Episode 22: Halp

Everything I know about wedding dress construction I’ve learned from watching Say Yes to the Dress, which is remarkably non-technical in its treatment of the subject, or from poring over pages and pages of Google Image results for lace wedding dresses. I get really close to my monitor, squint really hard, and try to find the seams.

Here’s the thing about professional wedding dress designers: I think they’ve evolved past the point of visible seams. Every damn dress I find looks as though it was assembled by making a model stand very still while the designer hand-weaves the lace around her.

That leaves me squinting really hard at pictures like this, muttering “Hmm…well, I guess they might have…no…huh…HOW THE HELL DID THEY DO THIS?”

BY MAGIC??

I’ve been knitting this large rectangle, which was hypothetically going to be the back/sweep train part of the dress. A few days ago it occurred to me that when I made my ridiculous hobo toga dress (and turned myself into a human pincushion), pleating the fabric of this rectangle and fitting it inside the other skirt piece where they met at the butt area didn’t look completely awful. However, bedsheets are not the same as knit cotton lace in so many ways, including thickness. Following this theory, I tried folding the piece I’m working on like I’d done with the sheet and wound up with a bundle of fabric the size of my Cairn terrier.

Nobody tell Pnina about this.

As you can tell by the expression on Kaylee’s face, that’s not a great look. So, to counteract the terrier-butt-bunching syndrome, I started gradually decreasing my rectangle.

AND THEN I FREAKED RIGHT THE FUCK OUT.

There’s something about changing from a nice comforting shape like a rectangle to a new, scary shape like a freestyle rhombotenuse (or, as I’ve been informed, an “isosceles trapezoid” for those of you who passed middle-school geometry) that induces full-blown panic in me. It happened before, when I started to decrease the original skirt; suddenly it hit me that I’m flying by the seat of my pants, and those pants might have a small dog attached to them.

So here I go, back to peering at 200 x 500 pixel blurry waterstamped images, saying “Well now, I think I know how to make a dress do that, but I don’t think I can quite pull it off.”

This picture was snapped moments before the model unhinged her jaw and devoured an entire craft services table.

That one’s kind of drastic, but almost all modern lace wedding dresses are done in the mermaid or fit-and-flare style, which hugs the hips and then juts out mid-thigh. Maybe that’s a sexy look if you want to emphasize your hips — if you’re not, say, ridiculously Italian, a genetic trait that allows every outfit from a burlap sack to a sandwich board to emphasize your hips. It’s a shape I think I could figure out how to make using strategic decreases and increases, but I would have to eat nothing but pencil shavings and red pepper flakes for the next 16 months in order to avoid looking like an amateur’s first attempt at artisanal sausage-making.

(I’ll have you know I just spent 20 minutes attempting to use the clone tool in Gimp to put Strong Mad in a lace gown to illustrate my fear of what I’d look like in mermaid lace. I have been defeated — in more ways than one.)

Once again, I feel stuck; I honestly don’t know what to do to my rectangle to transform it into a Magic Natural-Waist Dress With Sweep Train, Sausage on the Side Please. I guess I’d better keep watching trashy TV and squinting at Google until I get my Bridal Fashion degree in the mail.

Not About the Dress: Colors

As I’ve mentioned before, these last seven months of wedding planning (only 17 more to go!) have contained quite a bit more zen than I was expecting. Really, I shouldn’t be that surprised; instead of subscribing to the evil Knot, I’ve surrounded myself with wedding resources like A Practical Wedding, where maintaining sanity in the face of a huge life decision is emphasized over stuff like bedazzled chair covers. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my moments; for instance, trying to find a cheap, unconventional reception venue in a small Midwestern college town is proving to be quite frustrating. And I don’t really have faith that I’ll manage to pull off making my own dress, or that if I succeed in making the dress that it’ll look like something I want to wear around people. But nothing, nothing has driven me as crazy as the goddamn colors, and it’s all some bird’s fault.

Since we got engaged, I’ve spent hours poring over the palettes on colourlovers.com and wedding sites like 100 Layer Cake, making Word documents of colors plucked randomly from HTML charts, trying desperately to recreate a palette I thought I half-remembered from a picture of a bird I saw on the internet four years ago. The bird was burgundy, with green and light blue wings…or at least those colors were involved somehow. Maybe it was a red bird in a green tree against a blue sky. Maybe it was a green bird holding red and blue paint chips in its beak. I honestly think I may have dreamed this damn bird, but the image stuck with me because when I saw it I thought, “Those would make lovely wedding colors!”

This is not the bird.

And then before we were officially engaged, when I first started reading the internet’s enormous and all-consuming wedding information, I saw a picture from someone’s reception of burgundy flowers with bright green stems in a light blue vase, and it reminded me of the bird. Or maybe they were light blue flowers in a vase with a burgundy ribbon. Or maybe the flowers were actually a bird, and the vase was a tree.

The point is, I’m really bad at bookmarking the right things. I still have a bookmark from 2006 on how to heal an enormous blister on the bottom of your foot really fast, but I will never again find either of those images no matter how hard I Google, and I can’t forget those colors.

This brings me to a few months ago, when I was doing laundry. I was pulling hangers off the rack in the closet and jamming them the wrong way into a broken hamper. Suddenly I looked down at my hand and I saw the fucking bird.

It looked like this:

At long last, my white whale red bird had been caught! I could finally rest easy knowing that my wedding colors had come to me in a pile of plastic hangers.

Somehow, though, I still wasn’t satisfied. I couldn’t shake the feeling that, just maybe, only crazy people find wedding design inspiration in their laundry. It took me a while to embrace the fact that every single thing I’ve done to plan this wedding so far has been exactly that kind of crazy, so why hesitate now?

And there you have it. I made a palette based on my dream-bird-inspired magic hangers. I used the Dessy Group’s new Pantone service, but it seems to be a bit buggy so I had to screencap it instead of embedding it here. Enjoy!

Episode 21: Here comes the bride, dressed like a maniac

No, I haven’t died. No, I haven’t completely abandoned my slightly-completely-insane wedding dress project. No, I haven’t found anything better to do with my time, sort of.

In truth, I did get a full-time appointment at my job, which puts some pressure on me to look like I deserve a salary (which means reading Cracked instead of knitting at the desk). I also spent a good part of the past month making Christmas presents for a bunch of people and then forgetting to take pictures of them, which I could have put up here to make the people who didn’t get handmade presents feel bad. Although most of those people got liquor instead, so at least they have a good way of dealing with the pain.

I have worked on the dress a little bit. Last week, Nick bought me this totally badass needle set, and I got really excited and immediately switched the dress onto the new needles. I even brought it to work, because the semester hadn’t started yet and the one person requiring my help desk assistance didn’t seem to notice the giant pile of knit lace in my lap. Then there was a freak accident involving some clumsiness on my part (I apologize if you just fainted from shock), and one of the needles promptly broke. So we’re on hold for a bit until I can order a replacement.

In the meantime, however, I decided that after this post I should probably try to figure out dress construction in a way that results in fewer gigantic question marks and imagined consternation from Bravo personalities. So this Sunday I woke up, spent a few hours communing with my dogs and working on my not-a-white-power afghan, and then decided to rip up some old sheets and pin them to my butt.

In case you’ve forgotten, this is what I was going for:

My hypothesis was that I could achieve that kind of train by stapling a rectangular piece of fabric into a skirt-shaped piece of fabric. I was originally thinking that the skirt-shaped piece should be a…uh…rhombus? No, that’s not right…Google, can I get an assist?

No?

Okay, I know the shape I’m thinking of exists, and it probably has a name, and your average third-grader could probably give it to you. But ten seconds of Googling didn’t reveal my solution, so here’s a crudely drawn image instead:

I’m calling it a “rhombotenuse”

Anyway, in making my bedsheet mockup I decided to eschew the rhombotenuse and go with two old-fashioned rectangles instead. Good, comfortable, name-having rectangles.

This is what happened.

From the front, Frankendress looks like an innocent, if ugly Goodwill bedsheet or an outdated vision of what a frat party is like. It also goes beautifully with my Target pajama top.

But wait, Frankendress has a secret…

BAM! My butt has a train growing out of it. Also, seven thousand straight pins.

As some of my more apt readers may be able to deduce, this does not look a whole lot like that Coral’s Bridal dress up yonder. In fact, it looks a lot more like an outdated frat party than a fancy wedding dress. On the other hand, I don’t really know if I need that much train anyway — you all know I would just trip on it.

What do you think? Would this look better if I had gone with the rhombotenuse + rectangle combination instead of sticking with a couple of bum rectangles (pun totally not intended but worth it)? Should I just give up and get married in this? Is it possible to pin yourself into a bedsheet mockup wedding dress skirt without sustaining multiple pin-related butt injuries? How awesome was my choice of footwear?

Don’t be jealous.

Episode 20: I am the weirdest person in this laundromat.

Before we got Olive, I did significant research on what I was about to get myself into. Okay, I read a book about getting a puppy by the guy who pretty much founded the current school of dog training, and I had owned two dogs previously. I figured the feat of housebreaking a terrier made me pretty much qualified for anything.

The puppy training book for responsible grown-ups assumed that you were reading the book before you started looking for puppies, when you were still at the “You know what this house needs? More poop” phase of considering puppy attainment. I, however, read the book while driving to pick Olive up from the people in the boonies who had taken her extremely pregnant mother in from the side of the highway. The book also assumed that once you read what it had to say about getting either well-bred dogs from a kennel or, even better, well-bred and already trained dogs from a shelter, you would do one of those things. You would not, the responsible dog ownership expert assumed, get a free 7-week-old “Golden Retriever mix” from Craislist and pitch the deal to your partner with “LOOK HOW CUTE THE PUPPY!!!”

But look how cute the puppy!

The book’s primary training thesis was this: Start with the puppy described above, then make sure that they don’t have the opportunity to make any mistakes. If they screw up and shit in your shoes, it’s your own damn fault. This is true to an extent. We did everything he told us to with regard to crate training, except we had two major and unforeseen hurdles which the book did not address. First, getting little tiny Olive to stay in her crate proved difficult due to her conviction that the crate was full of demons escaped from hell who feast on puppy blood. After weeks of trying every possible method to get her to let us sleep through the night or even shower in peace, we finally brought in a priest to perform an exorcism on the crate and now she and any remaining demons more or less coexist in peace. The other issue, however, still prevails now that Olive is about to turn one year old: Rain is a completely incapacitating obstacle to using the bathroom outside.

When it rains, Olive goes outside and stands in the rain. She looks at the water falling from the sky as if willing it to tell her its secrets. But she absolutely will not under any circumstances do the thing that dogs are supposed to do on the ground if that ground is also covered in water.

In addition to being a cautionary tale about not getting dogs from Craigslist, this is also an explanation of what I was doing being weird in a laundromat yesterday. So now you know that Olive won’t pee outside if it’s raining; the other piece of the puzzle is that she thinks our mattress is both a springboard for playtime and the best possible place to urinate. A memory foam mattress is like a Japanese robot toilet for a slightly retarded dog with a full bladder.

So that explains why I was at the laundromat last night: washing dog pee out of a king-sized comforter. Like you do.

But the part that makes it even within shouting distance of relevant to this blog is that, as I mentioned before, I’m currently working on about eight projects for Christmas presents. With nine days to go, every minute that I’m not knitting is a minute wasted. So I couldn’t just awkwardly lug a king-sized comforter to the laundromat; I had to spend the time waiting for the comforter to become clean while knitting gloves for my dad. This doesn’t sound particularly weird in itself, but this is what my table in the middle of the laundromat looked like:

 

Not being terribly well-coordinated and knitting with double-pointed needles means that every eleventh stitch brought me dangerously close to poking myself in the eye. A woman dragging one leg behind her walked past me five times, each time giving me and my knitting a look of obvious suspicion. Perhaps she thought I was knitting a bomb, or maybe she could tell that someone with my grace and precision has no place operating that many pointy things at once.

In the meantime, as I was sitting in the laundromat realizing that I should have just played Angry Birds for an hour like a sane person, it also occurred to me that the yarn I had painstakingly chosen for my father’s gloves is the kind of yarn that would prompt random people to invite a 74-year-old man to join their game of hackey sack. My dad has never worn any of those colors before, much less all of them at the same time. The most flamboyant article of clothing he owns is a White Sox hat.

This post wound up being a completely pointless window into my terribly dull existence. So, in conclusion: Merry Christmas, suspicious laundromat patrons; Merry Christmas, everyone!

Episode 19: Foolish Person.

“This year I’m not going to make any handmade presents.” – Me, last month, to pretty much everyone

Guess what? Now I have four current simultaneous projects and three more planned. I’m also making a five-course Holiday Feast for everyone I know on Sunday* and I’ve been down with the fucking turtle flu all week since I work on a college campus and I get everyone’s beer pong germs while their virile 19-year-old bodies fight off colds with Four Loko.

As for the wedding dress, here’s what the train looks like now:

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Bitching and knitting. And sneezing. And bitching. After the holidays I’ll post up some pictures of the four thousand presents I made for people.

“Do I look like a damn elf?!” – Me, just now, to myself

*If you’re reading this and I haven’t invited you to the Holiday Feast, it’s not because I hate you, it’s because I’m mired in yarn and my hair is currently being held back with a knitting needle while kleenex is jammed up my nose so I don’t drop a stitch when I sneeze. In other words, feel free to invite yourself. You’re reading my asinine crafting/wedding blog, of course I don’t hate you! If you’re a random internet person, you should come too…I won’t turn anyone away who brings booze.

Episode 18: Making It Work

I saw an episode of Project Runway once. Actually, that’s a gigantic lie. I saw about 400 episodes of Project Runway once, all in a magnificent trance-inducing marathon, because that’s how Bravo’s programming works. Has anyone ever just watched one episode of one of those shows? No, never.

Anyway, aside from Tim Gunn inspiring in me the kind of shrieking anxiety that happens anytime I’m confronted with someone who purports to know things about style*, what I gleaned from the TV is that clothing construction is really, really hard and also pretty easy for qualified people to screw up. Instead of taking that lesson to heart, I chose to focus on the other thing I learned: You have to draw stuff first. I almost always liked the conceptual sketches more than the finished garments; the lines were so romantic and soft that it was easy to ignore that the underwear was on over the pants.

Now that I’m playing Amateur Fashion Designer, I decided to try my hand at this noble exercise. What I’m trying to do with the construction is to start with the piece that will constitute the train / back of the skirt from the butt down. From long, squinty analysis of the small picture of the back of that Coral’s Bridal dress I’m using as a template, I discerned that it seemed to have been made by sewing a panel into the skirt. As you can clearly see, I have no fucking clue what I’m doing.

Yeesh. Help me, Tim Gunn!

*The jeweler who made my engagement ring had this long-winded pitch about diagonal lines. He explained why my ring should be diagonal instead of straight across in terms of slimming my fat sausage fingers. “I promise you don’t have anything in your closet with horizontal stripes,” he assumed offhandedly. I summoned courage and interrupted to declare that actually yes, I did own a horizontally striped shirt, and it was one of my favorites (because it’s super comfy and I bought it for about $3 from Old Navy). Without missing a beat, he looked me in the eyes and told me to burn it. The point is: Am I really qualified to be designing clothing, even for myself? Although maybe the point is also that people can be pretty rude sometimes and you still give them lots of money to make you shiny things.

Episode 17: The Winner and a Not-Crisis

First of all, the winner of the Great Lace Vote-Off (by a landslide with a whopping 7 votes) was my favorite design:

Someday I’ll take a picture that doesn’t look like it’s been beaten up by a sepia filter.

Today I plan to start construction on Dress 2: The Revenge of the Dress. But in the meantime, there’s something that’s been bothering me.

Am I doing this wrong?

By “this,” I mean being engaged. Planning a wedding. Coordinating the biggest, most expensive party I’ll ever throw.

I think I must be doing something wrong because everything seems to be going very smoothly. Aside from picking out colors — something I never wanted to do in the first place and still can’t muster the strength to care about — I haven’t had a single wedding-related panic. Even realizing that the dress I’d spent months on wasn’t right didn’t result in me going full fetal position behind the couch. Nick and I have had some difficulty with the big, important things like God and our ceremony, but that was more about life than the wedding. As someone with pretty severe and unfortunately untreated anxiety issues attempting to do a thing that an entire industry has openly advertised as being the most stressful thing EVER, this lack of trouble is kind of alarming.

Now I’m sort of panicking about how unpanicked I am. Isn’t that required? Doesn’t it come with the ring?

Maybe it’s not the panic, or lack thereof, that I’m worried about, but the enthusiasm. As I mentioned above, I can’t get excited about colors. They’re colors. I kind of like them all, although I’m not too crazy about pink. Will anyone remember my wedding colors? Well, maybe certain family members, but they’ll probably just remember how the colors tasted.

I got pretty excited when I finally summoned the courage to ask a waiter at our favorite restaurant if they cater weddings. It turned out the guy sitting next to us at the bar was one of the owners, and we had a nice chat with him and the head chef about Friday weddings and the Penn State scandal. On the way out the door I ran into the person in charge of determining my job status, which is currently a big bureaucratic mess. Nick walked out wearing half a bottle of Tabasco. It was all sort of surreal.

A few days earlier, we took my future mother-in-law to check out the University of Illinois Arboretum, a potential ceremony venue. It being November and all, the plants were either brown and withered or stubs of decapitated stalks. We walked around the barren landscape and tried to imagine it in June. Would the archway be set up under those leafless, dying trees? We left with the feeling of, “Well, that was probably OK.”

Maybe it’s that the wedding is still so far away. Maybe it’s that we’ve been living like married people for so many years. Maybe it’s that I have no clear picture of what our wedding might look like, or sound like, or feel like. Maybe if I tried on a bunch of poofy dresses I’d feel like a bride. Maybe if I tried on a yellow jumpsuit and carried a katana I’d feel like The Bride.

This is all a bit inane, isn’t it? It’s patently ridiculous that the societal expectation of Brideliness is a completely deranged person bloody with paper cuts from origami swans, bits of tulle sticking out of her hair, abusing everyone around her. It’s even more ridiculous that when my experience of sanity and clarity isn’t living up to that expectation, I feel like I’m the one who’s wrong.

Pictured: What's actually wrong.

This is a really obvious point that many other wise people have discussed before me. But for what it’s worth, I’m going to stop trying to find panic where panic doesn’t exist. I’m going to feel lucky that things seem to be going so smoothly. I’ll go back to the Arboretum in the spring and know that even if it isn’t perfect, it will probably be all right.

Intermission: Night Terror

While voting is still going on, I thought I’d entertain you with a somewhat belatedly seasonally-appropriate vignette.

I have an overactive imagination. I’m sure sometimes this can work in my favor, like when I finally get struck by lightning, have a complete personality change, and stop wussing out about being a writer. But mostly what it does is make me afraid of stupid things.

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and used the last of the toilet paper. Being somewhat groggy but awake enough to understand that the law of the universe would absolutely require me to be the next one to use the bathroom unless I fetched more toilet paper from downstairs, I decided to go grab more before going back to bed. This seemed like a perfectly normal, even responsible and grown-up action until I found myself descending a staircase at 2:30 in the morning and realized that I had no idea what could be on the other side of the door at the bottom of the stairs.

“It’s dark down there! And empty! You haven’t been downstairs in hours; for all you know, your house could be full of serial killers!” my scary brain said. “Maybe they use your dining room to play poker while you sleep!”

Oh crap, I thought, I’m going to interrupt the serial killers’ poker game to get toilet paper.

I pushed past the fear and opened the door, darting out into the hallway to turn on a light. Aha! It’s empty — victory!

“That just means they’re ghosts! You’re gonna get Paranormal Activitied by serial killer ghosts! GET BACK UPSTAIRS NOW BEFORE THEY EAT YOUR FACE!”

I’m not ashamed to say that I, a grown-ass woman with a management job, two dogs, and a fiancé, hauled ass back to the safety of the second floor clutching a 12-pack of Charmin.

Safely snuggled back in bed, I lay awake listening to the wind and the sounds of the house. Just as I was about to drift off into sleep, I thought I heard a soft, polite knock on the bedroom door.

The serial killer ghosts!

“Hi, so sorry to wake you. It’s just that we’ve run out of gin and we’re starting to get a bit bored of poker — Gacy always cheats — so we were wondering if we couldn’t just pop up here for a little MURDER MAYHEM TIME! BAHAHA!”

And that’s what happens when you encourage your children to use their imagination.