April brings us onto trousers/pants month for Sew My Style 2019, but I decided to make the skirt version of the Alina Sewing & Design Co. Chi-Town Chinos pattern. The original pattern is actually for shorts and/or a skirt, with the expansion pack giving you the full-length trouser version. Interesting, as I thought chinos were usually full-length trousers anyway – you learn something new every day!
Anyway, I felt that my wardrobe was in need of a short skirt staple pattern rather than a more formally-shaped trouser right now, so this definitely appealed to me. It’s an interesting skirt too, as it’s designed to sit below the natural waist. It’s described as mid-rise, but I’m going to say it might be closer to low-rise or at least somewhere between. I put one of the model pics here, because this person has a very different shape to me, but I would say her shorts look fairly low-rise as well, no?
Given that fact, I decided to make the largest size – the 18 – since I carry any excess weight around that area anyway, but the finished article is quite loose and sits quite low on my hips. This is fine by me as I was expecting quite a low rise and it’s a short skirt, but from what I’ve seen from other sewists, looser rather than tighter seems to be the general consensus, so I’d take that into consideration when choosing a size. Additionally, the pattern has a “centre back extension”, which is basically a wedge intended for anyone with a proportionally larger waist measurement so they don’t need to grade up. I did use this extension, but didn’t actually need to and will probably take it out again. The instructions are very good and absolutely build in some basting and fitting time, but I found it a little hard to judge, and so took a bit of a punt.
The first photo of my skirt above belies the work that goes into this little skirt, although much is optional. Fabric-wise, I wanted something that was either a solid or could act as a neutral in my wardrobe. I picked up the denim/twill at Sew Expo this year and had it in mind for either a pinafore or a skirt and this fit the bill perfectly. It’s that kind of thin stripe that does work as a neutral, and particularly when you wear a lot of blue-based fabrics, as I tend to do. However, it was also the kind of fabric that just didn’t look quite right without details like the beltloops and back pockets, so although I wasn’t necessarily going to do them all at the start, I ended up adding them and enjoying doing so.
In addition to belt loops, the Chi-Town Chinos have slash pockets with pocket bags, optional back pockets, with flaps (also optional), plus a full fly front and zipper. I ended up making all these, as above, and I really liked the way the instructions got you to prepare all these fiddly pieces at the beginning. It’s true that my enthusiasm is greatest at the beginning of a project and so it’s a good time to get these smaller pieces done and dusted before you hit the main body construction.
I also have to commend Alina for the instructions themselves – very clear and thorough. I’ve done these things a few times now, but I always need my memory refreshed on something like a fly front. Every designer has their own method, but this one seemed particularly easy I must say. A good one to try if you struggle with that! There are also concise, but comprehensive sections on making a muslin, fitting and customising your garment, sewing bar tacks, understitching and more. A well put-together enough resource that I would happily dive into other Alina patterns, based on the instructions alone.
The only part I didn’t care for (and there has to be one, right?) was the waistband. There is no actual waistband piece, but instead a waistband facing. You attach it to finish the edge and then effectively topstitch the waistband “shape” onto the body of your skirt/shorts.
I found this quite tricky as you are pretty much topstitching blind for the first half of the waistband and I found I went a bit off-course and ended up with some wobbly stitching and a not-totally-straight waistband. Having said that – I’m sure there are some tips and tricks one could employ here to make it easier, so I’m going to have a search and see what people suggest, but I think I prefer a regular waistband piece at the moment. Hey ho.
I chose not to topstitch in a thick topstitching thread as my tests weren’t too great with this fabric. The stripes are very thin, so it can easily look rubbish if (when, in my case) you go a bit off line. Instead I topstitched with regular thread and I think it looks fine. My machine struggled a couple of times and there is one belt loop I need to redo, but it got better. I also decided to use a hook and eye closure instead of a button and quite like the result. One last tip is to follow the given advice and grade your seams (as above). If you haven’t done this before, it basically means cutting them to different lengths after you’ve sewn the seam, and helps avoid bulk, which is hard to sew and looks a bit weird.
Overall, this is a very comfortable skirt and I can tell I’m going to wear it a lot. I do have a few adjustments to make: remove the back extension and maybe go down a size, but I reckon you’ll see it popping up in my Me-Made May selections! I will also move the pockets further in as they’re too wide at the moment. Perhaps removing the extension will help with that. It’s also nice to know that when the fit is nailed, you’ve done the hard part for the accompanying shorts and trousers/pants patterns and should be able to roll out a well-fitting pair very easily. Nice!