Sew not Easy

I fell into sewing quite by happenstance. Firstly, making things gives me a delicious sense of accomplishment. Secondly, I like things to be precisely how I want them. When I sew, I tweak patterns, make them up, and break all the rules. I stumble into a million mistakes, but I usually manage to stumble out again in one piece.

I started with making stuffed animals (’cause who doesn’t love cute and cuddly?) and love giving them away to nieces, nephews, and friend’s newborns. Now here I am, venturing into the land of clothing. The more I think about it, the more excellent I find the idea of making my own clothes. A) It allows me to hand-select the  style, cut, and shape I want. B) I can choose the perfect fabric: print, solid, and texture. C) I can make it to fit my body, which is a huge bonus for someone with narrow hips, broad shoulders, a long torso, and short little legs.

The only hitch: learning how the heck to do it—without reading directions, because… blaahhhhhh. It’s like the teacher’s voices from Charlie Brown. Are they even words?? So here we are, sewing my first skirt. Come along with me, say a prayer, and we’ll see how this goes.

Here’s my fabric, something my mom had and said I could use. Due to the hole and striped pattern, I suspect it was once a shepherd’s robe in a nativity play.

Dante is convinced that craft time is where it’s at.

I decided to do a long gathered skirt because I like the Victorian look, the freedom it will offer, and constructing it seemed fairly simple. For the dimensions, I wanted to leave as much length as possible, and the width shown here is roughly double my waist measurement (a note about this later). With the fabric folded in half, I evened up the raw bottom edges and took 3 inches off the top fold for the waistband. 

I sewed the squiggly blue ends together, but when I slipped it on, it limited my leg movement. I have Ehlers Danlos, which means my ligaments are loose, so I have a quite wide range of motion, but if I can’t do yoga in my skirt, it’s not wide enough. 

All the research I did said to double your waist measurement for a gathered skirt, but I risked looking like a puffy cupcake and added another segment. The total width came out to three times my waist circumference. Finger’s crossed!

Placket time. A placket is the extra fabric where the buttons go so your underwear doesn’t show in the gap, and it’s pretty simple to make. I left 6 inches un-sewed on one of my side seams. Then, I cut a strip of extra fabric 13 inches long by 4 inches wide. Folding the strip in half lengthways, I lined up the raw edges with one side of the raw edge of the skirt opening.

I sewed down the side and ⅛ inch past where the side seam comes together, then I swiveled the skirt around and lined up the rest of my placket strip with the other side and sewed it up.

Clip the seam allowance at the turn (but don’t cut through the stitches), tuck in the fabric, and there you are!

It looks fine… I didn’t quite follow the rules, and it’s a little bulky. The instructions said to do a single layer for the placket and hem the exposed side. I thought I could cut a corner by folding it in half, then I wouldn’t have to hem! Don’t do that. It will be a lot less bulky with a single layer. Though, I’m not too concerned. I think/hope the pleats will disguise it. 


For the length, I took my waist measurement and added 3 inches: 1 for comfort, 2 for button overlap. I took my strip from earlier (which is 6 inches wide), cut it to the correct length, ironed a ¼ seam allowance all the way around, and then ironed the whole thing in half.

I used the back of a cereal box and measured out a 1/4 inch line. I folded the fabric over meet the line and ironed.
Prepared waistband

Now for the gathering. I used a very wide stitch (6 on my machine) ½ inch from the top of the skirt all the way around, but not over one side of the placket, the one that will be underneath when the buttons are fastened. I went around again about a half-inch in from the first seam. Make sure you leave plenty of thread at the start and finish. Here’s the cool part. Grab the bottom threads and scrunch. Scrunch and scrunch and scrunch. 

Okay. When other people do this, they make it look easy, but my thread kept snapping and unraveling my gathers. I had to go in and hand stitch but it was a hot mess of frustration. 

I later discovered I was using hand quilting thread by accident. Lesson learned. Thread type matters. All you sewers out there are like, “Well, DUH!”

Finally, I got the circumference of the skirt to match the waistband length, sandwiched the skirt top between the open ends of the waistband, and pinned it in place. When you pin, the waistband should come right between the two gathering seams. The purpose of this is so that when you sew, the gathers go straight down instead of slanting when you sew. You will pick out the seam it later.

Sew down the sides of the waistband and all along the skirt top. I used ¼ seam allowance. Nearly there! 

I picked the visible gathering seam, sewed two buttons to the inside placket, two buttonholes on the top, and gave the bottom a double rolled hem.

And there we have it!

Is it perfect? Heh, no. Do I love it anyway? Yes, and I will wear it all the time. It is swishy, comfortable, and like wearing a built-in blanket. I learned some things, had a good time, and got a new skirt outta the deal. I hope you had fun and learn from my mistakes. 

‘Til next time, 

So, You Sew?

You say you sew, 
But you really don’t know
What in the world you are doing.
But you have lots of fun,
And when you are done,
You find it was worth the pursuing.

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