The first memory I have of sewing was when I was around six years old. It was pair of navy tights with a hole in the toe. I got my mom’s needle and thread, sat on the edge of her bed and repaired away. I’d love to say I was a natural, and while the hole was gone, what was left was a gnarled, knotted mess of navy tights and white thread.
I got better over the years thanks to my mom showing me simple techniques. Then in college (the first one – Stephen F. Austin State U) I took a costuming class as part of my theatre major. I’d like to say I am now brilliant at sewing but I like to cheat/cut corners; sometimes this works and other times it is a disaster. The seam ripper is my arch nemesis but oh so handy.
My most recent project was to make a skirt. I have a few skirts that I love the cut and have been wearing them for many years now (at least five). I had bought several different prints to make maternity clothes and then nursing tops. None of those plans ever came to fruition – mainly because those projects didn’t seem easy without a pattern. Did I mention I like to cut corners? Finally I decided I could make skirts and went to my attic to pick the fabric for my first skirt. My options were dragons, black background/red and white flowers or geishas. What instead caught my eye was fabric I’ve had for close to 10 years. I had originally planned to make pot holders/trivets with the fabulous sushi print.
Once I thought about having a sushi skirt, I could not let it go. I didn’t have enough fabric for the whole skirt so I decided to get a complimentary solid color for the waist band and an underskirt that showed below the sushi hemline. During Thanksgiving break 2011, Ike and I went to the fabric store and found the perfect color. I tend to gravitate towards the cotton fabrics quilters use because they are easy to work with, there are a lot of different prints/colors, and usually priced reasonably.
My first step was to choose the skirt style. I decided on a 3-4″ waistband, pleats, hemline just below the knee, with pockets. Having a toddler means I have no extra hands, ever. If a skirt doesn’t have pockets, it’s almost useless to me.
I washed, dried and ironed the material before making any cuts. I also made a couple sketches to help think through what I needed to do. Getting the sides of the outer and underskirt skirt sewn with the pockets and the waistband sewn and stitched was fairly easy. Then I had to figure out how to do the pleats. Because I’m stubborn, and convinced I could do this myself, I didn’t use the internet but instead just thought about what I needed to do.
One month later during winter break I finally figured it out! I put the inner and outer skirt together. To measure out the pleats I used a scrap of fabric (see photo) that I had cut off of one of Ike’s onesies I converted to a regular shirt. Even though I hate pinning, I dutifully and diligently pinned the pleats.
Once I got the inner and outer skirts sewn with their pleats, I laid out the skirt and waistband in preparation to attach them. My biggest challenge was the opening since I was using the pocket to reduce the amount of button holes I would need and maximize the opening to accommodate the weight gain that will happen once I stop nursing. So, another month of thinking . . .
It wouldn’t be an authentic “cutting corners” project if I didn’t have to use my seam ripper at least once. I had to redo where the top of the pocket attached to the skirt as I had sewn both sides (at the top) together instead of leaving it open to create a wider opening when the skirt was fully unbuttoned.
When I started to stitch the waistband and skirt together (Superbowl Sunday) I didn’t pin because it was the side no one would see. Thankfully, it turned out and I didn’t have to seam rip anything.
As you can see, I’m not always reckless and I pinned the front of the waistband (possibly excessively).
Now came the difficult part. Buttonholes. Yes, they really aren’t that difficult but my sewing machine is on a zigzag strike which makes sewing buttonholes nearly impossible. Thankfully, a friend from church has a sewing machine and graciously put the four buttonholes in my skirt while I chased Ike around her home.
The buttons I chose were some I pulled off an old, moth eaten wool cardigan I dearly loved and did not want to get rid of. In addition to reusing the buttons and resurrecting a piece of my clothing history, I got the added benefit of having buttons that look a little like sushi rolls!
It took me another week or so before I finally ironed AND pinned the outer and under skirts in preparation for hemming. My goal was to finish the skirt before my birthday in March and I made it! The next skirt I plan on making will HOPEFULLY not take me four months to finish. I do know that the next skirt will not be (nearly) as full of whimsy.
While I worked, Ike was super helpful. He played, happily, in his playpen my parents shipped from Texas in the trunk of a 1953 Ford Tudor. The one thing he wasn’t so keen on was sharing the play pen with one of my old Cabbage Patch dolls.
And now for the reveal . . .