How to Make a Maxi Skirt, Pt 2

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If you haven’t already read Part 1 of making a maxi skirt to get your pattern measurements figured out, pop on over here!

Maternity-Maxi-skirt-Intro

Alright! Now, where were we?

If you are ready to go, then you should have your pattern measurements ready to mark on your fabric and cut. It’s a pretty speedy process to make these skirts. I’d say that total, from marking the pattern to finishing the hem, it takes me about 45 minutes to sew one of these up, and that’s not sewing quickly. I make sure to have my machines threaded and ready to go, so that there’s no stopping to change out thread. Quick projects are sometimes the most satisfying things to make!

Let’s talk about the fabric layout that you’ll use before we mark on the wrong side of your fabric. You have three options to choose from. The first layout is very straight forward. Your fabric will be folded in half with the right sides together, and you will draw out your skirt and your waistband and cut them on the double. This a good choice if your skirt hem circumference is no wider than 29″ (that’s with seam allowance added in), if your fabric does not have a large repeat that you would like to match up, and if you plan on having the front and back pattern pieces be the same width.

Maxi-Layout1

The second option is to draw out your skirt pieces so that they stagger. This will help if you are matching a large repeat, if you are using different measurements for the skirt front and back, or if you are using a wider waist circumference measurement. This layout could result in a narrower skirt flare, depending on your chosen individual measurements. If you are making a longer skirt with a wider flare at the hem, you may want to purchase an additional 1/2 to 1 yard of fabric and use the third layout option.

Maxi-Layout2

The third layout choice is great for many reasons, but because it requires extra fabric, I usually don’t use it unless I want a really flowy skirt. With this, your pieces are individually laid out with one above the other. This gives you the best chances of matching a repeat, having the hem circumference width you are looking for (especially if you want it to be extra flared), and is the best option for large waist/hip measurements and separate front/back pattern pieces.

Maxi-Layout3

I want to let you know that shortening this skirt and making it knee length is a great option if you don’t have enough fabric to make the maxi version. I would keep the same amount of flare at a total of 60″ at the hem, but other than shortening the side seams, keep everything else the same.

Once you know what layout you’ll use, you can begin drawing out your skirt pieces. I use tailor’s chalk to do this, but thread basting, water soluble markers and chalk work just as well. It will be very helpful if you have already added in extra length to all of your measurements to account for seam allowance. Hem allowance can be added as a last step to each main skirt piece.

Start by marking out a rectangle. It should be as long as the desired length of your skirt, as as wide as 1/2 of your desired total hem circumference, plus seam allowance. Remember to add enough seam allowance for both side seams. If your seam allowance will be 1/4″,  then add and extra 1/2″ to each measurement. I like my skirts to be 37″ long and to have a total hem circumference as close to 60″ as possible. On my body, this makes a fairly straight but still easy-to-walk-in skirt that can rest right above my toes.

Maxi-RectangleDiagram

Mark the middle of your rectangle at the waist and hem. We’ll use this point at the waist as a reference for drawing the waist and figuring out the side seam angle. Once you have the middle marked, measure one quarter of your waist measurement on either side of the top center mark, to equal half of your full waist measurement. Be sure that your seam allowance is added to this measurement.

Maxi-Waist-Marking

From the side seam waist markings, draw your side seam lines down to meet the corners of the hem.

Maxi-SS-to-Hem

You should have the basic shape of your skirt now. Let’s fix the side seam angles so that you don’t end up with very pointy pieces! At the center marks on both the waist and hem, measure down at least 1/2″. If half of your total waist measurement is over 24″, measure down 1″. Create a 90º angle off of the side seam line for at least 1/2″ (and up to 3″), and draw a gentle curve that incorporates the new straight waist lines at the side seams and the lowered center waist mark. Be sure to draw this same curve on the hem.

Maxi-Fix-SS-Angles

Double check your measurements to make sure you have included seam allowance, and add on your hem turn-up.

Maxi-Skirt-Final

To help eliminate errors in cutting, it can be really helpful to draw out all of your pattern pieces before you start cutting. That way, if you’ve chosen the wrong layout, or you discover a snag in your fabric or error in your marking, you can easily fix it.

Next, draw out your two waistband pieces. The waistband is a very simple rectangle. It should be the same width as the waist measurement on your skirt body pieces, and should be tall enough to fold over. I prefer to make my rectangles 8″ tall, but with a thinner knit I will make them 12″ so that I end up with a 6″ fold-over waistband.

Maxi-Waistband

Once you have your pieces drawn out, you can cut them and pin together the skirt pieces and the waistband pieces. Be sure to label your them as “front” and “back” if you chose to not have the front and back use the seam measurements. Sew together the skirt pieces and the waistband pieces along the side seams. I drew this out since I forgot to take a photo. Oops!

Maxi-Sewn-SS

Fold your waistband so that the wrong sides are together, and give it a light press along the folded edge. It will help with pinning it to the skirt waist if you pin the two layers of the waistband together. Give the side seams of the skirt a light press as well

Maxi-Waistband-Ready

Yes, my waistband fabric faces the other way. I wanted some contrast!

Maxi-Waistband-Pinned

Match up the sides seams (and the front and back, if necessary), and pin the waistband and skirt together. You can sew this together with a serger set on a 3 or 4-thread overlock, or you can sew it with a narrow zigzag stitch on a sewing machine. Check your seaming choice on a scrap of your fabric before you sew the waistband. It has to have plenty of stretch to it, or the seam will pop.

After sewing this seam, give the seam allowance a light press so that it folds down towards the hem. Use a cover stitch, twin needle or wide zigzag to sew down the seam allowance.

Maxi-Waistband-Sewn

Maxi-Waistband-CS

Try on the skirt and mark your hem. It’s a little bit hard to mark it if you’re making the maternity version because depending on how you carry, it can sit much lower in front. But, I recommend that you not shorten the hem in front by much. The skirt will sit lower in front, but if you fold over the front waistband more, and the back waistband less, it will help to even out the hem. I make my hem even all the way around by simply turning it up one inch, and then I adjust the waistband to make the hem sit where I want it to. I use a 1″ hem turn-up, and stitch it down the same way I stitch down the waistband seam allowance.

Maxi-Final

That’s it, and wow, that’s a lot of writing for something that’s so easy to sew! I hope you enjoy your new skirts as much as I like mine! Have I mentioned how well these pair with the Megan Nielsen Ruched Maternity shirts? This is my new pregnancy wardrobe staple!

How to Make a Maxi Skirt, Pt 1

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I can’t get enough of these fold-over maxi skirts. They are comfortable and easy to move around in, two things that are high on my list of clothing requirements right now!

Maternity-Maxi-skirt-Intro

These aren’t going to be super detailed pattern creation instructions. I’ll give you the basics, but I don’t have the brain power to write up an entire lesson on how knit stretch affects your pattern measurements and fit. This skirt is simple and easy to adjust, so don’t get too worried about figuring out your exact fabric stretch vs. body measurement comparison. It’s an easy thing to fudge with this skirt construction!

I honestly haven’t bothered to make up a paper pattern for this skirt, It’s simple to mark your measurements on the fabric and then cut, and since the measurements you use depend on the stretch of the fabric, you might otherwise need to tweak a paper pattern each time. 

For these skirts, I usually go for knit fabrics with a 60% stretch. I like the skirt to have a bit of stability and not too much drape. Don’t pick a fabric that is too stiff though. You still want it to flow when you walk! I also choose knits that aren’t too thin. Do I want you to know the color of underwear I have on? Not exactly. 

Maxi-Fabrics

It’s really hard for me to write this and not get technical! Trust me, I had a whole handout, with body measurements, pattern measurements and knit stretch math planned, and then I realized I was NEVER going to get that done. Did I tell you we bought a house and are moving at the end of this month? Yeeeeeah. Things are a bit nuts over here at the moment!

So let’s keep this fun and super easy, alright? Go ahead and buy about 1.5- 2 yards of 60” wide fabric and matching thread. Definitely get 2 yards if you will be pattern matching, but for the most part, 1.5 yards will be plenty, unless you’re extra tall. Be sure to prewash it so that it won’t shrink later. 

The first thing you’ll need is your waist measurement. For the maternity version, take this measurement right under your belly, close to your hips. Make sure that the tape measure sits at an angle and is above your bum. If you are not pregnant, take this measurement at the lowest point you would want the skirt to sit. You are not taking this measurement at your natural waist. Where this measurement is taken, is where the seam between the fold-over waistband and skirt will sit. You could fold down the waistband to this point, or leave your waistband unfolded so that it sits higher.

Maternity-Maxi-Measurement

Next, take your knit fabric and fold over it in half and mark this measurement on it. You’ll want to see how it feels on your body before you go cutting anything! I pin it closed and try pulling the fabric over my hips once or twice. Does it feel too loose? You’ll likely have to remove at least 2” of fabric from the measurement to get a snug fit that won’t feel like it’s about to fall down. Make sure it’s not too snug on your hips. We won’t be flaring out the skirt that quickly, so if it’s tight on your bum now, it will probably still be fairly fitted over your rear once it’s sewn. 

Maternity-Maxi-Stretch-Check

Once you are comfortable with the fit, re-measure the fabric to see what you actually want your waist measurement to be. For my fabric, I subtracted 2 inches from my waist measurement. I’ve subtracted as much as 6” before from a very drapey rayon (this was pre-pregnancy), so don’t worry if you take away more than me! Just do whatever feels best to you. There will be that waistband seam where this measurement was taken, so you want it to be comfortable. You also want this measurement to be smaller than your hip circumference. You won’t want to wear a skirt that constantly slides down! The measurement I am using for my waist is 4 inches smaller than my hip circumference.

Now! On to drawing out your pattern pieces! I recommend that you sketch them out on a piece of paper (or alright, go ahead and make a paper pattern if you are feeling motivated) so that you have all of your measurements on hand and ready to go. 

I enjoy having a 4” double fold waistband at the top of the skirt, but you may prefer 6”. You may want to play with your fabric to see how wide you want yours to be. This means that the pattern piece for the waistband is as wide as half of waist width, plus seam allowance, and is from 8-12” wide (since you will fold it over on itself prior to stitching it down), plus seam allowance.

I have given you suggested skirt length and skirt circumference measurements on the image below. You will want to check and see if these measurements are long enough for your legs and wide enough for your stride. Also, consider the width of of your fabric. Depending on your waist/hip measurements, you may need to make a skirt that is a bit more straight and less flared, so it fits on your fabric. 

Maxi-Suggested-Measurements

If you are a picky pants like me, you may want to create separate front and back pieces. To do this, subtract 1” total from your front pieces, and add this 1” to the back pattern pieces. 

Maxi-F&B-Pattern-Pieces

Double check all of your measurements to make sure you have added on seam allowance and a hem turn-up. I use 1/4″ seam allowance because I sew this on the serger, and a 1″ hem turn up. Yes, I do have all of the measurements I like to use written down, as I am being lazy and not making pattern pieces for this skirt. I would never remember any of this otherwise!

Once you have this done, you’ll be ready to mark, cut out and sew your pieces! I’ll post the next part of the tutorial on marking, cutting and sewing the maxi skirts on Friday- Saturday- this coming week. Pregnancy fatigue hit me big time this weekend, so I’m hoping to publish it early next week.

Update: Part 2 is now here!

A Tiny Cardigan and a Maternity Skirt

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Life has been flying by. I honestly cannot believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted, but I decided to be nice to myself and not fret about it too much. There’s only so much energy that I have each day and I’m trying not to push it. I’m pretty much drained in the evening, even with taking a nap. That whole “second trimester energy burst”? Yeah, I’m calling bull crap on that, especially now that I’m beginning my third trimester. I have to take a nap every day so that I can keep my eyes open until 9:00 PM (but yes, everything is fine, I checked with my midwife). It doesn’t leave a lot of time for sewing!

I did finally start on a project for the baby. I’ve been focused on using my sewing time to make garments for my own dwindling wardrobe, but I wanted to start something tiny! I originally didn’t think I’d knit anything but hats for our little one, but a friend convinced me that I should knit at least one sweater. Hopefully the 3 month size I chose will get some wear out of it before the baby grows too much!

annabel-babe-cardigan

I don’t think I got to tell you yet. We’re having a GIRL! I was very excited when we found out, because LITTLE TINY DRESSES! BLOOMERS! SWEATERS! EEEEKK! My mind is swimming with things I want to make. It’s taking everything I have not to search on Etsy for vintage baby girl dress patterns. I knew that the sweater pattern I chose would need to be really easy, so I picked the Annabel Babe Cardigan. It’s all garter stitch, with simple increases. Hey, I’ve only screwed it up twice! Thank goodness it was easy to fix. This made for a perfect airplane knitting project for a recent trip to Indiana that we took.

I picked up the yarn at Close Knit. It’s Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash Sport in color number 1910. I love stitching with merino wool. It works so smoothly on the needles and always blocks nicely. The color is a really lovely greenish-blue, and while picking it out I instantly thought of all of the vintage buttons I have that would go well with the color.

There are these sweet tiny pearl buttons…

annabel-pearl-buttons

Or maybe these prancing ponies…

annabel-horse-buttons

But my favorite has to be these Czech glass hearts…

annabel-heart-buttons

I’m going to change the pattern a bit so that I only use 3 buttons. Mostly because I know I’ll never button her up all the way in a wool sweater, but also so that I can save a few buttons to put on a matching dress. Am I getting a little crazy yet? It’s going to be amazing.

As far as sewing for myself, I’ve adjusted and created patterns, washed and cut out my pieces, but only sewn up one maxi skirt. Tomorrow is a sewing day, so I should have much more to share soon! There are currently 2 shirts and a dress sitting on my table, begging to be stitched.

Before I was pregnant, I was mostly a jeans girl. Let’s just say this about maternity jeans though- they are horrible and should all be burned. Do you like it when your pants fall down every other step and you end up penguin-walking because your crotch is practically between your knees? Me neither. I tried on several pairs by different brands but none of them were very comfortable. A friend had given me a fold-over waistband skirt, which I quickly copied. It feels so much better than pants!

Maternity-maxi-skirt-1I got this particular fabric from Girl Charlee. I had to return my first fabric order from them because the knits I chose were too thin. On my second try I went for the Ponte de Roma knit though, and hit the jackpot. I chose this black and white print so that I could wear it many times over with different colors of solid shirts. I baaaaarely ordered enough yardage to match up the pattern on the side seams, but there was no way I could let that go, even if it meant making the skirt a bit more straight than I originally intended.

Maternity-Maxi-skirt-2

I have worn this skirt both with the waistband up (and a shirt over it) and with it rolled down (and my shirt tucked in). I prefer it rolled down. It may be kind of nice as it gets cooler to have my belly covered up a bit more and to leave it unrolled. Either way, I’m going to keep making these, because they’ll be great to wear post-partum too.

So, I have two questions for you. Which buttons would you choose for the cardigan? Also, would you be interested in a tutorial for whipping up a quick one of these skirts for yourself? I promise they look great on non-pregnant ladies too!

Machine Review: Bernina L220 Cover Stitch

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Bernina-L220-Cover-Stitch

Thank you so much for your kind comments on my last post! I promise not to post only baby-related things from now on, but I’m sure there will be a burst of very cute tiny clothes soon!

My new machine should help me out with that too, especially since I’ll be using a lot of very soft knit fabrics. It’s a Bernina L220 cover stitch, and it’s a real beauty. A cover stitch machine that doesn’t make me want to pull my hair out? Yes, thank you, I’ll take 3 dozen, please.

I’ve had this machine for a few months now. I am so happy with it! I have used many cover stitch machines over the years, and this is by far my favorite one I’ve come across. Like most cover stitch machines, there aren’t lots of bells and whistles to go along with it. It has a few simple functions which it does well each time I use it, and that makes me a happy camper.

This machine features 3 different needle positions, and can make a 4-thread cover stitch (uses all 3 needles), a wide 3-thread cover stitch, a narrow 3-thread cover stitch and a 2-thread chainstitch. It has easy-to-adjust tension knobs, a differential feed feature and is easy to thread.

With the threading, there is a unique sequence with the lower looper. I was overly confident when I brought the machine home and went ahead and pulled all of the loose threads out of it. It turns out that one section of the lower looper thread really stumped me! The manual illustrations and the diagram on the machine itself had a very odd way of telling you to thread a certain section, so I thought I’d help with that here.

When you reach this arm on the lower looper thread guides, the first thing you must do is pull your thread thru the small hook guide. Then, you will bring the thread back over this guide, and wrap it under the long finger on the machine.

L220-Looper-Step1

L220-Looper-Step2

You can then pull your thread under the finger and head for the next hook guide. The illustrations show a dotted line for this part, which wasn’t helpful.

L220-Looper-Step3

L220-Looper-Step4

I eventually got it though, and if you’d like to see a video of this, Bernina has a guide for threading this machine on Youtube.

Many cover stitch machines thread their loopers from the right side of the machine. The L220 threads from the left side. There is an easy looper auto-threader that pulls down so that you can thread the entire looper without struggling.

L220-Looper-Auto-Threader

L220-Looper-threaded

The biggest test for a coverstitch machine is to test it out in different weights and thickness of fabrics to see if it skips stitches. So far, I haven’t found a combination that causes trouble for this machine.

On my last cover stitch, the Brother 2340CV, this was a constant problem. While I was in the middle of stitching, the tension dials would slowly loosen and most of the time I wouldn’t catch it until I turned my work over and saw many places where the looper thread didn’t connect with the needles. It was really frustrating! Using all different types of thread, adjusting the tensions and foot pressure and trying different gauges and types of needles didn’t help either. There were many fists shaken and words spat at that machine!

I pushed this machine really hard around Christmas time. I made my dad a cardigan (out of the same pattern I use for myself) out of an extremely thick knit fleece. It was the kind of fabric that North Face would use on a heavier sweatshirt, and in a few places, this machine had to stitch over SIX layers of that fabric. I was reeeeeaaally nervous. The last thing I wanted to do was make my new machine angry! But nope, she handled it like the pro she is, and barely flinched. I was relieved, because my Brother could never make it over those areas when I sewed my own cardigans.

One awesome feature the helps with this is the presser foot. This foot is made out of three different spring-loaded sections, so it can ride up over bulky seams and not lose foot pressure. I really like to serge down my seam allowances using a cover stitch, so this foot helps ensure a beautiful stitch every time.

Bernina-L220-Presser-Foot

Plus, the fabric in that photo? That’s this machine only sewing on three layers. It can really handle a lot!

So, back to the skipped stitch test. Most coverstitch machines have a very hard time creating a flat, non-skipped stitch on a tissue weight knit. My last machine just couldn’t do it. I loosened the tensions a bit, sprayed some starch on the knit, and fed it into the machine. Would you look at that?

LightweightFabricCoverStitched

It’s the tiniest bit wavy because I didn’t have the edge pressed or pinned and I didn’t hold it flat very well. But I’m still pleased with it!

Here is the stitching on two layers of heavy cotton sweater knit:

Thick2-Cover-Stitched

And again on three layers of heavy cotton sweater knit:

Thick3-Cover-Stitched

The last example is where I folded the fabric over on itself and used the foot’s spring-loaded feature to sit half-on, half-off the fabric edge. Still a beautiful stitch! Sorry I didn’t use white thread. I should have switched it out for you!

I don’t have a photo of the chainstitching, but it does a really nice job of that (if you couldn’t have guessed). I most often use the chainstitch for basting together muslins. It’s much quicker to take apart than a basting stitch on a sewing machine.

This machine also has an interesting way of releasing the threads, which I may save for another post. Are any of you curious about the best way to end your cover stitching?

Do you have any questions about this machine?

A Very Small Announcement

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There have been a few goings-on around here that I’ve been quiet about. One in particular that has had most of my my attention has also be sucking up all of my energy and not leaving me with a lot of brain power left to write or sew. It’s hard when that’s how you make your living! But now I that have some energy back, I’ve been able to get a bit of sewing done, starting with a maternity tshirt!

MNeilson-gathers2We’re expecting our first little one in early November! It’s been pretty hard not to say anything, especially with my last post talking about motivation. I knew that this baby was draining a lot of my will to do anything besides nap, but I don’t think I realized just how much early pregnancy was affecting me. I tried to fight against it, but I’d sit at my table and stare at my projects. I had to start all over again! None of the plans that I had for summer sewing were going to work out! I remembered that Megan Nielsen had a line of maternity patterns though, so I bought the Ruched Maternity tshirt and sewed it up with a drapey rayon knit that was in my stash. It felt really good to take a project from start to finish with no adjustments.

MNeilson-shirtI really like that this top will stretch and grow with my belly. All of my tshirts were getting a little short, and I can’t stand wearing short shirts! You will never, I repeat, never find me wearing a crop top (especially now… although that might be hilarious).

MNeilson-gathersI really like that the gathers on the side seam are only on the front part of the shirt. I bought a maternity shirt with gathering on both the front and back bodice and it’s kind of annoying. Can you tell I’m picky about how my clothes fit?!

MNeilson-neckline

I used my new Bernina L220 cover stitch machine to hem the shirt and stitch down the neckband. I am sooo in love with this machine! I will give you a full write-up about it very soon. It’s amazing and I want to use it all the time.

PossibleMaternityPatterns

I do have some garment sewing plans that involve a few patterns already in my stash. I think the Jamie Christina Mission Maxi will work well in a stretchy fabric and I plan on sewing a Colette Laurel out of a knit as well. The Victory Patterns Chloe dress could work, as long as I add fabric to the center panel and rework it a bit. We’ll see if I get that far!

I am pretty excited to start sewing for this little one soon. I’ve been eyeing lots of beautiful quilting cottons for tiny clothes and of course, a quilt. I think that the Noodlehead Super Tote might make a really cute diaper bag too. There’s so much to do!