Celebrating the last weeks of summer with a watermelon skirt

August is drawing to a close and yet it feels as if summer has just begun. It was so cold and cloudy until the beginning of this month that I had decided not to make any more summer garments but instead skip ahead to autumn. But then the weather changed and the need for a new summer skirt arose.


To avoid awkward pattern placement I soon decided this fabric was going to be used for bottom wear.

I immediately thought of this African or, more precisely, Zambian fabric I picked up at the thrift store three or four years ago. I just love the contrast between the dark fruits and the pale pink background with dynamic bright orange strokes. With my very basic horticultural knowledge I have identified them as watermelons – the long and narrow kind, not the round ones that are most common in the shops around here. I could be wrong, though, and as they are stylized it might not even be possible to identify them exactly.


From a quick search on the internet I learnt that KTZ stands for Kafue Textiles Zambia Ltd.

The fabric was c. 1.2m in height and 2m in width, which seemed more than enough for a flared, pleated or gathered skirt. As for many years I barely sewed anything other than cotton skirts, I went through the pile of skirt patterns traced from Burdastyle and Knipmode. To my disappointment, none seemed suitable, at least not if I wanted to place the fabric’s large-scale print more or less symmetrically. In the end I dug up a pattern for a wide-but-not-too-wide skirt with a yoke: Burda 6/2005#132. The skirt featured in the magazine is very short and the yoke has some odd cut-outs, but those things were easily changed.


Unfortunately, due to a Bad Hair Day that I did not realize I was having until after seeing the photographs, I was forced to not only cut off my own head, but also large portions of this colourful mural by artists Shalak and Smoky in Malmö Folkets Park.

Once I started cutting out the fabric, I realized that it was off-grain and that one row of melons had not been saturated with green dye. Perhaps that’s why it ended up at the thrift store? Anyway, because of that, the print placement is not as symmetrical as I had intended and the pattern does not match at the side-seams.
Burdaskirt08In an attempt to cover up this lack of pattern matching I placed two pockets over the side-seams. I used the pocket of Butterick 5920 as a template, but now both ends of the pocket piece became semi-circular. The upper part was then folded down to form a pocket flap. The pocket lining was cut on the cross-grain so the flap only shows a piece of melon and no background.


I thought about sewing the pocket flap down with a button but was afraid that going through my button collection would be too much of a distraction. I can always add them later.

As this is a very simple pattern, I figured it could use something extra, which is why added piping to the yoke and the pocket flaps. Although I don’t remember ever having sewn a garment with piping before, I found some cut pieces of black satin piping in my stash. This was also an opportunity to try out the piping foot that came with my (Brother 1034D) overlocker, which turned out to be quite easy, even when adding piping to a curve or a faint angle or a gathered piece of fabric. Now I definitely feel inspired to use piping more often!


The inside of the piped yoke. I first cut the seam allowances to match the width of the piping and then basted all layers together before using the piping foot. I wonder if it’s possible to use the piping foot on sharper angles, though.

The skirt came out more or less as I expected. I wanted to make a fun and easy summer skirt and that’s what it is. That having said, I did make sure to add a lining so I can wear it with tights well into autumn. After all, summer may be gone any moment now!


Printed cotton: thrift store
Lining and notions: from stash

4 thoughts on “Celebrating the last weeks of summer with a watermelon skirt

  1. PinhouseP

    What a fun print! Africans do know their bold colors and prints 🙂
    I think the skirt looks great, perfect use of the fabric.
    I tried my first piping this summer too, it was so much easier than I had imagined! Now I want piping on everything 😀

    1. iris Post author

      Thank you! I think there are so many great African fabrics around, but I think it can be difficult to use the ones with very large-scale prints for garments. My sister in law gave me a piece of fabric with gigantic turnips(?) that she bought in Tanzania and I just can’t seem to find the right pattern for it (the turnips are about three times as big as the melons on this skirt).

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