Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pioneer skirts and bonnets

If you are lds or live in Utah chances are that at some point you are going to need a pioneer skirt and/or bonnet.
This skirt is easy and really fast to sew together....and super comfy!  I kinda want to wear mine like everyday.  I think the real key to making these skirts look pioneer-y is the fabric.  You could probably follow this same tutorial with a more modern looking cotton or knit and it would look like a stylish maxi type skirt.  I actually have plans to make myself a tea length version in some Kate Spain Fandango very soon.  But I am trying to figure out how to make it reversible with some White eyelet in a way that won't just make me look REALLY wide.
Oh my goodness I know this is totally off topic, but have you seen the new Joel Dewberry Heirloom?  It is so pretty it makes me want to cry.

There are about 5 of those that I just want to buy bolts of.  Alright back to the matter at hand.... pioneer skirts.

(dude, I have such an ugly couch in my front room....why did I take this picture there?)

OK so here is how you do it.   The amount of fabric will obviously depend on the size you are making.  For an adult I would suggest getting 2.5 to 4 yards.

So now you are going to have to do just a little bit of math.  But not too much so don't worry.  Cut your fabric onto 3 strips.  It is ok if they are not continuous pieces and it is ok if the strips end up a little long than the measurements.  I think these lengths are perfect for someone 5'8" to 5'5".  You will just need to hem it accordingly.  If you are shorter that 5'5" I would suggest making the top layer an inch or two shorter, but probably not shorter than 6 inches.

So here are your 3 strips

Putting it together is really easy. Fold your tiers in half, right sides together, and sew the ends so you now have three circles.  Start at the bottom.  Gather the top of the bottom tier so that is lines up with the middle tier.  Line the gathered top of your bottom tier up with the bottom of the middle tier and sew them together, right sides together.  Then take the top tier and fold it over twice at the top to create a casting for the elastic.  (Umm did I mention that this is not the most the most authentic skirt ever?  I am pretty sure pioneers didn't have elastic)  Leave an opening to put the elastic in later.  The same way you did it before, gather the top of the middle tier and sew it to the top tier.    I guess I should have told you to top at the bottom of each tier sewing down the seam, but I made 4 of these skirt over a few days and I didn't take the time to do any top stitching.  It would have looked better, but since I was serging them I decided I didn't need to.

Alright, so you have all three of your tiers sewn together and there is a casting at the waist.  Cut a piece of elastic to whatever length you need for your waist and feed it through the casting.  I like to use a saft pin to feed the elastic through.  That is normal right?  Oh and maybe I should have already mentioned I made this if you are a super good sewer (sew-er not sewer) you may be shaking you head at me right now, and if you haven't done much sewing hopefully I am making since right now.  Anyway, sew the ends of your elastic together, try it on.  if it is good sew your casting closed and hem the bottom to the length needed.

As a family we were in the Days of 47 Children's Parade.  That was why I made 4 of these babies.

I made this one for my Emma girl.

I also made a skirt and bonnet for my neighbor (shown here on the left).

Now on to the bonnet.

To make a bonnet you will need a couple of pieces of fabric that look like these.  For a normal adult size I would say a 20X20 inch square would work well.  If you have a bigger head you may want to go up an inch or down an inch for a small head.  For a kid I think you would want a 17 or 18 inch square.  (you got the idea right?)
So you will need a square (20X20)
2 fabric rectangles (5X20)  I hadn't finish trimming them yet in the picture.
a interfaceing type rectangle the same size as the last two.  I was out of interfacing but I have some extra canvas drop cloth laying around so I used that. "make it work"
and 2 long rectangles (3X30ish)

Take your big square and fold it in half  and then iron that so you have a middle mark.  Then at what you would consider the top put a plate.

Then use your rotary cutter to make it round.  If you don't have a rotary cutter go buy one.... it will change your life.  Kidding.  Just draw the line and cut it out.  Although a rotary cutter would change your life.

Moving right along.  Open it back up and at the bottom cut little slits about 1/4 the way up about 1/4 an inch deep.  Then fold those in (I would suggest ironing them down.) and the sew them down.  I really hope I am not typing jiberish at this point.  

Now fold that part you just sewed down over onto the upper part of your square so there is about a half inch and then sew a little line.  This makes a casting for your elastic in the back of you bonnet (I think it must be getting late. I just started sing the words to Make a Little Bird House in You Soul by They Might Be Giants, in my head you know the part where it goes,  "Hey not to put to fine a point on it, say I am the only bee in your bonnet, make a little bird house it your soul."  Ummm are we still friends after that crazy outburst?)

Thread your elastic into your casting.  As the end of the elastic reaches the opening of the casting sew it down.  Then pull it to the other side and sew that down.  and now you have this.

Now make your bonnet brim.

Take you 5x20 (or whatever) rectangles and stack them up.  Right sides together on the fabric and the "interfacing" on the bottom, unless you like the idea of having canvas showing on the underneath side of your brim.  Then put them right sides together with canvas in the middle.  Like a canvas sandwich.

Take that nice little stack and fold it in half (so you have a 5x10 inch rectangle) and iron that so you have a center mark.  Then cut is rounded with a plate much like you did on your square.

Unfold and sew the piece together.  (Man this is really seaming like a pain in the butt at this point.  I swear it was really quick and easy to do.  But seriously is any one even still reading at this point or did you all fall asleep.  Maybe I should just stop.)

Well since someone might actually need to make on of these I will keep going.  Turn your brim right side out and iron it nice and flat.  Then I top stitched a few line into it to make it stronger and prettier.

For this bonnet I only did 2 lines, but for my bonnet I think I did like 4 rows of top stitching.

Now take you 3x30 rectangles and fold them to be 1.5x30 and iron that down.  Then fold the edges up to the middle fold and iron that.  You now have a 1X30 inch piece for the ties.  Sew those on where the casting with the elastic is.

Gather the rounded top of what was your square and gather it so that the center lines that you ironed on to your square and the center line on your brim line up and the rounded part of your brim ends right at your ties.

Once that is sewn on you are done.  I hope I didn't loose to many of you along the way.  Please feel free to ask questions.  Since I kind just made this up too.

I think the coolest craft project of the parade was these water bottle holders.  I didn't make them, but I wish I had.

I did, however, make this "covered wagon."

And I just have to share my little urban pioneer cowboy with ya'll.

BTW it is late and I am sleepy so I am going to just let this post and possibly remember to proof read it tomorrow when sanity and function have returned to my brain.  So if there are any major typos where is looks like I really just have no grasp of the English language....well if you have been reading my blog for a while you already knew that and if you haven't I bet you weren't actually reading most of that anyway... I will try to fix it soon.


  1. CUTE! I love your covered wagon!!

  2. It's cute! And the skirt looks super easy. I'll have to do this next year for Pioneer day for my two little munchkins. How thin do you think I should make the strips for a 2 year old and a 4 year old?

  3. Thank you for this tutorial. My kids are getting ready to do a pioneer trek and I have been looking for a tutorial that made sense to me and this one did. Now I just need to figure out how to make those water bottle holders.

  4. Thanks so much for posting this! My 10 yr old son has a "Land Run Day" (Oklahoma) coming up. I made both of these for his 21/2 yr old sister, who's pretty much his class mascot. :) She loves it & the class is going to get a huge kick out of the little pioneer girl!

  5. Thanks for posting this tute! I'm going to be helping a bunch of our YW make their costumes for Trek and this looks like the perfect easy skirt and bonnet. Thanks again!!!

  6. You saved my life!! I have a nice sewing machine that I'm usually afraid to use. But your directions were perfect. I didn't have to learn another language to know what you were saying. I'm a visual learner and so the pictures were very helpful. We have trek this week and yesterday I got my courage up and make 3 of these skirts. I learned a few things on the way. . . you get what you pay for. The $1 a yard fabric at Walmart frays faster than you can sew. Thank you Thank YOu Thank you. I'm now going to attempt to make 2 bonnets.

    1. I am so glad my tutorial helped you. I can't read sewing very easily either.

    2. Ditto to the comment above...even down to the new sewing machine! Thanks for posting this! It was even fun to do, unlike most of my previous attempts to sew.

  7. Laura,
    That little purple hat Emma has on, is it paper or fabric? Do you have a pattern. I need something super easy like that.

    1. Kim- Those hats are made out of the craft foam stuff. They were little kits that you decorate. You may be able to find them somewhere like Micheal's. Or you could maybe play around this the shape in paper and then cut it out of the foam. It is shaped a lot like a visor only wider.

  8. Our ward pioneer party starts at 6pm. We found your blog at 2pm. My husband whipped up two skirts for our daughters, I am finishing them up, and they are *way cute*. **Thank you** so much for posting this and for helping make this event fun and memorable for our family. Without your quick and easy-to-follow directions, it would have been so stressful. :)

  9. Thank You so much. I really like pioneer out fits and have been trying to figure out how to make a bonnet *NOT WORKING* haha. Thanks again!

  10. We just had a trek with our stake and I had to get myself and my daughter ready to go with two skirts each and bonnets. Your site was a LIFESAVER--the skirts were very fast, and the bonnets were wonderful for keeping the sun off both our necks and our noses. Thank you!!

  11. I just made a skirt from your blog..It worked out great!!! It was so easy for this challenged sewer! Thank you so much!!!

  12. This is great. I am such a beginner sew-er, and I still figured this skirt out! I did a coordinating different fabric in the middle and then the top and bottom the same, and it turned out so cute. I was sooo glad to find this, as searching for a simple skirt pattern seemed nearly impossible! I like the wide bottom, without the ruffle like the Trek pattern gives. That is too narrow. I don't really know what you meant by top (stitching) on the seams of each tier,but I figured it looks fine w/o it, and why do another step! ;) Thanks for posting!

  13. Can't wait to try this! How long of an elastic piece did you use for the bonnet?

    1. I just measured a piece of elastic from ear to ear (around the back of the head) and added a little to the ends for stitching down.

  14. thanks for posting this... I am going to be making a bonnet for pioneer trek for myself. This is the exact tutorial I needed to build up my confidence to do this. I think I will use levi instead of canvas or casing on the inside of the brim and I have all the materials. I am excited to look more at your blog!

  15. Thanks for this tutorial :) loved reading your little ramblings too :) keeps me smiling!
    I am off to make a bonnet or two!

  16. Thank you so much! Your explicit step-by-step instructions were easy enough for ME to understand how to make my trek bonnet!! As a first time seamstress I am very appreciative!

  17. I LOVE YOU!!! This bonnet pattern is amazing! I love They Might Be Giants Commentary!!!! You won me over with that!!!

  18. Our lil town of Paso Robles is having out annual Pioneer Day parade and my Girl Scouts are dressing in Pioneer Day clothing. I found your pattern and made my daughter a skirt in about an hour. Great directions and my daughter thinks I am amazing!

  19. Thank you SO much for this! Today I made the skirt in just a few hours. I made the bonnet out of an old pillow case! I just tore the stitches out and still had more than enough fabric :D total life saver! Thanks!!!

  20. Best tutorial for skirt and bonnet !!!! Just love it. Keep it coming .

  21. amazing idea i will try it soon and i like so much that bonnet
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  22. Thank you for this tutorial!! I needed to make a last minute bonnet for my daughter's immigration day tomorrow and this was perfect and easy to follow!

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