I’m so happy to have finished what I’m thinking of as my first “proper” skirt. I suppose what I really mean is my first “intermediate” skirt and I definitely learnt a lot making it. It consolidated many techniques and skills I’ve already picked up over the last year and a bit – and, most importantly, I really like it!
The Colette Beignet
This is the Colette Beignet skirt on a wet Seattle Sunday. (I have to take the few hours of light when I can, so yes, my vest is wet). As far as modern indie patterns go, I guess the Beignet would be classified as old, having been around since 2009 (I think?). There are many, many, lovely versions around on the internet and I’ve had my eye on making this for some time. I also pretty much had this fabric in mind and, surprisingly, it turned out a lot like I imagined. This is not always the case! My husband asked me if it was the fabric I used to make the Everyday Skirt (pic on homepage) and although its not, I…um… see why he thought so. What can I say? My tastes are consistent!
Anyway, as you can see, the Beignet is a high-waisted woven skirt made from numerous panels. It is fully lined and faced and has pockets, as well as a belt to match. It also features 12 buttons, which give it a very distinctive look that I greatly appreciate, although my version only has 11 buttons. I find 11 is a much luckier and more attractive number than 12 and they always say to plant garden plants in an odd number, not even – right? Or perhaps I just measured incorrectly and couldn’t fit 12 buttons on. Perhaps…
This is not a skirt that is sewn up quickly, but I found it very satisfying to take my time to learn the different techniques. The outer shell is comprised of 7 panels of Cotton & Steel Mesa Fern Book Navy cotton by Alexia Marcelle Abegg. I adore the pattern and I remember when I received it just staring at the vibrant colours – photos don’t do it justice. For the lining I used some bemberg rayon I bought in a sale at Joann Fabrics a while back and it is quite lovely. I definitely think it’s worth the extra pennies, which are minimal if you look out for a similar sale. For the facing I used up some leftover fabric (yay!) from making Joe a pair of Sunny Day Shorts. It’s Robert Kaufman’s Nautique chambray Sailboats in indigo and gives the waistband a good stiffness.
I made a muslin for the skirt and it seemed to fit rather well. I made it a size larger than normal (I’ve been enjoying my food extra-enthusiastically in recent months) and figured I could adjust it if anything major changed. Some people have said they have trouble with the shape of the design, but this is a shape that suits my hourglass figure. It follows my curves well, so if you have a straighter or more boyish figure, it could be a strange fit, I can see that. For me though -it’s great!
The instructions are extremely detailed and helpful, and begin by having you sew together the seven panels of the shell. The pieces are all slightly curved to give the shape (there are no darts in the skirt), so it’s a good idea to clip and notch the seams as suggested to achieve a crisp finish. I finished the seams with a mix of pinking and serging since the lining was going to cover them anyway. Next came the pockets, which were finished, sewn in separate pieces to each quarter-skirt (front, back, L, R) and then stitched as part of the side seam join.
The lining was then made up in the same way as the shell. I was pretty concerned about this, as I could see that my bemberg had slipped a bit while cutting and that the pieces weren’t perhaps as equal as they should be. It’s a testament to the pattern that the pieces somehow matched up fine – here and then later when attaching the lining piece to the facing, and even the shell. I was surprised, to say the least. The only amendment I would make to the lining instructions are when creating the hem for the lining. You are asked to create a narrow hem at this point already and I found at the end that my lining was a little too long for my skirt. This meant adjusting it again later, resulting in a somewhat ugly hemline. No biggie, but it would be worth double-checking your hem against the shell or adjusting it closer to the end.
Joining the lining to the facing seems to be the trickiest part for many people – and it is indeed a bit daunting with the convex to concave thing to wrestle with. Colette suggests trimming both pieces and notching them before sewing and I say: yes, you must do this. I tried it without (it is a bit of a faff, after all) and it was nigh impossible to get a smooth join. With the trimming and so, on, it became much, much easier – fairly straightforward even!
Once this is out of the way, Colette suggests hand-basting to make the curve sewing easier. I took their advice and joining the two pieces went just fine. Success!
Next, the whole lining piece was attached to the shell and understitched.
I tried out a lot of new techniques making this skirt and another one was to handsew the hem. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and this seemed like an ideal opportunity. I used a stitch guide I found on the internet and it didn’t take as long as I thought to get into a rhythm. It’s definitely not a perfect job, but it made me feel quite differently about handsewing. I can really see the satisfaction of it now. It both gives you more control over your garment and is quite therapeutic in the way kneading dough or crocheting is.
With the shell attached to the lining and the main skirt pretty much complete, you might think the job is almost over. Not so! There are six teeny tiny little belt loops to fashion, which I raced on with. I did reverse the instructions however and ended up with them a little wider than stipulated because they were CRAZY thin and just a pain to turn. They’re still only about 3/8″.
I haven’t seen anyone mention it, but I found the belt itself a pain in the a&*e to turn. It’s so long and thin, my little fingers were aching by the end. Is there an easy way to do that? It was too long for my loop turner. I’m sure there must be a more efficient way than just pulling it through.
Finally – those confounded buttons. No, actually, that’s not fair. Considering how may there were, it was actually not such a bad task. I went for it, using the machine to sew both the buttonholes and the buttons on. I hadn’t used the button sewing foot before and boy, is it easy? I absolutely detest sewing buttons onto anything, so this foot will be seeing regular use! I had to redo a couple of buttons after I tried the skirt on as it bunched a little, and some were a bit off, but it was no big thing.
This is exactly the skirt I thought, and hoped, it would be. I am so happy with it, and feel it’s jumped me up another level in terms of what I know. It’s also made me feel confident that I’m getting on top of the basics, as I got through the majority of the construction without any need to stop and think about it. It’s not a quick make, but I’d say that if this is a style that you gravitate towards naturally, it’s well worth the effort! It’s so hard not to show people the lining and inner workings. But that would be weird.