Ruby Red Velvet Dress

For the 4th FabricMart Fabrics Fabricista Challenge, we are supposed to make the Perfect Red Dress, and create a story for when we would wear it.  So, here is my dress and my story.

Fast forward to February 14, 2015.

/Scene/:  The winds are howling outside. The windows are laced with snow.

My husband lights a fire and I light the candles. 

It's Valentine's Day.   I pour a glass of wine while he checks the oven.  Dinner is almost ready. 

I put on my ruby velvet dress and my strand of pearls.  He puts on his velour tracksuit from the 70's.
No need to go out to dinner. It's a perfect Valentine's Day right here.

/End Scene/

Hope you head on over to the Fabricista Challenge page on the FabricMart Blog and vote for your favorite red dress!  Voting is Wednesday and Thursday, and the winner is announced on Friday.

If you're still reading, here is the rest of the story:

Living in Illinois, where it will get to be zero degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, one of my pet peeves is stores selling sleeveless, mini dresses for the winter season.  Come on, people!  It's freezing outside, and even inside, it is not that warm, so get real! Most of us just wear red sweaters- I swear- it's our Illinois holiday uniform.  You go to a party anytime between December and March, and you wear a red sweater.  Unless you are really feeling sexy, and then you wear a black sweater.  But still- its a SWEATER, not a SLEEVELESS mini-dress.

So, for this challenge, I wanted to make a winter dress, and found a ruby red rayon velvet in my stash.  I have loved velvet since I was a little girl and had a doll named Velvet- Crissy's blonde younger cousin.   You remember- the ones whose hair could grow?  You pushed their belly buttons, and then pulled the hair out of holes in the top of their heads.  No, I'm not making this up; I cross my heart.  This was high tech in 1970.  Velvet had a purple velvet dress- SLEEVELESS!  Even then they were pushing these sleeveless dresses down our throats.
Velvet and Crissy dolls
But, I LOVED that doll.  My best friend, Edie, had Crissy and we played for hours with them.   I even made my mother sew me a purple velvet matching dress. 

My pattern was Vogue 2926.  I liked the neckline on this one, and because of the long sleeves, I thought it would be a great winter dress.  After thinking about it and the velvet together though, I decided to skip the godets.  The fewer seams seemed like a good idea, considering my fussy friend, Ms. Velvet.  I decided to have a little fun with the hem and curve it to match the curve that went above the godets in the pattern.  I used a stretch lace for the sleeves.

I would not go into this velvet sewing project without an arsenal of weapons.

First- a thick terry towel.  Whaaaat?  Are you going to the gym, or sewing?  What's that got to do with sewing?  Well, you cannot iron velvet without the pile flattening out.  Pile is that kitten like plushness that you want to pet.  Flatten it out, and you lose that "pet"ability.

What you can do, however, is place a thick terry towel on your ironing board, steam above the velvet, and then lightly fingerpress the velvet as it lies on the towel.  Even this is risky.  Too much pressure even with your fingertips, and you'll see the seam allowance flatten the pile below it.  It has to be juuussst right.  Practice on some scraps before attempting it on the real garment.

Second- Spray adhesive.  You're thinking.  "So you won't iron this stuff, but you'll spray glue all over it?"  Yup, that's right. Well, technically not all over it.  Cover everything with newspaper, BUT the seams that you want to work on.  So, they get the glue, and then you can stick them together instead of pinning, before you sew the seam.  Works beautifully.

Third- Wonder Tape.  You mean the sticky double sided tape?  Yes, that's the one.  I wouldn't even think of hemming or inserting a zipper into this fabric without it.   

I loved doing this challenge!  It's fun to think of all the possible scenarios that you could be wearing a red dress in, and what form that red dress might take.  I feel a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz that I decided that there's "no place like home" to wear my perfect ruby red dress.


Fabricista Challenge #3- Copying a Ready-to-Wear Piece

9/26/14- Update:  I'm still in the running, but the winner of this challenge was Sue from ILovetoSew.  Check here to see her sharp looking jean jacket that won the prize!  
Our next challenge is to make "the Perfect Red Dress".  Yikes!  Off to figure out what to sew!

I bought this navy sleeveless top from The Limited a few years ago, and reach for it often.  The neckline is flattering and unusual.  Why, oh, why didn’t I buy it in every color?  So, for this challenge, Fabricista Challenge #3,  I decided to copy it.  I feel like a Double Mint Twin in these pictures!

I wonder who is the evil twin? Probably the one in the navy top- she looks like she is cooking up a scheme.  I’ve looked at it from the inside before, and was very curious how they put it together.   The front neckline was a mystery to me. Was that a dart?  Or a pleat?  Or ruching? 

Well, the designer must have been either a genius or a madman, because it is all 3 together!  I’ve never seen that anywhere before.  I’ve been playing around with a new name for it- the rupleadart, or the darpleruche?  Here's a close-up of the inside front, so you can see what I mean:

So, for my process, I started with gathering my tools. I buy thin plastic sheeting- the kind they sell in big rolls at the paint department of home improvement stores, for tracing patterns.  I can see through this, and a permanent marker glides over it very nicely, and it is super cheap! The other things I used were a quilter's ruler, a flexible tape measure, tape, a french curve ruler and Swedish Tracing Paper.

Now for the easy part- the back.  So for the back, I turned the top inside out, folded it at the center back, and lined up the side seams. 

With my marker and a quilter’s ruler to help me stay straight, I drew the center back fold line and hem line onto the plastic sheeting.  With my French curve, I found the curve of the back armhole and then copied it to the plastic, as well as the curves of the side seam and neck.

The front was not going to be so easy.  Not with all of the draping and pleating going on.  I honestly sat and looked at this piece for a couple of hours, scratching my head, as to what this pattern was going to look like.  Finally, I just decided to start taking measurements on everything.  How long was the facing?  How long was the gathering?   Where did the facing join the armhole.  Where did the facing join the chest area.  How long was the pleat?  

I transferred this to my plastic, and got a pretty good idea of how they put this thing together.  It really was clever.  What looked like it could be separate pieces, was actually just one piece that was slashed, gathered , folded, and pleated.   I made up a muslin.  Not perfect, made a few changes.   After all, this was the first time I’m attempting this darpleruche.

Now was the time to transfer this to my pattern paper.  I added seam allowances, hem allowances,  and marked all of the important points.  I cut out my teal green jersey and transferred the markings precisely using a tracing wheel and wax paper.  

I measured the armhole length, and made an armhole binding piece that length x 1-1/2” wide.

 My jersey is a little thicker than the Limited top, but I’m pretty thrilled with how this mimics the original!  One note- the plasticky strip that you see isn't elastic- it is just a thin strip of plastic.  I didn't feel that mine needed it, so that is why I omitted it.

 The whole thing only takes ¾ yard of fabric, and I can see making this up in a bunch of colors and prints.

I had fun with this challenge, but I probably won't be repeating this process anytime soon.  Give me a pattern any day!!!  This makes you really appreciate the work that pattern designers do!

Oh, and the pants- Butterick 5893 made from an ITY jersey I got in a Fabric Mart Mystery Bundle!

Please check out all of the contestants creations this week and vote for your favorite at the FabricMart Blog.

 Happy Sewing!


Fabricista Challenge #2- It's All About the Fit!

9/19/14-Update.  I won this challenge!   Thank you all so much for your encouragement and support.  My competition had some really great garments, so I feel very fortunate to have eeked out a win.  
I'm so excited to try my prize- 3 Pamela's Patterns!
And when I told my husband that I'd won, he said- "I guess we'll have to upgrade our anniversary dinner to Burger King." LOL!

Our 2nd challenge for the Fabric Mart Fabricista Challenge was to make a well-fitting garment out of solid color fabric.  We could make anything that we wanted to and use any pattern this time round! 

My 28th wedding anniversary is coming up, so for this challenge I decided to make a special occasion dress.   My husband’s favorite color is purple, and our bridesmaids wore eggplant gowns, so I grabbed this eggplant satin as a nod to both of those things. 

The pattern, Vogue 1118, has an asymmetrical bodice and curved skirt seams, lining, side zipper and back vent.  This is a Tracy Reese design that is now out of print.  I often have contemplated making it, but I knew it was going to be a fitting nightmare, so I always put it back in the box.  This challenge was just what I needed to give me the kick in the pants to try it!

Of the 16 pieces in the pattern, I altered 14 of them!    It took me one entire evening just to do the alterations.  I kid you not.  I could have sewed up a few knit tops in the time it took just to alter this baby!

The full bust adjustment was particularly tricky since one side has a dart, and the other has pleats.   I had to reduce the neckline a bit because it was gaping in my muslin.

 To add length for my height, I increased the length mid-skirt across 6 pattern pieces, truing up the curves, piece by piece.

But that’s not all!   

This summer, I found out that I have scoliosis- which means that my spine curves to one side.   I don't usually look at my backside, so I had no idea that I had this condition, but it explains why I usually have one bra strap falling down, and why sometimes my hemlines are a little wonky.  I always just attributed that to cutting while drinking wine, but turns out, it was probably the scoliosis all along!

I knew that I would have extra fabric at the left waist, so I took a 1" wedge out above the waist on the left side, and then added it back in below the waist to the pattern.  This wasn't enough- as you can see from the photos below- I still had multiple folds across the left.  I had my daughter pin out the excess, and then I worked that into a seam. 

The shoulder area of the design is also asymmetrical, so it is hard to tell what asymmetry is me and what is the design!

Working with satin was quite maddening interesting.   If you rip out a stitch or have a lump or bump, it shows.  If you drop of water drips from the iron, it will show permanently, so always iron on the wrong side, unless you are using a dry iron.  (I learned this from doing prom dresses for my daughters).  I alternated the matte and shiny sides to accentuate the design lines of the dress.   

With all of the fitting and fabric challenges, this tested my abilities to the max.  Lest you think I did not sweat this one, this project took me 2-1/2 days between the alterations, cutting and sewing.  I didn't even take a break to go to the fabric store.  I sent my husband to pick up the invisible zipper, where he got in an argument with a staff member that told him there were no invsible zippers.  He found them on his own, and then showed the staff member.  LOL!!!

 I learned that I have a lot to learn!  My friend and I are going to make duct tape dummies which should help me figure out what alterations I need to do for the scoliosis adjustments.  My dress form is just too symmetrical!

 I’m going to love wearing this dress.  It’s fitted, but comfortable.  Classy, but unique.  Sexy, but age appropriate.  Perfect  to celebrate 28 years of marriage!  My husband's comment, "Aren't you going to be a little overdressed for McDonalds?"  Husbands....(shaking head).

Please head on over to the Fabric Mart Blog to vote!  And if you do vote for me, thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Happy Sewing!