Sunday, March 20, 2011

patchwork skirt goodness

difficulty level: boy scout dropout
i get really bored at work. and angry. and frustrated with my life and all of humanity. i hate my goddamn job. one of the things i do to try to stay sane while there is take craft projects to work on while i talk to idiots. my entire office is filled with people so uncreative and generally useless that they stare at you like you have 4 heads for making your own dinner. they have no idea what to make of my crafts so they don't tell me to stop. this is fine with me, it makes them leave me alone.
i had it in my head that i wanted to make a fun patchwork peasant skirt for spring and it seemed like an easy enough project. i was going to fix the sewing machine to do it but that never ended up happening. also, 50lbs antique sewing machines can't come with me to work. that's ok, have needle and thread, will travel. this is a very forgiving and fairly portable project but it is very time consuming by hand, especially because i back stitched all the seams for added strength since i want the final product to be able to take some abuse. i'm hard on my stuff and have too much time on my hands, what can i say? this took several months of working on it casually. if i'd used the machine and focused it could have been done in an afternoon or two. oh well, it's barely spring now so lots of time to enjoy it still. word to the wise: do wearable time consuming projects a season in advance. spring skirts in the winter, fall scarves in the summer, warm socks and sweaters in the fall, etc. it makes sure you get lots of use out of your creations and keeps you looking forward to the next section of the year. just don't forget to enjoy the current season!
so. we start with the basic idea. this is going to be 4 tiers, each bigger then the last by, lets say 50%. simple wide elastic waist band, patch pockets, maybe an appliqué or two, some lace along one of the tiers somewhere. i was going to do a little beaded belly bracelet thing but scrapped that idea as A) i have no desire to draw attention to my stomach, and B) it would make it much less washable if it's attached. i went to dressew while they had a huge sale on and picked up 1/2-1 meter of some 9 lightweight cottons, mostly fun prints that i thought looked nice together. i have lots of fabric leftover. i might do another one by machine. or some other fun patchwork thing. i like this type of organic, make-it-up-as-you-go design.
take measurement of waist, add 50% so it gathers nicely, divide roughly into 6 (or however many patches you want in the first tier). this gives you the width of the bits for the top. for the length i took the total length i wanted the skirt and divided by 4. for the top tier i added an extra 2 inches for the waistband. that gave me top patches of about 12"x11" if i remember correctly. yours may be different. remember to leave some 1/4-1/2" for seam allowance. cut them out (pinking sheers will save you lots of future headache in fraying or surging or french seaming) in the colours that please you. lay them out like so: [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ] and see if you like the order. remember that the two ends will be joined together in a loop. stitch them all together. you know to put the right sides together so your raw edges are on the inside, right? course you could just overlap them or put the edges on the outside on purpose, if that's how you roll. or if you fuck up and want to say you did it on purpose. now fold over the top and make a sleeve for your elastic. leave about a 2" gap that you'll close after.
tip->measure your elastic by simply wrapping at around yourself, put the measuring tape down. they all stretch differently and you may want more or less tightness. leave an inch or two of overlap on your elastic and mark in chalk where they overlap before you cut. you can thread your elastic through the sleeve easier if you stick a big safety pin in the end first. make sure it's lying flat, then sew the elastic to itself securely. close your gap and spread out the fabric so it's gathered evenly. sew through the elastic in several lines so it doesn't twist inside while you're wearing it.
ok, have mini skirt so far, yes? tier two will be 50% bigger then tier 1. go get a calculator. divide into the amount of patches that pleases you. i did some bigger and smaller for fun and randomness. it doesn't have to be perfect. sew into a loop like we did before and we're ready to attach 2 to 1. i found it easiest to leave tier 2 inside out and put it around tier 1 laid out on a table. that way your right sides are together. find the middle of each on either side and pin to each other. then find the far fold of tier 2 on either side and pin it to the far fold of tier one. make sense? so far we should have the two pieces pinned together in 4 places evenly around the circle so the four compass points of each layer are pinned to each other and tier two has big loops of extra fabric between the pins. unfortunately i didn't take pics or this would be easier to explain. now for each section you've created you're going to find the middle of each layer and pin it together. repeat that until you have a pin about every inch and layer two is all nicely evenly gathered onto the bottom of tier 2. if you pick it up and shake it out you should see how you now have a knee-length skirt that's wider at the bottom. stitch that down, flattening the gathering as you go.
repeat the steps for tier 2 to make tiers 3 and 4. now you have an ankle length gypsy-style skirt that flares dramatically at the bottom! have someone help you pin it while you're wearing it for the final hem.
i added wide lace along the bottom of tier 2. i was originally going to put it along the hem but decided it looked better in the middle. adding it to the top of a tier where it's gathered would have been much harder to make it look nice since the fabric wouldn't have been flat there. i added a few random patches to add bits of colour and two patch pockets which i'm totally in love with. not enough of my clothes have pockets and these are adorable and useful! put appliqués and patches and pockets wherever you like. just fold over all the edges of the patch size of your choice and sew directly down as close to the edge of the patch as possible. that sewing will show so try to be neat about it. unless you'd prefer to be messy about it in contrasting thread, that would be fun too. for pockets hem one edge before you attach it and don't sew down that side, obviously. the pic is not mine but it is the same style. i'll replace it with my own when i get my damn camera working


  1. I love this! I may just have to make myself one!!!

  2. I absolutely love those skirts, and would love to have one. Sewing, though .... well, I HAVE a sewing machine, but I've never actually used it.

  3. this might be a slightly ambitious project to start on simply because there's a lot of seams involved but it's all pretty simple. it depends how much patience you have for new projects and how temperamental your machine is. i have two, neither one works because the $#^%$^! tension is screwed up and i can't seem to speak the magic spell to make them behave. the repair place wants $100 just to look at either of them. this makes me sad. anyways, if you want a super simple project to see if your machine will play nicely i'd suggest handkerchiefs. old sheets and pillowcases make great ones and they're much nicer then disposables during allergy season. this would be a good second project though! and a good way to use up old clothes or scraps