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:  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).

Monday, January 18, 2016

A confession & wedding rings

"It's not a laxative."

I'd have never guessed that particular statement would figure so prominently (rather, at all!) in my relationships with Craig.  Never.  However, it's probably THE funniest and longest running joke between us to date.

A bit of background on Craig:  we are fairly certain that he has Celiac's disease (i.e., officially undiagnosed but he gets extremely sick for days when exposed to the slightest trace of wheat) and he sometimes gets "glutened" when we dine out.  This usually results in days of belly aches before it sorts itself out.

One weekend, that we were spending in my particularly sparse (these days) Greenbelt home, Craig was glutened and I tore up the house trying to find something to make his belly feel even slightly better, but I turned up nothing.  Late at night I remembered that I'd procured some liquid concoction in a bottle for my mom's belly at some point and went rummaging through the fridge (where you find liquid belly concoctions, apparently).  I found said bottle.  I looked at the expiration date--looked good.  Smelled fine.  I eyeballed the contents really hard and it passed my test.  I happily trotted back to Craig with the bottle, read that a dose was a single tablespoon, and said, "Just for good measure, why don't you take two huge swigs?"  He promptly did just that.

The belly really didn't get much better, but I didn't expect miracles.  In spite of the belly ache, Craig and I did our normal Sunday morning shopping the following day.  In the middle of the frozen vegetables, Craig eyes suddenly got as big as frozen pizzas as he stared off past the tater tots.  He tossed his wallet at me.  He hurriedly squeaked, "I'll be right back," as he dashed off toward the bathroom.  He emerged some time later (I'd already checked out with our groceries) and looked worse for the wear.  We drove home immediately.  Poor guy.

As Craig slowly started to feel back to normal after the first few days of the week, I mentally reviewed all that he'd been through since the glutening.  It concerned me because explosive diarrhea didn't usually accompany his normal symptoms and I feared he was getting worse.  I allowed my mind to wander right back to my fridge in Greenbelt and I began to wonder what exactly was in the liquid concoction I fed him.  It was something like Pepto Bismol, wasn't it?  I mean, it was chalky and gross, it just wasn't pink.  I couldn't for the life of me remember what was on the label...then I started to worry.  What if it wasn't coat-your-stomach stuff?  What if it was...?

Needing to answer this question, after work I went straight to the Greenbelt fridge and found that elusive bottle.  Milk.  Of.  Magnesia.  Oh.  My.  God.

I had given my boyfriend not JUST diarrhea, but a DOUBLE DOSE of diarrhea.  Shame and guilt instantly became my new best friends for two weeks while I debated whether to tell him what I'd done.  Would he leave me?  Would he never allow me to care for him again?  Finally, I had to confess.  The knowledge of my misdeed was just too heavy.

I sat him down and told him we needed to talk.  His immediate reaction was to ask, "Are you breaking up with me?"  Poor guy.  I told him the whole sordid story and was apologizing profusely.  I couldn't apologize enough.  He quickly forgave me and I shared with him that now I feared he wouldn't trust me ever again with medications.  So, from then on, whenever medication passes from my hands to his I bring the entire bottle/package/whatever and we read it together and I say very slowly and clearly, "See, it is not a laxative."

Fast forward to me buying Craig his wedding ring, a close friend who knows this terrible story (Denise) suggested I get his ring engraved with "It's not a laxative."  Though I couldn't bring myself to actually do that(!) I still wanted to see what his reaction would be if I had, so I filmed Craig taking the first look at his ring.  Instead, I had the ring engraved with "Because you lighten my soul," which is something my mom remarked about our time together right at the end of her life.  She said after I got home from our fourth or fifth date, "Every time you spend time with Craig you come back and it's like your soul is lighter."  Awww, mom.

And  here are our rings, together (engagement ring not shown).  I love them!

Outtake #1: Pratt Fall

I can't resist sharing this with you all.  It's an outtake of a longer video I made for Denise (sewing buddy) to show her how the bodice Version 2 was fitting.  I was pleased with every detail, with the exception of some weirdness in the boobage'll see...

My beloved, Craig, offered to film for me so I'd have both hands free.  He really gets creative with the camera angles and director feedback!


Coming together: Wedding dress update & first snow!

Folks, we had our first (baby) snow this Saturday.  It was just a dusting, but it was beautiful.  This coming Saturday we are supposed to get absolutely hammered (9 inches to a foot!).  I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, I worked on the dress a bit; it's really starting to take shape!  First, I adjusted the skirt pattern to account for the additional inches Denise and I added to the girth of the bodice.

Up until this point, I'd barely touched my fashion fabric--the bodice doesn't take much material.  But the skirt...well, the skirt is what eats up fabric.  And so cutting out the skirt felt like I was gambling with the rent money, but it HAD to be done!  I used ALL the fabric I had cutting out the skirt pieces.  If something goes wrong from here, it's back to buying more fabric on-line and hoping the dye lots are similar!  :)

Once I cut the skirt out, I realized I had to back up a step...I had to sew the loops into the back of the bodice that would hold the lacing.  So I started on that.  These are the 16 pieces of 2 inch ribbon that would make up the loops.

And here the loops are sewn into the back of the bodice.

Here's the skirt, all sewn up, and it was roughly big enough for me to fit into it...success! 

I really wanted pockets in my dress to hold essentials like tissues, lip gloss, and mints.  I'm not sure why I thought sticking a colored pencil in the pocket would show you guys that I'd actually installed a pocket.  But, there ya go.  That's the best photo I have of the pocket.

And here's where things get real; sewing the bottom half of the dress to the top half.  EEEEEKKKKKKK!

Sewing, sewing, sewing here.  Only had to seam-rip once to remove an accidentally sewn in wrinkle I created!

And suddenly, there's a dress!  (Ignore pyrex dish full of teal pattern weights...merely using those to keep the dress from sliding off my cutting table).

Look, how shiny!

The back of the dress, before laces (or zipper) are installed.


The back of the dress laced in the bi-directional method.

 Here's the whole dress, after I installed the silk lining slip and teal tulle that I conquered last weekend.   I'm still deciding how much it bothers me that I can see the teal color through the cream dress towards the bottom.  I'd have to cut out a silk lining layer, gather it, and sew it to the slip in order for that color not to bleed through.

Here's the dress from the back (with my teal shoes!).

Here's a parting shot with the lace, to remind you that Denise and I will be making some kind of lace overlay for the bodice that is off the shoulder and includes lace half sleeves.  Pretty, huh?

So, taking stock of what's left to be done:

1.  Seam rip where the bodice meets the skirt at each side hip area and pull up the skirt fabric, as it's bunching up around my hips in a slightly bothersome and unattractive fashion.

2.  Hem to appropriate length (it's sweeping the ground right now and I'm aiming for tea length), and allow the teal tulle to peak about an inch below the hem.

3.  Decide whether to augment the slip with more silk lining to hide the teal color and keep it from bleeding through the dress fabric.

4.  Install the zipper.

5.  Install a bra (that'll be interesting).

6.  Put in a waist stay (that's usually a grosgrain ribbon around your waist that is independent of the dress to keep the dress from falling down or moving.

7.  Do some additional hand stitching inside the bodice to help the raw edges lay flat and keep the bodice lining in place.

8.  Make the lace overlay with off the shoulder half sleeves.

Whew.  Still...feels like a lot to do even though I see I've come a VERY long way with this dress so far.  Looks like I may very well be snowed in this coming Friday and Saturday so I'll have plenty of time to tackle some of the items on this list!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Stream of consciousness: A weekend's worth of wedding dress sewing

Brace yourselves, folks.  I burned up so much sewing time today that all I can promise is an image-dense wedding dress update post with a stream of consciousness commentary.  At least where the construction of the dress is concerned, I'll try to keep it chronological...

The first update, though, is about the sewing machine(s).  If you recall, I drove to Philly to  buy a machine to replace my water logged machine.  I set it up Saturday morning and started test stitching with it...I turned a couple of dials making sure everything worked (because, why would I do that before I handed over cash to a stranger?)...and I noticed the needle wasn't going up and down anymore.

At.  All.


Everything I sewed this weekend was on my water logged machine, which is now starting to sound like a small mouse being tortured every time I start to stitch.  I'm not sure who will break down first--me or the water soaked machine.  All I know is I do not have time to take either of these machines to a Mr. Fix It right now.  Maybe that's why, once I started sewing this weekend, I didn't stop.  For fear that both machines would give up the ghost in the same damned weekend

I'm trying not to panic.  Several people have offered me their machines if I needed to borrow on to finish the dress.  At the rate I'm going, I'll be done in another few weekends, which is THE GOOD NEWS.  Finally, right?

Alright, let's get down to business, not to mention all those images I just promised you!

Above is a photo of some glorious *fine* glass pins.  Gals, buy yourselves new pins once in a while.  It really changes the sewing game.  Fresh, sharp pins.  Ahhhhhh.  Denise, my wedding dress sewing buddy (she's sewn three wedding dresses!), gave me these for Christmas--along with a seam ripper.  She said, about the seam ripper, "you'll need it."  Damn her.  And I used them both today.  A LOT.

Here I'm testing out sewing the boning casing to the organza (the layer that makes the bodice stiff but isn't seen.  I was lucky to be able to sew these by machine.  Denise did hers all by hand and bled a lot on her sister's bodice (but only on the inside so no one could see).  Eww.  So, no blood in, on, or around this dress!  I started by sewing the casing to the very front bodice piece.

I had to pin all around the organza to keep it from shifting while I cut the bodice pieces out.  See those polk-a-dot things?  They are pattern weights my best friend, Patti, made me years ago.  They are filled with little dried beans...and I'm still using them today!  I'm also using a small Pyrex dish to hold down the pattern.  All the bean bags go in there for storage when I'm done cutting.  Cute, huh?

Then, I moved on to installing the casing in all the bodice pieces.  Here's the entire bodice in organza and boning casing. 

I cut out the fashion fabric (the real deal: silk hemp) for the bodice and stitched all the organza pieces to the silk pieces.   Here's the front.

And here's the inside, bone casing showing.

I sewed them all together and pressed the seams, adding four more bone casings in each ditch of the seams...for a grand total of 17 bones!  Denise says the dress will stand up without me, which is good because I'mma be pooped by the end of that day and I'll need someone/something to hold ME up!

 Once I got this far, Denise told me I needed to do some "catch stitching" to keep the seam allowances from raveling.  I needed a YouTube video for that!

Catch stitching requires hands, not machines, so I stitched up my seam allowances on the couch with Craig late Saturday night.

The Powerball jackpot was at $900 Million this weekend, so we played the lottery in the hope we'd be millionaires so I could pay Denise to finish this dress.  We didn't win.

That sums up Saturday's activities.

Sunday morning I was at it again.  Oh, Craig's mom bought this huge butterfly for me for Christmas and now it's part of the sewing room.  Mom's watching me.  :)

Gratuitous puppy shot of Roxie who sometimes kept me company when I sewed.

Sunday morning was all about tackling the lining of the bodice and the dress--100% silk is slippery to deal with!  But, gorgeous.  And, has no wrong or right sides.  Bonus for (lazy) me!


Here's the "finished" bodice (I still need to insert the plastic bones).  Denise is so disgusted with me that I didn't go buy steel boning.  I just couldn't face all the finality of needing to know exact measurements for each bone.  With plastic, at least I can sit there and decide in the moment how long or short the bone should be.  Anyway,  because I'm willing to use cheap plastic materials in my wedding dress, I'm not sure if we're still friends.  FYI, this photo of the bodice might be upside down.

Here I was enjoying my sewing machine's version of catch much faster.  I did this to all the seams of the 100% silk lining to prevent fraying.

I cut out the lining for the skirt and began working on the netting that will fill out the bottom of the dress.

Here's the finished product.  Ready to be installed once I cut and sew up the bottom part of the dress.

And finally, here's my (very teal) work product for this weekend.  I feel I accomplished quite a lot for one weekend.  I really owe it to Craig who fed, watered, and walked me when I needed it so I could concentrate on all of this.  He's great.  At this rate, I'll only need another three to four weekends to finish up.

What's left:
1) cut out and sew the skirt portion
2) install the bones in the bodice
3) install the loops in the back of the bodice (which will be laced up
4) install the skirt and slip (including a zipper)
5) hem to the correct length
6) drape-fit and sew a lace, half-sleeve overlay

Not bad, eh?  Mojo was in full force this weekend.