I'd never sewn velvet before so was still not 100% sold on the idea, as although the dress is quite straight forward to assemble there's a lot of seams going on for a first attempt with velvet. I decided to see if I could find any fairly inexpensive silk velvet on Goldhawk Road during the meet up when Lauren was in town. Lo and behold Unique Fabrics had silk velvet in a wide range of colours for £15/m which I thought to be pretty reasonable. I had a hard time deciding on the colour as there were some particularly stunning jewel tone greens but after a gentle nudge from my shopping companion Sally I was soon leaving with 1.5m of rich wine red. Not much later in the afternoon I became delighted with my choice when I spotted the perfect match of colour in baby sequins in A to Z Fabrics. I'm fairly sure if I had been shopping on my own my hesitance to work with not one two notoriously tricky types of fabric for the first time in the same project would have won out but at this point Sally turned on some serious enabling skills and a plan for a sequinned bodice and velvet skirt was born. I love it when inspiration for a project comes from the fabric and I don't think I could have got a better colour match if I had tried!
As I've made this exact variation of the Kim before the main challenge with this project was the choice of fabric. Fitting wise I cut the size UK 10 again but made a few changes based on my first version. I took 2" off the length of straps (1" from the back bodice piece and 1" from the front) plus I took 1" out of the side seams under the arm (1/2" at the front and 1/2" at the back) grading out to nothing at the waist. This totally solved all the issues I had last time and I now have a nice snug fit. In fact it's a little too snug across the bust and I would probably do a small FBA when making again, which makes sense as BHL draft for a B cup. I sewed the length as it is which is unusual for me with a BHL skirt but that cross over at the front comes up quite high. I did lightly tack it together at one point to avoid any unnecessary flashing!
My decision to use the combination of sequins and organza for the bodice became the best idea ever as it was so much easier to work with than the velvet. Trying to get those bodice seams smooth and snuggly fitting with the shifty pile working against me would have been a total nightmare! The sequins were attached to a slightly stretchy mesh which wasn't ideal for this project as it's close fit needs a woven. To combat this I underlined each piece with silk organza which also helped add some structure to the design. The organza was all hand basted to the sequins which is a little time consuming but not too bad on such small pieces. Along with topstitching it's secretly one of my favourite sewing related tasks!
Because the sequins were so tiny I decided to give sewing them like any other fabric a go rather than going through the trauma of trimming them out of all the seam allowances. I used a normal stitch length but a slightly thicker than normal needle (I think it was a 90) to try and combat any breakage and I had no trouble. I did slightly reduce the pressure of the foot because of the bulk of the sequins. Once the seams were sewn I checked the seam line on the right side for any sequins that had got caught and were sticking out at funny angles and trimmed them away. I didn't finish these seam allowances as they are all concealed within the lining.
Pressing required some thought and trial and error with all the fabrics involved in this dress. The silk organza was a huge help as I could press is from the reverse using a scrap of silk organza as a pressing cloth and get a nice crisp edge. I tested this beforehand and discovered I could use a medium heat and no sequins would melt. During my internet research about velvet I had discovered that one of the golden rules was to never ever press it. I kind of ignored this and gave it a go on a scrap! I ran just the tip of a steamy iron along the seams with very light pressure to ease the seam allowances open. The velvet responded really well to this and I couldn't spot any damage to the pile. I also did this to make the hem sit smoothly and at the top of the pleats to get them to sit right. I think lots of steam and light pressure is the key.
To combat the slightly gapey neckline I had last time I added stay tape to the seam allowances here, cutting it a little shorter than the neckline and easing it in. I also under-stitched as recommended but got a little carried away and forgot to do this before sewing up the armholes as instructed so could only get a little way along each strap! I ended up using pretty much the full 1/2m of the sequins, the same of the organza and around 80cm of the velvet. The silk habotai lining came from my stash and was in small scraps which luckily the various small bodice pieces could just about squeeze onto.
Despite being relieved that I only had to deal with it for four of the pattern pieces the velvet was actually a little easier to handle than expected. It was a total NIGHTMARE to cut out as it shifts all over the place and it's very easy to end up with a pattern piece which looks nothing like it was intended to. But it wasn't all that bad to sew.
I cut all of the velvet pieces on a single layer (but if you really have to cut something on the fold cut it with right sides facing out as when you've got two right sides together the nap will make everything shift off grain even more). I used lots of pins, especially along that curve as it had the potential to get very wobbly. Following advice from various online sources I cut the velvet with the nap of the fabric running up from the hem of the skirt (so running my hands down the skirt would actually be going against the pile). I didn't really understand the reasoning behind this until I mentioned it to Winnie at the Christmas party as she had received similar advice. It's for when you sit down which makes complete sense, as you slide towards the front of the chair you will be smoothing the pile rather than disturbing it!
I'm so delighted with this dress and felt fantastic in it at the Christmas party. It's one of those garments that despite the frivolity of it feels so comfortable because it fits well. I hope I can find lots more occasions to wear it; New Year's Eve is next! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. I've got plans to eat and drink and laugh a lot so I've got a couple of end of year Top 5 posts scheduled for the next week or so. I'll see you in the New Year! Merry Christmas!