Wednesday, 11 February 2009


How to make things reversible: Sandwiching

Following on from my first post on how to adapt a pre-existing patterns, I'll now start breaking down the methods of making things reversible into a couple of different categories. These are not prescribed methods, just what I've come up with in my experience!

  1. Sandwiching: best for skirts, trousers, and t-shirts with binded edges

  2. Bagging: for sleeveless dresses that separate at the shoulders (i.e. button or snap closures)

  3. Flipping: for garments that separate down the front and have sleeves, like jackets or cardigans

  4. Mixed bag: for garments that separate down the front but don't have sleeves, like waistcoats or my very own swing tops
Sandwiching is the only one where you are making it reversible from the outside in, the other methods involve a bit of blind faith sewing (where the two sides are sewn together right sides in then pulled out through various holes). Again, these aren't presciptive, you can mix and match whatever suits you best. I'm a flipper myself, so I'm always trying to figure out a way to use this method!

This post covers the simplest method of making things reversible: 'sandwiching'. By sandwiching, I mean that the two sides of the garment are constructed independantly to the stage of hemming, you put one inside the other wrong sides in, and then finish. You can do this either with bias tape or by folding both edges to the inside and topstitching. Broadly speaking, 'sandwiching' can be used to make almost anything reversible with careful thought on how to adapt your pattern and extreme patience for binding or hemming, but in my experience is best suited to skirts and trousers.

Using bias tape to cover and enclose your raw edges is probably the easiest method of making things reversible (provided you get along with bias tape, I don't!). Wherever you plan on using tape, you'll need to amend your original pattern because the tape will rest against the raw edge where it would normally be folded. So for a skirt or trousers, remove the hem allowance. If you're also using tape at the waistband, remove the excess in the original pattern where the fabric was folded to make a casing.

I'm not a keen user of bias tape, so I'll show you how I make a simple A-line skirt and trousers reversible with folding under.

Quick and easy reversible skirt:
  1. Draft your pattern. For me, I use a rectangle which has a width of waist measurement divided by two + 6 inches and a height of waist to knee plus 1 inch.

  2. Cut two of these pieces of each fabric.

  3. Using your first fabric, place one rectangle on the other right sides facing and stitch both side seams, making a tube. Repeat for other fabric.

  4. Iron a 1/2" fold at the top edge of each tube (this will help you match up later)

  5. Place one tube within the other tube, right sides facing and pin along the hem (aligning side seams). Stitch all the way around with a narrow 3/8" seam allowance.

  6. Pull the inner tube out of the outer tubes, fold back up so both right sides are out and the creased edges are at the top.

  7. Match the creases at the waist and pin.

  8. Stitch very close to the waist edge, leaving a one inch gap for your elastic to be inserted.

  9. Stitch another line all the way around, one inch below the top line.

  10. Using the small gap, work your elastic (I use waist less one inch) through the casing and secure the ends.

  11. Close your gap.

  12. Optional: Topstitch bottom edge. If you don't, it'll be a bit of a bubble hem.

Quick and easy reversible trousers

  1. Draft or adapt you pattern so there is a 1/2 inch foldover accommodated for at the waist and a 1/2 inch hem allowance. If you want your trousers to have turn-up cuffs to show off the contrasting fabric on the reverse, add a bit of length.

  2. Construct both pairs of your trousers until the only raw edges remaining are waist and leg edges.

  3. Iron 1/2 inch folds at waist and hems.

  4. Wrong sides together, insert one pair into the other pair, pulling legs down.

  5. Match up the creases at waist and hem and pin.

  6. Stitch very close to the waist edge, leaving a one inch gap for your elastic to be inserted.

  7. Stitch another line all the way around, one inch below the top line.

  8. Stitch very close to the hem edges.

  9. Using the small gap, work your elastic through (I use waist less one inch) the casing and secure the ends.

  10. Close your gap.

If anyone is unclear or wants a photo tute, I've taken pictures all the way along if you want me to add them!