Needles and Pins – Part One

Well, I saw her today.  Oops, sorry.  The live version of that song, off Tom Petty’s Pack Up The Plantation Live is just so much fun to sing.

I have been trying my hand at sewing functional items (rather than stuff like this and this).  I took a couple of sewing classes last fall just to build up my confidence.  And Santa bought me a new sewing machine for Christmas.

Tangent alert: I have an old, metal Singer that was a beast.  Something is wrong with it – I checked all the normal stuff: making sure the bobbin was wound properly/installed properly, threading the machine properly, using a new, appropriately sized needle, etc.  It still doesn’t work.  I inquired at a sewing machine repair shop and I was told that they wouldn’t have parts for it, but they’d be glad to take my money to tell me it’s broke and they can’t fix it.  Depressing.  It’s so much better made than the one I have now.

A few months ago, I was cleaning the fat girl clothes out of my closet and I found this old satin skirt.  It is a really pretty lavender color with different panels of different patterned pieces.  It’s asymmetrical and I really liked it.  I was standing there holding this skirt and just for giggles I pulled it on.  And as I was standing there, amazed by how huge I used to be, I realized that I could use the skirt as an entire dress.

Like most of my ideas, I needed to let the skirt sit while I figured out the best way to go about transforming it.  I’m very creative, but my creativity is severely hampered by my lack of skill in certain areas (sewing, painting, drawing).  So, I never rush the creative process, I let the idea bounce around in my head until it’s fully formed.  The end result might not be much better for it though.  As I said, my sewing skill level is very low.

Tonight I laid out my giant skirt and started the process.

my giant skirt - how many baby satins died to cover my pasty bum?!?!

I took a few quick measurements and started pinning.  A dressmakers dummy would be really helpful for this type of project, but alas, I do not have one.  I have a $50 sewing machine and cut fabric on the kitchen table (which is slippery and not at all ideal for this kind of work), I certainly don’t have any advanced accessories.

Instead, I laid the skirt flat and pinned the waistband together so that, hopefully, everything would lay nicely/be lined up when I started sewing.

I determined that I needed to take in the waistband at least 2″. I also determined that 12″ down from the waistband/new neckline is my waist and at that point I needed to take in at least 4″ on each side (so 16″ total). So, I measured 12″ down from the waistband and marked it with pins.  Then I stretched my measuring tape between the pins and measured in 4″ from each original seam.

I then took the measuring tape and stretched it between the waistband pins and the neckline pin and used a fabric marker to draw a line.  And then I pinned along this line (my new seam).  I sort of freehand sketched the rest of the seam to the hem of the skirt/future dress approximately 4″ away from original seam (I don’t necessarily recommend freehand anything for sewing, but the drape-y asymmetrical design of this particular garment should cover minor sins so why spend more time/effort than I have to).

Now, it was time to sew my new seam.  I sewed a straight stitch down the drawn (and pinned) seam.  Then I went back and sewed a zigzag stitch close to outside of the straight stitch to prevent raveling of the fabric.

no going back now

After sewing, I cut the excess fabric as close to the outside of the zigzag stitch as I could. I hope to have enough fabric to make straps for my dress.  As the fabric has the different panels, the straps will be different.  I might play with that and make them different shapes to.  Like one skinny strap and another the starts wide and that neckline and becomes smaller at the shoulder.  We’ll see how it goes.

The moment of truth came when I tried it on.  It doesn’t hang very nicely and could use more definition in the bodice.

I corrected some of the “hang” issue by taking the seam in below the waist by a few more inches.  I’ve also decided that I’m going to add some darts to fix the baggy bodice issue.

I could just strap on a belt and call it a day, but my early, small success has made me want to achieve better than “meh”.  Besides, I like my body and I like to show off my now relatively tiny midsection (hey, I’ve worked really, really hard to whittle that down).

But that was enough work for one night.  I’m going to let my project sit a bit (but I’m picking up my pliers add some length to a chainmaille necklace I’ve been slowly working on).  And maybe I’ll look at some of the pretty dresses in my closet to get some other ideas on how to improve this dress.

I’ll post an update when I’ve picked up this project again.


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