Sunday, February 21, 2016

Aurora's Dawn - From Concept to Creation



My sister's wedding dress began with a sketch she had drawn, and her idea of a gradient orange from light to dark. I knew just which hand-dyer to look at, as she has 60 different gradient shades in 2 different fingering weight bases. So I was able to choose just the perfect colorway, Apricot, in Black Trillium's Lilt gradient. I had used her Lilt for our first Ficstitches Yarns Kit Club last year, and knew the silk blend would provide lovely drape. I was at Black Sheep Gathering a couple weeks after my sister got engaged, where I bought 3 gradient kits of yarn and coordinating beads from Bead Biz
We had found a sewing pattern of a similar shape to her sketch, but in the end I only used the waistband pattern piece as a reference to get started. Once I had completed the waistband, in a stitch I felt would give the core of the dress some structure, I told my sister to choose how I should proceed.
Having designed several garments, I knew that I could choose one lace pattern and shape it to fit her, OR I could try piecing together different flowers, leaves, and doily patterns in the Irish Crochet style -- which I had never done before, but had been wanting to try. With complete confidence in me, my sister told me to go for the crazy lace, although by then, I only had 2 months until the big day.

Since I did not know a lot about Irish Crochet, I started with my friend Kathy White's The Go-To Book Of Irish Crochet as well as a few other motif and Japanese doily books,. Before committing to motif lace, I made up a few pieces in the lightest shade of yarn, and began stitching them together. I knew I was on the right track when I realized that the pieces I had already would be perfect for one side of the bodice, and I just kept going.

I loved the idea of following a bunch of other people's patterns for motifs and seeing how I could piece them together, especially looking for patterns of leaves and flowers that would lay flat to create a smoother fabric. With a fall wedding and shades of orange yarn, my sister especially wanted to include lots of leaves, but I also found that doilies and snowflakes worked well.
I soon decided that as long as I was going to do this, I should make every single motif different! I ended up with 8 different books as reference, was soon creating variations of what I found in the books, and eventually made the motifs up as I went along. I learned a lot about how different designers start and write their circular motif patterns, and which ones worked best for me.
Having 3 small balls of each of the 5 shades in the colorway made it easy to crochet on the go (and I mean everywhere). I would work up a motif from each end of each ball for up to 6 motifs in a shade, leaving them attached to the balls to avoid wasting yarn. Then I spread them out when I was home, see how they might fit together, and start pinning them to the slip on her dressform, which I had my sister adjust to her own measurements. I was constantly surprised how well the shaping worked as I connected the random pieces and shapes together, filling in the spaces between with interconnected chain loops.I figured the dress would be as long as it was going to be, until I ran out of yarn, or time. Whichever came first. 
After several years of needing to write patterns for everything I make, allowing myself the freedom to try various patterns, play with how to make it all fit together, and see it turn out even better than I had imagined was remarkable. We made a few changes from my sister's original sketch due to the limitations of working with yarn, but she certainly seemed happy with the results. This was certainly a labor of love, but I hope to find reasons to do more of this type of designing in the future, freeform rather than structured. 
For more pictures of the finished dress, check out yesterday's post. I have been told that the photos do not do it justice, so this month, "Aurora's Dawn" is Going On Tour! The dress was on display a couple weeks ago in the Bead Biz booth at Madrona, last weekend in the Black Trillium booth at Stitches West, in a couple weeks we will be doing a Trunk Show/Book Signing/Make'n'Take at Happy Knits in Portland during the Rose City Yarn Crawl, and we will have booths at various PNW shows later this year.

13 comments:

  1. This is utterly gorgeous! So do I understand correctly that you made stand-alone motifs and then pinned and pieced them together and added filler stitches where needed? How would I go about emulating you? Or will you write a pattern/recipe down the road? (I would totally buy it!) I crocheted a dress in DMC pearl cotton back in the 70s, but nothing nearly as beautiful as this!!!!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, that is more or less the technique. It would be a hard pattern to write, and most of the motifs came from other people's books so not one I would write.

      However, I highly recommend any classes or books by Myra Wood. I took a motif joining class from her several years ago, and used some of those skills in the process. But she now has a class on Craftsy which is likely just what you need to get started: http://www.craftsy.com/instructors/myra-wood

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  2. What an amazing work of art you have created! Your sister is very lucky, and she looks beautiful!

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  3. Thank you for sharing this! It's a really beautiful dress.One of the best I have ever seen on ravelry. I would love to try it but I am scared as I really do like structure. I am worried that I won't get the pieces to fit right or look right.

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    1. I have to admit, I still don't know how I made them all fit together...

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    2. I have to admit, I still don't know how I made them all fit together...

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    3. Ahhh, that's what scares me! I can't stop thinking about this dress. I just adore everything about it. The graduating colour works so beautifully too. I am going to check out your suggestions for the Irish crochet books and instructors. If ever I do attempt to do an Irish crochet dress I will let you know.

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  4. Just wondering what technique did you use for the beads? I can't actually see them in the picture unfortunately. It's great that your dress went on tour for others to admire it and be inspired. I wish this dress could tour Australia so I could see it!!

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    1. I used several different techniques for the beads, depending on how I wanted them to lay. A few motifs I added them after. Others I pulled onto the yarn as I went. And the bottom edging I prestrung and pulled up a bead when I needed it.

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  5. One last question, do you actually attach it to the lining or it just sits over the top? thank you!

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    1. The lining is just an under dress that is separate. Easier to block and iron the pieces separately and I think more likely to drape right if they aren't connected.

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    2. thank you so much! You have been really helpful.

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