Seventies Suede

Pattern Scissors Cloth-9539

I’ve had this one metre piece of faux suede for about 15 years and always envisaged it as a skirt. There have been several original ideas I have had for it that never came to fruition, but in the end I just copied something – and I copied twice!

First it was a Vogue image of Alexa Chung wearing a Marks and Spencer skirt, and second was the image on a Style 1434 pattern I picked up in the Salvation Army Family Store in Oamaru while driving through one day:

Pattern Scissors Cloth-0069ba

Two very different sources, but both steering me in the same direction!

Last year when I went to cut it out, I realised the pocket piece was missing.  The main reason I liked this skirt was the pocket shape! I know I can easily make another pocket, but I like to follow period patterns exactly. You know, science.

Pattern Scissors Cloth-9556

So I stalled on the project.

Then one day browsing on TradeMe I came across the same pattern, so I bought it hoping it had the pocket piece – and it did!  When it arrived, it was a nice surprise to see the sender was Leimomi Oakes of The Dreamstress blog – thanks Leimomi, and how appropriate that it was you who enabled the historical accuracy of this project!

When cutting it out I just managed to squeeze everything out. Being a pile fabric, the skirt had to be cut one way – but to fit everything meant cutting my precious pockets the other way. Risky! I checked and double checked before cutting, but couldn’t discern any difference in shade so forged bravely ahead with the scissors, convincing myself that natural suede has shade variations anyway. Now it is sewn up I think there is a tiny difference, but not enough for anyone to notice.

Another compromise I had to make was adding side seams to the waistband to squeeze it out of the remaining space.

Pattern Scissors Cloth-0062b

I sewed the zip through the waistband as I like to do nowadays.  Not having to button and buttonhole things is a plus 😉

I initially planned on burgundy lining, but when I got to The Fabric Store I thought the brown actually looked better, so brown it is.

Pattern Scissors Cloth-0063c

I topstitched with 30 weight thread in a slightly paler shade.  If you look closely you can see one of the rows down the centre front seam is a shorter stitch length – yip, I lost concentration during all the chopping and changing of thread colours, weights and stitch lengths! I couldn’t bear to unpick it and risk needle holes down the centre front.  I am still learning to live with this decision.

Pattern Scissors Cloth-0065d

You don’t have too look closely to see that I was having tension troubles. Every now and then the topstitching thread would grab underneath, despite sewing well the majority of the time. I did everything I could think of (change needle, tension, slow down, etc) but couldn’t find a solution to this problem – if you have any tips please share!

Pattern Scissors Cloth-0068a
Interestingly, the pattern inflation rate in 1976 was 20 cents! (Both patterns were printed in 1976, but one was $1.20 and one was $1.40)

I cut the size 14 with a 71cm waist, but graded the hip down half a size to fit me.  I took a little bit more off the hip curve once assembled to fit my shape better.  I also thought the pocket was slightly wide-set so moved it towards the centre front 6mm on either side. Otherwise the skirt is exactly out of the packet – circa 1976!

Pattern Scissors Cloth-9545-22
Worn here with my black merino/satin top

So I think this skirt qualifies as number two in my 2016 Vintage Pattern Pledge – to sew five vintage patterns in 2016 and make them modern. Three more to go!

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Designer, Patternmaker, Blogger Of All Things Sewing. Follow as I share projects, patterns, and my favourite tricks of the trade.

36 thoughts on “Seventies Suede

  1. great use of that fabric and you have achieved the 70’s look in a modern way. I agree with above – I would never notice any different topstitching. And I do that fairly often, have different stitch lengths – figure nobody should be looking that close 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful skirt! As for the topstitching issue, I don’t have a clear answer, but I’ve had a similar problem with very heavy denim. The only thing I could figure out was that my (old) Bernina does not like a certain thread that I was using. None of the usual solutions worked, but it was improved a little when I used a regular weight thread in the bobbin. It also improved when I reversed it all, putting the topstitching thread in the bobbin and regular thread on top. In the end, I switched to a different topstitching thread and it worked fine. So strange. If anyone does have answers, I’d like to know too!


    1. Thanks JenL, and thanks for sharing your experiences too! The first thing I usually do when having problems like this is to change the needle – but that didn’t help either! Tightening the top thread tension helped, but I didn’t want to tighten it any further. I should mention that my machine is way overdue for a service so that might help!


  3. So impressed with your skirt! It fits so nicely and really ties to your inspiration photo. No man on the street would ever guess it’s from a 1970s pattern as it looks so appropriate. I love it!


  4. Hi Sheryll,

    Your skirt looks great and I love the seventies look with BIG pockets!

    I had the same problem with tension when top stitching a dress I recently made but didn’t end up fixing it, as it was white on white and I was running out of top stitching thread. Hoping no one will notice it!

    Your skirt is beautiful and classy. I would consider making it myself, when I get through my huge to-do list!



  5. It looks perfect! I would never have noticed a difference in stitch length unless you hadn’t pointed it out, and I doubt anyone in real life will either. I ADORE those pockets! 🙂


    1. Thank you Carolyn, I’m loving the pockets too! I am guilty of pointing out all my errors, maybe one day they will help someone to, err, change their stitch length!


  6. Your skirt looks great! I’m not brave enough to work with suede and have never tried it. The construction process of it facinates me. Love the lining too – very professional looking. I do a lot of zipper repairs for the local dry cleaners and I DETEST top stitching on denim. I have the same problem and solve it some by using regular thread in the bobbin. Without a commercial machine that’s designed for heavy fabrics like at the manufacturer, there really isn’t a solution that I know of. Not that I’m happy you had the same issues, but I take heart that someone with better skills than I feels the same pain.


    1. Hi Becky, working with suede and leather isn’t tricky, just different! I actually used a fake suede for this skirt so it was just like cutting and sewing regular fabric. I used an industrial machine, but found regular thread on the bobbin sewed much better. I’m still looking for a solution, but think a machine service might be on the cards first!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, that looks just like what we used to wear when I was a senior in high school, in 1976. Great interpretation.

    On Sat, Jun 25, 2016 at 2:55 AM, pattern scissors cloth wrote:

    > Sheryll posted: ” I’ve had this one metre piece of faux suede for about 15 > years and always envisaged it as a skirt. There have been several original > ideas I have had for it that never came to fruition, but in the end I just > copied something – and I copied twice! First ” >


    1. Thanks Lynn! I would have been a junior then, but patterns this era are eerily familiar – that shows how much time we spent pouring over pattern catalogues!


  8. I would have never thought to pair that color skirt with black, but I love it! Love it with the black top and booties. It definitely is a modern look. I love the length, too.


  9. You may have found your style era! This skirt looks just right on you. And I think you made the right choice leaving the different topstitch lengths as-is! I make that mistake on every pair of jeans I make (mostly because the varying thickness of seams changes the appearance of the topstitching pretty dramatically and the same stitch length doesn’t work!)


  10. Thank you Morgan! I do think needle holes would be worse. At least my topstitching is a close match – unlike the contrast stitching on jeans where every imperfection shows!


  11. Hi Sheryll,

    so, this doesn’t actually have anything to do with this particular post; I hope that’s ok…

    I stumbled upon your ruby slip sew-along post on day and decided I wanted to try it. I have attempted twice now to assemble the printed pattern and I can’t seem to make all the lines match up. Are there any special tips or tricks you can give me to help me successfully assemble this pattern?



  12. I saw a good sized piece of ultra suede in a thrift store recently and couldn’t for the life of me (possibly 3 metres?) decide what I would do with it 🙂 Wish I’d seen your skirt first! 🙂


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