You know those conversations when people find out you sew? Those conversations almost always include the question – where do you get your fabrics from? My answer has been “all sorts of places – local shops, online (at this point their eyes glaze over), gifted from other sewists, a tiny bit from secondhand shops (they are now looking around for excuses to escape), and mostly from my large stash which has accumulated due to all of the above plus collected during travel overseas or from designer destash events”.

Now I can add “from online auction”.

Because that how I ended up with two rolls of sequined fabric. Yes. Two rolls. 13.5m in total. Beautiful champagne reversible sequins. I know some of you are thinking “and what is the problem with that?” You are my sort of people!

But, really, how did this happen and what was I thinking?!

Mmm. Perhaps not thinking enough about how I set up my automated bids…. and it is possible there may have been a glass of wine involved.

The silver lining is that having an excess of lovely and special fabric certainly takes the edge off deciding what to use it for. My first and even second attempts can be unsuccessful – I’ve got more than enough to go back and try again! Or I can use it for a garment that’s only going to be worn once or for costumes or… so many options and so little pressure!

The reality is that I have already used up close to three quarters of it. My dear friend M took some of it of my hands and made a glorious long evening jacket and I’ve made two dresses. One for me and one for Felicity.

And the questions about which needle to use to sew sequins? I can very definitely report that, again, I’ve proved that a denim or leather needle is the only way to go.

And should you remove sequins from the seams? Yes, absolutely, and especially for darts. But if you’d rather poke your eye with a fork and the sequins are small you can ignore that advice for the seams. More on this below.

So, what have I made?

Felicity made the mistake of getting in first. I did all the practicing on her dress, and worked out what not to do. This includes working out that sewing with sequins and making something fast should not be in the same thought.

Her brief was a vintage themed dress to wear to SciBall 2021 – a gala dinner celebrating 130 years of the University of Adelaide Science Students Association. In sequins, because, well, see above. And by the end of next week, thank you and please. So it had to be simple.

How it turned out on the night before the sun went down-Rockstar glam. Photo credit: Andrew Jennsen

I was looking for a pattern with as few seams as possible and no zip or fastenings. Because sequins. The sequins are sewn onto a stretchy mesh so it seemed like I could treat the fabric like a knit. 13.5 m meant I could experiment.

None of my simple knit dress patterns got the nod, but this one designed for wovens, Burda 05/2019 #108, did.

image credit: German Burda website

I thought it would be fine with the zip removed. I could extend it to floor length, and with those almost thigh high slits, it turned into evening. The shoulder coverage meant that normal undergarments could be worn – a definite advantage for my comfort loving daughter!

No time for lining – Felicity said that would be fine – she’d wear a slip. Ask her now after having worn it if she would say that again! I faced the neck and sleeves with a cotton woven and covered the shoulder seams with grosgrain ribbon but it was still a bit scratchy.

It looked pretty good at the first try-on stage apart from being loose through the waist. This could be fixed by either wearing a wide patent leather black belt, or a black grosgrain riboon that happened to be in my haberdashery stash. I loved the wide belt look but the ribbon was deemed more vintage.

And she looked great on the night!

The President of the Science Students Association, and one of Felicity’s dear friends, Megan, with Felicity. Photo credit: Andrew Jennsen
All the gals. Photo credit: Andrew Jennsen
Photo credit: Andrew Jennsen

Sadly it seems that I have no photos of the back – and there is a very nice V shape to the back neckline.

Now let’s talk about my dress

I went super simple and used the Lodo dress pattern… side seams and shoulder seams only…

I lined it with a thin black ITY polyester nylon knit that’s in my stash purchased from Gorgeous Fabrics back in 2013. I’ve used it previously for knit dresses and I knew it would be light, soft and perfect as a lining.

I stabilised the shoulders, neck and sleeve edges by ironing on interfacing to the lining pieces. I used the facing pieces to cut the shapes for the neck and armscyes, ironed them on and then secured with stitching just inside the seam allowances.

The lining pieces were then sewn to the sequin pieces, right sides together around the neck and armscyes, but not the shoulder seams. Clipped and trimmed the seams and then turned right side out.

Then I machine sewed the front and back lining right sides together at the shoulders, and hand stitched the sequined back and front together at the shoulder on the outside. The reverse of what Burda and others sometimes tell you to do and shows a very unhelpful picture of the shoulder seam with a wooden spoon handle. What is that about??

So now I’ve got a dress lined to the edge of the front and back neck and the armscyes. The interfaced lining really helped keep everything in the right shape.

Yes there was a center back seam on the lining – it simplified cutting out

The last step was the side seams – right sides together for the sequined front and back from bottom to armsyce and then continuing on with the lining.

And as an aside, sewing any sort of seam with sequins is tricky, but its extra tricky with reversible sequins. These sequins are small, so they don’t need to be removed from the seams, but because they are reversible and the reverse side is a different colour, like black, once they’re caught in the seams they show up as that colour forever. Not a problem with standard sequins which are the same colour on both side.

If you are still with me, you deserve a medal!

Here’s some more images to go with all that text

I still haven’t hemmed this dress.

I was on the fence about the length and then I had to wear it to an event, so I left it unhemmed. I might have said it was to trial it at below knee length but it was possibly also laziness..

It was an unexpectedly cold night, so I wore opaque tights. Because, keep warm, but make it fashion.

Will I go back and actually hem it shorter? Probably, but it hasn’t happened yet.

There is only so much sequin massacre a sewing room can take!

Silver crushed velvet dress: Burda 01/2018 #101

This is a story of going to the fabric store to buy fabric for a specific pattern but buying something we loved that wasn’t really suitable for that pattern. Anyone else do that? When we realised what we’d done, all the Burda magazines came out and Felicity and I spent a pleasant hour or so finding another pattern.

This is Burdastyle 01/2018 #101 in a size 40.

I did a ‘pivot and slide’ 2 cm FBA but it may not have been necessary given the stretchiness of the fabriv.

The waist twisty bit is a nice feature. The line drawing is a bit misleading for this bit (the tucks in this pattern piece end up on the part that you sew to the side seam – but the line drawing shows the side seams smooth). But, as the reviews on Pattern Review said, if you follow Burda’s instructions literally, it might seem nonsensical but it works out just fine.

The fabric is a crushed polyester velvet from Spotlight, and Felicity says its delightful to wear.

I omitted the zip because it is very stretchy fabric.

I wondered about changing the neck facings out for a binding, but thought this might give it too much of a sports look which seems wrong for crushed velvet so I stayed with the facings. Not sure I should have worried about a sports look being inappropriate. This dress is apparently perfect for riding a scooter in the city.

The facings are hand stitched down. But my commitment to hand stitching ended there – the hems were turned up 1cm and stitched with a simple zigzag. This made both the sleeves and skirt 3 cm long than drafted because I’d added a 4 cm hem allowance

So this is a story with a happy ending.

I still haven’t sourced fabric for the initial pattern though.