Family History Skirt

As I’ve mentioned before, the majority of my sewing hardware has come from my Nana. My sewing machine is her 1968 Bernina Record, I use her shears, her needles and thread, and her sewing box full of odds and ends lives in my sewing space. Sometimes I feel quite sentimental about the whole lot (and this is one of those times). I’m not sure when I aquired this woolen skirt of Nana’s, but its been in my drawer for ages. It was always too big, but it was made from some lovely tartan wool so I kept it.

 (I think there was dust on my camera lens when I took this, its all speckly!)

This is the original A line skirt. It had a side lapped zipper and a hook and eye, four darts in the front and two at the back, and had a facing instead of a waistband. It was also fully lined, and had a blind machine hem. The wool is Ross hunting tartan (Nana’s married name was Ross, and she’s a Scot), and was apparently purchased by a friend of Nana’s when she was in Edinburgh and brought back to NZ for her. I really wanted to remake the skirt into something for me, because the fabric is lovely and I like the connection it has with Nana. So I unpicked the facing and the darts and all the seams, and rescued the zip, and chucked the whole lot in the washing machine (on a cold delecate cycle with wool detergent, don’t fret!) to get rid of its musty wool smell and to try and relax the old seam lines. Then I gave it a good steam, and sat down to cut out a By Hand London Charlotte Skirt

 (Looks like I need to press my darts in better….sorry!)

Cutting out took me hours! I was determined to match the tartan across all the seams and the waistband, and I had so little fabric to work with that I found it quite stressful. And I’ve just realised that I didn’t get any pictures of the side seams, so you’ll just need to take my word for it that they all match up… I ruled lines across my pattern pieces to make sure they’d match. Just as well its a PDF, I made such a mess of it!

You can barely see the cente back seam though, so I’m pretty chuffed with it. I had to piece the waistband, as there wasn’t enough fabric in the original skirt to cut it in one piece. I ended up folding the pattern piece into three, so that the joins would match up with the side seams. It all worked pretty well, I think! I do wish I had included a back vent, because its quite narrow at the knees, but I didn’t even have enough fabric for that. I decided matching the tartan was more important than being able to take the stairs two at a time.

This is my first ever lapped zipper! I hand picked the lapped side, which I think looks really nice. The hand stitches just sink into the wool and become pretty much invisible. The button came from the amazing collection that I was given by my friend Kelly a few weeks ago, which had belonged to her Grandmother, so its definitely a skirt made of vintage materials.

I reused the original lining by cutting out the skirt pieces again, but I turned the darts into pleats to allow for slightly more movement of the lining. The original lining was hemmed with a three stitich zig-zag, which was such a pain to unpick! I wanted to do the same for the new hem, but I must have selected the wrong stitch and ended up with the blind hem stitch. Which isn’t blind, because I don’t have the right presser foot, so it looks a bit odd! But its the lining, so nobody will care. 

I really wanted to use the same techniques on my skirt that were used on the original, so there is a lot more hand sewing  on this skirt than I would normally use. Aside from the zip, the hem and the inner waistband are both hand sewn. I finished the seams with a zig-zag stitch, which I would never normally do anyway, but especially not on fray-prone wool like this! But thats how the original was done, and it seemed to last well enough, so we’ll see. The hem is finished with some green vintage bias tape which I had in my stash, as it was going to be too short if I turned it up twice and stitched it down.
Here are some closeups of the innards. I really enjoyed taking my time over this skirt, I even enjoyed the hand sewing! 

I’m really pleased with the fit of the skirt too, for the most part. The only bit that concerns me is that there appears to be some excess fabric pooling across the centre front between the points of the darts. Its something I noticed on my Brume skirts as well, so I might need to look up some pattern adjustments to see what I can do to reduce it for next time…

I wore it with my Nettie Bodysuit, which was a good choice. Usually when I wear pencil skirts I do up the waitband over my top, then pull the hem up to my waist and smooth everything out before I pull it back down, but the hem of this skirt is too tight to do that! Nettie means that I don’t have to worry about wrinkly tops making funny bulges under my skirt.

So thats my new/old skirt! I’m happy with it, despite its minor fitting issues. I’m glad to have another winter skirt in my wardrobe, now I just need some jumpers and merino leggings to go with it…

24 thoughts on “Family History Skirt

  1. I love the gorgeous green of the fabric. How cool that you were able to salvage something with so much family history.

  2. What a great skirt! Almost all of my sewing and knitting supplies came from my grandmothers… and some came from my great-grandmother- I know what you mean when you say you can get sentimental about them šŸ™‚
    [P.S. I may or may not have tried to brush the “dust” off my screen when looking at the first photo :-/ ]

    1. I’m not sure what happened to that first photo, very odd! Its nice, having that connection with Nana, knowing that I’m using things that she loved. I’m sure you feel the same!

  3. Such a lovely refashion, your nana would have been so proud…. It looks wonderful. I wish I’d lined my Charlotte as it’s unwearable in winter – clings to tights but too tight for a slip. Have you seen Gail’s posts, at Today’s Agenda about fitting this pattern? I have to say that there’s not many I’ve seen made without that excess fabric in the front – mine have it too. I wonder if it’s a drafting issue rather than personal fit as it seems many body shapes have the same issue. Gail solves the problem of course because she’s ace…..
    It definitely should have been drafted with a vent or kick pleat, but like you, I’d probably have sacrificed one for pattern matching too!

    1. Ooh, thanks for the tip! I’ll go and have a look. Her posts are great, she definitely saved my Miette cardigan with her knit along! Interesting that the extra fabric is a common issue, I should have done some research before diving in…

  4. Your refashion Nana skirt is wonderful! You have made a modern skirt honoring the old tartan wool skirt. I like all this handwork you have put into it!

  5. It’s a lovely skirt and so cool that it’s one with history! I like refashioned things and this one is no doubt even more special. It’s pretty cool that you got all that stuff from you Nana!

  6. Lovely, and very painstaking work. I have been following your blog for about a year and just started blogging myself, so I thought it was time to leave a comment.
    I use my Gran’s old Bernina too, her’s is from about 1980 I think and still working perfectly.

  7. This is briliant! What a great re-fashion, and the tartan is gorgeous. There must be something about the Charlotte pattern, because I made it with some wool gabardine that came from my Granny. Sadly, it rarely gets worn because it turns out that I am utterly incapable of walking in a ladylike manner in a pencil skirt! I put a little split in the centre back seam, and it’s ripped open – twice!

    1. Oh no! It could really do with a vent! I had to shorten it by about 30cm to fit it onto my fabric, so its not quite so narrow at the knees, but its still pretty restrictive. I still love the pattern though, it seems to attract vintage fabric!

    1. Thanks šŸ™‚ In a way, the lack of fabric made pattern matching a bit easier! All of the seams on the original skirt matched up, so I just had to make sure I cut the pattern pieces out of the centre of each piece with the plaid matching at the notches. It just took me a while to figure that out…

  8. Just by itself, this is a gorgeous skirt, but to have refashioned it from your Nana’s old one makes it something really special. Very inspiring!

  9. This looks great and what an amazing way to honour your Grandmother and also keep her with you all the time. The plaid matching looks fantastic too!

  10. The skirt looks amazing! I’m so glad you’re using my Nana’s button collection in such a meaningful way. I remember whenever we went to visit Nana and Poppa the button collection would be pulled out for us to play with. I emailed the link to my Mum and she said it made her tear up, as I think Nana’s button collection was a big part of her childhood too. She was happy to know that it’s being put to good use šŸ™‚

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