Blue Velvet

1 Silk velvet and applique lace collar

A few weeks ago I ran in a race where the ground was a variety of mud hitherto unknown to me.  Greased it seemed, this particular stretch of North Kent coastline.  Running felt like passing across rugs being swiped sideways from under me.  I made it to the finish but by then my mind had dismissed the whole experience as a bad dream.

Next year I’m gonna give this particular race another go, with spikes in my shoes!  And once the winter party season is here again, I’ll also give silk velvet the proper attention it deserves because, like with the run, getting to the end of this dress was achievable but at compromise to quality. Stitching lines drunkenly meandered left and right. Bust darts bore no resemblance to their name. And as for that uneven hem?  Not only shoddily sewn, I failed at cutting too: the hem truncates my legs exactly at that thickened point where the quad muscle and thigh fat gloopily combine.  Lovely.

The trouble is I had to rush.  Two parties loomed on the same weekend with two days of sewing available and I hadn’t a stitch appropriate to wear.  In the realm of the Great British Sewing Bee – a TV programme which should be rated 18+ for scenes of sustained peril –  two days might seem aplenty.  But when you feel the necessity for French seams and put in a lining, then have to clear your entire fluff-ridden work space to serve meals to a horde of ingrates….   Oh dear

1 Front collarPattern: the block, bodice and skirt. Waist darts changed to ease, shoulder dart moved to bust.

Neckline shaped to fit the lace collar (from Etsy.)

Fabric: silk-backed velvet (£12 a metre) from Unique Fabrics, Goldhawk Road.  You’ll find the silk velvets in a small corner of the basement which glows: amethyst, jade, tanzanite.  I went for sapphire this time.  The lining feels lovely and is either from Unique Fabrics or their sister shop two doors along.1 back collar1 Back collar and closure

Fastening: back opening, button and thread loop.  Excellent thread loop tutorial here.  This is my favourite bit and I wish I had a decent photo.  In the top one, I’ve raised one arm to pull up hair.  The light was gloomy for the second.

Clarks Chorus ThrillShoes: Clarks “Chorus”.  Gorgeous, sumptuous, comfy.  But heel height is all wrong for me.  I might send them to the Shoe Collection at Northampton Museum – every donation tells a story!

Links: Debra H has brilliant tips not for just sewing silk velvet but also washing it, pressing, marking, interfacing…. none of which I read before making my dog’s dinner.  Colette patterns published a tip yesterday about fabrics that drift.  Let me know if anything worked for you.  And of course, Prof. Pincushion.

Rescue package: The double hem is hand-sewn so it shouldn’t take long to unpick and redo after claiming some extra length.  As Debra suggests, I’ll use an organza bias strip to sew to the edge, then flip to the inside and catchstitch.  With a bit of luck, it’ll give this floppy, wayward fabric a soft but defined edge.

1 Jacobite GentlemanIs this a keeper, do you think?  If yes, what do you suggest I style it with (is the mad hair a bit much?  I can straighten it, you know!)?

20 thoughts on “Blue Velvet

  1. This post made me laugh so hard! I feel like I have at least one “scene of sustained peril” per garment, and I’m not on reality TV–I don’t know how they do it! I hope your “horde of ingrates” appreciated your dress, at least 😉 I think the dress is really nice–the collar and the neck closing are adorable.

  2. Fabulous as always! At least you finished the dress for the party and weren’t missing a sleeve, a la GBSB (which I sneakily watch on youtube before the BBC deletes it). I am intrigued by this organza hem technique. Definitely worth a go. I always love reading your posts.

  3. Very fun post! You look very pretty, in spite of the obstacles in finishing the dress. I like it and the collar is pretty, though you could cut it off to make a top to wear with slim pants. I once had to run a race on a beach in Australia – 10 km out and 10 km back in hot blazing sun. There was a camber in one direction on the way out and a camber in the other direction on the way back – both hurt my hips. Best forgotten!

    • Thanks Stephanie.

      20km in the Australian sun def. sounds worse than what I had to contend with. I thought we all deserved far worse considering we had the foolhardiness to venture out onto an English beach in winter.

      Love your blog, btw, but I now think I need a haircut!

  4. I think you look lovely in your velvet. I made a blue one for me and a red one for my daughter a couple of years ago as ‘Christmas’ dresses – it’s a fabric that just seems appropriate for parties and festive occasions. Shame that the party spirit has often disappeared by the time you’ve finished working with it. I too flattened some of the velvet with the wrong pressing method, but only the first time. We don’t wear our velvet dresses at the same time though – that would just be a bit odd.
    By the way, I’m sure I saw you in the audience on Top Gear on Sunday night. There you were, right at the front, laughing at Jeremy Clarkson’s jokes – tell me it was you!

    • Oh how funny!

      I’m afraid it wasn’t me. 🙁 But now my kids will be totally amazed when I tell them I’m going to watch Top Gear with them!

  5. I really like this shade of blue (especially on you) and the way that velvet gives it subtle shimmer and shading. Personally I don’t think it is much too short, especially with toning tights and shoes. So I would do what I could with the hem and just wear it. The collar is nice and emphasises your face. I like your hair both ways (and probably up, or short).

    In terms of making up silk-velvet I think there are two approaches. First is to treat it with the utomost respect – needleboard pressing, careful steaming, finger pressing etc, followed by occasional wear and dry cleaning. Or just not to worry and to wear it as everyday wear – silk is really very strong and robust and it will age nicely, even if it gets a little crushed.

    • Thanks so much, for the compliments and a bundle of advice. I didn’t think of that last bit but it makes sense: if this is to work for me, it shouldn’t be wrapped in cotton wool. Once a little crushed, I can claim it’s my Bloomsbury boho look!

  6. Love the hair, love the dress, love the shoes – infact if I went out looking like this I’d be well pleased! I recently went to a party in super high heels and slid across the polished floor as if I was on wheels – I looked drunk – had to take them off which ruined the look entirely so I’m determined to find some shoes in clarks now – what size are you ….?!

    • Oh no 😯 That’s also a nightmare scenario. The problem is heels strike the floor first and they’re usually made of a hard, slippy plastic.

      I’m 5 btw 🙂

  7. This lustrous fabric is so complimentary to your complexion, love the colour. Pi often find putting a horror making experience aside and revisiting a few weeks later smooths over the hiccoughs and all will be unicorn and rainbows! Absolutely love this colour on you. Would a lace insertion a bit above hemline work? It would lengthen the dress and add interest down there? Might cut off your legs though? Ooh paired w a black leather jacket and boots – so boho!

  8. It looks pretty good to me, the lace collar sets it off perfectly. I’ve been working with velvet too, less impressively. I should have gone for a simple style instead of trying a jacket. Now I have some blue silk velvet about the same shade lurking in a drawer, velvet and lace ……..great inspiration!

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