A dress in blue noil

Hi guys! Thanks for your thoughtful responses to my interview with Leigh Anne Van Dusen. It was reassuring to hear that many of you experience the same feelings I do – wanting to sew with sustainable textiles but wondering (and feeling overwhelmed by) what really constitutes a sustainable, healthy fabric. I thought it was cool was that people had a wide range of experience with the idea – some people were new to the concept while others started sewing because they specifically wanted clothing made from textiles that met certain requirements.

Anyhoodles, today I’m sharing a project made with one of my personal favorite sorts of fabric – second-hand! One of the more astounding fabrics I’ve found at Our Fabric Stash was a royal blue silk noil. It’s weird, amazing stuff – heavier, some drape, crazy easy to sew. And, it’s one of my absolute favorite colors that I don’t seem to come across often in fabric. I’ve been pondering what to make out of it, and decided to go for a dress-length version of my long-coveted, out-of-print Built By Wendy pattern (graciously given to me by Philippa and previously sewn up in the shirt length).

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

As I was constructing the dress, I started wondering what I could do to make it special. Eventually, Sanae’s sashiko stitching on a dress for her daughter got me thinking, and I realized I could try to play up some of the cool design lines in the pattern with embroidery.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

You want to look even closer, you say?

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

I tried a lot of options – three strands of embroidery floss, two, different designs – and this is where I ended up. Part of me wanted to go crazy and cover the yokes and insets completely, and another part of me wanted to stitch a single outline around each piece. Evidently, I reached a compromise! I’m a total novice at embroidery, but I really enjoyed seeing the graphic stitches come together to form a pattern.

I’d meant to start listening to Christine’s podcast Thread Cult for awhile, and this was the perfect project to start digging in. I’ve often wished for more sewing-related documentaries and media, and Christine does a great job interviewing a wide swath of sewing folks.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

One change I wish I’d made is closing up the back opening. The neckline is large enough for even my melon head, and the weight of the ties tends to make it gape open. I stitched the ties down to make a fake bow that isn’t as bulky.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

I decided against a sash (included in the pattern) or elastic waist (not included). I’m not sure it’s my “best look” (I’m irritating myself just writing that!) but it’s definitely a “best feeling”. And, I get to feel like I’m following in the stylish, un-fettered steps of Sonja.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

The pattern has you sew the little sleeves and the binding onto the arm scye. Given the thickness of my fabric, I had to remove the binding and use a thinner silk scrap for binding that I hand-stitched. More hand-sewing = more Thread Cult!

I shortened the dress a bit by cutting off 10″ or so and turning it into a hem band. I love the weight this finish adds to the dress.

crabandbee.com | Simplicity 3964

And that, my friends, is how my precious piece of blue silk noil became a embroidered, no-waist dress that is a delight to her creator. Is embroidery in your arsenal? Do you go waist-less? Do tell!


100 thoughts on “A dress in blue noil

    1. Haha, I guess it shows that I’ve never watched that show! Maybe a not-too-loose shift would be a good place to start experimenting?

      1. I read your post yesterday and have been thinking about it… I agree that defining a waist is more flattering (I love WNTW too!) – I have been reviewing my makes through Me Made May and that is true, but it isn’t always about what other people think – you have to dress for you and your lifestyle. And if this dress makes you happy, then wear it with pride! I think it is wonderful 🙂

      2. Dressing for your lifestyle is a great way of putting it. I’ve actually seen this play out in what kind of footwear I choose. Up until a few years ago, I used to wear heels all year round. My feet were cold and they hurt, but I thought they were more flattering. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I like to walk to the bus or to work! Now I look for shoes with a design I like, but are comfortable and durable and have a 1-2″ heel. I can’t imagine going back to heels for much more than a couple of hours!

  1. Lovely embroidery! That is the kind of thing I have been wanting to do lately but it seems like such a big task to do all that handwork. Realistically it would be fine in front of the TV though… just got to get around to starting!

    1. I think the hardest part was starting! Once I figured out the direction I wanted to go, it took a bit of time but not that much effort. And yah, totally perfect for listening to or watching something.

  2. I love silk nail too, it’s so nice. Hard to come by though. Your dress is great, I am a card carrying member of the waist-less dress club and I’m loving it!

    1. Ha! Yah, I really haven’t seen too much silk noil. I’m not even sure how I identified it when I saw it! It’s luxurious.

  3. That is gorgeous! The color looks so great on you and I really love your embroidery. Perfect!

  4. I really want this pattern, it sucks so much that it’s out of print. It looks gorgeous on you and I can see why you like the colour, it really suits you. I’ve never tried embroidery but I might be tempted to give sashiko a go. This has to be one of my favourite makes of yours!

  5. Beautiful dress! The color is amazing and I love the embroidery! I love to do embroidery but haven’t done much lately since it’s so time consuming. Your dress makes me want to do more 🙂

    1. I absolutely loved your sashiko jeans project! I would be psyched to see another embroidery project of yours. The embroidery tripled the time this project took me, which was interesting – I liked going a bit more slowly than usual, but now that I’ve got a couple of potentially time-sensitive projects in the works, I think I would find less appealing. That said, I’m fantasizing about doing an even more ornate project when my sewing queue cools off!

  6. That colour is amazing on you, what a fabulous find. And you’ve exercised perfect self control with that embroidery – it’s wonderful. I must say I’m not into the ‘waist less’ for my body shape but on long lean girls like you and Sonja I love them.

  7. This dress is so beautiful! The hand-stitching really elevates the whole thing – I think you added the perfect amount! I also think this looks great on you with no waist definition, and it will definitely keep you more comfortable!

  8. Perfect – the whole thing is perfect. I love the color, shape, draping, embroidery – you look so cute! I’m going to go search for this out of print pattern you speak of (because the white blouse was just as cute!)

    1. Thanks, Carrie! Best of luck on your pattern quest. I have to say that I’m searching for the Galitzine pattern you did so beautifully for your Megan Draper dress.

  9. Wow! This is amazing! The embroidery is so, so beautiful, and is a perfect compliment to that rich blue. I love this on you! It’s absolutely amazing!

  10. I. WANT. THIS!!!!!!!!! I mean… I usually want everything you make, but this dress has taken that desire to a whole new level!! This is stunning! My absolute dream dress! I love silk noil and that color is the stuff dreams are made of. Your touch of embroidery is absolute perfection. And no waists are always welcome on me! Where can I get this pattern???

    1. Aw, thank you!! I have to say, your ikat dress a few years ago was a game changer for me in terms of volume. I was definitely in a more short-and-tight fashion phase back then and you blew my mind. As for the pattern… I think you may need to set up some ebay and etsy alerts (if they have such a thing)? I’m keeping my eyes peeled every time I’m at the thrift stores, just in case I find one to share!

  11. I love everything about this garment. I am a lover of needleworks and this pattern. I still have yet to sew it up, but I’ve always thought the yoke was a perfect feature spot for some embroidery. I love how the handwork you applied highlights all the design lines. I think waist-less dresses with volume look best on slim people.

  12. This looks absolutely stunning on you! I love everything about it – the colour (one of my favourites!), the embroidery (I’ve been wanting to try this, especially sashiko!), the drape, the yokes and gathers. Wow. I recently acquired some second-hand silk noil (at least I think it’s noil) in the form of gathered skirts and unfinished skirt panels. Now I’m anxious to make it into something!

    I have one waist-less RTW dress that I usually wear with a sash or belt, but sometimes I go without on a hot summer day, and it’s so liberating! I do worry that someone will ask if I’m pregnant when I wear it, but that hasn’t happened yet.

    1. Lucky you – I’m excited to see what you transform your silk noil into! I had the same worry when I wear one of my five or so waist-less tunics and dresses, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it’s becoming more of a familiar silhouette.

  13. I adore this dress! The embroidery is stunning! I am all for going waist-less, too. You look cool and comfortable and totally stylish. And you can always add a belt if the mood strikes. 🙂

  14. That’s sooo pretty. The embroidery really makes it. I’m a bit scared of this silhouette but it’s so great on you and Sonja!

  15. The embroidery is such a lovely idea. I almost forgot about this pattern, I think I have a copy floating around in my stash somewhere. Seeing it without any elastic or sash at the waist inspires me to make a night gown version.

    1. If you decide not to use the pattern, it seems like you could sell it pretty easily on Ebay or Etsy! I had the hardest time finding it.

  16. Oooh, I really love your sashiko detailing! I think you got it just right… it piques your interest without being too in your face (you know, like those people who feel the need to sit there & explain plot lines :p )

    I got all inspired by Sashiko last year, kitted myself out only to realise that I really don’t have the patience for it. I got half way into my first sampler & just about died of boredom! Love the effect though & you’re making me wonder whether I should persevere 🙂

    1. Haha! I think my interest and tolerance in slow-paced handiwork fluctuates dramatically. Sometimes I’m just in the mood – maybe it will strike you sometime!

  17. I love this style of dress and they are so super comfy to wear. That color is gorgeous on you too. I really like the Sashiko. I tried some on the hem of a knit tunic and this makes me want to try it again. Its an all over great piece!

  18. Beautiful! The embroidery is fantastic. I’ve been going waistless here lately. I’ve made a couple of giant, swingy tops/tunics that I need to photograph for the old blog. I’m not sure it’s my best look either, but I am really digging the ease of wearing them. I tell myself I look artsy and cool. Hopefully that translates 😉

    1. I’m really excited to see your swingy creations! There’s nothing like that waist-less freedom. I’ll bet you look as cool and as artsy as you are 🙂

  19. It’s beautiful and so perfectly you! I love the embroidery and the nod to 70’s-ness while still being clean and modern. Well done!
    Is silk noise the fabric that’s bumpy, loosely woven and drapey? If it’s what I’m thinking of, that was the fabric I used for my very first clothing sewing project (a colette sorbetto). I’ve never sewn with silk since, which now seems silly in retrospect! 😉

    1. Yes, that’s the texture! I rarely see it in fabric stores aside from the online silk sites, so it’s cool that you found some for your very first project. Silk fabrics seem to differ so dramatically from each other – noil and charmeuse are night and day! Do you think you’ll sew with noil again or try another kind if/when you sew with silk next?

  20. this dress looks amazing on you! i am drooling… every detail is perfect. love the embroidery! i’m totally down with waistless dresses, and you wear them so well. fantastic job!

  21. You can totally pull this off! Being ‘top heavy’ I tend to look expectant in waist-less styles, but I love to wear them anyway because of the feeling of freedom they give. Btw, the embroidery is a perfect way to emphasise the yoke shape, and I too adore the intense colour. It says summer to me!

    1. Ah, that’s a good point – I’m pretty rectangular and don’t have much front volume to contend with! The free feeling is pretty spectacular. I’m hoping I have a dressy occasion to wear this in the summer. Until then, work will have to suffice!

  22. This looks fantastic on you! I have this pattern but have never sewn it up. Your embroidery makes sense of the design lines in a really nice way, though – maybe I should make a version myself instead of selling the pattern for ££!

  23. Wow! This is absolutely beautiful! Amazing that this is thrifted fabric, the colour is so striking. I love the embroidery, it’s just the right amount and compliments the design lines perfectly!

  24. you guys are killing me with this pattern. i KNOW it will not look good on me. but i WANT it.

    and you get straight out of town with that stitching.

  25. Wow – you’ve definitely inspired me to try embroidery on my finished garments! The color is so beautiful and looks gorgeous on you – I love how it’s something that’s so easy to throw on and comfy to wear, yet you look so pulled together.

  26. Oh wow Morgan I love this on you! The colour & silhouette are lovely. I really like that sashiko embroidery too – I love the idea of hand sewing but haven’t ever tried embroidery.

  27. I LOVE this dress, and absolutely LOVE the white top you made with this pattern too. How ironic, I have been scouring the pattern catalogues in my local fabric store, and the web for a pattern like this and her I have found the perfect pattern….. and it is out of print. So I will be searching etsy, and emailing Simplicity to bring this pattern back!

  28. I love it!! The embroidery is really perfect, and I actually really like the cut of the pattern. I made a dress with this shape recently and I just can’t accept the way it looks on me, though, so I get it. My husband keeps saying that it looks great, it’s supposed to look like that, but I just can’t get past the lack of waist definition…

    1. Just checked your blog – are you talking about your grey knit dress? I think it looks great! (Of course, I would.) How you feel in your clothing is at least as important as how it looks, though – if you don’t like it, you don’t like it!

  29. Wow, I love the embroidery! I really want to delve into it but was having a hard time figuring out what I could apply it to but seeing your dress has really helped. As for waist-less dresses – yes, if it looks like this one! 🙂

  30. Wow really fantastic! The blue is exquisite and the embroidery is perfectly matched! Such a nice job! You look cool in this waistless dress. I’ve also just made one but ended up wimping out and wearing it with a belt! I looked too mumsy! Pity because I love the dress and the Japanese designer pattern from Cut, a trendy German sewing mag. There’s a pic of it in my MMM14 section on my blog.

    1. The nice thing about belting a dress is that you can always remove it! The waistless thing definitely takes some getting used to. It’s beautiful. Somehow, I was still reading your old blog, and missed quite a few posts – I’ve got your new url in my reader now!

  31. Morgan, I meant to comment as soon as I saw this. Wow. I am so in love with your hand embroidery. It is the perfect amount of embellishment. This has become your signature colour and yoke style!

  32. Morgan, this is stunning. The colour is gorgeous, just gorgeous, and I love the sashiko embroidery detail that you have added. I do enjoy hand stitching and while I have done it before in both quilts and my swing skirt from the Alabama Stitch Book, I have never done it on woven clothing. The great results you got on this dress makes me want to try hand stitching on a blouse. As for going waist less, I don’t do it, mostly because I get the pregnant lady effect, but I think this style suits you and quite frankly, if it is comfortable and so gorgeous, what’s not to like?

    1. Thank you, Andrea! I think hand-stitching a blouse would be a really fun project. I’ve already been dreaming of trying it on a tunic a la Isabel Marant…

  33. Fabulous, Morgan! It’s the kind of dress I would reach for time and time again – and so cool that you thought of sashiko because of the dress I made! I think embroidery can totally elevate a garment to the next level 🙂

  34. Now this is a fabric type I’ve never heard of! It looks like it’s quite substantial, and I love the embroidery effect. I think you got the balance between simple outline and high density coverage just right! Perfect for the warmer weather which I’m sure is just around the corner for you guys… if not arrived already 🙂

    1. It’s dreamy stuff – it is substantial while still having drape, and it’s easy to sew. And thank you – I spent loads of time trying to figure out amount of embroidery!

  35. I looove that color blue!! Your embroidery really makes it. I love this style, so easy breezy, but rarely feel comfortable in it.

  36. Lovely! I’ve had this pattern for sooo many years, but recently I’ve seen several amazing versions of it pop up around the internets: totally inspiring! The loose fit looks good to my eye. I mean, I’m really into the drapey look, so. 🙂 I really, really love what you’ve done with the embroidery, and am also fond of the extra wide hem finish. I see this a lot in RTW and agree completely about the pleasing weight it adds. It looks a bit more modern than your typical twice turned hem. Really nice work!

    1. Thanks!! You’re one of the lucky ones who got this pattern when it was in print, I take it? I could really see you sewing up a great version of it!

  37. Wow, I really love what you have done with this pattern! The embroidery detail is just darling, and your neckline is so perfect. Very neatly sewn and so creative, looks adorable on you! Puts my version to shame!

  38. I can’t believe that I’ve only just found your beautiful blog! This dress is stunning and using one of my favourite fabrics. So, so lovely and your hand embroidery is great and not novice like at all. I’m now going to route around your blog and see what other lovelies I can find! 😉

  39. Hooray for silk noil! I’ve used noil a lot in dance and theater costuming, because it’s got a great drape and weight while still being light and breathable, and is strong and will stand up to repeated wear and machine washing. But I love it for personal garments, too. You can find noil online at thaisilks.com, at a reasonable price and in a really beautiful array of colors. I’ve been buying from them for years and they’ve always been reliable. It takes some advanced planning, but you can get a swatch book so that you are confident about the colors before you order yardage. It also takes dye brilliantly, if you’re want to get brave and dye your own.

  40. I just found your blog via a bloglovin suggestion! This dress is beautiful. I tried finding it on the simplicity website, but it must be out of print. Any idea where I may be able to find it? It is perfection. The stitching detail you did is so pretty too. 🙂

  41. Wow, I can’t believe you’re only beginning to embroider. The dress is beautiful! It’s little a details like that that really make hand-sewn garments stand out.

    1. Thanks, Anelise! I did practice and rip out several rows that either didn’t look good or fit the aesthetic I was looking for. And I agree, after I’ve finished a project I just enjoy whatever extra details I put into it and forget about how much effort it took.

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