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Episode 3: Dumber Than a Bag of Yarn

My wedding dress (alterations needed)

Previously on Carpal Tunnel Bride: I picked a pattern online that I hoped to customize to fit my needs, lost a thousand nerd points by admitting that I watch Say Yes to the Dress, and regained them by admitting that I watch Battlestar. Maybe if I do both at once, I’ll finally be cool.

I keep trying to write about my path to that giant bag of yarn up there, and it keeps coming out incredibly boring even if you happen to be interested in the fabric arts. The sad truth is buying yarn has little to do with fighting a ninja, and the most interesting thing to happen to me during my search for yarn had little to do with yarn itself. Here’s the short story about the yarn, which anyone who doesn’t subscribe to Knit Picks’ newsletter should probably skip:

The pattern from Vogue Knitting called for Filatura di Crosa Millefili fine cotton yarn, which retails for $8 per 50 gram skein. The pattern suggests 14 skeins for a size medium dress, but since I still haven’t decided whether I want sleeves or not I figured I’d want a little wiggle room with dye lots and whatnot. So, I was looking at about $150 for yarn, which is not a lot for a wedding dress but an awful lot for yarn. Being the goddamn cheapskate that I am, I started looking for substitutions. “Any lace weight yarn should work,” I larked to myself, and set off on the Google. I found a few pretty things — merino and silk blends, and some fine cotton too — and was all ready to buy before I freaked out about buying in bulk before making a swatch and checking the gauge of the substitution. I’m not usually the type of girl who makes swatches; swatches are for sheep. I’m a shark. Sharks don’t need swatches. But sharks also don’t make wedding dresses, and this is kind of important, so I decided to head over to my local yarn supplier to see if I could get one skein of the Millefili and see how it felt up close and personal-like. They were out, and told me that they couldn’t order more either, but pointed me at a substitute: Queensland bamboo cotton. So soft! So pretty! Promises not to pill! $3 cheaper! Now, do you have 19 more of these?

No such luck, and they couldn’t order more for me either. I bought one and went on my way, saddened that I couldn’t support a local business but determined to re-Google. Skip to the end…only one site carried the white color, and I bought their entire stock. That’s all of the Internet’s Queensland bamboo cotton in white, up there in the banner picture, for $113.

And now for the ever so slightly more interesting part: After I bought the one skein at Needleworks, I decided that it would be faster to take a bus home than walk (since I started working on campus again, I’ve been walking everywhere — it’s as healthy as it is inconvenient!). Anyone who’s ever tried to take directions from me knows that I’m miserable at spatial relations, so they wouldn’t be surprised to learn that when I thought that the main bus terminal was really close to the yarn store, I was not correct. They would also react calmly when I recounted the journey across parking lots and down poorly drained alleyways as I attempted to take shortcuts rather than going a little out of my way to take the main road, and would hardly roll their eyes when I noted that I walked what seemed like half a mile out of my way only to find a dead end with a locked fence to a parking lot and a barrier with a steep drop off onto a road. To everyone’s relief, I’m sure, I sheepishly backtracked instead of attempting to jump the fence or fall to my death.

When I finally got on a bus, I thought I was finally safe. Halfway home, though, the bus driver pulled over and ran into a gas station to take a leak and buy some candy. After a few minutes of waiting patiently, we were all rewarded with a transmission over his radio: “This is a warning to all drivers…we’re stuck on Springfield, there’s quite a traffic jam…it appears a gentleman has walked onto the road and laid down…he seems to be drunk, or possibly on drugs…I think he’s trying to breakdance.”

So there you have it, folks. Yarn buying is significantly more boring than in the olden days, when someone had to wrestle a pissed-off sheep while wielding a sharp object and then attempt to wash all of the blood and sheep poop out of it before pawning it off on you, the witless consumer. Although they’d probably throw in one of those fancy handmade candles for free if you bought in bulk.

Yes, I know cotton doesn't come from sheep.

Episode 2: The Pattern Search, or: Hi, FBI Watch List!

When I first decided to knit my dress, I resolved not to tell anyone about it, especially my fiancĂ©. I thought I knew what reaction I would get from everyone: a pained expression followed by some variation on “You’ve completely lost your mind / That’s a terrible idea.” That was pretty much the reaction I got when I did tell Nick, and before you think he’s not  being supportive consider the fact that I actually ruined Christmas last year because I was so stressed out about finishing a baby blanket for a nephew who wasn’t even born yet. I wish I could say that was the first time I’ve had a problem with a self-imposed crafting deadline that resulted in tears, yelling, and hasty knitting in cars.

I’ll get into how I convinced Nick that this newest endeavor was even remotely a good idea later. (Hypnotism may have been involved).

Most people I’ve told about my venture have reacted with some degree of puzzlement, and it wasn’t until recently that I figured out why. What image appears when you think “hand knit sweater”?

I’m guessing most people think more of this:

Thanks, Aunt Irma.

And less of this:

Pattern from knitty.com

Knitting may be trendy now, but most people still firmly associate hand-knit items with hardcore fug. So I’m theorizing that anyone who made a weird face after I told them my plan was probably envisioning a longer, white version of Sweater A, paired with a veil made of dog fur.

According to the Internet, approximately twelve people have knitted their own wedding dress in recorded history. One of them was probably the world’s oldest woman, and she didn’t blog about it. That left me floundering in a sea of ancient knitting forums well-stocked with dead links and hideous, mostly “vintage” patterns.

Not quite my style.

Part of the problem was knowing exactly what I wanted: floor-length lace with a v-neck in the front and back. No poof, nothing chunky or heavy; I wanted it to be appropriate for an outdoor ceremony in June, and not look like a pattern Aunt Irma up there recorded in a cross-stitch sampler for future generations. As I mentioned in the last post, I desperately wanted a pattern similar to this designer dress. To my chagrin, there’s a reason that dress costs over $3,200; designer Jim Hjelm wants you to believe it’s not easily replicated by amateurs knitting at home while watching Battlestar Galactica. Well, I set out to prove him wrong.

Hours of determined clicking later, I felt I had accomplished nothing other than discovering the creepiest Google result of all time: a page entitled “Child’s Wedding Dress.” (Seeing as I was at work and value my income and my freedom, I did not click on it.) Finally, I found this post, which describes someone doing something remarkably similar to what I’m doing and resulted in a lovely dress. The post links back to the pattern from Vogue Knitting:

OK, so it only hits one of the three qualifications (lace, floor length, v-neck). But it can be modified: The skirt length is the easiest part to fix, but since the dress is worked in three parts — the skirt, the bodice, and a belt that attaches to both — it would also be possible to scrap the bodice completely and create my own. Even more frustrated clicking revealed a dearth of patterns for lace v-neck knit tops, so I resolved to start with the skirt and figure it out from there. I told myself, and later Nick, that I could just make the skirt and see how it went: if it takes a year and results in me weeping over piles of chevron lace, I’ll call it quits and figure that I just spent a lot of money to make a (hopefully) pretty skirt. Since we’re not tying any knots until 2013, I have time to let the crazy work its natural course.

Next up: Yarn buying, and how it resembles a fight to the death with a ninja.

Episode 1: The Ultimate DIY

In an episode from the most recent season of Chuck, a newly engaged woman was on the phone with her maid of honor, who had just had an epiphany regarding the bride’s ambivalence over minor wedding details like flowers and tulle. The maid of honor said something like, “I just realized that you don’t plan a wedding around the flowers or the centerpieces. What do you plan a wedding around?” The bride and I waited in anticipatory silence for her to answer her rhetorical question. I, at least, was waiting for “The couple’s values and interests!” or “The families coming together to celebrate as one!” or at least “Alcohol!”

But, instead, she crowed in the most matter-of-fact, how did you not already know this tone: “THE DRESS!”

I saw this before Nick and I were officially engaged, when we were stuck in pre-engagement limbo and we were (shh!) already starting to talk about what we wanted our wedding to be like. I thought about being the kind of person who plans a large, expensive party around an article of clothing, and I facepalmed so hard it left a mark on my forehead.

But I also started to think about wedding dresses. I started to scour the internet for dresses with sleeves (my upper arms and I don’t get along) and found this amazing dress from Whirlingturban:

Seriously, someone else needs to buy this dress. (Although why the model appears to be passed out on a museum floor after an ecstasy bender is beyond me.)

It’s cheap for a wedding dress ($625), but not cheap for my usual fancy dress budget ($20) or my salary (hahaha). Plus, I’m really not sure I could pull off the poofy. I started to doubt myself. I started to think about trying to sew a similar dress myself, only my sewing experience is pretty much limited to hemming all of my jeans with a whip stitch (and yes, I do know that that is the wrong stitch to use for that purpose).

And then I made it worse: I started to watch Say Yes to the Dress (goodbye, last scrap of indie cred). I found myself no longer shocked by people stating their budget as $3,000 and then telling the cameras that they just lost their jobs, which is why they couldn’t afford a goddamn respectable dress. Some of those mothers looked like they just dragged themselves out of the coal mines, showered off, and committed to spending their entire life savings to put their daughters in a Pnina Tornai. On some level, I knew how bizarre the whole concept was, but I also found myself making the sour-lemon face along with the salespeople anytime someone’s budget fell under $5,000, and I started believing that $1k was cheap for a single garment.

I don’t know if what happened next counts as a snap back to reality or a leap off of a tall cliff. I had been thinking about knitting the flowers for the wedding (which people could then take home as favors), but after deciding that learning to sew by making my own wedding dress was sheer insanity, I hadn’t considered knitting myself a dress. Until I saw this (or something like this) on SYTTD:

Major Boobage.

I fell madly in love and started to feverishly scour the internet for lace, v-neck dresses under $300. You may be shocked to learn that I found remarkably little.

Something happened next. I’m not sure what it was that planted the idea “Hey, I can make that!” in my delusional little mind, but I woke up the next morning resolved to find myself a pattern and make a wearable heirloom.

To return to the anecdote from the beginning of the post, you don’t build a wedding around a dress. Well, at least I don’t; you do whatever makes you happy, you crazy kids. But you do build a wedding around your personality, and making a really bad decision on the slim chance that it turns out incredibly well is something I do. After all, I’m marrying a guy I met at a frat party freshman year of college.