Castaway to Couture - my grey skirt makeover

Sunday, 10 April 2016
The Australian Sewing Guild is once again running a competition called 'Castaway to Couture' which requires entrants to refashion an existing garment into something new. The first prize is a Brother embroidery sewing machine, so if you are an Australian or New Zealand sewer you should definitely consider entering - you've still got until the 31st May so plenty of time. And if you're not going to enter yourself, well then - you should vote for me!!

I don't often bother with refashions since I have such a huge stash and refashions generally take much more time and effort, but the competition was enough incentive for me to finally getting around to doing something with this wool skirt I bought at a garage sale a few years ago for $5. This is what I came up with:
New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover

I've wanted to do something with this skirt for a long time because the fabric is so lovely. This is an Adam Bennett number, probably from the 1980s, and is made from pure wool. It was deeply pleated , but on me was too big and too long. It was really heavy too, due to how much material was in it.

Originally I planned to keep it as a skirt and make it smaller to fit, but I couldn't just chop a bit off the bottom because it would lose the proportions of the stripes, and I couldn't just take it in at the sides either because it was just one long piece with just one side seam.

The first thing that was required to was to get rid of those pleats. What a lot of work that was! If I didn't like this fabric so much I would have given up and just used one of the many perfectly good pieces of fabric in my collection.

I washed and soaked the fabric many times, and I pressed and pressed and pressed. I used the method Claire Schaeffer describes in her book Fabric Sewing Guide of placing on the fabric some brown paper that has been soaked with a 50/50 vinegar and water mix and pressing it with a hot iron until the paper is dry. It worked wonders at getting the creases out, but that vinegar smell sure did give me a craving for some fish and chips! The vinegar smell goes away though when the fabric dries. Here is the fabric after washing and soaking but before pressing:

And here is the fabric after pressing a few times with the brown paper and vinegar method:

The fabric feels very flat and smooth, but what I hadn't counted on though is that a visible line would remain along the edge of the pleats despite all the washing. You can faintly see in the photo above the visible vertical lines - I've just decided that it is a design feature, and that the fabric has vertical self stripes in addition to the horizontal coloured stripes!

These photos don't really show the vertical lines at all, but in the daylight they are quite noticeable.  The lines are evenly spaced across the front, and I managed to line them up on the bodice and the skirt, so hopefully everyone else just accepts it as a deliberate feature.

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover

I used my favourite sheath dress pattern, New Look 6968, which I've used many times before with great success (see here, here, here, here and here!).  Funnily enough one of those previous versions was a refashion too - obviously the simple lines of this pattern and the small amount of fabric needed are perfect for refashioning.

I kept the hem of the original skirt, and managed to cut the skirt and the bodice out of the width of former skirt because it really was a very full skirt. The spacing between the stripes worked out pretty well when I wear it with a belt:

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover

Without a belt at the waistline however it looks a bit plain and the proportion is a bit off there in the centre, as the stripe on the skirt is too far below the waistline:

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover

There were a lot of stripes to match at the side seams and the centre back invisible zip, but with a lot of pinning and careful sewing I think I managed to get a pretty good match at all stripes, even the one interrupted by the dart at the bust line:

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover

The reason I love this New Look pattern so much is that it has a waist seam with a separate bodice and skirt which means I can get such a good fit in the small of my back thanks to the waist seam and the darts. I find that putting darts into a single back piece never gets a close fit in my swayback as this style does.

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover

There's not much more I can say about this pattern that I haven't said before - it's a great basic pattern that is quite simple to sew. I made this one a size larger than previous versions I've made because this fabric has no stretch and those previous versions are all a little bit tight now (they must be shrinking while hanging in my wardrobe, I'm sure!). This size is really comfortable to wear, but there is a bit of looseness around the bust and below the waist, but I think a bit of ease is necessary in a form fitting dress with no stretch.

I've fully lined this dress in some lining that has been in the stash a long time, and even used an invisible zipper that was salvaged from another garment, so this really was a cheap project to make. Unfortunately this project doesn't make any dent in my huge fabric collection at all, but it's certainly a great addition to my wardrobe.

So as I said at the beginning, the competition is open until the 31st May and I really encourage fellow Australians and New Zealanders to enter - who wouldn't want a fancy embroidery sewing machine or any of the other great prizes on offer?

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