Pencil perfection – the heavens to Betsy skirt

It’s officially June, so that means summer in these parts, although given how much terrible weather we have had recently this news may come as a shock. For me, summer is a time for florals, polka dots and frivolous prints (you know how much I love a good novelty print). Anyway, when I caught sight of the lush parade of vivid flowers on this stretch denim (from my new favourite online fabric shop myfabrics.co.uk) the magic internet fabric pixies intervened … and by the end of that week it was draped alluringly on my sewing table.

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Originally, I was thinking of making some floral shorts with this fabric, but when I was asked by Abby of Blue Ginger Doll to try out her new skirt pattern I knew this had to be a Betsy skirt. The Betsy skirt is a lovely retro styled pencil skirt with three options, a simple version with button tab waist detail, a wrap skirt version and a high waisted version with concertina kick pleat at centre back. The skirt is cut to flatter a curvacious, hourglass figure, and is one of Abby’s newest patterns, available from a US size 6 to a 24. I plumped for View A, the plainest of the options, as I thought the fabric was pretty busy on its own.

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I cut a straight 22 on the pattern (based on my hip measurement) and it fits perfectly straight from the packet (Abby always advises sizing up with her patterns if your measurements fall between sizes as her patterns have reduced ease). It was a wonderfully quick sew and I fell head over heels for the double dart detail on both the front and the back of the skirt. These little darts are a breeze to sew and there-in lies the magic of the skirt – it will really fit you. I nearly forgot to mention that Betsy also features an invisible zipper closure, but please don’t let that put you off. If you follow the instructions it’s really easy and it looks so amazingly neat once you’ve done it that you’ll never want to do an ordinary zipper again (I promise). Okay, so check out those double darts and kickpleat action!

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Now, let’s be clear. This is no ordinary pencil skirt, for girls I have to tell you, this skirt has wiggle! A whole lotta wiggle. In fact, I defy you to wear this and not sashay as you walk.

I don’t often wear pencil skirts as I find it hard to get a good fit (because of the dramatic difference between my waist and hip measurements). But in this pattern that is all taken care of, and better yet the skirt then nips in further towards the hem to give you that full on Jessica Rabbit silhouette. For me, this is a skirt that begs to be worn with heels. It cups your curves, accentuating the good and seemingly smoothing over the less good bits of your body … and I like that.

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It reminds me of something Joan in Mad Men would wear, which is where I got the inspiration for the little cardi draped over my shoulders, although I’m sure Joan would opt to wear hers with a plain short sleeved blouse and pearls. That girl has style.

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My recommendation for this pattern is almost any fabric you can think of, from wool in winter to a lovely bright cotton in summer, satin for a party and tweed for afternoon tea … a world of opportunity awaits.

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As for my choice? Well, it is me, so I went a little crazy, you know what I’m like with mixing colours and patterns. Florals and polka dots and chevrons … I say bring it on! The key to making this “I don’t give a damn what the rules are” look is to pick colours that are repeated in each element, and you can have two or three key colours that you mix and match. I focused on the hot pink for shoes, jewellery and cardigan/jacket and then picked up the blues for my bag. By sticking to the simple rule and using the same key colours in your print choice and with your accessories, you can really go to town on the prints that you use. Also, think about the scale of the print, so a large floral with a small polka dot will look more balanced than two large scale prints alone. Most of all, be brave! Clothes are so much more exciting when you start to wear what you really love. Trust your instincts.

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I am not the only one to pick a floral for this skirt. You must head over to check out Tanya’s wrap version in a covetable rose print. Just gorgeous! Hey, the Curvy Sewing Collective girls rule.

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Lastly, it always makes me smile when my Dad tells me he has read my blog (bless him). Unlike my Mum, he has no interest in sewing, and I think he reads it just to catch up on my adventures. This morning though, he made this comment on his Facebook page,

“Just read T’s blog. It’s possible I may be a bit biased but she can write a great story. The sewing’s not bad either. I can’t believe this is the same person who cried when the school tried to take a picture of her age 5.”

It made me laugh. He is referring to an incident in my first months at school. It was essential for every schoolchild to have their photo taken, so it could be printed out for purchase by parents and then framed and put on the sideboard of all the doting grannies and grandads. I have foggy memories of that day, but I do remember them putting me on the chair in the bright light and telling me to smile. I kicked off … big time. Seems I was not pleased with this turn of events and I had a total bawling fit until they gave up and left me alone. This is why the school photo my parents had of me that year was sitting at a desk with the hair over my face concentrating really hard on making a fish collage from eggshells, rather than the trad cheesy-mcsqueezy grin fests of my classmates. I have glue on my sleeve and red rimmed eyes, but I appear happy in my task.

The thing is, the more I think back to that day the more amazing I feel about where I am now. I spent much of my life hating having my photo taking, lurking at the back of group photos trying to hide from the lens and avoid the limelight. Nowadays, I may still be equally as happy in spending time making an eggshell collage, but this blog has made it okay for me to stand in front of the camera. I am now fine with putting my plus size self out there for the world to see. I have been so inspired by other plus size bloggers over the last couple of years, and it was them who gave me the courage to stop hiding and start my own blog last autumn. Long standing followers will note that my first makes on the blog did not appear on me, but I quickly gained the confidence to change that and step in front of the lens.

So, to all the sewing bloggers out there, whatever your size, shape or hang ups, thank you. You have helped me learn that it’s not just about the sewing, it’s about learning to be happy with who you are and understanding that by sharing that you can help others overcome their own fears in turn. That kind of confidence is a gift and you wear it with you everywhere you go. It will change your life. It has changed mine.

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Colour mad designer rampages gleefully through the world of plus size sewing! Oh, and there may be shoes … and cats.

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