The wedding has long since been and gone, but I’m finally getting around to posting these photos of Paula in her dress.
A big thanks to Dave Watts for taking such beautiful pictures! I feel super lucky to have these lovely shots of something I’ve made. You can find him here if you’d like to see more of his wedding photography, or contact him about your own photographic needs.
And another thanks to all my lovely friends who’ve enquired about this recently, it’s been really amazing to have everyone taking an interest in this project! I hope these photos round off the story nicely…
Tight brief here: design has to be a flower, fruit or vegetable and has to feature a turning leaf…. Having seriously considered several humorously phallic carrots, I settled on this satusuma for my design.
Taken between February 2019 and January 2020, the following photostream charts the first half of the project. Starting with pricking and puncing to transfer the design to the silk, stitching a shade key and testing out a circle shape, stitching the lower half of the fruit and the furthest leaf.
I actually really enjoy this technique! The long and short stitch creates a lovely effect and I’m having fun creating painterly shading.
What I’m not loving is replicating a photograph. I’m finding it frustrating that I’m not managing to achieve a photorealistic result, although in truth I don’t think that’s really the aim of the exercise here. I’m super happy with the smooth, round edges, and I think once I get to the light-reflection part it’ll suddenly feel more ball-like.
I’d really like to try this technique in a more modern, abstract design – just playing with geometric shapes and colour would be fun.
Finally, blackwork is done and I’m moving on! My finished blackwork piece is in for assessment over Easter, but I’ll post a proper conclusion on that whole thing once I get it back.
For now I’ll do a little walk through of the starting steps on the next project: goldwork. The design I’ve gone for is a goldfish, for obvious reasons. Given that I have literally zero understanding of this technique and the elements I need to include the designing part has been a bit of a head fuck, but I think I’m actually super happy with the direction the tutors have helped me take here.
The prep is quite long for this technique. For a start, framing up has the added kerfuffle of attaching the silk to calico with a herringbone stitch.
And then the transfer of design is done by pricking and pouncing, which I’m not a massive fan of. Stabbing all the tiny holes in the tracing paper is fun, but then I made a bit of a balls up of tapping the chalk through the holes onto the silk.
Never mind though, it brushes off. After painting the lines in with white watercolour and an insanely thin brush I could deal with the chalk debacle pretty easily.
The silk then has to be fixed to the backing calico with tiny stab stitches; all over in the filled area and only along the lines in the open areas. Giving poor little fish guy the pitiful look of a child with chicken pox.
Now some padding can be done! The body part of the design needs to transferred to felt in the same way as the main design, and cut out several times to make pieces of decreasing size. These will build up the padding for the fish body and give him a subtle 3D effect.
They’re attached smallest first and biggest last, to make the finished shape as smooth as possible.
I’ll also need to complete a area of soft string padding to meet the brief, so that section of my design will be the crest-y bit. String is waxed and doubled up over and over to create the perfect thickness to fill the shape. Working from the centre out, one gradually removes chunks of string from the fabric side of the bunch until only a couple of strands make it right out to the end.
The finished shape is (hopefully) a smooth, elegant curve, which will get covered with lines of gold at a 45 degree angle.
One of his fins didn’t cut the mustard, so I’ve removed that and will need to add a new piece for homework. But still, I feel like I’ve made a good start!
In 5 weeks time the actual wedding will be over, so this is the big push to make up the final dress! In an ideal world it’ll be ready for the final fitting by next weekend, leaving me a couple of weeks to hem it, add a hook-up train solution, and do any last minute alterations. And that’s not a completely unrealistic goal: as we stand right now the top mesh layer is sewn! And almost all the pieces are cut ready for the second layer. The petticoat is well into development too. So if I can plough on during the evenings of the coming week maybe I can avoid a last minute panic?!
I wanted to get the petticoat nailed first, but that didn’t go terribly well. I’d tried to do research on how to make an underskirt but I kept coming up with nothing. We’d bought 10m of very stiff mesh at the beginning of this project, so I persevered with that, making tiers with an enormous amount of volume in them, but it didn’t look right. It was more like a tutu for a small child than a couture undergarment.
At which point Lucy, in trying to help out and find some more information online, realised that there was an alluring array available on eBay for no more than twenty quid… So I downed tools and bought one.
And it’s not too bad! Much more volume than I was managing to create. But very, very light ivory, which I would’ve preferred to be more like a cream. Also, and fairly vitally, it’s quite short. Even with my fitted facing on the top, the length is still 13cm shorter than the dress itself will be.
I am going to have to build it up a bit bigger, so I will add a layer of my own tiered mesh; to create a kind of hybrid store bought / made to measure petticoat. So this extra layer can be a little longer, and maybe that will be enough! Maybe under the full dress it will all work. And if it doesn’t then I’ll need to make a panel of my own to go between the boned top panel and the top tier of the bought petticoat.
Petticoat will therefore stay flexible until I’ve got more of the dress done, and we’ll cross these bridges when we get to them. But I’m really glad I ditched the overlapping panel closure solution (on the left below) and changed to more panels and an open ended zipper. The new one is working out very nicely, so at least I feel that however we solve the mesh dilemma it will have a good, well-fitting anchor at the waist.
And on to the actual dress!
Cutting out the skirt panels from the narrow mesh threw up an immediate mishap: I’d miscalculated on the width of the biggest, centre back panel.
I’d been super careful, but there were a few things I’d overlooked (like the centre back edge not being along the grain line all the way to the top, and the fabric being shy of the 90cm). To fix this I had to take away almost 5cm of volume from this panel, which won’t matter in the slightest because the back is not short on volume. Not a disaster, just a momentary pain in the arse.
The zip has been source of great concern for me. It’s a focal point in it’s own way, there’s nowhere to hide with it on a dress with this little adornment, and it could be the difference between the dress looking professional and shoddy. I’m therefore massively relieved to have gotten it in, to the outer layer at least.
Because the two layers are both visible and not just a simple outer and lining, I wasn’t sure what the right solution was. In the end I decided to make both layers up separately anyway, which means the zip construction can be super normal and much more likely to look good, but I do want the seam allowance of the waist seam on the mesh layer to be on the inside of the garment… and whether or not you can visualise what I mean by that! You can trust me that it’s kind of two contradictory things.
Even though I bought a concealed style of zipper I’ve sewn it in in the conventional way. There is an overlap on one side which covers the zip and I hand stitched that to the machine stitching line for the most subtle indention possible, rather than an obvious machined topstitch.
My plan is to make up the top and skirt parts of the bottom layer and then add them to the outer in a way that achieves the waist look I want. Then I will hand stitch the bottom layer to the zipper similarly to a lining, and hopefully that will go without a hitch!
The rest of the panels went to together easily. I’ve put tiny french seams on the bodice at the side and princess seams. The skirt seams are stitched twice and pressed to one side. So far I’m happy with this but I might still need to trim the seam allowance down if it looks too chunky against the silk under layer.
One more week then to make up the under layer, add sleeves to the mesh layer, and work on the petticoat. Seems manageable. And as much as I’m enjoying this I’m glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel!
Cast-on with 51 stitches and knit in garter stitch. Every right side row, reduce the centre 3sts down to 1 by slipping one stitch, knitting the next two together and then passing the slipped stitch over. After 12 rows in your main colour, change to a highlight. When you get down to 3 stitches, purl all 3 together on the next wrong side row and fasten off.
Four matching small squares are sewn together to make a big square.
Then the big squares will be sewn together to make an even bigger square!
(I’m mildly concerned that my seams are a fat on the reverse, but I guess all blankets made in patches are like this. And I’m sure it’ll condense a bit in the blocking anyway)
I’ve used Drops yarn for this project. Their yarns are great quality, inexpensive, washable, and varied in both colour and fibre choices. The grey is their baby merino and the highlight colours are baby alpaca silk.
I’m hoping to have it finished in the autumn so I’ve got a long way to go! Perfect vacation project though, I’m sure I can bash out a fair few before the summer’s over.
Apparently, posting the above bumf will initiate me into the cheery world of Bloglovin! Which is basically a blog reader with loads and loads of great content. I’m discovering new stuff, so maybe some new people can discover my stuff too :)
This is going to be a fairly quick catch up, mostly because I don’t think I took many decent pictures!
In my last blog post (here) Paula tried on the first toile, we pinned it to fit and we made a lot of design decisions. I used those fabric pieces to draft a new version of the pattern in paper, and that’s what I’ve used to cut and make the second toile.
Because the mesh fabric we’ve chosen is so unusual I decided to make the top part of this mock-up in the real thing, rather than calico. Partly because it would be impossible to get the perfect fit otherwise, and partly because I’ve never worked with something like this before so needed the practice! But as it’d just be costly and unnecessary for the skirt I’ve carried on in a medium/heavy weight calico there.
Which led to the first problem – I had the calico in hand before the mesh, so I went ahead and made the skirt first feeling all smug and efficient… Until I realised that meant I couldn’t put the bloody zip in properly. I should have sewn the waist seam for the left and right back panels first, and the centre back seam up to the bottom of the zip opening, then put the zip in, then carried on with all the other seams. Lesson learnt.
The zip threw up a multitude of issues actually. I tried two different methods on the left and right, one with the zip tape between the layers of mesh and the other treating the two layers as one, and in that confusion I stretched one side out pretty badly and ended up with the back neck line on the wonk.
Plus I bought a concealed zip and then realised I didn’t have a concealed zipper foot, which would allow me to stitch right beside the zip teeth. Without that the concealed zip is not even remotely concealed.
And then there’s the petticoat, which I hastily threw together the night before the fitting because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted! But actually that was fine, we talked about how it should be and we used the bit I had made to cobble together a look we liked under the skirt. So this will be the next part I work on; I need to make a wide facing with boning, I’ll meet up with Paula again and check it fits like a glove, then I’ll attach the lining and the amount of mesh we’ve decided on and that will be the first section of the final dress to be finalised.
The actual fitting went well! She seems like a happy camper, so I am too. She’d planned to wear a shaping body con thing underneath, Spanx-style, but actually when we tried that on it just seemed uncomfortable and unnecessary. Also less flattering, weirdly enough. Sometimes I think those garments are counter-productive, instead of smoothing out your silhouette they just squeeze you into a generic amoeba shape with no distinction between bust and waist, bum and thigh. Back in her normal bra the bodice fitted so much better, and we can even take away some fabric from the midriff to properly define her figure – infinitely better than the Spanx scuba sausage.
I’d made the sleeve a wince too tight, so we cut up to see how much to let back out. But it actually looked so nice with a looser, straighter sleeve that we’ve decided to run with that. It’s a bit risky I guess, but at least it’s only sleeves; if we have to whip them off and make slim ones again then it won’t be the end of the world.
So, as previously mentioned my next step is the underskirt contraption. But before I launch into that I’ll take this incarnation in to the seamstresses at work and see what they have to say on the subject. I have a lot of questions and I think there’s loads more minor disasters here that I’m not even aware of. I don’t want any last minute surprises!
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, said… no one cool, ever.
I’m finding life a bit hard to get back into after the trip I took last month. I’m struggling to pick up where I left off in all of my projects, including this blog. So I’m gonna make this post a quick-fire round: two weeks in 50 words or less… ish.
Boston. Shiny financial district. More matte university.
Last weekend I went to see the Conceptual Art exhibition at Tate Britain. I don’t recommend you hot-foot it down there just for that, unless you really like oranges or plain black canvases, but the rest of the gallery is definitely worth a mooch on a Sunday.
The exhibition focuses on the period between the election of Harold Wilson’s Labour government in 1964 and Thatcher’s Conservatives in 79. I should have known from this brief description that I was in over my head, but even if I learnt nothing about art here at least I learnt a tiny bit about the timeline of recent British history!
The intellectual and wordy focus continues throughout. Conceptual art is clearly supposed to be less visual and more cerebral (clue’s in the title there) but some of these works really take the idea too far off the spectrum for me. There’s a lot of plain-ness, a lot of labelling things in a contradictory way, and not a lot of colour.
In the colour stakes the oranges are at least a little light relief! The pile which started out as a perfect pyramid, like a giant display of the ambassador’s Ferrero Rocher, is now depleted. Visitors are invited to take one from the pile and through this interaction the structure and form of the artwork is modified. On the one hand a randomly undulating landscape of oranges is a very nice thing, but on the other it’s a thing one can see at any grocers in any town anywhere.
So has seeing the concept of fruit acquisition in a gallery context changed my world view at all? Not really.
And therefore do I, personally, consider it art? I’m not sure.
…And I’m even less sure if it matters anyway.
However, it is well curated and definitely an education in the least visual of visual arts. To be honest I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it! But I was in and out in fifteen minutes and I didn’t even look in the shop.
The rest of the gallery is a joy though Massively varied in its’ content, an hour or two there feels like a visit to the National Gallery, Tate Modern and a sculpture garden all rolled into one.
These guys take the cake for me:
A herd of hopping, Clanger-whooping, porcelain toilet roll middles; I find them totally mesmerising. The gallery blurb about this piece, Nicholas Pope’s Liar Liar, talks about their being reminiscent of a schoolyard – like a playground group of parka-ed Kennys. They do feel alive and mobile, just freeze-framed, and it’s hard not to hope the pause button will be released and they’ll reveal a bit more of themselves.
If I had more money than sense I’d commission a set of these.
It’s also worth visiting at the moment to see two artist dedicated rooms: Hockey’s double portraits and a BP Spotlight on Anwar Shemza.
David Hockney’s is a collection of three paintings; his famous Mr and Mrs Clarke and Percy, alongside a portrait of his parents and an unfinished painting of Wayne Sleep and George Lawson. I’m not a great admirer of Hockney’s painting style, but I do love his colours and this wide space for three large canvases is very pleasing. Seeing these works collected together is like a study in how to read a portrait. The presence of the other five brings each sitter into a new light and the distinct characters are more distinguishable as a result of the contrast. If I was teaching art to school kids of any age I’d be dragging them over here for a field trip, you could base a whole term’s work on this stuff.
Anwar Shemza was previously a writer and a figurative painter in Pakistan before moving into the more abstract and graphic work which is shown here. This a fairly large space with a wealth of canvases on display, tying together ideas about calligraphy, geometry and abstraction of natural forms. There are sketchbooks and developmental works which back up the geometric thought process and for me these paintings are about planning out an idea and describing a breakdown of form as well as the generation of simple, good graphic design.
We’ve had our first fitting on the wedding dress, and it went pretty well :) Although the toile was only a rough outline of how the dress will actually be, it did show the important ideas and the fit actually wasn’t too bad!
I didn’t make the under skirt for this one because I feel like I need a fairly accurate pattern for the outer to base it on. But seeing as we had loads of great mash laying around we stuffed it under the calico just for kicks. The effect is a bit more Queen Victoria than Ellie Saab, but it kept us amused for a bit.
So I pinned in the toile as needed. The waist seem needed to come up a few cm, but the length on the skirt was actually ok. I took quite a bit of width off the bodice and shaped dart more closely over the bust.
The sleeve needed to be slimmer and the shoulders had to come in a lot.
The double mesh on the sleeve was a winner, so much so that Paula’s decided to have it on the bodice too. It’ll be quite a bit more stretchy than the calico so I’ll need to bear that in mind on my next pattern, I can probably afford to shave a little more off the seams and straighten up some of the more finickity shapings.
I marked up the toile where it had been pinned and cut along to make my new pieces. I have joined the dart up into the armhole to make a princess seam, which I think will give us the best possible shaping for Paula’s boobs and will mean that we can have more control over the grain line, and therefore the stretch, in the side section.
Where I cut the new armhole a large chuck of calico remained on the sleeve:
I need to add this on to the sleevehead to keep the length over and around the shoulder joint, but re-arranging this extra volume to make a flat sleeve piece will require a little juggling. I have slashed into the edge to release the tension. When I trace this piece out I will reshape the sleevehead to match the armhole on the body side and slim down the width, so we can keep the length and use the stretch in the mesh. That may not make a lot of sense! But in my head I’m sure I can see a way to re-draft this mish-mash of a piece into a nice fitted sleeve.
For the skirt the volume at the hem was nice but the pleats were not: I’m going to take those away and make the skirt in 7 plain panels instead. I’ve pinned out the pleats and pressed the skirt pieces flat. I’ve drawn on new seam lines to split the pieces into more panels and cut along. When I trace these pieces out onto paper I will smooth out the waist edges and add a new grain line on the side panels.
Next I need to trace all of these pieces onto pattern paper, checking that everything still adds up and will fit back together again! I need to add notches and seam allowance and generally turn this into a real pattern. I also need to use this skirt pattern to make an under skirt pattern. Because the top part is now entirely in soft and stretchy mesh it won’t be stable enough to hold up the full, heavy skirt. I’m planning to solve this with a facing for the skirt which is sturdy and well-fitting, possibly even with a bit of boning in it, to anchor the skirt on the hips. This will mean that skirt is entirely self-supporting, with the top part attached at the waist seam giving the look of a normal dress.
And from this facing the panels of lining and mesh will come down to reach the floor. I’m sort of winging it on the volume here! But I think and educated guess will be fine and we can take out/add in as required in the second fitting.