THE SIMPLE SKIRT
I've had many friends that just don't understand why I would go through the trouble of making a garment instead of buying one ready-made. Well, there are many reasons, namely, I find it difficult to find garments that have the fit I want, color, quality of construction, and I enjoy it. They're always too fitted, too loose or sagging, too "flowery", too long, too short, too expensive or already falling apart on the stores hanger. So I'm forced to take matters into my own hands, and since I'm the proud owner of a White Superlock 2900 Serger, a Huskystar 224 Husqvarna Sewing machine and possess just enough seamstress skills to know how to be dangerous, why not?
I like patterns that aren't too involved. I want a finished product that I can wear everyday, not just for a night on the town (something I seldom do), and one that I can enjoy, not struggle with. I found Simplicity's pattern #2609 view "E". It's simple, straight forward and has simple lines. A fold over casing for an elastic waist, and what more can you ask for? I made only minor changes to my pattern. This pattern has four front/back pattern pieces and two yoke pieces. It calls for making a tube with the yoke and a tube with the front/back pieces and sewing the tubes together. That can spell DISASTER if your seam allowance is off by the tiniest bit. Also, noting the finished length of the garment and measuring (I'm 5'4" not 5'9" like the models) I adjust the length of the pattern piece subtracting what I need.
The first part is finding the right fabric, the pattern back will have a list of suggestions and notions you will need. I need 1 5/8 yard of 45" fabric or 1 3/8 yard of 60" fabric, Sewing thread and 1 1/4 yard of 1/2 inch wide elastic. I choose 3/4" to 1" elastic, because I like to have extra security. It also calls for lace to be placed at the hem, but I skip that and add a bit to the bottom of the pattern piece to hem under. Prepare your fabric by laundering it exactly how it will be treated once your garment is finished. I threw mine in the washing machine whole with a few shirts that needed to be washed, then into the dryer. Keeping in mind, when you buy your fabric to take note of its care instructions. I avoid dry clean only anything. Then Iron it out. Now on to prepare the pattern.
Mark your size on the pattern instructions and find your cutting layout. Unless otherwise specified, fold your fabric in half, selvages together right sides together. First I cut out my pattern for my size (16) this is determined by measurements not my size in ready to wear garments. I will use this pattern over and over and cut it larger in case I gain weight before I use it again and fold the extra to the back. Iron the pattern pieces (yes, I iron the paper pattern pieces. Line them up according to the layout schematic in the instructions. There is always a line indicating the direction of straight of grain or fold line. Fold lines are self-explanatory, but the straight of grain must be measured from the fold or selvage to the marked line all the way down the line, equal distance or your garment will NEVER lay right.
Pin the pattern piece to the fabric, being sure to not distort the fabric or lift it, and no wrinkles are present. Be certain, then cut out the amount needed per pattern instructions. I need four front/back pieces, so I have to cut out twice on folded fabric, I need two yoke pieces cut on the fold, so two of those also. Be sure to transfer any pattern markings and notches to the fabric. The seam allowance is generally included in the pattern piece and will be stated. Double check European patterns.
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I choose to sew my seams with my sewing machine, 75% of the time. However I hate unfinished seam ends in my projects. The easiest way to finish a seam is to do that first rather than dealing with a skinny 5/8" band of cloth later. I turn to my serger, and generally use a three thread stitch to over cast the edge. If the fabric is tightly woven I disengage the cutter and just overcast the edge, if it un-ravels easy, I cut it a tad larger and leave the cutter engaged and serge it so it cuts and serges it at the appropriate line. Do yourself a favor and take a scrap of the fabric and test the serging stitch on it and make any adjustments before you feed your pattern pieces into it. If you lack a serger, try an overcast on your sewing machine (I never cared for mine) or a wide zigzag stitch in the seam allowance. Sometimes it needs an additional press after finishing the edge. If you hate to iron, just tell yourself that you're pressing not ironing. Don't put that iron away, you're not done with it yet.
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First I test my sewing machine stitch width and length with a scrap of the fabric. I make sure my tension is proper, the seem will be strong and it looks tidy. I back-tack all my seams,with the exception of top-stitching. I sew my two skirt front pieces together, then my two back pieces together. I press the seem exactly the way It was sewn to set the stitches into the fabric, then press the seem open. I sew the front yoke to the two joined front skirt pieces and press that seem to set, then press the entire seem towards the yoke, not open. I do the same for the back. Then I sew the two side seems, from top to bottom (there is a difference in the seem allowance on these pieces, and this is why I don't sew them into tubes as per instructions), then press as before, first as it was sewn to set seem and them press them open. You're almost there.
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This is a tool that I have a love/hate relationship with. I hate to use it, but am happy that I have one, because I inevitably need it from time to time. There is no substitute for it. I will inadvertently sew the wrong pieces together or the right side to the wrong side. I've had this tool for 30 years, and I just can't bring myself to buy a new one. It's like admitting defeat and accepting that I will need it yet once again. Its top is missing and I'm sure it only has the illusion of being sharp. We call it reverse sewing.
The next thing is to fold over the top to the inside to form a casing for the elastic. If you used 1/2" elastic, I would fold over 3/4", but I used 1" elastic, so I turn over at least 1 1/4", but likely 1 1/2". Press this and pin it, you may need to use a tailor's ham or a rolled up towel to properly form the curve in the fabric. Mark your Sewing machine for where the edge of your fabric will lay, so you have a reliable guide to get as straight a line as possible. When top stitching, its best to stitch on top, don't back tack, but pull threads to back, knot and bury threads in a seam, and sew slowly. Leave a two inch opening to sew later once the elastic is inserted. I insert the elastic with a tool, being sure the elastic doesn't twist. Put the skirt on and pull the elastic until I think its tight enough, but not too tight and secure it with a safety pin. Then put it on, take it off, give it a tug, walk around a little, sit down stand up. Does it feel right, or tight, or loose? Make adjustments, snip off the extra. I take a rectangle of fabric and place it under the elastic, butt the elastic ends together and fold the fabric over encloseing the ends of elastic. I sew them together in a square and find this very secure and no ends of the elastic find their way out. Sew up the opening, and stitch in the ditch at the sides to keep the elastic from rolling. Standing in front of the mirror, take notice of where the bottom of the skirt falls, and without bending try to measure where you want your hem to fall. Measure, fold and pin all the way around for your hem. I prefer to use a blind hem, so I must fold this back the other way to expose the portion of the seem that I will sew onto (this should be described in your machine manual). Hem and press that hem nicely, don't skip that step.
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I have made many of these skirts over the last few years. Here are three of them. The denim I left to look like a cut off, the ultra-suede like material I left longer for cooler months, and the leopard skin, to the knee. I have another easy skirt pattern that I will share when I find a suitable fabric for it. If you need help with that blind hem let me know.
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