She Wore Blue Velvet

The Pattern for this project

The Pattern for this project

For my next post, I’d like to present my velvet jacket!

This is my second non-cotton project, the first of which I’ll post later. But I just finished this one tonight, so I’m very excited about it and can’t wait to tell you.

Pattern:This was from McCall’s # 5006.
Rating: Loved IT!
Difficulty: It was very easy, and I’m pleased with the results.
Skill Level: Still a Beginner
Fabric: Blue velvet outside, and some sort of lilac crepe satin inside

I made view D, the cute little formal one toward the bottom of the pattern photo.

My plan was to create this jacket to stay warm during a winter formal event. My second cousin is getting married, and it was to be a Christmas wedding. The wedding has since been moved to the spring due to the bride and groom finding a house and moving, but since I’d already cut the pieces, I decided to go ahead with it anyway.

This was a big learning experience for me. All the sewing I did last year was with cottons, and I decided to jump off the cliff and try something else. It was only natural I’d choose velvet because I’ve always loved velvet for winter. I swear half my wardrobe was velvet when I was in my teens. I found some reasonably priced navy velvet and went for it. The lining I must attribute to divine intervention; I found it in my stash and have no memory of where it came from. Clearly it was a gift from the Almighty because I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before and it was the right yardage for what I needed at just the right time in just the right color.

I feel I should specify the reason I was afraid of non-cottons- they don’t behave the same way as cottons do. Cottons are easy to work with, being stable and not really fraying much. They can be pinned and not be damaged  and they aren’t slippery so they’re good for beginners because they mostly behave and take a fair amount of abuse and bounce back just fine. Non cottons are another thing entirely.

Velvet, I’ve discovered, is the cat of the fabric world. Oh sure, it’s gorgeous and soft and you love to pet it. While it won’t scratch you, (unless you forget where your pin was) it has a mind of its own. Like a feline unwilling to be cuddled, it will slip out of your hands easily. When you cut your pieces and sew it, it sheds, leaving little velvet fur piles on your machine and your cutting board. Not unlike my cats, who also leave little fur piles on my cutting board and on my velvet by shedding after sleeping on it. It is, however, good at disguising imperfections. Just like the cats when they shred your furniture and then look cute.

However, also like cats, it is well worth the effort and the joy outweighs any trouble it may have caused.

Here is what I’ve learned about velvet:
Follow the cutting directions to the letter. Velvet has a nap, which means the fuzzy parts lay a certain way (like your cat’s fur) and you don’t want to cut against it or it will look weird when you get the whole thing together. Mercifully, I DID NOT make that mistake.
When I tried to finish my seams the way I do with cottons, (by using a zigzag stitch along every edge before I actually pin anything together) the velvet frayed all to heck. This can be stopped, however. All non-cottons seem to do this, so the answer to the fraying is a french seam. I’m still getting used to french seams. The idea is this: take your fabric, and instead of sewing it right sides together, like usual, sew it wrong sides together so it looks like the seam is on the outside where everyone will see it. Then, trim your fabric really close to the stitches and turn the whole thing inside out, and stitch it again so that you’ve encased the fraying edges. The result is a neat little tube and no fraying. Cool,huh?
My french seams are a work in progress. I end up with some fabric sticking out of the finished seam that still needs trimmed off. But I’m getting better at it.

Fraying velvet

Fraying velvet

Velvets and silk types slip and slide while you work on them unless you pin them to death (about every three inches) and so you must also go slowly when stitching do you don’t shatter your needle on the stupid pins. You actually need special pins for the finer fabrics because regular pins can tear them and snag. Nothing worse than a huge run in your unfinished dress… You’ve got to get silk pins for the delicate surfaces. Woe unto you who pulls a seam out too roughly or too fast!! Delicate surfaces will snag.

Velvet seems more forgiving in that way, though, the snags get disguised by the pile. The pile is good at blurring seam lines, too, so if something isn’t completely straight, the fuzzy will cover it up somewhat. Once you get used to the new rules, it’s pretty easy to use. Like anything else, go slow when you’re learning and pay attention to what you’re doing every step of the way.

Construction: This garment requires a lining, and that was kind of new to me. When you do a lining, you sort of create the same garment twice. You do the outside and the inside separately, and then you attach them to become a whole.

Completed lining and my new carpet

Completed lining and my new carpet

The pattern wanted me to create a facing from the main fabric for the interior, which I didn’t do, because velvet is too bulky and you can’t use it that way. Plus, I wasn’t really sure how that would work since I had a lining already. There was also a section that was to go on the back of the neck as a facing,too, and I didn’t see the point of that, either, since my lining was super silky and comfortable, so I just didn’t do it. For those that don’t know, facing is kind of like a support beam for thinner fabrics. It reinforces the fabric at points that may be under stress, like button holes, which will stretch beyond recognition if they don’t have facing and become useless. Interfacing is a stiff fabric that is often used for the interior structures of a garment and make it stiffer, tougher, or thicker, depending what kind you use.

And then there were the cuffs. Topstitching showed up pretty obviously. When I started to sew the lining on the cuffs by using the machine, it was really obvious where the seam was and I just didn’t think it looked nice. Also, it wasn’t completely consistent in the spacing from the edge, so it sort of changed depth and it was really exaggerated by the pile. Ick. So, I pulled out the stitches really carefully and got out my needle and thread. I ended up hand stitching them in place carefully so it wouldn’t show my stitches and it looked way better. Definitely worth the time.

The finished garment

The finished garmet

I would definitely recommend this one to anybody who is looking for a cool cropped jacket and/or a little camisole. The jacket is actually called a bolero, and these nifty coverings pop up historically from time to time. It’s the great-granddaughter of the spencer, a garment worn by every Jane Austen heroine for warmth and/or modesty. It was a short jacket that buttoned up, often to the neck, and sometimes they had a ruff of muslin or lace at the throat worn with it. It was something you slipped on over those lovely high-waisted dresses when the weather got nippy.

Now, the hard part: I left off the button in the photo on the pattern. I got to thinking I liked it without, but I kind of miss it. Did I make the right call? Without it, I can wear it open. With it, I felt it should stay buttoned. Since I was wearing either a tank or a dress with a beautiful neckline under it, I decided ubuttoned was the way to go.

Practicing being elegant

Practicing being elegant

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