Sunday, 18 November 2012

How I made my own wedding dress

I had never made any dresses, skirts, tops or pants before. As a matter of fact, I had never made any single clothing item in my life. I do have a sewing machine and have been sewing totes and making small alterations but that's as far as my sewing experience goes. This is my short journal of how I made my own wedding dress (with my Mom's help) in two weeks without a pattern or any experience in dress making.

4 months before the wedding
We set the date for the wedding and I tell Misha that I want to make my own wedding dress. He is shocked, to say the least. He very gently points out that me making my own dress might be overly ambitious. I think he just wants to make it easy on me but I know it can be done.  Instead of wasting my time searching for the ONE dress, I can just make it exactly the way I want it and save time and money. It would be a sharp learning curve; like being in a sewing bootcamp. 

7 weeks before the wedding 
I finally start planning for the dress. I start researching and figuring out what type of dress I would like and how I am going to make it.  I love long, flowing ball gowns made from natural light fabrics. I also like romantic lace tops and delicate veils.  I make this  little sketch of what I envision. I realize how much it resembles the princesses I used to draw as a little girl.

Wedding dress sketch

6 weeks before the wedding
Still searching for online inspiration. I find this image and love the rich pleated skirt and wide belt. I love how light, crisp and full it looks. I think I found the look for the skirt.
Amsale wedding dress - see source

5 weeks before the wedding
It's time to make my sample dress. I pick up 8 metres of cheap muslin and search out a you-tube tutorial on pattern making. I find this great lesson on couture draping on a dress stand. I follow the instructions to the dot and create a sample bodice for my measurements. It fits perfectly. I am impressed. I really get  into it and make a sample skirt as well, but I am not that happy with it. The skirt will need more fabric to make it fuller.

4 weeks before the wedding
I am having a moment. I tell Misha that we might have to cancel the wedding. The dress is not coming together. He laughs and tries to be supportive. I lighten up as well.
I get back to sewing and remake the skirt by adding more fabric to it. It looks  fuller now. I am optimistic again.

3 weeks before the wedding 
Mom arrives and I am relieved to have her with me. Her sewing experience is invaluable. She learned to sew from my grandmother who was a seamstress. I look forward to working with her on the dress and getting some century old sewing tips.  This is becoming a family tradition; my grandmother helped make my mother's  dress.

2 and a half weeks before the wedding
It's time to have some fun. Mom and I are going fabric shopping to Queen St. West. We admire the amazing assortment of luxurious fabrics. Lace, silk and velvet are stacked to the ceiling. We are in paradise!

We buy 1 1/2 metres of french lace. It is VERY expensive but a must. I could have gotten away with less but wanted to be on the safe side. For the skirt and a short sleeve bodice we buy 6 metres of silk dupioni. GORGEOUS fabric! Happy about going with ivory instead of bright white. Gives it a nice soft, vintage feel.

14 days before the wedding
Mom and I officially begin working on the dress. I keep calling it a dress but it's actually a two piece. Making it as a two piece makes our life much easier. I start with the skirt. It goes well and I finish it in a day. I have high hopes for finishing everything in a few days. Hm...if I only knew...

13 days before the wedding
I watch several 'how to' videos and start working on the petticoat. I want the skirt to be big and puffy, which means a LOT of crinoline for the underskirt. We soon run out of crinoline and Misha drives us to Fabricland. Luckily, it's five minutes from our house. We have no time to waste.

Petticoat in making

12 days before the wedding
Still working on the petticoat. I am sewing on layers and layers of crinoline. The skirt is still not full enough. Let's add another line of frills.
We do another Fabricland run. I pick up a half  metre of beige faux fur for the shawl wrap we want to make. It's fall after all and I like being warm, even on my wedding day.

10 days before the wedding
Taking it easy. The petticoat is coming together. I am feeling very optimistic.

Petticoat almost done
8 days before the wedding
It's a beautiful fall day. We take the day off and get out of the house to check out a local organic market. I am surprised how relaxed we are with the wedding in a week and no dress yet.

7 days before the wedding
It's time to tackle the top. We start with the sleeveless silk bodice. We use the muslin sample top as a pattern. It's not going smoothly. We are having some trouble fitting it well.
Misha keeps asking how the dress is coming along. I think he is starting to get worried.

6 days before the wedding
The top is giving us more headaches than we thought. The lace is very difficult to work with. It doesn't fit well with the silk bodice. We are being patient and still don't panic. 

5 days before the wedding
Tragedy strikes! I slip and fall on the back porch steps and spend the evening at the ER. The outcome is a fractured elbow. Luckily no nerve or muscle damage. My whole left arm gets a cast. Not good timing!

While I am in the ER Mom finishes the shawl wrap. It looks beautiful!

4 days before the wedding
Work must go on and I am handling the sewing machine with one hand. Mom is doing all the hand stitching. I can't be more grateful. She is amazing!

Sewing with a cast on
The dress has to be adjusted to my full arm cast. The left sleeve is cut short. We also keep the side open so I can put the top on. I am also thinking of covering the cast with some leftover silk fabric. At least it will match.

2 days before the wedding
We are frantically trying to finish the dress. The bodice still doesn't fit well. Trying it on with the cast is also a nightmare. My arm hurts a lot when I lift it. 
Misha stopped asking how the dressmaking is going. I think he's got the picture.

1 day before the wedding
The dress is still missing some snaps and hooks and the silk cast cover is not done. Mom is finishing up the veil. I am going to sleep at midnight. I am exhausted.

45 minutes before the wedding
My hair and make up is done and I am all dressed. A friend is stitching together the silk cast cover on me. We have 15 minutes to go. 

30 minutes before the wedding
The dress is ready. I am ready. The show is on. Let's get married!

And we live happily ever after.

3 weeks AFTER the wedding
Still waiting for the official wedding pictures but here are pictures of the dress on the stand. 

My wedding dress - the final look

Lessons learned : 

  • Don't leave the making of your wedding dress to the last minute. 
  • The petticoat makes the dress.
  • Always make your own veil, it takes 10 minutes.
  • Family is the best.

This post is dedicated to my Mom who has been an incredible support and help throughout this process.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Subway tiles

We knew right from the start that we wanted to have white subway tiles for the backsplash. I came across a few examples of kitchens online featuring handmade subway tiles and I loved them. I find them more interesting than the perfectly shaped subway tiles sold at big box stores. They have more personality and look more natural with their slight imperfections.

We found some handmade subway tiles at a local tile store. We got so excited about finding them that we purchased the tiles right away. The big suprise came when we brought them home and realized that the cool white colour of the tiles just didn't work well with the warm white of our cabinets. We were a bit disappointed as we really liked them but had to return them with a heavy heart.

The tile on the right is the hand made subway tile that we returned. The middle tile is from Home Depot and the one on the left is from Lowe's.
We brought home a sample subway tile from Lowe's but found it to be too stark white. We ended up buying subway tiles from Home Depot that were a warmer white and matched our cabinets and window casing better. We also liked that Home Depot sells a matching bullnose with the subway tiles to finish off the edges in our backsplash.

Home Depot subway tiles and the matching bullnose.

In the end, it all worked out well and we we are happy with the tiles. The colour reminds me of a vanilla milkshake; I like that :)


Monday, 5 November 2012

Wood countertop from IKEA

I just love the look of wood countertops. They are soft to the touch, don't clank each time you put a plate on them and give such a warm feel to the kitchen. They also add some "country" to the modern country look we are going for. Their affordability is an added bonus.

I researched extensively the practicality of wood countertops around sinks. As you might guess, most of the sources do not recommend to use wood counters around the sink area. It requires regular care and maintenance. However, I also found that as long as wood is regularly oiled and cared for, it provides a long lasting beautiful feature in the kitchen, even around areas that come into contact with water.

Despite several people's discouragement, including an IKEA sales person and a countertop installer, we decided to go for it. After figuring out the countertop length we needed, we bought IKEA'S NUMERAR oak countertops. As we unwrapped the countertops we were suprised to find that they had been pre-treated with IKEA BEHANDLA wood treatment oil. After a few phone calls to IKEA and some quick research we found out that IKEA applies one coat of BEHANDLA oil on the wood. It  contains linseed oil, lead free drying agent and emulsifier. We were not happy about this as we couldn't find out exactly what the drying agent and emulsifier were made of and how safe they were. IKEA said the oil was food safe but would not give us details. I wanted a food safe oil with no additives so the BEHANDLA had to go.

Misha sanded the surface with 120 grit sandpaper to remove the BEHANDLA oil, re-sanded with 220 grit paper and re-oiled it. After the first application of oil he then sanded with 320 grit paper to aid in absorption of the next layer but found this too much work and gave it up quickly. He applied 5 layers of unrefined tung oil to the bottom; the same oil we  used on our hardwood floors. For the top, the side that comes into contact with food, he applied 4 layers of food grade walnut oil that we picked up at the Big Carrot You might find walnut oil at other grocery stores as well. Walnut oil is the traditional oil of wood workers and it does not go rancid easily like some other vegetable based oils.

NUMERAR countertop from IKEA being oiled before installation. 
For the installation, we ended up taking the counter pieces to a local countertop manufacturer to cut them to length and make the 45 degree angle cut for the corner joint. Once cut, our general contractor installed it for us. See the finished look HERE.

We will update you on how well they are holding up. So far we can't get enough of them :)


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Our new formaldehyde-free cabinets are here, yay!

After a few months of deliberation, we decided to go with custom kitchen cabinets, instead of IKEA. The main reason we wanted custom cabinets was to make sure that they would not contain added formaldehyde which is an indoor air pollutant and carcinogen. The downside of the custom cabinets is the price tag. They are way more expensive than IKEA and we could sure use the money elsewhere. However, considering that the kitchen cabinets will be the largest furniture in our house, will be part of our living room space and will last a long time, we decided to make the one-time investment.

We hired Rob, a small cabinet maker in Guelph, and requested the cabinets be made with PureBond plywood, (no added formaldehyde),  as well as 0-VOC glue. We also supplied the 0-VOC water based paint for the cabinets that we purchased at Homestead House We chose their Chantilly Lace eggshell water based paint.

We again encountered, as so many times during our renovation, the disapproval of our 'green' choices by a contractor. While Rob was great to work with, and understood our priorities, the painter he used to paint the finished cabinets was hesitant to use the water based paint we supplied. He would not guarantee the work and warned us that we would have to repaint the cabinets much more often than if we used a laquer/acrylic finish.  We took our chances and went with the water based paint anyways to avoid off-gassing.

The cabinets have arrived and we love them. The paint also looks great.  It gives it a nice matt finish that is unlike the high shine acrylic finish used on the IKEA cabinets. Not sure how well it will hold up to wear and tear, but having no off-gasing in our home is worth the extra effort and care that they might require.


Rob is unloading the newly made cabinets.

The cabinet installation is at full speed.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Aluminium windows arrived!

We took a bit of a break from blogging to get married but we are back on the blogging track and ready to continue with our regular reno updates.

Our new aluminium casement windows have arrived and we are very happy with them. Our Encore sales rep, Dave, was excellent to work with.  He was very understanding and accomodating of our "green" needs.  He was able to fulfill our request to replace the plastic window spacer that holds the glass in place with an aluminum spacer. We also requested that only 0-VOC products be used and he suggested DuraFoam 0-VOC low expansion spray foam insulation and 0-VOC Safe Coat caulking inside and out to eliminate any possibility of VOC's.  Normally, a high VOC caulking is used outdoors. 

While the installation went smoothly, there was one little glitch that was due to the installer's lack of experience with green caulking.  The installer did not have the appropriate caulking gun for this product so he did the job by hand. The result was something that looked like marshmallow smeared around the windows. We pointed this out to Dave who promptly came to check the job.  He ensured us that it would be fixed. Dave contacted the manufacturer and was advised of a superior product that is easier to work with and can be used in a regular caulking gun. The result on the second attempt was much better but still thicker than we had anticipated.  We are still looking into why the caulking was applied so thickly. 

Despite some issues with the caulking, we love our new windows. They are strong, sturdy, don't off-gas and hopefully will last a very long time.


Before - Our old windows

After - Our new casement windows