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.