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Conquering My Fear of Knits: Mama Maxi Skirt

I’ve been dabbling in teaching myself to sew for the last few years.  Still have lots to learn to make things look really professional, but I’ve got enough confidence to sew baby carriers and bags and a few other odds and ends.   My ultimate goal is to learn to sew wearable clothing for myself, primarily because I LOVE dresses but have a really long torso and have trouble finding ones that fit well.  With a growing belly, it seems not quite right to play with more structured styles; instead, it’s time to conquer knits!

My finished maxi skirt – let’s pretend my house is clean and that a 5 year old didn’t take this picture 🙂

About a year ago, I thought I’d try my hand at making a knit skirt with a fold-over “yoga” style waist band.  I got as far as trying to cut the darn thing out…and gave up cursing.  Knit is slippery stuff!

But now I’m back and thanks to the magic of the internet, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that helped me find success!!  So I’m not quite to “wow, that totally doesn’t look handmade” but I’ve created something wearable 🙂  And as the talented Sew Mama Sew advises, I’m going to share with you how I did it despite my novice status.

Let me apologize now for not taking pictures during the process.  But hey, that’s reason to make another one, right?!?  And let me apologize for the poor quality of the pictures I do have – really need to use this fancy camera and get some better lighting!!

Step one:  Figure out a “pattern.”

There are loads of maxi skirt and yoga waistband tutorials out there.  I read a bunch and grabbed my inspiration maxi I purchased at Athleta last year – and used the “wing it” method from there.  I did find this tutorial a useful starting place for making the waist band (although I made mine to fit on my hips under my growing belly).  I also cut my fabric wider than she did at the bottom (about 45 inches) so I had to cut my two pieces out separately (as I couldn’t fold the fabric as she did).  But I did pretty much the same thing of just running a line from my “waist” band down at an angle to the bottom of the skirt.  I initially cut my skirt longer than I thought it should be in case of “oopsies.”

Because I was using a thin knit (and because my inspiration skirt is double layer) I wanted to make a double layer skirt.  I figured out how to do that (as I’ll explain below) by looking at how my inspiration skirt was assembled.  In theory, one could make a reversible skirt using this method – will try that next!

Step two:  Conquer my fear of cutting knit.

Turns out the key ended up being using the floor (so I could fully spread out the fabric), my self-healing mat, and a rotary cutter.  A metal yard stick is also helpful as a straight edge.  What really helped was the realization that I didn’t have to get things just perfect – in some ways, knit is pretty forgiving.

Step three:  On to sewing!

I don’t have a serger which I know many prefer for sewing knits.  I have my eye on the Brother 1034D which my sewing friends tell me is a great “starter” serger. One day. Until then, the regular ‘ole machine will have to do.  I knew that knits require a “stretch” stitch of some sort so I popped the sucker on zig-zag and messed around with the tension and stitch length until I got a seam that laid flat.  Two other big keys:  use a ballpoint needle and a walking foot.  The latter isn’t required but it sure did help me keep the fabric moving smoothly.

And as with cutting, I tried not to stress too much about getting things exactly perfect.  I repeat:  knit is pretty forgiving.

I sewed up my waistband as directed in the tutorial linked above.  Then I sewed up the sides of both my skirt and lining pieces (wrong sides together of course!).  At this point I “tried on” my skirt to make sure I’d actually cut it wide enough for my hips given that I wasn’t super careful with measuring 😉  Had it been too tight, I’d left enough extra length that I could have whacked off the top couple of inches giving myself a wider opening up top.  Lucky me it was just right!

To assemble the double layers I did as directed in the tutorial above – so skirt right side out with the waist band on top with the raw edges facing up (sorry, I know pictures would be helpful!).   Then I took my lining and put it on the outside of all of this, right side facing in (actually, I goofed on this one so my skirt won’t be reversible this time).  So you’ll have lining and outer layer right sides facing with the waist band in the middle.  Line up all your raw edges and sew around the sucker.  I went around twice for good measure.  Going over the seams was a tad tricky because it was so many layers – you could offset them a bit to help with this if you don’t mind the seam on the waist band not matching that on the skirt perfectly.

After that it was just a matter of clipping the seams of excess fabric and turning it right side out!  I didn’t hem my skirt (knit won’t ravel).  For the length, I just put it on, marked the length, and trimmed the excess.

Tada!!  A skirt!!  I definitely want to make another so I’ll try for an actual tutorial with pictures (!) next time 🙂

Having successfully created something I can safely wear out of the house feels pretty good!  Give it a go!



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