Sunday, 31 October 2021

A little black dress - for now

I am now the owner of a plain black velvet dress!

For someone who Doesn't Wear Black, this is a little odd. However, it's only a temporary state of affairs; the dress is due to be trimmed.

Having made up the bodice, the next stage was to make the skirt. The skirt of Butterick 5748 is full circle, made up of two semi-circles cut lengthwise from the fabric. Obviously, this wouldn't work with the velvet I was using - as well as the issues with the pile, the result would be impossibly heavy. Instead I decided to make a half-circle skirt consisting of six panels, which would keep the pile mostly pointing downwards. Then I remember that I'd moved the zip to the centre back, so the back panel had to be split into two to accommodate this.

I had to sew the skirt panels together from the narrow top to the wider bottom (in the direction of the pile), which is the opposite of what I would normally do. Fortunately the velvet has quite a thick, stable, base, so this didn't cause any stretching. I overlocked all the seam allowances, and then joined the skirt to the bodice. More by luck than judgement, the skirt panels match up to the darts.

Front darts and skirt seams

One thing which I haven't mentioned yet is The Fluff. It's an occupational hazard of working with velvet of course, but it gets everywhere, and there's so much of it. I was careful to brush out the overlocker after every seam, but when I neatened the bottom edge, which was the longest uninterrupted run of sewing, the accumulated bits of pile caused something to snarl up completely. Fortunately, the only damage was a very bent needle.


The zip was, as ever, hand-picked. However, I couldn't baste it into place first as I usually would, because this could mark the velvet. Instead, I basted it to the seam allowances only.

Back zip, darts and seams

As is obvious from the picture above, I haven't sewn the facings down yet. I need to be able to access all the dress in order to apply the trimmings. I also want to add a waist stay and hanging loops, to support the weight of the skirt both when worn and on the hanger.

Although there's more to be done, I did find myself with a wearable, plain black, dress on Samhain. Given that it's the one time of the year when my peely-wally Celtic colouring really lends itself to being photographed, it seemed silly not to.

Lighting candles

I never knew my staircase could look so scary!


  1. Very scary! Great job on the dress!

  2. Thank you, the photos were fun to do!

  3. Great dress! Really love the gothic photos at the end--well done!

    1. Thank you, it's amazing what you can achieve with some candles and a well-placed desk lamp!