Monday, 25 February 2019

The skirt that might come to fruition - with your help!

I started to write this before Helen got back to me with photos but decided to post without much editing.

The skirt I'm trying to make

Helen originally got back to me to say that she liked the pleated skirt I toiled for her. This is the latest toile in a line of toiles for various styles of tartan skirts; Helen wants a skirt made in our family tartan. She liked the style and wanted me to go ahead with it. At that stage I hadn’t seen a photo of her wearing it as she wanted to get Anthony to take any photos and he had a lot of late hours at work.

Helen deliberately wore a cropped top so I could see what was going on. This waistband looks far too tight to me.
You can see that the front is not lying as a pleat equivalent. It's too tight at the hips.

She likes it and finds it comfy

The back view shows horizontal creasing just under the waistband. Is that just a size issue?

She likes the other style I suggested - but said to keep that for next year’s skirt! She says ‘we’ have wasted so much time trying to decide which style that it would be better now to get on with it. I agreed that she had been unable to decide what style she wanted!

She told me that the skirt fits well - but could not be any tighter at all. I made a 10 originally and expanded that to around a 12 really but decided next time I would make the straight 12. Note that this was before seeing photos, based on what she said.

However, I did have some queries
  • The toile was in a fabric with a slight stretch. I wonder how much give the tartan has? It's a firm pure wool tartan.
  • I’d like to line the skirt
  • I’ll have to think about this as with size changes being at the side seam, it might me better to go bigger and take in if required? What do you think?
  • I will of course be making in a mid-weight (really quite heavy) tartan with the pattern matching that entails too, so it’s entirely possible that some of the overlaps will be deeper and take up more waist space.
  • Also, is it likely that I’ll need more waist stabilisation? Traditional kilts use horse hair.


Then Helen sent me the photos of the skirt. It’s too small for her imo – too small by quite a bit. It’s certainly too small at the hips - and Helen now accepts that - but I also think it’s too small at the waist. So I’d need to make the 14 - or even bigger at the hips? My feeling is that a lot of young people don't really know what good fit is and accept a level of fit that I for one wouldn't.

She found that the skirt is a great length but could not be any shorter at all. If it makes pattern matching easier, she doesn’t mind it being slightly longer. I strongly suspect it will be a little longer!

She initially said would like self-fabric i.e. tartan belt loops. The toile had self fabric loops as per pattern (actually pattern has contrasting straps) but I did buy leather kilt fastenings. She doesn’t want these. She would prefer gold coloured rather than silver coloured D rings. I offered antiquey brass  - not sure what it is - but she was happy with that. Later, after sending photos (and presumably seeing them for first time herself), she wondered about buttonholes and decorative gilt buttons instead of the small straps

Helen drew the red to show where she'd like the front to come to and the yellow circles are the buttons.

Buttons similar to these
I reminded her that with this particular style it isn’t possible to get both a good fit and a perfect pattern match of the setts, because of the shaping necessary for her waist. She’s okay with that.

After she sent the photos, she asked about several possible changes

She said she’d like the overlap to come over more - I think that could be due to size i.e. skirt being too small? She drew on the photos to try to demonstrate what she’d like. As the edge of the overlap lies on the straight of grain, I feel my options are limited. I certainly agree that the overlap is not far enough over. However the leading edge of the overlap is supposed to simulate a pleat as there is only one pleat on the left and two on the right. Do you think that making a bigger size would sort this or do I need to do rather more?

I feel that the front portion is rather slim - it doesn’t change with size. I do wonder how much it would be possible to change that without affecting the structure of the skirt, remembering that the skirt is supposed to be symmetrical at the front - that is, the edge of the overlap is substituted for the first pleat on the right of skirt - right side has 2 pleats, while left side has 1. Currently, the gap between the edge of the overlap and the pleat is huge, which is why Helen has asked about extending the overlap.

I pointed out that the drag marks and lie were because of size. She accepted that after a brief discussion. Originally she thought that only the waistband dictated size, as there is a fixed large poppet there at the moment (was supposed to be a buttonhole and button but I couldn't get it to sew). Possibly the placement was slightly off as I had to guess some placements with my sizing altering half way through. She had to pull quite a bit at the strap to get it to fit.

She wondered about buttonholes and decorative gilt buttons instead of the small straps.

I asked her about lining and she wasn’t sure but agreed when I suggested tartan might be itchy against the legs . She’s not too bothered, though, so if it’s too difficult, she’s happy that I don’t do it.

I told her that with adjustments being at the side of the skirt, if she was visiting at any stage, I could fit it on her before completion. This would give a better fit. It’s possible that she may be coming at Easter. Given this, I will look at the pattern in a couple of weeks and lay out the tartan to see how it will work - the pleats at front and back will inevitably be a different depth from the existing ones. I’m hoping I won’t need a hem as hopefully I’ll be able to use the selvedge at the bottom. All being well, I’ll try to get the skirt without waistband ready for her coming. If she’s not coming at Easter, that will be my target anyway.

After our latest discussion and seeing the photos,  a try-on and fit is absolutely essential.

But first, do I need to redesign the pattern? Heart sinks! Your thoughts are very welcome.
Or do I need to forget the pattern as pleat depth will be very different, anyway?


  1. Oh Anne, I do admire your determination to make this - but I am afraid this is right outside anything I am experienced in.

    1. Thank you, Sarah Liz. I think I need to stick to sewing for myself!!


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