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Inspiration & Ideas for the Kelly Skirt

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Kelly Sewalong: Inspiration & Ideas

Kelly and Kelly Curve are such incredibly versatile skirts that can be made in so many different fabrics and styles – the possibilities are endless! So, as we are about to dive into the sewalong we thought we’d share some inspiration & ideas that might help you narrow down a look for your first (because you know there will be more!) Kelly skirt make. While you’re having a scroll through all the inspiration we’ve compiled, have a think about what you’ve got in your fabric stash, what’s going to fit into your wardrobe and what you’re going to get a whole lot of wear out of!

If it isn’t already incredibly obvious, we’re a big fan of using linen for our makes here in the Megan Nielsen studio and Kelly is no exception! Linen Kelly skirts have been a loved and lived in staple here all summer. Whether pleated or gathered, it has the perfect amount of volume – enough to be cool and floaty, but not overwhelmed with fabric. The shorter views are ideal if you’re looking for a super-light and breezy skirt, or if you’d prefer a little sun protection, the midi length views will give you just that.

So as the Northern Hemisphere moves into the warmer months, we feel that we need to spread the news and make sure everyone knows that a linen Kelly is a perfect foundation for an amazing summer outfit! So go make one, there’s no time to waste!

Switching gear from floaty and drapey, did you know that Kelly can be made in a huge range of fabrics, including heavier weight fabrics like denim, corduroy and leather?! Pretty cool right? So if you’re looking for a skirt with a little more structure, Kelly is a perfect choice. Here are a couple of tips and tricks to think about when working with thicker materials:

  • Don’t forget to trim your seam allowances back whenever you can! It will mean a lot less bulk in places like your waistband, placket and pocket areas.
  • If you’re using a sturdy fabric, you most likely won’t need to use interfacing for the waistband or placket, so leave that out.
  • Instead of using the main fabric for the pocket lining, consider using a light weight alternative to reduce bulk. You could chose a discrete lining that’s similar in colour, or alternatively you could use a patterned or contrast fabric as a sneaky detail you only catch glimpses of.
  • As well as the pocket lining, other elements of the skirt like the inside of the waistband and the placket could be cut separately to the main pieces and swapped out for lighter weight fabrics.
  • If your machine is having trouble top stitching over thick sections (like in the corners of the waistband), try covering the area in a cloth and hammering the spot with something heavy. This will compact the area slightly so it will fit better under your presser foot and help the machine form the stitches. As you are sewing and you approach the thick section, it also helps to use the hand wheel of your machine to manually stitch.
  • Lastly, remember to use the appropriate needle for the fabric you are using, leather and denim needles that are nice and sturdy should be available at your local sewing store!

Big & bold or small & delicate, floral prints have been around for almost as long as fabric itself and that’s because they’re gorgeous! Whether you make a matching top or wear it with a neutral blouse you already have, styling a floral Kelly skirt is a breeze – and who doesn’t want more no-brainer outfits in their wardrobe!? The ones you reach for time and time again and don’t have to hum and haw about in front of the mirror.

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Kelly Sewalong: Inspiration & Ideas | Luxury Looks
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Kelly is such a wonderfully simple skirt, but that doesn’t mean it has to be basic! Its straightforward design is just perfect for featuring some luxe fabric and giving those special buttons you’ve been saving the opportunity to stand out and shine. The simple geometric nature of Kelly also means that for those of you who are dipping your toes into the world of shiny, slippery, speciality fabrics for the first time, things will be a little easier. Fancy fabrics can be scary and often a bit of a hassle, but here are a few extra tips to help you on your way:

  • When you’re cutting out slippery fabrics, make sure to work on a large flat surface that the whole weight of your fabric can be resting on. If you have to fight to keep your fabric on the table, your pattern pieces might end up skewed and misshapen (not to mention at risk of being thrown out the window in frustration).
  • Another tip for cutting out tricky fabrics is to cut it between two layers of tissue paper. The paper stabilises it and stops it from sliding around like crazy which means more accurate pattern pieces which are a lot more likely to fit together as they should!
  • Using the tissue paper sandwich method to sew can also work fantastically! Particularly with delicate fabrics that always seem to get sucked down into your machine and mangled. Simply sew your seam or hem between the two layers of tissue, then when you have finished, gently tear the paper away.
  • Lastly, don’t underestimate the importance of nice, sharp, fine needles and pins. It makes things easier and drastically reduces the chance of causing heartbreaking pulls in your delicate fabric!

Whether it be a bold nautical stripe, classic tartan check, cheerful gingham, or sophisticated pinstripe – Kelly looks fantastic in stripes and checks. And for those of you who are sticklers for matching your patterns, or if you’re someone who wants to have a go at pattern matching for the first time, the simple, square shapes of Kelly mean it’s so incredibly easy to line things up! There is just something so polished about an almost invisible side seam and a perfectly aligned pattern across a placket…*drifts off into happy daydreams of pattern matched Kelly skirts*

Clean, crisp and classic – why not make a gorgeous khaki Kelly to go adventuring in? This look is all about the intersection of function and style, which also happens to be exactly what Kelly is about, so really they are made for each other. Here are a couple of details you can add to create this look:

  • A gorgeous neutral khaki, beige, tan, camel or taupe fabric is the most important component for a safari style skirt, and preferably a crisp cotton with just a little bit of structure. Yes, it’s going to get creased and crumpled, but that’s part of the look – so lean into it.
  • Either some big gorgeous faux-tortoise shell buttons or if you can find four-holed fabric covered buttons that match your main fabric – they look great too.
  • If you’re feeling the cargo look, why not add some cute pleated patch pockets with pocket flaps to the side of your skirt? You can never have too many pockets!
  • And finally belt loops and a fabric belt made from your main fabric to tie the look together! (pun intended – sorry not sorry).

Megan Nielsen Patterns | Kelly Sewalong: Inspiration & Ideas | Winter Staples
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We talked about Kelly being a perfect summer outfit foundation earlier, well now I’m turning the tables and telling you that, guess what, Kelly is also a perfect winter outfit staple too! Layer your denim, cord or leather Kelly with stockings for a little extra warmth, pair them with a good pair of boots to keep out the rain or snow and why not throw in a sleek turtleneck for good measure – outfit is done and you’re good to go. It’s a proven formula:

a Kelly skirt + stockings + boots + your favourite turtleneck 
= happiness & the perfect winter outfit

Looking for even MORE inspiration? The Kelly Sewing Pattern Pinterest Board is full of so many ideas for your Kelly make, be sure to check it out! Here is a sneak peek!

Kelly Pinterest Board


Here’s the full list of Kelly tutorials coming up on the blog:

  • How to choose between Kelly & Kelly Curve
  • Inspiration & Ideas for the Kelly Skirt (this post!)
  • Kelly Curve Tester Round-Up
  • Hacks for the Kelly Skirt
  • Sewalong: Pockets & Side Seams
  • Sewalong: Placket
  • Sewalong: Pleats
  • Sewalong: Gathers
  • Sewalong: Waistband
  • Sewalong: Buttonholes and Buttons
  • Sewalong: Hem
  • Hack: Closed Ruffle Tier Hem

Don’t forget to tag your creations with #MNkelly and @megannielsenpatterns when sharing on social media, and check out what everyone else is up to!


Kelly & Kelly Curve

Order Kelly today in sizes 0-20 and Curve sizes 14-34

About Author

Naomi is the Design Assistant here at Megan Nielsen Patterns, and our resident helping hand. She stays busy assisting Meg with pattern development leg work, getting super excited about good instructional diagrams and making green coloured fabric suggestions for every sample we make. She’s a problem solver, a fabric addict, a serial tea-forgetter and a passionate maker.

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2 years ago

Hi Naomi, will you be covering the elasticated waistband in the sew along? I’d love to make one with a stretchy waist but in a size 8.

2 years ago
Reply to  Kayla

Hi Kayla!

Don’t worry we’e got you covered ;) Holly is putting together a tutorial for the elastic back waistband with a super easy hack that will work for the 0-20 pattern.

Meg xo