Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Miss Cressida and the Slipping Scissors: A Halloween Tale

In honor of Halloween, today I'm sharing a terrifying story of my own: The Tale of the Slipping Scissors. Grab your teddy bears and grasp your mugs of spiked cocoa close, darlings, because this one gets truly frightful. If you're prone to fainting spells, do proceed with caution. There are (sewing) horrors ahead. 

It all began, of course, with a pattern. When Jennifer Lauren sent out a testing call for her latest offering, the Cressida skirt, I jumped at the opportunity. Between the flirty semi-circle shape and that tidy row of buttons, I was smitten. Dreams of buttoned up autumn skirts filled my mind. I no longer saw flannel bolts or tweed yardage, but potential Cressidas instead. In fact, I ordered this cozy wool tweed from Mood Fabrics, with just such a garment in mind. 

Despite living in the south, where we get mere suggestions of autumn and winter, wool is one of my favorite fabrics to sew with. Seams practically disappear into it and hand sewn hems become truly invisible. This tweed was no different, sewing up beautifully and easily. On closer inspection, this fabric itself is quite interesting, its small herringbone lines of maroon, green, and navy forming the classic, tweedy plaid. It's a solid medium weight, but very drapey, almost like a heavy challis. Absolutely gorgeous and perfect for a Cressida!

Due to the small amount of fabric I had, the waistband and button bands were cut on the crossgrain. Unfortunately, while this tweed is gorgeous, the plaid forms rectangles not squares, as it appears to the eye. The sides of each "square" are a smidge longer than the tops, so any pattern matching is futile. Both bands started out perfectly matched, but slowly and surely marched off into chaos. I'm calling the resulting pattern shift a design element. It's such a small plaid that the casual observer couldn't tell anyhow. 

I'm inclined to gloss over the construction of this pattern, because it is such a straightforward piece, but I know some people love in depth reviews of new patterns, before they buy them. If you're sticking around for the horrors, feel free to skim past these details! 

As with other Jennifer Lauren Patterns I own (Namely: all of them. Though, I've only sewn this one, the Bronte, Dalloway, and Afternoon Blouse have all been printed and assembled.), the Cressida Skirt was a cinch to piece together. Jennifer Lauren's .pdf patterns enable you to only print out the pieces you want, which is great for saving effort and paper. What's better, every pattern line and every match point align perfectly. That shouldn't be such a big deal, but you would be shocked by how many digital patterns I've put together that have completely mismatched lines and markers. I've gotten to the point where I mostly ignore those little triangles, in favor of lining up pattern lines correctly. So often going by the intended match points just skews everything! 


Right. You came for fun details, not my irrational ramblings about digital pattern quality. Based on changes Jennifer made to sizing during testing, I went down a size with this skirt, cutting out a straight Size 18. (Waist of 36", hips of 47" -- my own measurements are 46-35-46.) Cressida is a semi-circle skirt, with a straight waistband, button plackets, belt loops, and deep inseam pockets. This makes it extraordinarily easy to put together! There are no darts or pleats to worry about, though I do recommend stay-stitching your skirt's waist immediately after cutting. It's especially bad, when working with wools like my own, but circle skirt waistlines stretch like crazy. Even just dangling it off your ironing board can cause the waist to grow by an inch or two. Ask me how I know this. Staystitch, staystitch, staystitch!

This skirt is very beginner friendly. If you're new to buttonholes or plackets, this would be a great pattern to start with. Jennifer walks you though each step clearly, with helpful diagrams, and offers a range of finishing options, based on skill level. The button band is formed by sewing a placket to the skirt, then folding it back over the skirt itself. This method is a bit rarer than the standard technique of folding the placket in two on its own, but it provides a really sturdy base for buttons and sets the placket off a bit, visually. 

Other than the placket, construction is intuitive. I did make a few small changes, based on personal preferences. I subbed out the larger, pointed belt loops for small traditional rectangles, and omitted the pockets in favor of French seams. Theoretically, I know you can keep pockets and French seams, but it's not something I've done before and pockets didn't seem overly necessary in this piece. Rather than hie off researching a new technique, I nixed the pockets and kept it simple. Additionally, I only had six buttons, rather than the prescribed seven, so my button placement is stretched a bit. Since taking these pictures, I've added a snap just below the waistband, since my wide placement was causing the tiniest bit of gaping there. 

Now, of course, we come to the horrors. Notice that nice shot of my bum above? Ignore the way my hip's angle is making the hem appear crooked (I'm standing on a slope in these pictures) and, instead, focus on the right side of my hip, halfway down. Do you see it? That small slightly dark triangle? Let's zoom in.


Picture the scene, kittens: There I was, satisfied in my sewing diligence and patting my back for side seams well-matched, when I decided to trim some loose threads. The skirt still needed to hang overnight, but I wanted to finish it as much as possible. So, I trimmed. Snip. Snip. Snip. SCREAM. My scissors slipped, as I was contorting to catch some stubborn dangling bits, and snipped right into the skirt back. 

I had snipped a two inch floppy triangle into my formerly perfect skirt. It had French seams, for fuck's sake, and I'd ruined it. Ruined it all! That's about the time I threw the skirt onto my studio's daybed, in a furious huff, cursed myself for a fool and gave up on sewing entirely. I would give away all of my fabric, sell my machines on Ebay, turn the studio into a romance novel library, and never again know such pain! My heart was not made of stone, it could be snipped and cut! 

Three days later, of course, the internal dramatics had calmed down a bit. I got out some interfacing, secured the triangle in place, covered it with a patch on the inside, and hand sewed the raw edges in place. It's not perfect, by any means, but it is barely noticeable. Or...so Sam tells me. I'm going to go with that optimistic view, because I love this skirt deeply. It's exactly the piece I want to pair with boots, tights, and sweaters. It makes me want to sip cocoa and trudge through fallen leaves. A small triangle will not keep me from enjoying it!

So, they all lived happily ever after. Though our heroine, it should be noted, promised to be less cavalier with her scissors in the future. There would be no more snip, snip, screams from this seamstress.  

Disclaimer: This pattern was received for free, in exchange for testing. The fabric, similarly, was courtesy of Mood Fabrics, as part of the Mood Sewing Network. 

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