Look at this resplendent, elegant, figure-amplifying (in a good way) wedding gown, made with love by the bride in her spare time at work in enough secrecy that the groom didn’t find out it was handmade until the priest announced it in his homily.
And making it was a complete joy from start to finish, the process was smooth, and it is exactly, perfectly, how I imagined it to be, only better.
Just kidding, almost nothing is like that.
Granted, my wedding dress was quite enjoyable to design and knit and had surprisingly few hiccups, but this post is here to tell you about the whole process of knitting the dress - what was easy AND what was hard.
This will be my final post on my wedding dress, and at the end of this post, I’ll tell you about an exciting new project I have planned for the future.
My Knitting Process
I just wanted to touch on my knitting process when the item I’m making is something I’ve designed myself. If you are a fan of Ravelry (of course you are), you’ll sometimes see a pattern where the designer says something like “I wrote this pattern as I went along”. Other knitters, I’m sure, will write the whole pattern out and then knit it, adjusting as they go. I’m more often the second one, but with my wedding dress, it was a bit of both. I took my measurements and figured out how many pattern repeats were required for each part of the dress. Then I decided on a section to knit (I did the sleeves first), wrote a pattern for that section, then knitted it. For the dress, I wrote the pattern for the top until the waist, then knitted it, then wrote the pattern from the waist until the knees and knitted that, etc. It worked well doing it this way and allowed me to think a few things over before committing them to paper. For example, at first I was going to make the dress very fitted until the knees and then flare it out, but as I knitted the parts above that, I changed my mind and decided to make the dress less fitted from a bit above the knees to make sure I could walk in the dress. This worked really well, and I was surprised I wasn’t ripping up rounds and rounds of stitches because of mistakes I’d made. That only happened near the end.
Stuff that Didn’t Go to Plan
So most of the dress was actually a breeze. There are probably some little glitches in the pattern here and there but I don’t remember them, and people certainly didn’t notice them on the day. Paying attention to detail is great, but it’s also a load off to know that people aren’t going to be standing there examining your wedding dress with a magnifying glass. Mostly they were just like “Wow, you made that?!”, and I don’t know how many times I answered the question of how long it took me to make it. But let’s talk about stuff that didn’t work.
First of all, when I got to the short row shaping to make the train, I ran into a small glitch in that the pattern I was using was a mesh pattern. In short row shaping, you usually add a stitch on each row (when you’re making something bigger -- the opposite for making something smaller). Because the mesh pattern involved yos, k2togs, and the odd k1 to even out the pattern, sometimes when I added a stitch, I would end up with an extra stitch that was missing its pair for a k2tog, or three stitches in a row without a yo, but if I added a yo, it would mess up the stitch count. This, in practice, was fine, because by looking at the pattern, and knowing what I was trying to achieve, I could adjust the pattern as I went. To write it down as I went along, though, it got confusing.
This next challenge was the biggest one. I had picked out a lace edging pattern worked sideways, which I was going to use for the front bottom edge of the dress and for the bad which would go round my shoulders and attach the sleeves to the dress. I added it to the bottom of the dress - fine. Then I made a band a metre wide, as that was my round-the-shoulder measurement. It seemed pretty saggy but I thought, I’d better trust my measuring, and I had measured more than once. So once all the elements of the dress were knitted, I went to the house of one of my bridesmaids (who at the time was about two days off her own wedding)and she pinned me into the dress so I knew where to attach the sleeves. She also pinned the shoulder band to the sleeves and the dress. And it was SO SAGGY. It was simply not going to work. So, what to do? I was over 8 weeks away from my wedding, so I had time to work things out, but still, it made me a little nervy. I thought about folding the band over at the edges to make it shorter, but I realised part of the issue was that it was knitted sideways and had too much stretch. I bought a couple of lengths of ready-made lace and thought about using one of them to the dress. I even sewed a stretchy bit of lace to the shoulder band in an attempt to make it work, but it was bunchy and made it look makeshift. In the end, my solution was to use a couple of methods to solve the problem. I ditched the sideways shoulder band. Instead, I picked up and knitted stitches around the sleeves and the dress, having sewn the sleeves to the dress at the underarms. I worked up a little way in stocking stitch and then worked a peacock-style edging. This gave me the scalloped top of the dress that I wanted. It was less saggy than the original band, that’s for sure, but it wasn’t staying up on its own either. So I sewed in four strands of clear elastic (the kind you use for beading) and this fixed the problem! The scallops were a bit floppy but in the end I liked it that way. I have never used knitting-in elastic, but this might have been a good situation to use it. This issue also made the “how long did it take you to make?” question hard to answer. Umm, four months to make 99% of it and then 6 weeks of fiddling and procrastinating to make the last 1%?
I have one more issue with my dress which I will touch on at the end of this post. But first, let me say a few things about my hand-knitted wedding dress experience.
Would I Do it Again?
In a heartbeat, yes. These issues I just outlined were tiny compared with the joy I got from making the dress. To be able to knit something from a piece of string is empowering. To design said object, and for your wedding, no less? That’s like being the queen of the world wearing a fluffy purple robe, on your throne, with a tabby kitten on your lap, while you eat a piece of chocolate cake. That good.
It was a lovely secret to keep, too. I didn’t tell my husband about my dress, which was fun because he really wanted to know. He knew it had sleeves and it was white, and he roughly knew how much it cost. I told a few people along the way, the first being my sister. The next were a couple of friends whose sewing machine I borrowed to alter the strapless dress I wore underneath. I told a couple of my husband’s female relatives and apparently by the time the wedding came round, all the female relatives knew. And of course, my bridesmaids knew. A while before I told them, one of them had jokingly sent me a picture of a funny knitted wedding dress, not at all expecting me to be making my own.
By designing my dress, I could make it my own. I could make it with sleeves. I have a nasty habit of being turned off things that everyone seems to do, like straightening your hair or watching Game of Thrones or being cool, and I had seen far too many strapless, sleeveless wedding dresses for me to want one. It’s funny, just a couple of weeks ago I was talking to a couple of friends, both of whom had been brides themselves. The first bought her dress off Etsy, the second wore a blue dress bought from a costume website, and both of them said they went with those unusual wedding dress purchasing boutiques because they wanted dresses with sleeves. Make more wedding dresses with sleeves, clothes people!
My dress was well cheaper than your average wedding dress, it fitted every curve of me, I didn’t need to dry clean it, it looked great, and I felt fabulous wearing it. And it wasn’t that hard. What’s there not to like?
Well, there is one final issue with my dress that I’d better mention.
My Final Issue
One issue I had with my dress was that I had purchased far too much yarn. I probably only used just over half of what I bought, including the swatches and discarded shoulder band. I hate to overspend, especially as we were trying to be thrifty with our wedding.
Thankfully, however, I very, very soon after the wedding had another purpose for the leftover yarn from my wedding dress, though we didn't know it straight away. Which brings me to my next project. Three weeks from now, there will be a brand new knitted kitten who already has a baptism gown :) .
Labels: knitted hand-knitted wedding dress gown baby baptism designing pros cons