Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Party Dress

When I tested the newly released Kim Dress from By Hand London I had an unexplainable urge to sew up that wrap skirt in a silk velvet. Something about making up a winter version with those little pleats and the drape of the overlapping petals said luxurious rich coloured velvet to me! At the time I had half brushed it off as one of those crazy sewing ideas that I never get around to realising but then I got an invite from the BHL girls themselves to a London sewing blogger Christmas do and it seemed like fate telling me to make this dress.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Kim Dress

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!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Kim Dress

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!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Kim Dress

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!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Kim Dress

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.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Kim Dress

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.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Kim Dress

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.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Kim Dress

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!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Kim Dress

When sewing I followed the direction of the nap and again slightly reduced the pressure of the foot so as not to damage the pile. I used a standard needle and lots of pins. When sewing you cannot avoid placing right sides together so lots of pins are key to stop shifting. Because I was sewing to a fairly tight dealing by this point I just pinked the seam allowances as the velvet didn't fray too badly. It's holding up well but in future I'd probably choose to use a satin binding for a hong kong finish. I chose to hand stitch the hem which was incredibly time consuming but well worth the effort. I never imagined I'd be able to achieve two such smooth curves in this fabric! Machine stitching across the nap would have ruined it and produced a very visible line.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Kim Dress

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!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Sequin and Red Velvet Christmas Kim Dress

56 comments:

  1. You looked stunning in this - a dream party dress! Nice to see all the work behind it, thanks for all the velvet tips. Happy christmas!

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    1. Thanks Katie! I thought the velvet might have been a total nightmare but although fiddly and requiring constant concentration it was quite enjoyable to tackle something new! I hope you had a lovely Christmas

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  2. Gorgeous dress Fiona, I'm so glad it worked out well for you! I hope you enjoyed the party, and have a wonderful Christmas :) x

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    1. Thanks Kelly! I hope you had a lovely holidays, it was so great to get to know you this year!

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  3. The dress is beautiful and this color fits you well.

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    1. Thanks very much! I'm a summer girl at heart but I find the warm winter and autumnal colours tend to look better on me. i never wear red so this was a nice change!

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  4. I love your dress, it is amazing!! What a great holiday dress. I recently discovered your blog and was having great fun reading through the posts. I am a bag designer that's trying to get better informed on garment sewing, and reading the posts has been very helpful! Thank you!

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    1. O I'm so glad you've found it useful and interesting! It's the process of sewing and learning new things that interests me the most so I hope that comes through to you. Good luck with tackling garments, I'm off to check out your bags!

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  5. This is just stunning and looks like such fun to wear!

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    1. Thanks Claire! It really was, I felt ready for a party as soon as I stepped into it!

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  6. Looks fantastic! Just wondering if a narrow upper bust adjustment would work in place of strap shortening and fba. I found this link http://asewinglife.blogspot.ie/2013/09/altering-for-narrow-chest-and-butterick.html?m=1

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    1. Thanks Emma, that's a great idea. I hadn't thought about that. I think I'll give that a try on my next one as it looks more straightforward than the FBA!

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  7. Beautiful young lady, gorgeous dress! You will be the hit of any party this season. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Thank you so much! I felt very festive in it!

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  8. Oh my gosh WHAT, Fiona this is stunning!!! I am literally obsessed with this dress, SO freaking pretty my gosh. So perfect for a holiday dress too. Ahh I seriously may have to copy you in the future (giving credit to you of course!) this dress is seriously stunning!

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    1. Copy away Haylee! I'd love to see what you make! I had envisioned this turning out to be a total disaster as it involved so many new to me things but I'm so so pleased with it! Thank you so much for your lovely comment

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  9. Oh, absolutely stunning! Cutting velvet (or corduroy) with the nap running upwards also makes the colour look much deeper/richer because of how the light reflects off it - running the other way it would look shinier and lighter.

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    1. O that makes absolute sense now that I've heard it too thanks Nina! There's always more to learn about every fabric and technique isn't there?

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  10. i woke up super early this morning and oohed and ahhed over this on my tiny phone...just exquisite, fiona!

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    1. Aah! Most of my blog reading is done in a very similar fashion and I am normally oohing and ahhing over your wonderful handmade wardrobe! Thanks Marcy

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  11. This dress looked so gorgeous at the party - I've been waiting for you to blog it! Beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Jo! It's probably the most over the top dressy thing I have ever made or owned but it felt just perfect for the party! Hope you had a lovely Christmas

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  12. What a challenge! Glad it worked out for you, stunning dress.

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    1. Me too! I was very apprehensive about both of these fabrics but am so pleased it worked out ok with a little bit of trial and error! My sewing machine is a trooper...

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  13. Very cute and looks great for Christmas!!

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    1. Thanks Amy! I felt very festive and fun in this. I'm seeing more sequins in my future!

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  14. This dress looks beautiful! I just want say you can orient the pile on velvet either up or down; it just affects the appearance, so it's simply a matter of personal preference. Nap running up, as you have it, usually has a deeper, richer appearance. Nap running down is more shiny. I hold the fabric up to myself and decide what I prefer for a given project :)

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    1. That is great info thanks Helen! Getting my head around the best way to work with the velvet was such a challenge but it all makes so much more sense now that I've tried it!

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  15. Very pretty. Amazed your needle went through the sequins. I always have to remove them from the seam line...so tedious!

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    1. I think the combination of the slightly stretchy backing and the tiny size of the sequins really helped me out with that! I can't even imagine how painstaking it must be to cut out all the larger ones from the seam line! I only did it a bit with this after they were sewn up and that was enough to drive me crazy...plus the sequins get everywhere!!!

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  16. The dress is lovely, as are you in it, Fiona! Great make, gorgeous dress, and perfect for any formal occasion! Happy Christmas from across the pond!

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    1. And a belated Merry Christmas to you too! I hope you had a good one! Thank you for your lovely comment.

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  17. Ooh it's stunning! The velvet looks so luxurious. What a great colour.

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    1. Velvet always looks luxurious to me, especially in this red! I felt so glamorous in it!

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  18. I love your dress Fiona! Very cool festive make!

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    1. Thanks Carmen, I'm in love with it too! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

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  19. What very pretty, festive dress! The colors and fabrics are absolutely perfect, and you look sensational. Thank you for sharing your sewing adventure in putting it together. I learned much. Merry Christmas!

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    1. I'm so glad you found the post useful! I really enjoyed the process of making this, and investigating the best way to make it in the first place! I hope to give myself lots more challenging projects like this next year and I'm glad I had Christmas as an excuse to make something with these glamorous fabrics!

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  20. Another gorgeous make! You always do well with your projects. Happy New Year!

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    1. Thank you! I'm not going to lie there is often a lot of swearing and unpicking involved in my projects but I must have a good amount of patience as I am pretty lucky to end up with items I'm pleased with in the end most of the time!

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  21. This dress is really beautiful. I have been thinking a lot about trying to sew with velvet recently and this has inspired me to give it a go.

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    1. Hooray! If you don't rush yourself and are careful to think through each step beforehand it's really not all that bad. The worst bit for me was the cutting...I recommend lots of pins and possibly a rotary cutter!

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  22. Oh it looks great! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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    1. Thank you Jennifer! A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!

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  23. This is perfectly gorgeous!!! Merry Christmas!!! :)

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    1. Thank you Sally! It's one of those dresses that makes me smile whenever I spot it in my wardrobe! I hope you had a lovely Christmas!

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  24. This is so, so beautiful! What a special, festive dress! I have to confess that I usually find velvet a bit tacky, but it looks very fancy and expensive here. Well done!

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    1. Hooray! I'm so glad I changed your mind a little! The rich colour of this velvet really helps I think. I had no idea whether I was going to like it or not when I was done as I had no idea whether sequins and velvet would be a good combination or not! Haha!

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    1. Thanks so much Jennifer, that's such a lovely compliment!

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  26. Fiona this dress is UNBELIEVABLE!! I can't believe all the steps you took to create it- what an absolute labour of love!! I always dread working with velvet- it's awkward in so many different ways- and paired with sequins- wow! It's stunning and I love the totally perfect colour match of the two fabrics too- like it was meant to be! :) happy new year x

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    1. The fact that the sequins matched the velvet so well and that I had already chosen that colour velvet from a big range was what persuaded me to go for it with the two tricky fabrics in one! It was quite the labour of love but it was one of those projects that you know is definitely going to be worth the effort in the end so I really enjoyed it! Happy New Year to you too

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  27. Can I just say that you handled two of the trickiest fabrics in existence LIKE A BOSS?!!!
    I know you were a little bit nervous about it but you've done a stunning job. Sequins underlined with organza! Velvet with a curved invisible hem! This dress is going to become a family heirloom, I know it!
    You looked stunning in it at the BHL Christmas party as well, total knockout.
    I can't wait to see what you are going to be sewing in 2015!

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    1. It's all down to your enabling Sally! I would probably have never tried these fabric (at least not for a long time yet!) if it wasn't for a little nudge from you! I can't wait to see what YOU sew in 2015...especially that rather special dress! x

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!