Everyone has had that moment when they’ve seen something and gone – OH MY GOD I NEED THAT IN MY LIFE I WANT IT NOW GIVE ME THE THING. That was exactly what happened when I saw this fabric on Instagram in the form of a vest top. It turned out that this amazing fabric was originally produced for Opening Ceremony (hence the little ‘OC’s on some of the hands), so I knew it would be super-difficult to find any, if even there was any left in the world. Then one day there I was, frittering time away on Etsy looking at all the pretty fabrics (as you do), when I saw it.
It was right there, staring me in the face. For sale. I only had to click ‘pay now’ and it would be mine. There were only two yards left, so I had to move fast. What if someone else, somewhere in the world was looking at the listing at the very same moment as me, about to snatch this fabric right out from under my nose? Surely the universe wouldn’t be so cruel. I added the last two yards available to my cart, entered my payment information, and waited for the confirmation.
It came through. The fabric would soon make it’s journey from the USA to London. It’s a silk crepe fabric, with a royal blue and salmon geometric pattern and hands popping up all over the place. A worthy contender to the title of Coolest Fabric Ever Made.
I knew I wanted to make a summer dress from it, and I had recently been looking at pictures of the Seamwork Catarina dress. It seemed perfect – light, floaty, and the right sort of length. I’d never used a Seamwork pattern before though, and wasn’t sure how the Catarina would look on me – so I picked up some bargain viscose print off eBay to make a trial version with. That was pretty successful – you can read all about it here.
The Catarina is a really easy-going dress – it’s got an elasticated waist, adjustable straps and you get to make a cute little belt for it too. There’s a couple of darts on the front bodice, but other than that it’s pretty simple.
I only had two yards of the silk fabric, but the Catarina pattern calls for three and a half yards. However, this stated yardage includes making the bodice facings out of the self fabric. Making these from a different fabric instantly chops a lot of that yardage requirement, and I don’t think I would use expensive silk as a facing anyway. A light cotton would be much more comfortable and considerably cheaper. I only bought two metres of the viscose fabric that I used for the trial run, so knew I’d be ok getting the whole dress cut from my piece of silk.
Turns out I forgot about one tiny little detail – that yards are about 9cm shorter than metres. I might have just been able to cut the first version out of the two metres of viscose, but I now had two YARDS of the silk which in total is a whole 18cm shorter. I didn’t realise this until after the scissors had already made their way through some of the fabric. Gah.
I spent ages laying out the silk on the cutting board, making sure the grain was straight and everything was where it should be and it wasn’t going to shift around as I cut it. The front of the skirt was first up – one piece to be cut on the fold. After making sure the fold was indeed straight and everything else was lined up and in the correct position, I held my breath and took the rotary cutter to the fabric. All good. One piece successfully cut. On to the back skirt.
I lined up the skirt back against the edge of the fabric, and it was at that point I thought that the remaining fabric I would have left to cut the front and back bodices from looked a little bit, well… vertically challenged. I took the bodice pieces and laid them on the fabric above the skirt template, and sure enough they overhung at the top of the fabric. There wasn’t enough.
After about 10 seconds of complete confusion as to why these pieces would fit on the viscose but not on the silk, it dawned on me that there is a difference between two yards of fabric and two metres of fabric. Many thoughts ran through my head – OMG how could I have missed that, how could I be so stupid, now I’ve gone and totally messed up the precious fabric. ARRRRRRRGH. I took a deep breath and reassessed the situation. I was only about 10cm short of fabric, and hadn’t yet actually cut the back skirt, only placed it on the fabric. My only option was to shorten the uncut skirt piece enough so that I could squeeze on the bodice pieces above it. So that’s what I did. Everything was shimmied down the fabric a little bit until the bodice was completely on the fabric, and the bottom of the skirt was now overhanging the fabric. All pieces were cut. There were literally only slivers of fabric left over.
I then had to resolve the issue that the back skirt was 10cm shorter than the front skirt. If only it had been the other way around – the front shorter than the back – I could have made it a high-low hem feature. But nooooo…. if I mess something up it has to be done in the absolute most spectacular way possible. So I lay the front piece over the back piece, and trimmed off the excess to make them both the same length. The first version I made hit just below the knee, so I knew I had some spare length to play with. And if things got really desperate I could just sew a narrower hem.
Having to trim the front of the skirt turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as in the midst of the cutting chaos I had forgotten that I still had the waist tie to cut. And the only fabric I had remaining to cut it out of was the 10cm I had just trimmed off the front skirt… so nothing at all out of these two yards of fabric went to waste. As an accountant, that makes my inner finance nerd very happy 🤓
I had to put a lining in the skirt of this version, as the silk was ever so slightly sheer. I didn’t need to put a lining in the first Catarina I made, as the viscose was thick enough not to be indecent. It was very simple to add a lining – all you need to do is cut the front and back skirt out of the lining fabric, but an inch or so shorter. Then you essentially make two separate skirts – one out of the main fabric and another out of the lining fabric – and bring them both together at the waistband. I used the same black cotton voile lining for the skirt as I used for the bodice – I wanted something that was a similar weight to the silk so that it didn’t interfere with it’s flowy-ness.
I used French seams throughout the whole of the dress, to keep the raw edges enclosed and stop them from fraying. There’s no way I wanted to be dealing with fraying seams after a few washes! Talking of washing, yep I wash silk. I know that some silk garments in shops (and even fabric sellers) say that you must not under any circumstances wash silk or the world will end, but I always do – I mean let’s be real, no one is going to get a silk summer dress dry cleaned after each wear. And anyway, is dry cleaning really all that good for the fibres of the fabric? I put my silk clothing in the washing machine on a cold wash, with very little spin. On my machine it’s called a delicate/handwash cycle. I even put wool jumpers on that cycle too – yep, even the ones that say:
Just make sure that you use a cold wash and a detergent that’s recommended for wool and silk – you don’t want to be washing your lovely delicate clothing at 90 degrees with a biological detergent.
I’m so happy with how the dress looks – I think the simple construction of the Catarina really allows the pattern on the fabric to shine. Let’s be honest – whatever I made from it, it was always going to be about the fabric rather than the design of the garment. The loose, floaty fit of the dress perfectly compliments the light silk fabric. I don’t normally do ‘light and floaty’ (more clumsy and heavy) but if you balance it out with a super-crazy pattern – I’m listening.
In a way I’m sad that I don’t have any more of the fabric – it would have made a great button-up shirt – but that just makes this dress even more special I guess. If I ever do see some more of this fabric though, everything else will be dropped immediately and that shirt is going to become a reality. For now, I’ll just keep on browsin’ for fabrics and see what crosses my path.
Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… a Vogue 8759 in this gorgeous Liberty print 😍 Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!