Oh it feels so GOOD to be back!!!
We’ve been back from honeymoon for a while now, and since then I’ve been doing a lot of nothing, some cooking and baking, obsessively stalking ValeyofDolls on instagram and even doing a little bit of sewing. So prepare yourselves for a wedding blog post extravaganza, but first – a little sewing that helped me keep my (in)sanity throughout the last six months. Well, five of them actually.
These robes are from Vogue 8888, which is a fabulous ‘lounge-wear’ pattern set and includes a short and long robe, two slips and some gorgeous french-style knickers. I made one for myself, my two bridesmaids, my mum and Mr poppykettle’s mum.
Methodically working on one of these was a great way of achieving calm and perspective. No fitting required, just straight, simple and satisfying sewing. It was a great way to get used to working with difficult fabrics, too!
I went hunting for the perfect floral printed silk charmeuse whilst in New York last year – which I found in B&J’s. A few different shades of matching solid charmuese in pale pink, hot pink and chartreuse (from Tessuti and the green was a remnant from Franke Stuart) to differentiate each one at the cuffs, too.
This was production line sewing at its finest – I did all the cutting in one shot (each robe had 25 pieces – it took me nearly 4 full days to do it all, piece by piece because the charmeuse was just to difficult to control when cut on the fold – and I very definitely blunted a rotary blade in the process), then sewed all the sleeves, all the collars, all the ties then all the robes. Then each one was packed away in a pretty box with some tissue paper (to keep the creases at bay) and lavender.
I made a practice version first to test the fit, instructions and construction method of course – the shawl collar is attached to the robe in what seems to be a very similar manner to that of a collar to a collar stand in a button-up shirt. I found it fairly tricky to get the collar and the robe front to line up in a pleasing manner all of the time. Contrary to the instructions, I hand stitched the collar down on the inside using a fell stitch to avoid top stitching on the silk.
Vogue’s instructions would have you interface the upper collar pieces – but as yet I’ve unsuccessfully managed to use iron-in interfacing on silk, it always bubbles after washing. I tested with three different types of iron-on interfacing just to check. Bubbles on all three counts! So self-fabric interfacing it was – I used silk organza at the cuffs and in the collar. It worked a treat and has a lovely soft yet stable effect.
The pattern has pockets in the side seams – I felt a bit traitorous taking these out because I wanted french seams on the inside. I reasoned I could always put patch pockets on at the front if it felt right! I didn’t in the end – these robes are shamelessly for looking sultry on a lazy Sunday morning only. There is a bias tie and loop on the inside to hold it all together which I would recommend if you’re sewing in the recommended fabrics due to the slipperyness factor – other PR reviewers have used different (nb: ‘stickier’) fabrics and not required this. Slightly painful to create, but effective in the long run.
Vogue’s instructions would also have you sew the sleeves in flat – before sewing the side seams together. The sleeves are easy to sew in – no ease! I chose to sew up the side seams first and set the sleeves in, so I could french seam the sides, shoulder seams and then flat fell the seams around the sleeve. The sleeve band was then sewn on – the instructions at this point were a bit bizarre, and I didn’t follow them – choosing to instead cut a sleeve cuff facing which was then fell stitched to the sleeve and cuff seam allowance. I particularly like this little detail because it means there is not a single exposed seam line in the entire garment. I really should look at buying an overlocker…
I’d sewn the contrast cuff on the sleeves for everyone’s robe but my own because I didn’t know what combination of solid silks to use – at that stage I still wasn’t really sure about the chartreuse silk, but having exhausted the possible combinations from the pale and hot pink option-box I figured there was no alternative. I found some lace trim (purchased from the Alannah Hill fabric outlet) hidden in a box of notions, and figured that the lace would at least ease the transition from floral to the not-quite-matching-green. This was pick stitched onto the cuff to keep it in place:
Once I’d sewn it all together, I realised I LOVED the green with the print….and wished I’d come across the lace trim earlier so I could have included it on the other robes!
Because sewing with charmuese is a rather slippery affair – I basted the contrast sleeve trim to the sleeve before sewing on the cuff. This meant I could turn it over and use the basting lines to keep on the straight and narrow, and I’d have a higher likelihood of getting the cuff and trim to line up at the sleeve seam. Having an even amount of trim visible around the sleeve was an important detail for me, too.
To keep the inside seams looking neat, I mock flat-felled the armscye seam. Getting slippery silk to fold under nicely around a curve would be a nightmare but for Carolyn’s tip of sewing a gathering stitch into the seam allowance and pulling on that to get the seam to curve under evenly.
Interestingly, the waist tie is sewn into the back of the robe in two separate seams created by sewing a pleat. This is lovely because there’s no chance of a tie independent of the robe slipping about or getting lost.
The hem was simply folded up, ironed, basted then machine sewn in place.
I enjoyed sewing these and I think the recipients were thrilled to receive them as much as I enjoyed giving them :) And the best thing about sewing with this fabric was that it was a great way to warm up and get experience for the next few things you’re going to see!
…I didn’t record the time to sew each of these.
Fabric Utilisation = 17.5m (3.5m each)