Saturday, November 08, 2008

Miracle Skirt Basics - Pattern #1

The finished skirt striaght and ruched up with drawstrings showing a bit of a red calico pettycoat.

I made this item for Cindy's character for the play, "Into The Woods" . It turned out super so I thought I'd give a mini-tute on how to make one for yourself. The drawstrings are sewn into channels that cover every seam in this gored skirt giving you lots of options.

It can be bustled for an 1890s look, pulled up on just the sides and worn with hip pillows for a paniered look of the 1700s, scallop it all the way around for a Civil War ball skirt, or draw it up on just one side for a wench or lady pirate look. The length is up to you.

This one is just about ankle length, but shorter versions make up just as well as overskirts for Renaissance gowns or dance.

Depending on your fabric choices, you could also use this for a belly dance piece if built in a sheer chiffon worn with or without dance pants and a choli.

1. This example is for a 38" long skirt. Panels are 42" long with hem allowance and a bit over 3" for the waist elastic casing.

First, you need to put together your gored skirt. I do this my old tried and true method with minimum to no waste. Yay Green Sewing! Measure from your waist to the desired hem length of your finished skirt and add 5/8" for seam allowances top and bottom, plus enough for fold over casings in waist if you're going to have an elastic waist in a self casing. Three inches at the top is a good number for an elastic waist with self casing. It gives you a 5/8" seam and a roomy casing which can be stabilized by sewing close to the fold at the top before you insert your elastic.

Fold your goods lengthwise to this measurement, folding it accordion style until you have the number of panels you want. Four double folds or panels as the fabric is cut off the bolt will give you a super hem sweep. Add a few more panels for a ridiculously full skirt or less for a more tame version.

Here's where that math you learned in school comes in. Measure your waist and add six inches for wearing ease for a skirt with a fitted waistband. For a fuller waisted skirt either gathered into a waistband or with a fold over casing with elastic, take your waist plus the six inches wearing ease and double it.

Whichever figure you end up with will be divided by the number of panels or gores you'll have doubled. This will be the size of the smallest end of the folds in my cutting diagram in the next step.

Example: Say your waist is thirty inches. With wearing ease, that measurement will be 36". You've made four folds or panels in your 45" fabric. That will give you 8 layers of fabric because each panel is doubled as it comes off the bolt folded in half down the center of the cloth.

2. This diagram shows how your panels will stack up and where your cutting lines should be.

So you double your folds for the two layers of cloth for each fold, which would be 8 waist ends and 8 hem ends on each crosswise edge and divide your waist measurement by 8. (30" waist plus 6" ease or 36: / 16 layers of cloth or 8 panels = 2.25"). Add 1/2" to this measurement and round it to the next closest number. In the case of a 30" waist, that will be 3". This allows for a gore seam to be sewn.

3. Diagram 3 shows folded panels ready to cut.

If you're going to finish the waist edge with a self casing, your turning over and sewing will be easier if you cut down straight for the first 3 plus about 3/8" before you angle down to the bottom. Be sure you cut both waist and hem edges your 3 3/8" on both sides and then cut a straight line from the bottoms of these points.
To get a straight edge and take the guessing out of the side seam cutting lines, I make one more fold and use it to guide me when I cut the gores as above.
Sew your panels together from the bottom to top. Press straight grain seams with selvedge edges together open and serge or finish the edges on a bias angle and press towards the selvedge seams. Now you sew 5/8" bias casing along each seam turning hem edges under.

4. Gores sewn, seams finished and pressed, casings sewn in. Center casing before drawstrings pulled through.

5. Bottoms of the casing channels with drawstrings pulled through and knotted at hem edge.

6. Picture of drawstrings at waist edge opening pinned, and ready to be sewn.

Use a safety pin to thread narrow drawstrings or braid through your casings leaving a 6" tail. Pin the other ends at waist end and secure with straight stitching. Cotton or string with a tooth will work better than silky cords or ribbons which have a tendency to slip.
Now your ready to play! Try on your skirt and start pulling some strings!

7. Skirt hem pulled up just a bit for a peek at an underskirt or pettycoat.

(**This is the start of what I hope will be a regular series of patterns for simple garments that are the basic building blocks of what I do. I've come full circle after 45 years of building with lint. I've learned that the simplist cuts and most economic lines are the best - just as our ancestors did because of the scarcity and value of cloth.

If there's a particular item you'd like me to address, let me know.)


LceeL said...

Oooo. I'm gonna hafta run downstaris and warm up the Singer. But then - I remember that pair of tennis shorts I tried making for myself.

queenlint1 said...

You handsome ole sweetie! You write and paint. Let me sew!

But I am planning on including some patterns for you manly men! I guess if Rosey Grier can needlepoint, then men can sew!

My dad used to make our 3 cousins shorts for the summers they spent with us. Those 3 boys were so hard on clothes that daddy said he'd need a second job otherwise to keep their butts from shining!

He used a simple pattern and used elastic in the waist. When the little sweeties grew up to be 6'5" moose, they used to ask my dad to make them some shorts. Daddy would just grin at them and say, "There's a lot more ass to cover now and I'd need me a bedsheet."

They got the biggest kick out of that!


redchair said...

Just amazing Dina. And it all just spins out of you so easily and 'matter of fact.'

You really have an extraordinary talent and I so admire you.

queenlint1 said...


As I do your painterly talents! Funny how we're all given creativity of some kind. One woman's lint is another one's paint or decor or Mother Superior of the Apple Pie.

Makes us a complete village.


redchair said...

Hey village girl- Bet you've been busy? Just wanted to say hello.

Charity said...

FABULOUS work on that skirt, lady! I envy your sewing skills.

queenlint1 said...

Thank you Charity. And thank you for the plug on your coupon and catalog site!


Martha Marshall said...

Yeah. I'd like to know how the hell you make this sound so easy!

Seriously, this is a great-great-great-great tute!

Loved the play, loved the costumes!!

Martha Marshall said...

Girl, you've been tagged! Check out my blog post from this morning.

I just knew you'd have something to share with the rest of the world!! And it's more fun than awards.

redchair said...

Hey- where's my new Deepwater Journal segment?! I've been looking at this one forever.

Heather said...

I love this...but you know what would make it a miracle for me? If it would sew itself. I can't sew, I've tried and tried..I suck at it. I still want one, but I need a sewing fairy to come over here and help me make it...or just make it for me! :)
Just wanted to stop by and say hey and I love you.

queenlint1 said...

Hello all,

I've been monumentally busy! Pushed to the brink by deadlines and no one went on stage nekked!

The interview and article on the Divine Mrs. Emms should satisfy for a day or two and then I have muchmore to blog and load up.


Anonymous said...

OMG im a teenage sewing freak and i LOVE you now!!!!!!!! you just saved my life by posting how to make that skirt!!!!!! CIVIL WAR REANACTMENT HERE I COME!!!!!