Friday, 20 November 2015

Winter Berry Satin Dress with Leopard Sleeves

Wow, what a quick make this turned out to be!  This satin dress with transparent sleeves was cut, sewn and finished in no time at all.  I had a short hold-up in the middle when I had to go and purchase a zip in the right colour, but other than that it was the work of but a few hours over a couple of evenings.  Snip, sew and ready to party!

I love this luscious deep winter berry shade fabric.  It's a medium weight, stretch satin with a beautiful drape and was originally destined for either a bomber jacket or a dress.  After completing a number of jackets and coats over the last couple of months I decided on this dress, New Look K6144 which was free with Sew magazine earlier this year.  

The pattern is quite straightforward with only three main pieces and easy-peasy raglan sleeves, but it has a bit of interest around the neckline with a deep fold that also shows off the fabric a little bit.  I had already started making a toile for this dress back in the summer with the idea that it would make a cotton poplin dress for the summer holidays, but I never got round to it.  Partly this was because the weather was so awful at the time (rain, rain, rain) that I was rather put off making pretty sundresses.  So making the same dress style in satin for the winter, using this pattern and using the adjustments I'd already tried on the toile, seemed to make sense.  I was already half way there.

I had bought the contrasting plum and navy leopard print at the same time as the satin and I used it on this garment for the raglan sleeve sections.  As luck would have it I found just enough light-weight navy blue lining in my fabric stash that was perfect for the job too.  The pattern doesn't include instructions for a lining, but it was easy enough to draft one.  I used the same pieces as the body of the dress and used the shape of the finished neckline after pleating it as a template for the front neck.  The neckline of the dress itself is slashed down the middle and then each side folded together to make and crossover two way pleat at the front.  

I took two or three attempts to get this right and had to unpick and re-sew in the end as the fabric is very drapey and naturally wants to drop.  The pleat needed securely sewing in place to make the correct shape.  If I was using a fabric with a bit more structure like cotton or silk then I think the fold would be a more obvious feature  The raglan sleeves then fitted nicely onto each armhole.

I hemmed each sleeve with the slimmest double hem I could manage to make the most of the transparent fabric.

These photographs above, of the fabric and dress in construction, were taken as the light in my studio faded from early evening into night and the colours are appearing to change quite dramatically!  The dress is actually a deep berry shade rather than cerise pink and the leopard is the same colour with navy print.  The sheen on the fabrics do create a nice depth of colour when the light changes.

I photographed these winter berries on my daily dog walk and they are a pretty good match.  I quite like the bright golden yellow lichen colour as a contrast here too!  

The rest of the dress is simply a plain shift, shaped with darts front and back.  I only lined the main body of the dress using the same pieces as cut from the satin, not the sleeves as I needed them to remain floaty.  The size I cut is a 12 however I did end up needing to let the side seams and darts out a little around the hips and could have done with grading out to a size 14 here.  I've made a note on my pattern.  Because the fabric is shiny it does tend to spotlight every curve in high definition, so although the top half is fine, with the soft folds around the neck, I felt more comfortable with a bit more ease further down!

There is the option to make a wide, wrap around obi-belt, however I chose to keep the lines simple and not add anything else.  I always have the feeling that my proportions don't really suite belted dresses because they tend to ride up right under my ribs where the smallest part of my waist naturally is, and the phrase 'sack tied in the middle' comes to mind.  There is enough shaping in the dress through the seams and darts for my liking, although you could cut the body of the dress straighter and create interesting shapes by cinching it in the middle with a tie belt.  

I realise I haven't shown any photos of the back (I find this hard to do with my iPhone set on timer, propped up on the bird-table as I can't see what's in the frame with my back to it!).  However the zip is set into the back seam and with hindsight should probably have been down a size seam, or alternatively an invisible zip.  It's fine, but the shiny fabric does make it slightly more obvious that I would have ideally liked it to be.  

I like using up stuff I already have lying around, like this blue lining, especially as my fabric hoard is I admit getting a little bit out of hand.  There is everything from lime green fun-fur to navy and yellow wool tweed and fine silk organza in here.  There are green and purple suede skins, recycled lace curtains and two crammed shoe boxes of antique lace trim.  I have furnishing fabric in wine coloured brocade as well as 60's psychedelic satin, gold sequin mesh and some cotton bought from Thailand with peach coloured Hello Kitty print.  The Cloth House bag hanging in pride of place is filled with gorgeous fabric that they were selling off for only £3 per metre, feather light pure wool suiting and beautiful silks too good to turn down for the price and yet I've still no idea what half of it will be made into.  In fact, diving into my stash cupboard is often where I get my ideas.  Recycling and reusing bits and pieces or putting different textures and prints together is a favourite way of getting inspired for me and something that often keeps happily awake at night.

Having just photographed and properly acknowledged this stash of fabric by writing about it here, I really should step away from the fabric shops and tell myself I don't need to buy very much more fabric in the next year or so.  There must be plenty of projects in here for a while yet and probably some of the long-term residents could be given away in order to fulfil their potential elsewhere and free up some space.  In the meantime, a Hello Kitty and sequin ballgown perhaps? Or lurex and suede pyjamas??  Who knows what Frankenstein creations might emerge!


  1. What an inspired combination of fabrics, and you've turned out a beautifully fitted party dress! Enjoyed your blog and pics of your fabric stash - lucky you!

  2. Thank you AWR! I just need somewhere to wear it now! The fabric stash is getting bit out of hand I think, an entire wardrobe is groaning at the hinges. Sarah X