Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Make a Wedding Dress for $100?

Making a wedding dress doesn't have to be this massive effort, nor does it have to be expensive. I did make a few minor changes to Fantasia (Sew Chic #9005) to make her into this bridal beauty, and with these few simple additions and substitutions, you can do the same! If you need to make pattern size adjustments, see my Pattern Resizing Tutorials, Part 1: Small to Large or Part 2: Large to Small and truly customize every inch of this once-in-a-lifetime dress!

The base fabric I used is a crisp nylon taffeta in a soft grayish mint color. The color is especially lovely under the white beaded lace with a bordered edge from JoAnn Fabrics (still available) from their Bridal Inspirations collection called "White Heather Bridal Mesh" for $24.95/yd. To get the yardage amount, I measured the pattern along all the edges I wanted trimmed with the lace border, and then divided that number in half  (because both edges of fabric have border).

The neckline front and back, the sleeve, and the hem are all trimmed with the border of this lace fabric. It was around 3.5 yards of fabric if I recall, so not too much.

You are thinking- but wait! the hem is curved, and that border is straight! I stayed with the curved hem with my base fabric but because lace doesn't fray and the grain is more forgiving, we are able to disregard all pattern grain lines and cut out the fabric in any way we need to. Here's how I do it:

Align the center of the curved edge of the pattern closest to the border, then extend the sides of the pattern to the end of the fabric. Just make sure your extension will be similar to the side it will sew to. You can see that this creates an angular hem once stitched together, which is beautiful, fast, and a carefree way to sew with straight edged lace. 

To trim the sleeve with lace, I substituted the normal cap sleeves with tulip sleeves, but instead of a curved edge, I gave it a straight edge.  Here's the link to my tulip sleeve tutorial http://www.sewchicpatterns.blogspot.com/2011/04/make-your-own-tulip-sleeve-tutorial.html 
Finish the sleeve edges and sew underarm of the base sleeve seam, then baste the lace over the top
Instead of the wide sash, we substituted a wide organza ribbon and simply hand sewed 3 beaded medallions to the front. This easy tie was in keeping with the delicate nature of the gown.

If you've never sewn with beaded lace, here's a few more tips that will help you:
  • Once you've cut out your pattern, remove all the beads and sequins along the seam allowance. 
  • Tack each bead strand to the mesh fabric and knot them individually or the beads will begin to fall off. 
  • After cutting out, baste your lace to the base fabric on the bodice only. 
  • Use a zipper foot to sew all seams.
  • After sewing, trim the seam allowance to less than 1/4".
  • I keep the two layers free at the sleeve and the skirt except for the front darts and at the zipper.
  • I sewed a wide bias of self fabric to the hem. This acted much like horsehair braid, but cost less.
  • Wear your dress with a petticoat if you want your skirt to be full at the bottom like ours is. 
 So what did I spend?

I found the taffeta (3.5 yards needed, but I bought a bit more) at Walmart in the $2 yard bin, which really helped to keep the cost down! (about $10)
The lace I bought with a 50% off coupon. ( about $45)
interfacing, zipper, spool of ribbon, thread (about $10)
Beaded medallions, also purchased on sale (about $15)
and the pattern ($18.95)
 TOTAL = $98.95

I bet you didn't know that a wedding dress could cost less that $100 and be so easy to make!
You can buy the Fantasia pattern at Sew Chic Patterns.com/Fantasia.html

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Side Zipper Sewing Problems and Solutions

I wore Beatrice to church one Sunday and a friend of mine, noticing it was a new dress, inspected both front and back carefully and was very complimentary, saying it might even tempt her to try sewing again. Then after a moment of silence, she asked hesitantly "How do you get into it?"

Yes, a side zipper can easily go unnoticed (AND is easy to reach!), but I also love a side zipper because:
  • Tucked neatly under the arm, a side zipper in an off color is less noticeable
  • A 14" length (vs. 22" for a back zipper) is less expensive
  • No dealing with neck edges and facings
  • A lapped zipper is easier to sew 
However, a flawless installation does not happen automatically. There are several problems to watch for, and I'll go through them one by one:
 Problem A: The stitching is puckering up on one side and you have extra or not enough fabric on one side or the other.
What is happening: The front and back side seams openings are not the same length.
 How to check it: Match the front and back to each other the entire length. You can see that one side is much longer than the other. Now let's talk about problem B, which has the same solution.

Problem B: The waist seams don't match up.

What is happening: You may have the same length, front to back, but the top to bottom are offset just enough to keep the waist seams from matching correctly.

Solution to problem A and B: You need to find out which piece is too long/short. Is it the front or back/ bodice or skirt?

Pull out the paper pattern and match it up to both the skirt and the bodice, both front and back, to find out which one needs the correction. In this case, the bodice allowance isn't accurate. Start by ripping the seam out back to the point where the seam diverges from the pattern.

 Place a pin to mark the match point.
Pin everything back together and check it to make sure it still matches. Now sew.

Problem C: We've got both sides the same, but sewing the lapped side of the zipper with a perfectly matched waist seam is difficult!
What is happening: You've pinned  your lap to the zipper tape over and over again, but still the waist seams do not match up once sewn. Figuring out just where and how to perfectly match seam to seam on the zipper tape, along with the natural drag of the zipper foot can  easily put everything completely out of alignment.

Solution to Problem C:
Mark your waist seam line on the zipper tape with a pencil, chalk, or erasable marker. We have marked two lines because we need to center the piping.
Sew the seam allowance to the zipper tape to make sure everything stays in place.
Then check your work before topstitching.
Use a walking foot to top stitch, measuring an even distance from the fold. Make sure you've given enough clearance and that the stitching will be on the right side of the teeth. A walking foot picks itself up with every stitch, which means the fabric is feeding evenly the length of the zipper.

Problem D: No matter how hard you try, there is always a "bump" in the top stitching at the end because the zipper pull gets in the way.
What is happening: You can't figure out how anyone could have straight stitching at the end of a zipper! The pull is too large. The zipper foot can't get past it,  you have an unsightly zag in the stitching.

Solution to Problem D

 Stop your stitching BEFORE you get to the zipper pull. With the needle in the DOWN position, raise the foot and push the zipper pull well past the foot.

 Lower the foot.

 Finish sewing to the end, pivoting at the corner just past the top stop. Use this method of moving the pull any time it keeps you from sewing a straight seam.

We have one lovely side zipper we can be proud to wear! Don't you just love a dress that looks great both coming and going?