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October 11

Reinforcing Pencil Skirt Seams & Setting in a Godet

Last week Two weeks ago I posted up a tutorial on how to reinforce an inward corner, that would receive some stress and wear.  And as promised, today’s post will touch on some other areas you can stabilize/reinforce on your pencil skirts.

To recap:

The pattern I’m using is the Pencil Skirt with Godet by Burda:

I generally like my pencil skirts quite fitted, with little ease.  As a result, I’ve recently taken to stabilizing some seams to extend the wear that happens on such a close-fitting garment.

I’m working with a classic, 100% wool; it’s thicker and has less drape than wool suiting.  It’s similar to a wool flannel, but my wool presses much crisper than a flannel does.

The seam that usually gives out first (for me at least) is the center back seam at the bottom, where there is either a slit, kickpleat, or a godet.  I want to be extra certain that this seam doesn’t tear on me as I’m going up/down some stairs.  Without fail, that’s the one place I usually rip my store bought pencil skirts: on the stairs.

Today, I’m going to walk you guys through how to stabilize the godet with some silk organza (aka my new best-friend), how to stitch the godet into your skirts, and lastly how to reinforce the side seams.

I’ll be demonstrating these techniques on my muslin, instead of on my final project (since I already completed all of these steps on my burgundy pencil skirt).

Here are the pieces for the skirt back, for reference:

Waistband, 2 back panels and the godet.

I’ll be using contrast organza and thread, throughout, for demonstration purposes only.  :)  So be sure to try to match your final piece with a coordinating organza if you can.  I only keep black and white organza on hand, one to match with light-colored projects and the other to match with my dark-colored projects.

Using Silk Organza for Reinforcing a Seam

In general, if you’re going to be adding silk organza on your own project, I’d only use this technique if you’re planning on incorporating a lining (or wearing a slip) with your skirt.  If you’re not going to attach lining, I would skip this step and go right to the next.  Organza next to one’s skin doesn’t feel so nice, well for me at least, and it may end up feeling uncomfortable and scratchy with such a close-fitting piece of clothing.

Organza is the perfect material for reinforcing a lot of areas on your clothes.  It’s sheer so it won’t show through to the right side (assuming you’ve used a coordinating color), it’s quite strong, and the grainline is easy to see (so we can match that with our fashion fabric).

Step 1: Cut out 1 1/2 inch Strips of Silk Organza

If you have 5/8″ seam allowances, I’d recommend cutting your organza at least double the seam allowance (1.25″ ) and no wider than 2 inches.  You don’t have to be terribly precise here, just somewhere in between, which is why I cut mine out at an inch and a half.

You’ll want to cut long strips, long enough so that you can use one strip down each of your vertical seams on your skirt that you wish to reinforce.

I also prefer to cut my silk organza strips with pinking shears for several reasons.  I used to just tear/rip my organza to get a nice straight line, but with how much my organza frays, I felt like I was always loosing 1/4 of an inch with each tear I made.  Secondly, a pinked edge will blend in with your fashion fabric much better than a straight-cut edge would.  (Don’t you despise the lines that show up on the outside of your skirt from your seam allowances when you press your garment?  A pinked edge will help with that a bit.)

Coincidence has it, that I do have a straight edge on the organza strip on the far right, but this is actually the selvage edge of the organza, so I always leave that on due to the stability it provides.  And the two squares of organza was used in the prior tutorial on reinforcing an inward corner, so you can just ignore those.

Step 2: Baste Two Lengths of Silk Organza Down the Center Back Seam, on the Wrong Side of the Fabric

My skirt uses a 5/8″ seam allowance, therefore I’m going to stitch on my organza strips using 4/8 ths of an inch (or .5″).  You can either baste it in with a wide stitch length and remove it once you sew your final seams together or you can do what I do: use a tad-larger stitch length than your ‘normal’ setting and leave your threads in place (never to be removed).

Here’s a detail shot of the organza strip on top of the skirt piece (on the wrong side).  Can you see the grains on the white-muslin fabric?  See how they match up with the black organza grainlines?

It may be difficult to see here, but it should be easier for you to see this at home.  It’s important that the organza be stitched to your skirt matching up your grainlines.  When these grainlines are matched, the organza becomes a stabilizer.  If the organza is off-grain from your fabric, it will have some stretch, which is what we don’t want.

Step 3: Press she Seam

Press, Press, Press!

I think I spend as much time at my ironing board as I do at the sewing machine (if not more…)  After every single row of stitching, press your seams flat.  This relaxes the stitches and sets them, which is even more important when you’re using organza.  It sometimes has a tendency to pucker, so a quick swish with the iron will keep your piece looking professional.

Here’s a detail shot of the 1/2″ stitching line, joining the organza to the skirt at the center back seam.

Guess what guys?

You’ve officially just reinforced your center back seam, as well as your godet/slit area!  Easy right?!  All it takes is a bit of organza, matching up the grainlines, and basting the two pieces together and you’re done!

Now comes the harder part: stitching the godet to your skirt.  But it’s really not that hard, so don’t worry.

How to Set in A Godet

Below are my skirt pieces: back piece and the godet piece.  You’ll notice that the godet makes a right angle (90 degree angle) at the tip and the hem is just a circular hem.  (Should be easy to construct one of these if you don’t have a pattern piece for it.)

Step 1: Stitch one Side of the Godet to the Skirt at the Center Back Seam, Right Sides Together

The ‘hard’ part of the skirt is knowing where to start your stitching at the top of the godet.

In the image below I’ve marked the 5/8 ths inch seam allowance on the godet tip using a marker.  You can use chalk, disappearing marker, basting stitches… whatever you like to mark this.

Begin stitching right at this mark (and backstitch), being careful not to go beyond it.  If you accidentally stitch past it, just un-pick those stitches.

Here’s the same image, zoomed out, for a bit of perspective.

This is a friendly reminder to: Press, Press, Press!

Step 2: Stitch Adjacent Godet Seam to Second Skirt Piece, at the Center Back, Right Sides Together.

 

This takes a bit of trickery, getting the next godet seam placed on top the other skirt piece.  I find it easiest to place the two skirt pieces, right sides together, and then rotate the godet onto the center back seam, like so.

The godet should be open, flat, while the two skirt pieces are right sides together.

Begin pinning from the bottom/hem going up towards the point.

Pin all the way up to the point of the godet.

Here’s a detail shot of the pinned seam:

Again, stitch towards the tip (backstitching at both ends) and end right at your marking, and not beyond, like so:

Super-duper detail shot:

You can see I’ve missed 1 little stitch on the right, at the tip.  I had to go back and fix that, after taking this photo, since 1 stitch can make or break this!

On a personal note: It’s much easier to unpick a stitch than to go back and try and stitch one more.  Take it from me!  :)

Here’s what your godet should look like:

Step 3: Sew the Remainder of the Center Back Seam, Right Sides Together.

 

Place your skirt pieces, right sides together.  We’re going to stitch the rest of the seam, backstitching at each end, starting right at the point of the godet.

Here’s a detail shot.  Notice how the godet is sandwiched between the two skirt back pieces.

The new stitching line is the one in black, which starts above the light blue stitching.  That light blue stitching line was from seaming the godet to the skirt.

In order to keep a nice point at this intersection, you can not extend your stitching below the godet stitching.  It will end up making the godet pucker at the tip.

Here’s a shot of the tip of the godet:

There is the smallest pucker on mine, but before I do anything I’m going to press it to see if the seams just need to relax a bit.

Another image looking at the godet, fully open:

Looking at the godet from the right side, I see I have the tiniest black stitch near the tip.  This is creating that little pucker we saw from the inside.

All I did was to un-pick this one stitch.  This shouldn’t affect the strength of this intersection since I backstitched at this seam a few times.  If I hadn’t done so, things would rip after some use (aka walking up/down the stairs).

Voila!  Center back seam stitched and reinforced with a nice, pointy godet seam.

All that’s left is to do now is to reinforce the side seams.

Reinforcing Pencil Skirt Side Seams

Step 1: Baste Two Strips of Organza on Both Side Seams, Matching Grainlines, on the Wrong Side of Fabric

On the center back seam, we have two strips of organza, due to the fact that we needed to stabilize each side of the godet.  But on the side seams, we’re only going to baste organza on one side of the seam, not both.  This means you’ll only attach the side-seam organza strips to either your skirt front or your skirt back (not both).

Here’s a detail shot of the organza strip, matching up grainlines:

Do you see how the organza hangs off the side, at the top near the waist?  This is supposed to happen since the fabric is curved and the organza is not.  If you’ve used 1.5″ you should have enough for your basting line.  But if you don’t, just cut a new piece at 2″ wide, and save this strip for another project.  (I always have a stash of organza strips handy since I use them so frequently for all sorts of things).

I stitched my organza on with a slightly longer stitch than your normal setting, with 1/2″ seam allowance.

Lastly, you’ll want to trim off the excess organza at the side.

And you’re all done!  Simple seam reinforcement just calls for some strips of organza, on-grain to the fashion fabric.

Here’s my burgundy pencil skirt so far (this is the front):

I have a horsehair canvas interfaced yoke, organza reinforced side seams, and an organza reinforced Center-V.

And the back:

Reinforced Center V, along with the organza strips down the center back of the skirt to help reinforce the seam and godet.

My next steps on this skirt  is to set in my invisible zipper, sew together the lining, attach it to the skirt, reinforce the waistband seam with some twill tape, hem, and finishing.  Eeep, it always looks like a lot of steps and will probably take me the better part of a week to do it all.

As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

  1. Litchi / Oct 11 2011

    I can’t wait to see your finished pencil skirt. I’m sure it will be very beautiful. And your tutorial is very clear and interesting.
    Just a little thing though: Please, don’t write “Viola!”. It should be written “Voila!” (i and o switched places) because “viola” in french has a completely different meaning ;-)

    • Liz / Oct 11 2011

      Thanks so much!

      And THANK YOU for catching my typo. In english it’s still spelling wrong too, so that’s just me being a poor speller.

  2. Meg / Oct 11 2011

    I am loving these tutorials – I have a feeling a pencil skirt is in my near future, thanks to you. I cannot wait to see your finished project – it’s going to be so lovely!

  3. Tasha / Oct 11 2011

    This is great info, Liz! I was a little unclear what you meant about matching up the grainline at the beginning, since there wasn’t any curve so it just seemed natural with two straight pieces that the grainline would be the same, but it made a lot more sense once I saw your side seams. Now I get the difference, especially in a curved area.

    I too have slit open the back seam of pencil skirts, so if ever I sew one in the future, I’m definitely going to use your technique!

  4. Annabelle / Oct 11 2011

    Great post. I will need to revisit this the next time I make a pencil skirt. (I love pencil skirts!)

  5. Karen / Oct 12 2011

    Thank you for this, I was just drafting a pencil skirt today so this comes at a perfect time! I think I am going to work the Godet in, it is just soooooo cute.

  6. Geri / Oct 18 2011

    What a fantastic post! Especially for beginner sewers like me. I’m looking to start a pencil skirt soon so will be referring back to your tutorial a lot I suspect! Thank you so much.

  7. Lee / Oct 19 2011

    This is a wonderful post thank you so much. I was wondering what other kinds of fabric work well for seam reinforcing?

    • Liz / Oct 19 2011

      I think it really all depends on the project and what type of seam you’re reinforcing, honestly.

      I choose to reinforce my pencil skirt seams partly because of my fabric, but more so for the small amount of ease that I like in my pencil skirts (ie close-fitting).

      You could reinforce a cotton sateen if you wanted, as well as wool, etc. One thing I would watch out for is having a thinner fashion-fabric than the silk organza which could alter the drape of the garment.
      There is another product I would try if that is the case: It’s called Stay-tape. Tasia of Sewaholic has a great tutorial for using this product, and I’ve been known to use it in my cotton dresses, just like she does on necklines and shoulder seams.

      Please feel free to email or comment me again if I didn’t answer your question or for specifics about a project you’re working on that you’re debating reinforcing.

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