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...