Martin Margiela S/S97 Dress Form Top Wannabe

After weeks of cajoling, the Photographer-In-Me finally reluctantly put down her cocktails for a sec to help out. So here’s the first of a few recent project posts I’ve queued up earlier…

With fitting over, the Fitting Muslin for my Fitted Top Block can now finish her Cinderella story. Let’s let her have her moment of glory first shall we?

Style Shots & Mug Shots


The Inspiration & Design

Considering that she started life as a sloper fitting muslin (so wasn’t made up with due care), then was repeatedly manhandled as the bodice for my three fitted sleeve / gusset experiments, I’m lucky that her make-over inspiration was the deconstructed aesthetic of Maison Martin Margiela Spring-Summer 1997 collection:
PHOTOS: found at Dusty Burrito blog…

I’ve always loved the look of old fashion dress forms, and have a thing for shabby chic potato sack aesthetic (hello burlap Louis chairs!). So this is right up my alley.

The sleeve in the left photo is meant to look like dress form arms, which you can make for your own dress form. A few tutorials I like: Pandemic Apparel blog’s free tutorial, “Make an Arm for your Dress Form” in Threads issue 90 p57-59 (available via online subscription or on DVD), Connie Crawford’s commercial pattern for dress form arm. I haven’t made one for Q (my paper tape dress form) yet. But when I do I will probably base the pattern on plastic wrapping the Duct Tape arm that MR helped me make ages ago.

As I have fitting muslin for the bodice and the sleeve already, I went for the one with the sleeve. And as it’s pre-existing pieces, the neckline & sleeve cap / shoulder area deviates from the designer original. Mine is also slightly more finished than the original, which judging from the photo seem to have raw edges for bodice armholes.

Being the indecisive type I also made my sleeves detachable so the top can be worn as a sleeveless or a sleeved top.

Now, that funky armpit ventilation design detail isn’t entirely new to me. My designer idol of yore COMME des GARÇONS incorporated armpit ventilation into a few collections in the early 90’s. In fact, at one point I owned a CdG jacket with this detail.

Very handy for a sweaty gal like me! ;-) I also vaguely recall reading about detachable sleeves in European garments of the Renaissance. So while it looks strange and avant-garde to modern eyes, it’s nothing new nor always on the edge.

Now the best bit about me-made designer wannabes…I can customize it to my own taste, do a mash up of details I like from different designers & inspiration sources, add in those silly little insider jokes & Easter Eggs that keeps me chuckling to myself through the days I wear my me-mades! :-)

  • So the back, I added a decorative hanging tab on the outside in homage to tongue-in-cheek Jean-Paul Gaultier. I had a JPG skirt once with this detail and I’ve been adding it to my me-mades here & there.
  • And instead of pretending to be “semi-couture” I paid homage to sewing with my “Woof Form” spoof on Wolf Forms, credit Q, my current dress form on which this pattern is based with “Model 2014Q”, and wore my age “43” proudly.
  • Finally, for an emphatic “I’m definitely a Dress Form” look, I machine stitched all the fitting guidelines with contrasting threads so they’re visible on the outside.

The Pattern


Block Used:

Fitted Top / Dress Block + Fitted Sleeve Block (minus cut-on gusset)
Both are based on instruction in Kenneth King’s CD books (Moulage, Basic Sleeve) with body variation alteration tweaks.

Original Top Sloper MuslinAs I was turning the Fitted Top Block muslin (pictured here) into this top, I decided to tweak the waist ease placement to give me a tinsy bit more waist definition. Originally the waist ease was added at the side seam per instruction. But because I’m fairly straight up & down at the sides, following my natural shape at the side would give me no visible waist. So I moved the waist ease to the front princess waist darts while keeping the bust & hip ease at the side seams. This gives me a tiny bit more nipped in look at the side.

So to summarize, here’s the ease I added to my skin-tight 0″-ease Moulage to get my Fitted Top Block…

0″ ease moulage + horizontal ease
(total) + vertical ease
Neck-CF down 1/2″
Neck-CB down 1/8″
Neck-side out 1/4″
Shoulder out 1/4″ up 1/8″
Cross-front out 0″ (0″)
Cross-back out 3/8″ (3/4″)
Armpit out 1/2″ (2″) down 3/8″
Bust out 1/2″ (2″)
Under-bust out 1/4″ + F waist dart width reduced 1/4″ (1-1/2″)
Waist out 0″ + F waist dart width reduced 3/8″ (3/4″)
High Hip out 1/4″ (1″)
Hip out 1/2″ (2″)

Design Changes Made

  • 2-sleeve-1Added the shoulder pad shaped pieces for attaching the removable sleeves. And I guess I was trying to (unsuccessfully) approximate the original shoulder line by adding wadding & pad stitching to these shoulder pieces.
  • Left short wrist slits in the sleeve seams so I can get my relatively large hand through the slim sleeve’s wrist opening.
  • Made it hip length…because that’s what I’ve already cut out for the muslin fitting.
  • Cut CF with seam allowances (but no overlap) for a butted CF opening with hook & eye closure.
  • Left the horizontal CF bust level dart unsewn.
  • Shrink 1/4″ ease in the back armholes at shoulder blade level to reduce sleeveless armhole gaping while accommodating the blade curvature. This is something I picked up from two of my tailoring books: Classic Tailoring Techniques: Men’s Wear & Vintage Couture Tailoring.

What I should have also done is to add a bit more bust & waist ease to account for the extra layers of fabric involved! The fitting muslin wrinkle easily. So to get the “I’m a Dress Form” look I interface all pieces with fusible woven interfacing. This make the inside ugly, so lining was called for as well.

These extra layers & their respective seam allowance layers at the 8 vertical seams ate up a big chunk of those vainly spartan breathing / wearing ease I added. If you reckon each interface seam fold lose 1/32 – 1/16″, then that’s a whopping 1/2 – 1″ less ease then I bargained for. Without the extra layers the Fitted Top Block is slouch happy. With the layers and it’s only fit for the straitlaced I-Can-Hold-My-Breath days. Oops. Live & learn.

The lining is edge to edge because…well, the shell seam allowances were a bit tatty from the manhandling to serve as hem allowances. So I picked a contrasting lining for that erm, “intentional” two sided look. This way, the top can be worn as a fitted jacket over camisoles hooked only at the waist & the reverse A side peeking out from time to time.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

  • Construction order wasn’t efficient because of the gusset experiment detour. So I had to hand fell-stitch the lining in place at the armhole & CF hook & eye tape.
  • 2-sleeve-2How to attach the removable sleeves was a conundrum. I considered solid skirt / trouser hooks, velcro, before deciding on the buttons & elastic option. I think this might be best for an area that will move a bit as I raise my arm sideways & forward. The button at the peak of the shoulder piece / shoulder seam near the neckline is on sewn the underside of the sleeve shoulder piece, with a slit left in the shoulder seam as button hole. Two additional buttons are sewn just inside the bodice armhole at the cross-front & cross-back level, with corresponding elastic buttonhole  loops sewn into the sleeves. I originally had these two buttons on the sleeve & the elastics on the bodice, but found the elastic peeking out after a day’s wear & stretch. Reversing this allows the attachment mechanism to remain hidden sleeveless or sleeved.
  • And the other Oops along the way…
    • That funky alternate side shading…As this was originally a fitting muslin, I didn’t pay attention to which side of the fabric I used. It seems like the fabric, which was an used bed skirt, have faded on one side from exposure to sunlight over the years, so not reversible anymore. Thankfully my random cutting followed a pattern of alternating side (LF & RB, RF & LB). So I can just about pretend the funky shading was erm, “intentional” & part of the “deconstructed look”!
    • Fusing bubbles…It could be my poor fusing technique. Or it could be the fact that the interfacing has been laying around for over 20 years and the adhesive has disintegrated. Again, thank to the “deconstructed” design I can try to pass this off as “erm, it’s intentional”! :-p

The Verdict

Considering this fitting muslin would have gone to fabric recycling purgatory, I’m  pleased as Punch with the result.

It’s a top to be worn with attitude (aka confidence). No shrinking violet here. Not with all the Oops that one has to spin as “all part of the Deconstructed Look”!

Mutton-As-Lamb Tiered Skirt Yeehaw

OK, having slept on it (not literally of course), I’ve decided my adult version of the tiered Yeehaw skirt isn’t so bad. MR begs to differ. He thinks I’m on the wrong side of 40 to wear a skirt so short. The pre-final-wash puffiness didn’t help. But I think style it right and it doesn’t have to scare everyone speechless. Besides, I only live once, and I didn’t get to misbehave in my youth. So I owe it to myself to grow old somewhat disgracefully.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

When I made Little Miss’ version I already started counting the different ways I’d style this. Let’s see if Yeehaw Skirts play nicely with others.


Yeah, I know that’s not cowgirl boots. It’s as close as I could get this time of the year, what with boot season over and rodeo fares not year round staples in Old Blighty. Tattoo T blogged here

Vivienne Westwoodesque Cut & Slashy

With Frou-Frou Chemise blogged here


With Zara top

Classy Ms PMP

That’s Perl, Mohair, & Pumps. Actually, pearl color mohair would have been classier. But I didn’t get around to making one. So Breakfast@Tiffany Wannabe Sweater it had to be.

Street Cred enough for the Sartoiralist you think?

With Stella McCartney thigh-high boots & aforementioned Tattoo T.

Teal Moto Byzantine

With Heavenly T & Reversible Moto Jacket blogged here.

Dolce & Gabbana-ish

With altered TopShop kimono T.

Well Hello Sailor!

With marinière T blogged here

And that’s how you bend down in a mini-skirt to feed the flying pig.

& Les Mugs

And the aftermath of the photoshoot…


Fabric & Notions Used

The Design, The Pattern, The Construction

neice-1Self-drafted Tiered Skirt for Tweeny Niece
So the Yeehaw Skirt for Little Miss was the starting point. That was basically strips of gathered rectangles. I had actually wanted to make fitted top tier for her as well. But since it was the first time I was sewing for a growing Tweeny from across the pond I thought it safer to go with elasticated waist.

This time around I did go with fitted tier 1 & side zipper. And here’s where the biggest Oops almost got me.


I knew the waist + zip opening needs to be wide enough to go over my hip. So I had planned for the zipper to be in the top tier only. Then tier 2 would nicely cap the bottom of the zip. I forgot that the fitted high hip (tier 1 & 2 seam) also needs to be wide enough to go over my hip. Thank goodness I fitted as I sew. Otherwise I would have ended up with another skirt for Little Miss – assuming she hasn’t overtaken me in sizing!

2-zipSo in the end, I had to extend the zipper into tier 2. Which complicated things as I didn’t want to impede the gathered puff. The fudge was to sew the invisible zip to the A-line underlayer & let the gathered tier 2 hang free with a gap where the zip opening is. This is kept closed with hooks & eyes.

I also had to add a pseudo waist stay with hook & eye to aid zipper closing. I love invisible zippers. But they can be darn hard to zip up. And after manually embroidering 400+ scallops I ain’t letting no zipper ruin my skirt!

Scallop Saga

2-hem-embroideryYes you read that right. 400+ scallops. That’s because my Scottishness insisted on using up every last scrap of the damn cut lace. And that called for equal amount in underlining as well. And to preserve my modesty, I added an A-line lining which demanded scallops of its own. I didn’t mind though. It’s rather meditative after a while. Getting started was a different story though.

Little Miss’ scallops came out slightly wimpy after the stablizer washed away. So this time I tried iron-on tear-away paper stablizer which kind of leave tiny sliver of paper behind (under the zig-zag embroidery). As the paper only come in white, I had to color it with marker to keep the visible reverse side tidy. I ran out of my old plastic wash-away stablizer and had to switch to my new Sulky Solvy. I didn’t like this new one one bit. It almost melted to my touch & wasn’t that stable. Maybe you’d get better result if you use it with embroidery hoops. I had miles & miles of scallops to do. I wasn’t about to fuss with no hoops.

I must say though, the result was spot on after the soluble stablizers have been washed away. It’s piraty romantic, soft but not too wimpy.

And A Couple More Things…

1) I found the bemberg lining fabrics a nightmare to work with. They shape shift like the best of those silky divas. And the fluff, the fraying cotton candy fluff that sticks to you and won’t let go! OMG. I don’t know how you silky lovers do it! Only a couple of tools came to my aid: iron-on interfacing, and spray starch.

1-innard-pattern2) I mentioned A-line underlayer & lining. Aside from preserving modesty, the underayer was also for  simplifing assembly. Last time all the tiers & layers were different widths, which made gathering & seaming a royal pain. This time I streamlined. So the shell & underling for each tier is the same width. Each tier was attached to a simple A-line underlayer. I could have used the lining as the underlayer. But the fabrics were flimsy & I wanted slightly more structure, at least above the hip – to hide bumps of any tucked in tops for example. So the separate underlayer has iron-on interfacing & the lining hangs free inside. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Little Miss & Old Ms’ versions of the Yeehaw Skirt:



The Verdict

With the tight gathering of the voluminous skirt attached to the modesty preserving A-line innards, I think I’ve taken enough pre-cautions to get away with a mini this side of 40.

So what if I can’t do the Cancan in it…Or can I? There’s still plenty of lining left. Maybe a matching Scallopy O Bloomer would do the trick? ;-)

Teal + Brown Floral Print Reversible Pencil Skirt

Pencil skirts should be dead easy once you got the fit sorted right? But the Artiste in me obviously can’t live with a life that easy. So the first 3 pencil skirts this year will all have torturous kinks to them & take indecent amount of time to make.

First out of the studio…a sporty reversible (almost) skirt that will have a matching Moto Jacket based on Burdastyle 11/2013 #117. And maybe even a matching Aviator Cap!

Style Shots & Mug Shots







Fabric & Notions Used

  • 2Teal & Brown Wool Acrylic Print Novelty Knit from the sweater knit section Mood NYC bought during my pilgrimage there last year. I was a bit unsure about it to start with. It feels like sweatshirt material on the teal side – and I don’t really do sporty. But the contrasting brown print on the other side made it irresistibly edgy. So I took the plunge. Sadly it’s not available from the Mood online shop.
  • 2013-sewing-bits-2YKK Excella #5 (5mm teeth) Metal Zippers from Sil Thread. They have these in a range of tape colors which don’t seem to be available anywhere else. I bought two long separating zippers one and had Sil Thread split them into 6 zippers ($1 per cut / bit added on). Should have ended up with 2 separating & 4 closed end zippers, but I only got 1 separating one in the end. Forgot to check before I headed back to London d***it.
  • Petersham Ribbon for facing / reverse side contoured waist band. Mine was gifted to me by my thrifting friend. It looks like grosgrain ribbon, but is made of shapable fiber (cotton, acetate, rayon; not polyester) & the ribs run edge-to-edge, so look scalloped. MacCulloch & Wallis in London carries them.
  • Vilene Bias Tape interfacing. Skirt hook & eye. Stitch Witchery fusible bonding web.

The Design & Pattern


0plans-skirtsUsed princess seams for color blocking with both sides of the fabric. I was a bit unsure whether to have the print on the side panels or center panels. Initial design has it on the sides on the assumption that the darker color at the sides creates a slimmer look.

Block Used: One Dart Pencil Skirt F&B

My original Pencil Skirt Block has 2 front darts & 1 back dart per side (ie 6 darts altogether). And you can see in the design I was going to convert the back dart & one front dart into princess seam. But because the fabric seemed a bit thick for darts I ended up drafting a one-dart front. It doesn’t fit as well as the two-dart front – I have tummy & hip bone bulges. But I reckon it’ll do fine in this slightly stretchy fabric

Design Changes Made


  • Converted the darts to princess seams. The back princess seam has shaping above & below the hip – basically connecting the waist & hem darts. The front princess seam has shaping only above the hip (waist dart). Below it was just a style line which slant slightly towards CF to add illusion of more shaping. I ended up shifting the front princess seam slightly towards the CF to get a more balanced color blocking effect. Hopefully the slight stretch of the fabric will compensate for waist dart shaping not in exactly the right place.

Construction Notes

This project has a few firsts for me. I tried a few different seaming techniques on scraps. But in the end decided to go with the following combination which was inspired by a Jean-Paul Gaultier knit skirt I had in my youth.

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  • First time I used flatlock seaming. And boy was it scary. For the vertical seams one side has no seam allowance and the other side only 1/4″. They’re sewn wrong sides together on the overlocker with 2-thread flatlock (so seam allowance sticking out). Then pulled in opposite direction to flatten the seam. Not sure if I did it correctly, but mine end up overlapping that 1/4″ & I had to use blunt sweater needle to coax the underlayer’s 1/4″ SA flat – it was folding in half, so won’t lay flat. Flatlock seam just look so delicate. Fingers crossed the seams won’t pop open during wear. (Maybe I should carry a back up skirt around if I’m wearing this outside the house?) You could theoretically reinforce the seams from the inside by fusing a thin strip of interfacing over the seam as recommended by various serger books. But then it won’t be reversible. And I can’t decide on which color blocking design I prefer.
  • First time I used 2-thread wrap overlock edge finishing. Again scary with no seam allowance. And the thread loops around the edge look so vulnerable to snags. Plus stretchy fabric means waist & hem risk stretching out of shape. So I tried to stabilize both waist & hem with Vilene Bias Tape fused so it wrap over the edge (1/2 on outside, 1/2 on inside). Then I did another layer, but this time basted it so that the adhesive is facing out. Next came the overlock. And finally pressing to fuse the overlock stitches to the 2nd layer of Vilene Bias Tape. Hopefully it’ll tame the loopy treads.
  • First time I sewn an exposed zipper. I’m usually an invisible zipper fan, but decided to go with exposed zipper because (a) the matching moto jacket will have 3, and (b) I couldn’t figure out how to make flatlock seams work with invisible zippers. I’m not a fan of the type of exposed zipper that has the tape on the outside. So for the planned version, the tape edge is hidden. But now that the skirt has turned out reversible (almost), the reversed version does have the tape on the ‘outside’. I mostly followed this tutorial on exposed zipper with a seam, though Husqvarna’s animated tutorial for a slit version is pretty good too. The seam allowance is trimmed, then the tape edge fell-stitched on the reverse side, the bottom of the tape folded under. BTW the CB is a fake flat-lock seam because I wanted to extend the flat-lock look to the CB slit. Each side was flat-locked separately as a single layer. Then the stretch between the zipper bottom & the slit joined with top-stitching. (Except I didn’t plan properly, so the reverse side wasn’t psuedo-flat-locked all the way from zipper bottom downward.)
  • First time I used Petersham ribbon for skirt waist facing. I was hoping it would act as interfacing to stabilize the waist. In this case it also act as a nice belt / waist-band like finishing for the reversed version. It was steam pressed into a slight curve before being fell-stitched in place over the the 2-thread wrap overlock edge finishing. At the zipper, the ends were folded under and overlapped slightly so a flat skirt hook & bar can join the ends unobtrusively. I added a extra fold on the top end so that it mirrors the overlap and make a box feature over the zipper end to mimic a fabric belt buckle.

The Verdict

I’m pretty pleased with the skirt. The pattern is basic enough to be reused with different details which I hope to demonstrate with the next two pencil skirts planned.

And for a commitment-phobe, I’m relieved that it turn out reversible, almost. What keeps it from being properly reversible is the zipper. So I have to be really careful zipping up / unzipping when I wear this inside out.

So it’s onward with the matching jacket. Let’s see if I can also make that (almost) reversible too shall we?

TNT Knit Block…or is it?

So, while we’re on the Knit Block detour we might as well finish this conversation.

As you know, I’ve been using my adjusted Burdastyle 2012-09-123 T-shirt as my tentative Knit Block. And it’s been working OK. No major complaint apart from the sway-back type puddle in the lower back. So I thought I’d try designing with it.  Nothing fancy, just a simple U-neck T.

bs201209123mod1_0dsgn-1 I was going to make it with 3/4 sleeves. But the fabric I had in mind was a $1/yard remanent from FIDM’s Scholarship Store in LA, so not enough for long sleeve. No problem I thought. I’ll just make a short sleeve version.

Straightforward right? Sadly no.

See those pulls emanating from the neckline towards the shoulder? I had no such problem with the previous makes based on this Knit Block. It could be the fabric, though this one seem just as stretchy. My bet though is on the short sleeve. All my previous makes were long sleeves. I think maybe the weight of the long sleeves pulled the shoulder seams in place. So I hadn’t really noticed that the shoulders were really too short.

Here’s how it compare with my zero-ease Moulage pattern:

Apology for the confusing extra lines – they’re for the blouse/dress, jacket, & coat slopers. I’m waiting to test them out with muslins before separating them into heavy paper Blocks. The heavier red lines show the Moulage.

The shoulder is about 3/8″ too short. Waist is zero ease, and Bust & Hip are both currently negative ease (even accounting for the bit taken out by the Moulage darts).

I think I need to redo the Knit Block, get back to basic principles. Specifically, where it’s OK to have negative ease and where it should be kept at zero ease. And maybe figure out a totally zero-ease Knit Block for those less stretchy knit fabrics.

And I thought I was saving time by starting with a commercial pattern for knit! Sometimes there’s no substitute for learning properly, especially if one intend to get creative with pattern making.

Wrap Cardie: modified BS 2011-06-139

The dress form is still WIP. I’m no deft hands with the DIY, so the stand is taking a while to make. And I’m leaving the padding & cover till the last.
So how about a spot of Here’s One I Made Earlier?

The Pattern

Well this one has been stewing since March. I was going to franken-pattern this bodice & sleeve with the front neckline of Burdastyle 2011-11-114. In the end I went for a simple modified Blumarine pattern because I couldn’t my head around that weird grafting. And I’m glad I did…

Style Shots & Mug Shots


That last set is my homage to the melodramatic Dolce & Gabbana 2013 ads :-) But you won’t catch me doing that in real life.

And last but not least, all the holiday snaps. Lucky top!

Columbus, OH, USA
nyc-me-made-o7-7_Coney Island, NYC, USA
My old elementary school in
Taipei, Taiwan
Jioufen Gold Mine Museum in
Taipei, Taiwan

As you can see, I end up wearing this open most of the time, with the ties looped around my neck. I really should add a thread loop to the CB neckline seam to keep the ties in place. They get a bit unwieldy with the constant taking off & putting back on (especially in Taiwan where outside it’s freaking hot and inside it’s effing freezing with A/C everywhere).

Fabric & Notions Used

Size Used

34 because it was closest to my tentative Knit Block.

Changes Made


Fitting changes
  • Changed shoulder slopes to match my Knit Block.
  • Moved armholes & side seams down the same amount as the shoulder to match my Knit Block.
  • Moved waist up to match my Knit Block, plus other design element related to the waist: the hole for the tie bands & the position of the tie bands, the front wrap edge curve (which also improves bust coverage).
  • Shortened sleeves to match my Knit Block.
  • Moved shoulder matching mark on sleeves towards the front to match my Knit Block.
Design changes
  • Added armhole ease by lowering the underarm on all patterns.
  • Shortened bodice patterns to about 2″ below the hip.
  • Omit the collar.
  • Widen the front band pieces to 2″ finished width & cut as one continuous piece (ie without CB seam).

Verdict on the Instruction

Read & ignored as usual. Once I know how the pieces are suppose to fit together I prefer to follow my own batch work-flow and modifying where necessary to fit my design changes and fabric behavior.

  • Stabilized the back shoulder & tie band hole ares of the side seam with Vilene Bias Tape.
  • Overlocked shoulder seams & tie bands. Neatened tie band hole areas of side seams on the serger. Turn tie band inside out.
  • Overlocked armscye seam, one long edge of front band to neckline, and bottom edge of the front band folded back right sides together.
  • Overlocked the tie band sleeve – side seams, skipping the tie band hole areas. Top-stitched the seam allowances of the tie band holes in place.
  • Slip-stitched the narrow hems & front band / neckline seam by hand while on holiday in NYC!

Would I sew it again / Would I recommend it to others

This modified top is fast becoming a favorite. It’s great for layering & goes with almost everything. It’s classy with a little flare of drama in the bell-shaped sleeves. Considering that I have a moth problem I will no doubt be making more of the same in the future.

And the dress version too. I already have in mind a muted gold stretch jersey as well as the same turquoise leopard print I used for the pencil skirt & cowl top you see in the photos above.

Other people’s makes on Burda & Pattern Review all look great as well. So definitely would recommend. You can still buy the PDF version of the pattern online at Burda website. So what are you waiting for!

Kiddy Tiered Skirt Yeehaw…Gathering Hell

Excuse #4: Verdict on the Instruction, continued

OMG, how could I have forgotten about this other very important key make-my-life-harder feature…

You may gather (haha) from my previous projects that I’m not much of a gatherer. But this project has miles of gathering to do.

tiered-skirt_1-3I do own one of those weird contraption called a ruffler foot. But given the type of garments I tend to sew I’ve never used it on a project before.

I thought I’d try it out. Unfortunately, it eats fabric for breakfast, lunch & dinner. I’m not sure if I got a defective unit or not – it was a cheap eBay model – but even at the least-gathering setting, 18″ of test fabric was promptly reduced to 5″ at best. What with the calculation hell I was already in with this project, I had to abandon this route. It does make some lovely gathers though…(see bottom sample in the photo below).


The other route I’ve read about is using overlocker’s differential feed to gather & sew at the same time. Way too advanced for me – the second part that is. I tried the first part on a sample. The result wasn’t spectacular (see top sample in the photo above). Maybe 2-thread overlock isn’t the right stitch to do overlocker gathering – the instruction did specify 4-thread overlock stitch. But I was worried about having too much thread built up as I was going to gather, attach, then overlock again.

In the end it was back to good old fashion route of pulled basting stitch. Which of course took ages. Urgh.

So here’s a question for all you Master Gatherers: What’s your secrets for expert gathering? Is this one for Patience or am I missing out on some Fast Track Insider Tips?

BTW, a couple more styling ideas for this skirt if I had one in my size… Biker Chic with a leather jacket … Or Senorita style like this clipping…


Lucky for my niece this skirt doesn’t fit me. Otherwise she might not be getting this in the post!

Kiddy Tiered Skirt Yeehaw

Next off the kiddy clothing production line is the pile in the middle.

For a simple tiered skirt this one took me embarrassingly long to complete.

Excuse #1: The Pattern

What pattern? Precisely.

Originally I was going to use the Burda 9547 view E skirt that I had already bought. But then I decided I’d prefer the tiers to be free-floating like the out of print McCall 5920 pattern.

So I ended up improvising as I go along. And being an indecisive type, this was not a pretty sight with many a redo and tweaks along the way…despite this being essentially 3 rectangular strips of fabrics!

Catalogue Shots


Fabric & Notions Used

Excuse #2: Size Used

Obviously no standard sizing was involved in the making of this project.

My main criteria was the waistband / top piece has to be big enough for my niece’s hip (+ a bit for growth spurt) and once done small enough for her current waist but elastic enough for the aforesaid growth spurt (or one too many scoop of ice cream). The lower tiers are basically multiples of the fabric width.

Length is where a lot of dithering comes in. Was knee-length too uncool? But too short a skirt will definitely get a veto from the parents.  The skirt ended up a 17-1/2″, which I think is maybe 1-2″ above the knee. Fingers crossed.

Excuse #3: Changes Made

Now with no commercial pattern nothing counts as change right. But if I were to start with McCall 5920 A I would still have had to…

  • Convert the fitted top band with zipper to elasticated waistband.
  • Account for the sort-of-underlining (which was no walk in the park because of the free-floating tiers, especially as I didn’t want the top of the bottom tier to be so wide that any gust of wind would make her indecent) .

Excuse #4: Verdict on the Instruction

Yeah, the instruction – that would be mine – was pretty poor. Good thing I’m no indie pattern designer then! ;o) Too many back & forth between sewing machine & overlocker, brown threads & orange threads, brown on top & orange on bottom, and vice versa!

But let’s get to the key make-my-life-harder features of this skirt:tiered-skirt-1-construction

All 3 tiers are sort of underlined. “Sort of” because they’re not really basted to the shell & treated as one. I wanted the underlining to be free-floating as well, especially for the bottom tier. So underling & shell side seams were sewn separately. They were only treated as one when joining the tiers. Let me just say this (+ the aforementioned modesty preserver) complicate things t-r-e-m-e-n-d-o-u-s-l-y. Highly not recommended.

Because the cut lace is a bit scratchy, I decided to cut the elastic casing separately in lining fabric to make it more comfortable to wear. But I was a bit worried the thin lining might wear out too quickly. So I reinforced the casing lining with light-weight interfacing.

The fabric doesn’t come with scallop salvage. But I wanted scallops. The lacy pattern screams out for scallops. So scallops I will have. And of course the underlining being free-floating it must have its own scallops too. And of course the fancy scallop stitch that came with the sewing machine was not good enough: It was too narrow even if the length was adjustable to match the cut lace’s pattern repeat.

So a template was made. And fabric stiffened and double stiffened. And countless hours lost to rows and rows of manual satin-stitching. The result immediately after stitching doesn’t look half-bad. But once the stabilizers were washed out, the scallops were a bit underwhelming to be honest.


I suppose it gives the skirt a bit of Vivienne Westwoodish 16th century cut lash look, all rough & delicate at the same time. (She says delusionally.) Of course any fashion reference would sadly be lost on a Tweeny Bopper. Poop.

Would I sew it again / Would I recommend it to others

Would I! Not for a growing kid I won’t! Maybe for myself, if I’m high on paint fume or something.

It is awfully labor intensive. But I already have a few styling ideas for one my size! Country-western… Aforementioned VW cut & slashy… Maybe even classy pearls, mohair, & pumps. (No wonder kids thinks home sewn fashion are so uncool – we sew for our own grownup taste after all! ;-)