Adding a Half-lining to the Songbird Skirt

Charmed by the little flowers, I neglected to check the opacity of my fabric before clicking purchase. My mistake, and I think it’s likely that I won’t be the only sewist wanting to make a Songbird Skirt from a fabric that’s less-than-opaque, especially in the summer sun! Instead of sending the fabric into the cupboard for another project, I decided to get scrappy and fashion a half-lining, so I can have both the cutest floral AND the confidence to let that backlight shine on!

The skirt is made of three tiers and a waistband (and pockets OF COURSE, though they don’t factor into the lining situation), so for a half lining, the important details are the desired length of the lining (from the bottom of the waistband) and the Top Tier Back pattern piece. I referred to the Top Tier a little and drafted my lining right on my fabric. I told you I was being scrappy!

and I’ll follow with how I got there:

The top of the lining piece needs to be the seam width as the Top Tier Back (and by default it will be the same width as the Waistband as well, in case your math brain is firing up). I wanted the lining to be several inches closer to my knee than the bottom of the top tier, so I knew I’d also have to add some swing so that I won’t have any impeded gymnastics ability by the circumference of my lining. And by gymnastics ability, I mean sitting in the sand, knitting. To be clear. Rather than just adding at the side seam and really distorting the balance, I did a little pivot with the Top Tier Back, shown in the diagram as a slash and spread of the pattern piece. If you’re feeling less scrappy than trace off the Top Tier Back, and you can make a Lining pattern piece for yourself that will look just like the diagram! 

  1. Trace off the Top Tier Back
  2. Decide on your final length, from the bottom of the waistband (the top of the Top Tier), and add the required length plus a small hem allowance for the hem’s turn back.
  3. Halfway between the center and the side of the lining (you’re probably working with a half pattern piece, so the center is on the fold, or you’ve traced off the full width so your piece looks like mine), cut from the hem to the waist. Leave a hinge at the waist SEAM (⅝” or 1.6 cm from the cut edge) and swing the hem open. I let the hem open by 1.5”, and also added ¾” (1.9 cm) on the side seams at the hem, so the total added to the hem circumference was 9” (22.9 cm). On the side seams, I blended the change to nothing a little below the seam line, so the skirt would still match up with the Top Tier Back. 
  4. Since the increased hem sweep made the waist and hem a little jagged, I smoothed the waist and hem into smooth curved lines, and matched up the side seams to make sure there were no strange corners created by this curved line! 
  5. This lining is cut from a smooth, ideally soft and drapey fabric that will slide both on your legs and your chosen fabric, so that it’s comfortable and you basically forget it exists. I found a really soft cotton in my stash that fit the bill… it had a previous life as a bedsheet, and is perfectly soft and smooth. You need a Front Lining and a Back Lining, so depending on your draft, you’ll either Cut 2 on Fold, or simply Cut 2. 
  6. To add the Lining into the sewing steps, Sew the side seams of the lining and finish the raw edges. Hem the lining right away, pressing the hem to the wrong side and edgestitching the hem in place. (The right side of the Lining will be against your body, and the wrong side will end up facing the wrong side of the Skirt). 
  7. Then, in Step 5c, modify the step as follows: With right sides together, pin the unpressed edge of the Waistband to the top of the Top Tier of the skirt, aligning the Waistband side seams with the side seams of the skirt. With the wrong side of the lining facing the wrong side of the skirt, add the lining into the pinned waistband seam. Sew the waist seam with a 5/8” (1.6 cm) seam allowance, joining both the Top Tier of the Skirt and the Lining of the Skirt to the Waistband. 
  8. Now that the lining is in place, you basically just keep it out of the way and continue constructing as usual! Easy. 

Now that you have a plan to use fabric that has a magical print but not quite the opacity that you wanted, OR EVEN BETTER, some adorable eyelet or lace, it’s time for you to go sew! 


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  1. Brilliant. Do you think this basic approach would work with any full skirt? I’m thinking of the Estuary skirt…

    1. Absolutely! It’s certainly a starting point.
      You’ll need to modify it in some degree for different styles… in the case of Estuary, for example, you’ll need to consider the placket. Will you join the skit and lining before you add the placket, hemming the lining first, and then join them at the CF inside the placket? Likely, but you may need to be a bit fussy about the bulk of the lining hem.
      You’ll also consider the silhouette of the skirt you’re using. Because the Songbird is a tiered skirt, you wouldn’t have enough room to walk if you lengthened the top tier without changing the hem sweep, but in a fuller skirt (Estuary or Gypsum, for example), you could just use the skirt pieces and modify the finishing to suit your lining technique.