Thursday, April 5, 2012

From wedding dress to christening gown: Part 2, cutting the pattern and sewing the gown

Phew!  Most important to this part of the saga is a special shout out to the Byrne Sewing Connection, who saved me from a potential sewing CATASTROPHE this week!  I'll get into that in a sec...

After separating all of the layers, I spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to lay out the pattern on the fabrics.  Normally, I could just follow the pattern instructions, but since I'm using the reclaimed fabric of my dress, I had to take into account the various seams, etc. to make sure everything would fit and wouldn't look crazy once the finished piece was together.  Nobody wants a seam down the front of their skirt!

Since the skirt of the christening gown is largest user of fabric, I laid that out first.  I was able to get the front piece cut out in all one piece pretty easily using the the front of my wedding dress skirt.  I folded the WD skirt at the middle in the front so that any seaming would be symmetrical and look deliberate.  I did this for both the satin and the lace.  I was also able to line up the pattern so that I could use the hemmed edge of the satin layer as well.  This saved a little bit of time and bother since I didn't have to hem anything!

The back of the skirt was a little trickier.  Since there wasn't enough continuous pieces for a single cut, I split it in half and matched up seams again so that they, too, would be symmetrical.  You can see in the satin layer the way I matched up the seaming between the pieces.  I figured a seam down the back wouldn't be a big deal, and I'm pretty pleased with the result. 

Since the bodice pieces are so tiny, I was able to fit them in quite easily in their entirety.  I didn't have to split the back at all.  The difficult part was finding two pieces of the lace that had similar amounts of detailing on them.  I found that even though I had more than enough of the lace layer itself, I had to work some magic (and patience) to find "matching" bits.  Some bits of seaming from WD ended up in the CG, but they're not terribly visible as I managed to hide them in the shoulder seams.

I did cut out sleeves, too, but decided against using them--mostly because I didn't feel like putting a zipper in or extra snaps at the shoulders to make the finished gown baby-head-accessible.

 *Note: I definitely laid all of this out first before cutting to make sure that I had enough fabric the way I laid it out.  I didn't want to kill my wedding dress for naught.*

I started with the bodice since it's the most time consuming part of the CG, and a bit more confusing than the skirt.  I deviated slightly from the pattern as I had to use a lining (satin layer) since the lace would be see through, so the bodice pieces were sewn in a kind of sandwich configuration (satin, lace, satin).  I pinned and sewed on three sides, leaving the waist seam open for turning it right-side out. 

Although my son sleeps very well, I'm still suffering from a bit of sleep deprivation and mis-read the directions a bit.  I was apparently supposed to sew the bodice front and back together and the sides first before making my fabric sandwich.  This would ensure that a seam wasn't rubbing up on his soft little side belly.  Not a big deal, though, because I do a mean whip stitch!  I just lined up the finished parts and sewed down from the armpit.  The extra bit of thread at the end will be hidden in the waist seam once I'm finished.

To the right here is the fully assembled bodice.  The purple dots you see on the shoulders is where I have to put snaps so we can get his head in.  I haven't purchased them yet, so I hope I can find them easily on Saturday morning--yes, I will be finishing his CG in the car on the way to see Gramma and PapPap and no, it's not the first project I've finished in the car on the way to the party...

I then had to tackle the skirt.  The skirt is gathered and then sewn into the bodice.  The problem is, when I put in the stay-stitching rows on my practice piece, the machine wasn't working with me.  The satin kept pulling on the needle for some reason, and when I tried to cinch it to make my gathers, the lace kept getting caught.  To do the layers separately would (in my opinion) have made for a really bulky seam, so I improvised a bit.  I made my own gathers and pinned them together.  Worked on the practice piece pretty well, so I started on the real skirt, pinning my gathers to the bodice, and then went to sew them together...

I got literally an inch into sewing and my bobbin jammed. I've had this issue a few times before (I sew on a 1963 Singer Touch N Sew generously donated by my grandmother), so I knew I was toast.  I'm still awaiting a call back from the repair shop, but odds are another gear or belt went, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to go any further.  To be honest, I was pretty darn lucky I could muscle the needle back up and out of the fabric so I could retrieve the GD CG out of the machine!

That was Monday, on Tuesday I brought my machine to the aforementioned Byrne Sewing Connection, as they are really great with repairs--timely, nice, reasonably priced and willing to work on my 45 year old sewing machine.  Unfortunately, they wouldn't be able to fix it in time for me to finish my gown, but when I mentioned to her that I was hoping to finish my son's christening gown for his baptism on Saturday the woman gave me a loaner machine FREE OF CHARGE!  I almost jumped over the counter and hugged her--I don't think I've ever been so thankful for anything in my life!

So tonight, while Daddy's at the Flyers game, I will be happily attaching the skirt to the bodice of my son's christening gown.

p.s. I'm also taking donations for a new Pfaff sewing machine since Grammy's machine is about die a real and serious death probably after this repair...