Fix Your Own Pants

Fix Your Own Pants

As many of you probably know, I work as a tailor and pattern maker for film and television in New York City. I don’t always work on the same show or at the same studio. I’m also, now that I’m old(er) a bit more particular about what projects I say yes to and who I work with.

I’ve got a few fitting related pet peeves like, for instance, when a dress comes back from the fitting room with a note that simply reads: Drop in a Lining or the ever infamous and popular: Take in as pinned (if I didn’t pin it myself). These are just minor annoyances though, compared to the phenomenon of people from other departments (accounting, grip, director, props, whatever) showing up in my sewing space – without ever having met me before – and asking if I can just fix their pants or take in this skirt.

Frustration

First of all, no. I can’t just anything because (1) I’m actually working on something for the show we’re both doing and (2) I don’t want to. Especially if your pants fix involves a worn out crotch (and even if it doesn’t). I don’t randomly show up in the accounting office and ask someone to add my receipts together when they get a chance, or ask one of the props people to rewire an old lamp I bought at the last set dressing sale, or ask the director of photography to take some pictures of me for my tinder profile or something because I’m just not talented enough to take my own. (I’m kidding about the tinder profile thing). And I certainly don’t throw in some disclaimer like I always wished I learned how to take a proper photo.

You’ve got to know when its time to let a thing go.

Sometimes the person will preface their ask with so and so (insert the name of someone else in my department) told me I should ask you. This is even more perturbing if that someone else hasn’t actually sent a text or something asking me if it’s ok to send that person over to me to ask a favor.

It’s not me – it’s you

Fix Your Own Pants

It’s not that I mind doing favors. I really don’t. I do favors for people I like and know all the time. I’ll even do favors for people who I don’t know if they ask nicely and genuinely – and especially if they offer to compensate me in some way (beer!). But if you show up with some blue cotton harem pants with a thread bare bottom that you want repaired when I’m in the middle of cutting down the neckline of a velvet top that is needed on set in about twenty minutes and the first thing out of your mouth is X told me I could have you to do this I’m never going to do it. Your sad pair of pants is going to hang on my work rack until this show wraps.

Why? Because you, whoever you are, you didn’t tell me your name or what you do on this little show of ours, and I’m quite certain that the only person who can have me do anything is the Costume Designer. So, there’s that. Second, if the back of your pants is worn out in the butt area, it might just be time to buy a new pair of pants. You’ve got to know when its time to let a thing go. Seriously, why would you think that someone you don’t even know would want to be that up close and personal with that particular area of your clothing?? I don’t care if they’re clean and, yes, I’ve taken in a countless number of center backs for actors but I’m getting paid to do that. The crotch of your pants? Um, no.

A healthy dose of humility

I personally would be embarrassed to take my worn threadbare butt pants to someone I didn’t know to fix. I honestly don’t understand it. Maybe someone could shed some light on this for me?

I think what upsets me the most about this type of favor-asking is the assumption that I’m not busy doing something else that is important for the show. It’s as if people think I’m just hanging round twiddling my thumbs just waiting for someone to turn up with their personal alteration request so I can sew something.

Anyway. Rant over. I’m going to go upstairs now and see if the accounting department can get an early start on my taxes for next year. I’m sure they’re not doing anything else of importance.

What’s your big sewing related rant?

Mending Mabel

Mending Mabel

Hi! Good to see you. Hope you are having warm weather like here in Texas!

Today, I want to just give you a quick lesson for mending project.

My current task is to shorten a pair of my hubby’s leisure pants. They are a pair of soft flannel pants that he bought a while back, and they (uhhh) kind of surfaced as I was packing my sewing studio to move. I secretly panicked when he reminded me, he hasn’t seen them in a while! I sweetly said, “Oh yes, dear, I have them. They are on the mending list.”

That’s a call to action for me! So he went out to do his errands, and I scrambled in to find the buried pants.

So as quickly as possible, I found my also found a few necessary tools to accomplish this goal, hopefully in the time he was gone.

I assembled:

  1. Pins
  2. Olfa 45 mm Rotary Cutting mat, the one which is 18″ x 24″
  3. Rotary Cutter
  4. Acrylic Ruler (these packages at SewingMachinesPlus.com come with everything you need all together – great deal!!)

I also keep on hand a few smaller rulers, such as the June Taylor Shape Cut/Sprint as well as the Handi Quilter Mini Ruler for smaller projects. SewingMacinesPlus.com has a great selection of rulers and other supplies for your sewing needs.

Back to the project, now

  1. The first step was shortening the pants which were about 4 inches too long. I turned the pants inside out so they were ready to measure and sew. I measured and cut the 4 inches off both legs.
  2. Turning the edge toward the top of the pants about ¼ inch, I pressed with my iron. They can be pinned first if you want to be precise, however, actually I just winged it, but hey, I was in a hurry.
  3. Then turning again approximately an inch, (actually two finger widths) I measured a press a crease again.
  4. I changed my bobbin thread to black since it would show on the right side, and carefully stitched a new hem very close to the fold.

Ta da!

Last, stitch very close to folded edge on both legs, press the hem flat & you are done!

Last, stitch very close to folded edge on both legs, press the hem flat & you are done!

Last, stitch very close to folded edge on both legs, press the hem flat, and you are done! Or you can also blind-hem stitch by hand. I find that hand-stitching is very relaxing and gratifying when the stitches come out nice and neat.

So, what kinds of project do you have waiting to be mended? It’s a rewarding thing to do when you compare the cost of new clothes to some time devoted to thinking through the best way to refurbish something that takes just a few minutes to fix. Please be assured, measurements with rulers are better than measuring with fingers, and results are more professional. Rushing never works for me without tearing out something.

Back to packing and discovering other projects waiting for me. Nope, maybe tomorrow. Hubby is home!

Happy Sewing until next time.

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?

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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.
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.