Agnes sew along (1): Preparation

This is part 1 of the Agnes Skirt sew along series. The other posts can be found here.

Agnes skirt overview

It might be helpful to look at the main features of the skirt before we get started. Here’s a quick video recap! 

(But first, a side note on the videos in the sew along: You don’t need to have the sound on, there’s just some ‘jaunty’ music in the background. There are a few captions at key points, but otherwise you can hopefully tell what’s going on just by watching!):

FABRIC CHOICES

Like most pencil skirt patterns, the Agnes skirt can be made in a wide range of fabrics. Think suiting, crepe, tweed and cotton. Fabric with a little elastane (i.e. stretch) will give you that little extra comfort.

In fact, after a quick rummage in my wardrobe I found no less than seven Agnes skirts, made from seven different fabrics. Too much? I think not – I’ve actually got fabric ready for three more. Check out this video for inspiration:

Once you’ve chosen your fabric, you’ll want to pre-shrink it (which is generally recommended before you make any garment), particularly for fabrics which are likely to shrink when laundered. Your fabric supplier can usually advise how the fabric should be laundered, when you buy it. The options generally include:

  • machine wash with a temperature / cycle which is suitable for your fabric (e.g. cottons);
  • hand wash, if appropriate for your fabric;
  • shrink fabric with steam by hovering your iron over the fabric whilst it is generates steam (e.g. for wool); and
  • send the uncut fabric to the dry cleaners if the final garment will be dry cleaned.

Consider whether your chosen main fabric needs any additional support in the form of an underlining. Underlining is a layer of fabric which is backed onto (or attached to) the main fabric to change its characteristics, such as to add support or strength to a lighter weight or loosely woven fabric, or to give a transparent fabric greater opacity. For example, you might underline a loosely woven tweed or bouclé fabric to help protect it from stretching/rippling when worn or underline a lace fabric to reduce transparency, or to have contrasting colour peeping through the lace.

Lastly, don’t forget to buy a little extra fabric if you’ll need to match a pattern or stripe around your skirt. As you’ll have seen in the video, it’s definitely possible to match stripes or plaid between the skirt front and the skirt back. However, because the waistband is one long piece, rather than having side seams, you may well find that you can’t match patterns vertically between the waistband and the skirt front/back. I normally just try to match the pattern at centre front, for the waistband, but more on this in part 2 of the sew-along.

For your lining fabric, you’ll want one that is breathable, durable enough to withstand daily wear, and that is anti-static, especially if you wear tights. I tend to use acetate linings, and sometimes acetate linings with a satin finish on the right side of the fabric.

CHOOSING YOUR SIZE

Measure your waist, and the fullest part of your hip. Optional: Also measure the vertical distance between your waist and your hip, and between your waist and your knee. Choose the pattern size from the body measurements table which is closest to your hip measurement. You can “grade” between sizes to get a good match for your waist measurements, as explained below.

FLAT PATTERN ADJUSTMENTS

Horizontal/circumference adjustments: 

If your waist and/or hip measurements fall between sizes, or correspond to two different sizes, we can make adjustments for that at this point. Essentially you just need to mark your waist and hip points on the side seam cutting line, at the sizes that your body measurements correspond to, and then blend them to make a new side seam. The following video demonstrates this process:

Once you have adjusted one skirt piece, repeat the process across the others so that you have made the same adjustments to the skirt front, skirt back, lining front, lining left back and lining right back pieces. Likewise, cut the waistband to the same size you used for your waist on the skirt pieces. If you graded between the waist and the hip, trace off the new shape of your side seam onto the pocket pattern pieces too!

Vertical adjustments:

You can easily lengthen or shorten the skirt to your preferred length. Part 2 of the video shows how to insert or remove length, as explained in the pattern instructions. If the vertical distance from your waist to the fullest part of your hip is not roughly 8” (20 cm), you might want to add or remove length to/from the area between the waist and the hip line to make it match your actual vertical measurement here. Otherwise you can make your alteration just below the hip line – but keep it well clear of the vent area on the back skirt.

Next steps

If you’re following along, you’re hopefully now at the point where your paper pattern pieces are all cut out, and you’ve made any basic adjustments which seem necessary at this stage. In the next part of the sew along, we’ll be looking at cutting out and marking up your fabric pieces.