Friday, November 23, 2012

What's been happening? Well it's been busy, and it's been emotional...

In cat news, everything was so very stressful it brought on my first ever cold sore... But all is well for the moment. Injection giving has become routine, and he doesn't even notice anyway as he's wolfing down his food so voraciously! I do the morning shift, and the boy the evening shift.

I've learned some important things during my trawling through the web trying to sift useful cat diabetes information from horror stories.

  • from my friend the vet: if he seems fine in himself, don't get stressed about the numbers.
  • from some forum, somewhere: if he's doing the 5 'P's then he's probably fine;
    • preening
    • playing
    • purring
    • pooing
    • peeing
There are quite a few people out there absolutely obsessed with blood glucose testing. I intend to do another curve soon, but for now I'm relying on the one I managed to get a couple of weeks ago and another fructosomine test from the vet in a couple of weeks. Yes, that's right, I got a curve. I joined the vampire club - people who've managed to get blood from their cat!

Last time you read this wasn't happening. Not to worry, said the vet, take him in and and we'll do it at the surgery. I was unsure as I've read that stress elevates the blood glucose, and my cat, adorable king of his roost at home, is an absolutely peeing himself terrified out of his little mind fearful cat outside of his domain.

So I took him in and left him there. And worried all morning at work. At lunchtime I phoned to be told they'd managed to get one first thing this morning but when they went for the second one he 'went at it' to quote the receptionist. He apparently attacked the vet and was now growling from under a covered cat box in a darkened room. Well, mama bear came to the fore. After putting the phone down and crying in the office (fortunately my colleague is a cat person, otherwise I'm quite sure people would think I'm nuts for getting this stressed about a cat) I came up with a plan. Never has my cat done anything like this. He is placid in the vets always because he is utterly frozen, rigid in fear. To attack the vet must have meant he was out of his mind with terror. Phone the boy - get him. Get him immediately and take him home. Nothing is worth this.

As soon as he was home he was totally fine and happy. He never bears a grudge, or connects his terrible time with us for taking him there. I'm so lucky. So I went to the vet the next day to discuss our options. I'd spent everyday at this point terrified I was going to come home, or wake up to, a dead cat. He could hypo at any time and as we'd not got any bloods off him, we have no way of knowing where he's at. Injecting a cat who is on low blood sugar with insulin is a death sentence.

I made the decision over a lot of tears. If a hypo death would be an awful death then we weren't going to persevere. So I said goodbye in a way. I came to terms with the fact that I could lose him. However, the vet said the process would be a little like going to sleep for him. He would get 'drunk' and disorientated, which wouldn't be great, but mostly he'd be confused, not in pain or anything. Then he'd have a seizure that he wouldn't be aware of, but if we saw, we would probably find quite distressing. If we weren't around to save him at this point then he'd fall into a coma and die. So I felt much happier with this. OK, we can carry on. If he dies, it won't be a bad death for him, and I've done my best to manage this with minimal stress and upset for him. As long as he is happy and not suffering, then I'm OK with that.

So, I relaxed a bit and decided to have a stab at (geddit?!) getting blood from his ear. I asked the vet for smaller needles and decided to take it slow for both of us. The first time I tried I had no intention of getting blood. Just practicing holding his ear and pressing a needle to it until he notices. Then loads of cuddles and his brush as a reward.

Second attempt, got the needle a tiny bit further in and lots of rewarding behaviour after. Making sure he starts and ends the process purring is always a good sign. No blood yet though.

The third time I pushed it in a tiny bit more. No blood. Massaged his ear and blood appeared! Enough for a reading! I've learned that we are not aiming for the vein (this will cause a 'gusher') but to the space between it and the outer ear, as near to the vein as you can get without hitting the vein.

Warm ears make all the difference, and will make teeny tiny pinpricks produce enough blood. Got the glucose meter reader that required minimal amount of blood and that the strip will 'suck up' the blood. The ones that need a drop to land of the top of the strip will require the cat to be turned upside down and for him to wait patiently in this position until he drips... I'm going to give that approach a miss.

So I got enough and passed the results to the vet, who said his readings look good! And just to continue as normal until a fructosamine test. I'm extremely fortunate that my cat is a food hoover, as eating all his food is core to diabetes management. I believe it is harder with cats that graze. So I hope he will always be a hoover, otherwise I'm going to have get blood off him all the time before injecting him.

Now my only stress is the cattery he's going to soon. Usually he's so scared that he won't let anyone near him. And since June he has had trouble with catteries, peed everywhere and felt threatened. Well this time he has to let the cattery owner near him twice a day to inject him. So we're hoping the new, expensive cattery I've found that's run by a vet nurse will do the trick. Seeing cats and smelling cats seems to upset him, and this cattery is set up so he can't see the other cats and it's made of that stuff front doors are made of, instead of wood so should hopefully not be carrying the scents of other cats on it. If the cattery doesn't work out then we're in a jam as we have to be able to go away sometimes, not least Christmas. But we'll cross this bridge if we come to it. In the meantime Feliway and Zyklene are my best friends. I'm going to get him there as happy as possible!

He has had no idea this whole time that there's anything wrong with him. Other than traumatic trips to the vet he is fine. It's just me that's had a near emotional breakdown. As someone said on a blog; "Don't bury your cat until he's dead". Good advice that...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A busy one

Today I managed to get tma01, my second assignment for M263 handed in 23 days early. I'm trying to get ahead as much as possible before my overlapping second course starts in February. So far M263 has been like a recap of M255 that I did last year, but a quick flick through blocks 3 and 4 show that the course has a steep curve to sudden mathematical coding that looks quite in depth.

In driving news I had a great day with lots of driving about successfully until the inevitable 45 minute mark where I suddenly and unexpectedly become a monstrously bad driver and have to stop.

In cat news, day one hasn't gone fantastically. Insulin injection one went unnoticed by my voraciously hungry cat (he's always had that rescue cat 'must eat ALL the food' appetite). So it was a bit of a surprise when I was cleaning his litter 10 minutes later to find myself weeping. And repeat again on the way to the cinema after his evening shot... I've always been terrified of needles and never look when I get them (or he gets them at the vets). Seeing one, filling it with insulin and actually administering an injection without hitting the deck is proving quite the challenge. 

Trying to get blood for the curve was a total fail. Total fail. Surprise! Cats don't like it when you try and stick a needle in their ear vein... 

Oh we'll, onwards to tomorrow... 

Friday, November 2, 2012

More cat content

Today I'm trying to find an in-house security camera that I can control remotely from work and look and see what the cat is up to and if he's OK ...

Other than that, and a vet visit this evening to learn all about diabetes, I'm looking forward to the weekend.

The boy and I are determined to get a bird-watching jaunt in at some point this weekend. The dark evening have been getting to us, and I am hunched over a PC all the live-long day what with work, studying and manically research cat diabetes...

I have found the Autumnwatch webcams to be great whilst studying though! Take a look people!

Edit: later in the day ...

Knitting; I WANT to knit this (if you're a knitter without a Ravelry account, well... you NEED one of those) and this but really, 2x2 rib is all I can handle. I'm ready for this week to be over. I want to be at the stage where stabbing my cat with a needle is so 'normal' that I'm fine with it. It's t-minus 30 minutes to the appointment. I'm spiralling into yarny projects for comfort at the moment.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


NaBloPoMo ... can I?

Ok I'll give it a shot.. The past few days have been an exercise in dealing with kitty cat's recent diabetes. Appointment tomorrow to get him (and me!) comfortable with the prospect of having to stab him twice a day with a needle... and learning all the things to watch for in case he has a hypo (too much insulin / too low blood sugar) or too high blood sugar (extreme thirst, hunger and weeing).

In other news, I have been trying to get more coding languages under my belt. To that end I've started with C. I've found a book ...

and an online compiler and I've managed to write 'Hello World!" So I'm practically finished! I also bought books for C++, and started an Amazon Christmas wishlist, and Pinterest board on useful resources for learning others, like HTML/CSS, HTML5, and the rest. I've downloaded Visual Studio 2012 (thank you Microsoft for your free resources for students!) and plan to learn .NET.

So knitting then ... ? Lots of things I really really REALLY want to knit. Unfortunately I don't appear to be able to code myself more time in the day so it's going slowly at the moment.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pet kitty

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed my wee kitty was developing a rather amazing thirst... You've probably got there as quick as me ... this is diabetes, or kidneys. I phoned my vet. My eleven year old kitten has developed diabetes. This was quite a shock to me, not least because I'm terrified of needles. Lots of positive vibes from friends and family about it being a manageable condition, and at least I still have him are only now, a week later, giving me the comfort I need.

For the last week I've been going through an emotional time trying to come to terms with the simple fact that my cat is getting old. I've had him for 11 years. I've been through a lot in those 11 years. He has licked the tears off my face when I was so lonely I simply couldn't bear it. He has caused me to literally weep with laughter when he got caught out sticking his head through a carrier bag handle trying to eat forbidden rubbish. He heard the rustle of the bag and ran, giving himself a near heart-attack as the noisy bag that he was running from wouldn't stop chasing him ... not surprising given that it was attached to him! I found him by following the trail of rubbish to behind the sofa where he was panting, with the carrier bag still on his head. Still scared of bags, but fortunately we now have a door on the kitchen!

Indoor cats become very much part of the family. They are always there when you get home, and always around. The boy and I have no children; he is our baby. The ordeal has been made tougher by the news that our dear friends have recently had to say goodbye to their wee kitty - too suddenly and unexpectedly.

As pet owners, we all know the time will come, but we all don't really believe that will either. We understand each other's pain as only those with pets can, when it can sometimes feel that that pain is down-played by some. The "it's only a cat" look that can sometimes be received. Nothing said, just a look that says, "seriously, you're going to pay how much for a pet with diabetes?!" The vet asked me how I felt about having a cat with diabetes; the implication was clear; "are we treating this, or putting him down?" It never occurred to me to do anything other than pay the bill and get on with it. He's family after all. I can't imagine how awful it must be to not have the money to pay for treatment.

We're still waiting the result of a final test, and then a day in the vets getting his blood measured every hour throughout the day, and we can begin (£200 of vet bills later) with getting insulin prescribed. I'm practically a world expert in insulin overdose signs, types of food (high protein, low carb) and so on and so forth.

I will say this; pet people - get proper life cover insurance and check your policy does not only cover the first year. I've always had for life cover, for exactly this type of expensive chronic condition. Fortunately he should be covered by Pet Plan, according to the pleasant chap I spoke to on the phone.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A frustrating morning coding, a nice shiny new haircut and a whole afternoon at Glasgow School of Yarn in good company knitting my sparkly purple cable scarf and buying new yarn - a perfect Saturday!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Reinventing Scotland's Woollen Traditions at the Lighthouse

I had a fantastic afternoon yesterday at the Lighthouse at a knitting event held by the School of Humanities and the University of Glasgow. The public study day Reinventing Scotland's Woollen Traditions involved ...

The hordes descend on the yarn at Ripplecraft's stall
... much yarn and fleece shopping ...

Trevor Pitt's "The Salon Bench Project"

... exhibits to look at, like these benches covered in knitting ...

Roxane Permar, Shetland: the Mirrie Dancers Project

talks about all sorts of interesting topics, like knitting lace with wool and other materials and projecting light through it ...

Karina Westermann getting interviewed

... friends getting interviewed for STV News ...

Karina doing her thing!

... and doing crochet and continental knitting demonstrations ...

... my beautiful wedding shawl by Old Maiden Aunt went down a storm, and I was even asked to show it off for the cameras! ... (The full article is available here for UK viewers)

A view of the room from Karina's stall
... I took a few photos, including this one above of the whole room from behind Karina's stall ...

Carol Christiansen, Knitted Textiles from Shetland Museum
... a talk on fair-isle and Shetland knitting, with links for further research, including the Shetland Museum photo library and the University of Southampton's Knitting Reference Library

Featured all over the media, from the BBC News website, STV News, and BBC Radio Scotland (23 mins in I think)

Amazingly, I didn't buy any yarn! Although, tomorrow I am off to the Glasgow School of Yarn, where that may change...

Friday, October 12, 2012

3 sentences, 3 exclamation points

Current progress on reversible cable kit shawl - loving knitting this!

In other news, I am planning on going to this and can't wait!

And I also got 100% in my first assignment!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

lots and lots of things

No pictures in this blog post I'm afraid...

This past week has been the juggling of many, many things, while trying to contend with a near continuous migraine that I know is caused by all the things but can't seem to shake it, or just RELAX.

At the moment studying is going well, I just need to be spending more time on it. I'm enjoying it, however as I work in a University, it is a busy time of year so by the time I get home I'm shattered. I managed to get in my first assignment a week early, and am now working on the second one.

The boy and I are also having to contend with plummeting house prices at a time when we got all geared up to do the house up and sell it. Due to the house prices in our street falling so very much we're having to accept that we should wait until April and re-evaluate whether we can afford it then. In the meantime we have to get the house finished. It needs a lot of work - the big jobs (bathroom and kitchen) are done, we just have to find the time somewhere to do the rest. The house situation has taken a bit of a sledgehammer to our motivation unfortunately.

And add to that we thought we'd watch that series 'Double your house for half the money' for ideas. We didn't realise that instead of the quirky helpful hints for making your house better storage-wise etc. we were going to be watching people with budgets bigger than we are planning to spend on an entire house extending their massive detached mansions. Excuse me, but OF COURSE it's ****ing easy to double your house for half the money when you have a tonne of money and land to do it on!! Try doing it in a two-up, two-down flat with no budget, nor option for external extension and then I'm interested in watching that challenge! The boy and I have deleted the remaining episodes we had after going to bed in simultaneous bad moods.

Driving is going quite well. We recently traded in the car for one less expensive to run (this economy is So. Much. Fun.) so I'm having to get to grips with new biting points and pedal controls. Quite an impressive amount of stalls yesterday - two in a row at one roundabout, and quite a lot of over-revving smelly car while I try to find my feet. At the moment it flutuates between good journeys, and journeys peppered with stalls and over-rev'ing, but I'll get there. No rush really. But to get the home we want we're going to have to move out of Glasgow and I need to be able to drive for us to do that.

So my plan last week for easy-peasy sparkly rib scarf was a good one. 2 knit, 2 purl is literally all my brain can take of an evening - when I don't fall asleep on the couch at 9 pm that is ...

Edited to add a photo of some pancakes from our honeymoon in San Francisco because I hate a blog with no images, and it's just the right autumnal weather for some yummy stodge like this!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sparkly reversible cable shawl

Last night I decided that my study-fried brain (which also had a migraine to deal with) was struggling too much with the fair-isle gloves I'm making at the moment, and the rush of finish-itis has left me little else that I'm interested in.

So I decided to cast on something that has been in my queue forever - Lily Chin's Reversible Rib Shawl. You can see a finished one below here on MiniLaura's blog.

(c) Mini Laura

And I have just the yarn for it too! A lovely sparkly Bramble colourway from Old Maiden Aunt that I plan to make a giant snuggly scarf/shawl with. I only have 800 yards so I can either join both ends and make it into a cowl if it is too short, or ask my good friend, the old maiden aunt to dye me another skein (if she still has some of the sparkle left that is!) 

In other news, it is a gorgeous, crisp autumnal day today. We had to scrape the car - the perfect day to bring  Pumpkin back out to play!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Studying begins once more

After a lovely long year off to get married and all the preparation that comes with going down the offbeat bride route for a wedding, it is now back to studying.

This year I'm taking M263 Building Blocks of Software at the Open University. This is part of a BSc (Hons) Computing and IT that I began in 2009. I've been doing 2 modules a year, and it is getting progressively harder. This year I will have two exams as I'm starting M257 Putting Java to Work in Feb 2013.

This means the knitting has slowed considerably. I tried to finish as much as possible to the point where I'm only really working on a pair of gloves at the moment, in readiness for winter.

I've also taken to the roads again of late. Thoughts of moving out of Glasgow to a more village'y place with more garden and less people has been appealing to the boy and I of late. If this is to happen (crap housing market aside!) I really need to be able to drive.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Dress and The Big Day

Finally, a few photos taken on the big day by friends and our photographer. For all the photos see our fabulous photographer Andy Allan's page. You can see the front of the dress, the length of the train and some detail of the back. No close ups, and we didn't get one of the train all spread out ... yet. My mum has plans for me putting the dress on again so we can take the train detail better. Then we'll get some more close ups.

Final thoughts - would we do it again? Without my mum, no. I simply wouldn't have managed it at all on my own. Her experience, knowledge, and most importantly, calm-ness in the face of the many stressful situations we encountered was what made this dress. She put in so much time and work. And not only that she made the wedding cake too! 

When we started this project, the pattern was said to be relatively easy. I think it probably is - we complicated it by adding a full lace overlay, although this also was useful in hiding any mistakes. My body shape also complicated things, as I am so narrow on top, and so wide at the hips that this, combined with the weight of the dress, meant it just kept slipping down. If I had something up top to keep the dress up, we wouldn't have had half the struggle we did. 

The dress was amazing. I felt so special. I have never been a centre of attention, 'girly-girl'. I spend the majority of my time in jeans. But this dress made me feel beautiful. And that me and my mum made it was one of the most special aspects of the day.

Photo (c) Karina Westermann 

Photo (c) Andy Allan 

Photo (c) Andy Allan 

Finally some images of the amazing Brora Black Shawl that one of my very closest friends knitted for the day. This was a massive (massive!) task, and made me cry all over the place when I saw it. A pattern designed for yarn spun in a woollen mill my granny worked at, with a tree motif that reminds me of the trees around Dunrobin Castle, and a pattern both my grannies recognised - this was truly a special gift and heirloom.

Photo (c) Karina Westermann 

Photo (c) Karina Westermann 

Photo (c) Karina Westermann

And a final note; do not iron your handmade veil with a hot iron 2 days before your wedding and burn a bloody great hole in it in about a nano-second!! fortunately it was only the bottom 3 inches of one of the layers, so I took the scissors to it and shortened it quickly, glad in myself that I was too lazy to finish the edges of the veil and just left them free-cut.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wedding dress part 8 - long overdue!

Well the wedding has been and gone and I still have a lot to update. We met again another couple of times to finalise all the bits of the dress.

We discovered why all-over chantilly beaded lace wedding dresses are rare - the weight of the beads will make the lace hem drop many inches (many!). Keep it hanging for as long as possible, and don't forget that the hoop makes the hem rise so try it on with the hoop before guaging the correct trim length.

Another thing we discovered was that it is better to raise the hem at the very front of the dress by an inch or more. This is because, unless you plan to spend the whole day standing straight as an arrow and never bending down, or walking, you will trip over the front of the dress. The last panic you need is to tread on the dress halfway up the aisle and go flying!

We had another mini crisis when, no matter how much we tightened the bodice under the bust line, the weight of the dress just kept making the top drop down and the 'girls' fall out (what there is of them!). So we eventually conceded that straps were going to have to happen. This was a quick photo sent to a friend to see what she thought of the one-shoulder mock-up lace bolero with straps. It wasn't ideal, but I wanted to feel confident on the day, with no panicking that my dress would slip, so we added them in. And instantly I walked differently and relaxed much more in the dress, so it was the right move.

So here is the dress pretty much done. Still the lace hem to raise, and the scallops to add - my mum did all of this while I stood on the table next to me and tried to stand as still as possible. Even still she was stuck on her hands and knees probably in loads of pain trying to get the hem as perfect as possible. This bit is hard. You have to stand up straight, but at the same time, this isn't going to be your standard pose throughout the day, so remember that extra inch or so at the front for walking, getting up stairs, slouching, bending forward etc.

My sister popped around at this point to show me her bridesmaid dress as I hadn't seen it on yet - lovely and summery! We had it altered elsewhere as we were so busy with the dress, and the perfectionist in us wasn't best pleased at the mis-matching thread for the hem, but it couldn't be seen and the dress looked so perfect! I'm obsessed with no shiny fabrics and I think the matt for myself and the bridesmaids is so flattering.

The two photos above show the bustling, as we could find very little information online about how to do this. Plenty of examples of different types, but nothing detailing exactly the steps. Even the wedding dress book we bought didn't have anything. So it is clear buttons and poppers on ivory satin - probably best to embiggen these by clicking on them!

What we did was this:

  • attach the lining at the seam points to the satin using extra-strong thread with about an inch of give so nothing puckers. You find these on most shop-bought skirts with linings from good shops so you can see what I mean.
  • attach clear buttons to the underside of the satin at the hem as can be seen in the top photo. One at the centre back seam, and then as many as you want on side seams. We did 5 buttons in total.
  • Then the difficult bit - measure from the centre front bodice down to the bottom hem. Use this measurement to measure from the centre back bodice down. The end of the measurement will be where you'll be turning the satin under. Use this to find where you're going to have to attach the loop for the button to attach to.
  • The loop was made using the toughest, strongest thread we could find and the bottom photo shows it. There is a name for this technique but I forget it - it's like a knotting thing that strengthens it. Further strengthened by adding a square of interfacing to the back of the lining so that when the loop is sewn on it doesn't just tear through the thin lining as this loop is threaded to the lining only. That way everything is invisible on the right side of the dress. (and this is why you attached the lining to the dress at the hemline - stops the lining from falling and bunching up in the fold)
  • I found that even with 5 buttons, when the satin was folded underneath and buttoned it created 'pockets' that when I stepped back there was a danger of sticking my heel into. So I bought eleventy-billion clear poppers and made poppers so that I could snap the satin inbetween the buttons onto the lining too.

This is a bit of a spoiler photo as it was taken on the day, but it shows what we did with the lace on the outside. We took the bottom button of the buttons sewn onto the top of the centre back and sewed this on with the super-tough thread. Then we found the right point of the centre back seam on the lace and sewed a strong loop on here. Due to the holey lace we just pulled the loop to the underside of the lace until we were ready to bustle and no-one could see it at all. It changed the look of the dress for the evening perfectly! (Yes, it is evening - I come from Scotland, where it is light until 11pm in the summer!)

Next blog post for veil and final photos on the day!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Wedding dress part 7a - putting together the final dress

When I arrived back, we were ready to start putting the final dress pieces together. I say we, I mean my mum. I am not confident enough, and with 7 seams, even a millimetre out on each seam is 1.4cm extra or too little on the dress. So I worked on sewing the lining pieces and remaking the petticoat.

I bought one from eBay after searching everywhere for one with a Lycra stretch top instead of the many many out there with a drawstring. Surely you can see a drawstring through a wedding dress?! Anyhoo, once it arrived, the net was really scratchy and strand-up-on-it's-own rigid. So I measured it and bought some replacement veil net in the softest drapiest I could find. I don't need a lot of extra volume for my dress. I also bought more Lycra to add a panel and lower where the net starts, as it was too high for my dress.

I'm quite impressed with my handiwork!

And now for the dress - so stunning as it currently stands.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wedding dress post 6 - the cutting out

I went up north to see my mum for this bit, as she has much more space in her house. I had the huge roll of satin, the lace and my Singer sewing machine. We had 5 days to get as much as possible done so hit the ground running...

My advice for the cutting of the fabric - imagine how long it will take and then quadruple it. Unless you are using cheap easily replaceable fabric (unlikely!), you will need to spend a lot (a lot!) of time thinking and measuring before cutting.

Also, because by the time we got to cutting the final fabric we'd made seven bodices and three skirts, I would advise always date adjustments in your notebook, and when drawing amendments on paper patterns, pick a colour and write next to your dated amendment what colour you used. Ideally once the amendments have been made, redraw new paper pattern pieces, as inevitably you will make more amendments. Don't end up like us, with multiple colours and no idea which was the most recent! We had to cut up the satin dress and use it for making new paper pattern pieces in the end. This was a huge shame because that dress could have been donated to a theatre company or something. It still might if we get around to restitching the pieces (I imagine it'll take a stiff drink though to encourage us to pick up the needles for this again though!)

Before cutting, we consulted the Bridal Couture book again, and I took the opportunity to wear the satin dress for a bit, to check the fit while moving around and sitting, and most importantly, to check I could breathe properly!

We spent an hour convinced we hadn't ordered enough satin because it wasn't fitting the pattern layout, despite having done mock ups with the pattern pieces months ago on the kitchen floor, and having made the satin dress a fortnight before. Angry phone calls to Butterick were planned!

As it turned out, the only problem was that we had put the piece on right side up instead of wrong side up. The simplest of things, but the nerves and tension are high with the pressure of getting it right. Our saving grace a million times was that there was two of us, constantly checking each others decisions and making sure we were doing it right.

Luckily, we have a great mother-daughter relationship, and as I mentioned at one point during our chats, we haven't yet reached a stage where one of us is sitting outside on the doorstep, while the other implores them to stop crying and carry on!

The satin all laid out in the hall in a desperate bid to avoid creases.

The advice out there said not to pin the paper pieces to the satin, or put any tracing wheel/fabric pencil marks. There wasn't much advice on how then to go about cutting out the pieces. So we went with measure straight of grain (x1000 times) then place Caithness glass paperweights. Keep all pins inside the seam allowance. Add tacking threads at points, and then cut the fabric. Very very carefully.

Get distracted and photograph pretty wedding shoes sparkling ...

... before moving on to the lace. This was the most stressful part, as I had some difficulty getting it in the first place at a cheap price. One shop had it for £185 a metre! As I needed 7 metres that just wasn't an option. Fortunately I found it direct from a mill for £34 a metre. However, the 7 metres I had was all that they had. Screw this up, and that was it, until mid-May when they are expecting their next shipment. Given that the wedding is mid-June, that is just too close. So with that tiny bit of pressure hanging over us, we began ...

... by taking photos of it sparkling in the sunlight, and just couldn't give it the justice it deserves. It's stunning, stunning fabric. One of the main things we learned from cutting lace were (and we even read this, but didn't absorb it so I'll write it in bold) if you're not sure how the pattern of the lace is going to look, lay the pattern piece underneath the lace. Such a simple sentence. Yet we spent at least a couple of hours thinking the pattern was going the wrong way for the train and it never occurred to us to check by simply placing the lace over the pattern - it's see through after all.

You see, we had heard that lace doesn't have a straight of grain, but we decided we weren't confident enough to test this theory (we're still not sure whether it's true or not) and so we decided cut the pieces making sure that the lace pattern ran straight along the straight of grain line. Here's a photo of a sketch;

You see? The lines show the direction of the lace pattern. although not completely straight, it fans out nicely at the bottom. Except, when we had cut out all the pieces (fanning out nicely) for the front, front side and back side pieces I had a moment of doubt. I was convinced that the final two back train pieces still to be cut out were going to 'fan in' and be the reverse of the rest of the skirt. We tried turning the pieces to go the opposite direction, but the pattern was too clearly defined as one way and it would definitely look upside down, even if it fanned out instead of in.

I have to confess to a moment of nausea at this point. After a couple of hours talking about adding appliqu├ęs down the train to hide the worst, we suddenly realised that there wasn't a problem at all! We double-checked after mum had the idea to lay the pattern piece underneath the lace - it was confirmed. Worrying for nothing!

The lace front pieces laid out, with the scalloped edge laid over to get an idea of how it'll finally look. So after five days, all the pieces were cut out, and I went home for a rest, ready to come back a for Easter weekend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wedding dress post 5 - the satin practice

This was a 4 day sewing-fest to make up a practice dress from the donated duchess satin. Mum came down to Glasgow to spend time here and had made a 2nd practice dress in cotton fabric, based on the blue one I had made and tried on whilst up north, and a whole bunch of measurements we'd taken.

It was a perfect fit around the hips and skirt area, so we used it to draw over the existing paper pattern pieces and make new paper pieces to cut out the satin.

But first, we decided to make the bodice fit better and get some practice using all the layers. The bodice requires an underlining (which is made up of iron-on interfacing and lining pieces), the main fabric (which is made up of lining and satin pieces, although we used some cotton instead of satin for this run) and finally the lace. So all in all, we had to cut out each bodice piece (of which there are 7) five times! All for that teeny tiny result below.

So (heavily cropped to preserve some modesty!) my mum put all this together. The bust wasn't quite fitting right, so we turned it inside out and just pinned it until it felt more right.

Then, having made new paper pattern pieces by marking the bodice and taking it apart, we moved onto the satin one.

This seemed to fit a lot better. The wrinkles at the bust are the result of a combination of things, like the weight of the dress isn't helping to smooth everything yet, we haven't snipped enough shaping triangles out yet (we found that 4 seemed to work nice in the end, for my wee C-cup) and hurried steaming of the seams.

One thing we also discovered is that there is lots of warnings out there about satin. Here's what we found; satin creased is probably final - if you have no magic hide-all lace overlay, be careful! That said, we did manage to remove most creases with the iron so it wasn't catastrophic. Some people had disasters putting pins in that left marks and holes - we found that using thin new steel pins meant that we didn't have this problem. Again, that said, we didn't go pinning like crazy into the satin outwith the seam allowances, and certainly would advise avoiding pins wherever you can, just in case.

We discovered when adding the boning, that it should be chopped so it's shorter than the seam allowance. We initially thought that 5/8" less at the top and bottom would be sufficient, but you also need a bit extra to turn all those layers over and then stitch the very top of the bodice. So chop a wee tiny bit more off. The pattern suggested boning caps - these just added too much bulk and were noticeable so we discarded them and made sure instead to cut nice rounded ends on the boning. But I can't feel it at all through all the layers anyway.

Also - pay heed to the 'boning placement line' and the 'straight of grain line'. Don't get these mixed up - we did!

So after the bodice, came the skirt. We went to my work, which has large tables, and used them to cut out the satin. Not many pictures of the actual process of cutting out the pieces, or putting them together, so here's a rainbow we spotted out the window before we left!

And then - the satin dress!

Obviously much whiter and shinier than my final dress, and without the lining or petticoat to make it less see-through, but we were delighted. My mum even cried a bit!

We learned from this practice, that adding the weight of the skirt pulled the bodice down quite a bit. In fact we decided to add an inch to the top of the bodice to give me some more modesty. But other than that, the fit was pretty bang on.

And we learned a valuable lesson about boning. Now boning (at least where I live) comes on a roll, and you ask for it by the metre. Pay attention to which way it curves. You want to pin it on the underlining of the bodice curving the wrong way, because once the underlining is flipped over and fitted to the sating/lining/lace pieces it will right itself. I don't know how to explain it more clearly, and it's a bit of a mindbender, but you'll figure it out as long as you're looking for it. As we did it right on one side of the bodice, and wrong on the other out of chance, the photos from a bride's view should demonstrate the importance of getting the curvature the right way round.

Above: wrong way - gaping out a bit under the arm. I imagine that as the day goes on, and the weight of the dress continues to pull, this could get worse.

Below: right way - curving into the body. The weight of the dress will only make this pull snugger, so should help with ensuring the boobs don't fall out - hopefully! And it looks much more tailored and smart.

So that's it for now. We went away, feeling much more confident about the dress, and how it was going.