Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Bridesmaid Dress Saga

I think I might be about ready to talk about THE BRIDESMAID DRESS SAGA.
I had just the two bridesmaids, my sister, and my husband’s sister. If I’d have had anymore than that I think trying to make their dresses as well as my own, plus everything else I DIY-ed in the end, it would have been nigh on impossible in just the 10.5 months we had. But I’m sure I would have gone for it regardless.
I was extremely lucky to have two lovely ladies who were perfectly happy to wear a dress I was going to make them, long before they knew what it would look like, or the amount of prodding and poking it would entail. I decided on navy blue for the colour early on, and I knew I wanted them to have a full 50’s style circle skirt with a petticoat like mine, only shorter. I toyed with the idea of the Betty pattern from Sew Over It, but decided I wanted something a bit more occasion-dress like for the bodice, and they weren’t sure on a boatneck style. The Collette Macaron was also a contender, but in the end we plumped for Salme Patterns Yoke Dress, and that’s really where things started to go a bit wrong.

I used the link I was sent to print out my pattern, but decided to only print out the bits I needed, as I always do. I was aware there was a limit to how many times you could access the pattern link before it expired, but I didnt realise there was also a time period of just 3 months. (mostly because the other side of the pond y’all love to put dates the wrong way round and 4/12/16 to me is the 4th December….) So I had the pattern, but no instructions. I figured I could email them and beg for them to send me the instructions only again. I sent two emails, commented on a blog post, tweeted them. Nothing. So then I figured I’d just have to make do, surely I’ve been sewing long enough now that I can manage without.
The pattern doesn’t include seam allowances, but I found it entirely confusing for there to be some places to not add any, and one place where I had to add an inch. Really I think it would have been better to include them. There were no notches on the pattern. Given that it involves sewing a difficult curved seam I think that’s kinda ridiculous.
Sizing was difficult. Both of my girls are pretty short, but well endowed in certain areas so I had to grade between several pattern sizes in one case. To be honest the choice of pattern, one with waist darts, rather than princess seams like my own, was never going to fit closely as I was trying to make it. I did a bodice toile for each of them, then a full mock up in polycotton, then the actual thing. Even then I ended up redoing the top chiffon section on one 3times, (once I managed to sew the wrong girls upper bodice pattern piece to the dress!) and both ended up having to have the opaque neckline lowered as a couple of centimetres too high made it look frumpy.

The satin fabric I used was from Bridal Fabrics, who have an amazing selection. It was actually a polyester satin called ‘Contessa’ but didn’t feel cheap at all. I spent hours pouring over different fabric colours online and ordering samples and this ended up being the perfect Navy blue, not too dark, or too close to royal blue. It was also non-snag which was a godsend when I was ripping sections out to start again. The chiffon was cationic (not a clue what that means) chiffon from the Remnant House, and matched the satin colour perfectly.
In the end I did managed to get them done with around three weeks to spare, which although pretty good for me is much later than the 2 months beforehand I had originally planned for. Did they fit perfectly? No. But when it came to it I was much happier with them then I thought I would be. They looked pretty close to perfect, they suited both of them, and they seemed to really enjoy swishing about the dancefloor in their full skirts and petticoats (who wouldn’t?!) In hindsight, if I was to rewind the last 6 months and do them again, I’d use Simplicity 4070, the same bodice I used for my own dress, and draft an overlay myself.
And although I hate to be negative about a pattern, especially an indie pattern company, I just wouldn’t recommend the yoke dress. As an idea, its gorgeous, but the actual pattern is lacking a few things to help, and the support just doesn’t seem to be there from the pattern company itself if you get stuck.

I don't have many photos at the moment so will update this post when the professional pics come in!

Emily Kate

Sunday, 17 July 2016

10 Tips on Sewing Your Own Wedding Dress

**Disclaimer.** I have only sewn one wedding dress. It went down pretty well with the wearer though (myself!) so here are some tips for making your own.

First things first though, read. Read any blog you can find where they’ve made their dress. Read sewing books, couture sewing books and bridal couture books. Some links I found helpful… my advice!

  1. Know your limits. – Now I don’t mean limit yourself as such. I learnt so many new things sewing my dress than if I’d just used what I already knew. But if your dream dress is a lace fit and flare, you’ve only been sewing a couple of months and the wedding is in 6 months, you may need to scale it back a bit.
  2. Start early- I actually work much better under pressure, so even if we had ended up with an 18 month or 2 year engagement, I’m not sure I would have got round to starting that much earlier than I did. That being said, I had decided on the dress design  and the pattern 9 months before, although sewing didn’t start until 7 months before. Bear in mind the fitting can take as long, or longer than the sewing of the finished dress.
  3. Ask for help. – I don’t really like asking for help generally, I guess I’m quite a proud person. But a wedding is one time in your life where you are probably going to need help from friends and family. You can’t fit a toile yourself, even if the other person doesn’t really know what they’re doing, you need someone to pin you in at least. If you’re not confident though, definitely ask a seamstress friend, or book a sewing lesson and have someone fit you. Ask google if you’re stuck on a technique. Blog about it, or instagram it, the sewing community is pretty awesome, and there will be someone out there who can help.
  4. Have a back up plan. – The dress I decided to copy had scallop lace edging along the neckline and armholes, like mine did 😄. I wanted to recreate that, but decided early on that if I couldn’t find a suitable edging, or work out how to do it invisibly, or if I just plain ran out of time, I could do just white satin bias binding instead. If I had really struggled with the design I chose, I would have been happy to resort to a white version of a tried and tested pattern I loved, like the Betty dress from Sew Over It.
  5. Know your reasons - This really links in with point 5. I wanted to sew my own dress, for the sense of pride and achievement I would get from walking down the aisle in it. You might want to because it will be cheaper, or because then you will have a totally unique dress. Just know what your main motivation is. As I really just wanted to walk down the aisle in something I had made, I would have been happy in a simple white cotton dress, if that’s all I could manage. But if it was just about saving money, than I might have been pretty disappointed if I had to go to a back up plan, so taking a design to a seamstress, or a preloved dress might be a better idea.
  6. Don't sweat the small stuff - I hemmed the lining on my dress a few months beforehand, but then realised it was hanging below the main silk fabric in places. I left it, and ended up redoing it a couple of weeks before the wedding, long after the rest of the dress was finished. It wasn’t great the first time, as haboatai is so difficult to work with, but the second time was even worse, a bit of a rushed job with a terrible iron. I didn’t really have the time or inclination to do it again so figured it would do, no one would see the lining anyway. But the night before the wedding, all I could think was maybe I should have re-hemmed it?!!! No. People will not notice that your lining is not really neat, or that your spacing is slightly off on the odd button. And when it comes to your actual wedding day, you won’t either.
  7. Practice- if you’ve never done it before, make a toile/muslin. Make lots of toiles. I ended up doing around 4 versions of the bodice, before I was happy enough to do a full toile, and then it had more adjustments after a final fitting. I also practiced the boning, sewing with tulle, the lace edging, and even the handpicked zip. Anything that was new to me, I practiced.
  8. Don't listen to the naysayers.- I had a lot of people tell me 'You've taken on too much, how will you get it all done in time'. The majority of the time these were people who didn't know me really well, extended family, friends of friends. Only you know what your schedule is like, and how much time you are willing to give up. As I don’t have a 9-5 job, I knew I had quite a bit of time to work with, and being self employed I could just take on a bit less work if needed.  
  9. Don't give up too easily. I'm not saying don't give up whatever happens. If it's the day before, you're stressed, not sleeping and you've got a long way to go before you're finished then by all means resort to a back up plan. It's just a dress. At the end of the day you are marrying your best friend/love of your life/insert equally soppy description here and they should marry you in a sack if that's the only option.
  10. Be proud. - Whatever happens, whether you ended up with exactly what you had in mind in the first place, or if you had to resort to a backup plan. You made it. With your own two hands. That's something the vast majority of people couldn't do. So walk down that aisle with your head held high, because you should be damn proud of yourself. And you can bet the man at the end is proud of you too. 

Good luck!

Emily Kate.


Monday, 11 July 2016

My Wedding Dress!

Well, the big day has finally been and gone and my dress had it's first, (and last :-( ) outing. And it was perfect. Everything that should have gone wrong...didn't (well with the exception of one broken down car!) and even the British weather came through for us in the end.

It had been so long since I'd finished my dress by the time the wedding rolled around, almost 3 months, that I had almost forgotten I had made it. It felt like a lifetime ago, when we had different jobs and lived in a different city.
There were times when I tried it on beforehand, when I wondered if it really did look okay and if I'd made the right choice. I thought it might look a bit too twee and make me look young. I worried it would look homemade and people would think I was ridiculous.
But when it came to putting it on, on the day, with my hair and make-up all done, the shoes and the bouquet, and finally taking it outside into the natural daylight, I couldn't be happier with it.

It fit like a glove, all credit to my seamstress friend who helped fit it of course, and was comfortable to wear all day. Not once did I need to hitch it up, loosen anything or adjust it all, except move the poof out the way a bit when I walked about. I felt amazing in it, and it was flattering too, making my waist look smaller.
 I danced all night and ran about all over the place saying hello and goodbye to people and never having to worry about tripping over it.
It was the most fun dress. Ever. There's nothing quite like swishing a full circle skirt and petticoat about on the dance floor to a live band.

Most of all, it was very me, and looking back I can't believe I considered for a moment that it wasn't.
Emily Kate. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Sewing With Chiffon

So it's been a while chaps...I apologise. I'd love to say its because I've been off gallavanting or sewing myself silly... but really I've been stressing. I'll do a post about the Bridesmaid dress saga soon...but I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about it just yet. But I am NEARLY DONE!! So today I thought i'd briefly share with you just a couple of tips for sewing with chiffon.
So you're thinking of using chiffon for a project?
Tip Number One.  Don't. Use something that will be less slippery and not give you sleepless nights. Oh fine if you insist.
Tip Number Two. Use tissue paper when cutting out your pattern pieces. Lay tissue paper down, then the fabric, then another sheet on top. You can even cut on the fold and put a third piece between the layers, and it'll be just like cutting paper.
Tip Number Three. Pour yourself a large glass of wine.
Tip Number Four. Gelatine. This tip I found in the depths of the internet saved me.
Soak your pattern pieces in water. Make up a bowl of gelatine mixture with leaves or powder according to the packet instructions. Add your material to the bowl and leave it to soak for ten minutes (while you drink your wine). Squeeze out the gelatine water and leave it to completely dry. Now you can iron your chiffon and it sews just like a crisp cotton! It may look a bit streaky and odd, but after you've sewn all you need to, you can give the garment a handwash in the sink and the gelatine will come right out with a bit of washing powder.
Happy Sewing!
Emily Kate.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Wedding Dress Progress...The Finishing Touches!

So…it’s finished! Honestly.
I’m going to wait to show you the final result until after the big day, when hopefully there may be at least one or two photos of me not pulling a photo face like Chandler from Friends. In the meantime, I’m going to share with you a few of the finishing touches of my dress, and what I learnt along the way.
My dress is pretty much a copy of a dress I tried on in Candy Anthony, a specialist 50’s/60’s wedding dress designer. The one I fell in love with had a polka dot bodice, with a scalloped lace trim. When I first started looking at materials, I naively hoped to find a similar fabric, before quickly realising for the edging to be curved and on both sides of the shoulders, it must have been made specifically for those pattern pieces. So taking the advice of someone in a Soho fabric store, I looked for a polka dot tulle fabric, then a scalloped lace trim embroidered onto a similar tulle fabric.
My polka dot (or flocked spot as it is apparently called) tulle is from the Silk Society in Berwick Street and was an eyewatering £66 a metre, luckily I got away with 0.75 of a metre and still have a little left over for something else…  The trim I searched high and low for something I liked and that was a similar colour and eventually found one in Fabricland for just £1 a metre. Which just shows you that the expensive Soho shops aren’t the only options for formal wear!
The trim actually looked like this originally…. And I just used the scalloped edge.
I realised in order for the edging to lay flat I was going to have to ‘cut and paste’ the scallops, so they would follow the curve. I put the dress on the mannequin and spent a great deal of time working out where to cut the trim and join another scallop. I wasn’t sure of the correct way around, but found it looked best with the trim on top and bodice overlay underneath.
I then sewed them on by hand within the thick embroidered edge of the scallops using a sort of back stitch with the small stitches on the front. To join two scalloped I used a whipstitch. After sewing along the entire neckline I used nail scissors to cut away the excess tulle from the trim and behind the trim, from the bodice overlay. When it came to the armholes I didn’t need to cut and paste the scallops so just used one long strip and joined at the underarm seam.
Considering I sortof made the technique up as I went along, as I couldn’t find anything useful on the net or my sewing books, I’m very happy with the result. I was worried it would be obvious, but after showing it to both my Mum and sister, neither had any idea until I pointed out the exact place where the scallops were joined.

Another finishing touch I’ve used for the first time is a horsehair braid hem, also called a crinoline hem. It was suggested to me by my seamstress friend, and gives the hem a lovely full look and structure to the bottom. The crinoline I used was from Hemline which comes in a pack of 2” wide by 3m long, and I used 2 packs to get all the way around my 29” skirt.
It’s incredibly simple to do actually, just sew to the right side of your skirt using a ¼” seam allowance, then fold to the inside, which encloses the raw edge. I used a gathering stitch on the other edge and used it to help manipulate the braid to stay flat on the other side, then catchstitch the edge to the main fabric by hand. This worked for me, using a textured fabric like dupioni silk, but with a lighter, smooth fabric it might be better to underline first so the stitches don’t show though.  
Here are a couple of articles I found incredibly helpful and have pictures too!
I love the look this hem technique provides, and it was surprisingly easy, so I will definitely be using it on the bridesmaids dresses, and any circle skirts I do in the future!
Emily Kate.

Friday, 29 April 2016

A Handpicked Lapped Zipper

A handpicked lapped zip, with added button loop closure. Now as complicated as that sounds, it really is probably easier to do than say!
This is the closure used on most wedding dresses, if they don’t have a corset back. It gives an inconspicuous finish, whilst also making a decorative feature of the seam.
I had always intended to do a lapped zip for my dress, but it got steadily more complicated as I decided to add covered buttons and loops. The back neckline already brings the attention to the centre back seam, so I thought why not really make it a feature!
I have little experience with lapped zips, but after doing this one they will definitely be my go to option. Invisible zips are usually called for in most patterns, but I find them fiddly and they can be a right pain to do up. Doing a handpicked lapped zip is not much different except the last step is completed by hand with a prick stitch. Now I’m not going to explain a lapped zip, as there are plenty of tutorials out there…. So here are the ones I found most useful.
As you can see..(or hopefully not see!) using a prick stitch means the line of stitching that creates the lap is very almost invisible, particularly in a textured fabric like silk dupion.
When it came to adding buttons and loops… no amount of googling would yield much in the way of useful information, so here are a few of the most useful bits I gleaned through books, the web and a seamstress friend.
  • The loops will go on the right side of the zip, when looking at it. This felt the wrong way to me, but you want the lapped part of the zipper to be kept flat, so putting the loops on the other side and buttons on the lap pulls it over and flush against the body.
  • Use elastic loops. I had looked at silk loops, but without stretch they would be more difficult to do up, and wouldn’t pull the lapped part of the zipper over as the elastic ones do.
  • The loop tape has to be added before sewing in the zip. Prepare the seams, sew in or iron on your interfacing and then press the seam allowance in on each side. Place the loop tape on the underside of the right hand side of the seam with the loops poking out behind the fold. Tack it in, then pin and sew in the zip. So the loop tape is sandwiched between the main fabric and the zip. It can be quite an effort to sew over that many layers though.
  • The lining is not involved in the zip process at all, until the end when I slip stitched it down to the back of the zip, trimming down the lapped side first.
I bought my loop tape from an eBay seller for just a couple of quid. The buttons I splashed out on and ordered from Mine are 11mm handwoven dupion covered, almost an exact match to my main fabric, but they also cover buttons in your specific fabric if you send them some.
So there you have it, hopefully I’ve been a small help if you decide to do a handpicked lapped zip with added buttons and loops, or at the very least not confused you further!
I’m going to do another post to outline the other finishing touches of my dress, such as the hem and the scallop lace edging, so stay tuned for that…
Emily Kate.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Dip-Dye Lilou for a 'Do

When it came to finding an outfit for my hen do, (shower/bachelorette for all you U.S. readers!) I'd already had an idea of what I might make for a while. I've been to a couple where the bride-to-be often wears white and what with my recent obsession for a dip-dye job, I thought a white dress with a graduated dip-dye bottom would do nicely.
I've already made Tilly's Lilou dress from Love at First Stitch twice before, my last version becoming one of my favourite dresses. Given that I had slightly more important dresses to be making, using a pattern I'd already made before seemed like a good call. I actually made the dress in just a day, spurred on by the fact my mum commented 'You can't possibly make a dress in time for Friday!' (when it was only Wednesday) If you ever want me to do something, just tell me it can't be done in time. I love working under pressure.
The fabric I used is a white cotton sateen with a slight stretch, with a cotton lawn lining for the bodice. The sateen was a good choice giving the pleats a good drape, but also solid enough to not need an underlining or lining, even in white.
I made the same adjustments I made previously, shortening the straps but this time remembering to also trim down the armscye, as my last one is a little snug there. My Love at First Stitch book had actually been put in storage in a loft somewhere, possibly even in Wales, so I had to rely on my (terrible) memory. There was a small hairy moment when I sewed up the side seams before attaching
the lining, but then it all came back to me and I managed pretty well. The pleats I did by checking against my original Lilou, but looking at the pattern I'm not actually convinced I did them right the first time! They look just fine though, and fit within the waistline.
When it came to the dyeing, after the success of my maxi skirt, I had expected it to be dead easy. If only! As the sateen was thicker, the dye didn't seem to spread around the fabric as it had with a thin cotton and I neglected to make sure it got in all the folds of the fabric, as you can see from the picture. I also jumped the gun a little, putting the dress into the bowl before the dye had fully dissolved. This resulted in some tiny purple dots of dye in places which although I thought had ruined the dress at first, actually look almost intentional now.
I managed to get dye on the top half of the dress in the process while washing it out too, meaning it was now navy blue >>>to baby blue. I was pretty darn close to giving up when I saw some bleach out of the corner of my eye and thought 'What's the worst it can do?'. I used a separate bowl and dipped the "white" section of the dress into watered down bleach, and within seconds it was back to a brilliant white. Crisis averted.
So I'm afraid the photos really don't do this dress justice...the light was a bit bright. The colour at the bottom is much more graduated than it appears!
Emily Kate.