Karlene's Workshop

My sewing, refashioning and upcycling projects revealed
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Fairy Wand

  • 25/11/2009 3:50 pm

No fairy outfit would be complete without a wand. I made this one to go with the blue/turquoise wings and skirt.

I used an old knitting needle for the stick and covered it with a strip of knit fabric and some ribbon, gluing here and there with a hot glue gun to hold in place.
The fluffy bit at the top is made from tulle cut into circles, which are then folded in half, folded into quarters and then folded again, then stitched together to make a ball shape.
I made a flower shape from a piece of wire and attached it with the hot glue gun, then added the blue flower trim to finish it off.

This is the first of the three fairy/princess outfits to be completed! Yay!
I’m still working on headpieces for the other two, hopefully will be finished soon. In fact this whole project has taken me a lot longer than I expected, which is quite frustrating as I had other projects planned to give to people for Christmas and probably won’t get them all done. Next up are some dress-ups for my boys, at least all the kids will have something hand made by me.


New Fairy Skirt

  • 19/11/2009 3:36 pm

We’ve been very busy this week, today was the first I have been able to get any sewing done. I was very pleased to get this fairy skirt finished this morning. It’s to go with the fairy wings in my last post.

I have used lots of layers of different fabrics cut into triangle or square shapes, overlapping at the waist, with a few lengths of ribbon to finish it off.
The main fabric is from an old silk skirt from my mum. I love it when Mum’s have clean outs!

The pale blue bits are from the lining of the skirt and the deep blue and turquoise tulle is the same as I used for the wings.

I have used some light turquoise/blue fine cotton to line it.

I didn’t want any gaps in the lining, but still wanted the shape and fullness of the outer layer, so what I did was cut two large squares, cut holes in the middle like I did for my first fairy skirt, then cut up the middle of each. I then joined the two together (the circle bits) to make one very full skirt layer with eight points. If you look carefully you can see one of the two seams where I joined them together.

This was the first time I tried this technique and I really like how it turned out. In fact I wish I done the same thing to the outer layer!
Will have to do some more skirts that way in the future.


Fairy wings

  • 12/11/2009 8:33 pm

I’m so excited. I have just made my first successful pair of fairy wings!
Here is my little boy kindly modeling them for me, and yes he actually wanted to wear them.

In my research on how to make fairy wings I found mostly tutorials on the wire coat hanger technique, you know, you get the coat hangers (or just wire shapes) cover them with pantyhose and join them together. But of course I had to be different.

I wanted something a bit lighter and not so awkward so I decide to use layered tulle.
I used four layers, two turquoise and two dark blue, cut into a wing shape and then gathered up the middle. The two colours were overlapped slightly when I stacked them to show a variation of colour at the edges.

To cover up the stitching I sewed on some blue cord/braid over the top. I put shapes in the middle of the tulle and stitched around the edges through all the layers.

I also threaded some fishing wire through the wings in a loopy pattern for stiffness. To cover this up, on the back where you see most of the wings I sewed braid over the top of the wire and on the front I used some silver dimensional fabric paint.

For the straps I covered some elastic with fabric and hand stitched them in place on the front.

I had lots of fun making these. If I was going to make them quicker I think I would cut the wing shapes smaller and use more layers of tulle. Then there won’t be the need to add anything to stiffen them out.


Layered circle skirt

  • 20/10/2009 8:42 pm

For my next “princess” skirt for the nieces I made this ruffled one from a Barbie print curtain that my mother-in-law gave me.

The curtain looked brand new, it was from the in-laws new house in the bedroom that our boys sleep in when we stay, and has now been replaced. I just knew it would make an awesome fairy princess skirt.

I’m not saying which niece is getting this one but if any of my family are reading this they can probably guess. Shh!

It is made from three circular layers of different lengths, with gathered tulle strips sewn on the lining layers. “What?” you say, just like this:

I made a circular skirt pattern for the longest layer and marked the two shorter ones on it, then cut them all out.

This is what the cut pieces looked like:

Then I did the same with the lining layers. Yip, this skirt has six layers, which makes it very interesting to sew on elastic for the waist but more about that later.

I’ve been storing some pink tulle in my stash for years, waiting for a project just like this to use it all up. The tulle was strip cut into pieces then gathered into a ruffle.

I sewed the ruffled tulle strips onto each layer so the edge was aligned with the hem. For the hems I just used a zig-zag stitch, I really couldn’t face properly hemming all that fabric! This picture shows the top layer with the ruffle stitched on.

I had to put this picture in because I just loved how the skirt layers looked on top of one another. For some reason it makes me think of a giant wedding cake!

Then came the elastic. I knew I would have a real problem trying to sew through 12 layers if I just folded the top over, so I joined the outer and the lining first, slipped the elastic on, then stitched a casing seam under the elastic to hold it up. Hope this makes sense, it is quite hard to explain.

All done. This is my favorite picture, the angle shows off the layers nicely.

Now I just have to make some kind of flower circlet headdress thing.


Ruffle wrap

  • 13/10/2009 1:05 pm

I used the rest of Mum’s old dress to make a ruffle wrap for my niece, to match the skirt.

I started off with a strip cut from the under dress to form the base. This layer of the dress was cut on the bias, so my strip is now bias cut without any effort. This will help it sit nicely around her shoulders.

I also cut two narrow extra strips for the straps.

The edges are sewn together down the long edge leaving a small gap for turning in the middle, then the seam is pressed open lying in the centre of the strip.

The straps are tucked in and the ends stitched,

and then the whole thing is turned right side out, ta da!

I cut two strips of lace net from the lace over dress like this.

And then joined them up and gathered them.

Then I did the same with a strip of tulle in a contrasting lime green colour. The gathered strips were layered, pinned on and sewn down the middle of the base.

Next I made some flowers from the remaining lace net and some wine coloured tricot knit (petticoat fabric).

And sewed them on so it looks like this.

This is how it will be worn on the body, but on a much smaller person.

It took me all school holidays (two weeks) just to make the roses and sew them on! Now that the kids are back at school and kindy I’ll have to buckle down and get some real sewing done.


Petticoat pattern how-to

  • 30/09/2009 2:31 pm

I had a comment last week about a pattern for a petticoat. Making a pattern for the type of petticoat I wear dancing is actually quite easy, so I can show you how. Its the sewing together that is the hard part! In fact the pattern is so easy you can just measure and cut straight into the fabric if you want to.

Here is a picture of my petticoat so you can see what it looks like.

I didn’t make this, it was bought a few years ago from a lady who did square dancing. I had tried making one before that but was not successful.

I think the fabric is a lightweight nylon tricot. Tricot knit is often used in underwear and nightgowns but in a heavier weight (and probably polyester these days) and it doesn’t fray. Other lightweight non-fraying fabric can also be used eg. tulle/net

It has three gathered tiers, in two layers with the seams on the inner side.

The top tier is one piece folded over with the elastic in the middle.

So the pattern pieces are basically just rectangles or strips cut from the fabric.

The top piece is cut along the width of the fabric, 32cm wide.
The other pieces are cut along the width of the fabric, 20cm wide, x 12 strips.
The ruffle is again cut along the width of the fabric, about 8cm wide, x 16 strips. This gets stitched on down the middle.

Each row of strips are gathered onto the one above.

My finished petticoat is 50cm long and ends at my knee. The width of the strips can be adjusted to make the petticoat longer or shorter.

Another more simple way of doing the top tier is just to have 2 strips the same width as the other pieces and cut a extra bit for a casing for the elastic.

Here’s something else to try, different colours on the bottom!

Ah, I just love pouffy petticoats and frilly skirts. I spend a great deal of my childhood daydreaming about wearing a “sticky out skirt” :-)

This petticoat is a little different. It has three layers, two of net and the bottom one of nylon organza to stop the scratchiness, cut in three smaller tiers which are then joined onto a cotton strip at the top. The top edge is then folded over the elastic and sewn down. This is an easier way of doing the top edge, but it means more gathering.

Happy sewing and dancing to you!


Simple dress-to-skirt refashion

  • 22/09/2009 5:04 pm

My Mum gave me this dress when she was clearing out her wardrobe.

It has two layers, the top is a lovely lace patterned tulle with a bordered hem. I decided to make it into a princess/dress-up style skirt for my niece.
In the spirit of wardrobe refashion and anti consumption we are trying to have a less commercial Christmas this year by avoiding buying our gifts retail, ie we want to make them or buy slightly used, or just be really original. So all my nieces will be getting some girly princess/fairy outfits made by me. To my family if you are reading this, please don’t spoil the surprise!

Here’s what I did:
1. Measured the length I needed plus seam allowance for the top to turn over the elastic.

2. Marked with chalk and cut.

3. Repeated steps 1 and 2 for the underneath layer.

4. Zig-zag stitched the layers together at the top edge, then folded it over a loop of elastic (cut to the waist measurement and joined together) and stitched down.


I’m going to use the top half of the dress to make a ruffled wrap.


Recycled Denim Corset Tutorial

  • 16/09/2009 10:34 am

The methods and materials I have used for this corset are recommended only for costume use with light support on the body. If you want a traditional corset, or anything that is worn regularly or tightly laced then you will need to use much sturdier materials, like tightly woven coutil fabric and spiral or spring steel boning. If you just want to make something for show, read on!

Corset pattern
Denim jeans or skirt, made from stable non stretchy fabric
1/2m firm cotton fabric for middle layer – I used good quality unbleached calico
1/2m plain or printed cotton for lining
1m hook and eye tape and 2 old knitting needles or paint sticks (my busk stick closure alternative)
6m rigilene boning – I used the narrow 7mm or 1/4″ kind
2m single fold bias binding or bias tape, approx 4.5 cm wide
5m cotton tape or bias binding, at least 4cm wide, or 10m twill tape
24 eyelets or grommets with washers
awl or fine knitting needle, pencil or nail punch
2 piece setting tool and hammer
5m lacing cord

All the quantity’s are approximate, as the exact amount you need will depend on the size and style of your corset pattern.

Get yourself a good corset pattern. I traced mine off a late Victorian corset pattern when I was studying costume design. Lucky me, I know, but you can try the pattern companies, Simplicity has some historical costume patterns worth looking at, and if you want a serious corset try Laughing Moon or Corset Making Supplies.
You can have a go at making one yourself with the old duct tape over a T-shirt method, but I found it time consuming and kind of messy. If you are a pattern maker like me you can also do it the hard way and draft one for yourself – also time consuming, or try How to create a corset pattern or the Custom corset pattern generator. (let me know how it works, I haven’t tried that one yet!)

If you are using an old pair of jeans, cut them up the inner leg seam right up to the crotch, and lay them flat, right sides out.

Place the pattern pieces on the jeans with the pieces all going in the same direction (check the grain line), avoiding any worn patches like the knees. It’s best to use jeans that are fairly uniform in colour so your corset doesn’t end up all patchy looking.

Make sure there is room for seam allowances if your pattern does not include them. Mine is a “block” pattern so I had to add 1.5cm seams to the side seams.
Cut out pattern, repeat for lining and inner layer.

Panel seams
Stitch the panels together, matching up the bits that are supposed to match. Use the seam guide on your machine or tape one on if you don’t have one, because the seams need to be all exactly the same width all the way down, top layer and bottom layer.
Stitch the inner layer with the lining as one piece to give the lining more stability. If you were using a lighter weight fabric on the top instead of denim, you could sew it the inner layer with that instead of the lining.
You should end up with a right half and a left half, in the denim and the lining/inner fabrics.
Press all the seams open flat.
My pattern has a rectangular piece at the centre front that gets folded in half, and is used to hold the busk stick. I have left this piece off to show how to put on the eyelet tape in the next step.

Front closure
Traditionally corsets are fastened at the front with a busk stick closure. This is a pair of metal rods that get sewn into the front seams like boning, one side has loop hooks that stick out through the seam, and the other side has holes to sew buttons through. This holds everything in the right place at the front. They are also expensive and hard to find. I’m a big believer in using what you have on hand rather than spending money for something that is used for a costume, so I used some hook and eye tape I had in my stash with a pair of old knitting needles for stiffness (paint sticks are another idea).
You can buy hook and eye tape for a reasonable price at fabric stores, it looks a bit like the fastenings on a bra, but in a continuous line.
Line up the hook and eye tape with the front edges of the corset. I put the hooks on the left side and the loops or eyes on the right side (left and right of garment as worn on the body!)

Try to get about a 1cm gap from the edges of corset to the first hooks and eyes for the binding, but no more than this. Leave a little bit at the top and bottom when you cut to allow for error.
There is a tube next to the hooks and eyes that can be used for the needles/sticks, you need to sew the tape on without making the tube too narrow.
There is a flap that comes underneath the hooks and eyes. I left this flat on the eye side, and stitched back the flap on the hook side as part of the tube.
Fold the panel in half and press. Line up the the tape again so the hooks or eyes are just poking out from the fold, then open the panel and pin in place.

Baste the tape on the panel.

Stitch down as close to the hooks and eyes as you can. You may have to stop and start between the hooks and eyes.
Sew down the outer edge of the tape as close to the edge as you can.

Make sure the needles\sticks fit inside, and repeat for other side.

Attach lining
First attach the rectangular lining panels to front closure. Fold and press as for the outer layer, then pin and stitch near the last seam you did on the top.
This is what it looks like underneath.

Stitch the rest of the lining panels together, right sides facing, and stitch to centre front panel.

Centre panel boning channels
I have used two methods of inserting boning. The first is the one sewn in the centre of each panel.
Cut a piece of cotton tape or binding the same length as the panel. Fold in half and stitch down one side to make a tube, or use a narrower twill tape and stitch two lengths together. The tube needs to be at least 1.5cm wide when finished.
Line up in the centre of panel and pin.
Sew carefully down one edge, just inside the stitching line where you make the tube.
Using the seam guide on your machine, stitch down the other side of tube exactly 1cm from the previous line. You should now have a boning channel 1cm wide. Try inserting some boning in to make sure it fits.
Repeat for other panels, except the back. This panel will have boning on the very edge, a 1cm gap for eyelets/grommets, and then another strip of boning running parallel to the edge.
You need to sew the channel edge closest to the back 3.5cm from the edge of cut fabric (1.5cm seam allowance, 1cm boning strip, 1cm eyelet gap), then sew the other side 1cm wide as the other channels.

Whew, you deserve a break now – go have a cuppa!

Attach lining
With right sides together, sew up back seams.
Turn right side out, press seam edge flat.

Boning channels over seams
This is the second method for boning channels.
If your seams are all sewn nicely the same width, this part will be easy!
Line up the lining seams over the top layer with seams opened out flat, and pin. I use a pin going along the seam first to get it perfectly matched up, and then pin horizontally across the seam.
You will know if it is lined up correctly when you put the pin in the seam, as there will be less resistance than a pin going through fabric.
Make sure the seam allowances are nice and flat, as these are the bits making the boning channel.
Pin all the way down the seam, then baste.
Sew 5mm down each side of the seam line through all layers of fabric. You should end up with a tunnel 1cm wide between the seam allowances for the boning to go through.
Again, test the width with some boning to make sure it fits, then repeat for the other seams.
Sew a boning channel seam slightly wider than 1cm next to the finished back edge.

Binding lower edge
Lay the binding on the right side of the corset and pin, leaving 2-3 cm at the edges.
Stitch the binding on with a 7mm seam.

On the wrong side, pull the binding over, fold over the seam allowance (about 7mm) and tuck under, pin down ready for hand stitching.

This is how the ends are done, tuck the leftover bit in then fold, pin down and sew.

I found this lovely video clip showing how to get the corners neat, from Your Wardrobe Unlocked. This also explains things a little better than I have!
Repeat for other half of corset.
Go and have another cuppa.

Your corset should now look something like this.

Prepare the boning
Cut your boning pieces 2cm shorter than the seam length.
Round the ends by cutting off the corners so they look like this.

Now very carefully melt the ends by holding in a flame for a few seconds. I used a lighter for this, but on reflection, a candle would probably be safer.
This makes the rigilene boning less likely to come apart or poke through the fabric.

Insert the boning into the channels. Put the knitting needles or paint sticks into the hook and eye tape channel. (Cut off any knobbly bits first and file down any sharp edges!)

Top binding
Sew binding on the top edge the same way as the bottom.

First mark the eyelet positions on one side with a chalk pencil, spaced evenly apart. My corset has 12 eyelets on each side, spaced an inch apart. (It was more convenient to be imperial than metric!)
Now make some holes.
This is not my favorite part. I always had trouble in the past with eyelets falling out and holes fraying. Apparently I was doing it wrong, instead of cutting a hole and breaking fibers, you need to make a hole by spreading the fabric apart.
Also I read that you need to use 2 piece grommets not eyelets. Can anyone please tell me what the difference is between a 2 piece eyelet (comes with a washer to put on the back) and a 2 piece grommet? They look just the same in the shop to me, but the ones labeled grommets were much bigger.
Back to business.
First you make a hole with an awl (separating those fibers not piercing them!) and then gradually make it big enough for the eyelet by working a pencil or paint stick through it.
I don’t have an awl so I used a fine knitting needle to make a hole followed by a fine tipped nail punch, and then a wide nail punch. I found the nail punch easier to get through than a pencil.

Once your hole is big enough, quickly push in the eyelet before it closes again, and push down any bits caught on the back with the knitting needle before putting the washer on the back.

Then use the eyelet setting tool to hammer the back down. Lots of gentle tapping is better than a few big whacks.

Repeat for other holes.

To mark the holes on the other side of corset so they match up correctly, place the first half (that you just put eyelets in) on top of the second half, and put the chalk pencil through the eyelet holes.

Make some more holes, put in some more eyelets.
Nearly done!

Insert the lacing cord into the eyelets.
I have left a loop on each side at the waist, these are called bunny ears. These are the bits you pull to tighten the corset.

Loosen the laces fully so the two halves of the corset are as far apart as they can go. This will help when doing up the front.
Put the corset on.
Do up the front hooks. Pull out the bunny ears and hold them firmly.
Tighten up the laces starting at the top and then bottom, working to the waist – you might need an extra pair of hands for this. Not too tight though if you want this type of corset to last. And it’s important to be able to breathe!
Tie in a bow at the waist.


Finished Barn Dance Costume

  • 10/09/2009 10:54 am

I got my costume for Barn dance finished this week – which is good as Barn dance is this Saturday.
The skirt is from my previous post, up cycled from an old dressing gown, and the denim corset is made from an old pair of jeans.

I put in the eyelets and lacing yesterday, then last night I had a terrible dream about half of them falling out. I have had bad experiences with eyelets in the past due to incorrect inserting technique and trying to use synthetic material. Was so relieved when I woke up and realized the corset was still in one piece!

I am writing up a tutorial to make a corset which I had hoped would be finished by now, but it is very long and detailed, and I’m finding it hard to remember some of the important steps I did at the beginning. I really need to write stuff down as I go along!
I am also missing some vital photos I took, which may be on Keith’s card that has gone walkies…


Circular skirt pattern and Barn Dance costume part 2

  • 17/08/2009 8:50 pm

This is how I recycled an old dressing gown into a swirly dancing skirt.

The easy option here would have been to make a straight skirt, or a paneled skirt with flare at the hem, but I really like the way checks look cut on the bias in a circular skirt. And it’s going to be worn over a frilly square dancing petticoat. Obviously there was not enough fabric in the dressing gown to make a full circle skirt, so I just made it as ‘circular’ as possible with bias front and back, and whatever I could get out for the sides.

First I dug out my circular skirt pattern and checked the measurements. They are fairly easy to make, similar technique to the fairy skirt.

Here’s my circular skirt pattern tutorial:

1. Take your waist measurement. This will be the circumference.
2. Divide this number by 6.28 to get the radius.
3. Get a large square piece of paper or card. Starting from a corner, use the radius measurement to mark out a 1/4 circle. This is the waistline.
4. Decide how long you want the skirt to be. Using a metre rule, measure this distance from the waist to mark a large 1/4 circle.
5. All done! This will give you a 1/4 circle “block” pattern piece (without seams/hem). Cut 4 panels for a full circle skirt, with one panel on the fold if you want to get rid of a seam.

Remember to add seam allowances and hem allowance before you cut out fabric!

This will be fitted at the waist and will need a zip or button opening. If you want to make an elasticated pull-on version, then use your hip measurement for the circumference.

Back to my barn dance skirt. I laid the dressing gown as flat as possible and marked out two panels from the back, with the centre of the pattern lying on the true bias, as wide as I could get them at the hem with seam allowances. These panels become the centre front and back.

The next step was the side panels. I put the pattern on the front panels of the dressing gown, this time with the centre lying on the straight grain of the fabric, and again marked the shape as wide as I could.

I then stitched up the side panels, leaving an opening on a side/back seam for the opening.

The belt that came with the dressing gown was about the right width for a waistband so I took the easy way out and stitched it straight on, leaving a few cm at on end for the button wrap.

I tucked in the raw edges where they were cut before sewing.

Last step before hemming is to hang it up for a while to let it “drop”, as the bias bits usually stretch and spread a bit more than the straight bits. I will post another picture of me wearing it when it is finished and hemmed.