The making of this dress was epic and not in any good way. I hadn’t realised how lucky I got with the last dress until I was in the thick of this one,
Last June, red was the chosen colour and I tried out some threads on it. The original motifs looked stronger in white (agapanthus leaf) however Donna (niece/dancer) seemed to like the idea of a celtic motif and I got this one from Embroidery Library. I had trouble with it from the start and could not get the outlines to work but as it was ‘voted’ a favourite with the outlines, I had to go with it. I tweaked it a bit to get it to fit in. I figured I could make a simple collar out of ovals and crystal bling-stones could be set into them. I was not overly enamoured with the whites as I tried out some more samples – then changed to some yellows oranges and reds and it all looked so much better, and it was the last week of August! I was confident in the pattern as the dress I had made last time still fitted well so I could use the same pattern – my niece however had grown 5 inches!!!! and is no longer 5’3″ but nearer 5’8″,
a mix of embroidery sampling – the lower LHS has a yellow outline on white in the middle as a trial….
So once the colours were figured, I raced on ahead and the bulk of the embroidery took 7 days – except for the neckline which I ‘designed’ on the Sierra Software – which turned out to be easier this time than the last time as they had a software update. However the skirt didn’t work like I had anticipated. Donna had wanted a stiff stand out skirt and I was unsure on how the ‘classic’ one was constructured and the way I figured I would do it didn’t work – and I never did a ‘toile’ so was working on the real fabric all along.
And then after sending some pictures of the embroidery front – Lisa/dance teacher asked for some changes to the centre front embroideries after I sent on some rough photos – she (rightly) felt the centre front needed definition and could I do an outline in lemon….after the lower bodice was cut
I was flumoxed and took a few days to figure what to do and took a break.
The Skirt – I did locate a pattern called guna rince and it seemed like the answer – which it was in part. It had a pattern and instruction for the underskirt and corresponding overskirt. I ordered it. The pattern was what I needed but as the fashion here is for a shorter skirt longer bodice I adapted it a bit by shortening the skirt, and also had to tweak it so it would accommodate the cut skirt I had done. I used Vilene S80 on the stiff underskirt, and basted interlining of sew-in heavier vilene M12 to the back and a double layer of vilene M12 on the front skirt.
The top LHS is the right panel of the back of the dress – the ‘fashion’ here now is no cape/braith at the back but to heavily embroider it in an ‘unexpected’ colour with less bling
The additional embroidery – The issue with the outline was that its not easy to fit in another embroidery after the fact and I did digitize a line on the Sierra software and kinda lined it up. The difficulty for me is that the hoop on my machine is 150x230cm so the centre front motif took 3 hoopings originally and the outline took 4 and the fabric was pretty stressed by the time, I also figured covering the spaces with some bling would conceal.
The long way and the wrong way
So in all it took 5-8 weeks – the first 2 weeks of August I was only dabbling, and the last week of August I did most of the embroidery. Most of the dress construction was done in the last 2 weeks of September. It was all rather stressful, as for a while it seemed everything that could go wrong did, The bobbin tension of the machine was not great throughout, and I had to keep an eye on it. I am still not sure what went wrong but it got half fixed with changing threads, dusting after each embroidery, and John in the Singer Centre Waterford posted up a new case (which still has not fixed it but helped a lot). I bought the machine off him originally and cannot recommend him highly enough. They really offer a great service there, and just plain lovely to deal with
I was also running out of embroidery thread a lot faster than I thought (there were over 600,000 stitches) so had to get WM Trimmings in Dublin to post extra down from Dublin – They really are a wonderful shop – and both times I phoned lunchtime, and the thread arrived in the post the following morning! (local fabric shop does not carry the shades or the larger spools of thread).
should have made a toile – are these the ‘not so famous last words’? as I hadn’t realised that the new fashion amongst Irish dancers here is a much shorter skirt (about 4 or 5″ from centre V) and longer bodice – and I should have added 1.5″ more to the bodice length- my skirt length is 6″. The dress pictures Donna had sent that she liked had a mix of skirt lengths and she never pointed out specifically till the end about the length. It was not a deal breaker as the main request was a stiffer skirt.
I was so relieved when Donna tried it on. when I saw her moving/walking around in it the hang and movement of it was good – and she seemed to move well/confidently in it – although I could swear she grew another inch since the beginning of the summer. Lisa (Dance Teacher) has given her seal of approval so all good.
My Sister, Eithne, is brilliant with the bling – I really don’t know where to start – or end. She tells me it’s because she goes to so many feis’s (competitions) but I really think its more than that. Luckily she will bling it – and hopefully I will have a competition dress photo soon!
meanwhile – here are some photos from when we were trying out different stones
The cost of dresses can run into about €2200 and the costs of this dress without bling ran to about €250 which included – I bought 5m of fabric and I have 1 m left over. I could have bought less originally but I did need some to sample and am happier to have 1m left as this wa
- Fabric and lining – 80
- embroidery designs approx – 30
- threads approx – approx 60-80 (yes really!!! )
- vilenes and stabelizer – 40 (I did get too much
- machine needles – 5
- zip and bias binding – 10
- pattern – 40
The bling will cost about €150-200
I am going to toile the Guna Rince pattern as when I compared the two – mine has a higher armhole and different darts so I am curious to the fit – and I also want to get a better pattern for the next dress and figure the shorter skirt long bodice. I happen to have a cream fabric here that could work as an alternative and work on it slowly over the next few months – but as cream is not a good stage colour I will see if it mixes well with jade? but as one dress is done, there is less pressure now.
I am also keeping the embroidery machine out for the moment – as in order to keep my sanity with the dance dress, I started a side project of another coat so half way through that – and seems to be going to plan…….seems to be