Thursday, February 3, 2011

Introducing the Mod Mini Skirt Project

Love this pattern! Simplicity lives up to its name.

So, after having a great experience buying the pink houndstooth fabric online, I decided to expand my fabric horizons. I began exploring modern fabric but eventually became frustrated with the lack of printed knit fabrics. It seemed like the only cool prints I could find were 100% cotton quilter's type of fabric. I had a bad experience with that in the past, which I blogged about. I didn't like how thin and stiff quilter's fabric seems to be. Maybe it's not all quilter's fabrics but the stuff at Joann's was like that. Needless to say, quilter's fabric was not an option.

Frustrated that I couldn't find printed knits, I began perusing Etsy and eBay for vintage polyester (often double-knits). And sure enough, I found what I was looking for! I know a lot of folks don't like the fact that vintage polyester doesn't breathe well. I completely understand that qualm, but I'm willing to accept it, because I just love the prints and the ease of sewing it. I don't sweat much and get cold really easily so that lack of breathability affects me less than some people.

I did have to deal with a few limitations, however. Over the years, I've learned that big prints (that aren't broken up by solid colors intermixed) tend to overwhelm my frame. Many of the fun vintage prints are large. Also, I found that many dealers only had about a yard available. This was inspiring, though, instead of frustrating. From these limitations, I decided to embark on a mini-skirt project.

And you know what's great about mini skirts?

1.) The classic A-line shape is fabulously 60's.
2.) You can make them with big prints, because you can break it up by wearing a solid shirt.
3.) They are SUPER easy and SUPER fast to sew!
4.) You only need about a yard to sew one.

#3 was a big selling point for me. Making easy mini-skirts really helped me build my confidence. It was also nice to be able to finish a project quickly. The first mini skirt I made took me about 3 hours. Since then, I've gotten my time down to between 2 and 2.5 hours.

Perhaps I should have started sewing something easy like a mini-skirt from the beginning. But, that's not really my style. When I become interested in something, I tend to dive right in.

So, this whole post is leading up to a big project that I'm going to be presenting over the next week or so (maybe more). What happened is I bought a bunch of vintage fabric (mostly printed polyester) and made a TON of mini-skirts. I churned them out real fast, and I can proudly say that there's not one that's a disaster!

All mini skirts were made using Simplicity 7699 from 1968.

Now to present my first mini-skirt project....

1.) THE FABRIC: This first mini-skirt was made with diamond pattern polyester that I purchased from "therickrack" on Etsy. The fabric was a a medium weight polyester, probably a double-knit, but I'm not sure how to tell. Fabric identification is not my strong suit.

2.) THE STYLE: What I love about the mini-skirt is its versatility. I purposely made each skirt short but not super short, so that they could be more versatile. I love the fact that you can wear mini-skirts in fall/winter by pairing them with leggings and a long sleeve shirt. AND, you can just as easily wear them in the spring/summer with bare legs and a sleeveless mock turtleneck. In all cases, I always add a long necklace (preferably a large medallion) to finish off the look.

Closeup of the diamonds on the fabric

3.) THE ERA: I see these mini-skirts as having both a mod and a preppy quality. While the prints are definitely mod, I feel like the turtleneck, boots, and medallion give the look a preppy, college-campus quality. I'm reminded of Ali MacGraw in "Love Story" or Katherine Ross in "The Graduate." I don't remember if they wore outfits like this in the films, but I could imagine the characters doing so. I also compare the look to Nancy Sinatra's mod style on the "Boots" LP cover.

I love the solid colors paired with the stripes. Truly an iconic fashion image.*

I couldn't find any good pictures of the "preppy", college look, so if anyone can point me to one, I'd love that. I have all these images in my head of 1960's college women sitting on grassy hills, reading books and preparing war protests. But alas, no images to back it up!

4.) THE PROBLEMS: No troubles to report. I found the pattern easy to follow and the first mini-skirt project was snafu free!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this style and see any pictures you may have come across. Many more mini-skirts are to come!

Happy sewing!

Medallion is vintage by Sarah Coventry

*Please note that I don't own the rights nor do I claim to own the rights to the image of the Nancy Sinatra "Boots" LP. Showing this image falls under the "fair use doctrine." This is a personal blog and no profits are being derived from it.


  1. The skirt looks great! I love how you can go a bit wilder with patterns etc on a skirt, then pair it with a plain top to tone it down. My first few sewing projects were skirts, using a book called 'Sew What: Skirts'. There are no patterns, you just use your own measurements. It was very inspiring and liberating. Unfortunately, it was pre-my-blogging-days, so no pics ATM, but perhaps I'll do a retrospective post one day. I made a great skirt out of some funky 50s/60s barkcloth curtains that belonged to my Grandma. I look forward to seeing your other skirts :-)

  2. Love the fabric and the skirt, very cute.

  3. Love it!!! Thanks for the great info regarding printed jersey knit, I have been looking for the same sort of material here in the UK without much luck. Look forward to seeing more of your skirts.

  4. @Jane: Wow, I'd love to see that. Barkcloth huh? How did you like it? I've never seen barkcloth in person, so I'm worried that it would feel rough or be too stiff. However, I wouldn't mind trying it, because there are many cool vintage fabrics made of it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    @Spikklubba: thanks! ; - )

    @Popbabe7: Thank you : - ) Good luck to you in finding material too. It's a struggle but it's worth it when you find something you really love.

  5. @Carrie: Thanks! Your blog looks really cool too.

  6. Hi Astrid, barkcloth actually tends to be pretty soft. True 'barkcloth' was some sort of tribal thing made of actual bark but the 50s/60s barkcloth was I think mostly cotton. It just has a rough, nubbly texture to the surface of it because the threads are a bit lumpy. It doesn't have the drape of a really soft fabric but it's ideal for skirts in the same way something like a fine corduroy might be. (That's the closest I can think of as a comparison for weight and drape.) There were some pretty awesome patterns made in barkcloth and mostly used in curtains :-)

  7. @Jane: Wow, sounds like barkcloth would work really well for skirts then. I'll have to check it out!