"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Friday, May 18, 2012

getting the max out of a skirt

The Maxi skirts are everywhere this season and I could kiss the perpetuator of this fashion ... most especially for this year.

I'm not a super fashionable mom.  But I am a fashion comfortable mom.  And .... largely pregnant through the summer with a doctor begging me to wear compression hosiery is NOT comfortable.

I have no love for maternity fashion.  It feels impossible to find anything flattering for a girl masquerading as a watermelon.  I struggle to invest money in clothing I know I won't want to even glance at after nine months.  A "trendy" maternity store, boutique, whatever ... can make you look cute but the price will rival the doctor bill for your unborn baby.

And yet ... when I feel so very un-cute, retail therapy can make all the difference in the world because I'd bet every mother-to-be gets tired of wearing her husbands shirts with sweat pants and just wants to feel new.

Enter the maxi skirt.

I think they look so fun and summery and comfortable on every female form ... pregnant or not.

I've seen the striped ones in the stores.  My sister made some too, and they are adorable on her. However, I've never been able to rock stripes in knit even on my bestest of days.

But the floral ... I'll take one of each please!

Celia and I were at the stores, window shopping skirts, and thought we'd like some more original patterns at quite possibly a lower cost.  So, we swung into the fabric store where we got lost for hours.  Cuz I have an addiction to fabric and a plan for each and every piece I encounter :)

We found an entire row of "silkies" on sale for the summer season at 50% off and had a hard time limiting our choices.  We chose a soft "rayon type" fabric which had a cotton blend to avoid all the wrinkly-ness of a pure rayon. The feel of the fabric in your hand is the same. Also, we were looking for a weightier fabric that wasn't sheerly see through so our flow-y skirts could be unrevealing-ly summer cool.  We snagged 2 yards of each at about 6$ a yard which seemed a fair-ish price.

Waistband.  Elastic is great but on a maternal tummy it either slides up or down.  I bought T-shirt fabric to make a "band" around the waist but then got to thinking that I could probably do the same with the t-shirts I have awaiting donation.

I pulled out one of my old fitted tees, which is now really fitted resulting in my band making not in need of much adjustment.

I measured eight inches from the bottom and cut it off, discarding the top.  

In the ones we made for Celia and her slender teenage form, I took the 8" t-shirt bottom part and slid it up around her waist to make it tight enough for her comfort by taking out an inch or two as needed from the side seam.

Easily done ... just turn inside out, measure an inch (or two or whatever you need to feel snugly comfortable on your waistline) in from the existing seam, sew a straight line down parallel to the existing seam, trim 5/8" along new seam.

Warning: if you try your waistband on in the kitchen in front of your assistant, she may mock you.

Wrong sides together, fold your new band horizontally in half to a 4" band and iron.

On the ironed end of the fold, I top stitched to help it stay flat and unbunched.  

This is a knit so you'll need to pull a bit as you sew.  Stretchy stuff needs a little help.  5/8" in from my fold at the top, I just ran a stitch all the way around.  Band done.

A band is also easily made from knit fabric.  Just cut and make a similar "tube" and fit it to your waist.

For my two yards of fabric, I lay it out on the floor with my assistant running all over it.  

Rough (or selvage) edges go together on one side, fold on the other.  This fabric is 60" wide. Folding long ways gives me a front and a back at 30" wide each.

This is where I stopped and measured around my hips making sure to keep the measuring tape low and getting an accurate measure around my "largest" part.

So ... let's say I am 39" cumulatively around my low hip measurement.  I added one extra inch for a seam allowance which had me wanting a skirt with a 40" waist circumference when I sewed front to back.

This sounds complicated but it's not.

That's a front piece measuring 20" and a back piece measuring 20" at the waist for me. Yours will be your entire measurement divided by half.

I also wanted my cutting symmetrical so ... I folded my fabric length wise in half again ... that's folded into fourths. 

And to get a single cut that would be just right on both sides, I measured from the fold 10" (that's half of the 20" I need for each piece).  I marked it and then cut the length of the fabric in one fail swoop in an A-line shape.  

This can be done by pinning graduating pins, drawing with a piece of chalk, eyeballing it.  So you can see what I mean, I painter's taped my line ... and trimmed from waistline to bottom ... A-line.

When I unfold, I have two identical pieces each measuring the same at the top waistline.

Wrong sides together, pin the side seams and sew them.

Since I gave myself that extra inch in the waist for a seam allowance, I sewed my seam 1/2" in from each cut edge.

I also have a serger, so I finished my edges off to avoid fabric unravelling.  You don't have to. You can sew on the outside edge of your stitch, a zig zag stitch to keep any fraying at bay.

Or just leave it if you don't care or don't see a potential problem.

Iron each side seam flat.

And attach the waist band.  If you fit it to your waist, it's probably smaller than the waist of your colorful fabric which was measured to your hips.  That's good.  It's stretchy.  

With wrong sides together, slip the waistband over the skirt top pinning the cut edges together.  I stretch the band to fit side seams to side seams, then pin front and back middles, and then stretch to be able to fit another pin between each of those pins so everything lines up.

As I sew the two together, I stretch between pins to get rid of any puckers.  See that one starting in the picture above as I help the fabric through?  Well ... just stretch a little more, they will even out.

Iron my waistband flat and upward.

Try on the skirt, trim off the excess fabric at the bottom to your preferred length leaving 1/2" for a hemline.

Hem the skirt by rolling and ironing 1/4" once and then twice.

And then top stitch the ironed fold hemline.


This is really easy.  I promise.  I'm just known for using too many words to explain a very simple process.

Make one and you'll crank out another.

Here's the part where you get to see WAY too much of me ... but, demonstrating versatility, every female form has a preference.  High waisted, low waisted, this waist band can go up or fold down.  I like mine to go up and over that really not so pretty belly button :)

Celia's teenage-ness likes it folded down over her hips for a lower waisted feel.

Up over bump or folded down underneath.

Either way, paired with a knit top, it works great and feels comfortable.

If only my modeling skills were are as great and comfortable as hers.

That's really all it is.  An old t-shirt and two yards of fabric.

This is adaptable for any size, I'm finding. When I'm back to being just one person again, I'll probably take some inch-age out of the waistline of mine and continue getting use out of them.  They are just that much of an asset to my closet.

Now, I'm off to crank some out for the little-er girls of our family who are not content to be left behind.  Happy sewing! 


  1. You look beautiful! Sadly anything - and I mean anything - involving sewing turns into Greek to me after about 5 words. I'm hopeless. The one thing I never learned to do from my mom.

  2. Wow!!! Love the skirts and you look fabulous!

  3. When I get to oregon I am SEWING!!! And I too always have a plan for every piece of fabric...

  4. You look so awesome Marlowe! I don't know what a maxi skirt is - but I keep hearing about them. I'm a bit behind on your blog. I need to play catch up! But just scrolling through - I'm looking forward to going back and catching up. Take care! We don't have long now!

  5. You are so gorgeous in your maxis!!! I am jealous of your "mad sewing skills". Love catching up on your blog! hugs, cathy

  6. Wow!! That's so awesome!! You are one talented lady :) I have to admit, I've never used a sewing machine.

  7. Wow look how beautiful you are!!! :D Congratulations!

  8. Ugh. By the time I am that far along I look like blimp city and nothing whatsoever looks good. I am seriously jealous. You look fabulous. BTW, you want to do tutorials for my website? You do a really good job!