Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cotton + Steel XOXO Clémence Skirt

Despite all the issues I experienced making this Clémence skirt, I adore the end product. I see several more of these in my future. The pattern is from Love At First Stitch, by Tilly Walnes, and based on this one pattern, I would highly recommend the book if you want to challenge yourself to learn more garment sewing techniques. Of all the patterns in this book, I chose this one to make first because quilting cotton was one of its recommended fabrics. I have heard and read repeatedly that quilting cotton is less than ideal for sewing garments, especially when there are sleeves involved, but as a quilter, I am drawn to the patterns that are only available in that substrate. When I realized that quilting cotton was an option for this pattern, wild horses couldn’t stop me from trying it. I had purchased a couple yards of Cotton + Steel’s navy XOXO fabric from Drygoods Design a few months back, so decided to use that for my first ever skirt.

The Clémence skirt is also unique because you draft most of the pattern pieces based on your actual measurements. This is genius because you get an excellent fit the first time around. However, it is not genius when you decide, like I did, that you don’t need to actually draft the patterns onto paper and can just cut out the rectangles with the rotary cutter and acrylic rulers you use for quilting. I swear I ironed this fabric straight, but once the pattern pieces were cut, I noticed that the design was askew. Since I didn’t have enough fabric to cut more pieces, I decided to sew up what I had, regardless. (Also, since I was working with narrow quilting cotton, I didn’t actually have enough fabric to make the skirt width twice my hip size. Since Tilly says in the directions that you can fudge the measurements a little, I fudged the measurements with abandon, and luckily, it worked out.)

Sewing the skirt pieces and pocket pieces together was easy, but I’ve made garments with pockets before. Actually, after using the KonMari method to declutter my closet, I’ve learned that I don’t actually wear skirts and dresses without pockets, so I’m going to do my best to include pockets wherever I can going forward. The gathers were a bit challenging, but improved with practice, so I would attempt them again. However, I did not enjoy taking out the basting stitches. Despite being intimidated by the interfacing, that part went smoothly. I even learned how to use the steam function on my “new” iron just to make this skirt. I liked that the waistband facing is topstitched down, because I have an intense dislike of facings. (I’m looking at you, Crepe Dress!) Next up, the invisible zipper.

At this point, I had to leave off to attend to some real world responsibilities. When I returned to my sewing nook, it was late, but I was determined to finish this skirt in time to wear it the next day. Ambitious, I know, especially considering the fact that I had never sewn an invisible zipper before. Earlier, I had come to the shocking realization that my trusty Elna didn’t even come with an invisible zipper foot! Luckily, a quick internet search convinced me that it was possible to sew an invisible zipper with a regular zipper foot, which I did have. I was pleasantly surprised when the zipper went in without much trouble. With only the hemming left to do, I tried it on and was mortified when it wouldn’t zip up! I sucked my tummy in, contorted my arms and pulled as hard as I dared. No go. I removed the skirt and tried to zip it up again and it still wouldn’t work. It wasn’t too small, then. The zipper stopped zipping right where the skirt proper met the waistband. But why? I stomped around the house, grumbling at my sympathetic and long-suffering husband. He suggested I get some sleep. I refused, knowing that sleep would elude me until this sewing dilemma was resolved. Still perplexed, I peered at the place where the zipper inexplicably stopped. It looked like my topstitching had run over onto the zipper tape. As I unpicked the offending stitches, it became clear that my overzealous topstitching was to blame. Once those few, tiny stitches were undone, the zipper zipped up, just as it should. Crises averted, I hemmed the skirt, hung it up, and collapsed into a deep, satisfied sleep.

In those late-night hours when I struggled to finish this skirt, I was disappointed with it, mostly due to the wonky design that was the result of cutting the pattern pieces slightly off grain. That night, I thought I would call it a wearable muslin, wear it a time or two for Me-Made-May and then scrap it. However, once I wore it for a day, I fell in love. The length was just right, the pockets were big enough that my cell phone didn’t fall out, and it was comfortable and modest enough to wear while chasing after an active four-year-old. It’s my new favorite skirt! As a bonus, I found that it works well with my black Plantain tee, which had previously been consigned to oblivion because it was too short. It’s not too short for Clémence! Also, I realized after I made the skirt that the fabric coordinates perfectly with my 2014 PAX Prime t-shirt. I’m not sure exactly when, but I will be wearing that combination before Me-Made-May is up. I will definitely be making another Clémence skirt as well. I just have to decide which fabric to use next!

(All photo credits on this post go to my four-year-old daughter. When I set up the tripod to take these pictures, she insisted that it be lowered to her height and actually did a pretty good job of taking pictures for me. She also made my necklace.)


  1. Your sewing narrative is such fun - love that you share it like it is! Despite everything, this skirt looks darling on you! Good going on your 1st skirt - esp. that invisible zip! And yay to grandgirl for the top-notch photos. Delightful.

  2. I live this skirt. Fun, classic, cool and de rigueur with the cotton and steel. The only thing is change making it for myself is to lower the back hem a couple inches. Skirts aren't supposed to be straight across back to front but most modern pattern designers now days don't compensate for the rear end. It's such a traditional dress making thing and its so odd people don't do it. It's so necessary for me or my skirts end up too short in the back. Well, that was a novel! Sorry :) Love and and know I want to make me one :)