So I was recently given a whole lot of clothes that were no longer needed, and told to see if I could use them in some way or they were going to the charity shop. Now, I always like a challenge and I love creating something new out of something old and unwanted, so this sounded perfect. Other people may see a bag of old clothes, I see a bag of free fabric and possibilities!
I decided that my first project would be to turn this jumper into a skirt. Not the immediate thought that comes to mind, but actually a very simple conversion!
If you want to try this project at home, you will need:
- A jumper, although this technique would work just as well with any top made of suitable material!
- Ruler or some form of straight edge
- Chalk or fabric marker
- Scissors or rotary cutter
- Matching or coordinating thread
- Sewing machine
- Elastic to create the waistband, I used 1″ wide
- Bodkin or safety pin
The jumper I’m using is a machine knitted, acrylic jumper with small stitches. This is important as it means that it won’t unravel as easily as a loose knit, which gave me more time to work with it and made manipulaing the fabric easier.
To see your jumper as the skirt, we’re first going to lay it down right side up, but wrong way around, so that the neck is beside you and the waist band is away from you. The waist is going to remain as the waist, and we’re going to remove the sleeves to make room for legs! To do this take your ruler and lay it across the jumper from armpit to armpit. I used my quilting ruler as it’s much longer than a regular ruler, so it did stretch right across. You could use a tape measure pulled taught if you’re struggling to find a straight edge long enough. Then take your chalk, or marker, and draw a straight line across the fabric. This is where we are going to cut to remove the top of the jumper.
At this point take a moment to try on the newly formed skirt to check the fit. Remember that the cut edge is still unfinished and will shed some fibres. When I tried on my skirt I found that it was much too big for me, as was the original jumper, so I had to take it in to avoid any “wardrobe malfunctions!” I wanted my skirt to be quite tight, if you wanted a looser fit then you could of course leave the extra fabric. I used a quick and easy method to mark where to take in my skirt: whilst wearing the skirt, and with the aid of a mirror, I held the skirt by one of the side seams and pulled all the escess fabric to one side. Using my other hand I then pinched it together at my hip, where I wanted the new seam to go, and pinned. As the fabric is really stretchy there was no need to shape the side seam, this makes life much simpler as you can then mark and pin a straight line down the side of the skirt.
You might notice I have pinned it with the wrong sides together: this is because I used a French seam (if you’re not sure how to sew a French seam, check out my tutorial here) I used this seam as it encases the raw edges, so the knit fabric won’t be able to unravel whilst I’m wearing the skirt! Using a medium length, straight stitch sew down the line you have marked and then cut away the excess fabric, leaving about 3-4mm beyond the line of stitching.
Once that’s done, flip the skirt inside out and pin the seam with the right sides touching. Then sew the second line about 6-7mm from the first to enclose the raw edges.
Take a moment to check the fit again, as it’ll be easier to fix at this point than once we’ve sewn the hem! If you’re happy then it’s time to do something about that raw edge at the bottom of the skirt. If you are using a t-shirt type fabric for this project then you can leave this edge raw if you wish, it will give a more casual look and will mean your finished skirt will be longer as you aren’t having to create a hem. However if, like me, you are using a jumper then you will have to finish the edge as the knit is much looser than on lightweight jersey, so will unravel, especially in the wash!
If your skirt is quite long at this stage and you want it a bit shorter you can finish this edge using a double folded hem. If you don’t have as much length to play with, or you want a less chunky hem then first job is to overlock the raw edge. If you don’t have an overlocker, or a machine with an overlocking stitch, then a zig zag stitch works just as well. I found it easiest to start at a side seam and sew right round the edge until I was back where I started. The key to getting a neat finish is to take your time and try not to overstretch the fabric.
Once you’ve tied off your loose ends it’s time to for the hem. I folded over roughly 15mm (make sure you end up with your hem on the inside of the skirt!) and pinned in place round the whole lower edge. Now as my fabric is very stretchy it was really important not to sew the hem using a straight stitch, otherwise as soon as the fabric was stretched, the stitches would break and I’d no longer have a hem! So instead I used a zig zag stitch which can cope with being stretched without breaking. Again I sewed slowly to make sure I was keeping the same distance from the edge of the fabric.
Now that the skirt is hemmed the final task is adding elastic to the waistband. As we are reusing the original waistband, just upside down, we don’t need to finish the edge as it is already done for us. We will need to create the casing for the elastic to go through though. To do this we are going to basically do the same as we just did at the hem: fold under, pin, and knit with a zig zag stitch. Only this time we’ll need to leave enough space between the fold and stitches for the elastic. I’m using 1″ (25mm) wide elastic so there has to be at least that width, ideally a mm or two extra to make life easier! We’ll also need to leave an opening to get the elastic in. Conveniently folding the ribbed waistband of the jumper in half gave me exactly the right size of casing, so I didn’t need to carefully measure. I do love it when coincidences make my projects easier!
I pinned the waistband, leaving a gap of about 6-7cm through which I could feed the elastic afterwards, and then sewed, making sure there was always just over 25mm width in the casing.
Now it’s time to measure out the elastic. I found it easiest to do this by putting on the skirt and measuring round my hips where the waistband sat. I cut the elastic to the same length as my hip measurement, so that after the two ends of the elastic are sewn it will be slightly stretched.
To insert the elastic you can use a bodkin if you have one, or if you don’t, like me, then you can just use a safety pin. Pierce one end of the elastic with the pin, then feed it, pin first, through the casing we’ve just sewn.
If you’ve never done this before the way to do it is to push the safety pin through a few cm so that the fabric gathers over it. Then pinch the end of the pin and pull the elastic through the gather you’ve just made. Repeat until the elastic is all the way through the casing then remove the pin. Easy!
Overlap the two ends of the elastic, making doubly sure there are no twists, and sew together. I always sew a square shape when joining elastic so that there will be less stress on the stitches than in a single line. For the final time try on your skirt to check the fit. If the elastic is too short then redo the overlap making it tighter. If it is a little too tight then redo making the waist bigger. And if it is much too tight and you don’t have enough elastic then add in an extra piece by sewing a smaller piece onto each end of your elastic to make it longer.
The final task is to close up the gap we left using the same zig zag stitch, and the skirt is finished! A simple project to revitalise an unloved piece of clothing and turn it into something new 🙂