Velvet is everywhere- trousers, tops dresses. The high street is absolutely full of shiny slinky and soft velvet. But as ‘on trend’ as it is, I couldn’t really see myself wearing it…until I was randomly scrolling through Instagram (as you do) and I came across a velvet swing dress. Now, you know I’m not one to jump on trends but I.Could.Not.Get.This.Dress.Out.Of.My.Head. Velvet just screams wintery goodness to me- warm, cosy, soft. Even though the last time I wore velvet was in reception aged 5 (I was the Christmas tree in the school play and my mum had made me a green velvet A-line dress) the draw was too strong (I blame my winter baby genes). I found this sumptuous stretch velvet in claret on Tia Knight Fabrics and when it arrived I just wanted to roll myself up in it and knew it was worth the leap of faith! Of course Taufiq gave me that “umm…what are you doing” look when he saw the velvet, but that might just be a guy thing. I’m used to getting funny looks from family when I’m making something (*cough* the African print cape dress *cough*). I’m also quite good at ignoring them…
So off I went, making the dress from a self drafted block. Naturally it was a straight-off-the-machine-and-on dress (especially as I was going out for dinner, and we all know there’s no better feeling than going out in a freshly me-made outfit!) As much as I loved the dress (and I don’t know if you noticed, but I kinda do), I did not expect the huge amount of love it got on Instagram! I wasn’t even planning to blog about it but I got so many requests and questions about it that I couldn’t leave you hanging. The only issue is, is because it was a quick evening make I didn’t really take any photos, but will try and talk you through it.
Fabric: Stretch velvet from Tia Knight Fabrics in ‘claret’, £5.99/m. I ordered 3m for a midi length dress. 3m is my go to length for maxi dresses, but I figured with the one way nap I would need that extra fabric. In the end I actually ended up having enough to make my niece a quick dress too, so I probably only needed 2.5m.
Construction and instructions: This was a self-drafted pattern using a knit block I had in my pattern box. You can find the instructions on how to use a RTW jersey top/dress to draft your own pattern in my Peplum Top tutorial for Girl Charlee (note: I’ve edited it to a more curved sleeve head than I did there). I used the basic block and lengthened it straight down to the midi length I wanted. I marked the underbust line and then I ‘slash and spread’ the skirt part from the underbust down (I wanted a more fitted top before it flared out). Here’s a really awfully lit Iphone photo I took at the time, but there are plenty of great photos/tutorials online if you google ‘slash and spread’.
Then I sewed it up as normal (shoulder seam, sleeves and then side seams), with the addition of in-seam pockets (of course!) I didn’t actually decide on a high-low hem until I tried it on and just thought it would nicer. That was really easy to do. I folded the dress down the centre front and centre back, with side seams matching and pinned along the hem to keep everything in place and cut the front shorter using a gentle sloping shape (blue line). This step could easily be done at the pattern drawing stage.
Tips ‘n’ tricks: Funnily enough, I got a lot of comments along the lines of “you’re so brave for tackling velvet, it’s a horrible fabric!” Apart from cutting the fabric (which was a a bit of nightmare), I didn’t actually find it so hard to work with. That might be because I used my overlocker for the main construction which gives you an even feed and reduces slippage. But you could easily avoid this with a walking foot. I see you guys in the back rolling your eyes, “an overlocker?”, “a walking foot?”. I hear you, just more gizmos to add to the collection. Ok, so you might not have an overlocker (I only got one after using one on The Sewing Bee) but if you don’t have a walking foot- go get one! My first one was just a generic one from Amazon for less than £5. No excuses. Your fabric costs more than that, and you won’t regret it!
Anyway, back to tips ‘n’ tricks: I found cutting the fabric wrong sides together stopped it slipping around too much. I used my rotary cutter to cut it out and lots of pins. Don’t forget to make sure all your pieces have the nap going in the same direction otherwise you’ll get differences in colour/texture. Its natural to have the nap or as I prefer: ‘stroke-ability’ (technical term) going downwards along the straight grain. For pocket placement/notches I used tailors tacks because it’s impossible to mark the fabric otherwise!
Now, in case you don’t think self-drafting the dress is your thing, here’s a few patterns that could work for a similar look (for the same look, lengthen these to a midi-length and make a high-low adaption):
Sorry that it’s a bit of a mish-mash of a post but I hope it helps. Next time I’ll try and be more thorough when making self-drafted dresses 🙂 Of course feel free to comment/message any questions you have. I hope you’ve been inspired to make yourself something in velvet, especially with party season coming around! (Plus stretch velvet has the added bonus of hiding any food babies post-Xmas dinner…)