A Very Vintage Skirt

There’s something about vintage-style clothing that seems to put a smile on everyone’s face.  This lovely poofy gathered skirt is no exception.


(Turned out a bit blurry.  Oops.)

Cute, right? The best part about this skirt is that it’s easy.  No lying! Originally inspired by many, many skirts, I used the technique from this skirt here.  It’s cute, and I’ve made it before, but I wanted to take it up a notch, so I added the coolest, most awesomest thing I could think of: a petticoat.

Yes.  Yessssss.  YES.  Could life be any more complete?


  •  About 2 yards of the fabric you want to use for the skirt
  • 1 12-inch zipper
  • Thread
  • Fusible interfacing (optional)
  • 1/4 yd. (or so) scrap fabric for petticoat
  • enough 3/4-1″ elastic to make a waistband
  • 3-6 yds. tulle


Besides all the stuff you (may) have to go out and buy, you need measuring tapes, pencils, blah blah blah…because you need to take measurements.

This skirt really only consists of two parts: the skirt itself and the waistband.  You can make your waistband as wide as you want–anywhere from 2.5″ to 4.”  There are some considerations to this though:

If you’re over 12 years old and are making a high-waisted skirt with a wide waistband, odds are that 4″ below the start of your waistband is wider than where you started.  But, if you take the bottom measurement, you’ll have a big gap.  So you can either make a narrower waistband or you can angle it out and then sew darts in at the end.  Totally your choice.

To figure out the measurements, and angles you need, it’s easy:


It’s much easier than this.  You don’t even really need math.  I thought you needed math.  I was going to go all Pythagorean Theorem on everyone.  But you don’t need it.  What you need is your starting waistband measurement, the width of your waistband,and your ending waistband measurement.

Take the ending waistband measurement and divide by two.

Draw a straight line on some freezer paper as long as your starting waistband measurement.  Then, divide the width of your waistband by two, then draw a parallel line to the first line that distance apart (so, my waistband is 5″…I have a line, then 2.5″ from that line, I draw my parallel line).  Then, to each side of your bottom parallel line, add the 1/2 bottom waist measurement to each end, connect the top and bottom lines with an angled line, and viola! All set.  You’ll have a trapeziod shape when  you’re done.

Fold your fabric in half with the selvages together.  Place your waistband pattern on the fold and cut–but don’t cut the fold!


Then, with the rest of the material, you’re just cutting squares.  Take the measurement of how long you want your skirt to end up, add about 2″, and that’s how long your squares need to be.  Then, take a measurement of at least 2x your waist measurement and that’s how wide your skirt will be.  So really, unless you’re freakishly tall, these will be rectangles not, squares.

Next, you need to press your waistband so all we see is finished edges.  Press up 1/4″ on all sides, then fold in half and press.




Now that that’s complete, grab your rectangles and sew one side all the way down the side, right sides together.  Then, grab your zipper and all your pieces and lay them out:


Make sure your skirt rectangles are up in the fold of the waistband so you get an accurate measurement.  You’re going to mark the spot where your zipper ends.

Now, take the rectangle sides left open and sew them together up to the pin.  Then press the open edges in.


Next is the fun part…if you’re into self-torture.

Do you think you are a patient person? Have you ever tried to gather a skirt? I will say, after making many, many gathered skirts, the first couple times can be rough.

Gathering consists of sewing two lines fairly close together with a basting stitch and no backstitching.  Then you will gently pull to gather all the fabric together.

Once your fabric has been gathered to the width of your waistband, you’re ready to assemble!

Here’s where I cheat (read: make my life much easier).  Normally, you would take the gathered part and shove it up in the waistband and sew.  But I’m not that talented and I ALWAYS cut crooked, so doing it that way for me is an exercise in frustration (although I’ve got some pretty made seam ripper skills by now).  So here’s what I do:



I take one side of the waistband and pin it.  Then I sew through one thickness.  Then, I fold over the front of the waistband and sew through it all.  It’s SO much easier.


Now you can install the zipper, hem it, and you’re done! Except if you did a tapered waistband, then you need to sew darts.  Then you’re done.


Now, this is cute, but it’s just another gathered skirt.  It needs a little oomph.

Enter petticoat.

Petticoats are completely awesome, and unbelievably easy to make.  I used the tutorial found here.  Now, when I first read this tutorial, I thought, “ummmm, how am I going to do this?!” But once I sat down in front of my sewing machine, I suddenly got it.

Ok, you need to cut a rectangle (on the fold of your fabric) half as wide + 3″ as the widest part of your bottom.  The length of this rectangle should be 1/3 + 2″ the final length of your petticoat.  My petticoat was 18″ so my rectangle was like 20″ by 8″ or something.

What should you use for fabric? I don’t care, whatever you have lying around.  Use an old bedsheet.  I won’t judge.


I promise I won’t judge.

So, once your rectangle is cut, make the waistband, which is whip easy.  Sew the side opposite the fold of your skirt together, then turn the thing right-side out.  Turn under 1/4″ of the top the skirt and press.  Then fold over however wide your elastic is plus a little wiggle room.  Sew the waistband closed, leaving a couple inch opening to insert the elastic.


Thread the elastic through, pull it tight, overlap it by 1″ and sew it together, then sew the opening closed.

Now comes the fun part.  You’ll need about 3 yds. of material for each layer of your petticoat, and it needs to be however long  you want the finished product to be.

Take the tulle and scrunch it up with your fingers.  Then sew it to the wrong side of the skirt.  Repeat this the entire time around.

After one layer, my skirt already has a nice little poof to it.


Since subtlety is definitely not my strong suit, I decided to go one more round.


In hindsight, I think one round would have been plenty.  But, this was a practice one made with leftover strips of tulle and a bedsheet.  So overall, I am thrilled.

It’s a good thing petticoats are an undergarment, because this thing is hideous.


However, the effect, overall is quite nice.  You’ll be the cutest thing to walk out of 1950…since, you know, real people from the ‘5os.  At any rate, this is a cute and versatile skirt.  Wear it with or without, in a million different colors…the skirts take about 90 minutes start-finish, so you can bust out an awful lot of these before summer!



Forays into dressmaking

I’m a pattern person.  I NEED a pattern to tell me what to do–I even like to match up the fabric shown on a sewing pattern envelope with colors I will use.  Sometimes I’ll change up the color scheme in a knitting pattern, but that’s pretty much living on the edge for me. 

Color is also something that tends to allude me.  I own a few bold pieces, but I bust them out pretty much never.  Varying shades of brown is about as colorful as I get. 

Then I saw this and had to have it:


It’s colorful.  It’s satiny.  It screamed to me in the fabric store, “make something crazy out of me and wear it proudly!” AND it was 70% off, bringing it to about $4/yard.  I bought two yards and sort of stared at it like this for awhile.  I knew it would be something flowy–definitely a dress, very stylish, and very hip.  Some lady at the cutting counter told me it would look really cute as a caftan.  I came home, Googled “caftan” and thought I would try it.  Out of scrap first.  I did not want to mess this up. 


The problem with caftans is, they look cute when your arms are down (like the photo), but do anything with your arms and it looks like you’re at risk of flying away:


I wanted to be stylish, but maybe not quite this stylish.  Then I thought: “I’ll cut two rectangles, throw in elastic around the middle, and decide if I want to add sleeves later.”  This going-without-a-pattern-thing seemed pretty easy. 

My two rectangles were about 5″ larger than my hip measurement–use your bust measurement if that’s larger than your hip measurement.  I made the rectangles about as long as my knee with enough extra on each side to hem. 

There’s a great pillowcase top tutorial where I got the measurements for armhole placement.  I hemmed the top (I simply serged the edges then folded that under for the hem), sewed the sides together, and ended up with this:


I really liked the way the neck draped, so I decided to keep it that way. 

Then I hemmed the bottom. 

I think I would have really liked this dress sleeveless, but see the bottom? All that nice blue and purple got cut off.  I needed to have the dark color–it just made the fabric so complete.  so I measured from my shoulder to my elbow and made the sleeves nice and big–about 12×20.”  I decided I wanted a keyhole sleeve, so I cut from the middle of the sleeve bottom to about 2″ from the top of the sleeve and made simple rolled hem to finish the opening.  I sewed the sleeves, right sides together, at the side seam, then hemmed the bottom of the sleeve.  

To insert the sleeve, you need to turn the garment inside out but keep the sleeve turned right-side out–any sewing pattern with sleeves will explain it in more detail.  


Cute, eh? Almost done!

The one problem with this dress so far is the back of the dress–it drapes just like the front–uncool.  So, I threw in a dart and sewed it so the back laid flat against my own back. 


Finally, the elastic needs to be sewn in.  I will be honest–I totally took the clever/lazy way of sewing in elastic–it was a lot harder, but it had to be this way, because that’s how the pattern in my head went (see? still following patterns). 

So I measured my natural waistline, subtracted 2 inches, and then sewed that together to make a loop.  Then I turned the dress inside out and pinned the elastic in place, stretching it A LOT (because the elastic was more than 10″ smaller than the rectangles!).  This made it pretty difficult to sew, but I liked the end result:


Ta-da! Looks great on the dress form, now time to try it on.


It looks…ok.  A bit dumpy, a bit clownish.  My personal fashion assistant (aka my sister-in-law) suggested a shorter hem and no sleeves. 

I was not about to give up the sleeves.  No way.  So, I made the sleeves totally split (remember when that was cool in the early 2000s?) and shortened it a touch.  And added heels. 




Not too shabby! The next time a fabric screams at you, indulge, go without a pattern, and remember: a dress is really two rectangles and a bit of elastic =)


Sewing Success 101

Are you learning how to sew but are just a little bit terrified of your first clothing project? Have no fear! Follow these few tips and you should be a bit more confident to take on your first project!

First: Pre-wash and iron your fabric.  I know, it’s annoying,  but you want to do this because it will soften up your fabric, and help you avoid making a garment that ends up being too small. 

After that (or while your fabric is being washed), iron out your pattern.  Low heat, no steam. 



Now there’s a hot mess.  How do you think your pattern will be accurate cutting from that? Yuck. 

Here’s another tricky part about your pattern (well, tricky for me anyway): I never really know what size to cut.  I made a pair of pants and cut the size according to the measurements on the back of the envelope. Wayyyyy too big.  So I open up the pattern and see what the finished measurements are and cut the size closest to that.  I’m not sure if that’s right, but that’s how I do it, and it’s worked for me so far. 

Now note that the little creases will never come out completely, but it will be much better.  When you get ready to cut, pay attention to the notches on almost every piece of your pattern.  Those are used to match multiple pieces.  When I took my first-ever sewing class in ninth grade, my teacher told me to cut triangles out from those notches instead of in, as the pattern suggests.  Why? This helps you notice where they’re at, and helps avoid cutting too close to the seam line accidentally. 

Once your fabric is washed and dried, iron that too.  Then lay it out on an open area:


My only space large enough for this project isn’t really big enough.  But it works.  And Yellow Dog loves it. 

So you’re all ironed out and your pattern pieces are cut to size, and you’re ready to cut your pattern pieces.  Yikes!

See how that fabric is all nice and flat? That’s how yours should look.  Then you will arranged your pieces according to the cutting layout in your instructions. 


Don’t ignore these cute little arrows on your pattern pieces! They tell you how to lay out your pieces on the fabric to make sure it doesn’t go all wonky on you.  These lines should be parallel to the salvage edge, or the edge that doesn’t ravel.  Make sure they are traveling the right direction!

You can be stingy in every other area of your life, don’t be stingy with your pins.  Pin your pattern pieces down.  the more pins the better.  More pins help with greater accuracy. 


Before you unpin your pattern pieces from the fabric, trace any marking lines on the wrong (ugly) side of the fabric.  If there’s not a wrong side, man up and pick one, then stick with it the whole time.  This is a photo of what you’ll need to trace.  I use the tracing wheel for lines, and the pencil for circles and dots and things.  But, as we’ve discussed before, you can be stingy, not buy the tracing wheel, and use the pencil the whole time…on your tracing paper of course!

Now you’re ready to sew!

Read and re-read the directions.  Say them out loud if they don’t quite make sense, that may help.  Or, get a piece of scrap fabric and practice. 

Baste.  Baste.  Baste. 

If you are not sure how something should look, baste first (long stitch, no back stitch).  If it looks good, then sew your seam line. 

Measure a lot, cut once. 

If you have to trim a seam line, clip a corner, or alter your fabric, make sure you are cutting in the right place!

Don’t lose your temper…or your patience. 

Stick with it! With enough patience, you can make anything.  My RA in college decided she was going to learn how to sew.  Her first project was her WEDDING DRESS.  And it turned out pretty awesome.  So there you go! Follow your pattern instructions and these few tips and you will have an awesome garment that is tailored to fit you!


Men’s Shirt Apron

We’re sewing today, folks. 

It’s been a long, long while since my last (and only) sewing post, so here’s another.  This tutorial, which turns a men’s dress shirt into a sweet apron, is awesome. 

did anyone see the photo on Pinterest with the apron out a men’s shirt, then click on it, then realize it was in some language other than English or Spanish? I did.  I thought my life was over, because I was not clever enough to look at the finished product and figure out how to get there.  Luckily, Gabriel’s Good Tidings is much more clever than I, and figure it out.  And it’s from her excellent instructions that I made this apron (and many others):


Cute, no? Well, here’s how to make it!

First, you need a men’s shirt.  I’ve made all of mine from XL shirts. 


Lay it our so it’s nice and flat.  You may want to press it so the shirt lays flat–at least the front.  The back doesn’t matter because you will be cutting the back off. 

Once your shirt is all pressed, cut the back and the arms off the shirt.  You’ll be left with the front of something you wish Kurt Russel in the ’80s would wear (and if you do this project while watching Overboard!, you will get to see ol’ Kurt in something similar–bonus!)

Next, you’re going to cut a diagonal line from the base of the armpit to the neckband.  The more slanted you make your line, the more narrow it will be at the neck.  If you have a rotary cutter and a mat, this step will be eay-peasy.  If not, you will have to go old-school and make a straight line with your tape measure and draw a little line for you to follow. 


Take the back of the shirt and fold it over onto itself so you have two layers of fabric.  through both these layers, measure a piece 5 1/4″ x 22″ and cut it.  These will be your ties. 

Once you’ve cut that, go back to your ironing board.  You’re going to make a fold-over hem now!

I hate fold-over hems.  They’re a pain, especially with this crummy poplin-style shirt I used.  The best shirts are heavy-duty, not weird fabric.  Wrangler’s the best brand (WY–go figure).  Back to the subject at hand.  If you are new to sewing, here’s how to do a fold-over hem.  Step 1: turn the shirt on your ironing board so the inside of the shirt is facing up at you.  At your raw edges, fold the sides up 1/4″, like this:


Iron it down so it stays, all the way around.  Begin at the edge closest to the neck band and work your way down.  Once that’s all ironed, you are going to fold over the folded part 3/8″, and iron that.  then pin it.  


  Take your long pieces and fold them in thirds, like this:


Press that, then fold each end piece in about 3/8″.  Fold your tie in half hot-dog style (who learned how to fold paper like that in elementary school?) and press it.  Pin it, then take the whole bit to your sewing machine. 

Give yourself a 1/4″ seam allowance.  On my machine, that’s the edge of my foot. 


Sew your ties in the same way.  Once you’re done with that, there’s only a couple steps left!


Next, attach your ties like so:


This way, when you go to tie your apron, your tie will sit nice and flush against the body of your apron.  To secure the tie straps, sew back and forth on the same seam allowance until it’s nice and sturdy.  Simply stitch forward to the edge of your tie, then press the backstitch button and back stitch until you reach the opposite edge, and so on and so forth.  I did mine about 6 times. 

Next trim your threads. 

Finally, take a small pair of scissors and trim the neck band.  There’s no need to sew this part, just trim nice and close to the neck band. 


You’re all done! Now get to cookin’ in your new apron!


Make your own skinnies–tutorial

I was going to hold off on this post, but I couldn’t resist.  It’s too much fun.  Today I made my own skinnies! Super exciting stuff. 


Know what I’m a sucker for? Clearance sales.  My brain shuts down and I can’t think straight.  75% off? Well, that shirt has three arms, but for $5–heck, I’ll take it! Pants 8 sizes too big? Well, they look a bit silly, but they’re also $7.95.  What a dilemma. 

I may not be that bad, but pretty close.  However, I feel like I have a license to buy ridiculous things because I have a sewing machine AND I know how to use it.  Here’s how you can turn your ridiculous looking pants into stylish skinnies–you can do this with dress pants, certain types of jeans, anything.  Just make sure your pants have a bit of stretch and fit nicely around your hips/waist. 

First thing you do is get your pins out and put your pants on inside-out:


This is an ill-fitting pant if ever I saw one.  Even inside out, it’s awful.  However, they were also $9.00 at Old Navy.  So I bought them.  You can see here there are pins on the left.  And the right is untouched.  What you want to do is pin one leg to the shape and width you want, up and down the outside and inside seams of the pant leg.  Because these are skinnies, you want them snug, but if it’s hard to shimmie out of them, then you may have pinned them a little tight.  Take your pants off, put new pants on (if you really want to), and take them to your sewing machine–things are about to get heavy. 

Some of you may be thinking, “But my sewing machine is not nice.  It’s not fancy, it’s not complicated, and it’s old.  What if I can’t do this?”

Let me introduce you to my sewing machine:


See that logo? It’s a Kenmore. Does Kenmore even make sewing machines anymore? Don’t get me wrong, I love my sewing machine.  It’s awesome.  But, as you will notice, it’s very basic.  Everything I do is on this little beauty, and my serger.  Which is a Hobbylock manufactured sometime in the decade previous to my birth.  So don’t go getting sewing machine envy on me.  You’ll be fine. 

Back to the pants! Take your pants and Baste along the edges.  Trust me.  Save yourself a lot of tears and heartache and baste first.  Always baste first.  One note on the basting: begin sewing on the original seam line and very gradually sew to your first pin.  If your line from the original seam to your new seam is too sharp, you’ll get a weird bubble.  Don’t do that.  Avoid the bubble.  Then, turn those puppies right-side out again and try them back on.


Please take a moment to enjoy the photo bomb by Yellow Dog.  Then, notice how different the legs look!

Take your pants-in-progress off again and then take them to a clear, flat surface–something like an ironing board, long table, etc.  Lay your pants flat and inside out.  what you are going to do next is this: lay your basted leg on the table and flatten it out.  fold the pants in half length-wise along the crotch seam. match up the bottom cuff of the pants.  Line up one edge seam at a time–the unsewn leg to the sewn leg.  There are no pictures of this process, I sort of made it up as I went along.  Also, don’t sweat this part.  It’s really easier than it sounds, and once you do it, you’ll see for yourself. 

So your legs are matched up and you’re ready to make the second leg look the same as the first leg.  Take a pin and stick it straight up through both legs.  This pin is going right through your first seam and its marking where your seam on the second leg will run.  While this won’t be an exact, to-the-32nd inch-thing, it will be close enough to count, and no one will be able to tell the difference.  Repeat this pinning process up and down your seams of the second leg.  Then baste, and try them on. 


We’re getting closer! I took in a little more at the knees and did a little fine-tuning to get the fit I wanted. 

This is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel! Turn your pants inside out again and stitch over your basting, making sure to back stitch and all that good stuff.  Then secure your side seams by either using your serger or trimming your extra fabric and running a zig-zag stitch along the edges.  You don’t want a whole lot of extra fabric, so trim to about a 5/8.” 

Next what you are going to do is determine the length of your pants.  I’m a shortie, so I took about 5″ off the bottoms of these.  Simply fold up the bottom hem to the point you want them sitting and fold up.  Measure this length and turn up the second leg to the same length.  Then trim your hem 1″ longer than you want your final length to be and either sew a turned-under hem or simply serge and then sew your bottom hem. 

That’s it! You’re done! Unless…


You know those skinny pants with a bit of ruching on the bottom? Well, you can do that.  It’s easy.  1.  Determine how much ruching you want.  I went for 4.”  2.  Take some 1/4″ elastic and stretch it as far as it will go and then cut it at 6.”  If you want more or less ruching, it’d a bit of trial-and-error.  I’m not sure on the exact conversions, but I do know that 6″ stretched elastic=4″ cute detail at the bottom of your pants. 

Anywho, to sew your ruching: line up your elastic on the wrong side of the fabric on the side seam line.  Manually lower the needle to the elastic and sew a few stitches and then back stitch a few.  Then, pull on that elastic and stretch is as far as it will go.  This part gets a bit tricky because you are doing several things at once: pulling on the elastic, making sure it’s lining up with the seam (so your stitching is invisible), making sure other parts of the leg doesn’t get caught up in your stitching, and trying to sew straight.  Have patience, you’ll get it.  And if all else fails, keep your seam ripper handy.  Sew an elastic piece on each side seam at the bottom, and you’ll have this:


Sorry for the blurry photos, did I mention the camera I’m using takes AA batteries? Please take another moment to enjoy yet another photo bomb by Yellow Dog (she was very needy today) and then see how supercute these bottoms are? Supercute.


There.  Ill-fitting clearance pants to adorable outfit in a little over an hour.  That means you can make several pair in an afternoon.  See?