Thursday, October 1, 2015

Guest Blogger | Elisha Campbell, The Monkey's Treehouse

My 11 year old daughter, Belle, is your typical tween girl. She likes her space, she loves to stand out, she likes her makeup, and she loves fashion. She has books full of sketches of different clothing designs she would like to create. She has learned recently that having a mom that makes custom clothes and accessories for a living, certainly does not hurt when you have a passion for fashion.

Last week, Belle and I began the process of her creating her first actual piece of clothing. She decided that she wanted to make a simple skirt for herself. We talked about fabrics and what is involved in making different styles of skirts.

The easiest skirts to make are knit skirts. They stretch, they lay well, they are very comfortable, and they actually require no hemming. The second easiest? Full, elastic waist skirts. These do require hemming, but all sewing is along straight lines. Cotton or other lightweight fabrics work well for these skirts as they gather nicely. Heavier fabrics like denim, leather, and canvas require a more structured pattern.
After choosing your type of fabric, you want to select a pattern of fabric that is relatively easy to work with. Stripes are definitely the most difficult to work with. Since I can guarantee you will want to show off your designer handiwork frequently, you will also want to be sure that your fabric will go with a few different tops in your wardrobe. This will ensure that you can get maximum use out of your one-of-a-kind piece, while not looking like you wear the same outfit every three days. Belle chose a black cotton with a Monster High inspired pattern on it. (Truth be told, it's an old flat sheet. Sheets are a great way to get fabric for less money, especially when they are on clearance or when there is not a fabric store near you.) Since it's not a knit cotton fabric, we will be making the full, elastic waist skirt. I will include directions to create this skirt without a sewing machine as well.

After you have chosen your fabric, you need to take some measurements. Using a tailor's measuring tape (the flexible plastic or cloth kind, not the kind in your toolbox), measure your waist (where you want the skirt to sit) and the length (distance from where you measured your waist to where you want your skirt to end). We measured to about knee length, but you can make your skirt as short or long as you would like. You may want to check in with any dress codes that you may have to follow at home/work/school before deciding on a length. There is nothing worse than creating a piece and not being able to wear it.

Now that you have your measurements, you need to do some simple math before we measure our fabric. We will be cutting a rectangle of fabric that measures as follows.

            Length = measured length + 4" (for seam allowance and elastic casing)
            Width = (measured waist x 1.5) + 1" for seam allowance

If you want an even fuller skirt, feel free to multiply the waist measurement by 2 instead of just 1.5.

Now that you have a nice rectangle, we can iron out the hems and pin them. Lay your fabric right side down on your ironing surface. Fold the bottom long edge up half an inch and iron it. Fold it up another half inch, iron again, and then pin. This will hide any raw edges. You can choose not to iron your hems if you feel comfortable, but I definitely recommend it for beginners. Take your skirt to your machine and sew that hem with a straight stitch. For those of you without access to a sewing machine, you can close the hem with some stitch witchery and a hot iron. Just follow the directions on your stitch witchery instead of sewing. If you are comfortable with a sewing machine, and you want to stitch a decorative hem, have at it. It's your skirt, party if you want to.

Now for the top which will be the elastic casing. You are going to want to fold over about 1"-1.5" for this one, depending on the width of your elastic (I recommend 3/4"-1" elastic.). In the same fashion as we did for the bottom hem, we are going to fold over 1"-1.5", iron, then fold over another 1"-1.5", iron, and pin. When you sew the elastic casing, you want to sew as close to the inside edge (where the back side of the fabric and the folded fabric are next to each other) of the hem as possible creating a tube, or "casing", for your elastic. Use a straight stitch here so that you don't have areas that the elastic won't fit through. Again, if you do not have a sewing machine. You can use that handy stitch witchery again. Just be sure to leave enough room open on your casing for the elastic to be threaded through.

Take your elastic, which should be cut about 3-4" shorter than your original waist measurement, and use a lighter to melt the ends. Be sure not to light it on fire, you just want to seal the ends of the elastic so that they don't fray. Attach a safety pin to one end of your elastic and carefully thread it through your casing on your fabric. You want to be sure not to flip your elastic so that it remains flat, as well as be sure you don't pull it through the other end. When you are finished, you should have both ends of your elastic, with the fabric gathered between the two ends. Pin your ends together so you don't lose them.

Now you have a large rectangle of fabric, gathered with an elastic, that looks something like a strangely shaped curtain. Turn your almost-skirt inside out, so that the wrong side of the fabric is facing out. Put your two raw ends right-side together, including where your elastic is. Pin them together so they don't slip during sewing. Sew straight up the skirt, starting from the bottom, including where the elastic is. You want this seam to have about a half inch seam allowance. This will seal the skirt and the elastic closed. I recommend going over that straight stitch with a zig-zag stitch to help make sure it is secure. For those that are not using a sewing machine, you will line your elastic and fabric up the same way. Stitch the area with the elastic using a hand stitch several times to secure the elastic and top of the fabric. When that portion is secure, you can continue using your stitch witchery for the remainder of the seam.

Trim any small amount of elastic that might be sticking out of your seam and trim any threads that you still may have. Turn your skirt right side out and adjust any gathering as necessary and you are ready to show off your new creation!

Belle has not had the chance to sew her skirt yet, but we would love to see yours if you decide to create one! Head on over to TheMonkey's Treehouse on Facebook and post your skirts. Don't have the desire to make one yourself, but looking to have that one-of-a-kind style? Visit our web boutique or contact us to create a piece for you.   

-Elisha Campbell, Co-Owner at The Monkey's Treehouse

About Elisha:
I am a work at home mom of five incredible kids (my monkeys). I Co-Own The Monkey's Treehouse with my wonderful husband. I have a passion for my work and a passion for my family. Owning my own business allows me the freedom to participate fully in my children's lives and show them that there are possibilities beyond a 9-5 job.