Making a skirt with Bella

I love teaching young people to sew. So when our Cotswold neighbour Bella said she wanted to learn I was thrilled. Over Christmas she came round to make a skirt.

I know that she loves peachy shades so I popped into Simply Fabrics to see what they had, and managed to find a stunning piece of pink wool with gold lurex. The face of the cloth was very subtle but I thought Bella might prefer the wrong side.

Pink and gold lurex fabric
Laurent Garigue fabric

As it was obviously a quality product I searched the fabric on the internet. I found an interesting Japanese website featuring a fascinating translation of the wonderous qualities of the cloth. Here goes:

“Slightly sheer, supple, soft, texture is chewy. Other than the summer offers 3 season wear. Obverse is lighten, numeric and feels soft and smooth. Back came many of the lamé-yarns is a gentle lather is a refreshing feel. Tingling is too small, delicate and fine texture. Sweet baby pink satin. From the crevices of the weave, and a sense of transparency gold glitter will sparkle. Clothes still fit cute & luxury!”

Wool 97% lame 3% 148 cm width x 90 cm made in England

Cute and luxury in sweet baby pink glittery satin – I thought this fabric was perfect for a 14 year old in search of a Christmas skirt. And luckily she loved it.

I planned to use the “no waste” approach of draping the skirt on the model. So before she arrived at 8.30am I had detached a selvedge edge for the waist band, and put an invisible zip in the remaining piece of fabric. I found Bella’s waist line with a piece of elastic tied around her middle, and then we pinned the fabric at CB, CF and side seams. Actually I took the picture, then remembered to find her waist. So if you want to use this method find the waist, mark CF and the two side positions with a felt tip then get your friend to step into the tubular skirt. As Bella wanted the skirt to look as full as possible we moved the side seams towards the back to have more fabric to play with at the front. I pinned in two back darts, and then, looking in the mirror, Bella and I tried knife pleats, gathers, box pleats and asymmetric looks.

Once we had created the shape Bella wanted, with two large box pleats and two smaller knife pleats, we pinned the fabric and Bella stepped out. Then using a set square, washable fabric pens, pins and basting equipment she prepared the skirt for making up. She worked hard and consistently and soon we were ready to go to the sewing machine.

At school Bella had used a sewing machine but never made a garment before. She knew how to sew, and using the very slow *tortoise” setting on the machine she did the darts very nicely. She pressed them open using the steam iron and tailor’s ham, admitting that her Mum had banned her from ironing as she “put more creases in than she took out”. But she did well and soon her darts were lying nice and flat.

She said “I can’t wait to be able to say to people ‘I made my own skirt'”. I know the feeling!

I had suggested a deep waist band as Bella is tall and we used some light fusible interfacing to strengthen it. Then we attached the waist band, used some poppers for the closure and hemmed the skirt.

Bella also cut out a second skirt, ready for next time. All done by 11.50, when she went home.

In her skirt.

Teaching kids to sew
Finished skirt

During the morning Bella learned the following techniques

  • Basics of design (eg skirt length, waist band depth, suppressing fullness)
  • Pinning a pattern to the fabric
  • Adding seam allowances
  • Cuttting out accurately
  • Pinning darts
  • Basting
  • Using a sewing machine
  • Pressing

Next time we will reinforce the learning and also cover zips.

Well done Bella. It was a pleasure to work with you. Come back soon and we will make the  pencil skirt!

15 Responses

  1. jay

    Lovely skirt, it looks perfect on Bella. How inspired to work directly instead of buying a pattern. Simply fabrics has moved to the top of my list of stores I have to get to when next in London.

  2. Summerflies

    How terrific to pass on your skills – what a joy. I LOVE that fabric and I’m glad that the lurex is on the outside. So subtle and yet so sparkly. And also I love how she was home by midday with a skirt and the itchy feet (hands) to keep sewing. I don’t know how old Bella is, but the comment about the ironing reminded me of a young colleague at work. She told me her father doesn’t let her use the iron, in case she burns herself yet this is the same girl who lives at home and wipes herself out with alcohol every weekend yet that doesn’t frighten her father. This girl is 21! Curious (and downright irresponsible in so many ways).

  3. Miss Daisy

    I think it is awesome that you share your time and talent with Bella she must be an extraordinary young lady. I know so many her age that would turn their noses up at learning such a thing . I have nothing but admiration for both of you.

  4. Jena

    In addition to being an excellent designer and sewist, you are clearly a gifted teacher. The results — skills as well as skirt — are so impressive!

  5. mrsmole

    Nothing as rewarding as passing on basic skills and making the whole project fun and wearable in the end. A blessing for you and Bella. I see she has a nice deep hem for when she needs extra length if she grows taller.

    • fabrickated

      That is true Mrs Mole. I wanted to do a neat, narrow hem. I also suggested a much shorter length. But Bella (who is already tall) chose a discrete knee length and said she expected to grow taller and wanted to be able to let it down! I am not sure most people think about that these days. I got an email from her Mum yesterday to say that Bella wore the skirt twice over Christmas and was thrilled to tell everyone it was her own work. Nice.

  6. Kerry

    This is wonderful! The skirt is beautiful and Bella sounds like a very willing and capable student. Teaching her the basic skills of sewing is something she will have for life.

  7. Wendy

    Bella what a beautiful skirt! How nice that you can pass on the sewing skills to the next generation, and also opening her eyes to playing with the fabric rather than having to stick to the rules of a pattern.

  8. Alli

    What a fabulous day! I love that you worked with her to add the design elements while she was there. And how interesting that she wanted to be able to let it down when she gets older!

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