Monday, March 7, 2016

Zippers, lace problems, and finishing the dress


This will be the last blog post about the making of my wedding dress; and it's kind of bumming me out.  I mean, I've wanted to finish this project for some time (mainly, so I can worry about other things), but now that it's done...I'll miss showing you all my progress and crying over my sewing issues.


Well, the show must go on (at least for this one post)!

The dress was just about complete; I needed to install the zipper and address an issue with the lace in the back (let's talk about that in a sec).

I chose an "invisible" zipper in a cream color so the zipper installment wouldn't be so noticeable.

Here I am sewing it into the back of the dress.

Here's a shot of the zipper installed, and you can see part of the detail of the dress is that the bodice does not fully meet up in the back.  Instead, you get a lovely view of the crisscross of the lacing detail.

The zipper didn't come all the way up to the top of the skirt, so I added a hook and eye to fasten it right at the top.  Not my best work, but I'm hoping folks' eyeballs won't linger there.  Plus, the laces/bow will fall down my back and likely cover this up, so it won't be noticeable.

Once the zipper was installed, all that was left to do was neaten up and sew down the lining so that it wouldn't get caught in the zipper. 

And here's the finished product, pressed and ready for action!

Please excuse the crumby lace-up job; I did it myself by wiggling and pulling on the laces--so they appear a LITTLE jacked up.  But, the point of this exercise was to illustrate how the lace ABOVE the bodice in the back is slouching down. 

You can see it in this photo (and I've mentioned this problem in an earlier post--where I feared I might have to revert to straps on this dress to fix the problem).

The lace that sticks up beyond the bodice in back should come up about 4 inches.  Here it is slouched down to about 2 inches, making me very grumbly.

(Pardon the very fuzzy photo.)  This was my attempt to get that darned lace to stand up and salute! 

I used grosgrain ribbon (non-stretchy...the same ribbon I used for the waist stay) to make a boning case (yes, Denise...more PLASTIC boning) right along the outer edge of the lace where it meets the laces.

And I sewed a piece of boning in there, all snug-like.

This is what it looks like from the inside of the dress.  Pretty visible.'s what it looks like from the outside of the dress.  Barely visible!  It helps that the grosgrain ribbon was the exact same color as the dress and the lace.  It just kind of blends right in. 

Plus, I plan to wear my hair half-up/half-down for the wedding so my hair will hide some of this jerry-rigging.

And here's the entire dress on a hanger.  :)

I did try it on to make sure this method would work, and sure enough that lace is standing 4 inches above the bodice of the dress and flat as a board.  BEAUTIFUL.

It was at this point that I realized all the sewing fun was over, and the wedding must begin. 

I pressed the skirt and put this little booger in the wedding dress bag, where I won't see it again until it's time to actually wear it.

Denise asked me at lunch today if it was comfortable, and I said "maybe for an hour."  I'm really not sure, because I've only had it on for a few minutes at a time over the last 3 months.

I decided I'd bring a white pant suit in the car, just in case...

Well, folks.  That's it!  You'll have to wait until after the wedding to see proper photos of me IN the dress.  Thanks for tuning in, and see you in a few weeks!!!

What's left to do:
1)  on the dress?  nothing.  :(
2)  in life?  get married!  :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Accommodating the bountiful booty and hemming the wedding dress

Dear Readers,

You would think that hemming the skirt of a wedding dress would be one of THE most easy steps involved in sewing an entire dress....aaaaaand, you'd be wrong.

Getting the hem of the dress, when worn, to be parallel to the floor--ALL the way around the skirt takes some work.  You'd think it would be as easy as measuring how long you want the skirt to be, laying the skirt out on the floor, marking that length all the way around the skirt and cutting/hemming. 

But, no. 

I have always needed, when making dress slacks anyway, something called a "full butt adjustment." No, that's not when you reduce your butt volume by diet, exercise, or liposuction. 

The full-butt phenomenon suffered by many a woman, where normal pattern dimensions are merely insufficient in the booty-area, forcing us home sewers to kind of "explode" the rear end of our pants pattern to squeeze a little more fabric into the back of the slacks so they fit properly.

You're probably asking yourself, "What does making pants have to do with skirts?" 
Because I have this full-butt adjustment issue in slacks, it also means that if I don't address the issue when making skirts, I have an uneven hem.  More specifically, when wearing skirts that are the same length all the way around (AKA, all skirts sold in stores) it appears as if my garment is 2 inches too short in the back.  Picture, if you will, a skirt hitting me above the knee in the back and 2 inches below my knee in the front---YIKES!  Seriously, not a good look.  While my problem may not be as severe as this gal's, this is about how I FEEL when I know my hem is all jacked up in back.

In cases where you have odd things about your body you need to work with while making a garment, you'd usually just have your seamstress pop you up on a chair, pin the skirt to the desired length while spinning you about. 
But, I'm my OWN seamstress and do not own an extra pair of hands that operate independently from my body.  Dang.

The solution for a singular seamstress with a mere pair of hands?  This doo-hickey...

Craig was nice enough to pump the bulb for me (because my squeezy-bulb-connection-thingy isn't long enough for me to operate when standing next to this contraption!).  With each squeeze, he sent out plums of white chalk into the air, every time I commanded, "SQUEEZE!"  I simply spun around, and uttered this word until we'd made our way all around the dress.  This ENSURES a hemline that is parallel to the ground...even in the rear!

These doo-hickey's generally come with white chalk, and I had a white-ish dress, so marking the hemline was tricky.  Luckily, the chalk has a matte finish to it, and the dress has a sheen.  So, while I couldn't see the chalk marks all that well, I just had to hit the skirt with the right light and angle to see where the little white matte mark would show up. 

All that was left for me to do was pin the remaining fabric up out of the way, and press the new hem into place with my iron.

Afterward, I trimmed the fabric down to roughly 2.25 inches, folded down and pressed a scant edge, and sewed that down by machine to prepare for hand-hemming the skirt.

Here's a post that describes 5 different methods for hemming a skirt.  I decided on the catch stitch.

Hemmed portion on top.  Pinned portion on bottom.  You can't see the hem stitches, can you?

Ta-da!  The finished product, with the teal colored tulle trimmed to the appropriate length so that it peaks out from under the skirt.


What's left to do:

1)  install zipper
2)  reinforce lace sleeve stitches
3)  determine if lace overlay needs boning/stabilizing in the center back
4)  start doing all the things you do when your wedding is 4 weeks away (ack! it's here!!)
5)  don't panic

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Conjuring my mom with butterflies and tackling the "S" word

Below is a conversation I had with my mom a few years ago, just before cancer overtook her.

"You know, people say that you can come back and visit those you love by taking the form of something else, like an animal.  When you eventually pass away, I want you to come visit me so you need to tell me now what form you plan to come back as so I'll recognize you."

"You mean, like a butterfly?"


"I don't like that.  I don't want to come back as a butterfly."

"Why not?"

"Do I have to STAY a butterfly?"

"No, you just come VISIT as a butterfly long enough for me to see you.  Then you can go be yourself again."

"Oh, okay.  Then I'll come back as a butterfly."

So, I found this gal on Etsy who makes edible butterflies, and I plan to put them on top of the wedding cupcakes at the reception.  Is it weird to symbolically eat my mom at our wedding?  I don't know.  The palette is neutral with an accent of teal, which I loved.

When I ordered the edibles from her I asked if she could print out matching paper butterflies that I could use in my centerpieces.  And, she did!  Here I've hot-glued them to some thread-wrapped, 18 gauge floral wire.


I bent their little wings so they'd look realistic.

When the butterflies were delivered, I noticed the teal accent colored butterflies looked more blue than teal.  Meh, oh well.  I'm using them.  I still think they look sweet.


I'll stick these butterflies in the reception's centerpieces that I plan to make out of baby's breath.
Just imagine a handful of these tiny butterflies in these white, delicate flowers...

Should look nice, no?

Today, I took another personal day off of work to sew and finish my butterfly crafting.  With the butterflies all done, I knew I needed to start tackling the "S" word...sleeves.

I started with a self-drafted pattern based on my arm measurements.  Then I cut out some practice fabric and pinned it to the dress.

I noticed it was too tight around my forearm, so when I cut out the lace, I made sure to give myself extra room there, as the lace does not stretch in that particular direction.

Here are the two lace sleeves cut out.

I sewed them together and began pinning them to the dress, uncertain of what I was really doing.  I machine-basted the sleeves to the dress and removed the pins so I could try it on.  (Again, not pictured!)

 After attaching the tiny corded trim, I had to photograph my arm.  LOL!

So pretty!


 Here's a close-up.  Don't you just love that tiny corded trim?!

 This is what it looks like, so far.  It's not a terrific photo because it's not ON me (or on any armature that would allow you to see how the lace falls with the dress on).  Maybe I'll get Craig to take a photo of this part of the dress with me in it.

I'm having a tough time getting the angle of the armhole seam just right so that the lace above the bodice of the dress wants to stand up on its own.  I'm still fiddling with those seams and the fit.  I may have to revert to hiding some boning somewhere to prevent the lace from slouching....or...(GASP)...I might have to use some sort of shoulder strap.  Oh, say I didn't come THIS far to be forced into shoulder straps!!!

What's left to do:

1)  finish tweaking the sleeves and sew them in for real (not just basting stitches)
2)  determine if i need to add boning to hold the lace up
3)  hem the dress
4)  install the zipper

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The dress that would never end...the psychology of sewing your own wedding dress

After thinking about and planning this next step in the wedding dress--the lace bodice overlay with half sleeves--once I began this no-pattern-just-go-for-it process I realized I am losing steam (with the dress in general), and possibly all my patience.  I've never really sewn anything that demanded this much detail (and attention to detail), not to mention all the hand sewing.

After this weekend, I'm feeling a little like, "And when will I see the light at the end of the tunnel?"

Because I'm working without a pattern, the placement of the lace all comes down to draping, pinning, editing out fabric, and just doing what looks best.  Problem is, I'm doing this alone.  My sewing buddy, Denise, wasn't able to make it to help me this weekend...but I forged ahead without her.  Might not have been my best move.

I think I took the dress on and off (lacing, unlacing myself, shifting the lace, repinning, getting back into the damned thing) about 10 times before I got the lace placement anywhere NEAR where I wanted it.  About the 10th time of doing this hokey pokey I just started unpinning my work while I was IN the dress and yanking it around to where it needed to go. HA!  I win.  (So what if my boobs are now slightly squished by lace that refuses to stretch horizontally?  I couldn't bare to unpin and repin ONE MORE TIME.  Just...couldn't.)

I had one hell of a time getting the lace flower motif perfectly centered over the front of the bodice, and when I was done I really questioned my centering--not that it was off, but that the lace floral motif really lent itself to a different centering strategy altogether.  However, by this point I was SO tired (and just getting started!) of this process that I decided to let that be a secret that went with me to the grave.  I'm moving on with "good enough for government work," folks.  Don't think too much less of me, alrighty?

So here's the 10th attempt at getting the lace positioned correctly onto the bodice.  I pinned the lace to the bodice while it was on me, and I'm surprised at the number of times I poked myself and did NOT bleed on the dress!  Here it is, pinned:
 Here's a close-up of the neckline in the front.
And here's a close-up of my pinning job.

So, here's what happens when you work without a pattern.  Because women are not straight-up-and-down tubes of flesh--instead we dare to curve(!)--a mid-level seamstress (did I just give myself too much credit?) can never really predict where that extra, unwanted material will fall.

See that bunching fold of extra, unwanted fabric there?  I could have put in a dart, but that would have looked strange going right through the floral motif and would have been an obvious seam.  And as luck would have it, I did not experience this same "extra lace" phenomenon symmetrically (as darts would be experienced!).

Did I care?  No.  (See first paragraph:  Patience; losing it.)

Instead of a seam, I decided to snip the motif free from the netting so I could lay it flat again and just sew that whole sucker down (a couture technique I saw on YouTube for sewing seams in lace).  Voila.  Problem solved.  Another secret that will go to my grave.  If you find that spot on my dress during our wedding day, I will buy you a drink (just kidding, it's an open bar).

I have hated Joanne's fabrics for as long as I remember...or right about the time they cut their fabric inventory by half, doubled the price on the remaining stock (of the shittiest quality), and turned half of their store into a Michael's.

However, I was there (don't you dare tell anyone) looking for trim and I came across this really sweet, tiny trim that was made from the same type of cording that's incorporated into my lace.  I couldn't believe that it was an exact match on color, too (the dress more of an eggshell off-white and not a true cream which is the color most off-white trims seem to come in these days...bleck!).

I was so glad I found this trim because, up until that moment, I had no idea how I was going to finish off the lace, either at the waist of the dress or at the hem of the sleeves.  Here's the bodice with the Joanne's corded trim sewn into place, joining the bodice with the skirt.

Finding the corded trim also allowed me to sew the lace right up to the lacing detail on the back of the dress (right side).  Left side is just pinned in place with no trim attached.
Not only that, but this corded trim is so surprisingly strong that I decided I could take it all the way up past the back of the dress to secure the lace so I can eventually install the off-the-shoulder half-sleeves--which we will not discuss during this post because: 1) they aren't made yet; and 2) I tried one version of a sleeve (of course, also without a pattern) and failed miserably.  So we will not be discussing those sleeves just yet. 

I have WAY too much hand sewing to do on this bodice, tacking the lace overlay to the bodice in strategic places, to worry about sleeves just yet.  Suffice it to say, I have enough lace to do a few more sleeves, so this all might turn out okay in the end.  I just don't know yet.  No pressure here, either, just because the lace was half the cost of the entire dress.

Still left to do:
1)  finish sewing lace to bodice
2)  hem the dress to desired length
3)  insert zipper
4)  the "S" word

Yes, yes, Dear Reader...the list IS getting shorter.  But, why do I feel no closer to done?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A little blood maketh the bodice...

Friends, I have now three working sewing machines in my possession.  Woohoo!

I took a personal day off of work today, Wednesday, to catch up on all the sewing I've been missing over the last two weeks.  It's been a grand, quiet day...and it got me thinking...

The first half of making this dress was all about the structure, the fashion fabric, quick results (i.e., seeing the actual dress take shape), and a lot of machine sewing.  Meanwhile, the last half of making this dress has been all about the details on the inside of the dress and involves a load of hand stitching.  So, while I now have more working machines than any girl could possibly want to sew on, I spent ALL DAY today on tasks that required hand sewing!  This couldn't be any more ironic.

I did do a FEW stitches on my newly repaired machine, just enough to get grease from the machine's tune up on the silk lining.  See that little black stain?  Grrr...

You don't really expect to get grease like this on things you're sewing, but believe it or not big fluffy petticoat wedding dresses get all bungled up and lofty and touch things that ordinarily wouldn't be touched by your project.  I finally figured out that the grease was coming from where the needle goes up into the machine.  I swabbed it as best I could with a tissue and was just grateful this wasn't the outer garment.

Next up on my list of hand sewing is something called a waist stay.  It's a grosgrain ribbon (that will not stretch) that you stitch to the boning of the bodice at waist level.  It acts like an internal belt for a strapless dress so that no indecent moments happen at your big event.  No one wants to see that.  No one.  Okay, maybe Craig.

I didn't want to do this step but my sewing buddy, Denise, bullied me into it.  Like Julia Childs' advice on adding butter to a recipe, "You could leave it out, but you'll be sooooorrrrrryyyyyy!"

Here I'm showing you my crappy button hole I had to make so the waist stay could pass through the lining.  Sigh.  Not my best work, but no one (but you) will know because it's on the inside of the dress.  Shhhhh...


 So, I did it.  The bugger is in.  Are you happy, Denise?  (Actually, the dress does feel more secure now that this step is done.)

All I need to do now is put hooks and eyes on the ribbon so I can fasten it around my waist before I tighten the bodice laces.

Now that every step that was internal to the bodice is done, I was free to hand stitch the lining of the bodice to the waist of the dress.
 So you're thinking, "the bodice is done, right?"


The next hand sewing task was to install a bra into the dress.  I put on a slightly padded bra I already owned (and was willing to sacrifice), tried on the dress, laced it up, and VERY CAREFULLY pinned the bra to the bodice of the dress without drawing blood.  I was successful!

I took the dress off and clipped the bra straps off.

Then I used a catch stitch to anchor the bra to the lining and the inner layer of organza (the fabric that gives the bodice its body).  Voila!  No need to buy a special bra.  I saw this technique being used by several blogging seamstresses on the vanguard of the strapless summer dress movement.  I figured if it was good enough for their little frock, it would work for me on this one very special day.

If you look really closely, you can see that I drew blood on my thumb performing the VERY LAST of the bodice sewing...and I blame Denise.  She started this bloody tradition of bleeding on the bodice and I thought I could end the curse as I'd not shed a drop thus far.  But as it turns out, a little blood maketh the bodice!

Denise and I will be getting together in a few weeks to work on the lace overlay for the bodice.  Until then, my wedding dress homework is to hem the skirt...BY HAND.  Ugh.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Two weekends worth of not sewing...

Folks...many of you have noticed that I've not pushed out any new posts for a few weeks.  As you've's true...I've not sewn in two WHOLE weekends.  Pretty ballsy for a gal who has to wear her own wedding dress creation in a mere eight weeks, I know.

A couple of weekends ago, I was starting to work on my dress with the water logged Bernina (1020), and my now-broken 1030 Bernina (acquired in Philly) sitting just off to the side of my work station.  The 1020 had been squeaking unpleasantly the past few weeks, but it still cooperated.  Well, that ended two weeks ago.  Mid-seam, the machine's needle arm refused to budge.  I took apart the bobbin and the bobbin rotary, hoping that it was just some thread in the wrong place.  Nope.  A few more stitches and no matter what I did that thing was frozen.  (Sad face.)

Undeterred, I lugged my last machine, a Bernina 830 (an even older machine), onto my work space.  I didn't have time for "down time" while I schlepped my machines to a repair man, so I was gearing up to finish the dress on my oldest machine.  I was changing out the needle to make sure every stitch would be perfect and the darned piece of metal that holds the needle in just crumbled in my hand.


There was cursing. 

There was crying. 

There was moping. 

It turns out...I DO have time to take my machines in to be repaired.  Huh.

Craig, again, offered his credit card to me, which I turned down.  He did, however, look up a Sew & Vac repair place in Ellicott City for me and I took all three machines there a week ago.  They told me they could fix the machines so long as they didn't need any parts; they aren't a Bernina dealer...they sell Babylocs (which I will never buy because they are cheap pieces of plastic crap with horizontal bobbins...don't get me started on what a terrible idea horizontal bobbins are).

At any rate, my machines were out of commission for an entire week.  But, a cheery call from the repair man eased all my fears that I'd have to buy yet another machine; he said everything was easily fixable and no parts were needed (stuff was "stuck," inside screwy parts "wiggled out," and "jammed stuff").  None of this damage was attributable to water.  Hot damn!  He even said the water damage was minimal and mostly involved the rust in the bobbin's racer, which he would oil and run thread through to remove.  Ahhhhh....this man saved the day (and MADE my day).  They are good folks and I got all three machines back for around $300 this Saturday morning.

QUE THE SEWING!......nope.

Before I could really sit down and sew this weekend, though, I made Craig a lemon/orange/turmeric/ginger/honey/cinnamon concoction that you keep in a jar in the fridge and steep in a cup of water to make tea. 
It's supposed to help you over colds and we are going to try it this winter. 
 In the process of making this recipe, I handled real, live, raw turmeric...have you ever?  It turns your hands and anything else it touches a yellowish-orange.

It turned my hands orange.  It ruined my manicure; I looked as though I'd smoked 50 years worth of cigarettes in 20 minutes.  Worse yet, the stain didn't "stay."  It was slowly rubbing off on EVERYTHING I touched.  There was NO WAY I was getting anywhere near my off-while, silk dress!  NOT.  WITH.  THESE.  HANDS. 

The horror.

Would you believe people actually use this to WHITEN their skin and teeth?  OMG.

After seeing what it did to my hands and nails...I don't recommend it!

So, another weekend has come and gone, and no amount of significant progress has been made on the dress.  Next weekend, I promise.  Maybe.

I did make an appointment with Denise (my sewing buddy) for her to come up on President's Day and help me with the lace bodice.  Yay.  Exciting. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ideas for the lace overlay on the bodice

See the photo of the back of this dress on the bottom right?

The lace is actually sewn INTO the back of the dress...probably installed the same time as the loops for the laces.

I thought perhaps I could copy this construction method to anchor my lace overlay for the bodice so you can still see the laces, but guess what?  I had a chicken and the egg moment and I installed the loops already!  (It went a little something like this in my head:  Don't install the loops until you have the lace overlay done.  Oh, I need to be WEARING the bodice so Denise and I can drape and pin-fit it to me.  Ok, let's install those loops so I can lace up the bodice and wear it when Denise gets here.) 

I texted Denise a photo of the loops installed on the bodice--very proud.  Her response, "Uh, you weren't supposed to install those until we have the lace overlay done."  DOH!!!

Sigh...oh well.  Denise thinks we can still tack the overlay to the bodice in such a way that it will look like I sewed it into the bodice where the loops/laces are installed...we will see!!!

The goal is to end up with something that looks like this from the front, but doesn't obscure the lacing detail in the back.  This lace overlay is constructed like a short shirt, and it has a hidden zipper under the armpit to allow you to get it on and off.  Because it's constructed like a shirt, it has a full back panel of lace, which would cover up my ribbon lacing design on my dress.

This is actually something you can BUY on Etsy, but the gal didn't have enough lace to make one for me and I didn't like the lace she counter offered.  It was about $300.  It's beautiful, but I thought I could pull one together for less.

It may be several weeks before I get back to blogging about this--I have to make an appointment with Denise to tackle this next step, but I will update you along the way as soon as we start!

Just a reminder, here's what my lace looks like.  I purchased this, on sale, for about $200 (2 yards).