Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Beginning

So not long after Justin proposed (like within 24 hours) I decided that I wanted to make my own wedding dress. It was the one thing that right away I felt very sure about. Initially we were wrangling over whether we wanted a destination wedding or to be married in Baltimore (home for both of us) and a whole bunch of other things. So the dress was the one sure thing from the beginning. Surprisingly, given the number of sewing related breakdowns he's seen, Justin was fully supportive of this idea.

I already had a vision in mind - almost a year ago I had made So & So's Dayflower Lace Cami and even then I thought it would translate into a beautiful wedding dress. This was what I wanted - empire waist, cap sleeves, square cut bodice and a knitted lace overskirt that would split up the front to reveal a fabric underskirt. The knitting would all be green and the fabric would all be white (or ivory).

And that is where I still am today. I immediately began swatching all of the random bits of yarn that were laying around in my stash.
First - Caron Naturals Spa Yarn. Really, I'm not sure why I did this. I initially toyed with the idea of using a sport or DK weight yarn, but having made a shrug with this yarn, I knew it was splitty and would drive me crazy if I made a whole dress out of it. It's also largely synthetic and very floppy - would not hold up the pattern well at all. Still it was something to do while I look at yarns online and tried to find the perfect string. And it was practice on the Dayflower Lace.

Second I knitted a much larger swatch out of KnitPicks Shine Sport yarn. I love this yarn. This is quite frankly still a contender, even though it's cheap and I don't know how well it would stand the test of time. Still - I will only be wearing this dress once. Anyway - it held the pattern surprisingly well even after having been hung up for several days. Granted, the dress will be a lot heavier, but I still like this as a chunkier alternative to laceweight. For some reason this makes me think of tapestry. It's also the same weight as the yarn I used for my original Dayflower Lace Cami.

I made this swatch out of some leftover sock yarn - ignoring the fact that the striping would make the lace nearly impossible to see. Still - practice.

And then I made a final swatch out of some lightweight sock yarn - Trekking Something Something. This turned out quite well and I was able to block all the lovely little swoops in pretty well. I think this will warrant investment in blocking wires for the real thing though.

Finally my dear friend Jenny Gill told me her grand vision - the vision that leads me to writing this blog today. She wanted to make me and my dress internet famous. I said "what the hell?" you only live once and who doesn't want to be internet famous? Jenny reached out to Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon knitting for guidance. Told her my main requirements: green, preferably a natural fiber and that it couldn't be too pricey. The budget for this dress (and the whole wedding) is loooow. Kay immediately came back with linen - a fiber that had never crossed either Jenny's or my mind. It dealt so well with the fact that the wedding is planned for spring - making wool, etc a slightly dicey proposition. Furthermore, Kay had a full, enormous cone of Euroflax laceweight in a nice ivory. She suggested dyeing it and so generously offered it up to me for swatching or possibly even dress making. An Upper West Sider like myself, Kay left the yarn at our LYS, Knitty City on Friday night and Saturday afternoon Justin & I walked down to pick it up. It is a huge cone of insanely delicate lace. I am in awe of it.

While we were walking back home we had this discussion. Justin had actually been pretty quiet about the fact that I was taking him on a walk to a yarn store on a Saturday afternoon. The fact that it was a really nice day probably helped in this regard.
"So," I said, "Jenny has this plan for making the dress internet famous."
"Oh," he said. "Jenny is knitting famous?"
"Not Jenny, but a friend of hers is actually a pretty famous knit blogger and has written a couple of books."
It's a testament to how much knitting knowledge he has inadvertently absorbed that Justin took in "knit blogger" without a second thought.
"Jenny asked her for advice and help for me and she left this yarn so I can see if I want to make the dress from it. So I'm going to start a blog and put pictures of the dress on the Internet."

I cannot recall the man's exact response. I believe it was somewhere between "Cool" and "Huh" with a health dose of "whatever the hell you want to do Amy" thrown in for good measure.

"Really, the whole knitting a dress thing is kind of unique. Most knitters if they're going to make something, they make themselves a shawl."

"Yeah, if you were 70 or something." Now Justin's ignorance of knitting culture begins to show.

"Knitted lace shawls are a HUGE thing in the knitting world. People loooove them. But it's not quite my thing. I mean, maybe if the wedding was going to be in January and there was a real need for a shawl. But even if we end up in March, I think I'll deal."

"Huh. Okay then."


  1. And now I will have to knit myself a shawl for this wedding just so Justin can have a knitted shawl at it.


  2. omg this awesome.
    i came over from masondixon and you are right kay is pretty famous and all.
    i love the idea of what you are doing and i also think you are insane:)
    i was going to suggest sock yarn or a mercerized cotton.
    :) good luck i shall follow your progress in this journey.

  3. Hey, what a cool idea! I came over from Mason-Dixon, too. So, speaking as someone who knows nothing about knitting skirts, OR knitting lace (so clearly I will offer excellent advice)....

    The first thing that struck me about your swatches is that they seem very dense. I wonder how heavy and droopy an entire skirt made in that pattern will be? If you are not married to that particular lace pattern, you might want to investigate other more "open" lace patterns.

    I do love this idea, though. Would it be too weird to have hem of the overskirt at an extreme angle - so on the right hip it is only 12" long, and then at the left hip it is the same length as the underskirt. Almost sarong-like.

    Also, I know you want to knit it, and I am by no means advocating converting to crochet, but crocheted fabric is less stretchy, and might be less prone to droop. Would you consider that? I am thinking specifically of the shawl on the cover of Knit and Crochet With Beads by Lily Chin. Oooh, you could put some sparkly seed beads on it....

    I'd better stop myself. Suddenly I have this urge to crochet myself a beaded sarong. Must. Check. Stash.

  4. I love your dress concept! Am I right in thinking it's very Regency-inspired (you know, Jane Austen, etc.)?

    I love that your fiance understands what "knitting famous" is. That is incredibly sweet.

    I'm sure you know your dressmaking stuff, but I feel like it's a public service announcement to remind you that the weight of the knit overskirt will change the shape of the dress unless you're wanting a sheath shape for the lower portion.

    Knit on, and I can't wait to see your progress!

    P.S. My vote is for the Euroflax. :-)

  5. Nope! The FIRST thing that you were sure about was that you would marry that lovely guy.

    It's a great story, and a brave move. Congratulations on both counts. We'll be following your progress and cheering you on.

    PS: Euroflax looks great in your swatch.

  6. Another idea - not that you don't have your own, and are about to get SWAMPED by well meaning knitters...

    How about knitting a short veil instead? That linen would work well for this.

    Feel free to go nuts and do both a veil and a skirt. I'm not suggesting you go undercover - just something lacy on your head, perhaps pinned in place with a hairpin or two.

    Why not?

  7. Or green skirt with white lace?

  8. Use Kay's laceweight. It is top drawer, appropriate, and perfect for what you want. And you will always remember you got it from a knitting rock star.

  9. I too just came over from Mason-Dixon and I love the idea! I'm gonna have to take a wander through the rest of the posts and see how things are going.

    That is a bii-iig cone of linen! wow.