Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Barter Babes Skirt

I am writing from Montréal, where the sky is blue and the air is crisp.

This summer, I participated in Shannon’s Barter Babes project. She proposed to assess 300 women’s finances in the context of a non-monetary exchange. Thank you so much Shannon for your financial advising session -- it was very useful! For my part of the exchange – surprise, surprise – I decided to sew her something.

I did this little sketch to show Shannon what I had in mind, and was glad when she responded with enthusiasm. 

I found a flashy hound’s tooth wool blend, which I paired to Simplicity 2451 (the same Zoe used in Big Flowers, Little Skirt). I wished I had more images to show you of both the making of the skirt and of the final product, but I will try to make up with words what I lack in pictures.

The Making
I learned the hard way that when you are making something for someone else, it is not the time to be ambitious. You should pick something that you know for sure you can do well. For example, last Christmas, when a friend ordered a baking bonnet, I decided to try my hand at making bias. I was under a tight deadline because of exams and left myself very little room for error. Unsurprisingly, the end product was pretty catastrophic, and I had no choice but to send it anyways.

Apparently, I hadn’t learned the lesson when I tackled Shannon’s skirt. This was the first time I was making this particular pattern, and, to add another level of difficulty, I also decided to self-draft a lining. As if that was not enough, I had never worked with a fabric that was as thick and had such an extreme tendency to fray. During the 48 hours I had to work on it, I would go to bed thinking about the project, dream about the project, and wake up in the morning with the project in mind. Lord, did I sweat.

The waist piece was truly what gave me the hardest time. For one thing, the thickness of the fabric made the insertion of the zipper super tricky. In one area, I had four layers of fabric PLUS bias. I only succeeded on my third attempt, and every time I unpicked the zipper, more of the fabric would stray. This made me nervous that the skirt would end up being too small because I was constantly cutting part of the waist piece. Little did I know that I should have been worrying about the opposite.

I took the time to make a muslin first and go over to Shannon’s house to carefully fit it on her. Unfortunately, when she tried on the finished skirt, the waist turned out to be too big. This left me scratching my head. How this could be? The most likely explanation was that my fabric stretched while I manipulated it. Lesson learned: it is important to stay-stitch your fabric to stabilize it. I’m never going to skip that step again.
See, I did fit the muslin on my client!
Shannon insisted the waist was fine: she would simply wear it lower on her hips. She did seem impressed by the overall quality and finishing of the skirt, which gave me a bit of satisfaction, but of course I would have preferred that it fit perfectly. My offer to adjust the skirt still stands, Shannon!

The finished skirt -- there is actually a clip holding the skirt at the back here!!

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