Welcome to Episode 1 in the How to Sew A Skirt Sew-along series. The subject for today is: Overview, tools and equipment, and how to choose fabric.
Let's have a look at the skirt we are going to make together. It's a simple skirt but flattering and versatile. Can be made in a casual fabric for days off or a formal fabric for days at the office or even from a glamorous and glittery fabric for evenings out and special occasions. Make it mini, knee-length, long or floor-length easily.
The basic straight skirt is a wardrobe essential and once you have your custom pattern you can make a whole series of these in different fabrics knowing that each one is going to fit you beautifully without any fiddling about.
The skirt we will make in this sew-along has a center back invisible zipper, darts front and back, sits just below the waist (or where ever you choose) and is fully lined. I'm going to concentrate on good sewing finishes and will show you how you can make a skirt that rivals many ready-to-wear in terms of its fit and finish. And mostly probably at a fraction of the price for what you might spend on a good quality skirt.
Tools and Equipment
To do a job well, you really do need the right tools and equipment. You won't need a lot and much of it you probably already have. Let's look at what we will be using.
- Paper, pen, ruler, calculator, measuring tape, scissors
- Fabric scissors, pins
- Fabric, lining fabric and matching thread
- A sewing machine and multi-purpose needle
- A zipper foot, having an adjustable zipper foot and an invisible zipper foot will work best but you can make do with just a regular zipper foot too. We will talk more about zippers later.
- An invisible zipper – about 8 or 9 inches long to match your fabric
- An iron
- Some time… a little at a time is fine.
How to choose fabric for your skirt
We will be using a woven fabric for the skirt, and nothing stretchy like a jersey or knit fabric. If you have a fabric ‘stash'you most likely already have something suitable, if not, then you'll need to visit your local fabric store.
Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Fabric stores vary in how they are laid out, but you will basically find fabrics next to each other that have similar fibers and characteristics. If in doubt, ask one of the assistants for advice – tell them what you plan to sew and when and where you plan to wear your skirt and they can give you some suggestions.
When you find a fabric you like the look of:
- Unroll the fabric bolt a little and have a look at how the fabric hangs (called its drape). Do you like the feel of it? Is it soft or stiff? Is the fabric scratchy?
- Unroll a couple of feet and hang it from your waist. Does it look like this fabric is right for you? Would you wear this print in a skirt? Do you have something to wear on top that will go with it?
- Look at the fiber content and care instructions. Check the width of the fabric. A very narrow bolt such as 44 inches might require you to buy twice as much fabric as one that comes 54 or even 60 inches wide.
If you are a beginner I recommend:
- Cotton – you can use Quilting cotton if you fancy a trendy or designer print
- Cotton Lawn or Voile
- Poly cotton – mix of cotton and polyester, easy care
- Stretch cotton – has just a little bit of give in the fabric but not what you might call stretchy
Use plain colors or small prints. Avoid stripes and big patterns if you are new to sewing – it can be very difficult to match them well.
If you have more experience, you could also try:
Your lining fabric
We are making a full lining for this skirt. Of course not all skirts are lined, but it gives it a nice hang, makes it feel comfortable and expensive to wear, covers any seams on the inside, and can make the skirt last longer and prevent stretching out at the rear.
There are several fabrics you can use to line the skirt:
- A plain lightweight cotton or cotton Broadcloth.
- Pongee – a lightweight satiny feel fabric – I used this on my skirt
- Bemberg lining – anti-static and luxurious feeling
- China Silk – soft and lightweight
- See more Lining options
If in doubt, ask the store assistant for their advice. Your lining fabric will normally be a lighter weight than the outer fabric you have chosen.
How much fabric to buy?
You will need to buy a piece of fabric that is wide enough to go around you once at your widest part, plus an extra 8 inches. It will need to be long enough to go from waist to the length of the skirt plus 6 inches.
Generally speaking, assuming a 54-60 inch wide fabric, one yard would be ideal. Buy the same for your lining.
However, if you have a large pattern repeat, and want to match the pattern at the center back seam, you will need to buy additional fabric to do that. Perhaps two yards depending on the length of your skirt and the size of the pattern repeat. A future episode will deal with pattern matching.
Preparing your fabric
A VERY important step before cutting your fabric is to prepare it.
New fabrics will often/sometimes shrink when washed for the first time or even first few times. So you must wash, dry and iron your fabric in the same way that you would wash, dry and iron your finished skirt. Do this at least once, twice is better just to be sure. You can pin the fabric inside a pillow case to stop it getting too wound up in the machine and to reduce any fraying.
Take note of any care instructions when you buy the fabric and ask at the shop if you aren't sure. Don't end up with a dry-clean only fabric for a skirt you plan to wear all the time or it will soon lose some of its appeal.
Learning more about fabric
If you want to learn more about fabric and which fabrics are suitable for which clothing projects, I can recommend a couple of good books on the subject.
Our next steps
Join me soon for the next step in our Sew A Skirt series – Drafting your custom fit pattern, and all about ease and seam allowances.