Tuesday 16 August 2016

The Pinspiration Behind the Dress

It's a fussy business all this wedding dress designing. So many options and ideas -how exactly is a bride to be supposed to narrow it down? I was wondering how my DD was ever going to choose her dress as, after trying on an endless variety, none of them were exactly what she wanted. She's a bit like dresses the way I am with fabric - indecisive. And then the remarkable happened. My other DD found a dress she thought would perfectly suit her..on Pinterest... and our bride to be fell instantly in love with it. Yes, it was 'the one'. And here it is:
Isn't it gorgeous? What I find so incredible is that the minute either of us set eyes on it, we just knew it was the one for her. It's just 'her' if you know what I mean. I couldn't think of a more perfect dress. And she agreed. Phew! So naturally I just assumed she would track down the Pinterest link and find the bridal shop wherever it was in this connected internationally tracked world and provide her measurements and have it made. I mean, why not?

China is why not.

After months of searching, google image tracking and endless web dead ends, it became clear that this image is stolen and is being used to proxy sell dresses for those horrible Chinese factory sweat shop sites.  And I'm sad about it. For one thing, it's a beautiful dress and I would like to acknowledge the bridal shop or label that produced it. For another thing, it has been a painstaking drama tracking down the exact same lace (more on that drama in another post). So much effort and wasted time. 
You'll find sweatshops all over eBay and google offering this dress. But of course, like all the dresses in their gallery, the images are stolen and being used to trick unsuspecting women into sales. There are currently 18 sites online using this exact image to sell a dress they don't have. I can only imagine what arrives in the post for people who buy it.

So with no possibility of buying this exact dress, it was decided that I would make a custom replica. I have had no desire to personally fashion a wedding dress design, I simply want to create the dress my DD wants. It's actually an easy dress to make with the most amount of work on creating an exact fit bodice (as the lace has zero stretch). This is usually overcome with appliqueing the lace motifs on a sheer stretch skin tone or transparent fabric. But for this look, that isn't possible. It will have to be all lace and all perfectly fitted. 

Something I heard in the bridal shops whilst I was viewing fittings was the amount of women who believed that the dresses they were trying on were extraordinarily complicated patterns. Actually, an intermediate seamstress or home sewing hobbyist with confidence in adjusting and fitting bodices would have no trouble making many of the garments. My thoughts on dress patterns are established from a career working in fashion design and industrial pattern making - all the master shapes being used are much like traditional quilting blocks - no one owns them and all design software has every pattern shape required to produce any of the dresses on display. The idea of custom patterns is really a marketing ploy. The patterns are based on very similar models that are tweaked and adjusted. The real expertise and expense comes from the quality of fabrics, laces and handling of them. 

So back to the dress. It's a beautiful bodice that falls into a full formal pleated skirt. It appears that the bodice and skirt have been made separately and joined in these images although it would be possible to create the whole dress in complete lengths rather than splitting the dress in the middle. Given that the lace is overlaid with lace at the seams, this isn't so important although that middle seam is a pet peeve for me and I would have simply had to double my work eliminating it! Luckily for me, this won't be necessary.
The pattern I started with was  Butterick Pattern B5731 which is a copy of Kate Middleton's famous dress. The base body has a lovely shape that can be used to suit numerous formal styles. I saw a copy of that dress in a bridal shop and I can tell you that this pattern is better than some of the versions out there for sale, so if you are after this style of dress, the pattern exists and there's no reason why you can't make it yourself. In fact Craftsy even have an online class on corset making which covers everything you need to know about creating the bodice, so don't be daunted. If you have the time and passion - you can.

In my previous post about constructing this pattern, I complained about the thin sheets it came printed on - a total nightmare to work with. But the pattern itself is just fine and the shape is lovely. In fact the pleated skirt is just what I want. We're even playing around with the idea of a V neck and will see how it looks in person when mocked up. 

We are also flirting with the idea of going all lace all over or changing the skirt to a fluffy one, and I'm open and ready to create anything. As soon as the mock up is completed, the actual details will be steered by the fabrics and their qualities - the stiffness, the fall, the contrast of lace against different textures. All those details will come into play. Personally, I'm entirely confident that the first original dress will triumph and steal and show.

We'll see..

Monday 15 August 2016

Sweet 2016, Part 7: Celebration Cake

This month the champagne is flowing, the table is laden and everyone is waiting for the silver stand to appear with the Celebration Cake. Be it birthday, anniversary, wedding or just a gathering, every collection of cakes need that extra special something and this month we’re making it! 

Of course, whether you opt for the birdy couple or replace them with candles or other embellishments, the cake can go into style you desire. And now is the time to showcase that spectacular scrap of fabric you’re dying to show in just the right spot or the super cute chocolate print fabric from your stash. 
Now, I have drawn applique shapes in the pattern which I imagined myself drawing directly onto fabric scraps and coloring in with permanent markers or my new fabric crayons and a thin brush...but then I remembered a gorgeous print I picked up years ago, I just knew it would come in handy one day. I think we all have a fabric in the stash like that, don't we?

Like this one:

Did someone say chocolate? I've been waiting to use this fabric for years and now I finally have the perfect project! If you have any scraps like this, now is the time to dust them off.

 And don't they look great beneath my cake?
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the top with my birdy couple. I just love birds, they're so cute. I auditioned a few print fabrics for the body and wings before settling on this:
 and drew in the little eyes. I will add a tiny bead later when I can find my bead stash
Now for the cake itself. I had a lovely scrap pale yellow fabric and planned on painting the decorative loops with a very fine brush and my new fabric crayons that I am itching to try out and show off...but it was not to be! My stash got the better of me and I dug out this scrap of sheer lace instead. I just love it for my cake collection.
Whoops, my applique looks a bit lopsided here, don't worry, it's not supposed to be like that!

Here's my 'worksheet' of applique pieces which I've prepped, numbered and placed on top of a light box for easy placement.
And that's it for this month. I can't wait to see how you make the  Celebration Cake all your own!

Understanding the pattern release schedule: anyone can join Sweet 2016 at any time and when they do, they will receive a new block each month from that point onward. The day they receive each new block will depend on the date they signed up and made their first payment. Everyone who starts Sweet 2016, starts at the beginning, Part 1. Specific blocks cannot be purchased out of turn. 

Whenever you choose to start this BOM, be sure to keep us updated on your progress by sharing your work over in our Sweet 2016 BOM Facebook Group, see you there!

'Sweet 2016' is my current Mystery Applique BOM
It's just $3.95 per month
Delivered digitally, to your email inbox each month

Saturday 13 August 2016

My Newest Quilt Gracie is Launched!

I designed Gracie for a wall in my kitchen; I just love the centre vase and surrounding tulips and the design is a stylistic nod to all those pieces if beautiful chinaware I have in the cupboards. With Gracie, I wanted to enjoy the best bits on a feature wall and I wanted to keep it simple rather than intricate. In Gracie I can see my love for applique combined in a modern feeling, almost but not quite folksy arrangement.

Of course, I never tire of tulips. As a design motif they represent love and devotion and with all the varieties of tulip out there, it’s a wonderful opportunity to let loose with beautiful fabrics. From the bright and modern to subtle and classic, Gracie just works. In fact, I haven’t yet decide what scheme to settle on myself (nothing new there).
Originally I envisioned a blue and white return to Delft theme, but the design took over and took matters into it’s own hands. Rather than a follow on from my Oma’s Blues as originally intended, Gracie has taken on a style and attitude all of her own.

Here are just a few colour schemes I am head over heels in love with. I really can't decide between them, what do you think? Which is your favorite?

Hopelessly pink and green? I am so in love with this colour way..
But there's no denying the allure of greys. What about this chambray grey and hot pink?
Or grey with soft pink?
then again, how can I pass up pink and blue?
Speaking of blues, what about a striking double print of blues and reds?
I could just colour way all day - but I won't, I don't have the time right now as I'm on wedding dress duty. But, I just had to come on and share this gorgeous pattern. I always love releasing my designs, they're all so special to me and I love making them available to everyone.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

WOW: Auditioning the Pattern

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
Today I'm sewing up the bodice part of the wedding dress pattern. I've had a good look at the Butterick pattern my DD chose and after some hassle with the super thin paper, I'm happy to report that the pattern itself is just fine and completely achievable for any intermediate home sewer - which is a nice surprise. Several people have asked me to report back to them on this point and I know what they mean. There are some pattern manufacturers who just make everything needlessly hard to follow, Butterick is not one of those.

Looking at the pieces now and knowing what my DD wants, I'm pretty sure that we won't be using this pattern for the finished dress. However I am prepared to make up the dress according to the pattern to show this to my DD. After that, I'll draft my own pattern and start the real wedding dress work. I don't actually mind making the Butterick one first as I am curious to see what an off the shelf wedding dress looks like straight from the pattern and I always like to warm up with a starter garment. It's been years since I professionally sewed any clothes and I'm out of practice. I never thought I'd be interested in clothes sewing again and have fallen much out of the loop.

Like quilting, new techniques and styles are coming along all the time. As far as quilting is concerned, I have learned so many new tips and techniques which have really cut down on the time it takes to create applique pieces. So I'm sure the same must be true for sewing generally - I just don't know about it as I don't do it anymore. I still follow the old school systems and I'm sure there's already a better way. So to make sure I am sewing as quickly and efficiently as possible, I've purchased a Craftsy class on corset making. Again, I have made many corsets and they're a lot of work. I'm hoping to learn some new quicker methods and will let you know how that goes.

Today, it's back to the Butterick pattern. With the price of lace being what it is, the sample dress is being made with the aid of some old curtains (above) and the dress is being made from cotton muslin. Far from glamorous, but a good start.

What's Your WOW?

Tuesday 9 August 2016

One Dress To Rule Them All

So, you may have heard I'm making a wedding dress.
I'm no stranger to occasion dresses and I've even made several wedding dresses professionally before retiring from fashion. The most memorable was one I made for a ballerina over 20 years ago. The whole experience was so exhausting I promised myself 'never again'. Oh boy, have I changed my tune! I'm now delighted to be making my daughter's wedding dress and am relishing every moment of it. Neither of us planned for me to make the dress, it just became an inevitable choice. 

I was more than happy for my DD to simply purchase a dress off the rack that took her fancy, and so was she. I haven't sewn occasion garments for years and I blithely assumed that by 2016, the range and availability of dress styles would be so encompassing and competitive that any woman could find what she was after. Not so! Those purveyors of all things bridal exist in a magical dimension like none other.  I've visited too many to count in the last 6 months and I can confidently tell you, I don't ever want to step foot in another. 

Luckily, my DD never did find 'The One' as the bridal shops like to refer to it in hushed tones, but the one that came closest rang in at $18,000, the next one along rang in at 11,000 and the other two contenders were both over 10,000: all ridiculous, over inflated, emotionally manipulative price tags for a mere dress.

So, to the cutting table I go. The creative challenge has commenced and I'm happy and excited to share the journey right here on my blog. I have asked my DD for permission to share her wedding dress journey here on my blog and she has happily agreed. Of course, blogging it is a great memory for me of the whole dress experience but there's another reason too. I want to encourage home sewers to think seriously about their ability to sew the wedding dress of their dreams. Yes, I'm serious. Don't be daunted. It's completely possible and in the weeks ahead I'll be showing you how.

If you want to follow my wedding dress progress, stay tuned as I will be blogging the whole thing here. The wedding is just over a month away so it will be coming together quickly in the coming weeks. And of course, there's a Pinterest board dedicated to what I'm doing.

Here I go..

Saturday 6 August 2016

What's New, Nelke?

I don't like updating my patterns: once they're released, they take on a life of their own and I'm ready to move onto the next project. Maybe you know the feeling? I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from packing away my design folio each time I release a pattern. But with Nelke, I couldn't stop myself fiddling! For one thing, every time I looked at my little bird, he seemed lonely. I couldn't stand it!
So I made him a friend for company...
Yes, that's better :) 

And then there's the newly added corner bows. My heart's still all a flutter over Love Entwined, so any opportunity to introduce those gorgeous LE double bows on new quilt projects is welcome. And on Nelke, they slotted in like they should have always been there - which they should have! I love them!

And then there's the border blocks which were confusing the first time around - I've sorted that out too.
Phew, that's Nelke updated! 
Now I can focus on my wedding dress mission.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

WOW: Updating Nelke

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
Talk about overdue WIPs, my goodness, Nelke has been waiting in the wings far too long for her pattern update, so today, that's my focus. I have lots to do, but feel I can't move on until all these little projects are sorted out. I'm on a real mission this month as my wedding dress duties are becoming pressing, so after today's WOW it will all be about 'The Dress'.

Now, time for me to get stuck in..

What's Your WOW?

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