Altering a Thrift Store Skirt with Elastic

 I found a cute little skirt at the thrift store the other day. It was A-line, pink and white seersucker stripes on the diagonal. I couldn’t resist it and figured I’d be able to size it down for one of the girls. (As it turned out, because of length it went to Flopsy.)

While I was looking it over I noticed the former owner had already made
an alteration. I thought it looked pretty reasonable at a distance and
so left it alone. 

Chevron stripes are tricky to alter. I tried taking it in with pins at the side seams, trying to match the stripes exactly. After several abortive attempts two words came to mind: forget it. There was no way it was going to be just right and chevrons are very unforgiving.

But where there’s a will there’s a way and I decided that it would be possible to stitch narrow elastic inside the waistband and take it up that way. I would have used wider elastic because it’s stronger but the band at the waist of this skirt was very narrow.

I measured her waist (tiny!!) and cut the elastic shorter than that measurement. When you stitch elastic to something it will not spring back to its unhindered state but will be slightly stretched out (depending on fabric weight). The easiest way to do this is to put the elastic around the waist, stretch it lightly so that it is very snug, and cut it to that length. You won’t need much in the way of extra at the ends but you can add a half inch if you like.

 This particular skirt had a zipper. I wanted it to remain intact so I pinned the elastic such that it ended on each side of the zipper. If you have a slip-on skirt just make sure that the elastic can stretch out enough to go over the hips and when you pin it overlap the ends.

Pinning is not hard: Simply measure (by folding it in half) the middle of the elastic and the middle of the skirt and pin the two points together. Then do the same thing for the two halves and keep going until you have enough pins to keep you happy. Don’t do too many because you won’t need them and they will drive you crazy if you put them in every two inches. 

Set your machine to zig-zag. [Always use zig-zag when sewing elastic to something or sewing knits so there is room for it to stretch.]

When you are starting set your stitch length to zero.

Starting at one end, making sure you are centered over the elastic, sew several stitches (like 8-10) in one place. This gives you a firm start to the seam so it is less likely to pull out under the stress. After you have done this, without moving the skirt set the stitch length to something along the lines of 3.5-4 (this is not an exact science). 

Using you left hand, firmly hold the skirt where it is going to emerge from under the presser foot. With your right, hold the waistband at the site of the first pin. Stretch the elastic out so that the elastic and the skirt are lying flat together. DO NOT just pull on the front to stretch the elastic out because it will make your stitches wonky and possibly break the needle. (I couldn’t take a photo of both hands doing this because one had to hold the camera. Drat.) As you start to sew, maintain the tension between your two hands so the elastic is stretched out but there is no extra tension on the needle. This sounds hard in print but it’s easy to do in practice. As you get close to the pin, shift your hands and hold the site of the next pin, doing the exact same thing in terms of stretching out the elastic. Keep going to the end.

When you get to the end, change your stitch length back to zero and make 8-10 stitches just like the ones you started with.

I know my stitching is a little wonky here but this is something of what it would look like:

You can see that I didn’t have to take up the waist measurement too much. If you looking at making a serious change in the waist then you need to break down and actually use scissors for some deconstruction. Using elastic is a way of making fairly minor changes in the waist. This removed about 3 inches from the waist measurement.

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