Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sewing a Circle or Poodle kirt

Hello fellow sewers!

Recently a friend requested that I assist her in creating poodle skirts for a charity her organization was holding.  We only had a pattern for a very small child, however, I knew that a poodle skirt was in fact just a circle skirt so I went to work looking for instructions on how to make a poodle skirt and what I found was some amis information. So today I am going to highlight how in fact to do a very successful poodle skirt.  No pattern necessary just a few tools. 

Supplies:  You will need a tape measure, something to mark with (I use chalk but there are actual fabric marking tools you can buy if you want), scissors (nice sharp scissors to cut the fabric easily), thread, of course you need your fabric a poodle skirt is typically made of a wool or wool blend but you do not necessarily need to have this type of fabric a medium weight non stretchable cotton will work perfectly, you are also going to need some type of string that you can use as to create both the inner circle or the waist of the skirt and the outer circle or the hem of the skirt, one or two safety pins, and finally an iron if you have one available.  Of course you will also need elastic, thread and an applique for the skirt or some felt if you plan to make the poodle on your own.  For the purpose here I will assume that you are using an applique.

So here goes step by step instructions on my take for making a poodle skirt:

  • It is important to start with preparing your fabric, if its terribly wrinkled give it a quick iron.  Most patterns also suggest that you wash your fabric first ( I have never done this unless absolutely necessary and honestly I haven't had any difficulties in my hundreds of projects).  After making sure your fabric is relatively wrinkle free you will need to depending on the size of the skirt you are making unfold the fabric from the manufacturers fold  and then fold the fabric the opposite way.
                      Diagram of this step: 
  • Now we need to take the time to take some measurements.  Measure the waist or the area you intend the skirt to sit (poodle skirts typically sat at or just above the waist). Now for the length measure from your waist down to halfway between the knee and the ankle (note: you can go shorter or longer the length is a matter of preference so measure to where you want the length of your skirt). 
    • Example:  The current skirt I am working on the waist of the child is 30 inches, and the length we want is about 38.5  inches.  The length you want the skirt plus the radius you use to draw the inner circle and another inch for the hem.
  • After you are all set with your measurements you are ready to begin on the skirt.  Note a circle skirt can in fact be made with no seems if you have fabric that is wide enough however for these instructions we are going to pretend that the fabric is not nearly wide enough to make the skirt in one piece. 
    • A few things to think about that will in fact impact your finished product.  Do you want your skirt to gather a considerable amount or do you want it to have just a small to moderate amount of gather. 
    • Okay have you decided how much gather you would like your skirt to have in the end this is important because we will do two different measurements depending on how much gather you like.  For a large amount of gather you can follow this calculation (note this is the calculation I have found in my searches for making a circle or poodle skirt but I find that this produces a waist that is much larger than I like).  Anyway onto the calculation you take the waist which is from our example 28 inches and you divide that by 2 that gives you 14 inches or your diameter, now divide by 2 again and you get 7 this is your radius and the length you will use to create your inner circle.    The second calculation that I like to use is just slightly different.  Okay you want to make sure the skirt will go over the hips of the person you are making the skirt for and that it has some gather at the waist so we are going to add some to the waist to provide us with room for these things.  So instead of 28 for the waist I am going to use 34 inches (34 makes for easy math thats why I made it six inches larger you can make it as large as you want at this point but remember you need to go over the hips a child usually doesn't have alot of hip but an adult will have hip and if you are making this for an adult then I would personally use the first measurement).  Moving on take 34 inches divide by two this gives you 17 inches, now divide by two again gives 8.5 now here is where it varies we are going to divide by two again 4.25.  The reason we are dividing by 2 the extra time is if you made the radius to be 8.5 inches and have to make the skirt in two pieces you are going to end up with a skirt twice as large as you want and on a child that might be to much skirt.
  • Okay so now you have your measurements, use whichever set you like it doesn't matter in your preparations.  With your fabric folded you need to gather your tape measure something to mark with and also something to use as a sort of compass/plumb line in order to make our half circles.  I am just going to show this in a diagram I think it will make more sense:
                      Diagram of this step:

    • A few things to remember.  You must repeat the steps in your diagram two times as you need a front and back for your skirt! You may want to add an inch or two to the waist measurement to allow for hem allowances.  I realize that my measurements in my example in the diagram and the written above are different I did this on purpose to show a few different options.  When you are using your plumbline make sure you keep it straight and tight a loose, floppy or cricked line will not produce a circle/poodle skirt. 
  • Now simply cut out the skirt at the lines you drew for the half or quarter circles.  Do not cut the fold! Only cut on the lines you drew.
  • The next step is to put the skirt together.  You are going to put the right sides of the material together and pin the skirt together on both sides. If you are not used to sewing it is ok to put your pins very close together this will create a nice matching up and will help with making a straight line.
  • After you have pinned both sides of the skirt together now you are ready to sew.  Take your sewing machine (Hopefully you have it threaded or if you don't know how to have someone to help you as all machines are different in threading them, we will do a basics of threading step by step at a different time but for now we are going to assume the machine is threaded).  I like to sew a 3/4" or in rounding this is 2 cm seam so using your tape measure (this step you will need to do only if your machine does not already have labels on the sewing plate) put the needle down just so it is touching the tape measure and measure out 3/4" or 2 cm (use something to put a mark to remind you which line you are using as most machines have some sort of lines you can follow for your seems).  Then just sew up both sides of the skirt make sure you stay on the line you marked if you are new to sewing take it slow this isn't a race (even though it is fun to see the machine sew fast sometimes).  You can now iron flat both of the seems if you wish.
  • Ok now the main part of your skirt is built and we have two choices for a waist band we can fold down the waist or we can add on a waist band, I like to add on the waist band for this skirt it isn't to difficult and makes for a nicer product in my opinion. Follow the diagram below
    • Diagram:

  • Next we take the waist band we just cut out and with right sides together pin the waist band onto the skirt using only one end of the cut out piece.  Next use your machine to sew the band onto the skirt again at about 3/4" for the seem (Note remove your pins as you sew).  Now fold up your band that you just sewed onto the skirt.  You may want to iron this fold up to make it nice and neat.  Next you will fold the band in half as shown in the diagram, use your iron for this fold as well.  Now fold the opposite end of the band up about 3/4 of an inch and then under again about a 1/4 of an inch.  Now we sew, sew as close to the edge of the band that you just folded and sewed onto the skirt as you possibly can sew completely around the circle except for a small amount that you will use to put in the elastic.
  • Now take your elastic put a safety pin in one end and affix another safety pin to the other end and attach that with the elastic to the skirt waist band so you do not loose the elastic (this is handy as believe me i've lost elastic in a waist band and its such a pain). Thread your elastic through your tube that you created and attached to your skirt. When you thread the elastic through the entire length of the waist band pull it a little extra to create a nice bunching effect.  Now you can either use your machine or you can sew the elastic by hand I find it quicker to overlap the elastic both ends about an inch and sew both ends I like to sew over the same seem a few times to ensure that I have a nice strong connection.  A few notes make sure you haven't twisted the elastic around and make sure you don't make the elastic to small. You want the elastic to be the original length of the waist you meaured in our diagrams above that is 30 inches plus an inch or two for sewing the ends together.  After sewing the ends of the elastic together put the elastic up into the band with the rest of the elastic make sure none is showing and now sew together the opening that you left in order to put the elastic into the band.  Make sure you do not catch the elastic into the sewing. 
  • Two more steps.  First we are going to hem the skirt.  Take your iron and iron up an inch all the way around the bottom and then tuck under the top edge of the inch.  I like to tuck the top edge until it touches the fold original inch fold this makes for a nice slim hem.  Iron down the folded part, and then simply take your machine and sew as close to the folded edge as you can, careful to make sure you stay on the hem.  Now your skirt is done and your final step is to put on your poodle.
  • Now as I said before we are going to pretend you have an applique.  Take a sewing needle and some thread that matches your applique and hand sew the poodle onto the bottom front of the skirt wherever you like. Typically the poodle is sew to the side on the bottom of the skirt.  Now if you like you can take some nice sequined trim and hand sew a leash that goes from the poodle all the way up to your band.  (I am assuming here that know a tad bit about hand sewing for this step no worries if you do not know about hand sewing we will tackle that topic as part of our sewing basic series).
  • I will add some pictures of a few finished skirts as soon as I get my camera working again. Hopefully I can put these up tomorrow sometimes a picture speaks a thousand words for me.  Also know that we are here to help you if anything does not make sense or you just don't understand some of the steps send us an email or let us know in the comments section and we will see if we can help you through whatever issues you are having.  The diagrams I created for this were done on paint and that program is clearly not perfect so if something is unclear please ask!
Happy Sewing!  Have fun with this its a fun project!

Note I had great difficulty putting in the diagrams let me know if they are not working (I did finally load google chrome and it seems to have worked at least on my end!


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