Friday, March 4, 2011

Dress update

We didn't plan to have "a color" for our wedding. In fact, when people asked me what our wedding colors were, I said, "all of them!" Why not? I like lots of colors.

But my fiancee did find a really gorgeous set of coordinating purple ties for himself and his groomsmen, and thus our "color" was established. Plus, it was an excuse for me to find some really rockin' purple shoes which I ended up scoring at DSW in NYC for 18 bucks! They were on super clearance so I don't know if this exact style is still available, but check out the Nina shoes page on Zappos for something similar. All of their shoes are amazing and come in more colors than a pack of Skittles.

I found some lovely purple satin at Pacific Fabrics and made a super long slinky sash which matches the shoes and tie.

The final touch is "something borrowed," a crinoline square-dancing petticoat that a good friend of mine wore under her wedding dress. Since I've tried everything on all together, I can't imagine the dress without it.

For now my dress is hanging out on my dress form, concealed under a giant black contractor trash bag, providing a source of wonder (and hiding place) for the cats. Perhaps this will make its debut even more dramatic.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Dress done!

It took two more days to add the final layers to the bottom skirt, but I'm excited to say that the dress is (nearly) done. Just a few more details that have to be finished by hand. It is quite voluminous. And awesome!

Now it's time to vacuum up all the billions of tiny white threads that have been following me around the house.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

If the dress fits...

I spent the better part of today fixing my puckered seam and attaching an invisible zipper. While I didn't take photos of ripping out stitches, measuring and re-measure, I thought it would be MORE exciting to share a glimpse of a first fitting. There are a whole lot of raw edges and seams to finish, but when the moment of truth came--the dress fits! Here are a few horrible self-portraits with my new zipper in place.

Next steps will be to finish the aforementioned seams, hem the lining and attach the lower skirt, which boasts 4 yards of gathered tulle lining. The final version will be what you see here. Only way more skirt poufs. Stay tuned!

Festive sash added for festive effect.

A Magritte style portrait.

Gather round

This feels like the middle chapter in a trilogy. Where plot lines start to get complicated and you're not sure how you feel about your protagonist. Luke loses his arm in Empire Strikes Back. The Fellowship fractures to fight the final battle for Middle Earth. You've come far enough along that there's no turning back.

This stage in the pattern feels like my middle chapter. All the fun character introductions are over and it's time to get serious. It's time to work on gathers and zippers.

Gathers are not my favorite. They break down the clean lines and symmetry of a seam and present a bulky, difficult to execute technique. It took me another full day just to complete the gathers and attach the upper half of the skirt to the bodice. Only a few setbacks and redos and I was able to complete this step. There's less exciting narrative to share on this part, so I'll let the photos do the talking.

Attaching outermost skirt to bodice (right sides together, bodice upside down).

And volia, a dress emerges. Albeit a bit see-through.

Dress lining and two layers of tulle added. I goofed a bit on the seam which is where you see the puckering. Will fix that tomorrow. The most important sewing advice I can share is don't sew when you're tired or frustrated. This is the fastest road to an abandoned project. And I've already got a whole closet full!

A million pattern pieces

Today was the big day--the official first cutting of fabric with scissors. Whenever I cut out a pattern, I notice that I am super meticulous with the first few pieces. And then I get more comfortable with clipping out curves and tabs and start to relax a bit. Either way, this stage in the process can be most tedious and always seems like it takes forever. Since this pattern includes lots of gathered skirts, I spent a better part of the day cutting out big rectangles of tulle the size of twin bedsheets.

These pieces are for the bodice of the dress--the top part which requires a close fit. Because there is a 5/8" seam allowance along the edges of most pattern pieces, it's often hard to imagine how a fitted garment will emerge from rather blocky shapes. But somehow all those seams add up and something resembling a dress will emerge. Everything must be done twice for the bodice of the dress--once for the exterior and once for the lin

Since the bodice is plain white satin, I wanted to add something to it to make it more exciting. I decided to get fancy and see if I could use remnants from the lace skirt fabric to overlay on top of the satin. Two of the smaller embroidered patterns worked perfectly, allowing enough room for seam allowance while also adding a nice accent to the two front panels. I love asymmetrical patterns since there are sometimes unexpected, so I cut two different panels out of the lace to overlay on top of the satin. These photos do a better job illustrating:

My favorite part of this pattern is preparing the boning inserts. Mostly because the mystery of dress boning is solved by sewing strips of grosgrain ribbon over the seams. The ribbon becomes a channel into which strips of plastic boning can be inserted to give the dress its shape. This all happens on the inside of the lining, so it won't be visible when the dress is finished. Kind of a shame, so much handiwork must remain a secret.

Here's one half of the completed bodice (the lining). The exterior is done in the same way (minus the boning) and the right sides of both pieces are stitched together. After lots of careful pressing with a hot iron, it is at this point that a dress starts to emerge.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Droid Christmas

Made with lime green fleece, buttons, felt and love. A silly Christmas prezzie for Sasha. With three interchangeable Velcro mouths.

Regular droid.

Kissy droid :-*

Silly droid :-P

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yep, I'm sewing my wedding dress

After trying on fancy frocks beyond my budget, digging through vintage store racks and trolling the long tail on ebay, I decided that the right wedding dress for me would have to be the one I made myself.

The decision was further bolstered by the fact that I literally stumbled upon the perfect pattern at a yard sale in a box of old lady sewing goodies for $0.25. Surely a sign.

I will be making "dress A" on the left. From what I can tell, the pattern was printed in the 80s but is a classic style with very traditional techniques. The description on the back of the envelope includes the phrase "tiered bouffant skirts." Now if only I could achieve the same bouffant hair effect.

Over the past few months I've been working on a muslin prototype--a mock-up of the original pattern and making notes about alterations. This is the first time I've worked with boning, the stiff plastic strips that lend structure to the bodice along the seams and reportedly feel weird to the touch during slow dances with your high school prom date.

I'm also working with "fancy" fabrics like tulle, lace and taffeta which are a departure from the usual cotton prints and recycled thrift store mu mus from which I normally create fabulous garments. There's something quite satisfying about buying 6 yards of tulle and watching the lady at the fabric counter flail about in it's gauzy web as she tries to fold it up into a neat bundle. Perhaps even more satisfying is the skeptical look I'm given when I share that I'll be using this fabric to sew my own wedding dress. I would like to collect a dollar for every raised eyebrow.

I found most everything at my local Pacific Fabrics and found the lace at Fabric Depot, a truly epic fabric store in Portland which boasts over 20,000 bolts of fabric and takes up an acre of land on the east side of the city.

I really like the "undersea" motif of the lace which stood out from all the other flowers and fleur de lis. I also have to admit that I dig the beading and fussy embroidery which surprises myself.

My next steps are to tune up my sewing machine and start cutting out the pieces and prepping them for sewing. I plan to document every tedious detail, triumph and frustration in this blog so sit back and enjoy!