| Sewing Patterns for the Modern Woman - Blog Post: Karen's Silk Jade Dress

Karen's Silk Jade Dress

By Intostitches

Hello – I’m Karen. I love to transform fabric into fashion! I started my sewing journey over 55 years ago and I’ve been slightly obsessed ever since – come see what I’m up to at Intostitches. | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress

(Karen used Indiesew's Red Geo Crepe Silk fabric for this post)

Do you ever have an “ah ha” moment, something Merriam-Webster defines as “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension”? A few weeks ago, a light came on and I realized that when it comes to sewing, my brain works like a combination lock. You know – like The Italian Job or similar movie where the character has her or his ear right up to the safe and is carefully listening while the wheels spin, turning the dial this way and that, until one by one, each correct number is dialed, the wheels line up perfectly and CLICK, the door swings open to reveal the treasure inside. “Ah Ha”!

Very often, when I begin a new project, the wheels lines up very quickly - maybe the safe was never properly closed - I visualize a finished product, and I’m off and sewing. . . With this project my brain’s “safe” had been carefully shut and I had to listen very closely to dial up the correct combination. I generally find it a bit easier to pick the “right” fabric for a pattern or design I am planning than to choose the “right” pattern or style for a piece of fabric. In this case, Indiesew dialed up the first combination number on my lock by selecting silk, a fabric they wished to showcase. It seems some people find this substrate a bit intimidating. I love silk and have sewn with many types over the years. It’s always my first choice whenever I am lining a jacket because nothing else I’ve tried ever feels quite as luxurious. Aside from lining, I’ve made silk charmeuse blouses, a raw silk midi vest, a fabulous wedding dress for my daughter, and years ago (when I used to do custom interiors), I covered the windows and tented ceiling of a canopy bed in such an explosion of fabric that the room looked like a party dress. ​Silk – CLICK

There were four silk crepe options in the Indiesew Fabric Shop: two floral prints and two with a geometric motif AND print repeat ... and one of the geometrics was a beautiful color of red – CLICK. The color won out over my slight fear of the print repeat, but who doesn’t love a bit of a challenge? While I waited for my order to arrive, my mind went to work on the design. This is a crepe de chine with a bit of a matte finish, very slight texture, and extremely soft hand, and flowing drape. Because of the nature of this fabric, anything with too much structure was out of the question. It had to be a style that would take advantage of the beautiful drape and, because of the pattern repeat, it needed to be fairly simple with a limited number of pattern pieces. ​Soft and Simple – CLICK.

Dialing in the specific pattern took the most amount of time, although, now that I think of it, I ended up coming back to one of the first ones I had considered. I was able to bounce some ideas off a dear sewing friend who generously created the backstory where I would be attending a summer winery concert series in a boho vibe dress, which solidified the vision I was forming. I choose the ​Jade Dress​ pattern by Style Arc, since I had previously made another one of their patterns almost exactly like this, without the wrap front. I altered the pattern by adding an extra 10 inches to the center skirt front and the center back width (for some extra flow and to camouflage the squares a bit), adding inseam pockets, lengthening the skirt front and back, and extending the sleeve width by adding 2 1⁄2” to the underarm curve. ​Breezy Boho Maxi Dress – CLICK​.

Here are a few other patterns I considered (all with difficulty rating of Beginner):

In the early 70’s we used to wear halter tops made without patterns, casings at the top front and back, angled down under the arm, with a tie strung through the casing and knotted or tied in a bow on one shoulder (in those days we used a piece of leather – what can I say ... I was a California girl – Hippie Chic wasn’t retro then, it was current). Something along the lines of this ​Halter Top by Making Patterns Fly

Once the fabric arrived, and after I sewed up a test toile (in a printed rayon with a flow as close to the silk as I could find) the wheels began spinning more freely. Although you may be tempted to shy away from this print because of the pattern repeat there are some great bonuses you would be overlooking. The contrast of the red and ivory and the opaqueness of the fabric make it very easy to see through the layers, which aids in matching seams. | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress

The face side and wrong side look almost the same which is great if you use any sort of pattern with a slit (like I did) or high-low hemline where the wrong side will be visible. And the best bonus of all – those red stripes run the length and width of the fabric and along both selvages. This is an element of the print that can be used throughout your piece as anchor points in your garment design, which I took advantage of for the neckband, sleeve bands, and ties. | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress 

 Here are a few of the techniques I used and some tips I can offer:

  • I pre-washed the fabric in the washer on a cold water “rinse and gentle spin” cycle, then hung it up to dry - which took no time at all. This will be a very nice garment for traveling. The entire dress folds up, fits into a gallon size freezer bag with hardly any wrinkles and could easily be hand washed and touched up quickly with an iron.
  • Whenever I sew, I am very careful to use an organza press cloth, but this fabric loved the iron and the steam and I didn’t need to use the press cloth much, which made it a dream to work with.
  • BEFORE starting into a project, I ALWAYS test stitches, pressing, seam finish methods, buttonholes and interfacing options on scraps. Write down any settings you use (length, width, needle position, buttonhole size etc.) so that you can keep everything looking exactly the same throughout the garment. Make sure that your seam finish choice leaves your fabric feeling soft and flexible - a tight zigzag or serged edge might show through or leave ridges on the face of your garment when pressing your seam allowances.
  • Trim all paper pattern pieces prior to positioning and cutting. This helps to prevent any movement of the fabric since you are only cutting through the silk and not the paper at the same time (especially if you are working with a pdf pattern that has been printed on thick paper).
  • I have a large table that is covered with a cutting mat. All the fabric was cut on a single layer using a rotary cutter (ALWAYS with a brand-new blade). I usually tape the selvage edges down to the cutting table along the ruled lines of the cutting mat to keep everything on grain (although when working with a print that needs to be matched, the design lines will have to trump the grainline – in this case, the print matched the grainline so that was not a problem).
  • ​When working with printed squares make sure to keep the center front and back right in the middle of your design. I started by cutting the back-bodice piece and made sure I had the square right where I wanted it, and then matched everything else to that piece. | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress

  • ​Lay the bodice pattern piece over the cut back bodice and mark the matching lines on the paper with a pencil to help guide your placement on the fabric (there are some great tutorials online).
  • Since I wanted the red stripe to be a bit wider for the sleeve and neck bands, I cut strips and sewed them together for a double width. | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress

  • I LOVE Hong Kong seams with self-cut bias strips around the inside of the neck and sleeve band for a cleanly finished inside. | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress

  • I used French seams for the shoulders, under arms, side seams and in-seam pockets. You can search “Pockets in a French Seam” and “French Seams with a Side Vent” online for some extra tips and tutorials on beautiful finishes for the inside of your garment.
  • Use an extra light weight 100% woven cotton interfacing for the neckband (with this weight of fabric you don’t want to add anything that will make it stiff).
  • The midriff tie was cut out of one long piece of the red stripe that ran along the selvage and turned with the aid of a Fasturn Fabric Tube Turner - one of my favorite purchases in the past year. If you have any arthritis in your hands this tool is a real pain saver.
  • It’s fun to think about something a bit extra you can add to your garment - these two beads I threaded on the tie ends added just the little extra I was looking for. | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress

The safe door swings open and the treasure is revealed – this was exactly what I had in mind! I love the entire process! The feeling of wearing silk on a breezy day is glorious! Give it a try! Start with something simple, you can do it! Indiesew has a great​ ​Fabric Files: Silk​ post with some good general sewing tips that will be very helpful if you are new to this amazing fabric. If you get stuck, let the wheels keep spinning: search the internet for inspiration, bounce ideas around with a friend, and little by little, you can crack the combination.

Thank you Indiesew team for giving me the opportunity to share my passion for sewing and silk! | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress | Karen’s Silk Jade Dress

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See Karen's silk Jade Dress on the Indiesew Blog, plus read her tips on sewing with silk! |

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