Apologies in advance as this is going to be picture heavy. It deserves to be you see because this is possibly the MOST EXPENSIVE fabric I have ever sewn. Or very close to my Harris Tweeds at any rate. And once again this is as a result of my Dad’s tremendous generosity & love of quality. Yes, he has struck again & for my last birthday in February, after checking with me & finding how much I wanted, my Dad bought me a length of proper Scottish 10oz wool tartan. But not just any wool tartan, this tartan, as you have probably guessed from the title has family connections. This is the Kincaid clan tartan, which relates to my great great great grandma, Jessey Kincaid, born in 1807, dying just 30 years later.
My Dad had actually asked me if I wanted some tartan (to make a kilt perhaps!) after the adventures on last seasons Great British Sewing Bee. I politely declined, not really seeing that the cost of this type of fabric would be justified in the amount of wear I would get out of a kilt. But then half a year or so later, he must have thought of it again & found some Kincaid tartan on the Scotland shop. Sending me the link, I was able to check it out, make sure it wasn’t lilac (or other colours I really wouldn’t wear) & then do some visioning. The good news was that it was a tartan that I really liked & that would be compatible with my usual colours & style. But knowing that I would never make tartan trousers or anything that involved too much check matching, I was thinking along the skirt route. Did I really want to repeat the lovely Harris Tweed pencil skirt? It was an option. However, having rediscovered circle skirts back in January, I started looking up inspiration. Lauren’s plaid circle skirt was all the convincing I needed, & I sent the link off to my sewing Guru mother for her opinion, having also calculated the yardage required using the By Hand circle skirt calculator app.
We had a bit of an email debate about weight of the fabric & how it would hang… & I did not want to rush into the decision because this was expensive fabric & I wanted to get it right. In the end though, I needed 1.5m for the full circle skirt which would give me plenty for a different kind of skirt should the fabric arrive & not be suitable. The website did have plenty of information about the different weights of tartan though & what they can be used for, so I felt reasonably confident.
My Dad conjured up delivery on the day arrived last time I visited. I think we were all really excited.
I was determined to make this skirt for wearing this season, not to let it linger, so I got stuck in last month.
This precious fabric needed as good a finish as I could muster. But I needed not to be scared of it. I used the skirt pattern from the Sew Over It Betty dress (slightly adapted to give me a quarter piece), placing it on carefully folded fabric, using the vertical & horizontal lines as right angles to then flip the quarter over to cut the mirror image, thereby cutting a complete circle. I had cut a separate circle according to the waist curve I wanted to cut out.
Unlike the knit circle skirt I made, this skirt needed a zip & despite being cut out as a whole circle with a hole in the centre for my waist (slightly smaller than my actual waist measurement to allow for some natural stretching along the bias) I did need to cut a single vertical seam- a centre back seam, so that I could add a zip. (I also stay stitched the waist seam).
I finished the edges of this freshly cut vertical seam with bias binding, kind of Hong Kong seam, before inserting the zip, that way the edges are all finished neatly & in the same way.
Sewing a lapped zipper felt authentic & more easy to control pattern matching than using an invisible zip. I think it might be a millimetre out in certain parts which is irritating, but not visible in usual wear.
I used waistband Vilene to create a nice neat crisp waistband. I do love this stuff & always use it for skirts with waistbands.
I left the skirt to hang on my tailors dummy, Barbarella for the best part if week I think. I recognised that once I set the hem, I would need to devote enough time to actually sew it….there would be a lot to hem ! Once I had marked the hem I used my overlocker to cut & finish the new finished edge in one pass. That way the wool fabric wouldn’t fray as I was working with it around the hem. I liked keeping it under control!
You can probably imagine that sewing a round hem would bring all sorts of challenges, not only the distance. Early on I decided that the best way for me to sew the hem would be with a bias hem, attaching bias binding by machine, right sides together, then turning the bias binding to the inside then hand sewing this as the hem. And this would also look neat with the honk Kong finish on the centre back seam. Of course I chose satin bias binding for something a bit swish! I bought far too much because I couldn’t be bothered to test my maths out …I should have exercised the grey cells though, shouldn’t I?
I am not saying it took a long time to hand sew the hem, but two beers & two episodes of Game of Thrones later, it was done. And I am pleased with the result. The bias binding was easy to manipulate around the curved edge & I think I can get away with such a shallow hem because the fabric is heavy enough.
Now initially I had thought I would line it. But after a while I realised that even if I line it, I would still wear it with a full slip because a wool waistband is too itchy not to. And so I didn’t line it.
It really has a feel of luxury to it – the volumes of beautiful wool….
I think that because this fabric is so very expensive and makes this skirt the most expensive
skirt item of clothing I have, I want it not to be hanging idle & reserved for special occasions, but something that can be worn out & about in every day life.
And I have now rejoiced in wearing it on a blustery Spring day. It felt so good. I had lots of swish, but it was not toooo flashy for lunch with friends & for an evening meal in a local country pub. It looks cute with heels, but in everyday life I wear it with my boots this time of the year.
I love this skirt & that it has family history behind it. ANd this makes it even more special as it combines my passion for sewing with my Dad’s interest in tracing our family history. He’s done decades of work on it & I am expecting this skirt to give me decades of pleasure (or is that a little optimistic? Better keep the moths away & keep the running going!!!)
what do you reckon to a bit of everyday luxury or would you keep it for specials?