Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Alterations: from dress to tunic

As you know, one of my primary purposes in life is finding new ways to sneak pyjamas into my daytime wardrobe.  Tunics (or smocks) are one of the best ways to do this, but they can be hard to find, what with not being super stylish.  The ones with pockets are especially scarce, which is ridiculous because doesn't everybody need an everyday smock with built-in storage for keys, cell phone, and knitting?

So, over the weekend, I cut the bottom off a pair of linen dresses and rehemmed them.

That sounds awful, doesn't it?  Such a waste of a dress.  But when I bought these things last year, as excited as I was to have a garment for a hot day that wouldn't require a lot of extra planning or layers, I had to admit: neither one was at all flattering, and I only wore them - twice maybe?  Not each, but in total.  I mean, if a tunic turns you into a bag with legs, an empire-waist dress with a very full skirt just turns you into a bag.  Hems need to fall where they are the most flattering - aka, intentional - like the space below your kneecap where your leg is still on an outward curve to your calf.  If you stop instead at the widest part of your calf, in my experience it's a lot harder to convince people that you're wearing a dress and not a bag - or worse, what you really have on, which is a big comfy nightie that happens to be made of black linen.

Or bright green linen, ahem.

(guess which dress got worn twice, and which one not at all?)

Normally I'm careful to keep a good supply of thread in different colours for emergencies, but I seem to have skipped this particular shade of green.  I wonder why?

Anyhoo - I had to take seven inches off the dress to take it to a good tunic length, and since the skirt was more or less flared, that was WAY too much fabric to fold into a hem.  So after I'd pressed the new hem all the way round and double checked my seven inches against the original hem with a quilter's ruler (the kind that runs about 8" wide and marks the inches all the way up either side at that good distance), I got our a very sharp pair of scissors and started snipping.  Then I folded the remaining fabric down into a double layer and stitched through it.  On the black dress, for which I had matching thread.

This dress had another odd feature, at the armhole:

See how it sort of curves outward at the top?  That's normal in a lot of dresses but in this one, it was exaggerated, and it looked SO weird on.  I didn't want to mess with the casing at the top of the opening so I just folded it over for a quick topstitch.  Only to find that at that thickness, the ridgey bits under the presser foot were just clutching the linen for dear life, and not letting me push it through.

Solution: tissue paper.  Have you ever done this?  A colleague's wife gave me this tip when I was sewing silk chiffon into my wedding dress.  It's so simple and logical.

Step one:  Slip tissue paper under your fabric and start sewing.

Step Two: finish sewing, then tear the paper away.

With that dress successfully transformed, I had to turn my attention to the green dress, and decide whether to hold out for green thread and wait a few weeks to wear it, or use black thread and wear it right away.

It's hot out, so....

I went for the black thread.  In a basting stitch, so I can rip it out someday if I ever remember to buy green thread.  Which reminds me, I have to snip off some of the six inches I cut from the green dress and put it into my wallet, the better to get the right shade next time I'm in a sewing store.  And if that ever actually happens, I'll edit those armholes as well.

All done!

Okay, it looks even more like a bag now, but - Pockets, people!  And it's good that I got this thing into circulation fast because evidently my wardrobe needed some colour in it.  That's the green dress jumping out at you there, looking more like its actual shade.

Yikes that's bright.

And now, back to my paint boards and tile samples.  I swear I am in jail with these things!  But I'm sure it will all pay off in the end. 

(please, please tell me it will all pay off in the end?)


Su said...

I am imminently about to cast on t shirt type top in a cotton/silk blend not dissimilar in colour to your green linen (now) tunic. I also have some very loud fabric that I want to make into a coordinating skirt! What can I say? I like bright colours! I am with you on the tunic front, sooo comfy and hide a multitude of sins.
I knew about using tissue paper when sewing fine, slippy fabrics, I didn't know it worked for thick fabrics too. That little gem has been stored away for future reference. Thank you.

Mary Keenan said...

I used to wear SO much colour too, Su! I don't know what's up with me. The last few years when something bright goes into my closet, it sticks out like a sore thumb because I keep defaulting to black and grey. I'm hoping it's just because I am trying to keep my wardrobe very compact and all its pieces interchangeable, but it's a LOT of not fun things. Grrr.

I'm not sure the tissue thing would work for heavy denim btw but I could feel the feed dogs (is that what they're formally called, as opposed to 'the grabby things'?) catching on the loose weave of the linen, so I tried it and it did make a difference.