Patchwork Twirly Skirts and thoughts on some other stuff

When I was twelve, I had my first babysitting job. I absolutely fell in love with an 18-month-old named Andrew. He called me Yay-yay. We were pretty inseparable. Looking back, his mom went out a lot. I babysat for 75 cents an hour and I saved my money to make my first purchase: a patchwork quilt from the Sears catalog. It was $48. I remember it in vivid color. I wanted this quilt in particular because the patchwork was made of actually pieced squares, not screen printed squares. I am still that girl in love with patchwork. 



I loved every minute of making these skirts.

Mary Beth got me started. She had long been eyeing the project in the Stitch by Stitch book. While she had to be persuaded to do all the other projects, for this one, she had persuaded me to buy the Amy Butler charm squares weeks ahead of time. When I told her we were going to hold off on the curtain project and the pillow projects that precede this one, because I wanted to make some fabric decisions for both later, she was all too happy to forge ahead into the patchwork skirt for Sarah. She did all the layout and the sewing on her own. The only time I stepped in was when she wasn't pressing her seams. Mary Beth noted that there were no specific instructions to do so. I emailed the author for clarification and Deborah affirmed that pressing is preferred. Mary Beth made this whole project look effortless. 


 Sarah Annie was so thrilled with her skirt and her sister.



You all have already seen a good bit of this skirt. That's because it has quickly become what we refer to in this family as a "That Shirt."  When Michael was two, every morning he insisted on wearing "That Shirt," an ugly red, black and blue striped shirt that lives today in my hope chest to remind me how over-indulged my eldest was. And here I am again. Sarah insists on This Skirt every day. Furthermore, she will only sleep with the quilt Katie made. Perhaps she's not overindulged. Perhaps she is the rare toddler who appreciates the real value of handmade. {Here I confess that I have already ordered some stacks of newly-released Delighted to make Sarah a second skirt. As I recall, That Shirt had a companion-- "The Other One Shirt"--that allowed us to launder the first choice on occasion.}

About patchwork, if I'd any idea back when I was 12 how much fun, how completely satisfying, how peaceful it is to move squares of pretty fabric around until it looks just right, I have no doubt I would have saved babysitting money for a sewing machine and quilt camp. Oh my, I mentally composed thank you notes to Kate Spain, designer of the Terrain fabric I used on Katie's skirt and Bonnie and her darling daughter Camille, who designed the Ruby fabric I used for Karoline.


I think all the time about how we are called to use our talents to bless others, how the right turn of phrase can bring peace to someone who is looking to put feelings into words. I think about how music moves us; how dance and drama transport and even transform us. But fabric? Well, yeah. Fabric. This is art--color, texture, design. And it can fill our senses. There is beauty in those cotton squares and beauty moves. It does.

Karoline helped me sort squares by color and pattern, an exercise we will surely repeat again. She loved guiding me as I layed out the rows, first on the dining room table and then again later on the living room floor, to get it just right before I put the strips together. I actually made Kari's skirt after Katie's and the notes I'd made as I learned with Katie's made Karoline's a snap to sew.


Katie helped me to lay out her squares and she sewed them all into strips under my hovering supervision. There was no pattern for her size in the book, so I added a tier and tweaked the math (Yes, Dad, you read that right. I tweaked the math.) to make her a bigger skirt than the ones in the book. I used every square in 3 charm packs, so I was careful not to let Katie make an irreversible mistake. But she did do all the sewing of squares into strips. I took over from there, gathering ruffles into tier after tier and loving the process. It took me much, much longer than it did Mary Beth.


I think that as I age, I am becoming more conscious of the peace in the process of things. When my friend Cari first tried to teach me to sew in my mid-twenties, I was only too happy to have her do the mundane pressing or careful snipping of threads. I just wanted to get on with it already. Now, I am happy to press and every single thread is meticulously snipped. I'm sure this is about much more than making a patchwork skirt. It's an entire lifestyle shift. I'm holding onto the moments, measuring them and remembering to smile as they happen.



Skills we learned:



casings and elastic


matching side seams

* *This project is a thread gobbler. Make sure you have a new spool and wind your bobbin as full as you can before you start. You'll still need a new bobbin to finish.* *

Stitch-by-Stitch projects so far:

My very favorite jeans and a quilted belt or two.

An Eye Mask and a Whole Wardrobe of Aprons

Reversible Totes

See our knitting needle cases and Kindle case here

See our Fancy Napkins here.