Friday, August 14, 2009

Recycle an old T-shirt

..and get a new dress!
Do you have an old T-shirt that you love, but maybe it's getting a little frayed on the end, or faded? Or maybe it's just too big but you can't bring yourself to throw it out?
Why not make it into a mod dress?

You'll need:

  • The old t-shirt
  • Scissors
  • Fabric for the skirt part, about 2-2.5 yards (preferably a cotton blend, so it's a similar weight to the t-shirt). You want it to be about twice the circumference of the waist you'll be cutting out of your t-shirt.
  • Threaded machine
  • Decorations for it, such as ribbons, lace, etc (optional)
  • Iron

1) Take the old t-shirt and figure out where you want to cut it. If you've got a tummy, like me, you probably want an empire waistline. Tiny boobs? Go for a babydoll. Just put the t-shirt on, and mark (with pins or a chalk pencil) where you want the waistline to be. Then cut there. Alternately, if you want a 1920's drop-waist look, don't cut the shirt, just add the skirt to the bottom of it.

2) Gather the top of your piece of fabric (which will be the waistline). To do this, simply sew a line of stitching (on the longest stitch possible, and don't backstitch) 1/2" above the selvage edge of the fabric. Then sew a second line, just like the first, between the original stitch line and the edge of the fabric (try to keep it 1/4" from the edge of the fabric). Make sure you leave long enough tails of thread on either end of both stitches. Knot the tails on one side, say the left, so they're secure. Working on the other side of the fabric, the right, separate the top threads from the bottom threads. GENTLY pull the top threads and watch the fabric pucker and gather. Tada! Once you've got the fabric gathered so that it's the same circumference as the newly-cut waistline of your t-shirt, knot the ends of thread you were pulling. Make sure you make the gathered pleats evenly distributed across the top of the skirt fabric.

3) With right sides together, sew the edges of your skirt so you have a tube of fabric, with gathers at the top edge. Press open the seam if you'd like.

4) With right sides together, pin the gathered edge of the skirt to the newly-cut waistline of the t-shirt. Sew it (you'll be sewing over the gathers, and that's fine).

5) Turn right side out, trim the waistband seam, and iron it open.

6) Hem the bottom edge of the skirt (for directions on this, see my earlier tutorial, The Twenty Minute Skirt).

7) Voila! A new, mod, t-shirt dress.

Decorate it, if you'd like. You can add ribbons or lace to the hem, make an handstitch a cute bow to the waistband, add a snazzy belt to the waistband, cut and sew a slit in the skirt, etc.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Twenty Minute Skirt

Here's a quick and easy basic skirt, even for you "I can't sew" people. :)
This works particularly well as a way to get rid of any scrap fabric, as many weights and types of fabric will work well for this project, though I recommend using cotton for your first try.

Materials you will need:

  • A length of fabric (one yard of 45" wide for size 2-8, two yards for size 10-16, and so on)
  • A threaded sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Safety pins
  • Elastic (less than 1" wide)
  • Iron (optional)

1) Fold your material in half (so the two selvage edges meet, and you have a fold in the middle.

2) Cut down that middle fold, making sure to keep both pieces equal in size.

3) Sew the two pieces, right sides together, so you have one long piece of fabric. You can press the seam open if you wish.

4) Sew a casing for your elastic waistband. To do this, fold over the top raw edge about 1", wrong sides together. Sew as close as possible to that raw edge, so you create a sort of tube of fabric.

5) Measure your elastic by wrapping it around your naked waist as you would a ribbon or measuring tape. Yes, naked. Subtract 2-3 inches from the length you wrapped around yourself, and cut. You now have your waistband piece of elastic.

6) Thread your elastic through the casing. The cheater way to do this is to attach a safety pin to the folded edge of one end of the elastic strip, and feed it into the casing. You'll have to inchworm your way through the casing, being sure to keep from losing the non-safety-pinned edge into the casing. The goal here is to have the elastic through all of the casing, and both ends of the elastic in your hands.

7) Once you have both ends of the elastic in your hands, stitch each end of elastic to its respective casing end, closing the casing and security the elastic in one fell swoop. At this point you will have one long piece of fabric, with a casing tube at the top, which is filled with elastic, the openings of the casing being stitched shut with the elastic secured.

8) With the right sides of the fabric together, sew those ends to make a tube of fabric. Press the seam open if you'd like.

9) Sew yourself a hem at the base of the skirt. With a 45" piece of fabric, your skirt will fall to about your knees. If you want to shorten it, now is the time! To sew a hem, make sure the skirt is inside out. On the bottom (non-elastic) edge of the skirt, fold the raw edge 1/4-1/2" up, wrong sides together. If you're feeling shakey about this part, you can sew it here, as close to the raw edge as you can get. Then fold the hem bit up again, so your line of stitching is now the bottom of the skirt, and sew a second line. If you're feeling confident, fold twice and sew once. Thus, a rolled hem.

10) Turn the skirt right side out, and voila! A brand new skirt, in less time than it takes yo have a good soak in the tub.

And of course, you can always spiffy it up.

For instance, you can sew a strip of lace to the inside of the bottom of the skirt, making it look like you have a lacey skirt petticoat on underneath your 20 minute skirt.
Or you can sew some patchwork contrasting squares of fabric onto your 20 minute skirt (for this, I love using visible thread with a zig zag stitch, to make it look 'handsewn').
Or you can add brickabrack around the hemline and/or waistline.
Use your imagination! And most of all, have fun.