This is a photo tutorial for the skirt opening for R149 Early 1950s “Merry Go Round” Circle Skirt pattern.
Although the skirt is quite simple to make (no buttons or zips! Yay!), it can take a moment to wrap your head around the skirt opening. “Quick and Easy” in the 1950s still came from a generation that usually had access to *some* sort of sewing training, so don’t feel bad if it takes a moment to figure it out! Seam binding? Lapped edges? Plackets? What’s that?!
In this post I’ll show photos of the process of making my skirt, so you can follow along with a visual.
This is quite a long post, so scan down the page to the part that’s applicable for your needs!
If you don’t have the pattern yet, you can grab it in either printed pattern or e-pattern form from http://wearinghistorypatterns.com
Before we start, please remember this skirt isn’t really adjustable more than about 1/2″, based on your eye placement (sewing multiple rows of eyes means more options, though this wasn’t mentioned in the period), so if your waist tends to fluctuate it’s best to choose the size based on your LARGEST waist measurement. Then on your smaller days you simply get more of an overlap. It’s better than than a peek-a-boo side on larger days.
The Front Placket Edges
After the side seams are sewn, we are going to finish the openings. Make sure your side seams are stitched from the notch down to the hem, leaving the seam from waist to notch open. That’s how we will get into our skirts!
For the front placket, we are simply going to turn the seam allowance on the front skirt edge towards the inside. Instead of having messy serging, pinked edges, or overcast stitches visible on this opening we are going to finish the edge with a seam binding.
What if you don’t have or can’t find seam binding? No worries! You can substitute either a purchased or self-made bias tape. Make sure the finished width of the bias is 1/2″ (single fold, 1/2″ if you’re purchasing).
I have already serged my side seams before sewing. If you don’t have a serger, just finish the edges in your preferred method. Pinked edges were totally period!
After my side seam is sewn, I ran basting stitches 5/8″ from the cut edge of my fabric on both the front and back edges of the opening. This is marking where to turn back or lap to on the opening. You could use chalk or another method if you prefer, I just like to machine baste *everything*. Fast and easy!
Now grab your seam binding.
Taking your seam binding, press out any folds from storage. Now compare it to your side opening length. Allow enough binding to reach from the top of the waist to the bottom of the opening, plus about 1/2″ to turn under at the bottom edge.
Now, working on the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric, extend that seam allowance out so you’re working only in a single layer.
Lay your seam binding on top of the side opening, aligning the cut edge of the fabric with the edge of the seam binding. Pin this to place. And pin under the little extra you cut for the bottom of the opening.
For some reason my photo is missing for the next step, but you will top stitch the seam binding to place very close to the inside edge of the seam binding, securing it to place. Also stitch across the bottom end of the seam binding.
Do the same on both sides, finishing both front openings.
On the wrong side of the fabric, it will look like this. Now, to cut down on bulk, trim away underneath the seam binding to about half (1/4″-ish).
This photo shows both front edges with the seam binding attached. On the right of the image you’ll see before I trimmed away my seam allowance under the seam binding (my serging is still visible). On the left you’ll see after I trimmed away under the seam binding. Make sure you don’t trim too closely to the stich line or it will unravel in the wash!
This is just another visual of this step, with my hand pulling it back so you can see both the RIGHT SIDE and the WRONG SIDE of that seam binding. On the RIGHT SIDE you’ll see my stitches really close to the seam binding edge that attach it to the fabric. And on the WRONG SIDE you’ll see two rows of stitches there. One was my stay stitch to mark where to turn under my seam. The other is the stitch line attaching the seam binding.
Now you’re going to turn your seam allowance in, towards the INSIDE of your skirt. In the image at left you’ll see there’s about 1/8″ of fabric that’s turned towards the inside, plus the 1/2″ seam binding, which makes a perfect 5/8″ seam allowance. Yay!
Smooth the seam binding flat, and pin to place, making sure there’s no puckers or tucks at the bottom of the opening. That side seam should lay nice and flat!
Now stitch that seam binding to the skirt fabric by stitching very close to the inside edge of the seam binding. This encases all the seams and gives a nice, smooth finish for your front skirt opening.
(I accidentally show the opposite side opening than the last photo, but since you’re doing both sides, hopefully this visual helps! You’ll be doing both sides anyways!)
Just another visual of the front opening, showing both the right and the wrong side of the fabric.
The Back Placket Edges
Now that your fronts are finished we can move on to the backs!
Cut your two placket pieces. I chose to interface my placket pieces, even though the original period pattern didn’t note to do this. My fabric was a wiggly rayon, so the extra support make assembling the plackets a lot easier! I used a fusible tricot interfacing.
Fold the pieces right sides together, and stitch across the bottom edges using 5/8″ seam allowance.
Clip your corners, trim your seam allowance down to 1/4″, turn right sides out, and press. This shows one placket clipped and one turned.
After they are both turned right side out, stay stitch 5/8″ from the cut edge to give yourself a guide for where to lap your skirt edge to.
You can also finish the seam allowance now, if your skirt seam allowance is also finished. Alternatively, the instructions of the period stated to sew the placket first, and then finish the seam allowance together by overcasting the edges by hand. Either way works and it’s up to you and your preference.
Press under your back skirt seam allowance 5/8″, using the basting you did during prep.
Grab one of your plackets and make sure the finished bottom is facing towards the bottom of the skirt opening.
The cut edge (or in this case, serged edge), should be facing the same direction as the turned under seam allowance.
This will make more sense in a minute, I promise.
From the right side of the fabric, it looks like this. Placket (extension) seam allowance facing TOWARDS the skirt. Skirt seam allowance turned UNDER.
Now we’re going to prep a LAPPED SEAM. This means one piece is lapped on top of the other, and to assemble we will topstitch through all layers.
Align the folded edge of the back skirt OVER the placket piece. Match the folded edge to the stay stitch line. If you look from the wrong side of the fabric, this means all the 5/8″ seams are matching underneath.
Pin it to place, easing them together so they lay nice and smoothly.
After it’s pinned, it looks like this.
Now take it to your sewing machine and top-stitch the two pieces together. Your stitching should be very close to the folded edge on the back skirt (just slightly to the left of where the pins are in the picture.)
After the placket is sewn to place, the opening will look like this from the wrong side of the skirt.
Now we will top stitch the bottom of the placket to place. Doing this will prevent the bottom of the opening from ripping, and help keep that side seam from unraveling!
Working on the RIGHT SIDE of the skirt, lap the extention UNDER the front skirt. You will match the edge of the FRONT skirt right up to the join of the BACK SKIRT and extention.
At the bottom of the opening, pin across, through all layers, to join the placket to the front skirt.
This visual shows the side open, but you can totally pin the entire thing closed so it doesn’t get twisted or tweaked.
The pin is just marking where I’m going to stitch. You’ll want to sew across, catching the extention to the front of the skirt. This horizontal line will help keep the skirt opening from ripping (in fact, you’ll see similar on pairs of jeans! below the openings!)
After it’s stitched it will look like this at the bottom of the opening.
Congrats! You made the opening!!
Sewing the Belt Pieces
For this pattern there’s an INTERNAL belt piece, and an EXTERNAL tie belt. The internal belt attaches to the back skirt, and keeps the waist snuggly fitted. Then the front laps up, and the tie belt is wrapped around the waist to secure it.
Think sailor pants. But with ties instead of buttons. It’s basically a drop front!
To prep your waistband, interface it first. I interfaced the whole waistband, since mine was wiggly rayon. You can interface half of the width if your fabric is more stable. I used a fusible tricot.
Make sure you mark ALLLL the markings and notches. No, really. This is important. Don’t go any farther untill you’ve marked your notches, dots, and center back.
Now, fold right sides together, and stitch down one short end, pivoting at the corner, and across to the dot. Be sure to back stitch. Do the same on the other side. Clip in at the dots, clip your corners and seam allowances, and turn it right side out. Now compare your piece to your instruction illustrations, being careful to note which side has the longer belt piece. This will fasten to the side front, so one belt piece is meant to be longer that the other!
Once you’re satisfied you’ve got the belt piece the right way, match ONE edge of the belt to the back skirt piece, right sides together (note you can see the inside of the belt, because I’m only pinning one edge of the belt!). The very edge of the extension will hit at the dot markings. The notches should match. Match center back of the skirt with center back of the belt piece. Ease in the skirt waist to fit the belt. In some fabrics you might find you need to ease it in. In some fabrics you might find you need to clip the edges of the skirt to match. The seam line is 5/8″ from the cut edge, so just make sure it fits smoothly at the seam allowance line. Take your time and use as many pins as you need to!
Stitch slowly by machine. You can see in my image I had to clip in at my edges to make sure it layed smoothly. The period instructions also suggested this!
Turn under the unfinished belt edge 5/8″. Press.
Now pin the free edge of the belt piece over the seam just sewn, matching the folded edge to the seam line. Pin to place, easing as needed. Then stitch this to place by machine, very close to the folded edge. Or sew by hand!
This is what the back skirt looks like when finished, after the internal belt is attached.
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the front waistband/tie belt, as it’s basically the same method as mentioned above! But note that this piece is *not interfaced* so may be slightly more fiddly to attach than the back waistband. You don’t want the bulk of interfacing on this piece, since you’re going to tie it in a knot or a bow.
On this piece, the dot marking on the belt matches up exactly with the edge of the front skirt. Then ease it in, matching center fronts. There’s no notches on this piece, so marking center fronts and side edges to dots are your critical marking points. Finish the same was as done with the back waist.
Sewing Hooks and Eyes
After you have finished your openings and belts, try on your skirt. Make the back skirt fit snuggly across your back and wrap that internal belt to the front. Have some pins handy. Lap the longer end of the belt over the shorter end of the belt. pin it to place and check the fit, making sure it feels snug but not too tight!
Now, taking your pins, mark exactly where the top edge of the belt laps over the other side of the belt. I used two pins for this, to be sure I had a straight line that marked the lap. Take off the skirt, and grab your hooks and eyes.
It’s important when sewing these to use HOOKS AND EYES, not HOOKS AND BARS. The eyes give a little extra wearing ease, and sewing bars where you marked instead can make the skirt a little too tight.
I chose larger hooks and eyes, as they are not only more stable, but can give a little more ease since their width is a little larger. I think these are size 2, but I’m not certain!
Sew two hooks to the belt, with the hook edge matching right up to the finished edge of the belt.
After this, place your eyes on your belt. This part is IMPORTANT. Your pins mark where the TIP of your eye should be. Notice the placement in the image above. The pins aren’t marking where the stitch line is! It’s where the big curve of the hook should be!
Sew these to place by hand. Now try on your skirt and check the fit!
You can adjust the skirt slightly smaller or larger based on where you put the eyes. Move them towards the end of the under belt to make it larger. Move them more towards the skirt to make it smaller. And sew multiple rows of eyes if your waist tends to fluctuate. That means you can have a little bit of room either way! But, as mentioned in the instructions, if your waist tends to fluctuate a lot, it’s best to choose a size based on your LARGEST waist measurement, so there isn’t any peekage at the side opening. Overlapping smaller isn’t a big deal (no peek a boo!)
I hope these tutorials were helpful for you to assemble your skirt!
You can find this pattern in my shop at http://wearinghistorypatterns.com
Thanks so much!