A shift into neutral and a grainline mystery

Every time I make some kind of pronouncement – like “Hey, I’m into sewing colorful fabrics now!” – I seem to go out of my way to defy myself. Well, it’s happened again. No sooner had I written that post did I sew a string of neutral projects.

The evidence is quite damning:

In addition to these nine (!) projects, I sewed a couple of grey pieces in March. One is a total success and the other a total failure that I could use some input on.

First up – the success! These pants are sewn up in a thick linen woven using Vogue 8909.

crabandbee.com | Vogue 8909 grey linen pants

I’ve sewn the pattern up three times before, blogged only once as part of a tiger costume.

This time, I shifted the front seams in by another inch and added 2″ of ease to the hips in the rear. I like my hip ease. I’d also shortened the rise by 1″ in an earlier iteration (and as you can see, they are by no means low-rise even after the alteration.)

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I also lowered the back yoke line by 1″. These are my dream lounge pants, but nice enough (I think? I hope?) to wear to my casual-ish desk job.

And now, the fail: a longline cardigan based on McCall’s 6886.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6886 long-line cardigan pattern hack

To be clear, I think the pattern was a good choice for this project. I altered McCall’s 6886 to include a front opening and a low v-neck. I also think these photos of the cardigan look GREAT.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6886 long-line cardigan pattern hack

The fail is due to the fabric. I washed this 100% wool sweater knit on cold, and dried it in the machine. (Worth noting: I am cavalier with most fabrics. For a pre-wash, I machine wash and dry almost everything except coatings and lace. I baby my fabrics later by minimizing washings and line-drying, but I like to minimize surprises if a piece accidentally gets thrown in the wash.) No unexpected shrinkage, BUT the grainline shifted dramatically. The horizontal striations were now at a jaunty angle. After consulting with the fabric seller, I had mostly straightened it by dampening it and blocking it. So I cut and sewed it and was happy with it. As I wore it, the side seams began to skew but not so terribly that I wouldn’t wear it.

But, as time went on, the fabric relaxed, especially in the arm scye. Back it went into the washer/dryer, after which the side seams skewed dramatically to the point where the buttons now form a diagonal line across my front. Not only that, but the button band edges now form a very ripply fold.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6886 long-line cardigan pattern hack

I’m not here to blame the seller, because I think every fabric care suggestion would tell me not to put wool sweater knit into a washer or dryer. But, I am curious – is this sweater knit intrinsically off-grain or did I make it so?

I have a yard or so left, and my thought is to sew something leaving the striations slanted and let the fabric do what it wants to do. I see quite a few RTW garments do that, so while it’s not my favorite look, I wouldn’t be conspicuous and the fabric wouldn’t go to waste.

Lastly, I shall leave you with a bonus project – the black tank I’m wearing with both of these grey projects!

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6886 black viscose tank top

It’s another McCall’s 6886 in black viscose, bringing my neutral sewing total up to twelve pieces. It’s quickly become one of my most-worn pieces as my two black RTW tanks (purchased in 2008 and 2011) disintegrate. I love the drape of the fabric.

Thanks for stopping by, and please do share any knowledge you might have about knit fabric grainlines!

Sewing Happiness origami pillows + giveaway

Please note this giveaway has been closed; thank you!

crabandbee.com | origami pillows from Sewing Happiness by Sanae Ishida

Just under three years ago, when I must’ve been feeling exceptionally bold and sociable, I cold-emailed the writer of a new-to-me sewing blog I’d been enjoying. Her posts had inspired me to look at her About Me page and I was struck by our nearly identical work histories. (No small feat, considering I’d worked six completely distinct jobs and fields in my career at that point.) We also shared Japanese heritage and I really wanted to meet this person who could empathize with my wandering career and my bicultural upbringing.

The blogger in question was Sanae. After some small talk and sewing talk, we started digging into what has been an on-going conversation during our friendship: how to work and live well. How to do meaningful work, and do it in such a way that you can remain healthy and joyous. In one of our early get-togethers, Sanae confided that her dream and plan was to build her living by creating books, and I’m so proud to share that her second book, Sewing Happiness, has been released this month.

crabandbee.com | origami pillows from Sewing Happiness by Sanae Ishida

Sewing Happiness begins with essays that delve into Sanae’s personal journey to physical and emotional health and the role that sewing played. The second half of the book is instructions for projects. None of the projects require patterns. I so wish I’d had this book when I started sewing. I had such an urge to understand how measurements and flat shapes related to the finished 3D projects and a book like this would have helped guide me through my fumbling! Now that I have more experience under my belt, I’m inspired by the beautiful styling and thoughtful, simple projects. Many of the projects would make great gifts.

I made a pair of the origami pillows, which I’d been eyeing ever since Sanae sent me an early draft of her book. The fabric I used is metallic linen provided by Miss Matatabi. The instructions suggest measuring the pillows and adding 1″ height and width for seam allowance. “But what about the space taken up by the pintucks?” I wondered to myself. I tried to figure out exactly how much extra I’d need for 1/8″ pintucks and cut accordingly. I’m terrible at cutting rectangular shapes, however, and one side was longer than the other. Then I kept reading, and the instructions said that the case will end up a little smaller than the pillows, but that makes them extra fluffy. I cut the other side down and stopped worrying. And Sanae was right, my pillows were extra fluffy.

crabandbee.com | origami pillows from Sewing Happiness by Sanae Ishida

Speaking of fluffy, Puffy, one of two giant cats we adopted in February, graciously curled up in front of the pillows right before the photoshoot. He’s so obliging.

And in the interest of keeping it real, here’s what was happening outside of the frame. I’d tossed a throw blanket and a sweatshirt off the couch to shoot these photos. I think Spencer, our other giant kitty, was feeling left out and parked himself on the discard pile, staring reproachfully at me while Puffy had his closeup. Cats!

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Giveaway: I have a copy of Sewing Happiness and a $45 gift card to Miss Matatabi’s fabric shop for one U.S. reader. Please let me know in the comments if you’d like to be included in the giveaway and an email address where you can be contacted! Giveaway will close on May 23, 2016 at midnight PST.

Canada Pants

crabandbee.com | Closet Case Patterns Morgan jeans

I’m excited to share my Morgan jeans today! Since it would be weird to call your own jeans by your first name, I call them my Canada Pants. Not only were they are designed by Canadian Heather Lou, but I also found the fabric for them on a trip to Victoria, BC.

When Heather first approached me about this pattern, I was trepidatious about fitting without the aid of stretch. (I made a pair of non-stretch flares last year and while they’re comfortable enough, I just don’t like how they look.) I decided my strategy would be sizing up and sewing in a fabric with drape like a linen. Doesn’t it sound pleasant to billow around in roomy linen jeans?

But fate had other plans and I fell under the spell of a thick 50/50 hemp cotton denim in Victoria’s Gala Fabrics. (Incidentally, when I went up to the cutting counter, the owner immediately asked me if I was from Salt Springs Island. I said no and asked why, and he said that hemp and linen are very popular with the inhabitants there. If we were going on fibers alone, I’d say I’d found my people…)

crabandbee.com | Closet Case Patterns Morgan jeans

So with my drapey linen plans delayed (but not abandoned!), I made a very traditional pair of blue jeans. And, in spite of my hesitance, they’re easily the best jeans, nay, pants in my wardrobe. For a few years now, the only jeans pattern I’d used was what I’d adapted from a Burda pleated pants pattern. I’m still proud of what I accomplished with that pattern, but these are better. The pocket design and placement is better. The balance between front and back is better. The booty curve is better. The overall fit is better.

crabandbee.com | Closet Case Patterns Morgan jeans

Let’s talk fit for a bit. I took the pattern’s suggestion to size up for thick fabric (I made a 10 waist / 12 hips instead of an 8 waist /10 hips) and made a muslin. Lo and behold, my muslin was already looking and feeling better than any other pair of pants I owned. I had a bit of excess fabric in the front thighs and under ye olde rump, as well as some smile lines in the back. After some research, I made the following fit tweaks:

  • scooped and lowered the rear curve (which removed the extra back volume)
  • scooped the front curve into more of a rectangle (which also removed volume)
  • removed excess from the back side seam starting under the widest part of my hips
  • removed excess from the back inner thighs
  • removed excess from the front inner thighs
  • moved the knee point up by 1″
  • took out 1/4″ total from the calves starting at the knee

I’m a tall person with short-person legs, so the ankle length was perfect on me.

Aside from my plan to make the jeans in linen, my other design idea was to expose the buttons on the button fly. I’m way into series of gold buttons right now. I omitted the fly shield and sewed my buttonholes directly into the jeans front.

crabandbee.com | Closet Case Patterns Morgan jeans

I also really wanted keyhole buttons. I remembered Kelly from Cut Cut Sew had hand-sewed hers and how lovely it looked. One evening when my husband was out, I turned on some music and got to stitching.

crabandbee.com | Closet Case Patterns Morgan jeans

Hand-sewn buttonholes are still not my forte, but these are infinitely more practical and beautiful than my machined ones! Consider me a convert.

crabandbee.com | Closet Case Patterns Morgan jeans

I also changed the pocket construction in favor of pocket-stays, instructions for which are included in the Ginger sew-along.

crabandbee.com | Closet Case Patterns Morgan jeans

Given how well these fit, I’m chomping at the bit to make a second pair. My love of jeans sewing has been re-ignited! I’m going to see how these wear before sewing another pair – the true test of any pair of jeans -and see if I need to adjust the fit or sizing.

Thank you for reading, and thank you, Heather, for both the compliment of a namesake pattern and for drafting that booty curve.

In the details

crabandbee.com | altered Vogue 1367

I meant to blog about this dress sooner, but last week was truly strange. Seattle had a freak heat wave and my work drama was off the charts. Good stuff happened, too – I got to celebrate the release of Sanae’s new book and my scarlet runner beans quadrupled in size – but overall I was real glad to be on the right side of Friday.

So here I am, a week later and a little worse for wear, with some quick notes on this dress! This is a pattern I made two times in 2014, Vogue 1367. The tunic I made has become one of my most-worn and loved items.

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When I found myself with 2 yards of black linen on my hands, I set out to make another tunic and perfect it. I made the curved hem piece a bit deeper, and extended the bodice by 10″ instead of 8″ so I could wear it as a dress.

I also did my now-standard square shoulder adjustment, which lowered the bust point a bit as well.

crabandbee.com | altered Vogue 1367

I did try sleeves, but I added gathers at the top and the similarities to a choir robe was undeniable. I wish I’d taken a picture to share! Off came the sleeves.

crabandbee.com | altered Vogue 1367

I used woven trims in black and white to embellish it, and embroidered the neckline. Good lookin’ details keep me excited to wear a garment, so recently I’ve been trying to challenge myself to add one or two to each project. And, since I get irrationally angry making the exact same thing twice, the challenge helps me stay excited to sew patterns I’m already familiar with.

crabandbee.com | altered Vogue 1367

What are your favorite ways to customize your sewing?

Jumper dress

Happy Friday, everybody! I’m here to share my first self-drafted dress.

crabandbee.com | self-drafted jumper dress

The design is obviously dead simple but, as one might hope for a pattern drafted off a personalized block, it fits perfectly – bust, waist, hips falling at just the right places, as do the side seams. Just like me, the pattern is square in the shoulders, long through the upper chest, narrower at the back and bust, with extra booty.

After finishing my bodice sloper in 2014 and my skirt sloper last year, I put them together last month to make what my Helen Joseph-Armstrong drafting text calls a torso foundation. (Clearly I’m on the slow-and-steady path to pattern drafting.) From what I understand, the torso foundation is what one would use for any garment that starts at the shoulders and goes past the waist without a waist seam. This could include shift and sheath dresses, woven and knit shirts.

Here’s mine; the front is a bit sloppy because it shows two versions (shoulder dart and bust dart).

crabandbee.com | patternmaking, torso foundation

Here’s someone else’s that’s easier to see.

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Sample torso foundation from University of Fashion

After making my torso foundation, I used HJ-A’s dungaree instructions and adapted them for a skirt instead of pants.

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I added some complexity by including button side closures. (Side closures are part of the HJ-A instructions, but I got a bit lost on her instructions and had to wing it a bit.) You can see the weird shape of the button extension below; it was ok in my head and not so great in cloth. It was worth it, though; the gold buttons elevate the dress from an apron.

crabandbee.com | self-drafted jumper dress

Let’s just cover that weird extension up, shall we?

crabandbee.com | self-drafted jumper dress

This project took about a month to complete, mostly because I had to figure out the construction. While I frequently alter commercial patterns to suit my style or construction preferences, sorting out the construction from scratch is a different beast! I did it all in my head, which prolonged the project. Next time, I’ll speed things up by sketching and writing out the process beforehand.

crabandbee.com | self-drafted jumper dress

And speaking of next time, I’d like to make a couple of design tweaks: widen the bib and strap placement by 1″ total, straighten the hip curve, and experiment with a front waist seam and pockets. This is a silhouette I love to wear, and could see many variations in my future.

crabandbee.com | self-drafted jumper dress

This dress was inspired by a lot of the styles I saw when I was in Japan and by some of the awesome dungaree dresses popping up on blogs, like Liza Jane’s, Kirsty’s and Juli’s. I understand the style may not appeal to everyone but I love it and I’m clearly in some good company!

Have you drafted your own patterns or thought about it? I found making the slopers to be a chore (well, at least the bodice) but drafting from them has been easier than I expected.

Budget cuts / trying to be a grown-up

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 10.56.36 AM

In January, we decided to try something new with how we budget. Instead setting individual budgets for various non-essential categories like coffee, eating out, entertainment, and, oh, fabric! (basically any spending beyond food, bills and housing), we decided we’d each get a set amount of cash to cover all discretionary spending.

The amount is on the VERY lean side compared to what I’d really been spending in each category added together. And so, I was suddenly faced with choices: daily coffee with my coworker, a dance workshop, occasional brunches out with my husband competed with denim for new jeans, yarn for my next knitting project and even new zippers and thread. (PS Did you know zippers and thread cost real money?! I’d been writing them off as free…)

I’ve always prided myself on being a thrifty-ish person, thinking I never really needing a budget until recently because I’ve always lived so cheaply. I have amazing restraint in most retail settings. My expenses have gone up in the past few years, though, especially since I’ve prioritized eating well and taking classes that get me moving like dance and yoga. We started budgeting when we both took time off from full-time employment a couple of years ago (an absolute necessity!) but when I went back to work, I didn’t do a great job of factoring in the increased “fun” spending I felt entitled to. I expected my natural thriftiness to effectively temper my spending.

And to some extent, it has; I don’t spend more money than I have. But my savings goals really weren’t being met. And equally importantly, what I was buying – all sewing stuff – felt burdensome by the time I had to make room for it, like shoving a bite of the most amazing chocolate cake into my mouth when I was already full. I’d been sacrificing my financial goals only to create a sense of stifling obligation.

I know lots of people find joy and make great use a large stash, but I’ve realized I’m not one of them. I like constraints. Any more than several full cuts of fabric in my stash, and I can easily feel overwhelmed and uncreative. I have plenty more than that now but I’m excited to see how the budget will help me use the lovely fabrics I already have.

Which brings me to the project above! I was holding off on buying yarn for a new knitting project, which inspired me to turn my attention to a lawless region of my stash: scraps, large and small. I sewed myself a new dance bag. I’d long regretted the state of my freebie drawstring backpack every time I went to dance class – too small with a busted grommet, impossible to pull one thing out without everything flying out, etc. – but I never wanted to buckle down and sew a better bag. The sewing one wasn’t as boring as I feared, though. Neither the construction nor the shapes were complicated, but I had fun playing with the pocket design and making some construction changes based on the materials I had. Instead of using interfacing, I used two layers of blemished thrifted shirting fabric.

Continuing on the frugality theme, the bag is based on the free Everyday Tote tutorial from Purl Soho, with a few modifications – shorter contrast panel, lining instead of bias binding, front pocket and longer straps inserted at the contrast panel.

I’m on a bit of a high from a good first month of budgeting, but I’m not expecting this to be easy. I’ve already spent time today not buying stuff on two different online fabric shops! I think breaking that habit of constant browsing will be one of the toughest things about this whole endeavor. But it’s time to adjust my spending and stashing to support my goals of creativity and thrift alike, and I’m pumped about it.

I’ve been storing up some inspiration on budgeting, stash reduction and mindful crafting; here are some of my favorites!

  • The impressive Stash Less series by The Craft Sessions
  • This fantastic post by Gillian from a couple of years ago specifically about sewing budgets (the comments are awesome too!)
  • Andrea’s stash assault is fierce and thorough, just like Andrea herself
  • I love Tasha’s blog for the thoughtfulness she brings to her making process; it shows in every post.

 

2015 as a skirt

I love reflection, especially at the end of the year. I was heartily disappointed to miss participating in Gillian’s Top 5 series, but I continue to have so many favorite pieces still to be blogged that joining in didn’t quite make sense.

Instead, to celebrate the quickly approaching Lunar New Year, I present one garment to represent the year that was 2015 – my skirt created for the September wedding I attended.

crabandbee.com | self-drafted flared skirt

There’s nothing complicated about the construction or the design. Yes, I did draft it but I just followed a recipe from my drafting manual. Yet it epitomizes 2015 for me.

Permit me a bit of a metaphysical ramble. Like nearly all of my friends, family, acquaintances and many fellow bloggers, I underwent the process prescribed by Mari Kondo in The Magical Art of Tidying Up. And I benefitted, as expected – my living space has been reoriented to support me instead of my stuff, and my socks and undies are happily nested in leftover cardboard boxes that fit them perfectly.

But the fundamental question she requires the reader to ask of their belongings – does it spark joy? – quietly and sneakily turned my world upside down. Like my fabric-buying process, most of my decisions have been the product of tortuous mental exercises. I realized how few decisions in my life took joy into account.

So, I decided to make joy my decision-making criteria for the year. I joined an improvisational dance group, without any goal beyond moving my body for a couple of hours every week with a wonderful bunch of women. Sewing hours were more readily set aside for friend and family time. I changed jobs, going back to a full-time regular position on the team I’d left in 2013; it had nothing that I said I’d wanted (flexibility, sustainability focus) but the new role gave me a chance to work with people I really liked and it just spoke to me. I went to Japan. I went clubbing, for Pete’s sake.

I found myself buying fabrics in rainbow palettes that I would have chosen as a 7-year-old, without any of my usual dithering, and sewing up impractical things like Gabriola skirts.

This skirt fabric was one such purchase; I saw it, picked it up and walked it straight to the cutting counter. It sat on my fabric shelf, very noticeable among the solids, but it wasn’t until my friend’s wedding that it demanded to be a simple flared skirt. It was the perfect piece to wear to the wedding. Even in a particularly joyful year, dancing under the stars late at night to atrocious Top 40 music from the nineties stands out.

crabandbee.com | self-drafted flared skirt

The magical cloud of joy that carried me through most of 2015 sputtered out after Japan in October. Major changes started happening at my job. We lost our beloved kitty Orson in late October quite suddenly. Chronic health problems that had miraculously disappeared earlier in the year came back with a vengeance. I was exhausted, and needed to take care of myself.

But I wouldn’t trade my experiment for anything; it was a much-needed tonic and after a rocky couple of months, I’m finally ready for the new year that’s somehow already a month underway.

crabandbee.com | self-drafted flared skirt

I don’t have a particular goal or inspiration for 2016, but I’m wishing you joy and all other good things you may need this year.

My favorite shirt

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

After I finished my husband’s jacket, you’d better believe I dove straight into that pile of fabrics from Japan! First on the cutting table was a tantalizing water-color striped double-gauze bought with the incomparable Inna in the incomparable town of Kyoto.

crabandbee.com

Inna witnessed my shopping process. For me, it’s rarely as simple as “I like that, I have the money, I’ll buy it.” I’ll call into question my entire identity and value system (aspirational minimalism, thrift, investment of time required to properly own something, quality, wardrobe versatility, environmental values) before I make a purchase.

And guess what? It’s a tiring, and ultimately not all that effective method for making decisions; I’ll prevaricate for some sweaty minutes or hours until I throw out all of my requirements in favor of an impulse decision. Luckily, Inna was a patient shopping buddy.

Obviously I did buy the fabric in this case, and I haven’t regretted it because it’s been sewn into what is hands-down my favorite shirt!

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

I had no such analysis paralysis choosing the pattern. It’s another McCall’s 6436, of course, with all of my standard fit adjustments (1/2″ square shoulder, size 14 with 12 bust) and as well as some design changes (1 – piece sleeve, topstitched french button plackets, shorter cuffs, no back darts). I also added a tower placket – my first ever, after a practice run – using another Vogue pattern to place the opening. I used the Off The Cuff placket construction method.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

And may I add that I’m excited to have my first long-sleeved buttoned shirt that fits through the shoulders…!

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

In spring, I’ll be wearing this shirt tucked into skirts! This was the flared skirt muslin I drafted based on my skirt sloper. It started looking mighty wearable, so I finished it with a top-stitched waist-band facing.

crabandbee.com | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

Back soon with the skirt I drafted and wore to my friend’s wedding!

 

A jacket for my gentleman

While I was sewing my sister’s wedding dress, my husband was keeping us alive by handling all of the cooking and household matters. I was enormously grateful. So grateful was I that I promised him that the first post-wedding project I would sew would be a jacket for him.

Here’s what happened:

  • Eager to demonstrate my commitment to the project, I ordered the fabric immediately, in April.
  • A wedding dress, a Gabriola, a dance costume and two shift dresses later, I ordered the pattern in mid-August.
  • A Watson binge, two tops, and a skirt sloper even later, I started the muslin process in September and got thoroughly tied up in a sleeve fitting fit.
  • After our trip to Japan in October, I told myself I couldn’t touch any of my newly acquired fabrics until I finished the jacket. And I desperately wanted to dig into that fabric, so it was done within a few weeks, with a sleeve fit that was good enough.

crabandbee.com | men's jacket using Vogue 8842

This was the first major project I’d felt up to since the wedding dress. No hand-stitching, of course, nor did it take nearly as many hours, but I did have a laundry list of design and fit changes to make the pattern, Vogue 8842, work for what I had in mind. The pattern looked more like a ski jacket, and I wanted something with a sporty fit in non-sporty materials -organic cotton twill for the shell, with a scrap of cotton-hemp for the hood lining, and rayon for the jacket lining.

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The design changes I made form the alarmingly long list below:

  • Changing from a drop shoulder to a regular shoulder
  • Merging the 3-piece sleeve back into 1 piece
  • Moving the yokes lower
  • Removing the bottom hem band and adding a bit of length
  • Adding a hood facing
  • Adding front facings to the lining
  • Adding a zipper guard
  • Making a hybrid welted patch pocket
  • Changing the top zipper extension into two pieces instead of one folded piece for durability
  • Forgoing elastic cuffs
  • Adding a snap tap to the cuffs

(The hood and front facings should have been included in the pattern, in my opinion; I was studying a lot of RTW jackets, and even the cheapest ones had these features.)

Fit-wise, everything I did involved making more chest room and less back room. I also encountered an odd fit issue – Nathan couldn’t zip the front of the jacket over his chin! I ended up scooping the neck by 1″ at center front and widening the collar/hood area by 1.5″ total as the neck circumference had increased as well.

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This was my first experience with parka snaps. They weren’t too bad to apply; trying to figure out all the sizes and tools was much worse!

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If I make this pattern again (and I might as well – I put a ton of work into altering it!) I would raise the arm scyes. This photo is a little too dark to see, but there are some draglines across the back even though there’s ample room. I think it’s the low arm scye restricting arm motion.

Then there’s this:

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Ultimately, I feel like this project was a pattern-making triumph for me – making so many design and fit changes all at once and having all my seams line up in the end was a big, fluffy feather in my cap – but not as much a stitching triumph. I hadn’t done a project requiring precision top-stitching in awhile, and the extensions, hood, and pockets show it.

That said, when I pounded in the last snap, Nathan put on his jacket and looked at himself multiple times in every mirror on the house. He’s stubbornly worn it in unsuitably cold conditions this fall and winter, and it’s now being referred to as his favorite jacket ever. So I think the subpar stitching and the ever-so-slightly late arrival are being overlooked.

Wedding dress: resources for sewing your own

crabandbee.com | home-sewn lace wedding separates

It recently occurred to me that I never really finished up the series on making my sister’s wedding dress! This was easily the project that dominated my sewing this year, so it feels fitting to finish blogging about it in the last days of 2015. So, without further delay, here’s what I used to get the job done.

How to start: make some decisions and set some boundaries
My sister was drawn to feminine formal styles and lace, and I was willing to incorporate some couture-style construction. I was also willing to see the project through, no matter how much time it took. These factors – along with my utter inexperience – led to a project that took well over 200 sewing hours to complete.

That said, a wedding dress can be whatever you want it to be – more or less formal, more or less labor-intensive. Feast your eyes on this Valentino-inspired gorgeousness by I Made This! that took 600 hours, for example. On the less formal side, check out this amazing short wedding dress by Dixie DIY or Meris’s re-wearable red dress! That’s the route I would go if I lived in an alternate universe where I was getting married again – although maybe it’s to say that because I already got to wear the floor-length weddingy wedding gown…?

Considering style, time and budget requirements will help you figure out what you’ll need for you or your loved one’s dress and whether or not you’ll want to sew it yourself.

Patterns
I talked a bit about patterns in this post, so I’ll just say this: if you are at all influenced by current bridal trends, you may have a difficult time finding a pattern that looks anything like what you want. Get ready to exercise your imagination, your pattern mash-up skills and perhaps even your pattern-altering or pattern-making skills. I needed all three to achieve my sister’s vision. Also keep in mind that when you alter a pattern, you’ll also need to feel reasonably comfortable making your own instructions.

crabandbee.com | home-sewn wedding separates

Construction resources
I used a couple of indispensable resources created by Susan Khalje. The first was The Couture Dress class on Craftsy, which helped me make my muslins a lot more useful and usable. The second, purchased for me by my sister on eBay, was the out-of-print (whyyyyyy?) book Bridal Couture. The sections on bridal fabrics, lace, common necklines and structural reinforcements were key for me. The book isn’t long but it’s densely packed with most of the information I needed. Khalje also addresses some of the challenges of working with white fabrics, which are not to be underestimated.

I also used Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing book. Her section on different hand-stitches and their uses is incredibly useful, and she has more information on stays of all kinds than anywhere else I’ve seen.

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Last but not least, I scoured sewing blogs for any posts on home-sewn wedding dresses! I had a lot of fun curating this Pinterest board of all the beautiful creations I found. (This board is by no means exhaustive, so if you’ve created a wedding dress I’d love to hear about it!) I also created another board with tutorials or images of formal dress construction.

crabandbee.com | home-sewn wedding separates

Fabrics & notions
Sourcing supplies was less difficult than finding a pattern, and most of what I bought worked fine (with some exceptions, noted below).We chose the lace first, which I recommend if it’s part of your dress! It can be pricey or harder to find and Mood, NY Fashion Center and other fabric stores that cater to formal sewing should have formal fabrics in many colors that coordinate with your lace and each other.

Here’s what I used, organized per piece:

Bodice fabrics:

  • Lace overlay: Alencon lace, purchased semi-locally from Mill’s End in Portland
  • Bodice fabric: Duchesse silk satin, from Gorgeous Fabrics (online)
  • Bodice underlining: Silk organza from my stash (wish I’d chosen muslin instead for added weight and opacity)
  • Bodice lining: Cotton voile, purchased locally from Pacific Fabrics

Bodice notions:

  • Twill tape for stabilizing the neckline purchased locally
  • Quilt batting from my stash for the bust cups
  • Bra cups from Felinus Fabrics (Etsy)
  • Spiral steel boning pieces, purchased locally from Stitches
  • Spiral Steel by the yard (from an Etsy shop I do not recommend – the boning had damaged and dirty sections)
  • Spiral steel boning tips from Cherington MetalCraft (Etsy)
  • Hook and eye tape, purchased online from Susan Khalje’s shop
  • Silk ribbon for hanger straps, purchased locally from Nancy’s Sewing Basket

Skirt fabrics:

  • Skirt overlay: Silk chiffon, from Mood Fabrics
  • Skirt: Silk charmeuse, from Mood Fabrics
  • Skirt underlining: Silk habotai, from my stash / Mood Fabrics
  • Skirt waistband: Duchesse from the bodice for the waistband
  • Skirt underlining: Canvas, from my stash for the waistband underlining

Skirt notions:

  • Hook and eye from my stash
  • Button from my grandmother’s stash
  • Invisible zipper from my stash

The bulk of the skirt fabric came from Mood based on their color variety and the wide widths they sell. My experiences ordering from Mood have been inconsistent, but this one was mostly positive – I got what I ordered, the yardage was correct and there didn’t appear to be any discrepancy in fiber content. The charmeuse was on the thin side, however, which required me to buy extra habotai.

(As an alternative to all this sourcing, consider Alex’s method of harvesting fabric and notions from an existing wedding dress – how cool is that?)

Additional supplies & tools
You’ll most likely need some of the following supplies and tools:

  • Muslin fabric
  • Trial dress fabric (I didn’t go this route because I ran out of time)
  • Silk pins
  • Fine-weight thread for fine fabrics
  • Microtex needles for fine fabrics
  • Beefy wire cutters, if you use spiral steel boning
  • Pliers, to apply new spiral steel boning tips

crabandbee.com | draping lace

Final thoughts
So, is it worth sewing a wedding dress? My (admittedly lame) answer is, it really depends! You should give yourself some time to consider it carefully. If you are the bride in the equation, ask yourself if such a large project will fit with your increased social and planning obligations leading up to the wedding. If you’re sewing for someone else, will you resent the number of hours taken away from your personal sewing projects? In my case, this was a gift I’d long wanted to give to my sister and it dovetailed nicely with my personal sewing goals.

I will say that my zest for sewing has only very recently returned to 100%, a full 6 months after I finished the dress. It pushed me way beyond my skill level in terms of fit, construction and project management, to the point where I felt like my brain and hands were turned to mush and haven’t fully reformed themselves yet.

So this, my friends, is my final wedding dress post! Are you considering sewing a wedding dress?