Wisdom Comes Suddenly

A Spring Skirt Tutorial (and Fake Happy Pictures)

April 10th, 2012 · 5 Comments

I saw a skirt similar to these on TomKat, and I pinned it, and then I forgot it was pastel.  Pastel would have been pretty, but less um…BRIGHT.  Then I found the shoes at Meijer, remembered the skirt with the ambiguous applique on the side, and thought, “EASTER.  I must make skirts for Easter.”  WHICH, everyone told me I’d never finish, and as I’ve said before, is the gauntlet I require to finish anything…ever.  Unless we’re talking about curtains, and then I’ll go to my grave with those hanging over my head.  Figuratively speaking.  Literally speaking would require I finish the darned things…but I digress…

There are pretty easy to make.  They only took about 4 viewings of the “The Help”.  As many of you know, I measure my projects by how many movies they require from start to finish.  The Halloween Rainbow Fairy Costumes took me countless viewings of “Pretty In Pink” (I never change a movie mid-project…don’t ask me why…).  Unfortunately, after watching a movie set in 1963 for 8 hours, it influenced my own Easter outfit significantly.  We may not be viewing any pictures of those here; let’s just say, it was overly-fitted and involved pearls and big hair.

First I found free clip art of the appliques the girls made up in their heads (it’s their process), and turned them into transparencies:

Any applique bigger than a sheet of paper, and you’ll need to find a way to blow it up.  My sister and friend Kellie can free hand like pros, but I cannot.  I’m a professional tracer.  I traced the appliques onto 2-sided applique paper. Check it out!  With iPhoto’s eraser, it’s like your children never drew on the basement walls.  I smudge more threads and crumbs and wall chinks out of my pictures than you can imagine.  Wait.  You have kids.  Maybe you can imagine.

Then I laid out my fabrics and wrote my color choices on the pieces.  You can see the shoes that inspired the skirts.  It’s always about the shoes, isn’t it?

Then you can cut out the pieces and decide how much detail you’ll need to add back in.  I do have glittery buttons to create sprinkles, but I didn’t love them on Sara’s skirt.  She wants them, so I might add them after the first washing.  Do I think these bright fabrics will bleed all over the white and ruin these skirts?  Of course I do.  It’s going to happen right after I set those sandals on fire.

To use double-sided applique, you would have wanted to trace your applique on the overhead backwards (done by flipping the transparency over).  Therefore, when you laid it on the fabric, you could have ironed this on the back.  My images are the same backwards and forwards, so it didn’t matter.  Do I ever get this right?  Never.  I guess I could have just peeled off my tracing and ironed it to the reverse side first?  Ugh…I suck at geometry. So now all of those pieces must be ironed onto their respective colors and cut out (again). I like the lay out my images when I’m all done, otherwise, I tend to misplace pieces in the mess.

Avery got the ice cream cone, Sara wanted a cupcake, and Kelly wanted a butterfly, which was by far, the hardest to make, but my favorite skirt.  I took the nicest white cotton apparel fabric I could find (at JoAnn’s with a coupon, so that’s not saying much, unfortunately), and I cut each skirt to be about 1.5 times the width of their waists. I wanted them long, and I wanted the applique to be on the bottom 2/3′rds of the skirts.  I made sure I had about 2.5 inches for a waist, and I knew I’d add about 3″ for a ruffled hem, making them hit right about ankle or just above.

The nerve-wracking part is the final ironing.  Peel off the backing and lay the image out on the skirt.  Knowing I wanted them to hit on the right waist, I just centered the images on the fabric, deciding the skirt seam would run down the left leg. With a gathered skirt, I’m not sure the seam really matters. Iron it on, knowing it will have to be sewn down fairly soon.  Even double backings tend to peel up during a project.

I like to use Peter Pan’s blanket stitch, and applique on every single piece.  This alone can take an entire “The Help”.  You often see patterns scattered about my sewing room.  I don’t use them, but I like to refer to them for suggestions.  Believe it or not, I often forget how to do simple things like make waistbands.  I swear, one of these days I’m going to follow those pattern thingy’s and make something really cute!

I didn’t have long enough white strips to make a ruffle, so I sewed 2 strips (making it twice as long as the width of the skirt), 3″ wide, together, and then I tucked 1/4″ down the long side, and I tucked that again.  Sew.  That’s the hem.  Now take the unfinished edge, and with right sides together between the ruffle and the skirt, I first pin the 2 ends, and then space out the big ruffle evenly, using pins.  It should look like this:

Now sew.  Ruffling is a lot easier than it looks.  But here’s the thing: first, apparel fabric that’s not terribly expensive will unravel if you look at it, so that seam must be zig-zagged (along with every seam without an inner tuck).  Second, a ruffle won’t lay down nicely on the bottom of a skirt.  You will need to add a seam to force it down.

I just run a 2nd seam about a quarter of an inch next to the first seam.  I use my quarter foot, making it so easy to run it along equidistant.  A 3rd seam top-stitched would have had a really professional look to it, but as we all know, I’m no pro.

Now you have 3 ruffled skirts.  Sew up the side of the skirt will one, long seam.  You could tuck each side first and sew, if you wanted to be really formal, or you could sew and zigzag the edges, so it won’t fray.  Trust me, I’ve learned my lesson on unfinished seams…it’s all fun and games until that first washing, and then you will have a mountain of threads inside your clothes.

You’re almost done!  You’re probably on viewing 4, at least where Stewart takes Skeeter to dinner the 2nd time!  Turn the skirts inside out, and fold a half-inch tuck, and fold down 1″ again.  Iron.

Sew along the bottom…quarter inch, or a half inch, I doubt it will ruin the world either way.  As you can see, I’m a big fan of the quarter inch.  This seam is tucked, so no zigzag is required.  Leave a couple of inches open on each side of the seam.  Cut the elastic (I like 3/4″ for the girls skirts), to be only 1″ wider than their waists.

As you can see, I scribbled the first letter of each girl’s name on their elastic, because their measurements don’t differ greatly, and I can’t tell the difference unless I mark them.  Use a safety pin to feed the elastic through, and then I like to safety pin it together with about a 1′ overlap, because it holds together nicely when making a quick seam down the elastic.  Just sew the elastic together, and the casing will snap right into place. Stretch out the gather over those open 4″ to make it nice and flat, and sew it shut, careful not to sew over your elastic strap, which is now tucked inside the casing.

I bought the tank tops and shrugs at Target, and they don’t fit properly at all.  I actually safety-pinned Sara’s tank to make it fit for the day.  The shoes?  Don’t get me started.  Buy kids sandals at your grocery store, and you get what you deserve.  It’s such a shame, because they are so stinkin’ cute!

I guess I should take comfort in that the only comfortable portion of their Easter dresses was made by me.  Sort of.  Sara said she couldn’t run as she’d like, so I guess I see a little kick pleat being added to the side or back.  The project was worth it for the shot Greg got of Sara, “spitting frog water”:

What am I saying?  It’s always worth it.  I love how the girls run in and out of my sewing room, alternatively making a mess and ooh’ing and ahh’ing over the crazy things I make.  I love it that they have a say in the creation.  I love it that their skirts aren’t like any others, and never will be, because I don’t have enough taste to be copied by Janie & Jack. I would have loved having pictures of Avery egg hunting with them in her matching outfit, but Good Lord, we can’t have it all.  First thing Monday morning, I drove the skirt to her house.  I wish you could have seen her hugging it.  I guess I get to keep that image in my heart.  Until the next inspiration my friends…until the next one…


Tags: The Girls

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Teresa // Apr 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Really REALLY CUTE skirts!

    Have a lovely day!

  • 2 Goomomma // Apr 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Adorable – and they look pretty happy to me!!

  • 3 Lori // Apr 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Goomomma, that’s a beautiful illusion created by chocolate bribes. Their feet are killing them.

  • 4 Lydia // Apr 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Thank you for posting. Now I can sleep at night! :) Very adorable, as usual.

  • 5 Ana Paula // Apr 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    I want a skirt too!!!! ;-)
    They are adorable!!! You are so good.