Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tutorial: How to Add Sleeves to a Strapless Dress

I realize I just did a tutorial on adding sleeves to something, but this one was already on my other blog, so I thought it'd be easy enough to paste it over here. I did this project a while ago and didn't take near enough pictures for a proper tutorial, but it's a very simple project, so hopefully this will be enough.

Normally I like to wait to show the final product in a big reveal at the end, but I think the instructions will be a lot more clear if I show you what we're making first. We did a cap sleeve that was ruched where the sleeves met the dress.
We started with a strapless sequined gown that two layers, a lining layer and a layer of sequined fabric. the dress had a sweetheart neckline that didn't go very low on the body. First we picked out some silk and tulle to go with the dress. We didn't end up trying to match the fabrics exactly. We just went into the store and tried out a few different layered color options and picked one that coordinated nicely, rather than matching imperfectly. We only needed about a third yard of each fabric (Our dress was a size 4, you may need a little extra fabric for a larger dress, but I don't think you'd need more than half a yard).

I had my model put her dress on and then we made a rough pattern with some spare fabric. We then cut rectangles the size we needed (thanks to the ruching, you're just cutting a big rectangle, easy, huh?). I believe we wanted our final sleeves to be 6 inches wide, so I cut our fabric 6 1/2 inches for seam allowances.*Since our tulle was sheer, I didn't like the idea of sewing the fabric together with right sides together and basically making a tube. It looked bulky. It looked better to just do a tiny seam, sewing very close to the edges. Serge or zig zag your edges then turn them under 1/4" and stitch as close to the edge as you can. Barely noticeable, see:
Next, I ruched the ends by running a basting stitch along the edges, gathering them and pinned them to the dress. Check the fit before you sew the sleeves down to make sure the sleeves aren't too loose and that the gathering is the same on both sides. I ended up slanting them slightly so they fit over the shoulder, rather than straight over like a tank top. I hand sewed the sleeves to the dress so I didn't have to go through the sequined tulle layer.

You could be done here, but since our dress was sequined and it came with a little baggy of extra sequins, I decided to cover the seam with them and sprinkle them on the sleeve. It made a huuuuuge difference! The pictures don't do it justice. The dress actually looks better with sleeves and I think it looks like the dress was meant to have those sleeves.
Doesn't Sara look AMAZING? So glamorous! That's her standing with her proud parents. My camera died before I could take a picture of her with her date, but he was so dashing in his tux and hand tied bow tie. They looked so old Hollywood. So glad I could help her look amazing and "classy modest", as we put it. :)Our dress had very minimal sleeves in the back, if you wanted more coverage, I would suggest measuring your dress across the back and instead of ruching the back, I would make your straps wider at the back than the front and just sew them straight across the back, while still gathering the front. I don't think it would look as nice, but if would give you more coverage.

My Mustard!

I laughed when I saw this blog color scheme because I was just telling my husband that I'm a little cranky at how hot mustard yellow is right now. I've been rocking mustard yellow for years and I'm feeling a little possessive of it. I can't look at Pinterest without seeing it and seeing it combined with light blue to boot. Oh well, at least I can pretend I'm a trend setter, right?

My living room pillow collection. The large embroidered blue pillow is from Pottery Barn and I made the others. The mustard yellow pillows are linen with wide cream lace sewed on top.

Tutorial: Turn a Tank Top Into a T-Shirt

My first official tutorial, whoohoo! Does this ever happen to you: You find a gorgeous tank top on super sale at your favorite store (cough, cough, J. Crew.), but it's seven sizes too big and it's a tank top and you don't need another shirt that you're going to have to wear a cardigan over anyway, but, you could really use a fabulous t shirt? Problem solved! Turn a too big tank top into a t-shirt!

Here's our beginning product:
1. Start by putting on your tank top inside out and pinning it roughly where you'd like to take it in, I took mine in at the top as well as the sides, but you might only need to do the sides.
2. After you take the pinned shirt off, lay it flat and do some measuring of where your pins are on either side. If you did it as roughly as I usually do, you'll probably need to do some adjusting so that your pins are evenly placed on either side. I like to do right on the top seam and bottom seam, so they're not uneven when you sew. Then I like to move down a few inches, using my big quilting ruler and measure in from the sides evening. Like so:
3. Baste your seams, try on the shirt, adjust the fit if needed with more pins and rebasting, then when you're happy with the fit, sew the seams and either zig zag or serge the edges to finish them. Then trim as close to your seam allowance as you can to reserve as much fabric as possible for your sleeves.
4. After you cut your side seams, you should be left with two relatively cap sleeve looking pieces.
5. I tried the shirt on, tucked the sleeves in their place and cut them to the proper length (I left them a little long so I could slightly gather the sleeves). I wasn't super exact, I just cut some roughly sleeve shaped pieces and made sure they were the same as one another (remember that they need to be mirror images of one another). Baste stitch close to the edge, I did about 3/8".
6. Gather the sleeve a little if you want, lay your shirt on a flat surface and pin your sleeves. Take special care that the edges start at the same spot on both sides (I like to measure my start spot from the side seam underneath the armhole). Since I didn't have much fabric to spare, I sewed the sleeve as close to the edges as I could. To give your sleeve a nice taper at the edges I pinned closer to the fold of the sleeve, rather than the raw edge with the baste (I don't know how to explain that, but look at the final picture up close). For this shirt I simply pinned the sleeve in place and top stitched it in place. If you wanted to though, you could pin the right sides together and do a proper seam that you could then serge to finish. My shirt had this weird binding on the edge, so I didn't want to mess with it. 7. Our final product! Yay new t-shirt!
*A couple tips: Try on the shirt you want to buy before you take it home and gather the shirt as best you can to make it fit so you can make sure this tank top will work for the project. This only works with tank tops that have pretty wide set straps that hit pretty close to wear t-shirt seams would normally fall. Also, make sure you have enough fabric for your sleeves. Mine were super skimpy. I bought an XL and I usually wear a small. An XXL would have given me a lot more to work with for sleeves.

Good luck and post any questions you have in the comments!


Welcome to my second (why do I think I have time for these things?!) blog. I'm often asked for tutorials for my designs, recipes and I don't want to mess with them on my family blog, so here we are!

This is a blog for my design store, Kaela Wheeler Designs (I'm very creative with the words, no?), which you can find here, on Facebook, or here, on Etsy, as well as tutorials or fun DIY ideas (i.e. things I should have tutorialed but got lazy).

Let's start off small. These earrings are the most popular item in my store. I love them!Find them here. Next up, t shirt tutorial. :)