Pendleton pencil skirt

Last year I bought a pale aqua Pendleton wool skirt suit from Goodwill for something like $8. I am unsure of the suit’s vintage, but the color and style of the skirt suggested that maybe it dates from the late ’70s to early ’80s. While the jacket actually fits pretty well, the skirt was long and rather frumpy, and the waist was impossibly tiny. I was sure I photographed the skirt, but I can’t find the photos, unfortunately. It was gathered slightly at the waist and had a large pleat in front. It was ingeniously constructed with pockets and only a button at the waistband for closure. Despite the tiny waist, there was a lot of fabric to work with, making it a perfect candidate for conversion into a pencil skirt. I cut off the waistband and unpicked one side seam and the back darts, leaving me with a big rectangle of wool.


I used the pencil skirt pattern from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, since I had been successful with it in the past. As before, I shortened the skirt by a few inches. I also decided to make a plain waistband rather than the curved one in the pattern, so I didn’t need to use boning. With careful positioning, I was able to preserve the skirt’s original hem. I used just about every inch of the fabric.

I spent more time on this than on anything I’ve ever made. I added a lining (I had to buy new fabric for this, as the original lining wasn’t big enough to reuse) and hand-picked the zipper. There was a lot of hand sewing with this project–usually I hate hand sewing, but the results were worth it. And the wool was a dream to work with.

hand-picked zipper (with some stray threads that need to be removed)

hand-picked zipper (with some stray threads that need to be removed)




While there are a few issues, mostly with the waistband, I am delighted with this skirt! I love the way the lining makes it look so much more finished and professional. I will definitely be lining my skirts in the future.


Corduroy skirt from an old jacket

While cleaning a closet last weekend, I found an old, unlined corduroy jacket that I’ve had for well over a decade–definitely since college and possibly since high school. The jacket was navy blue with two front pockets and a metal zipper up the front. Since it was definitely not my style anymore and had some paint on the sleeves and on the front (most likely dating to my studio art days in college), I thought maybe I could make something from the fabric. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a photograph of the jacket before I cut it up.

After playing around with a few ideas, I decided that the best and easiest course of action would be to make the bottom half of the jacket into a skirt. I cut a straight line just under the armpits, which went through the pockets–it would have been better to go under the pockets, but that would have resulted in a very short skirt. I tried it on and marked my waist, then took the whole thing in a few inches, tapering it into an a-line shape. I wanted a waistband with a button, which would both make the skirt look more finished and keep the zipper in place (I cut right through the zipper, so there was nothing to stop the pull from coming off the teeth).

To make the band, I recycled the button and buttonhole on one of the cuffs; I cut strips twice as wide as the cuffs from the sleeves, folded them in half, and pieced everything together to create a waistband. Before I sewed on the waistband, I removed the pocket remnants (now I realize that it would have been better to take off the pockets before cutting so I could reuse them). The corduroy under the pockets is lighter and softer than the rest of the material, but I’m hoping they will start to match better after a few washings. I sewed on the waistband, and that was it.

Okay, that wasn’t quite it–I had to take it in a bit more around the waist to make it fit better. But it was a pretty quick and easy project overall and I am happy with the result. I will probably add some patch pockets to disguise the area where the previous pockets were (the flash makes them much more noticeable in the photograph than they are in real life) as well as some paint on the front.

Not only was the skirt free, I didn’t even have to make a hem. Yay!


Altered yellow thrift store dress

Today I finally got around to altering one of my Goodwill dresses from a couple of weeks ago. Here is what it looked like when I bought it:

just a wee bit frumpy

It’s made of a medium-weight yellow-brown polyester. It is a bit big; there is a zipper in the back but I could easily get it on and off without unzipping, and the armholes are too large. While it does have its charms, and I do like long dresses, the length combined with the drab color and super-’70s pattern is a bit much. To make it wearable, I chopped 18 inches off the length, just above a slit on one of the sides. I also didn’t like the high neckline so I lowered and widened it a bit and finished it with yellow-orange quilt binding that I had left over from another project. The binding bunches just a little bit, so I might eventually replace it with binding made from the extra dress material, but honestly I’ll probably never get around to it. I took in a little less than an inch on either side of the bodice to give it some better waist definition and to make the armholes a bit smaller. Finally, I gave it a new, 1 1/2-inch hem. The hem was going beautifully until I noticed that my new magnetic seam guide, which couldn’t get a very good grip because it was almost off the edge of the metal plate, was creeping inward due to the vibration of the machine. The hem ended up a little uneven, and I have learned not to use the seam guide for that wide of a hem. Again, something I’ll probably never bother to fix. So here is the finished product:

The color is a bit off in this photo–there isn’t quite that much color contrast between the neck binding and the dress. I can still put it on without unzipping it, but I didn’t want it to be too tight because clingy polyester is uncomfortable in the heat. The armholes are still a bit funky, but I don’t know if I can do anything about that, so I’m leaving them. I can’t wait to wear it–I think it will look good on its own in the summer and with red tights for fall. I wish I had another wedding to go to this summer because my mom gave me some gloves that are exactly the same yellow as the quilt binding I used on the neckline.

Here is a detail of the pattern.

Total cost: $2.69 for the dress and about an hour of time.