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