McCalls 8248: Pleated skirt

A couple weekends ago my brother-in-law set up a trip for my sister and I to spend a weekend together in Atlanta, Georgia for her birthday. The trip was short and sweet and glorious. We spent two, kid-free days hiking, eating delicious foods, exploring, and enjoying the wonderment of getting in the car and going, instead of spending 5-10 minutes getting kids in buckles and situated, ha!. It felt like it was MY birthday!

But the week or so since returning has been a sharp call back to reality! Left and right I’m being reminded that I am human and infallible and that I need to get my feet firmly planted back on solid ground! And unfortunately, one such area has been in my sewing! I’ve recently felt the need to redirect my sewing, step it up a notch, get back to making stuff I love and am excited about but it seems like those efforts just want to be thwarted at every turn! My last few projects (that haven’t been posted about yet) have been so-so at best. I was very excited about this skirt but it has some serious issues.

The silver lining is that the issues can easily be hidden with some careful styling, so that might be the skirt’s saving grace. But if you get up close and personal with me, the errors are pretty glaring.

Before we get into the problems, let’s talk a bit about the pattern and the fabric. The pattern is McCall’s 8248. It’s a pleated skirt pattern that can be made short, midi or long. I know for some people, skirt patterns aren’t worth buying because in theory the pattern can be figured out oneself. But this pattern does feature a curved waistband for better fit and that in and of itself might be worth the cost. Plus, I buy all my big four patterns when Joann’s has them on sale for $1-2 dollars (or $5 for vogue patterns), which usually happens once a month. This is well worth my money if it means I don’t have to try to figure out how to draft my own. And this pattern appealed to me because for the first time ever, the styling on the pattern envelope is actually on point! Typically you have to use some pretty wild imagination to make their styling seem current (although they are getting better…I think…).

The pattern itself only has three pieces, only two of which are graded for size (the pleated portion is not). The adjusting I did for the flat pattern was to remove 5 inches off the length of the “long” skirt.

As for the fabric, a little bragging is in order. Once I knew I was heading to Atlanta I thought, as I do every time I go someplace new, “I wonder if they have any good apparel fabric stores?” And immediately I thought of Melanated Fabrics but I wasn’t sure if this was just wishful thinking. So I googled it and quickly found that it IS in Atlanta! And that there IS a storefront! Luckily, my sister also loves sewing and has been getting into clothes-making, so I knew that we would make this happen!

Anyway, obviously when you go into a place like that you’re wondering if you’ll see anyone famous but when we walked in there was just a regular worker who was probably not famous (although I’m not totally sure. I’m like the big four patterns: not very current haha!). But as we browsed someone came into the shop aaaaaaand! It was MimiG!!! I’m not even kidding! And Norris was with her!!! I was freaking out! And I told her so haha (but obviously in a calm and normal way ;). And she was very nice and friendly! And my sister and I were both too nervous about asking for a pic with her but it was still so exciting! And I know all the non-sewing people reading this are like, “Who’s that?!” But if you sew, you know!!!!! MimiG is like THE boss lady who has made sewing clothes so accessible to people of all levels. I feel like she’s a major component to the resurgence of making your own clothes. And her business partner (who we sadly did not meet) is Brittany J Jones who I’ve followed for a couple years and who is just a complete ray of sunshine (speaking of, if you want to see big four patterns made in a trendy and cute way, she is your girl!). Visiting their shop was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!

Anyway…let me calm down for a minute…the shop was cute and tastefully decorated in a really modern and clean way. They had a great variety of fabrics, including stuff you don’t typically see (like they had a handful of colors of that stretchy crinkled satin). And they also stocked colors that you don’t typically find like wools in purple and deep greens and suitings in citrine, plus lots of beautiful prints. Even if we hadn’t met sewing celebs, the trip would have been well worth the visit!

It was there that I got the fabric for this skirt.

The fabric is gorgeous. It’s very light and smooth and both those things really lean into the fabric being shifty, which no doubt contributed to my issues. The color-I’d call it poppy-isn’t one I have in my wardrobe but I do love how bright and playful it is. The fabric really is great and I wish I’d given it a better destiny!

So. Sewing.

I can only remember sewing pleats one other time which was clear back at the beginning of my clothes-sewing career. Truthfully, I’d like to say that I’m well suited for pleat-making. In the non-sewing areas of my life I like to think of myself as a well ordered person with an eye for detail so sewing pleats should be my jam! However, this fabric really was so tricky to pleat-up, as it were. The lovely smooth, silkiness did not lend itself to crisp pleating at all. And I shot myself in the foot a bit by marking the pleats on the right side of the fabric when I really ought to have put all the markings on the wrong side of the fabric.

The instructions dictate that you sew all the panels together so you have the tube of your skirt and then you pleat that. So that’s what I did and I did the pleats all in one go and then checked everything out before basting the pleats in place. And I ended up re-sewing three or four of the pleats just because they looked a little disproportionate to the other pleats. After resewing they looked a lot better but no doubt are still not perfectly exact.

But then there was the waistband. The pleats being out of whack are forgivable and maybe even understandable. But the waistband being half an inch shorter on one side is definitely less forgivable. If only I had checked it as I did my pleats, I could probably have saved it from being quite this level of unsymmetrical. I don’t even understand how it happened. I was having a hard time ironing up the 5/8ths inch seam allowance, so I did the trick where you baste the fold line and it looked good so I don’t know where I went wrong but I obviously did somewhere. Here’s a picture where you can see it a little better:

When I finally got to the point where I noticed it, things were already sewn up. But the mistake is bad, so I was prepared to go in and rip some seams but then I remembered that the seam there had been trimmed and I probably wouldn’t get a whole lot of wiggle room out of it, unfortunately. So, congratulations, me. So far you’ve got a skirt with a wonky waistband and imperfect pleats. Let’s see what other issues I can brew up…

Ah, yes, the stunning wrinkles at the lower back that could have been fixed with a sway back adjustment.

Should we talk now about how my sewing life would be much improved if I didn’t cut into lovely fabric without first doing a muslin to check on fit?

No, I agree, let’s save that for another day.

Making jeans is when I realized I have a sway back (okay and I wasn’t sure if this was just a sewing term so I googled it and it is, interestingly, a term referring to extra curvature in your lower back. The medical term is lordosis. Who knew?). So when I make jeans, I always have to do a sway back adjustment. However, most of the clothes I make and wear aren’t crazy fitted so aside from jeans I really don’t have it in my brain to automatically do an SBA although here it obviously would have been beneficial.

A couple more notes on the construction process. I paid little attention to the instructions on how to insert the zip. Sometimes when I know how to do something, reading the instructions of it just makes me more confused so I just went for it and think that it turned out fine. Also, I did a blind hem on it because I think this kind of fabric looks nicest and plays nicest when there’s less finagling, which maybe I should have considered not just at the hem but at the start of the project as a whole, insert eye roll.

Anyway, in the end I still love the fabric but I’m just not sure this was the best way to show it off. As for now, I’ve hung the skirt in my closet. As I mentioned, if I style it as I did in these photos, I can wear it while hiding a lot of it’s most glaring issues. So my plan is to see if I ever reach for it once it gets a little warmer (the fabric is a bit too lightweight for the weather we’ve been having). If I do and I enjoy wearing it, I will tear into the waistband at least to fix the sway back issues (which shouldn’t require too much fuss). And if I don’t reach for it and/or don’t enjoy wearing it then I will also tear into the waistband but this time to dismantle it and turn it into something else. There’s not a ton of fabric to work with (I have very few scraps) but I’m sure I could think of something that would work.

Pattern: McCalls 8248
Size: 14
Alterations: Shortened the long version by 5 inches; I also used a 7inch zipper instead of 9 because I had one in my stash
Fabric: Chiffon from Melanated Fabric
Cost: 2 yards of fabric $30; pattern $2; thread $1
Would I make this pattern again?: Time will tell. Now that I know I need to make a sway back adjustment, I’m a little intimidated transferring that to a flat pattern that has pleats! But more than that, I just haven’t decided if the style suits me. If I do try it again it will definitely be out of something thicker and less slippery

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