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Cheep Cheap Pencil Skirt


Cheap Cheep and what it’s all about

Hey everyone, a new series I will be writing is called Cheap Cheep and it’s about cheap and easy ways to get Japanese in your life now. Whether that’s fashion, food, music, and more. I will explain how to do it and hopefully tell you the price or how you can buy the parts you need. Each Cheap Cheep will have a supply list at the very bottom of the article to summarize it up.

Today, we are going to be looking at pencil skirts with button down fronts. I have an app that allows me to read some straight-from-Japan Japanese magazines. A really big trend I noticed for the month of November was knee high (or slight above knee) pencil skirts. Another big trend was most of these pencil skirts either had strong lines done the center or was buttoned up the center.

I decided I needed to finally tackle a pencil skirt and decided, hey, it’ll help the readers in me!

I would share a screen cap of the skirts I’m referring to, but the app prevents me from doing so. However, the magazine I am pulling my idea from is Non-no Women’s November  2014 edition.

This guide is assuming you know how to use a sewing machine. That is beyond the scope of this tutorial and maybe will be made in the future.

The first step to almost all sewing projects is to measure yourself. You need at least 6 measurements but they’re all pretty straight forward. Using something like a measuring tape, measure yourself around your waist. To make things simple, I use my belly button. In Japanese fashion, a lot of the skirts are high on the waist but my belly button makes it easy for me to judge.  The next measurement you need is around the largest part of your hips, otherwise known as your bubbly lovely butt. The next measurement you need is from your waist to your widest part. I mean like the straight line from the two. It’s ok to be a little off, it doesn’t have to be exact!! The next measurement you need is your tightness around your knees (or your lowest point on the pencil skirt). You may have guessed you need the measurement from your widest point to your lowest point. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but here it is demonstrated:

So, once you get all of the circumfirance measurements (the ones around your  waist, butt,lower) divid those in half! Keep the measurements of the distances between those three unchanged.

You may have noticed the shape it makes when you take and center all of these measurements. If you didn’t notice, that’s ok because that’s really strange and weird and I didn’t really notice until it was down infront of me and Panda’s don’t judge!!

So, this will determine your pattern! At least, one half of your skirt!  This is where calculating how much fabric you need. I had a bunch of left over fabric from my Halloween costume and I just used some of my Jersey knit Yellow from that.  To calculate your yardage, take your tallest (by adding up your distances between the three), and your widest (your butt), and see if it matches up to the fabric you like.

(side note about fabrics, if you already know how to do this, you may skip ahead!)

                Fabrics are sold on bolts that have sizes, like 45 or 60 inches by so many yards. If your ( half Butt) measurements are smaller than 45 or 60 (depending on the bolt you’re looking at, and it will say on the label!) You can see if your length will fit in one yard. If you’re wider than your bolt (meaning you can’t cut two out at once) just double your length and get that many yardages to match.

For example: (because trust me, I know that was confusing as all get out)

My Jersey knit was 60in wide. My widest point is 58 in. Adding for my machine sewing, I had enough to lay out my pattern JUST BARELY. I also had knit so I was able to stretch and give a little. I took my tallest part and just cut a little square out of my fabric.

If I didn’t have it wide enough, I would have had to unfold my fabric, and cut one at a time. Which is ok! There’s nothing wrong with a little bit bigger of a tush, or longer legs!

(end side note)

Here is my base square cut out of my extra fabric. I haven’t marked it or anything, I just did the largest measurements on all sides and added some seam allowance and cut it out!

After doing that, I transferred my pattern over to the square. I made a center line with pins, and measure out all the stuff we talked about before. I marked at the end points , and so many between to make it easier to cut and to see where the lines are.  This may be a stressful process but it doesn’t have to be super exact if you’re working with a Jersey Knit or interlock cotton. If you’re using regular cotton (or anything without any give), please take care and mark more carefully. Cotton is less forgiving to oops-ups.

Please note this square is two layers thick with right sides facing inward!!!! All of my measurements are half of the circumfirance.

Mark your center line and mark the distances between them mark the first line (half waist), centering it on your center linemark the second line (half butt), center on your center line.

Mark your last (not pictured)

After we pin it, I do a rough cut. Super ugly, and a little lopsided I realized.I eyeballed the connections. That's why one side is soooo wonky

Next, I added more pins and tried it on quickly to see how it felt. Did I need more room (take out a pin) or was it too loose (add a dart or take in a pin). It’s important not to cut exactly where your pin Is the first time so that you can do adjustments like this. Because pandagod knows I’m not perfect when I measure things. I always adjust on the body. Can anyone guess how I got my nickname? :D

I liked how it felt so I cleaned it the cutting so I did a zigzag seam up the side.

I then pressed the seams open.

Hey creepy Fairy Dolly Who always seems to make it in the shots!

After that, I folded the top down and made a space large enough for elastic to fit. I folded just a little, and then folded the majority of the way down. This allows the nasty edge to be hidden and out of the way when you sew. I sewed this band, leaving a gap. When you do this, make sure you align the seams. I realized I didn't actually fold it over twice, but you should! I guess I got lazy and inpatient. No one will see this though!! I did go back and cut some of the seam down so it wasn't so pokey.

The next step is measuring the elastic and cutting it. I totally just put it up to my  belly and pulled it until I liked how it felt on me. I cut it  only at this point. I pin one side to the skirt as seen below

I put a safety pin on the other side of the elastic and thread It through the skirt. I pinned the other side so I wouldn’t have to worry about losing it!

After it’s threaded, I make sure it’s smooth and facing the same way in the belt and sew it together. Be sure to cut that extra off!

Then I go back and sew the gap shut and hem the skirt.

The last part is the buttons. You’re probably thinking, uh….. where’s the buttons?! I personally hate skirts that ACTUALLY button up the front. I find them too revealing and too scary (anyone who has ever had a 7th grade band uniform’s buttons pop on her skirt knows that. Oh, just me? Well, I will prevent you from having that pain) I made a faux button up.  I found some buttons I like and made a tub like structure for the buttons to be sewn on.

The tube that I made I just took some scrap fabric and eye balled how long and wide I wanted it. I sewed the edges together in a zigzag stitch, turned it inside out and pressed it flat! I Folded in the excess mess on either end and pressed that inside. I also positioned it on my skirt where I wanted it. See my hoard of buttons? Thanks Granny Panda!

I then had my mother (who is a saint) satin-stitch my faux button strip to my skirt. I wanted to do a contrasting thread and that’s why I chose white for her satin stitching. I just really adored it!

Hello red toes!

I waited until after the satin stitching to sew the buttons on. I wanted the excess thread to be behind the panel and the skirt so that there wouldn’t be lumps behind the buttons.

Always start from the back of the skirt. I do a simple knot and sew from the bottom through the button. Back down the button (opposite hole) and then the other two. I alternate three times to make sure my buttons stay on. This was too hard to take pictures off so please check out a youtube video if that's confusing. This is how I finish my buttons. I sew a little bit in the back (making sure I only go through the bottom layer. Picture two shows me pulling the thread ALMOST tight. before pull tight, I put my needle through it and pull. I do this 2 or three times. I pull tight and cut even with the skirt. Repeat for all buttons. Mine had I think 6.

Step back and enjoy your new skirt!

  1. measuring tape
  2. your body and maybe a helper to help measure
  3. straight ruler is optional
  4. straight pins, thread, sewing needle, sewing machine, sewing machine thread.
  5. 6-10 buttons depending on your style.
  6. elastic for your band.
  7. Of course fabric of choice. Always get a little more than you need, it's less stressful!
  8. forgiveness in your heart if it's a little wonky because maybe this is your first project! And panda doesn't judge!!
  9. Please send us your pictures and I'll be sure to post it in our gallery for Cheap Cheeps!


(Kumaneko-Chan)Panda is a part time everything! A Panda with lots of passion and loves to teach people about fun new things!
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