Making a Victorian Walking Skirt Using Only 2 Meters of Fabric

A summer walking skirt that ended up being not quite summer published due to some health issues. But here it is!

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX5ECNJhnkQ

This fabric is so ridiculously soft. It was a bit like trying to sew liquid. 😅

PS: If you ever go out to harvest lovely wild things, please do not take the first you see (it may be the last), and please do not take more than half. Especially flowers. Our lovely bee friends and other pollinators need them! Here is a really marvelous book recommendation in that line of thought, should you want to explore more.

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX5ECNJhnkQ

Video refs:

[1] Pink silk skirt with irregular facing, Akershusbasen, Digitalt Museum, Norway.

[2] Last Reel Cinema – How to sew a welt pocket.

Materials used:

2 meters double-layer linen (fantastic shop and customer service, even if I would order something else in the future. Which is in no way the shop’s fault).

Black cotton sateen

Scanfil organic cotton thread

Black silk and linen thread

Music (from Epidemic Sound unless otherwise specified):

Lens Flare 1 – Peter Sandberg

Lens Flare 3 – Peter Sandberg

Synesthesia – Clarence Reed

Tumbling – Clarence Reed

Never Say No – Clarence Reed

Supine – Peter Sandberg

Local Forecast by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Source. Artist.

Transcript:

Good morning! Or… good evening, depending on when and where you are currently residing.

Today I thought I would try to make a walking skirt using only 2 meters, or in the case of my height, 2 lengths of fabric with minimal wastage.

I have this beautiful, green, 2-layered piece of linen that I thought would make a lovely summer skirt. There are a couple of reasons why that didn’t quite work out the way I planned, but more on that a little later.

First off, let’s talk briefly about the pattern.

My plan is to cut off a strip of fabric that is the whole 2-meter length. This will become the waistband, placket, pocket facings, and any other small item that may be required.

The rest of the fabric is cut into two 1-meter long pieces, from which we will cut one front piece, two side pieces, and two wider back pieces with enough room for gathering.

The main wastage in this project will come from the bottom of the hem since the pieces cut diagonally or on the bias will be longer than the cuts on the straight grain. I do not attempt to correct this at this stage, since bias seams stretch, especially if you have sewn two sides cut on the bias together. I am planning on dealing with that only after the walking skirt has been assembled and the side seams have been left to stretch for a while.

The walking skirt is all straight angles at this point, so cutting them out is fairly straightforward.

To stitch up the long seams, I am pulling out our trusty friend Freja to come out and play.

Main seams done, I do a quick press and fold over the seams with a hemming stitch. You can see my seam allowances are all really wide here because the fabric was loosely woven and frayed easily. Such are the risks sometimes when you get most of your fabrics online and are usually too impatient to order swatches ahead of time.

Then the skirt was hung for a week to let any stretch that wanted to happen… happen.

It is now time for the placket. In this case, a 10-12 inch long rectangle is sewn on what will become the side of the skirt opening that is underneath. You can do up the short edges beforehand, but I find it a little less fiddly to attach it first and then do up the short edges.

The placket is then folded like so, pressed and hemmed.

Gathering the skirt up into the waistband is up next, here done in thick, black thread and running stitches on only the two back panels. Then, rather than trying to match the gathering to my waist size, I simply put on the unfinished skirt and adjust as desired.

The waistband is pinned and attached with a backstitch and strong, black thread. If you want to make sure your skirt is easily adjustable both up and down in size, fold a couple inches of extra waistband length in.

Just… make sure you add that extra width the side where the button will be and not equally between the button side and the side where you… say… are going to cut a great, big buttonhole?

Do not ask me how I realized that little piece of obviousness was… obvious…

On to the closures before we finish off with hemming and pockets. This little, cute button came, I think, from a pair of trousers at some point? I don’t remember, but it’s cute and I only have one, so it’s perfect for this kind of thing.

I was planning on adding hooks and eyes down the length of the skirt opening as well but between the placket and the gathers, I found it really wasn’t necessary.

For buttonholes in general, but especially in fraying and obnoxious fabrics, I like to do a tight row of running stitches around the circumference before I cut. Is this supremely extra and takes extra time? Yup. But I also find that it keeps everything nice and tightly together before the buttonhole stitch, even when I accidentally cut through the thread.

Speaking of buttonhole stitches, I am doing mine up in thick, black thread and, as is apparently a theme with this project, extra-wide stitches to make sure no fraying thread from the loose fabric is allowed to escape.

And on the other side, naturally, goes the button. I know I am adding a thread stem to a button that already has a stem but… it’s a habit. Don’t @ me.

For levelling of the hem, I am afraid I do not have a sneaky, secret trick for managing on your own, as I asked one of my pandemic pod friends to come over and give me a hand. A hem marker or dress form would be fantastic, but I do not currently have either of those in my possession.

For a little extra pizzazz, I am going to line the bottom of the hem with wide strips of this gorgeous diamond twill linen. I initially got it to make a shirt, but I don’t think I’d dare wear something as fine as this on the regular. But as happy details on larger projects, I think it is going to be superb, so I look forward to using it for many other projects as well.

As you can see from my cutting, I am simply cutting straight strips of fabric.

A: because matching the width and angles of my pattern-less pieces would be a pain.

B: because I wish to be conservative with my fabric use, especially how much cabbage I produce and have to deal with later,

and C: folding straight strips of fabric to fit curved hems was seen historicall, so why not?

The seam allowance on the strips of linen are pressed on either side before it is carefully pinned to the hem of the walking skirt while doing our best to shape the strips to the (very) soft skirt fabric, not the other way around. The «overspill» on top is pleated as we go as best we can, and everything is permanently attached with a hemming stitch.

For the top, you can see that I am being more careful and working on the flat in order to catch only the inner layer of fabric so that the line is less visible from the outside.

You didn’t think I would omit the all-mighty pocket from this project, did you? Let’s make a statement with the pockets on this walking skirt and go for double-welt ones. A truly terrible idea on a fabric as loose and drapey as this, but you know what? Statement pockets, or something.

For a better how-to on welt pockets than what you are about to see, I recommend the video by Last Reel Cinema which I will link to down below.

Anyway, I am cutting out two pieces of skirt fabric big enough for my hand to comfortably fit through plus seam allowance. I am also cutting out some of the stiffer diamond linen to help strengthen the drapey skirt fabric. These are pad-stitched together, before drawing two parallel lines about three-quarters of an inch apart, and pin it where you want the pocket.

Sew along the lines. Make sure you start and stop at the same length for best results. Yes, I could use Freja for this, but she had some problems at the time that have since been resolved, so hand-sewn it is!

Now comes the scary part. We need to cut in between our lines, almost to the end. The last inch or so we cut diagonally towards each seam, but take care not to go too far or cut into your thread.

The fabric is then folded inside the skirt and duly pressed.

Once our double welt has been pressed, I like to go all the way around the outside with a backstitch to make sure everything stays where I pressed it. Pay particular attention to the short ends as they are both the weakest part and the place that sees most wear and tear.

Lastly, since the pocket is just a dressed-up slit in our skirt at this point, we need to cut some pocket bags, and I have this lovely, black cotton sateen that I think will do nicely. I simply fold it double at a width I like and cut out two pear-shaped pieces. I then started stitching them together but realized before I’d gone too far that my life would be a whole lot easier if I made the pocket opening first.

Pro-tip: Do not be as generous with the diagonal cuts as I am being here… the more you know.

And then our two pocket pieces are sewn together before the ends are folded over and finished.

I forgot to film this part, but the top part of the pocket is sewn to the waistband to help divide the weight of any treasure you store inside it.

And with that, our new skirt is complete! Perfect for early morning strolls in the forest before the heat of the summer day sets in, in earnest. The skirt ended up being quite a bit warmer than expected because of the double layer, despite being linen. But hey, live and learn friends.

That’s it for this time. Thank you for watching.


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