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Finishing Up- Notes on Skirts

September 27, 2013

Previously on “BA learns to sew and Then Tells the Internet”, BA made a skirt, and was wondering how people see the tiny dots made by the pattern transfer gidget. Sometime between the first skirt and the second skirt, I was hanging out with my sister, and complaining about the little dots, wondering how people see them. At that time she said 4 little words that changed my life. “They use transfer paper.”

I can see!  I can see!

I can see! I can see!

Well, I felt pretty dumb. I mean, it’s not like carbon paper is a foreign concept to me. I have used it in office settings, I have used it to transfer an image onto wood when I was younger and took a few painting classes with my mother, and we use it at one of my current jobs to transfer images onto pottery. I’m actually not certain why it never dawned on me that there would be a similar product for fabric.

Another trip out to Jo-Ann Fabrics proved, that yes there is, and OH MY GOSH it makes it so much easier to see what the heck you are doing! It even comes in an assortment of colors, which is not only fun, but let’s you pick something that either blends well with your fabric, or contrasts so you can see it better!

And that was my main realization on Skirt 2. Otherwise it was very similar to the pattern for skirt 1, but with more ruffled layers. So it took more fabric, and the pieces were somewhat bigger, but other than that, I was falling into a very comfortable groove here. The zipper went in quite easily. I even figured out a way to cut out my pieces so that the fabric I chose, which had writing all over it, went in two different directions (up and down for the ruffles, and left to right for the band).

All in all, it’s a good project, it has so far survived a wash, and I have received a few compliments on it as well!


I’m seriously proud of this one, and that it didn’t take me all that long to build…

So with that under my belt, it was time to head for the next unknown- elastic. So I moved on to my next pattern. I had chosen a skirt that looked cute, and this time required two different fabrics, one main fabric (which was purple in my case) and one contrast fabric (in orange). I just really happened to like those colors.

Now this skirt, although the pieces were more round, was even easier to put together!  There wasn’t any silly gathering to worry about, and the skirt itself went together in a night. Well, right up to the elastic part.

The instructions said to basically sew the waistband to split it into three horizontal sections. Then you cut the elastic, and insert, sew the ends together, and close up the skirt. All this sounds quite easy now (especially after I’ve done it once). However, what the instructions didn’t say was how long the elastic needed to be!  I mean, it didn’t ignore the elastic altogether.  In fact, it stated to cut it to “a comfortable waist measurement plus 1″ (2.5cm)”. Now, I love the metric system as much as anybody, and I will be the first to admit that thinking in base 10 is a whole lot easier than thinking in base 12 and splitting that into 16 different sections. However, I had done the rest of the skirt in the imperial system (and taken my measurements that way) so I wasn’t about to change that up just then.  1″ it was! Now I just needed a comfortable waist measurement.

At first I tried measuring my waist, and then adding an inch. Although this did work to a point (in that I had a piece of elastic that fit comfortably around my waist), it kind of defeated the purpose of the elastic, which I assumed then, and still now, is to stretch so that the skirt is held firmly on your body. Luckily I pinned the elastic before attempting to sew it in, so when I tried on the skirt, and it immediately fell to my ankles, I decided that was not what the instructions were talking about.

I’m not certain why I didn’t turn to Google at that point. A quick Google search today told me that most people who write on websites say a good rule of thumb is to cut the elastic 4″-6″ smaller than your waist measurement. I would believe that they are most likely correct, and have bought more fabric to try this experiment again soon.  What I did was more akin to what my math teachers called the “Estimation Method” for solving a math problem. I cut some elastic off, pinned and tried the skirt on again.  After about 5 cuts, I had shortened the elastic by about 10″. This seemed to hold the skirt on, so I went with it. There were two things I discovered later, however, which made me wish I had Googled elastic.

All in all, it worked out pretty well...

All in all, it worked out pretty well…

First issue: I wasn’t doing my experiments with all of my “data” per se.  You see, I had done my estimation with one strip of elastic. The pattern called for 3 strips. Similar to ropes in a rigging system, where adding multiple ropes allows you to rig something with more weight, adding another band of elastic seems to make the holding-up properties of the elastic stronger. Which is fine and all, but when I got done I found that the skirt was tighter than I expected it to be from my pinning.

Second (completely unforseen) issue: I think I used the wrong type of fabric for this skirt. The pattern is intended for “lightweight fabrics” and then goes on to list a whole bunch of fabrics that would work well with it. Two of those included “cotton lawn” and “cotton blends”.  I had grabbed cotton fabric, and figuring that it seemed lighter than someone’s lawn (keeping in mind that yes, my comparison was a lush front yard), figured it would be fine for now. In the end, the fabric I chose was pretty stiff, so instead of hanging down like in the picture on the front, the skirt kind of sticks out about halfway between a skirt and what you think of when I say “little kid’s ballerina tutu”.  On the plus side, I didn’t make it too small to wear, and I work at an art studio, so I can totally pull that off.  I’m going to try again soon with the lighter fabric though, and see if it looks more correct. (It also hit me recently that a lighter fabric may need less tight of a band to stay up, and therefore that 4″-6″ may work a whole lot better.)

At this point it should be noted that I went back to the first skirt (the one that I was now really used to) and made another one just one size smaller than I had made the original.  I kind of measure out right in between sizes, and I wanted to know the difference. I really didn’t see much of one.  The smaller skirt (I think) sits more where it is intended to? It doesn’t seem like the pieces that you cut for one size down are really that much smaller. I’d almost be surprised to find out it was more than an inch. I feel like I probably have store bought clothing in both size equivalents. The coolest thing, actually, about this one size smaller skirt was the space fabric I found at the store to make it out of. I have actually received compliments from random strangers with this one! (Most of my friends just laugh and tell me I’m one of the only people they know who can pull something like this off…)

My fun skirt!

My fun skirt!

Stay tuned for my next post: “I think I’m good on bottoms, let’s try tops!” Where BA thinks it’s the coolest thing ever as she makes a loose fitting shirt!

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