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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Ivy Dress or the First World problem

If you follow me on Instagram, you are probably aware of my mini speed sewing drama, which turned out rather well: I made a dress for more or less 10 hours.

Two weeks ago, out of the blue, I decided to make a dress on the evening, preceding a business trip. When I came home from work that day, I realized that I have, ‘obviously’, nothing to wear and I desperately needed to make this Ivy Dress from the winter issue of La Maison Victor. I knew that I would never finish the dress before my flight, but I was determined to, at least, make a muslin. In any case, this dress has only four seams, so making a muslin would not take me tons of time. When I looked in a mirror, wearing the first muslin version, I immediately loved the nice opening on the back and elegant design lines, and my determination to finish the dress increased. Since the fabric for the first muslin was stiff, the dress did not look super flattering on me: you can clearly see this from this picture. Besides that, you have probably noticed multiple wrinkles around the armscyes. The fabric for the second toile was a remaining piece of lightweight muslin and, after all the necessary alterations were made, looked much nicer.
Muslin #1
Muslin #2
Once I finished with the adjustments on the second muslin and transferred them into the paper pattern, I hurried to check my stash and picked a piece of charcoal velvet, which I bought  last year in London, in one of the shops on Goldhawk Road. I have been keeping this fabric to make a pair of trousers. Sorry trousers. ..

Muslin and patternmaking aside, the sewing part turned out to be the most challenging, because

  1. The velvet is quite tricky, when it comes to cutting and sewing, especially, if it’s  silk velvet.
  2. My walking foot broke a few weeks ago, when I was finishing the belt of my latest coat. The fabric, folded in three, was too thick for my poor walking foot to handle.

You can imagine me, desperate to make the dress, half-way through the process, with my flight leaving within 18 hours, still not packed. Mess and distress! I threw opened the balcony door, took a few deep breaths of the chilly night air, and began to calm down. I decided that it would not be the end of the world if I could not finish the dress, I would wear something else or put the dress on with unfinished edges.

To sew the dress together, I used nylon thread, which is the best for knits or any stretch fabric. First, I serged all the edges, to stop them from unraveling and make them look ‘nice’ in case I would not have time to finish all seams. Then, I sewed in organza stays to the neckline and shoulder seams, to prevent the fabric from stretching in these areas. After that, I sewed the shoulder and side seams together and attached the hook. Bingo! A this stage, I would be able to wear the dress! To finish the neckline, I folded the fabric under the wrong side twice, 0.5cm each time. Because my velvet was extremely slippery, I did not trust the pins: I basted each fold by hand, before securing them with the sewing machine. To finish the armscyes, I attached some fuschia bias tape, so it would play a role of a stay and an adornment, in case somebody would peeck inside my armpits ;)

All the processes outlined above, minus adding the bias tape to the armscyes, took me 6.5 hours, from 18:00 until 00:30. I had to wait until the next morning to finish the armholes and hem the dress, and I was in such a hurry, that I messed up and re-stitched the hem three times. You can clearly see that it is super wonky, uneven and uncool, but nobody noticed!

A conclusion of this story: we can do amazing things when under pressure. We think and act quicker, more structured even. In all honesty, I am not sure this dress could look better,  if I had had more time to sew it. Well, maybe the hem. Nevertheless, I will try to avoid similar situations in the future.

And now, that I’ve got a bit of a taste for velvet, I am working on another velvet outfit for a corporate Christmas party! Stay tuned!