Monday, May 30, 2022

A Sauntering Squirrel Swooshed By -- In a Kaffe Fassett Tiered Maxi Skirt

Hello and Happy Memorial Day Weekend, Everyone!  My birthday was May 27th, so I took advantage of Memorial Day sales on top of a birthday coupon from my not-quite-local quilt shop, Sew Much Fun, to buy yards and yards of Kaffe Fassett Collective cotton fabric prints that I plan to transform into long, swooshy skirts with my serger:

Birthday Flowers From My Sister, Kaffe Fassett Fabrics for my Skirts

I'm planning to make one skirt with the purple Japanese Crysanthemum-Antique (yes, this post contains affiliate links) alternated with Spot Plum (the two fabrics on the left), and another skirt from the Japanese Crysanthemum-Scarlet alternated with Zig Zag-Cool.   I'm linking to independent Etsy shops who carry these fabrics for your convenience, but I recommend pairing fabric prints in person at your local quilt shop if at all possible.  I spent a LONG time dragging fabric bolts around the shop (and made a big mess -- sorry!) before I was satisfied with my selections. 

Inspiration:  La DoubleJ Tiered Maxi Skirt, $590 from Nieman Marcus

The Tutorials

This new "squirrel project" first invaded my consciousness when I saw Sharon Madsen's How to Sew a Multi-Tiered Maxi Skirt tutorial on Bernina's We All Sew blog last week.

Sharon Madsen's Skirt for Bernina's We All Sew Tutorial

I love wearing easy, comfortable styles like this for summer, and I am seeing tiered maxi skirts cropping up in all of the high end retail shops this year.  This is definitely an on-trend look for Summer 2022, and it would be a great beginner sewing project if any of you have daughters, granddaughters or other girls in your life who are interested in learning to sew.  While no one ever saves money by making their own version of a Target/Walmart/Old Navy skirt, anyone with basic sewing skill can save a LOT of money knocking off high end clothing that they can't normally afford when simple styles like this are in vogue.

La DoubleJ Big Floral Tiered Maxi Skirt, $590 at Nieman Marcus 

Y'all, does that Nieman Marcus skirt not remind you of Kaffe Fassett quilting fabric?!  Kaffe fabrics are printed on a different base fabric than most other quilting cottons, with better drape and less stiffness, so they would be great for a flowy skirt like this.  Even though this type of skirt requires a lot of fabric, it's still less than $100 to knock off a $600 skirt from Nieman Marcus in a single afternoon.  Whereas the Nieman Marcus skirt only comes in one print, I get to choose from ALL of the yummy fabric prints, and it's not going to be sold out in my size, too long or too short for me...  And I get to buy extra fabric for my stash that will end up in a quilt someday.  Win, win, win!

The Ready-to-Wear Inspiration Photos

Fashion notes: whereas the Bernina skirt tutorial has five tiers, this Nieman Marcus skirt (and most of the other tiered maxi skirts I'm seeing in ready-to-wear this season) have three tiers of graduated length.  There are side seam pockets in the first tier of that Nieman Marcus skirt from the previous photo, and although it's one of the few elastic waistband pull-on styles like the Bernina tutorial, it looks like a wider waistband and the style is described as "high waisted."  

Lorna Tiered Maxi Skirt, $150 at Boden

The Lorna Tiered Maxi Skirt from Boden also has three tiers of graduated length, but it has a flat waistband instead of elastic.  That has the advantage of a sleeker waistline with less bulk, and it looks better with crop tops, halter tops, or blouses that are tucked in.  However, it adds some extra steps to construction and a fitted waistband doesn't accommodate weight fluctuations as easily as an elastic waist skirt.  What caught my eye about this particular skirt was the way the same fabric print is used, but in three different colorways.  I can envision Kaffe Fassett's Millefiore or Paperweight prints looking amazing in a skirt like this.

Kaffe Fassett Paperweight, on Etsy here

That Lorna skirt from Boden comes in another bright, tropical print fabric with a strong Kaffe Fassett vibe, too:

Same Lorna Tiered Maxi Skirt in Brioche Pineapple Cluster Print

This skirt style looks great made up all in the same fabric print, too, but I'll be combining graphic prints (Zig Zag and Spot) with my florals because that's the way I love using Kaffe Fassett prints in my quilting, and part of what makes this a fun project for me is that I get to WEAR MY QUILTING STASH...  😂. 

One more inspiration photo before moving on.  So far, I've been showing you tiered maxi skirts made up in cotton woven fabrics since that's the kind of fabric I'll be using for my skirts.  But I have to show you this Ralph Lauren tiered maxi skirt in ikat print silk gauze that I found at Bergdorf Goodman:

Ralph Lauren Tiered Ikat Silk Maxi Skirt, $2,790 at Bergdorf Goodman

A few observations: the Ralph Lauren skirt is high waisted and has a flat waistband, with very little fullness or bulk in the top tier.  There are four tiers of graduated length, and it's probably lined for opacity.  I love how they've paired the busy ikat print skirt with a plaid silk shirt, too.  Silk fabric rather than cotton makes for a dressier version of the casual classic tiered maxi skirt, but it's not as easy to find a wide selection of fabulous fashion-forward silk prints as it is to find cotton quilting fabric.  Trust me, they do NOT have fabric just like this at JoAnn's.  (If you're not lucky enough to live near New York City's famed garment district, I suggest online shopping either at Mood Fabrics or Emma One Sock for high end designer fabrics like this.)

And Now, Considering Options for My DIY Version...

I was surprised/disappointed that Madsen's tutorial didn't include serger construction techniques for the skirt, especially since Bernina has recently launched new serger models and has been heavily promoting them.  Instead of using a serger with differential feed to gather each tier of the skirt evenly and all in one step, the We All Sew instructions are all about long basting stitches, pulling the threads to gather, trying to evenly distribute the gathers...  I knew that I'd save a lot of time and get much more professional looking results with my serger, so I went on a Google hunt  and found this tiered maxi skirt tutorial from Babylock.  In both the Bernina and the Babylock tutorials, each tier of the skirt is 1.5 times the width of the tier above it, so the differential feed instructions from Babylock (set differential feed to maximum, increase stitch length to maximum, increase needle tension to 6.0) should yield the appropriate gathering ratio of 1.5:1 for the Bernina skirt.  I took the Bernina skirt tutorial's fabric requirements as a starting point, added a quarter yard of each fabric to allow for shrinkage and for the shop not cutting the fabric perfectly straight off the bolt, and then I added another half yard of each fabric to that in case of cutting errors, drastic shrinkage, and Just Because.  Much better to have leftover pretty fabric to go into a quilt later than it is to run short and have to go back to the store again.  So I bought 8 yards of each floral fabric and three yards each of the Zig Zag and Spot fabrics, thinking that I'd alternate three tiers of floral with two tiers of a graphic print.  But I may or may not be following the tutorial instructions exactly, and extra fabric allows for last minute design opportunities.  I do like the look of the three-tiered skirts...

If you thought you were going to see me modeling a finished skirt at the end of this post, you thought wrong -- by the time I got home from the quilt shop it was late in the day and the only thing I accomplished was prewashing my fabric!  Next I'll give my serger a thorough cleaning and oiling, do some test runs of the differential feed settings on scraps of similar Kaffe Fassett fabrics, and THEN I'll cut into the good fabric.  Stay tuned, and fingers crossed that this fabric turns into skirts before I lose interest and wander off to do something else!

Retro '80s Sampler Update: SO Close...

If I hadn't chased that Maxi Skirt squirrel to the quilt shop on my birthday, my Retro '80s Building Blocks sampler quilt top would probably be finished by now.  I have just ONE seam left to sew, joining the top and bottom halves, and it's already pinned and ready to go.  I'm working carefully and pinning profusely to preserve my crisp points along the edges of my blocks.

Of course, I still have the rainbow borders and corner blocks that need to be pieced and attached once the body of the quilt is assembled.  Now I'm torn -- do I finish my sampler quilt top first, or do I make myself a swooshy skirt first and THEN finish my sampler top?  Or I could sit here in my office all day writing about it and not get any sewing done today at all...  🙄. 

Seeing as how we're launching a brand-new month that deserves a couple of brand-new goals, I am going to go out on a limb and declare BOTH of these projects as OMGs (One Monthly Goals) for June: Sewing up at least one of the Kaffe Fassett skirts, and completing my sampler quilt top.  What projects did YOU work on over the holiday weekend?  Gardening, sewing, or relaxing with family and friends?  I'll be linking up today's post with One Monthly Goal at Elm Street Quilts, and with my other favorite linky parties, found in the left hand sidebar of my blog.


Ramona said...

Your maxi skirts are going to be Gorgeous out of those Kaffe fabrics! I've never made any garments out of his fabric and can imagine how comfie they would be. (I sure have made a LOT of quilts with his fabrics!) It's exciting that your sampler is getting closer to the finish line. I say make one skirt, finish the quilt and then make the second skirt. :)

Diane in TX said...

Swooshy skirt first! Commit and sew it up while the idea is hot! The Sampler is on the wall needing only one long seam BUT there are multiple steps waiting after that 'only one more seam,' any of which might delay your swooshy skirt past being a timely addition to your 2022 Summer wardrobe.
I know this because I have a rack of fabrics for clothes that got delayed by 'let me just finish this one quilt first' and then life or time interferes.
How about wearing your new Swooshy Skirt while sewing that 'long seam'?

Gretchen Weaver said...

Make your skirt first, I can't wait to see it! You need something fresh and new for summer. Happy stitching!

Sandy said...

Definitely start with the skirt(s)! They should be quick and easy, and you'll have longer to wear them. The quilt has waited this long, after all, so a few more days won't hurt. ;)

Barb Neiwert said...

Happy belated birthday! Your skirt will be amazing! And what a great trend right now. I only wish I was about 45 years younger so I could wear it well, lol! Ah, well. I just finished a Kaffe table runner from randomly picked fat quarters I picked up at a quilt show this winter. It was fun to just throw them all together and see what I got. (Photos on IG one of these days when the sun comes out.) Enjoy your skirt sewing time!

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

I vote for the skirt--keep the momentum going! You are definitely more up on fashion than me. Please continue keeping us non-fashion sense quilters up on what's up!!! Your report was a very interesting read. I'm surprised to hear there are sergers that can do the gathering for a sewist!

Linda said...

Oh those skirts! I used to wear long skirts to work. My husband was so glad to see those go out of style because he likes legs - bahahahah! I like the look of the flat waistband but prefer the elastic for comfort. I can't believe those store skirts are so expensive. Love those Kaffe Fassett Paperweights! I'm thinking that Art Gallery fabrics would have a great drape too. Can't wait to see what you make.
Thank you for sharing all this goodness with To Do Tuesday!

Brenda @ Songbird Designs said...

I love your retro quilt. Can't wait to see the finish. I think Kaffe Fassett fabrics and think they will make an awesome maxi skirt!! When my granddaughter was younger, I made her a tiered ruffled skirt - seven layers, and used my serger for it. I honestly can't remember how I made it though. I think I used the ruffler and gathered the long strips as I went. Have a great week, Rebecca!

Sherrie said...


I really like the colorful and pretty.
Have a great day!

Kathleen said...

Love these skirts and can't wait to see yours. Definitely skirt first...before you lose interest. Retro 80s continues to look good - and with the borders it will be spectacular!

Cynthia Marrs said...

Barb N.: There is no particular age for one to be in order to wear a trendy garment. The tiered skirt would look nice for any age. Go for it.

RG: I love your posts. You are so talented. The bright colors in the quilt will just pop when you finish and quilt it. I look forward to seeing both your new skirt and your lovely quilt.


Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

Those are two great goals for this month, but you can do it! That skirt is going to be so yummy...can't wait to see! Thanks for sharing on Wednesday Wait Loss.

Sandra Walker said...

Happy birthday Rebecca! Well, you did disappoint me with not being one of the models towards the end of the post wearing your creation! Darn! This took me right back to the late 70s when dirndl skirts, as they were called then, were all the rage, worn with a frilly 'peasant blouse' look as in the Boden skirt, same fabric, three colour ways. Glad you got to celebrate your birthday buying fabric!