Turn a too-big tube into a just-right skirt
Have you ever been to a clothing swap? I think they’re a great idea, but it’s not often I find something that’s exactly right for me size-wise. Case in point, this skirt, which (hopefully!) looks fine now, but was a baggy elastic-waisted number when I unearthed it at a fund-raising swap late last year. The paisley pattern appealed, so I shelled out a few gold coins for it and took it home. And then I thought about what to do with it. Whoever made it had simply sewn two rectangles together, put elastic around the waist and hemmed it, which is OK if you’re going to wear a top that hides the bulky waistline, but not if you want a more fitted look like the pencil skirts that have been everywhere lately. I decided I’d like to give the bodycon look a go, and set about transforming what was essentially a loose tube into a more tailored skirt.
After removing the waist elastic, I laid the skirt out on the floor with the two existing seams at the sides. One would form the centre front, and one the centre back. Then, to create new, fitted side seams, I measured from centre back to centre front and marked the halfway point (ie, roughly where my hips would go).
I then cut across the top of the skirt so these halfway points (ie the sides) were slightly higher than the centre front and back. If you’ve ever sewn a skirt before, you’ll know that the waistline usually is not straight across, because the hips add curves!
I then found a zip in my haberdashery stash and laid it along the centre back seam so I could see where to alter the seam.
Centre back seams are not usually straight up and down either, because women have waists and then get bigger at the hips (except in my case, as I’m basically straight up and down… but I digress!). I sewed a new seam (you can see it in the red thread) and trimmed the excess fabric from the back seam.
And then I attached the zip. You can see this process in more detail here (or on any number of tutorials on the web, probably!).
If you were sewing a skirt like this from scratch using a proper pattern, then inserting the zip would probably be one of the last things you would do (although it’s actually easier to add the zip before sewing the side seams). But as I had excess fabric at the sides and needed to fit the skirt to my body, I put the zip in so that I would still be able to take the skirt off after pinning it to my exact size. I played around a bit with the fabric to see how the skirt would look if I used the excess fabric as a design feature, something like this…
… but decided I’d prefer to make the paisley print itself the feature rather than any draping at the front. And now, you’ll just have to visualise the next steps, because I was in a rush and stopped taking “how-to” photos (BAD DIY blogger!). I found another skirt roughly the same shape as I wanted and laid it over the top of this one as a template so I could pin the side seams. Then I put the pinned skirt on inside out and stood in front of the mirror altering the pins to make sure it fitted properly (which is another reason for the lack of photos… it’s extremely difficult to manage pins and the self-timer simultaneously!).
After the side seams were sewn, I cut off the excess fabric from the sides and used it to create the waistband, attached it to the skirt and added a hook and eye (again, you can look up how-tos for these on the web or in a good sewing book – I can practically guarantee you will find one in any op shop!). And then, because I was quite pleased with how it had turned out, I took some crappy photos for you from all angles 🙂
If you have an old pillowcase or big cushion cover, you might like to cut the closed end off it and try making a skirt like this too – as long as you can easily pull the “tube” over your hips, it will work. And if you have a T-shirt that’s too big, take a look at the one I’m wearing in these shots – I simply made seams at the centre front and back and along the shoulder lines to bring an old, baggy T-shirt back into line (take a look here, too, if you like). I quite like the look of this neutral grey with the paisley print, but I’m looking forward to mixing things up a bit with batik blouses and patterned tops too.
You’re making me wish I knew how to sew (or had room for a sewing machine)!
Sewing machines take up hardly any room Theresa, it’s the fabric stash that is the problem!! Definitely learn how to sew… I’ll try to broadcast the next time I am helping out at a sewing workshop.
I taught myself when I was newly pregant, many years ago now. Start with something really easy, Theresa. Even a pillow case, or drawstring bag….something quickly achievable. Then go on to something slightly harder. A pillowcase with buttonholes and buttons for example! A pullover T shirt dress is really easy. No zips, even! 🙂 Well, you get the idea. It’s a matter of building confidence by increments. Good luck!
Usually at the sewing workshops we start with an easy bag (ie a rectangle folded over and sewn up the sides) with handles – so yes, start slowly and be prepared to make lots of mistakes, it is worth it!
It came up so nicely! I love the hint about tweaking a t-shirt that’s too big – the centre seams add a touch of interest as well as bringing it into shape.
But yes, since this post is actually about the skirt and not the t-shirt… Now you have an utterly unique skirt that didn’t cost you anywhere near a fortune. It’s brilliant!
Thanks Katie, I can never throw anything out, that’s why I had to do the T-shirt tweak!
Lovely job! Really like it x
Of course, you have the trim body to rock a pencil skirt! Looks great on you…very flattering! 🙂
Eek it fits perfect!!! I love it.
Thanks everyone… hope you all have a go at this project!
It would be very easy to get a slim skirt pattern, then alter it to fit you exactly and keep it “on file” so to speak. Now whenever you find fabric you like you can simply cut, and whip up a skirt in an hour. I did this one morning before work because I didn’t have anything to wear. My co-workers were amazed. Learning to sew has truly been one of the best things I have ever done in my life.
Great work, Pam! My problem is that I rarely want to make the same pattern twice, or I’m altering an existing garment rather than creating something from scratch. But definitely good advice.
Love your new layout Leeyong! Stunning as always- you have such a good eye for patterns. The pencil is gorgeous on you, although I think a sarong style version would look fab too 🙂
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