Quest for the Wedding Dress: Part 3
Well, it all came together in a crescendo of late-night last-minute seam adjustments, but I did it. I finished my dress in time for my wedding! Woop-woop!
Somewhere around May, I dropped off the face of the Earth and fully engrossed myself in the finishing process. I confess that in the months preceding, when I was first starting out, I was not entirely confident in my composition skills. I was mostly working from two separate patterns to create my mandala and dream-catcher motifs; modified versions of both Julia Hart’s Dawnglow and The Loopy Stitch’s Dream Catcher.
As I continued on my journey, I encountered difficulties in finding the right patterns to pair with my already crafted forms. I didn’t like the shape of any of the leaves I tried; they were either too blocky, too dense, or incorporated stitches that I hadn’t utilized elsewhere (I adore the pineapple stitch, but it just didn’t match my mandalas. Tough beans!). And damned if I couldn’t find a paisley shape that didn’t feature an elaborate Romanian cord or looked like a squished pinwheel. Well, it was time to put up, or give up, so I forced myself to sit down and draft my own motifs. After much trial and error, I came up with three mandala, leaf, and paisley shapes that complimented my already established work. More details on those in the epilogue at the bottom of this blog entry!
Next came the blocking process; an extremely tedious but undeniably critical step in crochet, and in particular, lacework. To further my torment, many of my motifs had absorbed grease and sweat from my hands during construction, and so had little smudges and dark spots here and there which needed to be bleached out. NOTE: Washing your hands to the point of bleeding is the only acceptable state in which to crochet white lace. You have been forewarned!
Following a mild bleaching with vinegar, I patted the motifs down with a clean towel and arranged them on foam cutouts. Then I pinned each one to the foam, stretching them slightly so that they might hold some level of uniform shape and size. For those using these instructions as a how to-guide, the final step in the blocking process is to be sure to always close the craft room door so that your cat won’t sneak in and pull out the pins while your work is drying (#catmomproblems).
Meanwhile, the panels of my dress bodice were cut and basted in their final material, laying flat across the table and waiting to be assembled. Once the motifs had dried, I rearranged and repinned them to the awaiting fabric, getting an idea of how the appliques would lie and if there we any remaining gaps to fill (inevitably, there were).
I eventually decided to sew the motifs to the assembled dress as opposed to the individual sections of material because I was scared that the fabric would shift during assembly. In retrospect, it would have been far easier to have attached the motifs to a flat surface rather than on my curvy dress form, but hindsight truly is 20/20.
I checked my measurements, checked again, and sewed the panels together. The fabric did shift, and lines lined up imperfectly, but all and all the thing fit, so I was pretty pleased.
Snugly secured to my dress form, I repined each motif to it’s proper place and began hand-stitching.
Sewing the actual motifs to the form went relatively smoothly - what I was not prepared for was the amount of time it took to do the infil between the motifs. It took WEEKS. I have seen other crocheters assemble their infil over top of their material before sewing it down which actually would have been a great idea, but again I was worried that the outer mesh form would not match the inner dress form and that there would be no way to alter it after it was done, so I just carried on with my earlier instincts of filling in the spaces between the attached motifs (with a wedding as a deadline, any kind of action is better than no action). Regardless of how you do it, if you want to try infil you better have the patience of a monk. Or maybe just sew your motifs on top of a pre-assembled sheet of mesh. Yeesh, what a nightmare.
The last step of my assembly was to attach the skirt of the dress to my inverted “V” waistline. I wanted to have a slight gather at the front of the waist for a little touch of texture, so I lined up a long piece of white yarn across the width of the upper edge of my fabric and sewed it in place with a wide zig-zag stitch. I then gently scrunched the fabric towards the center to create the ruffle.
Proud of the ease of this small achievement, I whisked back to my sewing machine and speedily basted the skirt to the bodice. I had finally reached the moment I had been working so hard for! I slipped into the dress, fumbled with the buttons and rushed to the full-length mirror.
I was horrified! The gather caused the skirt to balloon out like an umbrella, giving me the appearance of a Dalek rather than the luxurious draped goddess I had imagined. I couldn’t rip the skirt off fast enough!
Back to the drawing board. I fortunately still had a great deal of muslin leftover from the bodice construction, so I figured I would drape a form-hugging mermaid-tail skirt in the same way I had draped the bust. After dividing, pinning, and marking the skirt into five tall and slender panels, I added some extra width to the waist section to allow for the small gather that I still desired. I cut out each strip and repined them around the lower half of my dress form. MUCH more shapely!
With some delicate arranging, I managed to squeeze all 5 panels onto my remaining final fabric and cut them out. Following my carefully penciled lines, I assembled the panels and reattached the skirt.
Despite the relatively relaxed feeling of my muslin draft, the final skirt of wound up being a little more snug at the knees with some puckering above the butt. The drapey, slippery nature of my final fabric had most likely caused the panels to shift during tracing and cutting and so ended up being more slender than their test-fabric counterparts. Unfortunately, at this point I had run right out of time.
Any achieved craftsperson will tell you that knowing when to ask for help is a critical skill. A panicked phone call to my bridesmaid and seamstress friend had them arrive at my house the evening before the wedding, as family and friends gathered in the next room for our rehearsal dinner. My groom was forbidden from entering the hallway and was left to mostly coordinate our guests as my Wonder-women were pinning, adjusting and reseaming the skirt on me, glass of wine in hand to calm my nerves. Someone also forced me to eat a slice of pizza (thank you, whoever that was!) to keep me going late into the night. I still can’t believe I slept actually.
The story ends with the dawn of the lovely, slightly hazy dawn of August 25th, 2018. My dress was done, the decorations put up, and with my best friends at my side, I was ready to walk down the aisle to marry the man of my dreams.
I couldn’t have asked for more.
I am very excited to share with you my first pattern for purchase! By popular request, I decided to share the three custom motifs that I made for my dress. The mandala, paisley and leaf shapes were inspired by artistic hybridizations of some of my favorite plants! Please find my 3-piece Flora Motif Pattern available for download on Ravelry!