Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Not-So-Pioneer Skirt Tutorial

I've had a few people ask me to make them a Pioneer skirt for trek this year and each time they ask, I have to cringe just a little. I never thought I'd get squirmy over Pioneer clothing inaccuracies (cuz I'm full of them!), but I did. Anyway, I was wondering where we got this misconception because I used to picture it, too.

Last night the kids had just finished watching the Brady Bunch and then on came Little House on the Prairie and there was Caroline right there wearing her light colored blouse and colored skirt! Could our beloved Little House be at fault?

I wanted to research it myself, but took, of course, my favorite shortcut: e-mail Liz Clark.

Liz promptly responded confirming my hunch about the inaccuracies of the Pioneer "skirt." She said that a silk skirt/sheer blouse combo did come about around the 1840s and lasted through the century, but it was fancy-wear: nothing one would wear to emigrate West (especially in winter). After the Mormon Pioneer era, around the 1880s, a skirt/blouse combo for working classes did come about. I looked up when the Laura Ingals lived (1867 -1957), so maybe Little House wasn't as bad as I'd suspected, considering they were a bit later in the century.

Now that we've got that straight, yes, I will make you (ok, not you, I probably don't even know you) a Pioneer "skirt" for trek if you don't have anything else and you don't have the time or money for anything else :). Just remember it's really a petticoat (big slip to be worn with additional petticoats (ok, even I don't go that far currently, I just wear one petticoat.  Now some of you are cringing at me!)).

Liz suggested for those who get more into reenactment after a first-time trek, use the "skirt" for a petticoat under your dress later. Liz gives good, authentic, FREE instructions on how to make a petticoat ("skirt") on her site. She also suggests that if you make your skirt to appropriate fullness (so you won't trip and it would also be more accurate), an elastic waistband will not hold it up, so do make it with a waistband.

Since I'm going for speed at the moment, though, here's how I made mine:

1. I tore two widths of 45" fabric to my desired length. Off of one width, I tore a 4" strip off the side (parallel to the selvage) for my waistband. Thus, I have two equal-length pieces of fabric, one is just wider than the other.

2. Match up two of your selvage edges, mark about 8" down from the top with a pin (this area will become your placket), sew a 1/2" seam down from your mark. Press your seam open the whole length of the skirt, then stitch around your newly formed placket, re-enforcing at the bottom of the opening.

3. Make a seam down the other side of the skirt: Match up your edges, stitch a 1/2" seam all the way down. Because you tore your waistband off of this side, you now have a frayed edge that you need to take care of. Trim your edge to just over 1/4" and run a zig-zag all the way down (not period appropriate). I had to zig-zag both my seams in this skirt because my selvages were really fraying.

4. Hem the skirt to the desired length. I like to turn mine under 1/4" then again 1", then add growth tucks to shorten it a little, if needed.


5. Then run gathering stitches (big, straight stitches, no backstitching) at the top of the skirt at about 6/8" and 7/8".

6. Determine how many inches you want your waistband. I made this one big on me so that others can use the skirt. Press the short ends of the waistband under about 1/2".

7. Mark the half-way point and the quarter points on both the waistband and the skirt. Gather the skirt. Place the waistband behind the skirt, right sides of both pieces facing you. Match up the marks, adjust gathers, and pin.

8. Stitch the waistband to the skirt at 1" being careful not to catch any fabric underneath.

9. Flip the waistband up and press it.

10. Fold the waistband down until it meets the top of the skirt. Fold it over again so it sandwiches the skirt (there will be 4 thicknesses of waistband with skirt in the middle). Top stitch the short ends and the bottom of the waistband.

11. Create a closure with buttons and button holes as desired. I put buttons at multiple locations to allow this skirt to be shared by people of varying sizes.

Hope that made sense!

12 comments:

Amanda said...

It made sense. I liked it a lot. I have really enjoyed your last few posts too. Please keep them coming! You're awesome ;)

Katrina said...

This skirt is EXACTLY what I have been looking for so I can be a Ma on trek this summer. I've looked everywhere. Thanks so much!!!! Also, I really appreciate your idea for the mens shirts. I was dreading having to make my husband and two sons shirts from scratch. I will share these ideas with our ward. Thanks again!

Michelle said...

Thanks for the patterns. I will be making the men's shirt, bonnets, skirts and aprons for 3 different family members who will be going on the trek this summer.
Michelle Thomas

Emily said...

Good luck Michelle! I'm sure they'll be great! :) Just try moving that neck hole closer to the front on the shirt so it's not such an odd fit! (or just convert old shirts)

Becky B. said...

Thanks! I was able to make this in about 2 hours and I have very little sewing experience.

Emily said...

You're welcome, Becky! Glad it worked!

MamaLadyBug said...

In just a short afternoon, I was able to whip this up. Thank you so much for such clear directions! I so appreciate you posting this.

Emily said...

Happy to be of help!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I prefer this method of attaching the waistband so the topstitching will be pretty. :) I've got one going on trek now and one in 4 years, so I appreciate your tip on making it adjustable.

Thanks for all the great info on your site!

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the dumb question. When you lay out your "two lengths of fabric" did you get those by cutting one 45 width piece of fabric in half at the fold? Or do you have two pieces of fabric folded in half? I hope this question makes sense. Thanks for all your great post. I am going to be a trek Ma this summer!

Emily said...

I think I just opened the fabric so it was 44/45" wide, measured my length, then tore it at the appropriate length. Does that answer it? You could keep it folded and cut it, too, though. I'm having a hard time envisioning two pieces of fabric folded in half, so I don't think that's it. (Do you mean cut them out at the same time? You could do that, save yourself a cut).

I'm going to be a ma this summer, too!

Emily said...

Sorry, maybe I get better what your saying. Don't cut along the fold. What you want in the end is around 90" of fabric around your body (less the waistband if you steal it from the selvage side of your skirt, if you choose to do it that way).

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