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Liberty Print Refashion

July 6, 2010

I grew up wearing a steady stream of old clothing — but not the vintage kind. My dad was (and still is) a camp director and we lived on property. Each summer hundreds of campers would leave behind towels, tennis shoes, t-shirts and shorts. All of their unclaimed belongings made their way into my dresser at the end of the summer. While being a camp director might be an awesome job, it’s not always lucrative.

Because of my mismatched appearance as a kid I had dreams that some day I would buy my dream wardrobe, but that never quite worked out for me. First I was the average struggling college student. Then I waited tables for a while and followed that by making stained glass windows. Then I got a job at a non-profit organization.

You can see where I’m going here.

Eventually the dream of buying new clothes just seemed exhausting and unnecessary since I’d already gone so long scrounging up things from sale racks and other people’s closets. On a typical day the bulk of my outfit is made up of a hand-me-down from my mom or my mother-in-law, with a splash of clothing leftover from high school or from Goodwill. Of course, I have the occasional really nice piece of clothing I have received for any given holiday — I’m not trying to sound deprived here. I’ve got more than I need.

My lack of love for shopping aside, I kind of fell in love with the Liberty of London stuff at Target this summer. The fabric was wonderful, but the cut and style of the clothes weren’t great. Neither were the prices. I just couldn’t to spring for a $30 dress. However, I became mildly obsessed with finding some clothing on clearance so I could turn it into something I might wear. So I waited, hoping for a sale. Then I got smarter and skipped the sales and went directly to Goodwill. Success.

A size large Liberty halter dress, some two-inch wide elastic and a shirt I no longer wear met my scissors and sewing machine this weekend. Now I have a simple summer dress made of Liberty of London fabric. It looks like any other $20 elastic waist dress you’d find in the stores, but it wasn’t $20 and it’s just what I was looking for.

I’m sure there are lots of tutorials for this sort of thing out there, but in short simply do the following:

• You’ll need:

– 2 inch wide elastic the length of the circumference of your waist, plus and inch
– A slim fitting t-shirt
– A rectangle of fabric that is 2 times the width of your hips, plus 4 inches. You might even get away with using a cool pillowcase.
– Sewing machine with zig zag stitch
– Scissors
– Pins for holding it all in place

• Take piece of 2 inch elastic and wrap it comfortably around your waist, overlapping approximately 1/2 inch.

• Stitch down where the elastic overlaps with two vertical sets of zig zag stitches.

• With your skirt fabric already hemmed and sewn at the sides so that it is a tube that fits comfortably over your hips, run a loose long stitch around the top, unfinished edge. Then pull the loose ends and gather the fabric until the skirt is evenly ruffled.

• Insert the gathered edge of the skirt within the elastic band you have created. Pin in place. Then stitch the fabric and elastic together using a zig zag stitch around the middle of the elastic. (After my trial and error, I’d suggest a stitch length of 2 or 3)

• With the skirt attached to the band you can just stop there and have a simple skirt, or you can add the shirt. If adding a shirt, find a t-shirt that fits your body fairly closely so that the circumference fits just within the elastic band. Pin and then stitch in place with a zig zag stitch a the top edge of the elastic.

• I disliked having the top edge of the skirt showing on the inside of the dress and so I stitched the shirt down along the bottom edge of the elastic as well, encasing the rough edges of the skirt fabric between the t-shirt and the elastic.

• Cut the excess t-shirt fabric off inside the dress. Tie off all loose threads.

Probably better with pictures, eh? Just know that it’s really easy and won’t take much of your day. I promise.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Patsy Scott permalink
    July 6, 2010 9:35 pm

    Claire…. I just made 3 A-line skirts making a pattern from a skirt I already had. First time doing this… and by the time I was on the 3rd I was making adjustments to better suit me. The skirt I was copying had elastic waist zigzagged onto the fabric. I did this by measuring the elastic to fit my waist and then evenly distributed it on the fabric, sewing and stretching the elastic. But I had a problem when I did this. It seemed to keep the elastic stretched and then the waist was too big. ( I put darts in to remedy this but shouldn’t have had to do this.) I figure, I’ll go back to the old way of just making a casing with the fabric and putting the elastic inside that. Any tips on the zigzagging elastic to the waistband?

    • Claire permalink
      July 7, 2010 2:03 pm

      Hi Patsy – You ran into the exact same problem I did! On my first attempt I made to sew the fabric to the elastic, I stretched the elastic as I went. However, like you realized, this causes the stitches to be closer together when the elastic relaxes, and distorts the shape of the elastic a bit, causing the band to stretch.

      What I was happy to later realize is that if your fabric is gathered and fits just perfectly within the elastic band, you can just stitch without stretching the elastic as you go. Using the zig zag stitch will allow the fabric and the band to stretch together when you put the skirt on and the stitching also looks a lot cleaner on both the inside and the outside. There was no distortion with this method.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

  2. Patsy Scott permalink
    July 8, 2010 8:43 pm

    I’m unclear… did you do a basting stitch to gather, then after the elastic is zigzagged on, remove the basting (or not)??? Because I’m thinking, if the skirt is first gathered with a regular stitch, how will it stretch as the elastic does?

    • Claire permalink
      July 8, 2010 9:17 pm

      Ah ha! And that’s the reason I dropped Education from my major in college — I’m not the best instructor 🙂

      You have every reason to be unclear.

      I used a long, running stitch to gather the skirt fabric and left the ends of the thread loose — did not tie them off. Then I pinned the gathered fabric on the inside of the elastic waist band. I zig zagged the gathered fabric in place onto the elastic. Then when everything was zig zagged in place, I was able to grab the loose ends of the stitch that I used to set the gather, and pull the thread out of the elastic.

      Is that a bit more clear? I tend to skip steps! Thanks for asking for clarity.

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