Monday, 7 January 2019

winter sewing: stretch velvet Magnolia

Presenting my extremely extra Christmas dress:

I knew I wanted to try a stretch version of the Magnolia as soon as I made my first one. I loved the dress, but I loved the idea of having one without the side zip and sleeves woes even more. The idea of making it in velvet followed very shortly afterwards, and I'd seen a couple of teal and bottle-green crushed velvets at various places online that I was considering. What I ended up going with was a much more emerald colour that the guy at the market just happened to have on his stand when I was there looking for something else. I'm quite happy with the colour in person, but it just will not show up correctly in photos. Not on my proper camera, not on my phone, not on someone else's better phone, not inside, not outside, not with or without flash. It will not do it. At the bottom of the post I've included a few photos from my phone of the dress out in the wild, and please be assured it is none of the colours it appears. Argh.

I made a bunch of changes to my first version, though not so much in terms of size. I cut the back waistband a little smaller and made the back darts bigger, but that's it. My first version was very fitted and I wanted this one to give me sufficient space for a giant Christmas dinner. Also, the velvet isn't so stretchy that it requires a huge amount of sizing down, just enough to let me dispense with the side zip. I also dispensed with the back ties. I really like them as a detail, but in fabric this heavy I thought they'd just be cumbersome (especially for a dress made to sit down in). There's no excess fabric in this version so they're not really necessary.

The biggest change I made was the sleeves. Even if the original sleeves had fit me the way they're intended to, that still wouldn't have worked for this fabric. I switched out the sleeve and armscye for the Givre, which you know is my favourite, and once again I think it's worked really well. They're not noticeably restrictive but thanks to the comparative lack of stretch in this fabric they are tighter than usual. This is actually a secret bonus as it helps the neckline stay where I want it to stay.

I finished the neckline by hand as I didn't want any visible stitching there. This wasn't a great idea as it does need to stretch, but I really feel like machine stitching will warp the fit of the top across the bust, which is currently perfect. Post-holiday I went back and machine stitched the back neckline down. It's not necessarily the most elegant solution but it does hold things in place better without me having to become some sort of neckline wizard.

Remembering that version one came up short on me, I lengthened this one substantially when I cut it out. This was the wrong thing to do, because this skirt is heavy and stretchy and thus hangs down much further anyway, so I just had to go and cut it all off again. Sigh.

Here are a couple of photos of the dress out in the wild on Christmas Day:

I keep rewriting this paragraph trying to describe our hotel and I keep sounding like Margaret Drabbs the 16th most prolific Trip Advisor reviewer in Tunbridge Wells, so I'm going to stop. Suffice to say it was not as fancy as it thought it was and we were made to feel pretty uncomfortable. Also they tried to charge €26 for a Bombay Sapphire and tonic. I wouldn't pay that for a bottle of Bombay Sapphire. However, all that aside, you can't deny this is a pretty sweet view. This photo was taken just before Christmas lunch, where most other people were indeed wearing sensible beige trousers but also up to their eyeballs in foie gras so didn't really care what I was wearing.

This, however, prompted a lot of amazed stares, I think mostly because I was out on the sea front without a coat. From my British perspective it was about the temperature of a nice spring day and while I could have been wearing a coat it didn't bother me that I wasn't. However, all the locals were bundled up in quilted jackets and enormous scarves and they probably thought I was a crazy person. For someone in anxiety therapy it's actually quite nice to be magnitudes overdressed and know for a fact that the worst judgement people are making about you is that you're probably cold.

I also ended up wearing it to an extremely low-key NYE house party at the insistence of the host, who then wore green velvet herself and pressured another friend into doing the same. When we went out for the fireworks at midnight I insisted we take a photo, which turned into a "people standing round holding flashlights at various angles" job and also left me with a brief accidental video where one of my friends says to the other, "This is for Jen's Instagram, stop eating my shoulder!" while I continue to pose away, drunk and oblivious. 

Anyway, I really, really like this bodice and would like to try turning into a jersey dress for daywear. I don't know if the shorter skirt is the one for me, but as it's neither fitted nor full enough to give me hem anxiety I think I might give it a try. It'll definitely be quite cleavagey for a day dress, but that doesn't bother me hugely and it can easily be layered with wrap cardigans and so forth. I will probably bind the neckline on future versions as it won't be so disruptive when I'm not using velvet.

I'm hoping to get the Papercut Sierra jumpsuit done over the next week, so assuming it's not horrific that'll be my next post. The problem about making something so soon after pattern release is that about five tiny people have made it and it's impossible to know how it sits on curvier bodies. It's fine; I shall do it for science. Science! 


  1. this is fantastic, the color the fit and the shape on you. You look so glamorous in that photo on the balcony with the sea in the background. happy new year!

  2. Dress looks fabulous! I have the Sierra Jumpsuit in my queue so looking forward to hear your experience with it; so many folks gloss over the negatives of a pattern I find your honest reviews very helpful. I wanted to mention that there is a hand stitching technique for stretchy fabric you could use on your neckline, SewDIY has a tutorial on it:

    1. Thank you! Thanks for the link too; it never occurred to me to use that kind of stitch on a neckline!

  3. Being a redhead, I've always had a thing for green velvet so I am loving your dress! You look fantastic, the dress is dreamy, and looks like it was made for you ... because, of course, it was. :-) This is one of my favs of your makes!

    On a "business" note ... I'm taking over pattern roundups for the Curvy Sewing Collective. I would love to include your Magnolia balcony pic in the roundup I'm currently working on. Please let me know if that's OK. (I've opted in for notifications for responses to this comment so you don't have to track me down, just respond here. Thanks!)

    1. Thank you Debbie! Feel free to use the photo!

  4. Damn, girl! You look amazing in that dress! Wow.