Category Archives: Sewing

Inspiration

Firstly, on the theme of inspiration, who on the blogosphere has posted about making their own dress? Not as many as you’d expect. But a surprising number of those people are, like me, those with less experience than they ‘should’ have. I’m using this as a way to learn a lot of skills to a deadline and come out a better sewist as well as the proud sporter of a fantastic frock, and I hugely doubt I’m alone in that motivation. So, here are some bloggers you might want to check out, for a range of reasons, and who have made a whole range of different dresses.

  • Root Branch Bole spoke informatively and eloquently about making her dress with lots of notes on patterns, techniques, and the challenges she faced along the way. I am also so in love with the dress she made that my heart aches, and it’ll be a challenge not to straight up just order the same pattern and crack into that gorgeous botanical lace. I’m not going to, but this is pretty much exactly my style.
  • This post has no detail about techniques etc, but it is a heartfelt and beautiful post which seriously inspires me about the whole idea, and the dress she made is also gorgeous. You should, if you’re getting married, check out A Practical Wedding anyway, because it’s a wonderful website, and I bought the fantastic book of the same name which has given me the confidence to plan the wedding we truly want, and not worry anything we don’t.
  • I really don’t think I could handle the stress: Mia from Misha and Mia had four months to plan her wedding, decided to make her dress having sewn nothing bigger than a tote bag before, didn’t start on the dress itself until 2 and a half weeks before the wedding, and then fractured a bone in her arm! And still came out with a gorgeous dress (not really my style, but I do appreciate that this is a beautiful dress) and having clearly learnt a lot in the process.
  • Hugely useful post packed with info from Restless Grace on how she made her dress and the things she learned along the way.
  • And in the vein of incredibly informative, Scared Stitchless blogged every step of the way throughout her wedding-dress-making journey, with loads of useful posts and in-depth info on more or less every stage. She is also honest about the things that didn’t go to plan and the ways that maybe her dress could have been better, while saying she couldn’t have been prouder or happier to wear a dress that she had made on her wedding day.

That’s a good thought to end on, I think. When I walk down the aisle to meet my darling partner in just over a year from now, I will, I hope, be wearing a dress I’ve made myself. And if by some quirk of fate I somehow don’t look like the perfect cross between Keira Knightley and Kate Middleton on that day, and the dress in my head isn’t quite the same as the dress on my body, I will be hugely proud to have made it. Furthermore, if when it comes to it I can’t do it, and I end up spending £200 in John Lewis two weeks before the big day, so be it. I will have tried, and I will have learnt a lot. The thing I will absolutely care most about, and be happiest about, on that moment next year, is that I’m walking down the aisle to meet the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. And frankly, I would do that wearing a sack. Wearing a pretty dress – even wearing a pretty dress that I’ve worked really hard to bring together – will just be a great bonus.

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Wedding Dress Planning: the Learning Curve

As I said in my last post, I haven’t done all that much sewing, to be absolutely honest. I’ve been almost inhaling sewing blogging for the past few years, obsessively collecting links to patterns I want, and slowly acquiring a significant collection of fabric and patterns – but I have only made four skirts and a dress, so far.

So how am I going to get from being a total beginner at sewing, to making The Dress That I Have Apparently Been Dreaming Of Since I Was Six (warning: snide comments on media, sarcafeminism, and arch humour will probably abound, and I don’t promise that any of it will be very funny)?

I have come up with a plan. Not a very well-thought-through plan, but a plan.

I am going to start by doing Me Made May. For those of you that aren’t sewists (my preferred term out of the many weird modern ways of saying ‘people who sew’), this is a sewing/blogging challenge in which, for the entire month of May, you attempt to wear clothes you have made and photograph them. Most people aim for, say, one home-made item in an outfit, every single day, others go for complete outfits being home made, and some go for a set number of days per week – you can set your own challenge based on how often you can be bothered to photograph yourself, and how big your handmade wardrobe is. It doesn’t just have to be sewn either – plenty of knitwear out there, and I’ve even seen bloggers sport their own handmade shoes! (one day…).

The official pledge sign-up hasn’t been released yet, but I am hoping to pledge to wear one hand made thing every single day for the entirety of May. I’ll put it up on my Instagram, which is private (if you know me IRL feel free to request to follow me!), but I will then also try and get the photos up here but probably in round-up format.

I have got a few sewing projects in the works to complete between now and then: some more basic miniskirts (I’m writing this from work, so I can’t find/remember the pattern, but it’s a Simplicity New Look pattern), a Coco dress (Breton striped, demonstrating major originality there) and, never one to shirk from a challenge, an Archer shirt (for those of you who really don’t sew (and have read this far!) shirts are really pretty complicated, with a surprisingly large number of pattern pieces, and some quite challenging elements, so… why not! P.S. I’ve set myself a fabric challenge on this one too, with a mystery sheer fabric that’s going to be a bugger to work with). I’m also moving (alone!) to London for the next few months (partner is joining me in August) so I’ll want some good projects to get my teeth into while I settle in anyway.

I’m hoping that by trying to sew quite a few things to a deadline I’ll really hone my ‘basic’ sewing skills, tackle some new challenges, and be ready to face the next phase… Practice Dresses!

In June I have two major social engagements: the wedding of a good friend and former housemate, and the Doctor’s Mess ball with my partner and all his work colleagues. So I’m going to make two dresses for those two occasions.

For the wedding I’m going to make a knee length Elisalex dress which will have a satin layer and a lace layer, to practice working with lace (I’m hoping to have a lace layer and a satin layer for my wedding dress too).

For the ball I’m going to make a full length number which will be my chance to practice hacking together the pattern pieces for my wedding dress, but to keep it from being too formal (or, in fact, being my wedding dress) I’m going to leave off the lace, and go for some colour blocking – current thinking is a black or white bodice with either a cobalt skirt or a bright red skirt (almost a burnt orange, I’m envisioning). Statement necklace and simple flat sandals and I’m hoping to look both relaxed and chic (a full length dress can be a bit overboard at these kinds of functions so paring back all the other details should keep the tone about right).

That then gives me almost a year from June until next May to work on the dress proper, and decide whether the real thing, being a bit more formal, will need anything more in the way of understructure – and, indeed, if I like what I’ve made!

Sorry that this blog has featured so far almost no images. I promise I’ll start adding some photos soon!

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Tentative, but mad plan

This is nuts, because I’ve made about three things before in my life. I’m telling myself that having read every single sewing blog on the internet for about the last two years in obsessive detail, I’m one up on most beginner sewists because I’m at least vaguely aware of some of the things that will probably go wrong, but the truth is this is still a daft plan.

*Deep breath* I’m-going-to-make-my-wedding-dress.

The other thing I have on my side is time.

My reasons are quite straightforward. I cannot get the dress I want on the budget I want. Or rather, and this is quite daft, to an extent I can – there are some lovely dresses by Ghost, or that I saw in Debenham’s, for definitely an OK price. But… I don’t want a dress straight out of the high street. I want my dress to be special, unique, made for me.

The price I have to pay for that might be massive frustration, sewing-based injuries, a massive change in my glasses prescription, wonky hems, shonky guts (of the dress, I mean) and my sanity. I’m telling myself, though, that I’ll plan it out carefully, do it all in good time, and if the worst comes to the worst, know when I’m beat – with enough time still to go to John Lewis and find something I love nonetheless.

I’ve been extensively shambling round the internet and found a number of people, with a range of prior sewing experience, who did it themselves. There aren’t many people who have done it themselves and posted about it, and that’s pretty frustrating, so I’m hoping to add my voice to the many by honestly documenting the process. This will not least be a challenge to me as a blogger because it is a long time since I last blogged regularly.

So, let’s get started.

First off, on the honesty front, here are the skills I have so far conquered, sewing-wise:

  1. Invisible zips, on two skirts, one much better than the other.
  2. Very basic pattern drafting including magic fastener-cum-pockets on a third skirt
  3. Some fitting challenges overcome on my Charlotte skirt, which sadly I can’t currently wear because I have put on a few pounds since
  4. I did some really good pattern alteration work on the Laurel dress by Colette patterns – firstly grading between sizes for the difference between my hips and waist, and secondly altering the bust dart so that the apex hits higher and the dart is the right size for my very small (AA!) breasts. I’ve never been able to wear shift dresses before so I am really pleased with this.
  5. My French seams are pretty good. And I’ve done some bias bound seams too. Currently, quite good at beginner insides of things.

That’s… really not very many skills.

I have never:

  • worked with ‘complex’ fabrics like silks, lace, etc, that everyone wails and gnashes their teeth about
  • dealt with any kind of couture techniques, boning, stays, etc
  • …let alone combined both the above into one garment.

So. Patience, maybe some online and real-world courses, books to be bought, wailing to my mother, forcing friends and relatives to help me sew… wish me luck.

The pay-off is that I hopefully get the dress I want (within reason – I am going to have to think carefully about what I want based on what I think I can accomplish!) and the satisfaction of knowing that I walked down the aisle in something I made myself.

I could still go the two-dress route and have a bought dress for the church bit and make a much more straightforward white party frock for afterwards.

Your next post in this series will be a link-heavy planning post with links to:

  • other people who have made their own dresses
  • inspiration photos and retailers
  • ideas for patterns and things I think I might need to buy.

All of this subject to change once I’ve tried on some dresses for real and really got my head round what will work for me.

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