Fashion

Easy Dress-to-Skirt Upcycle

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Before

A few years ago, I bought a cute strapless sundress. I wore it a lot that summer, then my tastes changed just enough to push it to the back of the closet. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have room in my closet for things I don’t wear!

I loved the bottom, but didn’t love the top or where the waist fell. It didn’t have pockets. By converting it into a skirt and adding some pockets, it could be transformed into a wardrobe staple.

Step 1: Deconstruction

I cut most of the bodice from the skirt, leaving a little bit of length at the waist. With my well-used seam ripper, I carefully picked out the side seams from the waist to about 2 inches below the hip.

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Top removed and sides opened

Step 2: Pockets

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Two plain old pockets cut from a repurposed pattern

Since the skirt’s gathered style gave it quite a bit of volume, I opted to hide the pockets on the inside. I found some neutral lightweight woven fabric in the scrap pile that had enough strength to handle keys and cell phones. I used a pocket pattern I had from another project (also checked to make sure it would hold my phone).

Once cut, I serged the pocket fronts and backs together, leaving the side openings alone. It doesn’t really matter if the openings match the skirt, since it is easy to close any open seams later.

I carefully pinned the pockets in place, making sure the top of the pocket was no higher than the new waistband would be.

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Pocket pinned in place

From the wrong side, I sewed the pocket front to the skirt front and the pocket back to the skirt back. I closed the little bit of side seam opening left below the pockets.

I turned the skirt so I was now working on the right side. With my fingers, I rolled the pocket seams just slightly to the inside and carefully pressed them in place. Then I made sure they would stay that way by topstitching as close to the edge as I could get in a matching thread. One more press and I had an opening that’s practically invisible!

Step 3: Elastic Waistband

skirt_upcycle_10There are a lot of waistband options for gathered skirts. I chose the one I thought I could do the fastest. My waistband is simply a length of wide elastic serged to the top of the skirt. I’m not even sure how long my elastic piece is – I just wrapped it around my waist and adjusted it until it felt snug. I sewed the elastic into a loop with a secure box stitch.

The rest was simple. I divided the elastic into 4 equal parts, marking with pins. I pinned the elastic to the right side of the skirt so the upper edges aligned, placing the pins at the center front, center back, and side seams. Just to make sure I distributed the elastic evenly, I pinned some more. I serged it all together using a 3 thread overlock stitch, stretching as I went.

Done!

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After

The whole thing took a couple of hours, most of which was spent taking out the side stitches.

Coming soon, more instant gratification summer sewing.

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Fashion · Vintage

Vintage-Inspired Pants Part 1

B5859 Company Photo
Inspiration photo

This year, I’m facing the change of seasons head-on. While we are still able to dip our toes in the ocean, I’m pulling together plans for fall looks. First up will be a vintage inspired high-waisted trouser.

I am making view E from Butterick 5859 – one of their Lifestyle Wardrobe patterns. The high waist is right on trend. This year, wide legs are coming back as well. Finally, trends are starting to converge with my taste!

The pattern is not that old, but unfortunately is already out of print. For those of you looking to sew your own version, you might want to try Decades of Style’s 1940’s Empire Waist Trousers, or Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing Trousers.

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Line drawings from B5859 Envelope

Although the pants are described as semi-fitted, they still warrant editing to follow the wearer’s curves. The pattern has front, back, and side seams as well as darts in the front and rear; so there are 8 places to make alterations. Knowing that I would probably need to make some changes, I decided to make a quick muslin first.

One of the nice things about making a muslin is that you only have to work with the essential parts of the pattern. There is no need to bother with facings or interfacings, pockets, zippers, etc. So, I only needed to cut the front and back pattern pieces.

Last month, Craftsy.com had an all-you-can-watch for free day. I took advantage of it and watched all of the lessons in Linda Lee’s Serger & Coverstitch: Fashion Details class. My favorite take-away: use your machine’s chain stitch for temporary seams. When you are ready to take the seam out, you don’t need a seam ripper.  You just start pulling one end! I tried this with my muslin and it worked like a charm. It’s way easier than using a seam ripper and leaves no little thread “crumbs.”

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Chain stitch used to baste muslin together. French curve used to smooth revised seam line (teal marker).

I’ve actually picked up a lot of tips from Craftsy classes. Sandra Betzina’s Pant Fitting Techniques class got me in the habit of cutting side seams with a 1 inch seam allowance (at least the first time you are trying a pattern). That way, you have lots of room to make changes, if necessary.

I chose a pattern size based on my largest measurement (hip). I marked the new 1-inch side seams on the onion skin, then cut out my muslin pieces. Then, I chain-stitched my pants together and checked the fit.

Fitting Round One: Torso Too Loose

I put the pants on inside-out to make pinning simple. Being careful to do both sides evenly, I pinched and pinned slight changes in the side seams of the waist and above-waist area. There was still a little gap in the small of the back, so I pinned that as well. After taking the pants off, I used the pins to draw new seam lines for the sides and center back. Just to make it more visible, I changed the color of the chainstitch thread. Then I stitched the new seam lines.

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After the second fitting: green thread on changed seamlines; horizontal decrease pinned.

Fitting Round Two: Torso Good, Crotch too Low

Using a ruler, a mirror, and a little bit of guesswork, I saw that I needed to raise the crotch curve by about an inch. I started with the upper “shorten or lengthen here” line on the paper pattern pieces. I found the corresponding points on my muslin, then used them to draw a horizontal line (perpendicular to the grainline). I made two more lines, 1/2 inch above and 1/2 inch below. I pinned the top and bottom lines together to make a 1 inch reduction. I was thrilled that they looked perfect when I put them back on. Just to make sure I didn’t over-fit, I twisted, sat down, and walked around. Still good… I was done after only two rounds – that’s a record for me!

Transferring the modifications to the paper pattern was pretty easy. While I was working on it, I also removed the extra seam allowance from the sides. The last change was to modify the pattern pieces for the facings to match the new waistline.

Next time, putting it all together!

Fashion · Whimsy

Walk the Dog Raglan Tee

Planning Time
Planning is fun!

Last week, my serger died.  Let’s pause a moment and mourn its passing.

Thank you.

So I got a new one!  And this serger has a lot more bells and whistles.  Welcome to the workshop Singer 14T968DC!  The new machine can do the functions of the old serger, a Simplicity 4-thread overlock. But the new one can be converted to work as a cover-stitch machine as well.  I have been giddy to try everything since I got it out of the box.  I already had several knitwear projects cut and ready to sew, so I will be able to create useful things as I learn.

First up is a simple raglan tee.  I used McCall’s pattern M7286 (rating Easy), but any favorite raglan pattern would do.  I have always been drawn to bright red clothes and anything with high contrast and color blocking.  Something about that sharp, vivid combination of black and white with any bright color really puts me in a great mood.  So when I saw the “Where’s Fido” pattern, I immediately thought about pairing it with blocks of black or red.  Plus, the dogs in the pattern are so whimsical and cute – how could I resist?

I considered black accents, but in the end, I cut out a red neckband and short red sleeves to go with the patterned front and back.

I have been using my duct tape double to test fit clothes as I go.  I’m glad I did. On the model, I could see that the shape was a little boxier than I usually like.  I pinned some darts into the back and it looked much better.  Since the top is so casual that it could even serve as sleepwear, I chose to leave it loose and boxy.  But before I took the pins out, I made new pattern pieces for the back and front. I reduced the back by the area pinched out by the darts.  I lengthened the side seam on the front to match the new back piece. Then I traced the new pieces onto swedish tracing paper, cut them out, and put them with the rest of the (tissue) pattern pieces.  The next time I make this raglan, I will have a choice between a straight or fitted version.

Now that I have the coverstitch machine, I wish I had cut the bottom straight across. Then I could have done a completely ready-to-wear hem finish.  The shaped hemline seemed like it would be better suited to a zigzagged narrow hem though.  So I will save the coverstitch for a future project.

 

It turned out so cute, I can hardly believe it.  If only my dog had a matching leash and collar…

(getting out markers) Hmmm….