McCall’s 3830


Or, The Skirt of Many Sizes.

This pattern was one of the first I bought for myself when I first started sewing. I can remember spending hours at work combing through the entire McCall’s and Simplicity archives and Pattern Review before deciding that this was the perfect mix of easy and not ugly (something I had noticed seemed difficult to achieve). I made it up for the first time with some polished cotton I had purchased two yards of from Gorgeous Fabrics to make, and ended up with a whole yard left over, which was actually good in retrospect! That first skirt was how I learned how to sew darts, make a blind hem with the weird little foot that came with my machine, sew in a facing (I even understitched! I did it TOTALLY WRONG, but at least I knew enough to think that I should be understitching!), use interfacing (lightweight fusible FTW you can pry my cheapie white trash fusibles out of my cold dead hands) and set in a zipper. If I remember, I followed the instructions that came on the zipper packaging and called my mom a bunch. It wasn’t perfect, but the zipper was shockingly good for my first one (I have sewn in zips since then that would make your teeth fall out, they are so bad) and it mostly fit. However, in a fairly recently closet clean out, I got rid of it this initial plain black starter skirt because it wasn’t totally perfect, and I had enough left over to do better this time around.

Ta da! The black pencil skirt, version 2. (You can see wear wrinkles in these– more on that later.)

The first time, I went off of the finished measurements for this skirt and made up a size 10. I remember reading to beware of too much built in ease, and I think that combined with some shoddy dart-sewing meant that this was almost unbearably tight in the waist when sitting down. The next time I made it, I sized up to a 12, but neglected to take my stretch fabric into account, and had to shave a crazy amount off the side seams, essentially bringing my back down to a 10, anyway. The third time, I was making it from a quilted broadcloth, and I very carefully pin-fit it to account for the bulk of the fabric before deciding on a 12 then, too. That time, the 12 fit fine.


This time around, I re-measured myself carefully and consulted my Singer Sewing Handbook for the amount of ease needed in the waist. I cut a 10 again. It fits much better in the waist, but is snug in the hips.  Must be all that walking since moving to Chicago? I think I’ll have to just accept that fact that my ass is bigger than my waist if I ever make this again. You can see some pulling in the hips in these photos- I think I’ll grade out a full size in the future.

I opted for a lapped zip and I actually don’t think it was too bad! I definitely, definitely prefer both the process and finish of this to invisible zippers, and I think I’ll try to use a lapped zip in the future for as many projects as I can.


I also did another blind hem. It is much easier when you understand how to do it. You can’t really see it in these photos though because, black fabric. You know how it goes.

I also bound the facing edge with bias binding, since I don’t have a serger and don’t know a better way to do it. I did French seams on the sides, even though the fabric was way, way too bulky. It still worked out okay, but think I need to learn how to do a different seam finish haha. Whatever, when it stops working I’ll stop doing it!


(please excuse my hair here…I’m in the process of growing out my pixie cut and want to die.)

So there you go! This was a wardrobe hole I desperately, desperately needed to fill, since my only black skirt for quite a while there was a black leather skirt I thrifted for $1 when I was 23. Which is still awesome, but not good for Big Work Meetings or Interviews of what have you.


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