Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sweater Weather

Sometimes making clothes scares me. I do ok at it, but I’m WAY more comfortable when in charge of shoes, bags or jewelry. But in the grand tradition of my never meeting a pattern that I didn't like, I knew from the moment I saw this secondhand sweater that it'd be coming home with me to be my new project. I have to admit that I'm pretty damn pleased with the way this dress came out!

The only items needed to transform this sweater in to a dress were:
*second-hand sweater
*4" of 3" high elastic
*22" of twill tape

To start out I laid the sweater out flat and beginning at each of the bottom corners I cut diagonally up the top.

The front and the back were now connected by just a few inches of sewing on each side of the collar. Using a seam ripper I separated them and positioned the pieces so that the good sides were together and sewed along the two sides, stopping on each side 3" from the top.

This 3” gap is where the elastic was inserted and sewn into place.

Tada! A skirt! This was the point where I’d originally intended to the project to end.

Although the skirt was great, there was a LOT of material still left. I decided on improvising a little so I could make good use of it.

By cutting off that excess fabric and then opening the seam on one of the sleeves I was able to quickly come up with the decent makings of a bodice.

Because my machine doesn't love to sew sweatery stuff, I added one extra step here. Before finishing off the sides I laid down some double stick tape ¼” away from the edge and then gently turned the area to be sewn over it to make a nice clean line. That little bit of adhesion was enough to stabilized the edges and prevent unfortunate bunching once I got it on the sewing machine.

To create the straps I cut the twill tape in half, giving me two 11” pieces, put them in position at the top corners of the bodice and sewed them into place.

The very last step was attaching the bottom of the bodice to the front top edge of the skirt, by sewing between the two pieces of elastic.

Loose, comfortable, and a little hippy-dippy . Pretty much my standard summer fare.

*seam ripper
*double-stick tape

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Bling

My daughter, Ophelia, recently added a silver colored belt she'd outgrown to our giveaway pile, but my love of all things shiny required that I fish it out. So glad I did! After a little cutting, gluing and sewing, there were five one of a kind and ready to wear pieces where there had previously only been the one.

*silver belt
*3 spring clips
*2"piece of very stretchy 3/4" wide elastic
*13" piece of 3/8" wide elastic

The Cuff:
To make the cuff bracelet I cut off enough of the belt strap to wrap almost all the way around my wrist, minus two inches. Then, cut a 2" piece of super stretchy elastic and burnt the ends of the elastic for just a second with a lighter to keep the ends from fraying.

All that was need to finish was sewing the two ends of the elastic to each end of the belt. I opted to do this part on my sewing machine to save time, though it could've been accomplished just as easily by hand sewing.

Because of my tendency toward being rough on things and the cuff's extremely snug fit, I ran an extra line of stitches on each side. This reinforcement would help the sewing better withstand the stress of pulling the bracelet on and off.

The Headband:
The process for making the headband was the same as getting the cuff together: plan out the lengths of the belt and elastic strip I'd be using, then sew them together on my machine.

The one way I deviated the construction of the headband from the cuff was by giving the area where the belt was sewn to the elastic a more detailed finish.

Right over the line of stitches at the bottom of the belt piece I hot glued an extra piece of elastic. I put just a little glue on the elastic at a time, pulled it tight and then wrapped it a few times around the belt in a crisscross.

Totally unnecessary step, but nice to look at.

The Hair Clips:
For each clip I cut a piece of the belt that was the same length as the spring clip, plus an additional 1/8" on each side, hot glued it into place...

...and Ta-da! Done!

The easiest and by far my favorite of the three!

Thank you, Ophelia, for providing the inspirational item for this project! Five new accessories in less than 30 minutes = awesome.

*glue gun
*needle and thread

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Guest Post by Jessica Taft Langdon

** So excited to have this post from my great friend, Jessica Taft Langdon! As you'll read in her own words, I've been bugging her to do this for awhile. This isn't Jessica's regular thing, but I'm a big fan of her unique aesthetic and knew if she were gonna do this at all, it was gonna be awesome. And happily, it is (and extensive)! **

Kat has been asking me to do a guest post for this excellent blog since it’s inception. Or, perhaps before? Truth be told, I am not a natural re-do-er. I’m pretty good at my day job- designing women’s shoes, but I like to work with raw materials, and create, well, from the ground up. It’s harder for me to start with an existing product, and alter it to fit my specifications. But Kat’s inspiration and enthusiasm got me going. As did a trip to my local Housing Works Thrift Store. As I was browsing the well-stocked racks, among the little old ladies of Brooklyn Heights, I spied some excellent raw materials. Beautifully made Bally sandals (with some serious design flaws) for only $5. Perfect:

I’m already 5’9” tall and don’t really need any extra height, so I like a super flat sandal. This Bally pair fit the bill. The toe shape was perfect, and flattering, and the leather straps were soft and wouldn’t rub.But what is with all of those straps? Perhaps I missed the point of the original design, but…. I couldn’t figure out how the hardware for the closure was supposed to work. And why did the width of the straps suddenly get wider at the top? Strange... To make matters worse, the straps themselves were coming apart, and the strengthening tape that gives the straps some strength was fraying. Not so pretty.

So, I cut the straps shorter, just below the strange additional part just above the stitch line.

Then, because I happen to know that the white, fraying strengthening tape is much more necessary for the straps that go across your foot, and not so necessary that straps that wrap around your ankle, I decided to cut it out, where it was starting to separate and start to fray.

Then I used Barge Cement to glue the tape-less straps back together. Barge works just like the rubber cement you’ve used in the past- put a thin layer on both of the two things that you want to stick together. Let those layers dry, and then join.

At this point, I had already improved the sandals enough to wear them out in public without being stared at strangely:But I thought I could do a little bit better- jazz these babies up a bit. Inspired by some of Kat’s previous projects, I pushed forward.

But I’m a minimalist at heart. Studs and hardware are not really my thing. How could I add a bit of detail to these guys, and still create a pair of shoes I’d want to wear? I started to doubt my worthiness of being a We Can Re-Do It guest blogger! I was starting to think about throwing in the towel.

Then I thought of the jewelry that I’ve been making and selling on Etsy. I imagined a slight adornment, based on decorative stitch that I’d used to make necklaces & bracelets. But I didn’t want to over do it. I wanted to keep the sleek minimal look that first attracted me to the sandals in the first place. So, I pared it down:I used a bonded nylon string to make a stitch along two of the four straps covering each foot. The stitch that I used is the exact same one that you used in middle school in order to make friendship bracelets. Two knots are made on each side of the strap with the purple nylon string, alternating sides, in order to make a ladder shape.

It was important to use the nylon string, so that I could make a neat finish to the stitches at the end of strap. I did a very tight square knot in order to end the stitches, and then burned the excess string off with a lighter. You can kind of smoosh the melted nylon down after you burn it, so that there’s no chance that it will come untied as you walk:

Now, the only thing left to do was to neaten up the end of the straps that would wind around my ankles, and tie into a neat knot. Rather than leaving the straps cut raw at a 90 degree angle, I thought that the knotted straps would be more secure if I tapered the straps at their ends. You can see in the photo that excess that I removed from both sides of the straps, in order to create a thinner, tapered end to each strap: Straps fixed, and (not too much) adornment applied, I am totally ready to wear my new sandals!

The improvements here are subtle, but I’m really happy with the results. I’ve taken a pair of strange and somewhat useless sandals and given them new life.

As it turns out, even a doubter like me really can Re-Do It!