I’m just going to warn you, straight up, that this is a loooong post with a lot of pictures.  But it covers something that I wanted to know how to do, and I couldn’t find a good enough tutorial on the Web so I figured it out myself by trial and error.

One thing I knew about my wedding dress — before I even sat down to draw, before I looked at fabric — was that it was going to have a row of tiny little buttons with loops.  They’re so romantic and dreamy — and even though I wasn’t going the white wedding dress, romantic was definitely on the cards.  It’s like wearing a veil: sure, I could do without it, but when else am I going to wear a dress that can legitimately require assistance just to get it done up?

The buttons needed to be about 11mm wide — that’s 7/16 of an inch to those of you over the ocean.  And every time I went to cover one in the silk dupioni, said silk unraveled and puckered and was just generally dispiriting.  I asked around and had a play  — here is a better way.

Draw your motif on a clean sheet of paper, in black pen that can be seen through your fabric. The motif should be at least 2mm (technical term — a smidge) smaller than your button.

Cut a piece of silk three or four times the button’s size — this is not the time to be stingy with fabric.

Trace the motif ever-so-lightly with a pencil (you may need to use a lightbox or a window) and thread your needle with one strand of embroidery floss.

Of course you can use any stitch to embroider your button, but I used ol’ reliable, chain stitch.  For this one, you bring your needle up, wrap the floss around the needle at the front, pull tight, and repeat (it’s easier to understand from the pictures.)

Huzzah, done!  Sorry about the weird colours.  My camera, it seems, cannot deal with tiny macro shots of shiny silk.

Self-cover buttons will almost always come with a cutting guide on the packet.  Cut out the appropriate size and push a pin through dead centre — find it by folding the circle twice.  Now rest the pin on the dead centre of your motif and push the cutting guide down.

Trace around, leaving a smidge of room because you’ll be cutting well inside the line.

Take a scrap of lightweight, iron-on interfacing and iron to the reverse side.  It’s best to put a light cloth between the iron and the silk/embroidery.  You don’t want to burn the silk or squash your stitching.

Now cut around your circle, inside the guide line.  Thread your needle with regular cotton and make small running stitches all around it.  Leave a considerable tail at either end (I could have used more in this example — at least 10cm or 4″.)

Pull tight, making sure that your motif remains centred.  You may need to wrap the thread around the shank to get it tight enough.  This is fiddly work.  Be patient.

Place the backing on the button. Use a fingernail to make sure all the edges are sitting underneath the backing, then push down firmly all around the sides.

Congratulate yourself and take a photo!

Now go find some other places to take photos.  Admire how pretty and how tiny it is.

Ahhhh.

Now you can get married!

Take a little bit of this…

Add a little bit of that…

Add a dash of standing on a table, waiting for people to stop taking pictures and start pinning lace on your hem…

And you feel pretty much ready to get married.  Almost… (I’m writing this the day before…)

I’ve scheduled this post to publish at around the same time Dan and I tie the knot, so if you’re reading this, the deed is done.  I’ll be off on holidays for a week — if you’d like to see photos, the lovely Jessie will put a few up on her site within a day or two.

Thank you so much to all of you who’ve helped out with helpful comments, sage advice, and helping hands.

I’ve been tulle-wrangling lately…

Some things are going well, like the boned foundation of the bodice.

Others I am not sure of, but am waiting to see how they turn out, like draping bias cut silk over the bodice.  (After the photo this was clipped back to seam allowance and sewn down to the foundation.)  I’m not sure that it’s not too busy.

Other things are causing me to lose sleep, like this enoooormous skirt.  (we ran out of tulle for the final tier, probably a good thing).

I think it needs to go back to being more like this.

So this is why wedding dresses are stressful.  It’s not just that there are more intricate foundations to reckon with.  The hardest part is that it’s a once in a lifetime dress: it’s hard to call it ‘good enough’ and move on.

On with the wedding dress fun!  These photos are from Friday, when I spent some hours in Ringwood with bridalwear expert Julie Spencer.  I’m so glad that I a) decided to find some help and b) found Julie and her friend and colleague Karen.  I must have called twenty dressmakers and more pattern makers in an attempt to find someone who’d teach me as they worked.  Whilst I understand their reluctance to have me hanging around, slowing them down and wanting to do things myself, learn how things are done, it was frustrating.  Calling all dressmakers: you could make a mint in private sewing lessons with a bridal focus.

First of all, off to ‘The House of Franke, Stuart”.  Franke Stuart has been around for decades.  They once made dresses and now they sell a fabulous range of bridal fabrics and laces.  They also make hoop skirts.

I picked up a hoop skirt they’ve made for me, and fabric such as I have never even *held* before.  There’s a long length of pale blush dupioni is for the bodice and skirt, there’s 15m of soft tulle for the overskirt, a couple of short lengths of darker dupionis to ‘see’ about layering in the skirt, and some organza.  All pinks, all as pale as possible.  The photos below are of a session ‘just playing’ with everything pinned together.   The skirt is sewn out of the basic dupioni and we used a strip of it to stand in for the bodice.

I also picked up a tiny bit of blush  lace and you can see it pinned to the first overskirt below.  I wonder if I can afford to stitch lace over the bottom edge of each overskirt.  That would be pretty, no?  What do you think?

I’m not going to use the darker dupionis though.  So I have to find some other use for that fabric.  It was worth trying though!

Yeah, it’s not going to work.  Simple is best.  That second skirt, though, is the organza, and I think (there are so many decisions to make!!  eek!) that it would be very sweet lined with the dupioni and made into a bow for the back waist?

There are almost too many possibilities!  So: I learned a few things.  For important and expensive dresses like bridal gowns, Julie uses a 2.5cm seam allowance so that the dress can be let out as well as in.  If the diet is a fail, no problem.  There are special feet that will gather up tulle and other fabrics and create ruffles and gathers: I didn’t know that.  And if your fabric is fine and you want to put only a light hem on it, don’t iron it over twice like you’d normally do.  Turn it with your finger, just a few millimetres, while sewing it down.  Turn again, sew again.  Light and easy.

Next lesson is scheduled for the 6th, when I’m going to bag out the skirt with its lining and build the overskirt layers.  This is So.  Much.  Fun.

Oh, and!  I want to ask you — five tulle skirts or three?  These are the important questions!

OK, so I’ll have to admit, I can be headstrong.  I’ve been so insistent on making my dress myself, that I refused to even think about getting a dressmaker to help!   After three goes at building a bodice toile for my dress, and the same number of frustrated wollopings of fabric into the bin — too sad to blog about it — I called in the experts.

Isn’t it funny though, that as soon as you let your barriers down and ask for help, things seem to work out?  I’ve found two lovely ladies, one a patternmaker and one a dressmaker.  Julie and Karen worked together in a bridal store for twenty odd years, so they know what they’re doing, and they’re going to help me make The Dress in their homes as a kind of masterclass.  Instead of paying for dressmaking, I’m paying for guidance and learning new skills, which I much prefer.

Julie fit this final toile on me today (by the way, that skirt is just a placeholder bit of bemsilk, not the final pattern).  And I have bought such wondrous fabrics! Silk and organza and tulle…  but photos will have to wait until two weeks hence, when I promise to take photos of the cutting process.  It’s so nice to be excited about this again and I can’t wait to learn and share bridal construction techniques.

Dart class coming up tomorrow…

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There’s only one problem with my wedding dress pattern, but it’s a deal breaker.  Pointy 50s boob darts might have been great in 1953 but now they say LOOK AT ME I’M WEARING VINTAGE.  All the modern patterns I can find have princess seams, which are fine in general but not for this particular dress-of-my-dreams.

I bought this pattern today from the ever-fabulous sandritocat, fingers crossed.

Oh, can’t resist: “Oh, Matthew!  Puffed Sleeves!!”

my wedding dress inspiration board…

My dress form — her name is Beuhla — stubbornly refuses to grow 6 foot tall and stretch in the torso,  hence the toile is a lot more squashed on her than it will be on me — see below.  The finished version will also be less hot pink than this too :)

Too sick to work this week.   Instead I gently played at dress-up for an hour or so at a time, using calico and some cheap pink tulle to figure out the basic structure of The Dress.

This first toile, with its cut out piece of calico for a bodice, is simply to get some idea of how I like the style of dress on me (answer : a lot!  hooray!).  It’s three pieces: a skirt, a bow, and a sweetheart bodice.  It uses a full circle skirt, which I am now reconsidering.  I think there’s too much fabric at the bottom: that once it’s layered in tulle it will be ridiculously large, and crazy-expensive too as I’d like it worked in silk dupioni with nice tulle.  I also have to learn how to construct a boned bodice.  (Any ideas, sewing mavens?)

It made me happy to start building my wedding dress.

Something that has been making me sad, however, is the Australian wedding ceremony.  We recently found out that our celebrant will be legally required to say that ‘marriage is between a man and a woman.’

I have very strong personal feelings about this meanness (I realise they will not be shared by everyone who reads this blog, but please bear with me, for I don’t often talk politics here).  Dan and I are currently looking at options like going through the legal rigmarole the day before the wedding.  In this way we can say what is in our hearts on our wedding day, not what is written in old man’s law, and hence avoid affirming unjust sentiments in front of dear friends and family.

This weekend, thousands of people marched in Melbourne for the right to do simple and joyous things like play with hot pink tulle and plan vows.  And for the so important legal privileges that Dan and I will enjoy because he is a man and I am a woman.  What’s more, my friend and photographer-to-be Jessie was there to commemorate the day for the over 65 (!!) couples who exchanged vows.  Do have a look at her beautiful photographs.  Some of them are just heartbreakingly lovely. Please go have a look.  If you’re not convinced that this is the right thing, ask yourself what you would lose, and what the world would gain, if a few more people were allowed to say in public,

‘I love you: I do.’

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