Saturday, 11 August 2012

The wedding Part I - the dress!

Mrs Stokoe is formally entering the bloggy building!  I'm sorry for the extended blog-vacation, but life has been...well..just too darned exciting!

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 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!



  1. Oh, your dress is divine!!! I love the way that the facing round the neckline is in the print and then changes to be a plain lining and the way you did the hem is such a fabulous way to finish it!! (And pleating the waist of the lining was a genius idea, as was the Waspie!) It looks absolutely fabulous on you and you all look gorgeous...and sooooooo happy! Congratulations!!!
    P.S. What are you making next?!

  2. AH I LOVE your dress! Beautiful!! You did a fabulous job (I love the pattern you picked too - I don't know much about dressmaking though!). That first picture is just so full of happiness. Can't wait to see more weddingy stuff - and congratulations!!! :)

  3. You (and your dress) looked stunning! So pleased you did it your way and that you had a wonderful day. Love that last photo of the three of you.

  4. The dress is gorgeous, and the finish time just about right! There is a tradition that wedding dresses have the last stitch done on the day! No, I do not know why either!maybe it was to allow for brides losing weight and needing final adjustment at the last minute!
    Invisible zips can be tricky, so well done for doing that one too!

  5. PS the newly wed family looks great too!

  6. gorgeous dress, gorgeous day and gorgeous family photos :) so thrilled it was all you wanted and a wonderful day was had! X

  7. Ceri that dress rocks, you should be so proud!! Congratulations on becoming a MRS xx

  8. Your dress is sensational! And you all look so happy - looks like a fun wedding :-)

  9. Oh Ceri I will never tire of seeing this amazing dress! You look beautiful in it too! Well done, and just think of how much you've learned about dressmaking (& some of what not to do too!). Jxo

  10. What a triumph ! You did an amazing job, and look absolutely gorgeous.

  11. Fabulous Dahling, fabulous! You look gorgeous too :-)
    Hope you've recovered from your late night... thanks xxx

  12. So gorgeous - both you and the dress! You must feel so proud of such a great achievement!

  13. Wow wow wow! Just stunning! And a feat of engineering too by the sounds of things, lol. Loved seeing all the pics Terri shared, looks like you had a fabulous day :-) xxx

  14. You are totally amazing, you looked totally amazing and I can't think of a words to say how happy you all look - congratulations again Mrs S xxx

  15. Congratulations Ceri, I LOVE your dress, its just fabulous and you look amazing!

  16. You look fab. It was incredibly brave to have the vision to do this - with or without help. Especially for such an important occasion - well done you!

  17. Oh it was absolutely worth all the effort, although I think I might rate the pain involved up there with child birth by the looks of things! So glad you were able to get the dress of your dreams :o)

  18. love love love your dress. I'm so glad you had a brilliant day

  19. I`ve been absent too and I was really worried I had missed your big day! So relieved I didnt. You look totally amazing and look at you with your handsome hubby and beautiful girl. HUGE congratulations to you all and so pleased you had such an amazing day!!

  20. Congratulations! Wow your dress is amazing, what a fantastic thing to do.

  21. Congrats, Ceri! On the wedding and the dress! You look beautiful!!

  22. Congratulations Ceri. Glad you had the dress of your dreams, it looks amazing

  23. Welcome back! I am still just blown away at your dress! Seriously. I am in love with the silhouette and the fabric. I would have died and paid some serious money if I had found a dress like that when I got married last year.

  24. CERI!!!! you look fabulous, your dress is stunning!!!! well done and hope you had the best day x x x

  25. Love how your wedding dress came out. So glad I didn't miss seeing it with my strange blog hiatus. I've been thinking about you all summer. Congratulations on you wedding

  26. WOW WOW WOW! That is just stunning! I hope you're VERY proud of that! If you can make your own wedding dress you can make literally anything ;)

    Welcome back and congratulations! Sounds like you had a lovely day.

  27. Welcome back & Congratulations. You look great in that dress.

  28. Aww Congratulations!! I was just thinking that it must be about time for your wedding. You must be *so* pleased with your dress, it is amazing!! You can conquer anything now ;)

    You all look fantastic and you look like a spanish seniorita! I hope you get another occassion where you can wear your dress again :)

  29. Oh Ceri, that is truly a beautiful dress, and has the quality and finish you'd expect to see in a wedding dress, what an amazing achievement! The colours are very unusual but look stunning with your colouring, you look wonderful on your big day.
    Thanks for sharing all your making tips, I loved reading how you made it and I'm with you on a bias bound hem, they're my favourite method too. Congratulations. x

  30. Oh my. Ceri, I know I said you were a nutter for making your own wedding dress, but that is utterly, utterly stunning. Excellent choice in fabric - and I adore the red and orange underskirts. Flabergasted!

  31. I can't believe I missed the unveiling of the dress while I was on my hols!!! I'm so glad I found this post - I'd been looking forward to seeing it so much! You did a truly wonderful job. It's amazing - and suited you so much!!!
    Congratulations to you - on the dress AND the husband!!! :-)

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  41. การร้อยไหม คือ เทคโนโลยีที่ช่วยแก้ไขปัญหา ผิวหน้าที่ไม่กระชับ หย่อนคล้อย ให้กลับมากระชับ หน้าเรียว เต่งตึง เข้ารูป วีเชฟได้สมใจ รวมทั้งสามารถช่วยการปรับโครงหน้าหรือแก้ไขปัญหาเฉพาะจุดด้วยการนำเส้นไหมชนิดพิเศษมาร้อยเข้ากับใบหน้าบริเวณใต้ผิวหนัง เพื่อกระตุ้นการสร้างเส้นเลือดใหม่ มีผลทำให้เกิดสร้างคลอลาเจนรอบๆ เส้นไหมซึ่งทิศทางการร้อยไหมที่สานกันเป็นร่างแห จะทำให้เกิดแรงดึง แรงยกกระชับในชั้นผิวหนัง ใบหน้าจึงดูเต่งตึง ร้อยไหมก้างปลา
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