A bit of Sewing Room progress

I didn’t achieve everything I wanted this weekend but I did un-bury both my machines!

…and powercords, which are also very important!

It doesn’t look like much but it made me feel MUCH better about pretty much EVERYTHING.

Hrmm…we appear to be lacking quite a lot of fabric…

Nerdy husband and I have decided we have to prioritise getting new carpet for all the bedrooms, the current carpet is very old, full of 24 years worth of pet fur and goodness knows what else (despite numerous cleans) and it’s just not healthy for us. We were prepared for this, we knew when we bought the house that the carpet was bad. The exciting pay-off is that the carpet sits on top of beautiful New Zealand Rimu floor boards so the rest of the house will be taken back to this and polished up. Oh my, it’s going to be gorgeous!

This will happen very soon, I just have to organise myself, but until that time I am reluctant to load my room with too many items as I’ll just have to empty it again when the new carpet goes in. I do intend to have enough in there so that I can sew ;) This weekend made me realise that my mood has been slowly descending into gloomy territory. We’ve only been in the house 1 week and I’ve felt a bit lost in general.  I’m just impatient. On Saturday I cooked our first “proper” meal, in my kitchen, roast chicken with all the trimmings, it felt so good. I want my sewing room back the same way and I know it’ll feel just as good when I sit down at my table and push the pedal on my Elna for the first time in aaages.

I have a quick project already lined up to get me back in the swing. It doesn’t sound super exciting because it’s home-dec but I’m excited about it. Here’s the background: Nerdy Husband’s interests also include goldfish and he has a nice large tank that has been in storage for 6 years. We have dusted everything off and bought additional supplies and are now looking forward to getting it all set up in our lounge. The tank also has a pretty naff looking pine table that Nerdy Husband made for it to sit on. It’s OK, even Nerdy Husband concedes the naff-ness of this table and has asked me to make a cover for it. I have left over fabric from this ikea-hack-esque project which will go nicely with the couches and ottoman. I’ve already planned how I’m going to tackle it so I just have to do some measuring (and dig out said fabric) and then I’ll get at it later this week…I may also need a couple of zippers…

Now for something completely different: Would you guys pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top vote for my entry in the Bernina Craftsy DIY Weddings Contest? You just have to click on THIS LINK or on the image below and then click on the heart to “heart” me :)

If you missed my wedding dress journey you can see all the posts HERE

Thanks everyone, you guys are awesome xx

How to sew your own wedding dress

Something sewing has taught me is that if you don’t give it a go, how do you know you can’t do it? That’s probably true of a lot of things in life as well but for me, when I’m sewing, it’s sort of become my new motto. If I haven’t tried something before I arm myself with as much knowledge as I can from books, the internet or other people and then I dive right in.

Actually if we’re being really honest, sometimes I just dive right in without the knowledge and then see what happens ;) It doesn’t always turn out badly. I think a lot of new sewers hamstring themselves by forgetting that simple sentence. They have heard, “zippers are hard” or “setting in sleeves can be really tricky” amongst other sewing myths so they avoid sewing items that require these skills when really what they should be doing is reading up a bit of advice and then just giving it a go.

So my wedding is over, I am Mrs Curious Kiwi, I had a wonderful day and I am really happy that I chose to make my own wedding dress, something I hadn’t done before (obviously) and wasn’t sure I’d be able to do but I gave it a try anyway. Sure there were times when I was pulling my hair out wondering what the heck I was doing. There were a few tears and one tantrum, a lot of stressing and some swear words but I also gained some new sewing revelations and a whole lot of confidence in my abilities.

One of the new sewing skills I came away with and had never tried before attempting it on my wedding dress was boning. Putting boning into a dress was a bit of an enigma to me, surely it was going to be difficult and require a little bit of luck and some sort of sewing magic. I had my first go on my muslin and it was nowhere near as difficult or mysterious as I imagined it to be. Boning is now added to what I call my “Sewing CV”.

There are plenty of other seamstresses who have successfully made their own dresses, they were a huge inspiration and my main motivation and I enjoyed seeing their journeys as much as I enjoyed my own. We all tackled our dresses in different ways to suit our wedding styles, budgets and sewing skills.
The first wedding dress I saw someone make was by sassymulassy on BurdaStyle, I was already engaged at the time and it definitely planted the seed. Since then quite a few more have popped up and they are all amazing feats of sewing skills.
My far my biggest inspiration was following Melissa of Fehr Trade. Her wedding dress journey (and in fact her whole wedding) was a huge motivation for me and you can read about her amazing dress story here.

Some other links I found useful were:

If you are thinking about tackling this scary but rewarding project why don’t you check out their stories for a little bit of courage. My wedding dress posts can be found here and I thought I’d jot down a bit more of my internal thinking below.

(WARNING: This may end up as another epic post, you may want to go grab a cup of tea first and a sandwich)

DISCLAIMER: I’m not going to pretend to be an expert at this since I’ve only made myself one dress (and certainly don’t have any intentions of needing to make a second one, well not for myself anyway) but I thought going through the steps I took to make my dress would help others who are considering doing the same but are maybe not quite over the line yet.

First things first: This project is pretty important, like me, it might be your most important project so far in your sewing life. There are going to be enough problems and hiccups along the way and the last thing you need is problems with your sewing machine/s so if it’s been a while or they aren’t quite running how they should you might want to book them in for a service. I regularly maintain my machines so they were fine but I still gave them both a through clean and an oil as per my machine manuals. Also don’t forget to sew some scraps after freshly oiling it to take away any excess and test it again if you’ve left it sitting for a while, the last thing you want is dirty oil on your pristine white fabric.

Service your machine/s

Next, do a bit of internet research, this can get a bit overwhelming but just gather a few images of dresses and details you like. Then edit and make a folder of your most favourite things.

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If, like me, you aren’t at the point in your sewing life that you can draft an entire wedding dress from scratch, don’t panic, check out all the great patterns available from the major pattern companies and don’t forget the independents too. One pattern might not cut it, you might need to use one as a base and make alterations or combine two patterns or more to create your dream dress. Also don’t forget to look at the formal dress patterns too, some of them would look amazing as a wedding dress in the right fabric.

Vogue 2842

Butterick 5462

McCalls 5321

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Once you are familiar with the patterns that are out there go to a dress shop and try on some wedding dresses. You need to do this, I know from experience that the dresses I had in my head (and millions saved to a flash drive) did not look as good on me as I imagined and instead I ended up going for a dress style that I initially thought I wouldn’t like.

Here are my Wedding Dress (pretend) Shopping tips:

 

  • Start early, especially if you are shopping on the weekend, the shops get really busy fast. I began at 9am and still had to wait inline for about 30 minutes before I could start trying on.
  • Don’t mention to anyone in the shop that you intend to make your own dress, I don’t think they’d really like that.
  • Take at least 2 un-related females with you (they’re more honest – although the girl next to my change room had her brother helping out…weird) and make a fun day out of it, dress shopping in the morning followed by a yummy lunch, you’ll need it, it’s quite hard work!!
  • Don’t look at the price tags, remember you aren’t buying so don’t let those little tags deter you from trying anything on.
  • Start by choosing some dresses that you think you will like (they usually start you with 6) and try them on, eliminate the ones you don’t like as you go and get more if you need too.
  • While you’re getting laced up send your girly minions out to pick a wildcard dress each, something they want to see you in, this is fun and will get you trying on styles you might not have thought of.
  • Keep going until you love what you see in the mirror.
  • Most dress shops aren’t too keen to let you take photos of the dresses because a lot of people do this and then get the dresses made overseas for cheap. You can try asking but if they say no then get them to write down the dress(es) you like and you might be able to Goggle them (although I had no luck with my favourite, the name was too generic) but if you girly minions are clever you might be able to get a few sneaky pictures.

Once you’ve made up your mind stick to it. You will get a lot of suggestions from a lot of different people, don’t let them stray you off the path to your perfect dress.

Everyone’s got an opinion but you don’t have to take every suggestion on board, I know this sounds cheesy but listen to your heart.

Having said that, when it comes to buying your fabric, the ladies at your local fabric shop can be pretty expert at helping you with fabric selections, listen carefully to their advice

Now go back to those pattern websites and look for a pattern or patterns that closely resemble your dream dress and buy it/them in your size.

Simplicity 3878

Lekala 2003

BurdaStyle 7539

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If you are short on time don’t forget you can always buy a downloadable pattern.

If you have never made one before or never make one ever again in your sewing life this is the time you MUST make a toile/muslin.

I started by making my pattern up as per the envelope out of a good weight calico, the kind of weight I imagined my final fabric choice to be made from. If you want to use some fancy fabrics then this is also the time to do a little pre-dress fabric investigation so you know what’s out there and whether you need to buy fabric and notions online.

Once you have your first trail dress finished you can start making any alterations. I hit this using two different methods. For the pleat, corset back & neckline I worked my changes in the calico dress directly and the transferred my changes to the paper pattern pieces. For the internals I altered the paper pieces and created new ones based on the ones I had. You could also combine two or more patterns to create your masterpiece as well. Use whatever methods that suit your skill level and are familiar with. This can take a bit of time and be frustrating but now is the time to learn if what you want to do is achievable.

If you set a budget make sure you allow some contingency for sewing mishaps, or that amazing trims you saw and MUST have but is more than you thought it might be.

Get your shoes sorted so you know if you need to add extra length into the pattern (I added 4cms!).

It sounds obvious but allow yourself plenty of time, you don’t want to be hemming your dress on the morning before the ceremony. Once I chose my pattern I gave myself one month to sew the muslin and one and a half months to make the actual dress. I probably didn’t need nearly that much time but I was generous because I work full-time so that meant my sewing time was limited to evenings and weekends. I work better under a little bit of pressure so I found myself slacking off procrastinating early on and most of my dress got finished in the last few weeks.

Believe in yourself and your sewing abilities because you truly don’t know how much you can achieve until you’ve tried.

Don’t forget to share your amazing dress with me when your done :)

Good luck!

“Photos please!”

That’s about all I’ve heard since I got back from my Honeymoon :)

I’m sorry I’ve made everyone wait so long and I will admit to procrastinating by taking a day to set up the new blog for BSC Perth WA, but if you don’t like that excuse I have a few more: I am terribly jet lagged, my first week back at work was ridiculously busy, I made a Pavlova on Sunday for dinner with friends and there are about 74 kagillion photos to look through :)

So, here it is, the most important project of my sewing life, my wedding dress. You’ve heard enough about the process so to fill in a bit more space with words I’ll tell you a little bit about where I got married.

My fiance and I were married at Wilton House in Wellington’s Otari-Wilton’s Bush.

Otari-Wilton’s Bush is the only public botanic garden in New Zealand dedicated solely to native plants, hence all the amazing ferns in our photos. It comprises of 100 hectares of native bush including Wellington’s largest area of original native forest (7 hectares fenced off by Job Wilton in 1860 and remains untouched to this day) and an 800-year-old Rimu tree.

The gardens are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and entry is free. There are over 14kms of incredible walking tracks you can take throughout the area including the 75-meter long Canopy Walkway, a self-guided Nature Trail and many beautiful picnic areas.

If you happen to find yourself in Wellington then I encourage you to visit and enjoy this amazing garden and all its amazing wildlife.

Back detail

Overall I’m really pleased I took up the challenge of sewing my own wedding dress. I had an amazing day and a wedding I’ll never forget in a dress I’ll  never forget. Wellington didn’t let us down and Otari Wilton’s Bush is a significant part of Wellington’s history and Wilton House was the perfect venue for us.

Here’s a link to our photographers blog, you can read what he had to say about the day.

On a side note I didn’t end up using the petticoat I painstaking gathered because the dress sat better without it.

In the next day or so I’ll be putting together a post on my basic process in the hopes it will help put you over the line if you’re considering making your own dress (or one for someone who it close to you) so watch this space ;)

 

By hokey it’s in the bag Mr. Toogood*

It is done!

Dee Ohh Enn Eee

DONE

This is how my night ended last night, into the bag, not to be looked at again until the other side of the Tasman Ocean, and it feels pretty good :)

Now you see her, now you don't!

(Apologies for the poor photo colours, it was night-time and my camera didn’t like all white followed by all black)

I was going to post a picture of my petticoat as well. It’s more of a cross between a petticoat and a hoop skirt (I think it is also known as a crinoline?) but I can’t find the photos on my thumb drive so I must have forgotten to copy them. I will post about it later so for now this is the last dress update until the big day. Hopefully in the next week or two I can share with you some great NZ fabric shops and a little bit about my wonderfully creative home town, Wellington.

*Obscure NZ reference, well done if you got it.

A Weekend of Win

I had such an amazing weekend. It started with a much deserved sleep in followed by a wonderful girls only lunch with a wonderful group of girls. Great food, great wine, great conversation at a great venue (and I even got some unexpected presents which was a nice bonus). I relaxed that afternoon (I even took a nana nap) and then on Sunday I was ready for the big final push for finishing my wedding dress. Enjoying such a fun and carefree day followed by a bit of a recharge (and coupled with that extra bit of pressure as time slips away) really set me up for a great sewing Sunday. I made excellent progress and I am feeling really good. All I have left to do is finish the petticoat tonight (there has been a minor re-design which has thrown me off by a day or two) then I can mark up the hem and that really is it. I’m not so stressed about hand-sewing the hem any more, I did a little test on Sunday afternoon and as long as I am careful it should go well, I’ll just plug away at it a bit each night until it is done.

Here is a little photo recap of my recent progress and a sneaky photo to whet your sewing appetite.

Finally: Shoes!

Nerdy moment: Empty thread spool

There has been A LOT of this!

Sneaky glimpse

Nervous beginnings…

I wasn’t going to write too much more about my wedding dress progress so that the finished product was more of a surprise for you all (all 10 of you according to my stats, hehe) but since my latest Patrones or my first Manequim magazine haven’t shown up yet (or my November Burda come to think of it) I’m a little short on blogging content. Mind you, as my friend S so cleverly pointed out they’d just be a distraction anyway and this way I can save them for reading material on the plane flights. I can take her idea one step further because if I souvenir myself some fabric I’ll have some patterns already picked out for it. I also really need to find some time to photograph my Melbourne Cup dress and convince Mr Curious to let me photograph him in his Stinchcomb jacket.

Altering the pattern pieces

I’ll try not to give away too many spoilers: So you know that I picked up my fabric earlier in the month. I cut the interfacing and lining pieces first with the thought that if I started with the cheap (and easy to replace) it would ease my nervous scissor hands more gently into it. Unfortunately I had a bit of a problem with the self fabric. When I started to unroll it I noticed a little grey dot on the end of the fabric. No bother I said, I knew I’d bought too much fabric so I’d just start at the other end and this dot would end up on the leftovers. But as I unrolled a bit more there was another…and another….and another. All the way down the 6 meters or pristine white fabric. Crap. So I rolled it back up, put it into the bag, had a (little) cry then dug out my receipt and stuck it all it the car for a lunchtime dash back to Fabulous Fabrics the next day.

Laying out on the interfacing

Laying out on the lining fabric

The girls there were great. There wasn’t enough of the same fabric left to cut another 6 meters and the roll that mine was originally cut from had the same grey dots through it. They helped me chose a few other “whites” and eventually I found another bolt with enough fabric on it that made me happy. This time they cut the fabric by hand (as opposed to using the rolling machine) so we could check the entire length for marks. There was a bit of soiling on the end of the roll, probably from someone draping it over themselves in front of the mirror so the manager gave me an extra 1.5 meters for free! They were all so nice and understanding so I went back to work very happy.

Finally the self fabric!

And so I started pinning and cutting my main fabric, careful to place my pins within the seam allowance since an earlier “pin test” showed my fabric liked pin holes very much, and then I cut. I can’t believe I was so nervous, I’ve already made this entire dress once from calico but there’s just something about the “real” dress that gives me the jitters. I desperately want it to be perfect and while a lot of people know that I am making it I don’t want people who don’t know to be able to tell that I made it myself. The true seamstresses test no?

It took a long time to baste all the interfacing to the internal lining pieces and the lining to the self fabric for the upper bodice but it all went quite smoothly. Then the first “proper” seam I sewed I ended up unpicking. I had sewn the wrong sides together but that’s ok, at least I got that error out of the way nice and early. My fiancé installed a soundcard to my computer earlier in the day so I got to catch up on Project Runway while I unpicked.

Unpicking...

The internal bodice went together as smoothly as it did in calico and I am really happy with the fit and extended length.

Internal bodice

The rest of the dress is (relatively) easy compared to this, just super amazingly long seams to sew, press and finish so I have spent a little bit of time on it each night during the week pinning and sewing these together (starting with the lining pieces again for good luck) and I am making good progress, completely on track in regards to my timeline.

Except that I still don’t have shoes…

Last night I hit another hiccup but I am hoping it is the last and if this is the worst mistake I make for the whole project then I’ll be happy. When I transferred my changes for the pleat from the calico to the paper pattern pieces I altered the wrong side of the centre back piece. I thought something was up when I was trying to pin it to the rest of the dress so I stopped and took out my calico dress to have a better look. When I laid the paper piece on it I knew exactly what I had done wrong and I couldn’t believe I had made such a simple mistake.

Whoops!

New CORRECTED pieces

Knowing I had extra fabric saved me from a complete meltdown so I just re-cut the paper piece correctly and pulled out my extra fabric to recut those pieces.  Back on track…again and that’s where I am up to. I have a finished internal bodice, the mostly assembled lining, assembled upper bodice and assembled lower skirt pieces. Now to bring it all together…

Back on track with some great NZ music on YouTube to keep me company

Pancakes and rings

This week just gone Stress Bunny morphed into Productive Kiwi and I had a really successful wedding planning week. All the honeymoon items are booked now: accommodation, car hire, flights and I even made up a little Google map of things to do and driving directions (yes I am that nerdy).

My dress is coming along well, we’ll get to that in a minute, and two of my three bridesmaids are dressed, the last one will sort herself out I am sure. One of them has even bought shoes, make up, jewellery, hair accessories and even a matching clutch purse.

But you know when things are going quite well, too well actually, and you get a little suspicious, a little voice starts in the back of your head, “this isn’t supposed to be this easy, there must be a hiccup coming soon”…So yesterday we went into town to see the jeweller who made my engagement ring. His shop is in the one of the many confusing internal shopping arcades in the central city, we hadn’t been there for a while but eventually we found our bearings and went up the right staircase to find…a pancake house! I thought he couldn’t have gone far but Google didn’t help and neither did the arcade directory and after a bit of a walk around with no luck we were resigned that he’d either moved or gone out of business. After a half-hearted look at some of the other jewellers we did what you do when you’ve come all that way only to be disappointed…we went and had pancakes for lunch.

Consolation pancakes

So on to the dress: Earlier this week I lengthened the internal bodice and added the boning to test fit and feel. Boning has always been a bit mysterious for me but now that I’ve done it, it’s really not. Attaching the boning was no where near as technically difficult and I thought it would be, instead it was more awkwardly tricky. I bought a plastic boning, by the meter, the kind that is already within a cotton sleeve, you trim it to length and curve off each end.

from Butterick 5325 instructions

The boning has a natural curve to it but I got the first one pinned down and centered really easily. It was the second piece that caused problems, you see with one piece of boning attached you can’t handle the fabric the same way when pinning, it’s hard to explain but the problem is compounded with each piece you attach. By piece number four I really needed an extra two sets of hands, one pair to hold the thing in place, another to pick up the fabric and my own hands handling the pins. Well I got there in the end and stitched them all down using my zipper foot. Here is the result (note that it is now a tad too big but this will be simple to address when I make the actual bodice). I don’t have a picture of me trying it on but I really enjoyed how the inner bodice felt and made my body look.

Bonned bodice on Scarlett

Next up I attached it to the dress and altered the neck line, here is a dodgy camera phone photo in my laundry. I intended a better photo with tripod and remote but fiancé came home from his recent trip away earlier than expected and thwarted my plans.

My laundry...oh and my dress

On the weekend I tackled the dress back, which I can share with you now that it is impossible to jinx. I really wanted to add in a big pleat, firstly because one of the dresses I tried on had that detail and I loved it and secondly I really, really wanted to get rid of that unsightly center back seam below the zipper opening. It’s also my compromise to not having a huge train, I want something in-between to suit a garden wedding. I refuse to deal with bustling, I just want a bit of volume and to add some interest. My dress is not going to be the most complicated or fussy, I’m going for amazing fit and elegance above all else.

For a couple of weeks I did a lot of brain sewing, imagining how the heck I was going to make this work and finally I settled on a plan.

Center back pattern piece

I used the center back pattern piece (shortened), cutting one on the fold and two more separately and then separated the back seam of the dress and sewed it all in place.

A lot of fabric to manoeuvre now!

I know what I'm doing...I think...

My first attempt was far too large so I halved my pieces (which now that I think about it makes sense math-wise) and it was a much better result. So here is a before, after and after again picture, you’ll notice the hem just needs some correcting.

before, after...and after again

So I guess technically my trail run is finished and now there are no excuses to go out this weekend and buy some amazing fabric. Except that first I need some shoes because I realised I may not have enough hem at the front, and I need the shoes to adjust this…so that is today’s mission, a little reward for sorting out the honeymoon details and a little cheer-me-up for losing my ring guy (yes, I said ‘my’, I can be a over-protective like that).