It’s been a while since the last post. Difficult and sad family events took me away from making things, taking photos and writing. I made one dress.
A beautiful deep blue silk velvet bought from Angus International before they ceased trading had been hoarded for far too long, so one daughter negotiated a dress. We decided on a very simple style, a loose A line shift, drafted with bust darts from the side but no waist shaping, and slightly belled sleeves.
If you’ve never worked silk velvet, there are some things to keep in mind.
The pieces need to be cut all in one direction, because of the risk of the velvet shading. You can’t dovetail for economy, it’s not worth the risk even when you don’t think you see any difference in tone before cutting.
You need to use a needleboard to press, or if you don’t have one (I don’t), press gingerly onto a scrap of velvet, pile sides together. Any creases from folding the fabric are best steamed out by hanging the piece in a steamy atmosphere or using a steamer from the underside whilst it’s hanging.
It’s worth drafting the pattern with seam allowances, after you have a toile perfectly fitted. The seam allowances help to keep accuracy when the fabric is moving about on the table. The pattern needs pinning at very frequent intervals to stop it slipping during cutting.
Some velvet marks if you pin or stitch, so keep all pins in seam allowance. Lace pins are safest. I think it’s worth tacking darts and seams with a fairly small tacking stitch, because the fabric also slips and travels under the machine foot. Tack fractionally outside the stitching line. Tacking doesn’t take much longer than pinning, but holds the fabric far more securely.
When pressing seams, slipping a scrap of paper between the seam allowance and the body of the garment helps to prevent them from marking the right side. I overcast the raw edges of the seam allowance by hand. This is a very old fashioned technique, it’s lighter than either zigzag or overlocking. The single thread is far less likely to mark or show through.
Still on hand stitching, the hems were carefully slip stitched, catching just one thread in the garment body, with a longer stitch in the hem. I like to use betweens, small fine needles, for this pernickety work.
I don’t have a photo of the dress (it’s now in London), but I learnt from this garment that a very simple shape can look luxurious in the right fabric and colour. We spent time playing with more complicated ideas, noticing how beautifully the fabric draped. In the end, the draping qualities work well with an unfitted shape, giving it fluidity and movement. It looks unfussy and relaxed.
Spare moments and travelling time during these weeks mostly got spent on reading. Hilary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ felt like a must, given recent events. I learnt so much, and wonder that the resource of her experience in foreign affairs has been discarded by the electorate. I also read ‘Blank Slate’ by Steven Pinker, and in a related vein ‘The Nurture Assumption’ by Judith Rich Harris, then ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ by Bessel Van der Kolk, ‘American Pastoral’ by Philip Roth, ‘You Talkin’ to Me’ by Sam Leith, and dipped in to Woody Allen ‘Complete Prose’, and half read ‘Chanel’ by Edmonde Charles-Roux.
Now I hope to catch up on reading my favourite blogs!