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A friend of mine owns our local quilt shop, and she recently asked me if I’d like to teach a class on sewing a basic skirt later this summer. There are a lot of people around here who quilt but have never sewed clothing at all, so it would be fun to do a basic introduction with a simple pattern. I have never taught a sewing class before, so I am excited. It will just be a one-day thing, all day on a Saturday. I am looking forward to sharing some of the things that I have learned and helping people make something pretty!

Anyways, this weekend I went down to the shop and got the pattern so I could try it out before introducing it to others. It’s a good skirt for a beginner—4 panels with straight seams, a waistband with elastic, and the hem. I think it will be easy to accomplish in one day, even for someone who’s never sewed clothing before.



The pattern (“Hip Skirts” by Favorite Things Patterns) has 4 options: button-front skirt, pleated skirt, circle skirt, and double layer circle skirt. I think I’ll have everyone do the plain circle skirt; it’s the simplest and most straightforward. If they accomplish that and feel good about it, then they’ll have the patterns for the other versions if they want to try those.

Close-up of the "circle skirt" option from the pattern cover

Close-up of the “circle skirt” option from the pattern cover

 As an aside, is it really a circle skirt if it’s cut in 4 panels? I always thought a circle skirt was cut in a whole circle, like a donut. And then you can make a half circle skirt, which is literally a half-circle of fabric with one seam up the side. So, I’m thinking this should actually be called a full, 4-gore skirt.  But whatever.

Here’s what my version looks like:


Pluses for this pattern:

  • It’s a good basic pattern that goes together well.
  • Despite my distaste for elastic waistbands, this is super for a beginner because there is minimal fitting required.

On the other hand, I’m not sure what the designers were thinking in several respects:

  • There is no cutting layout. Not a problem for someone who sews a lot, since there are only two main pattern pieces (waistband and skirt panel). But the waistband is cut on the bias, and the fabric has to be folded crosswise to cut the skirt panels, so it’s not entirely self-explanatory.
  • The pattern pieces aren’t numbered, nor is there any summary of which pattern pieces are necessary for which skirt view. You just have to open up the pattern tissue (p.s. I hate pattern tissue sheets; they are so annoyingly huge and hard to refold) and hope you notice all the pieces you need.
  • The seam allowances are only 1/2 inch. This is workable, but just weird. 5/8″ is standard on patterns and it’s nice to have that extra to work with if you make mistakes. Also, I had to remind myself of it constantly, since 5/8″ is so natural.
  • It says to finish the raw edges of the waistband seams, which end up enclosed. Why bother? Waste of time! On the other hand….
  • The directions say to simply stitch the 2-layer waistband to the skirt, right sides together, and zig-zag or similarly finish the seam. Yuck. Why would you leave that ugly seam open to fray at the waist line when you could just as easily enclose it like a normal waistband. I did it the normal way and whipstitched the inside of the band (I never have any luck with stitching in the ditch from the other side, I always miss the band). ???????????????????????????????
  • The instructions also say to hem the skirt before attaching to the waistband. Whaaaat? Not sure why that would be a good idea, since you can’t then try it on and check the length.

Altogether, I like the finished product, but I found the instructions somewhat lacking. I think it will work out fine as a class, though, since I can show people the right way to put it together. Here are some more construction photos and a few more details:

Getting ready to sew...ironing the fabric. I always wish I didn't have to do this step...I just want to get to sewing!

Getting ready to sew…ironing the fabric. I always wish I didn’t have to do this step…I just want to get to sewing! I picked this gold/beige floral print because I wanted something semi-neutral that would go with lots of tops. Also, it was on the sale rack.

Always good to fortify yourself with a cup of coffee in a Shakespearean insult mug. Best birthday present ever. (Thanks, Ashley!)

Always good to fortify yourself with a cup of coffee in a Shakespearean insult mug. Best birthday present ever. (Thanks, Ashley!)

The pattern didn’t specify to staystitch the waistline edges, but it seemed like a good idea so I did it.

???????????????????????????????I did my favorite lazy seam finish: zigzag seam allowances together and press to one side. Pressing seams open and finishing separately is really not necessary most of the time!

???????????????????????????????After my recent success with the Cambie dress, I also added pockets! I just used the pattern piece and directions from the Cambie and placed them right under the waistband. Because the waistband is so wide, they are a little low, but I like them anyways.

From the outside...

From the outside…


...and the inside!

…and the inside!

Finished view of the waistband:


After inserting the elastic, I stitched it down at the waistband seams to keep it from twisting. Notice the white thread–I ran out of the matching gold thread that I had happened to have.

???????????????????????????????I did a regular old machine-stitched hem. Since this is an almost-circle skirt, the hem seems like it’s miles and miles long, and no way was I doing all that by hand. I am lazy.

???????????????????????????????Wearing the skirt so you can see the waistband….


…and the pockets!



See how full it is:


I’m happy with the finished product, but it makes me wonder about some independent pattern designers. I would think, if you got as far as designing and publishing your own patterns, that you would have to have a lot of sewing experience. If so, wouldn’t you be familiar with some of these basic things, like cutting layouts and how to apply a waistband, or when to do the hem in a skirt? I’m by no means an expert, but I expect people who actually write patterns to be more expert than me, and to give good, clear, complete instructions.

Either way, I’m looking forward to teaching this class!