Caroline's Bridal Gown: Draping the Cape

I finalized the draping on this incredible bridal cape yesterday. Wait until you see the gown this accompanies - the most perfect silk crepe with one asymmetrical, fitted sleeve and a GOLD METAL BELT. It's so gorgeous - I love every bit of this gown. Can't wait to see it all come together for a wedding at the end of the month.

Silk crepe asymmetrical bridal cape - by Veronica Sheaffer

I couldn't get the full train in the picture, but it's long and gorgeous and just as beautiful when pulled up into a bustle. The whole thing is so striking and artful and flowing. Ugh. I'm in love.

Kristin's Beaded Gown: Applying the Lace, Part 2

Oh HELLO THIS WAS WAY MORE DIFFICULT THAN I HAD IMAGINED. This heavy, heavy, solidly beaded border is NOT EASY. It's just soooo muuuch beading on a verrrry larrrrge scale. We had already decided to avoid the border in the sleeves and finish the edges by piecing together lighter sections of lace, so that was totally easy, no prob, all done.

And I was able to use the heavy border along the waistline in both the skirt and bodice - it laid beautifully and made a lot of sense. THE NECKLINE, HOWEVER. When I tried using the border there, as originally planned, the entire thing looked super dated - like "Bob Mackie does Victorian" (not that I necessarily hate that, but there's a time and place, I guess, and if you're not going to pair it with a Cher headpiece, then what's the point?). I really had to play around to keep it modern, and admittedly, I was starting to go nuts, but I eventually opted to skip the border there altogether and cut beaded motifs out from the middle of the lace, placing them along the neckline to provide a bit more coverage on the chest, and winding them into the vines traveling up from the waistline. I think it looks really great on the form. We'll see how it plays on the body.

I still haven't figured out exactly what I'm doing along the waistline - I think it's best to see it all on the bride before moving forward with any final decisions. I'm hoping the solid beading will blend together fairly easily and the band of silk will cinch everything in and break it up a little bit and help balance the silk in the skirt with the sparkle up top. 

Draping beaded lace applique onto luxury wedding gown - by Veronica Sheaffer

Draping Beaded Lace Applique on Bodice

Sewing beaded Chantilly lace bodice of luxury bridal gown
Draping and sewing beaded lace applique onto luxury bridal gown

Border lace along the bottom with vines traveling up the bodice. Hand-stitched and excess netting cut away. Two beaded motifs are cut from the center of the lace and placed along the neckline to provide more coverage. 

Notice that the base layer of lace isn't symmetrical - I wanted a random pattern peeking out from behind the beading. There's also a bit of beaded vine extending past the armhole - that will continue onto the sleeve, to blend seamlessly. The scalloped edge along the bottom will all be cut away when blending it into the beading in the skirt. 

Cutting and Sewing Beaded Lace Sleeves

Cutting beaded lace for sleeve - luxury bridal
Sewing beaded lace sleeve for luxury bridal gown - Veronica Sheaffer blog
Sewing beaded lace motif in luxury bridal gown - Veronica Sheaffer blog

Using the underlining as a template, cut around any bits of the pattern that extend beyond the sleeve. Sew the sleeve seam, leaving those sections free, then stitch the excess into place on the other side of the seamline by hand, following the pattern in the lace. Clip away the netting. If the pattern goes beyond the armhole seams (as it does here at the shoulder), do the same when the sleeves are sewn into the bodice.

Kristin's Beaded Gown: Applying the Lace, Part 1

I could honestly, happily just do this for the rest of my life - this super delicate, detailed hand sewing. I never want to cut and sew another lining ever again, I'll tell you that much - Y A W N - but this always feels good, even when I'm reeling under the stress of a deadline. Fortunately, I'm deep into the applique portion of this gown and can sort of disappear into it for the next few days. UNfortunately, I have to sew a lining too. W A H.

Anyway ... the dress! I started draping the lace in the skirt first, which I wouldn't do normally, but the bodice overlay needed to be recut, and I had to keep moving to stay on schedule between fittings. And that was great, because in the skirt, the heavy beading in the border became super obvious - just way too much to use as the bottom edging, as originally planned. So I flipped it, using the border more as a solid along the waistline, with the flowers and vines trailing down over the hipline.

Totally the right decision. The organic edge makes it feel lighter and more delicate, and just fresher - the opposite of that heavy, dated, beaded, bridal look, you know? I KNOW YOU KNOW.

Draping and Sewing Beaded Lace to Bridal Gown - in Progresss

*These seams have not yet been pressed, by the way. You practically have to take them in at every fitting, so always best to wait until the end.*

I brought the scalloped border a bit over the waistline, into the bodice, because that's what made the most sense over the hipline. There will be a thin band of silk to cinch in the waist, so I'll probably have to cut away all of that beading to remove bulk, but I need to get it working with the bodice overlay first, before making final decisions. It would be easier to leave it as is, and incorporate it into the bodice beading, but it's really, REALLY thick, and I don't want to add an extra 1/4" all around her waistline. Regardless, I cut away that eyelash edge, because it's HUGE. I'm thinking it's too big to use along the neckline as well, so I'll probably need to think up another finish there. 

I hand sewed a teeny, tiny stitch all along the flowers and beads and then cut away the excess net, leaving a wild edge. I love it.

Next up is the bodice lace! I'll show you how I laid out the embellished lace, so that the pattern winds around the body and sleeves. This bodice has the particular challenge of needing that heavy border both at the waistline AND neckline, while staying light and delicate. 


Previously in this series: Kristin's Beaded Gown: Design and Fitting

Kristin's Beaded Gown: Design and Fitting

This (beautiful, kind, dream-client) bride came to me after having looked all over town for a gown with a dramatic silhouette, embellishment AND coverage in the bodice and sleeves. She has a wonderful figure - slight, but with curves - and wanted something that would enhance her shape, not just cling to it, but she couldn't find anything that checked all of those boxes while also having structure and elegance.

I put together a few looks for her, and we agreed on a gown of silk/cotton Mikado with a dramatic fit and flare silhouette and sweetheart neckline, covered in the most gorgeous, hand-beaded Chantilly lace. The lace neckline is high and wide, plunging to a deep-V in back, and the waist is nipped in with a thin band of matching Mikado.

Here's a peek at shaping the back at the first fabric fitting. Can you get over this Mikado and those curves?? Perfection. The Mikado is backed with a layer of cotton, by the way, which gives it a depth and softness. It will then be lined in a lightweight silk. When I'm lucky, I'm able to use the cotton from the muslin fitting to use as the backing in the finished gown. This only works on structured silhouettes obviously, but it really elevates what is already a holy smokes gorgeous fabric.

In the bodice, the waistline needs to be shortened, the princess seams need some taking in and the smaller pinned darts on the sides are marked for ease. Instead of sewing darts there, I'll use a twill ribbon along the neckline to take in all of that excess. It allows the full shape of the cups to remain, but brings in the top to perfectly hug the body. It's one of my favorite techniques, and it works wonders on all necklines, creating a high-end finish. I'll write a separate post with a tutorial and some notes on shaping below the bust as well.

My first attempt at the bodice overlay was made in a fine netting, to use as a base for the beaded lace, but the fit was a bit too tight (see the bunching along the arms), and the more I looked at the heavy, beaded lace, the more I worried that the thin netting wouldn't be substantial enough to support it. THEN, I found just enough leftover Chantilly I had from a previous project, and the two looked so great together, I decided to layer them. Can't wait to see how it comes together. Just wait until I show you how that beading is coming together on the skirt! Uuuuuuuugh. Amazing.

DIY Sewn Fabric Grape Bunch Tutorial

Work on my vintage blue velvet restyle has picked up a bit since my last post - something about sharing in-progress photos makes me worry about being judged (guys, I've decided this is the year that I just publicly claim "artist status" and dive head first into my paranoia, fear and insecurity, instead of trying to convince you all that I am a well-adjusted person. HELLO IT'S ME.), so I felt the need to hurry up and demonstrate what's happening in my head. Anyway, funny thing here is I don't even like grape motifs - I actively DISLIKE them. Why I created a giant bunch of grapes to hang from my shoulder is beyond me, but making the thing has been so satisfying that I'm fully invested, and will be making another shortly, because the thing about one bunch of grapes is that it always needs another for balance. And now that I've really sold the idea, perhaps you'll want to make some for yourself ...


Step 1: Begin by cutting a circle out of your fabric and running a basting stitch just inside the outer edge. Pull up the stitches until the edges meet and stuff a bit of batting inside for shape. Close with stitches through the full thickness of gathers.

Step 2: After you've made a number of "grapes" decide on the overall shape of your bunch and run your needle and thread throughout to secure, keeping all of the raw edges to the backside.

Step 3: To cover the raw edges, cut a piece of matching fabric and secure around the turned edge with a whip stitch. This can now be molded into a more natural, curved shape.

I made three separate bunches, which I gathered into one large shape and then finished with two velvet leaves. I don't know that the separate, smaller bunches are necessary, but it does give it a nice full shape that is easily molded. I'll probably do the same with the next one.

At this point, I'm very aware that this could veer straight off into "vintage" mode, which I don't want at all, so I'll need to add some more modern, structural shapes in my embellishment. And I think the grapes need to be actually HANGING - like from a vine - to keep them more weird and less prissy. I'm also planning to restyle the neckline a bit when I open it up to repair the gathers. Maybe a mandarin style collar? Or a super gathered high neck? I look best in higher styles, so that would probably be best for me. WE'LL SEE ...

Blue Velvet Re-Style

I recently thrifted this vibrant blue velvet dress, and even though I wasn't totally in love initially, the $4 price tag made it sort of a no-brainer purchase. It's a basic unflattering sack dress, so I was essentially just buying it for the fabric, but I didn't expect it to be a perfect fit and actually sort of exciting in the bodice and sleeves (on my body anyway - looks prudish and a touch medieval on the form). It was home sewn, and needs a little cleaning up around the neckline (the gathering is uneven and starting to unravel a bit), but there's so much possibility.


Image via Vivian Elise Vintage

I've been wanting to sew more fabric embellishments like the incredible silk flowers on this 1930s wedding gown (via Vivian Elise Vintage), and by cutting my dress into a dramatic, high-low top, I'll have tons of fabric to use for all sorts of flowers and berries and things. And keeping all of the embellishment in that same blue velvet will allow me to build it up and play as much as I want without it feeling too busy or fussy. Or it will give me the right kind of fussy, anyway. 

I've started making little fabric grapes by cutting small circles of velvet and gathering up a basting stitch around the outer edge. I stuffed a little batting inside and closed it up with a few stitches across the top. I'll likely also dab a bit of glue or fray block there to strengthen and seal the edges. I like the way they look when I bring all of the raw edges together into one bunch, but I'm still not sure how they'll work just yet. I'm leaving my options open at the moment and making a bunch of stuff to be assembled together later.

Next I'll move onto mimicking the flowers on that incredible vintage gown and I'll probably also make some structured loops to layer in between. I'm imagining it all cascading down one of the shoulders, or both, or the sleeves - not sure yet, but I'm super excited to see where this goes.

This is a personal project, so ... uuuuugh .... give me time. 

Beaded Lace Chemise - Complete

This was a quick project, but I'm really happy with the results. I went back and forth so many times about the neckline finishing and whether or not to use bows, and if I used them, where should they go? Should there be one bow? Two bows? Is black too much? Should I add some of that beaded border from the bottom into the neckline as well? Does the organic edge on the lace look too prairie? What am I even doing? Does everyone know I'm a fraud??


But, eventually you have to just say 'DONE' and either accept it and feel marginally good about what you've made, or stuff it in the back of your unfinished projects bin and hope someday in the future you'll know what it needs (even though you're probably better off tossing it in with your to-be-donated pile, because if you hate it now, you'll likely hate it always. Trust.).

But hey! I like this! I imagine wearing it with a pair of suuuuper high-waisted, black, skin-tight flares with the largest bells imaginable, maybe/definitely covered in flowers, with a black longline bra. Not prairie AT ALL, just very romantic and totally sheer and beautiful. I even love it over a black turtleneck and jeans, which I learned completely by accident while taking pictures of the shoulder detail, trying to decide if the bows were a 'go'. So, even though it's very frilly and lacey and beaded and flowing, it's still fairly versatile.

Of course before all this, it will travel with Tamara Gruner to Provence to be photographed on some gorgeous model in a dreamy chateau. Cannot wait to see what they do with it. 

Beaded Lace Chemise - In Progress

Tamara Gruner, a wonderful fine art wedding photographer, will be hosting a workshop in Provence this spring and has asked to take along a few of my pieces. She needed a look for their 'honeymoon' editorial, and I had a bit of this really beautiful Chantilly lace we used last year on a veil - it's very lightly beaded on the lower edge with an interesting floral pattern - and I thought it would work well gathered and draped into a flowing chemise.

Lace can really hold volume when it's gathered (as shown here before I did any cleaning up), which isn't exactly the look I'm imagining. I had to be mindful to make the gathers clean and uniformed, stitching over the gathered seam allowance twice to make sure it was nice and flat under the neckline binding. A steaming on the dressform helped it relax a touch, and with wear, the fabric will begin to soften and lay more gracefully.

I used the beaded edge as the hemline for the body, but there wasn't enough for the sleeves, so I cut along the pattern in the lace, creating an organic, winding edge. 

To give the neckline a little movement, I added a narrow, ungathered band of lace with the same finishing there as well. Because it was a straight piece of fabric, traveling along a curved neckline, I needed to make some cuts to relieve any bunching. I removed sections of netting between the lace patterns, which allowed it to lay flat and flutter a bit.

Aaaand .... this is when I began to lose my mind, thinking the entire thing was getting way too crafty or 1980's prairie or something equally horrible.

What am I DOING TO THIS VERY EXPENSIVE LACE?? Sharing the results tomorrow!

Fashion, Interiors, Construction, Inspiration, Tutorials ...
Chicago fashion designer blog

... that's everything, right? Not sure what else a person could need, but that about covers what we'll be discussing here. You may know me from the once-semi-popular, now laid-to-rest, My Hands Made It, a blog with essentially the exact same focus, but ... younger. I was planning a wedding, making my first few dresses and building my business from the very ground up, while decorating a rental that was never quite right. Now I'm ... OLDER, married, a mother, transitioning my business into something that brings me more joy with less stress and more stability (please tell me that's possible) and decorating a home we own and love.

This blog will be dedicated to high-fashion construction and home design and tutorials, and I hope it will become a place to inspire and excite you. I'm really looking forward to making weird and beautiful things for myself again, and I'm excited to share the process here. Please subscribe to the blog for updates - I've got some really gorgeous things already underway!