I just about finished sewing my dress in time for the wedding. If I ever mention starting a garment with less than a week before the event I am due to wear it, someone please slap me. This dress jumps straight to the top of the list of most complex garments I have ever made. The difficulty was due to a combination of altering the pattern and working with tricky and costly fabrics. However, as has fortunately been the case often in my craft life, she who dares wins!
My initials are MEAD, so I was kind of tickled by this sign.
This was my first time lining a dress. I underlined the bodice and lined the skirt with lovely navy viscose. I stupidly cut the skirt lining too short, so I had to fudge lengthening it with some ribbon. I didn’t make the best choice in selecting velvet ribbon- though pretty, it’s much stiffer than the fluid viscose- but actually it looks okay under the voile.
For the first time, I added snaps to the dress to stop my bra straps peeking out. It worked pretty well! Here you can also see the guts of the dress- probably the best wrong side finish I’ve ever achieved.
This was such a fun summer wedding. So much so that I forgot to take any pictures except the few next to the sign on the way! Thankfully Glory posted this candid picture that shows the back of the dress.
I love how the scooped back turned out. I will most likely incorporate this change into any further Southports.
Here are my two lovely Southports.
Part 3: After the wedding
This is where most of the work and creativity in this project lies, as well as a lot of the fun.
Create your centrepiece
See this post for further information.
Buy batting and fabric for the trim and backing, if you haven’t already
I spent a long time looking for flannel or brushed cotton for softness and settled on this baby-friendly bunny print. I had to improvise slightly and use some binding fabric either side as the fabric wasn’t as wide as the quilt.
Check and double-check the instructions on the fabric pens. You may need to iron the design onto the fabric in order to make it colourfast.
I had to iron mine for five minutes. 50 squares. For five minutes each. Yep.
Decide on final design
Lay your squares out so you can see what your finished quilt will look like. I decided that I didn’t want any matching prints to touch each other. I wanted an even balance of colour too.
Here’s an early draft.
Here the balance is off, with more light patterns at top left and more dark bottom right. I later realised I had enough white squares to make an alternating pattern, which helped with balance.
If you can’t keep your squares laid out like this for the duration of the project, pick them up in order, row by row so that you can sew them together in your chosen pattern.
Sew squares together
Mum convinced me that we should overlock the squares together. While this gives a strong seam, I would recommend using the sewing machine. It’s easier to stretch the fabric in undesirable ways when overlocking, and I think simple machine stitching would have given a more uniform result.
Also watch your seam allowance and try to keep it uniform even if this means cutting people’s messages. Unevenness will come to bite you in the arse later, mark my words.
I sewed each column together first, marking their order with post-its.
Then carefully pin or baste the column together.
And stitch the columns together.
Iron your patchwork thoroughly. Do not iron seams open as this can allow the batting to come out. Instead, iron towards the darker fabric.
Also iron your backing fabric.
On a large, flat surface, lay your backing out RS down.
Lay your batting on top.
Finally, lay out the quilt on top, RS up.
Carefully pin and/or baste all three layers of quilt sandwich together, starting in the centre and working out. This step is essential for a neat final result.
It’s time to stitch the quilt together. You must use a walking foot on your machine. Seriously. Again, use the start in the centre and work out rule-of-thumb. Don’t sew top to bottom or left to right. Instead, start in the middle and sew to the edge.
Roll the quilt up like a scroll to make it easier to fit into the crook of your machine.
This will also help with not sewing multiple quilt layers together, which happened to me and was infuriating.
Also stitch or overlock around the edge of the quilt to aid with the binding.
I’m in a bind
Make your own if you’re a masochist like I am. Follow an online tutorial. I was going to write one but I don’t think I used the best method.
Start by stitching the binding to the back of the quilt. I followed this tutorial for mitered corners, which I think looks pretty good and was nice and clear. This is how my corners turned out.
Here’s what the back looked like at this stage. Apologies for blurred pic, it was raining.
Flip the binding over and top stitch.
Snip off all of your loose threads and basting stitches. Neaten the corners with hand-stitching if you need to. Rejoice, for you are done!
Here I am presenting the blanket to the bride, who by this point had been married for nearly six months. Oops.
Embroidery proper (rather than cross stitch) isn’t really something I’ve done much over the years. I bought Make by Cath Kidston a while ago when I was super into her designs and made an appliqué felt needle case, and that was about it. In fact, I still have the case even though it only has one glass-headed pin in it.
I felt that the guest book blanket needed a large central design to help it come together visually. I also felt that embroidery would give a look that was polished while at the same time handmade, just like the wedding itself. I decided to keep the theme of bunting, especially as the quilt uses the bunting fabric, and throw in some appliqué as well.
Here is my design.
The only real change I decided on was to move Poppy (the bunny) to the right hand corner so that she would be facing the design.
For embroidery onto cotton, a hoop is a must. It prevents the embroidery from causing the fabric to pucker. I used chain stitch for all of the lettering. I tried to do French knots for the full stops and tittles. Even though I spent an hour in a French knot workshop at the Knitting and Stitching Show last year, those little buggers continue to elude me.
Can you see the blue line on my ‘l’? My lines are drawn with an ordinary erasable pen (I think the brand is Frixion). Because friction is used to remove the ink, an iron can also be used to take it off. The poly-cotton I used was light enough that I simply put the fabric on top of my design and traced it.
And a little satin stitch heart. Couldn’t resist a touch of sparkle from metallic thread.
For appliqué, iron on interfacing is extremely helpful. I traced my design onto the paper backing, then reversed it and ironed onto the wrong side of the fabric. I then cut them out.
I then removed the paper, placed them on the cotton and ironed on.
I then used blanket stitch to hold them down, along with some chain stitch representing the bunting binding.
I haven’t added Poppy yet as I think she will overwhelm the design. I’m planning on adding her elsewhere on the blanket.
Part 2: During the wedding
See Part 1 of this series for a list of activities you will need to do before the big day.
Set up a table
Get a shout-out during the speeches
Smile and disguise the fervent look of craft frenzy in your eyes.
Man the table
Terrify guests by describing in detail the importance of seam allowance. Try to do this before they get drunk and start drawing phalluses on the squares.
Don’t be crazy
This is a handmade project that demonstrates your love, and the love of all of the guests, for the happy couple. While it may not be perfect, it will be delightfully quirky and fun. Bask in your friends’ happiness and have fun, and don’t become a Quilt-zilla.
Part 3 is when the hard work begins. Gird those loins and grease up your sewing machine.
Part 1: Before the wedding
If you don’t already have a walking foot for your sewing machine, BUY ONE
Mum and I spent a whole day trying to assemble the quilt with increasing levels of frustration and disappointment. When I looked into quilt making further, I decided to try buying a specialised foot to see if it would make a difference and it bloody did! Don’t worry about getting an expensive one, I got a cheap one from China, watched a video on how to install it and Bob became my figurative uncle.
Decide on quilt dimensions and design
Rachael and I discussed how she wanted to use the blanket (for sofa snuggling purposes) and we decided on the final size- 150x120cm- from there. I thought that 15cm squares would give a nice size for people to decorate without being so small that I would go mad sewing them all together.
Cut out squares
Using a rotary cutter, ruler or steel rule and self-healing cutting mat makes this task much easier.
Choose what kind of pens to use
I wasted a lot of time on line researching the best brand of fabric pen. I bought a pack of coloured markers from Amazon based on the reviews, but found that they bled on the fabric more than I would have been comfortable with.
In hindsight it doesn’t look too bad but I remember being unhappy at the time.
I started going into art supply shops. Yes, I am so dependent on the internet that I go on Amazon before nipping to the high street. I have bought GLUE on Amazon before. IRL I quickly found these fabric pens that gave a finish that I was much more pleased with. I bought ten- five of each colour- but three of each probably would have done. Pro tip: If you leave the pens sealed and keep the receipt, you can return them after the wedding.
I would advise going with 2-3 colours with fabric pens as I think it would be very easy to get a busy or messy look with more.
Prepare idiot-proof guidelines
People may not read them, but at least you’ll know you tried!
The next post will discuss what you need to do on the day of the wedding.
I finally went to see my recently married friend for the first time since the wedding, so I was able to take a picture of my framed cross-stitch.
What you can’t see (happily) in this picture is that I improvised the framing process as well. I went to visit my mum soon after starting this project and she happened to have a frame of the correct size. When I went back on my way down to the wedding, however, the frame no longer fit as I hadn’t factored in the size of the date. Luckily, mum is also a bit of a hoarder and so managed to dig out this lovely golden frame for me. Which was slightly too BIG. After more digging, mum came up with the marbled-effect card. Luckily you can’t really tell that I had two pieces of card, laid together and cut by eye.
Now that my best friend’s wedding is a happy memory, I can post about the making of her present. I suffer from some confusion about the niceties of social etiquette, so it took me some time to realise that I actually had to give a gift other than my amazing company. One of my mottos is ‘if you’re going to do it, do it well’, so about a month before the wedding, I decided to embark on an ambitious project. The bride’s sister had made some fabulous hand-drawn invitations.
After some umming and aahing, my quest was clear: to reproduce this in cross-stitch form. Initially, I was naive enough to think I could do the whole thing. Happily, I was disabused of this idea after completing about five stitches. With the help of an online cross-stitch design programme, I managed to create this pattern
Now the real work could begin.
I think I started taking pictures here because I was terrified I would make a mistake and ruin the whole thing. For example, it took me a while to realise that the program had rendered all of the stitches next to black lines in weird shades of green that I didn’t want in my final work. Improvising rocks!
Anyway, here are some more pics
Apologies for some of the dodgy quality. As you can see, rather than taking these on a sensible surface, I shot them on my bed. Awesome.
Here you can see that I’ve done the outline around the groom’s cigarette. This was surprisingly tricky and hard to get right. I expect that cross-stitch perfectionists will cringe at my choice, but it looked weirder when done in any other way.
Nearly done now!
Can you sense the smug satisfaction through the screen? This feeling was only slightly diminished when I realised I hadn’t done the groom’s belt buckle.
This photo was taken as an insurance policy in case I burnt the whole project when I ironed it. But, miraculously, I didn’t. The only thing left was to frame it…