The Skirt

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:



Filed under blogging, cute and fuzzy bunny, fashion, sewing, vintage, Viva Las Vegas

13 responses to “The Skirt

  1. 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!

  2. Serena

    It is so stinkin’ cute!

  3. sweetersappe

    Yea! That’s what I said when I saw this skirt. Yea! I too love ball fringe. You are a thrift store goddess.

  4. 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!!

  5. Jen

    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!

  6. 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.

  7. AWESOME! That skirt is SO you — you’ll be the cutest hoochin’ n’ smoochin’ gal at Viva! :D

  8. kerrie

    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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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