Peacock in progress

After a nightmare in which I turned up at the wedding in an un-hemmed dress with basting lines visible, I have worked away on my dress to get it closer to completion. (I worked until the sunshine suddenly disappeared, so the colour in these pictures is totally off)

The silk didn’t like being gathered on either the bodice or the skirt, so there were some adjustments to be made on the fashion fabric. The bodice needed lots of adjusting as I wore it, and now has a pleat/tuck at the centre, to take away some of the fullness from the gathering.

The dress was supposed to have a flared skirt, but in the stiff dupion it looked a bit too voluminous. After lots of uhmming and ahhing and fear of making irreversible changes to the silk, I used the pattern for an a-line dress and traced new sewing lines. This worked but unfortunately the silhouette didn’t look like it would work with pockets 😦 I had been getting rather excited by the prospect of formal clothes with pockets!

The hem needs to be sewn up and will be just above knee-length – I added a generous couple of inches to the length when I cut the pattern out, and the new stitching lines seem to be the perfect length.

I had to re-watch some of Susan Khalje’s craftsy videos again to remember some of the techniques for inserting the zipper, and attaching the bodice lining.

Hand sewn zipper

Carefully matched seam-lines

Invisibly hand sewn lining

Now all that is left to do is the hem, skirt and midriff lining and some couture finishing touches. I think I may add a final beaded motif to the centre back – what do you think?

Peacock progress

Work on the peacock dress is moving at a good pace, despite the ridiculous amount of hand sewing and preparation to get a couture finish.

So far I am enjoying the techniques as I can see how they will provide a finer finished item, although I am looking forward to rustling up a couple of cheap-and-cheerful unfinished garments.

I am interlining the dress in organza, and the organza layer serves as a pattern so there is no need to mark the fashion fabric. I cut out all the organza pieces (with generous seam allowances) and marked all the pattern info on them. Then it was time to lay them out.

Blocking the hallway with my fabric

I had to go outside and use the landing outside my flat, and I am so glad I could play with the layout as there was only just enough fabric. I adjusted the pattern as it had a seam down the centre of the front skirt – the fabric was too narrow to cut this on the fold, so I created panels at the front.

I spent at least an hour fine-tuning the placement of the pattern pieces, measuring the distance from the grain-lines to the selvedge to the nearest millimetre, resulting in a rather sore back the next day! However the bonus of this careful preparation was that it took less than five minutes to cut up all the fabric. One of Susan Khalje’s key techniques is to ignore 5/8″ seam allowances and cutting lines, and just focus on the stitching lines (which are transferred and basted everywhere). This means, as long as the stitching lines are clearly marked, you can cut the fabric however you want, leaving generous seam allowances = super speedy cutting as you don’t have to be mega accurate.

Once all the pieces were cut out it is time to carefully hand baste the interlining to the fashion fabric. This takes time. A lot of time. Especially when you have to re-baste the same line four times because it isn’t quite smooth. (I must confess I have only done the bodice and midriff pieces so far, as there was only so much I could take at once).

Next, more basting, but this time actually attaching pattern pieces together, before finally getting the sewing machine out to sew some seams. The seams are all carefully pressed and catch-stitched to the interlining, without a mark appearing on the right-side of the garment.

Hand-basting, pressed seams and catch-stitching

Due to the cross-over detail of the bodice I had to attach the lining to this section and finished it using my new best friends…

My couture best friends

When I made this dress before, I top-stitched around the bodice neckline to keep the lining in place, but it really wouldn’t look right on this dress. I am wondering about hand-stitching some seed beads every few centimetres to keep the layers in place – is that too much detail?

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I have also sewn 879 beads and 462 sequins on the midriff band so it is now ready to attach to the bodice. I have left a little space until I know exactly where the zipper will go, if I ever find one in an acceptable colour!



Scrumptious silks

My normal sewing technique is normally pretty quick with a “that’ll do” approach. I thought I had improved when I made my fully lined trousers, but when I showed my step-mum she asked “don’t you finish your seams?”, so after seeing Dibs sign up for a Craftsy couture course I thought it was time I took things to the next level. So what better opportunity to try out couture techniques, than when making my dress for my big brother’s wedding. And if you are going to sew couture, you need the finest materials you can get.

Yesterday I met my aunt for a tour of Berwick Street’s silk shops. The first time I can remember going fabric shopping was with her, to get fabric so she could make me a dress for my sixth-form leavers’ ball a good decade ago. I was prepared with pattern envelopes and my feather hair accessory (I’ve not yet decided whether to attach it to a clip or a hairband).

Feathers in her hair - hair clip or hair band?

The staff in all the shops were very helpful and gave me lots of clearly labelled samples to take away, and one shop even draped the fabric around me so I could look in the mirror to check the final effect. We deliberated over brunch and in the end I chose the silk dupion that was a slightly brighter shade of turquoise-teal with an inky purple tone from The Silk Society. There were a couple of dust marks on the fabric, so the assistant cut me a bit extra AND took half a metre of the final price. Hopefully this picture can give you an approximate idea of the shade.

Beautiful, beautiful silk

I also got some blue-turquoise-purple silk organza to overlay on the midriff band. I am going to add beading to the midriff (and maybe shoulders?) so I had a practice on some organza and dupion.

sample beading for the midriff band

It’s not the final design, as I was experimenting with different sizes of beads. I’m a bit short of some of the beads so I am impatiently waiting for the shops to open so I can get the final supplies I need before curling up on the sofa with my hand-beading and a film. Perfect Sunday plans πŸ™‚