My (Somewhat) Unexpected DIY Wedding Dress: Part 2, Mock-up

In Part 1, I showed you some dresses that I had tried on and we discussed what I learned about what I like and dislike. Once I had returned home, I scoured the internet for sewing patterns and settled on B5731, a copy of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. Luckily for me, Casey had made her own beautiful wedding dress out of the same pattern and blogged about the process, though I can’t find her blog anymore.

There are also copies of the wedding dresses of Meghan Markle, and Grace Kelly, as well as Pippa Middleton’s bridesmaid dress, for all of your royal wedding needs.

I liked the lace overlay and long sleeves, and planned use pale pink silk interlined with sturdy coutil and lined with soft cotton for the bodice. I chose the embroidered silk chiffon below for the lace overlay. For the skirt, I didn’t really want pleated satin, and instead pictured something very like Kat’s skirt: a layered circle skirt with graduated colours and weights of silk.

off white floral silk laceEmbroidery silk fabriclace image 3
From here

For my mock-ups, I bought around 5 m of cheap cream-coloured polyester crepe at my local Fabricland, as well as coutil, channeling, and spiral steel boning from a bra and corset supply store. I had scraps of pink polyester satin for the bodice outer layer, and Ikea lace curtains from my first apartment to use for the overlay.

I’d never used coutil before. It’s so stiff that the bodice stood up on its own!

Here it is on my old dressform, right side out:

It looked nice on its own, but the fit was strange. Somehow it both gaped and compressed my bust in a really unflattering way. After trying variously to take in and let out the seams, I realized that the problem was actually the shape of the princess seams. They’re very vertical, pointing up towards the middle of my collarbone. When I compared it to the shape of my bras, I realized that seams that curved laterally would fit better. With a lot of trial and error, I changed the shape of the centre front piece from this:

To this:

Please excuse those terrible schematics, but you get the idea. After that, I started working on a test of lace overlay and the fit at the shoulder was awful. I threw it away when we moved, so I can’t show it to you, but it had wrinkles and folds everywhere and I couldn’t move my arms. I planned instead to use the armscye and sleeve from this dress, and figured that the skirt would be easy. I’ve made plenty of full-, half-, and quarter-circle skirts over the years.

All of this was happening, by the way, in February 2020, with a goal of having a full mock-up of the dress by the early April and then the real dress by early May, for the wedding on June 7th.

In the spring, though, things started to change quickly. Restrictions tightened day-by-day in the face of the worsening pandemic. My fiancé and I started to worry that we might find ourselves delaying our marriage indefinitely. A Jewish wedding requires a gathering of four people and at the time, five could meet outdoors. If restrictions tightened further, we would be stuck. One Thursday evening, we decided that if we wanted to be married, we needed to move fast. We called our rabbi and were married that Sunday. In between Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon, I sewed a wedding dress.

I didn’t have silk crepe in three different weights. I didn’t have a palette of subtle pink dyes. I didn’t have embroidered silk chiffon, nor plain chiffon to drape over my head as a veil. Instead, I had my bodice mock-up (by then a patchwork of different scrap fabrics), a small amount of coutil leftover, 5 or so meters of polyester crepe, some lace curtains from Ikea, whatever was in the linen cupboard and my closet, and a hodgepodge of various notions. But that is a story for Part 3!

My (Somewhat) Unexpected DIY Wedding Dress: Part 1, Research

This is the story of how, just over a year ago, I found myself facing the challenge of sewing my wedding dress out of unexpected materials with a timeline of…three days.

The story actually started years ago, when I first became aware of the possibility of sewing my own wedding dress. Early versions that I remember seeing on the internet were absolutely lovely, made from Big 4 commercial patterns out of white fabric from the local fabric shop. As the sewing blogosphere expanded, peoples’ projects got more couture, and I followed along with Melanie of Poppy Kettle and Kat of Kat Makes, two people much more skilled than I. Those dresses are incredible. I nursed the idea of making my own spectacular dress as a secret goal for years, which was fine, because I was single anyway.

Then, I met a spectacular fellow and we got engaged, and planned our wedding for June 2020. In January, I spent two weeks in Edmonton for school. (Edmonton: awesome antique mall, terrific vegan Vietnamese food, really really cold). I was still waffling a bit on whether or not to take on such a gargantuan project, so I booked myself an appointment at a bridal chain store. I figured it would either serve as research or as a dress-finding mission. Here’s what I learned.

Lesson One: Familiar isn’t always best.

The consultant asked me if I felt “like a briiiiiide.”

This first dress was an A+ choice on the part of the consultant, given that it conformed to what I showed her on my Pinterest board (lace top, short sleeves, chiffon skirt). It was…fine. The consultant murmured stuff about my family being my past and my fiancé being my future as she pinned the veil on me and wafted it over my face, which was a bit awkward. I think because bodice was similar to a dress that I made, it felt pretty but maybe too familiar.

Lesson Two: Comfort is paramount…

This was a lot of dress. It was heavy and difficult to move in. There were multiple layers of stiff tulle that tended to bunch and stick to each other (glitter tulle, too, which was a definite not-for-me-thanks). Despite thinking that I looked good in the mirror, I felt like I was hauling around a tulle dinghy.

Lesson Three: …but it needs to feel a little bit special

This dress was just ok. It was pretty, but didn’t feel special. I did like that it was very pale pink instead of stark white. I believe this dress was from their under-$500 range. It was encouraging to see that this even exists, even though this specific dress was not what I was looking for! Also, the back had a heart, which was a sweet touch, but not really my style.

Cute? Cloying? I can’t decide.

Lesson Four: Trying on a Very Fancy Dress is the only way to know what you’ll look like in a Very Fancy Dress.

Turns out I’m *fancy*

Oh, yes! I loved how this one looked. It was soft! And elegant! And had flowers! And was completely transparent! …wait, no, what? While the skirt’s blush of colour came from pink chiffon, the bodice’s blush of colour came from me. There were built-in cups, but I would have wanted the whole bodice lined and the neckline made less open.

I tried on a fifth dress, too, pictured below (thoughts: I didn’t like the shape and it had an open back), which I’d like to glide over to get to talking about money.

I did like the large scale lace

Let’s talk a bit about the cost of a made-to-measure tuxedo. Made-to-measure is when the manufacturer starts with their own pattern, but merges between sizes based on the customer’s measurements and then alters the garment for the best fit. A made-to-measure tuxedo, made of Italian wool with a silk lapel and silk lining, constructed in Ontario by unionized workers would have cost $1300 CAD, including alterations. Now, that’s a lot of money, no doubt about about it! But the long-sleeved dress above that I liked, which was 100% polyester and made overseas by workers in who-knows-what-kind of conditions for who-knows-what-kind of pay cost $2034 CAD…before tax and alterations. Alterations which started at $200, for the mere basics of a front hem and a nip in at the waist. That’s right, it costs more if you request that the back half of the skirt be shortened (say, because you don’t want to haul around a tulle dinghy). Considering that I would have wanted major alterations to the bodice, the cost would have been exorbitant. On top of that, the shop required a three month lead time, even though there’s nothing customized about it–they just order a straight size and charge you for alterations later.

Now, you can absolutely get wedding dresses for under $2500. There are second-hand shops, online buy/sell groups, and that one dress from ModCloth that’s so popular, all of which can net you a dress for under $500. The trouble for me is that they’re all polyester. It’s not because I’m a fibre-snob, but because polyester makes me overheated and sweaty, especially with long sleeves. But buying something made of cotton or silk or rayon would have catapulted the cost into five-figures.

My other “ready-made” option would have been using my grandmother’s wedding dress. It’s from her December 1951 wedding and has two parts. The underdress is silk with pink velvet flowers embellished with beads and sequins, with a floor-length tulle skirt.

Isn’t it pretty?

The overdress is silk satin, with long-sleeves, a shawl-collar with the same velvet flowers, and a train.

The flowers continue down the edges of the overdress.

It is, truly, far more beautiful than anything I could have bought. It was also really, really not my size. The arms were too tight, the bodice needed something like seven inches at the bust and waist, and while the underdress could have been altered to fit through the insertion of panels, I didn’t think that the overdress could have been altered and still looked good. In retrospect, a dressmaker could have removed the embellished lapels and edges and attached them to an entirely new overdress, but I didn’t think of it at the time. Instead, I became more firmly committed to the idea of sewing my own dress, with a style inspired by the long-sleeved dress that I had tried on. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but I was very excited to get started.

In Part 2, we’ll talk about pattern and fabric selection, as well as my first stabs at the bodice!


Catching Up: The End of 2020

I honestly can’t quite believe that it’s already halfway through April! What is time, anymore? I still have some projects form the end of 2020 to share. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge of sewing, dyeing, and crafting projects.

So! Up first, a little zip pouch for our resident gift-exchange. I gave my giftee some nice pens, some fragrance spheres (a thing I’ve never heard of, but she requested them) and a little packet of chocolate-hazelnut candies, bundled up in the zip pouch.

Cute, no? Given the price limit on the gift exchange, I had to use all stash materials for the pouch, so it’s brown poly-cotton twill leftover from my Day in the Park Backpack Tote (made pre-blog, but still used regularly), lined with cotton leftover from this top, and a metal zipper that I got in a bundle at the Textile Museum fundraiser ages and ages ago.

Next up, I dyed some jeans. In the late fall, I scored two pairs of white jeans on sale.

I had no desire to wear white jeans, but I couldn’t find a single pair of plain blue jeans! Acid wash, yes. Ripped and patched, yes. Weirdly cropped, also yes. But no plain ol’ basic blue jeans. I took matters into my own hands, and after two evenings spent over the dye pot, this is what I had:

The first pair, on the right, were dyed with two packets of Dylon Jeans Blue, which I heartily do NOT recommend. The colour faded to a dusty purple-grey in the wash. Luckily, I like the colour, but blue it is not. The second pair, on the left, were a mix of Dylon and RIT dyes, in navy blue with some black mixed in. They were more successful. I did find that they continued to discharge dye into their third and fourth washing, leaving some unfortunate streaks on one of my favourite sweaters. Boo. Overall, dyeing garments from white isn’t something I’d do again, unless I got a much larger dyepot–trying to make it work with my little pot was a bit too stressful, and the results were just not quite what I was hoping for.

Except…well, I already had some white t-shirts that I’d bought on sale specifically to dye, so I spent another evening over the dyepot (less stressful, since shirts are smaller than jeans) and had the following:

Both came out a bit splotchy, and the polyester thread didn’t take on any colour but honestly, I hardly cared! I do love having pops of red and pink in my wardrobe. I tend to choose and make pants and sweaters in shades of grey, blue, black, and cream, but having only neutral t-shirts is entirely too monochrome for me!

Shirt and pants were both white, before I dyed them.

While the short-sleeved shirt came out blotchy (I dyed it in the leftover dye from the long-sleeved shirt), it’s imperfectness makes it a fine match for another imperfect project.

Finally, some card-making! Way back, Kristen of The Frugal Girl posted a tutorial on using dye and watercolour paper to make stationary. Guess who had lots of both of those things hanging around? I’ve come to appreciate the utility of having blank notecards around for birthday cards, thank-you cards, and holidays. First, I tried with of the leftover red dye from the above projects. It came out more pink than red, and since I didn’t want pink, I stopped after four cards.

Next, I used some blue dye that I had lying around. Those came out more to my taste! It’s a lovely, satisfying project, and so easy.

I made maybe 30 or 40 cards in total

When I review my making for the year of 2020, I do feel proud of myself. The last year was a challenging one (I mean, obviously, but even beyond the obvious). I completed medical school and the process of “The Match,” which is how medical students are “matched” to residency programs (this is hugely stressful; you don’t really get to choose where in the country you wind up), planned a wedding, cancelled the plans, got married anyway, moved twice, and started residency.

When I tally what I made, it amounts to the following:

For myself: a Tonic t-shirt, a gathered skirt, a raglan-sleeve dress out of some curtains, a Carbeth cardigan, some masks, a Granville blouse, my wedding dress (to be shared soon!), and the above four dyed garments. With the exception of the wedding dress, all of the fabric that I used were from The Great Stashbust.
For others: a knitted headband for my mom, and for my dad some candied citrus fruits.
Misc: The above stationary and miscellaneous watercolour cards.
In total, that’s six sewn garments, six accessories (four masks, the headband, and the zip pouch), four dyed garments, and two types of candy. It’s certainly not the highest output on the internet, but it’s just fine by me!

Handmade gifts for Chanukah 2020

It was a strange Chanukah in 2020, though of course we all did our best to feel celebratory! I made little gifts for my parents–we couldn’t have a party or light the Chanukiot together, but we could meet for a walk outside. For my mom, I made a Parisian Twist Headband.

I used one skein of superwash Cascade 220. In addition to being washable, I find that superwash are softer–I assume it’s because the microscopic scales (that would cause the yarn to felt) have been stripped off. Anyway, this is my third time making this pattern (one of my previous iterations is here), and it’s pleasure to make; the pattern is simple and with worsted-weight yarn held double, it goes fast! In terms of sizing, I find that the small size still needs to be reduced in length, so I shortened the two overlap by an inch, which gave it a snug but comfortable fit.

For the button, I used this tutorial to weave a button-cover, because I didn’t have any dark blue buttons handy. It was time-consuming but satisfying–definitely something I’d do again. You use a stiff paper template, wrap the yarn around it to make spokes, and then weave around the spokes until you have a tight little circle that cinches around an existing button. I used a metal button leftover from my Carbeth Cardigan, which has a different style of yarn-covered buttons.

For my dad, I candied some orange peel. It was easy, but time consuming–I cut strips of orange peel from five oranges, scraped off most of the pith, boiled them twice to make them less bitter, simmered them in sugar syrup, drained them, let them dry, and then tossed them with sugar. Still, though, it was only an evening of work–when I think of it, it probably took less time than the headband. I don’t have many photos, but oh my goodness, homemade candied orange peel is spectacular–sweet and slightly chewy, with a gorgeously strong orange flavour, and just ever-so-slightly bitter. Definitely worth the fuss! This is what they look like after simmering in the syrup: shiny and translucent.

In Summary:
Materials: one skein of Cascade 220 bought at my local yarn store for about $14. I nipped out to get it the day before the store was due to close for lockdown–me and about forty elderly ladies waiting in line around the block for the chance to go in the store one-by-one and stock up.
The oranges required five navel oranges to make about two cups of peel, plus five cups of sugar. It was a LOT of sugar. I used this Martha Stewart recipe, and if I do it again, I’ll let the peel dry overnight instead of only 30 minutes.
These were two successful gifts! I daresay the recipients were both happy and surprised.


A Woven-Dot Granville

My friends, this shirt was a triumph. I was in a terrible mood when I got started; I’d had four projects in a row fail–two of which are irredeemably bad and will have to be cut up into masks. Boo. So I had a sulky, grumpy heart when I yanked out this cotton and cut out a Granville shirt. But I’ve made this pattern before and I know that I like it; as step after step went smoothly, my grumbly spirit was soothed.

The fabric is one of my favourite pieces. The dot pattern is woven, rather than printed, so it’s got a good weight while still being drapey. It also frays A LOT. I opted finish the seams by hand-sewing bias tape because my serger is out of commission and also because I’ve been watching way too much a perfectly reasonable amount of Bernadette Banner videos–she of hand-stitching fame. I did all the hems by hand, too. I’ve always found hand-sewing calming so it was good that this project had a lot of it!

For the undercollar and back yoke, I used scraps of rayon/spandex knit and interfaced them, instead of braving the garment district to buy a quarter-meter of black woven cotton–this was back when we weren’t in full lockdown. And the buttons were from my stash–I bought them in a bag of buttons at a thrift store a few years ago. As it turns out, I’m not too fond of them, so I’ll replace them with black ones at some point.

Because I was kind of in a MOOD when I was cutting this out, I didn’t bother to trying to cut that neatly. Overall, I don’t think it matters much. The only places it’s bothersome are the back yoke and the button band, because I didn’t cut those perfectly on-grain. For the button band, I opted to overlap the sides right-over-left, instead of the instructed left-over-right, so that it would be less obvious.

Overall, I’m really, really pleased with this. My work wardrobe is basically non-existent; I graduated into the pandemic, so I’ve just been wearing scrubs all the time. Mostly, it works out, but I do virtual care one day a week, so I need to look professional…on the top half, at least!

In Summary:
Materials: 1.5 m woven cotton, bought at Fabricland for about $18. I watched this stuff for about two years before I caught the end of the bolt on sale! Scraps of leftover knit and interfacing. Buttons from a thrift store grab-bag. Bias tape that I made from an old pillowcase over the summer.
Pattern: Granville Shirt
Overall, I’m very pleased with this shirt. I wish I had made it earlier! The cotton is thick but drapes well, and it’s very comfortable. A success all around!


Masks Masks Masks

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This summer, like everyone else who can sew, I made some masks. I used three layers of fabric: one delightful layer of Canadiana quilting cotton, and two inner layers of tightly-woven scrap cotton.

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The pattern is easy enough to follow. It’s really the ironing of something so small that’s challenging!

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For the elastic, I initially found it more comfortable to have one long piece of elastic that loops  around the back of the head, compared to around each ear. After wearing the masks for a few months, though, I find that on some days, the elastic has the amazing ability to instantly give me a headache. Next time I make masks I’ll probably put behind-the-ear loops.

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After a few months of wear, they’re a little lumpy-looking (and there’s a fourth one that seems to have escaped) but these turned out great! I’m pleased with the animal placement. You can’t really pattern-match over the tight curve of the centre seam, but I managed to avoid, like, a moose butt on one side and half a tree on the other. I don’t know how long we’ll all be wearing masks for, but at least these make me smile!

Carbeth Cardigan in Cream

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While I mostly concern myself with the many boxes of stash fabric under the bed, I occasionally turn my eye towards tackling my pile(s) of yarn. I had this cream-coloured wool/cashmere/acrylic blend that I’d been carting around for AGES, and I’m so glad to see it transformed into a Carbeth Cardigan.

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See, I spent the better part of a decade trying to make a light, lacy shawl-cardigan before finally admitting to myself that I’m just not someone who knits lace. I can do it, I like the idea of doing, but I don’t actually enjoy it.

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Some of the wheat stalks are a little wonky, but on the whole I think it’s a beautiful pattern.

After years of sporadic work, I was barely a third done, and I just…froze, undecided. I’d never really enjoyed knitting it; why should I push myself to continue? But I’d already invested so much time and the lace was so pretty; how could unravel it? Sunk cost fallacies, my friends. I had a stern talk with myself, stopped overthinking it, and bought the Carbeth Cardigan pattern.

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It’s open at the front in this photo, but when closed the back fits a bit more smoothly.

Kate Davies has written a fantastic pattern. I couldn’t get gauge exactly, but the fit is so generous that being an inch off here or there doesn’t matter. The shaping is a neat touch; I love how the raglan-like lines form a point below the neck. And what a neck! It’s folded over and oh-so-squishy.

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The buttons were a bit of a challenge. I didn’t have any that were big enough and didn’t feel like wandering the (sweltering, crowded) garment district to shop. Instead, I knitted a long strip with my 2mm sock needles, fused it to a piece of knit interfacing, cut circles, and used a covered button kit to make six 1-inch covered buttons. Except, the “fabric” was really bulky, so I wound up employing the help of a glue gun. This was, as you might imagine, a ridiculous amount of work. I think they’re cute, though!

I also didn’t manage to space the buttonholes evenly, despite trying really hard to get it right. I think it’s a sign of personal growth that this drove me crazy for a single day and now I don’t really care.

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In summary:

Yarn: 1481 metres of Loops and Threads Charming (60% wool, 30% acrylic, 10% cashmere), bought for approx. $30 CAD in 2011-ish. The sweater was knit with the yarn held double.

Buttons: I used a covered button kit that I got in a mixed bag at a thrift store ages ago, scraps of interfacing, and leftover yarn.

Pattern: Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies, bought for approx. $11 CAD.

Cost: $41 CAD, roughly in total, but $11 in outlay for the pattern.

Closing thoughts: I am so, so glad to have used up this yarn! I’ve really been trying to use what I have instead of buying more materials, and every time I finish a project that’s been lingering for years and years, I feel a sense of relief, even if the finished item’s not what I initially planned. Carrying around unfinished projects that don’t make me happy…doesn’t make me happy. Shocking, I know. The more I wear this sweater, the more happy I am with it.

How do you solve a problem like Meira?

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How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? How do you find a word that means Meiraaaa? A flibbertigibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!

I love The Sound of Music. I always liked the bit about making play clothes out of her curtains.

From here. When I was little, I thought these were SO ELEGANT and could not understand the captain’s objections.

Well, I have two sets of Lenda curtains from Ikea, leftover from my first apartment. In May 2019 (yes, well over a year ago), I bought the Raglan Sleeve Dress pattern from Burda, and whipped up the bodice while watching Good Omens. The bodice has darted raglan sleeves, which curve well over the shoulder. So clever!

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I do apologize for the blurriness! But you see, the shoulder curves well.

I didn’t like the skirt from the pattern–too narrow–so instead I made a box-pleated skirt. On my first try, I approximated the measurements of the skirt instead of actually measuring (BIG MISTAKE), and it wound up comically large. Sigh. And after I’d put in pockets, too! I grumpily shoved the unfinished dress in a corner and left it there until I wasn’t mad about it anymore. Ultimately, I unpicked the pleats, pinned the skirt to the bodice at the side seams, centre-front, and centre-back, and just pleated it to fit.

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It totally worked.

It was really a case of me being too grumpy to do it right! But it wasn’t such a hard thing, really. And the pockets were really non-negotiable, so I’m glad I was able to keep them!

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Ohhhhh the pocketses.

I didn’t have a zipper on hand and by the time I needed one, all the stores were closed.  The dress is loose at the waist, though, so I sewed the back seam closed most of the way, tacked the seam allowances open, and used a hook and eye at the top.

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My serger stopped working partway through, so there’s some serging and some bias-binding, as you can see. At the last minute, I added belt loops, using embroidery thread. I think they came out pretty great for a first attempt!

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This is what it looks like belted, by the way.

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This fabric is so great. Totally doesn’t look like curtains!

I’m really pleased with this dress! I like how full the skirt came out–I can jam quite a bit into my pockets without it distorting the skirt.  All of the materials were from my stash; a stash-busting win! I love that the simple cut and rough-ish cotton of this dress reminds me of the all the charm of The Sound of Music, while still being appropriate in the 21st century. While I do have a few plants and a marvelous view, this is very much not the mountains of Austria!

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The hills are aliiiiiiiiive with the sound of muuuuuuusic (ah-ah-ah-ah)!

 

A Simple Skirt…Kind Of.

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Sorry for the fuzzy photo! Took it quickly on my lunch half-hour.

Ah, this project. It looks so simple, yet was so frustrating. At one point, it looked like this:

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Sigh. So cute. There is not even one picture of me in it because by the time I took the above photo, the dress had already fallen apart. Womp womp.

Hot off of the success of a yet-to-be-written-about dress this dress, I decided to make new one in the same pattern. I was so blithely confident that I forgot to add seam allowances, so all my pattern pieces were too small. I tried to salvage it by using the tiniest seam allowances and overcasting them by hand (which took FOREVER)…

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…but it didn’t work. The fabric frayed at the seams and tore open the first time I wore it.

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There were also lots of splits at the back 😦

I guess the combination of being a bit snug and having minimal seam allowances didn’t work. I resentfully cut off the top, folded over a channel for elastic, hand-sewed it down and made it a simple gathered skirt with a stretchy waistband. I’m not crazy about the way it turned out–next time, I’d machine-sew the waistband and make it narrower, but I’m not going to bother fixing it at this point.

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It’s adequate, which is what we go for around here! The hem is straight, though–I think it was just hitched higher on one side.

The fabric is soft and breezy to wear, and the flowers are so cheery, and frankly I think I did a beautiful job hemming the darn thing, so I just wanted to keep it easy and extract some enjoyment from it!

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Nigh-invisible hand-stitched hem! Also, clearly I did not iron this.

The facts: 1.2 m of embroidered rayon twill, bought for $15 at Fabricland in 2018. Some elastic, of unknown provenance and price.

Even if it’s not what I pictured, I’m still glad to get this fabric out from under the bed and on my body. The Great Stashbust is proceeding at a much slower rate than I planned. I originally thought I’d sew through all my fabric during the six months where I also planned to do rotations in other cities, match to residency, get married, write a licensing exam, and then move–I’ll pause while we all laugh/cry at my naive past self. Oh, well. Slowly and steadily onwards!

 

 

 

 

Business casual, because we won’t be in a lockdown forever…right?

*Dusts off the blog*

Well. That was a bit of a break. To put in briefly, turns out medical school is hard and tiring and I didn’t sew much. Frankly, I was hardly home, what with travelling for electives and the brutal process of CaRMS (whereby medical students are “matched” by an algorithm to where they will go for residency. It’s an intense competition that takes MONTHS and is really quite awful to go through) but, fortunately, things have worked out well. Anyway, now that classroom work is done, my schedule is more flexible and I have more time to sew.

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I’m both packing for a move and studying for a licensing exam, so please accept these hastily-taken photos.

On the first day of Me Made May 2019 (yes, a year ago), I realized that I needed more work clothes. I pulled out a $4 length of grey rayon/spandex to make a Tonic t-shirt, but with some kind of ornamentation to suggest that it’s a business casual t-shirt instead of a plain old casual t-shirt. I settled on a five-stranded braid around the neckline, because it reminds me of my childhood fantasies of what historical clothing was like. I was disappointed to learn that “braid” referred to flat woven ribbons!

Dress Circa 1869-70 Cotton, trimmed with cotton braid Acquired from the collection of the costume designer Shirley Russell. This one-piece dress of white cotton printed with a small black abstract motif, and trimmed with bright blue cotton braid, has a matching separate apron overskirt, a popular new feature of late 1860s and early 1870s fashion.
This dress from 1869 is “trimmed with cotton braid.”

The braid I used was fairly easy to make. I cut five long stripes of fabric and wove them as follows:

  1. Pick up the strand on the left.
  2. Weave it through the other strands, from left to right (so, over, under, over, under), and then release the strand.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2, always starting with the left-most strand. You’ll naturally start slanting along a diagonal instead of straight across, which is what’s supposed to happen. If you’re left handed, it’ll be easier to begin with the strand on the right and weave from right to left.

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See? Leftmost strand goes over-under-over-under.

Once that was done, I sewed together the shirt pieces on my serger. I attached the braid by hand, which took a stupidly long time, because I sort of zig-zagged across the width of the braid as well as whip-stitching it around the top.

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Untidy, but effective!

I was concerned that the weight of the braid would cause the neckline to flop forwards if it wasn’t well-anchored, but there has got to be a faster way of doing it.

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Back of the neck.

At the back, to cover where the two sides of the braid joined, I sewed a folded strip of knit fabric…and I did it crooked. ARGH! At least I can’t see it when I’m wearing the shirt. Then I sewed on the sleeves, (which came out stretched and puckery) and the side seams (which came out fine). And then I abandoned the project for a year, because school got intense and I couldn’t find the time and energy to sew. Now, I find myself in social isolation, so, you know, hemming the bottom and sleeves seemed much more achievable. The #lockdownteealong gave me some motivation to get it done and photographed. I used a zigzag stitch on all the hems, because I didn’t feel like bothering with a twin needled and I’ve never been able to get good results from one anyway.

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You can hardly see that the hem is zig-zagged. And frankly, I’m over the idea (rife among sewing bloggers) that my clothes shouldn’t look “home made.” It’s fine! They ARE home made.

Overall, I’m really pleased with how it came out! There are a few small issues, but really, I don’t care. It’ll mostly be worn under a cardigan anyway, since the average temperature of hospitals and clinics seems to be absolutely freezing. Which…well, my cardigans were looking a bit ragged, so I gave them away. Guess I’ll have to make some!