FO: Scuba Pencil Skirt + tutorial

This may actually be one of the most versatile garments I’ve sewn! I don’t normally style a make in lot’s of different ways for a blog post, but since skirts are an alien concept to me I needed to try out a few ideas and see what worked best for me. It turns out quite alot works with a black pencil skirt which shouldn’t surprise me as it’s often touted as THE supreme wardrope staple. It’s just that as a lifelong tomboy I tend to stick resolutely to trousers. I may have been swayed with this make…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT OUTFITS

So…if I’m such a trousers devotee…you might ask what prompted me to sew a pencil skirt? Well….I’ll explain! I fell prey to the confusion that exists over the difference between neoprene and scuba. Know the difference? I didn’t! I saw the word scuba and thought I had ordered neoprene. Which is a foam core sandwiched between two layers of dense knit. (Yes, the stuff that wetsuits are made from hence the “Scuba” confusion) I planned to make a giant tote/shopper. Then my scuba arrived… (Remnant Kings at £9.99 a metre. This is the heavyweight scuba that they have currently sold out of but they have the medium weight and some new crepe scuba in stock which would also work for a lighter version of this. Get 10% off when you use the code MAKERY10 )SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

Scuba it turns out is a very dense knit. Sturdy but with some drape and firm stretch and a very slight sponginess. Definately apparel weight though. So I had to rethink my plans; and “The Scuba Skirt” was born!

It’s a simple make and requires no pattern. You just need your hip measurement…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

And your desired length. With the fabric folded in half selvedge to selvedge, mark your length on the fold…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

Then square across from this point by half your hip measurement (no SA needed as this is stretch and I’m serging…but add a little SA if you’re using your standard machine). Then square up to create a rectangle…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

Cut along your lines and up the fold so you have 2 separate rectangles. Then sew along the sides to create a tube and try on…


Pin to fit whilst you are wearing it. Tapering at the waist and hem to create that classic pencil skirt curve at the side seams….remove the skirt and even out the line of pins so it’s a smooth curve that  blends into the seam at the hip…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

To mark the curve identically on both sides remove the pins from one side. Fold the skirt in half lengthwise, lining up the side seams; then using the remaining line of pins, pin through all layers at once…being careful not to change the position of the pins and retain the shape of the curve…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

Mark the position of the pins with chalk on one side…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

Then flip over and do the same on the back…


When you remove those pins and open out the skirt you’ll have the outline of your curve marked identically on both sides…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

Join those marks then use the line as a guide to sew your new curved side seams. Make sure the line is lined up with your needles and then serge or sew…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

Create a simple folded over waistband. A strip of fabric, sewn together to fit your waist snugly (Make sure you can get it over your hips too) then folded over…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL



With the skirt RS out line up the waistband seam with the CB of your skirt and the sides of your waistband with the side seams of your skirt. The waistband will be marginally smaller…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

Slide the waistband onto the skirt with raw edges aligned. Pin in place. Serge/Sew together. You’ll need to stretch slightly as you sew to take up the slight bit of slack between the waistband and the skirt itself….then hem…and you’re done! Easy right?!SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

Except a word of advice. Warning. Call it what you will. While I LOVE this fabric and my finished skirt. My serger did not and threw an absolute paddy when it came to the waistband. I have the Singer 14SH754. Yep the Lidl spesh that I got a few years back. (and I know a few of you have bought one recently). While I don’t deny that this fabric is sturdy…and dense…I’d liken it to sweatshirt fabric in terms of thickness and stretch. And it’s my honest belief, that when my manual gives instructions for sewing “heavyweight” fabrics…it should have been able to cope with this. It could not. I won’t go into the details of the injuries my machine sustained. Far too gruesome, lol! It’s with the servicing company as we speak . This is not the first thicker fabric that my Singer failed to cope with. And I’ve come to conclude that this machine is not actually powerful enough for thicker fabrics. So…my advice would be this if you intend to work with this fabric…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

My serger managed 2 layers of this. But it didn’t like it. It grumbled at me while I was sewing and I should have listened. When attaching the waistband you’re looking at 3 layers of this stuff (+ seams!). If your serger in any way complains at 2 layers of this…do not even attempt to attach the waistband using a serger. In the end I used DENIM needles and a zig zag stitch on my standard machine (a Janome) for this stage. The fabric is completely non fray so the unfinished edge is not problematic. And trust me….you don’t need the heartache of a broken serger when you have projects to finish (and deadlines to meet, aaaargh!). In hindsight I wish I’d done the whole thing on my standard machine. She did me proud my Janome. If you go down the standard machine route, then definitely try the denim needles and look at increasing your stitch width and length to account for the the thicker fabric. Swatch it all first and you’ll be good.SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT TUTORIAL

Despite the trauma of “sergergate” I sincerely do love this skirt which is quite a revelation to me. The scuba is perfect for smoothing over lumps, bumps and VPL. The waistband is CRAZY comfy and it really is a very comfy and versatile piece.  I tried out a few different looks…flat or heeled boots with a variety of tops…SCUBA PENCIL SKIRT OUTFITS

The first stripe top is the one I based my spotty box top on and is refashioned from a thrifted jersey nightdress. The camel and black stripe top is a cropped variation of a hemlock tee that I never blogged. Then grey hemlock blogged here. Then the camel top is refashioned from a skirt (due to be blogged) and the black top in the last pic is a black crepe test version of the 2 Hour Top. A free pattern from Sew Different. (I love it!) I think they all work as outfits. I think you can probably guess which 2 I am most likely to wear considering my tomboy tendencies. But at least now I know I have a dressier more ladylike option. To be fair, there is something about this skirt that makes me feel feminine (without being girly) which is a slightly odd and alien state for me. A totally new silhouette. And what is it with pencil skirts that makes you feel like you want to sashay like Jerry Hall when you walk?!

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  1. TamsinW-P October 20, 2015

    It might be a look that you are not used to, but it is a good one! I often find that a skirt and tights/leggings is warmer in winter than a pair of jeans. I am trying to get out of the ‘jeans and top’ rut, but am not doing very well especially as I am about to cut out some Ginger jeans!

  2. Hélène October 20, 2015

    I think your slightly cropped camel & black top is the most flattering with this skirt. In fact, they all look good! You really make me want to try this out with a thick ponte de roma piece I have in my stash. Thanks for all these sewing tips with serger and regular sewing machine. Very smart!

  3. Amelia October 20, 2015

    This looks so great! And it’s excellent that it goes with so much already in your wardrobe. I find it scary to potentially try different kinds of garments as I’m afraid I’ll have nothing to wear with them!

  4. Linda October 20, 2015

    Looks like a nice easy project! Like the way you’ve styled it! Lots of inspiration there.

    • portia October 21, 2015

      Thanks Linda! It is SUPER easy! My favourite kind of make, lol!

  5. Emma October 21, 2015

    Nice make! Have you worn it out much? I have made a few scuba skirts as i find them a perfect no iron work wear item – the one thing i find though is given the slightly slippery nature of the fabric they ride up and I constantly have to pull them down. Does this happen to you – or is it only me?!?!

    • portia October 21, 2015

      Not yet Emma. Not for a full day, but so far haven’t found the riding up part a problem. If anything, for me, the slippiness of the fabric stops that. Sometimes really snug skirts can do that if I recall….back in my “yoof” when I actually wore very tight skirts…with doc martens natch 😉

  6. Geo October 21, 2015

    Bummer! That’s why you were asking around about sergers 🙂
    I have no idea which two you like, but I like 2 and 4, it;s probably the proportions and/or contrast.

    • portia October 21, 2015

      Yep, that’s why I was asking! My faves are 1 and 3 in terms of how I would feel most comfy. But I like 2. You’re right about the proportions working on that one. It’s just a little more “sexaaaay” than my usual garb!

  7. MaryBeth October 21, 2015

    Ugh! So cute! I wish I could sew!

  8. Lyone October 21, 2015

    With pencil skirts like this, I have found that it is really not necessary to do that lower “curving in” toward the bottom hemline–I simply go straight down from my hips to the hem…….in a stretchy knit fabric, this still looks slim while at the same time giving me enough room to take a decent sized step when I am walking or stepping up into a car or a bus.

  9. Emma January 15, 2017

    Just made this with some black flowery scuba for work – so easy! Avoided using my overlocker after your comments! Thanks very much x

    • Portia Lawrie January 18, 2017

      Ah yes!!! That scuba!! Glad it worked for you. Floral scuba is lovely 🙂

  10. Lola April 8, 2017

    Being stretchy fabric should I assume that I should be using a overlocker, zigzag or straight stretch stitch?

    • Portia Lawrie April 10, 2017

      Yep…info on that is contained in the post. Overlocker OR on a standard I used a zig zag. All in the post 🙂

  11. whitney jones July 7, 2017

    how did you hem the skirt

    • Portia Lawrie July 14, 2017

      Turned up the hem and stitched it on my standard machine. It’s a non fray material, so you could even leave it unhemmed. Px


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