I am now married (it was a totally fabulous day, thanks to all our much loved guests!), the honeymoon is over and most (but not all) of the thank you letters have been written. I have to say I am pleased to get some time at my sewing machine and am keen to catch up on everything I've missed in blog-world (how are the swaps going, folks?!) and whilst I have a number of new stitchy things on the go, I am totally aware that I owe some of you a bit of detail on wedding craftiness, and in particular THE dress - especially since you have been so supportive through the process!.
It started with these vintage patterns and a whole pile of fabric from Goldhawk Road.
and with the help of a very cool lady (thank you Anna Winston!), turned into this shabby, but very important, bed sheet garment..
which in turn, evolved (over about 3 months) into this!
If you have no interest in dressmaking, please don't bother to read any further! However, for those of you hankering for the details, here is a little run-down of the process!
March: This dress is loosely based on the two patterns above. However, I wanted a boat neck bodice without sleeves and a different waistline, so we ended up making a toile from a king-size bed sheet and adapting the patterns. Because we wanted a "wedding dress" quality of finish, the construction also ended up being more complicated than the original pattern instructions.
April: The dress pattern itself was a simple enough design. The bodice is made up of four pieces - centre front (with darts) and back, plus two side panels. . Anna helped design a facing pattern for the lining, so the bodice is partly lined in the print, and partly in a jade green lining cotton. We added small amounts of sew-in boning to the front of the bodice.
(photo below is a view of the facing inside the bodice)May: Attaching the lining to the bodice was probably the most challenging part of this make. Both the neckline and the armholes needed to be perfect, and I spent a number of hours pinning and stitching at snail speed. We managed to devise a way of attaching the two pieces together with minimal hand sewing, so I only had to slip-stitch the very top section of each shoulder strap.
June: The skirt is made from over 8 metres of cotton, french seamed in four sections, and is heavily gathered at the waist. Pinning the gathered skirt evenly to the bodice was another mammoth task that probably took up an entire 2 hour lesson!
July week 1: There is an invisible zip on my left side, and the skirt has a lining cut from the same pattern (this means the whole dress has over 16 metres of fabric in it, and is somewhat heavy!). Cleverly, Anna suggested we pleat the skirt lining, rather than gather it, to reduce bulk at the waist, and that really worked.
July week 2: I had previously bought two petticoats from Beyond Retro (just off Brick Lane) - despite the sales assistant telling me that wearing two together would look ridiculous! Anna bravely hacked them to pieces and sewed them to a new lining so that we could increase the length of the petticoat to fit the dress, tier the net to give the right silhouette AND enable me to flash both red and orange at passers by :)
(note, the only way to get a photo of this petticoat was to put it on and look ridiculous - I promise that it's only by chance that my top matches!)So, onto the hem...I spent at least an hour standing in "less than comfy" wedding shoes whilst Anna sat at my feet, pinning it inch by inch. The volume of fabric and petticoats meant that the hemline was not a straightforward measuring job. We had to cater for the hang of the skirt and therefore we had over 3" in variation in the hem length to deal with. Having used all of the pins in Anna's studio, I carefully cut off the surplus and we then deliberated the pros and cons of various stiffeners, before opting for a bias binding finished hem.
(bias binding hem with invisible slip-stitching)
This involved making 8.5m of bias binding (I guess as a quilter, I should be used to this!), machine stitching it to the trimmed hemline, and then laborious slip-stitching of the binding to the inside of the dress. I've learnt that this gives a much smoother line than your average double folded hem and there is no puckering. In addition, the binding adds a little bit of weight to the skirt bottom, giving it a luxury feel. This is one of my favourite parts of the whole dress :)
July week 3 - thursday: Final fitting week! Slight panic as the dress wasn't feeling quite as figure hugging as in previous weeks. We worked out that by adding the skirt lining we had increased the weight of the dress so much that it was pulling the bodice straight down, rather than fitting in at the waist. Anna to the rescue again. She made me a Waspie from an old elastic belt, a scrap of cotton, ribbon and a bunch of eyelets. I ended up wearing this between the lining and the dress, to prevent that lining dragging the whole thing down (The dressmakers amongst you may realise that this means I couldn't finish the zip on the inside as then I wouldn't have been able to thread the belt between the two layers, but no matter).
The Waspie worked a treat and I had that 1950's hourglass feeling that I was after :)
July week 3 - Sunday: Wedding! Some of my family members have commented that finishing this dress three days before my wedding was cutting it fine....in retrospect they may have been right, but fortunately I got lucky and it all came together at the 11th hour!
If you've made it this far, thanks for coming on that journey with me....I love my dress and am so pleased I made the decision to make my own...however, it wasn't all plain sailing, there were a few doubts, a few late nights and more than a few unpicked stitches along the way. My next dressmaking project will definitely be simpler!