Between a Frock and a Hard Place

Remember that ‘tween’ stage when wearing kids’ stuff was a serious social faux-pas but a majority of clothes that fit were too ‘old’ (and, sometimes, really boring) ?

I found myself, at the half century mark, feeling that way again.

After years of alternating between corporate clone suits and ubiquitous jeans+white t-shirts on weekends, it has been SUCH A JOY to burst out and  sew clothes that I want to wear, in colours and fabric I love!

An obvious statement for a sewing blog, but I find this such a ‘free-ing’ activity!

No longer am I stuck between a frock and a hard place!

When I first returned to sewing (in Nov 2010) , I went bonkers with quilting cotton; blissed out at all the col-ours and pat-terns and prints, oh my!

I also lucked out on my first few sewing projects, finding a couple straight skirt patterns that fit me right out of the envelope, no fussing!

Looking back, I can see all manner of improvements that I would make now …like trying to match prints or strategically cutting fabric to avoid repeats…such is my learning curve…and I am loving every millimetre of that curve!

Exhibit A:  The Triangle Skirt



Pattern: McCalls 5523 – View A
Description: Straight skirt, mid-knee length, has side zipper and faced waistline; skirt A has shaped lower back flounce; skirt B has pleated lower back; skirt C has gathered lower back with self-fabric ruffle; skirt D has two lower back flounces.

What I learned: When working with moderately large repeat prints , it’s best to use a pattern with minimal pieces, to avoid mismatched sections (or else be prepared to spend inordinate amounts of time matching prior to cutting). This print is not linear, so I don’t think exact matching is even possible.  All in all, I think it’s just busy enough not to be too glaring a mis-match, so I have worn it a few times. Of course, one of my more anal-retentive detail-oriented, precision-focussed, male friends commented on the mismatch. There’s one in every crowd…

I also learned, after completion, that sewing the curved hem on the flounce panel BEFORE sewing the flounce to the skirt makes hemming a lot easier and neater…ah, well, next time!

Exhibit B: Yellow Paisley Skirt

Pattern: same as above, McCalls 5523 –  View B


Back panel  pleated section: (slightly creased from sitting on it…)

I love the colour yellow. It does not love me back. However, as long as I keep it away from my face, I can wear it to my heart’s content…And I do. I’m also partial to paisley…so of course this quilting cotton appealed.

What I learned: This print is too busy to show off the pleated back section. This was the first time I’d sewn pleats…so it was good practice, even if they are almost invisible.  I also learned that I need to consider print placement if I am going to use a panelled pattern. The front centre panel is too similar to the front right panel.

General Construction Snippets:
Both skirts are lined in yellow Bemsilk. I line all my skirts/dresses/jackets. It just makes the garment feel all that more special. I didn’t use the facings that came with the pattern, instead, just cut lining from skirt pattern pieces, sewed it up and attached to the fashion fabric the at the waist. I top stitched around the waist seam, to hold lining in place. I also inserted an invisible zipper on the side. I used Sandra Betzina’s invisible zipper methodology, as outlined in her book, Power Sewing, which I highly recommend for excellently explained construction techniques. Mind you, I have to look at this book every time I  insert an invisible zipper…spatial perception is not my forte…a bit of a handicap for a sewist….but where there is a will (and a seam ripper) there is a way!

Here’s to escaping from between a frock and a hard place and  the joy of making clothes that you love!


  1. I love the second print. I sometimes deliberately pick a busy print for a new pattern if it has some potentially tricky parts so that if I don’t get them perfect first time it doesn’t matter because the print hides any flaws. I save fabric that needs flawless sewing for the second, or even third, attempt :). I love that you are enjoying the learning curve. Even after six years or so of sewing, I treat every project as a learning experience. Even when something doesn’t work out (such as my cherry puppytooth dress) I know that I’ve learnt something along the way.

    • Very good point about the ‘forgiving’ nature of prints! Those pleats are not particularly equal…

      Bummer that your Cherry Puppytooth dress didn’t turn out like you hoped. It looks lovely on the dress form!! I had a similar episode with a wrap dress that looks just stunning on ‘Dolly’ (my dress form) but makes me look like a stuffed pidgeon!!!

      Will post about that one soon…. “didn’t work out” stories fascinate me as much, if not more, than success stories!

  2. “Between a frock and a hard place”….. you crack me up! But it’s so so true. I know that feeling well. Wanting to be stylish but not looking ridiculous! I tell my daughter all the time, that she has to tell me if she thinks I’m dressing “too young” or “too old”. That being said, I really love the skirts you made and it’s fun to read about the the things you learned from these earlier projects. Love the pleats in the back and how lucky to have the pattern fit right out of the envelope!

    • Punning runs in the family….
      My 16 y/o daughter provides similar feedback…She’s apalled at the black leather I recently purchased to make a special pencil skirt….old ladies don’t wear leather!!! I agree, they don’t. ;-*

  3. Cherry,
    I love your garments, too, and the prints you use. Last year your IKEA skirt fabric was the inspiration for my “wardrobe” of B5466 pencil skirts. As far as aging, I sorta have the opinion that as long as it fits, isn’t too short and you’re not hanging out anywhere you’re good to go. Most of us have an innate sense about what we can’t wear any longer. Those that don’t make make the rest of us look that much better!
    (Art Attack)

    • Hi Dorcas! I agree that most of us have an innate idea of what we can/cannot wear…Mary Nanna, of Make it Smirk blog described this sense as “channelling (her) inner mutton”…cracked me right up!

  4. Guess what. I reckon that contrasting piping would make the design lines show up against these prints. Now you might not want to be that loud but it’s all about your style and skills. I’ll show you on Saturday.

  5. Hmmm, yes, well, print planning is something that I really need to spend DAYS thinking about before I cut. Enjoying the learning curve is definitely necessary to enjoying the sewing journey. And I’m with you – I always will line all garments – except for certain tops – because I really believe they hang and wear better. I am continually shocked at the horrid construction of top designer RTW clothing for which people are willing to pay $$$$. Most of the trendy spring/summer stuff from Prada, Lanvin, or Pucci that I picked up to look at were completely unlined – things I would be ashamed to say I that had sewn!

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