Peppermint Magazine's Pocket Skirt & How it Inspired A Cheongsam Top
Even though I am not a big fan of wearing skirts, this pattern jumped out at me because of the two ginormous pockets that are sewn into the side panels of the skirt. I LURVE POCKETS! Especially when they are this big and become the defining feature of garments. Another detail that grabbed me is the elasticated high-waist - so no messing around with installing fiddly closures.
Judging from pictures and the line drawings, it looked like the skirt would be really easy to make. And it was. Made up of 4 pattern pieces, this was an incredibly quick sew. It can be tackled in a couple of hours or less, and the result when you're done is a metaphorical burst of sunshine. Because the design is so cute and clever.
Sizes for the skirt come in UK/AUS 6-28. I sewed up a size between 8 and 10 by shaving off a few millimetres from the side seams of the centre front and centre back pieces. But I should have just sewed up a straight size 10, instead of going through the trouble.
As a sustainable pattern-maker, Tara encourages cutting up the pattern pieces on a "flat lay" or on a single layer to reduce fabric waste. For my size, I would need a piece of fabric (150cm wide) at 1.68cm long according to the fabric consumption chart. I had a piece of 150cm wide fabric at 4m long, which would mean that I had more than enough.
The trouble is that I had to cut up two kimono-style robes from the fabric before I could use the scraps for the skirt. The robes have been promised to my mom and her sister when I bought the fabric, and according to the math of the fabric consumption chart for the robes (which was 2.2m per robe) I wouldn't even have enough for the robes at 4m. However, I didn't despair. I knew that pattern companies often err on the side of overestimating how much fabric is required. I was hoping that even after cutting up the 2 robes, there would be still be some available scraps leftover for the Pocket Skirt.
The most time-consuming thing about this project is fitting the pattern pieces of two robes and a skirt on the fabric so that I would have enough for all 3 garments. And this includes pattern-matching for the kimono robes. Heeding Tara's advice, I cut all pieces on a single layer. This is something that I do more and more now, not only because it is the only way to pattern-match accurately, but also, it really saves tons of fabric.
And I definitely wanted to use up every inch of this beautiful double-gauze from India. This cotton fabric is made up of two separate pieces of fabric with contrasting weaves on both sides. One side is a white and dark blue gingham check; and the other side is a white, yellow, blue and grey plaid. Both fabrics are fused together at the selvedges, and there is a tiny stitch at every inch to further secure one fabric to the other. The feel is soft on the skin, and the double layer provides a coziness and warmth even though each single layer is very light in weight.
This is the perfect fabric for my pocket skirt, if I manage to squeeze out enough scraps to make it. I decided early on that I can save some more fabric if I forego pattern matching for the skirt. I can use the double print to my advantage here by alternating the print between the centre pieces and the side panels, so that I don't have to think about pattern-matching these seams.
However, pattern-matching for the kimono robes is absolutely essential. I kept all my fingers and toes crossed when I was puzzling out how to cut the kimono pieces in order to use the least amount of fabric. This took half my day, I'm not gonna lie. I tried out different layouts for cutting out the fabric (pattern-matching considered). I went back and forth between various layout plans. I fretted, twitched and jittered before finally cutting out the pieces that would yield the most leftover scraps. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when I figured out a way to do it that would leave me with 1.5m for the skirt. That gave me a fighting chance! When the kimono pieces were cut up, I focused on tackling the pieces for the skirt.
As I was laying out the pieces for the skirt on the fabric scraps, I started to fantasise making a crop top to go with it. That would make a great outfit. And that gave me the gumption or the balls to squeeze out yet another garment from the scraps of the scraps. You want sustainable sewing? I'll give you sustainable sewing! I felt audacious, empowered, competitive, greedy, ambitious, inspired. Before cutting up the pieces for the skirt, I redrafted my cheongsam crop top. Here's an opportunity to use up some scraps for a different design, and I wanted to do something new as a way to work some drafting muscles. I will always take any chance I get to further my journey into cheongsam-making.
I decided to make a cheongsam crop top with armholes that are more cut in. Almost like a halter, but not. I wanted to experiment with a back bodice that resembled a racer-back. The last experiment was drafting a grown-on cap sleeve cheongsam bodice for my very first cheongsam-jumpsuit, and this time, I wanted to go in the opposite direction with the armholes. So I took a little break from cutting and started drafting this little change in the design of a crop top.
After drafting the crop top pattern pieces on paper, I found that I could fit in the skirt pattern and the crop top pattern onto the scraps. We were in business! The only thing I had to compromise was to forego lining the crop top because there was not enough self fabric to cut the lining for it. Then I decided to do something quite insane, which was to separate the 2 fabrics. This way, I get to use one of the two adjoining fabrics as the lining! I thought I was being super clever, and theoretically, the plan worked. But practically speaking, it had its problems. When I was painstakingly removing every stitch that attached one fabric to the other, I started to regret this decision. The fabric was very light and I think all that handling might have stretched out or contorted the fabric. There is some slight gaping in the armholes in the final result of the make, and I can't figure out if it is due to misshapen fabric or faulty drafting. Maybe the shape of shoulder seam has to be reconsidered. Well, I guess I'll have to make another one to know for sure. I should have just lined the double gauze with a different piece of fabric scrap for structure. Oh well, next time.
Regardless of this boo-boo, I think the idea of it works. I like teaming the Pocket Skirt with a cheongsam crop top. When this Lockdown #2 ends in Israel, I will have to go to the fabric store and get more of this fabric. Just because it's so lovely.
The other thing that I experimented with is changing up the way the the front flap of the bodice of the crop top is secured. I used Prym Jersey snaps this time instead of frog buttons or agate beads, and I think I like it! It gives it a more modern feel and eliminates the number of metal snaps that I have to hand-sew. That's something else to get more of when I get a chance to go to the haberdashery.
I will conclude with a few words about counting my blessings in the midst of this second lockdown here. We are past the halfway mark on this month-long isolation, and it put a damper on the holidays and started on a low point. But it also brought some unexpected gifts. We started a morning ritual of going to the beach and taking a long swim as a family. The rule is you can swim in the water for sport (if the beach is within 1km from where you live) but nobody is allowed to hang out at the beach. So we stay inside the water, swimming (and frolicking) for an hour or two. It has been pure therapy in a time like this. We swim as far out as we can towards the line where sea meets sky. The water is exceptionally clear, a turquoise crystal. No crowd, so no pollution. The reef is filled with fish. There is much to be grateful for: the changing air, the salt, the sun, the never-ending blue, and the steady horizon.
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