Velvet Wrap Dresses

I made a couple of velvet wrap dresses in the blog down time. The first was in black ‘something’ velvet – probably a poly. I had left overs from yards and yards of this, once used for a costume. It sews easily but hangs horribly. The dress is a straight wrap top, tie belt, sleeves finishing braclet length in a flared cuff piece. You either stike lucky when you order a synthetic velvet online or you don’t. It did work pretty well in the costume which had just required a huge long gathered skirt. There was enough heft in the volume to make up for the lack of presence in the fabric itself. The skirt on this one didn’t work brilliantly.

Black Velvet Dress

The second one was carefully made in a very lovely sapphire blue silk velvet. I used this self same velvet, in a different colour, from the same supplier for another dress.

I followed all the usual velvet rules, but this project was a pain. I took care to cut out in a single layer and protect the bias of the cross over neckline from stretching.

Stabilise Neckline

I hand tacked every darn dart and seam.

Hand Tacked Dart

Of course I pressed as little as possible, hovering the iron and blasting steam, with the surface of the velvet protected against another velvet scrap.

Still, this dress nearly had me weeping.

Blue Velvet Wrap Dress

The cherry on the cake? It nearly got lost in the post. Parcel Force left it with a neighbour on the wrong floor and signalled it as delivered, without bothering to drop a note through the door of the intended recipient.

Yet alls well that ends well. The neighbour was located, no mean feat in a huge block of flats, with tenants from around the world. The parcel survived and the dress fitted. The photo doesn’t do it justice, though a simple style the fabric makes a stunning effect when worn.  I’m so darn sorry that Angus International stopped trading. They were the source of the fabulous silk velvet. I’d like a limitless quantity of this, regardless of the pain in sewing it, so, ha ha if anyone happens upon a similarly budget conscious cache of lovely silks please inform.

and now Brexit Blues

Just got to add a footnote on this weekend of a mass march in London for a People’s Vote on the final deal. Like other Brits in Europe,we’re still in the dark here, in no man’s land, waiting to see what we’ll have to deal with, if we’ll be able to continue living in our home, if abandonment will follow betrayal. Not a whisper of official advice or information.  Mrs May is giving the impression of someone who knows she was handed a poisoned chalice, and is wondering how long she can keep swilling the contents round her gums before one of the vultures in waiting makes her swallow.  Wish us luck.

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Sleevy Dress 2

Construction details.

This dress was drafted to individual measurements, via an adapted block.

This pattern used the smallest plus cup size on a size 10 in the chart (10+) but also used a bit of extra length in the CB.

The style of the body of the dress is a basic A-line shift, finishing at mini length, with a neckline wide on the shoulders. All the detail is in the sleeves. The cuff end was developed using the tute on Rhonda’s blog, with a couple of changes. My sleeve was shaped in slightly to the elbow, then flared out slightly. The seam under the pointed fold was left part open and faced back. All in one facings were made for the front and back necklines and armholes. The top of the sleeve was reduced by about an inch so that the rouleau could form a pattern of loops around it. Facings for the cuff and for the top of the sleeve completed the pattern, with the bit trimmed off the sleeve  retained to make a guide. The guide is marked with spacing for the rouleau loops which go at the sleeve head.

Making up

Though it looks complicated, it isn’t. It just needs accurate stitching and an unhurried approach. If I hadn’t already fitted the block it’s made from, I’d do a basic toile to avoid having to unpick and refit any fiddly bits. I cut out with 1cm seam allowances everywhere except the back seam, where I allowed 2cms to make putting a zip in easier.

Sew and press all darts. Fuse interfacing to facing pieces, neaten the edges. Face neckline  on back and front.

Cut strips of bias half an inch wide and three and a half inches long, fray the ends. I chose to have the direction of bias giving a red fringe.

There’s a balance to be struck here, depending on your fabric. A better finish from the point of view of securing those end pieces would be to run a narrow zig zag along the fabric quarter of an inch from the end and pull the threads below this. My fabric feels like it will hold reasonably well, and I didn’t like the extra weight of the stitching. I didn’t zigzag and am taking a chance on the ties disintegrating in order to preserve the delicacy of the feathery effect.

Fold the strips in half and pin them round the armhole on the RS ends facing in toward the bodice, placing them to match up with the guide on the sleeve head. Machine tack just inside the seam allowance.

Ties secured round armhole

I chickened out of pinning  the one at the shoulder. Reserve it to be applied later when the facings are done.

For each of the front and back bodice, turn the facing RS together on the bodice pieces and stitch round armholes, catching the folded edges of the bias strips in the armhole seams. Trim, turn and check that all the bias strips are free and now facing out over the armhole.

Now there’s a choice about how you get the shoulders sewn. Afficionados of the burrito method will be wondering why I didn’t pull this out of the techniques bag. Well …  I worried about wrecking the silk, especially the delicate and feathery ties. Trying to pull them plus half a garment through the narrow shoulder I’d drafted seemed like courting disaster.

I tucked each back shoulder inside a front shoulder, RS together, changed to a standard zipper foot and stitched round. To my surprise the result was acceptable.

Shoulder Seam Not Too Bad

Had the silk shifted badly while I invited this little tube to roll round on the feed dogs I was ready to hand sew it instead, or machine the outside part and hand close the facing.  If the sewing fairy is having an off day half an hour of backstitching with a betweens needle works perfectly to close the shoulder.

Now imagine what a laugh it would be to machine the shoulder with a feathery tie slap bang on the shoulder seam. See why I reserved it?

Next I took a moment to dither about whether I wanted one red tie at the top, or was there enough going on already?

How about Red?

Purple won, hand stitched at the shoulder seam.

I Preferred Purple

Back zip goes in and the back seam and side seams are stitched. I hemmed the skirt by hand. If you use a fine needle and slip stitch, picking up only one thread per stitch on the dress, it’s almost invisible on the RS. With a good light it doesn’t take long in a small size A line dress, and keeps the purity of line I wanted to play off the fancy dancy sleeves.

I didn’t line this dress, but it would be simple to do. A copy of the dress pieces, less the facings can be stitched to the facings (don’t forget seam allowances!). This can be done before attaching the facings, or as an afterthought.

Next the sleeves.

I made rouleau to finish about 6mm wide.

I put the top sleeve guide piece under a scrap of vilene (you could use anything which will tear away easily, but this is what I had to hand). I traced the guidelines for placement of the loops on the vilene and drew a seam allowance on the lower edge.

I pinned the rouleau in place looping it at each guide mark and running it into the seam allowance. Then I stitched it in the seam allowance just shy of the fitting line to stabilise it,  and cut round the vilene guide shape with the lower seam allowance. Don’t cut the shape first, it’s too fiddly.

Loops of Rouleau

Then I pinned the vilene/rouleau piece to the top of the sleeve, RS together and stitched just shy of the fitting line with a large stitch size – you could hand tack if nervous of fitting curves, but it was actually easy.

Loops Set on Sleeve Head

The vilene, or whatever tear away stuff, gets ripped out at this stage. The loops are facing down towards the bottom of the sleeve.

The top sleeve facing is neatened on its lower edge then stitched RS together with the top sleeve on the fitting line, trimmed and turned to the WS.

Ready To Apply Facing

The loops then face up round the top sleeve, the underarm seam is stitched including the corresponding facing seam.

Rouleau Loops

Purists might like to make the sleeve up first, but it’s easier to work the loop bit flat and a good press round the top of the sleeve gives a fair finish to the underarm point .

At the cuff end the sleeve isn’t complicated. The curved seam is partially stitched, finishing at the balance mark, the facing underarm seam is stitched and the contrast facing is stitched RS together around the sleeve base.

I didn’t want top stitching showing on the RS of the sleeve, so I slip stitched the top and bottom sleeve facings to the sleeve. If you were lining the sleeve, you could dispense with this, stitching each to the lining through a space left in the lining underarm seam and closing this by hand.

I covered buttons in the red silk to hold down the point of the sleeve drape. You can find good instructions chez Rhonda for this sleeve idea I cribbed. Rhonda used a nice tweedy fabric for her sleeve example. The main difference you’ll notice is the turned back facing on my silk one.









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Sleevy dress

I made this dress a couple of weeks before Christmas 2017.  Making it threw up so many possible design variations. Was this ok or just a stage on the route to something better?

The following days were busy with the usual pre Christmas blitz on the house, shopping, card writing, presents, but each time I had occasion to pop into the studio I liked it more and more. So pass judgement friends!

Silk Dress

Dress in Shot Silk

Hanger shots only I’m afraid, it’s too small for my smallest dress form.

It’s made in silk duppion, blue shot with red giving purple tones, and trimmed with red duppion.

It is not for me, as you will have gathered by the shortness of the skirt, and the wideness of the neckline.

The sleeve in this dress is based on something Rhonda Buss dreamt up . Ijust had to try it.  The draft of mine differs in a couple of ways but essentially it’s a straight crib. It’s fun to do. Someday I’m going to see how it turns out with the point in line with the little finger.

Crib of Rhonda’s Sleeve

I wanted  these sleeves to be detachable. None of the detachable sleeve ideas I’ve used up to now worked with this fabric so I started playing around with rouleau and figuring how loops might be fastened round the armhole. This is where multiple ideas started shooting off at tangents. I plumped for using bias strips, unhemmed and frayed to show the red warp threads. These are inserted into the seam between the facing and the bodice.

Feathery Ties

The rouleau is similarly inserted into the seam between the sleeve and a sleeve head facing.

Rouleau Loops

This arrangement gives a few possible ways of wearing the dress.

Without sleeves the bias strips can just be left open, a feathery mini sleeve around the armhole. They can also be knotted which gives the look of bows round the armhole.

Knotted Ties

The sleeve can be tied in completely, or the top of the cap can be folded down – cold shoulder anyone?

Sleeve Tied in

Cold Shoulder

The dress structure is otherwise standard – side bust darts, waist darts, back zip, all in one facing for the neck and armholes, set in sleeves.

Next post  the dirty details of construction.




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Stash has become pathological and so, for better or for worse, I’ve set myself the task of sewing up all of the unspecial fabrics in stash before the end of August. To this end, patterns at the reliable unexciting end of possibilities will be put in service. Quickish makes, standard wear.

I used a long held length of fabric to make a wrap dress for one daughter. The fabric is light grey, the weight similar to lawn, embroidered with dragonflies in white thread. I remembered it as cotton, but an accident with the iron put paid to that. By the rapidity of melt, I’d give it acrylic or viscose.

For the pattern, I intended to use one in a magazine ‘Fashion Style’ purchased in the papeterie whilst waiting for dh in physio. Once traced I found the bodice fit bore little resemblance to the block I’d drafted last time I was in London, so it was better to start from scratch. My draft has no waist seam, back waist darts, side bust dart, and inseam pockets and a wide sash, but otherwise closely resembles the magazine one.  Sorry about the fuzzy pictures, these are in the post so I can’t reshoot.

As the fabric was so light, I wanted to avoid any change in weight in the flared pieces and collar, so cut these singly and edged them with one of the stitches on my new machine (more about that in another post). As so often happens when you hang on to fabric for years, this wasn’t how I remembered, and may turn out to be too flimsy to be useful. I’ll think of it as a pattern test!

The second wrap dress/tunic used a length of satin backed crepe which was an online disappointment. That too was flimsier than I’d imagined placing the order and not suitable for its intended purpose. I made it reversible, cutting two fronts and backs, sewing one satin side out, one crepe side out, sandwiching bell shaped lace sleeves between the layers, keeping a small opening in each side seam at the waist and attaching long narrow ties at each front waist. The pattern is similar, but the fronts are shaped with a deeper curve so that they preserve decency when wrapped. Apologies for the fuzzy photos, garments were in the post before I uploaded them, so I can’t reshoot.

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Revised Plans

My thought, last October, was to reboot this blog in the first week of March. Plans were roughed out, but hey, that mice and men thing.  Family illness took me away for five weeks. I travelled back on 1st March, but, literally before getting the unpacking done I missed my footing on the cellar steps, fell, and broke my hip. So frustrating!

Right now I literally can’t get into the sewing room clattering the paraphernalia of a walking frame with me, but have hopes that in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to organise some kind of embroidery or crochet to mix up with the reading I’m doing to pass the time.

Meanwhile, I’m slowly looking in on my favourite blogs and checking out what you’ve all been up to.

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Last Gasp

I’m not completely throwing in the sewing towel. I’ll probably still churn out a few garments. I am putting blogging out to grass for the immediate future, recognising that I don’t have the time left from commitments to do things well. Many thanks to my readers for passing by, commenting and encouraging. Happy stitching!

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Fabric Wiles

OK. So we all know that fabric can cast a spell on you. One moment you’re idly browsing, with no intention of adding anything to that guilt producing pile of stashed cloth. Just looking.

Then fabric starts whispering your name. “Hey, looky here. I would make a lovely, cosy winter sweater dress.”

Tempting Remnant!

“And Me, so flippin’ cheap . A fair amount of wool in me, three metres is plenty for almost anything.” 3m for 12 euro

But fabric knows how to play hard to get. Try designing just the right garment in the colour dream that would complement your wardrobe with added zing. Then start looking for the fabric. Suddenly, the perfect wool velour in taupe, mustard, dirty pink, sand has ducked right out of sight. Most likely New York has it all with eye watering postage and customs charges. We’ve got it in grey, green, red and half a metre of black.

Yes, fabric can shout out to you, conjuring up half a dozen tantalising designs, but the instant you slap down your credit card the teasing starts. “Can’t make a decision can you? Maybe I’m too crisp, too floppy, a colour that drains your face. I could be a dress, or shorts, or a shirt, perhaps a cape? But you can’t find the right pattern can you? That one’s perfect, but you got stingy and bought a metre short. Too bad.”

But just once in a while, as you hesitatingly cut the pieces for the garment you’re unsure about, hit on in desperation,  a last ditch bid to make a small dent in the stash, fabric sues for peace. “OK,” it says. “This could work.  I’m so nice to work with, fine but tough. Like a flower petal in beaten metal. I press nicely. I don’t stretch out of shape. I glisten, but subtly. My slubby texture stops me being too upfront with the glitzy. You win”

In short I liked working with the shot silk, it’s surprisingly forgiving. It’s had to be, as a distracted day had me ripping out wrongly assembled pieces like a crazy woman. An artistically frayed self trim looked naff with the new mauve on black zip and had to go. The first collar didn’t cut it. Mrs Mole’s brilliant new-to-me zipper insertion came out too stiff to let the blouson blouse. The silk recovered from this onslaught. The unpicking didn’t leave guilty traces. I got it finished.

Blouson in Shot Silk




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