Some while ago I went to a fabric sale in Petworth run by the Cotton Wool Store. I seem to remember I was trying to be restrained that day because I’d had a bit of a fabric spending spree a few days before but I couldn’t resist buying a couple of metres of this fabric with absolutely no clear idea of what I was going to make with it.
It is silk with a design which looks like it it’s been painted on with gold paint! The fabric is very stiff – imagine a sheet of thick paper that’s been left out in the rain and then dried in the sun! Possibly a bit of an exaggeration but it certainly doesn’t drape!
The fabric sat on the shelf until I decided to make a small zipped purse for a present, and then a second one. Why I decided to cut these out from different ends of the length of fabric I have no idea and it was an action I came to regret!
I was then in need of a party frock and having made a casual version of the Colette Laurel which I absolutely love I began to think this pattern might just work with this fabric. I stuck it in the washing machine on a cool wash and kept my fingers crossed. It came through pretty much unscathed. There are a couple of areas where the gold pattern is slightly faded but it may have been like that before the wash.
This time I went with Version 2 which is underlined. I decided this was essential to stop the fabric being scratchy against my skin. My intention had been to make the dress without buying anything new except a zip. The only lining I had in a sufficiently large piece was a silvery grey which wasn’t ideal but I decided to go with it. I cut everything out one evening and learned a salutary lesson about working in poor light. When I looked at the lining pieces the next morning there was a long tear in one of the back pieces which I’d not noticed before. In a way I’m glad because it forced me to buy some more lining in a dark red and the end result was so much better.
I cut the size 4 for this version of the dress not just because I wanted a more streamlined fit than my chambray version but also because I had no option because of the daft way I’d cut out the two zipped purse pieces previously! Even cutting the smaller size was a bit of a squeeze!
I’ve never underlined anything before but I was really pleased with how it turned out. The Colette instructions are excellent and the finish is lovely. Although the silk doesn’t fray at all I was concerned about the lining so I stitched all the seams edges together with a narrow zig zag to prevent fraying and also to try and smooth off the sharp edges of the main fabric.
I had some wide black bias binding which I initially used to finish the sleeve hem.
However, when I tried the dress on at this stage on the sleeves just looked out of balance with the rest of the dress. I’d been looking at lots of other Laurel’s online including Vintage Rock Chick’s whose tartan version can be seen in this post. Gill’s version has the 60s style gathered cuffs and I decided these would probably work better. I had just enough fabric, although I had to cut the cuffs in the opposite direction to the rest of the fabric. Off came the bias binding and on went the cuffs. These were so easy to do and were a definite improvement.
Next step was the concealed zip. I was worried that this would be tricky given that there were two layers of fabric to deal with, crispy silk and smooth lining, but it went in beautifully. I’m not keen on hooks and eyes so I always try to ensure that my zip comes right to the top.
No pattern matching – insufficient fabric and given the busy pattern I don’t think it’s too much of a problem.
Everything was going so well and I knew I had the Friday evening to finish it off. Luckily I decided to sew the neck binding on before I left for work because as I started sewing the machine just ground to a juddering halt! I took it apart, cleaned some fluff out and put it back together again. I repeated this step several times over the next half an hour to no avail, swore a lot and then took it to work to see if one of my colleagues, who is a very practical chap, might be able to fix it. No luck. I then rang the lovely Kay from Clothkits in Chichester to see if she might be able to hire me one of her machines over the weekend and she said ‘yes’. I dropped mine in to her for collection by the sewing machine doctor and took away one of the machines they use for their excellent classes. Thankfully the machines are exactly the same model as mine so no delay while I worked out how to operate it. Weirdly when I rang them today it seems my machine has made a miraculous recovery all by itself so I’m going to pick it up tomorrow!
The neck binding was sewn on as soon as I got home but as I was hand stitching the edge of the binding to the lining I realised that where the outside of the fabric was rubbing against my leg as I sewed it was leaving scuff marks on my tights! This did not bode well for an evening of standing around in a dress where the inside of the hem was going to shred my tights. Another last minute problem which was quickly solved …. I found a wide piece of ribbon long enough to cover the inside of the turned up hem. At this point it was 10.00 pm and there was going to be no time on Saturday for any sewing so I’m afraid I resorted to sewing the ribbon on with the machine instead of hand sewing it. Not ideal but by this time I just wanted it finished. The white stitching on the picture below is not the machine stitching! I think the ribbon came from some fancy packaging and I tend to save anything like this that might come in useful.
Traumas aside, I think this dress has turned out pretty well! I was worried that it would be difficult to sit down in and that the fabric might be uncomfortable but I was wrong. I love it and will definitely be wearing it again over the party season.
These photographs were actually taken post party. I am usually very camera shy but I was the other side of a few gin and tonics so somewhat less inhibited! I think the dress stood up pretty well and it only needed a very quick press before I hung it up to put it away.
This definitely won’t be the last Laurel I make. It is a great pattern!