what i did on my summer vacation: day one

living the imaginary 50s housewife life... obviously a real 1950s housewife life would never be as much fun as what i can imagine. but, why imagine drudgery, when one can imagine making a pretty 'fifties skirt in the backyard with baby? i made this skirt in three hours, which includes deciding exactly what i wanted to do, using the fabric to play ghostie, cutting the fabric, taking various blurry snaps of work-in-progress and my gorgeous assistant, making the baby eat his soup, taking the baby in for naptime, making and eating a grilled cheese sandwich, drawing some instructional sketches, and actual sewing. total cost: about $7 (guesstimating the cot of thread and a scrap of fabric that i used from stash).
here's the initial sketch i did of the layout:

- 1 1/2 yards (or more if you want it bigger around) 54" wide fabric - choose a pattern that does not mind going sideways or backwards or upside-down - i chose gingham, but polka dots or paisley or something would be great too
- one scrap piece of some sort of interfacing (i used a piece of heavy cotton from when i shortened the living room curtains), 4" wide and as long as your waist measurement
- 7" zipper
- thread
cut (or tear) two 4" wide strips off one end of your piece of fabric - these will be the waistband.
cut (or tear) the remaining piece of fabric in half lengthwise, so you have two strips 27" wide.
lay one 27"-wide strip on top of the other (two thicknesses of fabric), and fold the lot in half (four thicknesses of fabric). divide your waist measurement by 4. measure in that many inches along one side from the folded edge & mark with a pin. measure in that many inches + 1/2 inch along the other side from the opposite edge & mark with a pin. draw a straight line from pin to pin, and cut along it through all four layers of fabric. zigzag along the raw edges to keep them from fraying.

now you have two proper trapezoids, and two trapezoids that seem to have been cut in half. sew two of the half-trapezoids together (right sides together), to make another trapezoid. the remaining half-trapezoids will have the zipper, going down the edge from one of the short sides - mark the length of the zipper with a pin before you sew them together, and use a basting stitch for that part of the seam.

open the seam, centre the zipper face down over the seam on the wrong side of the fabric, and pin to the fabric carefully. using a zipper foot on your machine, sew each side of the zipper down neatly to the skirt. then turn it over to the right side, remove the basting thread, and the zipper is done!
now you have four trapezoidal skirt pieces - assemble them (wrong sides together) making sure all the short sides are at the top. the short sides will be at the waist, the long sides will be the hem.
for the waistband, centre the interfacing piece over the wrong side of one waistband piece, and sew along one long edge. then, sew together the two waistband pieces (right sides together) and interfacing along the other the entire length of the other edge.

gather the skirt at the waist by sewing with a long basting stitch about 1/4" in from the edge. pull the thread (gently!) to ruffle the fabric. spread the ruffles evenly about the skirt using your fingers. be gentle - it can get tricky around the seams.
pin the gathered edge of the skirt to the interfaced section of the waistband (right sides together), making sure the fullness is spread evenly. sew together being careful not to mush up the ruffliness too much.
fold the waistband so it is wrong sides together. pin carefully, folding in the raw edges. the seam between waist and skirt should be totally covered. topstitch all the way around the waistband.
hem the bottom by turning the raw edge under by 1/4" inch, and then turning it up another 1/2" and sewing along the edge.
that's it!
here are some instructional drawings which may or may not help:

and here is a terrible picture of a cute skirt!

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