Autumn is, hands down, my favorite season of the year. Pumpkins line every porch, there's a nip in the air, and Colette Patterns always releases a new pattern! Their latest offering, the Zinnia skirt, is a versatile full skirt. There are three variations: a gathered button-down midi, a full pleated knee-length version, and a floaty pleated midi-skirt. For my first stab at the pattern, I chose Version 2, the fuller skirt with stitched down pleats.
There is a sad lack of handmade skirts in my wardrobe, an oversight I plan to correct in the next few months. I absolutely love full, knee-length skirts in the colder months, since they dress up so well with sweaters and boots. Even better, Zinnia lends itself well to a number of fabrics and styles, thanks to its simplicity of design, so it was just the pattern to fill my skirt need!
For this first one, I used a length of abstract stretch cotton bought from JoAnn's last year. I'm such a sucker for autumnal colors and this fabric has them all--black, light brown, cinnamon, mustard yellow, gray, and a lovely marine blue--scattered in free form dots across it. Originally, I had planned to turn it into a dress, but once washed up, it changed in texture. What had started off as a polished cotton, felt more like a double-knit when it came out of the wash. Never having sewn with such a drapey stretch fabric before, it went to the back of my stash. Now that I'm back on the sewing horse, though, I called it up for Zinnia service. This fabric had just the right amount of body to show off the pleats and lines of Version 2.
Construction-wise, the Zinnia was pretty easy. Despite the label on the pattern, however, I wouldn't necessarily call this a beginner pattern. Not only can working with so many pleats--sixteen in total--be a bit tricky, but the instructions were bare bones. Colette now leans more toward linked tutorials than exhaustive instructions, meaning that if one is fuzzy on invisible zippers or pleat mechanics, one must fire up the computer and read a tutorial. This is perfectly fine for experienced sewists, but I raised my eyebrows a few times at the things omitted as a result.
For me, everything went perfectly well right up until the waistband insertion. Despite stay-stitching my skirt top and precisely pleating everything, the waistband was a good three inches too short. I'm pretty sure this was due to my error somewhere along the way--whether in cutting or pleating--but it was still an unhappy surprise. Luckily, I'd changed the method of waistband insertion, so It was simple to cut another piece and add length to the band. Thanks to the busyness of the fabric, it doesn't even show on the waist!
As far as changes go, I made quite a few. As mentioned, I completely changed the waistband insertion. The way Colette prescribed to do it was super confusing and, at this point in my sewing adventures, I know when to go it alone. Colette's instructions have one sew the ends of the waistband, including button extension, first, then turn them and attach to the skirt. The idea of that just felt so wrong! So, I went the more traditional route of stitching the unfinished waistband to the skirt, then turning the ends by hand afterward. It looks just as nice, but involved less convoluted geometry.
Additionally, I omitted the belt loops. If I'm going to wear a belt with a skirt, it's wider than would have fit here. Plus, with a pattern this busy, it's rare that I'm going to wear one anyhow.
The last change was a bit of a personal quest: a picked zipper insertion! I've come to the decision that I hate invisible zippers. Hate, hate, hate them! I understand the benefits of them, can do them quite well, but would rather be set upon by rabid marmosets than insert one. Invariably, it takes me two times to put one in properly, because the seams never quite line up well enough. Aargh! So, to avoid the invisible zip and the unsightly seam lines of a traditional insertion, I decided to hand install the Zinnia zip.
Now, I know I'm a bit biased, but isn't the loveliest zipper installation you've ever seen? I swoon! I sigh!
To install it, I used a variant on this wonderful tutorial by Tasia. I hand sewed it precisely the way she did, but to initially secure the zipper, I did it the way my mum taught me: baste your back seam together, pin the zipper down the seam middle, then take out the basting stitches! It works perfectly to center a traditional zipper. In the end, this zipper took me about thirty minutes and was a joy to sew. Sure, it may mean a bit of hand-sewing, but it's much preferable to the headache of invisible zips. Besides, I'm catching up on Scandal, so I need something to do with my hands, besides white knuckle my couch in suspense.
All in all, the Zinnia is a delightful little skirt. It's a basic pattern, yes, but it fills a need in my wardrobe, especially for fall & winter. I know that some people have issues with the way Colette's patterns are drafted and designed, but they've always worked for me. Zinnia is no exception. Of course, I'm not through with it yet. There is some wool challis sitting on my sewing table, just waiting to be cut out!
Things I Loved:
- The pleats! - I adore pleats, especially when they're stitched down. They emphasize curves, but let the skirt still keep some twirl.
- The fabric! - This fabric is weird, but it's also crazy comfortable. It may not look like I'm wearing pajamas, but man does it feel like it.
- The ease of construction! - It's a skirt...even if you do have to pleat a million times, it's so much simpler than the dresses I usually construct.
- The pockets! - Side seam pockets are, as ever, a welcome design feature.
Things I Changed:
- Used muslin, instead of fusible interfacing, for the waistband.
- Changed the method of waistband construction, because if it looks confusing, it's probably unnecessary.
- Subbed in a hand-picked zipper.
- Omitted the belt loops.
Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
- Narrow the waistband. This is just a personal preference, but when I folded the waistband in half, I liked the look of the skirt even more. With stitched down pleats, I think a wider waistband is pretty unnecessary, so I'll narrow it next time and see how I like it.
Tricky Steps & Suggestions:
- The waistband insertion was...ridiculous. I strongly recommending inserting it in a traditional manner, then turning the ends. It looks just as a pretty and won't give you headache.
- Top-stitching is used on both the top and bottom of the waistband. Personally, I find that my top-stitching looks better, when a smaller stitch is used - 2mm, usually.
Notions & Fabric:
- 2 yards of mystery cotton - Is it a knit? Is it a woven?
- 7 inch black zipper
- One 3/4 inch vintage button
- Four hours, cutting to hem.