Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Polo Shirt to Girls Dress Tutorial

This week our guest judge is Lier from ikatbag,one of the most fabulous sewing blogs....ever.  It was one of the first sewing blogs I started reading, and have been totally hooked ever since.
Here's Lier....

Hello all!
I'm LiEr and I am honored to be a part of this year's Project Run and Play! I blog at ikatbag, where I sometimes sew and sometimes dabble in cardboard. I have three little girls, aged 4,5 and 7, who are both the inspiration for most of the things I sew, and the reason I don't actually have the time to sew them. I grew up in Singapore, in a family in which all the women sewed, along with some of the men. I hand-sewed stuffed toys as a very little girl and began using the sewing machine in homec. class in middle school. When I was thirteen, I made my first garment - a white twill mini skirt with uneven hems and a bad waistband. I thought it was sooooo cool.

When I was in high school with my bumbling middle-school years far behind me, I decided that I wanted to really, seriously make my own clothes. I had the most fantastic collection of lurid IKEA home dec fabric and I was ready to take on the world! Grandma, who was a professional tailor and who'd lived with us for most of my childhood years, had moved to a nursing home, so the lot fell to my mother -who'd learnt all she knew from Grandma- to teach me to sew. And so the adventure began. Whether it was because we didn't have access to commercial patterns, or because it was what everyone around me did, I learned to sew by taking a person's body measurements, drafting a basic block (aka a sloper) and adapting that to make different patterns. We argued constantly, because I wanted to sew everything fast while Mum wanted to do it well. It was -on hindsight - a wonderful learning experience because I was allowed to experiment and attempt all kinds of things, and wear both the successes and the failures. Then I went to college, studied to be a teacher, and put sewing on hold for the next few years while I worked full-time.

Fast forward to about six years ago, when  I moved to the US with the husband, one small child and the freedom of an early retirement. I was ready to sew again! But how different sewing was here! I'd never used a commercial pattern (and I still don't know how) but almost everyone here does. I wanted a refresher course in drafting, because I was rusty after  long break, but couldn't find any outside of fashion school. I couldn't sew the new way, I didn't remember how to sew the old way, so - helloooooooo, culture shock - I was completely lost. It took a while but I finally got off the ground - and just in time, too, because we had two more daughters, and they needed new bibs, blankets, clothes and toys! Sewing became fun again, and inspiration was everywhere - in the books we read, the catalogs we browsed, the stores we patronized, and the very play in which our girls were engaged. 

Here are some of the clothes I've made the girls in years past- they range from casual basics to costumes. 

And here are some of my favorite skills-and-techniques tutorials from the old blog. I documented them in the hope that someday, when my girls learn to sew, they will enjoy reading about the method in their mother's madness.
(click on the individual images to take you to the respective posts)

And now that you've gotten to know me a little better, let's jump right into this week's theme and tutorial! When Elizabeth and Liz asked me to be guest judge for this week, it made me think about the way I sewed clothes. For instance, I realized I very rarely upcycle or refashion new clothes out of other clothes. I've poached zippers from discarded bags and jackets, and turned garage sale bedlinen into tents for the girls, but almost all the clothes I've made came from new fabric. It could be that refashioning often requires seam-ripping, which I'm too lazy to do, or that most of my old clothes are made from such hideous fabric that they don't deserve a second life as anything else, or that the garments that aren't worn down to their barest threads are handed happily over to Goodwill to bless new owners. So, just for fun, I thought I'd challenge myself to do what I've never done before - upcycle an old garment. In the process, I learnt that it's a lot about working around and with constraints (like a limited amount of fabric, strange button placement and raggedy bits) to invent a completely new thing. And once I'd gotten past the fear that it was going to be a complete flop, the ride to the finish was exhilarating.

Here's the victim - an old shirt I bought when I was expecting Kate, my youngest. Very masculine-androgynous, but roomy and stretchy, which served me well into the pregnancy and for many nursing months after. Now, my biggest challenge in sewing for my kids is wearability. I've long given up sewing clothes that are fun to make but that my kids refuse to wear. It is, however, a safe bet that if there's knit fabric involved, they will probably wear it. So I dug through my closet, looking specifically for something knit and soft. When I unearthed this, I scrunched up the fabric in my hand and decided it was perfect for a kid's dress. I began by simply planning what I could get out this shirt. First, the size: its size (specifically its length) meant that, of my three girls, only Kate is small enough to wear the finished dress. Second, the colors: upon closer scrutiny, I noticed a pale yellow stripe between the colored bands that I could play up in the embellishing later.

Third, its features: I decided to preserve some of the features of the original garment - the entire button placket and part of the ribbed collar for new sleeve cuffs. Next, I cut apart the seams and unpicked the entire collar to release the pieces of fabric. I'm going to skip the sloper process (you can read more about how I sew from slopers here, and learn about drafting them here) and jump right into the layout. I'll just say, by way of explanation, that a sloper is a custom-fit garment that has no design ease in it, meaning that it is fitted, featureless, boring and has no seam allowances. It also means that, for growing children, it needs to be current in order to fit the person it's meant for. Kate's most recent sloper, thanks to my laziness, is two years out of date. So - shhhhh! - I used her older sister's sloper, which is completely contrary to sloper logic but which, with some fitting adjustments later, would be close enough. This being a knit garment (i.e. stretchy), I did not introduce any ease around the sloper.

Purely for design, I cut the bodice just below the waist, and formed the remaining fabric into a partial- circular skirt. This skirt will have a little more drape than if I'd cut the entire garment as an A-line dress, which is a perfectly good alternative.

The front was done the same way, centered about the button placket.

The sleeves were cut apart to make new sleeves, the collar and (later) pockets.

Here are the various pieces, shown with the paper patterns - the brown pieces are the collar (front and back) and the white is the sleeve block (i.e. boring, featureless, fitted, set-in short sleeve). Because the sleeves will be lightly puffed, I added a little height and width to the sleeve caps when cutting the fabric out. Here's a tutorial on how this is done.

This is the double-layered peter-pan collar sewn up and stay-stitched.

This is the new bodice, with its shoulder seams completed, and the sleeves attached.

From the old collar, a strip of ribbing was cut for each sleeve, sewn, serged

and flipped over.

The collar was embellished

 and sewn onto the neckline.

Then the side seams were sewn up and the finished bodice tried on Kate for fit.

You can see the little bit of puff on the sleeve - just enough to remind you that while the fabric is masculine, it's a little girl who's wearing it.

Then the embellishments were added. First the collar that was fancied up,

and then patch pockets,

a trimmed hem and the old pewter buttons swopped out for brighter, unmatching ones

to unify the colors in one happy dress.

Did it pass the Kate test? 

She asked for it first thing next morning, put it on, stuck her hands in the pockets, and skipped off. 

Five minutes later, I heard her voice, "Mum! I think this dress is very comfortable!"
 So yes, I'd say it passed.

Thanks for having me, Elizabeth and Liz. I am continually delighted by the all different styles of the entries I've seen so far, and impressed with the talent and workmanship of their designers. They make it look so easy to sew under pressure and with deadlines, don't they? I am excited to see what they will create this week!

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  1. So great to see LiEr over here. I love her blog, her projects, and her wit. The princess pavillion she created for her daughters is one of my favourite sewing projects I have ever seen.
    This refashion is very clever, from the photo I would have never known that the shirt was cut for a bodice and a skirt, lovely drape.

  2. It's a lovely upcycle! I love the daisy trim at the hem and the embroidery on the collar.

  3. love how you thought to make a peter pan collar to embellish! great little detail:) Love your upcycle - thank you for sharing it!

  4. this is fantastic, but of course that is expected from ikat. well done, definitely one of my absolute fave sewing bloggers out there!

  5. Anybody who's followed LiEr for any length of time knows that whatever she makes will turn out to be fabulous! I LOVE that little dress (as well as its little model)! The embellishments are sooo cute! Another awesome job, LiEr!!

  6. WHHAAAaaaaat?! LiEr is AAA-mazing! I made up a phrase about a month ago to myself: "when in doubt, pull ikat bag out!!" It is not an understatement when I say that she is probably the most necessary sewing blog I've ever come across. Good job snagging her LiZ & Elizabeth!

  7. Big fan of Ikat Bag this way! Your tutorial is awesome (as always!)

  8. Beautiful refashion- especially the way the skirt drapes and the little buttons and embroidery.

  9. I love this! And I'm thrilled to see that you attach sleeves and THEN sew the side seams - that's what I've always done, even though it's the opposite of what commercial patterns tell you to do. SO much easier!!!

    1. Hey, MaryAnne! I don't always do the sleeves this way. Actually, I usually only do this sequence with raglan sleeves. With set-in-sleeves, I baste them into the completed/closed armscye 90% of the time. No reason - just old habit. Unless the garment is very small (like doll's clothes). Or very loose, so it doesn't matter which seam gets sewn first. Or if there are bulky french seams involved (like in men's tailored shirts). Or easier to photograph, like in this tutorial!

  10. Oh that's absolutely stunning!

    Adele @ Mammy Made

  11. That is so cute, i'd never have guessed it was once a guys shirt. Awesome!

  12. This was complete MAGIC! Wow! I can't believe the transformation. Amazing work.

  13. So, so beautiful and well done ! Thank you so much for this tutorial, that is very kind of you !


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