Sunday, July 8, 2012

Serger Love: Coffee-Dyed Lace Trim + 3-Thread Rolled Hem = Skirt Rescue!

Finished -- Ta Da!
I bought this RTW skirt from Ann Taylor Loft several years ago, and I really love it.  Brown is a good color for me, even in the summer, and this lightweight cotton skirt stays cool and comfortable and goes with several different tops in my closet.  I was annoyed to discover last summer that the main skirt fabric had been shrinking.  The skirt lining was hanging out below the hemline, looking for all the world like a saggy old slip.  So I had this great idea -- I'd let out the hem (it was originally just turned twice and topstitched) and add a lace trim to the bottom of the skirt to make up for the lost length!  I ordered some crochet trim online, but when it arrived it looked too creamy ivory.  I set the skirt and the lace in a pile in my sewing room and promptly forgot all about them.  Remember the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?  Well, I have a little Island of Misfit Mending in my studio that grows bigger and bigger, full of things that I could easily fix and wear again, but never seem to get around to...

Bernie's Coffee Press/Dyebath
So summer came around again this year, and after ransacking my closet in search of this skirt I finally remembered that it was in my sewing room.  I did some online research and decided to try dying the crochet trim with coffee.  Because I only had a yard or two of trim to dye, I used Bernie's French Press along with dark French roasted coffee (using WAY more coffee than I would if anyone was going to drink it) and boiling water.  Then I used Alum (found with the spices at the grocery store) as a mordant to (hopefully!) set the dye, since the skirt will need to be washed periodically and laundry detergents are designed to REMOVE coffee stains. 

Lace in the Coffee Bath
As you can see, the lace looked much darker wet than it did after I rinsed it out and dried it, but that's okay.  All I needed was a coffee brown tinge of color, and it looked pretty near perfect once it had dried.

"Natural" Lace Before Dying (it looked brighter and yellower IRL)

After Coffee Dying
So I dyed this lace about a month ago, and then put it back in my sewing room Misfit Mending pile because I was in quiltermode for one thing, plus I hadn't quite figured out exactly how I was going to attach the trim to the skirt.  My garment sewing experience, after all, has been limited to the occasional Aquaman outfit or Jedi cloak, as required by my Trick-or-Treaters.  I've never attached lace to anything before.

1300MDC Serger, Photo Courtesy Bernina USA
It took a mending emergency to get this project completed.  One of my favorite fitted sheets came out of the dryer with a split corner seam this week, and I wanted to repair it with the same three-thread-overlock-plus-chainstitch that had been used originally.  Well, I have a great serger with coverstitch and chainstitch capability, but I had not used it since I overcast the edges of the waistband on Princess Petunia's pettiskirt a year and a half ago.  I know this because it was still threaded up with turquoise thread.  Sergers/overlock machines may seem intimidating to those who haven't used them before, but honestly, they are not difficult and the speedy, professional results are well worth the hassle of setting them up and tweaking tensions, etc.  Or at least they wouldn't be difficult if the serger manual hadn't been written first in Swiss German, then translated to Mandarin Chinese, then into Russian, then into Swahili, French, Arabic, Italian, Gaelic, Pig Latin, and finally into modern English.  My Bernina 1300MDC serger purrs like a kitten and sews beautifully and reliably every time, but it came with the absolute worst instruction manual I've ever seen.  It took me two hours to get the machine threaded up and adjusted to the stitch I wanted, all because of one little lever that was flipped the wrong direction.  If I used the machine more often, I'd remember how to do this without reading the instruction manual every time...  So I decided that I'd figure out how to serge my coffee-stained -dyed lace to my brown skirt while I had the serger out -- and before I forgot how to operate it again!

Guiding Lace Against Blindstitch Guide, Barely Trimming Fabric Edge
I consulted my Bernina Serger Technique Reference Book and decided to attach the lace trim to the skirt with a 3-thread rolled hem, using my Blindstitch Foot as a guide for the edge of the lace.  Unlike the user manual, the Serger Technique Reference Book is well-written and full of large color PHOTOS.  In my opinion, it should come with the sergers, but I had to purchase it separately.  Having consulted my book, I starched both the lace trim and my flimsy skirt fabric, so it would have enough body to roll properly as the stitches were formed.  One downside of a project like this is that I didn't have any scraps of the skirt fabric for testing purposes, so I had to wing it and hope for the best.  I used the edge of the Blindstitch Foot guide to keep the lace lined up nice and straight, about a quarter inch from the edge of the skirt fabric, right sides together, and positioned the skirt fabric so that just the fraying edge threads would be trimmed away by the serger knife.  Just a few minutes later, the trim was attached.  Serger love!

I did open a side seam just a couple of inches before attaching the trim along the hem, so I'd have a starting and stopping place, so I just stitched that closed on my regular sewbaby and then secured the cut edges of the crochet lace with some additional hand stitches in matching thread.  Again, I'd procrastinated putting the lace trim on the skirt for so long -- it was amazing how fast and easy it was once I sat down to do it.  Now that it's finished, the skirt looks like it was always supposed to be that way, and the lining is no longer hanging out.  Who knows, maybe this small success will encourage me to tackle the rest of the mending misfits in that pile?  Well, let's not hold our breath...


Ivory Spring said...

I do love your skirt, Rebecca.

The name of the green/blue quilt block is Basket Pinwheel.

Kelly said...

Great use of coffee! I have used coffee and tea to dye paper, but haven't tried lace. I also love that you showed how you put the lace on with your serger. I really need to use my serger more!

Jenny K. Lyon said...

Very cool-love it! And the sparkly finger nails are cute too!

Embroidery Digitizing said...

What an idea. This is simply great. I will definitely try it.