Sewing

Can a Victorian walking Skirt be made of less than 2m of fabric?

Do you have a fabric stash?

Well, if you are somewhat like me, you have one and usually don’t use any of those fabrics. Often they just don’t quite fit the project at hand. But I made it a point to use some of the fabrics I own and make some garments out of it before I allow myself to buy something new.

The problem is that most of the fabrics I own, are swatches. Some have a decent size, but most are less than a square meter big.

So here we are with a fabric of 1.4 by 1.6 meters and my idea to make a Victorian or Edwardian walking skirt out of it. With the additional restriction of having as few sewing lines as possible, so they won’t disrupt the pattern too much.

Sounds somewhat impossible, right?

Well, it felt like it is, since no pattern seemed to fit onto the fabric. The hem was just too wide with all the patterns I have already printed. So I went on and searched the book “Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns”* for a skirt pattern, which fulfills my requirements. And I actually found one.
The description says it is a pattern from 1893, and I like the sketch which goes along with it.

The pattern had a width of 153 centimeters, and therefore I thought I have with 140 centimeters, just a little less gathering at the waist as required.

I used almost the entire fabric and together with a big pocket and the waist band I had no material left.

I continued with felling on a tarlatan to the main fabric, with a stitch that isn’t visible at the front, and then basted the lining on to the main fabric, covering the tarlatan. The tarlatan basically gives the hem some stability and makes it flare out a little more. After basting the lining to the main fabric, I sewed the two pieces together. First, basting the side seems together with a wide running stitch and then sewed it with the sewing machine.

Then, I continued felling down the seam allowance and also sewed in the pocket in this step.

Next, I lined the waist band and secured the seam allowance of the waist line. I know that antique Victorian walking skirts were sometimes not finished, but back then fabrics were woven way denser, since the shuttle weaving machines used can push the yarns tightly together and the modern air yet or rapier looms are not able to do so.
Therefore, were the fabrics back then less prone to fraying, while my fabric is fraying quite badly.

With the seam allowance secured, I gathered the waist with two seam lines with fairly wide stitches, which I then pulled in.

And this was the moment I got really confused, since the material would just not fit into the waist band. Even with the tightest gathering, it wasn’t possible.

 

So I went back to read the pattern description again, and one particular part I have apparently ignored states: “The skirt is drafted by the waist measure – is in one piece.”
I honestly don’t understand it, since the width would have been half of the one I use, and I wouldn’t be able to walk in such a tubular and restricting skirt. So probably I’m missing the necessary information or how to use the patterns properly, but it wouldn’t help in my current situation anymore. I decided to take the excess material and fold it in a big double box pleat at the back and tried to distribute the gathering at the front with a little less material.

Lastly, I sewed on a brush braid, despite the color isn’t entirely matching the skirt. I secured it with a quick and dirty basting stitch so that I can take it off once it is worn out. Hopefully it will protect the hem, otherwise I would have to shorten the skirt at least at the back, since it is touching the floor.

The skirt is proof that you can make a Victorian walking skirt with less than two meters of fabric. And it even provides a lot of material for swooshing around!

There is also the video of the entire making process beneath. 🙂

Play Video

Material Used

  • Approximately 1,6 m of a cotton fabric
  • 2 m cotton voile
  • Tarlatan
  • Silk sewing thread

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