{case study} the making of my new favorite skirt

an excerpt from my {classic wrap skirt} book

_MG_0705.JPG

summary

Hours of hand stitching
to create a replacement
for a neutral gray maxi skirt.

A waste of time? Or a wise investment?

backstory

Last summer
I practically lived in
a particular gray maxi skirt.
Obviously, I liked the skirt,
but there were certain things I didn’t like about it.

It was made of a thin jersey knit fabric.
Not as thin as some, but thin enough
that it clung awkwardly to my legs when I walked.

I knew it couldn’t be my go-to this season,
because it was wearing out already;
it’s starting to pill
and some of the stitching is coming out.
Now, I could easily mend the stitching,
but these loose stitches are simply signs
of more wear to come.

Rather than continuing to rely on this as my go-to skirt,
I decided to make a better one.

problem

I knew what I liked about last season’s skirt:
the practical length and the neutral light gray color.

I also knew what I didn’t like:
the fact that the fabric was both flimsy and wearing out quickly.

I wanted to keep the skirt lightweight,
but substantial enough that I felt protected,
and I wanted a fabric that would stand up to many wearings.

Another requirement for my fabric
was that it be at least 53" wide,
otherwise the skirt would be too long to fit on the fabric.

If I was going to be wearing this skirt
as often as I had worn the knit one last season,
I wanted to take my time making it,
and really invest in making it beautiful.

solution

I found two linen blend fabrics online.
One was linen/rayon,
and the other was linen/cotton.
Both were labeled machine washable (cold)
and dry-able (low).
I ordered three yards of each.

After washing both of them,
the linen/rayon blend fabric
was clearly the right choice for this skirt.

First of all, the linen/cotton blend fabric shrunk so much in width
that I would have been unable to make a skirt as long as I wanted.

But secondly,
I absolutely fell in love with the linen/rayon blend fabric.
It drapes and flows so beautifully,
yet it has enough body to hold its own
and not stretch out of shape.

When I cut out the skirt, I hadn’t yet decided
exactly what methods I would use for each step of the process.
I used the scraps to experiment a little
and quickly found that I loved stitching this fabric by hand.

I decided to stitch anything visible by hand -
the hems on the straight sides of the skirt,
the inside of the waistband,
and the hem.

It was so easy to manipulate this fabric in my hands
that I didn’t even have to press the hems before stitching them.
I simply rolled the hem with my fingers as I went.

It took a while, yes,
but it was so worth it.

I took the project along with me on a road trip,
so I was able to keep sewing even though
I didn’t have access to a sewing machine.
In a way, this made the project go faster
than if I had opted to stitch it by machine!

outcome

I haven’t touched the old maxi skirt since making this one.
The old one will come in handy as a back-up, I suppose,
but so far I’ve only wanted to wear the new one.

I love the practicality and versatility of this skirt,
but more than that,
I love all of the positive associations that it carries.

When I wear it, I remember the road trip,
the places where I sat and stitched,
and the people I was with while I was stitching it.

I smile, knowing what I invested,
both time and talent,
to craft this perfect skirt.

The other night I wore it to dance practice.
I’m no professional dancer, and I don’t do anything fancy,
but as I danced the old traditional middle-eastern steps
and felt the skirt swish, I felt an extra level of joy,
knowing I had made this beautiful thing with my own two hands,
in the same way that women made their skirts ages ago
when they danced these same steps in ancient times.

reflection

One might say that I wasted time
hand-sewing a skirt
to replace one I bought
ready-made.

I would ask what was meant by the word “wasted”?

Is it really wasting time
to create something both beautiful and useful
while among friends and family?
Is it wasting time to spend it doing something that brings you joy?

I don’t see it as wasting time,
or even spending time,
so much as investing time.

The investment has already paid off, in my estimation.
I’ve had hours of pleasure and can look forward to more
as I wear this skirt that carries in it memories of beauty and joy.

finding the perfect fabric for your next project

an excerpt from my {classic wrap skirt} book

Chances are,
if you’ve ever sewn something and hated the finished product,
the problem was the fabric.

Fabric selection is such an important part of the process of creating,
but too often, we tend to rush through this step
to get to what seems more important:
the actual sewing.

Fabric-sourcing is a very important part of the design process
and you shouldn’t feel like you’re wasting time
as you decide on the perfect fabric to use.

This part of the process is so integral to the design process, in fact,
that more than once I have designed a piece
specifically for a particular fabric.

When it comes to the {classic wrap skirt}
you need to look for particular qualities in the fabric you choose.

First of all, you’ll need to keep in mind the size of your fabric.
This skirt is cut all in one piece,
so if you want to make a long skirt,
you’ll need pretty wide fabric.
And of course you’ll need enough yardage.

There is a worksheet in the {classic wrap skirt} book
which will help you to determine how much fabric you’ll need,
and how wide it will have to be.

Once you know how much fabric you’ll need,
you can decide what type of fabric to use.

Look for a fabric with body,
but that isn’t too stiff.

Hold the fabric from the corner and let it fall into folds.
The fabric shouldn’t melt away,
but it should fold into a nicely draped shape.

Take a look at the photos here.

The first picture shows a fabric that is too soft and has too much drape.
A classic wrap skirt made from this fabric will stretch out of shape
and the fabric will be difficult to manage as you cut and sew it.

The second picture shows a fabric
that is perfect for this wrap skirt design.
It has enough body to support itself and not stretch out of shape,
and you can tell this by the way the folds don’t completely collapse.
At the same time, it has enough drape to fall beautifully,
unlike the fabric in the third picture.

The third picture shows a fabric that is too stiff for this skirt.
If you were to use this fabric,
your skirt would stand out like a tent
both looking and feeling bulky.

Speaking of feel,
think about how the fabric will feel wrapped around you.
Will it be thick and cozy?
I made a wool skirt (case study #4 in the {classic wrap skirt} book)
from medium-weight wool.
It feels nice and snug, perfect for fall and winter.
The fabric breathes,
so it isn’t as if I couldn’t wear it into the spring,
but it wouldn’t feel quite right.
The cozy feel of the fabric lends itself to certain seasons.

The feel of the fabric may affect when you want to wear it,
and it may also affect where you might want to wear your finished skirt.

If the fabric feels too fancy,
will you only want to wear it to special parties
and not to picnics?

I suggest you choose something versatile and classic;
something that will feel neither too dressy for everyday wear,
nor too informal for nicer events.

I am comfortable wearing any of the skirts in the case studies in the {classic wrap skirt} book
to a tea party, a walk in the park, or running errands.

The difference would be in the styling.
I’d wear the skirt with a blouse and jewelry for a tea party,
a sunhat and silk scarf for a walk in the park,
or a T-shirt and flip flops for running errands.

I love natural fibers - cotton, wool, linen, and silk in particular,
and I would also include cellulose fibers like rayon in this category.

One reason I love natural fibers is the way they feel.
I don’t just mean the way they feel when I run my hand over them.
I mean the way they feel when I’m wearing them in hot or cool weather,
when I’m active, or when I’m simply sitting.
I like the way I feel when I am in them.

Fabrics made with natural fiber have a particular energy around them.
They breathe, and they help you breathe as you wear them.

My absolute favorite fabric to use for this skirt is a linen or linen blend.
A close second is wool.

I have wool skirts for cool weather
and linen skirts for warm weather,
although wool isn’t as hot as you might think,
and linen isn’t terribly chilly either.
Because these natural fibers both breathe and insulate,
they help to keep your body at a stable temperature
no matter the temperature of your environment.

Filling your closet with clothing made with natural fabrics
will help your wardrobe become something you both wear and love
because this type of clothing is classic and versatile and makes you feel good!

Good quality fabric of any sort isn’t going to be cheap -
but why would you want to spend your time making something cheap anyway?
If you want cheap, buy a skirt from some cheap ready-to-wear place.

If you want quality,
be willing to make an investment.

You’re already investing your valuable time into making this skirt.
You owe it to yourself to choose a quality fabric,
even if it costs a little more than the stuff on the clearance rack at your local craft store.

That said, you can find good quality fabric
that is quite affordable,
especially if you shop online.
I didn’t spend more than $6 per yard
for any of the fabrics I used to make the skirts
in the case studies in the {classic wrap skirt} book.

Choose a fabric you truly love.
You’ll be spending a lot of time with it,
both as you create your skirt, and later when you wear it.