Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bewitching Skirt - More than meets the eye

Would you believe a skirt . . .

could be made from pajama bottoms?

(Consider for a moment; would I take the time to write about it if it could not?)

Probably I should give a little background into this whole project. Several years ago, I purchased some witch fabric from Wal-mart. I didn't have a particular idea in mind for the fabric, but I adored it instantly and knew that it completed me, so I bought a few yards.

Fast forward a few months from the purchase. I had determined pajama bottoms to be the best use of the material and having made that decision, I began to sew. I made my first pair of pajama bottoms as a child (before the age of 10) and have made multiple pairs since. They are not a difficult item to sew, but as fate would have it, somehow I screwed up with the proportions and the legs ended up a bit high in the ankles and the waist hit me somewhere below the hips. Not attractive as you might imagine, which is why I have no picture of them on me.

It was, at this point, past the holiday season and so my return to the store for additional fabric yielded no results. I waited a year, but it wasn't stocked the following year or the year after or the year after that. I looked in other fabric stores for the same print and browsed using search engines Internet wide, but with no success. The fabric is apparently out of print and much like an out of print book (at least for me) has become irreplaceable and all the more valuable.

So there I was, three days ago, wearing the pajama bottoms, feeling the elastic waistband cinched across my backside and at a crossroads. I couldn't really wear the pants (though I did) but I couldn't part with them. If you'll look closely you'll see some of the scenes that make the material so endearing.

Do you see what I mean? It's the off duty witch. It's like running into your school teacher or doctor at the store and there is this sudden parallel universe where you realize that your teacher/doctor is human and does things like shop. (Probably even goes to the bathroom and eats too, but those are boundaries one should not cross).
There is another scene which I failed to capture showing her relaxing in a bubble bath. In addition to the images depicted, it is laced with silver sparkles so it has a slight shimmer to the fabric.
As I was saying, three days ago, lying in bed, my fashion crisis brought about a vision; one that at 3:30 in the morning when my son fell out of bed and woke me, I couldn't go back to sleep and finally got up and started working because the very thought of it, the conception of this idea was consuming. 
The first determination I made was that what had once been the crotch of the PJ bottoms were now going to be the side seams of the skirt. Once that was decided, the next task was to trim the legs off so that the distance from the waist all the way around was uniform - 11 inches in this case.
The only issue being that the curvature of what had been the mid-seam was too pronounced for a side seam and thus it had to be trimmed to take out a little bit of the flare. (Maybe it's time to wash my ironing board cover).

Once the skirt had been trimmed to an appropriate proportion, I measured the distance around the base so I would be able to figure out the pleats. Then I split the center seam on the legs that had been cut off to open them into flat panels. At this point the process turns very mathematical and whereas math has never been a strong suite of mine, you may want to double check what you are doing as you replicate this process. For the ease of explanation I will use the actual numbers I used.

The base of the skirt was 60". In order to make the pleated panels then, it stood to reason that by making 10 of them at 6 inches, the span would be covered. The pieces actually had to be cut to 7" to accommodate the seams. (Realistically the seams should have been 5/8 inches, but that is an extra 1/8th of an inch on each seam to figure out mathematically. 1/2 inch is easier to me.)

The length was determined both by the amount of fabric available and the desired length of the skirt; 10 1/2". I then used a rotary cutter to make the rectangular panels. Where possible I cut around the design on the fabric because what use is half of a witches face?

Then I doubled that number for the black pieces between that probably have a proper name that I cannot at this time think of and do not have the ambition to look up. So the black panels were cut to 14 inches wide and 10 1/2 inches long. During construction, those panels were stitched alternating between a witch print and a black panel.
The next step is difficult to explain. Essentially, the two witch panels are brought together so that the seam of the black panel and witch print is brought to the center of the black panel on both the right and left sides so that the two witch fabrics rest side-by-side essentially covering the black piece. See what I mean? Maybe it's a lot like making a dessert. If it seems off or funky, add more stuff to it.

If you've done the math correctly and the construction correctly, what you should have would resemble what you see above. Obviously one doesn't have to use contrasting fabric, which would eliminate a lot of the seams and maybe there's a better way of making a pleated look. I'm just explaining what I did.

Hopefully the top of your pleats measures equidistant to that of your skirt base and then all you have to do is stitch the two together and hem the bottom. If not, cotton burns well and is useful for binding up large wounds due to bloody battles like the civil war or French Revolution.

The last thing I did before sewing the skirt to the pleats was I added some netting with bats and spider webs on it. It gave the skirt a little bit of a lift and it makes the overall look even more bewitching. So the long story short is I salvaged my losses and made something that I love for the season!


  1. So cute! Way to go, you crafty person you. And loved the part about cotton being useful to bind wounds. I like you!

  2. I'm confused. How are you wearing a skirt that's 10 inches long? Or is it your daughter's?