Behind the Scenes with “The Beast”

When I embarked on the journey to have a bedskirt made, I made the decision pretty early on to have it custom-made by an experienced seamstress. That turned out to be a very smart decision. By the time it was completed, my seamstress, Elizabeth, had begun affectionately referring to it as “The Beast.”

Tips For Sewing a Full Bedskirt With a Long Drop

 

Elizabeth is a professional seamstress and makes window treatments and bedding for designers and her own clients. Even with all that experience, this skirt kept her awake a few nights as she noodled out some of the challenges it posed.

The problem was really a convergence of three main issues:

  • The weight/thickness of the fabric (it’s a combination of linen and cotton and quite heavy)
  • The size/length of the skirt (the drop is a full 25 inches)
  • The fullness of the skirt (since I wanted it super full, Elizabeth suggested 4x gathering instead of the standard 2 1/2)

If this skirt posed a dilemma for Elizabeth with her professional sewing room and commercial grade equipment, can you just imagine me trying to sew this monster on my little Brother sewing machine? I would probably be writing this while wearing a wig because I’m pretty sure I’d be bald from all the hair-pulling that would have taken place.

Today I thought I’d give you a behind the scenes look at the technique Elizabeth used to tame “The Beast” in case you ever run into this while sewing a bedskirt or while having one made.

Tartan Bedding For Winter

 

Because the fabric is of a hefty weight and because there is just so blooming much of it, the weight of the fabric across the end of the skirt tended to pull the skirt downward toward the foot of the bed. The sides were fine because they pulled on each other in opposite directions.

Sewing A Heavy Very Full Bedskirt

 

Normally a bedskirt, custom or not, doesn’t have a band across the top as seen here. Usually the platform (the off-white fabric in the center) just continues to the end at the top/headboard area.

Tips for sewing a heavy, super full bedskirt

 

Elizabeth added the band because in order to compensate for the weight of the bedskirt fabric at the foot of the bed, she decided to add a weight bar to the top of the bedskirt. Elizabeth said weight bars are sometimes used in window treatments and can be purchased in most hardware stores. She encased the heavy metal weight bar in a sleeve she sewed for it from the tartan fabric.

Design a ruffled bedskirt with a long drop

 

The bar attaches to the top of the bedskirt with velcro and it keeps the skirt perfectly in place at all times.

If you’re wondering about the use of those corkscrew pins, I had specifically requested those not be used because the corkscrew pins can easily damage fabric. I’ve experienced this in the past with other bedskirts. They probably wouldn’t have worked in this case anyway due to the weight of the fabric.

Elizabeth agreed and I think her solution is brilliant! She liked the look of this skirt with the band along the top so much, she told me that she plans to start making all her bedskirts this way. She was also happy to have found a solution for dealing with really heavy, full, long bedskirts. I hope this information helps if you ever run into a similar situation.

Secret for Sewing A Heavy Very Full Bedskirt

 

Love the look of tartan for the bed. This tartan bedding is available here: Tartan Bedding.

You can read more about this tartan bedding and how I chose it for my winter bedding in this post: Dressing the Bed in Tartan, Ralph Lauren Inspired

Tartan Plaid Bedding

 

 




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Comments

  1. Vickie H. says:

    Such beautiful work! There really is nothing like custom. I have been sewing for more than 50 years and in my 40’s was fortunate to get to work in a small drapery workroom with an owner who had been in business 40 years…I learned something new from her every single day (often every single hour, it seemed). While I had extensive knowledge of constructing garments and doing alterations I had never tackled curtains or bedding. It never seemed like work because I loved every minute of it. Now I am so glad to have this additional knowledge, even though I only use it for myself and a family member or two. A good seamstress is worth her weight in gold and it is clear that yours is a true artist! I will file away the info she has shared because I just know it will come in handy one day. Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing! Congratulations on your ingenuity in finding enough fabric in those tablecloths to pull this off! It looks fantastic!

    • Vickie, that would be such a great experience! I sew so infrequently that I just about forget how to thread the machine by the time I next make something.
      Soooo wonderful that you know how to do all that! Lucky family to have you and all your wonderful knowledge! I asked Elizabeth if she would mind me sharing what she did and she said exactly what you did…that it’s all about sharing the knowledge and helping each other.
      Can you believe there are six 70″ x 108″ tablecloths in that bedskirt! I was very lucky to find a seller who had that many so I could order them all from one seller…and they all matched in color, thankfully.

  2. Elizabeth sounds very clever. Great solution!

  3. claudette flanigan says:

    Oh it came out beautifully! What a bed!

  4. Susan: Beautiful, beautiful room. The bed skirt is fantastic, so full and hangs beautifully! My seamstress I had in CA. used to tell me she put the band around the top so when the sheets were all tucked in you wouldn’t see the top edge of the box spring and it certainly does just that. Love your Elizabeth’s idea of the weight bar and will tuck that away for future use. BTW, mine was also “Elizabeth!” 😎 {{HUGS}} Joy

  5. barbara woods says:

    beautiful , I love the whole look

  6. Knowing more about the challenges and how it was made, makes it even more gorgeous.

  7. I meant to ask you how did you two know to buy six of the table cloths vice 3 or 4? Would it have been feasible to cut them in half and use only 3 or 4?

    • I had kind of done the math and figured out I needed at least 4 to make it pretty full and that was based on cutting them in half down the length. After I talked with Elizabeth, she said if I wanted it really full, 6 tablecloths would be better, so I purchased two more from the same seller. I just went by what she told me…not sure how she calculated it. Of course, she needed enough fabric to make the band part that goes under the mattress and to put in a nice deep hem, too.

  8. S/n: Did you see Lena Dunham purchased that white cottage in LA that you blogged about last month? I forgot who famous owned it. But she paid like $2.(something) million for it

  9. What a beautiful bedskirt, Susan. Your seamstress certainly did a wonderful job. Having owned a custom drapery and soft home furnishings workroom, I can totally relate to the challenges that she dealt with! People never understand why custom is so expensive, but there’s more work in a simple, custom made pair of rod pocket draperies than you’ll ever know!

  10. This piece is stunning and she did an amazing job. The bar is such a brilliant idea.

  11. I love when a plan comes together.

  12. Sherry Stuifbergen says:

    I do most of my own sewing in decorating, so I took this whole plan “in” as it was accomplished. I was with you during the “hunt” for matching things. What a fiasco! Alas, it is a beautiful bed with the plaid! Elizabeth found the perfect solution. It looks like she did a super job. Glad you both are happy.

  13. True artistry, absolutely beautiful!! I love that you shared the entire experience and not just the final product. Thanks to Elizabeth as well for sharing. Your posts are so engaging, I rush home from work to sign on to follow what your next venture will be!

  14. That bedskirt is so gorgeous it was worth all the trouble, and I’m so glad you still have all your pretty hair.

  15. Susan, I can’t tell you how much I love your winter bedding! I purchased one of those tablecloths on eBay, so I can imagine how much material there is in six of them! I also found some of the tartan plates and matching napkins on eBay, too. Like you, I haunt eBay and Etsy and all places online! I love that I find some of my neatest treasures in my PJs with a cat or two on my desk. =)

    • Thanks, Martha! You know, the fabric that the tablecloths and this bedding are made from almost feel like wool when you run your hand over it. I was so curious about the natural fibers used to make it (55% linen and 45% cotton) I looked up where linen comes from. I’ve always known where cotton came from, I’ve seen it growing in fields here in Georgia all my life. But I had no idea where linen came from. It turns out, linen comes from the stalk of flax plants. It’s made from the fibers found in flax plant stalks. I thought that was so fascinating! That must be what gives this fabric it’s heft.
      Yeah, this shopping in our pjs is pretty cool, even better with purring kitties nearby! 🙂

  16. crumpety cottage says:

    Susan, I love BOTH your bedding looks but I know how much fun it is to have something new, even if you still love your older things. Every time I see this plaid bedroom set, my heart melts a little. (Hey, where is your ship’s mirror?)

    Now, what other fun things can we find for your bedroom? Something for the wall? A small soft rug? What could it be?

    I’ll have to content myself with looking at your bedroom it seems as I have had no luck finding something ‘just right’ for mine. Wish you were here to help me. I so want to get it ‘done’ and I’m no further along than I was a year ago. Nothing is coming together for me. 🙁 I need you and Elizabeth to help. 🙂

    • I took the mirror down because there’s already one mirror in the room. I keep trying different things over the bed and I’m never happy with it. I had a bunch of silhouettes up there once…and idea I saw in Southern Homes magainze, I think it was Southern Homes.
      Yeah, I need to redo several things in this room…just waiting for the right things to show up, I guess. Pam, you don’t want me helping, I’m a slow decorator! lol

      • crumpety says:

        That’s me! I take so long because I want it to be just right and I know I’ll live with it for years. Fortunately, I generally like what I buy for a very long time. But it’s the finding it that is so often challenging! I have an idea I might like a trio of botanical prints above my bed, but since I haven’t yet found the linens, I’m hesitant to commit to them. Maybe if I went forward and bought them I’d use them as my ‘inspiration.’ But what if I couldn’t find linens that looked well with them? Honestly, I’m *so close* to being done decorating my house and I just ache to get it finished up because I have so many other things to do. Sadly, I have this quirk in my personality where I just “have” to finish one thing before going on to the next. So being unable to finish out the decorating is holding me up on a myriad of other projects. Argh. I drive myself crazy. 😀 😛

        And you don’t need to do a thing to the room. It’s gorgeous and anybody would love living and sleeping there. 🙂

  17. Mary Sosa says:

    Because I also like a lot of and a longer ruffle on my bed skirts, I make my own. I LOVE the idea of the band! Thank you for sharing this technique!
    I have a king size bed and use a queen flat sheet (because if fits almost perfectly) as the base. The process is indeed a monster job ‘:), but so well worth it.
    Thank you for sharing your lovely home. Your blog is one of my “go to” sites for inspiration.

  18. Hi, Susan,
    The whole process of producing a bedskirt astounds me, but when I think of the logistics of making one with heavy material and matching a plaid, too, sends chills up and down my spine! Bravo to both of you for figuring out the math of all this and mastering its production. Your bed is to die for: it looks exquisite and yet it also looks comfy and cozy and welcoming. How hard it must be to jump out of such comfort with the cold mornings you’ve been having! Rosie

  19. Susan, thank you so much for posting this. Your seamstress truly did a magnificent job! Looking at its fullness I would have guessed it was 3 x the fullness, but in this case 4 x was definitely better. Re the use of a weight bar was totally genius on her part and I am impressed that she even matched the pattern for its border decking plus thank heavens for cockle-burs, otherwise Velcro may never have been invented.
    Pleasant dreams ☺ ….. -Brenda-

  20. Susan, Thanks for weighted bar secret that Elizabeth used in the bedskirt. I wished she lived nearby. Weights (beads, coins, chains) have been used in garments and draperies for hundreds of years. I was fortunate to take some textile courses in college and now wish I had majored in textiles. The historian in me loves to read Piecework magazine. I have a subscription, but for those of you near a large library you can probably find them there. I have also found some older issues in good condition on eBay. About the space above your bed, you could hang a tapestry with a hunt scene or castle for your winter ensemble, then change to a lighter one (color & weight) with your summer ensemble. If you cannot find a readymade one you like, you can repurpose a portion of an old rug, quilt, etc. or just a pretty scenic piece of upholstery fabric. Hang it from an attractive rod with a pretty tassel on one or both sides. You, or Elizabeth, can sew a weighted sleeve at the bottom to keep it flat against the wall. I am anxious to see what you decide, but do not ever apologize for being a slow decorator. I admire you for all you do. BTW, do you haul all your stuff up & down those stairs by yourself? Also, can you direct me to the source for the gift wrap organizer in your office? Thanks for all the great ideas & lovely photos. Take care, Ashley

    • Ashley, thanks so much for those suggestions…love the tapestry idea. That would be really cozy for a bedroom, especially in the winter.
      Yep, you wouldn’t believe the stuff I’ve hauled up and down the stairs. lol I actually brought up the highboy you see in that room all by myself. I brought up the drawers separately, then pulled the bottom section and then the top section up the back staircase which is carpeted. The trick was figuring out how to get the top half of the highboy onto the bottom half. I worked it out, though. I tilted the top half backwards onto my high bed and pushed the bottom half over to the bed, then tilted the top half back up and onto the bottom part. It worked great and I didn’t put a single scratch on it anywhere! It’s amazing what you can do if you have to…and your impatient like I am! 😉
      I found the wrapping paper organizer at Pottery Barn a few years back. They carry it for a while, then stop, then bring it back again. They just had it in stock again a few months back.
      It looks like it’s out of stock again but I can promise you, it will be back again. I’ve seen it go out of stock and come back 3 or 4 times since I bought mine.
      Here’s a link to the one I have:
      http://www.potterybarn.com/products/wall-mounted-craft-organizer/
      And here’s a link to another style they recently started carrying but is apparently out of stock now:
      http://www.potterybarn.com/products/whitney-wrapping-paper-hutch/
      I love both styles…would be hard to choose between them.
      If you want one, just keep your eye out because they will bring it back again…they always do!

      • pam ~ crumpety cottage says:

        Susan, you amaze me! You hauled that huge piece of furniture up the back stairs (and then down the hall) and set it in place, all by yourself?!! 😮 You’re too much. That makes such a funny mental image, lol. (sorry) But I too have done crazy things like that, out of excitement and, as you said, impatience. Unfortunately, my back probably couldn’t handle such exploits, these days. Maybe that’s just as well. 🙂

        • Yep! And that was after getting it out of my SUV by myself. The amazing thing is I didn’t put a scratch on it. I was so excited to get it up stairs in the room, I think I had super human strength that day. lol

  21. Barbara Z says:

    Great & informative post – The bedskirt & entire ensemble is gorgeous!

  22. Robin B. says:

    I love your custom made bed skirt, I also have a high bed that I have been planning a bed skirt for. This is just perfect.

  23. Wow that bedroom is gorgeous in the red plaid material
    And yes your Girl Elizabeth did a fantastic job for you

  24. Marlene Stephenson says:

    Your bed skirt is gorgeous and after reading what it took to make it i don’t believe i will be trying. She did do a great job for you.

  25. It looks great and I’m not surprised at all. Elizabeth is a wonderful fabricator !

  26. Nancy of Lake Stevens says:

    Susan, I don’t know where to start. First your bedding is gorgeous. I would never have thought to do 4x dust ruffle but it looks so luxurious.Bravo to both you and Elizabeth for going for the gusto. Second, Elizabeth is a genius. I have been sewing home decor items for myself for over forty years yet
    Elizabeth’s solution would never have occurred to me. Now since I have 2 dust ruffles to make I do have one question. It looks like the plaid band is on all four sides attached to the white platform. And as I understand your explanation the weight is in a separate channel of fabric which attaches to the top of the band of plaid fabric via velcro and then hangs down the back of the head of the bed.. Do I have that correct? Thanks.

    • Thanks, Nancy! lol I kept saying I wanted it really, really full so she suggested 4X fullness. I do love how it looks so glad we went with that amount of fullness. I could never have made it myself…my machine would never sew that.
      Yep, that’s right. Elizabeth told me that the weight of the skirt on the sides was fine since they pulled against each other. She has a huge queen size table in her workroom and apparently she wasn’t happy with the way the skirt was doing on the table. Apparently, the weight of the bottom ruffle at the foot of the bed was so heavy it pulled downward…so she added the weight bar to the head end. She sewed a sleeve for the weight bar and it’s removable from the sleeve if ever necessary because she opened it up and showed me the heavy metal bar inside. It’s super heavy. And the sleeve with the weight inside attaches with velcro to the band across the top. The weight bar does hang down behind the top/head of the boxsprings so the mattress doesn’t rest on it or anything.

      • Nancy of Lake Stevens says:

        Susan, you are so generous with your time to answer all of your readers questions. I so appreciate it.

        • You are very welcome! And I meant to say the mattress “doesn’t” sit on the weight bar since it hangs down the back. I should proof read my replies. 🙂

  27. Susan, I would never have guessed it was 4 x’s the length for its fullness. Yes, that is tons and tons of fabric. What a brilliant solution on the bedskirt. This is such a beauty! She did a wonderful job.

  28. I have made bed-skirts before, and this is a stunner. Living in Fl., I usually go with much lighter weight fabric, which allows me to make the “drop”, and instead of an entire deck covering the “box spring”, I put a wide (4-6″) band at the top, and velcro the whole thing on to the box spring, which is hidden by the top mattress. It makes changing it (with the seasons) a whole lot easier than having to take my entire King size mattress off. this method wouldnt have worked with your very full , heavy one, but some of your readers might consider it if working with lighter weight fabrics. This (velcro) method works with gathered, tailored, or layered ( short gathered over longer tailored) skirts.

  29. So beautifully done. Love the bed.

  30. Your bedding is beautiful. I have a similar bed without the broken pediment headboard but the same footboard . I’m wondering if you have pieces down the sides of your bed like your footboard? My bed does. It sits up high as yours does too. After having built our house there was no custom made anything in my budget left but that was okay because I love our home. So off I went to my favorite fabric store, Hancocks, found designer fabric on sale in a floral pattern. My two favorite things : floral anything and on sale . I knew the pattern wouldn’t have to be matched as yours , my goodness, is so perfectly done. I also probably have the same Brothers sewing machine. No way that machine will sew the type of bed skirt that your seamstress made. So what I did was make two long panels and one a little shorter . Hemmed at the bottom and a small rod pocket at the top. I attached small cafe curtain rod hardware inside the footboard and sideboards. Ran the bed skirt thru the rods and attached the rods to the hardware. It took two long ones for the sides and one long one for the footboard. Didn’t damage the bed at all and it was easy to do. I tucked the coverlet inside the sideboards. This way the sideboards show, too. Also made simple curtain panels to match. I love really full bed skirts too and the pre-made ones that I could find were skimpy and for what you got very expensive. Fast forward 15 years and we buy a vacation home on the river. Having replaced my bedding with some gorgeous bedding from Soft Surroundings, I brought the floral bed skirt and curtains to match to the river house. Once again on a strict budget everything is leftovers or yard sales or flea market or hand me downs. The bed in the master is one given to me. Headboard and footboard but no side rails at all. I got my husband to build side boards and slats that just lay on top of the rails. I took my staple gun and stapled the bed skirt onto the railing gathering it as I went. Then the slats were attached with screws to the top of the rail. Put the box springs on. Layered a very big hand crocheted tablecloth bought at an estate sale for 15$ over the box springs. Put the mattress on, made the bed with the matlasse coverlet that I’ve had for 15 years and I really love. No one can believe the crocheted piece is a tablecloth. I wonder how you store the skirt during the summer when not in use . Love everything you show and I really appreciate your blog. It’s as informative as the best magazines ever. Thank you for the time and effort that you put into it. It’s much appreciated.

    • Thanks so much, Susan! Appreciate that so much. You’re right, my bed does have the wide siderails, too. I just adore a really loooooong drop on a bedskirt so even though I know there are some workarounds for adding a bedskirt where the siderails would show, I don’t mind having the siderails hidden to get the long drop I want. I just love that “over-the-top” look a really long bedskirt gives a bed. I know a lot of folks probably prefer to see the siderails over having a long bedskirt but I’ve always loved that look. I have heard of using tension rods…that is such a genius idea! You are so smart to make your own skirt to get the look you want…love that! I so agree, the pre-made ones just don’t get it. I don’t know why companies don’t offer fuller skirts for a bit more $, I think a lot of folks would be willing to pay more for a prettier, fuller skirt. I bet your river home is amazing! What fun it would be to decorate a second home! 🙂

  31. Carrlyn L Ward says:

    Susan, it is simple devine darling! Unbelieveably Elegant! Tell me this, did Elizabeth line it?

    • Thanks, Carrlyn! She did! I wouldn’t mind if it stood outward a bit further but maybe the weight of the fabric makes it too heavy to do that. I wonder if using less fabric (tablecloths :)) and a really stiff lining would make a bedskirt stand out more. I love that look where they lean outward from the bed some.

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