Sunday, May 23, 2010

Balloon skirt refashion + tutorial

I generally stay away from floral prints, because they can look dowdy on me.  Geometric prints are okay.  Florals, meh.

Once in a while, though, I come across some very nice floral prints that I just can't pass up, like this one:

Tell me this is not the prettiest floral print you've ever seen!  Okay, maybe it's not, but if you agree with me, thank you and I like you very much.  In any case, I like that it's more impressionist floral than literal, and the colors are deep, saturated (no pastels - yay!).

I bought this skirt about two years ago, from a consignment store (nowadays, I buy retail only if there's a gift certificate.).  It's a Perry Ellis silk number.  Haven't worn it much because the skirt hangs low, way past my knee, at the widest point of the calf, the fastest way to Dowdyville.

What to do?

I could just shorten it, but it's wouldn't improve the skirt so much, and also it would mean blindstitching the hem, which I hate doing, because I have yet to learn how to do it with the machine.

So why not turn it into a balloon skirt instead!  It adds just enough interest without being too obvious or trying too hard.

There's suprisingly a short supply of balloon skirt tutorial on the interweb (By short supply, I mean none.  Then again, it could just be my nonexistent research skills).  It took a couple of epic-fails, but I finally figured it out how to properly balloonize a skirt.  I thought might as well share this with my fellow sewers.

(Start tutorial)

1.   The best skirt for this project has a full or A-line silhouette, and drape-y or silky fabric in light to medium weight with lining.  Mine is lightweight silk, and the lining is considerable less full than the outer skirt.  This allows for automatic ballooning without any elastic.  (If your lining is as full as the skirt, then you will need to insert an elastic tape to create the balloon effect.  I might do another tutorial with the elastic in the future.). 

2.   If necessary, cut some length of the skirt, approximately 1.5 to 2 inches below the desired length (this includes seam allowance).  I cut mine roughly at the knee, because I want it to fall just right above the knee.  Cut the lining fabric 1 inch shorter than the skirt fabric.

3.   Put gathering stitch at the bottom edge of the skirt. 

4.   Unstitch one of the lining seams approximately 3 inches at the bottom.  This will create an opening for turning the skirt right-side out at the end.  (Depending on the quantity and weight of your own skirt fabric, you may want to allow more opening.)  Then, adjust the gathers at the skirt, so that the seams line up with the lining seams.

5.   Turn just the bottom edges of the skirt and lining, so that the right sides are facing (Just turn the bottom edges over, not the whole skirt! Keep the skirt / lining positioning as is, like if you're wearing it normally.  This is where I made the error at previous tries).  Then, pin away!  I start pinning at the seam where I made the lining opening.  Keep pinning alongside the bottom edge.
(Yes, I have man fingers and man nails.  Don't judge me.  And I won't say anything about anybody's foot fungus.)

6. After pinning the bottom edges, your skirt should look like this.  Well, not as pretty, maybe.  But see how the lining ends up on side and the skirt on the other, forming some kind of a tube.

7.  Stitch the skirt and the lining edge together. 

8.   Then, through the lining opening that you created at step 4, turn the skirt right side out.  Stitch the opening close (slipstitch or edgestitch.  I did the latter to avoid handstitching.  Sloppy, yes, but I 'm not expecting anybody looking up my lining without their faces being accidentally stepped on with major force).

9.   Finished!  Now wear your old-but-improved skirt and pose with a satisfactory gesture!
(Note to self:  In the future, do not tuck in sweater; blouson effect can look like muffin tops.)

10.   Better picture!

Hopefully this tutorial helps anybody looking for a quick way to freshen up their skirts or dresses.  Let me know if there's an error, so I can obligingly act embarrassed for a few moments and issue a correction.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vogue 8646, the Almost-Fail Dress

Well, it turned out rather well, despite fitting challenges.

The "very-easy" rating is true to its claim.  With no buttons or zippers, and just a couple of side seams, maybe some darts and pleats here and there, the Vogue 8646 is a breeze to sew.  The A-B-C-D cup sizes is a nice bonus.  These are the main reasons why I bought this pattern, by the way.  Those, and the $3.99 sale price.

Some new techniques that I used on this project are:
  • Underlining.  The self fabric is cotton dotted swiss, which is rather transparent, so I underlined it with cotton batiste to add opaqueness.  I was thinking about lining it at first, but it would take longer, so I let laziness get the best of me, and it paid off!  Not only I learned a new technique, the project also finished faster. 
  • French seam:  Ah... The French sure know how to make things pretty!  The lack of zipper makes it possible to "French the seams".  I've been meaning to use this technique for a while, but zippers have been getting in the way.
  • Bias tape finishing:  The pattern calls for finishing the armscye and neckline with bias tape.  My execution wasn't the greatest... there's puckering and pulling especially at the armscye area, probably because I shaped the tape half-heartedly before sewing it on.  Luckily the texture of the fabric hides the imperfection and makes it less obvious.
  • Hemming a full skirt:  Thank goodness there's no blind-stitching here, I would have poked my eyes!  (Then I would be blind-stitching, literally).   By ease-stitching and gathering the extra fullness at the edge, hemming was quite easy.
Here's worn: 

It's rather decollete... might have to make a detachable modesty panel so can wear it without worrying about accidental exposure.  The not-centered front shoulder pleats are not as bothersome as expected, so I'm pretty happy about it.

And here's twirled:

Ready for summer! 

(PR review here)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

WTH is wrong with Vogue Patterns?


I bought this pattern, Vogue 8646, during their latest $3.99 sale. 

Isn't it a cute dress?  Perfect for summer, in white dotted swiss underlined with white cotton batiste.  (That's the fabrics I'm using, anyway).

Based on the size chart, I'm a 14, so that's what I cut.  Lo-and-behold, it fits like a potato sack!  I ended up taking in 1.25" on both sides, front and back.  That's a 5-inch take-in, folks.  Good thing I made a muslin.

During the pattern adjustment, though, I may have made a mistake of leaving the front pleats on the same location (instead of centering them at the shoulder seams), so the boobage is out of whack.  No turning back now as I'm more than halfway through on it.

Mind you, this is not my first BVM pattern.  Last year I made this Butterick 5277:

Same issue, about 2-sizes to big.  It had to be rescued by a pro-seamstress because I didn't want to bother taking it in myself and didn't want to learn how to, either.

Burda sizes seem to be spot on, although I can't say the same for Simplicity as I've yet to sew any of their patterns.  So, is it me choosing the wrong size or is it a common problem with BVM patterns?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hawaiian Fabric galore

Confession:  I, too, am a selfish seamstress (just like another seamstress who has famously self-professed so).  With the number of hours involved in choosing, tracing, cutting, pressing, fitting, sewing, finishing a garment, I put myself above all others.  However, this year I resolve to make a thing or two for others.  Family members are a good start.  (Although I don't think I will ever sew for anybody not related to me, unless it's a super-easy craft project).

That said....

For the past few months, hubby has been pestering me to make some Hawaiian shirts for him, since the purchased ones he has are falling apart (he moves very animatedly, so clothes take a lot of beating just from washing and wearing).  So far I've managed to get out of it by making up the excuse that there are no good Hawaiian fabrics around here. 

Then today, via Tasia, I found this store, Hawaii's Fabricmarts.

Real Hawaiian prints!


And those are just six prints that I really like.  They also have silks and rayons, although not quite extensive as the cottons.

As you can tell, I'm quite partial to blues (the last one with the khaki background I just threw in for giggles), big floral prints (preferably hibiscus, Hawaii's state flower; the second-to-last with the bikes I think is funny; no small prints, they can look dowdy), with at least two contrast foreground colors.  Those, my dear reader(s), are my requirements for Hawaiian prints.  In my non-Hawaiian life I prefer non-blues and solids.

Anyway, if I read it correctly, the store requires a minimum of 5-yards each pattern and 20-yards total for online purchases.  Wow - that would make a lot of cute little cotton summer dresses!  Oh.  Wait.  I would have to make shirts for hubby first.  Damn.  Hmm...  What new excuse to use?  *Scans through excuse book.*  A-ha!  Either "I don't know how to sew collars and buttonholes" or "I've used up my fabric allowance for the next couple of months" should work for a while.  Both are true.