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Monday, December 17, 2012

My biggest sewing challenge

Last month I wrote a guest post for Sew Can Do about the biggest sewing challenge I ever had, making a wedding dress.
 I don't have any relatives who sew and I don't have any heartwarming stories about me sewing with my mom as a child. Except that one time I tried to cut up a pillowcase to turn it into a punk dress and jammed up my mother's old and underused Kenmore at age 13.

 I didn't actually learn to sew until I signed up for fashion design school at age 21. While there, I learned to make patterns and drape but my sewing skills were pretty atrocious and they sort of just sped through the one sewing class we took there.. I remember sending my projects to the dry cleaner to have them put in the zippers and buttonholes.
 Shortly after graduating, I was married and pregnant. I never continued with my design career or my sewing until I started my blog in June of 2010 many years later.

I was determined to finally become a decent seamstress and started sewing up a storm! But my skills were pretty rusty. Here is one of my first dresses I posted on my blog.
I called this the cupcake dress.
Cute, but but my sewing was not nearly advanced enough to make a wedding dress!

Which brings me to my story for today....
A few months after starting my blog I was asked by my son's teacher who knew I had a sewing blog if I could make her daughter a wedding dress. 
Well, that was way out of my league, but I said yes, I would do it!
 I spent the next three months eating, sleeping, and breathing wedding dresses. I had about as much confidence in my skills as a gnat, but I was determined not to make this beautiful girl a target of derisive laughter on her wedding day....

I spent hours on wedding sewing forums, bought an out of print copy of Bridal Couture and took an online couture sewing class with the author Susan Khalje. I shopped in downtown LA with the bride and we finally found just the right silk charmeuse and French Alencon lace for her gown. We pored over designs until she found the perfect design and I started making her a pattern for it. I had no idea how make a bustle, sew on buttons and hooks, sew an invisible zipper, make a pleated sash or sew invisible lace seams.

In fact, it was the first time doing many of these techniques for me.
There were lots of mistakes or what I like to call ," learning experiences" and much was learned...
Here are a few photos below of the sewing project that I feel turned me into a real seamstress.

Creating the bodice pattern first.
Drafting the skirt pattern.
An early fitting.
The bride's inspiration.
How on earth was I going to do this?

Fitting the underdress.

Attaching the lace to the layers underneath. All of the lace had to be sewn on by hand.

This skirt was all wrong and had to be redone!

Sewing lace trim to the neckline by hand. I had to dye it in tea to get it to match the lace.

Two disastrous first tries at a pleated sash!
The final sash, after many You Tube videos!

The final day finally came.....

I had to admit the final result was simple stunning on her. I had bitten many a finger nail worrying it would fall apart while she walked down the aisle.

The moral of my story is don't be afraid of a challenge when it comes to making something out of your comfort level. You just may surprise yourself like I did!

In looking back, it probably wasn't a good idea to take this kind of chance in making something I wasn't confident in, especially on such a special day as a wedding.
I guess ignorance is bliss!


  1. You can do anything after completing such a gorgeous creation with so much love.


  2. absolutely gorgeous, and the back is so lovely (important in a wedding dress)

  3. WOW!! that's great! to do a wedding dress is something really great!

  4. Wow. Just, WOW! you did a phenomenally good job making this dress. It's outstanding!

  5. Now, that was really jumping in at the deep end, Justine. You obviously like a steep learning curve. The dress is stunning and a credit to you.

  6. I was there in December 2010. Your post gives me the interest and courage to blog the construction of my own baby's April 2011 outfits. Your work produced lovely results. The bride was positively radiant and beautiful in your creation!

    For my own "biggest challenge," the marriage ceremony outfit was three pieces, inspired by Sabrina's ball gown Audrey Hepburn wore in "Sabrina:" sleeveless column dress, detached train and bolero. THANK GOD for the W.W.Web!!!! A bolero found in an Etsy shop was the inspiration for the one I made. Everything was made from silk: taffeta underlay, dupioni, and lined with charmeuse. It was a dream working with silk, but that first cut made we sweat bullets! This ensemble required four months of my life.

    Our favorite dress was the Going Away dress. The $1,200 French inspiration for that was achieved with dupioni leftovers, and fourteen yards of tulle. This dress was done in 24 hours. Haha!

    Agreed: ignorance is bliss!

  7. SOOOOOOOOO pretty!!! Awesome story, too!!! Just what I need to read as I head on into my first sewing pt job at a cute little fabric store! Thanks! :)

  8. Really nice. I love the back of that wedding dress. I laughed when I read that you didn't really learn how to sew until you went to design school - I signed up at a French university and couldn't speak a word of french!!!! Man, the leaps of faith you take when you are 18!

  9. Holy smokes, that's incredible! I kind of dream about being able to do something like that one day, but it just seems too far out of my league. Maybe I'll try it someday . . . and I'll come to you with my questions ;)

  10. That dress is SO beautiful! You did such a wonderful job. I really love it because it has such lovely details with a simple, flattering silhouette. The buttons down the back and the pleated sash are just perfect. I have yet to gather the courage to attempt something like a wedding dress. Good on you for trying something so new and challenging!

  11. my mom and I made my wedding dress five yers ago! We used a designer dress as inspiration too. It turned out fabulous, and I loved the process, even hand beading the lace!

  12. You did a wonderful job! I would have been horrified! Really pretty

  13. Wow, this is one of the most beautiful wedding dress I have ever seen!


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