Velvet Martha

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I made this dress with the thought of festive parties coming up: who wouldn’t love a party dress that’s super comfy and snuggly? It’s a Tilly & The Buttons Martha dress in rather lovely Chinoiserie-style stretch velvet.

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Martha is a swinging 70s-inspired frock with a high mandarin collar, princess-seamed bodice, fluted sleeves and a twirly panelled skirt. I think Tilly gave me the pattern as a thanks for pattern testing and I knew I wanted to make it up in velvet for winter. I don’t think the sample garments actually do this pattern much justice, though it looks like I was inspired by the large floral print of the knee-length view. I sewed the mini length and bell sleeve options of the powder blue view.

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The fabric is this cotton-mix stretch velvet from Minerva. It’s my first time sewing a fabric with any sort of pile, but it was a very gentle introduction and I was generally able to treat it like any other knit. I just made super sure to cut all the pieces in the same direction in case the pile showed up differently after it was sewn. (The skirt pieces are meant to be cut on the bias if you’re using a woven, but I cut them on grain.)

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There are a lot of seams but it’s still a pretty fast sew, especially as I used the overlocker for all the construction – and as you can see, I made no effort to pattern-match this large scale print. I pressed with a warm heat on the reverse, avoiding pressing the right side of the velvet. I took the time to handsew the hem and slipstitch the inner neckband down because I thought it’d look prettier than topstitching. The hand-stitches sink right into the pile, appearing satisfyingly invisible.

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There are some neck facing pieces in the pattern that I couldn’t really see a use for, since the collar fully encloses the raw neckline, so I left them off. Despite using a stretch, I still inserted a short invisible zip into the back because it’d be tricky to get the funnel neck over my head without distorting it.

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Fit-wise, I cut a straight 4 but took in the side seams at the waist quite a bit as I sewed it up, probably because the stretch makes it more forgiving. I sewed clear elastic into the waist seam to prevent it growing out over time. I also tweaked the sleeve cap to remove the excess ease because I wasn’t keen on the puffed-up look. Next time I’ll cut a size smaller in the shoulders as they are a bit too wide. (n.b. the rippling in the upper back in the pic above is because I didn’t realise the zip tape was stuck up in my bra band…)

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After finishing this I wondered if I could repurpose it for daytime too: it’s definitely the type of dress I’d want to wear to work as it’s so cosy and comfy. I might try it out in ponte, ribbing or French terry sometime for a more casual version.

27 thoughts on “Velvet Martha

  1. Gillian

    Oooh, that’s lovely! Velvet seems really trendy this season, and I like how the print on yours makes it graphic. (My one fear with some velvets is that the sheen highlights curves on the body, which is fabulous in some places, and for me, less desirable in others! ;) Super cute dress, and I agree, it would be great in daytime too!

    1. Katie Post author

      Yes I might fear non-patterned and non-stretch velvet a bit, that would seem harder to get a good result with. This one was very easy!

  2. Meg

    Lovely! Definitely one of the best I’ve seen of the Martha pattern. I so want to get in on the velvet trend, but it is wildly impractical for me here… boo!

  3. Ann

    I had not liked this pattern until I saw your dress. I believe choosing the right fabric may be even more important than the pattern. Lovely!

  4. Marilla

    Love this! I saw a panne stretch velvet in John Lewis earlier which I’m considering getting to sew into a dress so this is perfect inspiration! X

  5. Kirsten

    That fabric is lush! I agree with everyone else who says that this is the best version of this dress that I’ve seen. I love the retro vibe that the fabric gives it, and the fit is perfect. I can’t believe it’s almost time for festive party dresses!

  6. Lia

    From the first photo alone I said (outloud, to myself, like a creepy weirdo): “DAMN, you look good! Where’d you get that velvet, girl?” And while I regret that my subconscious talks like a street harasser I must agree with its conclusions.

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