Upcycle that thrifted India skirt into a simple summer dress!comments (2) January 19th, 2010
This was originally posted on my blog - akutygermoves.
Upcycle that skirt into a dress (but you can still wear it as a skirt too, woopee!)
Do you have a lot of India style long skirts stashed away? I remember giving many away to friends when I moved down here, only to need them when I was pregnant because nothing else would fit! I have quite a collection of them down here now, several that I have acquired since moving. I used to wear them quite a bit too, but I find that now 1) it's just too hot to wear something down to my ankles for the better part of the year; 2) when I walk on the street, I have a tendency to carry the skirt up off the ground due to the vast amount of grossities left on the sidewalks here that I just don't want on my clothes and; 3) climbing up and down stairs with or carrying kids and wearing long skirts is a bad combination resulting in tripping and falling, stepping on the skirt and either ripping it or pulling it off my butt.
I have gotten tired of me as the hippi-girl with long skirt and tank top look. I have been that girl for more than half my life. Most of the time I wear knee length dresses here, because of the heat. STill, I love these skirts, they are SO comfortable, so while staring at my collection one night, I decided to see if I couldn't turn one of them into a dress using shirring, as I have been experimenting with it lately. As this was a first attempt, it didn't come out as perfect as I'd like and I was unable to add the ruffle I wanted to the bottom because I stupidly did not measure anything before making it (live and learn), but it came out okay. I hope it can give new life to the skirts you have stashed away and don't want to part with.
You will need -
Sewing machine with zigzag stitch
A long skirt
Thread that matches said skirt
A ruler, if you are so inclined to measure things
Select your skirt. If it's ankle length and you're not exceedingly tall, there is no reason it can't become a dress that will fit you without showing off all you have to offer.
As I am on the small side and there is a LOT of fabric in many India style skirts, I ran a simple stitch all around the skirt to maintain the broomstick pleats and make the circumference smaller on the top. If you are more well endowed than I, or feel like you need more space on the top, feel free to skip this step. With my machine, it takes about 5 inches in on a 37 inch circumference while shirring. Everyone's body shape is different and you may need more space than I, so I'd recommend doing one line and double checking that you can still fit it over your hips to pull it on. All this sewing I did with the garment right side out so I could see how neatly the stitches lay where they would be seen.
I sewed 14 lines like this, and I would recommend NOT just going down in a spiral like I did because it became really confusing when I was shirring with the elastic thread later on. These lines are about 1/2 inch apart. Yes, this part kind of takes a while, but I felt much more secure doing it this way.
Now that you have your basic shape (and have double checked that you can pull it on over your hips - it should fit loosely around you), you can chop off the waist band and hem the top (I liked the frayed edge and left it unhemmed). Often times these things are old and nasty, but if you want you can try to salvage the elastic using your seam ripper.
Hand wind your elastic thread onto your bobbin. This seems like it will take a long time, but it really doesn't. Don't wind it tightly, just try to keep it wound as it is on the spool, if that makes any sense. When you pop the bobbin into it's casing, be sure to pull out a decent amount and hold onto it when you begin sewing. You won't have to pull it out and stretch like you do for waistbands though.
Your top thread is the same, but now your bottom thread is elastic, do you see? You will use a wide zigzag stitch now - on my machine it's the widest of the three options for simple zigzag.
Now you get to follow those lines you made earlier, but this time zigzagging over your running stitch with your elastic thread underneath and the cotton thread on top, again with the garment RIGHT SIDE out (so you're elastic stays on the inside, where you can't see it). Obviously, one should generally experiment with any stitch or technique on your fabric before starting your project to make sure your tension is okay and such and to see how the fabric will lay with different stitches. I didn't so this at all because I generally just wing it and live and learn. When you complete a line, just stitch over a couple inches, put up your pressure foot, move it over and continue on the next line. I didn't once cut my threads (except when I ran out of elastic thread and had to rewind the bobbin), but rather trimmed at the end. It worked pretty well.
Be sure to get your cat to help you hold the dress down.
Once you finish all the lines, you are pretty much done. Big busted women may want to add ribbon ties to keep everything where it's supposed to be. I am not one of these.
If you want to go all out and have no waste at all from this project, you can chop up your waist band into a ruffle (be sure to measure first or you will end up ruffleless as I did - to compensate, I took the seam ripper to the bottom seam and made it frayed as the top - not my best idea ever...). First use your seam ripper to remove your waist band elastic. You could also use scissors to do this, but as someone who has in the past fought to carefully removed an old nasty waistband without ripping the thin cotton fabric, it was very satisfying to just really rip into it. To each his/her own.
Ew, nasty old waistband.
Now cut this circle somewhere so it becomes a strip, and lay it out strait so you can further divide it into multiple strips. I made three here, but that was not enough. I would recommend at least 4 for the average width skirt. If they are different widths and thicknesses, no worries - just cut them in half or thirds and you will distribute this unevenness evenly.
You can make your ruffles as gathered as you like. Some people have a gathering foot for their machine, which I am sure would be useful for this. I just push up small pinches of fabric as it passes under the presser foot, which works okay. When you come to the end of a section of fabric, just stick another one on to the end and continue gathering. I love this style ruffle - it ended up all over my white dress for new years as well. Once you're done with this ruffle, pin it on the bottom of the skirt and stitch that puppy on.
And there you have it - a dress from a skirt. Just tug it down to your waist to wear as as skirt again.