Sometimes we sew something that turns out just right and we wear it all the time.
(Isn’t that one of the best rewards of sewing?) The Nehalem Skirt I made a few years ago (read about it here) was one of those projects, with the perfect combination of a comfortable silhouette and soft handloom cotton. And I love the big pockets!
When our Shadow Stripe handloom cotton arrived, I knew it would be great for another totally wearable skirt like that. The fabric has a cool selvedge that I wanted to highlight so I needed a pattern with a straight-ish hem, and of course pockets were a necessity. Luckily I came across the Peppermint Pocket Skirt which looked just right. This is a free pattern designed by Paper Theory, available online through Peppermint Magazine. And huge pockets are its raison d’etre.
Who can resist playing with the fabric direction when sewing with stripes and checks? Not me! Changing a pattern's grainline can make a garment more interesting, whether you change it on all the pieces or just a few. Sometimes it also leads to a pattern layout which uses less fabric. In this case, cutting some pieces in different directions was partly intentional and partly dictated my design changes.
The Pocket Skirt is intended to be a long midi length but I shortened it by about 6 inches to end below the knee. I envisioned the checked selvedge running around the hem, which would require the skirt panels to be cut on the cross grain, rather than the usual lengthwise grain. However, this would cause the cutting layout to be very wasteful for a skirt of that length. And, because the fabric’s lengthwise stripes would be running around my body if cut this way, it would also mean matching stripes at the skirt’s four seams. No, thanks — this was supposed to be a quick project.
The compromise solution was to cut only the front and back panels of the skirt on the cross grain, placing the selvedge at the hem of those pieces as I intended, while the lower side panels were cut normally (i.e. on the lengthwise grain). This created some subtle perpendicular stripe interest heightened by the space-dyed striations in the fabric’s weft threads. The least wasteful way to cut the upper side panels (the pieces above the pockets) was on the cross grain if I shortened them a few inches in order to fit the two pieces across the width of the fabric. This made the pocket bags slightly shallower than designed, but it hasn’t been a problem — they really are huge. So I did have to match some stripes after all, but only on the upper part of the skirt. Here’s a sketch of the layout:
I also made a few construction changes. Because this pattern is intended to be sewn with a serger, the seam allowances provided are only 3/8 inch. I use a regular sewing machine and wanted to make flat fell seams for a clean finish inside, so I added 1/4 inch to all the side seams to allow for that. A benefit of using the selvedge at the bottom of the front and back panels was that those pieces didn’t need hemming — I only had to hem the two side pieces.
To finish the skirt, I chose to use a drawstring rather than elastic at the waist. (Sometimes I really load my pockets, so a drawstring feels more secure.) This was a simple change: I left a small hemmed opening through which to pull the string in the left front seam of the waistband casing, as you can see below:
The string ties on the inside and is hidden in the skirt when worn. With a drawstring, the placement of the gathers can be adjusted when you put the skirt on. I usually keep most of the gathers in front, with the back fairly flat.
All done! The skirt only took about 3 hours to make, and would have been even faster if made according to the instructions without flat fell seams. The result? Perfect! It’s very comfortable, with a loose, adjustable fit and plenty of pocket capacity. I find myself reaching for it everyday, so I definitely need to make another. Maybe an all-purpose black one and a technicolor one, too.
The latest batch of our Shadow Stripe fabric has a little extra wabi-sabi style: some of the space-dyed weft threads were dyed unevenly, resulting in irregular bands of a lighter or darker color. I really love this accidental effect. It’s visual reminder that handloom fabrics are indeed hand-crafted, and sometimes things don't turn out quite as intended. The fabric is fantastic, and I love the skirt so much that I’m already trying to choose a soft, simple dress pattern to make with it, too.