Sunday, 13 January 2019

Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sundress

My first finished garment of 2019 is a really special one. This is my first take on the Fiona Sundress from Closet Case Patterns which was released back in the summer and for which I was the muse! I am kind of ashamed of how long it has taken me to get around to making this. I felt some self imposed pressure to make a really spectacular one and the hunt for the perfect fabric got a bit intense. In the end I decided to go with my gut choice for a plain and something I would get a lot of wear out of rather than a super 'frosting' version. There's nothing to stop me making multiple versions of course!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sun Dress

I know this pattern is technically a sundress but a particularly busy period of work meant summer was drawing to a close by the time I got to fabric shopping. So I resolved to make a winter appropriate version which I could be layered with long sleeve tees and turtlenecks. I have been really taken with the velvet trend this season and came across the dress below in Monsoon when out shopping for work one day. It reminded me of the Fiona and I adored the embroidered velvet fabric. (They also have some really gorgeous gingham dresses with a similar cut which I will 100% be drawing inspiration from come the summer). Sadly, what felt like a nationwide hunt for similar fabric turned up no results. I briefly toyed with the idea of embroidering my own before admitting that it would probably be 2020 before I finished that.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sun Dress

The hunt for a good colour of plain velvet began and I started to think about a rich emerald green or wine red rather than the plain navy which felt a little boring. Then I spotted this midnight blue in Fabrix on Goldhawk Road and my mind was made up. The rich tones of the fabric don't come out so well in photos but trust me this is the most wonderful deep blue with a gorgeous sheen. I decided if it felt too plain when finished I could always embroider some small gold motifs on it after the fact. In the end it feels super chic in the solid colour combined with the silver snaps and I'm reluctant to tamper with it any further.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sun Dress

The velvet is 100% cotton which I wanted as it has more of a structure than the silk or poly kind which I thought this dress would benefit from. It is softer than an upholstery velvet though and has quite a short pile; more like a velveteen. A shorter pile means you have to worry slightly less about crushing it as you sew or press but you still need to be careful. As I bought the last of the roll I ended up with about three quarters of a metre left over. I usually hate waste but this was a blessing in disguise as it meant I could cover my ironing board with the excess and press the velvet against itself to protect the pile. I tried as much as possible to press only the wrong side of the fabric and when I needed to press the right side I used an organza press cloth to avoid getting shiny marks.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sun Dress

I'm slightly biased I know but in my opinion Heather Lou really knocked it out of the park designing this pattern! It combines so many of my favourite things, a quite fitted, feminine yet practical style (practical if you don't make it in velvet that is!) and a classic design with interesting details and a modern twist. My favourite feature is the low back with cross over straps. It will be hard to resist just making this variation in future but I really want to try out the straight straps too.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sun Dress

In terms of construction it ticks a lot of my sewing boxes too. As I've come to expect with Closet Case Patterns designs the way the pattern is put together has clearly been given serious thought and the instructions are packed with well-considered and interesting techniques. I often learn something new. With this dress I particularly like the clean finish given by the neckline band and front placket. It involves quite a few pattern pieces which is exactly the kind of sewing I really enjoy! In saying that I don't want to put off advancing beginner seamstresses as nothing in the construction is overly complicated. The biggest challenge would probably be the fit.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sun Dress

I cut the size 8 which is pretty much bang on my measurements and the usual size I cut with CCP. When I first tried it on I felt it was a little roomy all over, particularly in the bust but this could be easily rectified by tweaking the fit along those princess seams. For this version I didn't do any extra fitting but retained the ease for layering which is working out great for layering over warmer sweaters like this. I'd like to make a closer fitting version for summer as I think it has a wonderful flattering feminine shape to it. I don't think I'd size down a whole size but rather use this as a guide to tweak how much seam allowance I take here and there. Lengthwise the bodice sits quite well on me once I had taken an inch or so off the straps. I appreciated that the way the bodice is constructed allows to opportunity to fiddle with the strap length and placement. In terms of length of the skirt I wasn't sure whether I wanted the above or below knee length so cut it below the knee so I could shorten as I pleased. Keeping it at this length felt right with the elegance of the velvet.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sun Dress

In general I'd avoid patterns with lots of seams when working with velvet as it can be so tricky to handle without damaging. The Fiona Sundress has a lot of seams! But this velvet has a reasonable short pile as I said and gave me very few problems. The biggest issue I had was with how messy it was to work with! It shed little blue pieces all over the place and picks up fluff from everywhere. As I was using velvet I did tweak a couple of things to make my fabric choice work. I avoided topstitching as this just doesn't look great on velvet. The stitches sink in and you end up with weird grooves in the fabric where the pile ends up smushed down. The instructions do involve quite a lot of topstitching (which I can't wait to do on my next version as it is one of my favourite sewing things!) but I finished my bands and hem slipstitching by hand instead. I also omitted the pockets as these are topstitched onto the skirt and I thought the velvet would look better with a clean line.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sun Dress

I initially planned to make my own covered buttons out of the velvet like the inspiration dress. I thought this would look really classy and turn the dress into more of an evening wear garment. If I embroidered it I was thinking I could do little gold motifs on the buttons too. I had the dress sewn and only buttons and buttonholes to do before Christmas and I had the afternoon of New Year's Eve earmarked to finish it so I could wear it to dinner and drinks at a friend's that night; ring out 2018 wearing one of my highlights of the year! However, nothing ever goes to plan does it. I sat down to make my covered buttons, which is something I usually quite enjoy doing, but it soon became apparent that the velvet was just too thick to work on the 11mm buttons I had to use.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sun Dress

I ransacked my stash for alternative buttons and came across enough silver snaps to use instead. I liked how they looked when placed along the dress so went for it. Disaster. The bottom part of the snaps all went in fine but after installing two of the top parts I couldn't get the top one in. I'm not sure if it was because there is a bit more bulk at that top corner with all the intersecting seams or what. After ruining two snaps I still had just enough but then realised that some of the snaps were a little smaller than the others! I had to give up and wait until the following week to finish it off when I could buy more snaps. I was really disappointed not to be able to wear the dress on New Year's Eve as planned but it taught me yet another lesson in setting myself unreasonable deadlines and rushing!

I'm actually really happy I ended up with the snaps. I love how the silver looks against the midnight blue and think they give the velvet a slightly more casual vibe which means I'll be able to get more wear out of it! With this striped turtleneck it feels like something I could wear every day but with a plain black top underneath, or maybe even a sparkly one and some heels I'm all ready for a special night out. I'm still quite taken with the wide belt on the Monsoon dress and have some fabric left over so might whip myself one up if I can find a suitable buckle. I think it would be a great addition to the fitted shape of this dress.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Midnight Blue Velvet Fiona Sun Dress

High on my sewing list when I return from travelling is a denim shorter version for layering through spring and then wearing on its own for summer. I'm excited to include all the pockets and topstitching on this one. Then a long column version, probably in linen for the summer.

6 comments:

  1. WOW...the Fiona Sundress really IS YOU! Your lux version is spectacular!

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  2. Looks fabulous. The back of that dress is flipping gorgeous! Well done! Bought this pattern in October planning to make a winter version, but had forgotten completely!

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  3. It looks great, really enjoyed reading your blog.

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  4. Lovely! I made a similar kind of dress also in blue velvet. Love the color and the snaps you used!

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  5. This is gorgeous! Making it out of velvet was such a good idea.

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  6. I'm loving the back of the dress,really pretty

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