Practical Sewing

I’ve started sharing more of my sewing projects here, but one temptation in getting to ‘show off’ your creations is the temptation to focus on little details, complex construction and fitting. I’m going to share a project today that has nearly none of those things!

This is a skirt I made, the first time around, at the end of last summer and wore just a few times before the weather cooled down too much.


The style is called a dirndl, which is a skirt consisting of a large rectangle gathered onto a waistband – very simple and traditional, and something you would often encounter in the national dress of various countries. Stylewise (not a real word, but useful), it can be a bit controversial because it’s not always easy to make it flattering to all figures, for the obvious reason that there are gathers right at your waist, hence bulk. Keeping the waistband wide and snug and ensuring that the hem has enough body to stand out a little are the best ways, I think, to make this style pleasantly vintage rather than simply frumpy.

I mentioned that I made this skirt ‘the first time around’ last year. Well. I made it a second time this year because I just wasn’t happy with a few things about it – and by ‘made a second time’ I really mean cutting up the same skirt and sewing it all over again. After some tweaks, it was better. Then I redid the waistband a third time and finally got it right.

With the tweaks, I have reached for this skirt a lot once the weather warmed up here. On our recent holiday, I wore it at least four times during the week. It’s incredibly comfortable, cool in the heat, and easy to mix and match with other things.


Now, in my head, this skirt is also the perfect ‘Brits abroad’ style, and as I was packing my suitcase my sartorial imagination was dancing with images of white and cream linen and all the lovely fabrics of warmer climes. But my husband reminded me that my concept of what British people wear on holiday comes from Audrey Hepburn and not present-day reality. Also from Agatha Christie and Daphne du Maurier, so apparently I can’t claim to be a paragon of contemporary style.

More seriously, as I was incessantly wearing this skirt, I decided it was worth a mention because it’s a perfect beginner sewing project, and actually very full of flaws. I’m not even that proud of my handling of it, and yet I have loved wearing it. In fact I am wearing it right now as I type. If there are any beginning or aspiring seamstresses out there, please know you don’t necessarily need advanced skills to begin to make garments that are quite wearable. For this style of skirt, you don’t even need to buy a pattern, because you can draft one based on your own measurements.IMG_1343

Nor did I really invest a great deal of love (or money) into my materials for this project. The fabric was the lining left over from a set of curtains from which I made a dress. It’s nothing special – a polyester cotton blend would be my guess. I also messed up the pockets, so there’s a little pucker of fabric on the side seams. My zipper is imperfect, and I’m not sure about my handling of the back of the waistband, where I tried to put some little panels of elastic to give some breathing room. And yet, I love it anyway!

Isn’t the setting of these photos beautiful? Obviously they are from our holiday. Mike chose the location, and I felt quite pampered.

For anyone who is interested in making a skirt like this, here are some good online tutorials. I didn’t follow either exactly, but used them as general guides.

Tilly’s version from Tilly and the Buttons:

Gertie’s Full Gathered Skirt part 1

Gertie’s Full Gathered Skirt part 2

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