taking something old... making something new.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

dress 1: destruction before construction

My first task. I've got to first destruct the original dress. My weapon of choice: a seam ripper, a comfortable chair, some good eyes, and a lot of time. I've got to take out every stitch in this dress because I need as much of that fabric as possible. Also that lace was stitched onto the fabric using the tiniest zigzag stitch and those are a pain to unpick.

I am so in love with this lace. It is so hard to find really great lace like this. I even think that this is a cotton blend which is really nice, it has a great feel to it and it ironed up really well.
I know, nothing interesting to see yet, but I've at least got my pieces separated. The lace will be set aside to use as-is for the bodice. Since it will make up the majority of the bodice, I'll line half of it (to the yellow piping) and leave the other half transparent so you can really see the detail against the skin. I think it'll look quite nice, really. I'll use the yellow bodice pieces I took off as a pattern for the silk, and I'll hang on to the skirt pieces to make a tie later on. Hopefully there will be enough for a substantial tie. I may have to get creative in the end. We'll see. Until next time!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

dress 1: the plan

I have my first project and it's one that I'm pretty excited about. It involves two found items that I'm in love with. The first is this gorgeous 100% silk pottery barn duvet cover I bought secondhand years ago. It is heavy and has a beautiful drape and sheen to it and I've always felt that it would make a better dress than it would duvet cover.

Every time I go to a thrift store, I have a short list of sections that I always go to first. I look for: wedding dresses, aprons (I collect vintage aprons), plates (love vintage plates), and slips. I love love love vintage slips and robes. I have been collecting them for some time. I have done a lot with them over the years. For a while, I took slips and tie-dyed them to make them into wearable dresses that I sold at the farmer's market. I also like to add rows of lace to the bottoms to make what I call "extender slips" so I can wear them with dresses that are a bit too short for me. (Yes, I've had my share of little old ladies at church gently inform me that my slip was showing...I just smiled and shocked them with, "Thank you, but it's supposed to show!") I also love to wear them to bed on nights when it is too hot for pajamas. And over the years I've been collecting the more sexy ones for my own trousseau that I'll finally get to use in a few months! Well anyway, I digress. I found this gorgeous yellow nightgown and thought about buying it to make into a cute little nightdress, but felt that the lace was too pretty to be reserved for nighttime. The lace is beautiful and the fabric is rayon that drapes quite nicely. I think it could be transformed beautifully into an elegant wedding dress.

From here, I draw up the design in my sketchbook. I want to use the lace as-is for the neckline. If you can tell from the pictures, the lace has a layer of yellow piping throughout it that is really quite pretty. I'm going to leave that in there, because I think it's really subtle and beautiful. I will then make the rest of the bodice and skirt out of the white satin. I will add a slightly belled sleeve to the dress that will end at the elbow. The skirt part will be high-waisted and cut on the bias so it just hangs off the hips. To top it off, I will use the yellow rayon to make a thick tie to go around the waist. I imagine this to be very reminiscent of the 30s or 40s.

Just a little sidenote on my plans for these dresses. I am looking to make gowns that are both non-traditional, unique, and modest. My sister got married this summer and we went dress shopping together and really struggled to find anything with sleeves. The dresses we did find with sleeves all looked pretty much the same. My goal is to make unique, classy, one of a kind dresses for those who are looking for anything other than strapless!

So once I have the drawing, I have to start at the basics. I've got to clean everything. I know a lot of people who hate shopping at thrift shops because they have a very distinct old-lady smell. Just so you know, I wash all the materials and garments when I buy them, no matter the material. A great solution for delicate materials is to soak them in oxy clean for several hours. I fill a bin in my bathtub with warm water and oxyclean and soak it for a few hours. Some items that seem a bit dingier I will rinse and resoak until it is clean and smell-free. Then I rinse and lay flat to dry. My next step..the fun part Get out the seam ripper and take the dress and duvet apart.

Friday, August 27, 2010

in the beginning

I've put off this first post because I wanted something spectacular to write that would sound poetic and cool. However, words aren't my talent, sewing is. So I think I'll stick to the sewing and let you all stumble through my ramblings. Let me start at the beginning...

I started sewing when I was in the third grade. We hand-stitched a quilt square in Brownies and I decided that I wanted to finish it into a quilt. My mom was a seamstress, so she sat down with me and taught me how to sew. Let me just say, the finished product was incredible. I still have it--In fact, I think I'll have my mom mail it to me so I can post a picture of it. The squares are all sorts of different sizes and there are gaping holes where the seam came off the edge of the fabric, and it is quite lop-sided. I love that quilt because it signifies the beginning of a passion. From there, I quickly ventured in to clothing and it hasn't stopped. From ages 14-18, I made a new dress each month for the church dance, not to mention scores of jumpsuits, pants, and sassy cotton tops. By far, however, my favorite sewing projects involved using my mom's old clothes. I loved to dig through my mom's bins of old clothes and find things that I could alter to not only fit me, but find ways to make it more modern and hip. The best compliments I received from others came from those pieces. I loved the idea of giving new life to sad, discarded clothes.

Here I am, a little over 20 years later, still sewing, still digging through people's old clothes, and still loving it. I got engaged this summer (at the top of Mt. Rainier) and am so excited to be planning my wedding--particularly the dress. This has been something that I have dreamed about since I constructed my first piece of clothing. I have sketched and dreamed and drawn my wedding dress a hundred times, and now I finally get to make it which is quite a daunting task. Not daunting in that it will be hard, but daunting in the sense that this is it! I will only be making one wedding dress, so it had better be one that I am crazy about. My tastes and ideas change so often, that I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed. So I had an idea...why do I only have to make one wedding dress?

I have dreamed of starting a business where I make wedding dresses for people--particularly where I combine bits and pieces of existing wedding dresses. Every time I'm at a thrift store, I keep my eye out for dresses, slips, and other pieces of clothing with elements that I like: great fabric, gorgeous lace, interesting bodice, etc.. Now I have a closet full of random dresses, fabric, and lace and I'm going to get started. Over the next 8-12 months until my wedding, I'm going to make all the dresses I have plans for. Then, when my big day comes, I'll wear my favorite and sell the rest on etsy. Voila! Business started.

That's where you come in. I plan on blogging about my process and progress. I promise that subsequent posts won't be so stinking boring to read. I'll post more pictures and less rambles. That said, here are my first pictures. My "studio":

As I am a poor teacher, I live with my brother. He has a full house, without a space for my sewing room, so I've converted my bedroom into the sewing room. All my clothes are stored under the bed or in the dresser, and my closet has been transformed into the fabric room. It's kind of dreamy to walk in my closet now. I take that back. It will be dreamier when I have some finished pieces hanging in there!

In the bedroom, I've pushed the bed all the way into the corner and set up my sewing machines on a table. I have to sew with a fan running so I don't wake the kids in the next room. I'm keeping my computer right next to the sewing station so I can be sure to keep this blog active! I will only be able to sew/post about twice a week, as my life is packed with family, teaching, climbing, and taking care of a fiance!

So here we are...let the adventure begin!