Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fixing A Bad Hem Job On A Vintage Skirt

After the last clothing swap I attended, I scooped up this skirt. I just love clothing swaps, but many times, the previous owner is getting rid of the garment for a reason. It's the worst when you find a great pair of jeans, and realize the zipper is busted, or there is a hole in the knee. But many times, these 'flaws' are fixable for someone that sews. 
Think twice before you pass over a second hand piece of clothing because it isn't perfect. Expand your horizons and learn how to mend them! This skirt caught my eye right away, especially the striped print, length and cut, but one problem, someone hacked off the bottom half of it. 
I didn't notice the bad hem until I got home. Eager and so excited about the two bags of clothing I swapped for two bags of clothing I didn't want, I tried on ALL my new threads for Matt in a little fashion show, though he mostly ignored me and watched Louie. But discovering the bad hem wasn't the only issue with this skirt, it also was a little threadbare, with holes in the side seams from old cotton thread disintegrating over the years. But not to worry, these are both an easy fix. It took me a few months to get to it in my work line, since sewing for myself comes 4th or 5th after working on handbags and such. Follow along and apply this to any skirt you want to shorten.
Heading straight to my machine, with white thread, I started off by reinforcing every side seam from the hem to the waistline, as high as I could sew without removing the waist band. 
Meet the newest addition to my vintage sewing machine collection. A Kenmore Ultra Stitch 8. Discovered on Craigslist, it was a great deal, and a very hearty machine like my other Kenmore. I haven't decided if this machine is a permanent addition to my collection, or if I'll find it a new home with a local young lady at Shelby's 1st birthday bash, or third, resell it for about what I paid for it, to someone looking for a nice starter machine. I hoard first, and then reevaluate if I really need a machine.
Random fun fact about this skirt, it was made by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Made in the good ol' U.S.A. This little tag was sewn to a side seam and a nice surprise. I picture a young girl in her twenties working in a garment factory with a scarce on her head, whistling the day away while sewing skirts. 
After sewing all the side seams, I went over to my serger to stitch the raw edge. If you do not have this machine, as most will not, simply zig zag the edge or use seam binding along the raw edge if the skirt is a little on the short side.
Now the most important step, and also a fun one. The chalk hem  marker. If you do not have one of these, they are worth the $10-20 investment to add to your sewing tools. It measures the distance from the floor, all the way around the skirt's hem, and using a hand pump, marks the skirt with a little bit of white chalk. Use it on floor length dresses or knee length ones. If you don't have the luxury of a sewing friend to help mark the skirt, this will be your third and fourth hands.
Look straight ahead and pump the chalk. Looking down will interfere with the accuracy of the mark! This will mark the NEW hem. Don't go too short! Look closely at the animated gif above, and you can see the horizontal white chalk marks.
Fold the fabric at the chalk marks, all the way around, pin perpendicular to the hemline.
Switch the stitch on your machine to the blind hem stitch. It's a combination of a straight stitch and a zig-zag. Every 5th stitch is a zag or a zig to the left, picking up the underside of the fabric. I'm awfully glad this 'new' Kenmore of mine has this stitch, so I didn't have to hunt down my Riccar or sew it by hand. 
Fold the fabric like so, above, and the zig to the left of the blind hem will grab the skirt, and the straight stitch sews along the serged edge. Take your time here. I rushed it a little, with a video shoot across town coming in between the sewing and after pictures. You only need to grab the littlest bit of the skirt's fabric.
Thanks to Clem for interrupting my after pictures. I don't think she's made an appearance on my blog in a while, but she's still around, grumping and always in my way. Hitting Zeus when he comes in to say hello, waking me up every morning sleeping with her nose touching my nose. Cats are the best.
If you look closely at the hem of the skirt, you'll see a slight shadow an inch and a half above the bottom of the skirt. That is where the blind hem stitched the skirt. This is what happens when you rush. and the stitch grabs too much of the fabric. As soon as I hit publish on this post, I'll most likely rip out the seam and sew it by hand or go back to the machine.
And I'm sure some of you are saying, well, 'why show us a hem that isn't perfect?'… well, when I photograph AND sew at the same time, and with time constraints, it's easy to let perfection slip away from your work. Another lesson, don't rush
And don't let this little brat fool you. She's currently head butting my elbow while I'm typing and meowing, rolling over, showing me her belly and begging for rubs. But that face, so full of sass!
Hopefully this tutorial and little lesson will inspire you to give that old banged up garment a second change. Just because it isn't ideal, doesn't mean you can't make it near perfect.
That's the beauty of sewing! You can give an old garment a facelift and make it your own. Don't discard that ugly skirt with a beautiful print; change it! What is your favorite alteration of vintage clothing? Or what would you like to learn? 

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