How To Hem a Full Skirt Without Help

We work alone...most of the time.
And family members have other agendas, I mean if you have managed to convince them to leave you alone while you sew, you can't really ask them to drop everything they are doing to come and help just right now this very minute right? 
One of the sewing thing I find very difficult to do all by yourself is to hem a full skirt. I love full skirts, I love fabric, I love wearing tons of fabric. On this particular dress, I wanted a gathered circle skirt with a center pleat, more fabric to wear, more hem to sew, probably all by my own lonesome.

While reading up on how to draft such a skirt, I came upon a possible solution for hemming it without help, so I decided to try it out.
In commercial pattern making, they calculate the skirt overhang and draft the pattern pieces accordingly. We can't do that because we don't use the same fabric for each skirt, but I thought if I do the hanging before the sewing, I could then trim the skirt to the right length using the pattern. Would this work?
Before working on the bodice, I basted the skirt and lining pieces at the waist so they wouldn't stretch and hung them with "weights".

The next day, before sewing the skirt together, I placed the pattern pieces on the skirt pieces and I removed the excess. I was very happy with this solution, feeling clever you know, then I had my moment of interstellar emptiness which brought me back down to earth and, the dressed finished, I hemmed as I would any other skirt. 

By that I mean, I made 2 rows of stitches about 4cm apart, used them as a pressing guides, pulled on the top row to ease the fullness, pressed again, did a machine blind hem with the accompanying foot and removed the basting.
I'm not sure this would work other fabrics, but with Ikea curtains, which didn't stretch all that much, it did the trick. And I didn't have to wait to hem the skirt, so this dress was finished in a couple of sewing sessions. Almost instant gratification! 

The bodice is from Vogue 2512 for which all the fitting work was done and the skirt is a modified Simplicity 8943, which I kind of messed up. I have all this fabric in the front and much less in the back, I really should have put a pleat there too to balance it out. Call this a designer newbie mistake.

I can live with it as it's a much less visible mistake than an uneven hem, the next full skirted dress should be better.

As always, when I do something like this, I feel like I have made an important discovery that will revolutionize the home sewing business, only to discover that it's standard practice in other corner of the world. If you try it out, please let me know how this worked for you and if we, as member of the sewing collective, can improve on this. We will all win.

15 commentaires :

  1. que buena idea

  2. Wow this is all new to me! I will have to try this out next time I make a full skirt! I always have trouble sewing the hem on full skirts and dealing with the ease.

  3. i personally do not bother with 100% perfect hems on a full skirt - unless its extremely wonki (& therefore you should know you suck at cutting) no-one is going to see it with movement & wear. Its those straight pencil skirt hems that have me worried ;-)

  4. It's lovely! Thanks for the tip - that's new to me.

  5. Thank you all! Let me know if this has worked for you!

  6. I have quite a few questions on this method because the purpose of it is not clear to me, so here goes...
    I don't understand why you would hang weights from the hem of your skirt? While wearing them you don't hang weights on them either (why not just let them hang on themselves), or does the fabric stretch that much by itself from daily wear? It looks like you cut of quite a large chunk... What happens to the fabric when you wash it? Does it shrink back to original size, or does it stay stretched out? Did you cut of the same amount of fabric on the entire skirt-pieces or did you remove more fabric in the centre (being on the bias) than on the side (which would be on the grain)?
    I have never bothered with hanging a dress before hemming it (although I have what my husband calls 'finishing-anxiety' and therefore always delay the hemming part usually lying over the back of a chair, so maybe I do hang them, even without knowing) and none of my dresses look off to me (should check them out again) and I agree with Blacklabelblog, I don't think anyone can notice on a full skirt... And speaking of the pencil-skirt (or just straight skirts for that matter), would you use this method on those too or just on the full skirts? Would you apply this method to any fabric or just on the heavy/heavier weight ones? (I suppose lightweight fabrics don't weigh as much, so wouldn't stretch out that much)
    Thanks for your thoughts on this!
    I really appreciate your tip for the hemming with the two rows of stitches, using one for the easing! I will try that one out!
    And I love full skirts too, they are great to twirl in...

    1. Hi Wendy,
      The general idea is to pre-stretch the bias before sewing as opposed to after. Weighing the skirts pieces will speed up the process. You could of course hang your skirt pieces and wait. Once the bias bits have stretched, they don't move even after washing or daily wear.
      I cut a crescent like piece in the bias the widest being about 5/8" on the bias, the crosswise and straight grain did not move. As blacklabel said, this would hardly be noticeable, but on some other fabrics, the stretch can be in inches.
      I don't hang pencil or a-line skirts unless cut on the bias.
      Each fabric will behave differently so I don't really know if this'll work for all of them, but yes I will hang every skirt that have some bias before hemming. Either before or after sewing them up.
      Don't hesitate to hit me if you have more questions.

  7. Interesting to know that commercial patterns take into account the hang before cutting fabric. It must be some maths may be based on type of fabric?

    1. Yes I think it has to be calculated for every fabric, for us, it doesn't make much of a difference. Except that if you reverse the steps, you can do it without help.

  8. It seems, from the pictures, that the back is quite a bit shorter than the front???

  9. I feel that some of the comments from some people can be quite sarcastic, but I hope you know that your blog is lovely, inspiring and at the very least it is your own and takes a lot of effort and time. Thank you for sharing!

  10. I am struggling with leveling a full skirt and I think your idea is awesome. Thank you!

  11. Thank you. I'm making a half circle skirt and your reference to Helen Joseph-Armstrong's book is helping me figure out where to put the grainlines.


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