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In America...

28 October 2010, 13:10

Having an international relationship (even when the expat half is as firmly ensconced as I am) makes weddings a bit tricky. We’re lucky that we didn’t have to take immigration laws into account, but even so, we needed to have wedding celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic to include as many people as possible. So a few days after the wedding, we flew over to Pennsylvania, spent a few days at my parents’ house in Perry County, then had our celebration dinner in Lancaster, taking the train down to Philly to catch up with my Man of Honour, then the Acela train up to NYC for a week of a proper honeymoon before flying back home to London.

So to start, I decided that I wanted to give my Granny a nice memento of her gown, since she had given it all to me, and I ended up with some medium-sized scraps of the really nice silk satin after finishing my gown. So before I left I made up four sachets filled with lavender buds I’d grown on deck, and during the flight I embroidered a silk square for each of these with the initials of her four grandchildren and their spouses, plus the year they were married. It just worked out nicely that my cousin Charlie was the last of us to wed, having their wedding two weeks after ours!

I then finished up the sachet construction at my parents’ house and presented these to Granny before the Lancaster reception dinner.

There was also a nice surprise of a massive box of vintage haberdashery she’d found in a charity shop. I only picked a few things out of it, but I just couldn’t resist some of this glorious packaging!

Then my mom insisted on driving me out to this Amish fabric shop she knows in Perry County – it was only a little ways past my old high school, but I was just blown away by the prices!! I went NUTS in the zippers – tons of really long invisible zips for 75 cents or a dollar (when I’d pay at least £3-4 each for these in London), buttons for as low as 2 cents each (when’s the last time you saw anything for 2 cents??), tons of ricrac and trims, embroidery floss for 30 cents, and (of course!!) they had the bobbins for my hand crank vintage Singer. For 15 cents each!


Our DIY wedding - the dresses, makeup, and final photos

26 October 2010, 13:17

Either groan or rejoice, but this is the last of the wedding posts!

The bridesmaids dresses

If you cast your mind back, you’ll remember the selection process, how I fitted and then hand-pleated, the lined, silk jersey dresses for my two bridesmaids, but even after I finished them, there wasn’t a chance to see either P or G wearing their dresses, let alone together!

It was really nice on the wedding day to be able to see both of my great friends looking so happy and nice, and comfortable, too, in the bridesmaids dresses I made for them.

Their colour choices really suited them both, too, and even though I offered to shorten them after the wedding, I know P (in purple) is definitely keeping hers as a wonderfully posh maxidress. (S was my Man of Honour, but no, I didn’t make his suit!)

My dress

You’ve seen it in pieces and finally, in comparison with my grandmother’s original gown, but here’s some more photos where you can see the seamlines particularly well:


Our DIY wedding - the music

25 October 2010, 13:24

We’ve been to quite a few weddings and big parties over the last few years, and one thing became painfully apparent after one or two – event DJs are absolutely, embarrassingly awful and there is no way that we were going to have one ruin our party. We’ve heard DJs consistently call the guest of honour by a wrong (but similar) name, play tracks they utterly hate, and totally ignore those cds of “special songs” that they really, really wanted to hear on the night. We’ve heard so much bad and inappropriate music at weddings that James and I even have a running list of Songs That Should Never Be Played At A Wedding Ever (which includes Toni Braxton “Unbreak My Heart”, 50 Cent “Candy Shop”, and Shaggy “It Wasn’t Me”, which we’ve all heard firsthand at weddings).

Now, really, I don’t say this lightly – we are both huge music lovers. We both worked in student radio for years (mostly to get the free cds!), and I’ve worked on the fringes of the music industry for the last eight years (remember the Glastonbury dress?). So not only do we love music, but we know good music, and we know instinctively what order and flow to put the music in over the course of an evening when you want to get the dancefloor going and keep it going. We know when to play obscure (but danceable) indie music, and when to throw in those nostalgic, floor-filling trashy hits (“Baby Got Back”, I’m looking directly at you!).


Our DIY wedding - Cupcakes

20 October 2010, 14:12

Mmm, cake, the sweetest decision to make for any wedding, yet one that’s all-too-easy to get horribly wrong (Unfortunately one wedding I attended years ago had a beautiful cake that was mouldy inside when cut into!!)

Luckily, we had Sarah at Maison Cupcake, a friend of a friend and an amaaaazing food blogger and baker, on our side. Honestly, she’s already in my RSS feed reader and I want to eat her whole site on a regular basis!! Like James’s Auntie Anne (who did our flowers), Sarah’s also a “keen amateur” and not usually a baker for hire. With the quality and detail in the cakes she made for us, though I’m sure she could make a living from this if she wanted to!

We mostly wanted cupcakes, both for ease of serving and the ability to taste more flavours, but we also opted to have a small cake for us to cut. All we stipulated is that we didn’t want a fruitcake (as is traditional for UK wedding cakes) and that we didn’t want to use a cake topper or have writing on it or anything. Sarah suggested something like this chocolate and booze-soaked cherry cake and we nearly bit her arm off! She topped it all with a delicious fondant icing, and yes, she made all those tiny flowers herself!!


Our DIY wedding - printed materials

18 October 2010, 15:41

One cost that can add up really quickly for a wedding are all the printed materials you need for the day. I’m not just talking about the invites (which can get ridiculously expensive if you go the letterpress, inner envelope, return card, RSVP envelope, etc route!), but also all the other bits of papery stuff that is forgotten until a few days before when you realise you actually do need them!

The illustration

The first step in our wedding design process was to commission a cartoon drawing of us from the illustrator John Allison (of Scary Go Round fame). James has been a big fan of his comic for ages now, and we both really liked his design style. So we sent him a photo of us, a brief description of James’s suit and my dress (at that point I was still thinking of that Vogue cowl-neck number) and to imagine 6 months’ more hair on my head. Which somehow he got eerily spot-on.

(Apologies for the awful jpg artifacting – I’ve not got the big version of the illustration in front of me to work from)

The wedding website

With the illustration in a nice, big file, we could then set about making our wedding website, which was to be the crux of our invitations. We both work in web developments, and absolutely everyone we know, right up to my grandparents, has an email address, so this way we could put the bulk of the information for both receptions on our site and be able to update it later, too. The RSVPs were all online, using a Google Spreadsheets form (easy to set up, easier for people to reply to than a trip to the post office, and we could both get access to the running tally), and all the usual venue info and registry links could be added without having to worry about word counts and layout.

I can now post a link to it for you to have a look at James’s standards-compliant coding prowess, because I don’t have to worry about you all messing up the RSVPs or gatecrashing or anything! The worst that can happen is that you decide to buy us some more insulation off our registry…


So with the website in place, all the invites really had to do was give folks the date, and point them towards the website. We ran up two sets of postcards from Moo.com (one set for the UK wedding and reception, and one for the Pennsylvania reception). And to set the tone, the wording was “James and Melissa are finally getting married!” ha!


Our DIY wedding - the flowers

14 October 2010, 18:39

To carry on with the rest of our DIY wedding (oh no, it didn’t end with the wedding dress!), the flowers were something we’d both thought about, but hadn’t really wanted to go overboard with, preferring instead for subtle and personal accents. My bridal bouquet of white roses, plus two bridesmaids’ bouquets, and a ton of rose buttonholes for the gents, were all made by James’s Auntie Anne, who is a keen amateur florist. She even sent me a self-addressed envelope to get fabric swatches of the bridesmaids dresses so she could best match their bouquets to their dresses!

How gorgeous is this centrepiece, too? I told her since we wern’t having “wedding colours” (ugh ugh ugh!) that she should either go for all colours, or just white. So she incorporated the bridesmaids’ dress colours into it and I just love it. I think it’s just stunning, and I’m glad we got to enjoy it during the ceremony and then again during dinner at the top table.


Our DIY wedding - refashioning my grandmother's gown

11 October 2010, 13:30

I’ve got many, many more wedding photos to come, but as I was slowly going through all the photos from friends and our professional photographer, I realised that there were a lot of parallel poses between my grandparents’ photos and ours.

Big thanks to my Dad for taking the time to scan in my grandparents’ wedding album in hi-res format, and also to our truly INCREDIBLE and AMAZING wedding photographer, Paul Tanner. I’m pretty sure he was the best money we’ve ever spent.

Confetti toss:

Post ceremony posing:

Walking back down the aisle:

Cutting the cake:

Pre-wedding girly preparations:

If you’re new to this site, let me back up a minute and explain what went on here. First of all, yes, I sewed my own wedding gown. But that would be too easy (ha!), so I decided to sew it from my grandmother’s gown.


Our DIY Wedding - first friends' photos

26 September 2010, 12:16

It’s going to take us quite some time to filter through the 300-odd AMAZING wedding professional photos that we just got through, but in the meantime, here’s some of my favourite shots of the wedding from those that our friends took.

It should give you a great idea of what the dress looks like, and how it held up throughout the day and dancing, anyway!

Signing the official registry:

My bridesmaids and Man of Honour (remember I made their silk jersey dresses?)


Something old...

24 September 2010, 15:46

Check back on Sunday around noon (London time) for wedding dress photos!

Around the end of August, I got an MMS (photo text message) from my bridesmaid Pip’s boyfriend Rob of a brown case next to an assorted pile of clothes with the message “Saw this and thought you might be interested.”

I replied with “Ooh what’s inside? Have you got a model no or year? And does it work, or Need Love?”

To which he said “No idea at the moment. It’s in the window of a charity shop, I’ll check it out on Tuesday.”

And I said “Ah I can’t really justify a 3rd machine! But if it’s a vintage Singer I’m interested (I’ll pass on any others, so don’t spend too much energy on it!)”

And since I never heard anything further about it, I completely forgot about our conversation (conveniently still saved in my phone though!) until they presented it to me as a wedding gift!

It weighs a TON, but it’s got a great hard case:

…which opens with an altered Citroen car key! ha!

Front, left, and back views:


Mr and Mrs

19 September 2010, 23:35

Just a first glimpse for you all! We should get our professional photos through this week so there’ll be more to share then.

Thank you all SO much for your comments and emails! The day was utterly perfect, fantastic, amazing, and truly the happiest, most wonderful day ever. details to follow. So much you’ll be sick of hearing about it, honest.


Final wedding "in progress" update

15 September 2010, 13:18

This will be the last update you’ll get before the wedding on Saturday, so after this it’ll all be finished photos, which is rather exciting!

I almost winced trying on my gown for the final time on Monday night – I thought for certain there’d be some niggling problem I’d have to fix, but no, phew! Everything’s still good. My sister-in-law marked out a nice curve in the train, trimmed it to within an inch or so of the pins, and then I did the hem last night. As it turns out, I’ve still got a good two feet of train left, and the thumb loop is intact, so I’ll be able to easily lift it up for the dancefloor.

The original hem was just a narrow turned hem that’s stitched by machine, so I did the same thing on the new area to keep it consistent. First I folded the allowance over so the fold was at the marked hem line, and I machine stitched as close to the edge as I could get. I pressed this (with the indispensable silk organza press cloth!), then carefully trimmed away the allowance as close to the stitching as possible. I then folded over the hem again and stitched about 1/8” away from the edge, then gave it another good pressing.

But this wasn’t the only hem I sewed last night, no no! I also hemmed both bridesmaids dresses! My sister-in-law was a huge help here, too, by hand basting the hem of each dress very close to the cut edge of the fabric. So when it came time for me to send them through the coverstitch machine, not only did I have a nice line to follow, but the basting kept the silk jersey from twisting underneath like it loves to do.


Lavender confetti bags

8 September 2010, 16:34

We decided fairly early on that for our wedding confetti we were going to throw lavender buds instead of the traditional rice, birdseed, or tissue paper varieties (many of which are banned at venues these days anyway as they don’t break down readily enough). But I wasn’t quite sure how we’d portion these out to our guests until I saw this tutorial and free pdf label and got inspired to do something similar.

I ordered a ton of small glassine bags from this UK shop and we were planning on designing our own labels along the lines of the ones in the Mint Design link, but our laser printer decided to choose this point to run out of ink (after three years on the same cartridges, it’s still excellent value!) so we required a change of plans.

Stashed away in a drawer, I had a bag full of reproduction garden ephemera that my mom had bought be and thought I’d like, and I saw these old Amateur Gardening magazines, Woolworths flyers, bills of sale, and gardening catalogues as a perfect accompaniment to our vintage-inspired modern wedding. The reproductions vary in age from the 1910s to 1950s, and I just LOVE the way they look all mixed up!


DIY Wedding Fascinator - in progress

6 September 2010, 15:39

The Gown is progressing nicely, the shoes are bought and are being broken in little by little (while doing such glamorous tasks as watering the garden and taking out the rubbish!), so it’s now time to focus on my hair. In the past I’ve made fascinators (First in gold and then in silver) with a comb base that worked well for my long, thick, and straight hair, but post-chemo my hair is only two of those things so I’m using a headband for the base of this fascinator. In some strange twist of Life Imitating Art, my hair looks almost exactly like it does in the wonderful cartoon of us drawn by John Allison way back in March when I had barely any hair at all!

It appears that my “How to Make a Fascinator” tutorial vanished off BurdaStyle during one of their site moves, so I’m really glad I saved it as a Pdf a while ago so you can download it here now!

In the past my construction technique mostly centred around the glue gun, but for this one it just felt a bit wrong to do so when the rest of the ensemble is full of couture techniques. So for this base I used two teardrop shaped pieces of blue wool felt (the only colour I had on hand), with one of them stiffened with the ultra-rigid interfacing I used on my sun hat. I then covered this felt with a scrap of the vintage dress satin, stitched on the underside to prevent any puckers at the edges. You could omit this step if your felt matches the colour of whatever you’re covering it with, but the blue kept showing through the first few layers of feathers so I needed the satin layer.

I specifically chose a thin headband that had a fabric covering around it so I’d have something to anchor my stitches to, so keep this in mind while you’re shopping, as it’d be difficult to sew onto an all-plastic band (in which case you’re probably better off using glue). I then sewed the satin-covered base onto the headband, making sure my stitches went around the band each time for strength. Since the top was being covered in feathers, I didn’t bother to hide my stitches on the top side.

Once the decoration attachment is all complete, I’ll stitch the other blue felt piece to the underside of it all to hide the stitches (and band) and create a bit of grip on my hair.

Here’s the fascinator with just the white goose feathers attached:

Sewing these onto the base was way easier than I was expecting. I just took 2 or 3 stitches over the central portion of the feather near the base, and that was enough to keep them secure. I’m leaving them unattached at the tips because as the headband stretches whilst worn, the feathers stay close to my head anyway.

Here’s the underside so you can see my stitches and that super-stiff interfacing:


DIY Wedding Gown - Fitting

3 September 2010, 14:30

Pip came round last night for dinner, drinks, holiday food exchange (French cheese from me and Greek nougat from her!), and her final fitting on her bridesmaid dress.

If you cast your mind back to April and May, her gown is the long, purple, silk jersey Gant exclusive design gown from the Sept 2008 Burda magazine.

I’d completed the gowns back in May, but I left off the tiny covered buttons on the cummerbund and finishing the hem until closer to the day so that they wouldn’t have to worry about gaining or losing a few pounds, or deciding on different shoes before now!

Happily, Pip’s gown fits her perfectly, with minimal overlap at the cummerbund, and really her hem was just about perfect with her chosen heels. But then we realised that if she switched to her comfort flip-flops on the dancefloor, the hem would drag, so I’m going to pull up the hem by an inch.

Then Pip wanted to see me in my gown, and since I hadn’t tried it on since the skirt was attached, I felt it was a good idea. But even though I was capable of wrestling into the boned bodice before, it was proving impossible (and more than a little claustrophobic) with the attached skirt. It was apparent that I had to remove the brass bar at the top of the zipper to allow the top to fully open and give me extra room to squeeze into the gown. I’d thought I might have to, but I kept it in until now since it wasn’t a problem. So now I’ll just need to add one or more hook and eyes to the top of the zipper to keep it all in place.


Honeymoon lingerie - two more nightgown muslins

30 August 2010, 20:20

After my first muslin of a potential honeymoon nightgown knocked that pattern out of the running, I turned to the slip dress pattern (#219) from the May 2010 issue of Manequim magazine as my next candidate.

This is a simple bias dress with bust darts and bias edge on the neckline. The pattern calls for you to have two lengths of bias edging – the longer one finishes the neckline from the front bust peak, under the arms, around the back and up to the other bust peak. The shorter length of bias finishes the neckline in the centre front portion and continues up to form the straps. Since I didn’t have any suitable lightweight muslin in my stash, I sacrificed this bamboo-printed Robert Kauffman cotton I’d bought on a binge at equilter.com about 6-7 years ago. I hadn’t decided what to do with it between then and now so I figured it’d be good for a wearable muslin.


DIY Wedding Gown - attaching the bodice and skirt

28 August 2010, 14:27

Finally I can give you another progress report on the wedding gown! Don’t worry, as you can see below, I’ve been continuing to work on it on my weekends and Wedsnesdays, so I’ve got a lot of progress to cover!

For the first time I got to turn my attentions to the skirt, which is exactly as it was when it was attached to Granny’s dress, albeit separated from the bodice at the (very gathered) waist seam. But there was a prominent blue stain in the centre front (CF) panel at about thigh-height from the blue tissue paper it was wrapped in for 60+ years, so the first step was to unpick and remove that entire panel. I then moved the two triangular sections that had been on either side of it together to form a new CF:

I actually prefer the way these two look together, forming a beautiful triangular, almost art-Deco detail at the CF!

But back to the bodice, where I had completed prickstitching along the entire neck and arm edges. I just free-handed this without my post-it guide and I actually think this looks better than my zipper insertion!


Bridal bodice - a slight (but fixable) setback

24 August 2010, 13:34

Apologies for the photo-less post, but with four weeks to go to the wedding, the planning has gone from busy-but-manageable to STRESSAPALOOZA! And as a result, I haven’t had a chance to take the photos of my beautiful lining prickstitching off the camera yet.

But before I forget, I wanted to describe a slight setback I ran into in preparing to attach the skirt to the bodice. To start the process I removed the central skirt panel that contained the blue dye stain (from the tissue paper it was stored in for 60 years), and sewed the two gored sections together, which makes a really unexpectedly beautiful central detail. But as I was lining up the centre front, centre back, and side seams on the skirt and bodice to make the skirt pleats, I kept having excess fabric on one side of the front skirt.

Scratching my head, I measured the front of the skirt, and the CF is indeed central. So then I measured the seam line of my bodice, and ERRRRRRRR! the right side is 27cm to the CF point and the left is 24cm. So that’s why I was having excess skirt fabric on the left but having it match almost exactly on the right.


Bridal bodice - buttons, lining and shopping!

16 August 2010, 14:35

Ok after that little lingerie diversion (and a day spent being filmed for BBC1!), we’re back on the wedding gown!

First up was a quick fitting of the shell with all the boning pieces inserted and the waist stay hooked. And I can breathe a sigh of relief, because it’s looking good. A tiny bit of horizontal pulls around the zipper (which can be fixed by laying off the ice cream a bit) and a bit of boning show-through at the centre front (which I’m going to hold off worrying about for now, but I may just shorten that boning piece so it stops below the bust).

So I can push on ahead, safe in the knowledge that there’s no major fitting issues…

First up – I sewed on all 13 original covered buttons along the right side’s zipper, matching up with the original satin loops I placed along the overlap during the zipper insertion step.

On the surface, these look like ordinary covered buttons, but look at the underside!

I’ve never seen buttons like this before in my life! Instead of a shank with a hole, there’s a mound of stuffed fabric to sew through! What a strange vintage detail! I’ve learned so much from taking the original gown apart…


Honeymoon Lingerie - nightgown muslin

10 August 2010, 14:10

True confessions – I took a brief break from the wedding gown. I don’t deal well with long projects and I was getting really itchy to complete something (I didn’t have any completed projects in July because of the gown, aaaaagghh!).

So I took one evening out to do a test run of one of the patterns I’d earmarked for honeymoon lingerie and Shasha’s Malaysian silks, Burda 7418 (on the right in my earlier image below):

This is a brand-new Burda envelope pattern, but I just went and bought the pdf version instead because a) I’m impatient, b) the pdf patterns are way cheaper than the paper versions (we have a laser printer and printer paper is cheap!), c) piecing together pdf patterns takes only 5 minutes longer than tracing a paper pattern and I can do it sitting down, and d) no seam allowances, woooooooop!

This was my first downloadable pattern from the German Burda site, and I was pleased to find that the instructions were in nine languages, with fully illustrated instructions. I was expecting it to just be in German! But do pay attention to the print preview, though, because you may not need to print the last ten pages or so (the English instructions only take up a few pages). The only weird thing is that they decided to waste some paper giving us two side panel pattern pieces (one to be cut in lace and the other in self-fabric) and the two pieces are absolutely identical. Weird.


Bridal bodice - finishing the edges, waist stay, and zipper

5 August 2010, 17:44

The next step in my epic wedding gown project was to properly finish the neckline and armhole edges in advance of the lining. Instead of most lined garments where you construct the outer shell, construct the inner shell, then place the two together, right sides facing and sew around the opening edges, in this case Bridal Couture advises us to construct the outer shell, fold in the opening edge seam allowances, then create the lining, with the opening edges similarly folded inside, and then place the two together wrong sides facing and very carefully fell-stitch along the opening edges, prickstitching the lining where necessary.

So here are the neckline and armhole opening edges, nicely clipped, pressed, and catchstitched:

The next step was to add the waist stay, tacked to the boning channels with bottom edge of grosgrain on the marked waistline:


Bridal bodice - boning

2 August 2010, 13:42

With the seams (mostly) constructed and all the seam allowances tacked down, it was time for the boning! Bridal Couture assumes that you’ve got a fairly standard princess-seamed bodice and so advises that you sew the channels to the centre of the underlining pieces at the very beginning before attaching the underlining to the fashion fabric. But my bodice has all sorts of crazy seams and the boning crosses over a bunch of seamlines, so I had to obviously apply my channels after the main seams were stitched, as Susan Khalje advises in this Threads article.

I was originally thinking to make my own channels with silk organza, but then I saw that the Sewing Chest had pre-made and seam-free cotton channels so I bought those and ended up going with that instead to save myself some time. And as Ms Khalje talks about using them herself, I figured it’s okay!

So I started a production line – first I sewed the end of the channel closed with the sewing machine, then I carefully pinned the channel to the bodice underlining where it was needed, then cut the end just before the seamline at the bottom of the bodice. Once all the channels were in place, I then catchstitched them all to the flannel underlining, keeping the bottom free to insert the boning.

Here you can see all the channels, minus the one going on the zipper tape (to be attached after the zipper is in place):


Bridal bodice - Piping and basting

30 July 2010, 13:45

…in which I work with more piping than a plumber and more basting than a Thanksgiving dinner!

When I last checked in, I had cut and prepped all the pieces of the bodice, so it was now the point in my plan to sort out the piping if I was going to do so (and you’ve probably rightly concluded from the title that I did!). I had about 80cm of piping from the original dress’s waist seam, but I realised this wouldn’t be enough to pipe both sides of pieces #2 and #7 like I’d planned. So before I could do anything, I had to make some piping!

Luckily, the dress’s collar pieces were nice and long and on the bias, so this was a piece of cake. I cut four strips of 5cm wide and joined the edges together to make one long strip, then inserted my 2m of satin rattail and ran the whole thing through the sewing machine with the zipper foot.

But as I’ve already established, I can’t be making errant needle holes nor can I afford to use the seam ripper any more than what’s absolutely necessary, so in order to get the piping inserted perfectly on the first try, some hand basting was in order.

First, I basted the piping to one of the pieces, aligning the piping’s stitches with the basted seam lines:

And I did that for all four piped seams:


Bridal bodice - Prepping the pieces

28 July 2010, 17:57

I finally got the muslin fixed and finished! Thanks for all your advice, though I haven’t had a chance to reply to hardly any of you, for which I do apologise…

Muslin #3 changes –

  1. Unpinned the shoulder change, took off the waist stay, and since it seemed to be pulling everything upwards before, I reasoned that it must be too low. I repinned it a little higher and everything seemed to sit nicely and correct those weird problems it threw up before.

  2. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – I detest Rigilene boning! Only someone who hates women could’ve come up with those tiny, needle-like implements of torture. My spiral steel boning for the finished dress arrived and it just feels wonderful.

  3. No one actually came up with the fix I needed for piece #3’s weird bubble. As it turns out I just needed to flatten the curve a bit below the inset corner. (Before and After are below)

  4. There’s no way I’m muslining the skirt. It’d literally take a whole week of sewing time to even approximate the panels on the existing skirt, plus the drape and weight of the muslin fabric is totally different, and it won’t achieve much of anything I won’t learn in the actual skirt attachment anyway. End of story.

  5. Yes, I know about wearing proper undergarments. I’ve been wearing the bra I intend to wear on the day all along (though I got sharpie on it during my muslin marking process so I need to buy another copy of it, boo.). I was not being serious about the push up bra.

So with the muslin done, on with the dress itself!! Hurrah!

First step was to lay the pattern pieces onto the wrong side of my flannel underlining, fuzzy side down (I’d been transferring all my changes onto them and I prefer paper with no seam allowances over muslin with allowances). Once pinned in place, I then chalked the seam lines, waist, centre back and fronts, and the two notches onto it. Then I cut out the pieces with eyeballed seam allowances (when you’re dealing with seamlines, the size of the allowances are largely unimportant).

Next I laid the flannel pieces onto the wrong side of the satin, pinning only in the seam allowances because all the pin holes show on this fabric.


Yet another bridal bodice muslin

23 July 2010, 13:45

I’m no big fan of muslins and fitting tweaks, so the title is really reflecting my impatience at still being in the fitting stage. I want to get on with the fun stuff! But I also really want to get the fit and design perfect here as I can’t really go unpicking the vintage satin (the needle holes remain), so here I am, still soldiering on, though hopefully not for much longer…

Yesterday was my day off so I devoted pretty much the entire day to this dress. Right after breakfast I made up Muslin #2 (not shown because no one was around to photograph me), which incorporated the neckline changes and better-drafted add-on straps. There’s no photos, but essentially, I just needed to pinch some fabric out in three places, which you can see here shaded in orange on my pattern pieces:

So I made those changes to my paper pattern, unpicked pieces 1 and 3 from the muslin, cut new ones out, and reattached them, bringing us to Muslin #3. And I was pretty happy with the fit, apart from a bulge above my right breast which I immediately knew the cause of and fixed it on the paper pattern.


Bridal Bodice Neckline - opinions needed!

18 July 2010, 11:23

I am very happy to report that my dress for the BurdaStyle book is completely, 100% finished, packed up in an airtight bag and ready to be FedExed this week. HOO-RAY!

I’m afraid that’s all you get to see until next year, to. Boo.

But it means I can now devote ALL of my sewing time to my wedding gown. So the first step is to attack the muslin. I’ve marked my waistline in green, and the possible boning positions in blue. Once I marked my waistline I realised exactly how short the bodice is so I’m elongating it all by an inch so the back and sides aren’t ending exactly at my waist. My waist is an inch higher than the standard measurements anyway so I think this alteration will help (note: I’m not short-waisted. My bust-hip measurement is standard, my waist is just shifted up a tad).

But I really, really need your help choosing the right neckline for this gown!!


Bridal planning update

16 July 2010, 14:36

Apologies but this is a bit of a “brain dump” post as I’m understandably a bit frazzled right now, with the BurdaStyle book deadline looming on top of wedding planning and everything else I seem to list every time I post (ahh, just thinking about it is starting to stress me out, sorry!).

So I haven’t done much tangible work on my gown since I last updated because I’ve been focusing on getting the BS book dress done since it has a more immediate deadline, but I’ve been doing lots of mental sewing on the gown. Which, you’ll remember, is half the battle for me. So I took an evening out to read (really read and digest!) through “Bridal Couture” by Susan Khalje and the OOP Palmer/Pletsch “Bridal Gowns—How to Make the Wedding Dress of Your Dreams” book (the former being way way more useful than the latter IMHO). I placed copious amounts of Post-It notes sticking out the edges at places I want to refer back to later.

I’m also really glad I ended up taking that PR online Underlining class a few months ago now!! Though I just looked to see if I could link to the Underlining class somehow, and I noticed Susan Khalje herself is teaching a “Wedding Gowns 101” class starting Aug 15. If it were a few months earlier, I’d have jumped all over it, but you need time to devote to the classes most evenings and I’ll need all the time I can get to work on my gown!

After reading through the two books I had everything mostly straight in my head about this dress, but the boning placement still puzzled me because my pattern doesn’t have any obvious vertical seaming to place the boning along, and all three examples in Bridal Couture had some sort of princess seaming. Luckily for me, it was easily solved on the PR messageboard and by this Susan Khalje article, so I’ve got a full gameplan in my head now for the dress!


Vintage wedding gown photos

5 July 2010, 16:30

So you’ve already seen a bunch of detailed photos of my Granny’s gown (from 1949) laid out flat, but I wanted some on a real person so you could really see the style lines and how it falls. And this way I can get some nice Before and After shots when I refashion it into my gown for September.

Big big big HUGE thanks to my neighbour Kate who not only fit into this tiny dress (respect!) but actually humoured me and let me take photos of her in it to post to the internet (Secretly, I think she had fun!). Kate’s also engaged and I was thrilled to learn that she’s not having wedding colours, either!

So let the vintage dress photos commence!


Bridal Bodice update

1 July 2010, 14:26

When you last heard about my wedding gown, it was two years ago(!!) and I was leaning towards turning my Granny’s gown from 1949 into something with a cowl neck, deep back, and sleek lines, using Vogue 2965 as my starting point.

But recently I’ve been looking more closely at the fabric I’ve got to work with in my grandmother’s gown, and my recent cowl sewing adventure has reminded me that cowl necks need pretty huge amounts of fabric, can’t easily be pieced together, and on top of that, the silk satin in her gown is more of the heavyweight duchesse variety than something very drapey that would cowl nicely. And while I love a low back, it does make things awkward for bras and any sort of shapewear, too.

So I had a bit of a wake up call and told one of my bridesmaids to keep reminding me that “This is just one dress. It is not all dresses.” (thanks, Stacy!). Yes, I like cowls. But I also like other things, too. And I do not need to put everything I like into one dress!



2 June 2010, 14:31

The moorings’ first Crafternoon was a smashing success! We normally have a monthly craft night amongst the neighbours, rotating around to different boats so no one person always has to host. Since our usual craft night falls on a Bank Holiday Monday in May (and again in August), we decided to move it to the afternoon and outside to the Arts Ark (which is like our little floating, communal village green).

Rather than everyone coming at once, it was more of a drop-in thing, with different waves of crafters coming throughout the afternoon… Clare from Selvedge Magazine and her flatmate helped out with the organza wedding flowers, as did Susannah from Cargo Cult Craft! I was a bit crap with taking photos, though, so I missed the bulk of the crafters, sorry!

James raised the bar for “boy craft” and built a step!


Bridesmaids dresses - finished!

27 May 2010, 14:00

Both bridesmaids dresses for my September wedding are now finished! Since I’m sewing both of these plus my own gown, I stipulated that these had to be knit so that I could sew them early and my girls could feel free to gain or lose a few pounds without too much last-minute alterations hassle.

To refresh your memory, the three of us chose the Gant exclusive design dress from the Sept 08 Burda magazine:

The previous posts about these dresses spanned over a year (from our pre-illness, original wedding date), so to help you find them, here’s a handy list:

  1. Choosing the pattern

  2. Going fabric shopping and choosing their colours

  3. Tackling those pleated cummerbunds

  4. Finishing the first dress

Here are both dresses together, so you can see how nicely their colours will go together on the day:


Bridesmaids dresses - one down...

18 May 2010, 18:53

I made a big push on Sunday to get as much done on the first bridesmaid as I could, and between then and some “non-commuting” time yesterday and today (I worked from home both days so I put the hour I’d normally be commuting to good use!) I managed to finish Pip’s dress, apart from the hem and the covered buttons, which I need to purchase in town tomorrow.

To refresh your memory, I’m sewing the Gant exclusive design dress from the Sept 08 Burda magazine:

I tackled those pleated cummerbunds first to get them out of the way, but even the easier silk jersey portions were not entirely straightforward. With a design this simple, the glory is in the perfect execution!

First thing I was grateful for is my newly-raised cutting and drafting table. Each gown takes four skirt sections this size (front & back, exterior & lining), and they take up nearly the whole table!

I didn’t take any intermediate photos of Pip’s dress, but I ended up doing the entire bodice on my sewing machine after all, so that I could understitch the neck and arm openings more easily. In the end, I only used the overlocker for the long skirt seams.


Bridesmaids dresses - I pleat the fifth

10 May 2010, 15:18

While I’ve been showing you all sorts of books and magazine reviews and drafting up free bag patterns for you, what’s been going on in the sewing room, I hear you ask! Well, I set aside April and May to sew my two bridesmaids dresses, and after a long muslin period, I’ve been getting stuck in with the most time consuming portion of the dresses first – the pleated, silk satin (charmeuse) waistband/cummerbunds.

If you recall, I’m sewing the Gant exclusive design dress from the 09/08 Burda magazine:

The fabrics were bought over a year ago, so I fished out the bag and got to work on the reeeeeeeally long pleated sections using Burda’s magazine instructions (which are surprisingly helpful) and a bit of info from my The Art of Manipulating Fabric book (thanks, Cindy!). These are knife pleats, one centimeter apart, and Burda called for seven pleats down the band, but after my test piece, it looked a bit sparse at the top and bottom edges, so I decided to go for eight pleats in the final versions.

So in order to help any of you attempting this on your own (and sadly, a Perfect Pleater is way too narrow to help me here), or those of you wondering why professional designers outsource their pleating to professional firms, here’s what’s involved…

How to pleat

Step 1 – On the reverse of the fabric to be pleated, mark chalk lines exactly 3cm apart, one for every “mountain” pleat.


Bits and Pieces

19 April 2010, 16:09

Ok, so to take a brief break from reading material, I thought I should update you with what I’ve been up to in the sewing room…

Bridesmaids dresses

I had the first fitting of P’s muslin, and there are surprisingly little changes to be made – raising the neckline and armscye, pulling up the waistband by a centimetre, and that’s about it.

So I’m doing a second version of the bodice for her to try on this weekend, and then I unpick the skirt off that muslin and attach it to G’s bodice (the skirt is enormous and I didn’t have enough knit muslin for two!) and have her first fitting while I get down and dirty with the waistband pleating. I’m anticipating the pleating to be the most time-consuming part of both the dresses… (Earlier post about the dresses and colours here)

A spring dress

I finished a nice Springy version of BurdaStyle’s Heidi dress yesterday (finally!).

It was just waiting for a hem for nearly a week, which is a long time for me. It’s nice timing as Spring (or maybe even Summer!) arrived this weekend and it was gorgeous outside on deck with the barbecue going and everyone hopping from boat to boat. I’m hoping to do a photoshoot tonight now that we’ve got daylight for longer in the evenings…


Bridal Couture

8 April 2010, 17:25

I’m in downtown Muslin City at the moment, between the bridesmaids dresses and the very belated birthday dress for my (future) sister in law. So far I’ve made the FSIL’s muslin, had her try it on, and altered the pattern pieces according to the two changes we’re making (which was a pleasant surprise – it fit really well!). And on the bridesmaid front, I’ve completed both bodices and attached one to the skirt in preparation for Pip to try it on this weekend. Since the skirt is so enormously long, I actually didn’t have enough muslin fabric to make a skirt for each muslin. So I’m just going to swap the skirt out and attach it to the other bodice after fitting the first one (it’s a very loose design so the fact that it’s 2 sizes off doesn’t matter much!).

Can you believe I’ve gone through 8m of white viscose knit muslin fabric, between a top, my birthday dress, the FSIL’s dress, and the two bridesmaids dresses?? Wowza.

Anyway, while I’m sewing up muslins, there isn’t much to show off (I don’t mind putting photos of myself up in little more than a bedsheet, but it’d something else to subject your friends to that!) but I’ve got a ton of good sewing books to report on, so you’ll be enjoying a few good books with me over the next week or so…

So to start things off, we’re going to stay on the wedding theme with Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture, a book so amazing that it fetches RIDICULOUS prices online. It’s been out of print for years (also contributing to the resale value), but the copyright has just reverted back to Susan Khalje, and she is is self-publishing this on CD – you can preorder it here for delivery next month.


Bridesmaids' choice

30 January 2009, 11:47

The bridesmaids have chosen their dress design! The only parameters I gave them were that it had to be a knit dress (no way am I undergoing extensive fittings for them on top of my dress!), and they had to choose the same pattern. Luckily, both of them have similar body types so picking a pattern that suited them both was relatively easy!

So, drumroll….

I will be sewing up two versions of BWOF 09/08 #132, the Gant Exclusive Design dress:


Vintage wedding gown detail photos

19 August 2008, 12:29

My grandmother’s wedding dress arrived safely on Friday! I person, it’s absolutely jaw, droppingly gorgeous, even 59 years later. The preview photos I drew the technical drawing from didn’t do it justice, so I’m hoping these photos on James’s DSLR will help to show some of the amazing vintage details.

The dress is entirely silk satin with no lace, embroidery, or beading (just from a mesh panel around the neckline), and the weave of the silk is still perfectly and soft and so very strong still. Granny told me she bought this in a shop on South Street in Philadelphia in 1949, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you the designer as there’s no label and she’s long since forgotten the details. But the workmanship speaks for itself, and it’s very interesting for me to see that they’ve not wasted any silk where it couldn’t be seen – the mesh fabric is used for all facings, the seam allowances are only 1/2 inch, and there’s no lining.

Laid out on our table:


Wedding dress ideas

5 August 2008, 12:29

We visited our venue (and totally geeked-out at the museum!) on Saturday and met with the wedding coordinator there so we now have a date – the rather auspicious 19 September 2009. Or to put it another way, 19.09.09 (09/19/09 for the Americans)!

Good thing we have over a year though, because we’re going to need every single day of that to save up and prepare for it. Oh my, the grand total was an eye opener, and we’re not being frivolous in the slightest with our plans!

Luckily, then, my grandmother has given me her gown from her wedding in 1949. She’s insisted I use it and NOT be afraid to cut it up, saying she’ll cut it herself if I don’t, or donate it to goodwill or sell it on eBay. I think it’s her way of not letting me get too scared about changing it or treating it like a relic or something. In any case, I’ve seen photos of it, but I’m going to make you all wait until it’s shipped over to me, cleaned, and pressed before I document its “before” state properly.

Until then, here’s my rough sketch based on the photos and my mom’s eyewitness account:


Mister and Missus Fehr Trade

20 June 2008, 11:02

James proposed last night!