Agnes sew along (3): Pockets, darts and more

This is part 3 of the Agnes Skirt sew along series. The other posts can be found here. We’ve done all our prep, and in this part we really get the ball rolling on creating the skirt. So let’s begin..

  • Stitch the darts on the skirt front and press the darts gently towards the centre of the skirt front.
  • Stitch the darts on the skirt back and press them towards the centre back.

To stitch the darts:

  • Bring the two notches together on the waist seam of the skirt, ready to stitch towards the dart tip. Stitch straight down for 5/8″ / 1.5cm (as shown at the top of the dart on the pattern marking), and then in a diagonal line, aiming to reach the folded edge about 1/2″ / 1cm above the dart tip. Having marked the dart tip with a chalk dot (as shown in Part 2), I usually just stick a pin through the chalk dot so I can aim for just above the pin when stitching.
  • As the needle gets closer to the dart tip, your diagonal line should curve slightly so you don’t hit the folded edge at an angle. Then, when the needle reaches the folded edge (just above the actual dart tip), your final few stitches should run right along the folded edge, before your needle comes off the edge of the fabric, at the marked dart tip.
  • When your needle comes off the folded edge, pull up the fabric but don’t cut the threads short – leave yourself a couple of inches of thread, long enough to tie a knot at the dart tip before trimming that thread.
  • The next thing to do is to carefully press the darts, ideally over a curved surface such as a pressing ham or perhaps a rolled/folded towel. (Not everyone will have a ham, but I swear by investing in a few key pressing tools if possible, especially if you will be making tailored clothing). You can do this now, or when you have more pressing to do on other parts of the skirt.
  • Pin the pocket lining piece over the skirt front piece with right sides together.
  • Stitch the pocket edge seam allowance, then trim the seam allowance and understitch.
  • Turn the pocket lining to the inside of the skirt front, and press. Roll the lining away from the front edge of the seam, so that you can’t see it from the front, as you press. 
  • You can also topstitch along the pocket edge, as an extra detail.
  • Lay the pocket bag over the pocket lining (which you just attached to the skirt), RST, aligning the curved pocket edge. Pin and stitch around the curved edge, keeping the skirt front out of the way so you stitch through the pocket bag and pocket lining only.

(I hadn’t noticed at this point that I had forgotten to finish the raw edges of the pocket bag piece. Fail.)

  • Baste the pocket/skirt front unit at the top and side seams (within the seam allowances) to hold the pocket opening together until the skirt is fully assembled. You’ll be stitching just inside the seam allowance across the top of the pocket (shown by the red pin) and then along the side seam (shown by the green pin).
  • Now treat this as one skirt front unit for the remaining steps.

Inserting the zip

  • Mark both sides of the skirt (on the right side of the fabric) where the zipper head should lie: 5/8″ (1.5cm) in from the centre back edge and 7/8″ (2.2cm) below the waist edge. (The idea is that the extra 1/4″ below the seam allowance allows room for the top of the zipper head when zipped closed, but you could reduce this space to an extra 1/8″ depending on your zip). In the image below you can faintly see the marks I have made with a heat-erasable pen.
  • Open the zip all the way. Pin the left half of the zip tape to the right half of the garment, right sides together, so that the zip stop at the top of the zip sits on the mark you made in the previous step. Pin all the way down the zip tape until the zip head stops you from going further.
  • Using a concealed zip foot on your sewing machine, place the zip under the zip foot so that the teeth are in the right hand ‘channel’ of the zipper foot. Stitch down to the base of the zip, stopping when the zipper head prevents you from going further.
  • Flip the right half over the left half of the skirt, so that the fabrics are right sides together. 
  • Turn the zip, so that the unsewn half of the zip is right sides together with the left half of the garment. Pin the unsewn half of the zip tape to the left half of the garment, right sides together. Stitch, with the zip teeth in the left hand ‘channel’ of the zip foot.
  • Check that your zip is suitably invisible!:
  • Bring the two skirt halves right sides together, and pull the end of the zip out of the way. Pin from the bottom of the zip down to the top of the vent. Switch to a regular zip foot on your machine and then stitch, starting slightly below and behind the end of the line of stitches holding the zip. Stop stitching at the top of the vent corner (the purple pin in the image below).
  • Lay the skirt front over the skirt backs, right sides together, then pin and stitch the side seams of the skirt. If you’re making View A, make sure that the pocket edge is lying nice and flat where it meets the side seam, before you stitch the side seam, to avoid any puckers in that corner.
  • Here’s how the pocket edge should look in that seam, from the wrong side and from the right side:
  • Press the side seams open.
  • Press the vent of the skirt into position: the vent flap on the right side of the skirt (as worn) is not folded, as it forms the underlap of the vent. The flap on the left side of the skirt is folded back on itself, WST, and pressed.
  • Your vent should look like this:
  • Assemble the zip shield as set out in the instructions – stitch around the long curved edge, trim, turn and press.
  • (After taking the picture above, I serged the long edge of the zip shield together as I had not finished the long raw edges on each piece previously).
  • Turn the skirt inside out and open the zip. We will be pinning the zip shield to the skirt, right sides together.
  • Align the long raw edge of the zip shield with the zip tape on the right hand side of the skirt, and pin down that edge. Don’t pin too close to the zip teeth, but check from the other side that you’ve definitely caught the zip tape between the layers and not just the seam allowance of the skirt edge.
  • Pin all the way down…:
  • Stitch down this edge, avoiding the zip’s teeth. You might find this easier to do with a regular zip foot. You don’t want your stitches to be too close to the teeth of the zip, or you’ll have difficulty opening and closing the zip.
  • Secure the exposed end of the zip tape to the seam allowance behind it with a few stitches (They’ll be hidden by the lining later, just leave some space between the stitches and the zip teeth). This gives the zip a little extra support.
  • Turn the skirt right side out, and the zip shield should now lie flat against the skirt behind the zip opening. Baste over the top to hold it in this position, checking that the zip closes neatly and the zip shield lies flat.

And there we have it… Hopefully that didn’t take long, and your skirt is starting to look like a skirt!

It’s a good time to try it on (just once!) and make sure you’re happy with the fit at the waist and hips. You can let some width out of the side seam allowances if necessary, or take them in slightly – for example, if you reduce the seam allowance to 3/8″ at the side seams, you’ll actually gain 1″ / 2.5cm extra circumference. Remember to make the same adjustments to your lining when we get to it.

In Part 4, we’ll deal with the lining, and in Part 5 we’ll attach the waistband and deal with finishing touches.