what is the value of a hand-crafted classic wrap skirt?

the skirt itself

This hand-crafted skirt
does not compare
with something mass-produced.

It has been made-to-measure
and stitched with your own two hands
from start to finish.

It is the only one of its kind,
a piece of art that carries
the essence of its creator.

You have carefully selected the fabric,
using the type, color, and quality
that is perfect for this design.

Beyond that, every step of the way,
you have made careful decisions,
from cutting to stitching to pressing.

Every detail
has been considered
and carefully executed.

the creation process

You have invested hours into this skirt.
Invested, not spent, and certainly not wasted!
Think on this time carefully…

If you have chosen to enjoy the time,
using it as an opportunity to slow down
and consider the process of creation,

then this time cannot be considered wasted,
nor even compared to time spent working.
This is time you have spent in enjoyment.

How much money
are you willing to spend doing something fun?
Watching a movie, eating dinner out, drinking specialty coffee…

These are consumption, and rather passive, at that,
yet you’re willing to spend money, because they bring you enjoyment.
These are not comparable to the process of making a skirt.

The making of your skirt was an investment into yourself.
You did not only spend time doing something that brought you enjoyment,
you were also learning and growing.

the educational aspect

How much money
are you willing to invest in educational endeavors,
whether formal, like university classes, or informal , like community center workshops?

The making of this skirt is like a class or a workshop.
As you read the book and stitch the skirt,
you will learn valuable skills.

More than that, you will have the book to refer to again
should you want to review or even expand your skills.
You will not absorb everything in one go.

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The educational aspect
doesn’t stop once you’ve learned
the skills outlined in this book.

Maybe after making yourself a skirt,
you can teach your daughter or a young friend
how to sew a skirt for herself.

You can use the book
as a resource to teach others,
whether they be friends or family.

the communal element

What do you and your girl friends
like to do when you spend time together?
Do you go on coffee dates, perhaps?

What if instead of chatting over coffee and muffins,
you converse over fabric and needles?
What if you get together to sew?

If you do,
you have the opportunity
to encourage each other in the creation process.

Any one of you
who has unique skills
may share them with the others.

You can learn
both from the book
and from each other.

And at the same time,
you are investing
in your friendship.

wearing your skirt

Then there is the value you receive
every time you put on
this beautiful skirt.

It goes beyond the simple fact
that it has been made specifically for you
according to your preferences and measurements.

Because you created it yourself
and because you found so much joy in creating it,
this skirt carries positive associations.

Every time you wear it,
you can feel a healthy sense of pride
knowing that you created something beautiful and useful.

You will think of the moments you spent carefully placing each stitch
as you listened to music, a podcast or audiobook,
or the simple sound of making.

The feeling you have wearing your own creation
is different from the experience of putting on
anything else you’ve ever worn before.

a simplified wardrobe

Because of the classic nature of this skirt,
it has the potential to help you
simplify your wardrobe.

The skirt makes getting dressed easy;
all you have to do is grab a favorite top
in order to have a neat and tidy outfit.

Even a simple T-shirt
appears less casual when paired with such a classy skirt.
Add an accessory like a scarf or necklace for something extra special!

The versatility of the skirt
makes it wearable for a variety of events,
so you will have no trouble getting plenty of use out of it!

If you already have a minimalistic wardrobe,
this skirt fits in nicely with your other
classic investment pieces.

And if you regularly waste precious time
staring into your closet wondering what to wear,
this skirt will start you on a journey toward simplicity.

so what is the value of your hand-crafted skirt?

The value is the sum of all of these:
the hand-crafted artisanal skirt itself,
the time spent enjoying the creation process,
the time invested in the educational process,
the time invested in community,
the time you will spend enjoying the skirt as you wear it,
and the time saved with a well-rounded, minimalist wardrobe!

{case study} the making of my new favorite skirt

an excerpt from my {classic wrap skirt} book

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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.

{case study} from making curtains to crafting clothing

summary

Allison started with only very basic sewing skills
and after a week in my studio, left wearing a hand-crafted skirt
that she had made herself, under my direction.

backstory

I live in a school.

See, there’s this wonderful private school
that is housed in two big 100-year-old houses.
The third floor of one of them
isn’t usable for classroom space,
but it makes for a nice little studio and apartment.
My studio and apartment.

I’m sort of an artist-in-residence,
so when one of the students
decided to do her senior project on fashion and sewing,
I became a part of her education.

Every afternoon for about a week,
Allison climbed the stairs to my studio
and worked on a project that was, quite frankly,
too big for her.

At least, it would have been too big for her
if I had handed it to her all at once.

I’ve taught people before
and I am not usually content
to hand them a project they can handle.
If I did that, why would they need me?

I want to push the limits of my students’ ability
and I want to show them that they can do more than they think.

I present my students with one step at a time,
sometimes even breaking down a single step into micro-steps.
As they focus on making each step firm and confident,
they find at the end that they’ve climbed a mountain.

This was my goal for Allison:
that she would accomplish something too big for her
and that she would learn to do it well.

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problem

I had a basic working knowledge of hand stitching and how to use a sewing machine, but I had never made anything that required more than stitching one straight line.
— Allison

I had a limited amount of time with Allison;
by the time we were able to get together,
her graduation was fast-approaching.

She had been working on her senior project all year,
learning the basics of sewing,
and had accomplished a simple project:
curtains for her bedroom.

Allison was planning to go to college to study fashion design
in the coming year,
so although the skills she learned while making curtains
would be helpful,
what she really needed to learn was how to make clothes.

She thought this was out of her reach,
but I knew it wasn’t.

solution

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I had been developing the {classic wrap skirt}
in the time leading up to my meetings with Allison,
and I was confident that this was the sort of project
that would allow me to teach her
the skills she would need.

I didn’t allow her to be overwhelmed
by describing the entire process of making the skirt
or all the skills she would need to learn.

Instead, I simply explained the first step,
and then the next,
and then the next.

Each one taken alone was simple,
even if it was something she’d never done before.

Beyond teaching Allison to sew,
I wanted to share some of my knowledge of design with her
and help her to develop her own design process.

After all, she was planning to study fashion design,
and this senior project was supposed to be preparation for that.

This is another reason the {classic wrap skirt}
was a perfect choice for this project.

She would have to make design decisions,
like what length of skirt she wanted,
and which techniques to use.
She would also be making this skirt
from her measurements,
not using a pattern created by someone else,
but drawing the shape of her skirt directly onto the fabric,
so she got a taste of what it’s like to create her own pattern.
(This is the method I teach in the {classic wrap skirt} book.)

outcome

Jordan’s teaching style was clear and enthusiastic. It is evident that she has a passion for what she does and for teaching. When I made a mistake she didn’t just tell me how to fix it, she explained why it would cause problems in the finished project.
— Allison

In working with Allison,
my focus was not so much on the finished product -
the skirt she would be able to wear at the end of it.
My focus was on using the skirt as a tool
to make Allison into a skilled artisan.

At the end of our meetings,
Allison had a skirt,
but more than that,
she is now someone who can hand-craft beautiful clothing.

This skirt that she created is evidence of this!

Her skirt doesn’t so much look “homemade,” as "hand-crafted,"
partially because of the care that Allison took in creating it,
and partially because of the materials and techniques that she used.

Instead of looking for a cheap fabric,
I guided Allison in selecting something she would love to wear.
Instead of taking the quickest, easiest route to making a skirt,
I guided her through a professional process.

Because of our attention to detail,
Allison now has a beautiful, hand-crafted garment
that reflects her new identity as an artisan-in-the-making.

reflection

Allison was a joy to work with.
She was diligent, and worked hard to accomplish her goals
both while she was in my studio,
and as she did “homework” between visits.

It was wonderful to dive back into the world of teaching sewing.
I’m looking forward to teaching more students,
whether in person, through blog articles,
or through my book!

I would not change a thing about my experience. The steps were easy to follow and I always knew exactly what I was supposed to be doing. ...If you have any desire to learn to sew at all, just do it. You will learn so much in a short amount of time and reaching the end goal is so rewarding.
— Allison

{case study} an invitation to play like a child again

summary

An older friend of mine
gave me a doll
and invited me to play again.

This dress and apron is the result.

backstory

Some of the first things I ever sewed were doll clothes.

But then I grew up
and left the dollies to my sisters.
Until I met Kathy, that is.

She was a doll collector,
and when she saw what I had designed and sewed for people
she invited me to try making doll clothes again.

She gave me and my sisters
dolls from her collection
and told us to have fun.

The first outfit I designed, I gave to Kathy.

problem

There are many things about sewing doll clothes
that are the same as sewing people clothes,
but there are also things that are different.

For example, some areas get bulky easily.
(Like where seams come together
at the neckline or underarm.)

And since doll clothes are small
and the pieces you’re sewing together are even smaller,
things can get fiddly rather quickly.

My main goal for this project
was to remember what it was like to play
and have fun creating something beautiful.

solution

My initial concept for the apron
didn’t work out quite the way I envisioned,
so I tried again.

Because I was working at a small scale,
starting over didn’t take up much time,
and I didn’t waste much fabric either.

The small scale also gave me freedom
to give the dress a full circle skirt
without needing to use a lot of fabric.

I used narrow bias tape
to finish the dress neckline, sleeves, and hem,
and made a matching sash to pull everything together.

One way that I “played”
as I designed this outfit
was to use a lot of color.

Usually I like to use
straightforward and subtle color combinations,
but I stepped out of that comfort zone for this project.

Not only did I use multiple colors,
I also used multiple patterns
and a variety of buttons!

It took some experimentation to get it right, but it was worth it.
I maintained a tranquil pallet while still infusing color.
Almost like a beautiful watercolor painting.

outcome

This outfit is still my favorite
of all the things I’ve made for our dolls.

Kathy’s red-headed doll wore it for a while,
but then Kathy passed away
and the outfit was given back to me.

Now my doll wears it,
and when I see her I think of the whole story
of my friendship with Kathy.

The colorful dress and apron represent
an invitation to play again,
to approach life like a little child.

To explore - stepping out of my comfort zone
in order to create something beautiful.

reflection

This outfit
and the story it carries
bring me so much joy.

I wouldn’t change a thing about it,
even the trial-and-error process
and the fact that Kathy was only able
to enjoy it for a little while.

Because she was able to enjoy it,
I was able to enjoy it with her,
and I am still able to enjoy it.

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.