She began to take shape when a friend sent me some gorgeous fabric from across the Atlantic - a most beautiful purple and turquoise-blue paisley print and another small-patterned purple print, (the one in the bottom right hand corner of the pic).
I suspect the fabric designer may have intended them as quilting fabrics but for me they were just too beautiful not to make something to wear. But what? A shirt? A short summer dress may be? Or perhaps a skirt?
I wanted to use every scrap of the fabric I could and waste as little as possible in the cutting so the idea germinated of a version of the Gipsy Skirt, you know, one of those tiered, flounced skirts that we all wore in the late seventies / early eighties. Well, you might not have done, as you may be too young, but I did!
Had I (or my mother) retained a pattern for such a skirt ? Sadly not. But a bit of googling around on the old Internet and a consultation of "Sew What Skirts!" threw up some instructions and it became clear that the construction of a Gipsy Skirt was a relatively simple matter. You decide on the length of skirt you want and the number of tiers. You divide the length by that number and that gives you the finished depth you need for each tier. Add on seam allowances to that figure and an allowance for folding over the top of the first tier to make a casing for some elastic and another allowance for a hem at the bottom and bingo, a pattern is beginning to form and you haven't even drawn anything out yet nor have you expended any money on a commercial pattern. It is however helpful to make notes of the Precise Measurements You Need for Each Tier and Which Fabric Will Go Where, otherwise it's easy to lose track.
Each tier is a simple, shallow strip of fabric and each one is wider than the previous one, as you go down the skirt. It's simplest to work in numbers of widths of the fabric so the first tier I made was one width across, the second was two widths, the third was three widths, the fourth was four-and-a-half widths and the fifth I made six widths. The finished depth of the tiers in my skirt is 7.5" and the finished length of the skirt is therefore 37.5" long, which suits me, but you can obviously adjust to make the skirt as long or short as you like.
There wasn't quite enough of the American fabric to make the entire skirt but I managed to find a couple of prints that I thought worked well with the originals and we were in business.
Armed with my rotary cutter (of which I always feel slightly nervous - I swear you've only got to look at those things to cut yourself), a large cutting mat and a ruler, and measuring turned to cutting. A lot of cutting, even for a Happy Snipper like me! But because the shapes you need are so simple and linear, it's quite straightforward so long as you Keep a Check on the Measurements! (Measure thrice, Mrs T, cut once!)
|Not much left over at the end of the cutting process is there? |
Just enough for a lavender bag or two, perhaps.
This again is pretty straightforward but there is a lot of sewing so you need plenty of thread and several bobbins lined up, full and ready to go. You make gathering stitches along the top of each tier (apart from the first) with a long machine stitch. I found this easiest to do in sections especially with the lower tiers where the loops of fabric were so big.
Pin each gathered section on to the bottom un-gathered edge of the previous tier, right sides facing, and stitch in place. Simple! Make a casing for some wide elastic at the top and turn up a hem at the bottom (which you can whizz along with your sewing machine in a jiffy) and you're there, bar the shouting, by which I mean you're there, bar the top-stitching just above the seam of each tier. Because there is so much fabric in the skirt, the top-stitching is not purely decorative - it adds necessary strength to the construction so although I was tempted to skip this step, (I felt that I and my sewing machine had sewed a marathon and could do with a break), I made myself keep at it!
It is beautiful to wear in a non-visual sense, if you know what I mean. Despite the amount of fabric it contains, it doesn't feel heavy at all but is gloriously light, swishy and easy. If I were ever to lose my sight, I'd want to wear skirts like this always - it just feels so lovely that it almost doesn't matter what fabric it's in. Almost, but not quite, because I think this fabric is just so beautiful that looking at it gives me a huge burst of joy and I'm so glad I have managed to incorporate so much of it in one place!
Special thanks again to V for your wonderful gift that made this dreamy garment possible
and to S for being so patient in taking some swirly photos of the skirt in wear - just not possible to take of oneself and without them you can't see quite how deliciously swishy the finished skirt is.
I am wearing mine gipsy-summer-style as the sun has got his hat on and come out to play this week. All I need now is a tambourine and a sense of rhythm for a little gipsy dance. I have a tambourine somewhere, but sadly, no sense of rhythm, so must content myself with a little private twirl in a corner of the kitchen, when no one is looking!
Tempted to have a go at one yourself? Go for it! You don't really need to be able to do anything other than cut and sew in straight lines!
PS Note to anyone, like me, with secret Fabric-Junkie tendencies: "This may be the project that fabric stash of yours, bursting from its cupboard or drawer and attracting unwelcome comments from less-discerning members of the household, has been waiting for! Tee hee! Enjoy!"