Tag Archives: Wedding dress

Here comes the bride!

Lovely readers, as you may have guessed the lack of posts over the past few weeks was due to major sewing going on to finish the wedding dress in time for Sue’s wedding – MANY late nights have been had, quite a few tears – both of panic and of utter relief and joy when Sue was finally able to try on the finished dress and it actually fit!

We’re just back from Scotland after a truly beautiful and amazing wedding, I am totally exhausted but wanted to share a few of my photos with you.  They aren’t the greatest, and hopefully there will be some better professional ones to come, but for now:

The radiant bride

Out of the wind, you can actually see the shape!

Back view - after dinner so a bit wrinkled by this stage!

Sue looked absolutely stunning, so incredibly beautiful, and I was so proud to have been able to give her the dress she deserved.  I can’t quite believe I managed to do it!  She is my closest, dearest friend, and I’m so glad she met Rob, a wonderful man who adores her and she him.  I was absolutely honoured to play a major role in helping her create her dream wedding, and I wish them many joyful years together filled with many many blessings.  I love you Sue!

The gorgeous and fabulously happy couple

We have liftoff… and a little splutter

Not before time, I have (***fanfare***) started on the actual dress rather than the toile.  – I did manage to squeeze in another quick flying visit to Cardiff two weeks ago to test out the fitting of my reduced bust  – until I had tried it on Sue’s body again, I just didn’t feel able to cut into the real stuff.  So that was all good, and the organza overlay, which I recut based on the myriad changes we had already made, was also pretty much fine, so time to get on with it!

After some pretty major battles with the FEAR, and a couple of those exam-type dreams where I suddenly realised the wedding was a week away and I hadn’t started on the dress etc, I sat down for a heart to heart with Susan Khalje.  She told me to calm down and took me through all the steps I needed to actually make the bodice.  So I wrote a plan, gave myself a stern talking to and told myself that it would be much worse to have NO dress than to have a dress which was a bit less than perfect.

Then I took hold of my seam ripper and dismantled the toile.  I thread traced all the seam lines and pressed the pieces:

And then grabbed my trusty scissors and started cutting into hundreds of pounds of beautiful silk!  Yikes!

The bodice will have 4 layers – outer silk, a layer of cotton drill, a layer of coutil and then the lining.  (Plus then the organza over the top.)

I don’t know if any of you have ever worked with coutil, but that stuff is TOUGH!!  After killing my fingers on just a little practice square basting, I invested in a thimble – what a difference that makes!  Now I just keep stabbing the back of my left thumb as I stick the needle through, but at least I don’t feel like I’m going to pierce my finger.

I took my silk thread, new needle and thimble and basted away!  7 lovely  bodice pieces – I just love the way they look so pillowy, and the silk feels so gorgeous!  I love its beautiful pearly colour.  As you can see below, I added large seam allowances to the pieces, as recommended by Susan.

Real v toile pieces

After a late night’s basting, and feeling very pleased with my progress, I consulted my notebook to find out what I would be doing the next day … and here comes the stumble.  BEFORE basting all the layers together, I should have stitched the boning channels onto the coutil.  I could have cried!  Oh well, what’s a few hours between friends?  Looking on the bright side, I’ve learned a good lesson before things progressed too far:  ALWAYS CONSULT THE PLAN TO SEE WHAT COMES NEXT!

A pile of pillowy pieces

I was in Cardiff again this weekend for Sue’s hen do, so tried out the basted together bodice on her – it’s so exciting!  With all the layers, it is really feeling like a wedding dress!  Here are the pieces ready to be put together:

Bodice ready to go!

Pre hen do festivities (I’m wearing Simplicity 2497):

Anyway, I have a dress to sew (and now just 6 weeks before the wedding) – wish me luck!

Toile, v2

As I mentioned in my first post, it was difficult moving on from the first toile to the second, partly because it felt like I had loads of alterations to do, but mainly because I didn’t really know how I was going to do them, or have a really firm idea in my mind of how I was going to get this dress to be a couture wedding gown (well, a girl can dream, can’t she?!) rather than a homemade hodgepodge.

Enter my new best friends, who will be holding my trembling hand along this journey:

I ordered the Bridal Couture CD a few months ago, but when I first read through it, it was all a bit much to take in.  Now though, since I have more of a concept of The Dress, it all makes sense, and I got really excited about all the hand-sewing, underlining etc which will make this dress special (positive thinking!).

First though, I needed to take my sorry-looking yellow bedsheet to the next level, as well as create the organza overlay pattern.

I should take a small step back and explain that having zero drafting experience, I had cobbled together the strapless bodice from this pattern:

and the panelled skirt from this pattern:

plus added a train on to give this:

Back view before dismantling

What you can’t see here is that I made the beginner drafter’s error of only adding the train shaping onto the two back panels, so before dismantling the toile I took 15cm off the length of the train and altered it so that the grading started from the side seams.  I also added 15cm onto the whole length of the skirt to accommodate wedding heels, and eliminated the seam from the front skirt panel.

Then I had to draft the organza bodice overlay – the skirt will be the same as the main skirt, but the overlay bodice is sleeveless rather than strapless.  Again, no drafting experience, so I started with this to get a neckline and armscye:

Vogue 8615

but I had to change it to a) make princess seams, b) eliminate the side seams and c) have the back v meet the top of the main bodice, all while trying to get the  two layers of princess seams to match.  This took me ages, and a lot of stress and fear, but eventually I ended up with this:

Next, some jiggery pokery to add seam allowances and then refit to the adjusted toile bodice.

I made toile v2 out of polyester satin which I underlined with calico, with a polyester organza overlay.  Believe me, this is nothing like the real thing!

To cut a long story short, when Sue tried on the polyester bodice toile v2, it wasn’t exactly perfect!  She didn’t have a strapless bra, it was too tight in various places, and gaping in others.  We adjusted the organza neckline to be rounder rather than a pure boat neck. Oh yes, and the whole effect wasn’t helped by the fact that I sewed the seams on the right hand side of the bodice on the outside rather than inside – it was quite late at night by this stage (too much Bury St Edmunds chilling / procrastination).  On the plus side though, the princess seams almost matched!

Just a few (!) adjustments to be made:

What a mess!

I’ve now decided to get round the potential danger of back bra-show and bridal weight loss by trying bra cups in the dress instead.   I bought some at Maculloch & Wallis the other day – now I just have to find out how to put them in.  Does anyone know any good tutorials?

I have also decided to whizz over to Cardiff this Friday for another toile fitting, this one including bra cups, bones, seams on the inside rather than outside, skirt…

Breathe, Nancy!  It’s all a process…



Actual sewing has been done, but I thought I’d save the traumas of fitting / drafting for the next post and first talk about loveliness!

My gorgeous friend Sue (bride) came to visit this week and we had a frantic but fun day trying to take in as many London purveyors of fine fabrics as possible in the hunt for bridal / bridesmaidly supplies.

First stop Berwick Street, where the lovely assistants in Broadwick Silks draped Sue in various combinations – it really started to feel like we were (well, I am!) actually making a wedding dress.  After seeing how the various silks looked and hung together, we decided that we were after satin-backed silk crepe with a gorgeous Italian organza overlay.  What we didn’t really want, however was to spend £69 a metre if it could be helped!  So after trawling the length of Berwick Street, and as Sue said feeling like we’d smelled too many perfumes, it was on to Pongees in Old Street, which had been recommended by my sewing teacher Gillian.

Altogether a different shopping experience – the shop itself is more of a showroom, with small swatches of the different fabrics hanging together on rails.  They have loads of different colours and types of silk, although there were only one or two which were suitable for a (traditional) wedding dress.

Anyway onwards and upwards, racing across to the other side of London at the end of the day to my favourite fabric haunt, Goldhawk Road.  I love this place, but be warned, it is dangerous on the wallet.  SUCH variety, and amazing prices, I find it difficult to restrain myself! (BTW – if anyone has been thinking of going here and hasn’t made it yet, be warned that one of the shopkeepers told us that they would all be having to raise their prices imminently due to rising raw materials cost, VAT etc etc.  I think he mentioned a 35% increase so get over there quickly!)

Although we thought we were there for the bridesmaids’ dresses, amazingly we found a beautiful, flowing satin in A1 Fabrics which was just perfect.  And £25 a metre.  Wow!  Plus some gorgeous silk twill for the lining at UK Textiles (£12).  Now I just need to go back to Soho to get the organza.

It’s difficult to photograph this stuff, and as you can see the sun was in fact making its first appearance in about 10 days or so at the time, but here it is:

There will be dresses!

I think you can get an idea of the beautiful texture and sheen of this silk from the picture, although it is a bit brighter in real life.  I must admit I am rather scared of actually removing the satin from its protective plastic unless every surface it touches is pristine.  Including my fingers – after being warned by someone I met recently about the hazards of sewing with this colour, I’m seriously considering getting some sort of white gloves to wear while I work on the dress.  Does anyone have any suggestions or experience of this?

The other fabric in the picture is the silk and lining for the bridesmaids’ dresses:

I think this gives you quite a good idea of the colour – it’s a sort of rich French navy.  I’m going to start preparing my toile of this today to take to my sewing class on Tuesday for some fitting assistance.

I also discovered last week that it possible to procrastinate (on the actual toile v2) AND do something constructive.  Until now, I have been sewing in the dining room, which was the only large table in the house, while the so-called craft room upstairs has never been sorted out.  The dining room was full of scraps and mess, and the craft room a complete tip of laundry, fabric etc.  The wedding dress really needs its own home, and I was fed up of living with the mess, so some judicious ebay shopping, vacuuming and sorting later, and I now have an actual sewing space:

I can’t begin to tell you what a feeling of calm and joy this gives me! The table was an amazing bargain – £4 – not the most beautiful thing in the world, but perfect because I can fold it down as here, or put up one or both of the sides for sewing.  One day I may get round to restaining it.  And the little vintage cabinet for sewing paraphernalia was £20 – I just love it!  All my patterns are now organised into the baskets my husband gave me.

And lastly, to celebrate all our shopping success we had a chilled out afternoon the next day in beautiful Bury St. Edmunds:

Bridesmaid and Bride!

Next: Toiling turmoil!


Welcome to To Boldly Sew!

Since I started sewing about a year ago, one of the things I have found hardest is starting a project.  Now, part of this is the fact that there are just so many things I want and need to sew for myself, that committing to just one thing at a time can be an issue, especially as I generally start sewing about a day or so before I plan to wear the new dress, top, whatever.  As you can imagine, this has led to more than a few late night sewing sessions, which generally end with me falling into bed, defeated, at some ungodly hour, vowing never again to fall into this trap!

As handicapping as that is, it is not the main problem.  No, the main issue I struggle  with in my sewing is FEAR.  Paralysing fear, that the various pattern adjustments I invariably have to make will not work out.  Of course, many people would do the sensible thing and make a muslin / toile first, but I refer you back to the paragraph above as an explanation why this does not generally happen.

Fast forward to a few months after I made my first dress, to when my gorgeous best friend asked me if I would make her wedding dress.  Crazy girl, crazy plan, and I of course declined.  But when she asked me again a couple of months later, and we went dress shopping, I found myself agreeing most boldly to attempt to recreate a gorgeous £4000 custom made designer dress for her to wear to her May wedding.  Yikes.

Since then, the fear has been rearing its ugly head most vigorously and persistently.  So I have decided to conquer it once and for all, at the same time tackling my poor forward planning / lack of muslining, and be BOLD.

And how is progress today, you may ask, with the wedding a mere 14.5 weeks away?  Hmmm.  I present you with my beautiful toile (which sounds much more elegant than muslin I think, and is entirely befitting this beautiful dirty yellow polycotton ex-bedsheet):

Cinderella, still firmly in pre-ball mode

Please excuse the background and poor lighting, although under the circumstances, it’s perhaps quite fitting!

Believe it or not, this is going to be a gorgeous (hopefully!), 2 layered dress, a flowing silk strapless underlayer as you see here, with a sleeveless slightly boat necked organza overlayer.

So encouraged by Karen and Jane whom I was lucky enough to meet in real life a few weeks ago, and all the lovely bloggers I’ve learned so much from and been so inspired by in the past year, I decided a blog would be the perfect way to document and track my progress in this rather daunting project.  I hope you might join me on my journey – I could definitely do with some external support!

Next up:  project planning!