Sunday, May 29, 2011

More life in pictures

Making my sister's bridesmaid dress. Navy blue dupuoni silk, underlined in cotton voile. Lined just on top in silk habatoi.

inside out


bridesmaid dress pattern

My neighborhood in Jersey City
paulus hook

paulus hook

Remember how I accidently made three back left bodice pieces to my dress? Here is how I recycled the extra pieces- into a ring pillow.

ring pillow

And a sneak peek... Kate in her flower girl dress and a rose tiara! We took pictures with the kids early so that we don't worry about them being, well, kids on The Big Day. Smartest part of the wedding planning I think we've done so far! ;) It was also a nice dry run for getting everyone dressed and to the park, we figured out who needed what and how to get everything organized.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Picture post! Because my brain has turned into a wedding stress marshmellow. We have 20 days to go....

18 buttons covered in taffeta

A sample of my wedding day bouquet from my florist... the pink is tissue paper she wrapped it in to protect it. Yellow roses for military wives mean "always faithful to your soldier" - I think related to the old tradition of "tie a yellow ribbon" when they would deploy. So I asked my florist to come up with something modern, but using yellow roses, and she did a *gorgeous* job.


My dad. Learning how to use his new iphone. Welcome to the modern age dad! He is so excited about learning how to text from his new phone. ;)

sophie cat

My sister's new kitten! Her name is Sophie.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


One flower girl dress is nearly done!

flower girl dress

Here were are, sans hem, and with the silk flowers just pinned in place. This is the Oliver + S school photo dress, in size 7. The material is silk taffeta, from Mood. I know that the girls love this pattern with the adorable hidden pocket, so they will be pretty comfortable. They have white cardigans, white lacy ankle socks, and black maryjanes to wear with them.

Ana's is up next, and I think I'll make hers in a navy blue silk with more of the white flowers on the yoke.

And finally, some lilacs from our dinner table. They smell so nice! I wish they were in bloom longer. These are from the Union Square farmer's market early early this morning.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

holy cow

I think I may have made a wedding dress.


Much still left to finish up, but there you have it. I ended up pinning the pleats in the silk shantung and realizing that they really had no "there" there. So I went just with the taffeta which is rustly and kind of neat. I need a floor length slip so I may turn the shantung into that.


(without heels, so the skirt is laying a bit funny)

Still left to do:
  • proper zipper insertion. What you see here is basted, and also not closed the whole way up. I can generally zipper myself into any dress, but this one is a little too tricky to do when it's only basted, since I didn't want to tear the lace. I am thinking of doing a zipper underlay as shown in the Couture Sewing Techniques book.

  • Make the sash

  • Hemming! My mom has volunteered for this. thank you mom!!

  • hand sew down the bias binding on the armholes

  • hand sew down the silk habatoi bodice lining to the waist

  • make a ton of teensy covered buttons for the bodice center front and attach them. you might be able to see the loops sitting there... these are purely decorative, since it really closes with the back zipper

  • steam and press. again, my mom has volunteered for this one ;o)

The general overview of the dress construction is that the skirt is silk taffeta (from Mood) underlined with silk organza (from Susan Khalje). I marked the pleat lines on the organza and hand basted it to the taffeta. The selvedge of both the organza and the taffeta is at the hem so it will be very easy to just turn up and stitch the hem in place. The bodice is three layers - lace (from Mood) basted to silk organza and a silk habatoi lining. Then the neckline border lace was hand stitched over the dress's neckline and the excess cut away beneath. The cap sleeves were attached to the armholes, and then I used bias strips cut from the habatoi to finish them. Viola! Sounds so simple written up like that. ;) If only! In any event, I am loving the fit. I can wear a simple bra underneath, and I don't need to squeeze myself into spanx. I can move my arms freely, the pockets are in just the right spot, and it feels very comfortable! The pockets are going to hold my cellphone (for picture taking (; ) and my great-great grandmother's lace handkerchief that all the women in my family have held at their weddings. My sister pinned it to her slip, but I plan to fold it up into the pocket to keep it safe. It's been a continuing "something old" for a few generations now, so I'm very happy to carry on the tradition. My something blue will be the slip- I bought some ivory colored lace with a baby blue ribbon woven through that I'll attach. Something borrowed will be my mom's fancy white evening purse that I'm borrowing that day. Something new are the bangles (choora) that my friend bought me from Kerela. You're supposed to wear them for 40 days after the wedding- I may only make it until I go to sleep that night. ;)

Finally, Carolyn asked a few posts back how much muslin I'd gone through on this epic pattern selection and fitting trip. The answer is two bolts of about 10 yards each. Yikes, that's a small amount of muslin sacrificed to this dress!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Couture Books

I got home from looooooong day in the office today to find a package waiting from my best friend and his wife. They sent me just the perfect birthday present - the newly re-issued classic "Couture Sewing Techniques"! It's now sitting on my sofa with 5 different post-it notes poking out from various pages on lace seams, zipper underlays, etc. I love the original and this new one seems to have way more gorgeous photos in it & lots of excellent couture content.

One of the interesting things in this book is a two page chart at the front of book on "couture" vs "high end ready to wear". Aka, clients can choose to customize fabrics, garments are made to fit the customer exactly, seam allowances are vary on different pieces, vs RTW's smaller, precision cut pattern pieces that are put together with edges matching.

I was thinking of the comparison as I flipped through the rest of the book, because it really does cover "couture" aka hand-sewing intensive techniques, garment underpinnings, things like that. I happen to also own two other recently published books that purport to be "couture techniques" but really seem more like "high end RTW techniques".

The Dressmaker's handbook is very beautiful to look through, and has some extensive coverage of how to bind necklines, nice photos of how various underlinings (flannel vs cotton voile for example) affect the drape of skirts, and some other really good information. It is largely oriented to machine sewing, though. I found the diagrams and instructions to be not as clear as your average sewing book, which frustrated me because some of them, especially the neckline bindings, looked interesting but were very unclear.

The Couture Techniques book is one of three garment sewing books recently released in the US by Peg Couch. I bought her Illustrated Guide to Sewing: Tailoringbook first, and its strength led me to purchase the other two. This one has wonderful directions on how to assemble dresses, make blouses, and so forth, but they are very high-end Ready to Wear oriented. I wouldn't call any of the sewing covered here "couture" - not to say it's not valuable information. Just that it's the type of information I'll use when sewing myself a new blouse for work, not sewing up a lace bodice for a wedding dress. ;)

There is a definite time & place for the garment sewing guides of the latter two books, and they have been nice additions to my sewing library. But there's nothing like feeling adrift with a pile of lace and silk organza in your hands, attempting to create something that looks like a lace bodice, to make you realize how valuable the Godmother of couture sewing books is. ;) The "Applying Couture Techniques" chapter of Claire Shaeffer's book is amazing, and I'll be referring back to it often.

So, I hope this helps folks looking to add to their sewing libraries. If I had to pick the most useful day-to-day reference book I might well go with Peg Couch's Couture Techniques,but if you plan to do any kind of evening or bridal sewing, or want to try taking your sewing to next skill level, I'd go with Claire Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

with taffeta

Here we are with the skirt in taffeta. VERY unpressed and very unfinished etc etc

so far

This weekend I:
* made three back left bodice pieces before I managed to make a right
* had a complete meltdown when my (very $$$ and not old at all rowenta) iron burped up brown gunk on white silk
* literally burst into tears over the music being played in our sewing room/office... this is when you know you have a guy who is a keeper, when he looks at you like you are NUTS as you stand there crying and then comforts you anyway
* ate a wonderful hazelnut cupcake from my sister (today is my birthday. sshh! spent it sewing (; )
* hand stitched and hand stitched and hand stitched and decided that I need sharper needles
* ended up with something that is starting to resemble a wedding dress instead of just a white silk organza explosion

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I am doing my own crazy method of marking the seamlines. I pinned the muslin pattern pieces (with no seam allowances) onto organza, and then machine basted right at the edge of the muslin. Viola, marked seamlines.


After that, I lay the muslin pattern piece under the lace, cut out well around it, and then hand baste that to the organza in the seam allowances. Here is a bodice front, with the lace basted to organza


Here is the taffeta I'm thinking of using for the skirt:


I also have some lovely white shantung, but I feel like the taffeta will work better with the pleats. I'm planning to underline whichever one I choose with silk organza, so the shantung would pick up some body although it would be a soft body as opposed to the very crisp body of the taffeta. Anyone want to chime in with thoughts on the two? I am thinking I might almost just make a skirt from each and see how they feel.

And finally, turquoise taffeta... I'm thinking of doing one of the flower girl dresses in turquoise. So maybe one niece in navy and one in turquoise? One in white and one in turquoise?
We don't really have wedding "colors" as such, beyond doing many things in either white or navy, so a bright blue could be really pretty. I'm planning on holding a bouquet of yellow roses, and I keep thinking how those two colors would look together. Hmmm...


Sunday, May 1, 2011

side seams

You might recall from way back in January, when I first made the muslin of this pattern, that I was going to have to solve the Pocket Problem. Aka, this skirt pattern had no side seams... just a front panel, and a combined side/back panel. I'm happy to report that I have inserted a side seam now, which means I can have POCKETS. The skirt line did look lovely without a side seam, but no pockets is a dealbreaker for me, so our wedding guests will just have to suffer the horror of seeing seams down the side of my skirt. ;)

And here is a quick shot of what will be the lace top attached to the pleated skirt from the vintage Simplicity pattern. My right side, which is the left side of the photo here, has all the adjustments I've made so far. The dart is running a bit too high here, so I'll lower that, and make a few more small tweaks.

future lace top

When this project was started, all the modifications were being transferred to the paper pattern. At this stage I've been tweaking directly on the muslin, and so it is now my pattern. After I took this photo, I took a seam ripper to it and extracted the right side. Then I cut on my last seam line to cut off the seam allowances, and this will be the pattern for the lace top.

pattern pieces

This is Vogue 2979 on the top, with the cap sleeves. The bodice will be lace underlined in silk organza, lined in silk except for the sleeves.

To sew the top, I'll cut front and back bodice pieces out of silk organza and the lining. Then the organza pieces will be laid under the lace and I'll cut out the lace, probably cutting around the motifs to do applique seams on the side. Here's my lace again- the rose motif is pretty large, so a regular side seam might look a bit weird.

Dress lace