When I was about 8 or 9, my dear Mother showed me to her sewing machine, handed me the user’s manual, and said, “Here’s the book. Remember your Father faints at the sight of blood, so don’t sew your fingers.”
Thus ended my formal sewing instruction. Everything else, I learned by hook or by crook, and it has been fantastic.
Since I am a pattern designer and sewist in real life, I get a lot of questions about how young I start my kids on formal sewing lessons, and gosh, they must be pretty awesome at it, etc… and get a reaction of astonishment when I tell people that I don’t require my kids learn to sew at all, actually, and I don’t interfere with their sewing adventures until they ask me directly for help, and then I only invade minimally, and let them get back to their work without me.
I want them to have the same pride and joy in discovery as I had; it was a gift from my mother, and I want to share it along.
The Spicy Girl is getting taller (for her; that’s not very tall, but it’s a personal best, so we celebrate) and has very specific fashion tastes that don’t jive with what kid-fashion makers are putting out in stores.
(Funny aside… we were at the library Saturday, and found a book in the children’s department on “Hipster Fashions”–looking through the book, we discovered that both Little Girls fall securely under the Hipster Umbrella. Spicy’s comment was a slightly outraged, “I’m not a HIPSTER. I just like fashion that doesn’t come from the same lame stores as everyone else. And vintage is cool. And I do my own thing.” So… mini-hipster. My kids. Yay!)
Spicy finally outgrew her Sunday Bests. There’s nothing in the stores she finds appealing. So Saturday evening, I suggested we pick a nice top that had a bit of fun to it, and then grab some fabric and make a new skirt. I used to love doing that as a teen–making a new skirt on a Saturday to wear that night. It’s not couture sewing. It’s fast-fashion, and it’s supposed to be inexpensive, fun, and functional.
Learning some solid basic design skills and sewing skills gives any young person the ability to adapt, remake, or fashion from new some clothing items that meet their own personal requirements for style and comfort, without being dependent on retail selling cycles.
Spicy settled on a “retro-vintage” look: a partially-elastic drop-waist full skirt, lower-calf length so she can sit on the ground, ride a bike, or do a cartwheel without worrying about anything, accented with a cute fabric bow at the hip. After debating three different fabrics, she went with a grey and taupe “polka-spot”, for an “elegant fashion statement.”
We walked through it without a pattern. Here’s the process:
Measure a comfortably-generous hip measure (she decided on her actual full hip/bum plus 4″), and measure from waist to the desired hip point. Add a bit to allow for seam allowances and a casing at the waist. A rectangle this size, seamed together into a tube, with elastic folded in that casing at the waist, becomes the “drop waist yoke” for the skirt.
Measure from the hip point to the desired hem, and add 4″. This allows for attaching the upper edge to the yoke, and a 3.5″ hem at the bottom. Seam two full-width panels for a nice full skirt, hem the bottom, and gather to fit the yoke. Topstitch the seam allowances toward the yoke.
Fold rectangles of fabric into a pleasing composed bow, and stitch that onto the hipline at the desired spot (use a whip stitch just behind the visual horizon of the bow.)
Then get your 6’1″, 17yo brother to snap a shot of you in your new outfit, after he gives you Sorority Posing Tips, complete with Action Poses. Having a big brother who knows and appreciates girl-folk is very useful. And your mother will desperately wish she had a phone that can snap good pictures, because shots of that whole Advice Process would be awesome.
Spicy wanted to help with this project, but didn’t want to be solely in charge. She handled all the pressing, and learned how to use a hem gauge for an evenly-pressed hem. She did the machine sewing on the hem itself, carefully guiding the fabric through and doing a great job of it. She changed up her design mid-stream, opting for a gathered skirt rather than a pleated one, because she wanted “more boof.” And of course, she chose the fabric, which is a huge key to the whole outfit working.
I think she also twigged to how awesome it is to design and accomplish your own fashion… and I anticipate more than a few future Saturday Sewing adventures with my girl. It’s pretty fantastic to get to support her own ideas about comfort, fashion, and useful clothing!