I want to start out by saying that these pants are very imperfect, and I know it. I don’t say that to denigrate my skillset or self aggrandize or anything, but rather to serve as proof for any other sewists out there that things don’t have to be perfect for us to enjoy them, for us to be proud of them, for us to get good use out of them! I know where every single flaw is in this garment and yet when I look at it, all I think about is how fluid the gorgeous fabric is, how perfectly it fits into my autumnal palette with it’s deep golden brown, plush texture. I am too proud of creating a wearable garment out of this tricky-to-sew silk velvet from The Fabric Store to be concerned about it’s imperfections…
But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to talk about them! Ha! A quick reminder- not all velvets are created the same. Velvet is generally trickier than say, a quilting cotton, but some are waaaay easier to sew with. Stabler velvets, like the kind you might make a blazer out of, or the kinds with a backing that is used for upholstery fabric, haven’t been that difficult to work with at all (other than not being able to iron it like normal fabric), and stretch velvets seem to be much more forgiving, too. But slippery woven velvets, especially the kind made of silk like these brown pants? My god, the journey is arduous! But totally worth it, because the fabric is just SO stunning.
But of course, after a few months away from the idea, I started dreaming of them again and challenged myself to try once more, but with a different pattern. In some ways this pattern, the Alphonse trousers, was even more complicated than the first one I had tried, because it has a zip fly (and if anything says FIDDLY AND FRUSTRATING, its a zip fly made in silk velvet). But I told myself I could go very slowly, take my time, pull out all the stops, and triumph in the end. I knew that once I got the zip fly looking good, the rest would be a relative breeze, because the Alphonse Trousers are a TNT for me and they look good in just about every fabric I have paired them with. They have pleats at the front waist which creates a beautiful drape in this fabric, and is also a bit more forgiving with fit in the hip area.
Sewing the zip fly was really tough, and I had to carefully take the stitches out more than once to make sure everything was laying right and looking good. This velvet shows every single mark you make on it, from the needle holes to the actual tracks of the foot of your sewing machine, so I had to make sure that my top stitching on the right side of the garment was as close to perfect as I could get it the first time around. I did pretty good, but it took twice as long to complete as a zip fly normally takes me, and I definitely smashed the nap around the zip fly more than once while trying to press it. I don’t have a needle board to use for ironing velvet, so I tried using all sorts of other things to gently press it when needed. Nothing worked as well as placing a big scrap of velvet upholstery fabric on top of my silk velvet and carefully pressing it from the wrong side, but I learned this a little too late and had a couple of shiny spots on my velvet where the heat of the iron and smashed down the nap.
I was able to revive the nap in these places by wetting it lightly with water and using a really soft nail scrub brush to fluff up the nap. By the end of making these pants I finally caved in and invested in a “velvet” brush, which has stiff but delicate bristles that help fluff up the velvet and revive it to its original plushiness.
My zip fly was imperfect, but it looked pretty darn good to my naked eye so I moved onto the rest of the pants construction. I have used fabric sprays to adhere velvet, I have used tape, I have sewn with paper in between the pieces of fabric, I have used a walking fo0t, you name it- most of these techniques were either too messy or too complicated to work well for me on this silk velvet (although they have worked to varying degrees on other types of velvet). So far my favorite trick to sew super shifty velvet has been to hand baste all my seams together before running them through the machine with a straight stitch, then I serge the raw edges (which gives me no trouble at all- if I could just serge the whole thing I would be in great shape but serging doesn’t allow for me to do any fitting adjustments during construction). Hand basting (I prefer inside the seam allowance, not directly on it) takes a bit more time but is so worth it in the end- my raw edges don’t shift around as much under the presser foot when I have hand basted the pieces already and I get mostly even lines of stitching. I also prefer to increase my stitch length when I sew velvet at the machine because the plushy fabric tends to drown the stitches in it’s surface and it’s really difficult to unpick any errant stitching without ruining the fabric.
Of the three or four pairs of Alphonse trousers I have made, I haven’t put side pockets on any of them- the pattern is drafted with in-seam side pockets which don’t well for me at all on most any patterns, and because of the placement of the pleats I haven’t been interested in trying a different kind of pocket on the fronts for fear of interfering with the way the pants will lay. I did put welt pockets on one of the pairs of alphonse trousers I made but decided to forgo them for this velvet- the less challenging the pattern, the better!
Once the seams of the pants were all put together, I moved on to the waistband. I interfaced a piece of raw, stable silk from my stash and used it for the inside of my waistband since I wasn’t remotely interested in trying to interface this silk velvet. I underlined the waistband pieces so the silk wouldn’t peak out the top of the waistband and it worked well enough. The belt loops were extra fiddly of course, but I managed to get them all on, and the only thing I need to fix now is the waistband closure. I have completely run out of the large hook and eye notions that you use for pants so I decided to use snaps instead. Unfortunately they pop open every time I sit down, so once my local sewing shops are open again and it feels safe, I will grab some and redo this closure. I didn’t want to do a regular button hole on this silk because I was afraid it would garble up the fabric and make it look messy.
And I guess that’s that! I think my grain was off when I cut these out of the fabric because one of the inside leg seams drifts towards the front of my body, hahaha. It’s ok though- I am really, really happy with how these pants came out because at the beginning of the project I was convinced they would end up a total fail, and I proved myself wrong! What a happy surprise!
Last, but certainly not least, is this beautiful little Adrienne Blouse I made from Friday Pattern Company. It’s the first pattern I made from this popular indie pattern company, and what a gem it is! I had seen various versions of it going around the sewing blogosphere but I was always on the fence about it. I’m not usually one for dramatic sleeves in casual wear- maybe because I’m always futzing about and doing stuff with my hands and I was nervous these billowy sleeves would get in my way – I hate in-the-way sleeves lol!. I also saw a lot of versions that used thicker, heavier weight knit fabrics that made the garment look dense and burdensome which turned me off- we are already in the thick of summer weather here in LA so I didn’t want to make anything that would trap in heat and be uncomfortable.
Thankfully I kept the pattern in the back of my head and then remembered it when I came across this stunning turmeric linen knit from Blackbird Fabrics. I’d worked with linen knits before and figured this would be a dream fabric and pattern pairing- it’s very lightweight and breezy, with a looser weave than some cotton knits, and it gets softer after washing. The pattern was very straight forward and simple to put together, and I love how they suggest you use bra elastic in the neckline and sleeves because its stronger- I never thought about that before but it’s true, and it worked beautifully in this garment. I didn’t make any adjustments other than shortening the sleeves just an inch or two, and I made a straight XS which seems to work great on me. I was worried about where the neckline and sleeves would hit on my body in terms of my bra straps- I didn’t want them laying completely outside the line of the blouse but I also knew this fabric would be too sheer for me to feel comfortable wearing it without a bra. Good news, the ruching of the gathered sleeves is tight enough that it kind of holds my bra strap down around my shoulder and it doesn’t peak out much at all. Of course it will lay differently on different bodies, but I wanted to share how it works on mine.
I love the shape and style of this shirt, it’s such a nice change from a plain tee shirt or boxy top style which seems to be the default for knit tops sewing patterns these days. I tried the blouse on before I put in the bottom elastic for the sleeve hems and was absolutely delighted by how fun and easy it felt to wear it with full billowing sleeves. I thought I would hate it, but they were beautiful! Maybe it’s because the sleeve (which I shortened slightly) hit around my elbow, so it didn’t get in the way at all and felt very loose and flowy and romantic, but not cumbersome. Ultimately I decided to finish the top as designed with the hem elastic, but I plan on making another one and leaving the sleeves loose as soon as I come across another beautiful, lightweight knit!
In case you couldn’t tell, the golden yellow of the linen knit and the buttery brown of the velvet are right in my palette and I feel glorious wearing them together. My IG feed is becoming the kind where all the colors match my palette and I am just so thrilled to keep benefiting from this color theory!