Pattern Review Sewing Bee Round 1: Musically Inspired Pencil Skirt

It’s that time of year again – National Sewing Month.  Which means lots of fun Instagram pictures and the Pattern Review Sewing Bee!  I entered the Bee on something of a whim last year, and actually managed to make it to round 2, which was amazing.  Of course, that means I’m hooked, so I’m back for the PR Sewing Bee again this year.  The first challenge was to create a pencil skirt inspired by a piece of music or a musician.


Inspiration: When I woke up on the morning of the Bee and read the challenge, my mind immediately went in a million different directions. My first thought was to do John Williams, a musical, or something Disney, but my mind then almost immediately jumped to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. While there are 9 songs on the album, to me the album as a whole constitutes “a piece of music” because each of the songs flows into the others and the work really means more as a whole, rather than considering any individual song. I fell in love with the music of Pink Floyd in college. Freshman year we heard about how Dark Side of the Moon could be synced to the classic film The Wizard of Oz, and, living in the nerd dorm, we became obsessed with wanting to try the sync.  So we did. And it totally worked. It even synced to the bonus material, at the end of the video tape… The film’s cut Jitterbug sequence times perfectly to Floyd’s upbeat “Money.” Anyway, after being blown away by this epic pairing, Dark Side of the Moon became my jam. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to this album while doing hours of math problems during my school years (though if the iTunes count is anywhere near accurate it’s over 600, which still wouldn’t account for the similarly high play count that the CD got in my car back in the day). Although I don’t listen to this album as obsessively now as I have in the past, it still hold a permanent place among my favorites.


Pattern Choice: Having settled on this album, I envisioned a skirt that would be evocative of the album cover. Although I was a bit concerned over going too literal in my interpretation, I think the iconic nature of this album’s artwork demands that kind of commitment to a bold design. I knew I wanted to have a skirt with a back vent, invisible zipper, and to have the design uninterrupted across the front. Although I have a multitude of pencil skirt patterns in my ever growing Burda stash, I couldn’t find anything that had all the features I wanted, except BurdaStyle 10-2016-106, which even had the perfect diagonal seaming detail that I’d already envisioned running across the front of the skirt. However, the petite sizing was not going to work for my proportions, the size range was going to be too small for my hips, and the hem was slightly too A-line in the model photo, so I felt it would be better to graft the design features of this skirt onto a different skirt pattern base. The next best option was BurdaStyle 12-2013-118, a pencil skirt with a similar waistband style that went up to a 44 in Burda sizing. The result is a true mash-up pattern; the skirt shape, waistband, and zip are from the 12-2013 pattern, and the back vent and general placement of the design come from the 10-2016 pattern.  I followed the instructions for the 10-2016 pattern, as I had added the back vent.  I did modify the diagonal panel as well.  Instead of having a single color blocked panel, I measured out the distance to evenly divide the design into six panels, one for each color in the stylized Dark Side cover art.


Modifications and Adjustments: From the 12-2013 patterns I traced a 42 waist, and graded out to a 46 at the hips. However, I then had to take out most of the allowance I’d added, except at the fullest part of my thigh. I have been losing weight recently, so my sense of pattern sizing is completely thrown off; I probably could have gotten away with using a 42 and grading out to a 44 at the full thigh position only. My muslin was a bit too loose in the front at the hem (standing away from the body, not correct for a pencil skirt), so I also pegged the front pattern piece a bit more, taking out an additional inch just above the knee, though without adjusting the back of the pattern so that it would continue to hang straight.  Aside from mashing together elements of both patterns and adjustments for fit, the only other change I made to the 12-2013 base pattern was to remove the front darts by rotating them to the side seams, taking out half the dart width from each of the front and back pieces. I did not want to impede the design with a dart, and the fit seemed to work well on my body even without the front darts.  I followed the Burda instructions for the construction order, but I did choose to hem my lining with a coverstitch machine because it is a very stretchy knit.  I also wanted to leave the lining hanging loose (as is recommended in the pattern) so that it would not pull awkwardly on the outer portion of the skirt, but I did decide to add chain stitch tacks to help hold the lining to the skirt at the center back and side seams.  This would allow the lining to stay anchored, but to move with some flexibility so as not to pull on the outside of the skirt in a funny way.


Challenges:  I decided to work with knit fabrics.  This partially is because I wanted to create a very fitted skirt that would still allow movement, and partially because I have a very deep stash of knit fabrics.  All of these fabrics were textured ponte or double knits, however, some were more stable than others.  I did have to ease in the colored panel to the side seams in order to keep the correct length of the seams.  I used medium weight interfacing on the waistband, vent, and hem to achieve crisp lines and strong support, and lightweight interfacing on the zipper seam for stability with minimal bulk.  I think these choices definitely helped create that sleek pencil skirt silhouette.


How Modification Helped Achieve Results: By utilizing the best of both patterns (BurdaStyle 12-2013-118 and BurdaStyle 10-2016-106), I was able to create a skirt that had all the design features I wanted while still having a good base of fit to start from.  By turning the single color-blocked panel into six smaller panels, I was able to create that iconic rainbow from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album art.  Rather than having the white light run across my backside, I decided to use silver for the waistband to be evocative of the colors on the album art while still being flattering, and giving something of that rocker chic vibe.  Additionally, I sewed on triangular rhinestones to create the prism motif that is found at the center of the album art. I had the option of using 4 large or 9 small triangular stones, but I went with the small stones so I would use 9 of them – one to represent each song on the album.  Together I think these elements are a good translation of the inspiration, without being too crazy or looking like I simply copied the cover art onto the front of a skirt.


Concluding Thoughts:  I’m so happy with this skirt!  The design turned out exactly as I’d envisioned it, and the fit is very comfortable.  The only things I would consider doing differently would be to continue the design onto the back of the skirt on the righthand side.  Though of course there are always things that can be improved, I’m really happy with the construction overall.  I’m super excited with the results I was able to achieve and I’m really happy to have such a fun and unique piece in my closet!


General Pattern Review Information:

Pattern Description: 12-2013-118: Pencil skirt with back slit, invisible zip, and waistband. 10-2016-106: Petite pencil skirt with waistband, back vent, invisible zip, and color blocking panel design feature.

Pattern Sizing: 12-2013-118: Burda sizes 34-44. 10-2016-106: Burda petite sizes 17-21.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Since I changed the back of the skirt to incorporate the vent and the front to incorporate the design, I decided to follow the instructions from the 10-2016-106 Burda skirt pattern. They were actually pretty straightforward, without anything being too confusing.  As with most Burda magazine patterns, the instructions are a bit sparse, but the construction order is pretty standard, so it wasn’t too difficult to follow.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the envelope when you were done with it? I think my resulting skirt looks more like the 10-2016-106 skirt due to the design elements, and I pegged the skirt hem a bit more than in the photos, but otherwise it looks very similar.

What did you particularly like or dislike about this pattern? Likes: Burda always fits me pretty well, so I did not have to make major adjustments.  Since I mashed together two patterns, I picked the elements I liked from each, which resulted in exactly the skirt I wanted to create.  It is extremely comfortable to wear, and I love the design.  No dislikes.

Fabric used: This skirt is a testament to the depth and breadth of my stash. The skirt is made from textured ponte and double knits. The black and purple were bought from the now departed Hancock (sad), the blue and yellow from Yardage Town’s remnant tables in San Diego, and the rest is from the Michael Levine Loft in L.A. I was honestly surprised I had orange in my stash, and pleasantly surprised that I had a great silver ponte on hand as well.  A thin, slippery Lycra based fabric was used for lining, so as not to inhibit the stretch of the ponte knits. An invisible zip was used on the back, and interfering at the waistband, hem, vent, and zip insertion for stability. The rhinestones are from Bead Factory in LA.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: The major alterations for fit have been discussed above, as have the design changes to incorporate the rainbow element and back vent to the base pattern BurdaStyle 12-2013-118.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would totally sew another pencil skirt from this pattern!  I love it.  I probably won’t need another Dark Side skirt, but I think this might become a TNT pattern for me.

Conclusion: I am so pleased with the result!  The skirt turned out exactly how I envisioned it.  I’m also very happy with the construction of the skirt – the insides are pretty tidy, the fit is very comfortable, and the design elements worked out great.  Overall I’m really happy with the entry for the Bee!

So after a week of crazy sewing, I look forward to a week of restless anticipation as the judges make their decisions.  Of course I would be ecstatic to make it to Round 2, but I won’t be sad if I don’t move on; I’m happy with what I’ve made and I think I gave it my best effort.  Now to sit back, relax, and watch as the other entries come pouring in.

Happy National Sewing Month everyone!

28 thoughts on “Pattern Review Sewing Bee Round 1: Musically Inspired Pencil Skirt

  1. Wow! Gorgeously done! Fits and flatters you really well, and that zipper looks perfect. Nice touch with the silver triangle on the side like that, and those PF colors are such a cool idea. I know exactly which pattern this is, or at least one of the two you used with the diagonal seaming. Really like that you showed a close-up of the fabric – knits (and fabric in general) is still a mystery to me…. Nice to see how a textured knit looks when sewn, and it looks really great.

    What’s next on your list?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The results for round 1 of the Bee come out Tuesday, so *if* I move on, I’ll find out Wednesday morning what the next challenge is. Otherwise I’ve got some commissions to work on. Also, I plan to do the wool coat contest next month to make a coat for my dad. In the meantime, I’ve actually got 2 finished project posts scheduled to post (plus that McCall’s release to review), so the blog will be bumping this month.


      1. Reason? I can give you one! “hm, I feel like wearing a skirt today.” That should do it, imo. Why do you need a reason to wear a comfortable skirt other than that?


      2. Haha true! I think it’s more like, “hmm I am working with students today and I don’t want their dogs getting slobber and hair all over my new skirt.” But my first student free day will totally be a skirt day!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done! This is super – I’m so impressed and you totally deserve to go through to the next round. What a gorgeous skirt and a really creative inspiration. My fingers are crossed for round two….!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great interpretation of a tricky theme. It’s taken me so long to comment that I can now also congratulate you on making round 2 – I just read they went from 111 to 60 entries so it’s really something to make it this far.

    Liked by 1 person

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