Ever since I got back to sewing, everything I see in clothing stores makes me want to try making it myself. Especially if I can figure out the design just by staring at the piece, usually long enough for a concerned sales person to ask me if I need help.
This does become somewhat of a bother sometimes though, because I am incapable of buying things that I know I can make, even if it means I’ll only get around to making it a year later. This next project is a case in point.
I saw this lovely cotton skirt at H&M in the summer – very smart with exposed pleats and a belt. I looked at it a few times, even going back to the store once or twice to get all the details and became confident I could make it a lovely summer skirt for myself. So here I am almost a year later, making a spring skirt, in a different material, with some additions and subtractions of my own.
I started off wanting a tweed sort of fabric, something heavy enough to wear just as winter is wearing off, with some tights and boots. I found something suitable in the suiting section – a brownish, greyish plaid with very thin blue threads running through the check and a lining fabric that I believe is some sort of satin. I also picked up some lace trim because once an idea begins to brew, it snowballs pretty quickly.
I measured out and cut the fabric to a size I believed could fit my waist, post pleating. I hemmed the top and bottom edges, the top being half an inch, the bottom being a nice wide 2 inch hem. I like wide hems because they seem to make things fall better.
Since it was to be a skirt with no waist band and the pleats were to do the job of cinching in the waist, I first sewed the seam to make a loop of fabric and attached a zipper (my first!) to the top end, where the waist would eventually be formed.
I then laid out the fabric with the zipper at the back-centre and started pleating and pinning, with a box pleat in the centre-front and regular pleats radiating out from there, till I made my way to the back. This took several tries, much measuring and re-measuring and much tacking and un-tacking till I finall got it right and to a size that would fit my waist. I’m assuming taking the time to properly measure things and some skills in spacial relations would have helped me do this in one shot. It would have also helped me get it done faster, which is what I was trying to do with my approximate measurements and rapid fire inferences of space and time.
I must mention here, that the pleats are in fact facing outward, on purpose. When I first started, I pinned and tacked them inwards and it wasn’t until I was ready to line it that I realised what an EPIC fail I had managed to achieve, considering the whole point of the skirt was to have exposed pleats. Needless to say, I’m a sucker for punishment and did not want to settle and undid it all and reworked it to make it right.
Once I had the pleats pinned the right way, I proceeded to tack them down, just about an inch or so down from the top of the waist and once tacked, I machine stitched them down, on the right side as the pleats were to be exposed. I also flattened them out and stitched down on the outer edge, or fold of the pleats (not pictured), to keep them in place and get the desired effect.
This came back to haunt me later. At the time however, forgetting the original plan or simply not thinking straight, I moved on to the next step of lining the skirt.
I started by edging all ends with a zig zag stitch to produce an over locking effect which would otherwise require a serger, which I don’t have – not for lack of desire, but lack of space. This obviously prevents fraying edges, without the bulk of folding and hemming.
I then lined up my lace trim to the bottom edge, wrong side, of the lining fabric and stitched them together, once again with a zig zag stitch, because a zig zag seems to work better for satins and laces. I measured so that the lace trim would fall just about an inch below the plaid shell.
Hereafter I sewed in the seam, with a double row of straight stitch, leaving the top part open to accommodate the zipper. To make my life easier for pleating though, I hand tacked it shut.
Then, after much measuring and fussing around I figured out that about 6-8 broad pleats would cinch the lining fabric enough to fit within the outer shell and so I marked and tacked in those pleats.
I then secured the pleats in place by folding over the top edge and sewing a straight stitch line all the way around.
At this point I made part II of the decision that would come back to haunt me – I started hand tacking the lining onto the shell. I also tacked on the opening for the zipper and secured it in place.
Hereafter I finalised the tacking with straight machine stitching, TWICE. Part III of the decision that kept me from perfection in this project. Now, I quite literally thought I was done. I added a small hook to the top of the zipper to make everything neat and tidy and tried it on, hoping it was all I wanted it to be.
Now this would be fine if I was going for a Catholic school girl skirt with a little lace trim, but alas, this was not what I was trying to achieve. The mistake was glaringly obvious – I needed to stitch the pleats further down the body of the skirt.
Having stitched on the lining in fine straight stitch twice, and having already spent an inordinate amount of time on this skirt, I lost patience and did not want to undo both lines and tiny stitching. It would have been detrimental to both my eyesight, and my sanity.
So instead, I chose to give up on absolute perfection and go for wearability and proper styling. I did my best to line up the lining fabric and the outer shell, and stitched each pleat down further to lengthen the waist band and create a better fit and style. This resulted in a not so perfect inside.
The outside however, turned out much better. The fabric I chose is very forgiving and even though I did my best to stay within the lines and be neat, the few imperfections in sewing and double lines of stitching do not show up to spoil the facade of neat finishing.
And voila. The waist turned out a little higher than I wanted, which can also be attributed to the ‘decision that haunted me’, but overall, I pretty much adore this skirt. I love how it falls, I love the peek-a-boo lace that peeps through the petticoat when I sit down, and I love how it can be girlied up with a pretty blouse or made a little edgier with a tank top, leather jacket and spiked boots.
Abandoned ideas for this skirt: At one point I thought a nice blue sash would go well with it and pick up the blue in the check, but I have since decided that a thin black belt of some sort would do better.