Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"Skirting the Issue" with Simple Simon and Project Run and Play

        Here we are in the midst of the summer! What a great time of year. There are so many fun things I want to talk about, but first I want to share a meaningful project that is hosted by the lovely ladies at Simple Simon and Company (who also happen to be the main gals behind Project Run and Play; the sewing-for-kids equivalent of Project Runway that inspired me to blog about sewing) every year during the month of July.
       "Skirting the Issue" is a touching event they have begun, in which sewists from all around, connected by the internet, sew lovely and unique skirts to be donated to kids in the foster care system. It's a great way to help kids who have had a rough start in life feel special. You can read more about the event, and how to participate, here.

        So in honor of skirting the issue, I am going to talk about sewing a skirt with attached shorts. In my house, the general rule is that shorts are worn underneath skirts and dresses unless they are maxi length (and sometimes even then) because I have yet to see the girls wear one without flashing what is underneath at least a dozen times. Honestly, I have started wearing shorts under my own skirts that come above the knee as well! Chasing kids, bending over, wind blowing.... who knows what might happen and with some shorties or bloomers underneath it doesn't bother me.
         Having trunks attached makes it even easier to follow this rule, and you know that they will always coordinate. This can be accomplished very easily when making a skirt that has a waistband of some sort, i.e. an exposed elastic waist or a foldover yoga waistband. Basically, you sew your skirt, sew your trunks, baste together and add the waistband.
         To help illustrate, I sewed a skirt-with-trunks from some lovely, soft, knit fabric (both fabrics from a KnitPop Scrap Pack) and added an elastic waist. First, I decided what pattern to use for the shorts. This was an easy decision for me, because Baste & Gather has a FREE (hurray!) pattern for "summer shorties" by Selvage Designs.  This is a great pattern for sizes 12M-8 that creates snug shorts made from knit fabric; perfect for this application! Also, it uses a waistband to finish the top of the shorts, so you don't have to make any alterations to get a perfect fit. (If the shorts pattern you choose creates a waistband by folding down the top of the shorts, then you would need to cut the fabric about an inch and a half lower on top to get a good fit sewing it the way I am about to present).
      Using this pattern, I cut out two legs as mirror images of eachother,
then laid them right sides together and sewed the front and back crotch seams.

           I used a serger for this, but you could also use a zigzag stitch or stretch stitch on a regular sewing machine. Just make sure to use a stitch that will stretch for you.
          The next step is to line up the crotch seams on top of eachother, and sew the leg inseam. Now you have created shorts, and can hem them at this time as well.
           Knit fabric doesn't fray the way woven fabric does, so hemming is optional. I sometimes like to leave knits unhemmed, because no seam that I add will ever be as soft and stretchy as the fabric itself. Hemming does look more finished however, and also helps finish the bottom of my serged inseam, so I decided to hem these shorts. Again, make sure to use a stitch that will stretch when you do this! I folded my fabric about 1/2 inch up the inside of the leg (I only folded once instead of twice, because as I mentioned earlier, the knit won't fray) and zigzagged over it to hem my shorts.
           The next step is to create the skirt. I decided to make a simple, slightly gathered A-line skirt and made my own pattern piece for this.
This is my skirt pattern piece; the straight side on the left will be placed on the fold of the skirt fabric when cutting. I cut two of these skirt pieces. 

      I calculated the skirt pattern dimensions as follows: my shorts were ~9 inches tall at their highest point, so I decided to make the skirt 10 inches long.
       I wanted the waist to be slightly wider than the waist band would be. I was basing it off my daughter's measurements and she has a 21.5" waist. Since my pattern piece would be cut on the fold, and two pieces would be cut, the waist of the skirt would be almost 4 x the waistline of the pattern piece (actually just under 4 because of the seam allowances on the side seams). I made the top horizonatal line, aka the waist, 6.5" long. This will yield a finished waist of 26" minus about 1" for 1/4" seam allowance on the each side of both skirt pieces; so a 25" waist. Great. There really is a lot of freedom when calculating this measurement. I felt that this was a good size that would be large enough to be easy to slip on over the hips and bum, and not have so much fabric that it created a bulky waist seam at the end. I did curve the waist-line up slightly at the outer edge for a more circular waistline.
        I wanted the skirt to flare out in an A-line shape, so I drew a diagonal line from the edge of my waist out to about double that at 12" and free hand curved the bottom line up about an inch and a half. So my skirt should have a bit of freedom and twirl to it. You could also do a full or half circle skirt if you wanted an even twirlier version.
        I will take a moment to talk about skirt fabric right now. I had been thinking of using a soft, slinky knit whose content I am not totally sure of, but must be rayon spandex or cotton jersey or something. It was so soft and it was beautiful. But it occurred to me that without another fabric lining it, it was most likely going to be clinging to those trunks all day long. So instead I used this one, which again I am not 100% on content, but I believe to be a ponte de roma. Moral of the story: something a little more heavy and with a smoother finish will end up working better for the skirt here, so that it doesn't cling to the trunks. If you have a light, soft, probably grabby fabric that you are dying to use though, making the legs of your trunks super short will be a good idea. You could also insert a lining fabric in this skirt / short sandwich if you are so inclined.
       I cut two of these skirt pieces on the fold. You do not have to worry about mirror images here because the pieces are symmetrical, but do pay attention to if your print is directional or not (meaning is there a top / bottom to the print).
                I then laid the skirt pieces right sides together and sewed both sides of the skirt.
               Once the skirt was constructed, I sewed a gathering stitch along the top.  Also known as a basting stitch, this is a straight stitch set to the longest length between stitches that your machine offers; for me that is at 4. Leave long thread tails at the beginning and end of the stitch. Then, holding the bobbin thread, you can gather the skirt along the thread, distributing the gathers roughly evenly around the skirt.
            Next, I inserted the shorts into the skirt (right side facing out on both, or right side of shorts to wrong side of skirt), lined up the side seams of the skirt with the sides of the shorts, and pinned them together at the sides, front and back. This is a good time to adjust the gathers as needed to ensure the width of the skirt and shorts lines up well. You can pin more if you prefer.

                I then basted the skirt and shorts together with a narrow zigzag stitch, to make it easier to sew them both to the waistband without losing part of one or the other in the process. I made sure that my zig zag was lower than my gathering stitch, and then removed the gathering stitch with my seam ripper. I didn't want that straight stitch to interfere with the stretch of the skirt waist.
                Next, I created the waistband. I am a little bit obsessed with all the glitter elastic I have seen at JoAnn's recently. I had some of this silver on black elastic that I had used to make myself a belt earlier this summer. It seemed to be the perfect thing for this skirt once I decided to used the floral on black fabric for the skirt. I cut a piece about 21"; slightly smaller than my daughter's 21.5" waist, so that it will be snug enough to stay up well but not overly tight. I sewed the ends of the elastic together, right sides facing, then folded the ends out towards the side and topstitched them down to create less bulk.
                 The final step was to sew the waistband onto the skirt. I placed it along the top of the skirt/ shorts with right sides facing, and sewed it on. I could have used a zigzag stitch on my regular sewing machine but I decided to live on the edge (terrible pun intended) and serge it, keeping a super close eye on not letting the elastic go under the blade. If you cut this type of elastic along the long edge, it begins to unravel.  I did have to stretch the elastic a bit as I went, since the skirt / shorts were wider than the band. I made it all the way around without any casualties, and ended up with a lovely skirt!
Note that I did not hem the skirt itself. The drape is so nice without it, I didn't feel it needed it. I just had to carefully tie off those side seams. 

         A beautiful skirt, a playful skirt, a modest, cartwheel friendly child-sized skirt. Fern was more than happy to be my model. 

Over at Project Run and Play, they are sharing skirt inspiration all month long! Go check them out!

And thanks for stopping by!

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