Last year, I was all in on a handmade holiday. I sewed up multiple garments as gifts, hand-stamped my cards, and even decorated my own wrapping paper & ribbons. It was delightful and satisfying, but it was a LOT. This year, I needed to scale back.
A crazy last couple months, plus a playing with some new crafts meant that all sewing fell by the wayside and I opted not to sew anything for Christmas, as gifts or otherwise. Sewing with a deadline can be motivating, but can also be super unpleasant and stressful, so I gracefully opted out.
Then on December 2nd, I opened my inbox to a freshly sent email from Blackbird fabrics. It was their monthly remnant sale. Usually, the sale gets ravaged rather quickly, but as luck would have it, it had only been launched 15 minutes ago. No harm in taking a peek at the full selection, eh?
I like to avoid cuts less than 1m, since it is so limiting to the patterns you can use. I found many fabrics I liked in large meterage; many knits for sweaters and tees and that’s when I saw it…1.2 meters of a stunning red stretch velvet.
I never pictured myself as someone who would ever be attracted to working with velvet. The notion of the fabric immediately conjures visions of the 80s prom and 90s redux skater dresses. Not that there is anything wrong with either of those things, but they are way outside the realm of my style.
And yet something about this one caught my attention. It was the perfect Christmas red. The way the colour was so rich, yet the light caught it and made it brilliant. This feeling was exemplified the moment I had it in my hands and could make it move. It felt like liquid light, I could move and bend it any way I wanted. My first vibes when I bought the fabric was to make a crop top to pair with my ever-growing skirt collection. I could almost see it, the pinnacle of festive dressing; red velvet top with gold sequin skirt.
However the moment I started to play with the fabric and sense its movement, it undoubtedly had to become something with a little more swish. It would have been an insult not to play up its unique qualities that few other fabrics had. I figured a skirt would fit the bill nicely.
It was hard to find a pattern using basic terms like ‘draped skirt sewing pattern’, especially since many sewing patterns aren’t named by their visual description. It’s either a number or a woman’s name and it became clear I would have to search manually. I started going through my favourite sites one at a time, scanning over the designs. I finally landed on the BurdaStyle website, which clearly had the library large enough that to likely have what I was looking for.
I bookmarked a few, but ultimately selected this pleated wrap skirt from 2014. It features a pleated front panel, pockets (which I eliminated to reduce bulk) and snap closures.
This was my first time using Burda patterns and while it wasn’t as tricky to navigate as some people have mentioned, I definitely missed some of the care and attention that comes along with working with an indie pattern. The instructions were pretty good to follow (with one exception in adding in the waistband) but I felt like I was missing something, like I was walking around only wearing one shoe. As such a visual person the lack of diagrams was so weird! Luckily, none of the steps were too complicated to figure out, many of the steps I have done before.
Those details aside, I wouldn’t hesitate to use a Burda pattern again if it was a design I couldn’t find anywhere else and didn’t include techniques I am unfamiliar with. It is a wonderful resource for pattern selection.
In terms of working with the fabric, I made sure to read many articles about handling velvet before getting started. I mostly absorbed the points about pins, marking on the back and using tailors tacks. I vaguely remembered the notes about nap, and before cutting, rotated it around to see if I could see a difference in the fabric depending on its orientation. I couldn’t see a noticable difference so I went along to cutting. What I fool I was for not using my sense of FEEL.
After cutting it out and assembling the first steps, I tossed it on to get a sense of the fit and that’s when my hand touched it. The itchy side. I NOW realized I cut the nap (velvet fuzzies) facing up, so as I ran my hand down the skirt it was rough and scratchy, whereas when I ran my hand up- silky smooth. D’OH. I also flipped it upside down and noticed the colour brighten right up. How I didn’t notice this before I have no idea.
Had to re-read every article to reassure myself it wasn’t ruined. While most people sew velvet with the nap facing down, “cutting with the nap facing up will give your fabric a darker, moodier appearance”. Sooooo that was totally what I was going for from the beginning and I am sticking to that story. In reality the skirt has so much movement, and the front pleating ends up on the bias, that it catches plenty of light regardless. But just a tip for future velvet sewing… just feel the darn thing.
Construction of the garment went smoothly otherwise. I didn’t notice too much slipping with this fabric and it was easy to manipulate. The only change I had to make was to the pattern detail that has the pleating fold over the waistband for a tucked in effect. It was a detail that drew me to the pattern and really set it apart. However, it was a tad naive to believe that I could use a pattern designed for thin-as-air crepe de chine in a velvet fabric. This fabric is definitely on the thinner side, but try as I might, the pleats were not going to fall over the band without just looking like a lumpy awkward bump. Instead I sandwiched the pleats inside the waistband like you would with any other basic skirt pattern, and I am super happy with the results.
The pattern recommended snap closures and I was happy to use them, especially as it gave me the chance to really perfect the fit at the waist, and I sewed in a second row to allow me to wear it comfortably with different tops (or after a large Christmas dinner).
All in all this was a quick and breezy make. I am glad the fates had it in for me to sew something this month – it was so relaxing and refreshing to come back to the craft after a break. It always is. I wonder if that’s why my sew-jo ebbs and flows so much. Absence makes the heart grow fonder?
I hope you all have an amazing holiday weekend, spending time with family and friends and getting into all the traditions that make this time of year so wonderful. As soon as everyone has opened their gifts I will be sure to post about the crafty goings-on that went into them 😉
Until then, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!