Monday, September 7, 2015

Sewing projects part one: the frugalest of skirts

I feel I should start by saying that I have basically no sewing skills.  I'm a moderate knitter (I can do socks!) and a fair crocheter, but sewing is something my mom never really had the patience to teach me when I was younger.  Since I'm one of four kids, now that I'm an adult (sort of), I can see how it was easier for her just to do things herself rather than stop to show me.
A couple of years ago, my mother-in-law was kind enough to give me her old serger.  This has been a rather invaluable tool for me, since it only has one stitch it does, so I can't get too confused.  I've patched and repaired a number of items, including a duvet.  Before my daughter was born I cut up an old, torn flannel sheet, serged the edges, and made my own cloth diaper wipes.  I figured I was using cloth diapers anyway (gotten for free from family who were done having kids and wanted to pass them along, no less! thanks, family!) so I might as well go whole hog and use cloth wipes.  It was a fantastic decision.
But now that we're living with my parents for a bit, I really wanted to start learning how to sew.  After all, I'm jobless and (theoretically) have plenty of time on my hands.  One of the projects I've had in mind for a long time was to make a skirt for myself.  I didn't use to be a skirt wearer--in Fairbanks I felt like they weren't so useful.  After all, most of the time I wanted my legs to be bundled up for the cold.  But in Seattle's more mild climate, skirts can be an all-year item that are both cute and functional.  I can wear them to work or just to take my daughter to the park.  This skirt also saved me from the worst of the (record-breaking) summer heat because it actually felt more comfortable and cooler than shorts.
So why am I calling it the frugalest of skirts?  Because I used a waste product for most of the fabric: ripped jeans.  My favorite pair of jeans got some major holes in them last winter, holes in a place which I couldn't repair and which couldn't be fixed by making them into cutoffs.  In short, they got large holes in the crotch area.  I nursed them through the worst part of winter, making them somewhat presentable by wearing leggings underneath.  However, it was finally time to admit that they were goners.  The sadness I felt was somewhat mitigated by the fact that, around this time, I lost a few pounds and needed a smaller size anyway.
Still, I didn't want to just toss them in the trash and be done with them.  That seemed wasteful when there was so much perfectly useable material.  An idea was born to turn the jeans into a cute skirt.  I could picture exactly how I wanted the skirt to look.  Unfortunately, at the time I was still months away from being anywhere near a sewing machine.  So I did what cutting I could, bought some fabric* (only 1/3 of a yard, and it was more than plenty), and packed the sewing project away until after the move.
When I finally pulled it out, since I'd already done the prep work of cutting down the jeans, all I had to do was cut the fabric panels for the front and back, and the hem, and actually sew it all together.  It was a remarkably fast project which, other than learning how to re-thread the bobbin and thread the sewing machine (thanks, Mom!), didn't test my lack of sewing skills at all.  A few straight stitches followed up by some zig-zag stitch and I had a completed skirt.

Front and back views of the skirt. Navy thread blended with
the denim and white thread is hardly noticeable on the contrast fabric.

I doubled over the bottom so I didn't truly have to hem it.  Also, the panel fabric was a bit sheer so I put a backing on it, some black fabric I pulled out of my craft box from curtains I'd made years and years ago for our cabin in Fairbanks.  They were an odd size and haven't fit any windows since we moved out of that place, so I've been slowly pillaging the fabric as I need it for other things.
The most amazing part of this to me is that I've actually had more than one person stop me on the street to ask, "Did you make that skirt yourself?  It's really cute!"  I don't think I've ever had anyone randomly stop me before to say that any part of my outfit was cute.  (Don't know what that says about me....)
The fact that it's cute is a definite plus, but I don't know which I'm more in love with: it's durability or the way it hides stains.  I mean, I have an active toddler.  Any skirt in which I can bike (with shorts underneath), chase after the kiddo, and which can have peanut butter or yogurt wiped off without leaving a giant stain is exactly what I need.
I look forward to pairing it with leggings and a sweater for autumn and winter.

*Please note: I could have made it even more frugal by using either the denim from the legs which I cut off, or other scrap fabric for the panel, but I didn't care for any of the colors I had so I splurged and bought $3 worth of fabric, which I can pair with quite a few different shirts and sweaters of mine.  I opted for versatility of use rather than going the cheapest route possible.

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