August 10, 2011

A twirly skirt tutorial (or how not to do it)

I mentioned this awhile ago--I decided to do a sort of tutorial on how to make these twirly skirts. Except I completely messed up. In all my born days I have never messed up these skirts so badly. Well maybe in April when I got talking with JoAnna while I was sewing and made Orianna's twice as full as it should be and Lily's half as long as it should be. Alright, this was my second worse mess up. Anyway, I am really prone to doing things wrong, so I don't know why I decided that I could be an oracle of wisdom on making these skirts. Probably because I am really prone to thinking that this one time it will be different.

Anyway, while making these skirts for Almonte convention, I was endlessly amused with myself for thinking I could do a tutorial, even one about something I have made 20-30 of. And by the end of making these skirts, I had laughed long and hard at myself (I can really amuse myself--obviously I don't get out much!) and I ended up being very fond of their messed-up-ness. So I am going to give you the tutorial anyway. I don't care if you don't want to make skirts or don't know any little girls to make skirts. You are going to learn how. Or sort of how. Well at least vaguely how.

This is how they start out--math. I measure the girls waists, which were 19 and 24 inches. From there, you can either double that number for each tier or multiply it by 1.5 each time. I generally do the 1.5 thing. Next, I measure one of the girls skirt that is a nice length on them to determine length. Since I was using Charm packs (pre-cut 5" squares from Moda, all coordinating) for these skirts, the two middle layers had to be 5" in length, so the waist band and the ruffle at the bottom were what I varied for the different lengths.

Once you determine the height of the waistband, you need to add bout 1.5-2.5 inches to that number, since you have to fold it over to make a casing (tunnel) for the elastic. For the ruffle, you add .5" or .75" for a hem.

Once the math is done, you get to mess with colors. I decided which charms (the 5" squares) I wanted next to each other. Actually, since they coordinate, I was pretty much just trying to make sure I didn't have 5 yellow in a row.

Then you place possible choices for the waistband and for the ruffle in amongst them to see if any of them strike you as right or totally wrong.

I decided to go with an aqua waistband with a yellow flowered ruffle for Orianna's skirt.

Next, you sew chains of the charms. What a weird sentence. You just sew each one to the next and then sew the last one to the first one to make a big circle.

Then you iron them. I am pretty sure it was Lisa who told me to iron them like this to make it lie flatter. That is for quilts, but it works in any situation where you have a lot of seams. I think of it as making one square major and the ones next to it minor. One square will be ironed so you can see all of it, while the ones on either side will be partially covered up by the seam allowance, making them look smaller.

Just iron it somehow. 

Then you gather. Gathering is just stitching a loose seam and then pulling the loose thread end to make the material all squoosh together. You have to make sure you spread the sqoosh out though, so it is even looking. I am not always patient enough for this. My motto for most of these skirts is "No one is going to notice as the girls run past at 40 mph." I should really sign those girls up for the Olympics at that rate.

The point of gathering is to make the lower and wider layer fit into the upper and narrower layer. Once they match, you pin them to make sure they match, and sew them together.

This is what you have so far. A very mini skirt for a very wide person. But it is colorful. 

This is what you shouldn't do. ALWAYS keep the sides of your seam taut as you are sewing, so extra fabric doesn't creep in there and bubble. Bubbles are bad.

Once the two parts are sewn together, I go back and sew the seam that holds them together down against the top layer. I think it gives the skirts a more finished and smooth look.  

A somewhat uneven finishing seam. But the colors are nice. And no one would notice the seam as the girls go past at 40 mph. 

If you are impatient like me and don't feel like getting your rotary mat and cutter out which are buried somewhere, you just cut with scissors for the ruffle and waistband, moving the tape measure as you go to make it even all the way. Not as even as if I had got the rotary cutter out, but sort of even.

I hate trying to hem ruffly things, so I tend to hem them before I gather and sew them on. This wouldn't work in tailored skirts, but no one notices whether the hem is even as the girls run past at 40 mph. (Seriously, I said this to myself about 40 times to try to convince myself that I shouldn't just give up and chuck the skirts out. I think it may have actually been the cuteness of the fabric that prevented me.) So I just iron the raw edge up, then iron it up one more time to cover the raw edge completely. This keeps it from unravelling.
This is the ruffle for Lily's skirt. It looks really cute, but I didn't think about having the aqua waistband, so the overall effect of the skirt isn't as color pleasing as it could be.

Then you sew the waistband on. But not like this. I wasn't keeping the sides taut again.

And see what happened. Keep your sides taut!

And I did it again. Seriously.

While I did a lot of seam ripping, I gave Gilbert our kind of expensive photo book to look at. This is probably a bad idea, but he loved it. 

It was around the 10th seam ripping experience that I stopped taking pictures. So you can't see the elastic being put in. Basically you sew the channel on the waistband very similarly to the hem, except you make it a little wider than the width of the elastic you are using. You determine the length of the elastic by making it slightly smaller (up to an inch smaller) than the child's actual waist measurement, since you don't want the skirt to be falling off. You leave an inch or two open (don't sew the channel part all the way around the skirt) and then poke the elastic in with a safety pin attached. You wiggle the pin around until it comes back out the other side. This will probably make you want to mutter a lot and think how stupid you were to start this ridiculous skirt to begin with. Espeically if you have become intimately acquanited with your seam ripper during this skirt experience. Then you sew the ends of the elastic together flatly and sew up your channel opening.


You have a twirly skirt.

I didn't take a picture of the girls wearing it, so today, I copied Lisa's etsy page and took pictures against the sky.

And these are the April skirts that were too wide and too short. This picture looks like a dolly and me kind of skirt. But fortunately, Lily had the perfect little capri leggings to wear under it, so it worked out sort of all right. I mean they have umbrellas on them. So that makes up for a good bit.


Virginia said...

Oh my WORD, this post kills me!! Hilarious! Remind me to never race your daughters. And for all your mistakes, the skirts came out so stinkin' cute! If I had attempted this, it would have looked like a wild animal was let loose in a room w/ fabric and a sewing machine. There would be no wearable end product. So I'm impressed! Luckily, I have no daughters to sew for so it all works out!

Verity Earl said...

The 40 mph thing made me laugh pretty heartily. I think the skirts look adorable!! And this is why I don't sew very much: ripping out seams is somewhat like the sensation I imagine ripping one's heart out might feel like. You are a trooper, Bet!! xo

Evan and Clover and Co. said...

Ha, ha, ha! Love your fast girls and their twirly skirts.

laura said...

Skirts over 35 mph!

I think if all "Simplicity" patterns were this easy to follow, and this FUN, I'd be a seamstress!!