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!

Suppliers and Youtubers

Before I get to the inevitable point in this project where I’m desperately running out of time and can’t even remember how I got this far in making my own wedding dress, I thought I should take stock of all the brilliant tutorials and suppliers that I’ve discovered along the way!


I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the expertise and amazing abilities of the following youtubers. Not only do they really know their stuff when it comes to sewing, but they can teach it too, via the one-way medium of youtube videos, which is a big ask.

Aneka from “Made to Sew”

Aneka’s tutorial is nothing less than brilliant! In her video on how to sew an invisible zipper, she explained and demonstrated absolutely every single step of the process. Even a complete novice like myself was able to follow and apply the steps and get results that were very close to her own work.

Darshana Jain from “The F-World: Fashion, Finance, Food”

I had literally, NEVER seen or used a “zipper foot” on my sewing machine before! I didn’t even know what I was looking for or why I needed it! Luckily, Darhana Jain was there to help! A random google search for zipper foots that matched the make of my own sewing machine (since all zipper feet are not made equal) led me to this brilliant, practical explanation of what I needed and how to attach it to the machine and actually sew with it!

Eli Ebberts from “Cosplay and Crafting”

Eli Ebbert’s tutorial on attaching a waistband was my first introdution to the “Stitch in the Ditch” method. Her tutorial was exactly what I was looking for, and I watched it over and over until I felt brave enough to try the technique out for myself. Her tutorial is also notably cheerful, which can be quite uplifting when you realise you’re in way over your head with a project and can’t back out!

Irish Suppliers

My project faced several obstacles, and not all were related to my lack of expertise! Ireland is still in lockdown, retailers doors are closed, and ordering from abroad can be risky when you are working to a tight deadline. So I turned to Irish suppliers with facilities for ordering online. This way I knew I could actually call the shop owners up to confirm that the estimated delivery dates were realistic, and whether certain items were in stock or whether the supplier themselves would be ordering in from abroad, thus causing further delay.


I have only actually visited Hickeys in person once since moving to Ireland. Discovering their website was very reassuring, as despite already owning 3m of my chosen fabric, there were other items that were essential from the get-go. Hickeys supplied me with all the sewing thread, ribbon, lining fabric, bias-binding and other sundries that I knew I might need along the way. Delivery was prompt and the website was easy to use.


The helpful staff at McFaddens made the experience of purchasing the wool for this outfit almost as easy as walking into the shop in person (which I have done several times before, pre-pandemic). After discovering that the items I needed were not listed on their website I decided to give them a call. They immediately reassured me their extensive range of wool was still available to purchase, and they had an ingenious way of getting around the issue of me not being able to actually SEE any of it on the website! The helpful staff offered an immediate video call, followed up by photographs of their wool section. I was then able to request a closer look at any wools that appeared to match what I needed, and order over the phone. Delivery was next day, and when one type of wool was not suitable (colours in photographs in digital media can be deceptive) they happily exchanged it. All without having to leave my house.

Sew Irish

When I realised that the zips I had bought from Hickeys were not at all what I wanted, I wasn’t sure where to turn. I suppose I could have called Hickeys and asked whether the limited supply of zips on their website were indeed all they had to offer, but I decided that it was worth shopping around and seeing what other haberdasheries in Ireland had to offer. That’s how I discovered Sew Irish in Co. Clare. Their website was exactly what I was looking for! Whereas McFaddens and Hickey’s seemed to focus more on their fabrics and home furnishing products, Sew Irish offered all the joys of wandering round a well-stocked haberdashery, without the need to leave your home or wait till the lockdown ends! The staff member I spoke to answered the phone promptly and told me everything I needed to know about ordering online, stock and delivery. And when my goods arrived, I was delighted!

Suppliers of things I cannot make myself!

The idea to sew my own wedding outfit was never meant to be a gruelling mission to prove that I could produce something better than what could be bought ready-made. I explain my reasoning in my first blog entry. There are some things which I knew from the outset that I would have to buy ready-made. Mainly, the coat, and the shoes.

Logues: Shoe supplier

Trying to shop for shoes online without using all the usual suppliers I shopped from in the past (most are non-Irish businesses) was a challenge. But when I found this website I was delighted! They had the perfect selection of occasion-wear shoes and promised to deliver from Galway within a week! I never thought buying shoes online could be so exciting! And to make it even more fun, they threw two feet-shaped lollipops into the package for good-measure! My daughter is chomping happily on them as I write!

The Irish Store: Irish woolen clothing

I knew from the outset that I would not have the time or ability to make a coat or cape to go over my outfit. At first I thought crocheting a sort of shawl would do the trick, and I am still determined to complete this project with the beautiful matching wool I bought from McFaddens. But it wasn’t going to be enough. March can still be very cold here, and I wanted to wear something elegant but warm over my outfit so that I can walk outside afterwards without worrying about the weather. I discovered the Irish Store after several failed attempts at finding beautiful wool capes on similar websites. The quality of the cape is exactly what I had hoped for, and it fits exactly as it looks in the photos, which I have realised is not always the case when ordering online. The Irish Store has provided me with the final piece to complete my outfit and I couldn’t be happier with it!

Waistband, zips and ordering supplies

If you haven’t planned your entire project out from the outset, and like me, you’re figuring it all out as you go, you’re going to face some pauses in between steps while you wait for supplies!

In pre-pandemic times, I would get around these delays by jumping in my car and driving to the nearest haberdashery/sewing supplies shop as and when necessary.

Alas, these options are not available to me at the present time since all retail outlets are still closed. However….. ordering online is King (or Queen) at the moment, so I scoured Google to find what I needed.

(Quick note: I will dedicate an entire separate post to links of shops and Youtubers who have been indispensable to me throughout this project, because I think they really all deserve to be acknowledged for how brilliant they all are!)


As you can see from the picture above, I have almost completed the waistband of the skirt. If I ever make a second skirt, I’d like to think I’ll plan ahead to ensure I have enough material put aside for the waistband. For this project I was so determined to use the fabric I already had at home, that I simply didn’t think that far ahead. So I cobbled together a few different pieces of remaining off-cuts and just hoped I’d be able to hide the joins.

There’s a special kind of fabric used to go INSIDE the waistband to make it a little more rigid. I think its called interfacing. This is something I did not have, and had not thought to order. Instead, I folded my waistband fabric over some stiff fabric remnants I had at home and hoped for the best. It worked, but its not ideal.

I used a method called “stitch in the ditch” to attach the waistband to my skirt. I love this method! I learned about it from a youtuber called Eli Ebberts who I will credit in the next post. Everything worked out exactly as she said it would!

Obviously, lining up the places where I joined my off-cuts together with the side seams of the skirt are not perfect, but I don’t really mind. I doubt anyone’s going to be looking very closely at this outfit to see whether the seams line up!


I should have thought about zips earlier. I HAD bought a zip online when ordering the thread and lining fabric. I soon realised that this kind of skirt required a special kind of zip called an “invisible zip”, which isn’t what I’d ordered. So I scoured the internet again to find an Irish supplier of invisible zips. I was very pleased to find a company in county Clare and placed my order straight away.

An invisible zip is designed to be sewn in such a way that neither the stitching, nor the zip, will show on your finished product. They are brilliant! But I needed another Youtube tutorial to teach me how to actually attach them. I studied the magic of attaching invisible zips like a student learning algebra for the first time… it was fascinating, and more than a little bit daunting. But I had time. My order took 5 days to arrive so I busied myself with other jobs.

Above and below are pictures of my first attempt at sewing an invisible zip, following the expert Aneka’s youtube tutorial. I took the advice of my mother, a friend and even my partner (who knows very little about sewing but a lot about my frustration when I ruin a project!) and used a spare zip on some lining fabric to try the process out before attempting to do the real thing.

Sewing the “test zip” was enough for one day, so I then moved onto a different part of the project: A lace Shrug. I had a single rectangle of ivory/cream lace left over from a dress my mother once made. The edges were very rough and would not look nice with a simple hem. That’s where my Co.Clare supplier came in handy, as they had just what I was looking for!

I can’t remember what its called (this blog is really starting to reveal just how little I actually know about sewing!) but it worked a treat! I spent a couple of hours hand-stitching this… lets call it edging… to my rectangle of ivory lace fabric.

I hope the above image shows just how unglamorous the process of sewing a garment actually is! Sitting on the floor of a room used for ironing and storing blankets and pillows is probably not the best way to complete this task, but I have two dogs and I didn’t want them getting anywhere near this delicate fabric! One doggy-toenail caught in the holes and the whole thing could be ruined!

Tomorrow I’ll have to tackle attaching the zip to the skirt ‘for real’ and trying on the whole outfit before moving forward. So this seems like a good time to take a break and writing up a post on the many suppliers and experts who have helped me get this far in my sewing project!

Tacking things together

If I were to describe the steps of this project using the words exciting, worrying, relaxing and boring, I would say tacking was the relaxing part. I’ve noticed some Youtuber tutorials call this stage “basting”. At home we always called it tacking – stitching pieces loosely together by hand in order to see how they lie before using the sewing machine.

First I wanted to make sure the waistline of the panels was the right size. Having cut the fabric with an extra 2cm seam-allowance, I needed to go over it with one of my pastel chalks (my alternative to tailor’s chalk) and mark exactly where I would be tacking the seams together. Making it too loose or too tight around the waist would cause unnecessary hassle later on.

Just as I was about to tack the pieces together, I remembered the lining! I had specifically purchased some matching lining fabric and had, till now, completely forgotten about it! Since the lining of a skirt is like sewing a second skirt, just one that sits on the inside, it wouldn’t make sense to tack the pieces of the main skirt together before cutting the pieces out of the lining. So, I laid my pieces down and traced them onto the lining fabric and cut. I then set about the slow but relaxing process of tacking all the pieces together of the “two” skirts. Once this was done, I turned the skirt inside out and tried it on.

Trying it on inside out made sense to me because that way I could pinch the joined areas to fit my waist and secure them with a pin. This served as a guide to any adjustments I might need to make to the way I had tacked it together. I enjoyed this part of the process because sewing by hand feels so natural to me, as that’s how I had made all my doll’s cloths as a child! It feels so easily reversible, which I guess is the whole point of tacking!

The two skirts, outer and inner, are done. Now to move on to the worrying part – sewing the seams together by machine. I dreaded this part to be honest. Sometimes it feels as if my sewing machine wants to eat my fabric rather than sew it together! But for this project it seems to be taking pity on me, or rather, it has concluded that it needs to be a bit more forgiving of my abilities if it wants to stay out of storage and be used again!

Happily, all the seems looked beautiful by the time I was done! (Above is an example of the lining seam). I followed best practise and ironed (or as all the online tutorials say “pressed”) the seams flat and put my project down for the day.

The next step is the waistband, and I’m not in a hurry to get started on that… especially since first I have to learn how to actually make one!

Planning the outfit

Making a dress/outfit to wear to my wedding was quite different to the way I approach an illustration/painting. Some things were the same, like starting with a mental picture (previous post). For this project I started with the fabric and the colour. (With a painting, I would not think about the colours until much further down the line)

The sketch I drew in the previous post was inspired by 3 metres of fabric I had lying around my house! So my mental image was now to be at the mercy of what could be done with this fabric! I had originally bought it at John Lewis in London, over 14 years ago! I can’t even remember why I bought it, except that I loved it! You can see the sheen it has against the ball of wool, but it is so so soft and has a lot of give in it too. I had no idea whether I had enough fabric to make what I had in mind, but I was determined to try!

Meanwhile, I procrastinated and bought some matching wool. A winter/Irish Spring wedding is likely to be cold, and I thought it’d be nice to crochet something to snuggle up in too!

I found a dress that I liked the cut of (top left) and still (just about) fits. I bought this 12 years ago from Jigsaw to wear to a cousin’s wedding. Laying it out flat on the floor, I cut a pattern from the skirt part, using a ream of tracing paper from the art studio. I then tried on the dress and asked my daughter to measure how much longer it ought to be if it were to touch the ground. Adding that measurement to the pattern, I cut my template and laid it out on my precious “vintage” fabric. With a lot of twisting and turning and re-positioning the pattern, I managed to cut 4 panels out of my 3m of fabric… just!

Meanwhile, I did some more rumaging around in my wardrobe to find complementary/matching colours. These proved very useful, especially when ordering more wool! Its good to see what works and what doesn’t in terms of colour before getting too far down the line of the project.

I really liked the combination of the ivory lace sleeves of an old dress my mother had made me, the wool (which I had already started to crochet!) and the fabric (bottom). I knew I had to combine all three of them somehow, but with just my sketch to guide me, the “how” is something I am working out as I go along. Its so funny: Someone asked me today whether I have a pattern….That would just be too sensible!

To Craft or not to craft?

Is there a person out there who has never imagined what something will be like before it happens?

  • A new job
  • Your first day at school
  • The gift you’re saving up for
  • The cake you want to bake
  • Life with a dog
  • Your first holiday in years

Or in this case….. YOUR WEDDING DRESS!?

Does your imagination conjure up images, (sometimes against your will) of what that thing will be like? Do you find yourself caught between enjoying the process of building up this mental picture and feeling slightly obsessed by it, and telling yourself to try not to get too attached to it because the reality will never quite match it?

This is what happens inside my head every single day, and that’s why I draw.

“Necessity is the Mother of Invention”

I am an artist/illustrator, a crafter, a tinkerer, living in Ireland. I share my home with my partner, my daughter and our two dogs. We are currently in our 12th month of living with a pandemic. Apart from daily dog walks, we spend our days together within the 4 walls of our home.

Our hobbies are what keep us sane.

Creating pictures is just one part of what I do. It is the first step of getting an idea out of my head and into the “real”. Often, the creation of the picture is an end in itself. Sometimes, it is just the beginning….

Crafting, and more specifically, sewing, came to me early, as my mother made a tiny bit of extra cash from making clothes for neighbours and friends. While she worked, I played with the off-cuts and attempted to dress my mangled Sindy Doll (I’d been a little TOO creative with her hair, with the help of some scissors and an Orange Posca Paint Pen). Although the techniques I learned from watching her sew DID inspire me to experiment with homemade versions of toys that either didn’t exist in the shops, or were too expensive to buy, I have NEVER BEFORE attempted to make my own clothes.

My projects always start with a picture. The picture I have in my head of how something will be is one of the most challenging things to match, and it takes a lot of re-imagining before the final result is achieved.

Ireland is in its 3rd major lockdown. All retailers have been closed since Christmas. Ordering online has become our only way to shop, and I am in need of a wedding dress.

Buying vs making

When you discover that you really want to buy a printer, or a new piece of tech, you generally don’t think about whether you could make one yourself. (Unless you are a techi-creative, which is a whole other blog entry!).

Sometimes, even the ability to create something yourself is not the right reason to actually embark on the project.

Sewing A Wedding Dress

Can I, or should I, sew my own wedding dress? That is the question I am about to answer over the coming weeks. I have a very clear mental image of what my wedding dress will look like. With no time to return a shop-bought dress online in exchange for another, I am leaning heavily towards the decision to create my own. Lets see whether the picture in my head, roughly sketched out in the drawing above, will actually be as satisfying when I turn it into a reality.