The winding tale of sewing with silk velvet and the nightmare of buttonholes in velvet. Vogue 9141

Vogue 9141 in silk velvet                                                            Vogue 9141, completed with just enough time to get to the Christmas show.Vogue 9141 in silk velvet                                 Vogue 9141 in silk velvet with silk taffeta collar and cotton lawn lining. Size 6.Vogue 9141 in silk velvet                                                               Lots of twirliness with its’ circle skirt!twirling

I spent the night in downtown LA last week after attending one of my oldest and best friends’ fiftieth birthday party. Where did the time go? It seems like just a few years ago we were all in our early twenties, gallivanting around town, skipping lines to get into clubs.  There was a moment in the evening when we realized we were about twenty years older than everyone else at the last club we were and well….. we just didn’t care. We had a cheesey limo driving us around and we were out to partay!moniques50th

Surprisingly, the next morning after checking out of our downtown hotel because we now live way too far out of town to be gallivanting, my husband was amenable to going to the fabric district. Whaaaat???? I can’t remember the last time he agreed to go fabric shopping with me.

Actually, I do remember. It was four years ago and we went to Britex in San Francicsco where he picked out a completely inappropriate and very expensive wool fabric, too loose a weave and too lightweight, for a pea coat for himself, which I spent a month on underling, muslining, fitting, etc, then proceeded to cut a big hole in the center front by accident and didn’t have any more for another piece. Needless to say it was never blogged! And we never went fabric shopping again until last week.

My heart was going pitter patter. He was going to hang out with me on my turf! The fabric district, one of my most favorite places on earth! Do you want to know the fastest way to a sewists heart? It’s not jewelry or cards or flowers. It’s agreeing to go fabric shopping and actually being interested in picking out the perfect fabric for your seven year old’s school Christmas show. And what we picked out was a lovely silk velvet in bright pink. Silk velvet!

Another completely inappropriate fabric choice for the intended wearer, a messy, drink spilling, crumb making, and floor crawling seven year who spends the better part of most days pretending to be a cheetah. In fact, Gigi is the complete opposite of Lily, my vintage dress loving, flea market affionado and very careful eater who many of you may remember from old blog posts. Nowadays, she is a meticulous teen-ager.dorothydress1-copy                                                                                                Lily at seven, in a dress I made her from a forties pattern.

But did I have an appropriate pattern to go with this fabric and had I planned out the project in advance? Of course not! Upon returning home, I decided to use Vogue 9141, thinking the skirt would be so pretty and Construction details of Vogue 9141

I made two muslins for Gigi. Two muslins for a seven year old! The first was a little too snug, even though her measurements put her at a size five. She’s very narrow and thin, yet quite long in the torso so I added 1.5 inches to the pattern which I cut again in size 6.

I carefully cut out my pattern pieces from the velvet and a cotton lawn lining, but completely forgot that you are supposed to pay attention to the nap of the fabric when cutting out velvet. It’s only by a lucky accident that it looks OK because I paid no attention to the nap.

I also failed to take into account the back closure which had double folded over back plackets and button closures.  I should have changed the pattern to accommodate the velvet, making a separate pattern from the plackets from something lighter. Apparently, making buttonholes in silk is a total nightmare.bulkyplacket

I won’t even mention how bad the Peter Pan collar looked in velvet. You can’t really press velvet so it was really puffy. Luckily, I had some silk taffeta left over from another project, and recut the collar.

The lining was quite complicated and consuming to sew as well. It’s tacked down to the actual fabric in back and then the velvet plackets were folded over it and hand stitched down. There is a ton of hand stitching on this dress. I  wish I had underlined the dress since there is so much tacking down going on from the inside. I can see some of the stitches from the outside and underlining would have also given the velvet a bit more strength.

The neckline is under-stitched by hand and the linings are all stitched in by hand to the inside seam allowances to avoid any stitch lines on the outside.lining

So after all that work I realized the plackets for the buttons in back were way too bulky but it was too late. I wasn’t about to take apart that lining to fix the problem so I had to make it work somehow…..I had gone too far to go back.

I ended up stabilizing the back of my button placket with freezer paper to machine sew my buttonholes. It didn’t work. Have ever had your button hole foot malfunction at the end the the first row of stitches and then just keep sewing at the button of the buttonhole until you have a big glob of thread? That’s what happened to me in my first two buttonholes. I decided to quit while I was ahead. and tore out the buttonholes. Which is not easy in velvet. My temper was rising.

Luckily, I had some snaps on hand and sewed those to the inside of the placket. Totally not ideal, but hopefully they would stay on during the performance. But that didn’t work either.. Nothing could fix that super wierd looking bulky placket. So I cut the damn thing off and sewed on a zipper by hand. And yes, I had to redo the ling after all.

And due to time running out I had to machine sew a baby hem instead of doing it by hand. Bummer.dresssurgeryThank goodness it still fit since the skirt didn’t have a center back seam and I had to add one. Actually it fit her even better , since it had been a bit looser than ideal before.backThis dress took way too long to make due to my not planning ahead and was a total headache. But I made it work. If you are considering trying this pattern, I would recommend it as it’s very well drafted and the instructions are good. Just don’t make it in velvet! I hope my next project goes easier than this one.dress2


Happy sewing!









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  1. Sandy Osborne says

    Oh! I feel your pain!! But the end result is just perfection. Gigi looks adorable. Nice work 🙂

    • says

      Yes the things we do to finish these projects! It becomes almost like a showdown. Will this dress get the better of me or will I finally get it right? I just put the blinders on and forge ahead!

  2. says

    Wow that was quite an undertaking! But your finished dress looks so beautiful <3 Lucky girl!!

  3. La Vonda C says

    I think this was a terrific save & turned out very cute! I think silk velvet plays with & in the light like no other textile, she looked beautiful on stage. Thank you for sharing all the work!

  4. says

    So sorry this dress was so difficult.. But you did it any way..It is adorable as is sweet Gigi.
    She looks so happy twirling in her new dress.. Happy sewing.
    ps sweet that hubby went fabric shopping with you.. I remember when you guys went and bought the jacket fabric.. I wondered if you made [I have quiet a few of those unblogged happenings,ha]

  5. learningnewtricks says

    Oh, my. I remember when you posted your daughter, Lily, in that dress. Wow…how does time fly by so quickly? It seems as though I just started following your blog, but it’s been years.

    I remember that Tasia used to rely on hand sewn zippers. Sorry to see her blog end — never heard the reason. Anyway, this dress is super lovely, despite all of the extra work it took you to complete it.

    I made my daughter a fully lined pink wool coat when she was 6 (she is 27 now), and she loved that coat! She would twirl around in it, too. I foresee more twirls for this dress!