McCall’s 3830 Wool Pencil Skirt

By | November 10, 2015

What can you say about a pencil skirt? I don’t have too many notes on this make, except that I thought it would be a breeze and it ended up presenting a couple of challenges.

My favorite part about this make is the fabric. This is actually a remnant from stash. I bought the wool from Joann’s a couple of years ago to make my then-boyfriend, now-husband a scarf. It’s a print I knew he would like, not something I’d typically pick for myself.


Now that I’m trying to be super-frugal and sew from stash, it was time to pull it out. I cut the scarf pieces from the selvages, so I had a pretty reasonable amount of yardage for a skirt, just at a quite modest width–30″ or so. The skirt pieces fit just barely. I cannot emphasize how little room for error there was. Not a centimeter of width was spared!

I used McCall’s 3830 (good grief, what a McCall’s streak I’ve been on!), which is my go-to pencil skirt. I have half a dozen pencil skirt patterns at least, but this one has the fewest number of seams, so it wins anytime I’m using a print. Also, I like where it sits on the waist. After making mostly high-waisted skirts a few years ago, I’m into skirt styles that feel less rib-crushing after my lunch break.

My typical tweak to this pattern is to insert a lining instead of attaching a facing. I used to be anti-lining, because I felt it chewed up yardage unnecessarily. I’m converted to linings in many cases now. First, if you buy lining fabrics online and on sale, you can get some great deals. I bought some ivory lining (a poly, nothing fancy) for $2 a yard and have used it in 4 or 5 garments this year. At $1-2 per garment, it’s not really driving my expenses up. Second, with a lining, I don’t get that awkward line on the outside of the skirt where the facing shows through. Third, it keeps any itchy fabrics or seams off my legs. Fourth, it’s a built-in slip, and I almost always feel better with an extra layer of coverage, even if a fabric is mostly opaque.

I made another tweak to this version that I think I’ll also make my standard. I cut the center back seam on the fold. I wanted to deal with matching stripes on as few seams as possible. (While a challenge is awesome, there’s also something to be said for setting yourself up for success…) It was easy, it didn’t affect the fit, and I see no reason not to make the edit on any future versions, provided I don’t need a vent for walking.

Much match, very stripe.

Much match, very stripe.

After removing the center back seam, I switched the zipper to the side seam and made it an invisible zipper. Dude, I’m kind of converted to invisible zips. They’re no harder than regular zips, and they really don’t show. The finished garment looks so much better!

That’s not to say this zipper went in easily. I hadn’t done one in months, and this is only my third try with invisible zips. (I was a phobic of it for about 15 years, then realized I was being an idiot and now I love them.) I went back and reviewed the installation technique on YouTube. The first half went in clean, but the second side gave me trouble. (Or, rather, I gave it trouble…)

I stitched too close to the teeth and it wouldn’t zip back up. I made the same mistake last time. So, I had to unpick it, which sucked because my basting stitches went in really tiny in some places, probably because I made zero pressure adjustments on my machine to account for the thicker fabric. Oh well. I unpicked and reinserted and it’s totally worth it.

Is there a zipper here? I don't know, it's invisible! What is visible, though, is a seam that needs more pressing...

Is there a zipper here? I don’t know, it’s invisible! What is visible, though, is a seam that needs more pressing…

I seriously don’t know when I’m going to opt for a traditional zipper instead of an invisible. What will I do with the dozen or so zips in my stash? I should probably learn how to do a lapped zipper. I like that look as well.

Back to the thick fabric. That was one of my challenges here. This wool, as you’d expect, is pretty thick and heavy. It wasn’t a problem for the most part, but gave my machine occasional fits. I haven’t really worked with wool, beyond making the scarf out of this same fabric previously.

I found it challenging to press. It could be fiber content (I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure this has a certain percentage of synthetic fiber content.), or maybe I should’ve used more steam. I was a bit terrified of applying too much heat or steam and warping the whole thing. I also paid close attention to seam finishes, so the wool wouldn’t ravel during wear.

Check out that sweet edge finish...

Check out that sweet edge finish…

Now, let’s talk about stripe matching. I am generally not an uber-concerned pattern matcher. But it would be easy enough with this silhouette to match things up. Plus, I’m starting to enjoy a slow sewing mentality. I still don’t want to spend weeks and weeks on projects, but I’m sewing more for the experience than any acute need of clothing. Previously, I’d want to bang things out, because who knew how long my mojo would last, and I’d better get things into my closet while I had the time.

Derail: I don’t exactly have a ton of time now either, but with a dedicated sewing space in the new apartment, I don’t have to set everything up and put it away for every session. It’s awesome!

Anyway, matching up the stripes accurately was a goal. I succeeded about 75%. As far as sewing goes, apparently I’m a C student. The portion with the zipper is where I’m off. I was okay to write that off instead of unpicking and redoing the whole zipper multiple times. But when things got wonky on the other seam? You better believe I unpicked and ripped and restitched. I thought I had it nailed the first time, and was so disappointed when I pulled the seam off the machine to inspect it and found almost all stripes off by a few centimeters. Whomp whomp.

Damn you, mismatched stripes! Out you go!

Damn you, mismatched stripes! Out you go!

The second time, I inserted my pins parallel to the seam instead of perpendicular, and made sure to insert my pins exactly at the seam line, instead of 1/4″ or so away. It helped, and I’m pretty stoked about how my side seams look. I wasn’t able to match the overall pattern due to the tight fit on the fabric, but I was able to nail the stripes.

And the hem! I’m really happy with my hem. I used a stretch stitch that’s pretty comprehensive to finish the edges, then I just turned up 2 inches and hand-stitched it in. Because this wool has a tweedy effect and so much texture, the stitches are truly invisible. It was easy and satisfying to hand-hem this skirt.

Bottom line: I dig my new skirt. I really could use a gray blouse to wear with it and apparently none of my shoes go with it, but I’ll make it work for now. And I get to tease my husband that we can be twins if he’ll wear his scarf!

7 thoughts on “McCall’s 3830 Wool Pencil Skirt

  1. Carmen

    I love it! That fabric is gorgeous. I feel like I’ve seen it or something similar at Joann’s recently. Don’t you just love a perfectly fitting pencil skirt?

    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      Nothing better, right? I am all about the pencil skirt!

  2. Debbie

    I have this pattern in a size 16-22 but I”ve lost pattern piece number 4 the front facing. Do I need to buy the pattern again or can I get that piece somehow?



    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      Hi Debbie — I don’t think you need to buy the pattern again. You can draft the facing using the pattern piece for the skirt front. It’s not super hard–just trace the top 3″ of the skirt front onto tissue paper (or however long you want the facing to be, plus seam allowance). There’s a better explanation (and some helpful pictures) on the Colette blog that I recommend: . Good luck!

  3. Debbie

    Thank you so very much Sara! Just made my facing and I”m going to attempt a skirt. I am new to sewing garments and a little intimidated. I appreciate your help.


    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      Yay! I’m sending you good for vibes for your skirt!


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