In search of buttonhole twist

I nearly fell at the final hurdle with Vogue 1073. The hem is finished in a really unusual way that calls for ‘buttonhole twist’ thread. I’ve heard of this stuff as fairly thick, shiny thread used to make hand-worked buttonholes but never seen it in a shop. A quick internet search didn’t turn it up in any online shops in the UK.

What you use the buttonhole twist for is attaching a plaited braid to hang from the bottom of the dress hem, using a hand-sewing stitch that resembles a series of french knots. The braid is made out of the same fabric as the dress. The stitches attaching the braid clearly show on the pattern envelope photo, although I don’t think they’re very visible in this electronic version.

I was thinking of buying some embroidery floss and trying to use a single strand of that, but then I remembered I had this DMC Special Dentelles 80 thread left over from when I used to do lacemaking. It’s thick and slightly glossy thread with very little elasticity. It seemed to work OK for attaching the braid, although I think it may be slightly thicker than whatever Vogue used.

Amazingly there are no bloodstains on the hem, despite my having rammed a needle into my finger while sewing the braid on. I am not good at hand sewing. This whole project has been pretty hard on the fingers.

You can see the funny little knots attaching the braid in this picture. The braid is definitely meant to be attached below the hem rather than on top of it according to Vogue’s diagrams.

So that’s the dress done at long last! I haven’t got pictures of it yet because the nights here are drawing in so fast there’s now no daylight left by the time I get home from work. Hopefully I’ll get some at the weekend.

Alien flower power

Here’s the final incarnation of the alien flowers fabric.

This is a vintage Simplicity pattern, number 5349. I’ve made it before in a black and white print and was surprised by how much wear it gets. Despite looking a bit dressy it’s really comfortable, so I find myself reaching for it on any reasonably warm day. Although not with these shoes! A pair of Converse are more likely in real life. The dress is backless so you do need a hoodie or a cardigan over the top most of the time too.

I tweaked the fit a bit on this version, but the main change from the original was that I faced the hem so that it’s nice and heavy and hangs really well. I underlined the fabric too. It all needs to be quite close fitting and structured to hold everything in place without a bra! The fashion fabric has a bit of elastane which helps there.

Cutting out this floral was a pain in the neck. It is impossible to match the print on any of the seams in this pattern without screwing up the grainlines, but I’m pleased that I avoided any obvious horrors in the placement, and it isn’t twinned anywhere other than a little bit at the back:

But my next project is definitely going to be a solid!

Rolled hems

What is the trick to making tidy rolled hems? I’ve just made Vogue 1240, a confection of flappy chiffon layers, and consequently have spent quite a bit of time struggling with this lately.

Vogue 1240 pattern photo

Vogue 1240 envelope

The pattern instructions assume that you don’t have a rolled hem foot for your machine and have you stitch close to the edge, turn at the stitching line, press, and then turn, press, and stitch again. This would probably work fine on any fabric that will take a crease, but my fabric’s an unpressable mystery synthetic. I tried but the folds sprung open every time I let go of them. I did make one hem on the actual dress with this method but it wasn’t a pretty one.

After that I resorted to the rolled hem foot and read about twenty internet tutorials on how to make a perfect rolled hem. About the best piece of advice I found (and now I’ve lost the link) was to hold the fabric edge vertically in front of the foot and let the hem do the rolling as much as possible, but even that didn’t always work for me. I found that on straight lines, if I trimmed the hem beforehand so that the edge of the fabric was perfectly straight with no fraying at all, I could get quite a good result. I know this one doesn’t look straight in the photo but it is in real life.

But any curves in the hem or wonkiness in the cutting rapidly caused problems. I’ve sewed over this bit twice in the hope it will stay put.

I think the difficulty I have is in feeding the right width of fabric into the rolled hem foot in the first place. If the width is too narrow the hem doesn’t roll and if it’s too wide you get a fraying edge sticking out from underneath it. I am starting to wonder if the answer isn’t to mark the correct width on the fabric so that I have something to aim for when sewing. Thoughts? I am determined to crack this!