Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Skirting the Issue and Summer Reading

Version #7 in stretch lace
Time to catch up on recent sewing happiness.  When last seen, I was pulling numerous stretch wovens from my closet to start working on my next Pamela's Patterns purchase, The Magic Pencil Skirt.  What makes it "magic" you ask?  No waistband, no zipper, just a flattering terrific pencil skirt.  
Pamela has designed this pattern for fabrics with 20% stretch or more.  I have a great collection of these since they seem to have been all the rage a few years ago at Fabric Mart and in RTW.  But I have had less than great success making pants from them since the degree of stretch varied so much and each pair wore so very differently.  Now I know what to do with this fabric collection....keep on making more of these skirts.  Last week I made seven of them and I'm taking a break to work on her Draped Front Cardigan next.  
Here's my "official" review:

<b>Pattern Description: </b>  The pencil skirt silhouette is an improvement over the traditional straight skirt.  It tapers in from hip to hem giving a more slimming appearance no matter what your body type!  The secret is in the fitting process, and Pamela will teach you how to get the best fit ever with her proven dart and side seam placement methods.  Need more reasons to stitch up this stylish look?  How about a classic and great fitting skirt that you can make, start to finish, in a little more than an hour?  You will achieve the smooth look that is traditionally found in skirts with a waistband and zipper, but the "magic" is done with comfortable Fantastic Elastic.
<b>Pattern Sizing:</b>  Hips 36" to 53"
<b>Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?</b>  Yes, much to my surprise.
<b>Were the instructions easy to follow?</b>  Wonderful directions that are easy to follow.
<b>What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?</b>  Love it so much, let me count the ways.  First of all, it is flattering.  I agreed with Sandra Betzina's remarks years ago that a straight skirt is most flattering when it has some hem shaping.  Pamela Legett, the designer, explained the same thing when I bought this pattern at her T Shirt seminar in June.  This skirt has that great pencil shaping in it.  It also has a pair of darts for the front and the back of the skirt but they are moved further towards the body sides than a standard straight skirt pattern.  I don't need the bottom of a dart highlighting my poofy tummy so these darts are wonderfully placed for her target market...the woman over 40.   She includes wonderful details in the pattern about customising the darts, or even eliminating them, for your perfect fit.  The easy and snug elastic waistband (no bulky casing) means that I can sew one of these in an hour and have a flattering new addition to my wardrobe.  
I've only made the narrow waisted version since I would never tuck a top into a skirt....probably stopped that in 1989 and haven't regretted it.  I have a very refrigerator like body and this skirt makes me look curvy....hooray for optical illusions.

<b>Fabric Used:</b>  The pattern is designed for stretch wovens with at least 20% stretch....and she explains how to determine if your fabric is suitable.  I used everything from a stretch denim to a stretch lace knit and love each one.  

<b>Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:</b>  I have a pretty crooked scoliosis curve so my two hips are quite different curves.  I took the time to make a front and back pattern piece to account for the difference.  
I also narrowed the back of the skirt pattern even more since I have a flat bottom.  
Once I did that, then my sewing is a quick 4 darts, side seams, elastic waistband and hem.  
<b>Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?</b>  Yes, many more planned.  I think this is a timeless design that would flatter many women.  Pencils skirts are not just for the young.
<b>Conclusion: </b>  Buy it, make it, wear it.  You'll feel girly, I promise
Stretch black denim

First one in leftover stretch woven

Black poly double knit with matlesse texture
Doubleknit close up

olive green stretch woven 
Lime green stretch woven
There's a dark brown version even less exciting to look at but just as useful in my wardrobe.  
That's the back full pattern piece that I modified after making my first, very wearable skirt.  I narrowed the back hem area even further since my backside seems to have fallen down and can't get up.  
For the stretch lace version at the very beginning I made a lining 1 inch shorter and hemmed 1/2 deeper from inexpensive poly knit I had in my resource center.  Treated the two pieces as one when making the elastic waistband  and I'm happy with the result.  

There's some lovely black stretch lace in my resource center that I will pair with a stretch silk charmeuse that matches a lovely woven wrap blouse I have...but I'll wait until cooler weather in the fall for that project.  

Lots more besides sewing going on at our house.  Lucky has been a little star at his basic dog training class....mostly because he's older and more mellow than the young, big dogs in class and also because it's outdoors and summer temps slow him down quite easily...and let's face it, beginner's class is just that!  Sit, stay and come back when I have you on the leash.
I've been reading up a storm.  My three favorites in the last month:
Gretchen Rubin's book, "The Happiness Project," made a big splash in the media and on blogs more than a year ago.  I'm typically  late to the party but am so glad I discovered it.  I was expecting some lightweight "think yourself out of unemployment and poverty" but she pursues this topic with a great deal of research (she's a former editor of the Yale Law Journal, clerked for Sandra Day O'Connor and has written biographies of Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy) and also personal revelation and humility.   Delightful surprise.
I'm not afraid to admit that this was another surprise for me.  "Nemesis" is next week's book club discussion and I was a little leery.  I "appreciate" Phillip Roth but I don't always enjoy reading his novels so this one was another summer treat.  It takes place in the summer of 1944 and polio is frightening the people of Newark, NJ with its quick and devastating consequences.  The novel reads rather simply, almost glacially slow, like the old '50s summers of my childhood...but then the last 1/4 of the book is a sudden change and brings questions of responsibility, loyalty and fate into the picture.  I look forward to what the others will say about it.
I would have never read this book except I was so impressed watching Oprah and James Frey during Oprah's last week of interviews.  I had been a strong supporter of her book club idea since I had started my first book club in 1976 and love them.  But her over reaction to what he did struck me wrong at the time and I stopped watching her book shows as faithfully.  I was duly impressed to see her admit that she had let her ego take over during the previous interview five years ago.   And James Frey was impressive in admitting his complicity and also impressive in his ability to put all that bad publicity into perspective.  The book is definitely readable and a great insight into addiction.  I'm glad I was able to let go of my annoyance with the hullabaloo around it and just read and enjoy it.  Enjoy might not be the right word for a book about the destruction of addiction but since all of us are touched directly or indirectly by this issue, it was worthwhile see the challenges of recovery.


  1. Well talk about a new wardrobe in nothing flat! This skirt looks very nice on you! I can see why you love it enough to make several! Always so nice when something is fun and easy and fast! That then looks great!

    Hope your garden is doing well, mine is pretty much done. I have two rows under a shade tarp that I have kept going. Peppers in one row and sweet potatoes in another. The potatoes won't be ready to harvest till very end of summer.

  2. Those skirts looks great! Always nice to be able to zip up something so quickly. I've been wanting to try this pattern - just too many others in the line-up at the moment.

  3. These are fantabulous! After reading this--and before I posted this comment--I went to the Pamela's Patterns website and ordered this pattern!

  4. Terrific skirts! You are a greate advertisement for Pamelas Patterns! I am reading "Happiness Project", and read "James Frey books when they were first introduced. Good reading.

  5. What a useful pattern to have. Fast, easy, and great results. Enjoy all those new flattering skirts!

  6. Hi Jane and thanks for being a follower of my blog. I am trying to calm my racing heart of over the magic pencil skirt.... That pattern is a must have. Love all the skirts you've made and make for an essential wardrobe basic.

    I need to join a book club to add a mix to my current reads.


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