The Mission: to make a gorgeous yet comfy-for-dancing-in dress in time to wear to my friend Jas’s spectacular Summer Solstice bash
The Goal: to use the oldest piece of fabric in my stash, a beautiful stretch velvet in stunning midnight blue, given to me by my mum some time around the last Ice Age
The Challenge: I have never sewn velvet before, apart from a pair of cushion backs and they didn’t go well…
I had a very clear vision in my head of this dress. I wanted a long flouncey skirt, but no gathers or elastic; and I wanted it to be a really good fit, but with plenty of room to move around in. And, I wanted BIG sleeve flounces! I’m talkin’ Lord of The Rings Elf- Princess sleeves. Oh yeah. This was going to be a Party fRock!!Since I had no pattern that met these requirements, I figured I’d start with a basic Lady Skater and add the bits I wanted. Although I’d got the fit nearly right with the Purple Ponte version, I still had that fold-above-the-bust issue, plus I’d had to raise the neckline and it wasn’t perfect. So I went back to Amanda’s excellent Fitting & Adjustments guide, and Lo! – there was the very problem I have with just about EVERY PATTERN, described exactly! I needed to shorten the shoulder & upper bust height! Result! I can hardly beleive that my shoulders are THREE sizes down from the rest of me, and may in fact need to come down even more. I kept the neckline as per the pattern this time but made all my other previous adjustments. And folks, I have to say the fit is probably the best of anything I’ve made. Except I then went and cut the bodice a bit short – argh! Never mind. I still love it!My original plan was to make contrasting sleeve and bottom flounces to add a bit of VaVaVoom to the plain blue. This royal blue, paisley-etched velvet from The Textile Centre seemed the very thing. I used the lower section of the Lady Skater skirt to draft a very full bottom flounce (with a little help from Gertie!). I had actually cut out the sleeve flounces and tacked one on to check the length before realising that they didn’t work at all. The dark blue velvet was perfectly gorgeous on its own… luckily I still had plenty left to do my fabulous sleeves with… …but not enough for the bottom flounce. I ended up just adding a slightly flared ‘band’ at the bottom edge instead. And I can tell you, that sewing two curved seams together in stretch velvet is a bloomin’ NIGHTMARE!! It just moves all over the place! I literally had every pin I own in this seam, and it STILL wouldn’t stay put. PAH! – if only I’d known, I could have just cut the skirt longer in the first place!!It’s still pretty flouncey though, and there was enough to get the length that I wanted, so all’s well that ends well.
As the dress began to come together, there was a bit of a ‘Medieval’ thing happening, so I thought I’d amp this up by using my fave decorative top stitch along the sleeve edges and neckline. It worked beautifully on the sleeves (below left), but as you can see when it came to the neckband (top right), it started stretching out the fabric and making it go all lumpy. I tried it twice but it just wasn’t working, so I changed to a regular straight stitch instead and that worked fine.With just a few days to go til the big weekend, all was going well. And then I came down with THE worst cold I’ve had in years. The dress was on its hanger, waiting to be hemmed. I was in bed, dosed up with everything the local chemist had to offer, and it was looking like I wasn’t going to make it to the party at all…On the day of the Do though, my brother helped me get myself up & out, and I DID go, though only for a few hours and mainly to sit by the bonfire. It was a lovely evening though, despite my feeling so lousy, and as I am completely without shame I wore the dress anyway – unhemmed and uneven!
It took a couple of weeks to recover from that lurgie, and to finish the dress off properly. It WAS a challenging make, the velvet was tricky to work and I certainly made some mistakes with my pattern mash-up. But y’know what? – I absolutely ADORE this dress! It fulfills all my wishes, to have something really special that’s still incredibly comfortable to wear, and that makes me feel like an Elf Princess, despite my More-Dwarf-than-Elf figure. And oh yeah – those sleeves totally fRock!!Wishing you all a fRocking great week 🙂