The Skirt That Wouldn’t

I would like to thank McCall’s 6706 for teaching me a very valuable life lesson. I suppose I could also thank my color-blocked skirt, as well, since it really got me noticing the problem.

What was the problem? Skirt gathers. And now pleats.

If you read about my color-blocked skirt, you know that I originally gathered the skirt and was horrified when I tried it on. So, I pleated it instead and was fairly satisfied. However, that skirt is really hard for me to wear. I have to wear it with fitted, tucked-in shirts. It’s the only way. Guess how many of those I have. Not many.

So, when I decided to make a navy skirt to wear with tucked-in blouses, I figured pleats would be a safe alternative to gathers. I’d already chosen McCall’s 6706 and a lovely stretch cotton sateen, so I felt confident.

I shouldn’t have.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t pause long enough to take pictures after I finished the first incarnation of this skirt. I tried it on just before hemming and it was so voluminous right at my waist (which, you know, is very short) I felt ridiculous in it. My first thought was, “I’ll just shorten it!” So, I cut off two inches and hemmed it. It was now a few inches above my knee and still sooooo full, of course.

I was very frustrated. I knew I would never wear this skirt. So, I hung it in my closet and went to bed to mull over my options. While in bed, I got a brilliant-beyond-brilliant idea: I would make a Moss. If I had enough fabric, I could do the version fitted at the waist and it would be adorable!

Long process of trying to fit many pattern pieces on small squares of fabric later, I gave up on that idea. It just wouldn’t work. I mean–I even considered giving up the pockets. The pockets, people! It was madness.

So, it was back to the drawing board/ thinking bed. And I got it–an A-line skirt! I had already drafted one successful version; perhaps I could draft another. I couldn’t use my original because it was drafted to fit just under my waist and I needed this skirt to fit at my waist.

It was very easy to draft. I had to do a lot of adjusting to get the pattern piece to fit on the skirt while mentally cursing myself for cutting off those two inches (if I hadn’t, the pattern I drafted would have fit perfectly. I was so mad).

To make the waist fit, I added a couple of tiny pleats in the front and back. The pleats in the front were fine. In the back they were hideous, so I changed them to darts, which were also hideous. So, I ended up removing the excess from the back at the side seams.

I used bias tape to finish the waist. It also stabilizes the waist which is very necessary with this stretch sateen. I used hem tape in order to preserve as much length as possible. Did I mention that I want to wear this skirt to work?


When I finished, I noticed a couple of things that were disturbing. One, the skirt, in spite of removing and removing excess, was too big around my waist. I don’t understand how I can start with my actual waist measurement, and end up with something so huge. Granted, I did add an inch for ease–perhaps I shouldn’t have since the sateen had a decent amount of stretch. It’s not that the skirt is falling off or anything, but it has a tendency to twist around–especially if I’m wearing tights, which is the only decent way to wear this super short skirt.


Two, the hem causes the skirt to flare ridiculously. It’s extremely annoying. I thought the hem tape I was using was rayon (since the seam binding that came from an identical package was rayon), but it turned out to be polyester. Stiff, terrible polyester. I don’t know if the flare is due entirely to the polyester or if the thickness of the fabric is also to blame. I feel that if I had done a rolled hem, I would have had the same result. Thoughts on this?


I think we’re going to have to call this one a muslin. So, what did we learn? 1. Use a fabric without stretch. 2. It needs a little more length. 3. I think a lighter weight fabric, such as a chambray, would be better. 4. If I’m going to wear the skirt with tights, I definitely want to line it.


Okay, maybe the flare isn’t due entirely to the hem tape. . .

I wonder if I should have added a small waistband.

I have considered taking the whole thing apart and making a much less flared A-line, but I don’t think I’ll be able to keep it fitted at my waist. I think that I have the wrong fabric for the job.

Front 2

In spite of all this disappointment, here’s the happy revelation: A-line skirts, guys! They work with my short waist sooooooo much better than pleated or gathered skirts! Perhaps this is something that everyone already knows. I did not know. But seriously–from now on, my skirts shall have no gathers. Pleats. . . eh, I’m still a bit on the fence. I think they can still work in the right situation. A cotton sateen skirt, clearly, is not.

So, I still need a skirt to wear with tucked-in blouses. 1. I’m going to make a Moss fitted at my waist with some gray stretch twill (if I can find exactly what I want) and 2. I’ll try again with the flared A-line with some non-stretch indigo chambray. I may add a waist band this time. And I will be certain not to cut that one too short.

I am loathe to call this project a “fail” because I learned such positive and concrete lessons from it. So, I want to know: what was your most serendipitous sewing fail?


14 thoughts on “The Skirt That Wouldn’t

  1. Since I am such a fan of layers, why don’t you try a different idea and add layers to it? I like a-lines quite a bit. I don’t have wide hips but they do give me the comfort to bend and move with my day… even though it is a muslin, you have done really well in identifying the problems. Which, I am sure you are going to fix : D m.

  2. As an alternative to layers you could add a section at the top and bottom of a contrasting color, or the same color wide binding that you make yourself out of sateen also, to add length to the skirt, make the waist smaller and more customized and to add weight to the hem to make it lay flatter.

  3. I am always worried that gathers and pleats will just emphasize my hips, and with a pear shape that’s just not what you want to do. I also stick to A-line or pencil skirts, a much safer option.

  4. That’s frustrating, but at least you know now what you want. I actually like the finished skirt, and with tights I don’t think it would be too short, or too flared.

    • The problem is the skirt wants to cling to the tights–even with a slip. Which also wants to cling to the tights. It really ought to be lined, but if I’m going to go back and do that, I might as well take the thing apart and fix the waist, too.
      I’m not too disappointed–I learned a lot in the process!

  5. I also, shy away from front zippers on skirts too. After two kids, I don’t want any more fabric or notions adding inches to my tummy.

    I have been making knit skirts without anything but double knit fabric at the waist to suck in my gut. 🙂

    I love a-line too!

  6. Ooh, this shape looks great on you! Do you ever wear circle skirts? I bet you would look really cute in them, too! This sounds mega-frustrating, but at least there’s a silver lining in that you know what works for you. I’m looking forward to seeing your Moss mini, too! That’s a fun pattern. I would probably interface the waistband like crazy if you use a stretch fabric– you wouldn’t want the waistband loosening up throughout the day in a straight skirt like that. I find it hard to source stretch fabric that has great recovery, ugh. 😦

    • I’ve never made a circle skirt, but I often dream of owning a few in wool, especially in some oversized plaids. I can never find wool I really like!
      I really liked the stretch twill I used for my last Moss, but I can’t remember if I interfaced the waistband or not. Surely I did, right? Maybe? It’s hard to say how the recovery is since the skirt is technically too big. Thanks for the tip, though!

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