Saturday, July 10, 2010

My First Sewing Project: DIY Skirt Step-By-Step

After spending 3 hours at Joann's last weekend (yes, seriously!), I came home fully-equiped to start sewing!  For my first project, I thought about what would be the easiest to make, and chose a simple skirt with an elastic waist.  I didn't want to spend too much on fabric because based on my past experience, this was more likely than not going to end up un-wearable.  I'm also terribly indecisive and can never tell if fabric that looks good on the bolt will look good on a person.  I scoured the store (twice) and settled on a white cotton with a red & pink floral embroidery pattern.  It was on sale for 70% off, so only ended up costing $4!  It was rather sheer though, but stubborn me decided to go ahead anyway and thought I could figure out how to line it with some white muslin I already have, even though I've never tried such a thing.

It took me about two weeknights from start to finish (with lots of mistakes in between), but here's how it turned out!

Please ignore the loose threads hanging from the hem, I was so excited to try it on I hadn't bothered to snip them off.  This was based on a pattern-less and simple A-line skirt from the book Sew What! Skirts, and here's a quick pictorial recap of what I did:

Fold fabric in half vertically, draw a curved line for the waist and a similar line for the hem at desired length.
Cut two (for front and back).  Repeat for lining fabric.

Unfold and sew side seams on both.

Sew the two layers together at the waist (wrong side so raw edges will be hidden)

Turn right side out and sew another line at the waist to make a casing for the elastic.  Insert elastic.

Redistribute fabric evenly and voila!

It initially did not turn out very well.  I'd envisioned a flowy drapy skirt so I'd cut it extra wide, but with limited experience I did not realize that two voluminous layers of cotton (one of which being muslin) would not drape well!  It was so stiff and even after much rearranging, the best I could get it to look was like this:

As soon as I make any movement, the folds get really funky and droopy because of the heaviness.  I decided that it wasn't going to work - it was too big and too long!  Back to the sewing machine I went, and after chopping off about half a yard of fabric, I came up with this:

Still a slightly flared silhouette, but much simpler and more suitable for my frame.  All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with this first project.  I managed to successfully line it and it's actually wearable (I think!  Please let me know if I'm delusional lol).  I'm still considering taking in the bottom some more for a fitted pencil-skirt look, but I'm not sure I should since the waist would still be elastic.  Here's how it would hypothetically look:

A-line                                                       Pencil

What do you think?  Is the fabric more suited for a sweet A-line or a more sophisticated pencil skirt?  Of course since I'm just experimentally cutting away fabric, there's no guarantee it's going to end up looking like that.  I could potentially end up with a misshapened and unwearable garment on my hands, so maybe I should just quit while I'm ahead :)


  1. i think it looks great as an a-line. you did a great job! looking at the cloth, i would never know how to make it into something wearable. yay!

  2. No you aren't delusional!! :) It looks COMPLETELY wearable!!! Good job! A-line works best with the elastic waist, I think. :) Excited to see more projects from you in the near future :D :D :D

  3. This is really good for a first sewing project! But I agree with elle^ I can't see a pencil skirt with an elastic waist. You should keep it A-line.

    Guess where I'm going now...JoAnns! lol! You've inspired me to go rummaging around there. Too bad there's none in Boston and we have to make a trek out.

  4. You should definitely keep it as an A-line. Since the fabric is more casual-looking, turning it into a pencil skirt is too...fancy?

    My one nit-picky advice: blind-stitch the hem to make it look more polished. It might be a pain to do, but I think it might look better for it. But there's nothing wrong leaving it as is...but personally I like the look of a blind hem better.

    Congrats on your first sewing project and I hope to see more from you! =)

  5. The skirt is totally wearable. It reminds me of one of the skirt from UO. You did pretty well on your first project.

  6. Congrats on finishing your first sewing project! It turned out really well! It reminds me of a skirt I bought in the BP section of Nordstrom back in college that I loved...I wonder where that went...

    Keep it as an A-line for sure! The print is floaty and airy, which works well with the shape.

  7. I vote for A-line! Congrats on your first sewing project! It looks great =D

  8. i'd say keep it as an a-line. the material doesn't seem to have stretch and its thick, so it would make it hard for you to walk...unless you don't mind taking little steps! haha. or you can put a slit in the back.

    i'm really impressed that you put in that elastic waist!!! great job on your first try.

  9. I'm going to keep an A-line then... I really love getting great input from everyone!

    stylepint - I actually did a blind hem using my serger, but I guess it didn't turn out so blind :P

  10. Thank goodness for people like you. I am so grateful for solid advice and encouragement, especially from someone who's been there. I'm a really stubborn person. I think I got medicine into my head a long time ago and stuck with it. At least I have the passion if not the natural smarts to stay for the long haul.

    There was something my Chinese Civilization professor said in a lecture that really stuck with me: Everything is transient. There will be a test in view that everyone panics about, then there will be another one after that. There will be more papers, and more interviews, that is the way of life. It will all come to pass too.

    With a lot of upsets at a competitive school, I'm really not used to this kind of pressure. Getting A's used to be like eating candy. However, I guess I have learned that grades matter, but actually learning something is so much more important for the future. That's why I don't sweat that A- that I got in Physio because that stupid class curved down T__T ... I learned so much that's useful for the MCAT and my general knowledge.

    Medicine is a long, long journey. I realize that. It's just that I've had my eyes set on this goal for so long that I don't think I really stopped to think about all the ramifications of such a commitment. I think this questioning is good because it only makes me realize that I really don't know what I would do if I weren't a doctor. I don't think having any other profession would really make me happy. I've had so many influences growing up and so much personal struggles with the whole field that I feel like I've been shaped to walk this path all along. And I'm happy for it. I just can't wait to see real patients. I guess undergrad is hard for me because I have to keep in perspective that doing pedigree charts and drawing molecular orbital diagrams are things to challenge, to help build stamina and patience and open-mindedness.

    It's really nice to know that I don't need anywhere near a 45 to get into med school. I'd be overjoyed with a 35 and I think that's definitely enough to get into most places and then some. I doubt I will make it on the first sweep but reach for the stars!

    Thank you so much for your comment :) And sorry for writing a book here xD

  11. Commander in Chic looks like a great taupe! I don't have any polishes like that (I'm naturally kind of scared of neutrals I guess ... haha) but I definitely want to try one out now!

  12. I say don't mess with a good thing. A-line looks great! You did a wonderful job.

  13. I really like it both ways but I guess that's because I can't see the elastic waist in your outfit and it seems quirky (in a good way) to have the combination of a soft/sweet fabric with the pencil skirt. Unexpected, I think, and I like that sort of thing.

  14. great job for a beginner! Im not sure if I can sew a skirt..but Im planning on sewing my own pillows which I think is a bit easier for me:)

  15. OMG- you are so talented!!!! What a great job for a beginner!!!

    This is awesome!!! I wish I could sew! I wouldn't even think to attempt to try..LOL

  16. Wow!I have to agree, it's not like your first project. A-line looks pretty with the fabric. Or if you use wider elastic waist band, you can make it a small A-line like those in Banana Republic.

  17. I am very impressed - you did really good for your very first project. I think that is a way to go when it is so difficult to find clothes that fit. My aunt used to be a tailor and was very knowledgeable in that arena, I am extremely disappointed in myself because I took things for granted..Ishould have learnt soemthing from her.

    Your skirt looks super cute with that red top. Keep your projects going! I can't wait to see more.

  18. Good job for your first skirt!
    Some advice: when buying fabric, don't be afraid to unfold a yard or so off the bolt and hold it to see how it drapes - this will give you an idea if it will work with whatever garment you are trying to sew. For pencil skirts, look for fabrics labeled 'suiting', or heavier/stiffer cottons and cotton blends, or wools. For A lines that do not "stick out" like a triangle, opt for softer fabrics (rayons, poly blends).

    Also, if you do try a blind hem with your machine, get yourself a blind hem foot if you do not already have one. I find that doing a blind hem without the foot is hard; extra feet are not that expensive and that is one foot you will use a lot.

  19. Wow, very nice! It's totally wearable. Congratulations on your first project, you've got me inspired!... Though my first project will just be a sleep mask, lol ^^;

  20. Great job! After reading the other comments, I guess it makes more sense to have such a flowy fabric be kept as an A-line skirt rather than a pencil skirt - esp with an elastic waist. I personally really liked the shape of the pencil skirt, though :)

  21. Wow - great job! I love it as an a-line - you should sew again when you have time!


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