Emerald green dirndl skirt

This was one of those unicorn projects where it all comes together exactly like you imagined. Right fabric, right pattern, and the right modifications. How rare is that?

green skirt 2

And as with most great ideas, this skirt is 100% plagiarised.

I first got the idea for a BRIGHT GREEN dirndl from this amazing skirt by blogger Gail of Today’s Agenda. It was love at first sight.

She in turn was inspired by this skirt from a US designer called Emerson Fry.

Emerson Fry

As soon as I saw these photos, I knew I needed an emerald-green flared skirt. I bought some suitable fabric in Goldhawk Road while on the epic sewing meet-up, 1.5 metres for £6, and it’s SO PERFECT. I think it’s cotton, but it almost feels like silk twill, with a slight sheen and a crisp hang to it. It hardly creases either.

green skirt 1
For the skirt pieces, I went digging through the stash, and came up with this battered pattern from an Ebay job lot. It’s actually for a pleated skirt, but it had the perfect shape and ready-drafted inseam pockets (yay!) so I just smoothed the waistline and gathered it rather than adding the pleats.

Style skirt pattern
I think rectangular dirndls can be a bit much if you’re pear-shaped, there’s so much bulk around the waist. This A-line shape flares nicely and avoids the full on Sound Of Music look (not that there’s anything wrong with dressing like Julie Andrews in an old pair of curtains. It’s a good look)

The colour is not right in this photo, but you get a better idea of the shape.

skirt laid out

You might be wondering about that big seam in the middle of the skirt. You see, I wasn’t sure about the front patch pockets on the original versions. I wanted something a bit different as embellishment. Then I remembered a Carven skirt I’d pinned on Pinterest, which had a flat-felled seam right across the middle. Voila:

seersucker full skirt carvenIt’s a subtle detail, but there’s something about that seam that makes the skirt hang differently and look posher. So basically I decided to rip off the idea and add a flat-felled seam to my emerald skirt, saving myself £220 in the process (yep, that’s how much the Carven skirt was.

The seam is purely decorative, but I love the extra bit of detail it adds, and it didn’t take long to sew. The trick is to avoid cutting it straight across the pattern piece. You need to curve it in line with the hem so it looks straight when you wear it. There’s a great flat-felling tutorial here from Colette which helped me a lot.

I also added little tabs and covered buttons inspired by the original Emerson Fry skirt, because why not? They’re just sewn into the waistband side seam.

skirt tab and button
I love this skirt! Now let’s hope the sunshine stays with us so i can wear it again.


Me-Made-May 2013 – first week! + Maudella denim skirt

So the first week of Me-Made-May 2013 has been and gone. Here’s a round-up of what I wore on days 1-4.


Man, I am bad at taking photos of myself in the mirror. How do other people manage one-handed phone selfies? It’s so hard! I was complaining about this to my boyfriend but he just laughed at me for using the word ‘selfie’, which is basically a fair comment.

Anyway, you might be able to spot my black and white dress, my brown jeans, my Moss denim skirt, and this blue floral dress which I’ve since shortened into a top.

I’m pleased that I’ve managed to wear 90% me-made clothes, except for knitwear (can’t give up my knitwear). There’s a few new things I haven’t blogged yet. One is a denim skirt from a 70s pattern, which I also wore today:


It doesn’t look so great with tights so it’s been languishing in a drawer until this week, but I think it’ll be a summer staple.

The pattern is a Maudella classic, very kindly sent to me by Kestrel Makes. The fabric is £1 a metre denim from the Peter Jensen sample sale. Yes, I’m still working my way through my massive PJ haul.

maudella skirt

I added slash pockets from a Burda pattern, ripped off from inspired by the Hollyburn from Sewaholic. Pockets are an essential in a denim skirt, don’t you think? I also added lots of jeans-style topstitching, and a lapped zipper using this tutorial.

denim skirt collage

Here’s a top tip – don’t try and hem a heavy denim skirt by turning it up twice and stitching. The hem will keep flipping up no matter how much you iron it. You’ll have to undo the whole stupid thing, then re-sew it using some yellow bias-binding you have lying around. At least that’s my experience.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the month! My sewing has been super-productive lately, the May challenge is really getting me inspired. I’ve got lots of new things to show you as soon as I’ve got some decent photos.

McCalls 6439: Draped skirt pattern

You’ve probably noticed that pattern fever can sweep through sewing blogs like a bad bout of flu. But poor old McCalls always seem to get left out. I hardly ever see people sewing their stuff, although I’m not sure why.

Anyway, Jaycotts had a half-price sale on McCalls patterns at Easter and I snapped up loads, including this dress and this blouse, and 6439 which is a draped skirt with pockets.

I can only find one review for this pattern online, but I reckon it deserves to be more popular. It’s basically a slightly more involved version of Simplicity 2451, which the world and his wife has made. And 6439 has 4 different options! Now that’s value for money.

I made view B. Here’s the front,

McCalls 6439

And the back:

There’s not much you can do to make photos of a plain grey skirt look exciting. The best bit are the double fold pockets. The instructions were Burda-level opaque, so a lot of guess-work was involved in making these. I think I may have pleated something the wrong way round, but whatever. It works.

The fabric was a end-of-roll bargain from my favourite shop in Edinburgh. I don’t know what’s it’s called, but it has that wibbly-wobbly silky feeling, almost like Viyella.

This was pretty quick to make. The biggest hold-up was silently arguing with myself about whether to add a lining or not (it’s not in the pattern). Eventually my practical side won out over my lazy side, and I used this weird polyester I’ve had lying around for ages. Which makes it more appropriate for winter-wearing.

I highly recommend this pattern! Go forth and make your own versions! I want to try view D next, which looks pretty crazy.

Dirndl skirts: a consideration

Extremely late-breaking fashion news! Dirndl skirts are hot right now. In fact they were the one thing to be seen in this spring, so I hope you were wearing yours.

Magazines seem to have defined the look as anything full and below the knee, as in this gallery from Elle, which confusingly doesn’t feature any proper dirndl skirts at all, instead highlighting two circle skirts and four pleated numbers. I do like this Reiss one though, which has an interesting asymmetrical pleat arrangement.

The classic dirndl skirt is properly two rectangles of fabric gathered into a waistband, much beloved by home dressmakers because it’s so easy to draft and sew (as in the two very popular tutorials from Gertie and Tilly). I find it hard to wear, even though I’ve seen it look great on other people. Something about all that bulk at the waistband. You might think this skirt is all 1950s glamour and cats-eye sunglasses, but turn your back for a second and the dirndl has a worrying tendency to channel Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. Which is a hard look to pull off without a mountain in the vicinity.

I haven’t seen that many people out and about wearing the dirndl, however much fashion magazines might hype it up. Midi length skirts are definitely still in, but mostly those those horribly cheap polyester chiffon pleated things which used to be strictly for the over 60s, but are now marked up 300% and sold in American Apparel.

I do like the look of a longer skirt, and want to sew some for this autumn (which appears to already have arrived in England). But I think I might opt for pleats rather than the classic dirndl. I loved the Sewaholic Crescent skirt pattern, which controls any potential bulky gathers with a nice smooth waistband, but unfortunately the pattern has mysteriously disappeared in the black hole of my sewing room.

In other delayed fashion update news, according to the Times style magazine  I found discarded on the bus, this beautiful but eye-wateringly expensive piece from Jonathan Saunders was the dress of the season. It’s called the Yvie. I very much approve of dresses having names, so big pat on the back for Jonathan.

It could have been yours for a mere £1,100, although it’s now sold out. Soz. It’s pretty hard to tell what the style lines are because the print obscures them, but it seems to have two waist darts, a pin-tucked yoke panel, and a gently pleated skirt which also features horizontal tucks. You can get a better look on the Harvey Nichols website.

It wouldn’t be difficult to recreate this dress at home for somewhat less than a grand, although the print is what really makes it work. It somehow manages to reference the 50s, 60s, and 70s all at once, while still looking distinctly modern.

I have less problems wearing gathered skirts on dresses than as stand-alone pieces, probably because the matching bodice helps to  smooth the whole line. Still, I do prefer patterns that include a midriff piece above the gathered skirt, like the McCalls 6503 I made earlier this year.
What do you reckon? Are you a dirndl devotee?

New Burda plaid skirt – 104/02/2010

I wear a lot of skirts. But somehow I hardly ever sew them, which creates a problem. I did have a try with my blue pencil number, but it’s a bit too formal for everyday wear.

With Me-Made-May coming up, I needed to even up the skirt balance a bit, so I made this simple A-line from Burda (104 from 02/2010- many good reviews on Pattern Review here). I sewed a version in denim first, which is wearable but a bit rubbish. This second try was more successful.

The fabric was another awesome score from the Brighton swap meet-up. It’s a sort of thick, wool-like plaid cotton, and I added a lining of American D-Kripp from Ultimate Craft in Stoke Newington (still no idea what the hell it is, apart from 1.50 a metre. Some sort of polyester?). As you can see, I made no attempt to match the pattern on the back, which I’m cool with.

Not much else to say about this – it’s a great basic pattern and a minimal amount of tracing. Burda sheets are such crazy illegible messes now that anything more than 4 pieces will give you a free nervous breakdown along with your new pattern. I was tempted by the drapey jersey dress in this month’s issue until I saw that there was FOURTEEN pieces to trace. Maybe I should get an intern just to do my Burda tracing (‘exciting new position in the fashion industry!’)

I cut the pocket pieces and the waistband on the bias to make the most of the plaid, and I used the Sewaholic brilliant zip insertion method, on Tasia’a blog here.

Sorry about my usual awkward posing. Bonus points if you can name any books/items of furniture from IKEA in the photos!