Sew All The Red Things

That way you don’t lose time changing thread.

You may have noticed I’ve been making a lot of things in red. There’s at least one more in the works, too. It’s convenient, I guess.



I’ve been petting this dense, glowing, glorious stretch velvet at my local Fabricland since, oh, last fall sometime. But even marked down to half price, it was still $11.00/m, which while not expensive, is still a little richer than my impulse-buy limit.

But then I saw another lady carrying it around the store, matching it up with drapery trims and talking curtains. There was plenty left on the bolt, but CURTAINS? That can eat a lot of fabric.

She put the bolt down and said she would come back later. I pounced, and made off with about three metres.

At least I had a project in mind already.

Pattern hack.

In regular life, I really don’t have any use for red stretch-velvet (especially in July), but one of my dance teachers had made a request that we attempt to acquire under-bust velvet dresses, for dance performances where tummy-cover is appropriate but you still want to wear a snazzy belly dance bedlah (highly decorated bra & belt) set. Most people are doing this via the thrift store and a bit of hacking, which is almost certainly cheaper, but, well, I was in love with this velvet already. And I like sewing more than I like altering.

I realized going through my pattern-stash this morning that I didn’t have a good, basic knit maxi-dress pattern of the kind that’s basically a tank-top extended into a skirt with a nice sweep. Lots of fancier ones, but not this basic style.  And I have about three other pieces in-stash, beyond this red velvet, that are begging to become maxi-dresses this summer. I promptly ordered Jalie 3246, because impulse, but that wasn’t going to help me this morning.

Bring on, once again, my long-suffering Nettie pattern. Please note (or maybe don’t) that I still haven’t actually made a bodysuit version of this pattern. >_< But it sure is useful as the basis for about a billion other things…

I basically traced off the top of my Nettie, measured the length I wanted the dress to go down from my shoulder, and guesstimated a width that looked good. For this particular dress, I wanted a fairly narrow skirt to the knees, with a bit of a mermaid-flare below that. Rocket science, this was not. I also pulled out my copy of Kwik Sew 1288, which has a super-cute cap-sleeved leotard pattern, and morphed the cap-sleeve on, because while I didn’t want full sleeves on this one, I wanted something to pull the Nettie shoulder-straps out, because the Nettie shoulders are WAY narrower than my shoulders (this is why there is that fold toward the armpit in these makes, by the way. It’s probably something I should actually alter for, but the miracle of spandex makes it not a huge deal.

Over bust.

Over bust.

You may be thinking, now, that I had mentioned “underbust” dress before, and this dress is definitely over-bust. You would be right. I wanted to have a wee bit more versatility in the dress (because, y’know, there might be some possible universe where I would need a slinky red velvet dress for a non-dance-related purpose), so I traced front and back the exact same pattern (not that there is much difference between the upper body of the Nettie, front vs. back, except for the neckline); I made one side the standard Nettie scoop-neck, and lowered the mid-back-scoop-depth a further 4″ cm on the other side. (That is, 4 cm lower than the back in this version, but not as deep as the backless Nettie version.) So, if I want to wear the dress over (or under) a dance bra, I can wear the low scoop in the front, and if I want it for something a little more mundane, I can put the regular scoop in the front.



I’m quite happy with how the cap-sleeves turned out, really—it’s probably my favourite length.

Side view

Side view

I have precious little to say about the construction of this dress, because there is precious little to actually construct. Two pattern pieces; not even bands for neckline or sleeves. I am a little in love with that differential feed thingy on my serger—a bit of twiddling the settings on some scraps and I went from having a bit of a wavy seam to one that was totally, perfectly, professionally smooth. WIN! Why can’t regular machines have that?



I used clear elastic to stabilize the shoulder seams; however, I put a wee bit too much tension on it so there’s a bit of a gathered effect. I kinda liked it, though, so I wasn’t going to be bothered to pick out serging plus elastic. (Also, my camera hates red, these were the best closeup shots I could manage. Terrible. Not that there’s much to see. For the neckline finish I serged clear elastic onto the edge (carefully using less tension this time—with the feed dogs set, no added tension was needed), then folded it under and topstitched with a triple zig-zag on my regular machine. For the armhole, I did the same thing except without the clear elastic, as I didn’t think I’d need the added stability.

Back view

Back view 

For dance purposes I wanted it slim through the hips, but for a real dress more ease around the derriere would definitely be a bonus, so I’ll be tweaking that for the next version.



I am also pleasantly surprised that the length turned out more-or-less bang on. I haven’t hemmed the bottom yet—torn between trying a rolled hem and just leaving it.

Most practical make of the season? Probably not. But it was fun, and fudging up the pattern took more time than the actual sewing did. And now I have the pattern I can use for some more, mmm, every-day versions.




Filed under Sewing

17 responses to “Sew All The Red Things

  1. Oh my I love this! It looks gorgeous on you. The colour is exquisite and I hope you wear the snot out of it.

    • Thank you! It does make me wish I had more occasions in my life where a slinky red velvet dress would be appropriate… (now brainstorming what kind of occasions those might be… 😉 )

  2. Oh you look fantastic in that red velvet. It’s a sensational colour and I love the velvet. I also make whatever I can with whatever colour is in the overlocker… I hate changing that thread!

    • At one point last week, I had three different machines threaded up with red (regular machine, overlock, and topstitching)! (I confess, as a multi-machine sewist, sometimes my choice of machine is dictated by which one has the right colour thread, either on the machine or already on a bobbin…) It’s not such a big chore, but when you’re pressed for time it sure seems like it! >_<

  3. gilliancrafts

    I love how this dress has a hint of Regency from the front – squared scooped neckline, cute little sleeves – and is all modern sexy form the back! Nice work, as always. Except by mentioning Jalie, you automatically make me want more Jalie patterns… life is dangerous like that! 😉

    • Jalie patterns are kinda like crack, I think. And I always seem to have to make five versions…

      I’ll take a Regency vibe in any degree! Fave historical time-period (fashion-wise) ever! 🙂

  4. Beautiful – red is your color! But it’s tough to photograph, isn’t it?

    • YES! I don’t know what it is—I tried with my real camera and the iPhone, indoor and out—the outdoor shots with the good light were actually even worse. The only way most of these show ANYTHING is from cranking the contrast up to ridiculous. I bet my mom’s DSLR would do just fine though…

  5. Lovely dress, well worth the fabric purchase

  6. AHHH awesome! Your dress looks so good, and I adore how you made it reverseable for all your velvety dress needs. You so smart!

  7. Wow! Really beautiful! I’m a sucker for red too.

  8. megthegrand

    You are MAGNIFICENT in red! And this dress turned out beautifully – I love the lower scooped back!

  9. Somehow I’m only just now seeing this, and oh man do you make me want a slinky red velvet dress of my own…

  10. Pingback: Happy stripey dancey fun. | Tanit-Isis Sews

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