Bad Dress Rescue

1-horzYou just don’t know where inspiration will hit you.  I was walking past Laura Ashley – a shop from which I’ve never bought anything – when in the window I saw a dress very much like the one I made a year ago, lying crushed at the bottom of the mend pile.

1 Velvet Laura Ashley DressThe Laura Ashley velvet dress (reduced to £84) is dark blue with beads on the front arranged like flowers.  A  band of sheer (not that it shows here) fabric at the hem, double-sided, is a great solution if the dress you make is a bit short, though you may need to hunt around for the perfect match.  When I unpicked the hem that I’d hand sewn quite messily, I found enough length not to bother with a sheer panel.  Instead, I did as suggested in the original Blue Velvet post and used a bias strip of organza to hem the dress which required only 1cm off the dress’ length (the strip is turned under and catch-stitched).

Organza bias strip hem

Organza bias strip hem

I took me a couple of hours to add the beads, and that’s including a bit of practice on some scraps.  But my bead placement is different from the inspiration.  I put the dress on and looking in the mirror decided where to place the flowers, avoiding, ahem, ‘areas of controversy.’

Another improvement came via Kate who suggested not to molly-coddle the velvet but to allow it to age – and go boho.  I washed the dress and thinking ‘what have I got to lose?’ tumble dried it.  This fluffed up the nap and as a side-effect, the blue colour has deepened, i.e. not being as flat, it’s not as silvery and reflective.  Having said that, it’s all quite subtle and this is a difficult fabric to photograph!

1 dark blue

1 bveBut the best decision was to ditch the collar.  Initially, I’d fixated on the idea of making a velvet dress with a lace collar and, having got what I wanted, couldn’t admit it wasn’t working.  I’m sure you know the feeling, be it with dresses or relationships!  It made me feel prissy.  And also a little bit like a Jacobean gentleman 😯  I  could always see the collar ‘in me peripherals’ and it was giving me bad vibes.

But the collar is saved and will look nice on a T-shirty blouse, some day.

1t guido

Dark blue Organza: from Unique Fabrics, Goldhawk Road (which is where the original velvet was from).  I only bought 0.25m, as you can guess from the seam in the bias strip!

Dark blue beads from Beadworks, Covent Garden.

1 cluster

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!)?