Monday, November 25, 2013

How Do You Define a Fail?

First of all, I just wanted to thank everyone who took the time to comment on my last post; I was so touched by all your kind words.The online sewing community is amazing! Thank you all, it was very much appreciated :)

Lest anyone worry that the compliments may have gone to my head, you can rest assured that you needn't: welcome to my latest fail! I finally finished my poor, neglected Cozy Cardi. After all the high octane wedding sewing it was blissful to sit and knit for a while instead. Here 'tis:

 It's a Cleckheaton pattern, but I've been hunting through Ravelry and can't find any links, sorry. I first saw it in a Cleckheaton book that seemed to be a collection of several earlier booklets of theirs, but found it later in a magazine (which was about a quarter of the price :) ) I loved the colours in the example so didn't change a thing on that score. Although I did use Bendigo Rustic 12 ply instead, because it's one of my favourite bulky yarns, being wonderful quality and almost ridiculously economical. There's also an optional tie / belt:

I really loved the stripe detail, which wasn't complicated to do at all, just 3 rows garter stitch, a row of yarn overs and purl 2 togethers, then 2 more garter. It gave it a wonderful texture overall. And I LOVE a shawl collar - so divinely cozy! I did make a bit of a hash of the buttonholes (including doing an extra one..), but I'll chalk that up to post-wedding catatonia...

My least favourite bit? Weaving in the ends - so many! Below are the offcuts...

So why call it a fail? Well, because when I tried it on it was unwearable! And it's entirely my own fault since I didn't bother knitting a gauge swatch first....Stupid blind optimism.The sleeves actually come down to my knees. Sadly, because I'm so lazy about gauge this isn't the first time this has happened - when my husband tried on the first jumper I ever knitted for him, he said, "I really appreciate all the time you've spent on this, but I've been in tents that are smaller than this..." It was a fair call, honestly!

Depending on how you define "fail", this qualifies. BUT I found a way to salvage it! It now belongs to a dear friend and is very much appreciated. So I guess all's well that ends well, huh?

I've also finished a project that was actually intended to be a gift. A Winter Trails beanie in The Fibre Company's Organik. Another friend has just started a course of chemotherapy, and I thought this might be nice to have on hand for those "can't be bothered" kind of days. Especially since even though it's late November we've hardly had a taste of Spring yet...

I got a bit worried towards the end, but there was just enough yarn in the end, with not quite a metre left. It's the second Winter Trails I've done, and it's amazing how much easier a pattern is the second time around! My camera still seems to bring out cooler tones rather than warmer ones, so the colour here is not quite as it is in real life - it's a soft grey-brown (I've heard that shade called "donkey", I think), called Claystone.

On the sewing front, I've been getting a lot of projects cut out and ready to go (the worst bit!), so that when I get any spare time I can get on with the fun part. Next up is some Festive/Christmas party style sewing...

And in any other spare time that I might find I'll be branching out briefly into quilting! I have a new baby nephew, and since he lives in Darwin I'm not sure he'll be needing much in the way of woollens. So a quilt it will be. A very, very basic one! With turtles and greens and aquas:

Still a long way to go yet, but I've got a month before they travel down for Christmas. Here's hoping it works!

Have a wonderful week :)

Danielle oxo

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