Charlotte Skirt Sewalong #2: Assembling our skirts

Welcome to round two of our Charlotte skirt sewalong - and this is where the fun really begins! By the end of this post, you will have something that looks a little bit like this:

charlotte skirt sewalong - by hand london

In case you're new to the party, here are the previous posts in the Charlotte Sew-along.


Ready? OK! (Gimme a C!) No, seriously... In this post we'll be covering:

  • stitching the darts
  • side seams & seam finishes
  • invisible zipper & back seam
  • what to do if your skirt is too big

*Before you begin: pre-heat your iron, and make sure your sewing machine is threaded, has a full bobbin and is set on a medium length straight stitch*

The darts:

"Darts" are basically like little elongated triangles, usually stitched into a waistline or at the bust to give some 3D shaping to a flat piece of fabric. Seeing as the Charlotte is a figure-hugging pencil skirt, we've used darts at the waistline (both front and back) to create a beautifully sexy hourglass silhouette.

In the last sewalong post, we showed you how to quickly and simply mark your darts using pins to indicate the angle and finishing point like this:

charlotte skirt sewalong - by hand london

With the right side of your fabric together, pinch a dart so that the two pins marking the start of the dart are together.

charlotte skirt sewalong - by hand london

Stitch from the top (always remembering to back stitch - a quick back and forth at the start and finish of a line of sewing will secure your stitches) in a straight line until you reach the pin that marks the end of the dart. Make sure you stitch all the way to the folded edge so as to avoid a "dimple" when you turn the skirt out to the right side. Repeat this for all eight darts.

charlotte skirt sewalong - by hand london

Press the darts on your front piece towards the sides, and darts on the back pieces towards the centre back.

*A word about pressing: be sure to test out the heat of your iron on a scrap of the fabric you are using first. If your fabric is not 100% natural fibre, it could well melt or become distorted if pressed with a very hot iron!*

charlotte skirt sewalong - by hand london

Side seams:

Now place your front piece flat on your table (or the floor), right side facing you. Take your back pieces, right sides facing down, and place them on top of the front piece ready to sew those side seams! Make sure to match the waistline and those little notches on the sides. Use pins to hold it all together - avoid putting the pins in vertically (ie. parallel to the sides) as this can sometimes distort the layers. It's much better to put the pins in horizontally (as shown below), and is then easier to pull them out one at a time as you sew.

charlotte skirt sewalong - by hand london

Starting at the waistline, stitch down each side seam using a straight stitch setting and remembering the 5/8" or 15mm seam allowance. Most sewing machines will have a little notch to the right of the needle to guide you to straight seam allowance perfection.

charlotte skirt sewalong - by hand london

Press seams open.

charlotte skirt sewalong - by hand london

At this point we need to "finish" our seams. Now, this part is optional, but highly recommended as it will prevent the excess fabric from fraying, make the inside of your skirt look soooo much prettier, and will also make for a better made and longer lasting garment. Check out this post for three different ways to finish your seams. We like to overlock/serge ours as it stops the fray and looks super profesh, but if you don't have an overlocker/serger (or the patience for bound seams), pinking (trimming the excess with zigzag scissors) will do just fine.

*If you too are overlocking, we like to overlock the centre back raw edges before inserting the zipper - trying to overlock excess seam allowance that has a zipper stitched in can be very tricky and messy*

Invisible zipper & back seam:

For this step, all you need to know is in our definitive tutorial on invisible zipper insertion... At this point if you are making the peplum variation or the plain pencil variation, and would like to add a back split for extra walkability, stop stitching your back seam about 4" from the hem. Or, if you're still undecided, close up the back seam as normal and you can always unpick a bit when we get to hemming our skirts.

charlotte skirt sewalong - by hand london

So girls, you're pretty much done for today! But before you switch off your machines (AND YOUR IRON!!!) and pour yourselves a whiskey, it's always a good idea to try your skirt on right about now. Fits like a glove? Great, class dismissed. Too big at the hips? Don't worry...

Taking your skirt in:

In the first post we showed the bootylicious girls how to alter the pattern to accomodate a small waist and wider hips. If you have a slenderer frame and your hip "size" is smaller than that of your waistline, it's not really necessary to alter the paper pattern; by taking it in now, you can really tailor the skirt to fit you perfectly. Here's how:

  • Try your skirt on inside out.
  • Pin down the side seams (trying to take in equal amounts from each side and this time placing the pins vertically) until you get the fit you want. If you have someone to help at this point, even better. If not, make sure you check yourself out in the mirror before sewing.
  • Take the skirt off, pins still in, and lay it flat so you can tweak those pins ever so slightly - you'll probably find that when you pinned it on yourself some of the fabric may have become a bit distorted or that the sides don't match each other perfectly. You basically want to carefully reposition those pins so that each side matches while keeping the new shape of your body. Try the skirt on again after repinning.
  • When you're happy, you can sew the new side seams! Then simply unpick the old seams and take care of the excess fabric. Beautiful.

(I had planned to put the skirt on with pins and all to clearly demonstrate this process... however, it fit too good! So I'm afraid one of my amazingly scientific diagrams will have to suffice!)


And that was just the beginning - next week we're making the peplums and ruffles! And some pretty great ways in which you can mix it up even more... Worthy even of Jungle January possiblement... Those of you going for the plain variation will have a little break, but make sure you check back anyway - we want to at least try to convince you that everything's usually better with a bit of flounce!

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

Comments on this post ( 8 )

  • Jan 28, 2013

    Hi! Just seen this – so sorry for not getting back to you sooner! Yep it don’t get more technical than our official diagrams ;)

    In terms of taking it out – if it’s just a little that needs letting out, it might be enough to just unpick and stitch with a smaller seam allowance (after all, home sewing patterns have 5/8" seam allowance for that sole purpose of being more alterable than shop bought clothes that are usually stitched with 1/4" seam allowance). The flap on the waistband is pretty generous too, so you could always claim up to an inch off that and still have enough space for your hooks and eyes to fasten it. If that doesn’t work, it looks like you may have to recut I’m afraid… just make sure you measure yourself and check that against our chart at the back of the folder to see which size you should be cutting. I hope you didn’t have to waste any precious fabric!!! Know how that feels only too well :(

    Let us know how you get along!

    — byhandlondon

  • Jul 23, 2013

    eeek! Girls, I have been rather silly! I cut a straight size 8 Charlotte and assembled it thinking that the size would be fine. I’m about to put the zip in and OMG it fits perfectly around the waist and legs but by heck, it’s teeny round the bum! I just measured (i know, i know, too late…) and I’m a 39" round the hips which makes that bit of the skirt a 12. But I have already cut the fabric and assembled everything as an 8, which fits perfectly round the waist. So what can i do? Could I add a strip of fabric either side of the zip at the back (and call it an extra decoration, ha!!) But if I did this, how do i keep the waist and lovely darts? And then make sure that I get the wriggle bit?

    Sigh. Boring things like measuring and stuff totally matter. Lesson learnt for now – but how to save what I have?

    — MissPurplePony

  • Jul 23, 2013

    Ooohhh naughty naughty!! Your best bet – if you want to go down the adding strips of fabric route – is to add it to the side seams… Have a look at our Charlotte Skirt sewalong, the part that shows you how to do a Full Hip Adjustment, and if you follow those steps it’ll show you how much extra fabric you’ll need at the sides. Don’t worry about the darts – leave them as is! Good luck!!

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 23, 2013

    Thank you! We’re loving the kits too – such fun to put together. Let us know how you get along!

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 28, 2013

    This sew-a-long is brilliant! The tutorial on invisible zips BLEW MY MIND! I bought a new foot for my machine to make this skirt and used it for the first time yesterday. I’d always been a bit scared of invisible zips but with that foot it was so easy and neat, I couldn’t believe it!

    — Fiona

  • Jan 28, 2013

    Oh man how great!!! SO glad to have been of help! :D

    — byhandlondon

  • Jan 18, 2013

    So much fun! Love the drawing! But i need a drawing for taking the skirt out! hahah! May have eaten a few too many cookies and beer this week. Held the waistband up to myself and it barely wraps around… Taking a few days to decide if I should recut it! Hehehe!

    — Kristonlion

  • Jan 23, 2013

    I found out about you guys last week through an online pattern retailer in Sweden. I really need to tell you how great and fun you are.
    Are working with the dress from you today but will get this kit and join this Sewalong when I’ve got payed tomorrow. It looks great fun, plus I just love kits =

    — Sandra

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