I set myself a little challenge this weekend. I had a wardrobe clear out (something to do with making more clothes than I can fit in my house) and had a few things that were perfectly passable but I never wore. I tried selling them on the ebay but some of them didn't sell - so what to do? Cut them up into bits? Oh OK then.
Here is the garment that was to be destroyed (and hopefully refashioned into something else)
This is a dress I bought from Monsoon about ten years ago - it's a lovely shape but slightly too happy to let the breasts escape than I am happy with.
I mean that's a low neckline by anyone's measurement.
OK...maybe not by Kim Kardashian's, but by most people's.
You can also probably tell from the picture that it doesn't strictly fit my bust measurement (see oddly shaped lump on the right hand side)...which is an issue let's be honest - so I thought I'd see if I could make some use of bits of it - the fabric is rather lovely after all.
This being my first proper refashion I decided to go with a dress with a lot of fabric - this seemed sensible and allowed for more mistakes than something a bit less forgiving. I wanted to use the skirt - the top didn't really have enough going on (or enough fabric) to do something with it - so I decided to keep it simple and make it into a shorter skirt - but with more fullness to it as there's so much fabric there to play with.
So - first things first, unpicking the waistline to detach skirt from bodice - weirdly satisfying - I can recommend it for stress relief. It took a while because the whole thing was overlocked together and fully lined and I had to take out the invisible zip, but eventually I got there and this is what I had left:
Next I needed to decide how long to make the new skirt. I had an idea that if I cut the skirt in half horizontally across the middle I could use the bottom half as additional panels to fill out the skirt so I did a bit of measuring to see if that would work. My full circle skirts are about 20" long once they've been hemmed and the full dress was 35" long - slight problem, I wasn't going to get a nice easy additional length to work with by that maths.
No matter! I thought to myself, as the skirt's going to be fuller than it is at the moment I'll just lengthen the bottom sections by sewing in an extra piece to the top of each panel from the excess fabric I'm going to have and the extra pleats and things will mean you won't be able to tell...should have known at that point I wasn't on to a good thing shouldn't I. The plan can be summarised with the below very high tech diagram.
Anyway - I ploughed on and cut the skirt at 21" to allow for a narrow hem.
So far so good.
To make the extra panels I unpicked one of the pieces from the top of the skirt to use as a template and then cut out four additional panel pieces from the bottom half of the skirt that I'd just lopped off.
Then, conducive with my grand plan, sewed an extra bit to the top of each to make them the right length. Then I stitch the lot together and the below was the result...
So we have more skirt here than there was before - this is good, it should allow for some pleating to build in fullness. However - there is a slight issue - see that massively obvious stitch line about a third of the way down on all the pieces on the left? Yeah - I didn't apparently so thought I'd just carry on. This is where my impatient nature is really not helpful.
I happily knife-pleated the skirt to reduce the waist measurement down to mine. To do this required a bit of maths and trial and error - I needed to remove a good 15 inches of circumference at the waist so I calculated how to spread that evenly around the skirt and how big my pleats could be as a result.
Here are the pleats...
I sewed the pleated skirt piece on to a wide waistband I made from some fabric I already had and excitedly toddled off to my dress form to take a look at it 'in situ'.
Needs an iron but looking good! Lovely graceful drape, pleats mostly behaving themselves (if not quite up to sewing bee accuracy) I like the look of the wide waist band - all very pleasing!
Turned dress form around to take a look at it from all angles..
Not only is it not the right size (slight issue - not entirely sure how that happened but I suspect it was dodgy pleat maths) but that horizontal seam was going to drive me crazy.
Nope, only one thing for it - rethink.
So I unpicked the waistband and chopped the whole thing down to remove the top panel section I had added to the extra panels, so deleting that horizontal seam. I re-pleated it and reattached it to the waistband. Which all took a while and resulted in huffing and puffing and sighing and other fun things but eventually resulted in this...
OK - better. The pleats are better aligned (let's not talk about pattern matching, that was not part of the exercise!) we have no horizontal seam and, although I must confess I much prefer the longer length; it's a lot more elegant, this has a fun flary thing going on that I can live with.
OK - shape appears to be better...next.
The fabric is really fine and quite see-through so I decided I would make use of the dress lining to line the skirt as well. The lining was basically a long, slightly a-line tube of a skirt and the waist line was about the right size so I just cut a section out of it using the waistline as the natural top seam line. I then sewed on the waistline facing and got this...
All good! So then it was just a matter of inserting the invisible zip back in to the skirt shell (shortened down to the right length) and attaching the facing and lining unit to the outer shell.
To hem it I decided to experiement with the rolled hem function on my overlocker as I'd never used it before and the fabric was too flimsy to really do anything else. It was VERY pleasing - I found a useful online tutorial which recommended the tension settings needed and it resulted in a really lovely neat edge without the tedium of having to turn up all that fabric. I did it in green for two reasons: firstly I thought it might be nice to have a contrast and secondly it was the thread my overlocker was already threaded with - for those of you who have one you'll understand why that won out in the end.
So there we go! Not perfect by ANY stretch of the imagination - the waistband isn't exactly behaving itself for a start and I think will need taking in a bit/ straightening - but I enjoyed it a lot and I'm pleased I managed to recyle something that otherwise may have ended up in landfill, or a charity shop if I'd got around to taking it along to one. Here it is in all its glory!