When I moved to California, I was going through a pretty rough patch. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have a job and was going through a lot health-wise. Little did I know, that desperation of finding something to do would soon enough turn into elevating my self worth.
For about 2 months after moving to the Bay Area, I spent many afternoons walking the streets of my new city. We didn’t have a car yet, so those hours outside doubled as my exercise and in some way, meditation. I didn’t know what the heck I was going to do. I was anxious and had headaches all the time, some days I didn’t even have enough courage to go outside. Depression is an unpredictable beast. But, one topic that kept coming up for me as I was walking past all these stores, was the ethical issues of fashion. After the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, I had become increasingly infatuated with the garment industry. It got to be pretty extreme. Any time before entering a store, I would stand outside the door and google the ethics of the company. And 95% of the time what I read didn’t satisfy me and I would subsequently 1) not enter the store or 2) go in and look at the tags on the clothes to see what country the item was made and imagine the hands that made them. Then it suddenly dawned on me – what if I made my own garments? I had sewn curtains, scarves, bow ties, napkins and other random items, but for some reason never ventured in clothing.
So when our belongings arrived from Canada, I decided I would spend my time sewing. Creating something, anything, was at least a way to show for my time. So I set out to Joanns to look for a pattern. And the rest is history!
When I made the skirt, I wrote down my lessons about the experience, but never posted them. I love reading them now and seeing how far I’ve come in 1 year, even if it’s baby steps. Hope you enjoy some of these learnings as much as I do!
Last winter, I came across this adorable navy print at Joanns and decided it would make a cute skirt. This was a whole new venture and quickly learned that I made it way more complicated than necessary for my first go.
- First, I had NEVER bought or followed a garment pattern before in my life.
- Second, the pattern I chose had pockets (I have a thing for pockets) and an invisible zipper (neither of which I have sewn before).
- Third, the fabric I loved was a little see-through, so I chose to line it (which was the most complicated option in the pattern). FUN TIMES.
Lesson #1: Always take your measurements because not all patterns include all sizes.
I went by my general intuition from shopping at stores that I was probably a size 6 or 8, so I went with that general rule of thumb and bought the Simplicity pattern 8176 in the option that had U.S. sizes 4,6,8,10,12. When I cut out my size in the waistband, I realized that it was TINY and something was wrong.
Ohhhhh, so THAT’S what all those body measurements are for on the back of the pattern (facepalm emoji here). What a newb. How embarrassing. After measuring, I realized that I was probably a size 16… say WHAATTT?!?! I decided to be generous because I didn’t want to cut out the fabric too small. Size 16 was definitely not included in the pattern version I bought. So I did what any DIY make-shift thing you could do and tape paper and essentially increase the size of the pattern to what I would assume to be a size 16. Math skillz y’all.
In the end, I actually found the skirt to fit too big, but thankfully, the hook closure made it forgiving and I just moved it over to sit properly on my waist. Next time, I will make it a size 12 or 14.
Lesson #2: Just buy the silly invisible zipper foot.
I have a Pfaff Ambition 1.0 sewing machine (which I absolutely ADORE by the way and will probably one day write a post about it). Since it’s a German sewing machine and is not quite as common in North America, I have to pay closer attention to presser feet. They aren’t a one size fits all type of thing. Anyways, the Pfaff invisible zipper presser foot was $25, which I thought was insane for a little piece of plastic. I went on Amazon to buy a generic no-name set that was supposed to be compatible with my sewing machine. Long story short, most of the feet didn’t fit right and the quality wasn’t great, so I returned it. Shortly after, my Mom bought me the Pfaff presser foot and it worked like a charm. Thanks Mom!
Lesson #3: Next time, choose more opaque fabric.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the way my skirt feels and I’m pretty impressed with my first go at a lined skirt, or for any skirt for that matter, but going forward, I’m going to try looking for fabric that’s not as see-through. This way, I can speed up the process and focus on perfecting the fit a little easier. Once I master the sizing and have a bit more practice with the pockets and zipper, I’ll try tackling the lined skirt version again.
Lesson #4: “Right sides together” and “Right sides together” can mean completely different things, apparently.
This is my only major complaint about the instructions that came with the pattern. Sometimes they meant the CORRECT sides of the fabric facing together. And sometimes they meant the RIGHT side (as opposed to the left). I found it so confusing and it left me staring at the instructions forever to decipher what I was supposed to do. Maybe it’s also because I’m a beginner, but I felt that there could have been a better way to differentiate those two. Sometimes all I would do in an evening is read the instructions. I made a lot of notes throughout and swapped “right” with “correct” a lot of times.
Overall: I love the pattern, but it can become complicated pretty fast. It’s simple in style, which means I can have a lot of fun with different fabrics and prints. I love that it has pockets and that it’s easy to hem. I definitely spent a really long time making this skirt though – from deciphering the instructions to buying a new presser foot. I bought the fabric from Joann’s, so it’s not the most ethical choice. I still have a lot of fabric from big box stores that I’ll be trying to use up, but going forward I’m going to be more mindful of how I buy fabric.
Pattern: Simplicity 8176, Size 16 (fit was way too large, so I’d go with a 12 or 14 next time)
Material: Silky polyester, probably? I’m still learning about fabric.
The Love is Strong
What I love about this skirt is that it is so imperfect, yet I have worn it more than any other item I have made so far… even for my 30th birthday! I always feel proud wearing my skirt. It’s the best feeling!