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Sew with DCF – Patternless Pleated Skirt

You will need:

I decided to make this skirt when we had some 1mt scraps of our beautiful Alicia left over from sampling. It seemed like a good opportunity to show how beautiful this fabric is. Because this make was created on a whim, with no pattern, there is definitely a bit of improvising involved. So if you’re into precision sewing you could probably do a better job of this on your own. But if you’re a perfectly-imperfect kind of machinist then this post is for you.

You can see the original video of this make here.

In this video I used 1mt of Alicia Brushed Check Polyester Woven in orange and snipped off a bit of the green for a pocket bag. When I put it to our instagram followers to vote on which colour to use for this blog post, the consensus was green! With a chunk taken out for the pocket bag earlier this will mean a touch more improvising, but who doesn’t love an extra challenge.

For this make I had a 1mt piece of Alicia which is 150cm wide. Excluding the section already cut into, I’m left with about 134cm width and 1mt length.

Time to get started!

The longest side of your fabric will be your hem edge. This is because the pleats eat up so much fabric. For my piece I’m using the fabric width of 134cm (originally 150cm). Next step is to check if the amount of fabric you have will accommodate your preferred skirt length. To quickly check this, just fold your fabric in half along the shorter edge, the selvedge edge in my case, and hold it against you. This gives you a quick idea of skirt length, as later we will be cutting down this fold line to create the skirt front and back pieces. You also need to keep in mind seams and hems, your skirt will be slightly shorter than what you see.

This is the point where you need to decide if you care about matching your checks. If not, please disregard the following section and enjoy a slightly less stressful life. If you do, you’ll need to match your checks at your selvedge edges as this will also dictate your skirt length.

I picked the check line, closest to the hem edge of the fabric, that is unaffected by cutting or fraying. I trimmed off the ragged edge and then cut the opposite edge to the same line within the check. Now when the fabric is folded along the selvedge, the checks line up at hem and selvedge. (You can also take this opportunity to cut a strip off the hem edge for your waistband here if you’d like)

Now that you’ve sorted the length of your fabric, its time to prepare your pleats.

For my design I used knife pleats but depending on the amount of fabric you have, other pleat styles could be used. The reason Alicia is such a great fabric for this style is because the checks work as your pleat guide. So handy!

I chose the bold centre line of the checks to be my guides. The large pleats in this style make folding nice and easy and means I can use the large centre check as my fold and placement lines.

To create the pleat take hold of your centre bold check, this is your outer fold line. Pull this line across the next centre check which will become your inner fold line. Then lay your outer fold over the following centre check which is your placement line.

I am a visual learner, so I roughly pleated my fabric and measured it to confirm there would be enough to go around me (I’m sure this could be done with calculations as well, but my brain just can’t).  When roughly pleating your fabric it’s also time to start planning the seams.

The reason to start planning your seams now is because you want to ensure these seams land in the ditches of your pleat, at the inner fold line. For my piece that means the fine outer check line at the edge of my fabric will be my side seam and also my inner fold. If you’re using fabric that hasn’t been cut into then you can measure your pleated fabric and cut to your preferred size.

I pleated my fabric using this side seam as the starting point and continued to fold until I reached the end of the last full pleat I could make.

Now to confirm the width of your skirt. Since you are making the skirt out of a piece of fabric cut in half, with no special shaping other than pleats, this means the front and back pieces are the same. And so, when estimating the width of your skirt, the information for the back and front will be the same. To find the width of your skirt start with the side seam/inner fold. Next, find the inner fold line on the opposite edge of your fabric, this is where your two sides will meet. To confirm your width you need to measure from the outer fold line that overlaps your side seam line to the placement line at the opposite side, which is where the pleat will overlap and land. This measurement will give you the width of your front/back panels.

My measurement for the fully pleated fabric is about 44cm. Knowing the front skirt panel and back skirt panel are the same means my full skirt measurement is approximately 88cm. My waist measurement is about 83cm so, after all this calculating, I know I will definitely be able to fit a skirt made from this piece of fabric. Phew!

When using a piece of fabric you haven’t cut into you can adjust your size and fit. Any excess can be used for your waistband and pocket bag.

Now its time to cut your fabric in half to create your front and back skirt panels. As I don’t have any extra fabric for my waistband I will be trimming a strip for my waistband off the front and back pieces of my skirt. I went for a 4cm waistband with 1cm seam allowance, choosing smaller seam allowances to retain as much skirt length as possible.

The first time I made this skirt, I overlocked my hem and side seams at this point. This is to ensure the hem is permanently pleated in place with the rest of the skirt.  You can always do this step later and just repress the hem.

Pleat both halves of your fabric side by side to work out the direction of the pleats for both panels. Then roughly press each panel. This rough press, before using the rajah cloth, helps to make sure everything is correctly in place before setting it permanently.

Now time to set the pleats! Make sure to carefully read the directions on the rajah cloth you’re using and follow these directions, but I will include my process as well. With the marked side of the rajah cloth facing up, placed on top of your fabric and with the iron up fairly hot to activate the rajah cloth, press fabric. Nice and easy.

I had enough of a scrap from my hacked up piece to make a small pocket, so I stitched a pocket bag to the front and back skirt panels. Be careful here to make sure you choose the same side seam, things can get confusing with both pieces being the pretty much the same.

Next, stitch up your side seams and, thanks to our wonderful preplanning, we have a fun secret pocket and side seam hidden inside a pleat.

Sew up the other side seam and insert your zip. Once again, this is hidden perfectly in the inner fold line. Now sew up your waistband (fuse first if using fusing). Ensure the waistband begins at the outer fold of the pleat that overlaps your zip side seam.

Once your waistband is sewed up you just need to hem and finish your buttons. For my original make I used a snap button and sewed a decorative button on top. When sewing for this blog I actually ended up using the button hole foot on my domestic machine. Finally, hand stitch on the button.

I can never resist adding a label as a final touch. I chose the label that really summed up this whole make, the adorable Perfectly Imperfect label from Kylie and the Machine.

And voila!

Now you have a pleated skirt made with no pattern at all.

I hope you enjoyed this little blog post. A blog post based entirely on my own made up process was a new challenge for me so I would love to hear what you think! Let me know how it was to read and if you would try it yourself! And if you do please tag us, I would love to see how you go.

Happy sewing everyone!

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