Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Miss Betsy Walks the Plank


Bonsoir, my fellow sewing geeks! Today has flown by in a whirl of new appliances, tedious academic kerfuffles, and insistent family matters. It is still Wednesday, however, which means it's my day on the Betsy & Ava Blog Tour! Huzzah!

The lovely Abby, of BlueGingerDoll Patterns, just released two gorgeous pieces that I had the privilege of testing. (Well, if we're being honest, that I barely squeaked under the wire for testing, because I over-committed myself last month. Deadlines, dissertations, and sewing competitions don't mix well. Who knew?) The Ava is a divine little kimono jacket, with a glamorous bit of swing to it, while the Betsy is your go-to pencil skirt in three chic variations. I had planned to show you a coordinated Betsy and Ava today, but disaster struck yesterday evening, while prepping for photos...


The invisible zipper on Betsy #1 is no more. Cue the mourners! Grab the seam ripper!

Luckily, I was four buttons away from finishing my second Betsy skirt, a nautical wrap version. It doesn't remotely go with my Ava, unfortunately, so her debut will have to wait for her partner in crime to be repaired. You can intimate from this happy coincidence, however, how much I adore this little pattern. After finishing View A during the testing, Views B and C were quick to follow along! 


The three views in question are a traditional pencil skirt with embellished belt loops, a buttoned wrap skirt with a narrow waistband, and a high-waisted "Pin-up" skirt with an accordion pleat at the back. As a pencil skirt junkie, I whooped with joy upon seeing these illustrations. Not only do I love a curve-hugging skirt, but Abby's patterns are consistently among my favorites. They are well-drafted, thoughtful, and have proportions that work brilliantly for my shape. Miss Betsy was destined to become just as beloved as my dear Peggy

Even better, this time around Abby has expanded her size range! The Betsy covers every woman from a 23-inch to a 42.5 inch waist measurement, which far exceeds the current skirt offerings from Big 4 pattern companies. So many sewists can get in on the pencil skirt love! 


Let's talk construction, darlings. Betsy is a double-darted pencil skirt, which we ladies of the Curvy Sewing Collective have decreed to be the most flattering of designs. The extra bit of shaping provided by doubling up on darts works brilliantly, for those of us with large waist-to-hip ratios. 

If you've ever sewn a wrap skirt, you'll be familiar with the design of this view. There are two front panels, which are sewn to the opposite side seams of the skirt back. You wrap them around you, fastening a hook and eye at the hidden side seam, then the row of buttons along the visible panel edge. Voila! An adorable skirt. On the Betsy, there is also a narrow waistband running along the top, which adds a bit of security and design interest to the skirt. The waistband construction is so novel, actually--it uses one large pattern piece, instead of the standard facing method. The piece is folded over twice while sewing, so that all raw edges are concealed and there are no bulky seams up top. Don't you love efficient little details like that?



For this particular Betsy, I used a navy twill from JoAnn Fabrics that I'd originally sourced for my final Project Sewn look. It was meant to be a blazer, but I could not stop fantasizing about a nautical-inspired wrap skirt! There's something about white buttons marching along navy that screams summer skirt to me. Maybe it's all those Ralph Lauren lookbooks I poured through in high school, but it's a pairing that makes me long for sunny days and sailboats. 

So, that's exactly what I made! The twill doesn't have any stretch, as the pattern calls for, so I went up a size at the hips from my first Betsy (from an AUS 18 to an AUS 20) to account for the difference. BGD patterns run with much less ease than the Big 4, so it was good decision. Even with the up sizing, it's quite a form-fitting little skirt. The seams were all sewn traditionally, then finished with my serger to prevent unraveling, which is my standard procedure. I love the speed of a serger, but I'm such a stickler about proper garment pressing. It makes me twitchy not to press the seams of woven garments open! 

This was such an easy, fun skirt to put together. I took my time with it, as I prefer to sew in small sessions when not under deadline, but it only took a few hours total to whip up. The result is a super cute wardrobe staple. It's rare that I sew with solid fabrics, but I love the simplicity of this piece. Sure, it's just a navy skirt, but with those white buttons and the right blouse, it's the perfect skirt for a lakeside adventure. You can bet I'll also be sporting it on July 4th! 


In addition to my currently injured initial version, I also have a large floral Betsy all cut out and ready to sew. As demonstrated by the lovely Tanya, fabulous T, and adorable Mary, this pattern is ideal for large, gorgeous florals! Quite frankly, I can't imagine a print that wouldn't work for Betsy. Since pencil skirts are so conservative on yardage, they're a great opportunity to use up bold, fabulous fabrics. Knowing me, there will be quite a few loud iterations in my future.

The details...

Things I Loved:
  • The buttons! I'll use any excuse to embellish a garment and buttons are a fabulous way to do so. These four little lovelies are from my vast, ridiculous collection of vintage buttons. I can't come away from an antique store without more buttons. 
  • The shape! Double darts ftw, y'all. 
  • The waistband! It was such an efficient, brilliant method of construction.
Things I Changed: 

  • Though intended to be a little longer in design, I took a 3.5 inch hem on this Betsy. At 5'8'', that put the skirt's hem right along my knee. 
  • Sized up to an AUS 20 at the hips, to make up for intractable fabric. 
Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
  • Not a thing! It's a super little skirt. Not having to sew a zipper is amazing!
Tips & Tricks:
  • As I said, BGD patterns don't have much built-in ease. If you're between sizes or prefer a looser fit in clothing, I strongly suggest sizing up for the Betsy. This is meant to be a va va voom sort of piece, but would be just as cute as a more casual skirt
  • Sewing a buttonhole through four layers at the waistband was bit of a trial for my machine. The fabric was quite thick and my machine is on its last legs, but it's something to be aware of, if your machine is similarly decrepit. I opted not to interface the waistband, with just such a scenario in mind. 
Notions & Fabric:
  • 1.5 yards of navy twill - JoAnn Fabrics - $16
  • 4 vintage white buttons
  • Betsy Pattern courtesy of Bluegingerdoll Patterns
Construction Time:
  • About three hours, because I was purposefully slow. 


Don't forget to check out all the other lovely pieces on the Betsy & Ava Blog Tour! I'm sure I'll be back quite soon with more of both patterns. Chic wardrobe staples are the cat's (well-tailored) pajamas!

29th May – Tanya at MrsHughes - ( Betsy)
1st June – Liz at Sewn by Elizabeth - ( Betsy & Ava as well as a little interview with Abby.)
2nd June  – T at uandmii ( Betsy)
3rd June  – Mary at YoungBroke&Fabulous
4th June – Mary at Idle Fancy (That's me! You're here!)
5th June – Andrea at foursquarewalls
6th June– Tanya at MrsHughes - (Ava) 
7th June - Melissa at Scavenger hunt 
8th June -  T at uandmii ( Ava)


Obligatory cute shoe shot!

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