A further invocation of spring

Mermaid skirt

Since the first one worked so well. Well, it did—the temperatures I’m complaining about right now are a full 20° C warmer than the ones I was complaining about at the beginning of the month. It’s still snowing, however.

This fabric was snatched up in the frenzy of stash-building earlier this month when I discovered Fabricland had actually put some decent knits in their clearance section. Mainly I like the colour, but it also has an interesting sueded surface and a moderate stretch. It seemed a little heavy and so was passed over during the Great Cowl Experiment (which Sigrid’s versions are making me ache to revisit, by the way…), but I thought it would be great for a springy little skirt.

My first thought was a half-circle like Hip Dropped Stitches’ gorgeous one, but I was concerned that the nap running in different directions might end up looking odd (I can’t tell if there is a direction, but if I pretend there isn’t, you know I’ll find out there is when I photograph the skirt.)

My next thought was a mermaid skirt. I’ve been wanting a little, flared, gored skirt since… well, aside from always liking them, Loutracey posted this one lots back in Self-Stitched September, and then Big in Japan copied this one, and then most recently Yoshimi unveiled this gorgeous (red!) version. Yum, yum YUM.

Evolution of a pattern: right, original piece; centre, doubled; left, tripled width.

What flummoxed me for the longest time was a pattern. Obviously a straight gored skirt would be easy to draft (bum-fitting aside), but I wanted something with a graceful curve hugging the hips and then flaring out below. This would take a bit more thought. And of course, going out and buying a pattern would be too easy. Lekala had a couple of versions I considered, but the one had too many panels (a 10-gore skirt, in fact) and looked too long (which is SO weird, because if you look at their artist’s rendering, the skirt comes to below the knee. The pattern piece is only 22″ long, people, and the waistband’s not that wide either. I mean, I know I have long legs, but not that long.), and the other one, while lovely, seemed to have a bit too much flare. I wanted the skirt to bell out, but not be a circle dropped to my hips.  (I can’t believe I just admitted that a skirt can be too full. That’s like saying pants can be… too long. Or that the Blondissima got your hair too blonde).

Skirt closeup, showing waistband

Anyway, when this fabric came along and the idea crystallized, I went back to the Lekala patterns, thinking I could probably make one work. I knew the length I wanted (just above knee), and that I wanted a six-gore skirt with wider CF and CB panels and narrower panels at the sides.

So I revisited the Lekala patterns, and eventually printed off Lekala 5826, mainly because it required less paper. Man was that a tiny pattern piece! Comparatively, anyway.

So, I had the pattern piece for a 10-gore skirt that was designed to fit me (or rather, someone with hips my size but a “normal” waist) at the natural waist. What I wanted was a 6 gore skirt that sat lower on my hips, with wider front and back panels. It was time to get creative.

Some quick measuring informed me that if the pattern piece as is were used to make a 12-gore, rather than a 10-gore, skirt, it would have pretty much exactly the “waist” measurement I was looking for. The length and flare still seemed good—it would be a very short skirt if worn at the true waist. Furthermore, a 12-gore arrangement is much easier to convert to the uneven panels I wanted—I could make the CF and CB panels the width of 3 original gores, and the side panels the width of 2 original gores. Perfect! I checked the amount of stretch on my fabric, to make sure I didn’t need to subtract ease, and got tracing. I used the highly scientific method of tracing the pattern piece, then sliding it over so the waist and hip notches lined up and tracing the other side. Aside from running off my paper and having to piece in a bit at the hem, it worked really well, although I can’t swear there isn’t a bit of flattening along the hem curve on the 3-times-wide panel.

So, I had my pattern. Time to lay it out.

Back view

Blerg. Now I remember the second reason I had hesitated making one of these things—man are they wasteful of fabric! Especially since I couldn’t reverse any of the pieces due to nap-related fears. This little, itty bitty, not-even-knee-length skirt used up my full two metres of fabric, with barely enough left over for the wide, fold-over waistband I wanted. Of course there are plenty of (rather large) scraps… but seriously! I could probably have gotten two shirts out of that thing! As it is, maybe the scraps will be large enough to play with glovemaking… faux-suede sky-blue gloves would be lovely, don’t you think?


It was pretty quick to sew up, although I did inevitably serge the two wide panels together almost right off the bat. I don’t pick out serged seams, so I just cut that seam off. As it turned out (due to that magic of stretch fabric, even when it didn’t seem overly stretchy when tested) the skirt needed a fair bit of taking in anyway so it wasn’t a problem. I took a couple of cm off each seam, and then took the two side seams in another inch or so.

Skirt---spread out

The waistband is a wide rectangle folded over and applied exactly as the neckband in this tutorial.; I determined the length by wrapping the piece around my hips until it seemed like it was a good tightness. This wound up being a smidge smaller than the skirt opening after I’d taken it in, which seems about right. I didn’t have enough clear elastic to include it in the waist seam… we’ll see if I regret that in the future. Since the skirt’s absolutely the same front or back, whereas I am not, it has the potential to ride up in the back, but if I fold the waistband properly I can prevent that. If the problem persists I can always trim it at the front later; I didn’t do a hem, just trimmed the bottom edge smooth by running through my serger without thread.

It actually turned out quite a bit longer than I had thought it would—it’s hovering just below knee length where I was expecting it to be above. I guess that has to do with adding the waistband and where it sits on my hips, and the fact that there’s no need to take up a hem… anyway, I like it very much, although I’m going to have to figure out what it works with other than just tank-tops. It’s lean enough on the bottom that any puff on top—like the puffed sleeves on my JJs or a cowl neck on a shirt—makes me feel top-heavy, so we’ll see. I may have to make a shorter version in the future, though, out of a less drapy fabric to see more of the “mermaid” shape.

I do like the blue with my red shoes!

(But for now, since it is still snowing, I’m going to put my sweater back on!)



Filed under Sewing

23 responses to “A further invocation of spring

  1. spring in a skirt, i love it!!!

    by the way you should totally make your own skirt block… i have notes from the course i did which i will scan and email to you, then you can manipulate the hell out of the basic shape without having to choose a starting pattern, same as you do with your jeans and what used to be lydia!!!

  2. I’m a big fan of below-the-knee, and I think it looks lovely on you.

  3. I like the blue with the red too, and your skirt is exactly the essence of spring! I’m waiting for our spring here, and waiting some more:(

  4. Well, it was a lot of fabric, but look how cute it turned out! And I agree the red in your shoes is great with that blue. The color reminds me of Dorothy’s shoes in the Wizard of Oz.

  5. I like how you have it fitted through the hips, then flared. I used to make these for flamenco dancing, and you are right they eat up yards and yards of fabric, but they are so great to wear.

  6. So pretty! That’s a lovely color blue. I like that style of skirt. I don’t own anything like it.

  7. Beautiful skirt! Spring will get here eventually. I’m also moving on to spring items. That way we’ll be ready when it comes…in June. 😉

  8. very feminine skirt, I’d love something like that in my wardrobe! thanks for the tute link, checked that out!

  9. Very nice skirt!
    There is another reason why it might be longer than you expected: full skirts in knit fabrics tend to stretch out a bit under their own weight. There’s nothing wrong with that and it can’t be fixed, it’s just one of the little things which can happen to knit skirts.

    By the way, gored skirts are very easy to draft yourself. I’ve posted a tutorial for it here: http://petitmainsauvage.blogspot.com/2010/03/gored-skirt-tutorial.html
    and there must be many, many others all over the web. For the kind of gores you wanted, I would have started drafting as if for 8 gores, and then, before making the flares, doubled the gores for center front and back.

    Of course, if you made a straight skirt sloper, you could draft this skirt based on that, and shape front and back differently. However, in a knit fabric, all that extra work in shaping might not even show.

    • Yes, I’ve looked at yours and I think some others, too. 🙂 I guess I still like the comfort of starting from a “real” pattern… I’ll get past it one of these days, I promise 😉

  10. Oh it’s lovely! And very spring-y. 😀 Despite it being longer than you thought, I think this length looks really good on you.

  11. Super cute, I would wear that skirt weekly in the summer. I also have those same red shoes, whenever I wear them they bring a little smile to my face:). Who doesn’t love a simple red shoe?

    • Payless? 😉

      I love ballet flats in general, and red ones are a wardrobe necessity, IMO. This is my second pair in the last three years and I will probably need another one before the summer is out…

  12. very pretty, and I bet you are itching for spring to wear it.
    my local library has a very old book, maybe was a textbook, on skirt drafting. Takes you from skirt block to any style and makes it totally simple. Sewing = math and I like it that way! I have checked this book out at least 10 times, nobody else seems to care it about it. I wish they had one for pants.

  13. Wow… this is the hugest compliment to be linked to by you!!! Thank you!!!

    The skirt is lovely! I enjoy and learn so much from the detail about your process…

  14. Your skirt turned out so well! You look fabulous in it, too 🙂 Knit skirts are wonderfully comfy.

  15. Right on! This turned out really well! These skirts do take up a fair amount of fabric, but for me it’s totally worth it because of how much I wear them. Comfortable, bike-able and it’s a skirt, so you know, that means I’m not a complete slob, right?

  16. i love this. FEH. i wish my brain worked like yours. i read 10 gore into 6 gore and feel as if a blood vessel somewhere may burst from the pressure.

  17. ali

    what a great skirt! all those panels — I have no doubt you’ll have fine further mixing and matching this pattern up 🙂

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