When I was younger I would watch in awe as my mom would draft up her own pattern for whatever character we decided to be for Halloween that year. I would help her cut out the pieces and sit by her side in the craft room as she sewed them together. When I got older I told my mom that I wanted to learn to sew. She got me a basic starter machine, but it wasn’t until I was 28 that I really pulled it out to use it. I went over to moms house for my first lesson in sewing. She showed me how to draft my own pattern for a doll dress. She said that following patterns is always useful but she wanted me to know how to make anything from scratch so that I wasn’t stifled by only the patterns I could purchase. I only got to have one sewing lesson with my mom before she got too sick for us to do it again, but in that one lesson she taught me the very valuable art of improvisation.
Improv in motion
When I found out I was pregnant I started drafting patterns and sewing 60s inspired dresses for my baby girl.
I would just sit down with some fun prints and try out different styles, hoping that they would turn out. Through this experimenting I learned a lot about sewing and using my machine. The next project I worked on was making Penelope’s nursery bedding.
I was finally getting comfortable with sewing, which is a good thing because what came next was a big request from a dear friend.
The Mission if you choose to accept it
I was shopping for groceries when my friend Bonnie (who I used to work with at Safeway) approached me. She said she had a project for me. Her daughter Caitlin was getting married and she was wondering if I could turn her mother’s wedding dress into a flower girl dress that could be passed down and used through the generations of weddings in their family. My first thought was “Wow! That sounds like a fun project!” So I said Yes, I would take on the challenge. My second thought after Bonnie walked away was “What did I get myself into?!?” The thought of chopping up someones wedding gown to make a flower girl dress with my limited experience and skill in sewing was absolutely intimidating! However, I am never one to turn down a good challenge and I figured that she must have had the confidence in me to make it work or she wouldn’t have asked. I drove home that day, my head spinning full of ideas.
The Original Wedding Gown
Bonnie brought the gown over and we sat to discuss ideas. We decided that making it around a size 4T would be the way to go as that is the typical flower girl age. We wanted to mimic the feel of the original wedding dress as much as possible but at the same time, make it appropriate for a little girl.
I headed to the fabric store for a simplistic dress pattern. I wasn’t going to use it to fully create the dress, but I wanted to be sure I was right on the sizing. I found an extremely simple, basic dress and i got to work cutting out the pieces. Once the basic shape was cut, I started on the chantilly lace details. Let me tell you…Chantilly lace and silk are not friends! The lace is so delicate and it slides around on the silk as you try to sew it. During the process I had a few “pull my hair out” moments, however by the end of last night I had a finished bodice and gathered skirt ready to connect together. The collar on the Flower girl dress is the original peter pan collar on the wedding dress as well as the buttons. I used Chantilly lace as an overlay on the bodice to mimic the way the lace laid over a silk sweetheart neckline on the wedding dress and the Chantilly lace skirt overlay is the exact same skirt overlay that was on the wedding gown, just cut down to size and trimmed in handmade silk bias tape.
The Next Step
- Tonight after writing this I plan on sewing the bodice to the skirt. Next I will add the zipper. I have NEVER messed with a zipper before so I am a bit nervous about it, but I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out! I mean, hey! I made an entire dress out of old wedding gown pieces with minimal use of a pattern! Originally Bonnie wanted sleeves on the dress, but after talking it over we decided a caplet would be both retro and chic (matching the feel of the dress and giving a nod to the time frame of the original wedding dress) as well as work well for either a summer or a winter wedding. So with that, I still need to finish the following (all made from the wedding dress fabric:
- finishing of flower girl dress
- Sash to go around flower girl dress waist (both in chocolate for Caitlin’s wedding and Ivory for a generic color choice)
- Caplet to go over the Flower girl dress
- ring pillow
- basket liner for flower girls petals
- Keepsake box to store it all in
I have a lot of work to do so I better get to it! I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on the progress as it comes along!