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How do I extend the length of a plaid, wool maxi skirt?

If this was lighter material, I can simply sew on a lace trim, but this is winter wool maxi skirt.

Wish to extend an inch.

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    Why do you say lace doesn’t work?
    – Stephie
    Nov 15, 2021 at 10:49

2 Answers 2

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Color Consideration

In theory it would be ideal to have the same fabric with the same pattern, but this looks like a circle skirt. Even if you got a piece of the same fabric, you wouldn't be able to match the pattern at the bottom without cutting many, many small pieces and sewing them together again. The resulting extension would most likely look odd. That leaves only a deliberate misalignment of the patterns.

A better idea is to buy a woolen fabric in one of the darker colors seen in the stripes. That repetition of colors results in a very harmonic look.

Alternatively, you could opt for black or a similar neutral color. In that case, it's a good idea to add that color in several places - for example at the waist band and at the bottom of the skirt - to harmonize the look.

Be careful when manipulating the waist band or you'll have to reset the zipper. Another idea to add a splash of color is to unpick the outer seam of the waist band and add piping between the skirt and the waist band.

Add a Ruffle

In my personal opinion, this is the easiest and most promising solution. It also requires the least knowledge about sewing.

You should find a fabric that has the same or less weight than the wool of the skirt. Very heavy fabrics will be harder to sew and won't look as pretty.

  • Cut rectangular strips of fabric for the ruffle. The total length is the circumference of the lower hem multiplied by 3 (for a thick ruffle) or by 2.5 (for a softer, wavy ruffle). The width of each strip of fabric should be 2 inches + 2 times 1/4 to 1/2 inch seam allowance.
  • Sew all the strips together along the short edges to make a very long band.
  • Fold the band in half lengthwise (long sides together) and iron / press it. Don't skip this step, it will make your work much easier and look more professional.
  • Set your sewing machine to a straight stitch and the longest stitch length. Use a very sturdy (polyester) yarn. With the fabric folded in half, stitch one row at the intended seam and a second row halfway between the first row and the raw edge of the fabric. These are your gathering threads. In theory one gathering thread would suffice, but having 2 of them makes the work easier and usually looks better.
  • Tie the gathering threads together on one side and gently pull them on the other side. The fabric will gather up.
  • Sew the gathered ruffle onto the lower hem of the skirt. I assume you know how to do that and finish the raw edge (it would be too much to describe every single step here). If not, I recommend watching video tutorials.

The advantage of this method is that you can calculate the material requirements very easily.

Add Straight Extensions

This is more complicated because you actually have to cut ring shapes for the fabric to lay straight in the finished skirt. You also have to deal with the lining of the skirt, so I'll assume more sewing experience than for the ruffle.

  • Put the skirt flat on a large piece of pattern paper or packaging paper. Trace the curve of the lower hem. Add seam allowance on the inside of the curve (towards the center of the circle)
  • Trace a bigger curve (by 1 inch + 1 seam allowance) on the outside of the first curve on the paper. Cut the curve template.
  • Cut enough strips of fabric using the curve template from wool fabric and lining fabric to reach the circumference of the skirt.
  • Sew all the wool strips together and all the lining strips together along their short edges. Divide each strip into 4 equal parts and mark the quarters with an erasable mark.
  • Divide the skirt into 4 equal parts and draw an erasable mark on the lining and outside of the skirt near the bottom hem to mark the quarters. This will help you with re-assembling.
  • Unpick the entire bottom hem of the skirt.
  • Sew the extension lining to the original lining, right sides together. Sew the extension wool to the original wool, rights sides together. Try to stitch right in the crease where the fabric was originally folded. Use the marks you drew earlier to make sure the fabric is evenly distributed.
  • Press all the seams. It's very important to do that step now, before you re-assemble the skirt.
  • Pull the lining of the skirt through the center of the waist band and pull the outer fabric up around the waist band. Your entire skirt is now right sides together. Align the extension lining to the extension wool using the marks drawn earlier, then sew them together, but leave a big enough opening to turn the skirt again. Do that by pulling the waist band through the opening and either hand-sew or top-stitch the opening shut.
  • Don't forget to give all seams a final press.

This method may sound like it requires less material, but that's deceiving. You'll probably need as much fabric as for the ruffle because you have to cut curves out of rectangular fabric. You'll also have a lot of cut-off that's too small to be useful for anything.

Extend the waist band

This is just listed for completeness, it won't reach your goal.

This is by far the most complicated solution, because you'll have to move or extend the zipper. You need to replace the original waist band, because the fabric is more worn on the inside. Even if you unpick the existing waist band and use all existing fabric on the outside, you'll always be able to see where it was creased originally.

Add to that the fact that your hips won't be magically slimmer and there won't be more fabric at the zipper. If you extended the waist band, the skirt would still sit at the same position on your hips. You'd have more fabric extending up from your waist, but the skirt wouldn't be longer at the bottom.

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    Perfect answer, except you might wish to describe what you called "fringe" as what it actually is, a "ruffle." That section threw me off a bit because I thought you were suggesting cutting fabric into actual fringe, which will fray badly in a woven and curl in a knit.
    – Allison C
    Nov 15, 2021 at 14:13
  • @AllisonC Thanks, I got those words mixed up in my head.
    – Elmy
    Nov 15, 2021 at 14:22
  • No worries, confusion happens. :) The description made sense once I read through it!
    – Allison C
    Nov 15, 2021 at 14:23
  • Very helpful and thorough!
    – Marium
    Nov 20, 2021 at 16:14
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Slightly different approach to Elmy's "Extend the waistband" idea:

Take the zipper out. Now, widen the skirt slightly in that upper portion. One of the former zipper seam allowances will become an underlay, and the other will be an folded overlay. You can use hook and eye closures instead of a zipper. You'll probably need to extend both the underlay and the overlay by attaching a band of cloth or a grosgrain ribbon. This should be chosen to be of a similar color. The band or ribbon doesn't have to match the skirt color exactly, because it won't actually show when you're wearing the skirt. Some interfacing would help stabilize things.

Actually I don't use a metal eye in this situation -- I do use a very small metal hook from the hook and eye package, but then I create a quasi-eye out of thread. For each "eye," you need at least six threads and you should make sure the overlapping stitches are uniform in length and tension. You might think the loop should sit a little loose on the fabric, but you should resist this temptation. Actually such an "eye" will work better if there's no looseness or tightness.

This thread eye works better than a metal eye because there's less bulk. Also, to accommodate slight fluctuations in your measurement at the waist and upper hip, you can make TWO rows of thread eyes, and then choose whichever row is more comfortable on any given day.

The old waistband will now just be an extension of the skirt. Because the circumference of the former waistband will now be slightly larger than before, the skirt will sit a little lower on you than before. You won't have that tight "waistband" look any more but that's a nice look also.

To help you understand this proposal, imagine putting on a skirt with a waistband, which is a bit big on you.

If the zipper seam allowances weren't generous enough to allow the skirt to sit one inch lower than before, you can add a bit more circumference by letting the skirt out a bit at the other side seam.

You can make the former waistband fit through the upper hip area better by tapering it a bit wherever the skirt originally had a seam. (With this A-line skirt I suspect there were only two vertical seams -- but maybe three....)

When you're doing any pressing (with the iron), be careful to protect the skirt fabric with a pressing cloth because of the wool. To eliminate a former crisp folded edge, put a damp washcloth (clean) between the skirt fabric and the pressing cloth. You may also spray a bit of water on the crease you're trying to get rid of.

Bonus additional option:

You could leave the skirt unaltered and wear it with a white cotton petticoat that is one inch longer than the skirt so it peeks out from underneath. The petticoat should have a nice scalloped edging at the bottom. These edgings are sold by the yard. You could attach this straight to the bottom of the petticoat or you could gather it depending on the look you prefer. Gathering would make it look more purposeful so that might be an advantage. To understand this idea, think back to the crinoline petticoats of the 60's (still used to this day for square dance outfits).

It's a bit anachronistic in an A-line plaid wool skirt but it could be a fun solution. I wouldn't use a dark color because then it would look like an unfortunate accident (as though the skirt shrank but the lining didn't). The reason this approach would work is that the petticoat will only have one inch sticking out below.

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