Sewing Puzzle: skirt detail

I’ve posted pattern puzzles aplenty. Today, Esther contributes a sewing challenge. Come to think of it, many past puzzles were sewing challenges too. So, perhaps this is the first in a new series. Thanks for the idea Esther. Feel free to submit an idea yourself.

Esther writes:

I posted an entry on my blog today about a girl’s dress patent. I have attempted in the past to come up with a mass construction technique to create the design element on the upper skirt side. It might be an interesting challenge for the blog readers. The challenge would be in the construction technique rather than the pattern. The pattern may play a part, but I am not sure how. Anyway, something interesting to think about…

See Esther’s entry for her thoughts on the matter. Will you guys be posting there or here? Hopefully some will traipse back here too. While not the usual run of the mill in today’s production environments, it doesn’t look too difficult but then again, I haven’t tried it. It could be one of those things that’s more difficult than it looks.

Does anyone consider this pattern to be particularly difficult to execute and require instruction? Sing out if so. A sketch from the 1922 patent is below.

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  1. J C Sprowls says:

    I’m not a fan of the pockets. I think they’re too intricate to execute (i.e. just because it *can* be done doesn’t mean it *should*) and drive production costs up, unnecessarily. IOW: is it really needed?

    Plus, I think this type of garment is best executed in a silk or gauze, which: a) wouldn’t support carrying things in the pockets (form v. function argument), and b) would add visual or real bulk to the hips, which betrays the pencil shape of the skirt (i.e. incongruent w/ the silhouette/overall design).

    If the pockets need to stay, I’d recommend keeping the concealed pocket but, eliminate the binding/topstitching of the disparate gathering ratio. I’d also recommend sweeping the skirt hem out enough to make it a straight skirt or a lettuce-edge hem.

  2. Esther says:

    The skirt detail could be for pockets, but I am not sure that it is. The patent info doesn’t give any info one way or the other. It would be an interesting application and add another layer of complexity. Rather, I believe the skirt front is slit and fullness added below for the gathers. The fullness is then gathered to the opposite of the slit opening and topstitched down.

    The challenge is to come up with a mass construction technique that eliminates or minimizes any hand work.

  3. J C Sprowls says:

    Can we agree that’s a poor technical sketch? I could interpret it just as you have, too. My mind put a concealed pocket behind the gathers because I think the support would need to be there.

    The skirt would be slit the same way you mention, the back of the pocket bag would be stitched/bluffed and pressed above the hip. The gathering would be applied to binding on the front side, the back of the bag would be applied to the back of the binding and then the binding folded and topstitched. Finally, the folded edge of the binding would be topstitched onto the skirt body. (whew!)

    Frankly… I’d beg for it to be as you mention, Esther. I think that could be accomplished on a 5-thread overlock w/ a few internal parts changed out to get the right gathering ratio and the cutting width narrowed.

  4. Kathleen says:

    What’s the deal with pockets? I don’t see how there could be a pocket there (this style line was a common design detail in the twenties btw); there’s nothing to keep it closed. They didn’t have zippers in 1922 and that’s what it’d take. If it were a pocket, the opening would sag.

    JC, you haven’t seen enough sketches lol. I don’t think this is a bad sketch at all. Compared to what I’ve gotten in the past, it’s ideal even tho one set of gathers is higher than the other. If you follow Esther’s link, you can find the full size sketch. Based on the larger view of the dress, the smooth side of the gathered style line looks piped to me. Or maybe I’m just reading that into it. That was also a common design feature for this style of the period.

  5. esther says:

    I think that could be accomplished on a 5-thread overlock w/ a few internal parts changed out to get the right gathering ratio and the cutting width narrowed.

    The size of the foot on the machine with the shirring arm in place creates a physical limitation on where the gathers start and stop. I wish I could show the problem, but I don’t have handy access to a standard 4/5 spool industrial. You can’t start sewing from the end of the slit out to the side seam without a flat spot and the opposite direction requires a precise gather-ratio setting. Sewing from the side seam to the end of the slit has a greater chance of getting fabric caught in the seam. As you suggest, perhaps there is a machine set-up to overcome the problem?

  6. av says:

    Here is a thought. Stitch a small piece of 1/8″ or 1/4″ elastic to the outside of the fabric. Then cover the elastic with either bias tape or a piece of ribbon.

  7. patsijean says:

    1. Treat the gathered area as a gathered dart ending the tip of the dart 1/4″ to 3/8″ past the gathered portion. Adjustments for the “dart” will have to be made in the pattern, perhaps with a waistline seam (which there might well be; we just can’t see it for the belt).

    2. The assembly can be treated like sewing a slightly gathered bodice to a yoke. I would use a flat gathering foot (not a mechanical ruffler) with the “crowding or ease stitching” technique to gather to about 1/8″ from the end of the slit, then stitch together just like a dart.

    3. Another gathering technique similar to home sewing (which I think I like better than the first) is to use a zig-zag over a thick thread, quickly draw up, and sew the dart, as above. Stop gathering about 1/8″ from end of slit, gather, stitch out about 1/4″ past the slit to end of dart.

  8. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    It doesn’t look hugely difficult to put together. And I’m another who says it’s just gathers on the skirt, not pockets. My pattern book has a similar option for changing the darts on a skirt. It seems like you’d just stitch the skirt gathers, gather the neck and attach the strip above it, gather the sleeves and attach the cuffs, then sew the sleeves into the armscyes.

    For the skirt gathers in my pattern book, there’s a side seam and the fuller part sticks out further when the pattern is flat.

  9. J C Sprowls says:

    No, silly… I didn’t mean the pocket opening facing upward. As you say, they would sag. I meant that the opening would be concealed in the side seam. The tops of the pocket bag would be attached in the slice that permits gathering/piping.

    RE: sketches. I was too harsh. I only need to elicit details for that one area (e.g. pocket v. topstitched dart w/ gathers on bottom edge) – the entire sketch isn’t poor. If only I could sketch as nicely.

    As you say, it was a common feature for the time. But, a lot of context hangs off inference for the period. Since it has passed out of the common vernacular, it might be considered ambiguous and requires additional info (e.g. a detail of that section in a bubble).

    Like any other developer/executor, having all the details, upfront, matters. I always sketch and write on top of a sketch no matter how good. But, the greater the degree of technical accuracy means I have fewer questions and can get to work, faster.

  10. dosfashionistas says:

    This is a bit of digresssion..Some years back Threads magazine had an article describing a dress very similar to this in which the side detail was a large pocket that extended, I think, into the back. It was intended to hang open, and did, and looked very nice in a soft, mid weight goods. I drafted it out on my personal block and made it up in a rayon challis. It was a fun dress, but I felt self-conscious any time I wore it shopping. With those big pockets I was sure the store detectives were watching me closely. I will try to find the referance if anyone is interested.

  11. Oxanna says:

    I don’t think it’s a pocket – it’s likely a “slit”, with the fabric beneath gathered and sewn to it. The design would extend to the side seam, of course. I’ve seen it before in ’30’s-’40’s dresses, I know, but I couldn’t rustle up any in a Google search. That aspect of it doesn’t look terribly difficult. I didn’t notice the “piping” until I saw the closeup. It could indeed be piping. (Or some form of narrow bias binding, with the excess sewn into the seam??)

    It’s an interesting sketch, although I’m not sure why it would be patented.

  12. anne says:

    Iam sorry to see this kind of detailing disappaear, find it much more appealing then rhinestones hot attached. Hollywood is so body conscious that this would never fly and for my money that is how a great many women make their clothing decicions- based on what their favorte characters in their favorite weekly shows wear.

  13. Kathleen says:

    an article describing a dress very similar to this in which the side detail was a large pocket that extended, I think, into the back. It was intended to hang open, and did, and looked very nice in a soft, mid weight goods

    I had a jumper like this, bought it used, loved those big gathered gaping pockets. Made by a DE company, it had other problems (bad zip etc) but it was so cute I wore it anyway. It’s worn out; I saved it, thinking I’d write an article about it someday or show it to people (back before I had the blog).

    Then Esther wrote:
    I added some pictures of a sewn sample to further illustrate the sewing problem

    Follow her link. In the entry she mentions there may be more to the pattern than she’s considered. Seeing her sample, I’d say there could be (in my opinion). I was thinking last night that this style, simple tho the cut may be, is one that would necessitate drafting from a fitting shell. Is that a hint enough?

    I probably won’t get around to sampling it but the process outlined, is to:

    1. Start with a single waist dart skirt block
    2. Draw in your desired style line
    3. Cut the lines of the dart legs
    4. Cut along the desired style line
    5. Pivot that dart closed.

    Then add fullness (to say nothing of gathers on the bottom half of that hip style line) to make the fit blousier.

  14. Kate says:

    I’m not sure if this helps with the constraints caused by the size of the sewing foot, but maybe this would work:
    What if you first sewed up the side seams, then gathered the skirt onto the right side of a rectangle of bias-cut fabric, leaving the ends of the bias rectangle free (creating a little tail at the end of either seam). After that you could attach the right side of the top of the rectangle to the right side of the top slit on the skirt (raw edges matching). To create the piping, you’d sew the bottom seam to the top seam with topstitch ing, push the tails to the back of the skirt and topstitch the ends of the seams to secure it. It’d leave the tails on the inside of the skirt, but if the skirt were lined, they’d be hidden; or, you could fold them under and catch the ends in the topstitching for a clean finish.
    Hope this makes sense – I’m writing this from a place with no fabric handy to make sure this technique actually works.

  15. J C Sprowls says:

    I’m gonna have to play with this, too. And, here I was planning a weekend of lawn work – thanks for the distraction!

  16. Rita Yussoupova says:

    I see this more as a pattern challenge rather than construction. There is so much shirr at neckline and Slv Opng but the AH seam appears flat and not hugely disproportionate. I think the Hip detail could be both Insert Pckt with shirred Opng or shirred hip “Yoke”. Both can be relatively easy executed construction wise. I think it will take a skilled patternmaker to create the pattern with such a “High/Low” shirr details.

  17. Rita Yussoupova says:

    I also want to add that the sweep appears “flat” and narrower than the waist and hip. The skirt kind of has a barrel shape. Again I see this more of a pattern challenge.

  18. Marilyn says:

    I have a vintage baby dress that has a detail like that. The fabric looked like it was slashed and then the bottom part was gathered and sewn back to the top part.

  19. Gigi says:

    I just made a blouse with a detail like this on the sleeve (vogue 8598). The skirt would be cut with a slash between the smooth high hip section and the full gathered section below it. Gathers are made and then the seam is sewn as a dart and clean-finished with a narrow 3-thread overlock. Really easy but not sure if it could be done efficiently in production or not.

  20. Kathleen says:

    I always had the idea of piping the top edge of this seam but it’d be hard to stick in there in that (darted, as Gigi said) seam. Plus, it’d also probably make someone’s hip look bigger but I liked the idea anyway.

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