Tag Archives: patternmaking

Math Skirt (yay!)

This is the skirt I will point to whenever any young person ever asks me WHY they have to learn about fractions, measurement, multiplication and division, and WHEN they will possibly ever use this in their real lives. Because this, Dear Readers, is a Math Skirt.

Love the skirt but my god the pictures turned out terribly. I’m scraping the barrel here, Dear Readers. Also: The Front.


Let’s word it like a math test problem:

You have two 40″ long pieces of border print fabric that must be assembled into a fitted skirt for an adult woman with a 30″ waist and a 38″ high hip (5″ below the waist). How much must the waist be pleated to reduce the 40″ to 30″, assuming twelve pleats on front and back (24 pleats total)? How much must the pleats be reduced 4″ down to ensure adequate volume for the high hip? For bonus marks, draft a 1″ waist-band.

Sure yes! Let's go tromping around in the woods in my new white skirt!
Sure yes! Let’s go tromping around in the woods in my new white skirt!

I didn’t even properly draft a pattern for this. I just cut out two 40″ long fabric rectangles, sat down with a calculator, a ruler, and a pink chalk marker, and started figuring out where to put the pleats and how big to make them to fit the way I wanted them to–which was to duplicate this skirt, as much as possible.


I do love that skirt.

White invisible zipper, white hook and eye. Side zipper so I didn’t have to break up the print. The fabric is a mid-weight cotton satin, and it’s just gorgeous. Just the right amount of body to get a pleated skirt puffing out nicely, but still light enough to be a pleasure to wear when it’s hot outside.

In the photographs, the white of the skirt catches all the light and you can’t see any details. So here is one with the exposure turned way down so you can see the pleats. They’re pleated from the waist to the high hip, sewn down nice and snug, and then released. Each pleat has a 45-degree stitching line at the bottom that you can just barely make out in this picture.

Pleats Proof.
Pleats Proof. Also Extra Wrinkles, that don’t show up in real life.

It has a white cotton voile lining, and here I used the skirt sloper to make a quick and dirty a-line lining–just enough to keep the main skirt belling out and provide a little extra opacity.

The Back.
The Back.


Since the border print ran along the selvedge, I just turned it up once and top-stitched it down. It’s not like it’s going to fray, after all.

Here I’m wearing it with a recent yet-to-be-blogged blouse, but I’ve got enough of the border print left over that I think I can make a shirt, maybe with the border print on one shoulder. This is yet to be decided.

In the meantime: Math Skirts–not so hard!

As a bonus, at the end of my little photo hike, this lovely lady popped out of the woods to say hello.


Terrible picture as it was getting dark, but the deer around here are not shy of humans, so she just placidly trotted along, snacking on greens, eyeing me while I tried to get a good shot. Which I clearly failed to do.


No ... too plain.
No … too plain. But the colour’s lovely.

Last week, I finally got around to buying a big piece of cow skin to experiment with. It’s brown, which isn’t my first choice, but I wanted something less fancy to make mistakes on; it’s embossed to look like ostrich skin and should distress well, so I hope whatever I make will be successful enough to use. Even cheap leather is not cheap, when you’re buying what used to cover half an ungulate.

What I need now is a pattern. A pattern for a tote bag that is slightly slouchy, would look good in a brown bumpy leather, is roomy enough for all my work stuff but not excessively so, has good interior pockets with a nice cotton lining, a solid bottom so it won’t collapse when I pick it up, and handles suitable for a shoulder-bag.

Hmm. Maybe. But also a bit plain.
Hmm. Maybe. But also a bit plain.

I cannot find even a pattern for a leather bag that isn’t hideous. Well, if not hideous, at least not boxy and boring. Even the patterns for not-leather bags are either way, way too much (picture frills and frou-frou exploding all over the place, or enormous trendy showstoppers designed to look appealing in quilting cotton) or way, way not enough (as in, two pieces of fabric sewn together at the sides, make a gusset, attach straps, and that’s it).

No no no.

I’ve pretty well resigned myself to making my own pattern. Which so far has involved looking through approximately 1,000 pages of fashion magazine so I can rip out pictures of leather bags I like, and squint at them to see if I can figure out how they were put together. Where are the seams? How did they attach the pockets? Does it have a top zip closure, or a clasp? What did they put in the bottom to give it structure?

The top pleats are cute. I wonder what they did for the sides and bottom?
The top pleats are cute. I wonder what they did for the sides and bottom?

I have previously made shoulder bags without a pattern. My favourite was the one that started with an old pair of jeans for the lining; then I cut some boiled wool for the top facing and attached it, used that to sketch out a pattern piece for the front and back, estimated a length and width for the straps and used cotton scraps to line them, embroidered the bag front, sewed it all together and added a gusset. It looks great and it’s very functional, though embroidering through boiled wool with yarn is no joke.

So I know it is doable. But the prospect is less intimidating when one is experimenting with old blue jeans and $5/metre boiled wool, rather than embossed leather.

I like these darts too, especially the way the handles are attached on top of them.

I also thought about adding a bit of cross-stitching or other embroidery, and bought glover’s needles just in case I end up doing any hand-work. Glover’s needles are serious weapons. I could probably sew my fingers together with them.

Current thoughts are something like the Dior bag, but a titch smaller and maybe with some embroidery; a separate side piece to give it some good interior room and avoid the need for darts or gussets; and a top-zip, if I can figure out how to assemble and install it. I want rings for the handles, like in the aqua bag, and studs to reinforce joints and seams. I want it to have feet, and a base that is attached to the side piece for a bit of extra strength and structure. And maybe I’ll have my spring/summer work bag in time for fall.