A Fancy-Schmancy Blue Velvet Dress

I’m back! Already! Miss me? 😉

I love this time of year for “fancy dress season” reasons. As you may have guessed, I kept my tradition going and made yet another fancy thing for my office holiday party. Yay!

This year I went a somewhat stereotypical “holiday dress” route: velvet. Much like florals for spring, it’s hardly groundbreaking. 😉 I also decided early on to jump into Linda’s Designin’ December challenge once again, as I found an amazing inspiration dress a few years ago and couldn’t get it out of my head.

Nice dress! Thanks, I made it!!

Image property of Linda @ Nice Dress! Thanks, I made it!!

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Here’s my inspiration dress, which was part of Elie Saab’s Fall 2014 RTW collection:

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Photo property of Vogue and/or their credited photographer(s)

Like I said, I first saw this a couple of years ago and it’s been in my head ever since! I knew I didn’t want to copy the exact style of the original dress, but 100% loved the draping, the color of the velvet, and the ombre effect. I found my dark teal poly/lycra stretch velvet at Fashion Fabrics Club and planned to dye the dress from the hem to the waist in a navy ombre; however, I couldn’t get the velvet to take the dye I bought (which was for synthetics). 😦 While I’m happy enough with the dress in one color, I definitely would have preferred it with the gradient effect that I envisioned!

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Full-length shot

The pattern I (mostly) used is Burda 05/2012 #133. (Julia Bobbin also made this pattern and she looked fierce!) I did make some changes, as follows:

  1. Adjusted the neckline: The pattern photos on Burda’s site are somewhat deceptive, as my mock-up per the pattern didn’t drop the back neckline as low as theirs. Then again, I kept my material on the straight grain rather than bias for the stretch factor. Anyway, I was determined to drop the back much lower. But after reworking the back bodice and starting from scratch using my moulage, it just wasn’t coming out how I envisioned. (To get the effect I was after, I’d most likely need to drape the dress onto a form.) In a last-ditch effort to get something with a little more “oomph” than the original design, I added an additional cowl extension to the Burda bodice that originated at the outermost edge of the shoulder; this dropped the shoulders to the off-the-shoulder position you see in these photos as well as added some additional “swag” draping to the back.
  2. Redesigned the shape of the bodice: The pattern bodice has a blouson effect, but I wanted things to be snug. (Not least of all because it would help the bodice stay up without the shoulders for support.) In the end I still could have taken a bit more out, but I had re-sewn it a few times (and had unpicked the waist once–that was not happening again!) and decided it was good enough. Plus I still had to be able to get into it with no zipper!!
  3. Redesigned the skirt: tiny pleats, in velvet, over my stomach? No thank you! Instead, I used the skirt pieces but eliminated the pleats and darts, and simply took the waist in until it was tight enough. I also lengthened the skirt to a midi (it’s now 34″ long, I think?) and added high splits to the sides. Originally I wasn’t sure about that last part, but when the back wasn’t dropping as low as I wanted they became necessary for some sex appeal.
  4. Omitted the zipper: Apart from being unnecessary with the stretch velvet, I wasn’t about the wrangle that sewing task on top of everything else! Just thinking about putting a zipper in this fabric gives me the willies…
  5. Omitted the ribbons: Even if I had kept the shoulders of the original design, I wasn’t about the have ribbons flapping around. Ick.
  6. Omitted the lining: Originally this was not my plan. But because I wanted the bodice tight and had zero-to-negative ease at the waist and no zipper, my lining fabric (silk jersey!!) wouldn’t have lent itself well to that choice. Self-lining was right out, because this fabric gets thick. So no lining.
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The best shot of the back I have–it wouldn’t cooperate so well on “official photo” day!

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The best available setting at the party…womp womp.

There’s clear elastic in the waist seam to help stabilize it. The bodice is still a bit long, due to the vertical stretch and weight/length of the skirt though. But doing that did help a lot! The hem and side splits are all hand-sewn, since visible stitching felt too casual for this dress.

The more eagle-eyed among you probably noticed an issue with the dress in the above full-length photos…I crushed the pile along the hem. 😦 I used a towel under the fabric when pressing, but it didn’t prevent tell-tale iron-shaped spots allllllllll along the hem. (Interestingly, I don’t appear to have done any damage with my first pass, in which the iron was laid parallel to the hem rather than perpendicular.) I was gutted when I noticed this, as you might imagine. I tried every available trick to un-crush the pile but nothing helped (just as the internet warned). The only good thing about this disaster is that it’s on the very bottom of the dress, which I doubt anyone paid as much attention to as the top! #smallmiracles O_o

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So that’s 2018’s holiday dress sorted! It wasn’t quite what I imagined but that happens, doesn’t it? I haven’t even started plotting for next year’s dress–who knows what I’ll end up with!

This ended up being my last project of 2018, so my next post will be a Top 5 post (Hits, Misses, and Highlights). See you there!

Special thanks to Linda for coordinating and hosting Designin’ December once again–it’s a pleasure to share alongside so many creative and inspiring pieces in that sewalong.

In Which The Blogger Gets Sweater Fever

Hello, friends!

Today I will be sharing a knitting project–my first sweater!–and no sewing, so feel free to skip this one if knitting isn’t your jam.

There are two reasons I decided to learn to knit: socks and sweaters. I have been rather obsessively crushing it in the sock department–in the 2 years since I learned to knit, I have made 20 pairs of socks! After just over a year of knitting, I decided I was ready to tackle sweaters. That was last October, and I started this project at that time. (PS: If any of you are on Ravelry, feel free to share your Rav name in the comments, or add me as a friend over there–I’d love more knitting buddies! My Rav name is wronghandmads because I am so creative.)

Fair warning, these photos were all taken before blocking the sweater. Doing that improved the shape of the hems quite a lot…

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Big ugly sweater!!

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Big sweater + baggy jeans = Frumptastic

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Close-up of the yarn. ❤

Theoretically, I could have easily completed this sweater long before now; unfortunately, I messed up my sleeves (the first parts of the sweater I made) and had to unravel them back to the cuffs, which happened over our rather unpleasant Christmas last year. All of that stuff ended up souring me on the project for a while, and I consoled myself with more socks. #sockmonster But this summer I decided that Fall 2018 was going to see the debut of this sweater–I couldn’t stomach the possibility of a WIP passing an entire year without being finished–and buckled down to finish it. As luck would have it, I got it done days before needing to travel out of state and had it handy to keep warm on my flights!

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Well this is certainly a photo…

The pattern I chose is called Harlowe, by Melissa Wehrle. Technically it’s a pattern for Brooklyn Tweed, a company whose design collections initially made me want to knit sweaters but toward whom I now have less-pleasant feelings. Ultimately the other patterns from their collections that I like and want to make are by non-employees of the company, so I will probably make them anyway; buying their yarn, on the other hand, is firmly in the “never” category. (It doesn’t hurt that I’m basically a Madelinetosh fanatic at this point…send help and storage solutions, stat!!)

The pattern itself was just fine and I was able to knit it totally by myself apart from the initial tubular cast-on, which was done under the supervision of an experienced knitter. 😀 I liked the results of this cast-on so much that I have used it on every other project that requires a stretchy cast-on. It really isn’t much extra work for the results you get! Apart from my original PDF download not working fully (the last few pages were missing!) and misunderstanding the sleeve increases the first time, the only trouble I had was with my actual knitting mechanics.

Since my first-ever sock heel, I have known that something about my knitting isn’t quite “right.” Sure, my stitches form and hold together and look nice and whatever, but when working flat or doing short rows my stitches always end up twisted. I actually like the effect on my sock heels and since that’s all I had knit that involved working flat, I didn’t bother to un-learn what I was doing. Well, this sweater’s split hem requires working flat and I was hoping to avoid a large twisted section at the bottom! Unfortunately I wasn’t totally able to do this, simply because I was too stubborn to look up a solution. (I also had no idea where to start looking, as I’m still new and didn’t know what to call this quirk. “F*cky knitting” isn’t really in the knitting dictionary…)

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Rather f*cky hem.

I got it almost-kinda-sorta right on my own, but not completely: you can definitely see the line that denotes where I began working in the round versus flat. (That said, my hem sections are less twisted than my usual flat efforts.) But thanks to Siobhan at Chronically Siobhan (a truly excellent knitter as well as sewer and all-around human being), I was able to successfully work out what to do to fix this. She helpfully suggested that I look up “combination knitting.” It turns out that all I needed to do to fix this issue was purl through the same stitch leg that I knit into (the back one, as it happens) and voila, beautiful flat knitting is now mine! I always assumed that the root cause of the twists was how I wrapped my working yarn around, but fussing with changing that still resulted in the f*cky twisty sections on the hems of this sweater. I couldn’t face ripping out all my work and starting over, but honestly I am just thrilled that my upper sweater doesn’t have the same line that my lower pieces have! So in truth, this sweater is brought to you by my friend Betsy, who taught me to knit and supervised my cast-on, and Siobhan, who knew exactly what to suggest that would help me un-twist my shit. 😉 Ladies, I am in your debt!!

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Blocking!

In a way, the drop shoulder and oversized style made it a great choice for a first-timer, as there was less to worry about in terms of fit. My stitch gauge was a bit off (on the side of more stitches than the pattern’s gauge specified), but my vertical gauge was dead-on; I made no changes to stitch counts or anything like that and am really happy with the size of the finished sweater. Well, except for the sleeves, which are ridiculously over-long as written. :-/

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I mean, come on.

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I don’t know what I was doing here, but it still makes more sense than the length of these sleeves…

All told, my first sweater was quite a success! I am now looking forward to knitting ALL THE SWEATERS.

And never fear, the sweater is Mulder-approved:

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Handsomeness personified…

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He’s eating lipstick in this one…

And you guys know I wouldn’t leave you .gif-less:

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Gotta have a .gif!

 

Thanks for sticking with me while I took a detour into knitting! I hope to return soon with sewing, as I have a costume-ish project in the works that I’d love to share once it’s done. ❤