Monday, June 1, 2009

Sewing at Any Size (SAAS): Variations on the Gored/Panel Skirt

VARIATIONS ON A THEME (Skirts, Gored/Paneled)

The first entries in my SAAS series (Sewing at any size) gave instructions for a gored (paneled) skirt without needing a commercial pattern. This is part 2 of the same theme, with variations on the same basic process. I’ll cover making an inset skirt, wrap skirt and a lined or reversible skirt.

This is where you have wedges of contrasting fabric texture or color between the gores to widen the hem and create a “flippy skirt” look. The insets should be the same weight or lighter weight than the fabric of the skirt. The idea that these insets are invisible at rest, but when you move they flip open and flash the constrasting color or texture, then close again. This is best accomplished using 6 or more gores.

Follow directions for the basic gore skirt panels. When you connect the panels together, only stitch 2/3 or 3/4 down the trapezoid and leave the bottom unhemmed.

Flip the panels over and open the seam, folding the seam of each gore back onto itself. Continue this seam all the way down the skirt.
Measure the length of the opening from where you left off stitching and add 1” (we’ll call this L). Cut the contrasting/inset fabric into a trapezoid 4” wide and (L) inches long. We’ll call this the Inset. If the fabric is a kind that frays/shreds easily, use pinking shears to keep it under control. These are scissors that cut in a zig-zag pattern like /\/\/\/\/\/\ . You can also put a row of stitches about 1/2" in from the edge to control fray.

Place the skirt seam-side (wrong side) up in front of you. Place the Inset fabric right-side down on top of it. Pull the seam of the skirt open 3” at the bottom and pin it to the Inset fabric, leaving ½” of inset fabric overlapping as a seam.

Trim away the extra fabric from the inset (up to any fray-control stitches you added) and finish the skirt as usual.


Make the skirt gores as above but leave one seam between gores unsewn and add an extra panel. (if using 6+ gores, add two or more extra panels).

Instead of closing the last seam to make a round skirt, just fold the raw edges of the two end panels under ½” and sew. You can also create a contrasting trim on what will be the outside/visible edge by taking a 2” strip of another fabric, folding both sides into the middle (iron to crease), sandwiching it over the raw edge and stitching into place.
Hem ½” from the bottom of all panels. Hem ½” from the top as well.

The waistband will be a little different and a lot longer. Use the instructions on how to make a drawstring in the section on waistbands, but use a wider (2”) piece of fabric with a length three times your waist measurement. Turn it inside out and iron it so that it lies flat. Attach as you would a waistband (but before sewing the skirt into a circle) so that equal lengths are left dangling on each end.

For a faux wrap skirt that stays closed, take the edge you want on the underside of the wrap and pin it to the second panel from the finished end. Stitch ½ to 2/3 of the way down the seam, letting the rest stay open. For a regular open-wrap skirt, skip this step and proceed to the next.

Where the two ends connect behind the wrap front, use a pin or seam ripper to pick just enough stitches below where the waistband meets the skirt panel to thread one end of the long tail through the hole. You may want to use a needle and thread to make a few extra stitches on either side of the hole to help reinforce it. Thread the inside waistband tail through the hole.

Wrap the two tail ends of the waistband around you in opposite directions and tie.


The technique is the same to make the basic gore skirt with a liner, or to make a reversible skirt that can be worn either side out. As the waistband will be a single material you may want to choose fabric that coordinates with it for the reverse side.

First you use the basic gore skirt pattern above to make two sets of gores. The second set of gores will be made either from lining material or coordinating material for a reversible look. Sew each set together seperately and iron the bottom edge as if hemming (do not stitch the hem yet).

Place the two skirts one inside the other with the seams facing each other. Match up the hems as precisely as possible and pin to hold in place. Try to get the gore seams to match up as well to prevent pulling.

Very carefully stitch the two hems together, close to the crease.

Make a waistband per the normal instructions, using whichever fabric you want to be visible from both sides. (note: you can also put a strip of this near the hem of the coordinating side for a cute retro look. See instructions for making contrasting trim in the section for a faux wrap skirt).

To attach the waistband, fold each layer inward/towards each other ½” and sandwich the raw edge of the waistband between them. Iron the layers for a crease and pin the layers in this position. Put on the skirt and check for fit and that both layers lay flat without bunching or bagging. Unpin and adjust as necessary before stitching close to crease.
Insert elastic or drawstring per the waistband instructions for the gore skirt. If you’re making a reversible skirt I’d recommend elastic, as the drawstring will be on the inside when you reverse the skirt.

That's it! You should now be able to make a wide variety of skirts of any size or length without ever touching a commercial pattern.


Aya said...

This is really cool. I don't have a sewing machine; is it realistic to consider hand-sewing a gored skirt?

JoGeek said...

It's possible, but expect to take a long time! It might be worth sinking $20 into one of those hand-held stitchers. They're not that great, but they can manage a simple straight-stitch.

Anonymous said...

I'd avoid the hand held stitchers. Most of the models I have seen make chainstitch -- which can easily be unraveled if it isn't finished right at the beginning and end. If you want a hand held stitcher -- look for one that does lock stitch (the kind of stitch sewing machines do) or get a sewing machine. Older sewing machines can be had very cheaply. OTOH, the more you hand sew, the better you will get and the faster you can do it. I do medieval reenactment, and many people I know sew all their costumes entirely by hand. (We're taking floor length and skirts with 10 yards or more in the hem.) So I know it can be done. It's something you can do while you sit on the couch and watch TV.