After a long hiatus in blogging and sewing for myself, I finally cleared some free time and found the way back to my sewing machine. And what’s best to get back in the game than sewing the patterns of the new Deer&Doe collection? That’s something I like to do with each release. Even after months of muslins and more-or-less-wearable versions sewn for work, it’s important to me to put my own twist on the patterns to mark the occasion.
Especially since I had a golden opportunity to sew the Magnolia dress, since we had been invited to an outside wedding last October. The wedding was in Virginia, where October is a little chilly: the perfect excuse to whip up something with long sleeves and a maxi skirt, and more importantly, in velvet!
Every winter I get obsessed with velvet, and as soon as Eléonore showed me the sketch of the Magnolia dress that’s immediately how I imagined it. I would have liked a forest green velvet, but finding a lightweight non-stretch velvet that is not super expensive is not that easy. I might drool over silk velvets, but they’re still way out of my budget…
Then I happened on this rayon velvet devoree on sale on fabric.com. It’s a Telio fabric, and I’ve always had great experiences with their products, they’re great quality. I was delighted when I received it: it’s super soft, shiny and drapey, springy and thin. It’s amazing to the touch.
It was not as amazing to sew though… I had already sewn with velvet in the past but it’d always been corduroy, crushed velvet, or velveteen. Actual velvet is something else entirely: as soon as you approach with your iron to open the seams on the wrong side, the pile gets crushed on the right side and it can’t be fixed. I tried the trick of placing a rolled towel under the fabric but it didn’t make much of a difference. In the end I made it work using a lot of steam and softly applying a clapper on the seam, without pressing, for 30 seconds. The wooden surface of the clapper helps keep the moisture within the fabric and soften the fibers, so the seam allowances stay flat.
It was a long and tedious process, and I was super stressed the whole time about slipping and ruining my pretty fabric. There are many areas of the garment that I’m not happy with, either because the seams are not flat enough, or because I went at it too hard with the clapper and the pile got crushed and shiny, but in this black fabric you can only see it when the lighting is just right so I think I’m the only one who notices.
Since even the feeding dogs and presser foot of my machine would leave marks on the fabric, I didn’t want to risk topstitching. I handstitched the bias binding at the neckline, and since it looked good I kept going with the hand sewing for all the hems: the bottom of the dress, the slit, and even the sleeves. As you can imagine, it took hours, but I believe it was worth it.
What I really like about this fabric is that the triangles are made out of a tan mesh, and create beautiful transparency effects. I lined the front of the bodice with a black bemberg rayon, and the color difference is pretty subtle. You can definitely notice the transparency when the dress moves though, and it looks very cool.
I love the seventies flair of the Magnolia dress, with its elongated silhouette and its long and slightly puffed sleeves. The neckline of version A is very deep and I’m not used to that, but it balances the length of the sleeves and skirt and I think it helps me avoid looking like a big blob of fabric.
I am also happy that the ties are long enough to be tied in the front of the dress rather than the back. Even though I love the look of the big bow in the small of the back, it was convenient to be able to switch it to the front when I had to sit on a chair during the ceremony, so I didn’t have a ball of fabric digging into my back.
Magnolia is without a doubt the fancier dress in my wardrobe. I feel super classy in it, and I’m already thinking about the next even where I’ll be able to wear it. It’ll probably be New Year’s, even though I’ll be completely overdressed, it’s not everyday that one can wear a velvet gown!