How do you find inspiration for a creative project? In this case it was a slow process. I had found some fabulous satin in a colour I can only describe as slate. It’s a dark grey/ navy/ purple that looks different according to the light and is therefore quite challenging to capture on camera! Originally I planned to use it for a coat lining but when I was invited to a Frocktails event by Laura from Sew Different, I realised that this would be perfect for such a challenge.
Amazingly, Fabworks also had some lace in an almost identical colour. I trawled through Pinterest, all my favourite shops, a good few sewing and fashion magazines and just couldn’t find a design that I was happy with. However, I had won a pattern of my choice from Opian, a Swiss company that offers a growing range of patterns in both French and English, in the Sew Up North raffle, and I decided to try out the Alvernia dress pattern. It’s a simple but startling design, with a low v neckline, very low back, a skirt with box pleats and a side zip. The instructions are very clear and the only hurdle I hit was working with slippery fabric that didn’t stay in place unless I used multiple pins, quilting clips and in some cases tacking threads as well. Some of the skirt pleats took 4 or 5 attempts at stitching until I was happy with them. The zip wasn’t as tricky as I expected and it only took two attempts to match it up across the waist seam!
I pondered for some time about how to incorporate the lace. I considered a lace overskirt, overlaying lace on the bodice front and back, and various other options, but eventually decided on a separate top that could be worn with the dress or over a vest/ tank top or another dress. For this, I used a pattern that has become a firm favourite, Simplicity 1364, which is a 1960s reprint blouse. I used the edging on the lace (which I trimmed later in the process) for the sleeve and bodice hems, cut the back on the fold and used bias strips of the satin fabric (1″/2.5cm wide) on the neckline, which I machine stitched in place and then finished by hand using some tiny needles that I inherited from Grandma Nora. The lace was also challenging to sew, but I found that using a straight stitch foot, strips of tissue paper under the lace and a longer stitch helped somewhat. I also tried a non-stick foot with a narrow zigzag stitch, which worked reasonably well.
I felt so elegant and grown up in this outfit! The low back and neckline didn’t feel too exposed, especially with the lace top, and having lined it all in self fabric, it was remarkably warm. I wore it with nude tights and black patent heels (one of only two pairs of even vaguely fancy shoes in my possession) although the shoes were set aside for some of the time I spent helping with the catwalk show, as I’d been standing rather a long time and am not used to heels!
These photos were taken at home this evening, the day after the party, as I was too busy chatting and helping out to remember to ask anyone to take a photo while we were there. The light is tricky at this time of year, but I make no pretence about my husband’s photography skills or mine at editing, so this is the best I have for now. Thanks for reading!