Monday, 23 April 2012

"Diary of a wedding dress" by a beginner dressmaker - Part 1

Some of you will know that I crazily bravely decided to make my own wedding dress this year. Some of you have also been kindly asking about progress, and, as of yesterday, I had exactly 3 months to get it done so I thought an update was in order!

Don't panic, I don't think I'll be giving any secrets away...James has seen the fabric and the pattern (I felt this was necessary to prevent any nasty shocks as I enter the room!), but he swears that being a bloke means he has no capability to visualise the finished article :)

You may breathe a sigh of relief when I tell you we're not talking about a traditional wedding gown here.  I have an aspiration to get married in a brightly coloured 1950's style big skirted frock.  In pursuit of this aim I found a wonderful designer/dressmaker by the name of Anna who lives locally (you can check out her gorgeous studio here and her blog here).  She has kindly agreed to help me achieve my aim, and, by gum, I'm glad she did.

Anna runs vintage dressmaking classes and has a huge array of patterns to choose from. After an hour of browsing, we settled on a hybrid of the dresses below, teaming the voluminous skirt from the pattern on the left (using 6m of fabric!) with the boat neck bodice from the pattern on the right, but minus the sleeves and the pointy bit at the bottom of the bodice.

Next, I went in search of a fabric that would be in keeping with the style of the dress, but would be wowzers enough for a wedding.  I headed off to London, armed with a fantastic list of shops to visit, thanks to bloggy friends who did a great job of providing me with recommendations.   Soho, Edgeware Road, South Kensington - we did the lot. On the second trip, Mum and I ended up at the fabulous Goldhawk Road, where we purchased THE perfect fabric. 

Despite having looked at lots of wonderful expensive silks, I found myself immediately drawn to this more modest cotton which has a rich print with sumptuous colours and slightly satinised feel to it.

...and, there's so much potential in the colours (the background is actually a dark jade green, I just couldn't get it to photograph!) for coordinating bridesmaids and flowers etc

Back in the studio, and with much help from Anna over the last few weeks, I have learnt to trace a pattern and adjust it for my measurements.  I have learnt to properly mark and cut out pattern pieces for the toile (practice version, in my case, made from an old king size bedsheet) and to stitch the skirt together.  I have also learnt to gather, tailors-tack and insert darts.  And then, last Friday, I stitched the gathered skirt to the bodice pieces and tried on my toile.

The dress was a good fit, but at first we were both a bit "MEH" about the look.  The skirt didn't appear to be that special, and the bodice looked boxy with a lack of waist definition.

(NB. this next bit is where the professional works magic!)

Anna got a spare voluminous petticoat out (which transformed the skirt) and jumped into action with her pins.  We lifted the waistline an inch and a half (I think I must be high-waisted), dropped the bust darts an inch (there was a hint of comedy Madonna pointy bra going on!)...and no, Helen, this does not mean I'm tucking my boobs into my waistband (I had to giggle at that comment!)

We also took the waist darts in an inch at the front and back...and hey presto, a dress with some serious potential emerges!  I was too pinned up to think to get my camera out so no pictures I'm afraid, but here is the bodice with all the alterations marked on.
(check out my newly acquired gathering skills!)

The next step is to unpick this, make the pencil adjustments, and then use these pieces to cut from the final fabric.....eek!  In the real thing, I am going to need to master facings, linings and a hidden zip plus other techniques I'm sure I don't know about yet - so it's by no means plain sailing!


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Bloggy backlog...or is that bloggers block?

Sounds painful?!  I think I might be suffering from this!    I'm not talking about reading blogs because although I LOVE reading blogs I seem to be continually behind on catching up with other people's happenings...  nope, this is about my inability to get a blog post out!

I've got so much stuff to talk about....For starters there's the Liebster awards and bloggy "tag" (totally missed the boat on this one), then there's wedding dress progress - I have THE fabric (!) and the invites, handmade by me too.  And then there's a few final blocks that I stitched for Bee Europa, plus a string cushion that I'm just finishing...and I really really need to show you all the wonderful foody blocks I've got from the fabby Brit Bee ladies.....oh, and did I mention that Felix has finally got a few words (so cute), James stepped on a rusty nail (serious ouch moment) , and I've joined the Wonky WI?! 

It dawned on me that my new years resolution was to blog more frequently, but shorter posts...a task that I have so far spectacularly failed on.

It's never too late to start here goes with the first of my shorter, speedier bloggy witterings..

I give you three blocks for three months in Bee Europa.  It's been great but I'm ducking out now, due to my inability to keep up.

Particularly loving this spiders web and learning that you don't need seam allowances on the outer edge of selvedges (I wondered how people using selvedges didn't lose the text in the seam allowance!)  I am now inspired to start saving my selvedges properly (in long lengths and with an inch of print above the selvedge) so I can make something like this for meeeeee :)

Back soon, I promise!


Monday, 2 April 2012

A catch up (photo heavy!)

What with all the excitement (trips to Brussels, wedding excitement yah-de-yah) I've not had time to blog about the normal goings on at the sewing machine.  So here's a little update on smaller things I've made as gifts and for selling in the shops.  Hopefully not too boring and same-y!

First up, Some iPad covers - After a false start with my first attempt, I managed to get the sizing right second time around and these actually do fit i-Pads in them! I played around with Velcro and zip fastening options. Feedback from James, whilst generally positive, did suggest double layers of batting next time (he's getting into the groove of this sewing lark!)

Then, a zippy pouch for Mothers day. I made this with the phone tucked into my shoulder catching up with the lady in a cupboard in Shetland, whilst she stitched and then unpicked some piecing - it's amazing neither of us sewed through our fingers! (Message for Mum: multi-tasking doesn't make it any less of a gift!)

Two cushions - I pieced the front of the first one yonks ago, it's taken me ages to getting around to finishing it off!

Some extra little zippy purses

A baby quilt - I tried to make this unisex, but rather than go rainbow, I opted for an alternative colour scheme. I think I was thinking log cabin, but kept changing my mind and ended up with these quarter log cabin blocks...

which I finally laid out in alternate directions, and added a double border and scrappy binding to create a quilt measuring about 30" x 40".  It's for sale in the shop at the moment, and is backed in purple fleece and quilted in a free-style wavy line pattern that is my new favourite "easy to do" quilting design!
(sorry for the appalling picture, forgot to get a proper shot so had to make do with a snap outside the shop!)

And finally, a lovely friend of mine, Zoe, whom I haven't seen for a few months, had a little boy a couple of weeks ago.  His name is Monty and I made this changing mat for him (well, more for his mum actually, although he may appreciate the fleecy lining!).

I followed this pattern but added improv-piecing to the exterior .  The pictures don't show the fabric covered button I need to add before sending it on it's way to it's new owner :).  Welcome to the world, Monty!