My sister was determined to sew the perfect pillow-case for her new ridiculously-shaped expensive pillow. Don’t ask me why someone needs a pillow the shape of a star crossed with a flower but she seemed to think it was awesome. She was sprawled on the ground measuring each of the pillow’s many sides when I suggested it might not be the best project to try as one of her first using a new sewing machine.
“Man, that looks hard and complicated,” I said.
“Why don’t you just start by making a basic skirt or something?”
She was convinced the pillow case would be much easier. I was convinced she was wrong because I know just how easy it is to make a basic skirt.
My Gran gave me a sewing machine for my 21st birthday, hoping I would carry on the family tradition of self-sufficiency and creativity in sewing my own clothes. I’d dabbled with sewing various times before, mostly gotten frustrated and mostly failed to produce anything wearable. So I decided that instead of giving up on sewing I would just lower my standards – start small, work at my own pace, and focus on creating something wearable – anything – and be satisfied with that.
So I sew skirts. I’ve sewed lots and lots of very very simple skirts and I’m proud of them. Gradually I’ve challenged myself with more complicated styles of skirts, but I am still yet to graduate to other items. That’s ok with me for now.
Maybe you’re like me and you like the idea of sewing but are lacking in the ‘spatial awareness’ part of your brain. Maybe you’ve given up on sewing because patterns are too hard to follow (I’m still scared of patterns) or because it takes too long… or because it costs too much and doesn’t seem worth it. Fabric and equipment is expensive now that sewing, like many other crafts, is seen as a ‘hobby’ rather than a lifestyle.
Below I will attempt to provide a step-by-step explanation of the easiest skirt design I have. The one you see in the photos took me no more than two or three hours to make and cost me no more than $5 in materials. The only catch is you need to invest in (or borrow) a sewing machine. Seriously, if I can do this, ANYONE can.
– Fabric with a width a bit longer than you want the final skirt to be, and a length longer than your hip circumference (this piece is 56’’ long and goes around my waist 1.5 times. This will be comfortable without being too flowy. You can go longer or slightly shorter.) I found this piece in an op shop – I’ve found this to be a great way to get bargains. Second-hand fabric is still unused and often large enough to make into a skirt. Make sure you work out which way the fabric should sit before chopping it – if it has any stretch it should stretch horizontally not vertically when the skirt is finished.
– Thick-width elastic of a length about 1 or 2 inches longer than the circumference of your hips or waist – (depending on whether you’ll want to wear the skirt on hips or waist. I measure it to fit on my waist without stretching so I can wear it there or stretch it to sit in my hips depending on the mood.) My piece is between 33’’ and 34’’ long. I buy this elastic in craft shops like Lincraft, Spotlight, etc. Funnily enough, it’s usually the priciest part of the piece but very worth it.
– Cotton (I generally just stick with black for most things – keeps it simple).
– Sewing machine (sorry but I think this would be very hard to do without one!)
– A sewers’ tape measure (not essential but very handy).
– Some cheap coloured cotton (not essential but I have used red cotton during the making of this skirt. It gets thrown away).
– Fold the elastic in half and place a pin at the halfway point. Also place pins at the quarter and eighth points. (It’s much simpler to do this by just folding than bothering with the tape measure.)
– Take the fabric and examine which is the ‘front’. Usually the front has pattern of lines whereas the back is less textured. Turn it over so the back is facing you.
– Repeat the same folding and pinning process to divide the fabric into its eight parts.
– Join up each eighth on the fabric with its corresponding eighth point on the elastic. The fabric should overlap onto the elastic about a third of the width of the elastic. You should now have pinned the fabric to the elastic in nine places. Since the fabric is longer than the elastic, it will gape between pins.
– Jump on the sewing machine and get ready to sew! For this part I prefer to use cheap red cotton because it is very easy to see. This initial line of sewing will get ripped out later on. You will be sewing the back (inside) of the skirt so put it under the machine with the back facing up.
– Sew the fabric to the elastic by scrunching the fabric under the machine foot as you go along. Try and scrunch it kind of evenly all the way along (but don’t be too particular!). This shouldn’t be too hard to monitor since you have a pin dividing up the fabric at every eighth point. I probably don’t need to say this but don’t sew over the pins!
– It’s already starting to look like a skirt! Swap the cheap red cotton on the machine for the good black variety. Turn the skirt over to see the front-side facing you.
– Choose a zig-zag stitch (a straight stitch breaks when the elastic stretches but any funny zig-zag one won’t). Zig-zag stitch the front of the elastic closer to the bottom of the elastic than the red stitch. This stitch will be faintly visible when you’re wearing the skirt so keep it fairly neat. Doing this while looking at the front of the skirt will give you the opportunity to put extra scrunch or extra space between the ripples in the skirt if the last scrunching-stich left it looking uneven. Keep the whole piece of fabric in line with the stitch – don’t let the bottom of the skirt fall behind while you’re sewing because it can lead to a false sense of how even the ripples are.
– When you’re happy with the zig-zag stitch, unpick and discard the red straight stitch.
– Take the two ends of the skirt and check how it fits around your waist. Place a couple of pins in the spot where it should be sewed in order to fit. Continue pinning the two skirt ends together all the way to the bottom of it along the edge.
– A quick straight stitch right down this line will make it into a real skirt! I like to sew forwards and backwards a few times over the elastic just to ensure it’s really well joined.
– Trim off any excess elastic and fabric from the edge, leaving about 1cm hanging past the joining stitch.
– Zig-zag sew right down the edge. This will prevent any fraying (my cheap version of an overlocker). It looks mighty ugly on the inside but when you’re wearing the skirt nobody will know!
– Put on the skirt and decide how long you want it to be. Trim it if necessary, leaving a bit more than 1’’ free to create a hem. (I fully intended this skirt to be above the knee when I started but because I left it long until this point I had the option. I decided to keep it long for now and can always shorten it later!)
– Make a hem by folding the skirt bottom over itself twice. Place pins all the way along then sew it with the outside of the skirt facing you (you can do it the other way but this usually makes for a neater finish).
– Wear and enjoy!
Please don’t be daunted by all the words. This skirt is SERIOUSLY easy. It’s the easiest thing I can make (I know that’s not saying much but then again, my standards for easy-ness are pretty high!). You can make some pretty great-looking skirts just by choosing great fabric for this pattern.
What do you think? Has anyone made a skirt in this way? Does it make sense or have I missed out on any critical points? Do you have any easier and/or better patterns?