If there’s one thing my closet has been in desperate need of for winter, it’s a black wool pencil skirt. For as often as I’ve thought to myself, “gosh I wish I had a black pencil skirt” I could have sewn about 10 by now. But finally, FINALLY, I did!
And… photographing a black pencil skirt. Sigh. Sorry folks, I know it basically looks like I sewed a black hole.
Trust me, it’s a great skirt though! It’s sewn in a thick bouclé wool that I worried many times would get the best of me and frankly caused me to drag my feet on this project for a looooong time. But I tamed it! It’s described as a chunky knit, but it never really occurred to me as I sewed with it that it felt like a knit, maybe because it was so beefy.
Honestly: this is really a coating that I coerced into being a pencil skirt. But I’m so glad I did.
The pattern I used is the Ultimate Pencil Skirt from Sew Over It, though I’d initially intended to use a vintage pattern. I didn’t like the fit I was getting in my muslin, so I opted for the modern pattern. I’d sewn it a few years prior and though my size and body shape required me to re-muslin and do some grading between sizes, I was ultimately (har har) way happier with the fit of the Ultimate Pencil Skirt pattern!
I also spiffed it up a bit by replacing the kick pleat vent for an inverted kick pleat, which adds a lovely vintage touch (and is from the vintage pattern I originally was going to use). Thankfully this thick wool presses easily with some tips from tailoring: using a ton of steam and a press cloth, finger pressing seams, using a clapper where possible, and using uneven basting stitches to hold the pleat shut until one final press at the end. Following those steps, I was able to get a nice sharp kick pleat. I actually did a test run of it first just to be sure, in case I needed to stick with a vent.
Now, the area that gave me fits was the lapped zipper. I inserted it and that lap just looked like garbage! Both the underlap side and the overlap side. I ranted about it on Instagram, and a few people recommended a tip for bulky fabrics: at the seam allowance for the zipper, sew a finer fabric as a facing, trim and grade the seam allowances, and understitch. I was suspicious that even still, the small seam allowance left in the bulky wool would keep everything, well, bulky. But I did a test and was amazed at the result! SO much less bulky. It went from being a literal deal-breaker to a perfect looking lapped zipper.
It’s difficult to show, but the lap lays flat and the zipper doesn’t peek out at all. Before, it was like looking straight into the zipper down the entire length. Ugh.
From the inside, here’s the facing. I used navy silk organza, and I did it on both the underlap and overlap sides. Interestingly, I think it helped the underlap side next to the zipper teeth on the back even more. This little trick saved my project!
I lined the skirt with red silk charmeuse and in keeping with the theme…. that’s about as fun to photograph as black. I used pleats instead of darts in my linings, and contemplated how to treat the kick pleat. Eventually, I settled on a simple slotted opening in the lining. (I promise, it really is even, though the photo would appear otherwise.)
For stability—because wow, this is a hefty skirt!—I used a wide red petersham ribbon as the waistband facing. I usually go with a thinner fabric for waistbands when using thicker fabric for the outer band, but I wanted to try something new. I could have used the lining fabric, but I really wanted to make sure this waistband stayed put, so I wanted something more stable.
I sewed the ribbon by machine to the seam line of the waistband, and then treated it all like you’d treat a two piece waistband. I sewed the lower edge by hand. The result is not too bulky and plenty stable. And pretty!
There’s one last remaining thing I may yet tackle. In the skirt hem, I trimmed down the seam allowances and then used a catch stitch to keep them open neatly and with less bulk, much like I’ve done with thick coating when sewing, y’know, an actual coat. My intention was to do the same to all the seams once I was finished (which I serged because holy bouclé, was there shedding). But I worried a bit about the weight of the skirt causing the fit to be a little off—a little big or a little small, I wasn’t sure. It feels good right now but if I think it stretches out a bit after a few wearings, I may take the side seams in a tad. In which case, I don’t want to have to open up all that catch stitch and re-do it. So right now, the seams are pressed open, but they’re a bit wiggly inside. Someday I’ll revisit that once I’ve decided for sure.
All-in-all, I went the really long way to get there, but I now have a wool pencil skirt worthy of winter! Huzzah!