Wedding Dress Diary

  • Prelude, a glimps of things to come.

    I'm getting married! To my soul mate, finally, after failing to figure it out about 30 years ago. But better late than never.

    And so now I need a wedding dress. I love things Victorian, and with the last name of McNaughton, Scotland and clan history is of interest to me. He is a Stewart, and is very much into all things Scottish. And he loves to dress up and wear a kilt. (Isn't he just perfect?) Which means a THEME WEDDING!!! Victorian Scottish blend.

    The date is set for Nov 24th. A small outdoor ceremony set for late morning, followed by small Edwardian Tea reception in a greenhouse room. I found a portrait of a lady from the late 1860s with a beautiful dress that is my main inspiration. However, an elliptical hoop dress is just to big for my small occasion and space. So I will be going with an 1872 Early Bustle framework instead.

    Prelude, a glimps of things to come.

    What I love most about this dress is the way the ruffles on the skirt work, with the top ruffle in front dropping down the sides to go around the hem. I also love the bodice neckline and sleeves. So those are the main elements I will be building on. And I hope to add some wonderful embelishments to update the style to 1872. I will be trading out the black lace for a beige/gold lace. But I love the blue, so keeping that as well.

    Finding fabric was a challenge. I knew I wanted silk dupioni or taffeta. So I went downtown L.A. to see what they had. My sister had gifted me with 16 yards of the most gorgeous gold/beige lace. This was my starting point. I tell ya, years ago, dupioni was everywhere, for a very reasonable price. Not anymore. I think I found only a few stores that had any dupionio at all, and then looking for blue? Forget about it! I did find a gold taffeta that perfectly matched the lace, so bought 5 yards of that. After all but giving up, and getting depressed over needing to rethink my entire dress idea/color, I found the perfect light blue silk. One problem, there was only 8.5 yards. I figured that would be enough for the base dress only, and I wanted ruffles and things. At the same store they also had a darker blue silk in the same color tone. They had a ton of that stuff. In the light at the store, the two fabrics look very similar, and so I bought 5 yards of the dark blue too, thinking I could use it for the ruffles, and no one would really know the difference.

    Happy again, I come home and set out my fabric to ponder it all. And of course, the 2 colors of blue now look very different. Hmm, the lace looks awesome on the light blue, but over the dark blue, not so much. This is supposed to be a wedding dress, and needs to be light and airy looking, not dark and heavy. After a couple weeks I finally hit on the idea. Swap the colors around and make the dress in the dark blue, and all the trims in the light blue, with the lace always over the light blue. Yes!!! I just need to go back downtown and get more the dark silk. Back we go, and after an excruciatingly tense 20 minutes of pulling out bolts of silk from a hard-to-look-through pile, finally find the right bolt. This is really going to work!! I now have 15 yards of dark blue, 8.5 yards of light blue, 10 yards of gold, and 16 yards of lace. This is way more than I need but I really hate not having enough.

    Prelude, a glimps of things to come.

    I am planning to wear this over the TV108 Grand Bustle, with a couple extra petticoats to help get a full look. I will be starting with TV202 for the skirt, but adding about 12" to the length of the train, and making it a double width back, instead of the single width in the pattern. I am planning a narrow pleating of dark blue at the hem, a narrow pleating of gold taffeta above that, all around the hem. The main ruffle will be the light blue at 13.5" tall, with the gold lace over it, so that the blue is 1" longer than the lace. I need to be a bit skimpy in this ruffle as I am a bit short on light blue and lace edging. But I think this will be fine for this dress. Heading the main ruffle, I am planning a shell rouche, 3" wide of light blue backed with gold taffeta. My sister mentioned that I should make a single size pattern for myself with all the trim placements on it. Brilliant idea, why didn't I think of that! So here is the basic layout of how I am planning the skirt and all the trims.

    Prelude, a glimps of things to come.

    This will leave me with quite a lot of middle section lace to play with. I am planning some bits on the sleeves and bodice. I also want to add some kind of big bow/sash/pouf think in the back. But haven't settled on anything yet. More on that when I get there.

  • Wedding Dress - Episode 1 - It has begun....

    WOW! August just flew past!

    This past weekend, I finally got an actual start on my dress. Still needed lining fabrics, so I went to JoAnn and picked up some. I usually use whatever works best from the Quilting Solids section, with 100% cotton and medium weight. JoAnn has two weights; the Country Classics which is great for most skirts and with silks in general, and the Kona Quilt Cotton which is a bit heavier and also works well for bodice flatlining. I want this skirt to be fairly crisp and substantial, so I went with the Kona Cotton. I chose the closest color to the dark blue dupioni, which was a medium grey. When I get home and compare the grey cotton to my dark blue silk, I realize that my dupioni is actually medium grey and not overly blue at all. But it does have a hint of blue, and looks great with the light blue, so yeah, looks like I'm wearing grey as a wedding dress. Oh, well. Do you think anyone will notice?

    So first things first, I had to pre-wash my cotton, all 8+ yards of it. And then even worse, I have to iron all my cotton, 8+ yards worth. I am not planning on ever washing my silk dress, so opted to not wash it. Often, washing silk will take away a bit of it's luster, so unless absolutely needed, I don't want to wash the silk. My new, extra wide ironing board was a lifesaver. My old board was starting to collapse at odd moments, so my Jaimey gifted me with a new one. Love that man! The pressing only took about 30 minutes so not so bad really. And Kona cotton has a great hand to it after a wash and press.

    Wedding Dress - Episode 1 - It has begun....

    The one interesting thing about cutting out was going to be the issue of material widths. My dupioni is 54" wide, but the Kona cotton is only 44". I drafted the pattern for the back of my skirt to take advantage of the wider width, which means I need to piece the cotton to match. I decided to sew 2 whole widths of cotton together along the selvage edge, and "fold" the two sections along the seam to create 45" wide doubled. The pattern itself has 2 side sections cut at 27" wide and then the center back section at 18" wide on the fold (36" total) to get to the 90" wide of two 45" section. This would allow me to put the side back panel next to the center back panel on the "fold" to cut out the lining with the least amount of fabric waste. However, I made a mistake in my calculations and came up 1" short across the fabric. Yeah, the fabric was only 44" wide, not 45". Oops, but fixable. I just moved the center back fold of the pattern off the edge of the fabric, making the center back only 34" wide total. Marked the new center back for when I get to cutting the silk. For some reason, I don't have pics of the back pieces, but here is the front gores laid out.
    Wedding Dress - Episode 1 - It has begun....

    I like to do my markings on the lining, and before I separate the pattern from the fabric. So that's the next step for me. I have never had success with the tracing paper that fabric stores sell. Instead, I have been using carbon paper from office stores. The package I purchased 20 years ago is still going strong. Definitely be careful where you use, though. I once used it to mark the placement for insertion lace on a chemisette and it took two washings to get it back out again. I was terrified it was going to be permanent, but thankfully, it eventually came out. I slip the carbon paper under the fabric, and between fabric and pattern, to mark both sides at once. I use anything with a dull point to trace the pattern. My point turner tool works great for this.
    Wedding Dress - Episode 1 - It has begun....
    Wedding Dress - Episode 1 - It has begun....

    Cutting the silk went smoothly, no issues. Flatlining is next, where I match the cotton to it's silk counterpart. Just make sure that the marks are showing on the outside and not between the layers. I have never been able to keep the layers from shifting around with a regular sewing machine, so I always use a serger for this. It works amazingly well every time, and finishes the edges at the same time to protect from raveling. I highly recommend one if you can get one. I have a separate post on how to flat line with a serger. Snippet and link below.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    Wedding Dress - Episode 1 - It has begun.... I have a friend who recently purchased a serger.  She wasn't really sure what to do with it.  So Tonya, this one is for you! Flat lining with a serger, the comprehensive photo guide, step by step. 1- Of course the very first step is to cut out your…
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    Here you can see how the medium grey and the "dark blue" silk are pretty dang close to the same color. The pieces are matched and pinned together, ready for the serger.

    Wedding Dress - Episode 1 - It has begun....

    I need the markings for the trim placements to show on the fashion side. I figure the best way to do that is to baste through from the wrong side to have the stitching line be the markings. I've never done this before, so it took me a few tries to figure out how best to do that. At first I tried to use the sewing machine on baste. But that was a huge failure, as it was shifting my layers around. Having loaned my favorite sewing machine, a Husquevarna Emerald, to my Jaimey as he learns to sew, I have been using my hated Pfaff POS machine. At first, I blamed the machine, so tried again on my embroidery machine. Same issue, so nope, not the machine. I'm gonna have to do this by hand. Yeah, I hate hand work. Not my thing. But it works great. I take each panel, and do a long running stitch from the wrong side following my lines. It really wasn't so bad, and looks nice. And it should be super easy to take out later if needed. Aaaand... In the middle of all this hand stitching, Jaimey comes home with a brand new Emerald sewing machine for me. I guess he got tired of listening to me swear at the Pfaff. Did I mention how much I love that man? BTW, anyone want a used Pfaff?

    Wedding Dress - Episode 1 - It has begun....

    Things start to go together quickly after that. I seam all the pieces together and the skirt takes shape. My basting lines help me match up my bias edges to the straight edges, and the whole thing goes together nicely without issue. (Hmm, now I think about it, I wonder if I should have added a pocket? Oh well.)

    Wedding Dress - Episode 1 - It has begun....

    Last thing for now is the hem. I am planning to have trims both under the hem and over the hem, so I am going with a simple single turn of the 1 1/2" allowance. I am also machine stitching straight through. It looks pretty bad, and it's bugging me, but I just keep reminding myself that no one will ever see it.
    Wedding Dress - Episode 1 - It has begun....

    And that's it for now. I will be doing the closure and the waistband last, after all the trimming is done. So stay tuned, the good stuff starts to happen today!

  • Wedding Dress - Episode2

    This was a good week for sewing, and I got quite a bit done.

    This year at Costume College, there was a vendor selling nice ribbon for cheep. My sister purchased 6 rolls for me, in light blue. It wasn't close enough to the right color for on top of the dress, but I figured it would make a fantastic dust ruffle. Dust ruffles go under the hem of your skirts, and help keep the hem of your trained skirts clean. They are supposed to be easily removable for cleaning/replacement as needed. But really, they just look super cool. Rather than make a whole deep underside to the train, I am just going to add this at the hem.

    I love the hems of the Tirelli gowns. (I highly recommend perusing their webpage, so much good stuff Tirelli Costumi) I want my hems to be thick and full, just like the ones from The Age of Innocence and Anna Karenina. I find some super cheep, 1" wide lace at JoAnns, which I am going to layer over my pleated 2" ribbon. The ribbon is great, as I don't have to hem it, and can go straight to pleating it up. I am going to do knife pleats, spaced edge-to-edge, which means I need 3 times the amount of ribbon. My hem is 200" around, so I need 600" of ribbon, or 17 yards. The spools of ribbon are 10 yards each, so 2 spools will do it.

    For pleating, I use a method I call Fork Pleating. It is a quick and easy way to pleat, at your machine, and can be done with household forks. I happen to have purchased a special tool a while back, that gives me 3/8" wide pleats, so I will be using that. Different sized forks will get you different sized pleats. And, depending on which direction you roll the fork, you can make knife or box pleats. If desired, press the pleats afterwards, or like me, leave them as-is for a loftier look.

    After pleating the ribbon, it looks like this.

    Wedding Dress - Episode2

    And after adding the lace it looks like this:

    Wedding Dress - Episode2

    I attached the ribbon to the hem along to the upper edge of the ribbon. I think this will let the hem of the skirt float over the lace a bit better.

    Wedding Dress - Episode2

    I don't want the hem to flip up and show the lace assembly. I tacked the skirt through to the top of the lace about every 4-6" or so, to keep the layers from separating out. Ugh more hand work. But it looks great! So still worth it.

    Wedding Dress - Episode2

    With the dustruffle finished, time to move on the bottom ruffle. This is going to be the same dark blue as the main skirt. I really like the look of the edge-to-edge pleats, but I want them to be 3/4" wide. As this ruffle is fabric, I need to do a hem. For ruffles that are 4" wide or less, I cut the fabric twice as wide as I need, and fold the fabric in half. So no actual hem. This ruffle is going to be 3" deep so I cut strips at 6" wide. Again, I need 600" worth to get around the hem, and my fabric is 53" wide (54" less 1" for seaming the strips together) which works out to 12 strips of 6" wide fabric. I usually tear my strips, so much quicker, but the silk is very ravelly. I ending up cutting the strips instead. This led to some off-grain shifting by the time i got several strips in, but not enough to really cause an issue. After cutting, I sew all the strips end-to-end, and press the super strip in half long-ways.

    Wedding Dress - Episode2

    I don't have a tool for 3/4" wide pleats, and my kitchen forks are all 1" wide, so I had to make up a tool. I had some short pieces of hoop wire hanging around, and taped them inside a cardboard shell to make a handle and keep them from shifting. I snipped out between the wires, to make it a fork,wrapped it in packing tape to keep it all together, and viola, I have a new tool. (It worked so well, I went back later and made one up that was 1" wide, so I wouldn't need to use a salad fork.)
    Wedding Dress - Episode2

    Once all the pleats are in, I overlock the top edge to keep the edge from raveling, and lock the pleats in nicely.

    Wedding Dress - Episode2

    Lastly, I just sew the top of the ruffle to the skirt. I had marked the top edge with thread on the skirt, but it was off a bit for some reason. It was more important that the hem of the ruffle match the hem of the skirt, so went by the hems instead of my mark.

    Wedding Dress - Episode2

    And here is where my skirt stands so far.

    Wedding Dress - Episode2

    Stay tuned, more to follow!

  • Wedding Dress - Episode 3

    Here we are, two months till show time. Yeah, starting to panic a bit. But the dress is coming along nicely. Still have plenty of time. I need to step back a bit from my Halloween Haunted House this year, and let others to most of the work, so I can keep going with the wedding stuff. That is a challenge, cause I have some great ideas for this year, just not sure about time to make it all happen. Anyway, back to the dress...

    I needed to add another layer to the hem; this one a gold silk ruffle. The idea is leave about 3/4" of the dark blue showing, and then about 1" of the gold ruffle. I wanted it to look a bit different than the dark blue, so chose to do a spaced inverted double box pleat. Box pleats tend to get out of place and rowdy in a hurry, so they really need to be pressed and spaced apart a bit to tame them into submission. I made this ruffle a bit wider, 4" top to hem, so it is still folded double, no actual hem. Strips of fabric were cut at 8" wide. The spacing of the pleats means that I will need less than 3:1 for fabric. I didn't work it out exactly, but I think I just cut 10 strips of the gold and went from there. (3:1 for the blue ruffle was 12 strips)

    I made a new "fork" tool for the pleating, this one 5/8" wide. It worked very well. To make a box pleats, I folded 2 pleats side-by-side rolling the "fork" over the top, then 2 pleats side-by-side rolling the fork under the bottom. I then made a space the width of the sewing plate, placing the edge of the fork at the edge of the plate to make the next roll over the top. You can see my video of the process bellow. And below that, you can see the finished ruffle.


    Wedding Dress - Episode 3

    I pressed the ruffle lightly, and being silk, it flattened out waaaay flat. But it seems to have loosened up a bit over time. And it keeps it's shape nicely, so I'm not going to worry about tacking it down.
    Here is how it looks one the skirt. Funny note here: While pressing the pleats i found a section where I added and extra fold under by accident. I have no idea where it ended up on the dress, but somewhere is a triple pleat. No way to fix it without redoing ALL of the pleats, and I wasn't going to do that.

    Wedding Dress - Episode 3

    That marks the end of the hem treatments. Now it's time for the main event, my beautiful lace. The plan: I have 16 yard of edge (8 yards of lace, double edged) But I need to keep some in reserve for the bodice. And more importantly, it looks terrible over the dark blue so it needs to have the light blue under it to keep it looking light and fresh. And lastly, I have very limited amounts of the light blue. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to go with a 1.5:1 ruffle, with the blue silk flat-lined to the lace. A lean ruffle is good here, as the lace looks best when mostly flat, rather than a heavy gather. I thought about going totally flat, but worried that might look skimpy.

    The blue needs to be 12.5" tall, finished with a 1.5" hem allowance: so the cut strips need to be 14" tall. Length of placement is 270" total, for the lower front section and then the upper section that goes around the whole skirt. Times 1.5 means I need 405" total trim, at 53" wide fabric, comes to 8 strips of 14" tall or 3.2 yards of the light blue. Not bad. And this is just under 12 yards of my edging. So far so good. Lots left over to play with later. It took a lot of time to start cutting the lace; panic while I stare at my expensive lace. It needed to be 11" tall, but with a scalloped hem, is that 11" at the top of the scallop or the bottom. I ended up cutting it a bit wider, and then chose the exact placement over the blue afterwards. I cut all the edging off. This leaves me with 8 yards of center medallion-type bits of lace that I can use for many years to come. No way can use it all on this dress.

    Again, I sew all the strips of silk together first. For the hem on the blue silk, I went with the Blind Hem stitch on the sewing machine. I love blind hems. I guess it's been a while since I did one, and the silk was fighting me a bit, for some reason. But in the end I got the hem in. I always end up changing the settings from the manufacturers recommended settings. I always narrow down the stitch width, so that it takes a smaller bite for the catch stitch. Also, make sure that you adjust the blind hem foot carefully, so that the catch stitch takes only a few threads of the fold. I forgot to take photos or video of this stage, sorry about that. But here is a close up of the lace placement over the hem so you can see how that came out. And sorry about the quality of the overall lace/blue silk photo below that.

    Wedding Dress - Episode 3

    Wedding Dress - Episode 3

    But, before I added the lace over the silk, I had to stitch the two 8 yard pieces of lace together to get one long strip. The issue now, was the two sides are mirror images of each other, so half the lace goes one way, and the other half goes the other way. The challenge, how to sew the two ends together so it doesn't look like they are sewn together. I laid the ends out on the table, and cut around motifs, lapping the sides over the other left-over-right for this motiff and then right-over left for that motif. I then hand stitched the pieces together. It came out AMAZING!!!!. It looked so good, I decided to use this part as the center front of the upper ruffle. The pic below was taken after sewing the ruffle to the skirt. I guess I was on a roll, and kept forgetting to take photos.

    Wedding Dress - Episode 3

    Sewing the lace onto the silk was a issue, due to the beads and sequins. The lace kept catching on the presser foot and I broke a needle about 12" in. Solution: Free Hand Embroidery Foot for the win! It took a bit of practice as the weight of the skirt kept pulling the skirt out of place when I changed grip. But I eventually got a rhythm down.

    Now comes the time to attach the ruffle to skirt. I measured out a place in the motifs in the lace where I can take a 1" wide pleat, spaced every 4". I guess that means this lace has a 6" repeat. Perfect for an easy 1.5:1 exactly. I pin in the pleats, and then pin the whole thing to the skirt following my basting lines. This was a pain to do, due to the weight of the beaded lace and the hugeness of the skirt. But the basting REALLY helped. I did the lower ruffle first. I started at the one side, and just cut off the ruffle when I got to the other side.

    Wedding Dress - Episode 3

    Of course, that used up some of one side of the trim. After carefully measuring, I realized I got super lucky! I had used up just about 4 yard, and with the 4 yards of lace on the other end that I wasn't going to need for this ruffle, the piecing I had done to the center front left me very close to the same amount for both right and left sides of the skirt. I could piece the center back and have the two sides of the skirt mirrored and not have to worry about the swap in direction being in a weird place on one side. OMG, I don't think I could have planned that any better if I tried. Piecing together the center back was a bit more difficult, as the motifs didn't mesh as well. But I made it work.

    Wedding Dress - Episode 3

    I started pinning the ruffle on at the center front, and worked my way around to the center back. I ended up with about 6" extra at the center back, after matching the center of the ruffle to the center of the skirt. I added a 1" pleat at the center back, and then adjusted the pleats a bit larger going forwards again, to take up the extra. It took 3 wider pleats to make it fit. Pinned the other side, and it worked out close to the same. I think I ended up with 4 wide pleats. But the splice wasn't exactly in the middle, as I had to work around the motif rather than an explicit length, so really, it came out very close.

    Today, here we are. Next up, shell ruching to cover the top edge of the lace. After that, it will just be a matter of sewing the skirt to the waistband, and it's done.

    Wedding Dress - Episode 3

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