Crochet Shawl

A few people have commented that my wedding outfit showed influences from two cultures that creep into a lot of things I create: Irish and Maltese. Lace-making has a strong history and tradition in Maltese culture, and the colour of my dress has reminded some of the deep red of our flag. Similarly, crochet (or “tahdem il-ganc”/”working the hook” as we say in Maltese) has deep roots in Irish history, and was sometimes the only means that women had of earning some form of income for their families. I don’t know if I was conscious of these influences when I planned my outfit, but it doesn’t surprise me that they are there.

Crocheting the shawl was not complicated. It couldn’t be rushed. That’s probably what I love about crochet. I could have gone on crocheting every evening for an eternity… it becomes almost like meditating the more you do it! I found a simple tutorial of how to make a crochet scarf and just stitched away, row after row, until it was the right length. The “shawl” is basically a rectangle, bunched up at the front with a ribbon.

Zips, hems and last-minute changes

The sewing process became all consuming in the final two weeks leading up to the wedding, so unfortunately, I couldn’t keep up with the blog. However, I’m going to attempt to cover the remaining stages of the project retrospectively. Before I do, I thought my dear old sewing machine deserved a bit of attention for being so reliable! It was purchased at a car-boot sale around 15 years ago and is still going strong!

I became incredibly fearful of sewing the zip during this project. I needn’t have been. Several good Youtube tutorials later (stopping and starting the video a million times while following all the steps) and I had finally overcome the challenge of sewing the famous “invisible zip”!…..which, by the way, is no ordinary zip. It has been manufactured specifically for the purpose of becoming invisible when sewn into the garment. Its a pretty amazing feat of engineering, as far as zips go.

The hem was the next challenge. This was not so complicated, but it was incredibly time-consuming. And back-breaking. It involved multiple “trying-on” sessions which was incredibly tedious.

Finally, the skirt was complete. Waistband, zip, lining and hem all turned out far better than I had ever hoped they would! But there was one small problem: A change of plan. At the last minute, with only a week and a half left to go, I changed my mind about how I wanted the whole outfit to fit together. I no longer wanted to wear the skirt over a fitted, cream lace top (as per my original design). I wanted the skirt to have a matching, fitted deep red top that would show off the lace trim of the shrug I was making. The main issue was that I had nothing but scraps of fabric left, and not enough to make an entire top.

I literally cobbled together what I could out of the tiniest of scraps, copying the 4-panel style top-half of an existing dress and hoping I could pull it off. Looking back, I honestly think luck had a huge part to play in the making of this dress/outfit. I have no idea how this worked, but it did!

I was so grateful for having purchased some bias-binding early on in the sewing project. This was essential to give the V-neck that neat, finished look. As you can see here, my seam allowance is tiny, due to the narrow scraps of fabric I was forced to use to construct this part of the garment.

This is literally all I was able to make with what I had left. There wasn’t even enough to sew the back of the top. But I had a plan (which I discussed over the phone with my mama aka queen of thrift and all things sewing!) Why not attach the front half of my newly-sewn top, to an existing garment, (in this case it was the fitted slip-dress that the entire outfit was modelled on). No one would see the back or sides, because the lace shrug would cover it up, and it would be too cold in March to remove the lace shrug anyway… so that’s exactly what I did!

And hey presto, it was finally, finally, finished! No one would ever guess that what you are looking at here is not actually a dress, but is a skirt and half-finished top, pinned together and attached to a pre-existing under-garment! The only parts of the under-garment that is visible here are the straps, which will be covered by the lace shrug.

A final touch was to add two tiny buttons to the waistband of the skirt. This helped everything stay in place on the day. I was so happy with the results!