Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Scalloped hem skirt tutorial #1: getting started

Update: Typo alert! The Butterick pattern should be B4348. Sorry!

photo from Bees and Blue Fences
Ok, so here's the thing: you're keeping me up nights. No, no, I'm not worried about that; that's what your parents are for. Let them worry about the big stuff; I'm worried about showing you how to sew a skirt without making you go find and purchase a lot of patternmaking tools: pattern paper, hip curve, rulers, etc. So instead, I've selected a few basic A-line skirt patterns that you might start with. You could make the scalloped hem skirt with an A-line skirt or with a straight (pencil) skirt, but generally the A-line is a more flattering cut, and it's easier to make because it doesn't have darts. Here are a few patterns you could start with:

Burda 8089
Burda 8276
Simplicity 5005
McCalls M4258 (don't cut on bias if you use this one, even though the pattern calls for bias)
Butterick B4348

I'm sure there are many other patterns you could start with, so choose a simple one that you like and I'll show you how to alter it.

Next: fabric. You have a choice: you could either select a heavier-weight fabric like the Japanese fabrics at Purl Patchwork (a few are also available on-line at Reprodepot - see the Etsuko fabrics. I think the Amy Butler home decorating fabrics would also work well.) or you could use a lighter weight fabric and back it with muslin to create a heavier-bodied fabric to work with. This second option sounds more frightening than it actually is; you just treat the printed fabric and the muslin as one fabric, and it's surprisingly easy to sew.

Other items you'll need include a 7" invisible zipper, lightweight fusible interfacing, matching thread, an iron, and basic sewing materials (sewing machine, scissors, etc.)

If this is your first time purchasing a sewing pattern, be sure to compare your measurements to the measurements on the pattern, since garment sizing and pattern sizing aren't the same.

Cut out your pattern. If you haven't used the pattern before, I would suggest adding extra seam allowance at the side seams (one inch would be enough) so you can adjust the fit if necessary.

Once you've cut out the fabric, staystitch the waist so it doesn't stretch out of shape and then baste your side seams together so you can check the fit. I usually do this even if I've made a pattern before, since fabrics drape differently. Some fabrics may give a little more, in which case I adjust the side seams until I'm happy with the fit. Then trim your side seams down to the right amount and remove the basting stitches.

Now you're ready to start the skirt. I'll be back in a few days with the "un-"waistband. We're headed to New Jersey for a while to hang out with my sister and her children.

Photo from Bees and Blue Fences


  1. This is going to be fun. I'll get a pattern and some fabric this weekend, and set up my sewing machine. In the meantime, you have fun in New Jersey!

  2. Time to go riffling through my fabric bin!

  3. Oooh! Thanks.
    Actually, I do need to find some pattern paper. Pretty please, where could I get some in the city?

  4. Isabelle9:58 AM

    Liesl -- thank you for the pattern referrals! This is exactly the sort of get-your-feet-wet skirt project I've been searching for. What a friendly resource you are!

    to Valentina -- we just received rolls of pattern paper at Purl Patchwork, where I work.

  5. It is a good thing I can't sew clothes otherwise my skirt would have to be around my ankles for the weekend cause I wouldn't want to take it off! Have fun!

  6. I've never seen such a skirt before. How wonderful. I adore the one you made for yourself; ADORE IT.

  7. I happened upon your blog - so glad I did. I'm a knitter, but would love to make a skirt that is that one that you can wear to the playgroud coming? That's what I need!

  8. Cristina4:48 PM

    I'm looking forward to seeing this tutorial unfold! Would you back sueded poplin (like the new Flea Market Fancy prints) with muslin? What if it were for a paneled skirt rather than a two piece a-line? I have the My Favorite Things Cute Skirt pattern ( and I'm in new territory making a skirt. Thanks for your feedback!

  9. Thanks, all, for your comments. Valentina, you can get pattern paper at Purl Patchwork, at the FIT bookstore, or at Steinlauf and Stoller. And Cristina, I'm not familiar with that particular fabric, but you really only need to line it if it's too sheer. I often don't line darker printed fabrics. It sort of depends on the skirt you're making, too. that pattern you probably wouldn't want to use the muslin as a second layer because there are a lot of seams and they may get too thick. I hope that helps!

  10. Thanks so much for this extensive tutorial, I know how much hard work must have gone into this. I linked to all 3 sections on my blog.

  11. How wonderful. I adore the one you made for yourself.

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