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Category: fabric

final grade: the cocktail dress

Don’t ever let anyone tell you sewing is a mindless craft. Those of us who endeavor to create and make know better. The mental acrobatics required to properly execute the tedious and challenging projects is one of the things that keeps me engaged and inspired to continue sewing. Because to settle for the easy projects all the time does nothing for growth and learning, and why bother if you’re not doing much of value or quality. This dress is one of those garments that required a little extra determination and planning and, just like every other project like it that has tested my patience, it was more than worth the time and effort. (Expect a few of those “easy” projects in the future, just to balance things out!)

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Ty and I were headed to Florida this month, and I was excited to make most of my clothes for our little weekend getaway. On Wednesday, I’ll tell you how successful I was in bringing my ideas to life, but today I’m thrilled to show you the cocktail dress I made for the awards reception. It came together beautifully, I felt like a million bucks in it, and I was comfortable all night (the ultimate trifecta!). I lost track of all the sweet compliments I received on this dress, which was just icing on the cake for me. (I think a lot of the compliments had to do with the fabric. It’s just so stunning!)

For more details about how I decided on the design and the sewing techniques I used on this dress, see the progress report from a few weeks ago.

The bodice is my own design I drafted using my slopers, to which I attached the skirt from Butterick 6129 (see the other skirt from that pattern here). The skirt on my cocktail dress is about 2.5″ shorter than the white damask skirt from January, and I like it a little better. I used the wrong side of the fabric on the hem band again, because it adds a lot of visual interest to the skirt and it’s a fun way to showcase both sides of the brocade.

There is 6″ wide horsehair braid in the hem facing, and I closed the hem band with a catchstitch. I did this for a couple of reasons: there is flexibility in a catchstitch that allows for movement while still being strong, plus I think it’s pretty. The skirt/hem band seam allowance is serged and pressed up towards the skirt to keep the hem facing from getting too bulky. Normally I would press all the seam allowances down into the hem facing and close it all up, concealing all of the seams.

I used Bemberg rayon to line the bodice and pink cotton to line the skirt. I wanted a more substantial lining for the skirt, which is why I went with cotton there. (Cutting and sewing rayon lining for the bodice was about all I could handle with that material for a while. It’s not a fabric I enjoy working with at all, I must tell you.) I sewed coral grosgrain ribbon around the waist of the lining, because it bugs me when the bodice and skirt linings are different colors. The ribbon makes it all look intentional.

And here we are at the awards reception. (The wind was so terrible that night, which made it impossible to get a good picture of the dress!)

I’m so proud of Ty and all of his hard work. He is the ultimate professional, and I’m so delighted his achievements were recognized. We had a wonderful time!

favorite fabric stores

Like most of you, I’m always on the hunt for fabric. Even when I don’t really need anything, I like to keep up with my favorite suppliers just in case something new is posted, something that I can’t live without. I like to think of fabric like shoes or watches or lipstick or any number of things people can’t stop buying. (But go ahead and put me in the “can’t stop buying lipstick” group too, I guess.) Buying a cut of a gorgeous floral print or swishy silk or delicious wool is the jumping off point for creativity and critical thinking and, in the end, a new garment. Buying fabric is better than buying clothes, because no one will ever have the exact same dress that you have, and we are in total control of our clothes. It’s empowering and fun. But I don’t have to tell you that, you already know.

I’ve been fabric shopping for a long time. Add that to my years as a business owner making wholesale purchases and I can share a number of great places to find great fabric. Because I get asked about this all the time, I thought it would be a good idea to share my favorite places. I’m going to start with a company I just discovered last summer, Promenade Fine Fabrics in New Orleans. Hot tamale, they have the most gorgeous stuff you’ve ever seen. Now, full disclosure here, they are not cheap, nor should they be. This is where you go to treat yourself or find the perfect fabric for a special project. Promenade is a small, family owned business and they truly care about their customers. Be sure to check out their Etsy store for end-of-bolt pieces too. I’ve gotten really lucky there.

My first purchase from Promenade was the cotton sateen I used for Vogue 9202 last fall. Love it. (There’s four yards left in stock–go for it!)

There’s a handful of discount suppliers out there, but my go to is Fashion Fabrics Club. I’ve been shopping with them for more than ten years. You really have to dig for stuff sometimes, but the prices are worth the endless searching. I stock up on solid color cotton sateen there, and you can also find linen, chambray, and rayon challis prints for a steal. Nice selection of wool and knits too, but bright colors and prints are few and far between. Quality is mostly excellent, but there have been a few blemishes along the way. Sign up for the newsletter for notice of sales and free shipping promotions. I used my Christmas money on an order last week when lots of cotton was on mega sale and they were doing free shipping on $79+. That’s how you do it!

Here’s a small (very, very small) group of items I’ve done with fabrics from FFC. I’m telling you, there’s good stuff there. (These are all things I designed for the biz, back in the day. I’ve since made a couple of these for myself.)