Helen Money, Shellac and a reversible metallic skirt

A few months ago my husband and I got to see Shellac and Helen Money playing at the Brudenell in Leeds. We had seen them play a few years earlier at the same venue and were excited about it – we hardly ever get babysitters so it was a big deal, and I am happy to say that all parties involved did not disappoint. The venue was ace as always – I think it had had a makeover since the last time we visited, the carpets didn’t seem nearly as sticky

(sidenote: the last time we were there was to see Slint. If you haven’t been to the Brudenell, there are a couple of steps between the bit in front of the stage and the bar. It seems Slint have exceptionally tall fans so I was stood on the first step, hoping to get a better view. I still couldn’t see anything. There was a tall guy in front of me, dancing, and as I couldn’t see the band I decided I would just listen to them and watch him. It was like some weird performance art, he was very VERY drunk. He would fall, occasionally, but incorporated the falls into the dance. He was clearly a pro as he was holding a drink the whole time and didn’t spill any. Anyway, at one point, he falls over and ends up sitting on my feet. I didn’t want to embarrass him by asking him to move (I’m British) so I just waited for him to get up. He didn’t get up. I wondered if perhaps I could slide my feet from under his arse by moving them backwards. Alas, there was a step behind me blocking my exit. So I just waited some more, and 2 songs later he stood up and resumed dancing. I, however, was completed welded onto the step and had to enlist the help of friends to be able to move. THAT is how sticky the carpets were)

So this time, I decide not to stand anywhere where I could be mistaken for a seat and instead I am right in front of the middle of the stage (not RIGHT in front, more like a polite 2 or 3 people back) and Helen Money (who we later learn is really called Alison Chesley) walks on stage. We had seen her out front, and she looked tiny, but now she looks… strong? Fearless? I don’t know what the word is, sort of like someone who is going to make some crazy noises with a cello and she DGAF. And that’s what she does. She’s incredible.

Do you ever get that thing where you want to ask a question but it is just completely the wrong time? Like someone is telling you about some work troubles they’re having, and you’re deep in conversation about the problem and trying to be a good listener but the whole time you’re thinking “yeh, but where did you get those shoes?”. Alison was so clever, so creative, but watching her I just knew I would come across as the most shallow person ever if I attempted to talk to her. “Hi! Alison!   The whole time I was watching you I couldn’t imagine how you ended up here, how you found out you could make those sounds, it’s completely mind blowing, but: did you make your dress? The fit is really great” or “Alison! Great to meet you! I felt your music through my sternum and it made me question what sound even was, but: do you do yoga? Your posture is incredible” and so on. I resolved not to talk to her at all.

And then Shellac came on, they were great as always. So perfectly in sync with each other, so precise, so good with the crowd. Everyone was so perfect, in fact, that when I left I felt a little bit depressed. I later spoke to my friend Peanut about it, who said that you shouldn’t feel depressed, you should feel inspired! At the time I thought this was kinda stupid advice (sorry Peanut) as I am a bit of a literal person, with no musical talent and no real desire to be like that (all those people looking at you! Gross) BUT after, I dunno, a month or so, I realised Peanut meant inspired in a more general way, and I decided to make something perfect.

I made Tim a few perfect shirts. Always a pleasure, and he’s a grateful recipient, but I wanted to make something I hadn’t attempted before. And something black, just because. I found this ace pleated fabric at Abakhan in North Wales. It’s black and one side and metallic gold on the other.


The tiny pleats are the exact same size as the ones you get on cupcakes. I decided I wanted to pleat the pleats for mega fullness. Oh, and I wanted to make it reversible so that I could use either the gold or the black side. I didn’t use a pattern – you don’t need one with a regular box pleated skirt, it’s all just rectangles.

First of all you measure your waist, times that by 3 and add an inch for seam allowances. So, using easy numbers, say you want the waistband to be 30″, you cut a length of fabric 91″: (30 x 3)+1. You divide your big number minus seam allowances, 90, by the number of pleats you want, in this case there are 12. So for each pleat I need 7.5″ of fabric.

making box pleats

Make the pleats. There are a billion videos on youtube for this so I’m not even going to try and explain, beyond saying that they are very easy. Normally when you’re making pleats you don’t need to stress too much what the reverse of the fabric is doing but because I wanted this skirt to be reversible, I was double checking the gold looked like the black all the time.

gold side

And it did! Hooray. I used wonder clips to keep everything in place, which is just as well as this fabric was really fighting pins. I think it might actually be bulletproof. I then basted the pleats, ready for the next step.

gold basted

I know basting typically involves doing it by hand, but I just did it on the machine. Because life is short and we have shit to be getting on with. To join the 2 ends, I used a flat felled seam, so that it wouldn’t be visible either side. If you’re making a non reversible skirt you can skip this part.


I chose to do it on the black part as I had a feeling it’d be slightly less visible on this side. I left a gap of about 5 inches, and kind of folded this back on itself. It wasn’t too big a deal how neat this part was as it was to be covered with velcro.


I then made the waistband – again, another rectangle. Using the figures above, 30″ long plus 1″ seam allowance, then however tall you want it (2″ in this case) plus 1″ seam allowance. Cut 2 of these.

waistband 1

Sew them together….


Do that thing where you fold the seam allowance up on one side, turn the right way round, attach to skirt…


And hand sew the other side in place. Because although life is short… come on, people. Standards ffs. And then… you’ve done it! You’ve only gone and made a bloody skirt:

black skirt

Maybe even a reversible skirt!


I like to think this skirt would prove useful for making a quick getaway, shortly after committing a crime:


Like I think maybe it would make sense to commit the crimes in the gold side, then switch to the black before you slip into the crowd… Though maybe you stand out more in the gold. Hmm. I don’t know, it needs work. I am pretty happy with it though 🙂