The patchwork trend…
For a couple of years now we have been seeing handicrafts making an appearance on the catwalk and now gradually making its way to the high street. Crochet, lacework, embroidery, tapestry – but in particular patchwork. From Dior’s amazing patchwork jackets to hoodies and dresses from Etro – they make us wish we could add them to our wardrobes but most aspiring fashionistas simply can’t afford those price tags!
As dressmakers, we are in a unique position. We have the skills to create wearable patchwork masterpieces of our own for a fraction of the price! Perhaps not quite to the standard of those legendary designers we see on the runway, but when it comes to mixing multiple fabrics surely a more simplistic design is better anyway?!
Falling in love…
This simple skirt design was crying out for a re-creation and I knew instantly it was simple enough to be realistic but with all the multi-coloured impact I’d been craving. After studying the picture intensely, I could see that the fabrics were not random but a carefully curated selection of prints and colours that had been ‘
The perfect fabric…
When I think of beautifully curated fabric collections, one company comes to mind – Art Gallery Fabrics. These guys release new collections every season from some of the most creative and colourful fabric designers around. I knew from some of my past purchases, that if I was looking for a boho vibe, these were the guys to go to and I was delighted that they wanted to collaborate with me to create this beautiful skirt.
We settled on the new Legendary – Bohemian collection designed by Pat Bravo which was a selection of warm yellows, bold pinks, turquoise and teal. It had a slightly different tone to the blues, reds and yellows in my inspiration picture but I wasn’t trying to create an exact copy, just my own interpretation. Art Gallery kindly sent me a yard from each of the twelve designs in the range.
Creating the pattern…
Now I had the fabric sorted, it was time to deconstruct the skirt in the picture. Counting as best I could, I guessed that there were roughly 24 fabrics visible on the front of the skirt which would mean the same for the back – 48 panels in total. I knew that I didn’t want the top of the panels to be less than 1″ when sewn together as that would have been too fiddly but, any bigger than that and the skirt would have gathered in too much and been bulky at the waist. With 48 x 1″ panels gathered down to fit my 30″ waist I was looking at approximately 1.5x gather which seemed about the right amount of fullness. Again, studying the picture, I estimated the panels to widen out to approx 6″ at the hem. I wanted the skirt to be all the way down to the floor and I wanted to sew it with a 1/4″ seam allowance, so I now had everything I needed to make a pattern piece.
If you want to make your own pattern piece, here are the measurements I used. Of course, you could draft straight onto the fabrics, but I had so many to cut that I thought a pattern piece would be helpful!
|Top Width (plus 1/2″ SA)||1 1/2″ (3.8cm)|
|Hem Width (plus 1/2″ SA)||6 1/2″ (16.5cm)|
|Skirt Length (waist to floor, plus 1″ SA/HA)||42″ (106.7cm)|
To draft your pattern piece cut a piece of paper wide and long enough to contain your measurements. Start by drawing a vertical line down the centre of the paper the same length as your Skirt Length – mine was 42″. At the top, plot half of your Top Width measurement either side of the vertical line and draw a horizontal line (mine was 3/4″ either side, giving me 1 1/2″ in total). Then, at the bottom, plot half of your Hem Width either side of the vertical line and draw another horizontal line (mine was 3 1/4″ either side, giving me 6 1/2″ in total). At this stage, it should look like this image A.
Now join up the outer points of your top and bottom line to form the sides of your pattern piece. You should now have what looks like a very tall and skinny triangle with a flat top, as in image B.
One final step for the pattern piece is to slightly curve the bottom edge. Curving the pattern piece now will mean less trimming later so it is an important step. Lay a ruler on the side edge to create a right angle that intersects with the horizontal line, as shown in image C. You’ll be taking a small amount off the side edge but it will all fit together better.
Cutting the fabric…
Now that I had my pattern piece, it was time to cut my fabrics. Now I had twelve fabrics and 48 panels to cut, so the maths was very easy for mine. I needed 4 panels from each fabric. You could just as easily use fewer fabrics and cut more panels from each. Simply divide the number of panels you need by the number of fabrics you are using. As a stash-busting exercise, you could just cut a random number from each of your larger fabric scraps until you have the desired amount!
In order to save fabric, I decided to fold each design in half and then cut two layers with the pattern piece one way and then two the other way. The shape of them allowed me to nestle them in next to each other which meant less wastage.
When one becomes two…
Nikki was thrilled to be able to get involved with the project and wanted a quick way to make her skirt a bit different. She decided to remove the seam allowance from one side of my pattern and then double it. Her panels would all be twice the size, and so she would only require half as many. Less cutting and less sewing!!
A super simple sew…
The sewing process could not be more simple. All of the panels need to be sewn together on the sides to form one giant circle. As we were effectively making a giant quilt, and Nikki is my official ‘Queen Of Quilting’, we followed her tried and tested method for sewing lots of panels together quickly
- Don’t bother with pins. Just align the first few inches and then adjust them as you sew. On a long seam you could spend just as long pinning as sewing. Halve the time by foregoing the pins!
- Start by sewing pairs. Take any two panels and sew them right sides together on just one side. If you are following a particular order or pattern – make sure you are sewing the correct side!
- Chain your pieces. Don’t cut your threads when you get the end of one pair, just pop the next one under and keep sewing. Then when they have all gone through, you can snip between each set to separate them.
- Pair your pairs. Open out each set of two and place it right sides together with another set of two – again sewing just one side. This will turn your pairs into fours.
- Time for triplets. Take three sets of fours. Place two of them right sides together to form an eight. Then sew the third set to the other side to make a twelve. For Nikki’s skirt – a twelve equated to each half of the skirt. For mine, I then stitched my twelves together to create twenty-fours which equated to half of my skirt.
- Close the circle. Once you have a completed back and front, each comprising of half of your panels, you can finally lay them right sides together and stitch up both sides.
We also stitched ours on the overlocker as this meant we would not need to finish the many seams afterwards!
Like all handmade garments, one of the key things to getting a professional look is a really good press. So despite the gajillion seams in the skirt, it is worth taking the time to press them all. Having overlocked seams means that they can all be pressed the same way. We just fed the skirt inside out over the ironing board and then rotated it whilst pressing all the seams in the same direction.
Time for a waistband…
The skirt in the picture had an elasticated waist, which makes it quick to assemble and comfy to wear. I wanted our waistbands to be as wide as our widest elastic which was 2″. To calculate the waistband channel,
The length of the waistband is determined by your finished skirt. Lay the skirt flat and measure the top edge. Joining the panels will mean that it will now be slightly curved so make sure you run the tape measure along the full length (you are only measuring one half of the skirt). You will need to cut two pieces this length but, you will be joining them together, so you also need seam allowance. We cut two pieces 24.5″ long (24″ plus two times 1/4″ seam allowance). If you have a piece long enough you can cut the waistband as one piece.
If you are using two pieces as we were, start by joining them together on the short edges (RST) to make one loop. Then bring the raw edges wrong sides together and press in half.
With the skirt right sides out, feed the waistband over the top and align the raw edges of the waistband with the raw edge of the skirt. Pin it to the skirt all the way around the top. Stitch the waistband to the skirt, using the 1/4″ seam you allowed for, but don’t go all the way around. Be sure to leave a 2″ gap somewhere on the seam so that you can feed in your elastic.
Cut your elastic to size by wrapping it around your waist. It should feel snug but not tight. Allow for
The hem that never ends…
The final step is definitely an exercise in patience. Or delegation in my case as Nikki very kindly offered to hem both of our skirts. Such a big skirt means a really long hem (approx 7m each on ours!) so make yourself a big mug of coffee first! Nikki chose to overlock around the hem first, then simply turn under the overlocked edge and stitch in place. She was confident enough not to have to worry about pressing the hem until afterwards, but if you are not confident about your hemming abilities it would be best to press under the hem first.
The moment of truth…
So, how did I do? Do you think I managed to capture the spirit of the
More importantly, did this patchwork
Well, I think these pictures speak for themselves
If you decide to make your own skirt, we would love to see your variations! Why not play with the length or the fullness (if you opt for less full, make sure the waist can fit over your hips or add a zip instead). Try wider or narrower panels. Try using two matching fabrics in different colour ways or print sizes. Go themed with mixed animal prints, mixed florals, or mixed polkadots. Go full rainbow with plain fabrics, or tonal with slightly varied tones in the same colour palette.
If you do make a skirt, make sure you tag us on social media using @thestitchsistersuk or use the hashtag #ssgypsyskirt so we can find your makes.
And, if you don’t yet know how to sew but you fancy giving it a go. Why not check out our completely free Learn To Sew class to get to grips with a sewing machine before you try out this project?