Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Avant-Garde Skirt made from a Men's Shirt--Tutorial!

I'll admit it--I'm very proud of this skirt. I love it. I wear it often, which is the true test of whether or not you are truly satisfied with something you've made. I made it using a men's XXL short-sleeved shirt, and another men's shirt for the contrasting plaid, although you could use any scrap fabric for that part. If you're skinnier than me, you could probably do this with an XL or L shirt, because I did have some fabric leftover. But bigger is always better when reconstructing shirts because it gives you some room for error and more fabric to work with, which never hurts! This tutorial has a lot of wiggle room because this is an avant-garde project that requires creativity and a bit of filling in the blanks. This is mostly to show you how to maximize what can be done with a shirt, and how I personally transformed it into a skirt. The detailing is up to you. Here is another example of a skirt made from a button-down shirt that you might want to try.

Step 1: Locate the appropriate shirt. For this type of "cargo-ish" skirt, not just any shirt will look right. Try to find one with pocket flaps, in an earthy tone, and if it has little button flap thingies on the shoulders-yay! I'm using an old shirt of my husband's.

Step 2: Cut the shirt in half, below the pockets.
Step 3: Place the "skirt" (the bottom half of the shirt) on yourself or a dress form your size and start pinching. There was a lot of excess fabric in the back, so I chose to make pleats there, but you can gather it up however it suits you. I used darts in the front.

Step 4: Cut out the pockets from the top of the shirt, cutting closely around them. 

Step: 5 Place the pockets where you want them on the body of your skirt and sew them down. I chose to place them on the side seams at the bottom of the skirt. You'll notice that this shirt has a curved edge at the sides, like many button-down shirts do, so this led me to the next step. (skip to step 10 if you're satisfied with the length and don't want to bother with anything else on the bottom. You could also at this point just add a simple ruffle all the way around and ignore the sleeves stuff I did below)

Step 6: Cut the sleeves off your shirt top, snipping closely to the seams, then cut the sleeve open. You'll be left with a piece of fabric this shape.
Step 7: Gather the top of the sleeve (the rounded edge) and pin it into the curved edge of the shirt under your newly located pocket. Do this on both sides obviously (if that's where you put your pocket and if you want to!--I did this next part because I wanted my skirt a little longer and I like to use as much of the shirt as possible) Sew this in place, using your judgement for the gathers. I left the straight edges of the sleeves untouched, as shown in the picture, because I am going to sew them to the ruffle made in Step 8.

Step 8: Using a contrasting fabric, or another shirt, make two long strips (at least 75% longer than the gaps between the two weird sleeve ruffle things you just made! The height of the strip should be about the same size as the straight edges left on the sides of your sleeve ruffle). Cut one strip in half and hem the two short ends that you just created. Why you ask? Because in the front of your skirt, there are two sections because of the buttons. I wanted my ruffle to continue this split. You don't have to though, since it won't affect anything really. Also hem the entire length of the bottom of your strips.

Step 9: Gather the top of your strips and attach them to the spaces between your sleeve ruffles, sewing the edges together where they meet on the sides. It should look like this once it's attached.

 Step 10: Make the waistband. Cut the yoke (the top part of the back of the shirt) from the rest of the shirt. Split it open. Cut 2 equal strips from this fabric and sew them together at the short ends on one side. For me, the 2 sections of the yoke weren't long enough to make a waistband at my natural waist, so I used scraps from other parts of the shirt to make the strip long enough. Then cut the bottom part of the shirt top in half long-ways and make a facing for your waist band. Basically, make another waistband the same size and everything. You want your waistband a little longer than the top of the skirt so that you can finished the ends in the front for more buttons or whatever type of closure you want. You may have to get creative to make the waistband and facing, or use fabric from somewhere else.

Step 11: Sew the facing to the waistband (basically you're sewing two strips of fabric together long-ways that are the same size) Fold it over, encasing the seam inside, and iron it down. (I cut my waist band and facing straight across, rather than having any curve to it. So I will be adding darts later to conform it to my body. You can cut a curved waistband if you'd rather not do darts later)

Step 12: Attach the waistband and facing to your skirt. I sewed the facing around the top of the skirt first, wrong sides together, then pressed a nice edge on the bottom of the waistband. I then flipped the waist band over the skirt and stitched it down, hiding the raw edge inside. It's a good idea to then top-stitch around the top of the waistband, just for a nice finished edge. (Note: I later decided to add a "collar pocket" to the front of my skirt. It would have been better to add this before sewing down the waistband so I could have tucked the top of it into the seam.)

Step 13: The Details. Your skirt is mostly done now, but there are a few things that need done. For one, if your shirt is like mine, the buttonholes are too far apart for comfort. I added buttonholes between the existing ones and used buttons from the top of the shirt. I sewed some hook and eyes into the front center of the waistband to close it at the top. I also sewed a few darts into the waistband to get it to hug my body better, and sewed the skirt shut along the buttons up until the last couple so I won't have to worry about weird gaps around the buttons. I used the little button flaps on the shoulders of the shirts to hold up the sleeve ruffles I made. I used some raw seams I cut off the shirt and scrap fabric from the contrasting shirt to make fun details on the front. My favorite part of the front though is the collar pocket!

The Collar Pocket: I cut the collar and the strip of fabric under it that it is sewn into off the neckline of the shirt. I folded it in half and cut it into two parts. I then sewed these two sections together creating a "square" with vertical seams. The natural curve of the collar makes a great opening for a pocket. I then just top-stitched the pocket onto the skirt, lining up the straight-edge with the buttons. I love this pocket!

I love this skirt! It's very comfortable, but the best part is that I made it from a recycled shirt without a pattern. Sometimes just grabbing a shirt and a pair of scissors is the easiest way to make what you want. No cutting out tissue paper!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Easy Pillow Shams to show off Grandma's Quilt Blocks!

My great-grandmother, like many great-grandmothers, was a crafty lady. She hand-pieced several quilt blocks that my mother found many years ago. I decided they had been laying around in her basement long enough! There weren't enough of them to actually finish the quilt (and hand-sewing a quilt just isn't in my schedule!), so I decided to make pillows out of them! This tutorial can be used to set off anything, not just vintage quilt blocks, and the squares backdrop I used can be changed as well. I did one for my mother and on hers I did 3 stripes behind the flower and a smaller border around the edge. Forgot to take a picture of it though!

 1. Select your fabric and cut out 4 squares of it. The size will be determined by the size of the pillow you are putting in it, and how large a border you want. Remember your seam allowances! I used a 14" pillow, and wanted a 2" border, so adding in my half inch seam allowance on each side (1"), plus a seam allowance for center seams (1"), my square needs to be 20" when placed together unsewn as in this picture.

2. Sew your 4 squares together. The way to do this and get the corners to line up nicely in the middle is to sew the top 2 together, and then the bottom 2. Line up the center of these 2 sections and then sew the 2 sides together. Make sure you press open your seams as you go.

3. Applique your quilt block onto the center. Appliqueing can refer to several different processes. I zig-zag stitched around the flower then went back over my zig-zags with a straight stitch to really lock it down.

4. Now to make the back of your pillow! You will need to create 2 rectangles that when placed one above the other (like in the picture), is a few inches taller than the front part of your pillow, but the same width. This is because you will slide the top part down over the bottom part about 2" so that it overlaps, creating an opening to put your pillow inside (see step #5). The inside edges should be hemmed. I sewed some gold and blue together to make my two back panels, but you can just as easily use one fabric.

5. With the right sides together, lay your two back panels on top of your front panel, overlapping them a couple inches. (As you can see in this picture, I didn't overlap mine that much--which is an error. Trust me, you want a bigger overlap so that it stays shut after you put your pillow in it). Sew around the edges.

6. After sewing around the edges along your accounted for half inch seam allowance, turn your pillow case inside out and press. At this point you will make the sham border (not sure if that is what it's actually called!). I wanted a 2" border, so using my measuring tape, I placed my needle down 2" from the edge. Sew all the way around the pillow 2" in from the outside.

 7. Here is the finished sham. Now you just need to put your pillow in it!
 I also made a red one. I really love them! It's wonderful to have my great-grandmother's quilt blocks not go to waste since she spent so long putting them together!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Girl's Easy-to-Wear Summer Dress Tutorial

Spring-like weather always finds me ready to make summer dresses. They are my favorite thing to sew because they are simple, cute, and practical! This dress is my rendition of a dress I saw a picture of, but needed some adjustments (a ruffle on the bottom and to tie at the waist instead of around the chest). This dress used less than 1 yard of fabric for the main print, and some scrap pieces of the solid (enough for a couple long strips 3-4" wide). You will also need a piece of fabric to make a casing for the waist ties that will go around the inside of the dress (see step 6).

 1. Start by cutting two equal-sized rectangles of fabric. 
The Height = how long you want the dress to be from the chest to the bottom (not including any ruffles you might put on the bottom) + seam allowance. The top seam allowance needs to be big enough to fold over for a casing for elastic.
The Width = your child's waist measurement + seam allowance
 2. Sew up the sides of the rectangles, right-sides together, and fold over and press the top edge approx. 1.5". The fold at the top needs to be big enough to sew down and channel elastic through, so this measurement may need adjusted to fit the width of the elastic you're using. You may also want to fold over the top 1/4" and press before folding it over again if you want the bottom edge nice and finished off looking. It's inside the dress and won't show, so that's up to you and how much work you want to do!

3. Sew down the folded over top edge along the bottom, leaving a small gap to feed your elastic through later.

Optional 3.5. Sew around the top of your casing about a 1/4" from the top. (This is just to create a little ruffle above your elastic and is purely decorative)

 4. Measure your child to determine how far down from the top of the dress you want to put the waist ties. Find the center front of the dress and mark this spot. Mark 2 spots, equidistant from this center front mark on either side of it. This is where your button holes will go for the ties to come out in the front. Use your judgement to determine how far apart to put them.
 5. Make your buttonholes. I used the largest buttonhole size I could make!
 6. Make a casing strip for the waist ties. I cut a strip of fabric (longer than I needed), pressed under both of the raw edges, pinned it around the inside circumference of the dress (right over the buttonholes--where the waist is), and then cut the strip a couple inches longer than where it met. I then sewed the two ends of the strip together, creating a loop the exact same length as the dresses circumference.

7. Sew the casing down on both the top and bottom, going all the way around the dress. Leave a small gap at the buttonholes through which you will feed your waist tie through later. Technically you don't have to leave a gap because you can feed the tie through the buttonholes themselves, but I found this easier.

8. Create a ruffle for the bottom of your dress. This is of course optional! To make a ruffle, cut a long strip of fabric (the circumference of your dress doubled works well for a full ruffle), the width being how tall you want the ruffle to be (approx. 2-3" works well) + seam/hem allowance. Sew the ends together to create a loop (be careful not to twist it!) Hem the entire length of it on one side, then sew a gathering stitch through the other side (a long stitch you can pull to pucker up the fabric).

9. Attach the ruffle to the bottom of your dress, right-sides together, pulling up your gathers until it matches the circumference of the dress, then sew it down.
 Once it's sewn, this is what it should look like!
10. Insert your elastic into the gap left at the top of the dress. The elastic should be measured and cut to fit your child snugly (but not too tight--there will be straps to help hold the dress up!). Feed it through using a safety pin, sew the ends together, and sew the gap shut! (If you want to put a decorative strip at the top--see step 12--do this before you put elastic'll be much easier!)

11. Do the same in the casing behind your buttonholes, except feed your waist tie ends out the front of the buttonholes. I originally just made one long strap, using my daughter as a guide. Another option is to make two straps attached together using a length of elastic, for a more stretchy comfortable fit (I later went back and did this, although it doesn't change the look of the dress whatsoever)

11.5 Making a waist tie/shoulder straps--cut a rectangle of fabric twice the width you want the finished strap to be. Fold it over and sew the raw long edges together. Turn it right-side out and iron it flat. I then like to top-stitch down both edges of it to make it look crisp and finished, but that's up to you.

 I also went back and added a strip of green to the top just for decoration.

12. Attach your shoulder straps. This picture shows them pinned to the outside, but I obviously sewed them on the inside. That's just how I pinned them while fitting it on my daughter :-)

Here's the finished dress! My daughter loves the ruffle and bow!