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!)

Waistband

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!

Zips

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.