Sew Your Own Vintage Neck Scarf – Tutorial

Any avid sewists know that a growing stash of fabric remnants is an inevitable consequence of many sewing projects. I’ve been sewing for just over two years and the only thing that has helped to control my remnants is a trans-Atlantic move. Even then, I carted most of my fabric across the sea with me. Because remnants – as well as random measures of fabric that aren’t quite enough for a complete garment – are a relatively reliable part of sewing, I’m always on the lookout for ways to use up the bits and pieces that I’ve got lying around.

For a while now, I’ve had the most gorgeous piece of vintage silk in my stash. It was a present from my parents a couple of years ago, but there’s not quite enough of it to make anything big. Because of that, I basically just left it in my sewing cupboard to gather dust until I was struck by some sort of inspiration. Recently, I was on one of my trots through vintage fashion illustrations and photos online and it suddenly occurred to me that this fabric would work perfectly as a vintage scarf – the kind that you can tie in about fifty different ways around your neck, or even wear as a headscarf. So I set about making one and turned the process into an easy-to-follow sewing tutorial for anyone who has a stack of remnants searching for a purpose.

What You Need:

  • Fabric
    • A large scarf – of the size also workable as a headscarf – requires a square of fabric about 30″ x 30″. Alternatively you can make one much smaller than this – down to about 25″ x 25″, depending on the amount of fabric that you have available.
    • Choose a drapey fabric – silk, chiffon etc – so that you get that perfect flowing vintage-style scarf
  • Paper – pattern, tracing, or normal
  • Fabric scissors or a rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • Pins
  • Seam gauge, ruler, or tape measure
  • Thread to match your fabric
  • Sewing machine (unless you want to hand sew, which is also possible for the truly committed)
  • Iron and ironing board

Steps:

1. Make Your Pattern Square

While it would be possible to mark directly onto you fabric, it’s well worth the effort of putting together a paper pattern piece. Since you’re working with silky material, there’s always a risk that the shape will be warped by the fabric shifting when marking directly onto the fabric itself.

Pre-determine what size of scarf you want to make and mark a square of that size onto your paper (either pattern paper, tracing paper, or by sellotaping some regular pieces of paper together). As noted above, 30″ square will make a large scarf – but you can work with a much smaller square, depending on personal taste and the size of your remnant. Around the square that you draw, you’ll want to add 1″ for your seam allowance.

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2. Pin Your Pattern and Cut Your Fabric

Make sure that you use a good flat surface for pinning your fabric and ensure that the fabric isn’t moving or puckering underneath the pattern piece. Using a few weights (cans of beans will work just as well as traditional pattern weights) is a good way of making sure that the fabric doesn’t shift as you pin. Use plenty of pins to ensure that the fabric doesn’t shift around too much when you’re cutting it later.

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Once everything is pinned down, cut your fabric out. You can either use fabric scissors for the job or a rotary cutter and cutting mat. I really like the rotary cutter for this kind of fabric – it’s much less likely to pull the fabric out of shape.

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3. Press and Pin Your Edges

When you measured out the pattern piece, you left a 1″ seam allowance. To avoid any raw edges being visible, you’ll be using a double-fold hem to tidy the edges of the scarf. You also have the option of using some pinking shears to finish the edges before you start folding and pressing the hem, depending on your preference and how much your fabric has frayed. If you want to finish the edges, however, it’s best to avoid using a serger – this will bulk up the edges too substantially and make it much harder to get a neat, flat hem.

Start by turning the edges in 4/8″ and pressing – you’ll want to be sure to keep the corners nice and neat when you press them down.

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Once this is done, fold your edges over by another 4/8″ so that the raw edge is hidden. Press down – making sure that the corners are still nice and tidy. Pin the hem in place.

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4. Sew Your Scarf

Starting at one of the corners, sew around the edge of the scarf, using a 2/8″ – 3/8″ seam. 2/8″ is typically the best for keeping the corners well tucked but a wider 3/8″ seam can look great with a contrasting thread. It’s really a matter of personal preference! At each corner, be sure to raise your presser foot (with needle down) and pivot the fabric.

To reduce bulk, you may want to backstitch a few stitches by hand once your stitching is complete and you secure your thread. However, if the slightly bulkier machine backstitching doesn’t bother you, then go for it! I use a machine backstitch because I’m not the most patient when it comes to hand stitching.

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5. Give Your Edges a Final Press

Before wearing, its a good idea to give the edges of the scarf a final press to give them a nice crisp shape!

6. Wear and Enjoy!

The thing I love most about this scarf is its versatility. There are a number of different ways to style it around your neck and shoulders but it also makes for a great head scarf if you’re feeling that Jackie Onassis vibe! So go out and be your best vintage self!

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