Sunday, 27 December 2015

Pleated tartan skirt - a wearable toile finished for Christmas

I shared this skirt during its making because I had some problems with working out where to go with it. I started without a pattern,  pleating the fabric so that the sets matched and pulling the pleat in at the top, each by the difference between hip and waist divided by the number of pleats. To make it easy to see - if there are 20 pleats and a 10 inch difference between hip and waist,  then each pleat needs tightened by a half inch.

The skirt was originally intended as a toile for a skirt to be made for Helen with our specially commissioned family tartan. I've mentioned this previously and posted some photos.

In a previous post, I showed the skirt on Missy the model in unfinished form - pleats finished but no waistband as I was still unclear how to finish the closure. I could see on Missy that it sat very high on the waist. The pleats had been stitched down to hip level.

I posted the skirt to Helen who indicated that she liked it though it was too long and too high in the waist. She didn't think it was much too big. She was still keen to have a mini version in our tartan but when I said I couldn't get that done for Christmas, we agreed I'd finish the red skirt to wearable level. Hopefully a wearable toile.

Helen visited for the weekend while she was having a kitchen fitted in her new flat and brought the pleated skirt back with her.

This is what I did (after she had gone so I still didn't have the perfect model! )
  • I ended up cutting approx 2 inches off the top of the skirt at the waistband.
  • I cut approx 2” off the length. I overlocked the edges, turned over a reasonable hem, having to re-press the pleats and did my first ever machine blindstitch hem. Invisible from the right side in this fairly weighty wool. That was successful and so much faster than handstitching. I don't mind handstitching hems but in this case,  I wanted everything over as quickly as possible as I wasn't happy with the way it was going and didn't want to waste more time than necessary. In any case, this was a perfect fabric for using a machine blindstitch and I wanted to practice that.
  • I bit the bullet and decided to insert a zip. A bright red one - a bottle green one would have been preferable. To do this, I had to add an extension and produce a type of lapped zip with a very marked overlap. The zip has to fold over with one of the pleats. I tried various versions, took advice, struggled, came up with what became the final version, tried various ways of anchoring etc. I sewed and unpicked several times. I had to cut into the seam allowance to allow the zip to bend back unnaturally and then sew the cut fabric.  The end result is not satisfactory but Helen felt it was acceptable. I don't have close up pictures. I couldn't bear it!
  • I added a waistband with a skirt hook and loop, and a small poppet further down to try to keep the pleat in place.

The photos show Helen wearing the skirt on Christmas Day. Her jumper, a birthday present at the end of November, is the perfect colour to go with it. The hat and socks are something else again! She had been wearing the skirt for some time when these photos were taken. I tried to suggest that when she sat she needed to smooth down the pleats but that's a whole new ball game for her.

She likes it despite its flaws and is looking forward to the real deal.

I could see that the zip was visible with certain positions (here is where it being green would have been preferable, our just leaving the gap,  perhaps with an additional fabric underlay).

I could now see how I could have done the zip - Helen wasn't keen on the modification I suggested (basically it would have involved pleasing right up to waistbands, adding an additional fold (clearly should have been there in first place!) as this would have increased bulk at the waistband and this skirt is already extremely bulky. In any case, this would have meant further major restructuring and time, removing waistbands etc, and Helen reminded  me this was a wearable toile which she wouldn't really wear after she gets  the proper  skirt.

So we compromised on me considerably tightening the skirt at the waist - by about 2” - by moving the closures. The small poppet further down just didn't hold. I had taken thread etc but not a larger poppet so we moved the existing one to a better place. The whole is not satisfactory in my opinion but hopefully Helen will get some wear from it.
I'm still not willing to tackle the proper skirt as I'm  still not sure how to get over the closure problem - I rather think I'd have been better missing out the zip here. I made the modifications but don't have a photo showing the end result.

Another issue is that having top-stitched or rather edge-stitched the pleats down to hip level, cutting off a chunk at the top of the skirt meant that this stitching ended well above the hip line. This level is important so the skirt doesn't lie as well as it should. Okay in a toile but certainly not in the real thing. I didn't change it. In any case, I hadn't taken my machine with me and I'm sure Helen wouldn't have let me in any case!

So what did I learn?  

Main thing, easily above anything else:
When undertaking something like this, it's essential to plan out your steps beforehand! I had simply taken the fabric and started pleating it,  matching the sets, without considering the closure. I didn't have sufficient fabric at the end for the closure, still allowing for the match. This would of course have been much easier if pattern matching hadn't been an issue.

Our family tartan has a more difficult match. The pleats would either have to be much narrower, so more pleats and more weight, or much wider with less flexibility on sizing. We are considering  pleat variations, for example multiple smallish box pleats which may currently be the front runner.

What do you think? Any advice?

Despite its problems, I rather like it,  too. I don't regret trying it, or the time spent.

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