Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Reviewed: Simplicity 8664 (Straight skirts)

This is the very first thing I've made in my radical re-imagining of my wardrobe. I was actually part way through this skirt but took a long break from it for various reasons. However, since on my list of things identified I could hand-make and add my wardrobe were some winter skirts for work, I decided to prioritize finishing it. The aim was always to make something easy, classic and useful, suitable for office wear. I pinned a similar skirt to my Pinterest account ages ago as something to copy.

The £40 LTS skirt I wanted to copy
The skirt I pinned is actually incredibly ordinary. It's part of Long Tall Sally's tailoring range, and costs £40 full price. It's not especially complex. It did have top stitched panels and a yoke waistband that I thought were quite attractive. If you're buying retail (and you're tall) it's a perfectly reasonable skirt, except I was put off the by the price in the end. I wouldn't mind paying £40 if I were getting a great quality skirt, but I wasn't impressed by the fabric (cheap feeling polyester/viscose) and it just didn't feel like something put together in a way that would survive a lot of wash and wear.

As this was my first time making a skirt I decided to start with a simpler pattern and used Simplicity 8664. For some reason this is labelled on Pattern Review as "A-line skirts", which is a total lie -- it's a set of six minor variations on a straight skirt pattern. It's out of print, but I picked it up on eBay for a couple of pounds. I actually also own a pattern that is closer to the original garment (New Look 6917) but I decided to start simple.

 The guiding principle I am working on is that I want to have good quality in my wardrobe, so that means: (a) good choice of fabric and (b) spending the time and effort to produce a garment that will wash and wear well. So, even though this is a really simple skirt, I wanted to make it carefully and with the best construction methods I'm capable of at my current skill level (which is not, it has to be admitted, all that high).

My Pattern Review (also here): (Note: Click the pictures to see them larger!)

Pattern Description: (From the envelope) Misses skirt: Straight skirt has back zipper. A has side front slit with optional embroidery. B, C, D, E have back slit. B is cut crosswise of border printed fabric. C has sheer overskirt and novelty braiding. D has flat lace trimming. E has contrast lower band. F has lower flounce.

The skirt I made is not strictly any of the variations, but it's closest to the line drawing of B, with a slight alteration to make it into a pencil skirt.

Flossie, modelling my skirt

Pattern Sizing: The envelope I bought contained sizes 16-20. I made a straight size 20 with no alterations.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Aside from obvious differences caused by my alteration of the pattern: yes, definitely.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very easy and detailed, excellent for beginners.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I'm a beginner to garment sewing so I very much appreciated the set of easy variations to a classic pattern that this envelope offered. There's nothing especially radical in the pattern set, just a nicely drafted basic skirt pattern that I can imagine using again and again.

Back of the skirt

Fabric Used: I used a small remnant of 150cm wide wool blend together with a remnant of a coordinating acetate lining fabric. In fact, the fabric I bought was a very small remnant, really less than I needed: the pattern calls for 90cm and I only had 75-80cm. I had to fudge my facings as I did not have enough fabric and I ended up cobbling together a narrower facing from scraps. It's not pretty, but you can't see or feel it.

My overall fabric costs were very low because I picked up all of the fabric on eBay for next to nothing. The wool remnant was £2.10 each including p&p, and the lining fabric came from a job lot of 30m of remnants I bought in a mystery bag locally for £5. I usually assign a nominal value of about 20p to each metre I use from that job lot. In total, therefore, my costs were somewhere between £2 and £3 for the skirt when you add in the notions. A big improvement on £40!

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I wanted to make a pencil skirt rather than a straight skirt. I therefore altered the pattern to peg the skirt by about 8cm in total. I picked a point approx. 2cm in from the cutting line at the hem of the skirt (this actually happened to coincide more or less with the cutting line for the skirt two sizes smaller on this pattern) and then drew a straight line from the widest part of the hip to the hem to this point.

My seams are very fancy. My pressing is not very impressive.
The other major change I made was to interline the skirt. The pattern does not call for a lining, but I decided to line it because I dislike wearing wool next to the skin. However, I don't particularly like wearing skirts with a loose lining attached only at the waistband so I decided to interline instead. I used the interlining/seam finishing method described in this tip by PR user julieb and then hemmed the skirt using purchased blue satin bias tape. I absolutely love the way this turned out and plan to continue to use this interlining/seam finishing technique wherever I can.

Bias-taped hems: also fancy! Pressing: Still terrible!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I can imagine using this pattern any time I wanted a straight skirt. I would recommend it to other less experienced sewists as an easy pattern with excellent instructions. It's also a great use way to use a single yard of fabric.

Conclusion: A great basic pattern that produced exactly what I hoped for and that I will definitely use again.

Nitpickery: Is this skirt perfect? No, it is not. I'm well aware I've far more critical of fit and quality of the sewing in my own work than if I'd gone ahead and bought that skirt from Long Tall Sally. Since I'm a beginner though, I think it's useful to do some nitpickery over things I did well this time and could do better next time.

+/- My zip went in really well, and the lapped fabric looks great. However, it's a bit short (or the space I left for it was too long, one of the two!) Doesn't really affect wear, but it would be better for the gap and the zip to match up better next time.

+ The fit is great.

+ The hem and seams are amazing. The hand sewing of the hem looks great for something I was trying for the very first time.

- I wish I had mitred the corners of the walking slit rather than just folding them.


  1. Congratulations on your skirt! I saw it on PR which led me to your blog and now I have seen all of the cute clothes you have made.
    When I gave up clothes shopping for a year I started making skirts and had to force myself to move on, but they are still one of my favorite garments to make.

    1. Thank you! Actually, your blog was the driving force behind me starting my winter wardrobe sewing plan. I'm not skilled enough to make everything yet (especially not since I tend to wear a lot of formal trousers and tailored jackets for work) so I can't fully commit to a handmade wardrobe, but I made the decision to make as much as I am capable of, and keep pushing my skills forward until I can make almost everything I wear. So, thank you, doubly, for the compliment and for the inspiration! :D