Make: a simple pencil skirt

It’s the time of year that I would normally buy myself a few new items of clothing to brighten up my work wardrobe (the new year and hot weather being the main motivations / excuses). But this year, shopping is happening a little more slowly and thoughtfully. Good.

I’ve sewn some of my clothes since I was a teenager, but I guess I’ve fallen out of the habit of making things I can easily buy. But, when I went fabric shopping a few weeks ago, I found a couple of pieces of  blue that would be perfect for office pencil skirts (you can see the other one, and confirm my hatred of ironing, here). Pencil skirts are one of the simplest things to make and my wardrobe staple.

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1. Start by taking some measurements. You’ll need to know the diameter of your waste and the length you want the skirt to be (from your waste). If you’re not sure, grab a skirt that you really like and use that as a guide to the length. You’re going to need to cut two rectangles to make the skirt, with the following dimensions: (half of your waist measurement + 20cm) x (length measurement + 10cm). These are pretty generous measurements to allow for darting and mistakes, if you want to use a little less fabric, go ahead.

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2. Buy some fabric, matching thread and a zip. If you buy natural fabric (like cotton or silk) make sure to prewash it to allow for shrinking. I used a cotton blend with a slight stretch – it’s a little more fiddly to sew than straight cotton, but much more comfortable to wear. You’ll need enough to cut out the two squares of fabric, plus a little extra for a waste band.

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3. Cut out your fabric squares, then cut one of the squares in half, from top to bottom. These two smaller pieces will be the back of your skirt.

4. Shape your skirt with darts around the waist. I put in two in the front (at the 1/4 and 3/4 point in the fabric) and one in the centre of each of the back pieces. My darts were 2cm wide (so, using 4cm of fabric in total at the top) and 10cm deep.

5. Tack the two back pieces together by sewing together the two edges that you just cut in half, using a large stich.

6. With the fabric tacked, add a zip. If you haven’t done this before, check out this great tutorial.

7. Add a small split at the back of the skirt by sewing the edges flat. Mine is about 8cm, but it depends on the length of your skirt! I used a zig zag stitch for a bit of contrast, but this is optional.

8. Now, sew over the tacked stitches that haven’t been used for the zip or split with a smaller stitch so they will be secure. Open up the split by removing the tacking.

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9. Now sew the two sides together. Hold the front and back pieces against your body in the position you want the skirt to sit (but inside out) an pin where the seams need to go. You can either shape your skirt a little more by flaring out from the waist, or sew straight (the darts will give it some shaping).

10. Once you’re happy with the shape, cut out a 5cm strip of fabric the same size as the waist of the skirt, to act as waistband. If you used stretch fabric, make sure to cut on the non-stretch direction and pin your fabric very carefully before sewing. If you shaped your skirt at the waist when you sewed up the side seams, you will need to mirror this shaping in the waistband. Sew the waistband to the skirt by placing the strip along the outside of the skirt. Iron the pieces to their final position and then over stitch.

11. Iron the skirt. Decide on a final length by trying it on and iron up the hem. Secure this by hand sewing to avoid any ballooning.

There you have it – easy right? Please accept my apologies for that terrible diagram! If your legs look like that, you don’t need a pencil skirt, you need to wear the shortest shorts you can find.

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