Archive for the ‘skirt’ Category

Project #270 – Box-Pleated Skirt

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

The key to making almost any kind of zippered skirt without buying pattern after pattern is to start with a well fitted yoke. The yoke is the upper part of a skirt that fits over the hips. You can attach many, many kinds of skit to that (ruffled, pleated, flared, tiered, A-line, etc…) and each time end up with something that fits perfectly.

Usually, I’ll pull a yoke off of a skirt I like and then use that over and over again. Today’s yoke comes from one of my favorite Japanese pattern books. The skirt attached to it is box-pleated and has a black bottom border. I made it to wear while giving blood tomorrow, the colors are Halloween festive.

The pieces for this skirt are pretty simple: four yoke pieces (front, back, front facing and back facing), a big rectangle for the skirt cut to the width of the fabric, and a skinnier rectangle for the border, plus a zipper for the side.

The skirt construction is pretty straightforward.

  • First, I attached the border to the skirt, folding over the border in half and sewing it to itself at the skirt-border seam line to form the hem. I left a little folded over border facing open at the edges so that I could hide the side seam when I sewed the whole thing together.
  • After that, I sewed my back and front yoke pieces together on one side.
  • Next, I box pleated the skirt to the size of the yoke (spacing evenly) and basted the pleats in place.
  • Then I attached the skirt to the yoke, leaving one side open. I then sewed that side shut, using basting stitches for the upper 8 inches so I could add my zipper.
  • Lastly, I sewed in the zipper

I’m in love with the new line of bird-themed fabrics at IKEA. They’re reasonably priced for what you get and the designs are just fantastic this season. The chickens seem to like them, too.

Project #262- Anti-Cold Corduroy Skirt

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

It’s time for another Make-A-Skirt Thursday! The weather has been turning chilly, so I’m switching to warmer fabrics, namely corduroy. It’s one of my favorite fabrics to work with. Despite its ability to keep out the winter chill, it’s also breathable and wearable in summer heat.

There are two things I love when it comes to skirts: A-line silhouettes and pockets. Simplicity 3754 has both, but the pleats under the pockets are a bit much for what I want, and I already have two skirts with that detail. So, I took the slim skirt and flared it out into the shape I had in mind.

I also plan to wear this skirt in conservative Egypt, so I lengthened the hemline a little. I edged the pockets in navy blue twill to give it a little character.


The back came together really well. The pointed yoke has been a pain in the past, but this is my third time with this pattern and I managed to get it right on the first try.

I put this skirt on as soon as I finished. It’s been cold in the house during the day, but we can save money on heat if I dress warmly. I think this skirt will probably pay for itself a few times over in gas bill savings.

Project #255 – Canvas Circle Skirt

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

I love making circle skirts when I have fabric that is at least 59 inches across. They can be cut in just one piece if you buy two yards. That means that just the waist and hem need to be finished in order to leave you with a finished garment.

Plus, circle skirts are great. Swish. Swish. Swish.

[I shortsightedly forgot to take pictures of the process of making this skirt. If the directions aren't clear, they're very similar to my illustrated ones for a circle skirt template.]

Cutting out a circle skirt isn’t hard. You’ll just need a yardstick, some chalk and a little patience. First, fold your fabric to find the center point. Mark that.

Now, if you have two yards of fabric, it should be 72 inches long and (ideally) about 59 inches wide. If you want to go for the maximum length*, then mark the edge of the fabric 29.5 inches across the width in one direction and 29.5 inches in the other. Now, mark 29.5 inches from the center across the length at a 90 degree angle from the two width-wise marks. Do that again for the opposite end. Now you will have a center mark and four additional ones laid out in a ‘+’ shaped configuration. Make some more marks to fill in the edge of your circle, pivoting the yardstick around the center mark and going out 29.5 inches. Cut along your marks.

Now you have a giant flat circle that needs the center cut out so you can actually wear it. Measure yourself at your hips. This will be at least how wide the skirt must be so that you can step into it to put it on. To figure out how big it should be I used the circumference equation, circumference = 2πr. I substituted my hip size for the circumference and solved for r and got about 6 inches, so my diameter will be 12 inches. I cut the smaller circle out using the same center point technique as the outer circle.

Fold down the edge of the inner circle to form a casing for elastic. Clip if you need a little give to make the casing lay flat, sort of making shallow sun rays from the inner circle. Sew in place, leaving a 1 inch opening. String narrow elastic through the casing and adjust so that the skirt sits comfortably at your waist; give yourself a little breathing room. Clip the extra elastic and sew the ends together. Tuck the elastic into the casing and sew the 1 inch opening shut.

Finally, just the hem is left. Folding up fabric to make a hem on a circle skirt is always kind of a pain. It’s always annoying tying to ease in the excess fabric from the edge and it’s usually about nine yards of sewing. No thanks. Instead, my edge finish of choice is bias tape. It adds a little contrast and no easing is necessary.

If you’re not familiar with sewing with bias tape I learned how to apply it properly from this tutorial.

*I always recommend going for the maximum length at first. It’s easy to remove excess length, but not vice versa.

Project #224 – A-Line Skirt

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

I finished my green corduroy A-line skirt in the car at the last minute as we drove to the Cass Railway, the first stop on our 2nd Anniversary trip. I spent most of the 4 hour car trip in my pajamas, which is actually a pretty comfy way to travel. When we arrived at our hotel I did a quick change and Clark drove like a maniac on little mountain roads to get us to the train just before it left. We made it with just 5 minutes to spare.

The whistle on the train is very loud. Next time I’ll ride in one of the rear cars just to protect my hearing.

Clark’s Dad worked for Union Pacific Railroad until he retired last year. Clark inherited from him a strong case of train fever and spent a while after dinner deciphering the machinery on the Shay #6 that drove us up and down the mountain.

Project #140 – Half Circle Skirt

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

This one is in a bit late because it took me a while to finish and put together the support materials.

My pattern for a half circle skirt is essentially two quarter circles stitched together. There is also another, smaller cutout of a quarter circle, indicated by the white wedge in the diagram above, that is removed the pattern piece to create the top waistline edge of the skirt. Your waist size will determine the size of the quarter circle you’ll cut. The calculations for determining this are based on solving for the radius of a circle based on its circumference.

In this case, the circumference will be twice your waist size, plus a little extra for ease and seam allowances. Why twice the size? Well, you’re making a half circle skirt, so really the waistline is only going to be 1/2 of the total circumference. We really want the radius of this big circle because it will tell us two things: how big to cut the pattern piece itself and how much to remove from the waistline.

So we know that the formula for finding the circumference for a circle:
circumference = 2π * radius
…And from that we know how to solve for the radius:

radius = circumference/2π

I got the size of my circumference by taking my waist size, adding one inch for seam allowances, and one more for ease (too tight = not comfy), and doubling that to get from a half circle to a full circle. I then solved for the radius and got a measurement of about 9.5 inches.

The radius of the big quarter circle is based on two things: how long you want the skirt to be, and your waist measurement. I wanted my skirt to be 20 inches long, so I cut a quarter circle with a 29.5 inch radius. I used a piece of paper to gauge the 90 degree angle at the origin.

Next, I cut a quarter circle with a 9.5 inch radius out of the top.

I used double fold bias tape to finish off my skirt. If you’re interested in hemming the top and bottom, just change the dimensions a little before cutting. Add an inch to the radius (for the bottom hem) and one inch less of the top wedge (for the top hem).

Project #116 – Pattern-Free Hiking Skirt

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

I believe that skirts shouldn’t be saved just for church and the office, and they certainly don’t have to be uncomfortable and restrictive. I wear skirts while doing yard work and skirts while helping friends move. It might be a little eccentric, but a good knee-length skirt looks much more flattering on my pear-shaped body (Thanks for the big butt, Cuba!) than a pair or shorts or most pants. Plus, the right skirt is more comfortable than pants. Almost all of my skirts are designed so that I can squat in them, leap in them, and run in them. Usually, my casual skirts are made of tougher materials like denim or corduroy. Of course, I always wear a pair of shorts underneath for modesty’s sake and so that I can do all that squatting and lifting without worrying about showing people London or France. I’m happy to say that I haven’t worn pants for two weeks, and if I play my cards right I won’t wear them at all until October.

So, the plan is to go hiking tomorrow at McConnell’s Mill Park. The trails are a little rougher and narrower than most of the state parks around here, but because it is an hour north it is like traveling a week back in time, season wise. I would like another chance to see the tree blooms.

I designed today’s skirt to stand up to the terrain, but it was already late so I needed something I could make in an hour or so. I used about 1.5 yards of gray denim. Basically, the skirt is a big trapezoid (two, actually!) with a slightly curved top and bottom. The top is the width of my fanny, plus a few inches, so that I can take it on and off easily. The height is the distance from my waist to my knee, plus a few inches for the casing of the elastic at the top and the hem at the bottom. The bottom can be as wide as you want it; mine is about 1.5 times the length of the top.

The waist is 1 inch elastic. As I’ve said before, I used to be anti-elastic (too sweatpanty!), but I changed my tune when I realized that I will inevitably get fatter as I age and it would be nice to have clothes on hand that still fit.

Oh, and my skirt also has pockets, which are optional, I talk about how to insert them here. Pockets are the best; you won’t regret it if you add some.

After cutting out your pieces, lay your two trapezoids like sides together and sew up the sides, accounting for pockets, if you have any. Next, roll down a casing at the waist a little larger than your elastic and stitch it into place, leaving two inch opening. Insert your elastic and once you have it in place stitch it together and clip the excess. Sew up the opening. Hem. (Confession: I have not hemmed my skirt yet.) Fini!

Project #108 – Tanuki Skirt

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

It’s finally warm enough so that I’ve been able to spend the last week wearing dresses and skirts instead of pants. I dunno, skirts, at least the kind I like, are just more comfy. I spent yesterday evening squatting over the garden bed pulling out weeds between the rain showers. I always wear a pair of shorts under any skirt, so there is no danger of me flashing anyone. Still, the neighbors must think that I am a little eccentric.

I finished turning my tanuki embroidery into a skirt for this Make-A-Skirt Thursday. The fabric is a nice medium weight linen, so it’s sturdy enough for an errand-running skirt. I used my new favorite wardrobe pattern, B5335.

The bottom hem is the perpendicular edge of the fabric. It’s been woven in such a way that it will not unravel, but it still looks a little raw and rustic. I’m not sure if I’m in love with the effect, but I might be too lazy to put in a real hem.

It’s still a little plain, so I’m thinking about adding more embroidery. I’ll be hand washing it anyway, so extra embellishment won’t make a difference.

Project #82 – Fibonacci Petticoat

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

It’s Thursday again and time for another skirt. Yay! I’ve made a few underskirts this year already; they’re great for guarding against the winter chill, but they’ll be stifling by the time May rolls around. Today I made a short, single layer petticoat that will be more comfortable in warmer temperatures. This skirt is made from strips of cloth so no store-bought pattern is necessary. You’ll just need a ruler, scissors and something to mark cutting lines on the fabric.

As I mentioned before, I prefer to use the Fibonacci sequence to help determine how much fabric will go into each of the skirt tiers. I decided to do six really short tiers so that I would be able to get the maximum volume for my single layer (I do double and triple layered petticoats for winter). The sum of the first six non-zero Fibonacci numbers is 20 (1+1+2+3+5+8). I measured out my two yards of cloth and cut it into the 20 strips I would need.

Here are the strips folded into quarters so you can see the fabric breakdown for each tier. Almost half will go to the bottom tier.

I sewed the strips for each tier together into a ring and serged the edges so I can throw the whole thing into the washing machine without worrying. If you don’t have a serger you can use a zig-zag stitch or bias tape to protect the raw fabric edges.

It took about an hour and a half to serge the edges of the fabric pieces and stitch each tier together. I was so bored that I calculated how many miles of cloth my serger can sew in an hour as I watched it plod through each tier. It can stitch about 3 yards of fabric per minute and about a tenth of a mile in an hour. Oh, and I had to stop and rethread the machine twice, which is the worst. Above is a picture of the pile of fabric I shaved off when I serged the edges of the fabric. Oy!

I’m going to wear the finished project underneath my dress for the concert tomorrow. I volunteered to work the merchandise booth at the Good Night, States show, so I thought I would wear something cute. I always volunteer when someone from the band asks because I like being guaranteed my own chair. I ♥ sitting!

Project #69 – Sprouty Skirt

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

It’s Thursday again so it’s time for another skirt. I’m going with a sprouty theme this week; I finally started my early spring planting and I’ve been pacing around waiting for everything to germinate. This is my sixth skirt for the year, so I might take a few weeks off of Make-A-Skirt Thursdays so that I can pace myself for the remainder.

Speaking of clothing excess, I finally cleaned up the floor of my room a few days ago and now my circa 1925 closet is completely full. The pole is bowing alarmingly and I have to lean against the door to shut it. I’m going to have to invade and colonize closets in the rest of the house in order to find places to wedge this new skirt and the rest of my clothes. Would it be such a bad thing to keep the vacuum and all of out boardgames in the basement?

Not that any of this is going to thwart my plans for making even more clothes. Clark and I have been piling up clothes in the hallway for Goodwill, but its getting harder as more and more of my wardrobe gets to be stuff that I made myself (I think I’m at about 30%). I don’t find it hard to toss my ill-fitting and unflattering store-bought clothes into the reject pile, but it’s another thing to get rid of the handmade stuff even if it’s also ill-fitting and unflattering. That’s because each represents hours of work, and each represents a valuable lesson, like the dress that taught me that I should avoid dropped waists with A-line skirts, or the skirt that showed me that my butt is too big for certain pencil skirt cuts. It’s tough to part with these lessons, but it’s gotten to be too much and I need the closet space.

I think I’m going to hold my nose and toss out the biggest mistakes this weekend.

Project #56 – Pattern-free Cotton Petticoat

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

I don’t know why I haven’t worn underskirts all of my life. It’s probably because most of the slips I wore as a child were either made of sweaty polyester or itchy nylon ruffles. The underskirts make and wear today are made of comfy cotton and keep the wind from cutting through me when I wear skirts or dresses on milder winter and early spring days. I’ve used them to give my skirts extra poof and to cushion my fanny on long plane rides. In short, I love them and hope to have dozens in lots of different colors one day. Right now, I only have two, so this is the perfect project for Make-A-Skirt Thursday.

The benefit of making this kind of petticoat is that you can easily customize it to your needs. They can be any length, any color or any volume. I like to make my petticoats with three ruffles and in at least two layers. Today I’m using unbleached 36″ muslin because it’s cheap and I have a lot of it. My double layered underskirt took a total of a little over 4.5 yards of the stuff.

Essentially, each ruffle is made of a number of rectangles of fabric, each of a uniform height. I determine the height based of the distance between my waist and wherever I want the hem to hit on my leg, adding in an inch for each ruffle to account for seams. 21 inches is the distance from my waist to my knee, so I’ll be cutting rectangles 8 inches in height. I like to select the number of rectangles in each ruffle following a piece of the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8…), that way you get volume with a natural curve that isn’t out of control, and of course because Math, I love it! My last skirt was made of 45 inch fabric so the top ruffle was one 8″ by 45″ rectangle, the second ruffle was two and the bottom was made of three rectangles. Today’s skirt is 2,3 then 5 rectangles, which for a two layer skirt means cutting 20 8″ by 36″ rectangles.

Next, I sewed each ruffle together into a ring. I finished my edges with my serger so that it could go in the washing machine; using a zig-zag stitch is also an option.

I then took one of my middle, 3 rectangle pieces and sewed a line of 3.5 mm stitches for gathering, matching it to a smaller 2 rectangle piece. I then stitched them together, right sides together. I did the same for one of my 5 rectangle pieces, gathering and then stitching to the 3 rectangle piece.

I repeated for the second layer, giving me two very wide skirts.

I then sewed one layer to the other, like sides together and pressed the seam evenly. I turned the skirt and added a row of stitching half an inch down from the seam connecting the two layers. Leave an inch or so open. This will be the casing for my elastic. I’ve always been hard on skirts with elastic because they remind me of sweatpants, but it will be nice to have things I could still wear if I end up gaining some weight. Anyway, slip your elastic into the casing and sew the ends together. Sew up your 1-inch gap and you’re done!