Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The circular logic of online DIY tutorials

Today at the op-shop I continued Seven Sisters Summer by purchasing a circular tablecloth in a seersucker-ish blue gingham, which I plan to make into a circle skirt.

You can see it already has a hole in the middle. I was sure this was going to earn me a discount off the price, but the op-shop lady told me the hole was intentional because the cloth was meant to be used on an outdoor table with a central umbrella.

I still tried to haggle because c'mon, look how crappily cut out the hole is!

But ultimately I gave up because it is a charity, and because $5 is still an okay deal for a large amount of fabric, ready-hemmed and already in a circle so I don't have to do that bit myself.

I remember a few years ago Lady Melbourne had a circle skirt DIY (here's part 1 and part 2) but I'm not sure I can be bothered with a proper waistband and zipper, since I haven't got a sewing machine (though my mother's always like "You can always borrow mine; I never use it") and my sewing skills are really not that advanced.

From some of the DIYs I've looked up, I think the way to finish the skirt will be to fold the tablecloth in half, then in half again, and then measure the waist (the 'circumference' of a small circle in the middle of the skirt) by measuring the radius of that smaller circle from the narrow end of the fold.

But how to calculate the radius? Lady Melbourne reckons you take your waist measurement, add on "an inch or two" for seam allowance, then divide by 3.14 (pi), then again by 2.

Another DIY says the correct radius is your waist measurement plus two inches, divided by 6.28 (pi times two).

This DIY (admittedly, for stretchy fabric) reckons the correct radius is your waist measurement minus two inches. ("Do not add 2"!")

One DIY says the correct radius is your hip measurement, minus four inches, divided by 6.28.

This DIY reckons the correct radius is your hip measurement plus two inches, divided by 3.14, then divided by 2.

But this DIY reckons the radius is simply 1/6 of your waist measurement.


While researching my chapters on sizing I developed a lot of respect for patternmakers and the ways they come at the industrial problem of having to develop good fits for bodies in a wide range of shapes and sizes, within commercial limits.

By contrast, online DIY tutorials are personalised and amateurised. They are even a step below home dressmaking patterns (which I've also researched for the book) in that the process of creating the garment is flexible and intuitive, like cooking from a description rather than a strict recipe. They are often ad-hoc, based on repurposing existing materials rather than working from scratch, and making calculations on the fly that can then be fixed later in the process if they turn out to be wrong.

This suits my way of working with clothes. I should probably do a future blog post about my crappy customised clothes; I did one back in 2009 and I should let you know that the pink dress was a complete failure. I think I crumpled up the fabric in rage and despair and threw it in the corner of my room, because I found it there last Saturday while searching for some Christmas wrapping paper.


melanie said...

awesome mel. i'm envious of your courage in just sewing as you go and pinning on yourself to fit. i've never been brave enough to do that, i like a solid pattern or instructions and balls to refinements! there's a dress i'm making for annick that will be three sizes too big, but i'm too chicken to try and resize down from the default pattern, so she'll just have to grow into it.

i like dana willard's tutorials - she has a circle skirt that agrees with your second example (waist plus 2 inches divided by 6.28), although she uses a wide elastic waistband rather than threading elastic into a sleeve.

i look forward to seeing the finished product! and the rest of your wardrobe this summer - you always make me wistful about my own lack of style and purpose.


Mel said...

Yes, I saw that tutorial but rejected it because I don't want visible elastic if I tuck a top into the skirt.

What I would like is a tube for the elastic, but I will have to make that tube out of the top of the existing fabric because I have no extra.

I figure I will use the waist measurement plus 2 inches method, and I will probably be able to get the skirt on over my head rather than over my hips.

brodie said...

HI! Longtime reader, first time commenter :)

I sewed 2 circle skirts for the first time this week, and used the "waist divided by 6.28" method.

I added 2 inches first, because I planned to sew in elastic to hold it on, but that made them quite a bit too big, so I'd just go with waist / 3.14 / 2


Mel said...

Terrific – thanks for the tip Brodie! I've only got as far as buying some elastic.