How To Use A Quick Unpick – Sew Fun

It’s been far too long since I did some proper Sew Fun posts but here’s a little one to tide you over. Today we’re going to learn to use your new best friend: a quick unpicker.

Basically this tool is a little pointy blade on the end of a handle which makes unpicking crappy stitching a breeze!

Here is the basic anatomy of an unpicker…
So taking a look at a standard hem on a skirt, there are two parts of the stitching: the overlocking/surging and the hem seam. The hem seam is the part you want to unpick if you’re undoing the seam.
So pick a spot to start and poke the point of the unpicker through one of the stitches.
Continue sliding it upwards and break the thread with the blade. It will probably pop up like this:
Now wedge the unpicker into the stitch next to the broken one and angle the blunt end up so it pulls the broken end of the thread through and undoes that stitch too.
Continue using the unpicker to unthread stitches like this. You can just cut them but then you have to clean up a million tiny pieces and thread.
This way you can have one long thread to get rid of at the end.
Done!
Now unpicking things like zippers is a little more difficult.
This is the back of the zip.
When you gently pull the zip away from the fabric you can see the seam holding them together.
Gently poke the unpicker through the gap between them and use it to hook a stitch.
Slice the stitch and it will pop open and probably take a few either side of itself under the pressure.
Continue popping stitches like this until you can get the entire zipper out.
Pull the zip away from the fabric gently so you can get at the threads easily. Be careful not to cut the fabric with the unpicker.
All done!

And that’s it! You now know how to use a quick unpicker! Hopefully you found this edition of Sew Fun useful and let me know if you have any suggestions for what I should cover next!

How To Sew A Basic Stretch Lace Skirt – Sew Fun!

Yay sewing tutorial! Today is part two of a shirt and skirt set remake! I’m classing this as being part of the Sew Fun series but keep in mind it’s not so much for complete beginners, it’s more intermediate so I’m going to be skipping some basic steps along the way. There will hopefully be more beginners tutorials as soon as I have time to sew.

A few weeks ago I bought a skirt and shirt from Supre and I really liked the comfy stretchy lace they were made from. It’s perfect for summer and also super comfortable to wear. It’s a crazy easy pattern and I had managed to find some lace fabric on sale so I decided to make a couple of others so I could mix and match them together.
Here’s the finished set!

So last time we made the shirt, this time it’s the skirt!
I changed the skirt design to be even more simple than the original version by removing the zip. The lace and cotton that I bought was far more stretchy and a little more structured than the original so I decided to just not bother using a zip and instead rely solely on the stretch. Also… I didn’t have any zips left in my sewing cabinet and I couldn’t be bothered walking to Lincraft >_>
So the process was very similar to the shirt, I laid out the fabric and cut out the pieces leaving a 1cm seam allowance.
The skirt is made from identical front and back sections and two waist pieces. It’s not quite enough fabric to made it a circle skirt and it drapes much more nicely when the fabric is cut on the bias.
The same pieces need to be cut from the lining as well.
The first thing to do with the actual sewing is to overlock the waist pieces to the skirt sections. Do this with both the actual fabric and the lining.
Next overlock the front and back together down each side so it becomes a complete skirt shape. Do this with both the lining and the lace.
Then place the lining inside the lace with the good sides facing each other and overlock around the top of the waist.
So basically you should have an inside out skirt now.
Flip it the right way out and hem the bottom of both the lace and the lining.
You should also top stitch the waist band to give it more structure and a nice finish around the top.
Done!
Perfect! I love this skirt, it’s so swishy and fun to wear!
Perfect for dancing with my pretty assistant!
How fun! This was a really great project set so I can’t wait to do more sewing soon!

How To Sew A Basic Stretch Lace Shirt – Sew Fun!

Yay sewing tutorial! Today is part one of a shirt and skirt set remake! I’m classing this  as being part of the Sew Fun series but keep in mind it’s not so much for complete beginners, it’s more intermediate so I’m going to be skipping some basic steps along the way. There will hopefully be more beginners tutorials as soon as I have time to sew.

A few weeks ago I bought a skirt and shirt from Supre and I really liked the comfy stretchy lace they were made from. It’s perfect for summer and also super comfortable to wear. It’s a crazy easy pattern and I had managed to find some lace fabric on sale so I decided to make a couple of others so I could mix and match them together.

The shirt is a very simple shift design. It relies completely on stretch to fit and has a stretch cotton for lining as well.
For this I am using purple stretch lace and pink stretch cotton for the lining. Keep in mind that I can’t advise you how much fabric you will need because it will depend on your size. I used less than 1m of each fabric for both the skirt and shirt if that gives an indication.
To get the pattern I laid out the old shirt and cut around it leaving 1cm for seam allowances. It is made up of a front piece, back piece and two sleeves. You can make one of these yourself by using the same basic shapes as I’m cutting out but fitted to your measurements.
Lottie was extremely helpful as per usual by napping on my fabric.
This is the front piece shape in both the main fabric and lining, note the large scoop neckline.
The back piece is the same with a much smaller curve for the neckline.
The sleeve pieces don’t require lining and the are standard cap sleeves.
As this is stretch lace I’m not bothering to top stitch most of the seams, just overlocking and sewing where it’s actually needed.
So to begin with I placed the front panel and it’s lining with the good sides together and overlocked the scoop neck. I did the same with the back pieces.
I folded them right way out again and you can see it creates a nice neckline seam.
Next, I overlocked the front and back pieces (and their linings) together at the shoulder seam.
I then opened it out again and pinned the cap sleeve along the seam. Sleeves can be a pain in the arse to sew straight so I always advise to do them as soon into the pattern as possible so you don’t find yourself trying to sew in tight spaces later.
I overlocked the sleeves on. Opened out flat you can see how it attached to the front and back section below.
This is what it looked like folded up the right way at this point.
I turned the whole thing inside out, overlocked the edges of the sleeves to avoid future fraying  and then overlocked the shirt down the sides so it was sealed together into an actual shirt shape.
Then it was just a matter of tidying up. I added a hem to the bottom of the shirt.
And one to the edges of the sleeves. I also top stitched the neckline in place because it looked nicer.
Done!
This took me around half an hour to do including the cutting in the beginning so it really is a nice and easy pattern and if I ever have time I might churn out a heap of them in different colours because they are SO comfortable!
Looking good together!
And it looks good on too! In the next post I’ll show you how I did the matching skirt as well!
Lottie approves!

Sew Fun! A Look At Sewing A Dress From Start To Finish

It’s been a crazy long time since I wrote a Sew Fun post but they are coming back and with a vengeance! There will be more of the ones I promised coming in the next few weeks but before we did some big projects again I wanted to show you my start to finish process of making a dress.

The dress in question was a gift for a friend who picked out her favorite fabrics laces and I made it for her based off a pattern that I drafted which I use for a lot of my own dresses. She was a bit camera shy so I ended up modeling it in the photos which is why the fit isn’t 100% on me.

You can tell how old the photos are by the fact that they still have black borders XD

So this is the finished dress, it’s a very basic princess seamed dress which is made of 5 pieces plus the straps and lace etc. There is no lining and it cuts a lot of corners. If cutting corners bothers you then look away now!

I like this shape of dress a lot because it can be perfectly fitted to the person’s shape and can accentuate/hide a lot when you get it right. I use it a lot for hime gyaru dresses and it can be easily adapted to classic Lolita styles by adding a much fuller skirt. It’s not really a beginners dress but it is one of my favorites.

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The fabric I used was a thin satin with a really good drape to it. It was a remnant so there was only 1.5m. This pattern is good because you can add or take away fabric from the skirt to fit it into really tight spaces if you only have a little fabric left. I’ve gotten a dress out of 1m of fabric before but I prefer to work with minimum 1.5m depending on the person’s size. If there are patterns which need to be lined up or you are very particular on the grain of fabric you will need a lot more.VioletLeBeaux-Hime-Gyaru-Sewing-Tutorial-26_9950

 

I don’t have a table to cut on so I have to lay it out on the floor. There’s still not much room so I usually fold in half to make things easier.

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So this pattern is one I made around 8 years ago and have adapted over and over again. I don’t keep paper patterns partially because I hate working with them (paper obviously doesn’t drape like fabric) and partially because I don’t have room. Sometimes I’ll keep calico versions of patterns but most of the time I’m honestly too lazy to do versions in calico etc first. I lose interest with projects quickly so making the same dress twice has never really appealed to me. I totally understand it’s importance in the scheme of learning though and I think it’s a really great skill to learn when you’re starting out so you can find your best workflow. My attention span is something I’m trying to work on more so perhaps there will more more tutorials in the future dealing with that!

Anyway, I tend to just find a dress I know fits me with the same cut and lay it flat so I can cut around each piece. I don’t make for people other than my self often but if I am, I do the maths first to work out how much I need to add to bust/waist/hips then make the adjustments on the fly. Always cut larger than you think you need because it’s a pain to try and add more fabric later!

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So time to cut the pieces. First the front:

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Two sides:

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Two back pieces. On the back pieces here I make sure to leave a lot extra for the zip and also for fitting it perfectly when it’s pinned.

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So this dress is made of 5 pieces but two are mirror images. So from left to right is the back, side and front. The other side has a mirror of the side and back. The skirt for this one is not particularly full because of the lack of fabric I was working with.

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At this point I would pin it all together and try it on to make sure it actually fit. It’s a good idea to do that after every seam to make sure you’re going in the right direction.

So let’s get to sewing and overlocking.

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First I sew one side to the front.

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The the other side to the front. You can see the skirt getting fuller and the shape coming into the bust now.

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Next, the two back pieces go on either side.

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Next I overlock all of the raw edges to seal them in. Now it’s time to deal with the back. Usually I’d be putting in a zip at this point but this dress will have a lace up back so I’ll take care of that in a bit.

First I fold the dress in half with the bad side out and work out where the bottom of the zip will be. Then I sew the bottom of the two sides of the skirt together below where the zip/laces will go.

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Like so (or should that be “like sew”? ;D )…

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In place of a zip I’m using some lace to put the threads through. So I turn the edges under and sew the lace up the back opening.

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Like this:

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It kind of looks almost like a dress now 😀

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Now it’s just about the extra details. I turned the edges under on the top and stitched on a row of lace around it.

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Top lace around the bodice:

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Ribbon threaded to lace it at the back:

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Next some ribbon for straps.

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I find it’s best to put the dress on when measuring for straps and get someone to pin them in place so it has the support you want.

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Then some nylon lace at the bottom. I don’t usually sew with nylon lace but cotton lace really didn’t match this fabric and was much too structured to keep the drape. Soft tulle and netting is great for bottom of the skirt details.

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And that’s pretty much done!

Font:

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Back:

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Bottom:

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Huzzah, finished! I’ve done this pattern so many times that when I’m making one for myself and actually pay attention I can get them done in a few hours. New dress in a few hours? Winner!

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So that’s it from start to finish. I know it wasn’t an actual tutorial but hopefully this will be a decent introduction for those of you who have never made a dress before so you will know what to expect in the full tutorials later. Everyone has their preferred methods for sewing so hopefully some of you like mine!

As always, let me know if you if you have any questions and thanks for reading!

About Overlockers and Sergers! Sew Fun!

Ok back into sewing this week and I think it’s time to learn about the other machine that some of your may or may not have: the overlocker (or serger if you’re in the USA).

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So what is an overlocker?

Basically it’s a big fat sewing machine which uses 3-4 threads and seals the raw edges of fabric. It usually has  a little blade arm which cuts the edge of the fabric as you stitch along it so it makes a really neat perfect edge.

The purpose is to seal edges so they don’t fray but also overlocked seams are neater and more sturdy because they have 2 lines of basic stitching and 4 threads rather than the 2 of a regular machine.

The basic line of stitching that an overlocker creates is 2 regular lines of straight stitch with two other threads which zigzag between them and around front to back. Most of the time overlocking is hidden inside the garment but occasionally you can use an overlocker to create very tight visible stitches on unfolded hems. This is usually done of fabrics like chiffon where hems are a pain in the butt but also for visual effect on others.

Have a look at the inside of one of your dresses, you’ll see thicker seams which are overlocked.

So do you need one?

If you’re planning on selling the clothes you make or want a really professional finish then I think it’s a great tool. It’s not 100% necessary but they are really good to have and I find them to save a lot of time. If you are wanting to save time you can always overlock fabric pieces together rather than edging each and then sewing together. Not technically “correct” in sewing theory but it saves a lot of time and effort!

Overlockers are also more expensive, require more maintenance because they have a lot more moving parts and mechanics. They are harder to thread and generally harder to wrap your head around. That said if you put in the initial effort they are totally worth it.

My machine cost around $600 in 2005, it was a birthday gift, it’s a “Lock 1034D” and I haven’t had it serviced it the 8 years I’ve had it (out of cost and laziness). It’s broken a few times since I’ve owned it but each time either James or I have been able to just take it apart and find the issue. Can’t complain!

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I’m not really going to go into detail with the mechanics of threading an overlocker because each one is dramatically different but here is how mine works:

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Two of the threads are threaded through the two needles like you would a regular machine and then the other two are threaded inside the actual machine and come out under the foot.

Close up it looks something like this:

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From the top it looks quite complicated but basically you have 4 spools of thread and then holder clips and tension wheels for each.

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On the side there is a handwheel, foot lift, air vent and power button.

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And then on the other side there are levers to control the stitches and the cutter.

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You machine will probably have completely different levers.

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Overlockers usually have a front panel which slides down to reveal the mechanics.

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The two underneath threads are threaded through a series of metal loops and little metal pull out pieces which push into place and thread the inside.

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Most modern overlockers actually have instructions colour coded on them so you can just follow the numbers to thread it. Be extremely careful when you are threading not to have your foot on the pedal. There are so many moving parts in there which could easily catch fingers!

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So really the most important thing to do if you’re considering an overlocker is try them out in store to find one you like the feel of and make sure it comes with really thorough instructions. Most places that sell sewing machine offer free classes so you can get to know your new machine, they are definitely worth checking out if you have the time. My overlocker came with a VHS (which was completely outdated even then) instruction video and in this day and age a lot of companies have specific beginners videos on getting started.

My top tips for working with your machine when you get it:

  • Practice threading… a lot in the beginning, it will save you time later when a thread snaps and you’re half way through an outfit. 
  • Overlockers go a lot faster than sewing machines.
  • Make sure you clean out the insides often. Bits of thread, dust and other crap gets inside the machine easily and it can clog up the mechanic causing more expensive damage. Clean it out regularly to avoid that!
  • Practice on a lot of scrap fabric because the cutting blade can be a bit hard to handle.
  • Practice doing curved edges too, it can be difficult to get the hang of because you have to consider where the blade is.
  • Don’t be put off by how complicated it looks, once you have played around for a while it’s so much fun!

Hope this was a useful post and let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them next time!

Let’s Sew A Simple Lolita Skirt! Sew Fun!

You guys voted on the topic last week and the winner by a long shot was a simple ruffled Lolita skirt for our first big project! Fantastic choice guys, you’ll learn some really great skills in this project which you’ll be able to transfer to other projects.

So before we get into it, let’s have a look at the finished project being modeled by the lovely Miss Quinn ;D

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Before we start, let’s look at the features of the skirt we’re going to make.

The basic shape of the skirt we are making is a bell shape. This shape is suited for cute girly styles  like Lolita fashion. This shape is very easy to make but it does take up a decent amount of fabric. When choosing your fabric keep in mind that if you are using a patterned print you may need more to make sure the patterns match up well.

The top of the skirt is gathered and there is a ruffle along the bottom of it.

This skirt features a flat waist band.

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On the back the waist band is partially elastic to ensure a good fit.

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Keep in mind I’m going to keep this as simple as possible so we are going to cut some corners and it’s going to be a very basic skirt (eg. it’s not lined). I only sew for myself these days so I don’t mind taking short cuts because I know how I wear clothes. A lot of my techniques are just my personal preference after way too many years sewing so I would suggest looking at several different courses and styles of sewing so you can find the one that works best for you.

So let’s get started!

You will need:

  • Scissors
  • Fabric
  • Elastic
  • Sewing machine
  • Tape measure
  • Any decorations you want like lace etc

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I will be using dark thread so you can see what I’m doing again but please choose a thread that matches your fabric.

First thing you need to do is measure your waist. These skirts sit on the waist not the hips so measure around the thinnest part of your waist. I will do an entire post on how to measure yourself later because that is very very important. It is very hard to measure yourself accurately so please get a friend to help if possible.

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Now you need to cut your pieces out.

This project will consist of 3 rectangular sections:

  • The ruffle at the bottom
  • The main skirt part
  • The waist band

Here is how to measure for each piece to cut

Waist:

This is made from 4 rectangles. Two wider ones for the front/elastic back and two shorter ones for the sides of the back

Height- Twice as high as you want the finished waistband to be plus 3cm for seams.
Width- The pieces for the front/elastic back should be 1/2 of your waist measurement. The pieces for the sides of the back should be 1/6th of your waist measurement.

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Skirt:

This is made from 2 pieces (it can be more or less depending on the fabric you’re cutting from).

Height- This depends on how long you want the finished skirt to be. Make sure to leave extra for seams.
Width- This should be at least 3 times your waist measurement. The longer the width, the poufier the skirt.

Ruffle:

This is made from several long strips. I used 3 but yours will depend how wide your piece of fabric is.

Height- This depends on how long you want the finished skirt to be. Make sure to leave extra for seams.
Width- This should be at least twice the width of the total skirt width.The longer the width of this, the frillier the ruffle.

The way my fabric was patterned I had to use several pieces where you could just use one if your fabric allows it. Keep in mind that this is more of a guide than an exact pattern, so experiment. I would ALWAYS suggest if you’re unsure on measurements to draw things out and use some basic math. I would also suggest pinning things together before you start sewing so you can check the fit before you go to the effort of sewing.

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We are going to work from the bottom to the top so we’re starting with the ruffle first.

The first step is to seal the short edges of your ruffle pieces using a zigzag stitch or overlocker. Most of you will be using zigzag so that’s what I used too.

You will notice that some edges of the fabric have been sealed, it’s up to you if you want to bother zigzagging those, I generally don’t bother. Make sure when you do sew them into seams you sew far enough in that the edges won’t be seen.

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Ok so once you have zigzagged the short edges you will need to sew the ruffle pieces together so they make one gigantic long rectangular piece. To do this, put the good sides of the fabric together and then stitch down the short side around 1.5cm from the edge. Make sure you secure the beginning and end of the seam as you go.

Repeat this for all of your ruffle pieces until you have one super long piece.

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Now flatten out the seams you made by folding them in opposite directions. You can pin them in place or iron them or if you are more confident then just hold them down while you sew. When I first learned to sew we were taught very strictly to pin every single seam and then iron it in place before sewing. I would suggest doing that until you get a good feel for sewing and then you can be like me: lazy and avoid ironing at all costs.

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While your seams are flattened out like that, zigzag down the long sizes of the ruffle piece to seal the sides in.

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When you zigzag the long side make sure you have the seams open and go right over the top. This will hold them open permanently.

This side with the seams will now be called the bad side.

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Now we need to close up the bottom ruffle in a proper seam. So fold the long edge over to the bad side. I make seams like this around 0.06cm so they aren’t too huge, this is personal preference so you can do whatever you prefer.

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Fold it over again so the zigzag edge is completely inside. Pin it in place!

Fold and pin for one entire long edge.

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Now sew along that seam using a straight stitch.

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Be careful when you go over the flat seams. You want the whole thing to be nice and straight.

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Great work!

Now let’s turn this long rectangle into a ruffle!

There are a billion ways to make ruffles, I’m going to use the easiest machine one.

Turn your machine tension to the highest number. Anchor a line of stitching around 2cm from the zigzag at the top of the rectangle.

Straight stitch all the way down the side of the ruffle. You should notice that the fabric coming out the back of the machine is pulling and very slightly ruffled. This is because the tension on the thread is very high. This may not work with heavy fabric.

It is important that if you want to do this method that you use good thread. Cheap thread will just snap when you try to pull it later and that is VERY frustrating when you’re half way through several meters of ruffles.

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Do not anchor the end of the stitching when you reach the other end and leave a long trail of thread.

This is what it looks like when it comes out of the machine.

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Look closely at the thread, one side will be a tight straight line, this is the end you will pull if you want more ruffles.

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Put the ruffle to the side for the moment so we can prepare the middle part of the skirt.

 

Zigzag all of the edges of the skirt pieces. As you did with the ruffle pieces, stitch the skirt pieces so they become a really long rectangle. Fold the seams flat as well.

You should have something along these lines with one big rectangle for the skirt and a super long ruffle underneath.

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We need the ruffle to be… rufflier XD

Basically it needs to be the same width as the skirt piece so you can sew it on to the bottom. To make it rufflier you need to pull the tight thread gently and slide the fabric along it so it gathers evenly along the way.

Be careful as you go especially when you are pulling over the top of seams. If your thread snaps you will likely need to start this again so many people suggest using two lines of stitching at once so there’s no big strain at anyone point. I am lazy so I choose to use one strong piece of thread 😉

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Pull the ruffle and arrange it until it’s as long as the skirt piece and then tie the end of the thread in a knot so it can’t un-ruffle itself.

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Now let’s attach the ruffle to the skirt.

Place the ruffle upside down with the good side facing the good side of the skirt and pin it in place.

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Sew down the long side around 1.5cm from the edge.

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You can see there will be two lines of stitching when you’re done, the one you just did and then the line you used to make the ruffles.

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When you fold the ruffle flat you can see the stitches too.

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Use an unpicker  or scissors to remove the ruffle stitching.

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Get mad at your dog for insisting that she lay all over your projects.

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Back to the point, yay you just made a ruffled edge!!!

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Now we need to gather the top of the skirt so it will sit in the waist band properly. Use the same ruffle method and gather the top of the skirt.

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Now we need to put the waist band together.

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Zigzag all of your edges and then sew the pieces of the waist band together to form one long rectangle. The order should go: side, front, side, elastic back.

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We will be folding the waist band in half and then sandwiching the skirt part inside it. If you want to iron a fold it to make it easier for yourself, now is the time. You can also run a line of stitches close to the fold if you want to.

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Get the rest of the skirt off your dog again. Seriously Lottie, what makes laying on my projects so appealing?!

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Put the band on the ground (bad side up) and lay the skirt on top of it (good side up)

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Fold the waist band over.

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And then fold the zigzagged edge of the waist band under again. This can be a little bit fiddly so do it a little bit at a time and pin as you go.

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Straight stitch just next to the edge of the band and you’ve made a waist!

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If you want to be really great about it, you can fold the edge of the inside of the waistband over too but this can be a little tricky for beginners so I didn’t bother.

You can see the difference of the inside and outside here:

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Now we need to add in the elastic part of the skirt.

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Thread the end of the elastic through the inside of the waist band. I find this is easiest when I put a safety pin on the end.

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Stop threading when you reach the first seam of the waist.

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Stitch a line through both the elastic and the waistband. This will hold the elastic inside.

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Pull the end of the elastic so the fabric gathers on it. Make another line of stitches on that side of the waist band and then cut off the extra elastic. The elastic should now be secure inside the skirt.

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Now we have one thing left to do… turn this long frilly rectangle into a skirt!

Fold the whole thing in half so the good side is inside. Match up the last zigzagged edges along the side.

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Stitch right down it making sure to anchor well.

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Snip off all of the loose threads everywhere.

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Turn it right way out and you’re finished!!

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The back now has a fancy elastic section to ensure a great fit!

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You have officially completed your first piece of clothing, congratulations!!

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This is just a very basic skirt but from here you can decorate in numerous ways including adding lace to the edges or seams, ribbons, bows, anything really!

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Depending on the fabric you choose you can make a whole variety of styles. Once you get more confident with sewing and understanding how different  pieces work with your body, you will be able draft patterns like this easily and whip one up in an hour or so!

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial, if you have any questions make sure you leave them in the comments and let me know if you give this a try. I can’t wait to see all of your finished skirts!

 

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