Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Complete! Wedding Sewing

'Tis done, 'tis finished, 'tis finished, 'tis done! Yup, the wedding has been and gone, and this is the first night I've been able to keep my eyes open long enough to actually post about it. I didn't realise how nervous I was about something going wrong (that was my fault) until the morning itself. The bride said I could come and take some photos beforehand while the photographers were doing their thing, and I was actually shaking as I knocked on the door! Evidently I'm not a good candidate for ever doing this kind of thing professionally :)

I think the best moment for me was seeing her for the first time - I didn't recognise the dress! I just saw her, and she was radiant. I figure that's a sign I did my job properly :) So, here 'tis:

Silk chiffon skirt over satin backed crepe and chantilly lace over the bodice.

We did the back as a cut out, with a zip as the lower back fastening and buttons at the neck.

A fairly rubbish "back" shot taken on my phone after I realised I hadn't taken a proper one earlier...

We used Salme Patterns' Sleeveless Yoke Top as a starting point. The pattern has the yoke as a separate sheer piece, sewn into the sweetheart bodice. I did an overlay of fine tulle instead, that I could sew the lace to (will explain in a moment). I lowered the back bodice almost to the waist seam and used the tulle for the upper back sections.

This was because the part of the lace that she really loved was the exquisite edging, while the main fabric, though lovely, wasn't really what she wanted. This meant quite a lot of fairly painstaking cutting out. (She pitched in with this, so we called the dress a joint effort ;) ) Below is the section allocated to sleeves - there was a LOT more!

Because we were working with more or less straight lines of fabric now, it meant I couldn't just cut out bodice-shaped pieces. So the bodice was formed from two long pieces, that started from one zip edge at back and encircled the bodice, ending back at the zip, one piece edging the upper bodice and the other edging the waist. (does that make sense??) The shallower scallops were the outer edges, though we trimmed them off at the decolletage.

So far so good. But, as you can imagine, once it was handsewn down at upper bodice and waist, there was a lot of fabric flapping about in between. I got around that by snipping away excess between main motifs, and then layering them to sit flat. You can see in the shots below firstly the pinned section, sitting flat against the bodice (already sewn down) and some "flappy" excess. The second shot shows that excess cut away, ready for layering.

The main trick was keeping each side symmetrical.... Got there in the end though! The really fiddly part was the upper back sections (see third photo above). The scalloped lace edging needed to be along that diagonal line from below the arms to the neck. This is where the tulle overlay was so helpful. Lots of tiny stitches (yup,  it's all still hand-sewing here...) meant I could manipulate it gradually into shape. And I managed to use those deeper scallops from the inner cut part of the edging as the upper neck, over the shoulders and down to meet the front at the bust. The cap sleeves used the outer scalloped edging also, and were sewn into place.

The main skirt was just a bit fuller than A-line; there were talks about whether to make it stand out wider (Helen, I was reading up on your petticoat notes at this point :) ) but in the end she decided she really wanted a soft fall to it. And a train.Which I totally sympathise with - when else do you get to have a train, after all? I think the chiffon overskirt had about 2 1/2 times the fullness, but I can't remember for sure. I do know that handsewing the narrow rolled hem took a freakin' long time...( But when my girl, who's only 12, looked at the machined practice hem and the hand-done practice hem she said, "You really want it to be the nicest it can be..." Touche.)

Something New? Dress. Something Borrowed? Veil. Something Old? Some absolutely beautiful vintage glass buttons. I'm told they're originally from the 1920s. Love....

Does anyone know how to sew buttonholes on extremely fine lace? I don't, so had to improvise. Since we had the last bit of lace from the bolt, there was a narrow selvedge edge. I pinned and basted this to the back of the lace and sewed the buttonhole (Practice piece below). This gave it enough stability to prevent it getting chewed up in the machine. Once done, I trimmed the excess away as closely to the stitching as I could manage. (Embroidery scissors have been my saving grace during this project!). It worked - and was pretty much invisible from the front.

The Something Blue may be my favourite part of the whole dress. And nobody saw it! So I'm going to share it here. I nearly did it as a surprise, but then it occurred to me that a wedding dress probably shouldn't be experimented on. So I checked, got a "yes! yes! yes!" from the bride, and went ahead. The Something Blue was the lyrics to the song they had during the ceremony, embroidered on to the bodice lining. Isn't it nice when what you see working in your head actually works in real life!

And now to the Bridesmaids. And to why I know I'll never be one of the top sewing bloggers. Even though I went to the house prior to the ceremony in order to get close up photos and detail shots, THESE ARE THE ONLY TWO I TOOK OF THE BRIDESMAIDS. Just got too caught up in the emotion and excitement, I'm afraid! Or maybe all those years of Aaron suggesting I put the camera down and start actually enjoying the moment rather than recording it are starting to bear fruit. Never mind, here they are:

Again, I didn't do a separate piece for the yoke; it's a full overlay. This was because the fabric used underneath the chiffon was different for each dress. The "under" fabric surprised me as we were choosing it, because fabrics that at first looked like an obvious match to the chiffon (which was picked first), would often alter the colour of the chiffon over the top - sometimes startlingly. So in the end we choose the under fabric according to how it "disappeared" under the chiffon. So the lemon dress is cream underneath, the lavender is blue, while the mint one is almost silver grey. And thus, we needed a full overlay!

Please, please notice the chiffon bias binding at the neck, shoulders and back opening. That's probably the most fiddly, time-consuming sewing I've ever done. And I shall die a happy woman if I never have to again...
Isn't it a good thing that french seams look so lovely, given how much extra work they can be? I was really reproaching myself over how long the skirts were taking me at the time. But then I worked out, that if there are four dresses, with three skirts on each, with each skirt having six seams, and each seam having to be sewn twice to be french, that's a grand total of 144 seams. (Really : 4 x 3 = 12, 12 x 6 =72, 72 x 2 = 144). I went easier on myself after that. And one good thing - after handsewing the bride's chiffon hem, these ones seemed to be done in a snap! Well, snappish...

So there you have it - my last four months! Thank you to all of you who've left encouraging and supportive comments along the way - I've appreciated your kindness so much. I think it's time for some selfish sewing now. My queued for-me project list is getting out of control...

Oh, and by the way, there was a groom at the wedding too ;)

Have a wonderful week :)

Danielle oxo


  1. OH DANIELLE!!!! Your work here is magnificent and so so SO BEAUTIFUL!! Reading about the care you have taken over all these details has made me feel all choked up and glassy eyed. The bride's dress is so pretty and lovely - but those bridesmaids dresses are astounding! I wouldn't bother beating yourself up about not getting photos - those dresses look dreamy and I bet the ladies felt beautiful in them. AND I did notice those lovely neck and sleeve lines!!!!
    Congratulations on your wonderful work - no wonder you were shaking when you first arrived! Well worth all that effort! Hope you got a few glasses of bubbly that night!
    Do post a link if the bride ever has the professional photos posted online by her photographer - I'd love to see more of your work!

    1. Thank you so much Nessa! You're so lovely :)

  2. Truly unbelievably beautiful! How talented you are! Such patience and dedication. Beautiful beautiful garments......

    1. Thank you! It's so nice to be able to share them with you all finally!

  3. Wow, those are all gorgeous! I'm in love with the wedding dress, I'd totally wear it to my (hypothetic) wedding. :)

  4. Amazing work, everything is so , so beautiful! Congratulations on all of this (perfect) sewing!

  5. I'm completely blown away by your work! The dresses are absolutely glorious, and you should be very proud of your accomplishment. I found your blog on the Salme website, and am looking forward to seeing more of your work. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Beautiful. Just absolutely gorgeous. Came here via the Salme patterns blog-saw the back of that dress and had to come compliment you on your excellent work. Well done.

  7. Your work is beautiful! The brides dress looks so so very lovely! I saw the dresses through Salme pattern blog....will definitely be following you!

  8. I love the wedding dress and all the bridesmaid dresses! I did a little happy clap wriggle thing when I saw the pictures, they are just so pretty. I really like the different colours for the bridesmaid's dresses, it's such a cool idea. Wedding dresses kinda make me go all gushy, so I'll stop now haha :)

  9. I also hopped over here from the Salme blog...I've never commented on a blog post in my life before but I just had to say how impressed I am with this gorgeous wedding lineup. My Nana's wedding was "garden party" themed - each bridesmaid had the same dress in different, spring-y colors. So reminiscent of what you've created here. Lovely, lovely, lovely. More great inspiration for me! Thank you for sharing.

  10. just absolutely STUNNING. and each one of them looks overjoyed!

  11. Wow! All of these dresses are beautiful!. You should be so proud of yourself!

  12. I totally missed this blogpost! What a amazing job you did! Alle the dresses are gorgeous! Well done!