Running from the Law: Sewing Project - Simple Skirt

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sewing Project - Simple Skirt

Hey friends! Remember a million years ago when I posted about my new sewing machine and that sewing class I took and then bragged profusely about all the cool shit I was going to make with my new sewing machine and my new sewing skills and be the next winner of Project Runway and then I never made anything or posted anything and hoped that you'd forget and stop asking me how the sewing was going? Remember that? Yeah, me neither.

Well, I made something!! Get out, I know!!

But for real. I finally made something. A skirt. And it's kinda awesome. Well, not exactly awesome, but just go with me and say that it's awesome and that you love it and it rocks, ok. Please don't hurt my feelings, I've been sick and am very delicate. Ok? Well then, let me tell you about it.

Here's how you make a skirt. You first buy a pattern. Actually, I bought a book about sewing that came with a couple patterns and really dumbed-down explanations (that were still too hard for me to understand). It's called Sew U by Wendy Mullin. It's a step-by-step beginners guide to how to start sewing. It has patterns and instructions for a skirt, a shirt and pants. Skirts are the easiest, so I started with that.

The directions told you how to pick out a fabric and how much you'd need. You measure yourself and pick your size. Disclaimer: sizes in patterns are really weird and will make you feel like an obese cow. You're not, don't worry. But they really do NOT match anywhere close to the size you'd buy in a store.
So I cut out all the pieces in my size, ironed them flat and laid them out on my table.
(Well, I was supposed to iron them flat...but I didn't...but pretend I did.)
Wow, I took a lot of pictures of the cut out pattern pieces.
Guess I was really proud of myself for being able to operate scissors or something.
Anyway, the book also told me how to lay the pattern pieces out on the fabric for cutting, according to what size fabric I purchased (the top arrangement)
I decided to buy a very simple slightly stretchy cotton khaki fabric. It's the same on both sides and didn't have a pattern, so it was easy to work with (and not confusing about which side was the inside or outside). Plus, I thought it'd make a cute simple skirt I could wear to the office. So I laid out the fabric and pinned the pieces onto it, just like the book told me to, because I always follow directions (bahahahahahahahaha!!).
And then I cut.
I started cutting with the pinking shears (so my fabric wouldn't unravel), but I was really cutting up the pattern pieces, so I just cut them out with normal scissors and then used the pinking shears to trim the edges afterward. I'm crazy like that.
The book said you could make adjustments to the pattern if you wanted to change the style a little bit. I decided to take in the sides about a 1/2 inch, to make it a little more fitted (more like a pencil skirt as opposed to a flared A-line skirt) and I took 6 inches off the bottom of the skirt to make it shorter. I wanted it to hit around my knees, not my shins. Pretty easy things to do.
It helps if you have a little calico cat that plays with your tape measure and licks your toes while you're doing all this. If you don't have one of these, I'm not sure you'll ever succeed as a master sewstress. Jigs can be rented out for a small fee, but she makes godawful noises in the car. Maybe you could just come over?
Next step was to pin the back to panels of the skirt together in the middle and then sew them together using a normal stitch up until the notch, then switch to a basting stitch (a long one) from the notch up to the top (because that's where the zipper will go. The book explains all this pretty well.
I pinned.
See the notch?!
You have to make sure you cut the notches out on the fabric when you're cutting the pattern.
And I rigged up some matching khaki thread on my bobbin and needle.
Sew together (didn't take a picture, sorry).
Then I pressed the seam open.
Check it out! That's the back of the skirt!
Zipper time! I bought a khaki zipper that matched the skirt.
Open it up and lay it on the skirt in place. Pin it exactly where you want it.
You can see that my zipper is a little bit too long (it probably was supposed to stop where the notch is). I think I bought a 9 inch zipper when I was supposed to buy a 7 inch zipper. Just one more example of my excellent instruction following abilities.
But it still worked.
Once it's pinned, tape it in place using clear tape.
And remove the pins (because you cannot sew through them). You can leave the tape on when sewing to help hold the zipper in place.
Using the zipper foot on your machine, sew down one side of the zipper and up the other.
Ta da! Zipper installed.
Flip it over and this is what it looks like.
Using a seam ripper (VERY carefully), open the seams to expose the zipper.
And there you go! Wasn't that easy?!
(Actually, it really was easy.)
Next, we're going to put darts in the top of the front and back panels of the skirt.
I traced my darts with washable chalk.
Then fold down the center of the dart and pin along the lines.
And sew the dart, starting at the top, directly on the line.
This is the underside.
Press the fabric towards the center of the skirt.
Here's what it looks like on the right side.
Once this is done, you sew the front to the back. Easy.

Next, you need to make a waistband. Here's where it got hard. I tried this. For hours I strugged with this. I followed the directions precisely (like I always do!) but they were vague and crypic and written in code or something. I could not figure it out. I tried a million different ways and they all looked ridiculous. I googled it and still couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do. So I did what any good sewstress does - said screw it and just did it my own way. Sans waistband.

I just folded over the top and sewed. Problem solved.
Who cares if the skirt doesn't have a thicker nice waistband?
Not I!
No one's going to see that part anyway.
Last step - I hemmed the bottom of the skirt.
Yo yo yo, check it out!!!
Skirt. For real!!
And it fit!
So, it worked. I will admit that I don't love it. I like it...I's okay.

It's still a little too A-line for my taste. It's more casual-looking than I was hoping for. I wanted it to be more fitted like a pencil skirt, so next time I'll increase the tapering to 1 1/2 inches (instead of just 1/2 inch).  And I think I could extend the darts down a little farther so it will be slightly less puffy in the back (I guess I don't have a booty to fill it out). But all in all, it's really not bad!! It's not going to get me on Project Runway, but I will definitely wear it. And I learned a LOT for next time. 

What do you think?


  1. Wow! I'm so impressed! (Also impressed that you captured the whole process on your camera!)

  2. wow, you did a great job! This is also a helpful tutorial for when I want to make my own! (which will probably be postponed forever) ha.
    But thanks for sharing!

  3. Shutthefrontdoor!! Seriously, I love reading your blog - it's like we're watching you morph into Martha Stewart... only way cooler.

  4. What do I think? I think you are Suzy-frickin-home-maker!! Stop making the rest of us look bad, okay?:) Honestly, I'm totally impressed!!

  5. Good job Sara! You're way more advanced than me. I've never used a zipper foot and it scares me to death. But a tip that I just recently learned from my mom (even though I've had my sewing machine for 6 years) that if you insert you pins so that they are perpendicular with your seam, your machine/needle will just go over it. Sorry if this doesn't make sense, what I mean is right now I saw that your pins went up and down and you probably had to take them out as you went, but if you put them in the other way (horizontally) you don't have to pause and worry about moving your hand to take the pins out you can just take them out after! Hope this makes sense. Trust me you won't kill your machine (I was highly skeptical of my mom...) but it works. We need to get together asap and have a sewing party and make quick bags for Mexico-o-o-o!
    Love you

  6. Nice work! Muy impressive. I've never used tape to do a zipper - I'll have to give that a try. Great idea.

  7. That's some serious photojournalism here in this post. I'm impressed! Thanks for coming by my blog (you should totally get that bikini, your husband would love the school spirit!)

  8. Wow. I'm just impressed that you can sew! LOL. Good job!

  9. I am so impressed too! Great job! Makes me want to get out my sewing machine too!