Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Denim Rag Quilt Skirt

I wanted to make a skirt with the appearance of a denim rag quilt - with a rough and old looking fray on the seams. In my minds eye, this was an A-line skirt, however I wound up with a pencil skirt. Sometimes that happens when you make things up as you go, but otherwise, I am pleased with the result! Also, I can tell you where my measurements went wrong and you can choose if you want to make an A-line or a pencil.

Let me talk for a little bit about my measurements and how I did the math to make this skirt.
First, I measured her waste. I got 20 inches. I approximated how much width I wanted at the bottom of the skirt, and figured on 24 inches. For more of an A-line skirt, I should have went for 28 or 30 inches around the bottom.

I had decided that I wanted my my blocks to be 2.5 inches from the insides of the seams, and that I wanted a half inch seam around each block. So I needed to figure out how many 2.5 inch blocks I needed to give me 20 inches in the waste. Dividing 20 by 2.5 and I got 8 blocks, even.

Knowing that I wanted 8 blocks, with a half inch seam on each side, and that I wanted them to be 2.5 inches at the top, but needing to have the skirt wider at the bottom, I knew I was going to have a different width for the bottom blocks than the top ones. Okay, so 24 inches divided by 8 blocks gave me 3" - so I needed to add a half inch per block at the bottom (making this an A-line skirt, I would increase that to a full inch).

I hope you're still with me. I didn't want to cut different sized blocks. It's really a matter of sewing a diagonal seam from the top of the skirt to the bottom. - So, knowing at their widest they needed to be 3 inches, but with a half inch seam, I knew I wanted my blocks to be 4 inches wide. But they needed to lose a half inch at the top, or a quarter inch on each seam. Therefore, I decided the best way to make the skirt was to cut my 4 inch blocks and sew them together into strips vertically, using a half inch seam. Once I had my strips sewn from top to bottom, I pinned them together and marked a half inch for the seam at the bottom and 3/4 inch seam at the top. And then I sewed from point to point.

If I were to make this an A-line skirt, I would want them to be 3.5 inches at the bottom, so I would cut my squares to 4.5 inches wide. I would then mark the half inch seam allowance on the bottom and a full inch seam on the top and again, sew from point to point.

Okay, now that I've cleared that up, here's the tutorial.

I determined that I wanted a skirt that was approximately 16 inches long. 4 inch blocks with a half inch seam would mean that 5 of them, from top to bottom would give me 15 inches. Adding in the wasteband, I would close to what I wanted. So cut 40 - 4 inch blocks, total. I chose 4 colors of old jeans and cut ten blocks of each.
I pressed them flat and laid them out, arranging them so that I wouldn't have two of the same side by side.

Turning the grain of the fabric in different directions, I sewed my vertical strips. Although here they are three in a column in this photo, I had five in the end.

After pinning the vertical strips together and marking the seam (use a washable marker for this as these seams will be on the outside) I sewed from 3/4" allowance at the top to 1/2" allowance at the bottom. When I got to the joins, I folded the seam on the bottom side down, and the top side up. This was so I didn't have 6 layers of fabric going into one seam - but kept it at 4. By alternating them, I also kept it more uniform all around.

After I had my squares sewn together, I clipped the joints so that the seams would be free moving. This not only helped the appearance of the skirt, it allowed me to fray it more easily.

Because I have a pencil skirt, it was necessary to have a slit up the back. The only way to do this was fold over the seam where it naturally occurred and stitch it down, knowing it would fray like the rest of the seams.

Shortly after, I hemmed the bottom.

I harvested the waste band from a pair of pants that was a few inches bigger than what I needed for the skirt. Taking care not to cut the fabric, I took out the threads and pulled the pants fabric out.

This part can get a little tricky. You may have to remove the belt loops to reposition them. I cut off  upper snap, a half inch behind the closest belt loop, and set it aside.

Taking the longer portion of the waste band with the bottom snap attached, I inserted my skirt into the gap where the fabric was for the pants I just removed. I sewed this down along the same stitch marks that held it in place when it was on the pants.

With the main waste band now sewn in place, I pinned the top snap portion that I had cut away, down onto the waste band - lining it up so that once I sewed it down and folded it over, it would snap to the bottom piece. Looking in the photo, you can see how I did this - note the belt loop just beneath this swatch.

Once it was sewn down securely, I could fold it back over and it would snap in place. I used a needle and thread to hand sew the belt loop down on the bottom, and the belt loop hides this seam.

I then used the needle and thread to sew down all the rest of the bottoms of the belt loops.

I chose to fray all of my seams by hand. I understand that you could snip the seams repeatedly with scissors and wash it a few times, but I have not tried this.
I knew that I wanted to be careful to get the just the right fray on it, and I had a particular look in mind. It did take a couple of days and it did make a huge mess!
But I do feel that in the end it was worth it.

After trimming off my excess threads and washing/drying it, my little girl has a very unique skirt that she totally loves!


  1. Cute skirt! You sound like me, I start out imaging how what I'm making will look like and some of the time it doesn't come out looking anything like I thought. I very rarely follow instructions, or end up halfway through changing them again. Do you remember when they had jeans and skirts of patchwork without the ragged edges?

  2. Thank you Allison! I don't remember the patchwork skirts, I'm gonna have to go look those up!