Finally knitting a skirt – or rather crocheting one

Alongside my desire to make a cardigan I have wanted to make a skirt for a while.

Mrs Zimmerman’s skirt pattern

Here is Elizabeth Zimmerman’s take on it.

i make very few skirts, as not having the figure to wear them without embarrassment, I am not too interested. But they are really very simple, being just a tube made on a circular needle, straight or flaring as you wish. (Knitting without tears)

Most pics of the lady are of head and shoulders. Shall we presume she wore trousers? Or maybe skirts, just not knitted ones. Here she is in a nice dress with Swedish botanical prints or similar.

Elizabeth Zimmermann
Zimmerman in a frock

Her method is simple. Measure your generous waist (a) and hip (b) measurement and multiply by gauge. Cast on the stitches corresponding to a), then at 3.5″ down start to increase to the number of stitches required by b). Continuing straight or flaring until you get a skirt that is about 3″ shorter than you want. Let it settle on a hanger for a week to see if it stretches out to the length you want. Otherwise knit a few more rounds, then do the hem finish that we used for the Elizabeth Zimmermann jerseys. She doesn’t bother with explaining how the waist-line is finished, but we can guess that it is folded down and some elastic is threaded through.

It doesn’t sound very appealing does it? Maybe in a very chunky yarn, or something stretchy? Or with a good bit of texture such as cables down the CF? Anyway it’s a simple process if you want to knit a skirt and don’t mind it clinging around your hips and thighs.

Mr Fassett’s skirt pattern

Kaffe Fassett includes a skirt pattern in Glorious Knitting.

Starting at the lower edge with 3.75mm circulars, cast on 330 stitches. He creates a hem by doing 13 rounds of stocking stitch, then a purl round. He goes up to 4.5mm circulars working 220 rounds, change to 3mm needles and decrease every 10th stitch (300 stitches). Then Mrs Z’s “brutal decrease” K1 K2tog to the end, leaving us with 200 stitches. Finally its 24 rounds of K1P1 ribbing. The top is turned down and elastic threaded through, and the hem is turned up.

Simples?

But not that nice. The Kaffe Fassett skirt certainly includes some pretty colours but the idea of having gathered knitting around my waist is enough to make me come out in a sweat. It is hard to see but the bright pink, grey, red and blue is the bulky waistband.

The other skirt pattern I had considered is in one of my old Vogue pattern books. 

Carolyn Smith’s skirt pattern

But I have to say to Vogue, Elizabeth and Kaffe – Australian blogger Carolyn Smith has come up with a skirt that I prefer! It’s colourful, yes, retro, yes, involves crocheting and knitting, yes. Looks cool. I especially love Carolyn’s colour scheme – she who suits the richest, warmest colours. The length is nice and there is no horrible gathering around the waist, She has made a small yoke with 1×1 ribbing and used elastic to keep it up. All the details of how to make this skirt are on her blog Handmade by Carolyn.

Handmade by Carolyn Granny Square skirt
Handmade by Carolyn Granny Square skirt

I will be using up small pieces of left over yarn, so my colours maybe a bit more mixed up than hers, which works well as a patten. I will be using dark green DK to pull it all together – yarn kindly donated by my friend Jo.

The other reason I chose this project is that it involves crocheting. I did learn the basics from Mopsa when making the wig for my Dalston Dolls.

But just because I am a Granny doesn’t mean I knew how to make a Granny Square!

Although Carolyn provides very accurate and always helpful information in her blog about how to do things I tried following the recipe and made a bit of a mess of it. In part because the Americans and the British call the stitches different names. In the end I reached out to my friend, tenant activist and Board member Linde Carr. On the way back from a meeting I thrust some yarn and a crochet hook into Linde’s hand – before the train even arrived. She also showed me a baby blanket she was crocheting and how the pattern is made up. Looked very complicated, but there is always more to learn.

My first attempts were a bit poor as I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I changed down to a smaller crochet hook. While the squares are smaller, and more will be needed – 144 compared to Carolyn’s 78 – I think it will look nice. If I can find the time. Each square takes about 20 mins. 48 hours just to make the squares. That’s a lot of box sets. Thankfully Game of Thrones, Narcos, Orzak, Happy Valley, Narcos, and Dr Foster can sustain me for a while. And a couple of marvellous podcasts – Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, and This is Criminal.

27 Responses

  1. Annieloveslinen

    Mmm, not really a fan of knitted skirts, sorry, they add bulk, seat and are generally too warm, although to be fair the sample looks nice, (I thought Aussie stitch terms were the same as ours?).

    Thanks for the reference to Gladwells’s podcasts I haven’t come across those before, I have however seen all but one of the box sets you list, there’s only so much of Suranne Jones’ facial expressions and random eyebrows I can take, she’s a good actress but she’s everywhere and somewhat typecast.

    I’m a bit of a moaning Minnie this morning, 🙃

    • fabrickated

      I like grumpy Annie! I went on t’internet which is where I got overwhelmed with Granny square advice from everywhere. And ha ha ha – yes Susanne Jones is always the same character. Some of gladwell’s podcasts are really revealing especially about segregation and education. And golf!

  2. jay

    I enjoy the process of crochet. I like the fact that you have one hook (not 2 needles), and if you drop the hook it’s no big deal. You don’t end up with a whole row unravelling. This makes it an ideal sitting on the sofa, dozing and watching tv craft. Crochet tends to be a bit firmer than knitting (well, than my knitting) which makes it a good choice for a skirt. Reading down your post I was thinking, ‘have a ribbed band like a yoga band’, then I got to the bit about Carolyn’s skirt.This should work fine, I use the yoga band idea for knit fabric skirts a lot and have never had a problem. Another approach would be to separate the knitting at the two side seam positions, from hip level and shape in. Anything to avoid bunchy gathering at the waist, how odd that Kaffe Fassett thought it would be ok!

  3. Linde

    In the 1960’s my mother made me a skirt comprising of a six treble shell divided one chain. It means that it is not too thick and heavy. I will do a sample for you to see .

  4. Jane

    I love the idea of this skirt and am really looking forward to seeing the final result. I can crochet but have done very little apart from granny squares and flowers. I find it quite therapeutic as it can be done without too much concentration and when you go wrong it is so much easier to put right than unraveling knitting!

    • fabrickated

      I think this style of skirt would really suit you Jane as it creates a fairly firm but stable fabric. I am think a short A line skirt or pencil style. The nice thing of course is that you can bring in all the colours you love and have fun with creating an item that goes with all your tops, especially your hand knitted ones (if you had some).

  5. ceci

    When I was a pre-teen I had a cardigan made out of granny squares, I recall it being pale pastels, and loved it….it was very easy to catch on things, however, and was frequently in need of repair, not a popular characteristic. I remember being told to fix it myself and making rather a hash of it. All of which is to say that I can imagine catching a granny square skirt on door knobs and so on?

    ceci

    • fabrickated

      It’s funny you should mention this interesting feature of your pastel cardigan Ceci. My lace skirts – including the special dinosaur lace one – all went the way of door knob disaster. My fix with the skirts was to mount them on organza, sewing down the motifs so that they couldn’t rise up and catch. This worked quite well. With the granny squares the holes are quite small, even when blocked, and I am trying to felt it a little bit so that it sort of comes together. So I will have to see if it insists on tripping me up or if I have tamed it enough. I will report back soon. Thank you for the warning….

  6. mrsmole

    What a great start! Love the geometry of granny squares and if we can revive them from the late 60’s…all the better! Working with small squares makes it a way more portable project too! I’m excited to see the finished project, Kate!!!

  7. Verona Woodhouse

    Have a look at Tina Whitmore’s ‘Lanesplitter skirt’ on Ravelry. it might be the kind of thing you like. You can use scraps of whatever and it makes a great winter skirt – because of the ridges it doesn’t really ‘seat’ or look see-through at all. Just google ‘lanesplitter skirt’. There is a great picture of 10 women wearing totally different lanesplitters.

  8. Verona Woodhouse

    Lanesplitter suggests knitting a very fine inner layer to capture the elastic, but I just used an old t-shirt cut up as a casing for the elastic. The crochet skirt does look great and your colours will be lovely.

  9. Judy

    I love this skirt. It reminds me of a skirt that I made for my very trendy self as a teenager back in the ’70s. My son’s partner is a beautiful, stylish woman who absolutely loves 70s fashion. It makes me laugh to see her wearing clothes that I once wore which she has discovered in vintage clothing stores in Melbourne.

    • fabrickated

      Hi Judy! I really like the 1970s patterns which suit my figure. And I agree it is quite funny when the younger generation take the old styles and put a new spin on them. One of the features of “fashion” is to take something that has gone out of fashion and re-invent it so it looks terribly fresh. I had been wondering when skinny jeans were going to fade and the fuller pants would come back – seems we have that now.

  10. Kerry

    Oh dear, I was never a fan of Mr Fassett’s knitting patterns although I do like his fabric print designs. On the other hand, how gorgeous (and practical) is that granny square skirt by Carolyn Smith?! I am looking forward to the end result, maybe teamed with black tights and boots.

    Having binge-watched a few tv series during the winter months I can highly recommend Netflix doco The Keepers, Fargo (we watch each episode twice as there is always too much going on) and some of the Nordic noir tv series although they require dexterity in knitting/crocheting AND reading the subtitles!

    • fabrickated

      Yes this skirt needs tights and robust footwear!

      I have watched, and really loved, The Keepers. And Fargo too – quite brilliant. With the subtitled things I do find the knitting/crocheting a strain and really prefer to just do stocking stitch when watching in another language. Thanks for the suggestions and let me know if you come across anything else you would recommend as we seem to be in the same ball park Kerry!

  11. Sue

    I think from memory Carolyn’s skirt is from a free pattern created by Jo Sharp. I tried to find it for you but it seems to have been removed from her website. I have had knitted skirts in the past but found that they seated terribly, even with lining, I suspect because I wriggle too much or something. I am very much looking forward to seeing how yours turns out, and it’s a great way to use all your yarn scraps.

    • fabrickated

      I know what you mean about getting baggy around the bottom! I think with an elasticated waist it maybe possible to change how one sits on it! So far so good with using up really short bits of yarn.

  12. Kim

    I made this skirt after seeing Carolines some years ago. Sewing the squares together takes a fair amount of time but it’s important not to skimp there. I get compliments every time I wear it – and it will be dusted off again soon since the weather is cooling now. Your colours look lovely.

  13. Karen

    I have been dreaming of making Carolyn’s skirt ever since I saw it on her blog, but living in the Philippines means it would have to be a cotton version which could end up quite heavy. But then I saw this crochet skirt in a copy of the German Anna craft magazine and fell in love again. I could not find a picture of it on-line, other than on the front cover bottom right here : https://www.yumpu.com/de/document/view/58659431/anna-nr-7-2017

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