June 5, 2011

How to "Selvedge" a Skirt

I just took up the waist on this brown skirt this week. Now that it fits well, I focused on the appearance. It's nice, but a bit boring. I wanted something summery and fun to wear on my two upcoming beach trips. Inspired by 49 Sensational Skirts, I decided to spice up my new skirt. 

I considered lots of options, especially fusible applique, and fabric painting. But I wasn't in the mood to paint, and I thought fusible applique could too easily end up looking like a poodle skirt. Cute but really not MY style. Plus I wanted something I could finish fast, before my kids got home from the baseball game.

So I glanced around my sewing room looking for some other inspiration. I have been collecting selvedges for months, hoping to make them into a sewing machine cover, or possibly even one of these amazing quilts.  I decided to sacrifice a few for my skirt.  I tried pinning on a few just to make sure I liked the look of it, and to figure out which direction I wanted the selvedges to be turned.

I liked the way this looked so I pressed a bunch of selvedges flat, choosing the longest ones I had and ones with a neutral color scheme.

I started at a side seam, stitching the selvedges down only along the white edge (with white thread). I didn't even really pin it down, so some of my lines got a bit wavy. I like that hand-made look, but if you are not comfortable with "winging" it, of course you could measure and pin.  I spaced the selvedges closely at the bottom, and spread them out the further up the skirt I went.

As you can see, when I ran out of long selvedges, I didn't worry too much about matching up colors or patterns.

Here is the finished product. I love it!

I'm very curious to see what it looks like after washing, since the bottom edges are raw and not sewn down. I'm thinking I will launder it in a garment bag and hang it to dry. I hope it's not too much of a pain to press.

Book Review: 49 Sensational Skirts

I bought this book about a year ago, and honestly this is the second time I have pulled it off the shelf. It's one of those that I probably should have just checked out the public library. I like the ideas presented by Alison Willoughby as a jumping off point for my own embellishment ideas. Her skirts are too over-the-top for my taste. But her presentation of different techniques is a wonderful tool. She discusses adding ruffles, screenprinting, buttons and brooches, foil, fusible applique, and many other interesting details to personalize your wardrobe. I love that she encourages her readers to reclaim and deconstruct clothing from their own wardrobes, or from the thrift store.

Taking in a Blouse with Pintucks

I was given quite a few nice blouses that fit me in the shoulders and sleeves but are much too big through the torso and bust. I noticed two of these blouses are already constructed with pintucks along the torso. These are very small pleats spaced evenly apart that help shape the torso of the blouse.

I started this process by pressing the blouses and trying them on to get a good idea of how much I needed to take in. I took a few minutes to study the construction. One blouse had tucks along each side of the front and the back; the other had tucks on the front and a smocked panel in the back.

 I looked closely at how the tucks were formed and measured the spacing between them.  I made sure I was measuring between the seams that form the tucks, not the topstitching details.

On the first blouse, I decided to add news tucks to the back of the garment first. I thought it would be less noticeable if I messed it up. I used my ruler and chalk pencil to mark where I wanted the new tucks to go.  I folded the tuck along the line I marked, and folding the extra fabric to the inside of the garment, I pinned it in place along the length of the tuck. I put matching thread in the top and bottom of my machine and I sewed along the new seam line using 1/4 inch seam allowance. I started sewing at the bottom hem of the blouse and tapered the top of the tuck to a point (which followed the pattern set by existing tucks). I pressed each tuck to the side, and topstitched it down, again following the pattern set by existing tucks.

After finishing the two back tucks, I took a minute to try the blouse on again. It was still quite roomy so I repeated the process on the front, adding one new tuck to each side.

The blouse with smocking on the back only required one tuck on each side of the front of the blouse to sufficiently take it in.

There you have it! Now I have two blouses that fit ME much better!

Taking In the Waist of a Simple Skirt

I bought a very simple, unlined skirt at a yard sale recently. It was two sizes too big but I figured it would be a great practice alteration project. I found this tutorial which was so helpful.

My skirt was a very simple fix. It is a simple A-line shape with a side zipper so I did not have to deal with the zipper at all.  I made sure my sewing machine was loaded on top and bottom with matching thread.

I put the skirt on first, and pinned the waist where it fit me comfortably. I needed to take in four inches at the waist. I detached the waistband at the back seam for a width of about 8 inches. I severed it along the back seam line and pinned it out of the way.  I then opened the back seam of the skirt about 10 inches. I pressed the seams flat and removed all those little threads left from seam ripping. A lint roller is helpful with that job.

At the top of the back seam, I measured two inches on each side of the seam and made a mark. I put the skirt panels right sides together and pinned them. I drew a line with a chalk pencil from the top mark, and tapered the line into the existing seam. I sewed along this new seam line, and tried the skirt on to make sure there were no unsightly bumps.

The last step was to take in the waistband strip. I pressed the waistband strips flat. I measured two inches on each side of the cut on the waistband, put right sides together and sewed along my marks. I trimmed off the extra fabric, and pressed the new seam open.  I sandwiched the waistband strip back around the body of the skirt , lining up the waitband seam with the back seam of the skirt, and stitched it back on, sewing thru the back and front with one seam.

I have to admit that I would usually have just thrown in a couple of messy pleats (or even safety pins, lol), and covered it up with a long blouse. I am so glad I took the time to do this simple alteration on this skirt. I looks very professional, and it only took about half an hour. The waistband seam is nice looking enough that I can wear it with a shirt tucked in.

May 21, 2011

Harlequin Tee Shirts

I picked up two tee shirts at a yard sale recently. They were great quality, but waaaaay too large for me. The shirts were exactly the same brand and size, but one was white and one was black. I decided to experiment by combining them into two new creations.

I started but slicing them down the vertical center line with a ruler and rotary cutter. 

For the simpler of the two projects, I simply placed WRONG sides of the raw edges together and sewed them with about an inch seam allowance. The large seam allowance made the finished shirt a smaller size. Because I was sewing two different colors together, I had white thread in the bobbin, and black thread on the top of the machine.  I sewed the back and the front of the shirt the same way. Sewing wrong sides together will leave a raw edge exposed. If you don't like the exposed raw edge, you can sew these together right side to right side and the seam will be on the inside.

For a second, more complicated variation, I measured six inches in from the cut edge of the front of the t-shirt and marked a line 6 inches down the length of the shirt.

I then cut strips about 2 inches wide to the marked line.
After repeating with the black side, I stitched the backs of the shirts together. Then I wove the strips on the front together, twisting each strip before pinning it down.  I ran a single line of stitching down the center of each strip. Here is a photo of the inside to show the stitching pattern:

You can see that when I tried it on, twisting the strips left some gaps, and the two topmost neckline strips didn't want to play nice.

So I carefully ran a line of stitching down the center of the woven section, making sure that the strips overlapped each other to close the gaps. I carefully cut along the neckline with scissors to reshape it.

Ta da! Two new funky t-shirts that fit!

April 19, 2011

New Acquisitions

A friend from my quilting guild recently gave me a TON of sewing patterns.

Another friend gave me a basket full of tailoring tools that she does not use anymore.

Tailoring hams, ironing forms, and clappers, oh my!

February 14, 2011

Experimenting with Bleach

I wanted to spice up a plain black 3/4 length sleeved shirt that someone gave me. I liked the fit of it and it was in pretty good shape except for a little bleach spot at the hem on the front. That gave me the idea of a design using "discharging", or bleaching. I bought a Clorox bleach pen. I like this tool, it has two ends, one for finer lines and one for thicker lines.  The gel is also thick like fabric paint, not a liquid bleach. It is perfect for drawing.

I chose a design first. I used a rose of sharon quilt block design from one my books. I prepped the shirt by removing cat hair and lint, and placing a large piece of cardboard inside the shirt to protect the back of it from getting bleached. I traced a square ruler on point to mark out a space, using a white chalk pencil, which will wash out easily. 

I freehanded the design with the bleach pen. I have a lot of experience doing this sort of thing. I used to make ceramic ornaments and I decorated them with liquid slip (clay), and I have made a million cookies decorated with royal icing and a piping bag. If you are not confident with this skill, just use the chalk pencil to draw before bleaching, or trace the design on a lightbox.  You could also perforate the lines of a drawing on paper and use loose chalk or baby powder to pounce the design onto the shirt.

Despite being fairly confident freehanding the design, I would do a lot of things differently next time. First, I would buy two bleach pens. I went through almost a whole one on this design. I would hate to run out of bleach mid-project. I suggest shaking the bleach down into the tip of the pen and trying it out on a paper towel to get out any bubbles. Work as quickly as you can so the bleach doesn't spread too much, and the application over the whole design looks consistent. 

Let the bleach sit on the shirt a few minutes while you prep your washing machine. Start a medium load with cold water. I rinsed the majority of the bleach off in the sink. Be careful moving the shirt from the workspace to the sink. If you wrinkle it up the bleach will get smudged. Next time I will used a piece of plastic inside the shirt instead of cardboard so I could keep it in the shirt durning the initial rinse.

I threw the shirt in the filled washing machine, and machine dried it.  I like the result, despite the messiness. This is far from an exact science. I plan to work more into the design with thread or paint or both. Stay tuned for the next phase!

January 31, 2011

Belle Armoire

At a recent trip to Joann's I picked up a copy of Belle Armoire.  I don't do jewelry making so I wasn't too interested in the articles dealing with how to make the jewelry, although I loved looking at the beautiful photos.  But I loved reading the article about Alabama Chanin's amazing clothing line.  There was a wide variety of high quality work by various fiber artists.

I was bummed to see that an article discussing scarf design did not include the knitting pattern for the author's beautiful example. I had to go to her etsy shop and buy the pattern for $7. 

But I was excited to see they are always looking for submissions and host challenges all the time. The next deadline for submissions is only two weeks away. If I work frantically, can I get something in on time?

January 25, 2011

New to Me Tools

Point presser/clapper makes ironing easierNo, it's not a doorstop! Here's an invaluable piece of equipment that sells for around $20. It's a classic, hardwood pressing tool that's really two tools in one. The top, narrow-surfaced, point presser side works like a tiny ironing board for pressing hard-to-reach seams and enclosed corners, like those on collars, lapels, and cuffs.

A point presser is invaluable for pressing hard-to-reach seams. Slip the seam, wrong side up, over the point and press open.

The bottom, clapper side is used to apply pressure to set permanent creases, form crisp edges, and flatten bulky seams. To use it, first apply steam to the area with your iron, then press with the clapper, leaning on it and applying as much pressure as possible. Hold this position until both the fabric and wood (which presses the steam into the area without adding heat) have cooled.

Buttonhole gauge simplifies positioning buttonholesThis exotic device, which costs around $15, looks complex but actually simplifies positioning and measuring buttonholes, pleats, tucks, or anything else needing to be evenly spaced. It's a great time-saver, because it eliminates the need for calculating and carefully measuring intervals. It's easy to use--simply mark the position of the top buttonhole or first pleat, for example, and stretch the gauge to fit. I think I can use this tool for marking smocking lines, too. I really need this tool!

A firmly packed, "ham"-shaped cushion used to press curved seams. The contoured shape helps to mold and shape darts, collars and seams.