Monday, 12 November 2012

Edelweiss Skirt

Some of you may remember my Deconstructive / Reconstructive sewing project where I recently went into uncharted (for Mrs T) sewing waters to design, from scratch, a replacement for a much-loved, but frayed, M&S denim skirt, courtesy of the magic instructions in "Sew What! Skirts". This little project had some denim fabric left over - probably because Mrs T's initial arithmetical calculation of the fabric required was a bit out - but hey, let's not carp if overestimating leads to another happy project such as this! Enter my Edelweiss skirt!

It's another denim skirt, but a short one - not enough fabric for another long one. I had to redesign my original pattern from a classic A-line to a straighter shape with less flaring for the short version as otherwise it would have stuck out too much at the sides. I know this, because my first attempt did stick out too much at the sides and had to be re-sewed to streamline it. This was another slightly unnerving foray into the unknown, as I had no idea whether simply taking the seam in, would do much good if the overall shape was out of kilter, but remembering my teenage days, when we all borrowed our mothers' sewing machines on the quiet and re-sewed the leg seams in our jeans to make them tighter-fitting, with never a qualm,  (anyone else remember doing this?) I took the risk. And it worked - the superfluous width in the sideseams, that had stuck out rather alarmingly when I tried it on, had disappeared and in its place emerged a new and streamlined, rather well-fitting shape. Probably more by accident than design, but never mind, who's telling?!

In the last couple of weeks or so I've been devoting every spare minute to Christmas present-making but this last weekend, with an unexpectedly free Saturday afternoon, in a sudden selfish urge, I threw off the present-making to make this for me. Sorry, but I did. And the good news is that it didn't take long - no more than a twinkle of an eye, in real terms.

I am so enjoying making garments that really fit me. Everyone has different quirks to their shape and commercial patterns, although they mostly allow you to shorten or lengthen them, don't offer the flexibility of drawing out something from your own measurements. It's been very encouraging too to discover that if it isn't quite right to begin with, it's possible to tweak it, until it is. Hitherto I've always felt that if a pattern hasn't ended up fitting very well, either it's my amateur sewing skills that are not quite up to the mark or it's simply not a good pattern for my shape and in either scenario there's not much I can do. But no longer!

It's also the case that wonderful though commercial patterns are and I have a whole stack of them, covering everything from babies' sunbonnets to adults summer dresses, toddler dungarees to skirts I've made for myself over the years, as well as pyjamas in a range of sizes to fit small boys and now big ones, they are quite expensive to buy individually. Being able to draw one's own pattern from scratch is going to save quite a lot of money. I don't feel confident enough to draw out anything too complicated (yet!) but you never know where it will end!

Making your own clothes is not always a frugal option - you can spend a fortune on beautiful fabric and handmade buttons, trimmings etc - and sometimes saving money isn't the point of the exercise but to be able to conjure up a new garment for next to nothing has a delight all its own. This was made entirely from what I had in the cupboard apart from the 20 cm zip for which I did have to splash out the princely sum of £1.90 - the fabric was leftover from the previous skirt (and even if I'd had to buy it I would barely have needed three quarters of a metre so we are talking Seriously Frugal Clothing here!), the bias binding (used to bind the facing and the false hem) was made out of a long term resident fat quarter from my fabric stash, the thread was a colour already in stock in my wooden, Belgian chocolate / reels of thread box and the finishing touch, the Edelweiss braid, I had bought a length of in Cologne.

And although I had given half the braid away, there was just enough left to make a wonderful Alpine-flowered border for this little number and two useful little loops to hang the skirt from. Perfect!

I feel I am too old now, in my late forties, to wear skirts that are too short but I do find plain, straight skirts above the knee comfortable and practical and they are perfect for pairing with thick, woolly tights and cosy cardigans in the colder months of the year. Which means most of the year in this country. While in Germany, I bought several pairs of wonderfully-patterned, thick, "Strumpfhose"- some stripy ones and some, I have to admit it, slightly startling ones, patterned with snowflakes and squirrels(!) There are not many days, in my book, that cannot be cheered by a pair of loudly colourful and patterned, thick, woolly tights. I know, I know, call me shallow if you will!! I am unrepentant! If you do not have such an article of clothing in your wardrobe I recommend investing in a pair pronto, to fend off the winter blues both literally and metaphorically.  They are a wonderful way of giving a whole new lift to existing clothing without spending too much or having to invest in a whole new outfit. Although to put the cost thing in perspective, the tights will cost you more to buy than this skirt would cost you to make, even from scratch!

Anyway as you can see, my new Edelweiss skirt pairs quite nicely, I think, with these jolly German stripes and "all is cosy, all is bright," to paraphrase the immortal words of "Silent Night"! Now I must get back on track with what I am supposed to be sewing and hooking in my free time! An update on some of that to come. My sewing machine has never worked so hard! You can see some of its output hanging up on the right of the pic but we had so much trouble getting a pic that was remotely decent (Mrs T is not at all photogenic) I didn't like to make the long-suffering photographer go round again to eliminate extraneous background!

Although having said that I need to get back to what was on my "to sew / to hook" list, the fact that this skirt needed so little fabric and was so quick and cheap to make, is singing a whispering siren song in my head that there may be other leftovers just waiting in the wings to rise like similar phoenixes from the ashes!

If you fancy a similar skirt yourself, have a go! It really was so easy - just draw out the top of the skirt as for a normal A-line one (as per the Sew What!) instructions and then instead of drawing a straight line flaring out from the top at each side all the way from waist to hem, take the flare only as far as the widest point of your hips and then draw a gentler line at less of an angle from your hip point to your desired length. Couldn't be simpler. And if, like me, you find the sides stick out a bit to begin with, just re-sew until you've got it how you like it.

Conventionally, short straight skirts tend to have their zips at the back so this is what I did with mine, simply making the back of the skirt in two panels instead of one with extra fabric allowed for the seam allowance in the centre back into which I inserted the zip instead of at the side.


  1. What a beautiful skirt Elizabeth - I love it! It's always nice to have a bit of selfish sewing time I think.....makes you more willing to start sewing for other people again I find!!!!! And I love the tights although I *really* want to see you modelling the snowflake and squirrel tights: they sound awesome!!! Hope you're well, Sx

  2. wow.....your skirt(rock)looks beautiful,love the pretty the strumpfhose,too.
    have a great week,
    love and hugs regina
    ps i have delete my blog my simple life

  3. Dear E
    I love this skirt with its beautiful detailed braid - clever, clever you! I also LOVE the tights too - can you get them in the UK? I suppose I need to be a bit careful though, as horizontal stripes may not look quite so good on rather 'fuller' legs like mine (I was trying to be diplomatic for my self-esteem's sake) but they look completely fabulous on you!
    Best wishes

  4. Very cool skirt, clever you....but I'm afraid all my admiration went out of the window when I was overcome by jealousy of your stripey tights.....I have always loved thick tights, but haven't worn them for years, but I've never had patterned or stripey ones.

    I've just informed my husband of my desperation and hopefully this matter will be rectified!

  5. Clever Mrs T - an afternoon very well spent. And those are the best blues-banishing tights I've ever seen!

  6. I am ashamed to say I have had that very same book for at least a year, but have yet to make one of the skirts..........yours is fabulous, I love the pretty braid, it gives the skirt a sweet whimsical air.

  7. Hello Elizabeth! Your skirt is beautiful (as is everything you make)! I've ordered the book you speak of and will embark on my first homemade skirt EVER once it arrives!!! I'm jealous of your slim figure (I hit the menopause a couple of years ago and have gone from a size 12 to a size 16)!!! Still, if I can make a skirt to fit me perhaps I'll feel more confident wearing one - at the moment all my skirts make me look like a bag of spuds!!!! Good luck with your Xmas pressie making, I too am beavering away with my hook for the same reason!!!! ♥

  8. I bought that book after your recommendation, but I haven't had the time to make anything using it yet. I do have lofty plans though so we shall see.
    Your eidelweiss skirt is beautiful

  9. I still think you make the whole sewing thing look WAAAYYYY easier than it acually is. All those zips and basting blah blah. But I love your skirt, and it looks great on you! And you have the legs for it - go for it! Although I am clearly NOT the Queen of Fashion, I reckon your pattern would look brilliant ina range of bold fabrics with black tights and boots! x

  10. I love the edelweiss braid :-)
    Beautiful skirt !

  11. It's so lovely. The attention to detail and finishing is excellent. As Janice says above, I think you make this look easier than it really is!! You are secretly a pro! I am loving the idea of tights decorated with squirrels and snowflakes, I'm off to look for some now of the internet... xx

  12. It's really lovely, and you look fabulous in it :D

    I used to make most of my own clothes but lately I just haven't had the time ... this must be remedied ... you have inspired me :D

  13. This is just beautiful. I do in fact remember the last denim skirt you made which inspired me, as does this one. I just love your little finishes, and it really does look lovely on you!

    Janine xo

  14. That skirt really suits you ... And what a pair of pegs if you don't mind me saying :)

  15. Fab braid, reminds me very much of my childhood clothes. My mum used put very similar braid on everything. Gorgeous skirt and super tights!

  16. I absolutely adore your skirt. It's just beautiful and I love the trim. I also love, love, love the stripy tights, so cool (well warm but you know what I mean). You look lovely!! I'm really, really impressed!

    Helen xx

  17. Your braid reminds me of some beautiful little dresses my grandmother brought back from Austria that we were allowed to wear on special days. After you made your last skirt I found my pattern making book and duly drafted a pattern and there it sat. Another nudge with this post and I found some fabric. Would you like to make another skirt (and write about it) in a few weeks to give me a nudge to get sewing.

  18. I am so glad you are taking up clothes-sewing as well as everything else! Here lately I have gotten quite addicted to it. I love your model-ly pose with those great tights. We have only a short time when hose and cardigans would be welcome, but squirrel-tights have to be awesome:) You have to show them to us sometime.


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