Slash Pockets, French Seams, & Curved Hems

New Skills When You’re Unskilled

The Colette Sewing Handbook (available from the NYPL) suggests that new sewists might want to seek out sewing projects that require learning one new skill with each project.

The logic in the book is that it is easier to learn gradually, to build one skill at a time, rather than taking on too many new things at once. I think it’s good advice. I should probably take that advice. Maybe next time I will.

The Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt (free PDF pattern & instructions link available here) involved not one but three new-to-me skills, and I wondered if I would regret attempting so many new skills in one project.  (Check out Instagram examples & pics from Marilla Walker’s blog.

Although I wasn’t sure if the pattern would be too difficult, and I only really learned two out of the three new skills (curved hems schmurved hems), I enjoyed this pattern soooo much.  Making this skirt may have been my favorite sewing experience yet.  I really enjoyed the process — never mind the product — although the product has potential.

My Version

Slash Pockets, French Seams, & Curved Hems

The three new sewing skills with this skirt were: (1) pockets (essential!), (2) French seams (lovely!), and (3) curved hems.  I learned pockets and French seams.

My Attempted Curved Hems

Curved Hems

The curved hems puckered when I tried to make them lie flat, as pictured above. I gave up and made some bias tape for the edge of the hems. I think flat un-puckered curved hems are a physical impossibility (there would be more fabric on the outer edge of a hem that is a convex curve when the edge is turned under to make the hem, so it would have to be eased or folded or somehow manipulated to lie flat — or it would not lie flat).  Besides, I like the look of bias tape and didn’t think curved hems — despite the fact that I am convinced they are a physical impossibility — would look better than bias-tape trimmed hems.

My Bias Tape Edges

But pockets and French seams are my favorite two technical feats yet.


Pockets are obviously critical for sewing garments.   Wanting pockets and thinking they are great is not controversial, but learning to make them felt like such an accomplishment.

In Process with Pockets

French Seams

French seams are sooooo lovely!  One thing I don’t like about my prior attempts at home sewing projects (and my memory of others’ sewing projects) is ugly unfinished unraveling edges on the insides.  Learning to make a finished-looking seam is a big deal to me.

It’s such a simple idea! Just sew a seam on the reverse side of the seam in the instructions (wrong sides together when the final seam will be right sides together) and then trim and enclose that seam inside another seam sewn normally (right sides together). Easy!

Not Unraveling Insides

(Marilla Walker’s pattern instructions explain how to do the French seams.)

Before shortening & sizing down

Refining the Product

After making the skirt, I took it apart and made it one size smaller (except at the waist because I wanted it to sit a little lower on my torso), and made it two inches shorter.


Reflecting on the Product 

While I loved sewing the Ilsley skirt, the completed garment isn’t flattering at the waist because elastic-waistband skirts don’t look sleek, at least not in this “Kona” cotton fabric (which I think isn’t really for apparel).  I might try to wear this with a shirt that covers the waist, or I might attempt to do something to improve the look of the waist.  I put the elastic to the back of the skirt only, rather than all the way around the front, but still the skirt would look better with a smoother waistline.

New Skills Applied: Remade Lotta Jansdotter Owyn Shorts with Ilsley Details 

I made a second pair of shorts from Lotta Jansdotter’s 2015 book, Everyday Style, using the techniques I learned from the Ilsley skirt. I added pockets (but made a new pocket pattern piece with slightly bigger pockets, as pictured).


To enable the shorts pattern to accommodate this type of pocket, I cut the pattern off at the waistband fold and cut the corner off of the shorts pattern.  I did not reduce the height of the waistband because the original shorts had more room than I thought they needed, but the channel for the waistband is smaller in the second pair of shorts because there is a seam allowance that was not present in the first pair of shorts.

These shorts need pockets.  Perhaps all shorts need pockets.  French seamed pockets, ideally.  Also, I lined the pockets with two different colors of this wild print, but the print isn’t much of a feature since the insides of the pockets will not get much display.

Understitching inside the pockets
The pockets in process — with clean-looking French seams

I have been wearing these shorts a lot at home.

Up Next — Planning 

I’ve yet to cross the threshold from making around-the-house clothes to making handmade and stylish-and-wearable-in-public wardrobe clothes, but the process of making this skirt was really enjoyable. I am impressed with the skirt pattern, and I might buy the Marilla Walker Roberts Collection patterns as my first pattern purchase (the pattern is from 2015). I don’t know if I’ll be able to make the garments fit well, but I’d like to try.