Disclaimer: this pattern was given to me to review. All opinions expressed are my own and I aim to be be unbiased.
Hot on the heels of the Yaletown dress (my version here), Sewaholic released the Rae skirt. The pattern was designed together with a sewing teacher, to be “a skirt for true beginners, designed to meet the needs of a brand-new sewer making their first garment project”. Although Tasia readily admitted that the design would be hit or miss on curvier bodies, knowing that lots of us avoid gathered/elasticated waists (whereas others love them), she and Caroline offered me the PDF to review for you all.
I’m going to break the review down into separate parts so I don’t foget anything! And I’ll warn you: it’s long.
The skirt is designed with beginners in mind, so there is no zips or pockets etc. It’s a plain skirt, and I think a lot of more experienced sewers are a bit disappointed in the release – particularly because there seems to have been a shift recently where lots of indie pattern companies are designing progressively more simple patterns, rather than interesting, complex ones. I won’t make any judgement on it, as there’s obviously a market for them and the Yaletown more than makes up for any disappointment I might have.
Gathered skirts (particularly with elasticated waists) can easily be quite frumpy, and can easily look Becky Home-ecky, so Tasia and Caroline have aimed to reduce that look by giving the skirt a flared shape by creating panels. I think the panels help to reduce bulk around the waist and produce a nice flared shape, but the choice of fabric will be the real test of how professional/handmade vs homemade this skirt can look. As for this skirt on us curvier ladies – bulk around the waist IS minimised (as compared to a dirndl style skirt, that you make by sewing two rectangles together, gathering the top and attaching to a waistband), but you’ll have to decide whether this style would work for you or not. I think it looks good on me, although I would probably always wear a belt with it.
I am somewhat disappointed by the lack of additional design options though. In the release post Tasia mentions how you could easily add pockets, or belt loops, or a self-fabric belt, by using pattern pieces from other (Sewaholic) patterns. I would be much more impressed if they did what Colette has done in the past and released a free PDF file containing said pattern pieces or other ideas – if a beginner bought this as their first pattern and wanted to embellish it, how will she/he otherwise get hold of those pieces?
I also want to make a note here about the recommended fabrics. It would be nice if there was a bit more explanation about what fabric to choose (this is probably one of the most common mistakes beginners make! I know it was my biggest problem when I started). The pattern suggests: “Lightweight woven fabrics such as cotton and cotton blends, challis, rayon, linen and linen blends. Choose lightweight fabrics that will not be too bulky when gathered”. Most of these are fibres, but challis refers to how it’s made/the finish and can be produced in a couple of different fibres, so it’s a bit confusing. Additionally, not all cottons are created equal, and there are a lot of rayons that would be harder for a total beginner to handle. Also, one of the modelled skirts is denim, which is usually not light-weight! So I think there is more scope to your choice of than it seems, but I find it odd their samples aren’t in the recommended fabrics.
I made the skirt in a super slinky polyester of some kind, and some linen. The type of fabric you choose will dramatically change the silhouette you get. My favourite fabric to use when I was a beginner was cotton sateen, and most would work well with this pattern, as would good quality quilting cottons (yay for crazy patterns!).
The PDF has 40 pages, and the pattern is tiled in such a way that you only need to print the pages you want for each version, with an index to tell you which pages on the first page – each version is only 12-15 pages each (two pattern pieces per skirt). I found that each page fit together really nicely with no obvious gaps (some PDF patterns have small errors where, even if you line up the piece properly, the lines end up not meeting perfectly). There is also a background grid I liked, which aids in matching the pieces together.
The different sizes are nested, so you can grade between sizes easily, and I would think that you could grade this pattern further without too much difficulty, if you know how. The largest size is a 16, which corresponds to body measurements of 41-35-47″ (104-89-119cm). I’ve always found it interesting that Tasia is Canadian, yet uses imperial as her default for measurements – although I often do the same thing out of habit, despite not using imperial at any other times.
They have included finished measurements but only includes the waist measurements when the elastic is tight (33″ or 84cm for size 16, so a negative ease of 2″). I measured each piece of version A and, without the elastic, the finished measurement of the waist is just over 50″ (128.8cm). The pattern suggests choosing your size by your hip measurement as you can adjust the waist elastic to fit – the size 16 has a finished hip measurement of 53″ / 135 cm (view A) or 57″ / 145 cm (view B&C). So you could still make the size 16 even if you’re bigger than the sizing chart, you’ll just have a little bit less gathers and flare. Another option would be to use 10mm seam allowances rather than 15mm, which will give you 6cm extra.
For reference, I cut the size 14 waist, grading to size 16 at the hips, and both my versions (short and long) are cut with no changes to the pattern (ie, I haven’t lengthened or shortened it). My measurements are: 40 – 32 – 48″ ( 101 – 82 – 122 cm) and I’m 5’10” tall (178cm)
Although I don’t tend to read instructions in depth these days – I’ll often skim read it, and only read in detail what I need to, once I’m already making the skirt – I thought these were well done. They are definitely written for beginners, and are written almost like a tutorial/sewalong (rather than something like, “make a casing, thread elastic through it, and close”). The pictures are good enough that more experienced sewers can glance at them to determine how to make the skirt, rather than having to read through the instructions (I like this in patterns, even more complicated ones, so I can just remind myself what to do when making something for the second or third time).
- This is a good beginner pattern, especially if you’re not one to jump in the deep end trying to figure out zips and darts. And in my opinion it’s 100x better than starting with a pillowcase you will never use.
- Only two pattern pieces per skirt, so it’s easy to assemble the PDF and easy to cut out the fabric
- The PDF is well tiled and lines up nicely
- For most body shapes this design is probably a nicer shape than a dirndl style skirt (less bulk at the waist)
- Elastic waistbands are COMFORTABLE, and mean you don’t have to be nearly so precise with fitting. Also good for eating large meals 😀
- In fact, the fitting is really easy if you go by your hip measurement, and cut the elastic however tight you want it to be
- Reasonably pricey for such a simple design ($12 CAD for the PDF version, $16 CAD for the paper version + shipping)
- The fabric recommendations could be more detailed (not sure if they’ll cover this in more detail on their blog)
- You need to be quite accurate with your cutting in order for the waistband tunnel to stitch together easily
- It would be nice to be provided with options to embellish the pattern
- Probably not worth it for intermediate/experienced sewers
- Many bigger (and smaller) women avoid gathers around the waist as they can add bulk
- The sizing range is very limited
So what’s my take on the pattern? To sum it up: As an intermediate/experienced sewer, I probably wouldn’t have bought this pattern. I am, however, pleased that I have it and will probably make quite a few more versions – particularly when I’m in need of a quick pick-me-up (my second one (in linen) only took me about an hour to make, all up). I would definitely recommend this pattern to beginners as it’s well designed and thought out, will give you experience using and reading patterns, and has excellent instructions.
What are your thoughts on the pattern – beginners and advanced sewers alike, do you think you’ll be picking it up?