We have many wonderful pictures from our wedding day, but this is the one tacked to the wall of my sewing room.

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.

What a weekend — an engagement photo session (ours) and a wedding (our friends Andrew and Rose — Dan was best man).  Click on the link to take a sticky at the amazing engagement photos, taken by Jessie.  My dress is the latest project, an Elvis print voile over pink tulle.

We played around in all our favourite Melbourne places, from the Flinders St Clocks where we met for the first time, to the park, to Degraves St… and then finally to our ‘real home’, the lights and the flavours of Chinatown.  We were mucking around in front of the camera for hours and Jessie (and her lovely helper Hannah) never complained… love you guys!

Oh, and I’m totally going to blog about the wedding, but it deserves space of its own.

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!

Today is Dart Day!  Hooray!

OK, now that I have that out of my system, I want to share with you a couple of little tricks I’ve picked up at night school.  Some of you will undoubtedly already know them but they’re not common knowledge.

Pattern makers don’t bother with time saving measures for home sewing.  However I’m yet to meet a home sewer who liked making darts.  There are many ways of marking them, and all are tedious.  All involve a lot of fiddling around, visually checking from one side of the fabric to another to make sure that all the marks line up.  Or thousands of pins. And it can be so hard to get them to the same length.

Professional sewers don’t have time to spare and they can’t afford to unpick and start again, so they use a combination of notches and drill holes.  It takes much less time, and it goes together better.  You should try it too!  You will need a tailor’s awl.  They’re very, very cheap.

First of all: what are you doing cutting around those crazy little diamonds in your patterns?  It’s not accurate and it slows you down.  Just cut clear around your pattern and then make notches no deeper than half the seam allowance.  Seriously.  Don’t be scared of damaging your garment.  Unless you’re using a flimsy fabric like silk chiffon, you won’t.

Try it, really.  In all your sewing.  Notches are awesome.  Diamonds are annoying.  OK, on to the dart.  First notch the tops of the dart.

Then get your tailor’s awl.  Stick it in through pattern and fabric, 1cm (1/2 inch) above the apex of the dart.  Really, it’s OK!  The awl is so sharp that it won’t tear your fabric.  It might break a thread but more likely it will just push threads out of the way and make a mark that will slip back into place with a little bending of fabric.  Besides, you are using the awl inside the dart.  The marked fabric won’t ever be under stress and it isn’t part of your garment.  It’s more like seam allowance than anything else.

Now the fun part!  Fold the dart over on itself as usual.  Isn’t it easy to line the tops up?  And all you need to do to make sure it’s lining up straight is to get the awl mark sitting flush with the fold.

Sew the dart as usual, starting with the notches and sewing past the awl point by that 1cm or 1/2 inch.  The last few stitches should only catch one thread.  I could have done better in the example below, but it’s good enough.  Tie the threads off and press.

Now, go forth and conquer!

Wedding dress inspiration…

%20wedding_gown_flowers [via the Flirty Bride]

Golly, what wonderful responses to my wedding dress question!  Thank you for sharing your stories.  I love these ideas and I will try ‘taping’ a mini-me as well as asking for help at Clegs.  Love Clegs!

I must admit I’ve been feeling a little scared of the commitment to Making The Dress.  Now I’m not so sure that’s legitimate, but I still have reservations.  Will I be up to it?  Will I ruin expensive fabric in the process?  And will I just get plain sick of it by the time I can wear it?  Then again, it could be a lot of fun, and I would have a dress that’s really ‘me’.

kristy hinze[Kristy Hinze, via The Age]

Mum and I have made an appointment to go meet a dressmaker in my home town, Ballarat, this Saturday.  So I’ll go talk to her and try to get a feeling for how hard this will be.  Maybe I’ll make it, or maybe I’ll work with her: me embroidering, she cutting, etc.  Oh, and Mum bought this wonderful pattern on Ebay!  Isn’t it lovely?  I wonder if my bridesmaids would be interested in wearing the short version.



1950’s dress: it’s saying ‘make me, make me’!

Everything today is a-go-go; photos a-go-go, breakfast a-go-go and blogging a-go-go.  Why?  In one fell swoop this blog hit 10,000 page views* and my Flickr account hit 20,000 views.  Neither are quite a year old.

I should do something to celebrate.  But what?  How?  Something for all of you, certainly.  A giveaway!  Yes!  Let me think about it.  Until I come up with something, have a look at some glorious pictures of historical costumes from a private collection I visited recently.  If you’d like to see more photos or see these in other sizes, the flickr set is here.

This cross-stitched dress makes me think twice about 1920’s fashion.  I’m someone whose curves make the 20s seem like sartorial torture, so I’ve never seen the beauty in flapper gowns or tennis dresses.  I’m selfish that way: I think dresses are prettier if I can see me wearing them.  This, I covet.  As a soft summer house dress: I can see me waking up in my immaculate embroidered-sheet white bed (ha!), pulling on a chic swimsuit and then pulling this over the top, grabbing a basket and sunglasses, and wandering down to the pool or the beach for a wake-me-up swim.  Lovely.

‘How now, extremely lovely woman in shimmering brown?’

‘Well, I do look gorgeous, but this skirt and shawl do trail in the mud so.’

‘Ah, I have just the thing!  A skirt lifter!’

Here’s another (from about 1810) that would be quite wearable today with a few simplifications.  Of course, for me I’d lower the waist and ruin the empire line completely, so perhaps someone else should make it.  For their 16-year-old long haired brunette daughter who loves painting, Joni Mitchell songs, Richard Brautigan’s poetry, folk guitars, and fields of flowers.

OK, last one.

This is a dressing-the-bride scene with clothes sourced from 1900 to 1910.  I love the photo because the bride can ‘see’ a 60s mod girl in the mirror.  I didn’t even realise that until I uploaded the photos just now; I like to imagine that she’s thinking ahead to what her granddaughters will wear once they get rid of the corset.  Still, she does feel pretty for her wedding and she hopes the world won’t forget to love lace.

I love clothes.  I really do.  AND, I still have Australian Quilt Convention pics to show you!  We don’t need a sewing machine to have fun with this blog, do we?  See you soon for more photos.

*I love WordPress, but I wish it counted individual visitors.  Grumble grumble.

It’s not perfectly done yet.  It needs a button, a belt buckle, and a waist closure.  It fits very differently in cotton to jersey; only needs one button instead of three.

There were a few days when I was sick of it and thought it was too much, too colorful, that I should cut the top off and use it as a skirt.  So I got the Masculine Quilt Advisor to take a photo.  I thought if I could wear it around (albeit pinned together) and see it in a picture, I could make a rational decision.  Now I like it, love it, and I’m going to finish it.  Yay!

This one is put together from a kimono-sleeve 1953 dress pattern (Simplicity 4448). This is the first time I’ve tried making anything from a real vintage pattern (rather than a reproduction) and I was a little worried. Also, the pattern really isn’t built for a stretch jersey. Happily for me, it all went together quite smoothly.

Some notes: the cutting directions are wrong, and omit an essential piece (facing c). I put 2″ extra in the waist, as per usual, but it was totally unneccessary. 1″ would have been entirely satisfactory. I’m going to put that down to a style change which has modern waists sitting higher than their 50’s equivalents.  It needed an extra button, and would maybe even benefit from a third.  The pattern was also far more complex than I’d expect a shirt dress to be: four darts in the back and six in the front, with some tricky side fastenings. I also had to put another dart in the centre back, just because I’m built that way. After finishing, I cut the hem as it was sitting 3″ below the knee (dowdy!) but I do think this is now a little on the too-short side.

So this one took a lot longer than the wrap dress. No big bickies: I’m really just testing in order to use it again in this fabric:

Do you recognise it?

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