Hemless a-line skirt

Marigold over at Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! is organizing a summer sewing challenge: make a skirt (or dress) a week for the month leading up to summer. To help those of you participating in this Summer of No Pants, I have a tutorial for an easy a-line skirt.

My least favorite part of making a skirt is hemming. You’re nearly done with a skirt – you can try it on and see how beautiful it will look – but you can’t wear it out just yet. It still needs a hem. You can hem it by hand, folding up the edge half an inch and then three more inches and taking tiny stitches along this edge. Your skirt will hang nicely, with a clean edge ready for twirling. But this beautiful hem will take hours, postponing that exciting moment when you leave the house in your new skirt. You could take the easy way out, folding up half an inch, then half an inch again and stitching it down on the machine. But it’s hard to make the curved edge of a skirt lie flat like this, and even when you get it right it gives the fabric a stiff edge that doesn’t move as well as a wider hem. The solution? A contrast band sewn around the edge. It can be sewn on a machine, there’s nothing to keep flat, it doesn’t stiffen the bottom edge, and the contrasting color is a nice detail.

You will need

1 1/4 yards main fabric

1/2 yard contrast fabric

A 9″ zipper (or a 7″ zipper and a button)

To make the pattern:

Making a pattern for an a-line skirt is pretty straight forward. I made half a pattern piece and cut two pieces on the fold. Measure around your waist (where you want the skirt to sit). Draw a slightly curved line 1/4 this length at the top of a large piece of paper (newspapers work well). Next, measure from your waist down to the point where you want the skirt to end. Subtract 3” from this measurement to get the length of the skirt (you’ll add the extra length back in with the contrast band at the hem). Measure out the skirt length straight down from the inner edge of the waist curve and draw along this line. When you cut your fabric pieces, you will fold the fabric in half lengthwise and put this line along the fold. Measure the skirt length from the outer edge of the curve, angling the measuring tape out somewhat to give the a-line shape, and draw along this line. Measure out several other points along the waist curve and mark where the end of the skirt will be. Draw a curve connecting these points. Cut out your pattern piece, fold your fabric lengthwise, and cut two identical pieces. This will be the front and back of your skirt (for this skirt the front and back are identical). Measure the bottom edge of your skirt and cut out a 6” wide strip of contrast fabric 1″ longer than your skirt edge. You may need to sew together two or more pieces of fabric to get a long enough strip. For the waist band, cut out a strip of fabric 3” wide and 1 1/2” longer than your waist measurement.

Putting together the skirt:

To assemble the skirt, sew the front and back together along one side. Fold the waistband in half and sew it to the top of the skirt. Put in the zipper at the open side and sew up the rest of the that side. Fold the contrast band in half lengthwise with the right side of the fabric facing in. Sew up the end of the band, making a loop. Fold together the remaining edges of the band so that only the right side of the fabric shows. Sew the contrast band to the edge of the skirt.

To put in the zipper:

Putting in zippers is my worst sewing skill. I don’t have a zipper foot (I don’t know why not – I used to have two. They didn’t break and I don’t know how I lost something that never left the sewing machine table, but somehow I did), I pull too much on the fabric so the zipper buckles, and I’ve never figured out what to do at the end of the zipper where the seam starts. But this skirt needs a zipper, so here’s my best explanation of how to put one in.

First, sew down the bit of the zipper that extends past the teeth. Next, place your zipper at the edge of the fabric with the front of the zipper facing the front of the fabric. Sew the fabric and zipper together along the very edge. Do not pull on the fabric while you do this, or your zipper won’t lie flat. Repeat on other side. The bit of the zipper you pull on will get in your way at some point. When this happens turn the needle all the way down into the fabric, lift up the presser foot, and pull the zipper out of the way. On the outside of the skirt, turn over a small flap of fabric to cover the zipper. Sew down this flap from the top of the zipper to the bottom. Put the needle into the fabric, lift the presser foot, and turn the corner. Fold over a flap along the other side of the zipper and sew down the bottom of both flaps. Turn the corner again and sew up the other side of the zipper. Your zipper is in! Time to sew up the seam. I don’t know what other people do (maybe sew up the seam before they put in the zipper), but I have trouble sewing right next to the zipper, so I do the first couple of inches by hand, then switch to the machine.

To add a button (optional):

The Summer of No Pants crept up on me unexpectedly – one weekend I thought I had all the time in the world, the next I realized that between my sister’s graduation, my best friend’s dance show, and a big wholesale order coming in, all that time was filled. So I rushed to make this skirt right away from supplies I had lying around the house. On the whole this worked out well, but I didn’t have a long enough zipper in a remotely appropriate color. So I was stuck with a 5″ pants zipper. To fill up the extra space I needed to get into the skirt I added a button. If you’ve never made buttonholes before and are trying to turn out a skirt a week, I don’t recommend it, but if you just love the way it looks on my skirt and want a button of your own, here’s what you do.

Cut your waistband with an extra inch of length. Before you iron it down, fold it in half with the right sides facing in, sew up each side, and sew an inch along the bottom of one side. Turn it right side out, iron, and sew in as normal. Put in the zipper so it comes up to the bottom of the waistband. Cut a slit large enough to put your button through in the extra flap of waistband. Sew around this slit with blanket or buttonhole stitch (see picture). Sew the button to the other side.

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