April 20, 2013

Lesson Learned: Respect the Stretch

The original title for this post was going to be "Lesson Learned: Don't just assume something that looks a little weird will work itself out and continue using the same technique for a whole skirt until you've created miles of ugly topstitching and it's too late to go back" but that was a bit excessive even for me.

So here's what we're working with:

This whole thing was born out of my need to replicate my favorite skirt of all time, a brown tiered broomstick skirt that is starting to look pretty ratty, and the constant desire to stashbust.  I only had a skinny rectangular piece of this fabric (which is evil for reasons I'll detail in a minute), so the idea of the tiered skirt seemed genius at the time.  Cut out a bunch of strips, use the whole thing up, then mix and match to get the tiers I want! Super simple, right? Maybe, for someone other than me.  Here's the places where this went wrong:

1.  Weird fabric. After some discussion with the ladies on Craftster, I've come to the conclusion that this piece is probably Calcutta fabric, which was apparently very popular in the 70's.  It's a knit with prepressed wrinkles that is quite spongy.
My attempt to show the texture - the color is way off
2.  Bad cutting.   For this skirt, I was really excited to be following a no-waste type model, since I had one long skinny rectangle.  I simply cut a whole bunch of strips of the same width, then mixed and matched amounts to get to the right lengths per tier.   The problem is that this stuff slipped and stretched while I was trying to cut it, so my individual strips were often pretty badly crooked, an effect that was only amplified when the strips were made into tiers.

3.  Not making samples.  Since I only barely had enough of this fabric, I neglected to test how my topstitching method would look, and it stretched the fabric out in a yucky way.

4.  Lazy hemming.  I have yet to find a hemming method that works well for me.  I could use my dressform, but that doesn't have the large rear that I do, so I always end up too short in the back.  My current method is a combination of trying to fit myself and eyeballing.  Especially when the tiers weren't all straight to start with, you can imagine how well this works.

However, after the initial disgust wore off, I'm slowly realizing that it's not completely unwearable.  From far away, the stitching doesn't really show up.

The hem isn't as bad as I first thought...

Well, it's at least not the worst hem I've ever done.  (Please ignore the kitty taking a bath and the footwear in this picture.  In my head the boots looked grungy or like River Tam - in real life they just look silly).

So, the final verdict...it's a solid maybe.  I'm also thinking with a short petticoat/underskirt/tulle thing it could work for a very grungy steampunky outfit for GenCon, so maybe it can find a home in the costume closet.  If all else fails, I could take out the hem and shred the edges for a post-apocalyptic costume.  I do know one thing for sure: I plan to stay far, far away from Calcutta cloth for a good long while.

I just have to make it through the rest of the work day (yes, Saturday is a work day for me) and then I've got a wide open Saturday night (usually taken up by my weekly Scion game) and all day Sunday to crank out some Thurlows.  Sooo excited!


  1. Oh Alicia, this fabric should have stayed in the 70's! Last year a woman brought me this same fabric to make some "simple" tops. That fabric stretched wider and wider even when I wasn't handling it. I re-cut and re-cut it narrower and narrower and then did the best I could and told her this fabric belongs as a beach cover-up...no shape, no sleeves, just straight like a tube and airy. It is a nightmare! You have learned a very valuable lesson!

    1. It makes me feel so much better that someone as experienced as you hates this stuff too! The piece I used may well have been from the 70's, I got it secondhand somewhere. But rest assured, I will avoid the stuff from now on!

  2. Oh boy, I think you're pretty lucky that ended up as wearable as it is (and I agree with your solid maybe). Sounds like a real nightmare to work with.

    1. Yeah, it was a bit of a nightmare. But having those projects every once in a while definitely makes us appreciate the projects where things go (more or less) smoothly, right? :)

  3. oh no. sounds like you had a very stressful project. at least it was a learnig experience =)