I Made Shoes!!

Red Sandals Finished

Sewing Bucket List

Making shoes have been on my sewing bucket list since our trip to Spain last year. I fell in love with the idea that you can make your own espadrille. I watched every youtube I could find on making the soles until I ran across the Dritz espadrille soles. They’re already made for you! At the time I had only found the flat soles in adult sizes in the store. I like a little wedge for height. You petite ladies know what I’m talking about. I tried the size 5, my RTW shoe size and it was way too big. I think it’s more like a size 6. So I mothballed that project until my Hobby Lobby started stocking the wedges. Yes, the sizing is still too big but I couldn’t resist.

**Disclaimer: I haven’t road tested these shoes more than walking around the sewing room. What I’m about to tell you is how I made mine. I make no guarantees that they’ll hold up. Don’t send me your medical bills if you sprain an ankle.**

 

 

Dritz Espadrille Soles

The soles come with the soles, a pattern for making traditional espadrilles and instructions. Tip #1: you can download the pattern online and print them out instead of tracing. The pattern is meant to print on legal size paper but you can print on letter size. You’ll cut off the top and bottom but the pattern pieces will all print. Tip #2: The regular price is $24.99 at my store. I used my 40% or 50% off coupon, I can’t remember. Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s and Michael’s all take competitor’s coupons so use your smart phone and search for the best coupon.ย  All the other supplies you have to purchase separately. Tip #3: you don’t have to buy the Dritz Espadrille supplies. More on this later.

Dritz Espadrille Wedge What is Inside

 

 

Sizing

As I mentioned I think the sizing runs large. I think because there are no half sizes so they recommend 5 1/2 have to go down a size to a 5. I checked the few pattern reviews on PR and others thought the sizing was just right. Good news for you, you can take the soles out of the packaging and try them on for yourself. You can’t do that with a pattern! This is a comparison of one of my favorite RTW wedge in a similar heel height. You can see the Dritz soles is a bit longer. Wonder where I got the ankle strap detail from?

Dritz Espadrille Wedge vs RTW Sizing

Fabric

I didn’t want a traditional espadrille looking shoe. If you want to make traditional espadrilles you can use a tightly woven, medium weight cotton for your fabric. You can buy the fabrics Dritz sells pre-packaged if you’re uncomfortable picking the right types of fabric for this application. I wanted more of a leather sandal look so I went with marine vinvl from JoAnn’s. The design was inspired by a Hasbeens sandal. They don’t make shoes in my size. ๐Ÿ™ So I guess I had to make them.

I’m not sure about the durability of this fabric over time since I haven’t take the shoes out for a real test spin. The marine vinyl is a thick vinyl that comes in many luscious colors. The backing has a knitted layer. The best part is that it doesn’t fray and I didn’t need to use interfacing. I drew the pattern with a pen on the back of the fabric and cut it out with an X-acto blade on a self healing mat. If you aren’t doing any cut outs you can simply use scissors. The marine vinyl is very stable in one direction and had a slight stretch in the other direction. I placed the pattern so that the stable direction went left to right on the toe piece. Placed the strap so there was a slight stretch along the length of the strap. The fabric is regularly $10.99/yd. You need very little. I bought 1/2 yard and had a lot left over. If you’re not doing the long ankle strap like I did you can get away with less.

Marine Vinyl

I had initially made this same design in duck cotton. I interfaced the duck cotton and the lining, sewed them together and attempted to do the cut outs by reinforcing the edges with a tight zig zag. This was really messy looking and I couldn’t keep the edges stable. It was an epic fail. I then tried the design with another vinyl like material and it had too much stretch. Epic fail #2.

 

 

Sewing

Again you can purchase the needle, thread and wax the Dritz sells specially for espadrille making. I didn’t purchase these. For the thread I opted for a crochet thread from JoAnn’s. It’s was $3.99 regular price for a large spool. Remember your coupons. I have a ton of it left for other purposes. I like that it was way cheaper and I like the smoother thread. Doesn’t hurt that the color was spot on.

Crochet yarn

The bee’s wax sold as espadrille supplies looks like the same thing as you find in the quilting section. The quilting one is larger and less expensive. If you already have bees wax or Thread Heaven I’d skip buying this. I used bees wax. The coating does change the color of the thread but it should go away with time. Below is a picture of the unwaxed and waxed thread.

Needle and thread

For the needle I used a sail/tent needle. In the picture above you can see that it was a flat almost blade like tip. I already had in a home dec needle set. It’s the straight needle, second from the right.

Sail Tent NeedleIt went through the sole without any issues. I pre-poked the holes on the vinyl using a push pin on a foam board. I did this mainly to help me keep the spacing even. Poking sewing holes

I then pinned the fabric onto the sole, pinning through the holes. When it’s pinned up you can sort of try them on but I found that the fabric is still too loose to get an accurate gauge.

Pin fabric to sole

Then you stitch the fabric to the sole. I used a blanket stitch but there are many others that could work. After the needle comes through the sole you can gently push it against the vinyl and you can tell if you’re in the right spot or not before you poke through the fabric. Tip #4 I used my crappy sewing table push the needle through the hole. I think that’s easier than pulling the needle through even if you have a needle puller. It’s easier on the hands too.

I removed the pin right before stitching through it. So everything else stays in pinned place.

StitchingThis is one side of the toe piece stitched up. I stopped at the edge of the fabric. I didn’t sew all the way around.

One side stitched

Ankle Strap

I copied the ankle strap from my RTW pair of shoes. I sewed them on the same way I did the toe piece but with less distance between the stitches. I tried on the shoes to determine where the buckle should go. The buckle I used was 8 mm or 5/16″.ย  I found them at Hobby Lobby for $1.99. I should have cut the ankle strap along the stable direction of the fabric and added a piece of elastic like my RTW pair.

RTW ankle strap with buckle

With the 1 layer of marine fabric I wasn’t sure I could attach the elastic without poking too many holes and ripping the fabric. Plus I didn’t have any red elastic on hand. Instead I cut the straps along the stretchier direction. I’m not sure if this was the right choice until I give the shoes more road testing. After I figured out the placement I punched a circle with my screw punch large enough to go around the base of the prong.

Ankle strap

I sewed it shut and glued the little tab of fabric to secure the buckle.ย  On the other strap I tried on the shoes and marked where how long the strap needed to be. I cut the strap to size and used my screw punch with the smallest hole and punched prong holes.

Prong holesThis is the finished ankle strap.

Finished Ankle Strap
 

Test Run

Since I went way off the reservation on this one I’m going to carry a pair of flip flops with me when I wear them. I’m crossing my fingers they aren’t a complete disaster. I am going to put some insoles in for support and to keep my feet from sliding forward because the soles are too big for me.

Here are a couple of different views of the shoes. I’ve never been so self conscious about my legs before. I swear they don’t look this bad in real life.

Sandals Side View

Sandals Front View

Sandals Toe Close Up

Happy shoe sewing,

Wedding Signature

11 Responses to I Made Shoes!!

  1. aleah says:

    These shoes are fabulous! You’ve really got skill with an exacto knife, that pattern is super intricate and looks perfect. Love it!

  2. HI Nhi! These sandals look fabulous (and so do your feet and legs BTW)! I think I have some similar looking red vinyl that I bought for purse handles one time. I have the flat soles, but now I think I’ll have to go to Hobby Lobby and pick up a pair of the wedge soles I saw there the other day. Thanks for the tip on the crochet cotton. I have lots of that in my stash!

  3. Chris says:

    Not sure why you are complaining about your legs – they look fine to me. And the shoes are very very kewt. Well done, you ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Chris. Something about putting my photos out there for complete strangers make me feel the need to apologize for all my flaws. All people see are the pictures and not my charming personality. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  4. Pingback: Tutorial: Make your own shoes! โ€“ Sewing

  5. Anne says:

    Those shoes are adorable!! I had no idea you could buy espadrille soles! I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for this afternoon that features your tutorial: http://sewing.craftgossip.com/?p=88421 –Anne

  6. Summerflies says:

    Love these! I have loved espadrilles since I was a teenager. I like the look of your vinyl ones. I hope you put up how they wear and last. Good thing is if the top doesn’t last, you can just use the bottom again!

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Cross Stitch Pincushion

basset hound cross stitch pin cushion finished

I Couldn’t Resist

Remember in my last post I was planning to let the kits I purchased in Japan to age in my stash? Well that did last long. I thought the bunny cross stitch pincushion would be easy and fun. As usual, I somehow I ended up making it more complicated.

First off bunnies are on my $hit list. We have a whole family of bunnies living in our yard. I’m talking aunts, uncles, grandmas, in-laws, in-laws of in-laws. Everyone has moved in. Those adorable bastards are killing our grass by eating the grass; roots and all. Neighbors have suggested we “get a dog”. Then they remember we have Waffle, in which they change their suggestion to “get a real dog.” I’ve seen impressive Waffle’s hunting skills in action. He’s very patience and moves in very, very slowly. But alas his short legs are too slow when he takes a run at them when he’s within striking distance. The bunnies don’t even stop eating until he gets pretty close then they dash off. How dare they mock him. So instead of brown and white bunnies I changed the pattern to a brown and white basset hound. Sewing karma must be shining on me.

basset hound cross stitch pattern WIP

This is the design in progress. The pincushion is simply 2 squares. I did the pattern design in Excel and color filled the cells. I ended up scraping the magnifying glass because it didn’t leave enough space for the basset tail. I did buttons for the bottom. Lastly there seemed to be too much white space in the middle so I added a pair of scissors. The tiny buttons included in the kit was perfect for the screw.

basset hound cross stitch close up

This is the finished top. Sewing the top and bottom together is so simple. You start at the corner of one and at the halfway point of the other and stitch around. Stitch until you have about 1″ opening. I left my thread attached. Stuff it with fill. I think the kit came with cotton for the filling. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything but polyfil. Then you stitch up the opening. This project was simple but time consuming as most other needle crafts are. This project could have been done in 15 minutes with fabric and a sewing machine instead of 15 hours.

basset hound cross stitch construction

I’m not sure how much it’ll be used as a pincushion since I have my emery one and strawberry wrist one. And do I really want to poke a basset with a pin? Maybe I should have left it as a bunny.

basset hound cross stitch pincushion all sides

Happy pincushion sewing,

Wedding Signature

4 Responses to Cross Stitch Pincushion

  1. Kyle says:

    Agree with accordion3, that is soooo delightful on so many levels!! And I totally bow to your pattern designing in Excel skillz!

  2. Accordion3 says:

    Delightful – on so many levels,

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Japan Fabric Shopping

Nippori Textile Town

While in Tokyo we had half a day unscheduled while we hoped that someone would cancel on their Toyota factory tour reservations and we could go. That didn’t work out but a little fabric therapy cheered me right up. Nippori Textile Town is about 100 stores mostly along one main road, Nippori Chuo Dori, which made it really easy to navigate. I walked up one side of the street and back down the other side, making a loop. Some stores are clothing stores but the majority were fabric stores.

Nippori Sign

Getting There

We had JR passes so we took the loop line (JR Yamanote) from Tokyo station near our hotel to the Nippori station.

Nippori Rail Map

It’s about 15 minutes and handful of stops. The loop lines runs pretty frequently. Hyperdia is a really handy website and app on what train options you have to go from station A to station B, transit times, transfers, track number if available and the cost. It doesn’t have an offline option so I would look up our train routes at the hotel or wherever we had free wifi. Then I screen captured the different options we had.

When you get to the Nippori station there were several signs to the fabric town but signs are sparse when you need it most. There is an intersection just outside the station with several possible diagonal streets to go down with no clear directional signs and no street names that I could find.

  • Option A: pick one and if you don’t see blocks and blocks of fabric stores shortly or the Fabric Town banners, you’re on the wrong street.

Nippori Fabric Shopping

  • Option B: take a small compass with you. This assumes you know which direction you need to go from the station. The compass came in really handy when we were underground or sometimes under-under-underground (if you’ve been to a major train station in Japan you will know exactly what I’m talking about) and the GPS on our phones couldn’t find us.
  • Option C: install the Maps.me app and download the offline maps. Unfortunately Google maps doesn’t have an offline batching option anymore for Japan. Search for “tomato” and drop a pin on the map. Then walk in the direction of the pin. There are several Tomato stores on the fabric street and Tomato is written in Roman characters so it’s easy to find on map.me app.

 

Getting Around

If you find a store with the Nippori Sen-I Gai (Fabric Town) Map, I suggest you pick up both the English and Japanese version if you can’t read Japanese. Many of the shop names were written in characters. On the back of the map is a store listing with a short description of what they carry. Ex.ย  Leather, stage costume, wool fabrics, buttons. I used the English map to figure out which stores I wanted to go to and then matched it up with the Japanese map to see how the shop names were written in Japanese. If you want the maps I picked up I have them linked below. The files are large because I wanted them to have all the details in case anyone wanted to do some pre-trip planning. If you have lots of time just wander and stop into any store that looks interesting.

English version: front and back

Japanese version: front and back

Fabric Expectations

I don’t know why every country I travel to I’m looking for some touristy, kitschy fabric. I was looking for fabrics that scream “Japan” or “Spain” or “insert foreign country here”. Remember my fabric from Portugal? Yes, in Spain you can find a large array of Flamenco fabrics. But I wasn’t in the market for any. In Japan you can find a large array of kimono fabrics. But again, I’m not in the market for any kimono. Though I did buy a kimono sewing pattern for dogs. The pattern has styles for girl and boy dogs.

Dog Kimono Pattern

In general what I’ve found in my travels are fabrics that everyday people wear. In Japan it was a lot of wovens in natural fabrics. The Japanese women wore lots of loose fitting tops, pants and skirts which are mainly what sewing patterns they carried. The colors for everyday wear i.e. work wear was black, navy, grey, white and khaki. In the fabric stores there are very few knits and very few cutesy fabrics which I incorrectly stereotyped as being rampant in Japan due to the totally awesome Superbuzzy. Where I found the type of fabrics I was looking for was in the children’s/baby’s section. Now I must wonder what the Japanese must think when we wear our shirts with little cat prints all over them.

I ended up getting a Gadetama laminate. I didn’t know at the time that it/he/she was a Sanrio character. I just loved the bizarre egg yolk taking a nap. Oh yes, there was a lot of purse/bag making fabrics and supplies. I suspect the laminate is for bag making also since it rains all the time here. I really wished I had water proofed the purse I had just sewed. I also picked up a knit with panda prints and another knit with whales. I believe I got all 3 fabrics at different Tomato stores. They have several floors of fabrics so they’re likely to have what you’re looking for. A tip on checking out: Make sure you’re done shopping before getting in line to cut your fabrics. There is a separate line for those cutting fabric and those purchasing non-cut fabrics. Once they cut your fabric, the fabric cutting person tells the cashier how many yards/meter at what price and they ring you up right away. It’s not like JoAnn’s where you get a slip. If you’re not done shopping, don’t get your fabric cut unless you want to wait in another line.

One really nice thing almost all the stores, restaurants and hotels all over Japan did was punch in the total on a calculator and showed it to us. Much easier then trying to remember your Japanese numbers especially since everything cost hundreds to thousands of yens. There were a lot of numbers they were saying. Whereas in Spain I listened to the euro amount (my Spanish is much better than my Japanese) and round up for the cents.

Japan Fabric Stash Addition

 

 

Tokyu Hands

Another place where I went looking for sewing and other crafty items was Tokyu Hands. Tokyu Hands which is a large chain DIY store which has I thought was a combo of a home store and a craft store. We ended up going to the store in Hiroshima, though there were at least 2 in Tokyo. One adjacent to the Tokyo station and another near Shibuya Crossing. I was disappointed that with all those floors of DIY and there was very little sewing stuff but lots and lots of pens.

 

 

Yuzawaya

I had researched other craft stores and found Yuzawaya in the city like space that is the Osaka station. In the Hankyu part of the Osaka station in a tucked away area of the mall was Yuzawaya. If you can find a directory look forย  Yuzawaya in Japanese characters like the picture below. The first character reminds of of the shape of my Elna Grasshopper which is the only way I found the shop in a sea of hundreds of shops.

Yuzawaya

Even after I figured out where I was currently and where the store was I ran into problems. The floor wasn’t continuous. To get to the Yuzawaya you have to go down another floor cross over into the next building and go back up. Fortunately there were signs for Kiddyland or something similar that was in the same area as Yuzawaya. This shop is well worth the extra effort to find it. The shop was glorious!! I could have spent the whole day there. They sold machines, books, fabrics, notions and so much more.

Yuzawaya store

Yuzawaya 1Yuzawaya2

It was near the end of our time in Japan so my luggage was filled to the brim with goodies. My sweet hubbie offered to throw away some of his clothes so I could buy more fabric. I didn’t take up his offer. Instead I bought a couple of little kits that wouldn’t take up much room. I bought a cross stitch pin cushion kit (I could have taken out the poly fill to compact it more if I needed to) a kimono key chain kit and zippered coin purse kit.

Yuzawaya Score

I also bought a hanging ornament book.

Japanese Hanging Ornament Book

I’m not sure if these are decorative or if they other significance. If anyone knows more about these please let me know. I hate that I don’t speak Japanese beyond the essential travel phrases so I didn’t get the full experience. I hope you enjoyed my little shopping adventure in Japan. Can’t wait to hoard all this stuff in my stash until it has aged to perfection. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy sewing,

Wedding Signature

7 Responses to Japan Fabric Shopping

  1. Pingback: Cross Stitch Pincushion - Detective Houndstooth

  2. Kyle says:

    Super fun!! I visited Japan for 2 weeks in 2001 when I wasn’t as into sewing as I am now. Back then I bought tons of Sanrio and now I would buy sewing related stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

    So is Tomato like a series of fabric stores?

    • I don’t know how many Tomato stores there are outside of the 3 in Nippori. So I’m not sure if it’s a chain. If you remember Britex, it reminds me of that place. There are several floors connected by stairs. Each floor has it’s own grouping of products. Each Tomato store has it’s own specialty ex. home dec, sales/clearance etc. If you’re looking for sashiko kits I saw quite a few at Tokyu Hands.

  3. Mads says:

    The cross stitch pincushion kit and hanging ornament book look fantastically awesome! And I LOL’d at that anthropomorphic egg yolk–what the hell?!?!? x’D

    And Mr. DH should consider giving “How to be the best sewing husband ever” lessons: how sweet of him to offer to make more room in his luggage!

  4. Lodi says:

    Happy hoarding! Your adventures are a delight!

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The Epic Wedding Dress Post

Wedding Dress Final

Say No to the Dress

At the end of November last year I spend a day with one of my closest friend trying on wedding dresses. I browsed through several hundred dresses and tried on a few dozen. I visited 3 American style wedding shops that sell white wedding gowns. I wasn’t in love with the styles. I wanted something very simple; no train, no excess fabrics/puffiness, minimal bling. I did want sleeves anywhere from a cap to a 3/4 length and a soft tulle skirt. Seems like that was not the “in” style at the moment. At 5 ft tall and petite proportioned the fit was so far off that I looked like human laundry clothesline as they clipped me in (left pic). The pic on the right I look like I’m kneeling down or I’m 3′ 6″. One of the salesperson suggested I would have it “cut off at the hem.” Yes. She. Said. That.

Dress Trial

Major surgery (on the dress, not on me!) could alter this dress to fit me better but at what cost? I know people who spent more on the alterations than the cost of the dress. I also visited one Chinese dress shop that would custom sew me a dress for $300-350 with 2-3 month lead time. They had me try on a sample dress in the style and fabric that I wanted and the fit was almost perfect. I don’t speak Chinese but my guess is that the ladies were discussing my fitting changes as they pinched the excess caused by my slopey shoulders. It was really a perfect dress if I was having a Vietnamese Tea Ceremony but I had decided to have an American style ceremony. Sure I would wear anything I wanted but decided to say “no” to the dress.

 

 

Sewing a Wedding Dress, How Hard Could it Be?

There are few sewing challenges I shy away from. In my mind nothing in sewing is permanent i.e. stitches can be undone, pieces can be recut and even wadders can be given a new life. So at Rimmon’s Black Friday sale I bought silk duchess satin, silk organza, french lace, silk charmeuse and tulle. I didn’t have a pattern yet so I bought reasonable yardage since some of the fabrics were quite pricey. In hindsight I should have over bought on the skirt fabrics because I eventually decided on a circle skirt which sucked up a lot of fabrics.

Materials

The Bodice: Boning Part

For the bodice I used Catina’s tutorial with significant fit and style modifications. Because I’m short and wanted a low back there was very little height/inner-structure above where the waistband will eventually go; especially in the back. To keep the structure of the dress, I had to have the inner-structure go down well below where the skirt would attach. I couldn’t go as long as I would have wanted because it started to ride up when I sat down. That would be unattractive and uncomfortable.

Bodice Satin

Inside the bodice I had a bra band like strap. I sewed in some batting bra cups. I used baby blue thread stitching for the inside boning.

Bodice inside

Much, much later I added a guide for the bra band. Because of the low back I didn’t want the bra band to peak out. I used some cheesy Valentine’s day ribbon. I love the pop of red but now I’m concerned the red dye might transfer over time onto the dress.

Bra Guide

 

 

The Bodice: Lace Overlay

The second part of the bodice is the lace overlay. I finally could have the 3/4 sleeve all the stores told me were difficult to find. 95%+ of the dresses they sold were strapless. The french silk I bought was leftovers from a Beverly Hills bridal designer that I can’t remember the name.

Lace flat

 

I’d like to think my dress could fetch the thousands of dollars that the designer dress was selling for. The fabric has an eyelash scallop along both selvedges. Coming into this I had no idea how difficult the lace would be. It didn’t occur to me what it would take to make a straight lace edge curved. I’ve sewn with lace a number of times on panties and bras but there was minimal shaping involved. To get the pieces to curve I had to cut out sections of the lace and restitch them. Yes, it was as painful as it sounds. This lace has a very delicate base fabric so there was little fabric for the stitches to hold onto. I think the professional solution is to have silk organza under the lace for support. This gave me a fake skin look like you see on figure skaters. It’s beautiful from the distance but close up I always thought it looked too fake.

I drafted the pattern pieces with a little drafting know-how and some on-the-fly fitting. On the bodice, you can see I originally planned on a v-neck. That was a complete disaster since there’s no structure with a low v-back and a v-front. After a few attempts I decided it was too much of an engineering feat to get this to work and went with a boat neck. I drafted the sleeve with one elbow dart. The sleeve cap needed a lot of work since the drafting had an almost symmetrical cap. I’m always surprised to see this on patterns because very few people are shaped this way.

Bodice Lace Patterns

Here’s a pictures of the sleeve cap post fitting. Looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. I love the scalloped edge at the hem.

Lace Sleeve

This pictures has the pattern piece I had drafted and fitted underneath as a guide. You can see where I cut the lace and reshaped the edge. It’s pretty scary cutting that expensive french lace at first until I remember that nothing was permanent. Take note the lace pattern at the center front looks like 3 oval flowers.

Lace Cutting

Then I had to sew patches of lace fabric to fill in the voids. I put an orange piece of paper underneath so I could see the lace layers better.

Lace Shaping

Remember the lace pattern at the center front with the 3 oval flowers? If not, scroll back up. The way the scallops laid the center front scallop ended up too high when I wore it. It looked fine on the table. On me it was a boat neck with a mountain peak in the middle. I ended up cutting it off and sewing on a different portion of the lace. The picture on the left was the right shape but it thought it was too obviously stitched on so I had to cut that off too and then some. See how the oval flower in the middle is now sideways? Picture on the right is what I decided on. I had to cut away the center front almost 3″. See how there’s a large leaf motif in the front now? Oh the magic of lace piecing.

Different center frontsIf you look closely you can see all the patches of lace. You can also see the minimal bling I wanted which isn’t in the vocabulary of the dress shops. More on that next.

Lace neckline

Embellishment

I used clear beads, sequins and thread to embellish the lace overlay. The clear sparkles at the right angle. It’s subtle and much more beautiful in real life. The clear nylon thread was really hard on my eyes. You have to hold it just right for the light to hit it or else it invisible. I used my black beading felt mat on a lipped surface for my working surface. The lipped surface is a top of an IKEA bin lid. I’ve used this set-up for beading for years and it’s 95% effective in keeping your beads on the tray. It’s a good idea to take off anything on your hands that will get caught on the lace or the thread.

Beading Tray

 

The beading is simple. I anchored the thread onto a more substantial part of the lace near the cording from the public side. I catch a sequin cup side up onto the needle and then a bead. Then I insert the needle back into the hole of the sequin. The bead keeps the thread from slipping through. Then I secure the thread and cut the tails short. I initially tried to jump from sequin to sequin underneath the fabric. This would have worked perfectly if I left enough slack in between. The lace has a slight stretch due to the holey-ness of the lace so you need more slack in the jumps. The upside of sewing them separately is that if the thread gets lose you only lose the one set of sequin and bead instead of the whole string of sequins. The downside is that the little thread tails can irritate the skin. It’s nylon and not particularly soft. If you have sensitive skin I would not recommend doing this.

 

 

The Skirt: Tulle Layer

For the skirt I wanted a soft, flowing, airy skirt like the 3′ 6″ me had tried on months ago. I had grabbed 9 yards of tulle from Rimmon’s during their sale. I drafted up a circle skirt which was pretty easy. Just takes some math and a lot of floor space.

Circle Skirt Drafting

The pic on the left I think was 1 full circle skirt in the front and 1 in the back. It’s a bit too flat for me. The final skirt (center pic) I ended up sewing 4 or 5 full circle skirts sewn together. The dress has been professionally cleaned and boxed so I can’t go and count the pieces. The pic on the right is the seaming of the tulle. Near my hand you can see the seam allowances. I ended up stitching several lines and trimmed as closely as I could to minimize it. Ideally I would have used 104″ wide tulle but I couldn’t find it in the right softness and color.

Skirt options

 

 

Skirt Lining

For the skirt lining I used 2 layers silk charmeuse: one for the layer that shows through the tulle and the other as the lining. I cut these as a-line skirts because I that was what fit on the 2 yards of fabric I bought. It worked out because there was less bulk. The problem I ran into with the charmeuse was it’s inherent sheerness in this light color. I could see the bodice boning that extended past the waistband layer under the charmeuse. It’s the same effect you get when you wear white bra under a white t-shirt, it was a color difference. So I had to add not 1, but 2 layers of cotton muslin in between. Now the boning bodice was put to the test with 4 layers of underskirt and a layer of tulle made of 4 circle skirts. It was something like 18 yards of fabric total. The waistband is a long gathered rectangle. Nothing much more to say about that.

Skirt attached

The zipper is not in yet so I’m holding the dress together with my hands. It’s also not yet hemmed.

 

 

The Back

For the back I wanted something with interest. I feel like people spend a lot of time looking at my back during the wedding that it shouldn’t be boring. I had initially wanted a keyhole back. Again my height and proportions foils my plans. Instead of a long tear drop shape it looked more like a frumpy egg. I used blue tape to “try on” a tear drop, oval, circle and this football-like shape.

Back keyhole fail

I ended up going with a slit with 3 buttons at the top. Simple and a little interesting.

Final Back View

The buttons I bought from International Silk and Woolens. I tried making my own satin buttons with a kit where you use your own fabric but they turned out a bit lumpy around the edges. These had lace already on them and in an ivory that matched the lace on the bodice. I used a thin corded elastic for the loops. The loops are decorative as they couldn’t hold the back in without the buttons sliding to the side of the loops. White hook and eyes underneath is what’s holding the back together. I have a soft clear elastic down the center back to prevent gaping.

 

 

50 Shades of White

I knew from house paints that there were so many shades of whites and off-whites. For some reason I thought they would just all go together as a whitish family. I didn’t pay too close attention to the shades of color and ended up paying for it. I have a lot of natural light in my sewing room. For night time I have a natural light color temperature bulbs. The whitish family of colors looked in harmony until I took the dress to sew at a friend’s house. Her lighting cast a bit more of a blue-ish color and the skirt looked way out of place. The ceremony was outdoors and the inside lighting had more of a yellow cast but I didn’t want to chance it. Finding a soft drapey tulle in the right shade of ivory was pretty challenging. A lot of the tulle I found in stores was very stiff and crunchy. I bought some at JoAnn’s and tried the suggestions online with the fabric softener and vinegar etc. Nothing helped soften the fabric enough. Then I bought dye thinking I could dye the skirt but after consulting with another sewing friend I was really worried about getting all that yardage a consistent color. Buying online was also tricky because people’s versions of “soft” was all over the board. I ended up finding the right fabric at International Silks and Woolens for something outrageous like $10/yard multiplied by 9 yards plus 3 more yards because I cut one piece terribly wrong. Don’t talk to the phone while cutting! The moral of this story is pay attention to your whites while you’re shopping for material.

 

 

Hemming

I had 5 floor length layers that needed hemming and it was a big task.ย I had 2 friends help pin up the hem of all 4 layers with me teetering on a stack of cook books. I figured once they did this I could cut and sew the hems myself. I cut and hemmed the lining first since no one would tell how badly I botched it. Then I tackled the 2 cotton muslin layer. I serged those hems. Again no one would notice how uneven it was. Then I got to the charmeuse layer under the tulle and the pinned up layer was quite uneven. With all the extra fabrics pinned up none of the layers were laying straight. I had to repin the hem in about the dumbest way ever. I must have completely lost my mind by this point of the wedding planning. I was looking at the hem and mentally noting things like “5 inches to the right of the center front I need the hem 1/2″ higher”. Then I would take off the dress, repin it, and put it back on. A wedding dress is incredibly time consuming to get on and off; especially, by yourself. I did this about 3-4 times before I realized I could just pick up the hem repin it and drop it to the floor again. ::sigh:: The tulle layer was the diciest to hem. After all the time and cost to get this skirt made, I didn’t want to screw it up by cutting it too short. You can’t patch tulle so if it was too short I would have to do something tacky like sew lace to the edge or recut a whole new skirt.Tulle hemming1

What I ended up doing is pinning up the layers with my new and improved hemming method. The pins need to go straight down on tulle or the pins fall out. I thread traced the hem edge. This way I could lay it flat and even out the edge. I used rotary cutter to trim off the excess. It was a scary couple of minutes but I went slowly and took a lot of breathing breaks. There was 15 yards of hem on this layer!

Tulle hemming 2

In the end I was constantly moving or sitting behind a table cloth covered table so who would really notice an even hem. Here I am coming down the aisle with my parents. See you don’t even notice the hem.

Final hem

Final Thoughts

I’m very happy about how the dress turned out. It’s exactly what I wanted and the fit is spot on. It was a fun puzzle to solve with lots of opportunities to use my noodle. My #1 advice to any sewist looking to tackle this type of wedding dress, start early. The first part is “start”. This is a general sewing advice. No matter how much you read and research your situation will be different from what you read. Your body is different. Your materials are different. Nothing can replace actually sewing and trying on the garment to figure out what needs to be adjusted. I muslined the bodice with the boning. I turned out to be a waste of time as my fabric behaved differently even though they had similar characteristics. On this close fitting of a garment a little difference in the fabric made a big difference in the fit. The pattern pieces took so little fabric I should have used the expensive fabric in the first place.

The second part is “early”. The finishing takes much longer than you ever think it would. The dress seemingly came together quickly. When I had the bodice and skirt sewn together I thought I was almost done. Wrong! Figuring out the zipper, buttons, sequins and hemming took probably 4 times longer. In the finishing you do a lot of work and it doesn’t seem like you’re making any progress. You will run into unexpected problems. This is Murphy’s Law. If you’re the bride sewing this, you’ll be eyeball deep with other wedding preparations that you don’t want to stress out about your dress. I kept saying to myself, I have time. I’ll do this and that now because they’re more time sensitive and kept delaying the dress because I could finish the dress the night before if I had to. I couldn’t hire a photographer or pick napkin colors the night before. I did finish my dress well ahead of my night-before deadline but I made it a priority. Congratulations on making it to the end of this long post. You’ll be reward with this video of the dress.

 

Special thanks for my beautiful group of sewing friends who encouraged and helped me along the way. I spot a few sewn dresses in this group!

The Sewing Ladies

And lastly, big hugs and kisses for my 2 favorite men who had to fend for themselves while I disappeared into the sew room.

The whole family

Happy Sewing,

Wedding Signature

30 Responses to The Epic Wedding Dress Post

  1. Miriam says:

    What a beautiful bride you were. I love your dress, it’s so classy. Your dress is such a nice and refreshing change from the strapless look. Your bodice and sleeves really showcase that beautiful lace. You in your dress is just absolutely stunning! Your mother was gorgeous in her dress too!

  2. Gail says:

    Perfectly stunning! Beautiful, elegant, perfectly drafted. I’m so proud for you! Congratulations on your marriage!

  3. Gisa says:

    Wow! Sewing your own wedding dress is one of these holy sewing grails indeed! You look stunning!! I will marry in July, but I weazled out of this task… I will probably bake the cake ๐Ÿ˜‰ A big hug for this brave undertaking! Bisous from France, Gisa

  4. Sandra says:

    Wow, you did an amazing job. This dress is beautiful. Congruatulations on your wedding.

  5. Emily Bauer says:

    Your dress is beautiful and perfect!!! FANTASTIC JOB!!!!!

  6. Lodi says:

    BEAUTIFUL!

    You and the Dress!

    I was worried about you, but now I’m thrilled for you!

  7. Mads says:

    So THAT’S where you’ve been lately! =)

    Your dress is so beautiful, and you look radiant. I love the last photo of your family together: your men look very handsome in their formal attire, too!

    I am planning a project involving lace–my first!–this year, so thanks for sharing your experience working with it on a bodice. I am bracing myself for that, LOL!

  8. Jacqui says:

    You look so beautiful! Congratulations! Your dress is beautiful and you should be very proud of your work. Thank you for sharing how your dress came together. PS – I love that Waffle was included in your wedding.

  9. Kyle says:

    Congrats Nhi on making the dress! Hats off to you! Love love love the outfit on your dog too!

  10. Oh! It’s a lovely dress, worn by a lovely lady! Great job and CONGRATULATIONS!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. BeccaA says:

    Your dress is lovely and I’m impressed by your process of creating it. So wonderful to sew your own wedding dress to create exactly what you want. You are a beautiful bride!

  12. Accordion3 says:

    Beautiful dress and beautifully made. And a lovely read to start my day.

    I’m glad to see a post as I wondered where you were. Planning a wedding & sewing the dress certainly soaks up time and energy.

  13. Angela says:

    What a beautiful, beautiful dress and helpful post! Just lovely!

  14. LindaC says:

    Congratulations! You look absolutely lovely.

  15. aleah says:

    It came out so beautiful!! It has always impressed me how logical and calm you always are about sewing challenges, and this is about the epitome of that. This is a huge amount of work and you nailed it!
    I’m sorry I missed your day, it looked lovely. Congratulations!!

    • Thanks Aleah. I’m pretty sure Sandra heard me in a panic more than once. We missed you and the potentially slapped together dress you might have sewn for the wedding. We need to get together soon.

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Two Zip Hipster

Finished Two Zip Hipster

In Search of The Perfect Purse

Many decades ago my brother gave me a black cross body bag. It became my favorite everyday purse. I used it to death. Even with the raggedy, thread bare, (w)holiness I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it and yet never made the effort to draft a copy of it. In desperation I bought a similar bag last year in purple. The material was plasticy and the straps were weirdly twisted. Then I remember a purse pattern suggestion from Accordion for Dog Under My Desk. Turns out the Two Zip Hipster was the perfect starting point for creating my perfect purse.

Crossbody Purses

Alterations

One of the changes that I made was increasing the depth of the purse by 1″. Sounded simple since all of the pattern pieces were rectangles but the increases need to be changed on a gazillion pattern pieces. A gazillion as in nearly every pattern piece. Oy! I added a zipper pocket in the inside.

Inside pockets

I had 2 blue plaid zippers I had bought from Daiso that were perfect. The light blue and red matched the main purse fabric nicely. I had matching cord stops but I decided against the gathered pocket in the front because the print would have looked too skewed. Maybe for my next version.

Notions

I also put belting inside the straps for extra stability. I later regretted the extra bulk this added. But 3 needles later I’m happy with the results. The last change was that I added a second rectangle ring for the strap. This allowed me to sew the purse without having the long strap get in the way. I was able to add the long strap at the last step in the construction.

 

Geeky Sewist Fabric

I love this fabric. It’s a home dec fabric that I bought at M&L Fabrics at a pricey $20/yard. I wasn’t sure what I was going to make with it so I bought 2 yards. Good thing because that made the extra long straps and print matching much easier. The fabric has pin cushions, scissors, pattern pieces, sewing machines, ruler and rotary cutters all over it. Check out this print matching.

Print Matching

I used a red lining fabric for the lining to match the red zipper and red topstitching. Purse InsideI haven’t had a chance to try out the bag but I’m very excited that I finally have a replacement for the worn down black bag.

2 Zip Hipster

 

Happy sewing,

Signature small

6 Responses to Two Zip Hipster

  1. Vicki Giger says:

    Are you sharing the pattern?

  2. Kyle says:

    You’re back! Cute bag!!!

  3. Accordion says:

    I’m glad you are back too. And glad the bag worked out, your pattern matching is superb! It looks like a good size bag, I can see it getting much use.

  4. Lodi says:

    Lovely bag…and I’m very relieved to see this post! I was wondering if you were OK. I guess no news was good news!

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