As mentioned yesterday I couldn’t get started on my purple suit. I turned my attention instead to the YSL Vogue 1556, which I had been leaving to the end of the SWAP, but then I thought I might make it up for a birthday party we are attending on Sunday evening. Our friend Richard is 50, so wearing a 50 year old dress seemed like a good idea.
You helped me on deciding on the length. Then I asked about colour – the side of the cloth that was a stronger pink, or a lighter pink. (Incidentally this was my most commented on post ever – choosing between two shades of pink – what does that tell you?) The thing was I was torn. I could see the advantage of both. But in the end I went with the majority. The deeper pink it is. But it may be a bit too contrast-y. Pink and white are associated, for me, with marshmallows and sugared almonds – a bit too sugary sweet.
My SWAP plan this year deliberately includes challenging fabrics – and one of them is sequins. I have never sewn sequins before, but one of my motivators for SWAP this year is to improve my sewing technique.
I didn’t do much research before I started. I watched a dull youtube video of how to make a “cool” sequin maxi skirt. It suggested a zig-zagged elastic waistband and a glued hem! OK for a quick party outfit, but this is couture! My sequin cloth has a nylon tulle base onto which the plastic sequins were attached with a fine, nylon thread. Each thread can be cut to remove the sequin in one piece. Also you can cut or sew through the sequins if required.
In making the dress I largely relied on the original Vogue pattern instructions. But first I looked at my favourite blog as Sarah Sheehan had already made this dress.
“Underlining gives the dress that typical Sixties weight; I … used the Bemberg lining to underline the sequin fabric, but I think it could have benefited from something a little heavier. The dress fastens in the back with two separate closures: a lapped zipper for the body of the dress and buttons or snaps for the yoke. I had a lot of fun putting in my first lapped zipper. The pattern gives special instructions for the sequinned version of the dress: snaps for the upper back instead of buttons. I recommend using sturdy snaps—the light ones I used are prone to popping open. As special fabrics go, sequins are fairly high-maintenance. The sequins needed to be removed from all seam allowances and their attaching threads caught by the stitching. This could be challenging when hand-sewing the backs of the contrast bands, but the results are worth it, I think.”
Sarah has a wonderful, almost academic, understated writing style, and her blog is in a class of its own. But she is right about high-maintenance special fabrics. Sequins are like fussy, prissy little ballerinas – they need individual attention. They don’t stand in line but mess about, flipping from one side to the other. The key to sewing with sequins is to remove them from the seam allowances. What about darts? With the back dart I removed the sequins, then hand stitched the dart. The front dart is taken up in the yoke seam. But all the seams allowances that join sequins to silk had to be striped too. Sometimes I could pull out the threads from behind; sometimes I seam ripped the attaching threads; sometimes I snipped off the sequin. There was no quick way and it added considerable time to the project. Also my house in knee deep in sequins.
If you sew with sequins here are some tips.
- Practice on some sequin fabric first – cutting, removing the sequins, pressing, applying interfacing, hand sewing, machine sewing
- Don’t use your best scissors to cut out
- It is hard to be accurate eg notches are just about impossible.
- Cut out as well as you can using the lines of sequins as if they are the grain.
- The sequins should go across (rather than up or down the body)
- I used a mix of tailors tacks and washable felt tips to mark the pieces
- Thread trace the seam lines in a straight line, obviously going around some sequins and under others
- Clear the sequins from the seam allowances before you sew so you can just sew the tulle.
- Clear the darts too – ideally choose a pattern with the least possible darts
- The problem with removing the sequins is that it will be uneven so you just have to do your best. If the sewing machine needle pierces the odd sequin and catches it in a seam it is not the end of the world. You don’t want bare patches
- Tack the sequin piece to the fabric so that you have a nice, clear line of stitching
- Consider sewing by hand for greater accuracy and to ensure the seams are as invisible as possible
- Press well, concentrating on sinking in the stitches in the non-sequin cloth first.
I have still to add the sequin band at the hem and line the dress. I hope to get it finished in time for the party. I will go to the ball. I even have some new shoes!