The First Communion dress project
or ”how to recycle your wedding dress”.
I love my wedding dress. Beautiful white embroidery on white satin. But the reality is that I am not going to wear it again, it sits lonely in the basement waiting for nothing, destined to never see the light of day again except for those rare occasions where I clean the basement out and pull it up for the girls to coo over. So I decided to use it to sew Hannah’s first communion dress. It was a remarkably difficult choice. Even though I am not under the delusion that any of the girls would wear it for their own wedding, there was still something rather heart stopping about actually cutting into it. I had Kyle come in and give me “moral support” while I made the first couple of cuts.
So, in case anyone is interested, and for the sake of documenting this whole process here is the first two days of the great dress project:
Deciding on the pattern:
The first thing I did was pull the dress out and figure out what I wanted to do. My dress had princess seams and each panel had embroidery on on the bodice. I wanted to use the embroidery sections roughly the same way for Hannah’s dress. After looking at it closely I decided that I wanted to actually use only half the dress, saving the other half for Sarah. Hannah and Sarah have very different builds so I am not at all certain that I could use the same dress for both girls. Plus this gives them each a treasure of their own.
After looking at a pattern for a girl’s dress I already had I decided to use a pattern with princess seams for Hannah’s dress. The embroidery will extend below the waistline… so I had to go purchase another pattern. I settled on Vogue 7845. I also picked up a couple yards of white satin that matched as closely as I could to the dress’s material. I couldn’t find an exact match, but it is really close. There is a slight difference in the sheen which I am sure will be apparent in the finished dress, but I am not really stressed about it yet. I also picked up a few yards of muslin. I only get one cut into this dress so I am not skipping the muslin.
Once I got home with my new pattern and fabric I sat down and pre-cut the front piece out of the tissue and laid it over the dress. This is where the first challenge came up. When centered over the embroidery the piece was too wide at the should to fit within the seam-line of the dress. Now I really don’t want to blow another ten dollars on another pattern and I am pretty sure that I am not going to find the perfect fit so I turned to my handy dandy pattern drafting skills.
I took a piece of muslin and laid it over the center panel of the wedding dress. I carefully traced the bodice onto the muslin then I cut that out. I also cut out the the front and side-front pieces of the dress pattern of muslin. I then sewed the pattern muslin together as instructed. I fitted the bodice front to Hannah. Then I laid the traced bodice of the wedding dress over the new muslin bodice and redrew the seam line and seam allowances. Then I cut the muslin along the new cut line and voila two new pattern pieces that will actually fit the panel I need to cut.
I took my new pattern pieces, cut them out of muslin, sewed the together and refitted the new bodice to Hannah. The fit worked very well, no odd puckering or anything and the new bodice was the exact same as the old bodice in the sleeve and side dimensions so I know they will fit with the back and back side pieces. I pined the new pieces onto the pattern pieces and drafted the line back in place with the skirt seam.
So here is a picture explanation for those who are totally lost.
Here is the pattern piece as it comes out of the package:
This is too wide to fit on the bodice of my wedding dress so that I can get the embroidery centered on the bodice of Hannah’s First Communion dress. I needed to make the center panel more narrow.
You can see in the above picture the yellow lines are the old seam lines that I am moving to where the pink lines are.
This is the first muslin cut into the new pieces.
This is the second muslin cut from the new pattern pieces.
This is the new bodice piece fitted back onto the front-side panel piece.
Once I looked at the back panel I decided to leave those seems as they are — more on that later. At this point I had the front panel and side-front panel pattern pieces finished so I was ready to start the hard part…. cutting up my wedding dress.
The first cut
The first cut
This was very nerve racking. I opened up the seams and pressed them back as flat as I could. I was careful to pay the new pieces so that the new seam lines were inside the old seam lines. I am not 100% confident that the old seam-lines will ever be completely pressed out so I avoid having them on the exposed panels.
In order to have enough pretty pieces for Sarah’s dress I cut the front panel form the front panel of the wedding dress and the back panels of the side sections. I cut the communion dress’s side panels from the new cloth.
Here is the front pattern piece laid out on the front panel of my wedding dress.