Sunday, April 6, 2014

Wedding Dress Adventure: The Final Chapter

Whew!  It's finished with not a moment to spare.  The wedding is in three weeks. My daughter came home for the final fitting and is taking her wedding gown to her home in Virginia for the final cleaning and pressing.  (I won't show the completed dress before the wedding but I will show plenty of wedding pictures after the fact.)

The finished gown
My daughter chose a very plain design – we're talking Amish plain – but that turned out to be a good thing.  It made for very easy sewing.  But there were still challenges.  First, we had to change the original plan of making a simple dress with a lace overdress to add the drama.  The lace overdress stretched and grew like a bias fabric and was impossible to fit.  I now have yards of expensive lace and I don't know what to do with it.  (I know!  Save it for a christening gown!)

So, the design changed from a lace overdress to a lace jacket.  The jacket was a component of the original pattern anyway.  I bought more lace and made the jacket.  The lace was embellished with sequins and beads that had to be removed from the seam allowances before sewing and sewn back in when construction was finished.  Beads that were loosened had to be re-sewn.  Not fun.

The final challenge was bustling the gown.  To quote the panic-stricken Prissy from Gone With the Wind, "I don't know nothin' 'bout bustlin' no wedding gown!"  I pinned up the train as if I were going to over-bustle.  But in my mind, I'd planned to sew ribbons inside (blue for the "something blue") as if I were going to under- bustle. 

Under bustle
Over bustle
Lindsey preferred the look of over bustling. She was concerned that the extra bulk under the dress would trip her up during the bride-groom first dance.  My concern was keeping the bustling invisible.  Since the skirt of the gown is so plain, making the bustling invisible was difficult. My daughter's suggestion was to use safety pins disguised with ribbon.  Her reasoning was, "If someone is petty enough to notice and  criticize ribbon wrapped safety pins, too bad!"  Well, I am petty enough and I couldn't accept her "too bad" attitude.  I strenuously objected to safety pins. We found a compromise.We ended up over bustling, much like the picture above.  I sewed bridal buttons and loops to the outside of the train.  It wasn't invisible, but neither was it obvious.   


I cut the loop yardage into individual loops and sewed them, along with covered bridal buttons, onto the train.  The buttons and loops are not invisible, but the purpose should be evident if one notices the buttons and loops on the train as she walks down the aisle.

So, the wedding gown is finished and what have I learned?  
  • Plans often change.  The gown looks nothing like our original vision.  The adage is true:  MOBs plan - God laughs.
  • Embrace the flexibility needed to deal with the inevitable changes that will occur.  We abandoned the original vision and went the with pattern as designed.  That was probably best.
  • Keep your sense of humor.  Lindsey started humming "Don't Worry, Be Happy" on one occasion when the tension got thick. We both started laughing.  She promised to do that whenever I got too worried.
  • At the end of the day, my daughter will be married.  Lace jacket or overdress, safety pins, ribbons or buttons -- these things are not important in the grand scheme.
  • Although the process was fraught with my self-imposed worry and pressure, it was labor of love.  I was more than happy to do it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Adding Seam Allowances The Easy Way

I am a Burdaphile.   It is my goal to encourage every sewer to appreciate and use patterns from Burda Style (and other pattern magazines).  The biggest obstacle seems to be the tracing.  I admit, the tracing is sometimes a headache.  The pattern sheets can be downright scary.  I can't do anything about that.  But I can make it easier to add seam allowances.

It's easy to add seam allowances using a simple compass … the kind you used in high school geometry class.

An inexpensive compass with a plastic point is best because the point is not sharp enough to tear through the paper during the tracing process.

Watch me add a seam allowance the easy way:

Don't be afraid of BurdaStyle and other magazine patterns!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Finished: BSM 08-13-138

Some time ago, I realized I didn't have enough dresses.  So I initiated the Great American Dress Project.  This dress, #138 from the August 2013 issue of Burda Style Magazine, is the first dress in that project.
Burda Style Magazine 08-13-138

Pattern Description:  This design is a basically a variation on a shirt waist dress.  It includes a self-fabric belt and a scarf.

Pattern Sizing: This dress is from Burda Style's plus size range; european 44 to 52

Construction Notes:  The most difficult part of sewing this dress was finding a fabric covered belt kit in a brick and mortar store.  I usually go to JoAnn for notions like that, but my local JoAnn did not have fabric covered belt kits.  Luckily, I was able to go to Philadelphia's little garment district, Fabric Row.   I didn't have heavy interfacing for the belt, so I used two layers of the heaviest woven interfacing I had. The result was more than adequate.

The pattern called for lace trim along the edge of the collar.  I had a specific type and color lace in mind.  Since I couldn't find exactly what I wanted, I omitted the lace.

belt loops sewn into seam
Although this dress has a belt, belt loops were not mentioned in the instructions.  I made loops out of narrow bias tubes and sewed them into the waist seam.  The belt would creep up to an unflattering position without loops.

The sleeves look like your average set in sleeves, but they are not.  They are inserted like a raglan sleeve.  You can't see it on the technical drawing, but there is a seam from the shoulder to the slit that allows the sleeve to be inserted like a raglan.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I wasn't sure how the final project would look but let me say, I really like this dress!  There really isn't anything I dislike about this pattern.

Fabric Used:  100% polyester.  I had to remember that pressing 100% polyester presents a challenge.  I needed to use a clapper for every press.  I enjoy sewing natural fibers because they are so easy to press, but as long as I used the clapper and plenty of steam, pressing really wasn't that big a deal.

Conclusion:  I really like this dress!  I want to make it again, maybe in a solid color.  I hope the rest of my Great American Dress Project goes as well.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Organizational Tip: Storing Patterns

I was inspired by Miss Celie's call for pattern organization ideas.  My pattern box was looking pretty sloppy and it was time for a pattern purge.

For many years, I loved and used Nancy's Notions Pattern Keepers to store patterns.  Pattern Keepers had a front pocket for the pattern envelope and instructions and a ziploc compartment for the pattern pieces.  Unfortunately, Pattern Keepers are no longer available.  I found a source for similar ziploc bags, but they had to be purchased in cases of 1000.  I googled and learned many sewers use comic book protectors to store patterns.  These plastic bags come in three or four sizes.  For me, the silver size (7 1/8" by 10 1/2") works best.  

They are nearly the same size as the Pattern Keepers I'm used to so I can keep my patterns in the drawer I'm currently using.  They don't have the front pocket to separate the pattern envelope and instructions, but that wasn't a deal breaker for me.  

Rather than a ziploc, these bags close with a flap.  Self sealing protectors are available, but I use removable color-coding labels to keep the flaps closed.  One of these days, maybe I'll come up with a way to use the color coding.  Or, I'll buy the self sealing protectors the next time the urge to organize hits me.  These bags are readily available at comic book stores.  (Midtown Comics is in the midst of New York's Garment District! How convenient is that?) They are also available at Amazon.  I bought three packs (100 bags per $5 pack) for $15 at a local comic book store.  Very reasonable, although I don't think I'll ever have 300 patterns.

I kept my current pattern storage set up.  A few years ago, I built a wooden box in which  I store the patterns, arranged by category.  I built the box to fit neatly on the bottom shelf of a bookcase.  I will not allow myself to have more patterns than fit in the drawer, so my pattern stash is manageable.

The comic book store sold plastic tabbed dividers that I use to separate and identify the categories.

It was a simple task to design and print the labels.  I had to cut the dividers down to size to make them fit neatly in the box. 

I photocopy the front and back of pattern envelopes and store them in a binder. My long term goal is to make catalog pages for my traced Burda Patterns.  When that is done, I will have a complete catalog of traced magazine and envelope patterns. 

So, once again, I got inspiration from a sewing blogger.  Thanks to Miss Celie and my local comic book store, I was able to update my pattern storage system.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wedding Dress Blues

My plan was to focus on, possibly even finish Lindsey's wedding dress before sewing anything else.  Of course, a problem has come up.

Not Lindsey's Dress
I don't know if this is an actual characteristic of lace, but the lace overlay we planned grew about two sizes while hanging in the closet.   Apparently, lace is not a stable fabric.  I made a muslin using cheap JoAnn lace and the fit was good – only minor adjustments necessary.  But after sewing the overlay in the expensive lace and hanging it in the closet for several weeks, it was suddenly huge.  It acted like a bias cut or slinky knit fabric that grows on the hanger.  I called Nancy K and we had a FaceTime consultation.  She gave me a very clever way to fix the problem.  But it would have meant picking and cutting at the lace and I just wasn't up for that.  So DD agreed to go in another direction.  Rather than a lace overlay, she'll have a lace jacket.  The jacket is underlined and lined so the lace will be more stable.  I was excited about this change because I envisioned a more embellished lace - something with a little sparkle and pizazz.  Not Liberace sparkle, but certainly more sparkle than the original lace.  My daughter, however, doesn't want a lot of sparkle or pizazz and she withdrew my carte blanche fabric selection privilege.  Now she wants to approve my lace selection.  :-(   I've sewn two jacket muslins and she will be home in February for a fitting.

BSM 09-09-138
The wedding is in April, and I'm beginning to feel some pressure.  Until our dresses are finished, I feel all my sewing has to be wedding-related and I don't want to be sidetracked with other projects I really don't need.  Yet, I'm sure I'll need a break from wedding sewing.  So that I'm not marking time until the next fitting in February, I'm going to start my MOB dress.   I selected the fabric for my dress two months ago based on the wedding colors at the time.  But, the colors have changed slightly (of course they have!) and my dress no longer coordinates with the color scheme. But I don't care anymore!  I like the fabric - I like the pattern - I making the dress!  No one is going to  be looking at me anyway - no matter how gorgeous I look!  I've made this dress for another wedding, so I'm familiar with the process.

I lost several weeks due to illness, surgery and recovery. I'm behind my self-imposed schedule. But I'm back on my feet now. I have a renewed sense of purpose and I'm ready to go!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wedding Dress Diary: Part 1

After trekking to NYC to buy the fabric, I am finally emotionally ready to start the wedding dress.  I still have 6 months, so I don't feel rushed, but it's time to get moving.  Somehow, making the dress makes the fact that she is getting married more real.  I feel like I'm loosing a daughter.

My first challenge was laying and cutting out.  The china silk I chose for the lining and the silk organza underlining was not wide enough to accommodate the train.  I had to buy more.  As much as I enjoyed my fabric shopping trip to NYC, I didn't really feel like going back so soon. But I made adjustments to my schedule and planned to go back.  But, before jumping on the train, I made a trip to Jack B's, on Philadelphia's Fabric Row, the store that burned down when I first shopped for wedding dress fabric.  (They were able to reopen right across the street.)  And, praise God, they had just the silk and organza I needed. No trip to NYC was needed.

My first task was to sew the organza underlining to the dress pieces.  I wanted to have the shell of the dress done so DD could try it on when she was in town for her shower.

I was able to finish the shell for a fitting.  All that was required was to take the sides in.  When Linds tried on the muslin, she wanted a loose fit, but my
My bestie's DD & my younger sister at the shower.
younger sister (who was in town for the shower) and I were able to convince her to have a closer fit.

I finished the dress, except for the hem, before Thanksgiving and took several weeks off before starting the lace overlay.

The lace is tuning out to be as big a challenge as I feared.  It's very soft with a beautiful hand -- not at all like the crap I used in the muslin.  But, it is still a challenge.  I decided to use a 4 thread overlock for the seams.   When the lace overlays the satin, the seam is practically invisible.  When it overlays Lindsey's skin, it will be finished nicely.


It is nearly impossible for me to distinguish the right side of the lace.  I hope it's just as impossible for everyone else, because I can't guarantee I made the distinction correctly every time.  Once the lace is ready to be permanently sewn together, I'll have one more challenge.  For some reason, I thought basting using pink thread would be good because it would be easier to see and remove from the lace.  Then I thought, "I might not have to remove all of the basting.  I can serge right over it."  So now, half is basted in pink and half in white. Oh well, one learns through one's mistakes.  Anyway, the lace overlay is basted and ready for the next fitting, which will take place when Lindsey and I are together for her last Christmas as a single girl!

I don't plan to do any sewing for myself until this wedding dress is finished.  I've taken breaks, sometimes long ones, between phases but now I'm ready to move and get this job done.

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PS:  Praise God!  Lindsey's fiancĂ© came home safely from Afghanistan!