Never let it be said that I was afraid of a challenge. Well, a sewing one. I shy away from non-sewing ones in my daily life all the time. But that’s for my shrink to work out. In the meantime, what the fuck was I thinking?
I’ve been playing with the idea of a quilted skirt since even before Gertie first made one last year. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of free motion quilting ever since I discovered it was a thing that exists. (Especially once I got a machine with feed dogs you could drop.) And while I’m intrigued by the thriftiness of patchwork, I am less attracted to the mysterious desire to chop perfectly good bits of fabric up into ittybitty pieces, however charming and artistic the result may be. But free motion quilting—drawing with thread—seemed right up my alley.
Especially when I started researching historical costuming and ran across the fabulous quilted silk “petticoats” of the 1700s.
Now, odds of me wearing a fabulous silk petticoat like the one above (from the Met)are fairly low, but odds of wearing a fifties-style quilted skirt? Well, that seemed at least probable.
(Incidentally, throw the term “boutis” in the search in Pinterest. OMG.)
And if I can do it as a shop project without having to fork out for the weird stuff I don’t have lying around (like batting)? Even better.
My fabric of choice was the “cotton satin” Fabricland got in again this spring. (I thought cotton satin was sateen, but anyway.) it’s delicious. It’s the same fabric I used for my polkadot dress last summer. I don’t know if it really is different from, say, a quilting cotton for this application, but I love it so whatever. 🙂
For the pattern, I went with McCall’s 7197. I wanted a flared skirt without darts, but not a full circle as I thought that might be too much.
The batting is a bamboo needlepunch because it feels so soft and yummy to touch as well as being quite thin. I was hoping it might make a softer final fabric than a cotton batting, although then I went and double-layered it since the quilting on my samples looked much better double-layered, and then I quilted the whole border so densely it could probably stand up all by itself. So I suspect my final product is not readily distinguishable from the final result of any of the cotton battings.
Initially I had grand hopes of making my skirt reversible, one side black, one side white, and contrast quilting on the white side.
My first tests of actual quilting quickly convinced me that contrast quilting is just not a good idea at my current skill level (I have improved a bit since the above sample, my ego wants me to mention, but nowhere near enough.)
As for the finer points of free motioning, I confess my research was not extensive. I spent some time on Pinterest gathering links, read a web tute on the basics, which didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know. It may have helped that while I’ve done little quilting and no free motion quilting before, I’ve appliquéd and I darn jeans like nobody’s business, which is much like free motion except for all the pretty and artistic parts.
The most helpful info was a collection of tutorials from a site called The Inbox Jaunt on various motifs. Most of which are way beyond me, but they were fun to play with and give me an idea of the range of possibilities, and the few I could master I used to death in the skirt. Mainly those big peony-looking flowers, also the leaves and the checkerboard squares.
I started with a “frame” of conventional quilting, using my walking foot. Last time I quilted anything, I didn’t have such a foot, and boy what a difference it makes. The layers just stayed together. Nothing crept or pulled—even my pin basting was minimal and almost unnecessary. And the quilting bar made it much faster to quilt all those little squares.
Initially I had envisioned a sinuous or spiraled motif for the border, but my skillz were inadequate to the challenge. I settled instead for lots of playing with those big flowers; the organic shape seemed to be the most tolerant of my inability to keep my free motion curves smooth and my hands’ occasional tendency to twitch sideways.
I made liberal use of the wash-away marker, and less liberal use of the pale peach chalk pencil. I prefer the wash away marker, FYI. I still can’t get all the damn peach out. I only used it because my wash away marker died and I couldn’t get a new one for a few days.
I wish I could say my quilting has improved exponentially, but I think all the spirals and feathers I yearn for are still beyond me. I did get a lot smoother over the course of my practicing, though, and I only sometimes jerk randomly any more. So there’s that.
I cut a size 10 based on the final measurements given on the pattern. It’s small on my waist, but I really wanted it to be snug to hold up the weight of the quilted skirt. If you look at the pattern it’s a contoured waistband, so technically the top of the waist band would be the natural waist, which is what the pics show. But the pattern piece has the waist line marked at halfway down the waist band. And personally, I wanted it to sit so the bottom of the waistband was at the natural waist. So we’ll see how that turns out.
Other than the flower motif, I filled in the border with leaves and scallops and squiggles. Above the border, I wanted a checkerboard pattern sort of randomly fading out into the upper skirt, and I threw the occasional little flower in there too.
I bound the edges of the skirt just like a quilt, though the waistband I finished more normally, for less bulk. Instead of a zip I went with buttons at the back, and so far the back seam isn’t stitched at all, just tacked with a nonfunctioning button partway down. If this isn’t enough I will hand-stitch it shut invisibly.
Guys, I won’t lie. This was a shitload of fun and I am so fucking proud of myself right now I can’t even. It was a lot of very intense work, but I love the level of detail I got, the intensity of the texture. I love crazy intricate detailing (hence the intermittent Victorian obsession) but very rarely reach that level in my own work, so to achieve it feels amazing. I want to just sit there and pet it and gaze at the glorious texture. Which is not to say it’s perfect, far from it, but where I got from where I started? That feels truly epic.