Hello!  I am very excited to share with you today about the Alberta Street Pencil Skirt from Sew House 7.  

I was really intrigued with this design. It’s been a few years since I’ve worn a pencil skirt so I wanted to come back to this classic shape via a handmade garment. One aspect that really intrigued me with this pattern is a non-stretch denim is recommended. I have been intrigued with non-stretch denims as an earth friendly fabric to use versus denims with stretch (that include man made elastic materials in the fiber).  I have not worked much with woven denims for garments so I was excited to jump in!

I picked a lovely rust color denim for my final project. The texture in this fabric is so lovely!!  I am very drawn to textures in fabrics. Being a sewer, knitter, and fiber spinner I find textures are a commonality across these mediums (which may be why I’m drawn to them).

I have not yet jumped into the world of handmade jeans. I have been admiring many other lovely projects out there.  I currently have multiple commercial jeans in my wardrobe (that I’m mending as holes develop) so I’m not quite there yet with making my own (but I’d love to give them a go in the future). That said, I think this project is a great starter to dip your toe into sewing with woven denims. 

I wanted to note that I used three sewing machines for this project (a Standard Sewing machine, Serger and Coverstitch).  You don’t have to use three sewing machines for this project (you could use a standard sewing machine for finishing the edges and top stitching) but I used these three machines.  I wanted to disclose that I’m a Maker for Janome. The Standard Sewing machine and Serger were provided by them for me to use this year. I purchased the Janome Coverstitch machine on my own.

Supplies:

1.5m Art Gallery Fabrics The Denim Studio Collection Solid Textured Denim, Scarlet Brick 

Matching universal sewing thread

Top stitch thread

7” zipper

Glass head pins

Point turner

Marking pen

100/16 Denim sewing needle

Top stitch sewing needle

Woven, Lightweight fusible interfacing

Serger Thread

Lint roller

French Curve Ruler

Muslin

Size: 8 at the waist, graded to a 10 at the hip notch 

Fabric: 11 oz indigo denim

I picked a size 8 at the waistband.  I then graded on the front and back skirt pattern pieces from an 8 to a 10 at the top of the skirt to the notch at the hips. I found the muslin fit me well in the hips but it was slightly loose in the waist.

The skirt has four darts in the back.  I find that I like to use glass head sewing pins when ironing darts (so I don’t have to worry about the heads of the pins melting).

I wanted to mention fabric weight for this project. I used an 11 oz denim for both the muslin and final fabrics. I wrote to the designer before I started this project to see what weight denim might be too heavy for this pattern. She shared an interesting note that even though fabrics list their weight in ounces or GSM, there are still variations in the weights when you feel the fabrics in person. An 11 oz denim from one supplier might feel different than an 11 oz denim from another. I previously assumed that fabric weight would be a standard across all the fabric bases out there but regardless I wanted to note that. She felt that the 11 oz, although at the higher end of a medium weight denim, would still be fine for this project.

I wanted to note that I also found that the weight of the muslin 11 oz fabric varied from the weight of the 11 oz  Art Gallery fabric denim. I found that the Art Gallery fabric base felt slightly lighter than the heavier indigo denim that I used for the muslin (but they both worked really well for the pattern). This difference ended up working quite well because I tightened the waist fit in the final skirt.  I love the colors and textures of the Art Gallery Fabrics denims so I would love to do more work with this fabric base in the future.

I love the look of top stitching in commercial jeans so I decided I wanted to topstitch the pocket edges with a mustard toned, contrasting top stitch thread. I haven’t done a lot of topstitching, especially with heavyweight denims. For this project I used the cover stitch machine, topstitch needles, and topstitch thread.  I used a standard, all purpose thread for the understitch thread. I did some testing of stitch lengths on scrap fabrics to get the machine adjusted to the look and tensions I was going for.

To sew the pocket to the skirt front I enjoyed using an edge stitch sewing machine foot for this step. I find when you are sewing a pocket and don’t have the seam allowance to visually reference, it is handy to use an edge stitch sewing machine foot. I love the uniformity that this foot offers for even spacing all the way around the pocket.  For the muslin I used the following spacing settings on my machine and I also used the right edge foot.

Having a lint roller was really handy (as I kept finding the edges of the indigo fabric everywhere).  This is definitely a project that you want to finish the edges of the fabric, as suggested in the directions.  I used my serger and navy thread to finish the edges of the fabric.

Before I added the waistband facing, I basted the side seams to try on the skirt (also suggested in the directions).  This was really handy to test the fit before adding the waistband facing.

For the bottom hem I kept the hem length as suggested in the pattern, 1 1/8” (2.9 cm).  I could have shortened the length a bit to match the length shown in the photos, but I loved this slightly longer look.  It’s super comfortable to wear and when I sit down, the hem lays just above my knees.

Final Skirt

Size: 6 at the top of the waistband graded to an 8.  An 8 to 10 graded in the skirt pattern Front and Back.

Fabric: Art Gallery Fabrics Denim, Scarlet Brick

Pattern Mods:  

For the final skirt I decided to bring in the waist to a 6 and then grade across to an 8 in the waistband.  I referenced the side notch to grade from an 8 to a 10 from the top of the skirt to this notch. For the pattern piece I cut out the size 8 so I would have fabric to work with if I decided the 6 was too snug. The distance to grade is quite small but I think it works just fine for this project.

I used an invisible zipper for my final. I mentioned recently in this post how I am new to invisible zippers and I am looking forward to using them more often, to gain more practice. 

I found with this project that I, again, didn’t have the zipper up quite high enough to the edge of the skirt. I worked around this area by angling the waist facing down and then up along the top edge. You don’t have a uniform look when you do this but you can get around the zipper height if you make this mistake as well.

For the final I thought it would be fun to change the angle of the top pocket to match the pocket profile on another Sew House 7 pattern that I have sewn (the Free Range Slacks, and also similar to the Tea House Dress pockets).  I find I do this frequently when I make a muslin, I enjoy changing up the design a bit for the final, just for fun. I inverted the pockets so that the angle of the pockets starts higher in the center and angles down. I do love the look of the original pocket as it follows your stomach curve well, in a flattering way. 

This pattern is so complementary to someone with curves, like myself. I love that! It’s something that I find so encouraging with hand sewing garments, celebrating each person's body type being different and beautiful in their own way.

To do this pocket modification, I first copied the original pocket pattern. Then I drew a curved line along the new hip edge (the opposite edge). I then matched the straight line along the other side. I graded within the new pocket from an 8 to a 10 (as I did on the original pocket piece, along the hip curve). To draw the new hip curve line I just laid the new pocket pattern piece under the skirt front and traced the curve. When I flipped the top of the pocket down to sew the top edge, I had to remember to do this on the opposite side then noted in the pattern (since I switched the profile direction).

I found on the muslin that I would have liked the pocket edge stitch lines to be closer to the edge.  I tried on the final using the left edge stitch sewing machine foot and the following setting on my sewing machine.

For the bottom hem in the final skirt I shortened the hem length to 2 ¼” (5.7 cm).  It falls right at the knee and is a fun variation.  

Final thoughts:

For the photos I used the matching threads for the bottom hem with a basting stitch (to test the skirt lengths).  I would like to go back and use the contrasting topstitched threads instead along the bottom hem. You could really do some fun contrasting details with multiple seams in this garment. I decided to keep it more simple but I love that you have options (to contrast multiple seams as you find in traditional jeans or use only matching thread for a basic look).

The skirt is very comfortable! I love the girdle effect that the design and fabric pairings offer. The back pleat gives easy movement and the pockets are handy as well.  I find when I pair a pattern with solid fabric, it becomes not only a wardrobe staple but also one that I can easily mix and match with the rest of my garments. I’m really excited about the two finished skirts, they are so comfortable to wear, I think the non-stretch denims offer such classy looks, and I love the fabrics. 

In hindsight, I would have loved to have added a hook and eye to the top of the skirt.  By modifying the waistband at the top of the zipper, I’ve taken out the spacing that I could have put a hook and eye closure.  With this skirt being very form fitting, It would be handy to have a hook and eye to help the zipper closure. That said, I love the fit and both skirts will get lots of wear in my wardrobe.

I think back pockets would be a fun feature to add as well.  They would be neat to practice contrasting top stitched designs (to work your way into topstitch designs with sewing a pair of jeans).

I wish you well with your own handmade projects.  Let me know if you’ve made this skirt as well or made any projects with the beautiful Art Gallery Fabric denims.

Rachel @oakbluedesigns

www.oakbluedesigns.com