Tag Archives: skirt

Sew do la fa mi do re…

Before I launch into my usual spiel, I feel the need to offer feeble excuses for my absence.

A busy summer with mumsie visiting, vacations to New York, Bombay, Goa and Winnipeg and a busy work schedule left me little time to blog. I continued to sew and documented the process too, but actual writing took a back seat.
Cry me a river please. I had 4 vacations in total in 2010. I thank you in advance for your sympathies.

On to more pressing matters (ha!).

The weekend sewing blitz that produced my favourite red vintage inspired skirt was quite a prolific period for me.
I couldn’t stop after one successful venture and promptly started on my next project; a linen/cotton two toned ‘paper bag’ skirt. I noticed an influx of pleated ‘paper bag’ skirts with self belts in the stores and decided to make a drawstring version of my own.

I found some gorgeous natural coloured linen in the remnants bin of Fabricland for I think $2.50.
It was a sizable chunk and in retrospect I didn’t need to use it ALL in this skirt. A few slivers could have been saved since there’s a fair bit of extra allowances and folds in this project, as will become clear later on.

From Sew What

As pictured above, I also found some pretty small printed cotton on sale and used it as the second tone in this ‘two toned’ skirt.

I’m particularly proud of this next bit because it’s one of my first attempts at any sort of constructed design, so to speak, as opposed to my usual pleating or gathering.

I started by cutting out 2 simple rectangles, each half of the total length of my chosen circumference size. I think this was simply half the length of the remnant piece actually. Wastage was apparently no object!
I then chose one rectangle to be the front of the skirt, folded it in half and free hand drew a curve from the chosen top edge to the side edge/seam. Stay with me now…

From Sew What

I cut along my rather perfectly drawn curve, through both layers of the folded front piece and opened it out, so I was left with the above pictured shape of fabric. I then went over the raw edges of the curves with a zig zag stitch for proper finishing and achieved an even MORE amazing feat.
I managed to fold in the fabric about half an inch and iron along the curve. Bless linen for its give and forgiveness!

From Sew What

I then proceeded to tack it down to make sure it didn’t suddenly re-defy the physics I had already defied in getting it folded in the first place. After I machined sewed both sides in place I moved on to the next part of my increasingly fiendish plan.

The mysterious curved cut outs, you see, were actually to be part of rather large pockets and the windows to reveal the other tone in the garment i.e. the printed fabric.

I cut out two rectangles from the printed fabric, zig zag edged and hemmed them and placed and pinned them behind the curved cut outs.

From Sew What

I arrived at the measurements of the printed rectangles by first lining the fabric up with the other uncut linen rectangle, which would be the back of the skirt.
I then laid the front piece with the curved cuts on top and made some approximate markings, making sure the printed pieces that I would cut out would be large enough to fill in the curves and then some, but did not exceed the original, uncut rectangle. Get it?

Basically, I wanted to make sure that all told, I had two rectangles, identical in size i.e. the front and back of the skirt, pockets, printed pieces and all.

From Sew What

After that actually simple procedure, but rather convoluted explanation, the composite front piece pictured above was the exact same size as the uncut back piece of linen.

I then tacked and finalised the side seams. Both seams included the outer edges of the printed pocket pieces, except I left one side open from the top for about 3 inches and hemmed in the open edges.

From Sew What

I then zig zag edged and hemmed the top edge of the entire skirt, all the way around, at about a 1/2 inch. Normally I would not bother with a hem as this top bit would be covered and taken in with the waist band. However, as I mentioned earlier, I wanted this to be a drawstring skirt, so that the ‘paper bag’ effect was actually real, as opposed to achieved with pleats. So I folded over the entire top edge, about 3 inches in, sewed it down and then sewed 2 straight lines within it, at 1 inch intervals to make a channel for the drawstring.

From Sew What

I could have done a separate waist band and run a drawstring through it anyway, but that would not achieve the cinched look I was going for. I sewed in the 2 lines for the same reason – One, I wanted some of the fabric to stick up and ruffle outwards from the cinched waist that the drawstring would achieve. And two, I also wanted to make sure that the drawstring had a narrow channel to flow through and did not move around too much within it – that is what the second line of stitching achieves. I learned early on from mumsie sewing curtains that if you wanted that top ruffle, you couldn’t just fold and sew, you had to sew a channel.

I then hemmed the bottom edge, about 2 inches in.

From Sew What

I’ve always been partial to wide hems. I’m not sure if that’s an aesthetic choice or because I still cling to some misguided hope that I will one day need to let it out to accommodate my sudden miraculous height gain. Either way, once the hem was done I was in the home stretch.

All that was left was the drawstring.

I cut a two inch strip of printed fabric 15-20 inches longer than my waist measurements and sewed it into a tube.

From Sew What

I turned it right side out and pressed it with the seam towards the centre. I then cut the ends off at diagonals folded the raw edges in and top stitched them closed.

All that was left was to thread it through my super special channels. This is where those 3 inches I left open in one of the seams comes in handy!

From Sew What

I put it on, tied off the drawstring in a big bow, and it worked like a dream!

From Sew What

The drawstring allowed me to wear it either high up on my waist or lower down, something I could not manage with a fixed, pleated waist. The large amounts of fabric and the cinching at the waist coupled with the stiffness of linen made it flare out in that little girl style I adore and the pockets could not be more to my liking if I’d invented the concept of pockets!

I wore it in the summer with flats and a brown V-neck t-shirt and carried emergency candy supplies, random bits of string, a button and some pennies in my pockets. Yes yes.

Sew simple

It may not be apparent from my previous posts, but I absolutely ADORE all things vintage. This IS apparent however, from my taste in both men and clothing. HA!

I often want to buy vintage items but find that they are often too big and not always in the best condition – depending on where you buy from.

So, in keeping with my see-it-and-make-it-myself philosophy, I saw a vintage skirt that I just adored and decided to copy it to my size and modify it slightly to my style.

This is my inspiration..

From Sew What

Its a vintage wool number with a zipper in the back and pockets I think. I loved it instantly but it was both not my size and a bit too expensive for my liking. I decided to make one for myself. I chose to make it in red twill, having wanted to make a red skirt for a while. I was in a bit of a hurry for some reason so I used a side zipper and skipped the pockets. I think I might replace the zipper with an invisible one soon. Maybe.

From Sew What

I cut out two rectangles to a suitable size, usually guestimated by how wide I want the circumference to be at the bottom. I then edged all sides with a zig zag stitch, since I don’t have a serger, and hemmed the bottom of both pieces.

I then randomly picked one of the pieces to be the front and went about duplicating the pleat.

From Sew What

I basically did a large box pleat, the “box” facing in and folded in as much as was needed to reduce the waistline to the right size, plus seam allowances. I pinned everything in place and moved on to the back.

From Sew What

At this point I was still distrustful of machine basting, so I hand tacked and gathered the back piece and again, gathered enough to reduce the waistline down to the right size, plus seam allowances.

Next I hand tacked both front and back pieces together and inserted the zipper.

From Sew What

After hand tacking and making sure I was satisfied, I finalised everything with proper machine stitching.

I then moved on to the waist band. Having learned my lesson from my first skirt, I kept the zipper closed and stitched the waist band around the tube of the skirt to get the right curvature.

From Sew What

I hand tacked, first on the inside, folded over the band and then tacked the outside. I tried it on to make sure it was proper and then finalised with machine stitching. Yes I hand tack or baste a lot. I prefer it to pinning…for now.

At this point it was pretty much done. I trimmed down the waist band and added a few hand sewn snap buttons on the side to keep it down.

All I needed now was the bow.

Since I’m stubborn and unreasonable, I did not go back to look at my original inspiration and roughly measured out a rectangle, folded it in half, stitched it up and made a bow. It turned out to be bigger than the original skirt’s bow and sagged somewhat on the sides. I decided to just go with it and instead of permanently attaching it, I added a brooch pin and made it detachable, in case I suddenly decide bows are dumb. I have been known to suddenly decide that, among other things, jean shorts, dungarees, harem pants and camo mini skirts are dumb. Which really, they are once you’re out of college and not working as a talent wrangler on Canadian Idol. So I’m never sure enough to commit to permanently attaching things.

Once I pinned on the bow I was done and I’m actually quite pleased with how whimsical and over the top it looks with the over sized bow. I’m going to wear it with a polka dot top and exposed seam black stockings. 😀

TADAAA!

From Sew What

See sew!

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.

From Sew What

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.

From Sew What

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.

From Sew What

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.

From Sew What

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.

From Sew What

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.

From Sew What

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.

From Sew What

I then secured the pleats in place by folding over the top edge and sewing a straight stitch line all the way around.

From Sew What

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.

From Sew What

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.

From Sew What

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.

From Sew What

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.

From Sew What

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.

A needle pulling thread…

I must begin this post with a disclaimer which will now and forever absolve me of any guilt or responsibility for the failed or semi-failed tailoring experiments that might be inspired or unfortunately influenced by my trial and error methods of patching together somewhat wearable garments.

α Begin transmission α
This is in no way, shape or form a comprehensive guide on tailoring or do-it-yourself projects, in whole or in part. Assuming more than 3 people read this and out of those 3, one of you is foolish enough to follow my lead – well, I’m sorry.
I do this for no other purpose but to amuse, distract and enjoy myself. All projects are begun and completed on my dining table and so far, are entirely hand sewn. Results may vary.
Ω End transmission Ω

As explained in my previous post, the first sewing project I decided to undertake was a summer skirt. I recollected the pattern from 6th grade needlework class, in which a nun taught us how to make a lovely cotton pleated skirt. One of the many joys of going to Catholic convent school in India.

When I scouted around for fabric I was unable to find a printed cotton I liked and went with this self-embroidered, somewhat sheer cotton fabric instead.

From Sew What

The texture of the fabric and its translucency led me to altering the original 6th grade pattern slightly in two ways.

Firstly, I added a simple broadcloth lining, and hemmed it one hem length higher than the final skirt length, in this case, about 2 inches.

From Sew What

The joint in the middle of the lining is due to the fact that I bought only one metre – either because I miscalculated or am cheap, or both. The panel was broad enough however, and I just cut it to the desired length and made a strong, clean joint which cannot be detected below the skirt fabric.

Secondly, instead of proper 1.5 inch pleats at regular intervals, I simply gathered the fabric roughly but evenly. I didn’t trust that the fabric would hold the pleats well enough and was afraid it would look half baked had I tried.

From Sew What

I would have loved nothing better than to run some elastic through it at this point and called it a day, but the obsessive compulsive side of me pressed on. (Get it? ‘pressed’?!)
I stuck to the original plan and set about measuring and cutting out a waist band in a fabric that picked up the peach colour in the flowers on the main skirt.

From Sew What

This next step is where I believe I went a little off kilter, the results of which will become apparent shortly.
I laid the gathered skirt out as straight as I could and began tacking the band onto the skirt.

From Sew What

I always tack with a contrasting thread so I know which stitches I can later remove safely without ripping open the whole garment accidentally.

From Sew What

The skirt is right side up while the band is wrong side up so that once its attached, I simply flip it over and attach it to the inside. I chose this method over simply attaching it directly, front and back in one go, because without a machine, my back stitch would have looked clumsy and unprofessional on an area as prominent as the waist. Its double the work, but the results are worth it.

From Sew What

Hereafter, the waist band was folded over and I attached it to the inside of the skirt and lining, being careful not to come through to the front side of the fabric, but also making sure the stitches were close together and strong enough to hold together the whole skirt. I then sewed up the seam and barring a clasp at the back, thought I was pretty much done.

From Sew What

This is where the previously mentioned off kiltering happens. I failed to compensate for the fact that despite my small frame, I am, surprise surprise, not in fact, a rectangle. The waist band basically stuck up straight and did not conform to my natural waist.
I could not just let it be and wrap a sash around it and so set about resorting to the simple altering methods my mother taught me – tucks on the waist line. After a few tries I realised the tucks would have to mirror each other, back and front and no other positions would do if the skirt were to fall properly.

From Sew What

Despite repeated assurances from the ever patient manfriend, I simply could not bring myself to leaving it this way. It was meant to be a high waisted skirt, most likely worn with the top tucked in and I could not stand the idea of these exposed tucks. I half decided to cover the eye sore tucks with loops and a nice sash, but it being 5am on Sunday morning, I had no will to argue with him and promptly crashed. When I awoke the next…evening…a quick consultation with my like minded sister resolved me to the ‘loop’ course of action and I immediately set about the task of making said loops. I think the loops took me longer than the whole skirt itself, since I had unfortunately to attend to my pesky job that kept taking me away from my beloved project for 8 hours at a time.
Even before the loops were done, I hemmed and hawed over a sash for some time, finally settling on buying a broad ribbon or scarf for the purpose, since the skirt fabric would not lend itself to the cause readily – just not scrunchy/malleable enough. After much hunting I settled on a broad stretch lace band that upped the ‘girly’ almost a little too much, but finished the whole thing off nicely I thought. I also added some press buttons on the back to avoid the embarrassment of it slipping off, which invariably happens when things aren’t fastened on. Damn you gravity!

Advance apologies for the odd picture – I own no dress form and must model my garments myself!

From Sew What

So…TAADAA!

Despite hiccups and alterations, I am supremely proud of my first attempt in 15 years at sewing a complete garment, start to finish. I have learned that next time, I must first sew the seam, THEN attach the waist band if I am sewing for non-rectangular beings. I have also learned that there are no short cuts when you’re hand sewing and always listen to your inner hysteric. Or your sister.

For the complete outfit, please visit www.styleperdiem.com.