After I bought my brand new machine, I had to break it in immediately. Good thing I had a quick project in mind! These are somewhat vague, fly-by-night directions for creating a wrap-around skirt.
What Was Needed
- 2 yds Striped Cotton Gauze (Madras?)
- 1 yd Muslin
- Some ribbon I had lying around (for tie)
- Thread, of course
This took maybe 4 hours total? I wasn’t keeping track very well. A lot of it was pinning and ironing and more pinning and figuring out how to piece together, and learning the new machine. Actual sewing took perhaps an hour or less.
A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing the bargain fabric shelf at Walmart and found bolts of a few different patterns of a cotton gauze that I really like. It might be considered Madras, but it’s mainly white with pastel-ish colored stripes, so I’m not sure it’s colorful enough for that moniker. At $1.50/yd, I couldn’t pass it up, thinking it’d make great skirt/wrap things for the summer.
It’s pretty see-through, so I’m lining the upper half with some plain natural-colored muslin; I don’t care if people see my calves, but my thighs should probably be left to the imagination.
I bought two yards each of two of the fabrics (and another two yards muslin to split between them). My original plan was to essentially just add a waistband + ties and be done with it. I’d made one like that in HS and got good use out of it.
The flaw in my hasty plan, however was that the fabric was vertically striped, which would make a horizontally striped skirt, which would be icky. So, instead I cut the piece into two ~single-yard pieces (± a few inches to square off the fabric ends) after first slicing off about 5″ along one selvage of the full two yards for the waistband. My plan was now to create more of a gored skirt than a pure rectangular wrap-around, since the 45″ pieces should allow for that comfortably along the two yard waistband. At that point, I’d already forgotten that I’d pulled about five inches off, and somehow I ended up with not enough fabric for gores.
You might have better luck using a measuring tape and actually doing math if you make one of these; I did most of the “measuring” by folding pieces in half / just pinning things together until they fit … which might explain the lack of material for proper gores.
If you’re much taller than 5’3″, you’ll probably need more material and to lay it out differently, otherwise it’ll be more calf-length than ankle-length. Of course, this all depends on how long your legs are too, but for me, after removing 5″ from the effective length of the skirt to use as a waistband, it hits my ankles perfectly (with hem). The alternative would be to purchase > 2 yds and piecing together the waistband from the extra, leaving the full 45″ to hang.
As I mentioned above, the material is a bit see-through, so I lined the top half of the skirt with a cheap muslin. I squared off the edges, and then cut down the center of the length (giving me two ~72″ x 18″ pieces—one for each skirt).
Here are the steps I took (I did this out of order, but as hind-sight is 20-20, this would be the best order):
- Because of how my measurements came out, I did end up being able to add a 1″ horizontal x ~6″ vertical dart to the midpoint of each panel, which I sewed first. That doesn’t quite get me the gored look, but it did provide a liiiitle bit of shaping.
- Pin, iron, sew center seam (i.e. seam the two panels together). I also included a dart in the seam line of the center seam. You can either taper it while sewing the seam, or seam it first, then add the taper after. I chose the former to save time. The latter might be more “proper.”
Because one of the fabric pieces was unraveling along the seam-allowance from where I cut the waistband, and I don’t currently own pinking shears, I did a french seam to hide the exposed edge and prevent shedding strings every time I wear the skirt.
- If you are using a lining material, pin together waist: lay out the muslin and your result from step 2 with wrong sides facing, and pin along waist seam. You can tack these together if you’d like. I was lazy and just left the pins in.
Before you do this step, you might want to finish the bottom edge of your lining material. Further lazyness on my part meant that I just left the selvage edge hanging; no one is going to see it anyway, and it’s already finished without adding bulk!
- Finish both sides of the skirt.
I just did a simple tucked hem along the sides and sewed down it with a straight stitch instead of bothering to blind-hem or anything.
- Apply interfacing to the wrong side of the waistband.
Fusible interfacing is the way to go. I just had some sew-on on hand, so I simply pinned it to one seam allowance to hold in place. I didn’t need it to be perfect. Fusible would have been far less unwieldy though.
- Finish the two short ends of the waistband. (see notes on step 4.)
- Pin one long end of the waistband to the waist of the skirt body, right sides together. Sew.
- Press the seam allowances up toward the top of the waistband, and fold over and iron ~1/4″ of the unfinished side of the waistband (on the wrong side). Fold the waistband in half toward the wrong side of the skirt, and pin the small fold you just ironed to the thread line from the previous step with the seam-allowances (you can trim them if you’d like) up in the waistband. Iron. Sew. Your waistband is now complete with all raw edges hidden.
- Hem your skirt.
Because this skirt is made out of rectangles, and thus doesn’t have a curved hem, I actually did this step when I finished the sides – I just pinned and sewed along one side starting from the waist, down to the hem, across the hem, and up the other edge.
- Attach a way to tie the skirt around you.I used some ribbon I had lying around for the closures. First, I sewed on about 8″ to each end of the waistband (attached at the midpoint of the ribbon, to have two ends). Then, I wrapped the skirt around me how I wanted it to drape, and marked the places where I needed a loop to attach the end ribbons to to, then cut two 2″ bits to make a loop and sewed them on in the marked spots. One is on the interior of the skirt, and the other is along the outside of the waistband. To put the skirt on, I wrap the inside end to the inside loop and tie it, and then wrap the rest of the skirt around, tying off the outside closure. If I gain or lose substantial weight, I can easily move the two loops to a better location, but because of the length of the ribbons, I already have some room to play—I can just tie more loosely or a little tighter.
An alternative way to sew this would be to make the waistband extra-long with the body of the skirt more or less centered. This means you don’t need extra ribbon to tie it around your waist, you just use the ends of the waistband. However, it also requires more fabric. It makes the skirt a little more one-size-fits-all though.
Putting the Machine Through Its Paces
I figured that the straight stitches weren’t much of a test for the new machine (although it did admirably), so I decided to go the extra mile and add a little decorative stitching down the finished sides. Overall it did pretty well, although I did learn a couple of things:
- The “hump jumper” that the nice lady at the store showed me would have come in handy! I couldn’t get the decorative stitch to continue easily from the skirt over the waistband seam—it was too large a jump in thickness.
- Programming a space at the end of a string might neaten up the last letter (untested)
That second bullet stems from my decision to play around with the block alphabet the machine is capable of. I thought adding “Made By RFA” would be a nice touch. Considering that I didn’t bother to do a test run, it actually worked very well, except that the A is pretty squished. I think that adding an extra space in the programming would give the machine a little breathing room, so to speak, about ending the line. Although, many other things could have caused it, like my not supporting the feed enough, etc.
Changes in the Future
I still have the second piece of fabric, so I’ll definitely make another of these. The second one, however, is most certainly going to be gored. That will allow for a little more ease of movement, as I think the 80″ hem diameter is almost too restrictive for my tastes when it is straight-seamed. I have a sarong-type skirt I purchased at a street fair in Mountain View, CA a few years ago that I want to model it off of. It’s not much more than 80″ at hemline, but there is substantially less at the waist wrap. I think I can give it a pretty good shape without making it too small to wrap correctly around the waist, but I may end up not making it wrap at all, and doing some sort of closure on a waist band. I’ll probably continue to play with decorative stitches too, but this time I want to try to use contrasting thread, since the second fabric is so light-colored. Unfortunately, the only spools I have right now are white and almost-white, and then some tan upholstery-weight, so it looks like a shopping trip is in order. I really need to build up my stock of notions again.
Also, I may end up ripping the waistband off of this skirt and putting in those gores if the second skirt turns out well. We’ll see.