Well, That Got Out of Hand: I Made a Skirt Without a Pattern

This post contains affiliate links for research purposes. I got my books from the library.

If you’ve been following along, you know that first I made skirts from library book patterns (here’s the first and the second). Then I tried making a gathered rectangular skirt, which does not require a pattern. The waistband came out pretty well, but the result was unflattering.

Then I took it into my head to learn pattern drafting.

Friends, I am not sure what I was thinking. Man, that was hard.

First, I made a straight skirt sloper just from taking my measurements and drawing things on freezer paper. I was very pleased with myself. Then I slashed and spread the pattern and raised the waistband to make a high-waist flared skirt sloper. So far, so good. Although it took me a couple of tries to get the fit right, so by this point I had been fiddling with the project for some weeks.

The flared, high-waisted sloper. Down to 1 dart per side because the other is where I slashed and spread. You must forgive me for not modelling i.

Now I was ready to move on to the actual sewing. The book I was using, Skirt-a-Day Sewing*, gives very specific directions for making specific designs rather than expecting the reader to do so. To make the pattern for the design I chose, there was yet more slashing and spreading involved to turn the darts into pleats.

*I think it’s important to note that this refers to having a different skirt for every day of the month, NOT the length of time they take to make!

A major weakness of the book is that it does not give instructions with this pattern for truing the waistline or the hem after all that slashing and spreading. Not sure it came out right.

Instead of a zipper, this skirt uses button-down tabs. When you unbutton, you can open the tabs and step in and out. There’s also a hidden snap holding the tab in place. It only took me 8 tries to make a passable four-step buttonhole.

The big knot is where the bobbin thread ran out. It goes faster than I expect.

I was worried about lining up the button and buttonhole and the two parts of the snap, but this seemed at least moderately forgiving. I did not have trouble. And I got to use the sew-in snaps that my grandmother gave me circa ten years ago (when my mom gave me a sewing machine for Christmas and grandma gave me a stocked sewing basket) and have not yet had a use for. Rather satisfying.

As always, there were some hiccups. For one thing, my machine is getting wonky. Sometimes it makes a giant knot instead of sewing. Oiling it approximately every 28 minutes helps, but is tedious. When it happens in an important place, like the right side of the hem (I am lazy and always hem with  straight stitch), I pick it out and start over. When it happens in an inconspicuous place, I pretend I don’t notice.

Reverse side of the front tab where the machine went wonky. Why is it white on the back? I ran out of fabric. Oops.

Another hiccup was my decision to add pockets. All skirts and dresses should have pockets, no? I traced a pocket shape from another book, Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking. But those pockets were designed for  a rectangular skirt, and this has curved side seams. They hung weird at first. But a little ironing seemed to put them right.

Honestly, I’m still not sure about the skirt. I’m in love with the basic premise of a full skirt made of polka dots. Very 50s-ish and the silhouette is flattering. But possibly I will find the pleats waaaay too fiddly and always be adjusting them. The ones in the back I actually sewed down because I found that I did not need to open them to get the skirt on, but I think I made them too tight. I might need to move the front buttons and re-press the pleats closer to the middle.

Sorry for bad photo. The children were not feeling cooperative this morning.

My next two sewing projects are no-pattern easy things: Hemming jeans and making an awesome new boy apron for Big Brother. But I bow to conventional wisdom. The next time I make something for myself, I will take the easy road and buy a clearance pattern, even though I will lose the bragging rights. (“Thanks! I made it! From a library book!”) I think I need more time to develop my skills without the pressure of pattern drafting.

What are you making lately? How’s it coming out?


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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

9 responses to “Well, That Got Out of Hand: I Made a Skirt Without a Pattern”

  1. Mimi says :

    Have you considered waiting for JoAnn’s to put their patterns on sale for $1 and just buying a couple of basic patterns? I’ve been sewing a long time, but have never made my own pattern except for ponchos and pillowcase dresses for my granddaughters. You are certainly fearless to make your own!

    • frugalparagon says :

      I think that’s what I’ll do next time, even though Joann is like six miles away and not near anywhere else I ever go. I have in mind to make a dress next time. Fitted on top and flared on the bottom, because I like the silhouette of this new skirt with the fitted blouse tucked in.

  2. mrsnfisher says :

    I think you still have major bragging rights from making your own skirt!

  3. Mimi says :

    I agree, major bragging rights! I actually like the skirt. I have never made anything and find your stories on your yourney so fun to read…

  4. Leah says :

    I’m impressed — I haven’t ever done clothes. I’d like to learn how to do doll clothes first and then perhaps try human ones . . . maybe.

    I’ve been making baby stuff for the new addition to our family. My crowning achievement was the DIY toddler size mei tai so our toddler can carry her baby while I carry our new little guy. It’s been a successful tactic. Baby stuff is fairly straightforward. When our toddler was born, I sewed all her crib sheets (had a hard time finding sheets that were both cute and fit correctly). Way easier than it sounds. I almost sewed her twin bed sheets but found decently Nemo & Dory ones and decided to save myself time. Twin sheets, from the tutorials, don’t look hard but are a bit more fiddly since fabric isn’t wide enough off the bolt to do a twin bed without seams. In order to not have a seam down the middle, you have to use a different piece of fabric for the sides of the mattress.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Wow, nice work! That mei tai sounds adorable.

      I wanted to make a duvet cover for Little Brother but ran into the same problem. People say you can use sheets, but they weren’t large enough compared to the duvet. (Maybe double ones would have been.)

      People tell me that if you are comfortable with a sewing machine, which it sounds like you are, then making a garment from a commercial pattern is just not very hard. Let me know how it goes!

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