I made two skirts today and I made them without patterns! I used this great book — I hate patterns. I hate the tissue paper. I hate the fussiness of the directions. But I’ve also gotten very tired of spending fifty or sixty bucks on skirts that seem to have two seams and an elastic waist. Now, I’m by no means a seamstress, but even I can sew a skirt with two seams, an elastic waist, and a hem.
So here’s the deal — I’m short. I’m not skinny. And I like clothes that don’t look like what everyone else is wearing. And I hate shorts — I like skirts. I’ll go hiking in a skirt, fishing in a skirt, gardening in a skirt. Skirts are cool, air circulates, and while I had the kind of childhood where I wore dresses a lot, I was also never told I couldn’t climb the tree or ride the pony because I had a dress on. Summer is nearly here and I’m bored with the clothes I have and I want some new skirts. So I decided to make them — what I’ve been looking for is a method for making skirts that’s something akin to the bread recipe I’ve been looking for — a methodology — something I can do without having to look up the directions — something I just know how to do.
And today I found it. A simple A-line skirt — I did one that was short and one that was longer. The short one was longer to begin with, but when I tried it on, I didn’t like it. So I pinned it up, took a look, and cut two inches off the bottom. Perfect. The second one is longer, but the first version was a little matronly. I revised the side seams, pinned them, tried it on, and altered it. And the alteration worked! I’m so thrilled to have a basic skirt that I can make — inspired as always by my grandmother, who so hated laundry that she quite often sat down in the evening and ran up three new dresses for my mother and two aunts. A childhood friend of my mother’s told me that story. Calista grew up to be a costume designer, and my grandmother was one of her inspirations.
The sewing thing is on the same spectrum as cooking, or gardening, or foraging for mushrooms. I like to think of them as Little House on the Prairie skills. There’s a part of me, I think, that figured that one’s job as a grown up was to be as skilled as the mother was in those books — that if you knew how to feed a family on a barrel of salt pork, and to make clothes out of flour sacks then you’d be okay in the world. A little goofy perhaps, but on days like today, when I’ve made two skirts that I like, that fit and that are cute and goofy and look like me, and not like something from a chain store, then I feel like perhaps having taken the Little House books to heart wasn’t such a dumb idea after all.