Finally, the skirt that I promised to blog about. This skirt is near and dear to me because it combines so many things that I like: Vintage illustration, thrifting, handcrafting, fashion, recycling, and BALL FRINGE.
You see, this skirt started life as a vintage kiddie curtain-and-valance set. Wonderful old Mother Goose illustrations, and, if I haven’t mentioned, BALL FRINGE. Oh man, do I ever love ball fringe. (Some day I will have a skirt that is tier upon tier of ball fringe, hopefully with a matching box-cut sleeveless top, but this is not that day.)
I saw the curtains in a thrift store, and immediately knew that I would make it into a skirt. Because I am some sort of thrift store goddess, I got the set for $2.48 (plus tax). Step Two would be finding a pattern to match what I was seeing in my head. A simple, high-waist pencil skirt. I went to JoAnn. Butterick had nothing. Simplicity had nothing. New Look, Burda, Vogue, McCall’s… nobody had what I was looking for. And my own drafting skills… well, they get me by for Halloween costumes, but this was going to require better than that. So I sat on it for a while, but I knew that I wanted to make this skirt to wear to the Hooch n’ Smooch event at Viva, and time was ticking away.
Enter: Another trip to the thrift store.
Thrift stores always have sewing patterns, and more often than not, they are a disorganized mess of the worst that fashion had to offer… in the ’80s. And that’s saying something. I usually give the pile a cursory glance, to see if there are any promising yellowing envelopes sticking out, and then I continue on my way. But this one day, at this one thrift store, the stash of patterns was small enough to consider flipping through each and every one. I wasn’t even looking with the skirt in mind, but rather just to see if anything seemed workable for any project. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Without merit. Ugly. And then… skirt! Here’s a skirt pattern, in my size! Three options, one of which is JUST what I am looking for! There were no prices marked, but I took a risk. At the counter, the cashier informed be that all sewing patterns are 49¢. Was I okay with that?
Ahem, um, yes. That’s fine. Thank you.
I got it home, and cleaned off the dining room sewing table. I knew that the pattern would already be cut out, but hoped that if it was cut smaller than my size, I could at least estimate up to… holy chit. This pattern is untouched. Nobody has ever cut it, and as best as I can tell, nobody has ever even unfolded it. There’s still an advertisement in it for new, upcoming Spring (1987) patterns. LA LA LA LA LA!
I got busy with my seam ripper, opening up the curtain panel everywhere I had to, and nowhere that I didn’t. I laid out the pattern pieces so that I could salvage most of one of the original curtain seams, thus NOT having to cut the ball fringe in one place. I wound up using just about the entire curtain for the skirt, and a bit of the valance for the waistband. The waistband which turned out to be FAR easier than putting in the zipper, and shouldn’t have slowed me down to a procrastinating crawl. And then I was done! Well, except for the last hook-and eye… hook-and-eye… I have about 300 (okay, 48 and yes I did count) assorted hook-and-eye sets in my sewing basket, and none are the right size. Damn damn damn. A trip to JoAnn and back home, and now I have the hook-and-eye and WHERE the hell are my sewing needles? Oh, come ON. I am NOT going back to JoAnn AGAIN. And then I remembered the emergency sewing kit I kept in my desk at the office, and that my desk at the office was still packed into a box in the basement, and lo and behold, I have a needle.
The end result is a one-of-a-kind, semi-vintage skirt that cost me approximately $4 (curtain, zipper, hook-and-eye, thread) and is, like anything I sew for myself, only a little too big in the waist.
(They’re difficult to see, but the flowerpots full of smiling daisies are my favorite bits.)
ADDITION: Dur, I forgot to post the pattern! It’s Butterick 4706, ca. 1986, and it looks like this:
13 responses to “The Skirt”
Ha! I love the skirt and the story as well! What a great project and FULL of wonderful miracle finds. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing!
It is so stinkin’ cute!
Yea! That’s what I said when I saw this skirt. Yea! I too love ball fringe. You are a thrift store goddess.
WOW – The skirt turned out great. My mom would be very impressed with your ironing abilities. When I would sew (back in dark ages) she was a real stickler about pressing the seams open after each was stitched. This is a fun blog – I love your header!!
Love the skirt! We are also going to Viva Las Vegas, but I didn’t get to make anything for this year’s event — will be wearing my two dresses I bought from vendors at last year’s Viva. I hope I still fit into them!
I have rolls of ball fringe that I found in my grandmother’s sewing stash, and in one of her last lucid moments, she said I could have it all. I think most of it is this gold color showing on your skirt!
Oh I am dying!!! It is just so cute. You will be the coolest girl at the hooch and smooch for sure. If I’m not too shy I’ll come over and say hello so I can see it in person.
Pretty much everything I’m bringing to Viva this year is home made by me. But nothing is as cute as that skirt!
I love ball fringe. I had red ball fringe around the windows of my 62′ nova. Then later, when I had a ’79 subaru wagon, I lined the front and side windows in light pink balls and the hatch windows in maroon 3 inch satin fringe. Gorgeous. …and totally ridiculously silly.
AWESOME! That skirt is SO you — you’ll be the cutest hoochin’ n’ smoochin’ gal at Viva! :D
I know you’ve already made the skirt, and now own a pattern for it. But I thought I’d share this link for drafting a pencil skirt pattern. It is so simple that even I was able to make an amazing, perfectly fitting, skirt in under one hour.
Kerrie – Thanks for the link! It might be up someone else’s alley, but any skirt that is explained in 12 “parts” over 15 pages is far too involved for me.
What a great skirt. Where the heck are you thrifting?! My Goodwill AND Salvation Army won’t carry anything remotely to do with sewing!
SewDucky: Thanks! We have Goodwill and Salvation Army, but the biggest chain of thrift stores in my area, and where I most commonly shop, is ARC, and they all seem to have a basket of tattered sewing patterns somewhere in the store. They also sometimes have useful items like embroidery hoops and thread cones, but often pre-bagged together with ridiculous items like the head from a child’s doll, an old candle, and 5 plastic napkin rings. I’ve never figured out how the items are chosen. Weight?
Oooh, clothing made from furnishing fabric, mmmmh! I seem to spend a substantial portion of my life trawling charity shops for curtains like the one you found. It’s so much fun! I love how the grown-up shape makes the kiddie pattern that little bit more sophisticated.
I know from another thrift store in Dallas I used to go to (not here, alas) that they packaged them up by thinking they went together, and many people just don’t do crafts.
I once got thread, zippers, paintbrushes, twine, whalebone strips, a tin with a lid, a mason jar without, a dressing cruet, some screws, nails and a wooden dowel and asked and was told the guy bagged it by type, and it was a “craft” type. I figure it’s just some 16 year old grabbing a handful of things they think are alike.