Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Heirloom wedding dress quilt

This project, quite frankly, scared me to death. A customer brought in her wedding dress and wanted it made into a quilt. Her only request was that it be preserved in the largest pieces possible.  ***Insert panic attack here***

It is kind of scary to cut up someone's wedding dress! I looked at it for weeks before devising a plan. Once you make that first cut, there is no going back! It was a two-tone satin dress, ivory and champagne, and had beading, embroidery and lots of buttons. There were three main sections I wanted to use, the lace-up corset back, the beaded and embroidered motif on the front of the skirt, and the bottom of the train. To keep the biggest pieces of the dress intact, I decided on an asymmetrical layout because I really didn't want to divide up any of those sections.


Here is what the dress looked like before I went into attack mode.



First, I cut apart the main panels of the dress. I ended up not using the bodice as it was quite plain, very narrow, had boobs, and had very thick beading. Not a workable combination for me!



The bottom of the dress was quite dirty so I had take out the hem, cut enough off to lose the dirty areas, and put back in another hem.


Then I began the process of fitting the pieces back together. It really was a big make-it-up-as-you-go puzzle. The only place I had big enough to lay it out and work with it was on my king-size bed. When my husband arrived home and asked, "what are you doing in there" and I replied, "cutting up a wedding dress!", he thought I had completely lost my marbles. Lucky for me, he is very handy and offered up his assistance when I was trying to wrangle and pin these large, very slick pieces back together.


And you know, once you get into a project like this, you realize you just don't have the right tools for the job. But instead of going to the local quilt store, I found myself at Home Depot. My friend Ida of Cowtown Quilts had posted a while back about using a laser square to block quilts (square them). You can see her in action here. I knew that was exactly what I needed. The guy in the tool department, however, concurred that I must have lost my marbles when I told him I was going to use it to cut up a wedding dress and make it into a quilt!

FYI: if you go looking for a laser square, they are used by floor layers to get straight lines when laying tile. I have found that not all Home Depot guys are up on the use of their tools in the quilt world.

The laser square worked like a charm. I spread out my pieces and was able to get perfect 90 degree corners. I ran one red beam down the straight edge of the fabric and it shot a line across where I needed to mark and cut. My six-year-old wanted to know if it was the kind of laser that would blow up stuff. He quickly lost interest when he learned there would be no exploding wedding dresses or older brothers!



I also cut apart the plain panels of the skirt and used them to frame the beaded motif from the front of the skirt.


Once I got all the pieces put back together, I placed a sheet of plexiglass over the top and marked on it to get an idea of what I would quilt. To me, feathers always look feminine and formal, and this begged for heirloom quilting, so that is what I went with. I did free-form feathers throughout, a feathered cable framing the back panel, and swirls and peacock feathers around the front panel motif.



I had never quilted on anything other than cotton fabric, so the satin was a little intimidating. I used Hobbs 80/20 batting and So Fine ivory thread top and bottom. The back of the quilt was an ivory sateen. I found, however, that is quilted up beautifully. The sheen of the satin really let the quilting shine. The trickiest part was dealing with the beading and buttons on the take up bars.









The customer was more than thrilled with the final product. She said she never imagined it would be so beautiful! She plans to drape it over the bed in a guest room for now, then someday pass it down to her child.




I really think I'm going to dig to deepest, darkest depths of my own closet in search of my own wedding dress...

21 comments:

  1. WOW! That is stunningly beautiful. I also enjoyed the giggles in considering the look on the face of the hardware guy.

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  2. Oh my, that is fantastic! What a challenge to work with slippery fabric. The result is amazing

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    1. Thanks, Helen! It was definitely a love/hate kind of relationship. The piecing was a test of my patience, but I really enjoyed quilting on it!

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  3. I want you to know that I am sitting here with my mouth hanging open, jaw to the floor, and dry mouth from it being open so long (and collecting flies in my mouth as well) as I read this and look at the pictures. I am just in AWE!!! You have come such a long way, Tina! I cannot even imagine having the guts to quilt silk, satin, etc. and especially a wedding dress! Your feathers are amazing!!! O_O I can only wish I were this good! And, btw, thanks for the shout out! :)

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  4. Thanks, Ida! I sooo appreciate your dry mouth! You made my day!

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  5. This is just stunning! Now I know what to do with my own wedding dress. And, I just get so tickled thinking about the men at Home Depot. Bless their hearts!

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    1. Thank you! I would gladly whack it to pieces for you. And I love messing with the minds of hardware store guys. You know they go home at night talking about those crazy quilt ladies that come in.

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    2. Could you email me please I love this quilt!! jenniferapinkerton@att.net

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  6. stunning quilt! great work!!!

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  7. I have a bridesmaid dress I want to turn into a baby quilt! Do you offer these types of services? The one in this post from the wedding dress is amazing!! katieacollette@gmail.com

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  8. Just pulled out my wedding dress in hopes of secretly doing some project with it for my daughter. She's only 20, but I'm wanting to start a hope chest for her. This is the very first thing I saw when I googled ideas. I must say OMG, I'm floored by the beauty and sentimental value of this quilt. I would LOVE this but I've never quilted.

    What an incredible job you've done. You win the award for sure!!!!!

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  9. this is absolutely stunning, I just googled turning a wedding dress into a quilt and up it came, mine has been living in a box for far too long and I had ideas of doing a Jenny Rayment folded pattern but this has changed that a bit!

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  10. this is absolutely stunning, I just googled turning a wedding dress into a quilt and up it came, mine has been living in a box for far too long and I had ideas of doing a Jenny Rayment folded pattern but this has changed that a bit!

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  11. I really enjoyed this post! Those dress were gorgeous, and I like the alternatives offered to the usual strapless poof y Wedding Dress. and I love all these dress...and also they seem to be more flattering to the shape....I have no idea why women seems to prefer massive netting and lace.

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  12. This is fantastic! I found this blog while looking for ideas to upcycle my own wedding dress into a quilt. I think I will be borrowing many of your ideas!

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  13. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!
    Nyfika

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  14. This is just beautiful!! I enjoyed reading all the comments in your article. I am looking at making one for my cousin, hoping to find some ideas, but I do have one question, cleaning the quilt once it is done and giving advice on cleaning to my cousin over the years.

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    1. It really depends on the materials used in construction. If everything is washable then a gentle hand wash is okay. However, if dry clean only fabrics are used then it is just a discretionary call. It is not recommended that traditional quilts be dry cleaned because some of the chemical remains and will eventually damage the materials. Talk to a dry cleaner first about all the materials used. Most of these type quilts are used for display only and are not handled much so shaking the dust off periodically is sufficient. You just have to be conscious of how your fabrics will withstand water and decide from there the best option. In any circumstance, I think putting a quilt made from fine, delicate fabrics in the washing machine would be a disaster. Best of luck to you.

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  15. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the pictures and saw that this wedding dress is the very same design as the one that my nephew's wife wants me to turn into a quilt! The only difference is that the trim and the back panel/train is navy blue. It's piled up on my sewing machine, intimidating me every time I look at it. Your story gives me hope that I'll turn it into something wonderful!

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  16. This is an amazing idea. I would love to do this with my dress as it has been in a box for over 20 years. How much does something like this cost as I am not good at quilting. Thank you

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  17. Please use the 'contact me' feature with the details of the type of quilt you desire. There are many variables which go into pricing.

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