Lockdown has been a strange experience. On the one hand, I haven’t felt much like sewing garments – somehow it seems trivial to be concerned with appearances and clothing at a time like this. On the other, I’ve felt more than ever that sewing is both a practical skill and a creative outlet that helps to relieve stress.
Mr Wardrobe and I work together, on the small business that sustains our family. Working from home hasn’t been a big change, but trying to home-school a lively child at the same time as propping up that business while we sit this out has made our house more stressy than usual. Especially stressful was the part where I had Covid-19 and had to self-isolate in one room (sadly not my sewing space!) while Mr Wardrobe took on work, home-schooling and caring for me all at once.
The weirdness of the whole situation manifested itself in a change in direction in my sewing… I spent two weeks of snatched 15-minute sessions in April making a set of scrubs for my oldest friend who’s a doctor in London. I’ve made masks, headbands and travel pillows to try to address my scraps box. And I even got round to tidying my sewing space and parting with one or two patterns and fabrics that I finally accepted were never going to get made up.
Normal service is resuming slowly now though. I’ve been working through some fitting adjustments on a shell top this week and it’s now ready to cut. But before I get to that, I’ve got one or two older makes to show you first.
First up, this is the Megan skirt by Designer Stitch. If you just clicked on that link, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have chosen to make this pattern if I’d only seen that image with the clashing prints. I wouldn’t have noticed the clever panelling and pocket detail at all.
What actually brought me to this pattern was an old issue of Love Sewing I’d saved that the Megan skirt pattern, shown made up in a tawny corduroy.
I’d met a friend for drinks at Christmas last year and admired her cord skirt so much that I wanted to make something similar for myself. It took me two months to realise I had this pattern lurking on the shelf, and – having been burned twice before by ‘free’ patterns in a magazine, I thought I’d try it out in some leftover denim first before buying corduroy.
True to form, the Love Sewing version did have some issues with it.
- The size chart was re-printed in the magazine, but using a different sizing system from that included with the pattern, and without explaining whether it showed body measurements or the finished garment measurements.
- The PDF tiled together OK-ish, but there’s a lot of wasted space in the layout, and it also includes a pattern piece that’s not used in the view for which the instructions were given in the magazine.
- The view shown in the magazine photos includes piped pockets, and there’s a pull-out box with instructions on how to do this, but nowhere does it recommend what size of piping cord to use, and it’s not included in the materials list either. This is fine if you know what you’re doing, but the magazine is aimed at beginner sewists.
- There are no notches to help you match the (fairly confusing) pocket pieces together and I wasn’t convinced that the notches that are there all match up.
- Staystitching is recommended for curved areas that might stretch out, but not until step 4, by which time you’ve already handled and potentially stretched the key pieces. Again, not ideal for a beginner-level magazine pattern.
In short, I’d recommend you buy the complete pattern with the original instructions directly from the designer!
For this wearable toile version, I used some mid-weight denim, which I think is leftover from a pre-blog shirt dress I made all the way back in 2012. (Yes, I do still wear it!) It’s a mid-blue with no stretch and sews up and presses really nicely. Did I mention how much I love sewing with denim…?
Fit and construction
I wouldn’t normally do a toile for an A-line skirt, but since this was a ‘free’ magazine pattern with confusing pocket pieces I thought it might be an idea. The toile came up quite a bit shorter than knee-length on me (I’m 5’10”) so I decided to add around 10cm in length. I also found that the waist-hip curve was much higher up than mine is, so I had to fiddle around with the side seams a lot and take quite a bit out of the waistband.
Right after I finished the toile and cut out the denim pieces I came down with Covid and lost 5lbs so the fit is now a little large, but I’m OK with that for a wearable toile. There are no darts – all the shaping comes from the curve of the pieces and the yoke.
It goes together pretty easily once you’ve got your head around the pockets and I added a bit of decorative topstitching in regular thread along some of the style lines for a bit of extra interest. I also swapped the regular zip for a concealed zip as that was all I had in the right length and colour in #isewlation and I fudged together two different colours of pre-made bias tape to do a bias-faced hem rather than a the standard option of a topstitched finish.
All in all, I like it. It’s perhaps a bit too structured for me, based on all the #sewyourkibbe ideas I researched last summer. But denim is so easy to wear all year round, and I suspect this will be my default skirt option until the autumn.
Have you got a go-to skirt pattern you’ve made up in multiple fabrics? What’s your experience of ‘free’ patterns in magazines? And how has the lockdown affected what you’ve wanted to sew?