Thursday, January 21, 2010

DIY Pareo

The large piece of fabric known as a "pareo" (pronounced "pah ray' oh") in Hawai`i and Tahiti, "sarong" in parts of SE Asia such as Thailand and Sri Lanka, and by other names in other countries, is an essential item for the traveling woman because it may be used as a beach cover-up, towel, skirt, dress, blouse, bandeau, jacket, shawl, headband, head-covering, turban, belt, sheet, blanket, table cloth, curtain, sun shade, bag, or pillow. After a trip, continue wearing it because pareos are so comfortable or use it to decorate your home by putting it up as a wall-hanging. The uses are limited only by your imagination.

However, until you're able to travel to a destination that offers a wide selection, it may not be easy to find one that you like. To help you out, here are directions for a no-sew, make-it-yourself pareo:

Go to a store that sells fabric and buy 2 yards (or 2 meters) of a color or print that you like if you're in the One-Size-Fits-Most crowd. If you're thin, you may get away with buying less while a super-sized woman will likely need more.

A pareo should go around you at least one and a half times, so to be sure of ample coverage, a thin or super-sized woman should measure herself around her largest point and multiply that number by 1.75. Then, divide by 36 to convert the inches to yards. (If you're on the metric system, I apologize for making you do the conversion. My math isn't good enough for me to risk messing you up.) Deal with any awkward fraction of the result by rounding up to the nearest quarter-yard. If you find your pareo is too long after using it for a while, you can always cut the excess and re-fringe the end.

Short women may need only 36-inch wide material. Women of average height or taller should stick to material that's 44-45 inches wide. The goal is to have material wide enough to cover you from the armpits to below the calf or ankle-length. Full sized pareos are folded to get dresses or skirts of shorter lengths. The pareos I've bought measure 60-65 inches long (plus the fringe) x 44-45 inches wide.

As for the type of material, I recommend rayon, washable silk, or lightweight woven cotton because they feel good against the skin and air-dry quickly. Be wary of employee recommendations because in one fabric store, a too-stiff brocade was suggested to me. What you need is washable, drip-dry material that's soft and fluid enough to drape like a shawl, scarf, or bandanna.

Inspect the inside of the folded material, the wrong side, to ensure that the dye goes through because you don't want the wrong side to be obvious when it shows as it will in some cases depending on how the pareo is tied. If the dye goes through, it won't be easy to tell the wrong side from the right.

Once you have the material home, make a fringe on one of the short, cut ends, a 44-45 inch wide side (for the short woman, it will be the 36-inch wide side), by picking out the cross threads until there's 3 to 3.5 inches of fringe. A pin, needle, or seam ripper will make the task easier.

Use an overhand knot to tie the hanging threads together in small groups approximately 1 inch apart from each other and up against the unfrayed material to stop it from unraveling further.

Repeat on the opposite end. Then, wash to remove any excess dye and dry.

That's it!

You don't have to do anything to the long, uncut, edges because the selvages keep them from unraveling.

All that's left is for you to use your favorite search engine to get ideas on how to tie and wear your new pareo and practice while imagining yourself on your next trip.


Anonymous said...

Hi! Thank you for your informative post! I bought fabric today with the plan to make a pareo, and figured I'd just pull threads out to make the fringe to tie (I have a bought-pareo and it looks as though that's how it was made).

Since I was unsure if my plan would work, I searched no-sew pareo online and found your post -- which confirms my plan.

I bought a lightweight "batik" print (not a real waxed batik), but am wishing I'd've bought something a little lighter-weight; what I bought doesn't drape well (though I still need to wash it).

Thanks again - it was great to read and quite informative.

Gail Rhea said...

You're welcome. I'm glad it helped!

Leslie said...

Thank you! The measurment info was extremely helpful! The pareo a friend gave me was just a little too short accross my bust. I can't wait to pick out my fabics.