The Story of the Dress – Part IV

Before I start this part of the story … my website is currently under construction.  You may find my artwork website by pasting into the search line!  Sorry for the inconvenience, but when construction is done, you will have an  easier time staying up-to-date with my blog and artwork.  You’ll also be able to easily order my art through PayPal!

Last weekend we made it downstate with the bodice, the skirt and the invisible zipper.  The goal was to sew the bodice to the skirt and put in the invisible zipper.  Well, that was accomplished, at least the first time through …

On the 8-9 hour drive down, I realized I wanted to put tiny piping between the bodice and the skirt.  At that point, I also remembered I had wanted to put the same piping at the top edge of the bodice, prior to all the beading I recently finished.  “Ah well”, I thought.  “I’ll just hand sew the upper piping on after we’re home.”  We drove to the fabric store to pick up the piping and the special invisible zipper foot.    Shopping turned into a scavenger hunt!  Three stores, numerous packages of varying white seed beads, bronze beads (both of which I remembered on the drive), silk thread, piping, polyester thread, sewing machine needles, hand sewing needles, beading needles, an invisible zipper foot and 2 1/2 hours later, we headed back to the apartment.

Upon arriving at the apartment, we ate lunch and said “See you later” to our men.  Out came the sewing machine and before I knew it, the bottom tiny piping on the bodice was in place.  How beautiful and what an elegant touch it made!  Next, I aligned and pinned the skirt onto the bodice.  The sewing commenced and to my dismay, I found a pucker off-side in the front!  I felt like I was back to my old 4-H projects ripping out the sleeve to get rid of that pucker.  I re-sewed and another tiny pucker showed up!

“Grrr, but no problem. I can do this …”  soon turned to, “good enough for now, I can readjust it when I get home.  Joan, remember the goal is to get it to fit Catherine.”   She tried it on and we oooed and awed looking at the result on Catherine in the mirror!  With the pins marking placement of the zipper in back, I began sewing the zipper in place with the invisible zipper foot.  “We are making progress,” I thought.  As I adjusted and moved the heavy weight of the satin skirt, to my horror I discovered a small 1/4″ smear of sewing machine grease!

“The cleaners should be able to get that out,” I told Catherine.  “If not, we have lots of beads to cover it!”  Being done in by a spot of grease and a pucker was not on my agenda!

Now, there is nothing like the feeling of a smooth zipper sliding easily up and down after its sewn in place; unfortunately, that was nothing like the feeling I was having.  The zipper started gliding fine, until it hit the thick seam of the bodice/piping/skirt.  “Damn …”  I thought.  “I should have trimmed that seam before sewing it in!”  As I continued to force the zipper down, it began to split open.  “Arrghh!!!”

Working the zipper pull back and forth, we managed to get it on track.  Catherine tried the dress on again.  She looked beautiful!  Seeing her in the dress at this stage (tiny pucker, tiny grease smudge and partially split zipper) made it all worthwhile and I knew these minor aggravations were nothing in the big picture.  I now knew where the zipper belonged for a good fit.  Pleased with the results thus far, we packed it up to be worked on another day.

Yesterday was that day!  While working at Art Works, I took Catherine’s dress as one of my projects; I ripped out the zipper and ripped off the skirt, show and telling the dress to friends who stopped by.  My dear husband came and took the bodice to the cleaners so they could work their magic on the grease spot.  Good news!  I called today, the spot came out and it’s ready to be picked up!

Working on Catherine’s dress is just like life; you do what you can, when you can, ask for and take help where needed.  Simply, keep on tweaking until you have the result you want.   I’m off to the cleaners!

The Story of the Dress – Part III

After being gone for two weeks, I began anew on Catherine’s dress.  Pictured above is the first stage of phase I, on the left is the old tulle with the seed beads, on the right their new home in waiting.  I carefully took my seam ripper and to my delight, found as I gently pulled on the string from another chain stitch, most of the beads easily unstitched from the tulle, but stayed on the thread.  Go figure!  Only a few rogue beads took off to the far corners of my sewing room!

My tiny needle deftly went through the fabric to pick up some tiny seed beads.  Oh no!  The first bead I picked up with the needle did not slide across it, but stopped about 1/4 inch from the point of the needle.  Panic came to heart and then I remembered not all seed beads are made the same!  Setting that bead to the side, I found three others that easily slid onto my needle.  I sewed them on in a similar fashion of how they originally were applied, with one exception – I did it by hand, no machine.  Pick up three beads, stitch down, bring the needle up about 1/4 ” from where I started, slide on three new beads, and stitch down where the previous three were stitched down.  Now, I bring the needle up at the end of the line.  It somewhat makes a loop around, every three beads.

Below is the result of what I accomplished.  It is fun to see the difference of the beads being directly on the satin verses the tulle.  My goal is to complete this first section of beading and to attach the skirt for a fitting before the magical mystery invisible zipper is applied!

Completed first section of beading! Hurrah!
Part of the completed seed beading!

The Story of the Dress Part I

Catherine and GrandMary with GrandMary's wedding dress

Shortly after their engagement, Catherine and John started to think about their wedding plans.  They considered what kind of wedding they wanted, Catherine considered what kind of dress she wanted that would make sense with the type of wedding they wanted.  She wondered if GrandMary would mind her 1951 wedding dress being remade to fit Catherine.  I called my 79-year-old mother and asked for permission.  My mom stated, “Well sure!  I won’t be using it anymore!”

This past summer we visited Mom and sisters, and at that point, my mother’s dress officially changed ownership.  In the evening, we pulled the dress out and assessed its condition.  The yellowed, heavy duchess satin from the 1951 wedding bore old stains of celebratory wedding cake and punch.  Even some of the delicate beads had lost their coating.  Catherine took it to an eco-friendly cleaner and we were thrilled with the results!  Many of the old stains were removed, others lightened and the yellow was gone!

In August, I began deconstructing the dress to determine how much fabric was usable.  I cut and sewed a demo bodice out of another fabric to be certain Catherine would have a dress that fit.  After the fit was established, I ripped the demo to use use as a pattern and I cut her new dress from my mother’s old one.

Catherine and I discussed alternatives if the pattern pieces would not fit around some of the minor stains that remained.  We decided, being the creative folks that we are, we could come up with a solution!  We also discussed the story of the dress; who it belonged to, the time period, the maternal line that it touched from my Grandmother Alma seeing her oldest daughter being married, my Mom wearing it, my Aunt Katherine standing beside her as maid of honor, my sisters and I trying it on while growing up, and now to Catherine.

Our Catherine who with her “live simply, respect the earth, eco-friendly way of living”, chose to have her dress for her milestone of a day, be one with meaning.  Just as a painting tells a story with each underlying pencil mark,  brush strokes and layers of paint, I recognized Catherine’s dress, a work of art in its own, has a story to tell, too.  Each stitch, each bead, and yes, each unresolved stain (until it’s decided how to resolve it) creates part of the story.  In fact, it is those marks that help to alter , shape and form what the dress will be, just as our own marks and resolved stains that touch to our very fibers help each of us to shape and form who we Be.