Thursday, 9 February 2012

Tutorial: the Tree Skirt

This tutorial, again as part of Sew Grateful Week, is covering one of the first sewing projects I ever did, and (certainly the first I was really pleased with), and is a great easy project for anyone. It's a nice alternative to the basic gathered, A-line and circle skirts that are good to make as quick projects, and is very fabric efficient.

My flatmate Lindsey asked if I could make her a copy of a skirt she had bought and loved. It was a simple skirt with small box pleats and buttons and it was made of a fun tree print cotton. It was my first experience of cutting a pattern off something, and luckily it turned out to be very simple!

The skirt is unlike other box pleat skirts I have in that the pleats don't hold in all the way down, the skirt fluffs out about halfway down, creating a sort of tulipish effect, but with the simplest pattern. It has an easy button fly opening. I have only put 2 buttons on, but you could continue them all the way down if you wanted that effect.

Since making that copy I have made two more, one for myself and one for my other flatmate! Lindsey has worn her skirt a huge amount of times, its one of her favourite pieces, I always feel really fun in mine and Charlotte insisted on having one for her birthday recently to complete the set!

The three skirts are all slightly different. Lindsey's ditsy flowery skirt has very narrow box pleats, about 3/4" each side and has a slim tulip shape. For my geometric flower skirt I used larger 1 1/4" each side pleats and it therefore jumps out more, like a rounded cheerleader skirt. After mine ended up sticking on my tights, I lined it retrospectively, and so when I did Charlottes' bird skirt I put the lining in properly and hemmed it so that the green lining showed out the bottom properly.


The skirt requires very little fabric, and you draw the pattern yourself. It is based on a simple rectangle made from your measurements. You only need the cotton (unless you want to line it, in which case you need a similar amount of lining fabric as the main fabric), interfacing to stiffen the waistband, and 2 buttons. 

The only measurements you need is your waist (well the bit where you want the waistband to sit) and the length you want it to be. The skirt ends up as a long strip of skirt and waistband with pleats in it that then overlaps by 1 1/2" at the front for the button placket. 
Draw a rectangle that is the the length of the skirt + 05" seam allowance and 1" hem allowance, and the width of a 1/4 of your waist measurement + the pleat. This is your basic pattern block.  
You then cut out a back piece that is two of these with a seam allowance on each side.  You also need two front pieces, one of which is the piece plus a seam allowance on one side and 1 3/4" allowance on the other side (for the underside of the button placket) and another which is a piece plus seam allowance plus 3 1/4" (for the top of the placket). You also need a piece for the waistband which is your waist, plus 1 1/2" and two lots of seam allowance, and twice the width you want plus 2 lots of seam allowance.
Iron fusible interfacing onto the inside of the waistband piece. Mark the position of the pleats on the pieces. You can then finish all the edges (I used a zig zag stitch). 

Fold in and sew the edges of the front pieces that make the button placket, the placket is 1 1/2" wide and the front piece folds under to be double thickness.  In the diagram, the top one shows the way the placket works at this stage (and at the top of the skirt in the finished skirt). The bottom one shows how you sew the two bits together later on. 
Sew the side seams.

Fold the long rectangle you now have into the pleats, and pin them in place at the top edge. 

Sew the front edge of the waistband onto the skirt pieces, right sides together, and then fold back up. Fold the seam allowances at the ends of the waistband in so they match the skirt edges, then fold the waistband in half and stitch in the ditch (ie along the seam line on the front of the waistband) to hold the back of the waistband down. Iron the waistband and pleats and then topstitch along the top edge of the waistband and down the edges at the placket. . 
Sew the button holes on the top layer of the waistband and placket.

Overlap the placket on the front pieces and sew up each side from the bottom until about 4 inches from the top, where you angle the seam line. 

Hem it (which should be easy, just take an inch up all round, as it is a straight bottom edge).

Attach buttons. 

And you're done! If any part of this seems confusing, I will have explained it badly, as it extremely easy, so give me a shout if I have lost you somewhere!

If you want to line the skirt, just make an identical pleated skirt out of lining but with the seams going outwards (so that all the seam edges when you are done are hidden between the lining and the outside fabric) and then sew it into the waistband. If you want the lining to be visible along the bottom, make the lining longer, sew it into the waistband but then hem both the outside fabric and the lining separately before you sew up the button placket.