"" The girl who makes things: June 2014

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The end is nigh - a sneak peek at the bridesmaids dresses

It's the beginning of the end! On 19th July my sister gets married which means one thing: I've got less than a month to finish off four bridesmaids dresses. Eeeek! You may be wondering why I haven't posted anything about this recently. Well a combination of factors really: a) I don't like posting about something until I've got the finished article and b) this project's been a grit-my-teeth-and-bare-it kinda project, which is never the most appealing thing to write about. Anyway, with the deadline rapidly descending on me like a car with the hand break off, I've managed to give one final push and get these darn dresses close to finished. And here's a sneak peak:


I'll do the grand reveal and dress bios after the wedding, but it's probably worth mentioning that, yes, that blue one is a BHL Anna dress hack and that lovely lace applique came from Minerva Crafts. I'm barely restraining myself from buying more lace and covering everything I own with it!

This project's been a labour of love and hard learnt lessons. When my sister announced her engagement back in May last year, I instantly said I'd make all of the bridesmaids dresses. A year seemed like an endless amount of time and I thought it'd be a great project to sink my teeth into. We started slowly. I sketched out some designs, my sister approved them and we bought the pattern and material. We decided to make each dress a different colour and use a different style bodice, three darted and one strapless. This all took a few a months to mull over. Then just before Christmas I started making the muslins. 

Unfortunately my muslin fitting skills left a lot to be desired back then and I didn't really know what I was doing. This was before I did Perfect Fit Craftsy course. Anyway, after fitting up all the muslins, the measurements some how seemed to shrink and I ended up with a set of very tiny pattern pieces which I used to make up the dress linings (I only made one muslin due to time pressure). Thankfully I already had a good bodice pattern which had been drafted to my exact measurements so I used this to make my dress.

Disaster ensued on 17th May. I decided to take the other dress linings along to my sister's Hen night and do 'one final fitting' with the bridesmaids. Well, the linings were so tiny, the bodice back pieces wouldn't even touch at the back. The dresses were so unrectifiably  bad that the only option was to start again. After a few tears, a bottle of wine and a deep breath I had to admit defeat for one of the dresses. I couldn't handle making all three, so we agreed to send one of them to a professional dress maker to take the pressure off. I also decided to retake all the bridesmaid's measurements (the originals weren't accurate enough) and chuck the idea of making a strapless bodice. 

In the past few weeks I've had my head down, and after starting again with at least two of the dresses and making massive adjustments to the other one, I've almost finished. Just need to insert the invisible zips now! So after all that stress, what have I learnt?

1. Think twice about making all the dresses a different design.
This isn't the kind of project where you want to go experimenting with different styles. I thought it would be fun to have a go at making a strapless boned bodice, but this would probably be better off as a project to do under my own steam. It's best to stick with something you know well.

2. Take the measurements yourself.
The bridesmaids, bless them, didn't take good measurements. People in general don't know how to measure themselves accurately. Most people seem to think that the waist is somewhere around the navel and the hip is somewhere just below it. Save yourself the hassle and do it yourself. And take as many measurements as possible, even if you don't use them.

3. There is a fine art to muslin fitting.
Yes, I learnt this on my Craftsy course. If you're going to do it properly you have to make sure that the muslin is perfect. The skirt, bodice and sleeves should all be fitted separately. It's worth geeking up on good fitting methods really.

4. It's ok to ask for help.
Why did I find so difficult to hand over one of the dresses to a professional? It was the admission of defeat. I felt like I'd let everyone down. But then again, I'm a normal person with a busy job and I can only do so much. My sister let me make the dresses because she thought I'd enjoy doing them. She didn't want me to stress about it. So in the end it was the right thing to do.

5. We're always learning.
There were lots of little fiddly bits I encountered while making these dresses which sent me into mini tantrums on a regular basis. There're tonnes of imperfections all over the dresses which I'll probably be scrutinising on the day of the wedding. Overall though, my sewing's improved and I've learnt a lot of new skills while making these dresses. And what's more I'm sure no one else will notice my mistakes as much as I do.

6. Personally, I couldn't go professional.
I've often though about sewing professionally, but after doing this, I don't think I could. Or at least not yet. Sewing is my relaxation method. I worry that sewing under pressure would kill my creative spirit.

So there we have it. The next time I post about these dresses will be after the wedding. I hope there'll be some cracking photos - from a professional photographer for once!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Lazy Sunday Sewing

Evening folks, I hope your Sunday is treating you well. After the deluge of rain yesterday, the weather's improved and we've actually had some sun! After a busy two weeks I've been lucky enough to kick back, have a pint of cider and enjoy the sun in a beer garden today. I've also managed to do a lil' bit of sewing for my summer wardrobe. So here is my latest make, a kimono:



This is what my mother would call a bit of  'frippery': an aesthetically pleasing garment with no real use or purpose. Bring on the frippery I say! I've seen a few of these kimono style jackets wandering around the high street and I've had a hankering for making one. They're pretty, ultra feminine and a good cover up for when the sun comes out. They're also very straight forward to make. No fitting needed.


The pattern is Butterick B4072 and has been in my stash for a long time. I think I bought it years ago when I was a teenager and had romantic notions of making a silk kimono style dressing gown (this might have been shortly after I read Memoirs of a Geisha). The fabric is a floaty polyester print bought from B&M fabrics in Leeds Market. It cost about £2 per metre so it was cheap enough to play around with.


I didn't bother with lining, all the seams are overlocked and there's an interfaced yoke around the opening. As a result, it took about a morning to put together. I had the idea to fringe to the hem for extra bohemian swish, but decided against this as the print's dramatic enough it is. The only change I made to the pattern was that I cropped the sleeves by about 20cm. Everything else was to the envelope.


In other news, I managed to achieve a long standing ambition to meet other sewing bloggers yesterday. This is why I love the internet. Where else would I find amazing, like-minded women who share my passion for sewing? I met up with Amy, Ruth, Louise, Amy and Sarah on Saturday for some Leeds fabric shopping and lunch. It was such a lovely day out and I hope it'll be repeated. If you're reading this and you're a sewer living in the North of England then please do get in touch and join us!

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So that's my Sunday over and done with - back to the grind tomorrow. Hope you have a lovely evening and a not too stressful week ahead.