At about 7am on Tuesday 18 December (about 30 minutes before a taxi arrived to take Remy and I to the airport), I finished F and V's clothes for their parents' wedding.
I'm pleased with the results and I'm doubly happy that they're happy!
F's suit was a mix of pleasure and pain. It was great when what I had imagined came alive but, blimey, that cheetah idea was much, much harder to execute than I predicted.
I started with a plan to have a very stylised, art nouveau cheetah standing on its hind legs placed on the right side of the jacket (so the head of the cheetah would be close to the collar of the jacket), with two pockets on the left side (because that's what makes a safari jacket!). At the first fitting, F suggested that the cheetah could be running, and after some discussion, we agreed that a cheetah running around the side of the jacket would be wicked.
I'd not been able to source any cheetah print material (but there are endless supplies of similar-looking leopard print material. I was dealing with an expert though so there could be absolutely no cheating). I'd tried painting my own fabric but it looked ghastly. In the end, the lovely F and V painted the material for me. The results were stunning - I really couldn't have had anything more perfect to work with.
My lovely brother Robbie printed a photo of a running cheetah and then delivered the picture to my house (thanks again Rob!).
I wanted to use the 'freezer paper' applicque technique which I'd never used before but my mum swore it was the best way to go. To start, I traced the outline and some of the major markings around the cheetah's face onto a piece of freezer paper four times (two facing one way and two the other) essentially because I'd had a rush of blood to the brain that involved me thinking four bright yellow cheetahs running around the bottom of the jacket was an inspired idea (it wasn't - it was Far Too Much).
I ironed the cheetahs onto the fabric and cut them out, leaving a wide margin of material around the edges.
Then I tried to turn the edges under and hold them in place with small stitches. This was a blerdy lengthy and frustrating process. There was much cussing and huffing.
After about 6 hours of this, I gave up and decided to place the cheetah directly onto the fabric and use satin stitch around the edges.
My sewing machine being completely useless in such emergencies decided that a vague interupretation of stain stitch would be fine. More effing and blinding later, and I concluded that it looked fine in a creative, crafty sort of way; not at all like the neat, perfectly stitched exotic creature I had imagined but fine nonetheless.
V's dress was quite a different kettle of fish. We found at the first fitting that the bodice was too small. I'd been so optimistic that the bodice was going to be a little big that I'd trimmed all of the seams. There was nothing I could do but remake the bodice. It wasn't such a big deal in the end. I was able to do it pretty quickly but I did have to duck out for more material first (thank goodness it hadn't all sold out!).
My mum suggested the sweetest little detail for the underskirt - using the silver ribbon from my nana (above) around the hem of the underskirt but underneath the top skirt so that it would just peek out as a detail when little V walked. I wish I'd taken photos of it because it worked really well and helped lift the dress from 'basic 1950s little girl's dress' to 'handcrafted and much loved little girl's party dress'.
I pleated a seperate section of the sash around the front of the waist and slipped the big bands of the rest of the sash into the sides of that. I basted the sash onto the dress too so that it wouldn't be a pain for V or her mum by slipping down and needing retying all day.
I'd love to have the chance to make another similar dress one day (never the same dress though - I think about this work like I do art - there will only ever be one). It was pretty simple - especially compared to making a simalar dress for an adult - but it looks absolutely fantastic when on.
All in all, this was a great project. I feel very lucky to have been trusted with this project because it was the first time I'd done something like this and it was for such a special occasion. I've learnt some valuable lessons - not just sewing lessons but business tips too. I know now that I am charging too little for my time and that I haven't really been pricing my clothes properly. I think that I hadn't considered the value in handmade clothes; I think I was only taking into account the practical value of clothing generally (you know, keeps us warm and not naked).
I also need to keep some ideas to myself. I wish now that I had surprised F with the cheetah rather than effectively promising it by talking about it. I think it would have been easier on myself but also it would have given F an even better experience of working with me. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'd like to under-promise and over-deliver.