Almost as soon as I finished making the Nullarbor pattern, I knew I wanted to sew a special version. I have a background in couture and custom sewing so I thought it would be fun to drag those skills out of my brain-attic!
I knew I wanted a special, statement fabric and I found this beautiful silk on the Liberty of London website. It's a beautiful silk satin - light as air but also fully opaque.
For a special dress like this, I knew I wanted to line it. Typically, to line a garment, you would take the facings and cut a lining that would hang below the facing (seamed to the bottom of the facings), however I didn't want any kind of lump or bump under this silk, so I did a full lining - that is, I cut my lining pieces the same as the fashion fabric, deducting 1" at the hemline.
To stabilize the neckline, my original intent was to add some silk organza bias strips into the neckline seams, but then I saw a post from Julia Bobbin where she cut a facing from silk organza so I did that (a way more elegant solution). I cut these pieces on the bias and hand basted them (within the seam allowances) to my front and back pieces. Since the satin is so slippery and fluid, this partial interlining works very well to stabilize the edge. I found the satin had stretched already so I gently eased it to the stable interlining and gave it a good press to ensure it behaved. You'll notice I didn't actually use silk organza - I used some Thai silk that has a similar crisp hand to organza. Throughout this project I used a very fine handsewing needle and all purpose thread, beeswaxed to prevent tangles.
I then sewed the centre back and side seams and pressed them open. Note that I didn't use French seams here. Bias cut fabric doesn't fray (actually there was no need to pink the edges of my interlining-style facings) so the French seams would just add bulk where I didn't want it and the seams are concealed with my lining.
I then created my straps totally by hand. I decided I wanted them adjustable. I cut 1" strips of my silk interlining on the straight grain. I pressed one side of the satin over and inserted my interlining. I then folded the other side of the satin over the top. I folded the raw edge under and hand basted through all layers.
Using invisible stitch, I closed the straps up
I then threaded and assembled the straps as per my other blog post.
Sandwiching the straps between the satin and the lining, I hand basted and then sewed the neckline in one pass (right sides together). I then clipped the curves and corners and hand understitched the seam allowances to the lining using a prickstitch. Prickstitch is just like a regular hand backstitch except you take just a tiny backwards bite leaving just a "prick".
I gave my dress a good press and hung it overnight on a coathanger. The hanging allows bias cut garments to relax and stretch a little. In a perfect world, I would own a hem puffer and I would puff chalk to make my hem even, but I don't so I just popped the dress on to check it was level (enough) and that the lining didn't protrude. I turned the lining hem up twice and machine sewed it.
Then I sewed a hand rolled hem for the dress. I find whenever I do this, I have to get into the swing of it. This normally results in a bit of swearing early on and some unpicking because every fabric rolls slightly differently and you need to adjust how big your bites are. There are good tutorials on YouTube for this but here is a photo. You fold the edge over just a tiny bit (very scant 1/4") and take alternating, tiny bites of the folded part and the unfolded bit (you'll see the stitches you take on the unfolded part so ensure they are equidistant and tiny). You work in sections of a few inches and then snug up your thread.
The pulling up is pretty magical and results in this:
From the right side:
And that's it! I'm very pleased with how it turned out and can't wait to wear it outside my house!