Sewing, What I wear

The ultimate textile historian skirt

I think it’s no secret that I love op-shopping.  I love op-shopping as much as I hate regular shopping (ugh.  crowds.  people.  poorly made stuff that doesn’t fit right).

The major exception to hating regular shopping is fabric, because I love fabric stores.  But I also love fabric shopping at op shops, because I find some amazing things.

Like this fabric:

Bayeux Tapestry skirt

Can you see what it is?

It’s the Bayeux tapestry!

(or at least selected parts of it)

I teach the Bayeux tapestry as an example of politics in textiles, and the use of textiles in propaganda, so when I found this fabric I*

* translation: I let out a tiny squeak and sat down with a thump.

The fabric is a screenprint by an Australian textile designer.  It’s on a viscose/rayon and probably dates to the ’70s or ’80s.

There wasn’t a lot of it, and it’s a very busy print, and not in the best colours for me, so I wanted to make something that really took advantage of the print with minimal cutting, and stayed away from my face.  Solution?  A super simple gathered skirt:

Bayeux Tapestry skirt

With pockets of course!  Because if pockets are at all a possibility, they should be included!

The skirt is simply two widths of the fabric, selvedge to selvedge, and it’s every scrap there was.  I even had to mend a tiny rip in the fabric at the hem to get the length I wanted.  To really maximise the length, I also used a bias turned hem (in sky blue, for a bit of fun contrast).

Bayeux Tapestry skirt

Luckily I was able to match the brown and white stripes as they ran around the fabric at the side seams, though there was a bit of colour chance across the width of the fabric, so if you look closely you can see two shades of brown on either side of the seams.

Bayeux Tapestry skirt

Because I used every extra scrap, my pockets are plain white fabric, and I had to do something a bit different for the waistband.  I thought of a coordinating or contrasting fabric waistband, but Made on Marion has this awesome gold elastic, and what could be easier and better than a gold elastic waistband?

Bayeux Tapestry skirt

I ADORED the skirt once it was finished, but it did turn out to be one of those annoying wardrobe orphans, as none of my tops looks quite right with it.

I’ve got a stack of projects that should fix that problem in my summer wardrobe sewing pile (come on Dec 4th!  Time for all the summer sewing!), but I quickly whipped up this blue faux-wrap top a few weekends ago, and it’s sort-of working with it.

Bayeux Tapestry skirt

Sort-of working is actually a good general descriptor for the top.  The fabric is a tissue-weight knit that was $1 a meter because it’s ridiculously off-grain.  I’d intended the top as a toile for an idea I’m playing with around pattern adapting, so more-or-less wearable is a bonus!

Bayeux Tapestry skirt

For the photos Mr D & I drove around the bays to the airport, because every spring there is an amazing display of orange flowers on the ocean-facing hill of the airport road, and I have always wanted to get photos with them.  Unfortunately we timed it wrong, as they had already shut for the day, so we got some photos with the bay behind us, and then continued on to the Massey Memorial.

We took the old path down to the sea on the other side of the memorial, which turned out to be a great choice, as the hillsides were covered in pea blossoms, and banana passionflower.

Bayeux Tapestry skirt

In Hawaii we call banana passionfruit ‘banana poka’.  It’s beautiful, but in both Hawaii and NZ it’s a noxious pest, so I felt almost virtuous picking handfuls of the flowers (less flowers means less fruit means less seeds to spread).

Bayeux Tapestry skirt

They made a nice display in a vase, and the skirt makes a nice display on me.

Bayeux Tapestry skirt

Happy summer sewing!

Bayeux Tapestry skirt


  1. Lynne says

    Elderly squee from the deepish south! Oh, my! Bayeux Tapestry! One of my favourite things. What a find. And it makes a charming skirt!

  2. lyndle says

    Wow! What a cool find! And good work on sewing it up immediately. I know two opshops that I think are near you that often have fabric… just as well for me that I’ve moved a bit further away as they are so exciting to prospect in. And you actually sew the fabric, so obviously you deserve to find it!

  3. Elise says

    OMG-The Bayeux Tapestry is why I got into linguistics. I found out about it at 9 years old. And I *saw* it *inreallifeomg* in 2003. I…died.

  4. Deanna says

    Oh my goodness! Your skirt is wonderful! What good fortune to find this fabulous fabric. I recognized those little upside-down knights immediately. The Bayeux tapestry is so completely awesome! So much so, that its being called a tapestry doesn’t even bug me. 😉 I appreciate it it more every time I read about it.

    Also, your hair is really pretty. 🙂

  5. This has made my day. Sewing, and English history? my two favourite things. Just finished my thesis on the Norman Conquest

    • Elise says

      Woah, you had a dress donated to the V&A? That is soooo neat!

    • Quite possibly!

      Or perhaps Laura Ashley was influenced by an obscure Australian textile designer 😉 Just because someone is the most well known doesn’t necessarily mean they originated the ideas!

      (However, you’re probably right! I’ve looked up Veronica Textile Industries, Australia, and it looks like they have been in production since the ’70s, so this fabric is probably post LA’s Devonshire Tapestries, so either they were influenced by her, or there was a lot of the same general ideas happening in textile design. There is a NZ textile designer, whose name momentarily escapes me, who was doing similar things in NZ & AU in the 40s & 50s, so they may have looked at her work too)

      • There’s definitely a lot of fabric appropriation – I once had a fantastic 1950s homemade skirt (quite similar to this one actually) made from a print based on Toulouse Lautrec posters that I sold, and kinda regret, the fabric was GREAT. What struck me about this Laura Ashley textile was that it was so literal in taking the tapestry as a source for the print.

        I actually have another LA dress in my collection made in multiple colourways of this print – flounced tiers and panelling each in a different shade of purple, brown, and blue, all in the tapestry print. It’s bonkers and brilliant and probably should be in the V&A instead of this one, but when I consulted with my colleague, she said to go ahead and buy it for my collection as they were happy enough with the one I’d already donated.

  6. I like the skirt (and of course you had to do something with the fabric; the design is the Bayeux Tapestry, after all) but I *love* the top! Fabric grain issues aside, it looks wonderfully comfortable, and it looks great on you!

    Enjoy your summer (we’re heading into winter now, alas, with its long, cold nights, brrr……).

  7. Nina Virgo says

    I have fabric envy! And a gathered skirt is the perfect use for showing it off.

  8. I don’t even sew clothing for people, but man if I found that fabric it would have come home with me. How can anyone not want a skirt made out of a print from The Bayeux Tapestry? I completely understand your excitement.

    And I think it looks rather nice with the pale blue top.

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