Monday, May 28, 2018

How to Sew a 50's Novelty Skirt With No Pattern Part 2

For those of you who missed part one, this is a tutorial on how to sew a gathered skirt (also called a dirndl). In the first part I talked about how much fabric you need and how to cut out your pieces. Now we will sew them!
Ok so if you followed the first part you should have two or three skirt panels and a waistband. I am making one skirt from a 45" fabric and one from a 60" fabric. I have also decided to do a curvy one so you can see the example of a three panel skirt.  I took pictures as a sewed and did all three skirts at once, so the fabric is different in some of the pics, but the instructions should be the same. Here is a picture of my three panel skirt pieces and waistband:


The first thing you want to do is take your two (or three) panels and sew them together with the right sides together to make a tube. If you have any raw edges you should serge or zigzag the short edges of the skirt pieces before you sew them together. I didn't do that with these skirts because the selvedge edge is the sides of the skirt panels. This will probably be how yours are too if you cut your panels like I did.

After you sew your panels together you should have a tube. Our next step is to put a zipper in. 
You technically don't have to have a zipper. Some of my vintage skirts just leave that part open because the waistband will overlap slightly, but you will want to wear a slip because it might gape. I am going to put in a zipper however, because it's more finished that way.

pick one of the seams that you just sewed to make your tube and iron the inside of the seam flat. It should look like this: 




Take your zipper and lay it in the seam so that the wrong side of the zipper faces you. Pin in place. Notice how the zipping part of the zipper doesn't go all the way up. This is because we need a few inches to wiggle into the waistband.



Sew from the top of the zipper to where you pinned the last pin. I usually unzip the zipper a bit to get started, then lift the pressure foot and scootch it under to get it out of the way.



  When you reach the last pin lift the pressure foot and rotate your skirt. 

Sew across zipper teeth carefully ( I often just hand turn the wheel at this point). Lift pressure foot and rotate skirt again, then sew up the other side. I usually have to pick open part of the seam the zipper is sitting on so I can move the head out of the way.



When you get the zipper sewn in then you can pick the rest of the seam stitches from the front to where the zipper stops. Then you can set aside the skirt panels and we can work on the waistband.

First we want to interface the waistband. Interfacing is a webby looking fabric that comes in sew in and iron in. I like the iron in, because why wouldn't I? You can get interfacing at the craft store, and any feather- medium weight will be fine. Interfacing is what takes your waistband from Clark Kent to Superman strength. it helps the fabric take the stress of being wrapped around you. Here's my three waistbands with interfacing attached to the back:


After you iron the interfacing, fold the waistband in half and iron it, so it looks like this:


Then you fold the edge of the top under 1/2" and iron it. You are creating a line to sew the skirt on to. It should look like this:


Finally you iron the other side so it will look just like the first side you ironed.you will have an open ended strip with a folded over part on each side. Here's what they look like open and closed:



Now that you have all your seams ironed you can open it back up and flip it so the right sides are facing. Then you want to sew the ends together, and flip it rightside so it has finished ends.


So now we have a waistband and a skirt. Ready to put them together?
We currently have a giant tube with a zipper and a waistband. In order to get the tube to fit into the waistband,  we need to gather it. Sew across the top of the skirt panels with a loose stitch. Then pull the threads to gather the panels so it will fit in the skirt. 
Remember that we made the waistband a bit bigger when we cut it out to leave room for a button or snap? Don't forget to leave that sticking out of the side when you gather the skirt. If you are making the curvy version with three panels the process is the same. The only difference is that you will have more fabric to work with.

Sew the gathered panel together so that the right sides are together, following the crease on the waistband you made when you ironed. Then you can flip the raw edge of the skirt panel inside the pocket that the waistband is and pint it in place. Still with me? Here's what it looks like:

What it looks like when you sew it.

After you flip it and pin the skirt up inside the waist.

Space left for button
Ok you are in the home stretch! All you have to do to finish the waistband is sew along the part you just pinned, which will close the waistband and finish the skirt's functional part. The only thing left to do now is iron flat a hem and sew it down. I serged mine but you can fold it under. I also did a wide 4" hem because I like the way it hangs, but you can do a smaller one if you like.


Now you can sew a button on or a snap and it's done! Here's a few pics of my finished skirts:








Woohoo new skirts!

Hope that helps everyone! If you have any questions please feel free to ask. If you make any skirts I would love to see pictures of them!
If you want to see more pinup and retro DIY's and tutorials follow my blog!








Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How to Sew a 50's Novelty Skirt With No Pattern Part 1

While circle skirts are the cool kid of the 50's wardrobe, the gathered skirt is a staple of the retro/pinup closet. It doesn't take as much fabric as circle skirts, and it's much more forgiving of novelty print fabrics that may run in a certain direction. Here's a gathered skirt from Pinup Couture:
So Cute Skeleton Skirt! Available for Purchase at Pinup Girl Clothing

Often called a Dirndl, the gathered skirt is pretty much just two giant rectangles gathered at the waist, so its a great easy skirt for new seamstresses.  In this post, I am going to use two different fabrics to make two dirndls. The first fabric is a novelty car print I bought at Joann Fabrics on a stashing binge. There is 2 1/2 yards (2.3 meters) of this fabric, and it is a 42/45 inch.



The second is 2 yards of a 60 inch wide cotton that I purchased at S.R. Harris, a fabric warehouse in the twin cities. I am in love with it:


Your required materials will most likely be 2 1/2 yards of fabric, a half yard of interfacing, and matching thread. If you are a curvy girl this should still be fine, although you won't have as much fullness. if you want FULL, you can purchase 3 1/2 and we'll talk about how to add another panel later. You will also need a zipper that is at least 7" long ( the longer the zipper the more wiggle you have to get into the skirt.

The first thing you need to do is measure yo' self. Just two measurements. Your waist- Mine right now is about 29".  And how long you like your skirts- I usually like mine to be about 25" give or take because they hit just around my knee. 

The resemblance is striking...

After you have those measurements you need to add a bit to them so you have room to get into the finished skirt. I like to put a button or a hook and eye on the waistband because that way if I eat too many cookies I can move the closure without having to take apart the whole skirt. 
Remember that I said my waist is 29, so I'm going to say that my waist piece needs to be 34". That will give me extra room for seams, a button overlap, and cookie adjustment.

I also like to have a pretty big hem on my skirts because I can put some stiffening stuff in there to make the skirt stand out. If you are trying to use less fabric you don't have to. You can just add an inch onto how long you'd like it to be (which would make it 26" for me)

So let's recap:
You should have your own set of measurements:
Your waist + 5 inches.
How long you want the skirt + 1 inch.

Here's how you'll cut your fabric:



I cut my fabric from both skirts and ended up with three pieces for each skirt- The two identical skirt panels and the waistband piece.  I would advise using a lightweight interfacing on the inside of the skirt waistband to give it some oomph. If you are a curvy girl and you want a full skirt you can do this by adding another panel. Here's how you can lay that out:


If your waist is up to 40" you can cut one waistband strip. If your waist is above 40" you will need to cut 2 waistband strips.

Okay that was a lot of brain activity. Cut your skirt pieces and I will continue the sewing part in part two!









Sunday, May 6, 2018

Things They Don't Tell You at the Fabric Store: How to Read a Sewing Pattern Envelope

It has come to my attention recently that fabric shopping is like speaking a foreign language. I have worked in varying degrees at fabric stores for a long time, and before that, I was taught to sew by my mother and grandmother. However, not everybody has that background. While I'm sure this has been done before, I decided to create a series of posts for people who would like to get into retro sewing (or any sewing) but feel way in over their heads.

First up, here's how to read a sewing pattern:

I went through my pattern stash and pulled out two patterns that are pretty standard on the back to get us started- Simplicity 8645 and Butterick 6094





The first thing you need to know about sewing patterns are that the sizes on the back on the envelope are not equal to the sizes that pre-made clothing comes in. For example, if I were to go to the store and buy a pair of pants, I would probably purchase a 6 or an 8. However, If I am going to sew a pair of pants, I would be a size 10 in most modern sewing patterns, and maybe even a size 16 in a vintage pattern. IGNORE THE SIZES. They are not important numbers. You need to go by measurements.

Let's take a look at the back of the Simplicity tops pattern, Simplicity 8645. I circled my body measurements so you can see what happens:


Clearly I am three sizes. I'm lopsided! What's a girl to do? Ignore them and look at the finished measurements:


Almost all patterns have a second section in which it lists the finished garment measurements. If it isn't on the envelope it may be inside on the pattern instructions. Sometimes they even print it on the pattern pieces themselves. 

Looking at the finished measurements you notice that it only lists the bust. Guess what ladies? It's ALL about the BUST. When you ever have doubt in your size in any pattern that includes the girls, use that as your baseline. Everything else is WAAAYYY easier to adjust. If you are making pants or a skirt, the most important is the waist and hip measurements. If you are two different sizes, buy enough fabric for the bigger (probably your hips) cause you can adjust for the waist.

Okay so My bust is a 34-35-ish. (I usually err up because its easier to take in than to cry because your boobs are squished) So let's trace that measurement back up to the sizes.



Boom. I'm a 10. Easy right? This does not mean that when I sew the pattern everything will fit me perfectly. People come in too many shapes for that. But it gives me a base to work with. 

Okay so what happens when the pattern doesn't have finished garment measurements on the outside?
Don't panic. Let's scope out the Gertie pattern, Butterick 6094:



Found it!

Just so you know, I don't advise opening up a pattern like this at the fabric store unless you have fully committed to buying it. It's a jerk move. However, did you notice that I was a size 10 in both of those patterns? So once you figure out your body measurements, you are pretty safe to assume its going to be the same across the board on patterns. There might be a snafu occasionally, but its a good starting point.

Why do the pattern companies put all those measurements in there if they don't apply? Well they do apply, to an averaged out measurement of what each size should be. That doesn't always mean that you are the average. Also, it's important to understand that you don't want your garment to be exactly your body measurements- you need wiggle room. Pattern companies try to add that in for you, but they often add too much (up to 4 inches). The finished garment measurement is a good way to know how much room you actually have.

Also, if we look at the fabric requirements again for the Gertie dress we can see both my size and the size above and below me are preeetttty darn close on how much fabric you'll need. When in doubt get an extra half yard, then crack that baby open at home and measure the actual pieces. That's kind of like spell checking your paper before you turn it in. It's not scary I promise, and its the only true way to know what size you'll end up with. (And there's only a little math). But since I flooded you with information now, we'll cover that in another post.

One thing I highly suggest is that you measure yourself before you go shopping for patterns. Have it on a notepad or in your cell phone. BUST, WAIST, HIPS. The other stuff is important, but not as much so. And refresh your measurements occasionally, because if you are a human woman you probably fluctuate depending on diets, activity, and lady stuff.