Look at this resplendent, elegant, figure-amplifying (in a good way) wedding gown, made with love by the bride in her spare time at work in enough secrecy that the groom didn’t find out it was handmade until the priest announced it in his homily.
And making it was a complete joy from start to finish, the process was smooth, and it is exactly, perfectly, how I imagined it to be, only better.
Just kidding, almost nothing is like that.
Granted, my wedding dress was quite enjoyable to design and knit and had surprisingly few hiccups, but this post is here to tell you about the whole process of knitting the dress – what was easy AND what was hard.
This will be my final post on my wedding dress, and at the end of this post, I’ll tell you about an exciting new project I have planned for the future.
My Knitting Process
I just wanted to touch on my knitting process when the item I’m making is something I’ve designed myself. If you are a fan of Ravelry (of course you are), you’ll sometimes see a pattern where the designer says something like “I wrote this pattern as I went along”. Other knitters, I’m sure, will write the whole pattern out and then knit it, adjusting as they go. I’m more often the second one, but with my wedding dress, it was a bit of both. I took my measurements and figured out how many pattern repeats were required for each part of the dress. Then I decided on a section to knit (I did the sleeves first), wrote a pattern for that section, then knitted it. For the dress, I wrote the pattern for the top until the waist, then knitted it, then wrote the pattern from the waist until the knees and knitted that, etc. It worked well doing it this way and allowed me to think a few things over before committing them to paper. For example, at first I was going to make the dress very fitted until the knees and then flare it out, but as I knitted the parts above that, I changed my mind and decided to make the dress less fitted from a bit above the knees to make sure I could walk in the dress. This worked really well, and I was surprised I wasn’t ripping up rounds and rounds of stitches because of mistakes I’d made. That only happened near the end.
Stuff that Didn’t Go to Plan
So most of the dress was actually a breeze. There are probably some little glitches in the pattern here and there but I don’t remember them, and people certainly didn’t notice them on the day. Paying attention to detail is great, but it’s also a load off to know that people aren’t going to be standing there examining your wedding dress with a magnifying glass. Mostly they were just like “Wow, you made that?!”, and I don’t know how many times I answered the question of how long it took me to make it. But let’s talk about stuff that didn’t work.
First of all, when I got to the short row shaping to make the train, I ran into a small glitch in that the pattern I was using was a mesh pattern. In short row shaping, you usually add a stitch on each row (when you’re making something bigger — the opposite for making something smaller). Because the mesh pattern involved yos, k2togs, and the odd k1 to even out the pattern, sometimes when I added a stitch, I would end up with an extra stitch that was missing its pair for a k2tog, or three stitches in a row without a yo, but if I added a yo, it would mess up the stitch count. This, in practice, was fine, because by looking at the pattern, and knowing what I was trying to achieve, I could adjust the pattern as I went. To write it down as I went along, though, it got confusing.
This next challenge was the biggest one. I had picked out a lace edging pattern worked sideways, which I was going to use for the front bottom edge of the dress and for the bad which would go round my shoulders and attach the sleeves to the dress. I added it to the bottom of the dress – fine. Then I made a band a metre wide, as that was my round-the-shoulder measurement. It seemed pretty saggy but I thought, I’d better trust my measuring, and I had measured more than once. So once all the elements of the dress were knitted, I went to the house of one of my bridesmaids (who at the time was about two days off her own wedding)and she pinned me into the dress so I knew where to attach the sleeves. She also pinned the shoulder band to the sleeves and the dress. And it was SO SAGGY. It was simply not going to work. So, what to do? I was over 8 weeks away from my wedding, so I had time to work things out, but still, it made me a little nervy. I thought about folding the band over at the edges to make it shorter, but I realised part of the issue was that it was knitted sideways and had too much stretch. I bought a couple of lengths of ready-made lace and thought about using one of them to the dress. I even sewed a stretchy bit of lace to the shoulder band in an attempt to make it work, but it was bunchy and made it look makeshift. In the end, my solution was to use a couple of methods to solve the problem. I ditched the sideways shoulder band. Instead, I picked up and knitted stitches around the sleeves and the dress, having sewn the sleeves to the dress at the underarms. I worked up a little way in stocking stitch and then worked a peacock-style edging. This gave me the scalloped top of the dress that I wanted. It was less saggy than the original band, that’s for sure, but it wasn’t staying up on its own either. So I sewed in four strands of clear elastic (the kind you use for beading) and this fixed the problem! The scallops were a bit floppy but in the end I liked it that way. I have never used knitting-in elastic, but this might have been a good situation to use it. This issue also made the “how long did it take you to make?” question hard to answer. Umm, four months to make 99% of it and then 6 weeks of fiddling and procrastinating to make the last 1%?
I have one more issue with my dress which I will touch on at the end of this post. But first, let me say a few things about my hand-knitted wedding dress experience.
Would I Do it Again?
In a heartbeat, yes. These issues I just outlined were tiny compared with the joy I got from making the dress. To be able to knit something from a piece of string is empowering. To design said object, and for your wedding, no less? That’s like being the queen of the world wearing a fluffy purple robe, on your throne, with a tabby kitten on your lap, while you eat a piece of chocolate cake. That good.
It was a lovely secret to keep, too. I didn’t tell my husband about my dress, which was fun because he really wanted to know. He knew it had sleeves and it was white, and he roughly knew how much it cost. I told a few people along the way, the first being my sister. The next were a couple of friends whose sewing machine I borrowed to alter the strapless dress I wore underneath. I told a couple of my husband’s female relatives and apparently by the time the wedding came round, all the female relatives knew. And of course, my bridesmaids knew. A while before I told them, one of them had jokingly sent me a picture of a funny knitted wedding dress, not at all expecting me to be making my own.
By designing my dress, I could make it my own. I could make it with sleeves. I have a nasty habit of being turned off things that everyone seems to do, like straightening your hair or watching Game of Thrones or being cool, and I had seen far too many strapless, sleeveless wedding dresses for me to want one. It’s funny, just a couple of weeks ago I was talking to a couple of friends, both of whom had been brides themselves. The first bought her dress off Etsy, the second wore a blue dress bought from a costume website, and both of them said they went with those unusual wedding dress purchasing boutiques because they wanted dresses with sleeves. Make more wedding dresses with sleeves, clothes people!
My dress was well cheaper than your average wedding dress, it fitted every curve of me, I didn’t need to dry clean it, it looked great, and I felt fabulous wearing it. And it wasn’t that hard. What’s there not to like?
Well, there is one final issue with my dress that I’d better mention.
My Final Issue
One issue I had with my dress was that I had purchased far too much yarn. I probably only used just over half of what I bought, including the swatches and discarded shoulder band. I hate to overspend, especially as we were trying to be thrifty with our wedding.
Thankfully, however, I very, very soon after the wedding had another purpose for the leftover yarn from my wedding dress, though we didn’t know it straight away. Which brings me to my next project. Three weeks from now, there will be a brand new knitted kitten who already has a baptism gown 🙂 .
I’m back! Sorry for neglecting you for the past few months. When your husband plans your European holiday, turns out you don’t see as many spinning wheels or embroidery. But here I am again, back in Australia, back telling you about my knitted wedding dress.
This is part 3 of my posts about designing and knitting my wedding dress. My previous posts on the topic can be found here and here. I’m going to be referring a lot to the lace stitch patterns which I mentioned in my second wedding dress post.
Designing a new knitted project can seem daunting. Really though, it’s not that hard. Believe me? Maybe not, but I’m telling the truth, and here’s my secret: I am lazy. I wash my clothes in cold water primarily because it means I don’t have to separate them. I eat the same pre-packaged breakfast food everyday in the car on the way to work because it means I don’t have to make a decision. I wasn’t going to get stressed by designing a complicated wedding dress.
Being original is great, and there’s an elaborate way to do it and a lazy girl way to do it. And for my wedding dress in particular, well, we set the date of the wedding to be 8 months after the engagement, so I didn’t have time to design something complicated. So here it is; how I designed my wedding dress based on existing stitch patterns (lazy, remember)and made a wedding dress I was thrilled to wear down the aisle with no frantic rushing to get it finished.
First Step: Gather Your Supplies
Before I had a pattern at all, I selected a yarn to use. I had an idea of the dress in my head already, so I knew what kind of yarn would be good. It had to have a sheen to it and not be woolly. It had to be fine because I wanted an open-work knitted gown. Because I’m a vegetarian (and also cheap), I didn’t want it to be silk. That actually leaves you with lots of choices: mercerised cotton, bamboo, certain kinds of acrylic. In the end, I selected a 2 ply mercerised cotton thread called Satin, by Milford, in white.
To find the right needles, I began by swatching, trying out stitch patterns with different sized needles with the yarn I had selected. As you might have read in my last post, I had sneakily started planning this gown before we were officially engaged, so I actually started swatching six weeks or so before there was a ring on my finger. My now-husband (who had no idea about the wedding dress until the wedding day) saw the swatches on my couch a couple of times and asked me what I was doing. “Just playing around with stitch patterns,” I’d said, “I might make a skirt or something”. Kind of true. I did make an “or something”. I started with biggish needles, in the region of 4.5mm (bigger needles mean faster knitting mean less work), but that compromised the definition of the leaves in the main pattern I used. The swatch I liked the best used 3.75mm needles, so in the end that’s what I went with.
Yarn and needles selected (and official engagement in the past), I then had the task of fitting the stitch patterns to a pattern.
Making the Pattern
My last post gave a bit of an overall description of my gown, but in short; it was an off-the-shoulder dress with full length sleeves and a short train. It was made of five separate pieces:
- Left sleeve: worked bottom up
- Right sleeve: worked bottom up
- Dress: worked top down
- Bottom front trim of dress: worked sideways and knitted as I went to the bottom of the dress.
- Shoulder strap (worked by picking up stitches from the sleeves and the dress): Worked bottom up.
|Diagrams were very useful in helping me place all my measurements
To go into the finer details of the whole gown’s construction would be a monster post, but here are the basics for me making a pattern for the sleeves and the dress.
Step 1: Take Measurements.
I took measurements around various points in my body and also measured the distance between each measurement. So for each arm, the measurements I took were:
- Wrist circumference
- Arm circumference around elbow
- Distance between wrist and elbow
- Arm circumference at armpit
- Distance between elbow and armpit.
For the dress, the measurements I took were:
- Body circumference at armpits
- Bust circumference (widest point)
- Distance between armpit and bust
- Circumference just under the bust
- Distance between bust and just under it
- Waist circumference (narrowest point)
- Distance between waist and just under bust
- Hip circumference (widest point)
- Distance between hip and waist
- Knee circumference
- Distance between knee and the floor
Let’s now take the sleeves as an example of how I calculated stitch numbers for a pattern. I applied basically the same principle to the dress, except for the dress was partly knitted in the round with eyelets on either side for lacing up, and the rest knitted in the round. The sleeves were just knitted flat, so it’s easier to explain.
The stitch pattern I used (Willow Leaves – see my most recent wedding dress post) had a very convenient tension. One pattern repeat was 10cm stitch-wise and 5.5cm row-wise, and it was 16sts across. Let’s split up my working into length and width.
I determined that my arms were 50cm long (wrist-elbow = 23cm, elbow-armpit = 27cm). That meant I needed 50cm worth of rows, and to make things simpler, I rounded it to a whole number of pattern repeats, and so worked 9 repeats (9 X 5.5 = 49.5cm). I did 4 repeats from wrist to elbow, and 5 from elbow to armpit. This becomes relevant when we start looking at width.
My width measurements were as follows:
Wrist: 14 cm (=1.5 repeats)
Elbow: 24cm (=2.5 repeats)
Arm at armpit: 28cm (=3 repeats)
So, between the wrist and the elbow, I cast on enough for 1.5 repeats (stitch-wise), and as I knitted, increased (by half a repeat at a time) the number of stitches so that by the time I got to the elbow, I had 2.5 repeats stitch-wise. Then I followed the same process from the elbow to the armpit. To simplify things, I only increased stitches by half a repeat or one repeat at a time, and only did so once a full row-wise repeat had been completed. I didn’t do anything fancy to make the increases flow on from the previous bits of the pattern. Had I more time to design, I might have, but for a wedding dress, it’s the big picture that’s going to get noticed and I don’t think my dress suffered for not making sure the pattern flowed perfectly throughout.
I worked the rest of the dress more or less as I did with for the sleeves, but with more additions. From the top of the dress until the hips, I worked it flat, adding in a garter stitch border with eyelets. I did this so I could deliberately make the dress too small so that when tightened with a ribbon, it would fit perfectly. This was both because I was losing weight and because knitted items do stretch.
From the hips to just above the knees, I knitted the dress in the round and quite fitted to my shape. Where the eyelets had been, I knitted a simple mesh panel. From just above the knees, I flared the dress out, firstly using pi shaping, and then when the number of stitches got too large to manageably do that, by increasing the number of stitches by a third. Where the dress hit the floor, I separated the front and the back. For the front, I knitted the Grandmother’s Lace Edging (see my last post), attaching it to the dress by knitting the last stitch of each right side row with a live stitch from the skirt. For the back of the dress, I used short row shaping to make a short train (a semi-circle with the back of the skirt being its diameter), not in the Willow Leaves pattern but in the simple mesh pattern I had running down the back of my dress. I edged this with the Willow Leaf edging from the Heliotaxis shawl. When that was all done, there was some fiddling around to find a stitch pattern that would work for the strap which went round my shoulders (I tried the Grandmother’s Lace edging at first but it didn’t work out), but once I found one which worked, I sewed the sleeves to the top of the dress, picked up stitches around the body and shoulders and knitted for a cm or two, then worked the selected stitch pattern for the shoulder strap.
And there you have it: My pattern design process, in brief. In my next post I’ll talk about how I went about my process of actually knitting the dress.
Now, did that sound too complicated? Maybe but it really wasn’t. If you can measure, add, and multiply, you can design a wedding dress. See, school maths does come in handy.
I’m sure you’ve all been wetting your pants waiting for the next instalment of how I made my wedding dress. Thus, I’m here to disappoint. Only temporarily, I promise. You see, I’ve gone to Europe for a part pilgrimage/part second honeymoon, and I’ll be away for a couple of months. That means all my notes on my wedding dress are on another continent so I won’t be able to blog about my dress until I get back 🙁 . However, for those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that when I took a different trip to Europe four years ago, I found plenty of textile-related things to blog about, so stay tuned for blog posts about random tapestries and knitting shops in Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, Austria, France, the UK, and Ireland. Peace and God bless,
The Knitted Kitten
A year ago today, he took me to the top of a mountain and gave me a ring. He made one request: that I be his wife. I said yes. And sometime after that I started planning what my wedding dress would look like.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I might have already bought the inside layer of the dress over a month before we got engaged. In my defence, we had already decided to get married long before the official engagement. And I was going away for a month and the dress was on sale!
So I was only a little bit jumping the gun. Oh, and I’d started swatching lace patterns for my dress. Only a little bit crazy, I swear.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I might have designed my wedding dress long before I met my husband. I’ve always wanted to get married. I even designed my school formal dress (two years in advance, when I was 15) to be a poufy ball gown because I knew I wanted a slinky gown for my wedding (but ball gowns also rock). When I was 18 or so, I came to a deeper desire to engage with my Catholic faith, which got me thinking about this thing called vocation; the path of holiness God calls you to. After a time, I became sure once again that yes, marriage is my vocation. It’s for life, not just for a day, like a puppy (but also more spiritual than a puppy). That said, when I started to get ready as a single person for marriage and being a wife one day, that was when I REALLY started to daydream about my wedding day, as a momentous occasion to represent my commitment to another person. It’s more than just a chance to be a princess, which I also enjoy. That’s when I started sketching my wedding dress. For years, I had a drawing of a wedding dress in my bible which I drew when I was about 19. I carried that bible down the aisle on my wedding day and I’ve just flipped through all the pages now and I can’t find that drawing, otherwise I’d have shown it to you.
Okay so maybe I’m a little wedding crazy.
But let’s ignore the fact that I had my wedding dress largely planned a)before I met my husband and b)before we got engaged. Here is the first post about how I designed my wedding dress. I’ll begin with the overall design and choosing lace patterns (I’ll cover yarn and needle choice in another post).
Overall Design of my Gown
My wedding gown is composed of two pieces. The first is a strapless sweetheart fishtail ivory dress (no train). I bought this dress from www.boohoo.com with a promo code. Unfortunately I think the dress (called Mira Bella) has been discontinued, but here is a picture (and Boohoo is a pretty cool website for affordable clothes IMO):
As you can see, it has a peplum on it, which I had to remove, which means I had to use a sewing machine, which I am not that good at. But I did it! Yay! Cheers to my wonderful friend who let me borrow her sewing machine and was the first person after my sister to know I was knitting my wedding dress.
The second piece of my dress is of course the knitted bit: a lace off-the-shoulder gown with full-length sleeves, fishtail skirt and a small train. It has a lace-up back from the gluteus maximus upwards. From the bum down, I included a panel of mesh lace (think [k2tog, yo] with the odd K1 here and there) in the centre all the way down to the floor of the dress. I then continued this mesh pattern round the back half of the dress, using short rows to create the train, which is finished with a thick lace edging. To shape the skirt, I made it quite fitted until just above the knees, and then used pi shaping and variations of it to flare out the skirt.
|My dress, minus sleeves. Gives some idea of the construction and shape.
|Me in my dress a couple of weeks before the wedding, when one of my stellar bridesmaids helped me try it on.
Choosing Patterns to Use
So, I’ve had my eyes on knitting my own wedding dress since I realised how versatile knitting is and that I’m a pretty capable knitter (pretty much anybody can be – it’s not as hard as it looks). That’s why I already had a collection of nice lace shawl patterns favourited on Ravelry, and also I love lace. The more open-work, the better. I’m not sure when I decided on wanting a leaf design, nor when I favourited the Heliotaxis Lace shawl by Renata Brenner, but when I started looking through my fourites on Ravelry, it stuck out to me as the right pattern for my dress. And it’s a free pattern, too.
I used two of the lace charts from this shawl in order to make my dress. The first one, used for the vast bulk of the dress was called Willow Leaves. It’s a design of two strands of leaves bordered by yos and a knit stitch. Why’d I pick it?
- It’s pretty.
- It’s relatively simple.
- It’s quite open.
- It is a pretty ‘fluid’ looking design – not grid-like. I wanted this for my gown.
- I thought leaves would be a cool motif.
Other advantages of this pattern:
- As it turns out, the yarn and needles I used meant that the tension for one pattern repeat was exactly 10cm stitch-wise, which is a very handy, easy-to-multiply measurement. It was also 5.5cm row-wise, which isn’t bad.
- Because it was quite a short pattern row-wise, it meant I could change the shape of my very fitted dress frequently, which means I never had to cut off the pattern halfway through a row.
As I’ll explain in a later post, I modified the pattern sometimes throughout the knitting, when I needed half a repeat stitch-wise.
|Willow Leaves swatch (with funny modified bit on the right)
The other pattern I used from the Heliotaxis shawl was called Willow Leaves Aeolian Border and it is the same edging used in the shawl. Reasons why I chose this pattern:
- The nupps add some interest because I didn’t have time to faff around with beads.
- It ties in with the leaf motif.
- The peaks along the edge are a pretty feature of lace knitting.
|Me, on the wedding day, having some alone time with the Willow Leaves Aeolian Border
|A shot of both the skirt shaping and the Aeolian Border
Along the front bottom of the dress I used a pattern called Grandmother’s Edging, which was worked sideways. It has a pretty scalloped edge to it and looks kind of leafy.
Along the top of the dress (across the shoulders) I chose a Peacock tail pattern (found here). It has some sneaky elastic in it to help hold it up. I had at first wanted some nice crisp scallops but in the end I liked it how it was. That top two inches was the bit of the dress I had the most trouble with, but I will talk about that in a later post.
|Top of the dress. PS: Head piece is also hand-knitted by me out of wire.
My next step, after choosing patterns, was to measure myself and make a pattern for the dress. That’s for next time.
The Knitted Kitten
Do you have a masterpiece? Something you’ve made that you look back on and you get a little burst of pride in knowing you made it with your own hands? Would you like one of those?
This is my current masterpiece; my wedding dress. I’ve had a few masterpieces in my knitting life (my first pair of socks, an intarsia Che Guevara cushion, my bamboo lace cardigan) but this one takes the white marzipan-encased cake. I’m sharing my process with you because I want every knitter to make her or his own masterpiece.
My next few posts will explain how, in about six months, I designed my dream dress, spent my lunch breaks knitting every wedding frustration, hope and dream into it, hid the secret from my now husband, and got an even bigger kick out of our special day by wearing something I made stitch-by-stitch. As a bonus, I think it looks pretty good too.
I invite you to visit this blog over the next few weeks to read how I made my masterpiece. What will your masterpiece be?
I’m still sad about my rabbit. It’s hard to grieve when you’re away from the creature who has died. I’ve usually found the death of a pet to be much easier to handle than the death of a person, which is logical, and I assumed it was because I value my human relationships more than those I have with animals (that’s the fashion, anyway). But when I was 17 and our first dog — my brother’s — died after 12 years on earth and a brief but tough illness, we told my brother, who was living in another state. He decided to drive the 8 hours to our place to bury her. With the time it took to organise his trip back and drive down, it was a couple of nights with Bouncer’s body above ground before we buried her. I found that death as hard as losing a human family member until we buried her. Even six years later as I write this, I’ve got tears in my eyes. Bouncer’s death reminds me that I won’t fully believe Coal is dead until I see his empty hutch and the disturbed soil where my dad buried him, next to my dear dog Donny.
Sorry for the downer. I didn’t even mean to write that. This was meant to be a fun post. Switching gears.
I forgot to mention that I did a fun project just before I went back to visit Adelaide. You see, one of my housemates was leaving Tasmania for her home in Canada after six months. I definitely knew I wanted to knit her something as a going away present, and I definitely knew I wanted to knit her something Australiana-y. A few weeks before leaving, she went to Sydney and came back with a kangaroo onesie, and I had my answer. By modifying this pattern, I made her a pair of kangaroo mittens! She’s from Canada, you see, so your hands freeze off if you don’t wear mittens. If you’re a member of Ravelry, I’ve posted my pattern modifications on here. And here is a picture of the mittens (apologies for the mess):