A couple of weeks ago, I finished my last winter project and I realized that I had reached my limit. I was staring at a pile of drab, heavy, winter fabric and I shuddered. I love winter sewing, but I just couldn’t face one more winter project, even though it was snowing outside. I needed light. I needed color. I needed a winter break!
The groundhog said it was going to be an early spring anyway, and I had just finished up a week where the weather was remarkably warm for Ohio during the end of winter, an astonishing 60 degrees! People here were wearing shorts, I kid you not. A little optimistic in my opinion, but I’m the gal still wearing cardigan sweaters into May, so what do I know?
I dove into my stash pile and emerged with a rayon challis twill in a toasty shade of light brown and a rose silk chiffon I had been saving for a special project: Zinnia, from Colette Patterns. I made one of these before in lightweight denim for a spring/fall skirt and I like it so much, I decided to make another version. The pattern comes with three variations, and for this project I decided to do #3. I have never worked with silk chiffon before, so it was going to be an adventure. (Read: slightly scary type of expensive fabric I’ve never worked with before.)
The pattern: Zinnia by Colette Patterns, version 3
The material: Rayon Challlis Twill (Underskirt) and Rose Silk Chiffon (Overskirt)
Needles: 80/12 and 70/10, respectively, plus some hand sewing
Difficulty: Intermediate. There was some challenging work to do here, with the pleats. I opted to sew mine by hand on the chiffon during a Netflix binge. Perhaps it was difficult because of my materials chosen; a cotton voile might have offered easier going.
Did I love it? Oh, yeah! Well worth the handwork to get the nice results.
Silk chiffon is a very lightweight fabric requiring a finer needle. The hand is flowy, and the feel is slightly rough. It’s quite sheer. It will snag and run just like pantyhose if you aren’t careful enough. Goodness knows it caught a few times on various things while I was working on it. I’m afraid it developed one or two small holes I will carefully mend later. Keeping it away from my very helpful cats (and their claws) was challenge as Ace and Ricky enjoy naps on my lap and prowling the sewing table while I work.
And oh my gosh, the fraying….!
This much fraying was just from hand sewing the pleats and attaching it to the waistband. Holy cow! When I went to hem it, I trimmed the fraying off because it was such a nuisance. Because it frays so much, french seams are the way to go when you finish this fabric. It will encase the chiffon’s raw edges and keep them from fraying. I also hemmed it by hand, using some very fine glass headed pins that I got for Christmas from my sister-in-law. I strongly recommend using fine pins on such a delicate fabric- anything too big will snag it and wreak havoc! This is not the fabric for a beginner or the impatient sewist. I’m so glad I waited until I had a few years of experience before I tried working with it.
Rayon challis on the other hand, is probably my favorite fabric in the world! It has a silky feel, drapes easily and opaque enough you don’t need a lining. It also sews easily on the machine without fear. It feels so yummy against the skin!
What I love about this pattern is the elegant draping created by the light materials and the pleats, and the subtle colors from layering the sheer chiffon over the challis. It also helps
to disguise the wrinkles. Chiffon likes to wrinkle, but I never mind looking slightly rumpled. Nothing in life stays perfect very long! But it can be pressed with low heat.
I also did some careful work with the zipper. I had to think about it a bit, having never done a zipper one delicate fabric, let alone on a two-layer skirt of the stuff. I was able to attach the invisible zipper to the challis layer underneath using the machine in the usual way. But I decided to leave the chiffon unattached to the zipper, for fear of fraying and getting the chiffon caught in the zipper which would ruin it for sure. I hand-stitched the opening slit to allow access to the zipper and keep the sipper concealed. Then I stitched it onto the challis in a few places to keep it stable. . Probably I should have used silk thread for the hand work, but I’m on a budget and I decided that I could live with the polyester thread. When the skirt is worn, it vanishes into the folds anyway.
**I had such crummy lighting in my photos! Winter light is drab at best, and then, when I went outside on a nice day it was so sunny and windy I had no end of difficulties! The wind attempted to lift my skirt to indecent heights, then blew my hair into my face and conspired to knock over my tripod. The sun was incredibly bright, too! Or maybe that’s just my perception after the darker days of winter, but either way, it was real challenge to shoot without the glare washing out my colors or making me squint.
But, I did get a few charming shots in the shade of my house….
The sweater, by the way, is one I made from Colette Patterns’ web magazine, Seamwork! I love my magazines and Seamwork is one of my favorites for thoughtfully written articles, travel guides for fabric shopping, and two patterns each issue. This one is the Astoria, which I made in a lightweight rib knit. It has a short waistband, and it is quite suitable for high-waisted skirts and pants or over a dress. I actually lengthened the bottom band for myself because I have a long torso and most things need lengthened to look right on me. It looks great with this skirt, and I’m very pleased to have come up with a new outfit! No doubt I’ll be wearing this outfit for lots of spring days.