Okay, there’s a chance that pretty fabrics aren’t in the government’s mind when they dish out student loans. But hey, I’ve also bought tattoos and haircuts with the money, so never mind eh? I’ve been after some polka dot fabric to make a midi skirt for ages, and when I went into my local habadashery and saw this pretty blue cotton I snapped it up immediately. Then on my way to the cutting table I saw a big pile of floral viscose fabrics – obviously I couldn’t turn them all down. So I ended up with 2m of both.
I’ve made a really simple skirt with the floral fabric, it’s a good place to start if you’re not that great at sewing (like, er, me. But I’m also quite overly ambitious). Because it’s so simple it’s NOT going to be the most well fitting piece of clothing you own, but for a cheap and pretty summer skirt which you can whip up in an evening, it fits the bill nicely. I’m going to do a more complicated skirt with the polka dots – it’s a little less floaty and a little more structured, so I’ll pop in a zip and a proper waistband with interfacing too.
Anyway, here’s a little tutorial for the simple skirt, if you want to have a go! I promise it’s easy, the only remotely tough bit is sewing the elastic to the waistband, and that needs patience more than anything (I did it wrong – twice – and had to unpick it – twice). My main tips are to take it slow, double check everything before you sew or pin, and iron it at regular intervals (I’ll tell you when).
Okay, first off. You’ll need:
2 meters of wide fabric, the more lightweight the better. Make sure it’s not see through though, this skirt isn’t lined.
Cotton to match the fabric. I used pale pink on mine.
Wide elastic. I think mine was about 1.5 inches wide? It needs to be long enough to go around your waist.
A sewing machine.
All the usual bits and bobs – pins, measuring tape, fabric scissors, an iron, blah blah blah. And a quick unpick, if you’re anything like me.
1) Get your fabric. Fold it in half. Make sure it’s neat and crease free, at least over the areas you’ll be cutting out.
2) Measure out your big square. I wanted mine to be 30 inches long – it’ll go from your waist to wherever you want it to hit, so get that measurement then add 2 inches for your seam allowances. So I measured 32 inches. As for the width, I did 34 inches. Pencil or tailor’s chalk in your lines, using the measuring tape for guidance.
3a) Cut! You’ll be left by a square (mine was 32×34), and there should be two of them because you folded it over initially. If you have enough fabric, measure and cut it out on the bias (at a 45 degree angle, as opposed to how I’ve done it straight), because it’ll generally have a nicer drape to it when you’re done.
3b) Alternatively, you could do it like this – it’ll give you a fuller lower hem and a less gathered waistband.
4) Pin the two squares together along the sides which make up the length of the skirt (so in my case, the 32 inch sides). Make sure the right sides of the fabric are facing eachother.
5) Sew together the sides of the skirt which you just pinned. Use a medium stitch length – too small and you risk restricting movement in the sides of the skirt, too long and it won’t be secure. Reverse the stitches at the ends to keep them in place.
6) Open up the seams which you just sewed together, and bend over a little of the perpendicular edge on one side (that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but just look at the photo. It’s the bottom edge of the skirt you need to do). Pin it into place.
7) Ironing time! I know it’s a boring step, but it’ll make your life so much easier and improve the finish of the skirt a lot. I don’t actually own an ironing board, and this was the first time using my iron since I got it a year ago, oops. I had to use a towel on my dining room table. But anyway, press open the seams you just sewed, and then fold over your bottom hem (the bit you just pinned, but all the way around). Doing this will mean you don’t have to bother pinning it, which is so much easier. My hem was about half an inch I think, but I’m really not very good with estimating inches.
8) This is what it should look like when it’s all pressed – nice and neat. If you wanted the bottom hem to be neater, you could fold it over twice and then press, this would prevent fraying. I didn’t bother, a) because I’m lazy and b) because I didn’t want to add any extra stiffness, due to how lightweight my fabric was.
9) Sew this bottom hem into place. Try and keep the stitches as straight as possible, you’ll be able to see the stitches on the outside of the skirt.
10) Next it’s waistband time – the bit I hate. To get your elastic length, just pop it around your waist and pull it as tight as is comfortable and as tight as you’d like your waistband to be. Cut it to the right length, there’ll only be a teeny tiny bit of overlap so you don’t really need to take that into account. Pin the elastic to one of your side seams (elastic to wrong side of the fabric) with about half a centimetre free at the top. Again, if you want this to be neater you could hem the free edge but I didn’t bother.
11) Okay, to sew this in place you basically need to pull the elastic tight as you sew it. Use a zig zag stitch, because it has give in it whereas a regular straight stitch doesn’t. You will need to hold both ends of the elastic, either side of the presser foot and pull it tight, slowly moving it through. The challenge here is twofold – firstly, stretching the elastic evenly and making it fit to the waistband, and secondly keeping the elastic the right distance from the top hem all the way around. You might need to keep stopping to readjust as you go. You’ll notice that when you let go of the elastic, it springs back on itself and all the fabric will go with it. Just do this all the way around and your elastic will be attached to the skirt, and the skirt will be all nice and gathered!
12) You’ll now have elastic on the inside of the skirt, but a free edge (unless you hemmed it) sticking out the top, and even right side round it probably won’t look right. To fix this, I turned the skirt right way round, then folded the waistband over once – concealing the elastic completely. Pulling it all tight as I went, I sewed it in place all folded over like this (using the zig zag stitch again, it’s going to need to stretch back out as you put it on), sewing all the gathers and pleats in place. Make sure you feel for where the concealed elastic is, and sew on it (towards the bottom if you can, to give a thicker waistband) and make sure the stitches are straight – it’ll be visible.
13) This shows the waistband after you’ve finished sewing it – at the bottom is the right side and at the top is the wrong side (where you can see the raw edge). The elastic is sewn nice and tightly into the waistband so you can’t see it. All done now – just give everything a quick iron so it all sits flat and neatly.Ta daaaa! A finished skirt, and it’s so simple it only takes a couple of hours. I’ll pop up an OOTD post whenever it’s sunny enough to wear it, promise!