Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mother of the Bride Part 2: A Stitch in Time

I left you all at the airport, and oh boy, a lot has happened in a very short time since then!
My daughter got married!

I thought I'd bring you along on the wonderful road I traveled as we prepared for the wedding, broken up into a couple of posts (because one post would be a LOT.)
With this first one, (well, part 2, I guess), I thought I'd tell you all about the knitting and sewing. My daughter made her own wedding gown, and I can't really speak for all of that except to tell you that she actually created it with no pattern- it was hand-draped, which meant hand-sewn for much of it. Her veil was bought, but the crown she wore was actually the same one I wore at my wedding, which was actually  my mom and dad's crowns tied together that they wore during their Greek wedding ceremony.

As my daughter was making her dress, I was in a quandary as to what in the world to wear myself. She would be married on a nature preserve that housed several historic buildings, including a chapel built in the 1800's (where the ceremony would be) and an outdoor pavilion (where the reception would be). Keep in mind that this wedding just happened on December 13, so I had planned on it being cool. It took me awhile to find a dress that I wanted. My daughter had no "color" to her wedding, if you will. What I mean is, she wanted only winter greens and white flowers for arrangements. Her bridesmaids were all picking out whatever dress they wanted to wear, no rules, no particular color, just some shade of green.

So, I figured I could go with a neutral sort of color. But I just couldn't find anything flattering that I liked. I looked quite a bit at patterns to make my own garment, and I almost went in that direction. My daughter loved the clothes on a website called and suggested I check there before embarking on the sewing. I just so happened to fall in love with a dress that would be perfect for the cool weather- a soft, thick fabric, cowl-neck dress. And it had a handkerchief hem, above the knee, which I thought was fun. And it was actually called the "Showstopper Storyteller Dress". So, you know, I figured it was made for me and all. :)...The only thing is- it was a pretty bold indigo purple/blue. I showed it to my daughter online, and she told me she thought it was "rad". So it was a go. I ordered it thinking that I could just try it on and see how it looked and felt. When it came,  it slid on me so perfectly and felt like a warm, comfortable blanket, and I knew it was the one, bold color and all.

As I waited for it to arrive, I still kind of wanted to make something for myself, and I toyed with the idea of knitting a shawl- this was also my daughter's suggestion. However, there was only about a month's time before the wedding, and I didn't know if I could finish. "I have faith in you", said my daughter. So again, it was a go. I went to JoAnn Fabrics to look at yarn and patterns (with the last disaster blanket knitted with the cheapo yarn fresh in my memory), and ran across a pretty pattern that looked easy. Rather than casting on a small amount of stitches and making many rows, (like a scarf), it called to cast on 225 stitches on circular needles, (gauge 15 sts and 20 rows to 4" over st stitch using size 13 needle). They called for ribbon yarn, bulky weight, but I couldn't find ribbon yarn. However I figured I'd be okay if I just used a bulky weight yarn and got the right gauge.

A friend of mine suggested  I look at  I found the most unbelievable yarn. I ordered "Mecha" by Malabrigo- the color I chose was "Piedras". It was 100% wool, made in Peru. I honestly can't say enough about the quality of this yarn. I have never used anything so soft, supple, forgiving, sturdy, and GORGEOUS in my life. It wasn't cheap, but I knew that it would turn out scrumptious. I figured that the colors range it had would bring my bold indigo together with the browns of the forest, and the greens of the floral arrangements. In fact, as it happened, one of the photo references that my daughter had for flowers included a purplish leaf that I ended up including in the arrangements, and the shawl ended up being a star.

I did learn at least one great new thing while making this piece. With the way I was taught to cast on, during the first row, I always would end up with a really long piece of yarn between the needles that would get tangled, and sometimes even had to be cut. Figuring there had to be a better way, I googled it, and there was! Here is a good video that I recommend if you haven't learned the long-tail cast-on method. It is easy, and makes a huge difference.

However, there was one curious thing- as I took the piece off of the needles once it reached a width of 18", I was a bit disappointed that it was not longer. I did check the gauge (well, more or less) and it looked like it would be more than long enough with the amount of stitches cast on. I wasn't sure what had gone wrong. All I could think was that I hadn't used ribbon yarn.

I did have an extra hank of yarn, and I toyed with the idea of adding on to each end. However, this last skein was a slightly deeper color, and it looked bad next to the existing knitting. I thought about sending it back and trying to fix it, but there was no time. In the end, I just added on a fringe and hoped it would be ok. For the fringe, I used some of the extra skein color and just a bit of extra yarn that I had that was closer to the color of the knitted piece, taking time to blend the colors of each piece of fringe (which included 3 pieces of cut yarn). In the end, the difference in color from the new skein was not noticeable at all in the fringe. As I packed to leave, I trimmed the fringe even and hoped for the best in terms of the overall length.

With the fringe and some time to stretch, the piece actually was a perfect length for me. I wore it for the rehearsal dinner with my brown sweater, and it was perfect. In the end, the shawl, together with some dark chocolate brown tights and ankle boots, and my indigo dress, really rocked for the wedding in the woods.

Also, my daughter had asked me if I could help her hem her bridal gown. "Sure!" I smiled, forgetting what it takes to hem a full-length gown with an almost full circle hem! It's funny, but you know, I knew it would all work out no matter how hard I had to work to get the ends tied, so to speak. I arrived in Atlanta late Tuesday night, which gave me all day Wednesday and Thursday, and part of the day Friday to get her gown and the flowers done. However, when you've got a lot of people to meet and family to see, time sure runs short! I ended up doing most of my real work between 9 pm and 2 am, and of course was up again by 6 with relatives. It was a long weekend!

Wednesday was pinning up the gown, which is really the only way to hem a dress of this caliber. In my experience, it can only be correctly done with the bride wearing her shoes and crinoline. We were confined to one small room in my daughter's apartment- the only room the kitty wasn't allowed in, so we wouldn't have any cat hair on the dress. Unfortunately that was the same room that housed the 1,001 paper cranes strung on fishing line and ready to hang at the reception! To make matters even more complicated, when my daughter had sewn her gown, she was just using every fraction of yardage available, without regard to any pattern. So in some areas there was up to a foot of extra fabric to be done away with at the hem, while in some areas, I barely had enough. The only thing that would have made it more complicated would have been if there was a train!

I tried to pin it up enough in front so she wouldn't trip- the site was really hilly and uneven. The back could go a little bit longer. But it was not an exact science by any means, which made me a little uneasy.

However, time was limited, and as she knew by the way I raised her, when the going gets tough the tough get going.  So we quickly pinned, and later that afternoon I set aside any plans to get together and relax with family, and I got down to business. It was then Wednesday night, only 1 more day to play with (considering rehearsal), and I still had to do flowers.

I spent the evening at my brother-in-law's home, in a quiet room upstairs. There was no tv or music to distract me (or keep me company), and I set the crinoline down (it stood up by itself- which is why we affectionately called it"the ghost".) 

Since I had spent some time earlier drawing a floor plan for the reception, by the time I began hemming the gown, it was already almost 10 pm. I was so completely exhausted from the trip, and getting ready to go before that. I looked over my daughter's veil on a nearby rocking chair, and it came to mind that nothing ever really does change. My little girl will always be my little girl. I reminisced about the early days after I brought her home from the hospital, living on such little sleep, but with so much love, just knowing that I would rock her until she fell asleep, no matter long it took.

However, I tried to push the thoughts out of my head- no time for crying or sappiness. In fact, I am quite sure that my daughter left the hemming and flower design tasks to her overly emotional mom to keep her from drowning in her own tears; she knows me so well!  As I was faced with the yards and yards of ivory satin, my old tried-and-true hemming methods came to mind- don't worry about the uneven excess fabric- just quickly and confidently hand-baste the hem where the pins told me to when she was wearing it, very close to the fold, and work my way all around the dress.

And there was A LOT of dress...

Then it was time to trim the excess fabric. However, I couldn't find any sewing shears in my daughter's sewing basket! No doubt they were in that room with the cranes somewhere back at her apartment. But I did find a pair of kid's scissors, and- "what's this?! a palette knife!" ("That's my girl", I thought... "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree"). :)

Luckily, I found a pair of scissors in my sister-in-law's kitchen that would do. I was afraid to commit on such a precious piece of work and cut all of the extra fabric. I even called my daughter to get her vote of confidence. Time was of the essence, so I had to trust my gut. I went ahead and cut, folded over twice and pressed to get it ready for the final hand-hemming. After that I tiptoed downstairs - my back was aching from hunching over the ironing board, and I just wanted to sit and sew while watching some tv. (and get some hot chocolate). Before long, it was well past 1 am, and after watching a little Letterman I knew I had to get to sleep- it was going to be up early to go pick up the car-ful of flowers at 7 am. I only had gotten about one or two linear feet of hemming done, and there was at least a dozen more to go!

The next day was full of flower arranging, and I will get to that in the next post. That night, (Thursday), on very little sleep, it was time to hem again. This time, I was down to the wire, and really needed to get it done before I slept. I and the dress had been transferred to my daughter's wonderful in-laws' home, and I had the whole basement and giant tv to keep me company. Before she went to bed, my daughter's mother-in-law-to-be put on "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason", and I was almost done when the movie was done. Of course by then, it was almost 2 am! And up again before dawn on Friday with the new relatives! A whirlwind, and the wedding hadn't even begun.

I really didn't know how the hem would be- I prayed. I mean really prayed. But wow, it felt like a miracle that the hem turned out perfectly, and worked great for the hills on the site. She still had to lift up the front to trudge through the woods for the professional photos, but she just floated along the entire hilly venue during the ceremony and reception, just like an angel.

And, it was worth every moment of worrying that I wouldn't make it on so little sleep. The joy of seeing that smile gave me years and years more energy, just like when she was a little girl.

I'll be posting again soon about the wedding, focusing on the flower design process.

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