Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Turn an old dress to a maxi skirt

Sometimes the best fabric for making new fabulous things can be old clothing. Ok, so I apologize if you liked the original dress. I do think it could have potential, but it was the wrong size, super low cut and, well, since I already had my wedding years ago, I didn't have use for it. But there it was on the thrift store rack screaming, "I want to be a skirt!" Pretty much everywhere you look there is some version of a lace maxi skirt. I have been wanting to make one for quite some time.

I have been shopping for lace skirts (shopping = looking at them online and being too cheap to buy one) for a long time. Ultimately, I decided to sell this one, so you can buy it on Etsy if you want and I'll be your BFF. This means I am still skirt shopping for myself! I will probably find the perfect one after they go out of style. I like this one a lot- but I would like one more of a off-white color. IDK, maybe I just want to sell it because I paid too much for it at the thrift shop.

But enough of that. Here is how to make one for yourself. It is mostly glaringly obvious, but there are some parts that I had to ponder longer than I would like to admit, so I thought these tips would be helpful to share.

An old dress. The one I used came with a contoured liner and zipper which made it more complicated since I wanted it to be used with an elastic waistband.

Thick/wide elastic- 1-3 inches smaller than your waist.

Now you see how much I paid for it. I would like to note that it was previously on a red tag clearance for $20.00.
Since every dress will be different there are a few things you will want to look for.

Find the waistline. Is it sewn to anything else? Is it lined? Is it already ruffled, or is it an A-line?

In my case there was a thick trim covering the waist. I had to remove it from everything else, so I got to work with my trusty seam ripper.

I saved the trim for something else. It is hard overcoming these fabric hoarding tendencies. Ha.
You might end up using some of the bodice material before you are finished, so try not to cut too much of it.

After separating the skirt, I noticed that the lace was already ruffled, but the liner was contoured to a specific size. This meant that I would have to add gussets to make it big enough so that it could be put on without a zipper.

My next step was to get rid of the zipper. I seam ripped it out and sewed up the opening with two straight seams and one zig-zag stitch.

If your waist line is not contoured, you can skip the next few steps. Time to make those gussets! A gusset is a fancy term for a triangular piece of fabric sewn into a seam to make it bigger. This is where the leftover bodice pieces came in handy.

Since these were not going to be seen, I didn't over-exert myself in making them perfect. You can find out what size to make them by measuring your hips (and adding a few inches for wiggle room) and comparing the size to the waist of the skirt.

Seam rip some more to make openings for the gussets.

I used French seams when I added the gussets to prevent fraying. Gah, I have been French seaming almost everything. I will get a serger one day!

At this time, you are nearly finished! Since the lace was already gathered, I had to rip it out and baste it (to gather it again) so that I could remove the basted stitch after it was sewn to the elastic. It would be nearly impossible to remove if it wasn't resewn. Baste both the lace and the liner (if your dress/skirt has one) and gather to fit your waist band.

Sew your waistband so that it is 1-3 inches smaller than your waist. Use an elastic stitch if you have one. If not, do multiple rows of zig-zags.

Sew the skirt to the waistband using a zig-zag stitch. If you use a straight stitch it will not stretch. Try not to sew over your basted thread as that makes it a lot harder to remove- which you must do after sewing to the waistband. If you can't get it all, that is OK. Just make sure it can stretch.

I like to finish my skirts by adding elastic lace to cover the hideous seams. Of course, it is not that anyone would see it, but isn't it nice to know that it looks good on the inside? You can find very cheap elastic lace on eBay.

And voilĂ , you are done!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Make your own easy top

The Spring Top Pattern

I never made a top before and in the past few days I have made two. It is addicting! You see, a while ago I decided to rummage though my "summer" clothes in storage as I couldn't find anything to wear. Well, that was when I found out I didn't have summer clothes in storage. Consequently, I needed more!

This has been modified by making the top longer and omitting the sashes in the back.

At any rate, this time I made my own pattern that is easily reproducible, so I thought I would share the steps with you.

What you need:
1. About one yard of fabric for the outside and another for the inside lining. I used an old curtain for the lining of this one. The fabric for the outside was given to me, so this was basically free to make.
2. 16 Inches of thin elastic (I used 1/2 inch)
3. (optional) 40 Inches of lace trim

I bought a shower curtain from the dollar store and have been using it to make patterns. You could do this so you have something to use again, or you could just be super careful and cut the fabric using these measurements. I am roughly a small/medium. Just add a little if you are a size larger. Remember, since the front is made with elastic, you can adjust the size there.

So, from the top to the bottom, measure 28 inches. The front panel is 23 inches wide while the back panel is 17 inches. I cut the straps at 4.5 inches, but kind of wish I had made them a teensy bit wider. It is up to your taste. From the top of the shoulder to the neckline is 6.5 inches in the front and 6 inches in the back. I have given generous seam allowances (about .75 inches per seam). In order to get the best fit, I try the top on several times while sewing so that I can go back to make adjustments if needed.

Katherine likes to help!
Cut one of your printed fabric and one for the lining of each piece. If you want a tie in the back, cut this piece now. A good size would be a long rectangle of 20x3 inches (cut two of these).

Sew the tops of the shirt together (The seam that runs along the shoulder)

Next, sew the inside (around the neckline together) of the printed fabric and lining together. After that, press the seams. This will give it a crisp look and will be much easier to work with.


Before turning right side out, clip along the edges of the seam in the back. Since it is curved, clipping the edges will help it to lay right. 

Now that your shirt is pressed and turned the right way out, you will make a place for the elastic to go in the front. Sew a seam on the front of the shirt between the shoulder straps. You will need one along the very top and another two seams just below the bust. To get the right fit, try the shirt on to determine where you want the second strip of elastic to be. 

Using a pin to thread the elastic makes it a million times easier. 

Thread the elastic through the tunnel you have just made. I used about 8 inches of elastic for each part. You can try it on to make it fit your size perfectly (use safety pins to hold the elastic in place). If the elastic is too long, your undergarments may show. After threading the elastic, sew it in place by making a small stitch on the outside of the shirt. If it helps, look at the next picture to get the full idea. You can email me ( or leave a comment if you need more explanation for this part).

Um, yes, that is a slightly uneven stitch on the bottom. *cough*cough* Don't do that.

It will look like this!

I forgot to take a picture of the arm holes, but it isn't really necessary. Just turn the raw edges in and do a top stitch around them.

Next, sew the sides of the shirt. Add the ties at the same time. I put then level with the second strip of elastic.

 Leave about five inches at the bottom for a slit on each side. This will make it easier to move in. 

For both the slits and the sleeves, I sew a little line at the edge to make it much more sturdy.
Now, sew the slits at the bottom of the shirt. Do this by turning the raw edges in and sewing a top stitch over them.

You are almost finished!

Add the lace as you turn the raw edges and top stitch the bottom.

You are done!

It was so easy to make!

The tie in the back helps it to fit a variety of sizes.

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