Project: Nehalem Skirt in Handwoven Checks

Being stuck indoors during a summer heat wave meant it was time to sew! I’d been wanting to make something from our Random Checks handwoven cotton for a long time. I also had my eye on Sew House 7’s Nehalem wrap skirt. Together they turned out to be a great combination of fabric and pattern.

Nehalem skirt by Loom and Stars
This was a simple and quick project, sewn start to finish in one afternoon, but the result is polished and work-appropriate. The Nehalem pattern contains both a skirt and pants with a clever shape which gives the look and comfort of a wrap skirt without the annoying flappiness that true wrap skirts often have. An unshaped waistband provides some origami-like effects as it folds around the waist and hips. To make it even better, there are enormous pockets, though they're hardly noticeable on this fabric.

Nehalem skirt back waist

The skirt is essentially a tube with a wide waistband and just a little shaping on some of the vertical seams, so I didn’t print out several of the pieces of the downloaded pattern (the waistband, tie and skirt front). Instead I simply measured those pieces on my monitor, then drew them onto the fabric with chalk and a ruler. To make the skirt approximately knee-length I started with the short version and lengthened the pattern pieces by about 4 inches.

flat fell seams from the inside

The Nehalem’s construction is very straightforward. For the most part, I followed the pattern’s instructions, except when it came to seam finishing. For all the vertical seams I made false flat-fell seams, which I like because they are smooth, sturdy, and nicely finished inside and out. Above, the inside view, with one seam allowance trimmed and the other being folded around it...

flat fell seams from the outside

...and this is how the finished seam looks from the outside. The stitching blends right into the design of the fabric.

The instructions say to fold the waistband piece in half lengthwise and stitch to the top of the skirt pieces, finishing all the raw edges together. This leaves them visible inside the skirt and isn't the best way of doing things.

Stitching in the ditch from the outside
Instead I cut out the waistband piece with one long edge along the selvedge of the fabric. I stitched the long raw edge of the waistband to the top of the skirt and pressed the seam upwards towards the waistband. Then I folded the waistband lengthwise so the selvedge edge would fall slightly below that seamline (inside the skirt) and pinned it in place. Above, stitching from the outside with my new stitch-in-the-ditch foot, with the underside of the waistband securely pinned at the seamline...
waistband, inside view

... and the inside view of the stitched waistband showing the selvedge of the fabric, with the waistband to the right. Easy, nicely finished, and not at all bulky!

Nehalem skirt back pleats
Because the skirt has a much more tubular shape than I do, I either have to wear it rather low on my hips (which can feel unstable) or have many folds around the waist. To keep things secure, I tacked a few small tucks into the waistband near where back waist darts would normally be located.

Nehalem skirt front snap

Then I added a large snap to the front overlap to avoid any potential wardrobe malfunctions. After wearing this a few times, I’ve decided to make some tiny loops or carriers to keep the tie in place on the front, as well.

Nehalem Skirt in handloom cotton check fabric
Though I often mention the need to treat handwoven fabrics with care, Random Checks is a sturdy, light-to-medium weight cotton which is just as easy to work with as most regular cotton fabrics, but with a softer touch and drape. The resulting skirt is great: it's kind of tailored and kind of groovy. I’ve been enjoying it in the summer but this is something which will carry me well into fall, paired with boots and woolly tights. Best of all, it’s comfortable and has those fabulous huge pockets!


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