Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Sewer's Gotta Do What a Sewer's Gotta Do

I have not been shy about proclaiming the two things I dislike most about sewing.

1.  Sewing knits
2.  Making muslins

Recently,  I addressed my knit aversion buy purposely seeking out, buying and sewing more knits.  Now, I'm about to vanquish my other sewing demon.  I gotta to make a muslin.

I bought Sarah Veblen's fitting book,  The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting.  Why would a self-proclaimed muslin-hater buy "the ULTIMATE  reference for fitting test garments and transferring accurate adjustments to patterns"? Because my daughter got engaged and wants me to make her wedding dress! That's why!!!!

My future son-in-law is a lieutenant in the Marines and was recently deployed to the middle east (please pray for him) so the wedding won't be happening for quite a while.  In the meantime, I have plenty of time to learn to love muslins.  There are other things in my favor:

  • I've made my DD's prom gowns, so I'm not a total novice to formal wear.
  • She's bringing home a wedding dress that belonged to a co-worker's daughter so I can study it up close.
  • In addition to buying the ultimate muslin book, I have Claire Shaeffer's Couture Techniques Workshop DVD, Claire Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques, and last but not least, Susan Khalje's Bridal Couture. 

Yet, with all these resources, I'm still apprehensive.  I've been sewing for more than 40 years and I've encountered lots of techniques, including some of the techniques used in wedding gowns.  It's not so much the techniques or processes that worry me (although I AM worried; especially if she wants lace), but I've never sewn a project with such strong emotional connotations.  I'll be lucky if I don't cry all over the dress!

So, if anyone has any advice, tips, sources and resources, stimulants, sedatives or liquor, please share!


  1. Last year my cousin asked me to make her wedding gown. I know from reading your blog that you have way more experience than I do, so when I tell you that i have more faith in you than I did in myself when I started on the wedding gown journey and that the gown recieved so many wonderful comments, I know yours will be outstanding. Plus it is for your daughter, imagine all the love that will go into it! I will pray for your future son-in-law.

  2. Congrats to your daughter! I'm in the middle of sewing my own wedding dress, so here's a little advice from the trenches:

    1. Good job for getting the couture books first. They are infinitely helpful.

    2. Take as much time as you need to in order to perfect the muslin fit. It took me 3 months. And I'm still fitting as I go on the real thing, but I'm much more confident in the final fit.

    3. Dharma Trading Co. has really good prices on silks for underlining and such. Especially their undyed organza. It isn't really white-white, but that's ok because...

    4. Plain white fabric (at least for silk) is shockingly hard to find. I started from the lace, so it took me some time and a lot of swatches to find fabric that was a close enough match for the outside of the dress.

    5. Don't limit yourself to the bridal patterns. I'm using two different patterns for mine, and while the skirt is from a more formal dress, the bodice is just a regular dress from an indie designer.

    6. If you're going all-out couture, leave yourself plenty of time, because you will be doing a lot of hand-stitching and basting and unbasting.

    7. Enjoy the process, because it's a once-in-a-lifetime project (and a great excuse to play with really nice fabric!)

    Good luck, and keep us posted on your progress!

    1. Thanks, Becky! "Advice from the trenches" is most appreciated!

  3. None of the things, you requested but congratulations! You can do it, you've tackled plenty of sewing challenges and mastered them all. As for the tears,that's to be expected. They're tears of joy mixed wih sadness that your little girl is all grown up. I didn't make my daughter's dress and was a puddle most of the time. Enjoy the experience and take lots of pictures. We're rooting for you!

  4. Congratulations! You have not just one muslin in your future, but probably several until you get everything just right.
    You can also go wedding gown shopping looking at high end gowns and see how they are made and also she can see what she likes and what looks good on her.
    I also suggest that you look at Marfy for a wedding dress pattern. They are quite expensive, but they have more designs than anyone else. Good luck and enjoy the process.
    You aren't far from Baltimore so maybe one of Susan Khalje's couture sewing classes might work for you.

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I hope you'll be available if we come to NYC for fabric shopping. Her future in-laws are about 20 minutes from G-Street Fabrics in Falls Church, VA. We'll probably end up going to both NYC and Falls Church.

  5. What a wonderful project to pour your energy into!

  6. You'll be fine. You are a great seamstress whipping out all the burdas. I made two daughter's wedding dresses. They perused bridal magazines and shops before telling me what they wanted, I found patterns that were close enough with just a few changes. We then went shopping for fabrics and you learn your ideas may be not what they have. One daughter wanted a strapless gown as she married when they were first popular. She permitted no lace of any kind.The pattern was some vogue design that was very close to what she picked. I bought my first embroidery machine to embellish the satin bands on bodice, hem and headpiece and heat crystals,pearls as she was ok with that embellishment on the bands. I had my reservations but it turned out well and she loved it so much she wore it to an officer's winter ball a few years ago with a white fur stole(minus the veil,Lol!) One thing I did is to spread a sheet around the sewing machine whenever I worked on it and to do a lot of handwashing before sewing as you will handle it so much. Fortunately younger people are usually fairly easy to fit if you test the bodice and any other overly fitted area. A friend gave me a dress form that I parked THE dresses on when they were in progress and that was handy. You can also hang a piece of chain from the ceiling from a plant hook and put it on a hanger to keep it nice while it is parked. I didn't think about it until the youngest daughter married with very little notice but making a garment bag (extra long) would be nice to sew up like her bought dress came in. Veils are not difficult. Go snoop shopping for a similar gown so she can try different veil styles to see what she loves and you can inspect how it is done and measure the length. I have made five veils besides my daughters' and that saved me a lot of misery seeing what they liked instead of trying to figure out what they had in their head. Good luck with THE dress. It is a very special time with a daughter and I enjoyed making the two dresses I did for them.

  7. I am also of the opinion that your skills and experience will carry you through the sewing part of the project, but I do understand what you mean about the emotions wrapped up in the issue. My son obviously did not give me this particular reason to shed tears, but plenty of tissues were used on "The Day". I only hope your daughter will not have a rush of blood to the head and become too avant garde ... like wanting a knit dress!

  8. Congratulations, a new life journey and new sewing journey. You have already received good wedding dress advice, let me pass on some other advice that has gotten me thru some rough patches. When you are learning/trying something new, you get uncomfortable, grumpy, and frustrated; recognize it for what it is and don't quit or get angry with yourself, just work your way thru and enjoy the learning experience. I hope you blog your way thru; a cheering section is always helpful.

  9. I agree with the other comments - your incredible sewing skills will carry you through this very important project. Can't wait to see the progress.