When you set out to create a new wardrobe essentially from scratch, as I did last year, you learn some things about yourself along the way. It’s impossible not to, what with the challenges you inevitably face throughout the process, the time invested into each stitch, the thought and care that goes into each garment. None of these concepts were new to me, as I’m sure they’re not new to you. When you’re creating something worthwhile with your own two hands, it’s a prospect that comes with its own set of uphill battles and special set of rewards and satisfaction. What’s still new to me–and an absolute delight, I must say–is having the chance to create something for myself, without the pressure of trying to sell it or worrying about deadlines or stressing out about consumer response. Design and fashion and sewing are fun for me again. It’s a reminder to never let this thing I love and enjoy so much become a burden, like it was for a long time.
Making clothes takes time and I haven’t yet met all my wardrobe needs, but I’ve made a big, healthy dent in my to-do list. Over the past few months, I’ve learned that there a a few things I like to do to help keep me engaged in sewing, and one of those things is creating collections of projects. I like the challenge of “playing designer” and putting fabrics together and thinking about texture and pattern and movement. It keeps me on my toes, and I don’t have to tell you how fun it is to spend a couple of days playing with fabrics and carefully choosing patterns. Anyway, I knew after Christmas that I wanted to do something that sort of cleansed my palette, if you will. No big, exciting color stories yet, no new fabrics. The first collection of the year would be simple and classic–and I would use only fabrics from my stash.
You see, my birthday is in January and, even as a grown woman, I still get a little cash for Christmas and my birthday. Do I save it like the adult in me says is the smart play? Do I buy legit things like groceries or gas or other necessary household items? Of course not, who do you think I am?! I buy fabric, because I am the person who cannot turn down the opportunity to freshen up my stash a little bit. Now, I like to balance the scales whenever I buy new fabrics, so I make myself use some of what I already have before treating myself with the new goods. That brings us to The Stash Collection, a group of projects I made using fabric I had in my stash. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that one fabric is new. In my defense, it was on mega sale for $4/yard, and it goes so perfectly in this group that I had to give it a pass. Had to! Coincidentally, it is the fabric for this first project, Butterick 6129. But first, the whole collection.
Right: Vogue 9197.
If making small collections for yourself is something you’d like to try, here’s a tip: choose your patterns carefully. Balance out a difficult or more time consuming garment with one or two easy pieces. In my case, the dress and converted skirt took the most time and attention, so I intentionally went with more simple blouses to keep from being too overwhelmed. I made all of these pieces in about 3.5 weeks.
In my stash I had some poplin shirting in white and navy with a bird print (from Amsterdam last spring), a striped sateen that I’ve had for ages, and a nice mid-weight dark denim that would make a beautiful skirt.
I buy fabrics for two reasons: because I have a project in mind and I’m looking for something specific, or because I am such a sucker for pretty textiles that I see something I have no project for and think to myself, “That is gorgeous! I must have it! I’ll figure out what to do with it later . . . ” The fabric I used to make this skirt falls into the second category. It’s also one of those situations where, because it was a little on the pricey side, I only had a yard and a half to work with so my options were limited. Normally I order 4- or 5-yard cuts of fabric, which gives me enough material for a couple of projects. I found this fabric at Textile Fabrics in Nashville last May, and it’s a Nanette Lepore cotton print. I’m totally smitten with this fabric, and it was just the thing to get me excited to leave winter behind and start working on spring projects.
With only a yard and a half to work with, I thought the best thing for me to do was a straight skirt. This isn’t my go-to kind of skirt (I love fit and flare so, so much), but it was nice to change things up a bit. I’ve always had a hard time finding straight skirts that fit properly, because I have substantial curves and a small waist, so most things are too snug around my hips and enormous around the waist. I haven’t invested the time into drafting a pattern for myself because fitting yourself is kind of a pain, and I was happy to work on other projects to worry about it too much. When I finally decided to do a straight skirt with this fabric, I thought I’d star by searching for a basic skirt pattern from one of the big companies and make fitting adjustments from there. I got Butterick 5466 and cut out my size based on my measurements. I don’t know how I lucked into this, but I didn’t have to make but one fitting adjustment to the pattern, and it was barely an adjustment. If memory serves me, I spent about $60 on the fabric, and I had the lining, thread, and zipper in my stash. Not bad!
This particular pattern sits about 1.5″ above the natural waist, so it’s already better for my body type than something that sits below the waist. I whipped up a quick muslin and saw that I only needed to take it in a tiny bit in the center back. So, instead of 5/8″ seam allowance, I went with 3/4″, and it worked like a charm. Because this skirt sits above the natural waist, I wanted to add to the length, which would make my legs look longer. I actually wanted it a bit longer, but my fabric wasn’t cut evenly so I had to shorten the length so that I could fit the pattern pieces on my fabric.
I can think of no better way to officially kick off a new year of posts than to spotlight something I consider a major building block for anyone who sews apparel: the half circle skirt. Half circle skirts are wonderful for a lot of reasons, but I love them for their potential; mostly, I use them as foundation patterns to which I add pleats or gathers or whatever I want. Because I prefer fuller skirts, starting with a half circle pattern gives me a little flare right off the bat. Plus, it’s less time consuming and easier to draft than working with my basic skirt sloper. Once you know how to draft this skirt, you can adjust it to fit any bodice. For example, if you have a commercial pattern and you love the bodice but you want to change up the skirt a bit, you’ll have the know-how to make it happen.
One of my favorite designs–and something that always generates lots of comments and questions–is this skirt, which is a half circle with inverted box pleats and side seam pockets. To create the stripes, the pattern is split into six even sections. I’ll show you how to make this one soon.
Here are a few more examples of design elements added to a half circle pattern: a gathered skirt with lace trim around the hem, a skirt with side pleats and slanted side pockets, and a skirt with inverted box pleats and a contrast hem band. The options are endless!
So, let’s get started. Drafting a half circle pattern is super easy. There’s a little math involved, but it’s not complicated at all, and I can share a tip with you to double check your work. For this project you will need pattern paper, paper scissors, pencil, ruler, flexible curve, a marker, and tape. For more information on these supplies, see this post.