Fat Quarter Skirts: 2. Prepare Your Fabric
Prepare Your Fabric
One reason this skirt is so easy is that we piece the fabric first, then cut out the pattern. No worries about getting the pieces exactly right. They’ll look good just about any way you put them together.
MAKING FABRIC for the SKIRT FRONT & BACK
These are the two prints I’m using for the front of my skirt. Notice I haven’t bothered to trim the raw edges or cut off the selvedge yet:
Place your skirt front fabrics face to face (right sides together, or “RST”) and put them on your cutting board. Here I’ve flipped the fabric on the right, above, over onto the other one so I can seam them together. With my fabrics stacked RST, the seam edge is on the right (below). Before sewing, I’m going to trim the raw edge/selvedge at a slight angle:
Place your ruler so it’s not quite straight: at the top it’s about 1/4″ farther from the edge than at the bottom, and it’s far enough in to cut the selvedge off at the same time. Depending on how you’ve arranged your prints, you might not have selvedges on this seam, in which case you can skooch the ruler over closer to the edge. Now trim the edge off with your rotary cutter (or mark a pencil line and cut with shears, being careful not to shift the fabrics).
Take your two layers over to the machine and sew this edge with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Uh oh, maybe your two FQs aren’t exactly the same size… guess what: It doesn’t matter! All we’re doing at this stage is taking two FQs and seaming them together to make a larger piece. That uneven edge at the bottom (or top), will be trimmed off when you use your pattern to cut out the main skirt piece.
You don’t want that seam allowance to fray after you’ve worn and washed the skirt a few times, so take a minute or two now to finish that raw edge. I use my pinking shears to trim off just the outermost part of the seam allowance:
If you don’t have pinking shears, you can serge the SA together. If you don’t have a serger, use a zig-zag stitch.
Now press the seam toward the darker fabric from the back, then flip over and press again from the right side.
Take the fabric back to the machine and top-stitch close to the seam on the darker fabric (so you are stitching through the seam allowances underneath as well).
You can skip top-stitching if you want, but I think it looks nice and makes a stronger seam. You can get fussy with thread color (for maximum or minimal contrast) if you want, but I just use whatever I’ve got in the machine. Here’s how that will look on the inside:
Now set your front fabric aside, and get the two FQs for the skirt back. Sew them together exactly the way you just did the front. Remember to:
- angle your seam in slightly (about 1/4″) at the top
- finish the raw edge of the seam allowances (pink, serge, or zig-zag)
- press to the darker fabric
Great! You’ve “made fabric” for your skirt front and back. Here are my front and back fabric units, on the design wall:
Can you see how angling that center seam creates a subtle V shape (vs. straight rectangle)? That’s going to give you a little more flexibility in deciding how to place the pattern piece and cut out the skirt shape.
If you want to add a third fabric to either or both sides of your skirt, do so now. Your large scraps bin is a great place to find a fun new print to include in your skirt, or you can use another FQ if you wish. Make sure the new piece is long enough, then figure out where you want to add it. Trim the base skirt fabric you just made, and add the new piece with a pressed and top-stitched seam. Here are some examples of how using 3 fabrics can look:
CUTTING THE SKIRT PIECES
Just because you’ve got a seam right in the middle of your two joined prints, that seam doesn’t have to end up right in the middle of your skirt front or back. You’ve got room to move your pattern piece from side to side so you can show more of one print and less of the other. I’ve decided I want the seam centered on my skirt front, but I’m going to show more of the purple bird print on the back, and less of the medallion print.
It’s hard to see, but if you look at the bottom edge of the fabric, you can see that the seam between the two prints is to the left of the center fold line of the pattern piece.
When you’ve got the pattern where you want it, pin it in place and cut out your skirt piece. Repeat for the other main skirt piece (front or back, depending on which you did first).
Confession: I was making this skirt for my sister, for her birthday. When I got to this point, my camera battery gave out and I had to put it in the recharger overnight… but the skirt needed to be in the mail in the morning and I was in a hurry to finish it up. So from here on, I’m illustrating with a different FQ skirt project, for which I have no early-stage photos. Yup, changing examples in mid-tute: it’s a no-no, but it’s happening.
CUT THE BAND PIECES
Unless you are really tiny, one FQ width will not be wide enough to cut the band piece. That’s okay, because an FQ is 18″ high, so you can cut three 6″-wide strips from it. Go ahead and do that now. Get the FQ you’re going to use for the band, and cut it the long way into three 6″ pieces. If your fabric shrank during pre-washing, and isn’t quite 18″ wide any more, cut 5-3/4″ strips, instead of 6″.
Now cut one of those pieces in half, and sew one half to each of the other two strips (1/2″ seams):
Now you’ve got two longer 6″ strips. Finish the seam allowance edges (pink, serge, or zig-zag) and press either open or to one side. Cut two band pieces from those strips using your pattern piece, one for the skirt front and one for the back, and set them aside. If your band pattern piece doesn’t quite fit on the strips, trim 1/2″ or so off the bottom edge of the paper. Your finished band will be a little narrower, that’s all. No biggie.
PREPARE the DRAWSTRING & DRAWSTRING CASING
More cutting into strips. From the FQ you’re using for the drawstring (and the drawstring casing), cut FIVE 1-1/2″ strips (lengthwise or widthwise, either way). Two of these will become the drawstring casing — you’ll sew it to the top edge of the skirt — and three will become the drawstring itself.
For the Casing, take 2 strips and sew them RST (right sides together) on the diagonal, like this:
Have you ever tried to do this, and ended up with your two strips going off in different directions, rather than making one long strip? Me too. Here’s what I figured out: if you always put the TWO SHORT ENDS to the RIGHT of the needle, everything will be fine.
Trim the seam allowance, and press open. Now fold ONE of the long raw edges to the back 1/4″ and press. Set aside.
For the Drawstring, sew the other 3 strips together with a diagonal seam in the same way as you did the Casing. Careful, those long strip ends dangling around the machine are likely to attract attention:
Trim the seam allowances and press the seams OPEN. Now fold the long strip in half, WST, and press. Open up, fold the raw edges in to the center crease (WST again), and press. Refold along the center crease and press one more time. Or not. I usually skip the final press and just fold into place while I’m sewing up the open edge. Don’t bother sewing up the ends. You can make another line of stitching on the folded side, for symmetry, if you like. I sometimes do, sometimes don’t.
Here’s what you should have:
Phew. When I’m actually doing all this it seems to go quickly, but writing it out it feels like a chore. If making your own drawstring seems like more than you want to do, use a narrow (1/4″ or 3/8″) grossgrain ribbon instead. Or something else that will do the job.
Okay, that’s all the prep work (yay!). You’re ready to sew up your skirt! Here we go…