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Monday, December 10, 2012

Miscelaneous projects

This is actually a project from last year, and if you read my last post, you'll know its significance.

And this is the apron I made for Jon's sister-in-law's pie business. I think it turned out super cute. And if you live anywhere near Provo, UT, you should definitely try out My Cutie Pies. They are super delicious, cupcake-sized pies.

Next up is another dress makeover. A while back, I was given a sweater dress that really didn't look very good on me. It was rather shapeless on me, and the faux wrap bodice crossed in an unflattering place. I forgot to take before pictures, but here is my sad little sketch of it:

It was ankle-length and long-sleeved with an empire waist, and the bodice portion was ribbed, but the bottom wasn't. I cut the skirt and the sleeves off, and recombined them into a knee-length, raglan sleeved dress. I also used bias strips of some silver satin I had on hand to bind the neckline. None of the other edges needed any finishing because I didn't cut them.

Coming soon: finished Civil War ballgown, day dress, and corset.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Not a Sewing Post

I know this is normally a sewing blog, and when I deviate from that, it's usually still about crafting, but I feel the need to talk about something personal. If you don't want to read it, I'm not offended. Don't worry. I have an adorable apron and an interesting dress to post about already (I'm a little behind) and an extravagant Civil War ballgown to post about soon. So what do I want to talk about? My child.

Yes, I have a child. A lot of people don't know that, don't believe it, or forget. And I'm not really offended by any of that, either. I understand. I really do. But that doesn't mean I don't cringe when people ask if I have kids or anything like that. You see, I don't always love giving people my husband's usual answer: "None living" because people don't get it at first, and then we have to explain, and then they get uncomfortable. I don't like making people uncomfortable. But I hate telling people I don't have children because I feel like I'm betraying my sweet baby when I say that. And I can't just say yes, I have one because people will ask how old, etc., and we go back to the making people uncomfortable option.

You see, my husband and I are extremely infertile, but we did become pregnant once. And we already knew we were infertile and had waited a long time, so those two pink lines were the most wonderful shock we've ever gotten. I actually only took the test that day to prove to my stupid obsessive brain that it should stop jumping to conclusions like it wanted to every month. And then that second line showed up. There was no loud cheering or anything like that. We were both silent. But if people glowed when they were happy, we would have been blinding the neighborhood despite the walls of our apartment. I'm pretty sure Jon was late for work that day.

The next several weeks were blissful. We had finally gotten our miracle. I didn't even mind the constant exhaustion or the fact that at archery practice I couldn't even stand up the whole time like usual. I had to start bringing a stool and sitting down when I wasn't actually shooting and have my husband pull my arrows, etc. But nothing bothered me. I was just so happy that I would finally have a child.

And lest you are tempted to think that I'm deluding myself because early miscarriages usually happen just because the fetus was never viable, we had a scare and an early ultrasound, and my child was perfectly formed and implanted in a good spot. They even turned the doppler on, and my baby had a heartbeat. She was healthy.

But I'm not even sure it was really a girl. I just always felt that way. Two weeks after that wonderful ultrasound, and about the time the baby should have been "safe," I woke up in a pool of blood. I'm not an early riser, so I had to call my husband home from work. We drove to the OB's office, and when they got us in for my ultrasound, the screen was blank. My baby was already gone. The tech even questioned if I had ever been pregnant or if it had actually just been a "chemical" pregnancy because it looked so clear. Can you imagine what that was like for me? Or my husband?

Some people don't bond with their children until they're born, and I have no criticism for that, but I loved my baby so much it hurt from the moment I got those two pink lines. So you better believe I was heartbroken. And to make matters worse, men don't get time off for their wives' miscarriages because many people don't really see it as a death that you need to grieve. Honestly, even women generally barely get enough time off to heal physically, but luckily that wasn't an issue for me because I didn't have a job at the time. But I did have to deal with my grieving mostly alone because my husband had to be at work.

That was a very bad time for our family. And you know what? I didn't just get over it and decide that I didn't really have a baby, and had just been overly emotional because of pregnancy hormones, etc. I still cry sometimes for missing my child. I will probably never become pregnant again. It would take another miracle, even with extreme fertility treatments, and we found out about two years later that my body is fairly inhospitable, so it would also be difficult for me to ever carry a child to term. But that is a whole separate grief because no other child could ever replace my first one. I would love to have more children through birth or adoption, and I would love them just as deeply as my first, but you don't replace a human being. Not even one you never got to hold in your arms.

That's one reason why my faith is so important to me. I believe my baby is in heaven surrounded by people who love her and where no one and nothing can ever hurt her. I believe I will see her again. I have to believe that. I can't live with anything else.

And that is why a couple you think is childless has Willow Tree figurines of a mother cradling her baby, a mother and father holding their baby together, and an angel holding a young child. That's why our Christmas tree has a tiny angel baby on one of the branches. And that's why my husband really wants one of those car window families of a mom, a dad, and a tiny angel. We still love our child very much, and although we wish she could have stayed with us, we're just grateful for the very short, but beautiful time we did have. We think about the milestones we're missing out on, like the fact that this year, she'd probably finally be old enough to really appreciate Christmas and Halloween would have been great fun. But we never wish the experience away because how can you wish an angel out of your life?

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Halloween Wedding

Well, the wedding is over, and it was beautiful. Mormon wedding ceremonies are quiet and fairly small. I was privileged to be invited to that ceremony along with the families and some other close friends of the bride and groom. Then later, there was dancing, good food, and general merriment with a much larger group of those who wish the happy couple well. I was very glad to help make the day a special one by giving the bride her dream dress.

One of the early things I had to do was fill in that hole in the back. I removed all of the pearls that lined that hole, and I also picked a lot of the lace and pearls off of the sleeves because I knew I was cutting them off below the elbow and because I wanted to tone down the decoration a bit (not a lot, though, as will become obvious). I used some of the fabric from the shortened train to fill in the hole and hand-stitched the pieces to each side. Then I picked pieces of lace that had been removed from the sleeves that could cover the newly-added fabric without needing to overlap each other too much. After hand-stitching those down, I added pearls and sequins to roughly match the existing beadwork pattern. The only step left was to make the top of the bodice close. Two zippers wasn't practical, and I didn't really want to take out the old one and put in a full-length one because it was going to be a bit difficult to make it fit correctly. So I chose a row of pearl buttons and button-loops. The addition hides pretty well.

I couldn't find button loops locally, and I have to admit that by the time I decided I was doing this, I didn't have time to order them online, so I made my own. I embroidered a row of chain stitches into the left side of the back, then crocheted into that. I had to redo the loops a couple of times because if they're just a tiny bit too loose, they slip right off the buttons, but of course, if they are too tight, they won't go on at all.

I also used some of the spare fabric to fill in the open space in the shoulders--the dress was originally held up only by elastic straps. I pinned the fabric in with the dress on the dummy before removing the straps. Then I removed the straps and hand-sewed in the new fabric.

Next, began to add layers to the skirt. I apologize for not taking in-progress photos of that process. I began with a champagne colored satin. I cut two lengths of it to match the maximum length of the train, two for the sides, and one for the front (the original skirt has five panels). I sewed all of these panels together, using no seam finish because I left the selvedges on. Then I gathered the top and pinned it to the dress, adjusting it until I liked the way it hung. Then I trimmed the bottom until the train matched the original train with only a little of the lace trim showing, and curved the front upward. I confess, I did not take it back off the dress to ensure it was perfectly symmetrical.

When I was satisfied with the shape, I stitched the top of the skirt down on the outside of the dress because I didn't really want to detach and reattach the skirt and because the dress made it fairly simple to hide the upper edges of the new skirt layers. The lace that decorates the bodice is not tacked down at the bottom, so it could hide the upper skirt edges around the front and sides. The back would later be hidden by a bow that was one of the design elements that Jasmine particularly liked from the inspiration dress. I used Fray Check to protect the upper edges of this layer.

I finished the lower edge by singeing it to give it a lighter weight appearance than could be achieved with a traditional hem. It also gave it a distressed look that worked with the feel we were trying to achieve. (If you click on the photo below to enlarge it, you can see the singed edge a bit.)

The next two layers were of chiffon, first bronze, then grey. I washed both, then twisted them tightly and let them dry that way to give them a crinkled appearance. The bronze took the crinkles better than did the grey, but a variety of textures was desirable. I created the shapes of these layers much the same way I did the satin layer, although the bronze only goes around the front and sides because I had less of it and it wouldn't be seen in the back. These two layers have french seams because they look best on chiffon. I zigzagged the upper edges rather than using Fray Check, but I singed the bottom edges of the chiffon layers just as I had the satin.

This shows the bronze chiffon as well as the upper edges hiding under the edge of the lace in front.
The final layer was of an off-white Chantilly lace, so my method of shaping was different. Since I wanted to keep the scalloped border on the bottom, the shaping all had to be achieved from the top so a lot more draping was necessary. I pinned the uncut lace to the dress and adjusted it multiple times, also using pins to mark where to cut. I cut the lace in two pieces--one for the front and sides, and one for the back. This type of lace doesn't fray, so I didn't bother to finish the seams or upper edge.

the layers of the skirt
I made the bow out of the champagne satin and the bronze chiffon, with the bronze chiffon crinkling horizontally across the bow. The bow attaches to the dress via two snaps on the center band, and two farther out to make sure it stays up high enough to cover the edges of the added skirt layers.

I've already mentioned my plan to add a scarf to the neckline. I made the scarf in a tube, with a single french seam. I intended for the ends of it to hang straight down from the shoulders, but I didn't have enough of it to make it out of one long piece. Seams were required to make the scarf long enough, so we decided to pin it in the center to hide the seams. Other than at center back, the scarf is stitched to the dress.

After cutting the sleeves just above Jasmine's elbow, I zigzagged the edges to keep them from fraying. Luckily for me, ironing them eliminated the stitching holes left by removing lace, so I didn't have to re-cover those areas. I cut ruffles for the sleeves out of the Chantilly lace. The ruffles are wider toward the back of the arm, narrower toward the front.

The final thing to do was to create a way to bustle the train so that the bride could walk and dance more easily. Let's face it, trains are really only good for pictures. They get in the way the rest of the time. So I made three little tabs with buttonholes in them out of the champagne-colored satin (to hopefully make them easier to find than if they matched the rest of the inside of the dress). I stitched them through all layers of the skirt using grey thread because it would be least visible on the outside. The stitches are vertical, also to blend better. Then I sewed green buttons very close to the waistline on the sides and just below the zipper in the center. They are sewn only through the bottom two layers because the button stitches would not hide on the outside of the dress.

Now for views of the finished product.

And I bet you'd like to see it on the beautiful bride. I hope to get permission to post some of the professional photos, but for now, here are some of mine.

She was beautiful and happy, so I think I can officially call this project a success!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I'm a Sucker for a Wedding

Weddings can be stressful, but they're also beautiful and special, and I happen to believe that every bride should have a chance to have her special day. Which is why when my friend Jasmine showed up at my house late one night a few weeks ago asking if I could help her turn a second-hand wedding dress she had bought for $25 into her dream dress, I said yes despite my being in dental assisting school and the wedding only being about a month and a half away at the time.

This is the starting point of the dress. It's fairly 80s, but not one of the more extreme styles, so I don't have to fight it too hard to update it. It does have a few inherent problems that need to be addressed before I can really get creative, and they mostly revolve around one simple fact: Jasmine is Mormon, and we Mormons have some pretty specific modesty standards. They're not as extreme as some people think, but this dress does violate them a little bit. (However, the slip on the dummy is not a sign of some weird need for the dummy to be modest--it just helps clothes slip on and off of her more easily.)

First problem: the neckline. It's a little too low in the front, and it leaves the shoulders mostly bare. I will be adding a little bit of fabric to the shoulders inside those sleeve points (which are staying). It won't show a lot, but it will cover the bride's shoulders, and it will replace the fabric-covered-elastic straps that currently hold the dress up. They will end up mostly covered by the light grey chiffon drape that will raise the neckline just a little in front and trail down the back from the shoulders. Obviously, this will be an aesthetic change as well as practical. I chose it (and luckily the bride liked it) because I hate alterations for modesty that don't blend in to the design. I think they draw attention to themselves in all the wrong ways. Purely aesthetic problem in this picture: those pearl pompoms down the front. They were also on the sleeves. They have all been removed.

Next problem: the opening in the back. Back necklines don't have to be extremely high, but this opening does go to low, so I will be filling it in. I have removed this bigger pearl flower and tear drop things, again, for purely aesthetic reasons, and I removed the pearls edging the opening so that when I fill it, they won't be sitting there announcing that something has been changed. The bride is also hoping to find and antique (or antique-looking) brooch to replace the pearl flower.

You may be wondering how I can possibly add fabric to this dress without it looking tacky. That's not as big of a problem in this case as it could be. First of all, the bride wants a non-traditional dress, so the fabrics that will be changing the style are also adding color, which means I didn't need to match this specific fabric. "Foul!" you cry. "You're adding fabric to the bodice that you claimed wouldn't be noticeable!" Luckily for me, the dress itself will supply that. The angle of this picture is not ideal to show the original length of the train, but the other picture I took made it look way longer, so this one won. We will be leaving some train, but a much shorter one, so I get some matching fabric and a little bit of lace from that. I am also shortening the sleeves to create a late 18th century style sleeve like this. Since the opaque fabric in this style of sleeve only goes to the elbow, I get to take off not only some of the base fabric, but also a fair amount of lace applique and pearls/sequins. Since the same lace was used all over the dress, and it has a fairly busy pattern, piecing the lace back together should create a near-perfect disguise for the seams I will have to add in closing up the back.

This is the inspiration for where Jasmine wants the dress to go, although we will definitely be doing a lot of our own designing too, as already evidenced by the sleeves. We are going with an overall smokey color, but some of the original off-white dress will show, and we're introducing some other color as well. (For any of you who are familiar with Mormon wedding ceremonies, this dress will be for the reception and pictures, and she will be wearing all white inside the Temple.)

I have already cut off the sleeves, though I haven't added the ruffles, and I have already shortened the train. To do that, I detached the beaded lace edging beginning at the sides of the dress and going all the way around the train, but leaving it attached in front. With the dress still on the dummy, I marked where I wanted the shortened train to end, then I took the dress off, turned in inside out, and laid it down, folded along the center back seam. This allowed me to create a symmetrical curve, and I just "eyeballed" a nice, smooth curve from the center back to the sides. I put the dress back on the dummy to see how the train looked spread out, and it wasn't quite right, but my second try achieved a good shape.

Since there is no hem on the original dress--the lace is the edge finish for the skirt/train, I did the same thing. I machine stitched the lace back to the train beginning from each side in turn and working toward the center back seam, and cutting out the excess lace from the center back. (I used a zipper foot to sew the lace on because it is beaded.)

beaded lace skirt trim

lace that has been re-attached to the new train edge
As you can see, the lace does not have a smooth line to the edge, but instead curves up and down. I felt the easiest way to attach this and still achieve the original open look of the lace (which is still there in the front) was to sew the lace on to the smoothly-curved edge of the train, making sure that the lower points in the upper edge of the lace stayed above the edge of the fabric. Then after it was all sewed on, I went back and trimmed the excess fabric about 1/2" from the stitching line. It looks nice, and I am ready to work on some of the more complicated changes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fun with Vintage Patterns

A while back, a friend of mine who's a little older than my mother gave me the pick of her old patterns. Like most seamstresses (of whatever skill level), she had kept probably all the patterns she had bought over the years. Why would you throw them out after you've spent the money? But there does come a point when you are, realistically, never going to use a given pattern again. Hence getting me to weed out some of hers. She doesn't sew as much anymore.

I got quite a few patterns from the 60s and 70s that I'm rather excited about, though actually using them is dependent on acquiring fabric, so most of them are still just waiting on the shelf in my bedroom. But last week, I finally got to use one. Inspiration struck and matched up this pattern:

with this gorgeous fabric I had been given, but for which I originally had no clear plan:

The fabric is green-shot-blue taffeta with velvet flocking and a glitter design, and the pattern is from the early 60s. It was love at first sight with both of them, but it took some time to realize they should be together.

This pattern is a little odd compared to what I've sewn in the past. One minor oddity is the wrap skirt. It's made in only two pieces and doesn't wrap as far as I expected, so I have to come up with some sort of solution to keep it from pulling open quite so far when I move certain ways. Or I may make a short petticoat to wear under it that's actually intended to be seen a little. I haven't decided yet.

The much greater oddity is the seamlines of the bodice. They are completely different from anything I've made before, and I've made things from a lot of different eras. Guess where the top of the side front piece goes. In that inverted pointy part in the front piece!

So you have to sew this acute angle, which might not be so bad if it were going into a seam. In fact, I've sewed much more acute angles in the process of inserting a triangular piece into a seam to give a skirt flair or make a Viking apron dress, and it was really quite simple. But sewing an acute angle into a solid piece was a pretty big challenge. I found it difficult to get everything to stay in place while I sewed it and to keep the point from puckering. However, like my recent victory over jeans zippers, I got all of these (the back pieces are essentially the same, but with less curve) in correctly with a minimum of re-doing. This is what it looks like sewn together from the inside since the seams are easier to see in my lining than in the pretty fabric.

Once you get the front into one piece and the back into two sections, you sew them together like a T-tunic, i.e. seams across the tops of the shoulders, and seams beginning at the ends of the sleeves, through the armpits, then down the sides of the bodice. I've made plenty of T-tunics since I'm into medieval clothing, but it's very unusual in modern formal (or even semi-formal) wear.

The side seams do not extend down the skirt on this dress because the skirt only has one seam down the back. It has box pleats that line up with the bodice seams, and the two panels simply overlap in the front (though not as far as I wish they did--which is why, if I were a good little seamstress, I would make muslins). The pattern called for self piping at the waist, but I chose to make that with black taffeta instead.

piping and box pleats
Now for where I deviated from the pattern more drastically than the color of the piping. First of all, it's not intended to be lined. I did that for two main reasons. I don't like facings, and I don't like unfinished seam edges. I happen to think it's easier to get a neckline to lay right with with a lining or a bias binding (and bias binding was inappropriate here) than with a facing. Facings have always been notoriously rebellious for me. And look back at the pattern envelope. See that big curve along the front edge of the skirt? They wanted me to face the entire skirt edge as well. That would never have worked for me. Oh, I probably would have gotten it right eventually, but I would have had a strong desire to burn the dress before I was done.

The seam issue is a bit of a different story. I normally zigzag (in lieu of a serger) the edges of my seams together both to finish the edges so they won't fray with wear and washing and to reinforce the seam. However, this was one of few patterns where I actually acknowledge that ironing the seams open was fairly necessary in order to get everything to lay right. And the only way to have the level of garment strength and finished edges that I prefer and iron the seam allowances open is to line the garment. Hence, fully lined dress. Yes, I realize I'm a little crazy.

hand-stitching at the waistline of the lining
The next deviation is partly because of the lining. The pattern called for a stiff interfacing in the whole skirt (with the facings to finish the edges) to give it more fullness. While I like the fullness, I don't like the interfacing, and I was lining the thing anyway. Admittedly, I didn't line it with anything stiff--just with a lightweight cotton, but I didn't like the idea of the extra bulk, so I left it out. Since I have to deal with the front wrap opening as I move anyway, the petticoat I mentioned earlier might give me back some of the fulness as well as being cute instead of embarrassing when the wrap opens. We'll see. I may just sacrifice the fulness and take some blind stitches on the inside to hold it closed enough.

This shows the skirt lining as well as how little the skirt overlaps.
The lining caused another minor deviation. I bought silver embroidery thread and top-stitched the edges of the neckline, sleeves, and skirt. I could have just pressed them into place, but I liked this idea better.

 My final deviation from the pattern was the greatest oddity of all--well, the method from which I deviated is. It had a back zipper, but an unusual one. I have made a few dresses with side zippers. These function, instead of by opening the whole top of the dress, by making the fitted portions (from just under the armpit to around the hip area) widen enough that you can slip it over your head. You don't go in through the zipper; it just loosens the fitted parts while you get in. Well, the pattern for this dress called for a back zipper that functioned like that. It was supposed to be a placket zipper that went from a little higher than bra-strap height to around hip height.

Part of me wanted to do exactly what the pattern said, mainly for the novelty of it. Then sanity set in, and I remembered that I have a very bad relationship with regular zippers and only have a really high success rate with installing invisible zippers. (If you've ever tried to install an invisible zipper with a regular zipper foot, you probably think I'm crazy, but I'm telling you, buy the cheap little Coates & Clark invisible zipper foot that is on the rack of zippers, and put it in with that, exactly according to the instructions in the zipper package, and you will see why I think they are easier to get right.)

I hand-stitched the lining to the zipper tape on the inside, but I made my stitches a little too long and close to the zipper teeth, so the slider would catch my threads a little. It wasn't impossible to zip up my dress, just annoying. I have already remedied that situation because it was just a matter of moving the folded edge of the lining a little farther (about 1/8-inch farther) from the zipper teeth and then taking shorter stitches.

the original stitching
I had a lot of fun making this, but was mildly disappointed that my dress wasn't as pretty as the picture on the pattern envelope until my husband reminded me that 60s patterns have very stylized drawings on the envelopes rather than actual women in actual clothing. Then I felt better, and I really do think it's a pretty dress.

(Sorry I'm not in it. My husband wasn't around to take pictures when I wanted to take them, and my dummy is no good at using a camera.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Drastic Makeover

No, not for me; for a dress. My mother-in-law (who, by the way, is super awesome, and no, I'm not kissing up because she doesn't even read this to my knowledge) periodically tells her kids that she has stuff to give away, and we find a time that we can all get together to divvy it out. Anything that doesn't get picked at all goes to a thrift store or something.

The most recent time she did this, I picked some VHS tapes (yes, I still have a working VCR) and some LPs (I also have a turntable). Jon grabbed a book about science or engineering (I can't remember which at the moment) that was his when he was younger. We weren't interested in much else. Then Jon's sister-in-law handed me a dress and said she thought I should have it because I'm most likely to be able to do something with it. I'm also known to be fascinated by the history of fashion. Neither of Jon's sisters objected to this suggestion because no one actually liked the dress in question.

 My mother-in-law is the one with the long, straight, brown hair. And because these are wedding pictures, not pictures designed to show off a dress, I have also included a sketch. Please excuse my lack of artistic skills. Photographs would be better, but I forgot to take any before I had already begun the rather drastic changes.

As you see, the dress had no waistline in the front, but it did have sashes sewn into the sides that tied in the back. After the wedding, Nancy added a ruffle to the neckline (I realize I didn't draw that very well) because it was a bit more open than she really liked. By the time I got it, there was also a fair bit of damage to the dress. The neckline was torn at the right shoulder, the right sash had been torn off, and there were several tears in the back of the bottom ruffle--I'm guessing from her stepping backward with heels on.

Honestly, I probably wouldn't have accepted it (I obviously hadn't picked it on my own) if it weren't for the fact that it was offered to me very publicly, with everyone's attention directed toward us. Not that I thought it was hideous like all of the other girls did (and yes, they said this). I really do often like vintage styles, but this one, as I've said, was rather damaged, so I certainly couldn't wear it as it was, and add to that the fact that it's made of some really weird, though apparently quite expensive, lace. Oh, it's a pretty color and unobjectionable floral pattern, but I wish there were some way I could let you feel it. You'd see what I mean.

Anyway, I did accept it because I felt a little bit on-the-spot, but also because once Sara suggested it, I was actually intrigued by the possibilities of this dress to become something else.

The first order of business was to remove the neck ruffle. I didn't like it, and it was torn anyway. Unfortunately, the actual neckline was torn too, so I zig-zagged it to hold it together, but trim was going to be the best bet to really make it look nice. But that comes later. I also promptly opened up the side seams to take out the one remaining sash and remove the remains of the one that had been torn off. Unfortunately, the fabric had also been damaged next to the seam, so there is some zig-zagging there. Luckily, it is not terribly noticeable because my arm is generally in the way.

The next order of business was to shorten the skirt, but I didn't want to remove the ruffle completely, and I also didn't want to take it off and then re-attach it because that sounded like a huge hassle. When you hear what I did, you may not think my solution sounds like less hassle, but it was to me. What I didn't want to do, was re-gather the ruffle, which would have been necessary if I took it off and cut off the skirt above it because the new bottom of the skirt would have been narrower than the part I cut off.

So I actually cut it at a high waistline. The back always had a waist seam because the skirt was gathered in the back. I detached the skirt at the back including detaching it from the zipper, then followed that line to cut it off at the front, and cut a bunch off the top of the skirt. I thought I was going to add gathers to the front, but that looked bad, so I took it back off and took in the side and front seams to match the waistline, tapering back out to the original seams at the bottom because I liked the fullness in the skirt and still didn't want to take that ruffle in.

I realized that I hadn't removed quite as much length as wanted to. This was actually serendipitous because I also discovered that the width of ruffle that had looked good on the original floor-length style was too wide on a shorter skirt, so I took 3 or 4 inches off the bottom of the ruffle. This also allowed me to remove some, but not all of the damage to the skirt. It was blessedly easy because the ruffle was a gathered rectangle--a very long rectangle, but still a rectangle. (This isn't terribly abnormal, but curved ruffles do exist and would have been less convenient to measure accurately for shortening.)

This newly created waistline didn't look so great, so I turned the sash that I did still have into a waistband instead. I wish I had decided to do this a bit later in the game, though, because I ended up realizing the dress was a bit too tight, but I couldn't let it out as much as I would have liked because of the length to which I had cut the waistband. Oh well. It turned out comfortable enough to be wearable.

Next came the sleeves. I liked the general idea of the puffed sleeves, so I didn't actually take them off, but I didn't like such a long puff, nor did I like the ruffle below the elastic, so I just cut the sleeves at an angle (higher on the outside of the arm) above the elastic and gathered the bottom.

The poor dress stayed at that stage for a few weeks because I had other projects that more urgently needed my attention, and I was stewing about what color of fabric to buy for trim. When I was finally ready to buy fabric for this, I took my husband and some of the lace I had cut from the sleeves to the fabric store, and we settled on a rather bright blue.

For the sleeves, I cut strips of the contrasting fabric with the grain, ironed them into double folds, and sewed them onto the sleeves edges. I had also bought ribbon that matched the new fabric, and I hand-sewed that onto the edges of the waistband. I decided to trim the bottom of the skirt partly just for aesthetic reasons, but also because I wanted to cover as much of the damaged lace as possible. I cut this with the grain because the hem doesn't curve at all, machine-sewed the top of the trim wrong-side-out, then ironed it down, turned the bottom under as well, and hand sewed that edge down. It doesn't cover all of the damage because I felt that would make the trim too wide, but it covers enough that what remains isn't noticeable.

You can barely see the stitching a few inches above the trim in this picture (you're more likely to see it at all if you look at the picture bigger), and the trim really does cover the worst of the damage, but there is a little but of pucker, not because I sewed the trim on badly, but because the lace itself puckers where I had to mend the worst tear that I didn't cut off.

The finishing touch was the trim on the neckline. It would need to curve, so I cut it on the bias. I ironed it into a double fold like I had the sleeve bands and machine sewed it on. This is the final product. I think it's a pretty fun dress. And a little boy at church who apparently likes me (I teach his little sister's class) told me I was pretty when I wore it, so I must have succeeded! :)

So it went from this:
to this:

Quite a change.