So I’ve officially found a wardrobe-builder pattern – the Republique Du Chiffon Charlotte skirt. It’s quick to make, It fits me just how I like skirts to fit (ie actually fits at the waist and doesn’t ride up when I walk), it doesn’t use too much fabric (just over a metre of 60″ wide fabric) and it looks fab. To be honest, something this simple to make shouldn’t look this good! I’m using it as a winter staple, making it from wools, tweeds, plaids and coatings – I’m not yet sure whether I will make it for the summer from lighter weight fabrics… let’s see. I feel like this is a winter skirt pattern rather than a summer one – the thicker fabrics really work well with it, and it needs that structure to sit right. It wouldn’t look the same made from a lightweight lawn. I’d actually love to make one from a proper lairy vintage corduroy, maybe even a reclaimed curtain – how fab would that look?!
I bought this plaid fabric from Holland and Sherry at the Great British Sewing Bee show – their stall there was AMAZING and I bought *so* much! They had so many beautiful fabrics, I hope they are at next year’s Sewing Bee show too… I better start saving now though as I don’t think I’ve ever bought so much from one seller before! On the Sewing Bee website it says that tickets for 2018 will be available soon… anyone know any details? Will it still be held at the Excel? Or somewhere bigger?? I want to knowwwwww!
In 2018, I’ll be replacing my annual trip to the Knitting and Stitching show with the Sewing Bee – this was a hard decision to make, as I’ve been going to the K&S show at Ally Pally every year since I was a little girl. Over recent years I’ve found that it’s lost its way and has become over-diluted with too many crafts, and that’s my main reason for ditching it. That’s the long and short of it anyway – my full review of the Autumn 2017 show is here if you’re interested in the full story (and the Sewing Bee one here) but I’m so glad we finally have a decent dressmaking event in the UK. I suspect my bank account is less glad, however.
This plaid fabric that I’ve chosen for the skirt is 100% wool, and quite heavy – it would have made a lovely coat, but most of the pieces being sold at the show were remnants around 1m long so sadly not enough to make an entire coat with. Plaid is not something that features too much in my current wardrobe, but I’m gradually introducing more. I have a Deer and Doe Bruyere shirt in the works using a plaid fabric, I’m halfway through but a little concerned it’s not going to look that good on me when it’s done… we’ll see. Back to the skirt – the retail price of this fabric was £65 a metre but I snaffled this piece for just £15! Its sort of textured… well, “wooly” would be the best way to describe it I suppose, though I guess that’s kind of obvious because it’s made of wool… It’s too rough to have next to the skin, let’s leave it at that. For this reason I added a lining to the skirt – the pattern isn’t written with a lining but it’s super easy to add one, I just cut the skirt pieces again from the lining fabric, but an inch or so shorter. Then I pieced the lining together in exactly the same way as the skirt, and attached it at the waistband.
As there’s a plaid pattern to the fabric, I tried my hardest to pattern match across all the seams – and I’ve nailed it on the body of the skirt, go me! (pro tip: use a walking foot to keep both layers where you want them to be – otherwise the top layer will shift and your lines won’t match up by the time you get to the end of the seam). I did a little happy dance when I pieced the main panels together and stood back to admire, but when I attached the waistband… the music was turned off and the dancing stopped. It seemed I had forgotten to pay attention to pattern matching centre front of the waistband to centre front of the skirt. Poop. Ah well, at least I managed to match most of it, and I’m a firm believer that making mistakes is the best way to learn… so hopefully next time I won’t forget!
The fabric is pretty thick, and began to fray quite easily. I overlocked all the edges and used my tailor’s clapper to press down the seams after sewing – this helped no end with improving the finished result, and if you don’t currently have a clapper I *SERIOUSLY* recommend you invest. I only bought mine a few months back (it was about a tenner) but I don’t know how I lived without one before! Some fabrics are a little bit unwieldy and a clapper (teamed with a steam iron) helps keep things nice and flat where they should be.
Confession: I didn’t pre-wash the fabric. I know, I know, the first rule of sewing is that you pre-wash your fabric. I don’t envision that the skirt will need washing *too* much but when it is bath-time I will either wash it by hand or chuck it in the machine with the rest of the woollens. Now before you gasp – if you’re going to put something in the machine you MUST MUST MUST put it in on a COLD cycle with no spin (and a detergent meant for wool). This will minimise – but not eliminate – the chances of it shrinking; heat and agitation are the main catalysts for shrinking wool. These two work together to remove the air pockets in the wool fibres, encouraging the hairs to continually lock into one another – tightening and shrinking in the process. So if you put your nice non-superwash wool jumper in the machine on a 30 degree spin cycle, it’ll come out considerably smaller because you’ve got heat AND agitation: 30 degree water (heat) plus the spin cycle (agitation). But if you use a cold wash without spin, you’ve removed both sides of the equation – no heat and no agitation – and therefore it shouldn’t shrink. I say *shouldn’t* because you never know, but I’ve never had anything dry cleaned in my life and anything wool or silk always goes in my machine. My coat gets washed in the bathtub and then hung to drip dry (yep, really). Over the course of about 10 years I’ve only shrunk one jumper (my fault, I forget to set the machine to ‘cold’) and one of the hubbo’s Jack Wills knits seemed to lose about an inch of length from the sleeves and the body when I cold washed it one time. I’ve still no idea what happened there, and your mileage may vary so do test a few things before you go machine washing with wild abandon. If your life would literally be ruined if the item shrank, I’d maybe not risk it.
(As a side note, I do prefer putting the garments in the machine over hand washing them because they also get a proper clean that way – my hand washing standards are pretty shocking and I hate doing it anyway.)
So back to this fabulous skirt pattern… you may have seen the first one I made on the blog a few weeks back – check it out here if you missed it. There’s also some tips on that post which will help you with the French instructions (yep, it’s not in English) and more detail of the process of adding a lining. There’s three lengths included within the pattern, this skirt is the middle length – the shortest version is WAYYYY short and unless you’re less than 5 foot tall I’d say you’re definitely heading into indecent territory with this length. Well, your standards might be different to mine but I don’t like to wear clothes that I have to think about – I don’t want to wear skirts that are so short that I have to remember not to bend over, or tops that barely cover boobage so I can’t run for the bus without giving the world an eyeful. I like low-maintenance clothes, and this skirt defo ticks the box.
The skirt design as written includes pockets on the front, but as with the last version I made I’ve left them off again. I felt that the wool fabric was just too thick to add another layer to on the front, without making the skirt look really bulky. Plus I kind of prefer the cleaner lines of not having them. I hemmed the skirt with an old-gold satin bias tape that I had lying around that goes *perfectly* with the plaid – I think it has spent its life waiting for me to make this skirt so It can fulfil its destiny.
The skirt closes with an invisible zip at the back, and if you read my previous Charlotte Skirt post you’ll know that I use a slightly longer zip than the pattern specifies because otherwise I can’t get it over my bum. Yep, true story. I really tried my best to pattern match across the zip, but I did it twice and it’s still a couple of millimetres out. I couldn’t be bothered to do it a third time, life’s too short. I did at least manage to get it level at the waistband seam – I always sew one side of the zip down, close the zip and mark the seam line on the unsewn side of the zip. Then I make sure to match this line with the seamline before sewing the other side down.
I’m wearing this skirt with my favourite hand-knitted jumper – the Peabody by Leila Raabe. Yep, I’m a knitter too. I knitted this a few years back while I was visiting Lake Bled, it was my project for the plane journey and also for chillaxing in the evenings with. It is made with ‘Shelter’ by Brooklyn Tweed in the Embers colourway – at £12.50 per hank it definitely ain’t cheap but I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it again. It’s a US brand, but if you’re in the UK you can get it from Loop Knitting rather than risking getting clobbered with the good ol’ customs charges and £8 Royal Mail ‘processing fee’ for basically sending you a piece of paper asking you to collect your item and pay the VAT. Ohhh how I grudge that £8 fee.
Shelter is a ‘proper’ wool – rustic, tweedy, and probably best to layer over something rather than wear next to the skin. But if it’s cold enough to bust out the proper jumpers it’s cold enough for layering. I wish I had more time for knitting… I so enjoy it. I have too many hobbies and too little time! I basically want to not work but still be paid my salary, and spend all my time crafting… we all need to have a dream right?
I can’t stop/won’t stop making these skirts, and I’m already working on another one made from a 1m remnant of cashmere (CASHMERE!) that I also scored from Holland and Sherry at the GBSB (yep, I’ll be a walking advert for them soon). It’s so luxurious! I’m also still TOTALLY in love with this vintage tooled bag I scored off eBay a few months back ???
Beautiful backdrop is courtesy of Greenwich Park in London, and it always makes me think of the lyrical genius of The Mamas and The Papas: all the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey. I’ve been for a walk, on a winter’s day. The 60’s had the best fashion *and* the best music, amiright?
Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… a look back at my first year of blogging. Wanderstitch is turning 1! ? Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!