Saturday, 28 March 2015

Dress to Skirt - an Easy Refashion

I have such a hard time throwing out or even handing on clothes I've made *if* I love the fabric...

This particular dress had been hanging around for a lo-o-o-o-ng time, the cheery yellow fabric still making my heart sing but the crappy fit of the dress making me feel like such a poor sewist.  Over the past two years (gah! YES, it takes me that long to get around to simple alterations!) I've had a few goes at pinning the bodice to correct the fit on myself, but I simply haven't had the skills or patience to crack it, and of course I haven't been organised enough to get a fellow sewist's help. So finally last weekend, while my sewing mojo was running hot, I took to the dress with an unpicker and turned it into a skirt.

Sorry I look so unimpressed in most of these photos - it's hard to smile for the remote! Eventually my kids joined me outside and a smile started to appear... 

So as you've gathered, I made the original dress about two years ago. I sewed it from a combination of vintage Vogue 8811 for the skirt and modern Vogue 8815 for the top - and the two patterns didn't really come together very well for me. I made so many mistakes in making the dress - dodgy pattern hacking, a complete misunderstanding of grainline, poor fit -.but the fact that those mistakes now seem utterly obvious makes me glad; I must have improved over the years! 

The alteration was really easy once I got started, and it only took an afternoon and evening to get it all done, even with lots of interruptions for the usual family stuff (snacks, meals, cleaning up, calming people down... ).  

Here are the steps:

  • Unpicked the side seams and waist seams, as well as the visible hem stitching, and removed the vintage zip (and hey, unpicking is actually quite fun when you've got a sturdy fabric to work with!).
  • Re-sewed skirt side seams with a modern cream coloured invisible zip (I love invisible zips!) and a much wider seam allowance - the waist on this was always too big on me. When I originally sewed the dress I had the fabric selvedges showing on the skirt side seams, but I think that made it look quite clunky and home made.   

  • For a waistband I scrounged around in my notions drawer and found some petersham-like ribbon that came tied around a present last year. I think this sort of a non-waistband is also supposed to be flattering if, like me, you suffer from a short waist section - and it was quicker than making a waistband!

  • And then all that was left to do was a truckload of pressing and hemming. I knew if I didn't get the job done quickly it'd hang around for another few years, so the hem is just machine sewn. This time around I used a longer stitch length - about 3.0 - and sewed from the right side, like most people do most of the time! There are still puckers in there, though there are less than first time around, and they're concentrated in one side section on the front and another side section on the back - it seems obvious that the amount of puckering relates to the angle of the curve relative to the grainline, and with a wide skirt like this I think it's hard to avoid entirely. Having said that, if you have a method for avoiding puckering on a big curved hem I'd love to hear about it! The only one I can think of that would work with a machine stitched hem is to use a hem facing cut on the identical grain... 

If you look closely on the side seams you'll see there's still some puckering there too, though again, quite a bit less than first time around. This puckering belongs to "I thought I knew better than the pattern when I cut this skirt out but I didn't know much about grainline". I didn't have enough fabric for this dress, and I thought I was being clever by fitting the skirt pieces on the fabric at different angles to the grainline than the pattern indicated. Ha!

Yes, I did manage to get a whole dress out of the fabric when I probably should only have been able to get a skirt, but at each side seam I have one piece of fabric on the straight grain and one on the bias:

This skirt is not a work of perfection, but I'm not that fussy - I wear imperfect RTW, so why wouldn't I wear imperfect homemade garments? It's good enough for me!  These photos show how I think I'll wear the skirt to work - maybe with a cropped jacket on top. And as the weather starts to cool down I hope to wear it with this pale pink Undercover top (wow - I'm finally making garments that coordinate!).   

Now if you follow me on Instagram you'll know I was complaining last weekend that my blog-jo and photo-jo were both missing (yes, I've taken a while to report them as missing, but they left a few weeks ago, perhaps made nervous by the boldness of the Graphic Alert dress). And yet I blogged last week, and here I am blogging again! I was going to just wait for them to return but they've been gone so long that maybe they aren't coming back - maybe they've found a new home? - so I decided to press on without them! If writing cures writer's block, do you think blog posting cures blogger's block?

Thanks for reading this post :)

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx


  1. Lara Thornberry28 March 2015 at 20:34

    It's a lovely skirt and very well worth the refashion. I generally use bias binding as a facing for a full curved hem like this if I'm going to machine stitch it in place. You can cut it from the same fabric or use a contrast. By the way, your Graphic Alert dress is one of my absolute favourite garments from the sewing blogosphere - it's so perfect in so many ways! Sorry I missed commenting on it when you first posted it. Just wonderful.

  2. The perfect refashion as you have a great skirt in your wardrobe. One trick I use for full hems is to overlock the hem, fold up the overlooking so you can't see it and stitch by machine in place. Gets rid if that extra fabric and puckers.

  3. Great skirt. I am also slow to donate or refashion something I've made. Hard isn't it?

  4. It makes a lovely skirt. I'm doing this to a WIP at the moment, and although it is a bit disappointing not to have the planned garment, it is far better than an evil project casting a cloud of doom over the sewing room.
    For a big skirt hem sometimes I use bias - slightly stretched, sewn to the raw edge, then when you turn it under the whole hem is slightly gathered which helps to avoid puckering in one or two spots.

  5. Lovely skirt and paired so nicely with your shoes. Great refashion.

  6. Love a great refashion.... always great to see, and yes, looks fine to wear, I'm not going to inspect the seams etc!

  7. If it works on the outside, it works! Great refashion.


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