Friday, June 10, 2016

A Wedding Dress Transformation

Last fall a sweet young bride brought me a "princess" strapless wedding gown that she bought online.  Lace, tulle (three layers), beads, semi-cathedral name it, this dress had it!  What it didn't have, however, was the lace bodice she was looking for.

With yardage of white alencon lace (purchased on Etsy), scalloped trim, and English net (lining), we transformed it from this:

To this:

Pretty cool, huh?  I used a bodice pattern (sleeveless) from a basic princess seamed dress to get the base and then created a neckline and sleeves from the scalloped lace trim.  Here are the pictures from the fitting when I shaped the neckline and the cap sleeve:

Because of the lacing in the back, I cut the bodice back along the scallop of the main lace yardage to create a pretty opening.  It buttoned at the top. 

(The train is bustled in this picture.  Also, the bodice is off center in the back because it hadn't been tacked down yet.)

I knew I wouldn't be able to remove the beading so I painstakingly cut out and hand-sewed the lace down where it hit the beaded waistband.

The wedding was last month and the report from the mother of the bride was that she looked amazing and everyone oohed and ahhhed over her dress.  Oh, and that the bustle didn't fall down or anything.  I always worry about that!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

First Communion Dress (Updated Pictures)

Oh dear friends!  My apologies for the looooooong absence.  I've been sewing away since the last post but clearly none of my industry has made it to this space.  Gosh it's hard to jump back into blogging, but a girl's gotta start somewhere?

My oldest received her First Holy Communion this spring.  Who could resist making a dress for her special day?

Back in February, I bought some really lovely silk organza from Thai Silks.  (I've ordered from them several times and have been pleased. Their prices are excellent.)  My mom and I were going to collaborate on a vintage inspired "heirloom" dress with inset lace and mini-tucks and embroidery.  Then around Easter life got a little overwhelming, as life is apt to do, and I lost interest.  Where would I find the time?  I had a bunch of alterations to do for pay and I didn't FEEL like making a dress.

I sold out and ordered a dress online.  It looked sweet and simple in the stock photo but very blah in real life.  See what I mean?

It was too big and the quality, or lack there of, of the the materials couldn't carry off the simplicity of the style. Perhaps a collar would help?  Some bands of ribbon above the hem?  Nothing seemed right.

Evie tried to help me make it work, to no avail.

With a week and a half to go, I gave up on the store-bought dress and jumped headlong into making one from scratch.

Decisions, decisions!

For the fabric, I knew the silk organza would work splendidly but without my mom's heirloom sewing expertise, I needed to find another way to add a personal, hand-it-down-to-the-next-generation touch.

Inspiration struck!

I had left-over lace from my wedding dress.  Gorgeous, high-end, beaded French Chantilly lace.  Only it was ivory.  Way too dark to pull off on a white dress.  What to do? What to do?

Kids, I bleach it.  Because who doesn't look at a piece of $100 lace and think -- bleach it baby! ?

The lace lightened significantly.  Thank the good Lord!  And since the silk organza wasn't pure white, as a synthetic organza might have been, the color worked.

I underestimated the amount of time it would take to prep the lace for sewing.  Trimming the beading out of the seam allowance, tying off all of the cut strings, and basting it to the organza backing for sewing took more than a few hours!  There were seed beads by the millions.

Choosing a pattern had it's challenges too because I couldn't find one that had all of the elements I was looking for.  Still, this one worked well as a base:

Collar, yes.  Sleeves yes.  Pleats, yes.  Zipper? No.  You see, I wanted to make an entire dress out of the silk organza and then make a completely separate dress out of satin to wear under it.  Old school style.  Have you seen that?  It would require buttons.

The thing about making an unlined dress out of organza is that each and every seam needs to be "perfect" and carefully encased.  Despite their relative simplicity, French seams have never come easily to me.  Instead of using them, I folded the seam allowance in on itself, sometimes trimming it down, and carefully hand-stitched the seams closed on the inside.  (For the collar, I had to cut a piece of lining and bind the seam allowance completely.)

I factored in inch-wide tucks into the skirt length.  And, shhhhhhhhhh, used the selvage edge for the hem.  (Don't worry, it was carefully inspected for holes first.)

The silk organza was rather neat to work with because it wasn't slippery and had a pleasant stiffness to it and memory.  Like tissue paper, only sturdier.  You could open a seem and finger press it easily. It did fray and the delicate fabric didn't take too well to seam ripping of any kind, but overall, i found it a pleasure to work with.

As for the pattern, I was happy with the skirt and bodice (I added a faux sash in the front, did you notice?), but the sleeves left something to be desired.  I'm not sure if I can explain it well, but the arch on the sleeve pattern was much too high which meant that the sleeve poofed straight up where it gathered and came off of the shoulder seam.  Since my Roo has tiny arms, the sleeves were too roomy as well.  Once I figured this out, I didn't have the heart to rip out the sleeves, rework the pattern, and do it all over again so I took a tuck at the openings and covered them up with little beaded bows.

You might have noticed, I also beaded the edge of the collar with the leftover seed beads from the lace.  Honestly, this was to weight down the collar and cover up an uneven curve in the front.

Thankfully after the organza dress was finished, the satin under dress came together quickly.  It was made out of the same pattern, sans sleeves and tie.

I actually stole the skirt lining (with the crinoline in it) from another hand-me-down dress and threw it in there so that I wouldn't have to spend time buying and gather yards of scratchy net!

This next picture shows her wearing the satin dress with a sweater.  On the big day, we brought the organza dress and put it on her right before Mass and then took it off of her before eating at the reception.

More pictures:

How is my baby girl old enough to receive her First Holy Communion?  Wasn't it just yesterday were were doing this?

Congratulations sweet girl!


p.s.  Our parish has a beautiful Corpus Christi procession and Roo got to wear her dress again!  Here she is with her little sister above an image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Elsa

I can't decide if I am ashamed or proud to confess that this is the first year my 8-year-old has hit the pavement sporting a home-made Halloween costume.

It's not that I have anything against costume making, it's just that the kids always seemed to be happy to pull something out of the dress-up bin and call it good.  And, you have to admit, you run the risk of completely wasting your time.  There's nothing quite as disheartening as making a costume only to end up sending your kid out in a snowsuit because of inclement weather!  However, this year my blondie requested an Elsa and who was I to turn her down?  We even had a hand-me-down dance costume thing that had the makings of a snow queen written all over it...

Those sequins and that subtle heart-shaped neckline?  Totally Elsa!  So I lopped off some stuff and attached some stuff and eventually it came together.

She really loved her dress -- so much so that I had to wash it twice between the time I finished it on Monday and Halloween rolled around on Saturday!

Here's a picture of my whole motley crew before they commenced their candy begging:

(Nope, they aren't all looking at the camera!)

I told them that the kids who wear the warmest clothes get the most treats and they happily donned fleece pajama's under their costumes and had a blast.

What a great day.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Off In Alterations Land {And A Monarch Costume}

I've missed this place!  Oh my word, I have been so very busy.

I've started doing alterations again and my hands have been full.  The old machine is humming through chiffon and lace like nobody's business.

Kids, I have put in roughly five million narrow hems in the last two months. I seriously don't know what I would have done if I hadn't learned how to hem sheers from a professional seamstress.  If you haven't seen How to Hem Chiffon the Easy Way yet, do click on over and give this method a shot.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

With all of this sewing, I feel like I have burned through packs of sewing machine needles and I am getting a little concerned about the number of times I have layered different colors on my bobbins *gasp*.  It's time for a major notions restock over here!  And I need a replacement light bulb for my machine.  Do you have to special order Bernina light bulbs?  I'm sort of afraid to find out.

Alterations aside, September is birthday month in my house because my two oldest children, both girls, have birthdays eight days apart.  One of my daughters had a Minecraft birthday theme which didn't inspire any sewing, but my six year old chose a butterfly theme this year and requested a Monarch costume.

I ordered a pair of wings off of Amazon and then made a two piece costume to go with them -- a dress and an overskirt.  Orange fabric was surprisingly hard to come by and I couldn't find a perfect match though I think the camera highlights the difference in shades.

  The bodice is out of swimsuit/dance knit, and the skirts are out of satin and organza.

The birthday girl generally evades photos, but she did wear the costume in one form or another all day long and I managed to snap a couple, sans overskirt.

The skirt was cut from a costume pattern I found with a handkerchief hem and the bodice was cut from the pattern in the T-Shirt Dress post.  (I've definitely learned a bit more about sewing on knits since that post, but gosh, when to write about it?  Not today.)

For the butterfly birthday, I also made a few plain butterfly wings out of yard pieces of organza.

But that's another post too.

Well friends, it's midnight here and my brain is mush. mush. mush. If I don't post now without editing, I'll probably never get back to this thing!  Hope you don't mind.  I'll try write again soon!  I have a peculiar hem I'm having a hard time finding a time-friendly solution for and a wedding dress hanging in my sewing area waiting for a lace over-bodice.  Is "over-bodice" a thing?  It is now :o).