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Sep 15, 2011

Fabric Shopping With Alicia!

Readers, as you know, there's nothing I enjoy more than fabric shopping with fans.  I get to feel like a celebrity, boss people around, enjoy the thrill of the hunt without spending a dime, and, occasionally, get treated to lunch, as I did yesterday (preceded by the familiar drama-at-the-cash-register that goes No, let me.  No me!  No, I insist!, etc.  Finally, I succumbed, all the while wishing I'd gotten that brownie.).

Let me just clarify a few points about this.  I certainly never expect to get treated to lunch -- it's not a quid pro quo -- in fact I'm almost never treated to lunch, so when I am treated to lunch it's really a thrill.  I think that accepting others' generosity toward oneself is really a form of altruism, don't you? You're giving them a gift by letting them give to you.  Friends, I have so many gifts for you if you're ever passing through NYC!

Now, I know I've disappointed a few of you who have caught me on a day when I couldn't spare the time to meet, but this is rare. I'm usually up for anything and, just so you know, I prefer lunch on the early side -- definitely before 1 pm -- and I'll never take you anywhere major credit cards aren't accepted, though cash is, as they say, king.

Yesterday I got to spend a few hours in the Garment District with MPB reader Alicia, who hails from Chicago and is in town for a (very) long weekend.  What fun we had!

Alicia is your typical sewing blogger -- funny, urban-hipsterish in A-line skirt and canvas Converse low-tops, passionate about vintage style, and highly computer literate -- except for one thing: she doesn't have a blog.  I hope you will join with me in urging Alicia to get with the program while she still has the youthful energy.  Parenthetically, I loved Alicia's outfit, which she sewed herself out of coordinating vintage fabrics she purchased on eBay.  The blouse is the popular Colette Sencha pattern.  Very well done.

Speaking of youth, I hope I'm not violating a confidence when I share that Alicia was in something of a funk yesterday, having just celebrated a milestone birthday that takes her squarely out of her early _______'s (decade).  You can imagine the outpouring of empathy this inspired in me, who was already shaving when she was born.  Friends, if you're upset about a leaky kitchen faucet, don't complain to the person whose house was just washed away in a flood -- need I say more?  Fortunately my aural reaction was limited to a silent scream, though I think Alicia could tell what I was thinking when my eyebrows shot up to what's left of my hairline and my eyes narrowed to knife-like slits.  She won't be making that mistake again.

One more thing about Alicia, and actually this is something I wonder about many of you.  Say you were intending to sew a vintage Fifties shirtwaist pattern.  Something like this, for example:

On the back of the pattern envelope, the "suggested fabric types" are cottons and blends, calico, chambray, linen, shantung, and flannel.  Wise readers, would you decide, that's all well and good, but I want to make my dress out of polyfleece?  This is a hypothetical question and I am not suggesting that Alicia had any intention of making a Fifties shirtwaist out of polyfleece, but rather velvet -- whoops, another confidence violated.

I had hardly known this woman three minutes -- though I now count her among my closest friends -- than I was scolding her in public for ignoring not only the suggested fabric types, but also the design suggestions on the front of the pattern envelope.

Now, I count myself as a true anti-authoritarian, but when it comes to pattern envelopes, I am obedient-bordering-on-goose-stepping-brownshirt.  I simply don't question the pattern company's authority and assume that if the envelope shows a dress in a polished cotton floral print, by jiminy, you'd better make that dress in something similar if not identical.  Am I unusual this way?

Needless to say, when Alicia showed me the photo of the vintage pattern in question on her iPhone, I immediately dragged her out of the velvet section ASAP; the poor thing was stunned and nearly in tears.  Seriously, though: who wears velvet these days other than Goths and Gothic Lolitas?  (And yet fabric stores are full of the stuff.)   So Phantom of the Opera.

After lunch, we made a beeline for Metro Textiles, where I used subliminal mind-control techniques to steer Alicia to a gorgeous blue chambray at a very reasonable $5/yd.  Success!  I tried to get her to pair this with a sunny orange gingham, but she resisted, opting instead for a plaid Pendleton wool.  At least it wasn't velvet.

Here is Alicia at Metro.  Please, step away from the knit prints with your hands up.

I would hate readers to think that I get some kind of kickback for bringing visitors to Metro Textiles.  Just the opposite is true; Kashi charges me more, which is certainly a strange way of doing business but hasn't stopped me from buying.  I just don't think he likes me very much.  Alicia and I also hit H&M, the quintessential packed-to-the-gills fabric dive with no air-conditioning (it was 85 degrees yesterday), and had our delightful lunch at Pret A Manger, my favorite lunch chain of the moment.  I fully endorse both.

Returning home quite spent, I managed to successfully hem my BurdaStyle sew-along dress, cutting 2"-wide bias strips of that treacly coordinating paisley fabric (the one I'd originally used for the skirt underlay) which I then used as a facing.

The great thing about these bias facings is that they don't pucker the way a normal 2-3" turned-up edge would (if you just turn up the edge, the edge is wider than the point you're stitching it to, hence the puckering or buckling, or whatever it's called) which meant I could use a machine blind hem stitch to finish the nearly five yards-wide hem.  I usually stitch hems by hand but I wasn't feeling it last night.

I probably didn't have to attach rayon seam binding to the inner edge -- the bias wasn't going to fray -- but I did it anyway.  Was this one step too many, in your opinion, or does the bias need some kind of edge finish?

Anyway, Leah comes over later today for a final fitting, and I hope to be able to wrap things up and get on with my life.

In closing, a few quick questions:

1) Do you think fabric suggestions on pattern envelopes are just that -- suggestions -- and should be taken with a grain of salt? 

2) Do you ever sew with -- or wear -- velvet, and if so, when?

3) Does your vintage sewing machine pedal -- the kind with the little foot button -- ever have a tendency to stick?  The one I'm using with the Singer 201 Rain gave me does, and it's a little unnerving to sew with a semi-stuck pedal -- like driving on cruise control in city traffic -- though it does unstick pretty easily.  Should I open the pedal and clean it?  Any ideas?

Thanks for the guidance, and Happy Thursday, everybody!


  1. Yay! You posted early enough for me to catch it before I leave. (I hope I don't need to see a doctor!)

    Pattern envelope fabric suggestions are just that to me. In fact, I hardly ever look at them. I usually just kind of just know what will work and what won't.

    I have worn velvet (green, my fav), but it's been many years now. I still have that dress - my mom made it for me. Maybe I'll fit into it again soon.

    Pedal - get one of the clamshell replacements. I hate those button foot pedals, esp. for sewing barefoot. I bet Rain has one or ten laying around.

  2. I very rarely pay attention to anything on the pattern except the shape and suggested fabric types. They don't get to suggest that I use a floral or stripes.

    I love velveteen slacks, skirts and jumpers in the winter and have a silk velvet jacket for wearing to the theatre.

    Definitely take the pedal apart and clean it. And if that doesn't do it, replace the thing.

  3. Alicia please start a blog ASAP i'd happily read it!

    Peter, my very favourite dress as a child in the mid 70s (about 10 years old) was a black velvet knee length, long sleeved dress with teeny sprays of flowers on it. I was devastated when i grew out of it. Although it was a Winter dress, i wore that dream dress as far into Spring and Summer as i could manage without passing out from heat stroke. It got passed down to my cousin, which made me angry at mum; why oh why she gave my favourite dress to my least liked cousin, i'll never know!!! I know i should never have been so stingy, but that disliked cousin was a spoiled rotten brat, who neither loved the dress nor appreciated it :((((

  4. 1) suggestions are just that. don't limit your own creativity!

    2) i have not; velvet's way out of my budget. i had a stretch-velvet shirt in college but then people do plenty of crazy things in college... that said, i think it's divine on little girls at dress-up events or on lovely ladies heading to, say, the opera.

    3) my pedal was sticking for a while so i dropped a couple drops of penetrating oil down the side of the button & now it works fine.

    4) i love that you used the other fabric for a bias facing on the skirt, but not sure why you attached a seam binding. I would have thought you'd turn over the edge of the bias 1/8" & fell stitch the hem. just mho.

  5. I ALWAYS follow the suggested fabrics, but rarely the print/stripe/solid art work from the cover. I have a tendency to pick patterns that I think would be lovely in cotton only to find they are for knit only : (

    I've had 2 velvet dresses in my life. Both for weddings. Both blue. Enough said.

    Try to clean the pedal. If that doesn't work replace it.

  6. Oh Peter, I've worn velvet, 2 times to be exact: New Year's Eve 1992 (a very Lacroix black velvet mini dress)and 2001 (stretch velvet pants!) - fashion mistakes, I has them.
    Fabric suggestions are that, suggestions (so are sewing instructions or traffic signs, for that matter). Cheers!

  7. Envelope suggestions are just suggestions. If she really really wanted that dress in velvet, she should have it. My DH is more like you - he cannot understand why I even use a different color, let alone fabric type.

    And I have sewn with velvet twice: once in the 1980s I made a velvet vest to go with a wool skirt suit; about 6 years ago I made a velvet evening gown and matching coat for a winter gala party. I love velvet, but it's really a special occasion fabric for me.

  8. PS I don't know about the sticky pedal, but I like to use hem tape or lace tape on dress or skirt hems.

  9. Thinking of velvet, I wouldn't mind a velvet waistcoat this winter, or maybe some louche, slouchy velvet trousers.

  10. Fabric suggestions are just suggestions. They do give you an idea if the fabric should be drapey or have body, which are suggestions that *should* be followed, but otherwise, if I wanted to slavishly follow suggestions, I'd buy RTW. I mean what if she wanted to make that dress in a cotton print of skulls and flames (which I would support)? Isn't that why we sew, so that we can make all the skulls-and-flames dresses we want?

    I love velvet. I have a wonderful long brown velvet skirt I often wear around the holidays, and a few velvet tops, and some simple velvet evening dresses...I was just thinking of making a velvet opera cloak, despite the fact that I have been to the opera once and I rarely have especially dressy occasions to attend.

    I like the seam binding--just as a nice finished-looking touch.

    And I pink-puffy-heart love the Sencha that Alicia made--the fabric, the's always nicer to see a pattern on an actual body, not just a dress form.

  11. I try to use the pattern suggestion fabrics all of the time! I like to take risks, but not drive myself crazy! As far as velvet goes, I used to have a blazer in velvet once upon a time, i might make one of those come to think of it. Velvet, according to some fashion magazines is actually on trend for fall, but definitely with the right silhouette.

  12. I've been known to ignore fabric suggestions, but still try to match the type of fabric to the style of the garment. Velvet is too formal for a shirtdress, IMHO. Plus, the pattern shows a poufy skirt, and velvet is just too heavy for that--the gathered waist seam is going to be a nightmare (a la the time I tried to make a jumpsuit out of corduroy ... epic fail). The only velvet garments I now own are a pair of black stretch pants (for winter concert events) and a full-length dress in a deep burgundy (Lands' End clearance about 10 years ago) that's great at the holidays.

  13. Lately I'm more attracted to projects with fabrics I love sewing, such as cotton, linen, wool, and silk. Velvet--not so much. I once made a velveteen bolero and wore it ONCE. I consider that a failure. And it was such a PITA to sew.

    As far as suggested fabrics, I think they're much like suggested dosages on over the counter medications. Consider weight and desired outcome; then decide accordingly. :)

  14. Hi Peter,
    I agree with most here that fabric suggestions are just that suggestions, that should not interfere with creative genuis!

    I love the rich look of velvet with lace on little girl dresses.

    Your button foot pedal should not stick at all. Try taking it apart and cleaning it, if that doesn't fix it, replace it.

  15. I made a quilt of silk shirt pieces and then backed it with machine washable velvet - and it is one of the nicest pieces I have made. Too bad machine washable velvet is hard to find.

  16. I try and follow the guidelines, but really, I think sometimes they've left stuff out because they ran out of room! I mean, there is no way you can list every single suitable fabric AND if you are touting it as a summer dress pattern, you're not going to list velvet, even though it might sew up just fine. Of course, I tend to get carried away by the colors they use on the pattern illustration...
    Also, velvet is good in small doses, I think, or as outerwear. Like, say, I would love to make a sort of shabby looking seafoam velvet blazer, very Tahari and all.

  17. 1) I always 'consider' the fabric suggestions on pattern envelopes but decide for myself in the end as I have been sewing long enough to know what I can get away with. Plus when using vintage patterns there are many 'fabric type' terms that are now hard to come by.
    I do laugh though when the pattern states 'not to be used with obvious diagonals etc.' and the illustration on the front is of a girl in a plaid dress!

    2) I do wear velvet occasionally... but in the form of a teal 1950s opera coat (with a medium pile) - it's swings when I walk, it's long and luscious and has the most beautiful over-sized cuffs!
    The only other velvet I wear is on very small doses such a velvet collar or bag...

    3) I would suggest seeing if the pedal is squared up as it should be - if it sticks it means that either something is out of kilter , something is in the way or it needs lubrication. I like to use a little bit of WD40 every now and then (although I'm not sure if it's called the same thing in the US).

  18. I look at the fabric suggestions so that I have an idea of what type of weight and drape will work with the pattern. Then I go find a fabric I like with that type of weight or drape. I don't really care that much for using the 'suggested' fabric. Velvet would be far too heavy for that pattern, especially with the amount of fabric gathered into that waistline. I would have to adapt the pattern and remove some of the yardage if I was to do that.

    I've sewn velvet, and worn velvet. I do not enjoy sewing it, that's for sure. But sometimes it's worth the effort. It made a beautiful renaissance gown! The hobbit vest I made for a friend was wonderful too - just the right amount of velvet, with a thick taffeta back and lining. Very victorian.

  19. hahahaha i actually bought a velvet dress at the thrift store in the very early days of spring... i've been waiting for the right season to wear it! september is too early. anyway, it's a hunter green crushed velvet mini-dress, long sleeves & over a dozen (velvet-covered)buttons down the front - super duper 90s, it kind of looks like an ice-skater's costume.

    as far as sewing velvet, NO. i did it once and that was a mistake- velvet everywhere, for months! plus, velvet (well, the good kind) is really really expensive. but it is luxurious & i'm ok with looking like a goth or a washed up 90s reject every now & again :)

  20. Oh I just get green every time someone posts fabric shopping in NYC pictures. I've never even been to the city and the garment district sounds like a dream and makes me feel like a country mouse.

  21. A really funny and entertaining post today! I wish I once could join one of your fabric shopping tours in the NYC garment district.
    I barely use sewing patterns because I don't like to be so much pre-determined by other people's ideas. So I certainly would ignore the fabric suggestions completely!
    I love velvet - it is a really nice fabric. Here in Germany we can get a stretch version called Nikki - no idea, how it is called in the US. I once made an orange polo shirt for the gym out of it - it is a fun and pleasure to wear.


  22. Peter, I do the same thing and follow the fabric guidelines on the patterns and in some cases, get as close to the fabric used on the pattern envelope. I recently did this very thing with a Vogue pattern that I recently finished.

    However, the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the pattern for the shirtwaist was to sew it in a duponi silk. Kind of like the dress Diane Lane wears at the wedding at the end of Under the Tuscan Sun. The matching coat? HELLO!!!!! I loved that outfit!!

    No, I've never worked with velvet although I had a black velvet sheath dress with princess seams when I was a young 20 something that I absolutely loved.

  23. The Pendleton wool paired with the chambray is perfect for a fall shirt dress! I agree that the velvet would have been all wrong for that pattern.

    Alicia ~ start a blog; it's great fun!

    As for velvet in general, I love it in the right application. Consider a mod 60's or 70's a line style, perhaps with a bell sleeve. A really simple cut will let the fabric take center stage.

    Regarding fabric suggestions on the pattern envelope, I consider the qualities of the suggestions such as drape, and if I choose a fabric that isn't listed, I will be sure that it behaves similarly to the suggestions. I do take the 'not suitable for' notes seriously.

  24. Velvet - I was about to say "ick! not since childhood", but then remembered that I've got a great fitted, nipped waist jacket that has a great modern silhouette and details and is a midnight blue velvet. So, um, yeah. I guess it depends on the application.

    As for pattern suggestions, you were actually an accomplice in one of my pattern suggestion violations. A dress pattern called for silk tweed, crepe or gab - you and someone else both suggested seersucker, and that is what I went with. The results were perfect -

  25. (How embarrassing: I violated my own policy.)

  26. love velvet, but really only work with stretch velvet I love making gloves. Peter you should run fabric and frolic tours in NYC for groups. I know I would sign up, will be there in Oct.

  27. I needed this hilarious post today, because I'm in a huge grump. Thank you. And I'm jealous that it was 85 degrees there, b/c I think we had FROST last night.

    My son lives in Brooklyn, so next time I visit him without my husband, I'm looking you up to go fabric shopping. And I will absolutely spring for lunch--it's the least I can do when you'll be showing me how to actually navigate the garment district! (I found Mood and M&J Trimming, which are leagues beyond the crap available in Iowa, but I'm ready to branch out into the non-tourist stores.)

  28. I am one of those who treats suggested fabrics fairly lightly. The trick, I think, is being aware of the properties of your fabric of choice, and how that will affect the look of the final garment.

    I've sewn with velvet a tiny bit, and it made me want to abandon sewing forever (and that was just a table-runner-type-thing), weeping at my own incompetence. Although the cotton velvet drapes I made were quite painless, so maybe it depends on the velvet. Confession: I have a piece of navy stretch-velvet in my stash that I've been too chicken to use so far.

    My featherweight has the little pedal-button and it doesn't stick. My problem is the belt, which tends to slip sometimes. I actually kind of like the little pedal-button... I can push it with my big toe. Sticking would be bad,though...

  29. Prom dresses or fancy dress-up dresses for little girls in velvet, perhaps. Or even just church dresses. I have a lovely brown velvet dress that I wear to church in winter. It's pretty and nice and warm--I got it on sale four or five years ago. But it's just too expensive for me to sew with. Funny how I don't balk at $8/yard cotton and cheer at $9/yard wool melton but refuse to buy $25/yard velvet! (course, I use coupons when I can so I don't pay *that* much, shop on sales, etc)

    I do take them as suggestions, actually. But if it says stretch, I'll use stretch. I've made dresses out of corduroy where corduroy wasn't on the envelope, for example.

    I don' like the look of raw edges. So even if it's not going to fray, I finish them anyway because it looks better. Perhaps it's compulsive, but I think it's more professional-looking.

    As for your sticky pedel, I'd unplug it, and then put a few drops of sewing machine oil down it...

  30. It's mother used to not only copy the fabric on the pattern, but the actual fabric shown, or as close as she could get to it. While I have been known to use whatever fabric suits my fancy, including making a Regency gown pattern in thick pajama fabric. Yes, these kind of decisions involve risks, but isn't that half the fun?

  31. Pattern suggestions used to be the area where I tripped up most -- if I could imagine it, I would sew it, often with disastrous results. However, as you get more experience, you can know from the shape of the garment and the types of fabric listed whether or not something would work.

    If a garment has a simple shape and is doable in heavier weight fabrics (twill, denim) then it's often just fine in velvet provided that topstitching isn't required. I want a velvet skirt for winter, but it has to be washable so I'm kicking around the idea of velveteen or crushed velvet. Or both. LOOOOOVE velvet!

  32. I adore velvet, but I don't think I could wear it. Ever since I lost that pricey black velvet Express, you know, the cat hair.

    I only recently learned to follow pattern suggestions, but haven't sewn with a pattern since that revelation...chances are I'll forget my epiphany before I do so once more. For instance, the vintage pattern I'm making a toile for right now suggests cottons and blends, silks and blends. Even velveteen and lightweight wool! And it has a soft-pleated waist to rival the one you've shown. But what have I bought to make it out of? Taffeta. I couldn't resist the rich peacock blue plaid! Even if it will make the dress nearly unwearable to anything but a quirky wedding.

    Peter, I had to be "that girl"...and I'm hoping I'm just looking at it funny...but I think you may be using the machine blind stitch incorrectly. Check out this video (you can skip to 1:15ish): and tell me I'm wrong. :)

  33. do they still make velvet? There have been so many fabrics disappearing from fabric store shelves that I would imagine vintage sewing envelope suggestions might be a little out of sync with the times.

  34. I follow suggested types of fabrics, but if it's too boring, or if I know I can get away with another type of fabric, I'll go for it. Also as soon as pattern instructions get too confusing, I'll ignore them, and just go by pattern shapes and common sense.

    I've sewn with non-stretch and stretch velvet, and yes I'd wear velvet, my item is a black velvet nipped-in-waist blazer, it can be dressed up or down.

    yes, I've had a pedal that stuck, it's annoying, best to clean it.

  35. Peter,

    Why don't you use the pedal of one of your other machine, like the Featherweight, for example?

    I love velvet, but I think that not everyone can use it... it makes one's body figure fatter that it really is.

  36. Peter, you crack me up! Three comments:

    1. You were right to talk me out of velvet(een) for that dress. But I'm still envisioning a cozy winter dress in a delicious fuzzy velvet of some kind! Maybe it's the fond childhood memories, but I adore a nice velvet and someday want to make a rust-colored tailored jacket. Or pants! Or both! (Yeah, I said it.)

    2. It's not that I was against the gingham, but I feel every person has to make a choice in life. You can either wear gingham or you can reference Laura Ingalls Wilder on a regular basis, but not both. My path was chosen long ago.

    3. Since I don't have a blog of my own, I'll have to say here that Peter is awesome to hang out with. If you're coming to NYC, put that on your to-do list right under The Book of Mormon (which you won't get tickets for anyway, so just go ahead and move Peter's name to the top).


  37. That's sweet, Alicia (Some Girl). Your check is in the mail!

    Andrea: brilliant! A perfect solution! It never occurred to me they might use the same foot.

  38. I’ve always considered fabric suggestions to be just suggestions. I would use them only to get a sense of lightweight vs. heavy fabrics, or whether I should be using something that stretches. That’s a key one. Years ago I used a non-stretch fabric with stretch-fabric pattern – ‘cause ya know, I was young and full of myself and how dare they tell me what to do? Won’t be doing that again.

    I do have a velvet jacket and skirt in a simple classic style that I love to wear for the holidays. However, unless the textile manufacturers have come up with some super modern easy to sew velvet, sewing with velvet is another thing I probably won’t be doing again. Ah, youth. I was once as fearless as Alicia! (Alicia, if you are reading this I love your blouse!)

    Some 3-in-One lubricating oil should take care of the sticking pedal.

  39. V. funny, Peter. If/when I ever make it back to NYC, I'm going to give you so much advance warning that you won't be able to avoid me.

    Velvet dress: 1970, winter band concert, formal long dress. (The guys wore tuxes, can you imagine? We looked fabulous!) It was a deep sapphire blue with silver braid trim around the neck and empire waist. Such a beautiful dress. A Simplicity pattern, as I remember. I would consider sewing velvet again, though I'd probably spring for one of Bernina's fancy feet, and I'd use a pattern with simple lines (like that dress, now that I think about it).

    As for pattern recommendations, I generally follow their advice. Within reason, of course...

  40. In the 90s I had a forest-green crushed stretch-velvet dress that I wore to a dance. Nice!

    I'm actually thinking about making a navy stretch-velvet T-shirt this season.

  41. Hi Peter,

    WRT question #1 -- the weight and hand of a fabric needs to be matched to the design (as I have learned more than once to my sorrow). MHO, the item one is making is one's own -- do anything you want. Making a shirtwaist out of velvet might not produce the effect one wants, unless it is a very light weight velvet.

    Question #2 -- I could see myself in a nice pair of black velvet pants at a party, but the nap tends to wear off, so velvet clothing doesn't last for as many wearings as other garments.

    Question #3 -- no, so far as I know, the pedal doesn't stick on my featherweight, but it would make me pretty crazy if it did.


  42. Hi Peter... I've been reading a long time, but this is my first comment. It was time.
    Question #1 definitely only suggestions and not always good ones.
    Question #2 sew often wear rarely.
    Question #3 I've not had the exact same problem but I have had pedals stick or get stuck under a furniture edge... and it can be more than an annoyance. I know someone who sewed through their finger and even though she took her foot off the pedal immediately the machine kept going! Just saying.
    To expain further... I'm a costumer by profession so a pattern is very much a starting point for me, both in my work and personally. I will change shapes and edges and trims to suit my needs. And I never worry about what they used or recommend for fabrics. I usually know what will give me the result I want.
    And the above exlains why the velvet as well. There's nothing like velvet for stage costumes!

  43. I have an aversion to velvet that runs deep. If I touch it I shudder much in the same way I wince from touching fake fur. It's the dry, crispy nails on chalkboard kind of texture.

    When it comes to pattern recommendations for fabric I think I break the rules as much as I follow them. But I do keep in mind the "basics" of textiles and what the pattern writers were getting at.

  44. Alicia dear, listen to your uncle Peter. Velvet was never meant to be gathered tightly in a million puckers around the waist.


    I wore velvet - preferably tie-dyed (by self, of course). The last time I remember wearing it was at a Stones concert - an over the top long dress, velvet bodice, brocade skirt, lots of embellishment. I would have looked good with Mick.

    You've already received good advice about the foot pedal. It shouldn't stick - switch it out with another one, clean it (didn't Rain already do that? What kind of a gift-giver IS he???) or replace it with an electronic one from some place like sew-classic. The originals were really designed to be best used at 2 speeds: Off & Fast. In between is not healthy for the electronics. It's much MUCH nicer to use a pedal that is designed to go at variable speeds. Worth the investment!

    Oh yeah - pattern fabric suggestions = suggestions. Worth paying attention to, but once you know your fabric & your abilities, toss the suggestions out the window! (But not too far....)

  45. Oh good! Man I was having a hard time picturing that. I think because the way I picture hem tape (from using it with a real blind hemmer), it's edge-stitched on to the hem, rather than down the middle, and then the blind hem stitch would only go through the hem tape. Can't wait to see the finished product! I'm not a huge fan of brocade--or cornflower blue, for that matter--but this dress has given me a new appreciation of both.

  46. Whoa, Peter, you have something against us goths? I'm wearing a plum-colored velvet jacket to work today (look for it on my blog after 7pm tonight - ). Btw, this jacket & 99% of my velvet garments are from mainstream brands bought at everyday stores like Macy's, not some special goth boutique. Plenty of non-goths must wear velvet bec. designers are making clothes for them. Fall & winter, I always see velvet jackets, skirts, & dresses at dept. stores, & no, not formalwear.

    Velvet would make a charming shirtdress. Just pay attention to the nap when cutting out the pieces (buy a little extra yardage, in case), & use a walking foot to sew it. Would have been a great project.

  47. (1) I really take envelope suggestions as suggestions. I usually don't look too much at the cover art, but instead at the line drawings when I think about the patterns I choose. I generally look at the fabric suggestions, but the take-away message to me is usually stretchy vs non-stretch and lightweight vs. heavyweight. For example, the next (coat) project I want to work on suggested leather-like fabrics, but I will be using a heavy wool. Of course, usually I have some idea of what I want to make, or a fabric I want to use, then look for a pattern that will help me create it. Although I do have a few patterns that are looking for fabric at the moment...

    (2) As for velvet, I think it can be quite stunning if used appropriately. I have used non-stretch velvet for costume pieces. I also use stretch velvet often for skating costumes. I love the look of velvet skating dresses, but I am rather particular about the quality of velvet I will use. If it rolls (like that nasty crushed/panne stuff) I won't touch it. Velvet can be a bit fussy to sew - it behaves much better with a walking foot. I think that velvet does look better for sleek close fitting garments or extravagant gowns and capes and costume pieces. I do not think velvet would have worked well with the shirtdress - the button area would have been a nightmare. Much better to use zippers if at all possible. And the skirt would have been much too heavy.

    Looking forward to the finished blue dress!

  48. I hope you take this in the spirit in which it is offered. You are a Bad Person, and I completely love you for it. You say all the inappropriate things aloud that most of us (ok, maybe just me) are thinking. *Wish I had gotten a brownie*... Man you are killing me. The other day my brother told me he was using a Jedi Mind Trick to get my mother to do something, and you transported me there and made me truly laugh out loud. (Usually I just smirk.) Have a loverly day, and thanks for being you.

  49. I made a plum silk velvet jacket to wear with a silk dupioni dress to my HS reunion last year. The fabric is so yummy! I also have some cotton velvet and stretch velvet in my stash waiting for the right project.

    I sometimes follow envelope suggestions, but I like to sew with knits and stable knits can sub for many non-stretch textiles quite nicely.

  50. I almost bought some funky-patterned velvet for a skirt today but then found an even funkier pattern on a piece of upholstery fabric to use instead. I don't think I would use velvet for a dress tho'. Much too heavy.

  51. I don't think it's so much the type of fabric, as much as it is the weight of the suggested fabric.

    So I tend to always follow that because I wouldn't used a French Silk on a suit, or a sheer satin on overalls.

  52. oh velvet. as a highschooler in the early to mid 90s, i lived in then-vintage velvet blazers. and i remember some friends had crushed velvet concert dresses (classical musicians). but as for wearing it now... never say never...?

    as for pattern suggestions, i do try to follow them, but my goodness, it seems it's so hard here (vancouver) to find anything apart from polyester satins and quilting cottons. and silk dupioni. Not sure why that stuff is *everywhere*.

  53. Pattern envelopes - I love them, they are so beautiful (especially the 1950s ones!). Sometimes I follow their suggestions to the letter - like this one that I just finished And other times I do whatever I want.

    Oh, and as for the suggested fabrics, I don't even read that section of the pattern envelope. Clearly I have no idea what I'm doing :)

    And I am very jealous of you living in New York with all your fabric stores. I live in rural Australia and only have one fabric shop within cooee of my house and it doesn't have much that is very inspiring for me. This forces me to buy fabric online, which comes with its own issues... I'm sure you can imagine.

    Maybe one day if I make it to New York you can take me shopping. I will buy you lunch AND a brownie :)


  54. Wish I had time to read all these great comments! I agree, that shirtwaist dress pattern would be a nightmare in velvet, with all those gathers at the waist, unless she found a beautiful silk velvet and that would be very pricey!
    I made a gorgeous black velvet cocktail dress in the 60's. It was a Vogue designer pattern and came out ever so sexy. Usually don't work with velvet any more.
    The fabric suggestions on the pattern envelopes are just that, suggestions. But they really tell you how the fabric required should "behave" if you want the finished garment to look like it does on the pattern envelope. One must learn the rules, so that one can break them successfully.

  55. the fabric suggestions just shows the obvious choices of fabric I think, the list on the envelope would otherwise be very long.

    I just ordered some black silk velvet...

  56. Velvet: I have a black heavy velvet swing coat (aka 'the tent') held closed with a single outsized braided button. I bought it at some fleamarket in NY about 20 years ago) and think it may have been made from furnishing fabric, but I don't care. It carries oodles of '50s glamour and is incredibly warm too. For similar, see here:

  57. The last thing that I sewed in velvet was a short dress for a Christmas dance for my best friend in high school, circa 1970. It was such a PITA that I have never attempted velvet again and never will.

  58. I've been sewing over 50 years and still read the 'Suggested Fabrics' on every envelope. I consider them because they are SUGGESTIONS, and I wouldn't arbitrarily veer far off course until I felt I had a good foundation of textile knowledge and sewing experience. Rule #1: Know you are asking for trouble when you switch from using the suggested knit fabric to a woven fabric (or vice versa). For this substitution the sewist must put to use some additional sewing knowledge for it to work out well.

    If my friend had a yearning to create a velvet shirtwaist dress, I would get her to consider using a pinwale or no-wale corduroy instead. The corduroy could not be thick and heavy like an upholstery fabric, but should be the weight you would use for infant or toddler pants or overalls. There are other options, too. What if you helped her consider part of having only part of the dress be velvet? There are a lot of new fabrics she could consider. What about the lightweight velvet burnouts or a taffeta bodice with a velvet-bordered burnout skirt? In my opinion, all fabric combinations are possible...if you understand the characteristics of the fabric in combination with the style of the garment.


  59. I think the suggestions are just that, suggestions except for when it says that plaid won't work- I have found out the hard way that that is accurate
    Sarah C


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