Sewing a Wedding Dress: Countdown 4 Months

My Creative Juices are Flowing

If you sew, you understand the excitement of creating something a really special garment.  Sometimes when sewing we’re on auto-pilot and at other times it’s easy to lie awake expending creative energy and thinking about how to construct a garment.  At this point, it may be difficult to see what’s so special about this wedding dress but the end point is in my head and it looks really fabulous.

Muslin #3

Here’s an update.  Because of the unexpected family gathering for her grandmother’s funeral, Megan and I were able to get in an extra fitting.  We thought there would be just 2 more before her wedding, but this made it three.  While not a perfect fit by any means, muslin #3 was close enough for me.  Really, I dislike making sample garments, so it’s time to move on.

As you can see, it’s a little too big but I can adjust the front and side seams to fit.  The top edge gaped a bit which will be addressed by easing and applying a narrow twill to secure and to assure that it hugs her body.   There are some horizontal creases which will be offset with the vertical boning which will be placed in the lining.  Also, it is pinned in back which creates additional creases.

The top will be made of silk taffeta softened with an overlay of silk organza.  Dare I say that I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of the taffeta since the previous fabric I purchased for the top isn’t quite the right “ecru”.  Hope that package arrives soon.

Skirt Construction:

Now for the skirt, which will be made of ruched taffeta.  Watching a few movies on these winter evenings has been good as I’ve been sewing rhinestones into the little circles on the fabric while enjoying a good movie.  Can’t eat buttery popcorn though.

Close-up of the Skirt Fabric

Draped skirt

There’s not much to say about the skirt construction.  I’m draping it rather than using a pattern as this fabric is a little tricky with the ruching and it’s cut on the bias.  In addition the fabric is only 44″ wide so it’s good that Megan is 5’2″  – I’m getting the maximum length from each square of fabric.  Here’s a photo of the progress to date.  It’s hanging out for a while before I cut the sides or bottom.  Or if I’m completely honest, it’s a little scary to cut this fabric as I can’t just go to the store and buy more.  At this point the sides are just folded and pinned into the desired shape.

I’d love to hear your suggestions on how to construct this skirt.  What are your experiences draping a skirt?

Sewing Bridesmaid Dresses Long Distance: #1 is Done

After a week away for family and funeral, it was time for me to get back to sewing.  With 3 bridesmaid dresses, the brides dress and a few others in varying stages of completion (or not), it was time to check one off the list.  This dress, for which the pattern is taken from a ready-to-wear dress, is ready to be sent off.  This doesn’t mean it’s finished, however. You’ll notice that it’s not hemmed and the top isn’t finished.  In case there are alterations, I didn’t clip or trip the seams at the top edge therefore it’s “bunchy” at the top.  The halter strap is only pinned to the dress pending the final fitting.

Here are a few details and tips about this bridesmaid dress, which was copied from ready to wear dress that Adrienne liked and which I’ve had in my possession for a few months.

  • Copied the pattern by laying tissue paper over the ready to wear dress and then matched up the pieces to assure that they are the correct size.  This worked well except for the front darts which were a struggle.
  • Side seams are 1+”  – generous enough for any needed alterations.
  • Fabric is silk taffeta, underlined with silk organza and lined with lightweight poly

  • Skirt is cut on the bias
  • All seams are overcast – either zig-zag or overlocked.  This taffeta ravels like crazy.
  • Twill tape was sewed in the seam at the top and waist to reduce stretching.  The top edge was eased about 5/8″ to tighten it

finished seams - twill waist stay

  • Lining for the top has a underlayer of cotton to give it more body
  • Boning is sewed into the side back seams – the ready to wear had more boning but because this fabric has much more body than the lightweight dress which was copied so I think it will hold up well without the additional boning.  Oh, yes, and I did the unthinkable – oiled my machine before starting this dress.  That’s the reason for a few dark spots.

boning in side back seam

  • Invisible side zipper
  • Generous allowance for the length in case Adrienne wants this to be longer than the original dress
  • Halter strap is wider than the original, by Adrienne’s request.  She also wanted it to lie flat, which is why I’ll have the seamstress on the other end finalize this part of the dress.  Am sending an extra piece of fabric just in case she’d like to re-design the loop or ?

  • Next step is to send to Adrienne so she can take it to her seamstress for final fitting, insert cups, trim the seams and to hem it.

In the end, my evaluation is that this dress is an example of the beauty of sewing.  Adrienne has a dress made from a pattern she likes, it was far less expensive than ready to wear and it was fun to create.   Assuming it fits, I’ll be very pleased with this dress.  Guess we’ll all know for sure in June.

Snow, a Precious Diary and WWII Handkerchiefs

A Departure from Sewing

The intent of this blog was to share information about sewing and to learn from you.  But, since I haven’t done any sewing, I’ll follow the last post with what has filled our lives this week.

Just a week ago I posted a brief tribute to my mother-in-law who died unexpectedly.  Thank you to all of you who sent such kind comments about the tribute.  The seven days which have passed have been full of challenges, stories, fun and sharing of endless memories.  I’d like to share a few:

Challenges:

  • As we received the news of Rhoda’s death, the snow started to fall, and this wasn’t just any snowfall.   We couldn’t get flights out of Philly because of what would become a 26″ carpet of  beauty however it incapacitated our city.  Plan B was to drive as soon as the snow stopped falling.  Kevin, our son Shaun and our nephew Brian, drove straight through the night and arrived in Wisconsin with only a single interstate mishap – a deer ran into our car.  Unbelievably, there was a loud thunk but no damage to our car (who knows about the deer?).

    Deck – Feb 6th

  • A funeral in the midst of a major snowstorm was another of our challenges but Wisconsinites took it in stride, came out to support a relative/friend and even brought apple pie and brownies for the luncheon.

    Wisconsin Snowstorm

  • The family sorted and divided 60 years of family mementos, personal belongings, household goods,etc.  Amazing as it may seem, this was done without a sore word or disagreement among the sisters and brothers.
  • We then cleaned the family home to ready it for sale and at 3am on Friday, we left for our return trip to Philadelphia.  As everyone knows by now, the East Coast and Philly had another record snowstorm.   We faced the remains of this storm as we arrived home – after hours of travel there was no where to park.  Finally in the house, we realized that we’d inadvertently turned the furnace off while we were away.  In case you’re wondering, 53 degrees is pretty cold for the interior of a home.

Philadelphia is a beautiful city but we don’t do so well with snow!

Memories:

  • The Diary: When going through the house and sorting through the memorabilia, one of the most romantic, insightful and relevant finds was Rhoda’s diary which began two days before her wedding.  Last week I mentioned that Rhoda and Bob had 2 days to plan their wedding.  In case that seems like an exaggeration, here’s the evidence.  This family treasure which was previously unseen by her children details their wedding and their experiences being re-united after  a war kept then apart for 16 months.  Respecting Rhoda’s privacy, even after death, I must resist my urge to post the full loving account of Bob and Rhoda’s life.  That said, the opening statement in the diary is so humorous or cute that it’s hard to refrain from sharing it.  I can hear my father-in-law say “…breezing in Friday late”.  Most of us can’t imagine planning a wedding in 2 days but they did it.  BTW, July 19th was a Thursday and they married on Saturday.

More than a page in a diary: The beginning of 60 yrs of marriage

  • World War II Hankies: One of the sweetest memories was Rhoda’s collection of hankies (handkerchiefs) she received as gifts from Robert while he was in mainland Europe.  These were another treasure which family members knew about but really hadn’t seen often.  We learned from Rhoda’s cleaning person that Rhoda recently brought them out, laid them on her bed and told her the story that went with each one.  Unfortunately those stories are now lost forever.  Most of the handkerchiefs seem to have been souvenir quality – made of rayon or ? shiny fabric.  Possibly some of you are more familiar with this WWII phenomenon of sending handkerchiefs to one’s loved ones – if so, please leave a comment below.

WWII Souvenir Handkerchiefs

In a future post, I’ll also detail the wedding dress, which 25 years ago was re-fashioned and worn by my sister-in-law,  which has it’s own story, and is more consistent with the purpose of this blog.

Whether your interest is WWII history, fabrics or another related topic, please add your notes about souvenir hankies.

A Tribute to My Dear Mother-in-Law

Love for Husband and Family

We are very sad tonight as we received the dreaded phone call, especially when you live a half-country away from your family.  Kevin and I learned that his mother died this evening.  Rhoda was a lovely woman and for me, was like my own mother.  She met my father-in-law in Ireland during WWII, married him 18 months later and was in the marriage for nearly 60 years until Robert died about 5 years ago.  Rhoda left her family in Ireland and came to the US at a young age, learned the American ways, became a nurse, and EMT and raised 7 children.

After being apart for about 15 months, Rhoda received a “We can marry on Saturday” telegram on a Weds.  And here they are several days later.  What a beautiful couple.

A war bride and her handsome soldier - 1945

It was another 9 months before all the war brides were shipped (literally) to the US.  Here they are soon after they were finally together.

After moving to the US - ~1946

Bob and Rhoda raised seven children who birthed 19 grandchildren who had 8 great-grandchildren (thus far).  She adored every one of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and they loved her.   We are blessed with many photos of her holding them in a loving way.

As the years passed by Bob and Rhoda’s love for each other was always so obvious – very endearing.  Even in her last months when Rhoda’s memory was failing, she loved to tell the story of the day she met Robert and how she went to dances in Ireland with her mother watching them from the balcony (that’s one’s tough, huh?).

As they became old together, we most often saw them together. Here are several photos of those later years.  After Bob died, Rhoda was lost.  Tonight she joined him again forever.

~2004

Fishing together

Rhoda, you were a wonderful and loving wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Sewing a Wedding Dress: Countdown 5.5 Months

Sewing a Wedding Dress:  Muslin #2

In early December I took a day trip to the NY Fabric District to buy silk for the dress bodice, some of the embellishments, silk ribbon for the belt, boning, etc.  Yes, also there were a few other purchases for the stash  This time there was a good reason for the trip but secretly I wish I’d have the need to make these day trips more often.

Rhinestone trim

What a gorgeous pin

Most of the purchases worked out except the fabric for the dress top isn’t a good match for the skirt.  It was a rainy day and without the natural light, the color difference wasn’t obvious until I was in better light.  So I’m in search of an alternative.  Photos of all things glitter are at the left.  You can see the purpose of each on the compilation photo below. 

As planned, at Christmas, I had muslin #2 ready for Megan to try on.   For those of you who aren’t into sewing lingo, a muslin is a test garment or sample that you can adjust, write on, use as a pattern, etc.

Muslin #2

This muslin which if all goes well, will be a lining when it grows up, consists of 3 layers of fabric – 2 layers of polished cotton/poly and a mid layer of silk organza.  The cotton/poly is soft and thus comfortable next to the skin.  This trio made a fairly substantial lining, and I’m comfortable with the weight and it will work well for attaching boning later.

The front fit well but needs more sculpting at the front center.  The back also  needs a few adjustments, however the fit was good enough to boost my confidence as this is my first strapless dress.

What are your experiences making muslins?  Is it a part of your sewing credo or are you like me – just make one if you absolutely need to?