It’s my absolute life dream to live in New York City. I’m not totally sure of the exact reason why. There’s something about the city, the buzz, the diversity, the city lights, the atmosphere. It’s beautiful. I’ve been there twice, and both times I was absolutely in awe. I loved every minute – it felt like the mothership had called me home. I’m planning another trip there next year, which I am ridiculously excited about, and I’m going to go with an empty suitcase and hit up every single fabric shop I can find. Expect to see a selfie of me with Swatch (the resident dog at Mood Fabrics, if you’re unfamiliar) on Instagram.
Before we begin, let me just say that I actually made this skirt last year, but it’s only making its way to the blog now for reasons that will become clear as you read on.
When I saw this fabric that I’ve made this skirt from, I just knew that I. Had. To. Have. It. It reminded me so much of the NYC skyline. (It’s not actually though. I mean, there’s no Chrysler Building or Empire State. Is it even representative of a real place? If you know where, do tell me. Though if it’s like, Shanghai or somewhere, that news will shatter the title of this blog post. So I might choose to ignore it).
I always seem to be about four years behind the releases of cool fabrics, and by the time I discover these prints that I simply must have in my life it becomes a mammoth task to scour the internet to try to find somewhere that still has some left. The only places that I could find that still had any of this particular fabric in stock were in the USA – which is always the case (England is rubbish… sad face), and yet another reason supporting the argument that I should move Stateside. Just think how much money I would save on shipping costs! I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about this fabric if I didn’t buy it so I added two yards of it to my cart, hitting ‘complete purchase’ before I had a chance to look at the small fortune that was probably being charged for delivery, and instead concentrated on how awesome it would be once it arrived.
The fabric is by Alexander Henry, part of the ‘Nicole’s Prints’ collection. Unsurprisingly, it’s called ‘Big City’. It features a large-scale city skyline that runs along one selvedge, with pink at the bottom and mint green at the top. Because of the size of the buildings, you’re sort of limited in what you can do with it as the print reaches over a large portion of the width of the fabric. In the end I decided that I wanted to make a skirt, with the buildings reaching upwards towards the waistband. I did consider making a dress, but I wasn’t convinced that the plain green section of the fabric was wide enough to fit a bodice on. Also I didn’t think the mint green would look too good against the skin tone of my face, as it’s not a colour I normally wear. My preference is for bold, warm colours – you will only very rarely catch me in pastels.
So skirt it was. But what style? I didn’t want to lose too much of the top of the buildings in gathers, and I couldn’t cut the fabric on the bias because all the buildings would have looked totally trippy like a scene out of Inception or Doctor Strange. I did briefly think about a pencil skirt, but the fabric doesn’t have any stretch (it’s a quilting cotton) and I had visions of my thighs and bum bringing an embarrassing end to the life of the side and back seams. In the end, the Chardon skirt by Deer and Doe came to mind.
It’s a pretty simple skirt, that comes in two versions. I’ve made one previously (again from Alexander Henry fabric – can you tell I’m obsessed?) from the fabric ‘Zen Charmer’. I’ve also made this Alexander Henry dress and this one too… I just love all the prints ?
You get two variations in the pattern envelope – A, with belt loops, and B with no belt loops but with a hem band. You get sizes 34 to 46, and with a difficulty rating of 2/5 this is beginner-friendly – the trickiest bit is the zip closure.
Both of the Chardon designs feature pockets, which I included on my Zen Charmer skirt but have left out for this one. Because ironing. The pockets seemed like a cool novelty on the first skirt, but I soon found that with pockets in skirts you actually have to iron them otherwise the pocket lining crumples up in the wash and then gives you odd lumps and bumps on your hips when you wear it. I really don’t need extra padding on my hips, thank you, so I’ll pass on the pockets and use my backpack instead.
I was really happy with the fit of the Zen Charmer Chardon I made, but the waistband was a little bit floppy. This time I used a heavier, iron-on interfacing in this waistband and the results are better – however it does feel unnaturally firm. I don’t use iron on interfacing any more, always sew- in, because it doesn’t give the fabric such an odd feeling. Also, after iron-on interfacing has been through the wash a few times, sometimes the glue can degrade or come unstuck leaving you with weird bubbles on the outside of the fabric. Not cool. Yes, sew in does take a little longer – I too have been lured in by the quickness of just running an iron over the interfacing and being done with it – but it really does give a better finish. And you’re not left with any annoying leftover glue on your iron or ironing board – which inevitably ends up right on the front of the silk blouse you’re trying to iron in a rush because you’re late for work and it’s the only good top you have that’s not in the wash.
My method for sew-in interfacing is to cut out the pieces from the interfacing and the fabric and then baste the two together about 5mm from the edge with the basting stitch on my machine. My last machine, which was from the dark ages, didn’t have a basting stitch so I basted the pieces by hand using a long running stitch. I did this for the many pieces required for an entire coat, before I got my new machine, and it took ages. But it was worth it for the results. If you currently use iron-on for your clothes (especially shirt collars and cuffs), give sew-in a try. You’ll love it. Promise.
I have used my trusty combination of chunky gold exposed zip here, but I’ve decided that it was the wrong choice for this skirt. I don’t like the way the zip stands out (which is something I almost *never* say – you can never be too loud). I like the look of the gold teeth but I think the black zip tape is just a little too harsh against the mint green, and it kind of clashes with the pattern on the fabric and takes the focus away from the cool buildings. This isn’t helped by the fact that I’ve cut the ‘hole’ for the zip too wide and I’m exposing too much of the tape. What I think I will do is remove the exposed zip and replace it with an invisible one – that way, the focus of the skirt will be the buildings, as intended, and not the zip. It seems that there’s a time and a place for my beloved chunky gold zips, and it isn’t here.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at the mint green binding around the hem, and I’ve decided that I don’t like it. I’m also considering shortening the skirt by a few inches – I made it the length it is in order to get some of the little pink border at the bottom, but now I’m thinking that I’m not so keen on it and it would look better cut off somewhere heading towards the bottom of the buildings. I’ll still use bias tape on the hem, but I’ll flip it to the inside so it’s hidden.
Another strike against this skirt is the fact that I struggle big time to find what to wear with it – the mint green waistband is so bright that nothing I pair with it looks right. The skirt is pretty long how it is (an unflattering length if I’m honest) so I’ve got a little bit of wiggle room to play with – I’m going to chop some of the green off at the top and see if I can reduce the overall green-ness of the skirt in the hope that this helps balance it out. I never, NEVER wear light colours on my bottom half and I’m assuming that this is what’s causing the drama.
Its one of those situations where I’m totally in love with the fabric, but not with the skirt that I’ve made from it. I can’t bear to have something made with this fabric that I don’t want to wear, so I will pick it apart and transform it. I’m going to try adding a contrasting darker purple waistband (colour matching with the darkest purple of the tall building) to see if this helps with finding tops to wear with it. I’ll also take a few inches off the bottom, and remove the bias tape from the hem. And add an invisible zip. Hopefully this will make the skirt more wearable for me, because it makes me sad to see it hanging on my clothes rail like the poor unlucky dog at the shelter that keeps getting passed on by.
So for now, enjoy the skirt in its first life – soon it will be refashioned and reborn!
Coming up next week on the blog… my #sewtogetherforsummer Pauline Alice Cami Shirt Dress in a peacock print cotton lawn ? Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!