Songbird Skirt: Adding Tucks and Lace

Songbird Skirt and Tank Top sewing pattern

The Songbird Skirt is the perfect place to get creative with your pleats, lace, and edges.

Have some special lace that you’ve been hanging onto or a vision of a dreamy lace-edged skirt? This is the perfect opportunity to let your bohemian dreams come true. Use vintage fabrics and lace – or new materials – to create that romantic vibe.

In the pattern itself, we’ve already created View B with three tucks on the middle tier, two tucks on the bottom tier, and inset and applied lace.

If you have a different vision, you can take the tiers from View A, follow the instructions below, and come up with your own combination of tucks and lace application that will suit your own materials and ideas.

A tuck can be sewn horizontally on any of the three Songbird Skirt tiers. A pintuck is a tiny little tuck. If you’ve ever sewn a pintuck on a blouse or on a craft project, you’re already familiar with the idea. Due to the pocket, adding to the top tier would be the trickiest, but adding a tuck to the middle or bottom tier is really simple! 

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Figure out how deep you want your tucks to be. (Depth is the distance from the stitching line to the folded edge of the tuck.)
  2. Decide how many tucks you’ll add to your tier.
  3. A quick calculation: Double the tuck depth and multiply it by the number of tucks. That’s the length that you need to add to the pattern piece.

    For example, let’s say you want three ½” (1.3 cm) tucks added to the bottom tier.

    ½” x 2 x 3= 3” added to the length of your Bottom Tier.

    Let’s do that again in metric: 1.3 x 2 x 3=7.8 cm added to the length of the bottom tier.

    Remember that the tiers are huge rectangles, with the side seams on the short sides, so you’re adding on the bottom with the rectangle placed horizontally
  4. Orient the pattern piece horizontally in front of you and add the length. You might choose to add actual paper to your pattern piece to make it a more permanent pattern change. Or you might want to use your chalk to mark your change on your fabric. If so, make sure you mark it really clearly and add a notation on your pattern piece to warn you to make the same change to each piece in the correct direction.
  5. When you’re laying your pieces out on your fabric, try to lay everything out before cutting. You’ll have increased your fabric requirement, and things might not fit like they do on the layout diagrams anymore. So give yourself the chance to see the whole picture before cutting! Double-check that the pieces are oriented correctly and that your added tier length isn’t causing a fabric shortage.

The tucks will be sewn before the side seams, where indicated in step 3, to make the fabric handling much easier. If you really want the tucks to travel over the side seams rather than be enclosed in them, you’ll need to sew them after step 4 instead. 

Secret tip for adding a single ½” tuck to View A with no pattern work: The hem allowance of the skirt is 3” total, so by reducing the hem allowance to 2” (1” turned under twice), you’ve freed up enough fabric for a ½” tuck on the Bottom Tier that doesn’t change the pattern at all! This is a great way to try the idea out with really low stakes.

Inset lace is an heirloom technique, and looks so pretty!

Make sure your lace is sturdy enough to support the weight of the fabric that will be below it. To have enough fabric to make a tidy hem on the back, your lace should be ¾” (1.9 cm) wide or wider. (You could go narrower, but it will get very fiddly to press and sew such a small amount of fabric into a tidy edge.)

You won’t need to make pattern changes to add a lace inset. Add the lace after sewing the side seams of each tier, but before joining the tiers together.

To sew inset lace: 

  1. Place the lace on your tier, on the right side of the fabric.
  2. Either overlap the ends of the lace or create a seam to join the ends – whatever method will provide the strength and subtle finish for the lace.
  3. Pin or hand-baste the lace in place, measuring from the edge to the lace to ensure that it’s placed evenly.
  4. Using a narrow zig-zag, secure each edge of the lace in place. 
  5. From the wrong side, cut along the center of the fabric behind the lace. 
  6. Roll the seam allowance back in a tiny rolled hem along each of the edges of the lace. You might have to trim back the seam allowances at the side seams for these hems to turn neatly. 
  7. Secure the tiny hems with a straight stitch that travels over the previous zig zag stitch. From the right side, the main fabric will have “disappeared” from behind the lace, and from the wrong side, there will be two tidy rolled hems traveling the edges of the lace all the way around. 

Lace can also be added as a detail on top of the fabric, and even with its edge hidden under a tuck for more dimension.

Lace can be shifty because it’s often slightly elastic, so pin it in place well or hand baste in place. Use a straight stitch or a narrow zigzag to secure your lace in place. Sew this lace in place right after you sew your tucks.

Lace sewn behind the hem is a playful touch, letting the lace’s edge extend beyond the hem edge. Some narrow eyelet fabrics are perfect for this application as well.

Play around with the position of the lace, deciding by how much you want it to extend beyond the hem’s edge, and where you want the sewn edge to be. Sew this lace in place after sewing the hem, so it’s easy to see how it will look.

In some cases, you might choose to secure the lace to the fabric after pressing the hem but before sewing the hem, so that you can hide the stitching line from the lace’s attachment in the hem allowance. This is trickier, though.

A border fabric, like eyelet or a lace fabric, or even some treasured embroidered linen, can be much wider than a few inches.

Using the pre-finished, often scalloped and prettily shaped edge as the hem, you may choose to skip using the main fabric for the Bottom Tier entirely and just use the lace/eyelet/border fabric.

If you’d like to dial it back a little, you could shorten the bottom tier and seam the bottom tier with the border print, so that the edge of your border fabric makes up the hem. 


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