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.
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.