This is without a doubt my most ambitious and time-consuming #MinervaMake to date… but wow, the payoff was totally worth it ♥️ This pretty floral silk fabric was gifted to me from Minerva and I immediately began sketching out my plan for a delicate 1940s style tea dress; I wanted to make something that a silver-screen starlet would wear for high tea! I have never sewn with silk before, so head over to Minerva to see my blog post or scroll down for more details and photos.
This silk from Minerva is truly sumptuous and feels so luxurious on. It is a crêpe de chine, which is a very lightweight weave and that meant it was quite tricky to cut out; I cut the fabric pieces on a single layer and only pinned in the seam allowances with silk pins. I also found that layering tissue paper both underneath and above the fabric helped to reduce the silk from shifting around during cutting. The print is just stunning, with sketched fuchsia roses on an ultramarine background; I love how it looks like it has been painted with watercolours! This crêpe de chine is opaque, has a slightly matte finish with an ever so slightly rough texture and the drape is so flowy. The skirt swirls around my legs as I walk, it is just dreamy!
I had a tea dress pattern in mind, which I thought would suit this soft, feminine silk — the Nina Lee Kew Dress (a Christmas gift from my Granny!). I went for Version 1, which looks quite 40s; it has short sleeves, a v-neck bodice and a high-low dipped hem, which is so delightfully twirly! This dress has a button-front closure with fifteen buttons. As the fabric is 140cm wide, I only needed 2 metres to make Version 1 and ended up with only a handful of scraps left. I really like a vintage silhouette and this one is fantastic — I am definitely planning another.
The instructions were very easy to follow; the booklet shows the instructions for both versions in tandem, but the layout is clear throughout, so you won’t get muddled. Based on my measurements, I erred on the size of caution and cut a size 12 — there isn’t much ease factored into this pattern and I feel like you should always dress with room for cake! I also made a few alterations along the way, including an FBA. To do this, I followed a blog post of a similar Megan Nielsen dress that also just has waist darts and added bust darts to my bodice. I whipped up a quick muslin to make sure that everything looked okay before cutting into this precious silk!
As I said earlier, I really took my time with this make and went slowly. I used a 60 Microtex needle and extra-sharp silk pins throughout, along with my trusty walking foot. As silk is fragile and frays quickly, I finished all the seams as French seams and then slip-stitched the hem of the skirt and sleeves by hand. The Kew dress is finished with a row of buttons and I have never been so tense making buttonholes in my life! Doing fifteen buttonholes in silk was quite overwhelming — each was as nerve-wracking as the last! That being said, these Pigeon Wishes ‘Bloom’ resin buttons I got from Hey Sew Sister are just the cherry on the top; they perfectly pick out all the shades of pink, peach and green shades in the fabric.
I can’t put into words how joyful I feel in this dress: flirty, feminine, floral and 40s! I am so glad I really took my time to painstakingly sew slowly or by hand, as this finished garment is so worth it. I would like to make another tea dress Kew — perhaps an autumnal version in russet viscose or khaki linen — and I am planning to make the strappy sun dress version this summer!