Last month I developed a slight obsession with velvet. I was seeing it everywhere in RTW for the holiday season and then Sara went and made this gorgeous dress. I not only wanted some velvet in my closet, I of course had to DIY it. Shortly after, I visited the Fabric Store in Los Angeles and found some dreamy silk velvet. It's so, so soft and the way it catches the light is just to-die-for. I already had one holiday party outfit (Nita Wrap Skirt in sequins and a navy Ogden Cami) but decided I could do with a Christmas dress as well. Usually, I spend most of Christmas Day in my pajamas before switching to leggings with a dress on top and slippers on my feet. Total comfort and very little glam. This year, I was still comfy and I definitely rocked some slippers but I did it in velvet. I think Santa would approve.
For the pattern, I selected the Catarina Dress by Seamwork magazine. It features lingerie style straps, side bust darts and a gathered skirt. This pattern is from one of their summer issues and as I’m always slightly behind the times, winter is the perfect time to try it out. haha! If you haven’t heard of Seamwork Magazine before, it’s a free monthly sewing magazine brought to us by the fabulous team at Colette Patterns. When you subscribe you get two free patterns every month. A new issue is released on the first of every month and it’s truly something to look forward to.
If you haven’t read Seamwork yet, I highly recommend giving it a look-see. As I mentioned, it's a monthly sewing magazine with tons of inspirational articles and two new quick-sew patterns every month. The articles are free to read but as a subscriber (just $6 a month), you get monthly credits to download patterns that you can save or spend as you like. If you use this link to subscribe, you can get half off the first month of your subscription (and I'll get a little bonus from them too). The great thing about signing up now is that there are lots of patterns in the library to choose from.
My measurements are 38/28/39 which puts me in sizes 10/6/8 with my bust 1/2 inch smaller than size 10. This is really common and if you’re new to sewing, nothing to fret about. Everyone is shaped so differently, it’s nearly impossible to find a size chart that exactly matches your body. For this pattern, I cut a size 10 for bodice, subtracted 1/2 in from the side seams and added 1 inch to the length (I’m 5’11”). For the skirt, I cut a size 6. As the skirt is gathered, I knew my hips would fit just fine and since my fabric was pretty narrow, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit a larger skirt. The size 6 was perfect for me. The bust however took a little fitting.
Since I had never made this pattern before, I wanted to test out the fit of the bodice in particular. Instead of traditional muslin fabric, I used lining fabric to test the bodice. It’s a way to save a little time because if the fitting adjustments are minimal then you can use that lining for the dress. Unfortunately this time, I had to do a not so simple adjustment to the bust. When I tried on my muslin, there was extra fabric in the armscye above the bust. I pinched it out to make a little dart and marked it on the fabric. I then used this method to move that excess to the side dart. I believe Colette drafts for a C-cup and I’m a D-cup so I believe that’s why I had to make this adjustment.
In retrospect I could have reused the back of my muslin but I was out of navy fabric so I cut new bodice lining pieces from black fabric. I basted it up and tried it on. The fit was perfect and I was able to proceed with the velvet. Truly, the fit at the armscye couldn’t be better. The photo above shows the pattern with the dart adjustment and the newly traced version with the armscye line smoothed out.
As luck would have it, Seamwork posted an article full of great tips on how to handle sewing with velvet right after I bought this fabric. I also consulted this fantastic post from By Hand London. Velvet is tricky to handle because when you place it right sides together, the threads in the nap of the velvet shift everything around. I cut all my pieces in one single layer and hand basted all the seams. Even with the hand basting, I still had a tough time, especially around the top of the bodice. After finishing, I read a tip on Threads that you can use temporary spray adhesive instead of hand basting. I think this might have worked better but I do worry that the adhesive could damage the pile of the velvet.
The tubes for the straps and waist tie were surprisingly easy to turn. Any sewist knows that turning a tiny tube of fabric can be a pain in the a** but turning these was like butter. By the way, I did not hand baste the ties. That just seemed excessive. It was challenging to get the straps through the sliders for the straps because the pile of the fabric made them really thick. After struggling for a bit, I threaded a needle and did a few overcast stitches to flatten the pile at the end of the strap and pushed it through the slider. I had some metal rings and sliders in my stash that I bought in the LA fashion district earlier this year. I love how the metal looks with the velvet.
The skirt is gathered and sewn to the waist of the bodice then clear elastic is stitched onto the seam allowance. I had never had much luck using clear elastic before but decided to give it a go as it is thinner than regular braided elastic. The pattern instructs to cut the elastic 2 inches smaller than your waist measurement but that felt tight to me so I just did one inch smaller. At first I though maybe I should have done it tighter but after eating Christmas dinner I was glad for a little extra ease.
I really enjoyed wearing this dress and hope to wear it again soon. Full confession, I actually haven't hemmed it yet. I only serged the bottom! I just got too lazy at the end. So, I still need to decide how short the skirt should go. I suspect I'll like it even more if it's an inch or two shorter. The silhouette of this dress really is great for summer and this is probably not the only time I'll be making this pattern.