Friday, March 30, 2012

How I Make a Simple Elastic Waist Skirt

Typically when I applique a shirt for my daughter she has a matching skirt. I don't really think twice about it, I just make a skirt. Last time I made her one it got me thinking, maybe you (my loyal reader) would like to know how I "just make a skirt". Well, it's easy, I promise. One simple math problem and straight lines. Nothing else. Really!  

You will need ...

main fabric, 1 yard or less depending on the size
contrast fabric, 1/2 yard or less depending on the size
measuring tape 
rotary cutter and cutting mat (don't worry if you don't have them, it just makes things easier)
7/8 inch elastic although I often use 1/2 inch if that's what I have on hand
iron, sewing machine, you know, the typical stuff if you want to sew

First, you will want to measure the waist of your child and decide what finished length you like. Right now my daughter is 5 years old. She has a 22" waist and I like her skirts to be about 14" long. She is tall and very lean (a trait that I gave up years ago) and I am fairly conservative when it comes to her skirt length. She is a little girl after all.

Now, some simple math.

Main fabric
Subtract 1/2" from your desired length. For me that will be 13 1/2" (14 minus 1/2). We will call this your adjusted length.

Cut 2 pieces the width of the waist and the adjusted length. Again for me, that will be 22 x 13 1/2.

If you are making a skirt for a waist 20" or smaller just cut 1 piece on the fold. 

Contrast fabric
Cut 2 pieces the width of the waist x 5 3/4" long. This will ultimately yield a contrast band that is approximately 2 1/2 inches wide. 

Again, if you are making a skirt for a waist 20" or smaller you can cut 1 piece on the fold.

That's it for the cutting and the math. Now it's time to sew a few straight lines. For all seams the allowance is 3/8". 

Main fabric
With right sides together sew each side seam. I prefer to overcast mine when I am finished since I don't have a serger. If you are working with a smaller waist and cut 1 piece on the fold you only have 1 side seam to sew.

Contrast fabric
With right sides together sew each side seam. Do NOT overcast or serge these seams. They will need to lie flat in a few minutes. If you are working with a smaller waist you only have 1 side seam here too.

Press the seams open. Fold and iron the contrast fabric in half, right sides out, to create the contrast band. This is why we didn't serge or overcast the seams on the contrast, they are now tucked away neatly within the band.

Now, pin the contrast band to the main band, right sides together starting with matching the side seams. Sew, serge or overcast. 

If you are using a directional fabric for the contrast band be sure to check and make sure it is going to be facing the right direction after you sew it. If you don't you might end up with upside down snowmen and yes, that was the voice of experience you just heard.  

Next, iron open with the inseam up. On the right side, using the seam as a guide, sew along to tack the inseam up. If you wanted to add ric rac this is a great place to do so. 

The only thing left is to create the elastic casing and insert the elastic. I told you this was simple.

When creating a casing I always like to overcast the raw edge before I start. I don't know why. I'm sure I saw it or read it somewhere. You don't have to. I doubt anything would really happen if you didn't but I do.

Next, I press under approximately 3/8" of the raw edge and then another 1 1/4" to create the casing. Sew close to the lower edge of the casing leaving an opening to insert the elastic. 

Using a safety pin (because that's how my mom taught me) I then insert the elastic through the casing. I typically start with my waist measurement plus 1" for the length. Once the elastic is through I pin the elastic ends together (maybe this is why I start with a safety pin) and try the skirt on. Of course the elastic always needs to be adjusted but that is simple. After adjusting the fit I sew the elastic together, distribute the fullness, and stitch the opening close. I also make a habit of stitching in the ditch on the side seams to try to keep the elastic from shifting or twisting.

That's it! You're done. Now go make a skirt!

For those of you who applique here is a free design for you. I created this a week or so ago and didn't get it tested until now. Hopefully you are inspired to use it on something recycled.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

May the Force be with You (especially if you want to make a R2D2 cake)

17! My oldest daughter is 17! Can you believe it? I guess it's not hard if you don't know her but I'm telling you she was just 5, I promise.

Since she is 17 and I am admittedly starting to stress about her leaving home soon I really wanted to have a party. Not an all out over the top party but at least something with a little bit of a theme and some recognition that it was her big day. The problem with that was what kind of party do you have for a 17 year old? I really had no idea so I turned to pinterest looking for some easy ideas and happened upon some Star Wars themed ideas. The beauty in that is her and her closest friends spent several long nights earlier this school year watching all of the movies. The series continues to come up whenever they are together so what better theme than Star Wars. Now, what to do? I was originally looking for easy ideas and I did find a few but the big one was the cake. It wasn't difficult but let me tell you, I have got some serious hours invested in that thing.

I looked at many R2D2 cakes online and finally settled on this one. There was only one obstacle ... it was a little too big for us. Since we weren't planning a big party I had to find a way to scale it down. And this dear friends is the purpose of this post ... a smaller R2D2 cake!

I used 3 box cake mixes and made 2 9x13 sheet cakes and 1 6 inch round. The rest of the batter was used to make cupcakes that I froze for a later date otherwise known as "whenever I want a cupcake day".

I leveled the tops of each of the prepared cakes using my handy cake leveler and saved the crown of the 6 inch round. I cut 1 of the 9x13 sheets in half so that I had 2 9x6.5 rectangles and stacked those on top of one another. Then I cut the 6 inch round in half and stacked it up. The semi circles became the head of R2D2 and the stacked rectangles became the main body. I cut the crown of the 6 inch round in half and stacked it for the lower body section and then shaped it to be angular. This was great because it wasn't quite as high as the body and created a bit of depth. If you don't have a high enough crown to work with it's okay. There is enough left from the second 9x13 to make the lower body as well.  

After this I still had a 9x13 sheet left to work with. I cut the longs sides and used those to make the arms and feet. The entire center section of this sheet was not used. If you don't have a crown to work with for the lower body section you can use this remaining section to create it. For the arms and feet I placed the cut sides beside my torso section and then cut the bottom 2 inches or so on each one. I turned the cut sections up so they were taller than the arms and now looked like feet. 

After this I was finished for the day. Since this was a surprise there was a lot of evidence that I had to take care of before track practice was over so the entire cake went in my carrier and into the deep freezer. 

The next day I made 2 batches of Indy Deb's icing. Who is Indy Deb? I have no idea. This is a recipe that is everywhere on the internet that I found last summer while looking for a recipe that could handle high temps and high humidity. It is wonderful to work with for decorating and freezes really well. 

1 1/3 cups crisco
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
3T powdered dream whip
2 to 3T clear vanilla
2lbs sifted powdered sugar

Using a stand mixer mix crisco, milk, dream whip and vanilla then slowly add powdered sugar. I start with 1/3 cup milk and use 2T of vanilla. I tried it with more vanilla once because I really like vanilla but it was a little too much for me. Once it is mixed I add a splash or two of milk and mix a little more until it is super smooth. 

When it was time to decorate I put a thin layer of icing on to lock in any crumbs then used a toothpick to mark where the different elements of R2 would go. After that I used a Wilton #17 star tip and started piping stars on. All total I spent about 5 hours decorating the cake including mixing my icing colors and clean up. You don't have to do it all at once so don't worry if you don't have 5 hours to devote. Just do what you can then put it back in the freezer until you can work on it more. If you have any icing left (you should) freeze it in a bowl with a tight lid and save it for the next cake you make. 

Even though it wasn't the easy idea I was looking for I was very proud of the cake and she loved it. Besides, your oldest daughter only turns 17 once.