Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Wedding Story Part IV

Photos courtesy of BP Designer Portraits 
Today’s post is not only the unveiling of the dress, but also a showcase of Brad Peterson’s amazing photography from BP Designer Portraits! Brad’s home studio is in Millville, Utah. Brad will travel anywhere you want him to, but we chose to go to him because of the beautiful surroundings in Cache Valley Utah. We really liked how Brad has the talented gift of mixing the beauties of nature into his work. We also loved the fact that he does a lot of candid shots. His photography is more natural, and not so stiff and posed. We’ll be calling Brad to take our next family photos for sure!

The only complaint I had, if you can even call it a complaint, is that Brad took literally hundreds of photos . . . and they were ALL stunning! It was extremely difficult to choose which ones to display and put in the book, and even harder to choose just one for the bridal portrait! In fact it was downright painful, I wanted all of them! 

Last week’s post was long, as I wanted to describe each detail of the dress and veil. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so this week’s blog will speak for itself . . . I would have loved to post the entire photo shoot of her bridals, but these are a few of my favorites. They also show the details I described in last week’s blog.

Next week, you’ll see the picture my daughter found on Pinterest, of the pink Vera Wang dress she brought to me in the beginning, to compare with what I came up with in the end. The bodice is totally different, at her request, but the skirt is pretty close . . . my only regret? Wish she would have gone with the pink, a small birdcage veil, and different shoes! But then again I wasn’t the one wearing the dress, and that’s what really matters. I’ve never seen her so happy, or more beautiful. Now that it’s all done and the stress is gone, I want to thank her for the honor it was to make her dress. She had more faith in me than I did. I’m so glad she liked it.

Until next time, 

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Wedding Story Part III

On my last post, I mentioned I didn’t have any photos of the dress in earlier construction. The day after I finished Wedding Blog Post #2, my daughter emailed me these photos. I had forgotten that she had taken them, but glad that she did. The first photo was the beginning construction of the skirt. I’m a "pinner" - “Pinning makes for perfection.”If you’re wondering what the yellow sheet of paper is pinned on the front of the dress form, it read: “Please don’t come near this dress until I can move it to a different room! Thanks, the Village Seamstress.” It had been a late night and I hadn’t thought to keep it in our bedroom yet, so the dress was set up in the TV room. Even though food is not allowed on the carpet, sometimes my children take food and drink in there when I’m not home. You would think after 20 years, they would know and obey that rule! The last thing I needed was to have a stray chocolate chip, or red Gatorade spilled on the dress! The other two photos show the development of the front and back of the skirt which was the most difficult and detailed skirt I’ve ever made . . . well I did make a beaded pageant dress once that took more time than this one, but that was only because it was heavily hand beaded. This dress was much more complex. 

So I’m back tracking a little in this post. On the next post you will see the completed dress, which took two months to complete – mostly late into the night after working full time at my regular day job. Weekends became a blur as I began sewing when I got home from work on Fridays and got up for work on Mondays -after little cat naps. Normally I don’t sew on Sunday; however, in order to get this dress completed in time for the bridal photos, I had no choice.“The ox was in the mire!” In fact, at the time, it felt as though an entire herd of oxen were in the mire! Have you ever been so tired that when you lay down to go to sleep, you’re too exhausted to fall asleep? That’s how I felt from the time I started the dress, until about two weeks after the wedding! 

Just to give you an idea of the immensity of this project.It took 25 yards of Dupioni silk from India. 27 yards of sheer stretch mesh cut into 908 individual petals. I had hoped to cut the petals with a rotary cutter, but the mesh was just too “slimy”. They had to be hand cut with scissors. Normally it takes me a year or two to wear out a pair of scissors, and I’m careful with the! I wore out a new pair of Gingher scissors on this dress, not to mention my hand! The stretch mesh became almost “gritty” as it was cut. I’m sure that’s what took a toll on the scissors. The petals were then gathered together at the top of each one, and sewn to the skirt in rows. I believe there were a total of eleven rows of petals. Just when I thought I had cut my last set of petals, I would gather them and realize there were still bare spots! It took 18 yards of Habotai lining for the skirt and the bodice. The under-lining in the bodice took a yard and a half. I like to finish the hems on this type of dress with horsehair braid. You can buy it by the yard at most fabric stores. I used the one inch width since the skirt was so heavy. It comes in narrower widths as well. It’s not made of real horsehair anymore, but it used to be back in the day. It took nine yards of horsehair braid to go around the bottom of the hem. Horsehair braid not only provides stability to the hem, but also gives body to the hem and holds it in place. 

Each bodice seam was covered with self-made bias strips of the Dupioni silk.This gives a corset type look, and defines the princess seams. It’s also easier to hide the boning underneath the seams in the lining. After sewing the bias strips to the seams, I used a fine, white pearl cotton to embroider a chicken stitch vine along each seam on the bodice. On the tip of each stitch, I attached a tiny white glass Japanese seed bead. To give the dress balance, and counter the effect of the self-made flowers on the left side of the skirt, I embroidered a bouquet of vines on the right side of the lower bodice. Each vine was a different type of embroidery stitch and various beads were used on each vine to help differentiate the vines as they were all sewn with various thicknesses of white pearl cotton.

 I have to admit, I love to do beadwork! There’s something about it that’s calming to me, it’s therapy to my soul! My dad asked me once how I can stand to sit and sew one little bead on at a time, he said “that would drive me crazy!” Hundreds of beads were used on the bodice, but they were tiny - just enough to give it depth and dimension. Most were tiny white glass Japanese seed beads, but I also used different shapes, sizes and color variations of clear, white and opaque white Swarovski Austrian crystals on the vine embellishment. I love sewing each bead on one at a time. Bees wax is the secret to successful beading, or hand sewing of any kind. Not only does it strengthen the thread, but it also keeps the thread from getting tangled and in knots.

The last thing that was applied was the Dupioni silk over drape on the skirt with pick-ups. Then the skirt was attached to the bodice and the lining hand sewn in place to finish and complete the dress. I didn’t measure how long the tie was that laced up the back of the dress, but it was really long! That took awhile to sew, turn and press. 

The veil was a waist length, double layer of white bridal illusion, gathered onto a metal comb with a double row of clear crystals on the top edge of the comb. The edges were finished with the same self-bias strips of Dupioni silk to tie it nicely into the dress. These were also embroidered and beaded to match the dress. I cut the veil out the morning of the bridal photos and hand sewed the crystal comb to the veil in the car on the way to the bridal shoot. What a relief it was to sew that final stitch! I have to tell you, even if you choose not to make a wedding dress; it is worth it to make your own veil.They are extremely easy to make and very inexpensive. The veil including the comb was less than $20! We found the crystal comb at a beauty supply store. It was nice quality and only $5.00. A comparable veil at a bridal store would have been at least $200 - $300 or more.

I’ve taken the time to explain all of the things that went into the dress before showing you the finished project. It’s fun to imagine what it all looked like before the pieces were cut, fit, sewn together, and finally completed. 

Until now, I’ve never really thought about how many different types of tears there are, but must admit; there were many tears shed during the construction of this dress. Tears of inadequacy, tears of stress, tears of exhaustion, tears of fear that I wouldn’t get it done, tears of relief when it was finished, and finally tears of joy when I helped her put it on and lace it up the back for her bridal photos! The huge smile and little girl squeal when she looked in the mirror were priceless. I will share some of the pictures from the bridal photos in next week’s blog.

Until next time,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Wedding Story Part II

As you can see from the attached photos, many steps on the construction of the dress went undocumented . . . in too much of a hurry and too little time. Thanks to my supportive husband, he took these with his iPhone as things progressed. You can really begin to see the dress coming together in these photos.

I believe in tender mercies. I also believe that we are blessed with abilities beyond our capabilities in more instances than we are aware of. The more I looked at the photo she gave me to start with, the more I doubted I would be able to replicate it. There were many times, I literally went to my closet and got down on my knees to plead with Heavenly Father to bless me with the knowledge to know what to do next. Each time, I would come back out with renewed strength and determination and was able to figure out how to proceed. On the entire dress, I only had to un-pick about 20 inches. That in and of itself is a miracle!

Thank goodness for high school dances, because of all those dance dresses, and the fact that she hasn’t changed in size, I already had a good base pattern to start with for the bodice. I knew it fit, as I was able to have her try her dance dresses on for me. I did construct another muslin shell for the bodice however, as I needed to make some minor adjustments in the design of the dress. After making the muslin shell, I took it apart and used it as my pattern. The muslin shell also helped me to draft the pattern for the under-skirt. I highly recommend taking the time to make a muslin shell on any important project. It relieves a lot of headaches later on in the process. I did have to start from scratch on the skirt pattern and that was major! I didn’t make that out of muslin; instead I made that out of 4 mil plastic sheeting from the paint department at WalMart. Once you make a pattern with it, you won’t want to go back to tissue paper ever again! It drapes similar to fabric, is see through, and doesn’t tear. I also use a brand new Sharpie marker to trace and draw the lines. If you make a mistake, alcohol wipes, will take off the marker and you can start over again. If you need to add more plastic onto the pattern, Scotch Invisible Tape is perfect. You can reposition it and it stays stuck.Thank goodness it all came together without too much difficulty. Just a lot of patterns and fabric to work with by the time I was to the end of the dress.

When fitting a garment, many people think that if you just cut the pattern out to the size you think you are, then you alter it to fit as you go. This is why so many junior high school sewing projects end up in the garbage can. The majority of the fitting is done before the project is even cut out, during the pattern drafting stage. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Take your measurements and then compare them to the pattern you wish to make. Please ignore the size on the pattern, it does not correspond to ready-made clothing, and yes, most have a heart attack when they discover they need a size 14 pattern and they only wear a size 8 in ready to wear clothing! Trust the measurements on the pattern envelope and ignore the number, it’s only a number! Besides, normal is only a setting on the washing machine. Choose the size that best fits your measurements, paying particular attention to the chest and shoulder area, as these are the hardest places to make alterations. Generally you can make adjustments in the side seams by dividing the difference by four, and then adding or taking away the difference from the measurements for the size on the pattern envelope in comparison to what your actual measurements are. The reason you divide it by four is because there are four pieces of fabric to spread the difference out to – two fronts and two backs. 

The bodice of this dress is made of Dupioni silk for the fashion fabric. It is underlined with a substantial piece of pre-shrunk cotton broadcloth. This is the layer that I attached the boning to, and there was a lot of boning! She wanted it to fit tight and close. The last layer of the bodice was made from 100% Polyester Habotai lining. I would have loved to line the whole dress with 100% Silk Habotai, however, the cost was already a little staggering, and since I was the only that knew it wasn’t silk, I went with the less expensive option. This last layer was seamed at the waist so that I could attach the skirt up underneath the lower edge of the free floating bodice – giving the dress a two piece look, with the stability of a one piece dress. My dress form is much bigger than my tiny daughter, but it worked just fine as the base to store the dress on when I wasn’t working on it. It was also nice to pin the Dupioni silk over-skirt on, as this was done using the “draping process”. By keeping it on the dress form it also helped to keep it less wrinkled. Ironing as you sew, makes the final press a piece of cake, and is also the secret to having your garment look “hand-made” instead of “home-made”. 

As you can see from the photos, this is an extremely complex dress as there are numerous layers on the skirt. The base of the skirt is out of Dupioni Silk, and I have to tell you there is nothing like the fresh, clean, crisp smell of high quality silk! In fact, the smell was so yummy that I kept the dress in our bedroom the entire time I wasn’t actually working on it. If it’s possible to be addicted to the smell of fabric, I think I am. As I mentioned before, New York Fashion Center is my new all time favorite fabric store. I’ve never worked with nicer silk, from the first cut to the last stitch, it was an enjoyable experience.

If you’ve never attempted to sew, start today! If you’re not under a time deadline to get the project done, sewing can actually be a very fun experience! Who knows, you may just uncover a new hidden talent! More on the dress in next week’s post.

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Wedding Story Part I

The Fabric Has Arrived
Five months ago, our last daughter became engaged to her sweetheart of 2 ½ years.  Because we’ve done this once before, I already knew what I was in for . . .  She had been looking at wedding dress pictures from the time she was old enough to talk and look at books.  Our DVD’s of  The Wedding Planner, Father of the Bride #1 and Father of the Bride #2 were worn out long ago as she has dreamed of this day forever!

She had already informed me that she wanted “a big poufy dress, with lots and lots of tulle in the skirt and a silk Dupioni bodice with lots of beads”.  Being 4’ 10” and 90 pounds I wondered how she would pull that off, but also knew there would be no talking her out of it.  Having sewn professionally from the time I was in the 7th grade, when I made my first wedding dress, I’ve made more wedding dresses than I can count including one with genuine fresh water pearls.  I was not too concerned with the dress she had been dreaming of for the past 10 years.  Then thanks to Pinterest and Vera Wang, everything changed . . . the “big, poufy dress” turned into my worst nightmare.

Let the fun begin!

She brought me a blurry photo of a dress that was part of the Vera Wang 2012 Spring Wedding Couture Collection – it was a beautiful pale pink, with what appeared to be millions of pink mesh petals on a long flowing train with a Dupioni silk drape and bodice.  I looked at her and said, “You hate me don’t you?  If you really loved me, you would NOT ask me to make THIS dress!”  She was insistent and unbending as she begged me to “please make the dress because I love her so much.”  I held off for a month and a half, hoping and praying that I could talk her out of it and go back to the big, poufy dress.  It became obvious that she would not be changing her mind, and I decided I better get to work. 

Great Fabric Store
The days of having wonderful fabric stores brimming with many choices of beautiful fabric are long gone here in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding areas.  I so miss The Yardstick with Mr. Frankle and Lace & Company with Alison.  Thank goodness for the internet!  I soon discovered my new favorite fabric store, NY Fashion Center, and Yolanda Dunderdale is my new favorite sales person.  She was so helpful, knowledgeable and kind!  Someday, I want to go to New York and visit this store in person and meet Yolanda as well!

One of MANY sleepless nights

The attached photos are the day that I received the 27 pound package of fabric, the contents of which would become my constant companion for the next two months.  With my children grown, and the poor economy, I was working full time during the engagement and wedding.  During the wedding I had three full time jobs, my day job here at Symbols of Zion, my night job of sewing until 2:00 AM, 3:00 AM, 4:00 AM, 5:00 AM and the night before the wedding until 6:00 AM, and my other jobs as wife, mother, Grandma Les, daughter, neighbor, friend and Visiting Teaching Coordinator.

The next few blog posts will chronicle the last five months of my life which were a blur until now.  The wedding was a month ago, and I’m just now feeling like I will survive.

So if you’re looking for the ultimate fabric store, check out NY Fashion Center and be sure to ask for Yolanda Dunderdale!
Until next time,