It’s the finals in Fabric Mart’s Fabricista Fashion Challenge, and this week is called “Find your inner designer.” The goal is to make a look that could theoretically fit into a designer’s collection, with the added caveat that the resulting garment(s) should fit into your lifestyle. There is, after all a whole lotta crazy on the runways.
The search for my inner designer took me to the Fall 2016 runway shows of Balmain and Miu Miu. I’ve always loved Balmain’s denim, but I was drawn to this show because of the color. As a person who looks best in lighter colors, I love the light airy hues of this show. I’ve never understood why it is that pastel shades are reserved for Spring and Summer in the fashion world. Yay for Balmain and others for challenging that.
This season, a lot of designers used a lot of highly textured fabrics in their collections. Miu Miu was my favorite. There are velvets, wools, faux furs, laces, tapestry all combined into highly layered looks. For me, layering is what fall is about. Our average temperatures can range from snow to the high 70s with everything in between. With so much variance, having clothes that can be easily layered keeps me prepared. My look combines the candy colors of Balmain with the textured fabrics of Miu Miu into this velvet top, wool cardigan, and jacquard jumper dress.
For this top, I copied a Banana Republic cashmere blend sweater I’ve owned for several years. It has cap sleeves, a scoop neckline + a turtleneck that is tied so that one side of the neck drapes. I love the style so much, and really, I’ve always intended to copy it. I slashed and spread the neckline of my t-shirt pattern’s front to get the gathers. The turtleneck is a 21″ X 14″ rectangle sewn into a tube that’s a giant neck binding. The tie piece is 15″ X 3″ sewn into a tube and tapered at the ends.
Working with velvet
The velvet for this top came from a nice quality throw blanket I’ve used for guests. It’s stretch velvet on one side and faux fur on the other. Velvet can be really visually heavy due to the fact that it absorbs light. Because of that and because I’ve only ever seen stretch velvets in the dark jewel tones that don’t look the best on me, I’ve never worked with stretch velvet. But this velvet IS one of my colors! The only problem with sewing with velvet is that you have to sew with velvet. And velvet is quite a demanding lady.
When I cut the pieces for my top, the velvet curled up completely…like Shirley Temple curls. Pins are useless with velvet; they leave holes in it and do not help with the creep factor. Because of velvet’s pile, when two layers of it are together, they will fight against each other and feed at drastically uneven rates. I once made a set of velvet floor pillows and discovered that it is actually possible to cut 2 rectangles of fabric the same size and end up with one seam 4″ longer than the other. To tame the curling and the creep factor, every single seam was hand basted within the seam allowance. I used an extra-fine beading needle so as not to damage the velvet. When hand-basted, the seams sewed up really quite easily.
The fabric was so drapey and slippery, that I had to hold the neckline gathers into place while sewing even though I had hand-basted the seam so they didn’t slip out entirely.
I had to make a tiny buttonhole on the turtleneck piece that the tie threads through. There’s a layer of lightweight sew-in interfacing between the layers of velvet, and the velvet layers were sandwiched between 2 layers of tissue paper. The paper keeps the velvet moving under the feed dogs and protects the fabric from the friction of the buttonhole foot.
Sort of bagging a knit top lining
I chose to line the top for a clean finish and to cut down on the “show every lump and bump” factor. The technique I used is similar to bagging a jacket lining because you end up sewing everything backwards and inside out.
- To do this, I cut a front and back from stretch mesh 1″ shorter on the hem than the velvet.
- Sew the shoulder seams only.
- Then you sew the right side of the neck’s lining to the wrong side of the top’s neckline towards the neck so that when you flip it, it rolls towards the body of the garment covering the neck seam entirely.
- After that, the right side of the lining to the wrong side of the sleeve seams on the side towards the sleeve. Don’t sew completely around the sleeve. Leave the bottom of the lining’s armscye unsewn the amount of your seam allowance to allow for when you sew the side seams. The lining will cover the raw seams when you turn it right side out inside the top.
- To finish installing the lining, bring the wrong sides of the side seams together and sew. Leave the lining hanging free or enclose it in the garment’s hem as I did here.
The hem stitches are hidden in the mesh. I sewed the sleeve hems with the beading needle, keeping them as invisible as was possible.
Pattern and fabric
A lot of the looks in the Miu Miu show used sweaters and jackets with faux fur cuffs on extra long sleeves. A lot of those cuffs were gathered up slightly with sleeve tabs. I really love the texture of those, so I decided to incorporate those elements into a wool cardigan. I’m using a blush Italian wool pointelle sweater knit I bought from Emma One Sock 3 years ago. The pattern is Burdastyle 3-2013-107. This pattern is a v-neck cardigan with front bands that are gathered along the fronts.
I made this pattern a while back, and the original sweater has too much length in the front bands. Out came 1.5″ in the band and I also took out 1.5″ divided between 2 darts in the front that taper to zero at the armscye. I’m not sure what this alteration is, but clearly, there was fullness there that didn’t need to be there. The bands and the upper chest now sit nice and flat.
Cuffs and buttons
To add the faux fur cuffs, I cut the sleeves 3″ shorter than usual. I drafted a quick cuff pattern that takes up the missing length, and I made it slighter wider than the sleeve. The extra width is needed because the faux fur doesn’t stretch as much as the wool.
I also made cover buttons for the front with the velvet. There’s a layer of the same mesh lining I used for the velvet top in each button for opacity. I could not make buttonholes in the fronts because of the narrow bands and the loft of the knit. Instead, I opted to sew the velvet buttons as decoration and use snap tape on the inside for a closure. I hand dyed the snap tape so it wasn’t so stark white.
The button tabs have 2 layers of the knit and a layer of fusible interfacing. I cut them from a quick pattern piece I made up. I topstitched each tab to add the tailored look that the Miu Miu pieces have. They’re sewn into the wrong side of each sleeve where the cuff and the sleeve meet. Then they fold up over the top of each sleeve to fasten with a button a little above the cuff.
A lot of the Miu Miu looks employ contrasting collars. Some of them are lace, some knitted, some velvet, and all of them create another layer of texture. I made 2 removable collars I can use to add or remove texture to my look. One is from the faux fur from the cuffs. There are tiny elastic loops between the fur and the lining that hold the collar in place. The elastic fastens around 7 buttons sewn to the inside neckline of the cardigan.
The second collar I made from a vintage lace collar from my Grandmother-in-law’s stash. The lace had a tiny strip of netting meant for you to sew the collar into a neck seam. I sewed 2 pieces of bias tape around the netting to make a collar stand. The elastic loops are sewn between the layers of bias tape.
I really like that I can get multiple looks from the same sweater by adding one of the collars. The faux fur also adds a layer of warmth for cooler days, and the lace is good for warmer days.
Jaquard Jumper Dress
In my research for this challenge, I came across the current trend of jumper dresses. Who knew? I was pretty excited about this. I’m a Mom of 4, and my youngest is nursing. Dresses are tough for me to wear because there’s so many styles that are not nursing-friendly. My solution in the past has been to wear separates. Still, I love wearing dresses. Jumper dresses allow for easy access while still allowing you to wear an actual dress. They also solve another problem for me.
Being a violinist, I need freedom for my shoulders to move. I end up wearing knits 95% of the time that I’m playing and most of the time that I’m not for this reason. Woven fabrics just don’t move as easily. I’m prone to injury in my upper back from this specific overuse of those muscles, so I have to be careful that I don’t wear any fabrics or styles that confine my movement too much. The jumper dress lets me still move around while being able to wear an actual woven fabric.
Pattern and fabric
For my jumper dress, I used BWOF 2-2008-112 which is a princess seam jumper with an empire bust and pocket flaps at the in-seam pockets. To incorporate the texture I was aiming for from the Miu Miu inspiration, I chose this pattern jacquard and more of the velvet from the turtleneck for the trim. A lot of the Miu Miu pieces incorporated velvet or satin in strong vertical design lines. The princess lines gave me the opportunity to use the same kind of vertical lines in my dress with the trim.
There are more velvet cover buttons on the pocket flaps and the button tabs.
I cut strips of the velvet and folded each in half lengthwise. Hand basting holds each piece of trim together. After making each piece of trim, more hand basting attaches each line of trim to the jacquard. The trim on the button tabs comes to mitres in the corners. I used a beading needle to tack down the trim to the body of the dress. As I was doing this, I tried to catch just the bottom layer of the velvet.
The hem is a blind hem I sewed on my machine.
I shortened the hem by 1.75″ for a better proportion. Just like with my sheath dress, there’s a series of small alterations I did to make the armhole smaller for my petite frame. I took out:
- 1/2″ dart I rotated out of the back armhole to make the armhole slightly smaller and also take out the back gaping.
- I took in the side seams 1″ at the bottom of the armhole. This is a dart effectively that tapers back to the seamline at the bottom of the empire waist.
- The front straps are shortened by 1″ and button tabs are shortened by 1.5″
Definitely this week was a challenge, but I’m so grateful to have made it to the finals, and I’m glad I was able to complete my goals for this week!