Monday, 23 April 2018

Brushed Cotton Berlin Skirt

After the surprise success of the trousers I shared last week I've now got a project to show you which hasn't quite lived up to the high expectations I had for it. I can't quite put my finger on what my problem with this skirt is...the fabric, the pattern, the fit. I think probably a combination of all three just being a little off. Its not a complete disaster and I've still been getting some wear out of it but I was hoping for my new favourite skirt and a wardrobe hero and didn't get it. I've got plans to tackle this pattern again though, I haven't given up on the dream and have learnt a lot from making this one.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

The pattern is the Berlin Skirt from French pattern company Orageuse which I have had my eye on for some time and was actually one of my choices for the #2018makenine challenge on Instagram. A lot of the Orageuse designs appeal to me as they strike a good balance between stylish, contemporary and wearable and include some unique features. It is the first pattern I have used from this company and whilst I was impressed with the drafting and the complexity of the pattern I found myself a bit adrift with the instructions. You know sometimes when you try a new pattern company the instructions feel fairly instinctive to follow and other times they feel a bit unfamiliar and the construction doesn't seem to flow as smoothly; it was definitely the latter experience for me. I think this is often down to personal preference and their methods don't gel with my usual construction techniques. Its good to push yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

The fabric is one of the purchases I made in Paris and is an exquisite brushed cotton from Sacrés Coupons which was my favourite shop. Its almost like a fine moleskin but a little crispier and I imagine is a bolt end from a designer line as is most of the fabric in that particular store. I thought the crisp hand would be great to show off the 'paper-bag' shape of this skirt and really make the most of those feature pockets but after making it I think something softer with more drape would be better suited. This is a little too pokey so the skirt doesn't hang well when I start moving around. In particular the pleats open up when I walk and then stay poking out rather than folding back in on themselves which is frustrating. The nap of the exterior of the fabric also catches against itself a bit so nothing wants to fall into a natural place. It also picks up fluff like crazy! Not so great when you work in costume...I go home covered in thread! I had a 3 metre coupon and still have well over half left so perhaps I can find a project better suited to it for the rest.

One really great thing about the fabric is that it presses beautifully. That's really essential in a fabric choice for this design as you want crisp pleats and crisp edges on those pockets and the centre front split. Its all about sharp corners! I took the advice of a commenter on my post about the Sirius Sweater and tried heat-setting in my pleats with a spritz of vinegar and water mix before pressing. This certainly improved the crispness of my pleats and they are holding up well but still don't fare so well in the wash. Thanks very much to whoever provided me with that great tip!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

I cut the size 38 at the waist and graded out to a 40 at the lower hip as I wanted it nice and snug at the waist and slim but not clingy around the bum. I'm fairly happy with the fit and although I had been considering sizing up next time for a more relaxed summer look I think I'll stick with this as I wouldn't want it to keep shifting about. It sits beautiful around the waist and high hip at the moment which is mainly due to the curved waistband, what a dream those things are! Definitely my favourite part of this pattern.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

Looking at the pictures I'm thinking that part of my dissatisfaction with the finished article may be to do with the style not suiting my petite proportions. Midi lengths can be really tricky to pull off and I'm not quite sure I've got the balance of this one right. I took 9cm off the length and am pretty happy with where the hem hits but next time I will take this out from higher up the skirt, possibly in two parts which will mean redrawing the pleat line in. Taking the length of the hem meant I lost some of the shape. I'm 5ft3" so I expected to have to shorten it a but but 9cm does seem a lot.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

Some of the phrasing of the instructions seemed a little odd and I'm wondering if something is lost in the translation from French. Only tiny things which aren't a huge problem as referring to the illustrations clarifies things; for example it says to 'pink the pocket bag' so you can turn it to the wrong side when it actually means to snip the seam allowance into the corner. I'd read through the instructions before starting so spotted the areas I was wary of and made a few changes for personal preference.

I was going to attach my belt loops once the invisible zip was attached but before the lining was turned to the inside so they were just sewn to the shell and not right through the lining too. I didn't love the idea of that stitching showing on the inside when you've gone to the effort of lining. But then I realised that wouldn't be possible because the waistband is topstitched along the lower edge to seal up the insides. When it came to it I ended up unpicking my topstitching and leaving the shell and lining hanging free from each other as it was nigh on impossible to get seams at the bottom of the waistband and waistband facing lined up so the topstitching looked really terribly uneven from the inside. I'd like to give this a go on another version though, perhaps stitching in the ditch rather than topstitching as it would be a lovely secure finish.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

Speaking of belt loops my inclination is either to make the belt loops longer or the belt itself narrower as the belt at the moment can't lay flat though the loops and looks really scruffy once tied. Its worth noting that the steps to create the belt and assemble the lining aren't illustrated and there is the potential to go wrong there. Make sure you are sewing the two pieces of the belt together by the short ends so you end up with a long, narrow strip rather than short and fat! Also watch out when you are cutting your pattern pieces that you are marking the right pleat lines for the length of skirt you are making. Both the short skirt and midi length are on the same pattern pieces and the pleat lines are easy to confuse. I triple checked!

I added a couple of my own tricks to the instructions such as adding twill tape to the pocket opening seam allowances for extra strength, this style of pocket is very tempting to keep your hands in which means could potentially quite easily get stretched out. I also under-stitched along the top edge of the waistband to encourage the facing to roll to the inside.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

When assembling the front lining the instructions say to sew the centre front seam to 1cm above the slit but the slit isn't actually marked on the pattern piece. By looking ahead in the instructions to see how the slit was later finished I decided to sew it to the same point as I did the front piece but this was a little low. I unpicked about 2cm to get the finishing to work. There's quite a bit of hand stitching involved in finishing the hem and centre front split but I really enjoyed this part!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt


The roomy pockets appealed to me but in reality and despite appearances they are not all that deep! My phone only just about gets in there and I want to be able to plunge my hands down further into them. I might add a bit of length to the pocket bag pieces next time. My real bug bear with this skirt is that the lining wants to peek out of the front slit despite it being hand-stitched down around that edge. I certainly haven't helped that with my choice of contrasting print and the drapey viscose (from my stash) is probably exacerbating the problem as it shifts about so much. A crisper choice might stay put. As a bit of a fix I might catch the lining to the shell at the hem in a few places with thread chains so it still has some movement but keeps to the shape of the shell a little better. I'm considering doing without the lining next time and I'd simply hand stitch the bottom edge of the waistband facing down.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt
You can still see where my topstitching was!

I'd say you want to have a little bit of confidence in your sewing skills to make this as some aspects are slightly fiddly. In general I prefer illustrated instructions like these to those with photographs; theres something about line drawings that I find easier to follow. However there are a couple of points in this where a photograph would have reassured me I'd done it right as the illustrations are all a 'wide angle' view of the whole garment rather than a close up of where you should be stitching. In particular how to finish the front slit cleanly and sew those corners at the top of the pockets. Its a little tricky to get the lining completely tucked away in this area (although you have under-stitched along the opening which helps). I was actually really chuffed with how the corners turned out...then realised they are concealed behind the front pleat anyway!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Khaki Green Brushed Cotton Orageuse Berlin Skirt

I'm in two minds about this project and think I still love the idea more than the reality. Its one of those garments that I want to wear but whenever I put it on just doesn't feel quite right. I've got a beautiful piece of paprika weighty yet soft slubbed linen in my stash which I think might better suit this style than the crisp cotton, especially unlined so I might give the pattern another whirl with some tweaks. There's plenty to think about before the next version!

19 comments:

  1. I think your Berlin Skirt is darling. I’ve heard of Orageuse but have been hesitant to use them because of the language barrier. However I did also just make a pencil skirt with a front slit (post actually goes live tomorrow) and as I’ve learned, I cannot pull off a midi length. The area between my kneecap and ankle are a dead zone for hems. At 5’2” (approx 1.57m) I look horribly frumpy in anything that falls below my knee. So maybe the skirt will work if you pull the hem up slightly the next time around? Here’s to our #shortgirlproblems ��

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    1. Haha! Our short stature can prove tricky can't it! I actually tried on a RTW midi dress the other day which I thought would be too long to be flattering but actually I really loved...perhaps a longer midi is better than just below the knee?! Its confusing!
      I'll be taking a look at your post later, glad to hear I'm not alone!
      I think I sound a bit down on this project when I know it's not a complete disaster, just not the huge success I was hoping for!

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  2. Fiona, I still adore this skirt on you. I've been eyeing this pattern for quite a while and will take all of your tips into consideration... as I really, really want to make this skirt... after summer... I can't believe you had to shorten the skirt by 9 cm!!!! That's crazy! I really love how you styled it with a leather jacket and your striped turtle neck - tres chic!

    xB

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    1. Thank you! I'm still not really sure, I'm going to try a version in a lighter weight fabric and keep more of the length to see how that feels. Not giving up on it yet! Looking forward to seeing your version!

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  3. You did a fabulous job on the skirt. It is really very cute. But I do agree with you - If it was above your knee, it would do you more justice. To much of your leg cut off. Only makes you look shorter and a little frumpy. You are too young for frumpy...LOL

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    1. Haha! Thanks very much! Perhaps I will try taking another couple of inches off! Big job though as it is so clean lined with that front slit!

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  4. It's so frustrating isn't it when you have a project in your mind's eye and then after it's done and you put it on you think, "That doesn't look right!" and you can't figure out why! I think on you it might be a problem with length - I would cut more off and bring up above your knee - well above your knee :) Almost a mini skirt but dealing with that kick pleat is rather daunting after all that work!!

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    1. Yes I had been considering the same Kathleen but don't really want to go there because it would mean opening up that beautiful clean lining! It is frustrating, perhaps next time I should try the mini version that comes with the pattern!

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  5. It is so frustrating when a project turns out not quite perfect! It does look lovely though, the lining is gorgeous and the pairing of the olive colour with your turtleneck looks gorgeous.

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    1. Yes I love the colour with my turtleneck, it was how I imagined wearing it in my head but unfortunately doesn't look quite as I hoped! I'm going to mull it over for a couple of weeks and come back to it I think!

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  6. Well, I understand you doubts when you walk, but seeing the pictures of you standing still, the skirt is gorgeous! I fits yo perfectly, I think, and it has style. I may be wrong, but the pleats are not pressed in the pattern pictures... and yours are... Shouldn't they be open at the bottom? Or, if they bother you, you could even topstitch them closed?

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    1. Thanks very much, I'm glad it seems like that in pictures! Perhaps I should return to it!
      You are absolutely right about the pleats. The pleat line on the pattern pieces runs all the way to hem and the instructions suggest it should be fully pressed so I went along with that...but maybe I should press them out and see if that makes me like the style better!

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  7. I agree, Its a beautiful and beautifully made as usual but I think it’s a little long on your tiny frame. How about shortening it? I like the one Gray all Day made, although her post is about the bomber jacket, she is wearing the skirt as well
    http://i1.wp.com/www.grayallday.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/McCalls-7257-fur-bomber-jacket.jpg?resize=705%2C1024

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    1. Ooo I hadn't seen that version! That does look great...perhaps I could adapt this one to be more like that.
      Thanks very much!

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  8. The long skirt on the model finishes below the widest part of calf and is pegged. It elongates her visually as the silhouette narrows all the way down from the hip to the floor. Yours hits above the widest part so the silhouette narrows, widens and narrows again. Petite ladies can rock a midi, think of those hollywood beauties from the fifties, they weren't all tall. Have you tried printing pdfs at less than 100%? Very purple person does this with burda with great success. If you know the height they draft for a bit of maths would be involved but once you get the formula for a company it might save alot of angst.

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  9. Thanks very much for your helpful comment Michelle! I tried keeping the length on so it hit at a different part of the calf but I just felt totally overwhelmed by skirt and it was not flattering on me at all! I just haven't conquered the midi length yet but want to!
    The printing is a great idea...so she cuts a bigger size at a smaller scale so everything fits width-wise but is shorter proportionally? Fab

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  10. You sew beautifully, what type of sewing machine do you use?

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    1. Thanks Katherine, lots of practice! Haha!
      I've actually just got a really basic Janome, the 7025 from John Lewis. I don't think you need anything fancy to sew well, a good straight stitch, zig zag and a buttonhole! This is a great model and brand, handles most fabrics really well

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  11. You sew beautifully, what type of sewing machine do you use?

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!