Sunday, May 24, 2015


I guess I can't really term this weekend a "skirt catastrophe," since everything I've done had turned out really well! Still, you wouldn't know it to see the state of my craft table mid-project. Just to clarify, so that nobody thinks I have my shit even 20% together, "craft table" is what I call the plastic folding table I balance my sewing machine on while I work on projects. It's not ideal, but it's what I've got!

This was a long weekend for much of America, so I took advantage of a little time off to do some projects. I work retail, so I am one of the people who works so that the rest of America will still have access to charcoal and beer. My second and third jobs are education-related though, so I am usually off from them on national holidays. Because of this I was able to work on a few outfits I need to get done before Disneyland in three weeks.

That's right, I'm running off to the land of enchantment that is Disneyland! I'm going with my sister, the silent half of this collaboration, our friend from work, and some of her family. Since we can't dress up fully in the park (they don't want people who are not Disney staff to interact with other guests as characters, which I can definitely understand), we are making what I am told are called "Disneybound" outfits. I am not hip to the lingo, so I'm relying on my sister for this part. She knows the Tumblers.

Kate still has not decided what character she wants to do, because she's a terrible procrastinator. I mean, I know I am too, because I'm doing this 3 weeks before we leave, but at least I knew what I wanted to do in advance, and I have all the fabric. My original idea was to rock an Ariel-inspired crop and green shorts. Have you ever tried to find plus size green shorts made for an individual with no butt? Turns out it's difficult! My plan had to be slightly altered, so this weekend I ended up making a green lace overlay skirt with a purple waistband, perfect Ariel colors!

The skirt is, in fact, the purpose of this post. I have developed a method for a quick and easy skater skirt that I wanted to share. It's easy to make, adaptable to almost any body type, and can be made with not too many yards of almost any fabric.

So, before we get into the skirt, a few disclaimers.

1. I am not a good seamstress. There are probably 1098 better ways of managing this skirt. This is just one easy variation that seems good for beginners like myself. 

2. Yes, that ugly lime green towel is going to keep showing up. It's my ironing towel, so learn to deal with it. 

3. I suck at zippers. Let's just acknowledge this and move on. 

Ok, so we'll start with what you need. First off, measure your waist where you want the skirt to sit. I wear mine really high, so I go for my natural waist, which is 41". If I were wearing it at my hips I would go with 50". Measure wherever you think you will be most comfortable. We'll add 1" to this for seams and call this number W for your waist measurement. Now think about how full you want it to be. For a less full skirt I recommend multiplying the waist measurement by 1.5. For a fuller skirt you can go with 2, 2.5, or even 3 times your waist measurement. Add 2" to whatevrr you get after you multiplying and then we'll call that C, the circumference of the bottom of your skirt. 

You need two pieces of fabric now. One should be your W measurement long by 9" wide. This piece is for your waist band, which can either be the same color as your skirt or an accent fabric. If your waist measurement is 44" or less then good news! You can buy a quarter yard of your fabric and be done. If you need more than 44", you'll have to buy a half yard and seam it together before you move on to making the waist band. 

My W number is exactly 42", which worked out well, since the fat quarter I liked was 21"×9". I was able to cut it in half and sew it with the short ends together to make a 42"×9" piece that made a perfect band! 

Once you have you waist band W" by 9", you'll need to fold it in half and iron it, like below:

Believe me when I say I hate to tell people they need to iron. I used to be adamantly against ironing while I was sewing. I have learned, though, that the amount of time you save later by putting good creases in now is well worth it. 

Once it is ironed in half, open it up and fold each edge in, ironing again to create this shape:
What you're doing is creating a neat little pocket to fit the skirt into, with folded edges so that attaching the skirt hides the raw edges up inside. It also makes the waist band extra thick, giving it better structure and preventing it from rolling up when worn. 

This is what it should look like when you're done. By the time you finish folding in the edges the middle crease will probably be pretty flat, so go ahead and fold it in half (like shown) and give it another run over while the iron is still hot.

Now we will address the skirt fabric. Remember that C value we found? That, along with the desired length of the skirt and the width of your fabric, will determine how much fabric you need. Let's talk length. 22" makes a skirt that almost comes to my knees. Keep in mind, I'm measuring from my high natural waist, so it might be longer on you if you're wearing it at your hips. I also like 22" because most cottons are 44-45" wide, so I can just cut them in half. Some apparel fabrics are 57-60" wide, so I can get my desired length 3 times out of the width. Here's your formula for how many yards you need: C ÷ (number of times fabric width fits your desired length) ÷ 36. For example, let's say my C value is 120", I want my skirt 20" long from the waist band, and my fabric is 60". That fabric width would fit my desired skirt length 3 times, so I would say 120÷3÷36= 1 1/9 yards. This is a terrible number to tell the fabric clerk, so I would buy 1 1/4 yards. Please be nice to the fabric clerk! Not that I'm biased or anything, being one myself. 

Ok, so now you have your fabric. The next step is to cut it. We need to cut it into strip that run the full length you purchased and are as wide as your desired skirt length. For the above example that would mean cutting it into the pieces each 1.25 yards × 20". These pieces will be sewn together along the 20" side, giving you a piece with the approximate dimensions Length × C. Beautiful! The body of my skirt is the gorgeous exploding TARDIS print from Doctor Who. This post wasn't nerdy enough for me yet, so I had to bring that in.
Beautiful, isn't it? 

As shown below, I have sewn my pieces together, giving my a piece 108"×22", and I am ready to start attaching it to my waist band. 

The attaching process is not difficult, but it definitely needs a little bit of attention. The skirt part is obviously much longer than the waist band, and this is where the fullness and gathers of the skirt come from. We are going to be pinning the skirt inside the pocket created by ironing the waist, but we will need to do it in such a way that the gathers are spaced evenly. I like to start by pinning the middles and ends of each piece together. This way I know the spacing starts out even. Next I pin points half way between the middle and each end, folding the fabric into a pleat as I do. 

Keep pinning half way between each existing pin, making a pleat each time you do. I like to pin at the half, fourth, eighth, and sixteenth marks, then pleat any addition fabric between and pin it down.

I'm sure this could be accomplished by a gathering foot on a sewing machine, but I like this method. It allows you to put all the pleats the same way and regularly spaced if you want a pleated skirt look, or to do them irregularly and in different direction for a more gathered appearance. 

You can see in the picture above that you want the skirt fabric to go all the way to the top off the waist band. This way you will not have one part of the waist thicker than the other. *Insert joke here about how my whole waist is thick. Laugh a lot because my jokes are really funny.*

Here's the pinned product! 

Now it's time to sew. I like to use a zigzag stitch right up against the end of the waist band. Zigzag is a nice sturdy stitch, and by putting it right against the edge you stop the fabric from rolling up slightly when washed. Not a big deal, but irritating. 

All that's left is to seam it up the back and put in a zipper. 

Here's my skirt! I can't tell you how to put in the zipper, because I have no idea what I'm doing and just sew frantically on either side of the zipper until it doesn't come off when pulled. 

To finish the bottom you have a few options. You can roll and hem the edge, use a serger, or if you like to add one more color (and I always do), you can take advantage of this wonderful thing called bias tape. 

It comes in a variety of colors, even metallics, and is easy to use. Simply fold it over the edge of the fabric and sew it on!

That's the basic idea behind my skirts. I've made close to ten of them this way, perfecting as I go. My Poison Ivy and Wonder Woman skirts were done this way. Sometimes I make the waist band a little longer and put buttons on, seaming the body of the skirt all the way to the bottom of the waist band. However you decide to do it, make it your own! Please feel free to share your projects here, or let me know if you have any questions or suggestions about my design!

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