Saturday, September 17, 2016

Lace Chatter


I sent off another bride with her newly-altered dress this week and now I'm not quite sure what to do with myself!

Truth be told, I had a chance to pick up another wedding dress alteration gig for November but the bride called me on a particularly trying day in my world of potty training, homeschooling, and housekeeping and I told her I was taking a month or two off.  A decision I am slightly regretting now that I realize I could use a trip to the hairdresser for a highlight or two hundred and a little extra spending money would be nice.

After that other big wedding dress job in March, I received a delightfully simple wedding dress in May, so I was good and ready for another biggie in August.  That's the dress I just finished and it was a learning experience.  Aren't all sewing projects?  When friends asked what the bridal gown looked like, I explained that it was a tulle explosion.  A very pretty tulle explosion of a wedding dress.

The bride arrived with a sweetheart strapless (lace-up) bridal gown and commissioned me to make long lace sleeves.  (It also required taking in, hemming, and a six point bustle, but that was all pretty standard stuff. :o)

The original gown had corded lace so it seemed only right to match it with more of the same.  I enjoy working with Alencon lace which is probably an excellent thing since I've been spending such large quantities of time with it this year!


Photo Credit -- https://www.etsy.com/shop/lacetime
This pretty lace pictured is the one my bride ordered online for her sleeves.  The sleeves were off the shoulder and the plan was to use these two scalloped edges at the top and bottom of the sleeves and fill in the trunk of the sleeves with a full-floral lace.  Unfortunately, when the laces came in (a mere three weeks before the wedding day, I might add), they didn't work together and were two different shades of off white.  In fact, if I didn't know better, I would have assumed the floral lace was straight-up white.



The dangers of ordering online, right?  We formulated a Plan B that involved using the net shawl that came with the bridal gown (yay for perfectly matching bridal net!) to create a lace fabric long enough for the sleeves she wanted.

I love that you can cut this kind of lace apart and piece it together and no one is the wiser, but gosh, I wish it were a faster process.

All said and done, with two yards of the original lace, I ended up with four yards of scalloped trim and fourteen appliques to work with.  I arranged them, photographed them, and texted the bride a bunch of variations of this:

On a side note, before buying this lace, please take into account that the scallops are NOT symmetrical.  Those half circles have a long side and a short side but they do not alternate at any point to create a perfectly symmetrical pattern. They march along in one direction.  Thankfully, it is not noticeable to most people -- probably just to the person (me! me! me!) trying their darnedest to make the measurements all work ;).
Sewing the lace to the net ended up being simple enough.  Extremely, prohibitively, time consuming, but easy to do.  With the first sleeve, I carefully pinned and sewed from the top.  This gave fantastic results but I wondered if it might be even more time consuming than it needed to be.  The second time around, I pinned the lace on the front...


...and flipped the whole shebang over and sewed entirely on the backside.  While propped on the couch watching TV.

Oh bother.  Ignore the late night photo cropping problems?
Did this speed up the lace sewing?  I think so.  Maybe it was only ten minutes faster, but it did seem more efficient to stay entirely "on top" of the fabric instead of having to work front to back.  I didn't have to deal with as much thread knotting or unnecessary stitching.  It was (very, very, slightly) more pucker-y in the net around the appliques, but not enough to worry about.

I bet you wish you could see the final product!  I wish you could too.  Honestly, I forgot to take a picture of the dress when it was finished.  This is all I have:


Can you tell what's going on there?  That's the sleeve on top of the dress.  We also put a strip of the scalloped lace across the front of the dress behind the original beaded sweetheart neckline.  Maybe this will help -- this is the Vogue sewing pattern I modified:

Photo credit -- Vogue Pattern V2842
Imagine a {very pretty} tulle explosion of a dress with a beaded sweetheart and this general look of a lace bodice neckline and sleeves added on.   You totally get that from this picture, right?


Ha!  Well, you can't say I didn't try to show you ;o).

Alright kids, I have lemon bars to finish and a "good morning note" to write and a husband to wake up (he's out cold on the couch) and send to bed.  The day is done over here.

Good night!

p.s.  9/21/16  -- My bride texted a wedding day photo of her dress and she looked positively lovely.  In a world of mostly strapless dress (which I'm not knocking, btw -- I wore one!) a dress with sleeves really does make a statement. Especially as the weather begins to turn.  So pretty!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Couch Slipcover

Hello good friends!  My apologies for the lack -- Oh shameful lack! -- of content here at the Chipper.  Forgive me?  Today I have something really exciting to share.
 
 
My couch!  I finally slipcovered it.  It may or may not have taken four months from start to finish. ;)
 

Please excuse the photography!  Apparently it is difficult to photograph a large piece of furniture located in front of the only significant light source in a room.
 
That said...................where to begin?
 
Well, let's take a look at what I had to work with, shall we? 
 
Also featured is T-Rex, our anatomically-correct dino figure.  We noticed too late.
 
Yes, that's ballpoint pen.
This couch is the love child of two different couches.  We bought the original the month before we got married and now we have four children and are about to celebrate our eleventh anniversary.  Enough said.
 
Once the floral cushions entered the scene, the couch wore a ready-made hand-me-down cover.
 
 
Clearly the cover was a huge improvement over said love-child-couch, but it was more than a challenge to keep all locked and loaded.  It generally looked like it had been trampled by a small herd of elephants.  This may have drove me nuts.
 
BUT, I didn't want to take on a huge slipcover project.  Eeek.  How many hours would it take?  I looked for a different couch.  My wallet yelled at me.  Eventually I ended up with two options:  Buy a used couch or recover mine. Might as well stick with the dirt we know, right?
 
 


As for the design and fabric...
 
I chose cotton canvas because it's cheap and washable.  There aren't that many options when it comes to cheap slipcover fabric.  I had a moment of regret after I purchased it -- I wished I had sprung for bull denim like this.
 
What you see here is 70" wide "natural" cotton canvas from the regular old fabric store.  For my 85" long couch with five cushions, 19 yards proved to be plenty.
 
 
Would I buy it again?  Yes and no?  I probably should have gone for a heavier weight fabric.  I do like the texture and the casual look.  It washes without wrinkling like crazy and the fabric loses it's yellowish tint with washing.  Notice how the seat cushion on the right in the next picture looks darker?  It was the last one made and hasn't been washed as many times as the other covers
 
 
On a side note, I am sorely disappointed with the drop cloth canvas used on this chair.  It positively absorbs dirt and stains.
 
::  The Makings ::
 
 
 
Not being any kind of expert on this type of sewing, I'll just share various pictures of the making and throw in a few observations.
 
 
Serging appears to be essential to slipcover making.  These fabrics really do shred in the wash.  One of the reasons why I know this is because, in an epic parenthood moment, one of my children puked on the half-made cover.
 
 
This last picture is a good illustration of what I think is one of the hardest parts of slipcovering -- figuring out what to do with the seam allowances.  There are all sorts of strange angles where you can't sew down the seam allowance or it will skew the fit.
 
 
Instead of draping the fabric on the couch and then cutting it, I measured all of the major pieces and cut them out with generous seam allowances (at least 2 inches).  This enabled me to cut with the grain and work with straight edges and squared corners.
 
 
This last picture shows the spot where I put the Velcro opening on the back of the couch.  Originally I had planned for two openings but one did the trick.
 
Because of the very sorry state of my couch, I went ahead and cut the old cording right off of the couch arm rest.  Better fit for the new cover.
 
 
As you can see, the mesh covering the couch springs shredded a long time ago.  I used to cover the holes with thin foam and a folded flat sheet but stuff still fell into there.  G.R.O.S.S.  Thankfully that's not a problem anymore.
 
 
One of the reasons why I didn't do anything fancy with the lower portion of the front of the couch is that I felt like I didn't have the time or mental capacity to work out fancy pleats.  Plus, I wasn't sure how it would impact washing -- would I have to press out the pleats in order for it to look okay?
 
I wish I had sprung for a pleat or three anyway. 
 
 
Recovering the back cushions turned out to be a pleasurable experience.  The seat cushions?  Not so much. They were really hard! After the first one, it took about four months to set aside the time and energy to take on the second one. And it doesn't even match the first one in size and shape, but you didn't hear that from me.
 
 
The most satisfying part of the process was definitely ripping out the old batting and covering the foam with new batting and a nice clean inner cover (made out of cut-up mattress protectors).  The cushions are finally looking and feeling more fresh.
 
 
Notice again the color difference between the newer cushion on the right.  A few more washings and it should match.
Perhaps, on a clean day, this blog will get updated with a full-room picture :o).  For now, here is the before and after:
 
 
 
 
Victory.
 
Oh wait!  I forgot to tell you about the "blanket" in the last picture.
 
It's not a blanket.
 
The cover is a twin quilt I bought at Meijer that I chopped up and turned into a removable, fitted seat cover.  I figured I'd end up throwing a blanket on the "nice" couch to protect it.  Might as well factor that in and eliminate the irritation of straightening a blanket.
 
 
 
I made the cover tight which means it's a real pain to get on and off, but it looks tidy and hopefully it will extend the life of my seat cushion fabric.  Not to mention, it eliminates that food-magnet-middle-cushion-crack.  Though I kind of miss tucking my feet between the cushions. :)



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 train...you 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: