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John Kaldor Velour River Dress

I thought I’d sew a trickier fabric for my make this month so I opted for a Velour Jersey Fabric with a floral design. When it arrived I was so pleased because it’s the most lovely slippery smooth fabric and the design is gorgeous, albeit quite a bit bigger than I expected. I’d initially planned to make a dirndl-style skirt from The Maker’s Atelier magazine but after the fabric arrived I decided I’d feel it was too bulky around my waist and hips. This is purely a personal choice because I knew the sheen on the fabric would accentuate my tummy, which I’m quite self-conscious of, as well as the pleats. This isn’t a reflection on the suitability of the fabric for the pattern, quite the reverse, but it wasn’t going to be right for me.

I settled instead on a pattern hack of the River Dress from Megan Nielsen. It’s a super-simple raglan sleeved dress and top with the interesting option of wearing it either way round-it has a V neck and a scoop and no darts so you can choose which is the front and which is the back [people will think it’s a different dress each time!] It’s suitable for stretch and woven fabrics too, and has in-seam pockets if you want them so a really versatile pattern which I’ve made once already.

Because the velour lends itself to a more ‘special’ outfit, and I wanted to use the maximum amount of fabric I’ve been provided with, I lengthened the sleeves to full-length and also the skirt as much as possible. This wasn’t difficult because the pattern pieces are all straight to start with so it’s just a case of adding the extra.

There are a few things to bear in mind with velour (or velvet, corduroy and velveteen for that matter). They all have a ’pile’ which is a raised surface which can usually be brushed in one direction or another, this often results in it shading or looking a different colour depending on which direction you’re looking at it. The effect can be so marked as to make the fabric look like two completely different colours even though you know it’s all the same. (FYI satin often does this too) This isn’t going to be a problem if you cut all your pattern pieces going the same way.

Next, fabrics with a pile can be easily marked by pins so always pin the pattern to the fabric within the seam allowance. Personally I’m really not a fan of pattern weights and I definitely wouldn’t use weights for this because they are liable to shift about on this fabric.

These fabrics can be folded and cut on the double, just lay them up carefully keeping the selvedges even and the fold shouldn’t be twisting. I always use the edge of the table as a visual marker and lay the selvedges against it closest to me. If you’re in any doubt, or the pattern instructs it, then cut on the single making sure you cut pairs of everything that requires it.

You may notice the pattern seems to ‘creep’ a bit on the fabric, this is because of the pile underneath. Smooth the pattern gently with your hand in one direction to keep wrinkles to a minimum, don’t over do it though as you could be there all day pinning and re-pinning.

My fabric had a one-way design so there was only one way for me to cut it out which simplified things.

When it comes to sewing a fabric with pile you may find the top layer wants to creep further along as you sew ending up with the top layer pushed further than the under layer. Tacking may not be your favourite thing but this is definitely a good time to do it. If you have a walking foot attachment for your machine use that, my Pfaff Ambition 2.0 has a built-in walking foot which has been invaluable for fabrics like this.

The ‘River’ dress and top is a very simple make, after sewing the raglan sleeves the neck band goes on [make sure you cut the correct neckband as there are different ones for stretch and woven fabrics]

I had decided to give my dress some additional features by using elastic inside casings to create a cuff and also under the bust. I used a wide ready-made bias binding for this casing but, in order not to damage the pile of the fabric which will be facing down towards the feed dogs, I placed a sheet of tissue paper under the fabric between the presser foot and the feed dogs. Sew through the fabric and the tissue and then tear it away when you’re done, this will hopefully protect the pile and stop it being marked or crushed.

I sewed the bias on with the sleeves open and flat so I could see exactly where I was sewing it stopping just short of the seam on each side. This is because when I sewed up the sleeve seams I could slot the elastic through the casing, adjust it and stitch it. Also, I hemmed the sleeves using the rolled hem finish on my overlocker.

When I first sewed the bias on for the under-bust gathering unfortunately I put it on too low for my liking so I had to take it all off and move it up. This meant there were a few marks on the cloth where I’d unpicked but I rubbed gently with my nail to smooth the marks as best I could. It isn’t too visible now and I hope they will wash out eventually.

I left a split up one side of the skirt which I stitched down and then used the twin needle for the hem itself.

Fabrics like velour and velvet need a bit of careful handling but they aren’t impossible. When it comes to pressing most of us don’t have special pin-boards for the purpose so I suggest you use an offcut of the velour as a pressing cloth, or a hand towel or similar would probably work pretty well too, basically you’re trying to avoid crushing the pile.

This is a lovely fabric and I’m really pleased with the finished dress which I think is a bit special.

Thanks for reading,

Sue @ Susan Young Sewing

Comment (1)

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Wendy Ripley said:

It looks fabulous; thanks for sharing your sewing tips, i've learned a lot reading your blog... I'm very much a novice with knits and stretch and have just struggled terribly trying to complete my first garment with it (confident with all other stuff mainly)- a stretch crushed velvet which was a dickens of a job to sew; loe your pattern hacks too - well done you x · 24th Feb 2019 06:00pm