get round to making this my plans may have changed COMPLETELY. Because that’s how I roll.

I used the recommended zip length for the skirt, but a word of warning – If you’ve got big hips (mine are 39 inches) go for a longer zip because otherwise you’re not getting the skirt on. Not from your feet up like a regular skirt, anyway. I needed a longer zip in order to get the opening big enough to get over my hips and bum – I went for 25cm rather than the recommended 22cm. The only way I can wear my toile (with the 22cm zip) is to put it on over my head 😀 Needless to say it doesn’t get worn much.

The pattern for the skirt as written is unlined, but I always prefer a lining in my skirts (especially in winter skirts where I’ll be wearing tights or making the skirt from a wool fabric) so I traced the skirt pattern pieces again from lining fabric – cutting them an inch or so shorter – and mirrored the outer construction for the lining pieces. The only extra thing you then have to do is sew down the lining either side of the zip – it’s really easy to add the lining, I promise.

It’s hemmed with bias tape, to give a nice clean finish – recently I’ve started hemming the linings with bias tape too, because I find it helps me get a straighter line – no matter how nicely I press or how carefully I sew, the lining hem always looks a complete shambles and wobbles about more than a weeble being hit by a kitten.

Why are lining fabrics so horrible? They slip and slide all over the place and fray if you so much as breathe on them. Bias tape gives you a nice little straight line to follow, at an even distance from the edge, and looks proper profesh – no one will know that it’s the easy option 😉

The design includes pockets, and although I put these on the first trial run (made from black wool twill), when I’ve been making the subsequent versions out of heavier wool or coating fabrics I’ve left the pockets off because one – I prefer a cleaner look, and two – I think the seams might be too bulky with all the layers, My stomach is squidgy enough without adding an extra layer of padding to it, thank you.

The Charlotte Skirt is actually a really quick make, and I plan on making lots of them to build up my winter wardrobe – jumper, thick tights and one of these skirts and you’re ready to go. Warm and comfy. Yas.

I’ve paired the skirt here with my snakeskin-textured black knit jumper from & Other Stories, and pre-loved brown leather bag and red leather oxford shoes both scored from eBay. I love a good eBay bargain! Have you ever found something awesome on eBay or in a second hand shop? Tell me your finds!

Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… my first attempt at a wrap dress 😍 Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!

Named Patterns Olivia Wrap Dress


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  1. November 26, 2017 / 9:06 am

    Very nice- and very autumnal. Gotta love red leopard for the win! Lining fabric- I can highly recommend silk/cotton [very reasonably priced on ebay] as a great alternative to the very slippery acetates and polys. It’s cool, smooth to the skin, breathable, and although still very lightweight, not quite as devilish. If you stick with the stuff at hand, spray the fook out of it with starch or [wait for it] hairspray before you sew. It rinses out easily afterwards. I tamed the umpty layers of evil satin, chiffon and poly lining I used for my daughter’s bridesmaids’ dresses with that.
    As for the refashioning- meh. Charity shops, let someone else do the remaking, you have beautiful things to make in interesting fabrics! Now, what shall I make in my astonishingly gorgeous linen crepe?…

    • Sarah
      November 27, 2017 / 8:24 am

      Leopard print is my neutral! I love it in all colours… except brown lol. Pinks, reds, purples and blacks are all a big fat YES but I can’t bring myself to wear brown! Hmmm I will looking into the silk/cotton linings… do you have any recommendations for good sellers? I just HATE slippery linings, they are so bloody shifty! I do have some spray starch so will use that in the meantime. Yeah, I’m not really about the refashioning. I mean, it’s good to give something a new lease of life and all, but I get way too distracted by all the pretty fabrics that I have just waiting for their turn 🙂 Ooh linen crepe? What colour?

  2. November 26, 2017 / 1:15 pm

    Lovely skirt! Just waiting for the winter. I love the red leopard fabric 🙂

    • Sarah
      November 27, 2017 / 8:25 am

      Thank you! I am waiting for the winter too… though judging by the temperatures over the last couple of days it’s already here!!

  3. November 26, 2017 / 8:48 pm

    I definitely identify with your fit philosophy – better to have a few things that fit in multiple colors than have a wide range of things with a wide range of fits, because usually I end up only wearing the things that fit well anyway and the other stuff sits around unworn. It took me 10 years of sewing clothes to realize that just because I like the style of a garment, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will look good on me or suit my build.

    And I’m actually built like you, but shorter: I’m 4’10” with a 26″ waist, 38″ hips, and a very short torso, so I’ve also realized that having skirts that are fitted and don’t sit at the natural waist is insta-fail; constantly having to pull things back into place is a major downer. I tend to prefer flared, drapey skirts though, so that’s how I get around that particular issue. One other thing about waistbands that irritates the hell out of me is how many pants and skirt patterns don’t have them. Yokes and waistbands do wonderful things for fit and shape.

    I’ve also just recently realized that even though I might like the look of wide leg slacks on a 6ft tall, slim-hipped model, that style makes me look like a mobile tree stump. Bootcut/flare is best for balancing my hips and showing off my shape and my (relatively) long legs, so I need to just stick to what actually looks good on me now that I’m aware of what does and what doesn’t. =)

    • Sarah
      November 27, 2017 / 8:31 am

      Ahhh, yes we sound very similar! There’s loads of styles that I see and like, but just because they look nice on that person doesn’t mean they will look nice on me. I think sewing brings these things to your attention, because I never would have considered fit so much when buying RTW clothes in my pre-sewing days. If I liked the colour and the style, I would buy it. That’s why I have things in my wardrobe that don’t get worn… because they don’t fit right 🙁
      OMG tell me about it on the waistbands – I’ve been looking at trouser patterns recently and SO many don’t have waistbands! What is that about?! Unsurprisingly, the skirts and dresses with defined waistbands look better on me. Ahhh it’s funny you should say about wide-legged trousers – I’ve been looking at the new Victory Patterns trouser pattern for about 3 days now. They are high waisted, but with pleats on the front and wide legs. I don’t own any trousers like this (either wide legged or with pleats on the front) and I really want to sew them but can’t make up my mind whether the wide leg will work for me. Or whether the pleats will make my stomach look bigger. I guess there’s only one way to find out… but I’ll be so disappointed if they look awful!!
      At least knowing what suits you increases your success rate with makes – all of them will look fabulous on you! 🙂

  4. November 26, 2017 / 9:14 pm

    Great fit. I see no issue at all with perfecting the fitof a few patterns and then having them in a rainbow of colours, it’s just confirming your core style really! And as you’ve already found you improve the fit with each version. It’s more economical too! Winning! My fave eBay find was a vintage wicker bucket handbag with black leather trim. God I love that thing!

    • Sarah
      November 27, 2017 / 8:36 am

      Thank you! I guess it just feels a little… wrong to be able to sew all the things and then stick to the same pattern over and over! I like to sew different things to learn new techniques and things but there’s no point making 20 different things and only wearing 5 because the rest look hideous on me 🙁 But you’re totally right, it’s more economical and I (hopefully) eventually end up with a perfectly fitting item!
      Ooh, that handbag sounds fantastic! Do you still have it?

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