80s Prom Dress Hack

80s Prom Dress Hack

For the most part, I use my sewing skills for myself, and my immediate family. Sometimes, however, I get to help friends out. As was the case this week when my friend, Tania, asked if I could help her with a costume for a party this weekend. The theme was 80s Night and she had found an authentic 80s Prom Dress that ALMOST fit her. She just needed the dress to work for that one night. I was game to help her make it happen.

Verdict

When she brought over the dress I assessed three main issues:

  1. The zipper was broken on the left side of the plaque.
  2. There were two rips to the right of the right-side zipper.
  3. Her rib cage was wider than the fit of the dress. We would need to somehow expand the torso piece of the dress to get it to fit her for an evening.
I decided to extend the circumference of the dress by creating a fabric plaque that would be sewn onto the left side of the zipper opening.

I decided to extend the circumference of the dress by creating a fabric plaque that would be sewn onto the left side of the zipper opening.

The good news is that these were all problems I could tackle. I decided to extend the circumference of the dress by creating a fabric plaque that would be sewn onto the left side of the zipper opening (I cut off the broken zipper) and would attach via Velcro to the right side of the zipper opening.

The good news is that these were all problems I could tackle.

The good news is that these were all problems I could tackle.

Resourceful fabric recycling

Tania brought two gift bags with her that we planned to use as extra fabric. They were glittery and shiny and would match the dress and the theme of the party. From the red bag I cut out the larger plaque.

 

I sewed it directly onto where the zipper would have zipped up on the left side of the dress opening.

I sewed it directly onto where the zipper would have zipped up on the left side of the dress opening.

I sewed it directly onto where the zipper would have zipped up on the left side of the dress opening.

Patches?! We don’t need no stinking patches

Then I tackled the holes. I used the gray gift bag fabric to support the fabric under where the rips were and then zig zag stitched several lines of stitching to patch the rips (Remember this just needed to work for one night).

 

Here you can see the gray gift bag fabric on the underside of the dress. I sewed Velcro to the right side of the dress opening, sewing right over the invisible zipper.

Here you can see the gray gift bag fabric on the underside of the dress.

Here you can see the gray gift bag fabric on the underside of the dress.

Measure twice – cut once

For this part, I had her put the dress on and then we fit the dress to exactly the width she felt comfortable in. I used my Clover Chaco-liner Pen to draw a line where the other side of the Velcro needed to be sewn on. The curve at the end is where the lower portion of the still working zipper zipped up to meet the straight line of the back piece.

The curve at the end is where the lower portion of the still working zipper zipped up to meet the straight line of the back piece.

The curve at the end is where the lower portion of the still working zipper zipped up to meet the straight line of the back piece.

Ta da!!! The red fabric + Velcro expanded the corset piece perfectly. On the right you can see her in the dress after we’d finished. The dress is a little roomy in the bust, but she will be wearing a strapless bra to fill that in.

I’m so glad I could help my friend out with my sewing skills.

I’m so glad I could help my friend out with my sewing skills.

I’m so glad I could help my friend out with my sewing skills.

Have you ever helped someone DIY a costume?

———————————————————————————–
Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Basics of Quilt Maintenance

Basics of Quilt Maintenance

Maintenance. It can be a big deal in home, car and… quilt upkeep. That’s right. Just like letting your car go well beyond its oil change moment can snowball into a vehicle that isn’t budging without a major repair bill, not maintaining a quilt in the proper way could result in a sentimental treasure that’s good for little else than — maybe — scrap material. Sure, your quilt might not cost as much as, say, an engine to replace, but there’s more value in something handmade than a dollar sign. Maybe it was a wedding gift from a relative or a crib accessory that your mother started making before you slept your first night in said crib. Those types of belongings can have a lot of worth, so preserving them might be a big deal.

Wear, tear & time

Don’t break your own heart by letting this kind of damage happen to something close to it!

Don’t break your own heart by letting this kind of damage happen to something close to it!

One of the most important details about this preservation is to keep an eye on the products on a regular basis since smaller complications that come from wear, tear and time could be much easier to repair than those that have been expanding for some time. Other important details are to know how to fix the damage and determining if the damage is even fixable. As an example for these aspects, I’ll use a quilt that has some sentimental value to me, but a lack of maintenance has taken its toll. Don’t break your own heart by letting this kind of damage happen to something close to it!

Damage control

Let’s examine this first spot of damage, shall we?

Let’s examine this first spot of damage, shall we?

Let’s examine this first spot of damage, shall we? It looks fairly simple with just two simple holes in the top layer of fabric, so if I begin this examination with the basic question of whether or not it’s fixable, the answer would be yes! The smaller sizes here would allow a little bit of embellishment — maybe a patch — to be placed directly over the damaged area. Since this is a quilt that has a floral design, I could add something like a butterfly there so that it looks like it’s landing on the flower. Sure, it changes the design a bit, but it fits and is corrective. This issue, it seems, was detected in time!

Do away with the fray

The material is showing wear & tear around the seams and that’s not very surprising!

The material is showing wear & tear around the seams and that’s not very surprising!

Now, let’s try this one. The material is showing wear and tear around the seams and that’s not very surprising! The damage does extend a bit beyond the immediate area surrounding the seam, but it still seems to stem from that one line where the thread is running through. So, is it fixable? Yes! All I would need to do is add a border around the block to cover the issue, and if I did that for every block, the strategy would be replicated throughout so that this block wouldn’t look out of place. Again, it would change the design of the quilt, but not in a way that would necessarily make it look odd. I could match the border to the colors already present, and the addition could actually create a popping look for each block.

To fix or not to fix

This one is shredded, & the top layer isn’t covering as much material as it did in the prior pictures. But is it fixable? Believe it or not, yes!

This one is shredded, & the top layer isn’t covering as much material as it did in the prior pictures. But is it fixable? Believe it or not, yes!

How about this one? Well, the damage here is much more drastic than a simple tearing from stitching or tiny holes in the fabric. Instead, this looks more shredded, and the top layer isn’t covering as much material as it did in the prior pictures. But is it fixable? Believe it or not, yes! Since this area is at the end of the quilt, changing the size of the quilt could work. I would need to cut off enough material on this side of the quilt so that the damaged territory is done away with and redo the border work. It’s not as easy of a fix as sewing on a butterfly embellishment, and the appearance of the quilt would definitely be altered by the smaller territory. But, if pressed, this would be a fix!

Too far gone?

The fabric became too worn, whether from use, washing, time, or some other variable, & without the proper methods to fix the problem, it spread.

The fabric became too worn, whether from use, washing, time, or some other variable, & without the proper methods to fix the problem, it spread.

Now, we get to this one. Here, this looks as if the fabric became too worn, whether from use, washing, time, or some other variable, and without the proper methods to fix the problem, it spread. Of course, there could be another explanation for it. Perhaps someone ripped it, and the damage grew. Whatever the reason, the faulted block is in the midst of the quilt, and this fabric probably won’t go together at this point. This one, dear readers, doesn’t seem to be strategically fixable. In my defense, this damage could have happened before I got into sewing, but if I’d paid attention and caught a small hole in the fabric, I could have embellished it. If there was a tiny rip, I could’ve stitched it. As it stands though, the only ways I can see to fix this would be to add on an embellishment that would be too large to look natural or change the entire block — which would throw off the pattern of the quilt. This one, it seems, has gone too far.

And this is precisely why you should keep an eye out for damage! If you catch the smaller problems, you can fix them. If you let them escalate, you could be looking at a ruined quilt. So to preserve your works, keep tabs on them and — through borders, embellishments, and adjustments — tend to those issues as they show up!

How to Make a Hidden Button Placket

How to Make a Hidden Button Placket

Last week, I waxed on about all the endearing qualities of my Industrial Juki straight stitch machine and I promised that, next, I’d write a little bit about my other favorite sewing machine, a vintage tan and white Singer 401K.

But then, this week at work, I spent a couple days making women’s button front cotton shirts for the character of Zapata on Blindspot. I’ve made her quite a few shirts over the course of this season. I created the pattern from her measurements and referencing how she liked the fit of a few off the rack shirts. She doesn’t fit into any brand without altering (she has a very small waist but is still curvy) so the costume designer and I decided we might as well make custom shirts for her.

So far it seems to be turning out quite well:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4474344/mediaviewer/rm2804286976

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4474344/mediaviewer/rm3758241792

Shirt making

I am not, by any means, a master shirt-maker (those do exist like the man who wrote Shirtmaking, developing skills for fine sewing). His name is David Page Coffin and he is definitely a shirt-making master. His book is filled with many helpful tips and suggestions. I reference it now mainly for the sleeve placket instructions and pattern. For some reason, no matter how many times I make a shirt, I always need a little reminder as to which way to begin a proper sleeve placket attachment.

Sleeve placket instructions from David Page Coffin’s book.

Sleeve placket instructions from David Page Coffin’s book.

Never feel bad if you need to look something up, especially if it’s a technique you don’t do on a regular basis. There are always new things to learn (or remember).

Concealed buttonhole placket

Another element of shirt making that took me awhile to be able to do without looking up a reference picture was making a concealed buttonhole placket. I’ve finally got it etched in my brain though – at least I think so.

The first step is to decide how wide you want to finished placket to be. I use an inch (1″) for ladies’ shirts but some people do an inch and ¼ (1 ¼”) or an inch and ½ (1 ½”).

Next mark out your fold lines on your pattern or fabric. You’ll need an extra four to six inches past the center fold/finish line.

Fold lines marked a numbered on pattern piece.

Fold lines marked a numbered on pattern piece.

Starting out from the center fold line, measure out ½” and draw a parallel line. This is the seam allowance line. Many commercial patterns use 5/8″ as a standard seam allowance so if you’re adding a hidden placket to a store bought pattern, check to see what they’ve used and do the same.

Then draw three more lines, each 1″ apart. Finally, mark your cutting line ½” from the last line (or whatever seam allowance you’re using).

To help explain and keep track of your folds, number your lines starting with the outermost one: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Press lines 1 and 2, wrong sides together. This is the part that will get the buttonholes. You can mark and do them now or, as I usually do, you can wait until you’ve got everything pressed and secured. I also press the 1/2″ outer seam allowance but do not leave it folded under – it’ll get caught inside the seam once you’re done.

Almost there

Fold along lines 1 and 2.

Fold along lines 1 and 2.

Next, accordion fold the remaining fabric. Fold along line 3, right sides together, then line 4, wrong sides together. Press.

Once you’ve done this, open the placket up so that its double wide with the seam allowance toward the front edge of the shirt. Topstitch along line 3 (which will be 1″ or however wide your placket is from the fold center fold line).

Open the placket up to topstitch.

Open the placket up to topstitch.

Once you’ve done your button holes, you’ll need to sew small hand tacks in between each hole to keep the placket from opening up (and essentially defeating its purpose of being hidden).

Voila!

Shirt almost finished in dress form.

Shirt almost finished in dress form.

And next week, unless something more interesting comes up, I’ll continue on with my favorite sewing machine ruminations.

Project Rescue

Project Rescue

Oh no! What a disaster!

Oh no! What a disaster!

Oh no! What a disaster! This whole project is ruined! Sound familiar? We’ve all had at least one project we think we’ve truly mangled. Thankfully, there are ways to save it. The best method to rescue your project depends on where the mistake occurred.

Cutting – Take Two

Did you misfold the fabric and now your cut pieces are all wrong? It may not be the giant disaster you think it is. If the fabric store has more of the fabric you’re using, it’s easy enough to get more and begin again. If not, you may be able to find it online or at another store. If that fails, treat this as an opportunity to find a new perfect fabric for your project (Don’t forget to exercise restraint, as we’ve looked at before).

Seams – Take Two

Did you missew a seam or several seams? If you can use your seam ripper to remove them and sew them again, this isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re not able to do that or did more damage to the fabric trying to pull out the seams, there are other options. If the item is too big, simply sew additional seams to make it smaller. On the other hand, if it’s too small you made need a more drastic solution.

Project – Take One and a Half

If your project is basically complete and you realize it’s too small, don’t worry! You may not have to redo the entire thing. Even if you’re not a tailor, it’s possible to alter your project to the larger size you intended. Best of all – you may not even need to buy more fabric to do it!

Remeasure

Figure out how much fabric your need to add to make the project fit and in which areas. For me, it’s usually the sides and/or bust area need an extra ½ inch or so (I blame patterns meant for smaller breasted women!).

No one, besides you, will ever know that it’s not exactly how it was planned to be.

Snip, Snip

Since you’re going to add more fabric, there’s no need to carefully rip out the seams. Instead, take your fabric scissors and carefully cut along the seams you need to alter, say the sides for example.

Add it up

Grab your left over fabric – the stuff that was destined to your stash pile. Making sure that it follows that pattern in your existing project, cut enough to add what you need to make your project fit, plus seam allowance on both sides.

Pinning and Sewing – Take Two

Pin the newly cut fabric additions to your project, right sides together and following the existing curves. If possible, try it on while it’s inside out to be sure it will fit better this time. Head over to your trusty sewing machine one more time and sew in the additional pieces. Viola! You’ve saved a project from the trash. No one, besides you, will ever know that it’s not exactly how it was planned to be. And what they don’t know, you don’t have to tell them, so wear it with pride.