As a professional tailor, I like to make clothes that fit well. For this design, I also wanted to create a pattern that would help weavers who were new to sewing get over their fear of cutting handwoven fabric.
This skirt is woven in narrow, 8-inch, panels and the shaping occurs along the selvedges, with very little cutting required. It’s a technique that creates a flattering skirt, and can be woven on even the narrowest looms.
Confluence (con·flu·ence): joining together, gathering at one point; also, the flowing together of two streams.
This skirt makes great use of narrow yardage. If you don't own a wide loom, you can still weave beautiful garments. And best of all, using selvedges in the seams means you don't have to do any additional seam finishing!
Loom with a weaving width of 8 inches or greater.
Note: The skirt shown was woven in an 8-shaft twill, but you could also weave the fabric for this project in plain weave.
Yarn & Materials
- 20/2 silk. The warp was hand-painted in jewel tones, and the weft was burgundy (and dark blue.)
- 1-1/2 inch wide Milliner's tape for the waistband from Nancy's Sewing Basket.
- 10 buttons for the closure. I used 10 vintage buttons from the 1920's and 30's that I found at Beadworld in Seattle.
24 ends per inch
An 8-shaft twill. This pattern is 331-4 from A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns edited by Carol Strickler.
Download the draft as a WIF file.
Painting the Warp
I hand-painted two nine-yard warp chains during a summer workshop with Roberta Lowes, using acid dyes. The 20/2 bombyx silk takes color well. I had originally planned the warp chains for scarves, but after a year I had a new plan: use them to weave narrow fabric for a fashionable garment.
I set up my table loom with an eight-shaft twill pattern at 30 epi and wove with a 20/2 weft of dark blue silk. Weaving it took a very long time. I was averaging about 12-18 inches per hour. My first warp took more than 20 hours.
After I cut the warp off the loom, I was dissatisfied with the fabric’s drape and width (5-3/4 inches or 14.5 cm). So I threaded the second warp at 24 epi and wove with a 20/2 weft of burgundy silk on a floor loom. Weaving on the floor loom was much faster, and when it was cut off the loom, the fabric had much better drape. As a bonus, the fabric was slightly wider (6-3/8 inches or 16 cm), too. Both fabrics were hand washed, line dried, then lightly steamed flat.
Sewing the Skirt
Originally I planned to make a couture dress, but decided that I would wear a fancy skirt more often.
I measured from my waist to the floor, front, back, and sides. I checked my measurements to the quantity of burgundy weft fabric and realized I would be short a few important panels around the circumference of my hips. (Drafty!)
Luckily the blue-weft fabric coordinated well with the burgundy. I measured again, added a bit little for wiggle room, and then started cutting.
After all nine panels were cut I straight stitched along the raw top and bottom edges to prevent them from unraveling.
I then lay all the panels out parallel to each other and shifted them around until I found a pleasing color sequence.
Then I lightly pinned the panels together (using about 5-6 pins per seam) and had a friend adjust them until the seams fit me perfectly. I gently unpinned the left hip seam so I could get out, and marked its seam allowance.
I did not cut off the excess fabric along the selveges. Instead I adjusted the seam allowance to gradate from zero (just above my knees) to approximately 3/4 inch or 2 cm at my waist. There was some variance, with more seam allowance needed in the back (where I am curvy) and less in front.
I hand stitched the panels together using the burgundy weft yarn, leaving a 6-3/4 inch or 17 cm open along the left hip. (As time passes I may need to let out or take in the seams of the skirt, and I want to make it easy for me to do so.)
I reinforced the waistband with milliner's tape, which is similar to grograine ribbon, but more flexible.
I marked the final waist line, machine stitched along it, trimmed off any excess beyond an inch, applied 1-1/2 inch wide milliners tape along the waist line and flipped it inside (thus covering the raw edge and providing a hidden waist band).
I machine stitched (using a larger stitch setting) "in the ditch" between the panels from the right side of the fabric. I did this to tack down the internal waist band, while also making it possible to remove in case I needed to make an adjustment.
I then marked where the ten vintage buttons should go, machine stitched small button holes along the reinforced edge, and fray checked the button holes before opening them with an X-acto knife (a seam ripper would also work.)
I put the skirt on, marked where the button holes should go, then wiggled out and sewed the buttons on.
I finished the skirt by hand hemming the bottom edge of all the panels.
I then lightly pressed the skirt inside out, turned it right side out, tried it on, and danced a happy jig.
Selah Barling is a professional tailor in Seattle, and has been sewing since she was three. She began weaving 14 years ago, and delights in making handwoven garments that fit and flatter a wide range of people. She is also an avid handspinner and felter.