SD1002: The Simplest Skirt a Seamstress could Sew

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A gathered rectangular skirt with a grosgrain waist ribbon – about the simplest thing a seamstress could make for herself! Non?

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I made this skirt in a single sitting – a world record for me. No toile, no seam ripping, no swearing, just instant satisfaction. I bought this grey and white striped taffeta (about the first wholly synthetic fabric I’ve ever bought…) from Tessuti, and used a black grosgrain ribbon for the waistband (23mm wide) from my usual ribbon supplier – Ribbons Galore.

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Taffeta is puuurfect for this kind of skirt – it holds its shape and remains poofed nicely. The fabric is so light it won’t sag under its own weight! 

It’s also great for when you’re planning to eat a feast – the waistband keeps you looking slim whilst your stomach is allowed to expand to the required size… without giving away that you’ve eaten more than you should!

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You can whip one of these up just as easily as I did – and all you’ll need is your waist measurement:

1. Multiply your waist measurement by 1.9 (or 2 if you feel like rounding up), and you’ll have the length of fabric you’ll need to buy.

The fabric selvedge will be the part that goes around your waist – so choose how long you’d like your skirt to be from here (plus your hem allowance), then cut the offending remainder off.

2. Finish the two raw edges of your fabric with your preferred seam finish and apply your invisible zip (I used a 25cm one) – follow my post on how to get a lovely result on this here.

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3. Sew two rows of gathering stitch (about 3.5 – 4 stitch width, the smaller the stitch, the tighter the gather), one each side of the proposed seam line. So here I’ve got a row at 1cm from the edge and 2cm from the edge – my seam line will be the standard 1.5cm. Make sure you leave yourself a nice healthy tail when you cut your thread, you’ll need this to pull! 

4. Grab two threads and do just that, pushing your fabric away from you at the same time:

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Keep gathering until you’ve got the gathered edge of your fabric down to your skirt’s finished waist measurement – this is your waist measurement, plus 3cm of ease, plus an additional 4cm for the tab to attach a hook and bar (this includes a seam allowance). So for example, my waist is 75cm + 3cm + 4cm = 82cm.

5. For the grosgrain ribbon, take this measurement and double it – 82 x 2 = 1.64m. This is the length you’ll need. Sew the ends together with a 1.5cm seam allowance – then trim back to 0.5cm and iron flat. 

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Stick a pin in the half way mark – then iron that folded too. You’ll have a circle of grosgrain ribbon with a seam at one half point and an ironed fold at the other.

6. Take the folded half way mark and slot one end of the fabric in it – pin to secure. The little plastic nub should sit just underneath the ribbon:

Then take the end with the seam in it, and place the other end of your fabric 2.5cm away from the ribbon edge/seam – pin to secure:

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Then start pinning your gathered fabric to the ribbon that will be on the inside, spreading out the gathers so they’re fairly even. Yeah, you probably could get technical and mark the half way and quarter points on your fabric and match them up on your ribbon, but I’m just eyeballing it.

Then sew along to secure your skirt to the ribbon.

7. Pin the tops of your two ribbon edges together, then top stitch around each edge of your ribbon so the seam allowance is completely encased and the ribbon is closed off.

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8. Sew on your bar and tack (making sure you get them aligned!):

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Pull out the gathering stitch you can see, then hem and you’re away!

Colette Sewalong: Perfecting Scallops for the Meringue

This post just wouldn’t be complete without a dodgy toile/muslin photo! So here is my completed Meringue toile, right on time as per the sewalong’s schedule. I cut an 8 at the waist and a 6 from the hips down, and it fit like a charm. No fitting adjustments required!

As I was haphazardly throwing this together, I clipped, trimmed then ironed the scallops without really thinking about how it would look. Of course, this didn’t yield a very attractive result – with me being unable to get a smooth curve on my scallops:

I then remembered reading sometime ago a fabulous article on the Threads Magazine website by the guru Susan Khalje about getting a good finish on scalloped edges – it’s definitely worth the read. Here’s how she does it:

1. Before clipping, ‘set’ the seams by pushing your iron inside the scallop and pressing over the scallop seam. I did this twice – once for each fabric side of the scallop. (I rushed ahead and clipped before I should have though…naughty). Doing this before clipping apparently strengthens the curve, whilst clipping it does weaken the seam to some degree. Having the form already ‘set’ will also help to give a smooth curved shape.

2. Clip! The important thing here is to ‘stagger’ your clips, rather than do both seam allowances together (like I did the first time). Susan also says it doesn’t hurt to be generous with your clipping:

3. Turn your scallop around, ‘roll’ the seam between your fingers to position it correctly then press! This clearly gives a far superior visual result to my first non-thinking attempt:

So. I love the skirt on its own, but truth be told, I’m not over the moon about it on me. I’m considering some rather drastic changes:

I’m going to add a waistband (which will be in the lilac linen for contrast), and I’m making it a two-tiered affair – with the scallops just above the half-way mark, and the skirt ending just above the knee. I’ll have to change the width of the scallops anyway so they fit in with the cutout pattern on the cream linen, and do some fancy pattern matching to get a nice even look about the skirt.

I’m going to nickname it the Pavlova – which is an Australian/New Zealand dessert, with a meringue base and a cream/fruit topping. So as the Pavlova dessert is like the Meringue + cream and fruit, so this skirt is the next iteration of its parent. Smart, eh?

I basically have two Meringue skirts here, I’ve kept the scalloped part and raised it up, taking in the side seams so they match the circumference at the waist and look relatively non-poufy. The one underneath just has a straight hem and I’ve tapered it slightly (ok, majorly) to be a little straighter.

I remembered the Coletterie Blog did a tutorial on making a waistband for their Meringue a while back which I followed too.

When I make this in my actual fabric though – I’m going to need to change the scallop design. Colette’s scallop has a frequency of 12cm (the length of the pattern repeat) whilst the cutout pattern on my linen has a repeat of 11.2cm. You wouldn’t think 8mm would make much of a difference, but it does!

So I’m off to do some number crunching and curve drawing to knock out my new ‘pattern’. Hopefully my modified version is still in the spirit of things and I’m not kicked out of the sewalong! :)

The Colette Sewing Handbook Sewalong!

The Meringue via Colette Patterns

Lucky me was the ever-so pleased recipient of the Colette Sewing Handbook at Christmas! Thanks Mum :)

On Tuesday morning I happened across the Coletterie blog to notice that Sarah from Rhinestones and Telephones and Erin from Miss Crayola Creepy have joined forces and will be doing a 5 month sewalong – one month per pattern from Sarai’s book. First up? The Meringue skirt.

Apart from loving a good sewalong, it seemed fortuitous that on Monday I had bought some fabric that was specifically for making my own Meringue, so it would seem silly not to join in!


I’m planning a double layer Meringue (I might have to call it the Pavlova, hehe), with the lovely lavender zin linen underneath, and the white linen with floral laser cutouts on top. Beautiful, non? Both from Tessuti.

I pulled these gorgeous fabrics together after being inspired by some Louis Vuitton skirts, dresses and pastel colours from their Spring 2012 RTW collection:

Louis Vuitton Spring 2012 RTW via

Louis Vuitton Spring 2012 RTW via

Louis Vuitton Spring 2012 RTW via

The time line as set by our illustrious sewalong leaders:
January 12 – Taking measurements and sewing the muslin.
January 19 – Fitting the muslin.
January 26 – Sewing the final garment.
January 31 – Meringue Parade – show off your finished garments.

So all I have to do today is take measurements and kick start my toile – from the Finished Garment Measurements table, it looks as though I’ll be cutting an 8 at the waist, grading down to a 6 at the hips. 

B8155: Christmas Cheer in Royal Blue

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Welcome 2012! I’m stoked to be starting off the new year with a new creation, this should be a good omen for all the finished projects to come I think! Although I’m a tad annoyed with myself for not ironing it before taking photos…

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The second version of my most favourite pencil skirt pattern – Burda 8155. This time I actually followed the instructions most of the way through as I’ve kept the waistband – unlike my first iteration where I used a gorgeous bright red grosgrain ribbon (see the Technicolour Dream skirt here).

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Mum was gracious enough to take the above photo – after which I was promptly told to sit up properly.

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I bought a gorgeous glass button from Etsy, and used a bound button hole on the waistband – you can see my bound button tutorial here.

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I found that had I left the length of the waistband as per the pattern (a size 38), it would have been too long. I cut about 6cm off the end – a much more manageable length! I ‘stitched in the ditch’ along the front leaving the seam allowance flat, reducing the bulk inside the waistband. The wool blend fabric was quite thick – so this worked perfectly, and the texture of the fabric meant that it’s nigh on impossible to see the ditch stitching at the front.

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I used the French seam finish technique along both of the side seams of the lining – you can see a tutorial on that here

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The fabric was a gorgeously soft royal blue basket-weave wool and nylon blend, by Alexander Wang and bought from EmmaOneSock. Beautifully thick and perfect for winter – lined in my favourite lining fabric – a black habotai silk. Shame I couldn’t get a zip with a colour to match quite properly… but one does the best with what one has!

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B8155: The Technicolour Dream Skirt

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Here is the first finished example of my favourite skirt pattern – Burda 8155. I love pencil skirts – so was curious to find out at what point in history they made their first appearance. 

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The most interesting anecdote has revolved around Mrs Berg – the first female aeroplane passenger back in 1908. This was of course when planes weren’t enclosed, so the pilots tied a piece of rope around her ankles (how romantic) to prevent her skirts from blowing up and undoing her modesty. Here she is:
This photo became a famous postcard, and the fashion houses of the day soon created the above skirts legacy which was nicknamed the ‘Hobble Skirt’:
There’s a fabulous dearth of information on the scandal of these skirts over at Edwardian Promenade. I can only image that over time as skirt lengths became shorter, we ended up with the version I’ve created:
I’m loving the grosgrain ribbon as the waistband – its a skirt look that seems to be popping up everywhere at the moment, from ASOS to Elli Saab‘s haute couture Spring/Summer 2011 range. 
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This skirt is the first step for me to start wearing more colour on the bottom, instead of just on the top. I think I’ll be getting quite a bit of wear out of it this summer!