Saturday, 31 May 2014

Beyond the dress...

So, all, I finished the wedding dress nearly a year ago now.  I was too stingey to pay for it to be dry cleaned again so it is still a bit muddy and creased!  It is hung where I can see and appreciate it every day though.

After that marathon I didn't sew for about six months - then what I did produce was surprisingly poor quality.  Maybe I was overconfident?  Anyway, maybe I will get round to blogging them in due course but I now have a bit of a backlog.

My current work in progress is Colette Ginger:

I LOVE the curvy waistband, normally I would shy away from a high waisted skirt but it's enough of a feature to make it irresistible!

I wanted to put boning in the waistband, following this tutorial by Gertie.  I used boning in the dress, so not too big a deal. 

I also wanted to convert it to a pencil skirt, and being not too curvy (about 10" difference waist to hip measurements) I've just brought the side seams in to more of a hip hugging shape.  If I were to do it properly I should have used some darts at the hip but it doesn't pull too much.

Like an idiot I wrote on the RIGHT side of the front piece.  And with biro.  I'm hoping something will happen in the wash - otherwise I will tear my hair out even more.

Many bloggers suggest using silk organza to strengthen zips and various other areas to avoid adding extra thickness.  I found some organza-like ribbon which seems to work in a similar fashion (at least, it doesn't stretch on the grain and is lightweight).  And I like that you can easily wrap your seam allowance in it for a tidier finish.  Obviously my ribbon above needs a little persuasion under the iron!

This is my "basted fitting" - i.e., with the final fabric, cut with a larger seam allowance (I often use about 1.5") and stitched together with longer stitches (sadly, my machine only goes up to around 4mm in length which is still a b***ch to unpick at any speed).  Hence the unpressed state of my seams.  I've already made up a muslin in size 0 which was toooooo snug so I stitched this as a 2.  It's a promising start.

For some insane reason, I've been cutting randomly around my pattern pieces with the wider allowance, then marking on the seam lines from the pattern, either with pencil or a long stitch.  Why am I doing this? Surely it would make infinitely more sense to cut a uniform seam allowance of two inches or whatever and then use that to guide my seams? Duh!  I think sometimes I just breeze along with my sewing without thinking too much.

Which brings me to point out - part of the reason I started this blog was to equal up the balance a little.  By which I mean, there are many many blogs out there which I devour, look at a finished item, think, I MUST have one of those and make a mental note or, oooops, go ahead and buy the pattern in readiness.  Which is wonderful, and does a lot for independent pattern makers etc.  But I suspect lots of people wouldn't want to post their work unless they were happy with it.

So, I decided to jump in the deep end and start putting up my mistakes as much as my triumphs - because I sure as hell have learnt from them, and maybe a few fledgling sewers would be heartened to know that it takes a lot of practice to turn out a beautiful and well-fitted garment?  Maybe I am wrong.  I'd be interested to know what the general opinion is though?

In the interest of full disclosure, here's a disaster for you.  I initially had in-seam pockets in the skirt, but placed them a bit low and they gave me awful saddlebags over my hips!  Being a doctor, pockets are absolutely essential as bags are not really permitted on wards and there are pens/patient lists/pentorches/neurotips/medical tape/spare forms to be carried and kept to hand.  So I thought I could use the welt pocket technique on the front and reuse my pocket pieces while putting the pockets on the area of the skirt with a little room to spare - you know, between the thighs?

THEN, I thought I didn't want the fuss of the welts, I just wanted a slit in the skirt to lead to the pocket.  This technique doesn't exist on google, but it was just an adaptation of something I had tried before, so fine right?

Here are my little welt facings, folded and pressed back towards the inside of the skirt.  Because the opening was about 1mm wide, there's a nice little slit in the fabric.  However, you can see how awfully it has puckered around the edges - probably due to not being able to clip neatly into the corners as you would be able to on a standard sized window.  And because the stitched line and the cutting line are adjacent, essentially the whole lot pulled apart the instant that I pressed it back.

So, people, slit "welt" pockets don't seem to exist.  Unless there's another way?  I guess bias binding or something might work.

The current plan is to re cut the centre piece and stitch it in in place of the destroyed piece! Gah.

I also have some possible fitting issues to sort:

But I will keep you posted.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Big Reveal

I finally got to put the dress on and show it off in September last year.  So here it is:

Yes! We climbed over that stile and into the field and the dress survived :)

You can see a little bit of the blue net here.  Because we all need something blue for a wedding ensemble of course.

That's about it.  For those who are interested, the total cost was probably close to £400.  Hours? God knows, but perhaps 30?  The veil was from Accessorize, the pearls are from a trip to Hyderabad and the shoes are low heel nude Kurt Geiger that my husband Ed bought for my previous birthday.  Talk about thrifty!
Lastly, these photos were taken by the wonderful Chris Bradbury (Hampshire area, UK) -

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Nuts and bolts (and a summary)

Beware! This is going to be image-heavy.  I promised to give a step-by-step of how I put the dress together, so here it is.

1. Cut out standard pattern pieces from original pattern

2. Make cotton muslin:

Pinched out excess in seams until happy with shape.  Tried new neckline on self

2. Transfer back to pattern pieces (photocopied and pieced together to allow multiple alterations)
I usually pin the (deconstructed) pieces from the muslin back onto the original pattern, pin through the new seam lines I took in and draw along the pin lines on the OPPOSITE side of the pattern.  Then I measure and redraw the cutting line (IE add 1.5cm) to give the new pattern piece.  Please let me know if a tutorial would be helpful!

3. Cut out lining with new pattern to check fit again

4. Finished edges of lining with bias (probably wouldn't do this again - would pink edges or fold under and stitch).  This was way too bulky for my zip area in particular:

 5.  Assembled lining pieces to make mock dress

6. Sewed up twill tape to form channels for boning

 7. Sew edges of boning to seams of lining shell - from right side of lining (which is showing on the OUTSIDE on the dress form above) you should see three seam lines - one seam and one each for the boning channels.  I made this up as I went along - in future I would use this tutorial by Gertie to simplify the process as the twill plus the boning was really quite bulky and did show a little through the dress.

8.  Sew zip into lining - I used an invisible zip, so did not attach the lining right next to the teeth - otherwise there would be a lot of bulk and it would make it difficult to attach the silk on top.

9.  Double check fit!  Although I used the dress form to hang the dress and so on, I didn't rely on it for the actual fit.

10.  Figure out train - I should have done this at the muslin stage but I didn't!
Here's how I did it:

The front pieces will also need to slope diagonally to meet the longer edges of the back.
 I hope that makes some sort of sense?

On the left, I have added the extra fabric to give the right sort of shape - then on the right I have rounded it off.  Please note the dress form is raised up so the train doesn't sit on the floor on the right so it looks like the length has been lost.

11.  Make up silk shell - see here.

12. Make straps (if using - my dress stayed in place without straps but I wanted them to prevent strain on the lace)

13. Attach to lining securely - I sewed a rectangle over about an inch of the strap that lay over the lining.  They will need to be placed upside down - so that the short end of the strap lies in the seam allowance.  I will post a diagram if needs be - just ask!

14.  Join silk shell to lining right sides together, stitching all along neckline (I needed to clip around the sweetheart neckline to get it to sit right).  I also trimmed and graded the fabrics - a bit TOO much, as this appeared not long after:

Silk escapage! Luckily its at the underarm so wasn't too noticeable.  I never said it was perfect!

This sandwiches the strap in place so that the ends are not visible inside or out.

15.  Hand pick silk fabric to zip tape.

16. Fun details! I made tiny silk straps by folding a strip of silk in half longways, then folding each raw edge to this centre fold before folding along the centre - like making bias binding.  I topstitched close to the edge to seal it all together.

I wanted a button loop for the top of the zip to emulate a classic dress closure - like those dresses that do up with a long line of pearly buttons all along the back.  I have also seen dresses where the train has a loop that allows the wearer to pull the train up out of the way - by draping the loop over the wrist like this:

 Mine was not long or drapey enough for that, so I placed a button at the centre back, about 20cm down from the bum, and inserted a loop at the lower edge of the zip - so that when the button is done up, the train is pulled slightly up and across.  The longest edge of the train sits in a fold along my left side as a result.  These are the little loops:

The buttons were 6mm self-fabric covered, probably from the haberdashery at John Lewis.

17. Scaffolding!  I used a chunky blue tulle and a lighter ivory tulle.  I gathered the tops of them with a long machine stitch, then sandwiched the top edge between a strip of fabric:

I then attached a narrow strip of the chunky blue to the lower back of the lining, where the train starts to get full (I basically fiddled with the placement with pins until I was happy).  On top, I zigzagged the lighter tulle - to cover up the colour and bulk of the blue and give a softer outline under the silk.  The white tulle continues around the front of the dress at hip level, just in a single layer, to give a little volume there.

The blue extends beyond the length of the lining, to support the train at the back.

18.  Waist stay - I cut a piece of bright yellow petersham and attached heavy duty bra closure at each end.  I used this method.  With this in place, I can wear the dress without straps, jump up and down ten times and it stays put!  I  ensured the stay was attached close to the lower ends of the boning so that the structure of the bodice can "rest" on the stay - to keep everything staying up!  If I made this as a strapless dress, I would tighten the bodice right up - the danger of a bodice that stays up is that when you move, the top of the boning doesn't.  So there is a small risk of exposure if the bodice can sit away from the chest :s

It's certainly snug!

19. Handstitch the lace on (I've covered this in some detail already so will not bore you with a repetition).

20.  Hem! I did the whole lot by hand.  Wow that took a long time.  I sat at the table behind my fiance so we could watch TV together but he wouldn't see!

It's all wrinkly as it needs a good press after the big day :)

I think that's everything?  Please comment if you want a specific post on how I did any of these steps.  I'm sorry I never took the pictures as I went along!

Next up - the finished dress!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Faffing with lace

The basic shell of my dress had now taken shape:

I'm pretty happy with the fit around the back.  You can see it ever so slightly sits away from the bust but I cannot remember if this is before the zip and lining are in.  Because my fiance is old fashioned and didn't think he should see the dress before the big day, I had to do all the photos myself, so apologies for the awful selfies!

Speaking of zips, unless you are some kind of wizard, just do it by hand! I marked my silk more than once trying to get it right.  I spent a long time browsing the internet for the perfect silk for the dress, but ended up with a simple ivory from John Lewis while looking for a lining.  I think it was something like £25 a metre.

I hand picked the zip along each edge.  To avoid showing the needle marks in the silk, I had just enough ease to hide them inside the seam allowances.  Phew!

My advice would be to sew the zip securely with short machine stitches to the lining (if the lining was substantial like mine) then hand pick the silk to it.  Because my shell was stitched invisibly to the lining along the seams, it was stable enough to get away with.  By the way, I didn't find this technique anywhere - it was just trial and error that the bodice looked better when the silk was anchored to the boning and lots of error with bad zip applications.

Anyway, this post was meant to be about lace! I used Platinum Bridal Fabrics after a fairly frustrating internet search where the variety and apparent quality were not very good.  They send A4 size swatches free of charge (up to a point I seem to remember).  Highly recommended!

I had a fair few ivory samples sent out and like about three enough to make the shortlist; then I draped them all over the dress to see what I liked:

See how big the swatches are! Sadly, none of the laces had quite enough drape to pull off the back drape that I originally planned:

I guess the borders were a little too chunky?

Anyway, I finally decided the best option would be for the front to remain crossed over the straps at the front and end in a V down the back.  So that's what I did!

Here's how it ended up:

 It's ALL handstitched with stitches than caught just one piece of the lace.  So I had to put in a stitch maybe every 2cm?

After doing the cross on the bodice, front and back, I had a fair bit of lace left.  So I carried it on down the side with the zip to disguise it a little.

The whole thing is somewhat random; I just pieced the lace motifs with small gaps between so they ended somewhere between waist and hip around the dress.  It took me probably about ten hours?  But in fact it was the last bit, so it felt OK to push on, and it was already about two months before the wedding :)

Next time - a word on the details and interior structures, and a step by step of how I went about the whole process (as in fact I have skipped all over the place and neglected to make this very informative...)


Inspiration and Design

When I first came upon the mad idea of making my own wedding dress, I found resources surprisingly scant.  My guess is that people who do this have a wealth of experience already and don't perhaps feel the need to document the steps?  Looking back, finished projects on Burdastyle might have been a good place to start.

Anyway, I saw this dress on Etsy and fell in love - I'd been browsing the big websites and half of Etsy for something that felt right.

Check out the stunning drape in the back:

Living in the UK, getting this made and shipped here and then refitted to be perfect was just not an option.  But the design looks simple enough - sweetheart bodice and a big old (bias cut?) skirt.

After some research, I chose Burda 8320 for the pattern (now out of print):

Despite the creepy 80s styling and dodgy jacket, the style lines looked simple enough to manipulate.  I did think it had the sweetheart neckline already - but not according to the line drawing?  Maybe the boning of the sample is causing that shaping? Who knows.

All I had to do was make it fit, change the neckline and add some bulk to the skirt to make it more wedding-y and perhaps even add a train.  None of which I had done before...HA

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Despite all of that ... the toile wasn't too awful!

Having made that atrocity of a toile which didn't give me any meaningful information about the fit ... I redid it. Or at least the front section! And it isn't really too bad:

Excuse the red bra. The pleats are nice, but don't feature in the finished design. I could have left them out at this stage!


I went ahead and cut the lining - a satin duchesse which quite a lot of weight to it (more than the silk certainly).

I don't have many pictures from this bit of the construction. I think I was excited and basically cutting and doing the seams went surprisingly quickly.  It's difficult to see here, but I edged all the pieces with cream bias binding!

And so:

 The lining came together quickly and quite painlessly. I've noticed that when you put boning in a curve (you can just see the seams) it doesn't conform to the curve until you've attached it to another curve.  Funny that.

This is the silk: I used as much of the remainder to make a train and then trimmed it down. To do this I had to photocopy the 2 different side pattern pieces, add another eight pieces of A4 or so and make the pieces as wide as I could - within the width of the fabric.

Then I had to extend the same angle that the side pieces were going at at the centre back so that the train came out diagonally from the bum area and still touched the ground. Then the hem angle had to meet the centre back line so that it met the ground all the way along.  Hard to explain, will be easier to see in later pictures maybe.

 This is the trimmed version: still quite long!

This is the silk from the front. At this stage I have made the straps (folded four times and stitched along the open side).
They are just pinned on at the moment to get the length right, hanging all around my armpits. Actually it still wasn't right!
And there is the peachy sash that is going to go on later - like in the original dress.

The tricky bits are done by this stage! IE the fit. Actually in this picture the bust still doesn't look quite right; it needed stitching in the ditch along the bust seams to get the silk to sit smoothly and tightly over the shape of the bust. I had a phone disaster and I think I have lost these photos!

Monday, 27 May 2013

A Toile/ Toil - How not to do it

I chose a really nice fabric for the toile. Its a plain white cotton with a white printed, small leafy pattern. In fact, I even lined my toile, but the lining was a cheap fabric that frayed even when I looked at it and proved incredibly slippery in the machine. Luckily as the wedding is in September, I could afford to use a thicker lining for the real thing.

I live in a flat/house with my fiance; nobody else bar two rabbits. And I have done 90% of the work within these four walls.  So perhaps it should have occured to me that making a version of the dress that I would be able to put on inside out, pin alterations into and so on should be easy to put on and off myself.

No such luck.

Instead, I made a mock up of the real thing (which, as you might notice, has pleats at the waist too - an undesired design feature with all the other things that would be going on) with the plan to pin the zip seam together to check the fit.

Having reached this stage, I could have also just - shock horror - put a zip in and checked the fit that way.

Here is what I did:

Yep. I stitched the back seam; no use for that here!
And I slashed the WHOLE FRONT down the centre, including across the folds, so that I could do up and undo the dress with these stylish yellow grosgrain ties.

As you can see, there was a LOT of room in the back to take in, and I've really distorted the bust seams by taking in from both the centre piece and the sides. On the plus side, I found a neckline shape I liked quite readily!

So in future: JUST put the zip in. And on the side too! Although would this add its own problems?