Saturday, September 4, 2010

Silk Dress Binge

I'm on a bit of a silk dress binge. I like the intensity of the silk colors and the crisp feel of the fabric. This first dress is a copy of 'Eloise' which was featured on the cover of AS&E #87. The original dress was made from a beautiful tropical weight men's grey flannel suiting. It might be one of my favorite dresses I have ever made.

My new version is apple green silk. It was sold as dupioni but it really feels and behaves like silk taffeta.

There are a few things I have learned along the way when working with this silk. It seems to work best to interface the area to be smocked prior to pleating the fabric with a very lightweight interfacing. The stuff I'm most partial to at the moment is the 'Baby' interfacing you can get from Sally at Farmhouse Fabrics ( It seems to add just the right amount of body and stability to the outer fabric. You will have a hot mess on your hands if you try to just pleat the silk on the cross grain without adding the interfacing. Trust me on this. The second thing I have discovered is that this silk does not gather very nicely (really not very nicely!) on the cross or lengthwise grain. Areas that required gathers such as the skirt back to the bodice back presented a big problem. I got around this by softly pleating, big 2" pleats, the skirt back to the bodice back.

I really like the formal, almost bridal look this gives to the back of the dress. The next problem was the sleeve which required gathers on the cap and at the cuff. I found that cutting the entire sleeve on the bias solved the problem. For some mysterious reason the silk gathered beautifully across the bias. This dress is for a class I'm teaching at the Children's Corner in Nashville Tennessee in October.

This next dress is another color version of the silk dress Jorden was modeling in a previous post. The fabric is the ivory silk taffeta trimmed with lavender and smocked with Mill Hill seed beads.

I quite like the strong contrast the darker lavender provides. The Mill Hill beads add just the right amount of bling. I think both these dresses would be prefect for flower girls in almost any color combination. I'm thinking about a lime green/hot pink combination next. This project is also for a class at Martha's Pullens in February and July of next year.

Matt (5th child) moved away to college last week. The house is achingly quiet. Who would have thought I would have missed all that piano banging, viola plucking, guitar strumming, loud singing, craziness already. If you want to check in on him look at - maybe this is mom bias but I think he is quite an interesting writer.


  1. I am SO glad you're "playing around" with silk. I'm currently working with several myself and am looking forward to the results of YOUR learning...much less painful to me. Would you please put "in print" your experience with wash/no washing silk dupioni/taffeta before use?

  2. gail, these dresses are just exquisite!!! I have always loved that one that is on the cover, jsut a lovely dress!!

  3. Hi Sarah, As you know I'm normally a fairly practical girl - but when it comes to silk dresses I'm not. I get it that putting a four year old in a dry clean only dress is crazy but these dresses are clearly special occasion and NOT everyday wear. Silk dupioni and silk taffeta can be washed but it dramatically changes the nature of the fabric. It loses it's crisp hand and sheen that to me are what make the silk beautiful in the first place. I do know that some of the darker colors are not very color fast so I would be careful about washing a red dress with an attached white collar. If you can live with the changes to the silk, fine, go ahead and wash it(prewash first as there will probably be some shrinking). I'm O.K. with the occasional dry clean to maintain the characteristic beauty of the silk. Just one girls opinion.

  4. My heart be still!!! Gail, you have outdone yourself this time. I am looking forward to making original Eloise after seeing it in person. Now you tempt me with this latest version. Any chance you can show us your black wool adult jacket? Susan VH

  5. I would never let anyone wear this. It is a piece of art. I am so aw struck. Well done simply beautiful.

  6. Debi, but a grand daughter is a piece of art, too, from the grand MOTHER'S perspective!

  7. These dresses are gorgeous.

    I stashed some beautiful silks when a friend who had a formalwear business closed her shop, but the dry-clean-only thing has prevented me from using many of them. I even washed a swatch of a gorgeous plaid, and it changed the fabric dramatically (for the worse).

    I have made some prewashed silk things and they can be quite nice in their own soft, muted, crinkly way--but they'll never have the sheen and crispness of never-washed silks.

  8. I love these dresses. I love sewing with silk. I put a lot of time into the dresses I make for my daughters, and I want them to wear them and enjoy them as much as I do. If they get dirty, I hand wash them and have no problem with the out come!They iron up beautifully. I will be taking your school and a pre-day class at SAF. I can't wait!

  9. Lovely dresses! Always a pleasure to see your confections! Quiet houses are way overrated. Who would believe we once thought such a thing would be heavenly? Best wishes to Matt -- and you -- during his freshman year.

  10. Ooh. After having fallen in love with this dress in the grey flannel version, I wouldn't have thought I'd have been so partial to such a different fabric but I *love* that bright apple green silk. It gives such a different look to the dress and just makes it pop!

  11. The gray version of the dress is probably my favorite of all of the things I've seen you do and it is such a treat to see it in a beautiful silk too! I will be making a flower girl dress this year, so I thank you for the inspiration.


  12. I think my Irish is showing because I am seriously in love with the green silk!! I have some Beverley kits in the candy apple green and the more I see it, the more I love it! The SAF projects are just gorgeous! Can't wait to see you next summer.

  13. I love, love, love the green! I'm willing to pay the dry cleaning bill to have my grand daughter wear something like that! That would make a perfect, cheery holiday dress. Love it!

  14. Your work always takes my breath away!!!!! However do you come up with ever-more-beautiful ideas?? My daughter is begging me to make "Eloise" and so I am building up my courage to start. The collar is what daunts me the most. Wish me luck!

  15. Gail, that lime green silk just takes my breath away! Outstandingly beautiful!!
    I would SEW love to make this for my DGD someday & would gladly pay the drycleaner to keep it nice.

    I've been peeking over your shoulder for some time & I have your wonderful book with the cute as a button jackets & smocked dresses. ♥ that you have a blog.
    I just signed up as your newest follower, too.


  16. Website on where to buy your dresses?


Teaching Schedule for 2018

6-11 Sewing at the Beach
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

22-26 - Private Class

19-23 Teaching Studio
St. Louis, Missouri
(or text 314 974 7561)

7-8 Bewitching Stitchers
Boston, Mass

10-14 Children's Corner
Nashville, Tennessee
Contact; www.children'

20-22 Bewitching Stitchers

30-June 2 Private Class

4-9 Private class

23-27 Private Class

7-8 New Orleans/Baton Rouge SAGA

17-23 SAGA National Convntion
Winston/Salem North Carolina

4-10 Beating Around the Bush
Adelaide, Australia

29 - Nov 2
Teaching Studio
St. Louis, Missouri
(or text 314 974 7561)

6-10 Private Class

I have several open dates in 2018 for private or public groups.
For teaching information, a current class list, and available dates, contact