It’s always a little strange looking back on old creative projects. Sometimes it feels like all you can see are the mistakes. Luckily with sewing we have an opportunity, in some cases, to fix those mistakes and revive an old item into something fresh you’ll actually wear.
This project was the outcome of the first vintage pattern I’d ever sewn with, probably back in 2008. I had the chance to raid my grandmother’s pattern stash and while I found mostly late 60s-80s patterns, I found this one gem of a circle skirt from the late 1950s. I swooned at the full skirted silhouette and especially loved the giant pockets on the panels. I instantly imagined myself as the featured girl on the envelope cover (as I tend to do with vintage pattern illustrations…) swirling and twirling to class in university.
For fabric I chose a beautiful teal knit that had gorgeous drape and quite a bit of weight. I made my fabric decision entirely on the color. Sewing the skirt itself was an experience to say the least. The directions were quite vague compared to modern big 4 patterns I had been used to and there were no diagrams. In my novice-ness I made many guesses on how things should be done. Once it was all sewn up, it was wearable and kinda cute. I wore it once to show it off, but the heavy fabric required a crinoline to hold up the volume. I also didn’t have any other retro inspired clothing to go with it so I wore it with modern accessories. It was definitely a LOOK.
Needless to say, I never wore it again.
I kept in in my stash, not really bearing to just throw it away. I was thinking maybe one day I could harvest the fabric into something new since there was so much of it in there. It was only this summer I realized that I could probably just tweak a few things to make it more wearable.
Upon fully revisiting the skirt I noticed a whole host of sewing foibles. Uneven top stitching, incorrect stitch-in-the-ditch, a completely inexplicable insertion of the waistband interfacing and… velcro as a waistband closure. Oy. As humiliating as it is, it’s nice to look back at old errors and naivety as a frame of reference to see that, even though my skills aren’t exactly where I wish they could be, they are a hell of a lot farther ahead than they once were. And that’s pretty cool.
The first step in this refashion was evaluating the areas that had issues and what could be salvaged. Truthfully, I could have probably unpicked EVERYTHING and started from scratch, but ain’t nobody got time for that. The main structural issue was the waistband, and style-wise, the true 50s tea length was not something that I found I could wear on a regular basis, so some of that had to go.
I started by trying on the skirt as is, and pinning up the hem until I found a new length that was more wearable but still long enough to have that retro swing feel to it. I marked the length and measured the new hem length all the way around with chalk. After the big chop I unpicked the waistband and traced a new one from the off-cuts of the hem. The original waistband was just one side and the facing, but I decided I wanted to insert elastic to help hold up the weight of the fabric so I cut out twice the width so I could double it over.
I attached the new waistband onto the skirt, and gave the skirt a final, basic hem. I usually like the look of a deep hem, especially on skirts, but with this much circular volume that can be a recipe for puckers and folds, so I kept it a simple 2 cm.
About 3 hours from the start I had an entirely new skirt. The elastic in the waist makes it comfortable to wear, and the new length doesn’t require a crinoline. This makes it more casual but also shows off the gorgeous drape of the fabric (I swoon at the sight of the light reflecting those dramatic folds… is that just me?). I’ve had the pleasure of wearing this skirt 3 times now already, tripling it’s previous wear usage and love that I’ll be able to transition it into the fall with some cute layers. (hmm…I just realized I have a black turtleneck, maybe I can be that girl on the cover after all…)
To pair with it for summer weather, I made my second Hunter tank! It has that retro nod that complements the skirt without feeling costume-y. After making my first one in white, I wanted to make my second in black and had the perfect soft, drapey fabric in my stash from another project. I had to get thrifty with it though because I didn’t quiiiiite have enough for cutting it all out on the bias. The back pieces needed to be cut out in sections, with little triangle bits at the bottom. I drafted these pieces by tracing my pattern piece on the fabric and with paper underneath where I ran out of space, and cut the paper to make a new template. The effect is nice and subtle, which I am grateful for. I even tried to take photos of the back but you really couldn’t tell at all (black fabric is great on cameras for that), so I didn’t even feel the need to post it.
I used to carry this mentality that once something was done, it was done. So it was a nice reminder to know that changing things up can make them more worthwhile in the end, even if it does feel like sinking more work into something you’ve already spent so much time on. But in the long run, fixing something that’s already done is way faster than starting something new from scratch, and produces less waste! Win win!
If you are seeking permission to cut up an old project and re make it, here it is! Go do it, I promise it will be worthwhile.