Wool and Silk Skirt
When I started a one-year weaving course and learned to weave, I thought I would make rugs, curtains, table cloths and other decorations for the home as my grandmother had done.
But after the first rag rug, I changed direction. I love sewing and I couldn't think of anything better than to make a garment from my own fabric.
When the weaving course was over, I didn't weave for several years. I didn't have time, I didn't have a loom and I certainly didn't have a space large enough for a floor loom.
About a year ago that changed. I found time and space and above all: a loom. My father and I converted his mother's old counterbalance loom into a ten-shaft countermarch loom.
I tested the loom by making a rag rug for my parent's house. It worked great! Now it was time for something special, something inspired by my grandmother and my new wonderful loom...and since I love sewing, something that could be made into a garment.
I used a table cloth woven by my grandmother as a starting point for the weave structure. It used an overshot pattern. The great thing about overshot is that you can make intricate patterns on four-shaft looms.
When I thought about yarn, I found a grey wool, spun as a singles, that I had bought second hand at a low price. It seemed fitting for this project: vintage and simple, just like my grandmother's loom.
After sampling, I decided on a variation of the overshot pattern using five shafts, with the grey wool yarn as warp and and silk yarn as the weft. One of my reasons for the silk weft was that I wanted to add something a bit special and luxurious to the grey wool warp...just like we added countermarch to the old loom.
What sort of garment should I make out of my beautiful fabric? Skirts are my favorite garment and I felt a need for one more. The design I choose has a wide yoke and a half-circle skirt with four inverted box pleats. I wanted a simple design that would show off the fabric, but still was a bit unusual.
The fabric is mostly plain weave and thus hasn't a lot of drape, but it hangs beautifully, doesn't wrinkle, and the pleats look great.
- I used five shafts and six treadles on a countermarch loom approximately 46 inches wide. (A similar design can be made with just four shafts. I include weave drafts for both five– and four–shaft versions below.)
- Two shuttles
- Paper for pattern construction
- Lining fabric and interfacing
I used an unlabeled single-ply wool yarn that I bought second hand. A similar yarn would be Fårö Furniture Fabrics wool yarn from Borgs Vävgarner. 6,000 m/kg or 2,977 ypp.
My warp was approximately 4.4 yards long and consisted of 1169 ends.
Ground weft: SERICA Schappe Nm 60/2 silk yarn from Burkhard-Dreier AG in color number 52. 30,000 m/kg or 14,887 ypp.
Pattern weft: singles handspun silk yarn.
I wove this at 10 ends per centimeter, which is approximately 24 epi. Sley two threads per dent in a 12-dent reed.
In the reed, the fabric was 46 inches wide.
The take-up during weaving was approximately eight percent for the weft and eleven percent for the warp.
The shrinking during washing/wet-finishing was approximately eight percent for the width of the fabric and eleven percent for the length of the fabric.
The final cloth, after finishing, was 39 inches wide.
[Editor's Note: The drafts below show the tabby picks in lavender and the pattern picks in white. You can see from the alternating colors in the pattern region of the treadling that the overshot tabby is already included in the drawdown. You do not need to "add tabby."]
I wanted a more subdued design than the original four-shaft overshot, so I expanded the overshot pattern used by my grandmother to five shafts.
Use this version if you have a four-shaft loom, or prefer the vibrancy of the original four-shaft overshot pattern.
If you intend to sew with your fabric, draft the pattern before you warp the loom so you can make sure to weave enough fabric for all your pattern pieces. Take into account the fact that the fabric will shrink due to take-up, draw-in, and finishing.
A temple is essential during weaving; this fabric has a tendency to draw in.
I wove the pattern in stripes with areas of plain weave between. To get a fabric with stripes that would look the same upside down, I treadled in one direction for the first stripe, in the opposite direction for the second one. I continued alternating direction, treadling the pattern forward for all the odd-numbered stripes and backward for all the even-numbered stripes.
The distance from the beginning of one stripe to the next one was five inches. To help keep the stripes at equal distance from each other I made a template out of cardboard.
My yoke was woven in plain weave. To do that, weave a section of plain weave at the beginning or end of your fabric. How long to weave depends on the size of your loom and your pattern pieces.
Beat as hard as you can. I was able to get 20 picks per inch, but a higher ppi would have improved the fabric.
Cut off the fringes. Secure the ends of the fabric either by hand or machine. Fill for example a bath tub with warm water (not too hot, it's a wool-and-silk fabric). Put your fabric in the water and let it stay there until the water is cold. Take the fabric out of the bathtub and let it dry until it's just damp. Press with an steam iron (on low heat) until the fabric is completely dry.
The skirt pattern consists of three pattern pieces, two for the yoke (front and back) and one for the skirt. All of my calculations are made without seam allowances included.
1. As a starting point, you'll need a basic skirt pattern (a block). The basic pattern should be a straight skirt with darts in the front and back. If you don't already have such a skirt pattern, you can make one by following any of these instructions:
- "Hand drafting a skirt pattern" from Fashion-era.
- "Modern Pattern Design" from VintageSewing.info.
- "How To Make A Basic Skirt" from Ez-fit Pattern.
- "Basic A-line Skirt Drafting" from Sew-mad.
Remember to test your pattern (in muslin or paper) to check the fit, and make changes if you need to.
2. Copy the upper part of the block onto a new paper. Draw a line 5 inches from the top. This is the height of the yoke. You can change the number if you want a deeper or shallower yoke.
3. Cut the top 5 inches out, fold the darts together and secure with tape. You may need to make a cut to the point of some of the darts.
4. Test the yoke and make adjustments if needed.
5. Measure the length of the bottom edge of your yoke's front and back pieces (in the diagram, these are labeled x and y). If you would like to make four inverted box pleats on the skirt as I did, decide on their width (labeled z below.) My z value was two inches. These numbers are used to calculate the width of the top edge of the skirt (labeled w). Calculate (x + y) * 2 + z * 8 = w.
6. The next step will be to draw the skirt pattern piece. Make the following calculation: d = w / 3.14 and draw the skirt pattern piece just like in the picture. The length of the skirt is labeled "l" in the diagram below.
7. Make marks for the center front, the side seams and also for the pleats.
8. The yoke lining pattern pieces should be the same as for the outer fabric.
9. The skirt lining pattern piece shouldn't have any pleats. So if your outer fabric will have pleats, make a lining pattern piece without the added width for the pleats. The skirt lining can also be in two pieces and should be one-to-two inches shorter than the skirt.
Cutting the Pattern Pieces
Remember to add seam allowances!
Skirt: I had planned to make the pattern of the stripes symmetrical around the center back seam of the skirt. To do so, place the center front of the skirt pattern piece in between two stripes. When I did my cutting out, however, I forgot about that and put the center front in the middle of a stripe. (So much for planning!) Make sure the placement of the stripes are the same on both center back edges.
Don't cut off the selvedges of the handwoven fabric next to the center back. Selvedges don't ravel; keep them and there's no need to overcast. Also, Lthere's no need to add more than a regular seam allowance to the bottom edge of the skirt.
Yoke: The yoke pattern pieces can be cut with the fabric folded. Place the center front at the fold, but not the center back.
Skirt lining: Add hem allowances.
Yoke lining: I cut the lining for the yoke out of a linen fabric instead of the slippery lining fabric I used for the skirt. I find that a slippery fabric at the waist causes the skirt to shift around too much when worn. A cotton lining would work as well. Place the center front at a fold, but not the center back.
1. Start with the side seams of the yoke. Sew and press the seam with an iron.
2. Fold the inverted box pleats in the skirt and secure with pins or basting. Make sure the pleats looks symmetrical.
3. Sew the center back seam of the skirt, leaving part of the seam open for the zipper. Make sure the stripes are on the same level as the corresponding stripes at the opposite side, this may take a bit of adjusting. Press the seam.
5. Attach the yoke to the skirt. Press the seam.
6. Put in the zipper at the back. Again make sure stripes and end of yoke are level. Press the seam. Now you can try your skirt on!
7. Apply interfacing to the yoke lining.
8. Sew the side seams of the yoke lining. Press the seam.
9. Sew the center back and center front seam of the skirt lining, leave an opening for the zipper just like on the outer fabric. Press the seam.
10. Hem the skirt lining.
11. Attach the yoke lining to the skirt lining. Press the seam.
12. Attach the lining to the outer fabric. Press the seam.
13. Sew along the top edge of the yoke lining, the seam allowances from the lining and the outer fabric should be included, but not the outer fabric yoke.
14. Make the inside of the skirt look really nice by sewing the lining to the zipper by hand.
15. Sew together the seam allowances at the top edge of the two skirts.
16. Cut out bias strips from the skirt lining fabric, three inches wide and as long as the bottom edge of the skirt. You will need to piece several strips together to make one long strip.
17. Let the skirt hang for at least a day, try it on and trim the hem until the skirt is of equal length all around.
18. Sew the bias strip to the hem of the skirt. Press the seam.
19. Fold the bias strip to the back of the skirt according to the pictures.
20. Hem the skirt by hand. The join on the bias strip will also require some final touches by hand.
And there you have it. A skirt that combines the best of old and new!
Frida Karlsson was born and raised on the dairy farm in Sweden where she's currently combining farm work with her own creative adventures. She never finds herself lacking something to do and has a strong passion for textiles, animals, nature and hockey. Find out more at Made in Hägn.