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Hem My Skirt, Part 1: A Short (& Biased) Story

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I have a white skirt dilemma, and it’s almost Labor Day— I think it now qualifies as an emergency! If I don’t fix this skirt now, I’ll have to bow to the Goddess of Fashion Rules and pack it up until next Memorial Day.

Here’s what’s going on. Last week, when temperatures here in Portland were hovering around 100, I finally fished my one and only white linen skirt out of the ironing pile. (My working theory was that just wearing white linen would give me the psychological advantage over the weather forecast. The jury’s still out.) Well, when I was about to start ironing the skirt, I started to notice a series of strange stains, all more or less near the hemline; strange because they all felt sort of hard, as if wax or something like that had fallen on the skirt and stiffened up. (Don’t ask me how this happened. I’m still scratching my head. I’m thinking these are some of those phantom things that happen in the laundry, much to my mystification.) It’s a little hard to see the stain in this photo,  since it’s more hard than dark, but you can just make it out:

Stain on White Skirt

One of several mysterious stains on my white linen skirt. No amount of soaking or treating seemed to make any difference.

I found stains like this one in several places, but they were all within 5 inches or so of the hem. Now, this skirt is bias-cut, A-line, and (originally) 30″ long from waistband to hem, which translates to mid-calf length on me (I’m over 5’8″ tall). So I thought it might be possible to simply re-hem the skirt to a shorter length, cutting off the offending stain-ridden area. Aha, I thought, I can get rid of the stains and make my skirt a more modern (and flattering) length simultaneously! Brilliant!

Of course, these brilliant ideas often don’t take certain issues into account. As I said, the skirt is bias-cut; this doesn’t necessarily make it more difficult to cut, but the stitching of the new hem will be a little more involved. So for today, I’ll show you how I measured and cut the skirt to its new length, and I’ll cover the finishing (including sewing) in my next post.

What you’ll need:

Something to mark your new hemline before cutting;

sharp shears;

tape measure or ruler;

sewing machine or hand-sewing needle

Okay! First, I’m going to lay my skirt out as smoothly as possible, lining up the front and back hemline edges. (Because I usually photograph things on a white backdrop, I’ve removed the background here so you can see the skirt a bit better.)

Skirt laid flat for cutting

My skirt laid flat for cutting. Notice the curve of the hemline.

There’s a distinct curve to this hemline, as you can see; the new shorter hemline will parallel the original, which will require a bit of measuring and marking. To mark the cutting line, I’m going to try this disappearing-ink fabric marking pen:

Disappearing-ink fabric marking pen

My disappearing-ink fabric marking pen. (These are available at fabric and craft stores; I got mine at JoAnn.)

Before marking, to keep the front and back hemlines aligned, I pinned them together at the very bottom of the skirt, using ordinary straight sewing pins (not shown). The stain furthest from the hem was about 5″ up, so I decided I would trim off 6″; after hemming, this would give me a skirt approximately 23.5″ long (mid-knee on me).

On to the marking! You can see I’m positioning my tape measure with the 6″ mark on the hemline; to do the marking, I’m simply drawing a line, using the top of the tape measure as my guide:

Marking the new cutting line

Making my mark: marking the new cutting line. The tape measure is positioned so that I’ll be cutting off 6″.

The idea is to make a series of marks every 3″ or so, like dashes, all at the 6″ point; when I’m done marking, I’ll be connecting the dashes as I cut.

"Dashes" marking the new cutting line

“Dashes” marking the new cutting line; make these about every 3-4″.

Now I can cut! Rather than cutting all the way around the skirt in a single layer, I’m choosing, in this case, to cut from one side seam to the other, through both the front and back of the skirt at the same time. Why? This skirt is cut on the bias, which always requires a different approach. Bias tends to stretch, sometimes in unexpected ways, so I prefer to minimize that possibility via minimal handling. (This of course will vary, depending on your particular project; if this skirt wasn’t bias-cut, I would almost certainly be cutting all the way around.) Here, I’m beginning to cut at one side seam, very carefully (through both layers), using the marks as my guide as I work my way to the other side seam:

Starting to cut

Starting to cut at one side seam. Notice the second mark, near the top; I’m connecting the dots, so to speak, as I cut.

Now that I’ve cut all the way across,  it’s time to hang the skirt. What? I’m not going to finish the hem now? (You know you were wondering.) Whenever you’re dealing with a garment cut on the bias, you’ll want to hang it for at least 24 hours before hemming; this gives the bias a chance to “set”, which translates (usually) into some unevenness in the hemline. So after letting it hang for a day or two, you can trim any areas that have hung out of alignment. Which is what we’ll do in my next post!

Will my hem stay even? Can it be stitched by machine? Will I be able to wear my beautiful white linen skirt before Labor Day arrives?? Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment of Hem My Skirt: The Conclusion to find out!

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Author: colormusing

I'm a writer, color palette creator, and designer of fashion, costumes, graphics, knitwear patterns, and yarn.

One thought on “Hem My Skirt, Part 1: A Short (& Biased) Story

  1. Pingback: Hem My Skirt, Part 2: Happily Hemmed In! « Changing Your Clothes

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