Monday, October 12, 2009

SAAS (Sewing at Any Size): Necktie Skirt

Otherwise known as the super-fab punky necktie skirt that snagged me a few dozen awed and/or envious comments last weekend at a party. I've already had three requests for Christmas, but unfortunately this skirt put my sewing machine in critical condition before I could finish the waistband. I decided to wear it as-is by just folding the top over a belt, and luckily it held together long enough. It does mean, however, that my photo -assisted instructions give out about the point where you need to put a waistband on it :-)

Anyway, first the standard disclaimer:

Welcome to my Series on Sewing at Any Size. You can access the rest of the SAAS series by clicking on the topic link on the side bar.The series is a form of peaceful protest against the terrible, cheap, overpriced, ugly stuff that passes for plus size fashion these days. Anyone can make basic wardrobe elements to fit their body without trying to track down commercial patterns (a nightmare for anyone over a US size 24).As this may eventually become a book, please do not reprint or republish this anywhere else. You may, of course print for your own personal use!

Then for the photos! JD took them on our way to the party, but didn't get the fabulous oxford shoes with 4 inch heels:

What you need:

Iron-On Hem Tape
Satin Blanket Binding
6"-9" Zipper, or 12 grommets, or ribbon for lacing
Sewing Machine
Black Thread
Iron/Ironing Board

For neckties I visited the Salvation Army. They discount older items by 50% depending on the color of the tag. I went on a blue tag day and got all the blue tag neckties for 50 cents. I also got a bag of ties off my local freecycle list, which I plan to use in a skirt for the best friend.

To determine the number of neckties you need for the skirt, first decide on a length. I measured the length of an existing skirt I liked, adding an inch because the flare would make it more revealing than the fitted skirt I was measuring. I came up with 22".

The best part about a shorter skirt (i.e. under 25") is that generally you can use half the number of neckties by cutting them in half and using both ends.

Measure your waist where you want the waistline of the skirt to be. Make sure the tape is snug, but not constricting. We don't have any seams here, so you don't have to add anything. Mine is 55".

Count on each tie or half-tie to be 1" wide. Some will be more or less and you can measure as you go, but it's a good average. I started with 27 ties since I could use both ends. I didn't use them all, but that's what I used for planning purposes. If I had done a full length skirt I would have needed to look for 55 ties.

Subtract 2" from the length of the skirt, multiply that number by the number of ties and buy that much iron-on hem tape. This will be in the section of the store with the bias tape, rick-rack, etc. It comes in 3 yard packages normally, for about $2.00 US. I needed 19" by 25 ties, or 475 inches of hem tape. There are 36 inches in a yard, so I needed 13.5 yards, or 5 packages.

I recommend satin blanket binding for the waistband because it’s easy and looks good. You could just as easily make your own binding out of any material simply by folding the sides of a strip of fabric in towards the middle, then folding it in half so that the raw edges are hidden. You need a length of binding equal to your waist measurement plus 1/2".

Start by cutting the neckties to the length you want the skirt, as they'll be much easier to work with if you're handling less material.

Decide what order you want the pieces in and stack them accordingly so that it's easy to remember. I alternated narrow and wide ends and tried to keep similar patterns mixed evenly.

On the back side of the tie, match up the edges and the bottom corner where it narrows to a point. Make sure there's no gap between the sides; match them up evenly.

Lay a strip of iron on hem tape along the edge, overlapping the material of both neckties. Iron slowly on the hottest setting until the tape adheres. Some fabrics will melt under a hot iron. If you want to play it safe, cut a piece from a plain paper bag and keep it between the fabric and the iron.

Continue adding strips of necktie and attaching them with the hem tape until the length of the top edge of the skirt matches your waist measurement.

Flip it over and check for gaps. Sometimes the gap can be fixed by just adjusting the fabric of the tie, or sometimes you have to rip off the hem tape and try again with a new piece.

Leave the final line open so that you have one long flat piece that somewhat resembles a picket fence.

On the right side of the skirt (the side that will be visible when wearing) Use the zig-zag stitch on your machine to sew a line of stitches up each join, capturing the fabric of both ties in the stitches.

The finished seam will look like this:

When you have them all connected, the front should look like this (photo is of skirt folded in half, remember to leave one seam open for a zipper, etc.)

The backside will have the hem tape reinforcing the stitches, so it will look like this:

(Note: This is the point at which my sewing machine broke. Since I’m still waiting to do the finishing touches, I don’t have photos!)

Take the piece of satin blanket binding and place it so that the top edge of the neckties is tucked into the center crease of the binding. Fold each end of the binding 1/4" under the edge of the skirt so that the raw edge of the satin is on the backside (fold at red dotted line below). Iron to crease, using the piece of paper to keep from scorching the satin.
Stitch down the satin from the top corner at the short end, then along the bottom edge, then up at the corner at the other end (red dotted line below).

Bring the two open ends around to meet, and decide what kind of closure you want to use. The fabric is really too heavy for a traditional elastic waistband, but you do have some options.

If you’re like me and your butt/hips are equal to or smaller than your waistline, then the easiest option is to take a length of fairly firm elastic (the kind that will stretch in two directions) and stitch it along the underside of the seam instead of the iron-on hem tape. That should be just enough give to get it on and off, with just enough grip to keep it from falling. Obviously you should stitch it to the ties along the edge of each side, instead of overlapping the zig-zag stitches as before. You want it to give, but also for the two ties to lie flush against each other when the elastic is relaxed. Another option is to simply close the final seam, add some beltloops, and use another necktie as a belt to hold the skirt on.

Option 2 is a zipper. There are tons of great websites out there with step by step instructions on installing a zipper. Here’s a photo tutorial, for exampe. Connect the ties below the zipper with a strip of hem tape and zig-zag stitch the right side as you did the rest of the ties.

Option 3 is a lace-up closure.
First you need to add an extra panel so that the opening doesn’t gap. I’d suggest you take another necktie and actually open it up. Pull out any liner, then re-fold the tie so that it’s just two layers of fabric. Cut the tip off so that it is square, and attach it so that it only extends from just below the waistband to just above the first corner of the adjacent tie tips (red square below) Hem all the raw edges and attach it to one side only of the opening.
If you have metal grommets and a setting tool then you can set a series of grommets down each full size tie (not the panel) about 1” from the edge. When you lace it up with a ribbon, the extra tie panel will go under the other side to hide any gap.

If you don’t have metal grommets, you can do a series of buttonholes down each side for the same effect. If you sew the buttonholes with a thin wire, like florist wire, under the stitches (like the red line in the buttonhole below) it will reinforce the hole and allow it to hold up longer without tearing.

If you’re hesitant to venture into any of these techniques, you can always use 3” lengths of strong ribbon. Stitch both ends together onto the edges of the ties to create loops. Lace another length of ribbon or cord through the loops to close the skirt. You can also attach loops to one side and buttons to the other to create a button closure without needing to know how to sew an actual buttonhole. I’d suggest that if you use buttons that you turn the skirt so that they’re on the side or in the front. Trust me, they’re not comfy to sit on.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that this skirt is incredibly awesome. What a great idea!

alice said...

I'm really digging that skirt - got to check out the goodwill sale days again! One note - for those of us hippier than we are ... waistey? Bad word choice. For those of use whose hips are wider than our waists, we'd measure the widest part, then make the skirt to those specifications, yes?

I'm figuring that there'll be some darting going on given my super-hourglassy shape - if you've got any suggestions on how to do that w/out creating really bulky sections or causing fraying, I'd be grateful!

Trendy Plus Size Fashion said...

How creative! I'm not into actual design myself, but this is really cool!

Genevieve la flechiere said...

Terrific creative 3Rs!
How would slitting open the ties, so you can use the full width of each tie, work? Pros: fewer ties required. Possible cons: a 'jaggier' hem length, that might require use of most of the tie to create a knee-length skirt.
Hope your sick sewing machine gets better soon.

molly said...

My husband is retired and I have a closet full of ties! Can't wait to try this! Thank you!