Friday, July 24, 2009

Lumberjack lovin'

Ages ago I promised a DIY tutorial for my lumberjack-printed ruffle dress. I’ve been ever so slowly chugging along on this post, but here it is finally. This is one of my favourite DIY’s I’ve ever done, I really do hope some of you are inspired to try it out!

First of all you’ll need to go to pick up some lumberjack plaid shirts from the thrift store, or sneak into your Dad’s closet and steal a few of his old ones. You are going to need 4 plaid shirts of a similar shade. You could try to find 4 identical plaid shirts, but I think this dress looks much more interesting when there is a few different shades and patterns are being used. Try to find ones that are as big as possible!

Pick which one you want to use for the top of your dress. I bought 3 of my shirts from the men’s section, and one from the women’s to use for the top. This way I didn’t have to alter the top because it was already fitted, but if you want to use a shirt that is big then you can just flip it inside out sew the sides in so it fits better. When you’ve got a top that fits, try it on and decide where you want the skirt to begin. I made mine start on my waist, around the bellybutton. Use tape to mark where you want your skirt to be attached, then set this shirt aside for later.
Now you’re going to sew the basic bottom of your skirt. Take 4 measurements:

1 – Your waist, where the skirt begins
2 – The widest point of your hips
3 – Around your thighs where you wan the skirt to end.
4 – The length of your skirt from top to bottom

Take the shirt you want to use for the bottom, flip it inside out, button it up, and lay it out flat on the floor. Take some chalk and start marking out the shape of the skirt, using the measurements you took above. IMPORTANT: Add about 2 and a half inches to each measurement for seam allowance, and so you can actually move in your skirt. You don’t want it too tight!! If in doubt, make it bigger. You can always take it in later, but you can’t reverse it once you’ve already cut it out!

Once you’ve got the curved shape marked out, pin the sides and try it on with the buttons done up so you know it will fit. Add another inch to each side if it’s too tight.
If the skirt fits then fold the shirt in half and cut out the shape. Sew the curved side seams, and keep the original bottom hem of the shirt to be the hem of your skirt… it’s easier then making a new hem!

Measure your skirt from top to bottom and divide it by 5. This will be the width of your ruffles, plus and inch for seam allowance!

Now it’s time to start making your ruffles! This is the most time consuming and important part of the dress, but it’s worth it in the end!

The last 2 shirts are what you use to make the ruffles. Start by cutting off the sleeves of the shirts and cutting open the seams of the sleeves. The rectangles for you ruffles should measure double you waist measurement… they need to be very, very long! You will need to attach rectangles together by sewing a straight seam so that you will get a looooong piece of fabric. 2 of the ruffles should be from one shirt, and 3 from another. To make my 5 ruffles I used up both of my shirts entirely, so make sure to measure and plan wisely when cutting out your strips as you might run out of fabric!

Once you have your 5 long strips, get out an iron and fold down half and inch along the bottom edges of your strips for the seam. You don’t have to worry about making perfect seams, as nobody really sees the underside of your ruffles. Just fold the edge half an inch, iron it down, then sew a straight seam along the edge.

Now it’s time to make those long strips of fabric into beautiful ruffles! This is actually much easier than you would think. All you need to do is sew a loose stich along the edge of your fabric. This is called a basting stitch, and all you need to do is set your machine to the longest stitch length possible. If you need some more help on this, watch this video on Threadbanger where they are making ruffles just like this!

While sewing your basting stitch, you need to make a gap in the stitch about every foot or so. This makes it easier to gather the fabric in the next step. While you sewing the basting stitch, stop about every foot and lift up the presser foot. Pull your fabric so you have some loose thread hanging off your fabric, then put down your fabric where you left off and continue sewing.

When this is all done, now you can sit down and start to gather you fabric strips into ruffles. This needs to be done CAREFULLY, otherwise you will break your threads and things will get messy. To gather your fabric, just pinch the part where the seam ends and carefully pull ONE of the loose end threads. Keep pulling until the fabric section is about half the length of what you started with. This Threadbanger video shows how to do this gathering method, it may help you out a bit!

When all the gathering is complete, you can start attaching the ruffles to your skirt! Lay the skirt flat on the floor and start pinning the ruffles on, starting with the bottom one. Each ruffle should overlap the previous one about 2 inches, enough to hide the basting stitch. You may need to fix the gathering a bit to make the ruffles fit each point on the skirt, then pin them down so they will be ready to sew!

To sew the ruffles on, you can just use a regular straight stitch and just sew overtop the basting stitch with a thread that matches your fabric. Don’t sew over your skirt’s buttons, otherwise you won’t be able to put the skirt on!

When all the ruffles are one, try on the skirt to make sure everything fits and looks okay.

Now you want to attach a collar from one of the scrap shirts onto the top part of the dress. Take the shirt you are using for the top and carefully cut off the collar. Then take the scraps of another shirt and cut off the collar, leaving at least half an inch of seam allowance. Place the collar face down along the neckline and pin it down. When you sew it, make sure you sew as close as possible to the original finished seam of the collar to make it look flawless. Also, make sure the buttons line up correctly between the 2 shirts.

Now all there is to do is to attach the top and the bottom of the dress! Lay the skirt in position overtop of the shirt, and sew it in place with a straight stitch. To attach the top and bottom more securely, as well as to cover up the seam, now we are going to make a simple waistband.

Cut out a long rectangle about 3 inches wide and the length of your waist measurement (plus a few extra inches for safety) out of some scrap fabric from one of your shirts. Fold the strip width-wise and iron it down. Then sew the side closed, leaving the ends open like a tube. Now you want to flip it inside out. You can attach a large safety pin to the end to help feed the fabric through. If you’ve never done this before, check out this Threadbanger video for this method.

When you’ve got your long tube, iron it down flat so that the seam now lies down the middle. Take your waistband and pin it down on top the seam between the skirt and top parts of your dress, as well as covering the basting stitch of your top ruffle. Sew it down with 2 seams, one along the top edge and one along the bottom edge. I put a button on top of the waistband but if your dress turned out so that the buttons between the top and skirt are even spaced, then you probably don’t need one.

Snip off all the loose threads (there will be A LOT on the ruffles) and then you’re all done! I would recommend donning your new lumberjack dress out for some pancakes, but that’s just me.

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