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Charlotte Skirt Sewalong #1: Tracing & cutting

Charlotte skirt sewalong - By Hand London

Aloha ladies, and welcome to your first instalment of the Charlotte skirt Sewalong! Today we'll be taking you through the initial pre-sewing prep work:

  • finding your size
  • tracing the pattern
  • a basic full hip adjustment (FHA)
  • cutting and marking your fabric

This is generally seen as the most tedious part... but the fact of the matter is that if you take your time to prepare and cut carefully, you'll have something that will be more of a pleasure to sew and is more likely to fit at the end!

*We really, really want to see how you guys get along!! If you blog, please don't hesitate to post your links to our Facebook page, tweet us and Instagram your progress @byhandlondon using the hashtag #charlottesewalong. We've made a community Pinterest board, so if you'd like to join the PinParty just leave us a comment with your Pinterest username so we can add you. We've also created a Flickr pool and will be rounding up all of your creations after the sewalong on this here blog!*

Finding your size:

The secret to clothes that look and feel amazing is all in the fit. If something does not fit your body well, chances are it won't feel great to wear. And if you don't feel great, what's the point?? It is important to remember that sewing patterns, just like shop bought clothes, are sized and graded to a set of average measurements. However, once you have a solid understanding of your own shape, it is pretty simple to adjust a paper pattern to your own unique proportions.

Using a measuring tape and the diagram below as a visual guide, note down your waist and hip measurements. Your waist is (usually) the smallest part of your torso, in between your ribs and hip bone. This is where the skirt's waistband will sit. The hip measurement (sometimes called your seat measurement) is taken around the fullest part of your bottom.

croquis - by hand london

Now that you have your waist and hip measurement, you can check this against our sizing chart on the back of the Charlotte skirt folder. Don't worry if your measurements don't match our sizes exactly, we'll be showing you how to adjust the pattern if your waist and hips measurements fall into different "sizes". For now, use your waist measurement to determine your size.

Charlotte skirt sewalong - By Hand London

The importance of being a Preservationist:

While it can be soooo tempting to just whip out the tissue paper and cut around your size, it is through having learned that hard way that we URGE you to take a little extra time to trace the pattern instead.  And before you think "yeah yeah whatever" and skip to the next bit, here are a few reasons why it's so important not to cut the tissue paper:

1. Weight fluctuation. By cutting your current size directly out of the tissue paper, you will only ever be able to make that size or smaller. The whole point of owning sewing patterns is so that you can make and remake a design over and over again, regardless of your changing body shape.

2. Pattern alteration. It's never a good idea to start hacking into the tissue paper if you need to make an alteration to your pattern - and you could end up ruining the tissue completely - just trace it off and tweak it from there.

3. Posterity. How many of you collect vintage patterns? Did you know that they can sell for up to $350?? It goes without saying that patterns with intact tissue paper are worth a hell of a lot more than the ratty ones... Now, we may be jumping the gun just a little here... but you never know...!

4. Sewing for others. Same principal as the weight gain issue; you will only be able to make garments for people your same size or smaller if you cut the tissue paper.

Convinced? Then let's start tracing...

Use pattern weights (or anything heavy) to keep your tracing paper in place. Trace off your chosen size, using a ruler and specialist curves wherever possible, copying all markings and notches. It's a good idea to highlight the darts specific to your size to make tracing easier.

Charlotte skirt sewalong - By Hand London

Remember to label your pattern pieces clearly so as to avoid muddling them up when you come back to them at a later date.

* Full Hip Adjustment

As we've stated on the pattern, the Charlotte skirt is designed with a curvaceous figure in mind. BHL's very own Charlotte - this pattern's namesake - is blessed with a teeny waist and juicy doubles. If she were to make this skirt in a size according to her waistline measurement, it would be too small around her bum, and she would've wasted precious fabric yardage. If you too have hips proportionately larger than your waist, it is super easy to adjust the pattern before you cut.

*Please bear in mind that we have allowed 1/2" extra ease at the hip, so you will only need to do an FHA if your hip measurement is more than 1" bigger than your "size" dictates*

First of all, mark your hip line on the pattern - this is about 10" down from the waistline. Trace the lines representing the side seam for both your waistline "size" and your hip "size". Then simply draw a new line smoothly connecting your waistline size to your hip size, using the image below as a guide. Repeat this for both the front and back pieces so they match.

Charlotte skirt sewalong - By Hand London

Once you've traced and marked, carefully cut out all your pattern pieces.

Charlotte skirt sewalong - By Hand London

Now it's time to cut your fabric! Use the layplan in our instruction booklet as a guide for positioning your pattern pieces on your fabric, keeping them in place with weights (pins work too), and carefully cut out your fabric being sure to snip all notches and mark all darts. Our favourite way to cut is with a rotary cutter (like a pizza cutter) and cutting mat. This minimises any distortion of the fabric as you cut around the pattern pieces. If you are using a rotary cutter, be extra careful - fingers have almost been lost at their expense!

Charlotte skirt sewalong - By Hand London

There are loads of different ways to mark darts - from tailor's chalk to tacks to tracing wheels - but we like to do things quickly and simply. Using pins (and the image below as a guide), we mark the top of the darts with the length of the pin indicating the angle of the dart and a little horizontal pin to mark the point where the dart ends. We'll be getting into the stitching of the darts in more detail in the second sewalong post. For now it's just important to get all the construction information from the pattern marked onto your fabric.

Charlotte skirt sewalong - By Hand London

Charlotte skirt sewalong - By Hand London

And that's all for today folks! We'll be back on Thursday assembling our skirts - that'll be darts, side seams and that elusive invisible zipper...

In the meantime, here's the official Charlotte skirt sewalong badge and link if you want to add it to your blog, which will take you and your readers to all the sewalong posts in one click!

Charlotte Skirt Sewalong Badge

 

  • Elisalex de Castro Peake
  • AW 12-13Charlotte SkirtCharlotte Skirt SewalongcuttingSewalongsewingskirttracing

Comments on this post ( 23 )

  • Jan 25, 2013

    It’s looking beautiful! We love us a bit of herringbone…

    — byhandlondon

  • Feb 07, 2013

    I’ve made one and am on my second second already, I love it so!
    Please could I be added to the pinparty?! fionaparker17
    Can’t wait to see what everyone else has made!

    — Fiona

  • Feb 07, 2013

    Oh yay!!! Just added you to the pinparty, and drop us an email at elisalex@byhandlondon.com with your high-res images and links to your blog and various social media so we can add you to the round up post too!

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 23, 2013

    Hmmmmn, yeah maybe scrap the bed pan pattern plan…! We totally sympathise… the faffing around with even more paper is tedious. But definitely worth it in the long run!

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 23, 2013

    Always looking for a good quick way round the boring bits!! ;)

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 24, 2013

    I am using a lovely wool blend herringbone fabric that has glittery bits in it, it is plummy purple, you can see my pics on the Flickr group here http://www.flickr.com/groups/2189475@N22/?added=3

    — Trixie Lixie

  • Jan 20, 2013

    Hi. What kind of paper do you use to trace onto? Loads of American blogs talk about medical paper, which is apparently quite cheap, but I don’t know that is!

    Any suggestions?

    — Helen

  • Jan 20, 2013

    Hi! No idea what medical paper is I’m afraid… Have you tried googling “UK medical paper suppliers”? We use dot and cross paper, available from Morplan, which is what pattern cutters use when drafting patterns. You could also use large sheets (or A4 and then just tape them together) of tracing paper or fine paper – anything really that lets you trace the pattern and markings. Hope this helps!

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 21, 2013

    I love the pinning to mark the darts! I’ve always done tailor’s tacks, just because I had no idea how else to do it. My inner slacker is rejoicing!

    Thanks, these posts are great. :)

    — Laura

  • Jan 21, 2013

    I did – and it seems to be disposable paper on the bed in the doctor’s surgery! Think that would have too many weird connotations for me to sew with! :)

    Cheers though. I guess I’m looking for something cheap that I DON’T have to tape together – only because that’s another step to the boring bit!

    — Helen

  • Jan 15, 2013

    Couldn’t agree more. I do actually wonder if the high street/mass produced fashion dictating a set of average proportions is slightly to blame for negative body image. No matter what size or shape you are, trying to pull off clothes that don’t fit well is never going to make you feel sexy. It’s a shame that that leaves a lot of girls feeling bad about their bodies, when it’s actually the ill-fitting garment’s fault!

    Glad to have you on board the sewalong!

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 17, 2013

    Noob question! I’m 5’2" and actually am fairly long waisted. So I have short legs. Usually I take things up about 4-8" will it be OK to determine the length of the skirt at the end? Or should I take out some of the length now? Thankkkkkks!

    — Kristonlion

  • Jan 17, 2013

    Yes definitely don’t worry yourself about length at this point – it’s much easier to try it on once it’s all assembled and get the length perfect. xxx

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 14, 2013

    Thanks for this photo – the last one – a little horizontal pin to mark the point where the dart ends!! I always think how to do this easy, to mark the end of darts!

    — Sewing Sveta

  • Jan 15, 2013

    I’m a quite reckless sewer! I never make a muslin (though I haven’t gotten super expensive fabric yet either. I let my dogs parade all around near the sewing. I don’t mark notches carefully. In fact the only safety measure that I do partake in is the tracing! And thank goodness because I have made the wrong size more than once (I always think I’m smaller than I really am!

    — Kristonlion

  • Jan 15, 2013

    I’m super excited too. I have not sewn anything in EONs.

    I think your point about getting a really good fit is spot-on. I heard recently that Ms. Middleton (I guess we should call her the Duchess of Cambridge) has all her clothes tailored after she buys them off the rack. It makes sense as we all know that our sizes are unique to us - makes the world an interesting place. That means we shouldn’t all wear an “average” size.

    So, this is my long winded response to say that I too will go to the extra work of tracing, taking in, etc etc. I plan to make the Charlotte skirt really fit my body.

    Thanks for doing the sew along

    — LHR

  • Jan 14, 2013

    Thnak you and thank you! :)

    — Name *

  • Jan 14, 2013

    Lovely photos and you have almost – almost! – convinced me to tracy my pattern pieces rather than cut them out.

    — Name *

  • Jan 14, 2013

    Thank you! And about the tracing… we’re having to convince ourselves as we go too – still way too tempting to cut but trying so hard to be more perfectionist! But speaking as a mum who gained what felt like several million kilos during pregnancy, I did kick myself a fair few times when faced with my pre-pregnancy cut out patterns! E x

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 14, 2013

    Thnak you!! Yes, we will definitely be talking about making the skirt more slimline at the the hips, but luckily that is something you can easily do once the skirt has been assembled (pre waistband) at which point we’ll be showing you how to try the skirt on inside out and basically tailor it to your shape. And yes, we will also be putting together a lining tutorial just before we get to the waistband!

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 14, 2013

    THNAK you??!! Hahaha THANK YOU x

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 14, 2013

    Goody! I was wondering about lining! I’m still a bit beginner enough to mess that up! :) thanks! And oooh yes you are right we’re so excited! I almost cut my pattern yesterday just to prepare! Glad I waited! Can’t wait to see pics of everyone’s fabrics!

    — Kristonlion

  • Jan 14, 2013

    Yay, to the first post in the sewalong! Firstly, thanks for reinforcing the point re the tissue. I have a bad habit of just diving in and cutting! I was just wondering if, for those of us with littl-ish hips where the waist is a bigger size than the hips, whether or not you suggest grading down or should we just cut out the size all the way? Lastly, will you be giving any hints on lining the skirt?

    — Kirsty

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