Turn a Wedding Dress into a Christening Gown

Photo by Simplicity by Christy photography
There are many approaches to making a christening gown, but incorporating parts of a family wedding gown lends a special sentiment to the project. In our newly released March/April White Issue, Patty Smith documented one family's creation of a christening gown that incorporated both the mother's and grandmother's wedding dresses. We'd like to share that article with you now, and be sure to pick up a copy of the White Issue for additional photos from the project plus more sewing inspiration.

When Hunter Candice was born on August 11, 2008, she was named in memory of her uncle Hunter, and also for her grandmother Candice who knew immediately that she wanted to make the most beautiful christening gown ever. 

She had determined years earlier that her daughter Brooke's wedding gown - a fitted, asymmetrical style with little adornment except for gathering on one side and a long train - would lend itself to be made into a christening gown, but she just wasn't quite sure where to start.  Martha Pullen suggested that Candice enlist the help of Patty Smith, and after Brooke selected the coatdress pattern from Martha's Grandmother's Hope Chest book, Patty and Candice began meeting to plan and construct the gown.

One day, early in the planning stages, Candice had the revelation to also include parts of her own wedding ensemble, which had been in storage for 38 years. Over four months, a single, beautiful gown emerged from combining parts of two that symbolized generations of love.

Brooke's deconstructed gown on the left (the skirt and train were already removed) reveals the source of fabric, and Candice's gown and veil on the right reveal the source of heavy lace used on the christening gown.
The design process progressed in stages. Here, the lace shaping on the underdress is pinned in place while Patty and Candice determine the best options for layering new and old laces around the center focus.

Evaluating the Dress by Patty Smith
In evaluating how a wedding dress might be used to make a christening gown, you have to remember that each dress is unique. Most wedding dresses will have enough fabric available to create a christening gown and will probably have some lace that you will want to use. Typically, you will have to purchase some additional laces or trims to complete the look you desire.

Candice wanted to use the fabric from her daughter Brooke's wedding dress as the fabric for the christening gown. They had chosen the coatdress pattern from Grandmother's Hope Chest. The task included these pattern alterations: changed the closing from front to back; increased the fullness in the skirt; altered the lace shaping design in front; and changed the slip pattern to a yoke slip so extra fullness could be incorporated into the slip.

The first step for our project was to evaluate Brooke's wedding dress. The skirt of the dress was very full and had a train. We decided that there was enough fabric in the skirt alone to make the dress and coat. We left the bodice of the dress intact so it could be used during the child's teenage years as part of a debutante gown or as a formal by adding a skirt of another fabric.

We traced off and cut out the skirt pattern pieces and the coat skirt pieces and pinned them on the wedding gown skirt to determine best placement for cutting. Our assessment of the available fabric took precedence over grainline. The back skirt had to be cut with a seam from the dress in it; we simply shifted the pattern piece so the seam would not be in the center back but at the side back. Remember to stay flexible and look for solutions, even if it means altering the pattern slightly.

As the dress plan began to develop, Candice decided to use lace from her own wedding ensemble - a long veil framed with lace and a heavier lace from the bodice of her gown. We added the lace from Candice's veil to the lace edging around the coat. We used the heavy lace from the bodice for the bonnet. We also cut around some of the heavy lace pieces and appliquéd them to the bodice of the coat.

Candice purchased additional lace insertion, edging and entredeux to enhance the dress.

The finished christening gown
The finished bonnet

Tips & Tricks to Consider Before You Cut
1. Evaluate the dress to determine the part/parts of the dress that you really want to, and can use. 

2. Select a pattern that you can imagine a specific part of the dress enhancing, such as the bodice, the skirt, the sleeve, etc. Alter the pattern if needed; the yoke may need to be shorter or longer, the sleeves may need to be changed, the skirt length changed and the fullness altered, etc. Remember, you can sometimes cut a tiny yoke from a deconstructed sleeve or back bodice if all the fabric is in the same condition and color. 

3. Determine exactly how much of the original dress you will use and how many additional supplies you might have to purchase. 

4. Consider that a white dress will probably have yellowed after 25 years of storage, so you will need to take part of the dress with you when you shop to determine how well the purchased fabric and laces will blend with the old.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Kathy and Amelia

Nine-Patch Lace Pillow

Nine-Patch Lace Pillow

I have a book titled Heirloom Quilts coming soon; it features designs for two quilts plus a series of heirloom quilting techniques. Today though, I'd like to share with you a Nine-Patch Lace Pillow from one of my older books, Heirloom Quilts by Machine. For those who love white French lace, white embroideries and patchwork, here is your pillow. 

All of the trims are white; the pillow underneath is baby blue. This pillow is simply yummy with its nine patches of French laces, beading and American embroidery. The squares are connected vertically with American white bridging and horizontally with Swiss entredeux. White American bridging is used around the outside edges of the top of the pillow and blue silk ribbon is run through the holes of the bridging. A pretty blue silk ribbon bow is tied in each corner of the pillow. Gathered French edging is stitched around the nine-patch top and another piece of gathered French white edging is stitched into the side seams of the pillow. The beautiful top is stitched onto a blue batiste pillow top; the bottom of the pillow is blue batiste also. This would be a beautiful pillow to use in a little girl’s room, a baby’s room, or your own Victorian romantic bedroom. 

Finished size of pillow is 12-inch square; excluding ruffle
•  3/4 yard of 5/8-inch beading  
•  1-1/2 yards of 5/8-inch lace insertion A 
•  1-1/2 yards of 5/8-inch lace insertion B 
•  1 yard of 5/8-inch lace insertion C
•  1/2 yard of 2-inch embroidered insertion 
•  2-1/2 yards of 1-3/4-inch lace edging  
•  2-3/4 yards of 2-inch lace edging 
•  3/4 yard of entredeux

General Supplies:
(These are basic sewing room supplies that will be needed while making blocks or during construction.) 
•  1-3/4 yards of bridging 
•  5 yards of 4mm silk ribbon (sample uses YLI, #97 blue)
•  3/8 yard blue Nelona (Swiss Batiste) 
•  One 12-inch square pillow form OR fiberfill for stuffing 
•  Lightweight white cotton machine thread 
•  Optional: Rotary cutter, ruler, and mat 
•  Bodkin or ribbon weaver 
•  Spray starch and iron

***Note:  All seam allowances are 1/4-inch unless otherwise noted. Technique instructions can be found in the book Heirloom Quilts by Machine AND HERE.***

1. Zigzag lace insertion A to lace insertion B using the technique lace to lace. Cut this lace strip in half. Stitch the lace strip to each side of the beading with lace A against the beading using the technique lace to lace (fig. 1a). Weave ribbon through the beading. Cut the lace/beading strip into five 3-1/2-inch pieces. Cut the strips so that the beading holes are similar in each strip (fig. 1b). Set the lace/beading strips aside.

2. Cut lace insertion C in half and attach to each side of the embroidered insertion strip using the technique lace to fabric. Cut four strips 3-1/2-inch long from the embroidered/lace strip (fig. 2). 

3. Press all strips.

4. The pillow top is made from three long strips of three squares each, joined by entredeux and bridging. To make the outer strips, attach entredeux to the cut edges of two embroidered/lace squares using the technique entredeux to fabric. A 1/4-inch seam allowance extends beyond the embroidered strip on each side. Attach lace/beading squares to each side of the embroidered/lace squares using the technique lace to entredeux (fig. 3). Set aside. To make the center strip, attach entredeux to each side of the remaining lace/beading square using the technique entredeux to lace. Attach the embroidered/lace squares to each side of the lace beading squares using the technique entredeux to fabric (fig. 4).

5. Attach bridging to each side of the center strip using the technique entredeux to fabric (fig. 5). Attach the outer strips to the bridging using the same technique. Weave ribbon through the bridging (fig. 6).

6. Attach bridging along the outer edges of the nine-patch lace pillow top using the technique entredeux to fabric and allowing the bridging to extend 1/4-inch at the corners to overlap the holes. Trim the seam allowance from the outer edge of the bridging (fig. 7).

7. Cut three 12-1/2-inch squares of Nelona. Center the nine-patch pillow top on one square of fabric and zigzag the top to the fabric along the outer edge of the bridging. Gather the 1-1/4-inch lace edging to fit the outer edge of the bridging and top stitch in place with a zigzag (fig. 8).

8. Baste the other two Nelona squares together 1/8 inch from the edges and treat as one to form the back of the pillow. Gather the 2-inch-wide lace edging and pin in place on the pillow back with the heading 1/4-inch from the edge; refer to figure 9. Straight stitch the gathered lace in place along the heading.

9. Place the pillow top on the pillow back, right sides together, with the edging lace attached to the pillow top flipped toward the center of the pillow. From the pillow back, stitch just inside the previous stitching line, leaving an opening on one side for turning; if a pillow form will be used, leave one entire side open (fig. 9). Turn right side out and press. Insert the pillow form or stuff with fiberfill. Slipstitch the opening closed to finish the pillow.

10. Cut the remaining 4mm silk ribbon into four pieces. Run the silk ribbon through the outer bridging of the pillow top. Tie the ribbon tails into bows at the corners.

~Martha Pullen

New Month = New Book Blog!

For the month of February, our Senior Designer Amanda Elliott, will be taking us along on her journey of projects from the book

Shufu To Seikatsu Sha. 

A quick description of the book:
25 fabulous, wearable garments from only 8 simple patterns
Sewists will learn how to make a closetful of comfortable and easy go-to garments without needing a library of separate patterns with Simple Modern Sewing. All you'll need to make 25 unique garments are the eight included basic sewing templates included. Shufu To Seikatsu Sha has designed each pattern to be easily adaptable with no-fuss sizing and clear fabric folding and cutting instructions, so it's simple to sew clothes that are perfect for you.
Beginning sewing patterns are often boring or unappealing in favor of being easy to sew. These 25 patterns are just as approachable as traditional beginning sewing patterns, but also have the still style and modernity of more complex patterns. Once you've mastered a pattern, you can combine your creativity with the template provided to design a one-of-a-kind garment with different fabrics or added embellishments like a print lining or contrast-stitching.
Sewers of all skill levels with love the freedom of making custom-cool clothes without all the fuss and hassle of traditional sewing patterns and customizations. Fill your wardrobe in no time with the easy to make and wear garments of Simple Modern Sewing.

 I was thrilled, for many reasons, when I came across Simple Modern Sewing by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha—I haven’t sewn in a long time (a real long time).  I received a new sewing machine for Christmas and was antsy to test it out and the book features several garments with ruffles. The Sew Beautiful staff is quite familiar with my affinity for ruffles—I wear them nearly everyday! For my first project from the book, I was excited to find a simple blouse with bias band ruffles, made in 7 simple steps.

After tracing off the pattern and cutting pieces, I followed the steps: join left shoulder, use bias strips for neckline and armhole binding, create bias band, gather and ruffle band, attach ruffle to neck line, finish sides and hem bottom. Viola! Blouse is complete!

I did not take many step outs while constructing this garment, but I will share some insight.

Make sure you have all supplies handy before starting. It is helpful to have things such as pins, stabilizer, hot iron, a glass of wine, instructions, seam ripper, fabric weights, etc. at an arm’s reach.

Don’t underestimate the helpfulness of space and resources. I found very quickly that sitting on the hardwood floor of my craft room, straddling pattern and fabric gets old, very quickly, especially when the dog comes in, tries to help by applying dog hair, rearranging your pattern pieces, so on and so forth. The aid of a cutting table, clear rulers and rotary cutters are a must for my back, straight cut lines and my next project. 

Iron, iron iron. It really makes a difference.

Prewound bobbins are amazing. Drop and go.

Don’t let techniques you think to be difficult intimidate you. I did not know how binding worked until working with this pattern. I finally took the time to sit down, study the pattern and figure it out. I am almost embarrassed how easy it actually is.

When working with fabrics that don’t have a obvious right and wrong side, like the linen I used for this project, it is helpful to mark the RS with a contrasting thread. It will help keep you working on the correct side when there is a lot of flipping back and forth between sides.

Things to bragging about:

I finished!
I love my machine!
It looks like a real, wearable garment!
Why, yes, I did make this blouse!

Things no one has to know:

When you may have gotten really excited about how things were going and you may have sewn an armhole binding to the incorrect side. More than once.

That you may have had some really choppy cut lines until you utilized the correct materials. (Praise to temporary spray adhesive!).

That you were intimidated by a technique.

Let's here some of your embarrassing sewing moments in comments sections below! We've all been there :) 

Stay tuned next week for some more sewing as I work on the ruffled front jacket with grosgrain ribbon!


Want your own copy of 
Go to our store and enter code: 
for a 10% discount!

How To Add a Smocked Insert to a Ready-Made Knit

Two Points Smocking Plate

Whether we like it or not, children spend a lot more time in sweats than they do in our meticulously stitched finery. 

In the technique how-to below, designer Janet Gilbert will show you how to get more mileage out of your smocking by adding an insert to a ready-made knit. The tutorial originally appeared in our September/October 2008 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine.

You can find the "Two Points" smocking plate that is pictured on the example in the "Web Extras" section of our website. However, this tutorial can be used with any smocking motif, so choose a design that best suits your little one!

Materials List:

- Purchased sweatshirt (navy blue shown) 
- Ready-made piping (one package) 
- Thread to match piping 
- Thread to match sweatshirt 
- 6-inch square German interfacing 
- 1/2 yd cotton broadcloth for insert and lining (example uses navy blue Kona cotton)
- Lace-shaping board 
- Wash-away tape (such as Wash-away Wonder Tape™ by Dritz®) 
- Wash-away marking pen or chalk marker 
- Soft pencil 
- Sharp scissor 
- DMC perle cotton (example uses black #8) 
- DMC Six-strand Embroidery Cotton 


NOTE: My insert measured 3-3/4-inches across and 3-1/2-inches vertically. Yours may be slightly different. 

1. Block smocking so that it is perfectly square. Steam and dry. 

Step 1

2. Baste piping to each edge of insert using wash-away tape. Remove cording from seam allowances so that cords meet at corners, then machine stitch piping using a grooved foot getting as close as possible to cord using thread to match piping fabric. 

Step 2

3. Mark vertical and horizontal centers on a 6-inch square of German interfacing. Mark rectangle on interfacing, centering measurement of insert from piping edge to piping edge vertically and horizontally on non-sticky side. Draw a line on German interfacing 1/2-inch inside of outside rectangle. 

Step 3

4. Mark insert placement on wrong side of sweatshirt with vertical and horizontal center lines. 

Step 4

5. With sticky side of interfacing facing wrong side of sweatshirt, align vertical and horizontal center lines of sweatshirt to vertical and horizontal lines on interfacing square. Fuse interfacing to sweatshirt. 

Step 5

6. Stitch along outer lines with a 1.5 stitch length and cut out along inside lines. Clip each corner to, but not through stitching. 

Step 6

7. Turn sweatshirt right side out. Press seam allowances to back creating a window for smocked insert. 

Step 7

8. Place wash-away tape around piping on right side of insert. Place smocked insert inside of window on sweatshirt aligning edges of piping to edges of sweatshirt window. Double check that design is straight. Topstitch insert to sweatshirt along fold edges of opening with matching thread (I double topstitched the edges). 

Step 8

Finish: Turn sweatshirt inside out and trim seam allowances to neaten. To ensure there is nothing scratchy inside the sweatshirt, cut a lining out of cotton fabric, fold edges to wrong side and hand whip over insert to cover seams. 

Be sure to check out our newly released Sew Beautiful 2008 Collection for more great technique and project tutorials. Available in both CD and digital download format, this collection features full-sized electronic versions of all six issues of Sew Beautiful from 2008 and includes printable patterns, tips and techniques, how-to articles and more.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful
Kathy and Amelia

Sewing Machines win top honors!



HUSQVARNA VIKING® OPAL™ 650 and OPAL™670 computerized sewing machines, HUSQVARNA VIKING® DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 30 and DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 20 sewing and embroidery machines, PFAFF®creative performance™ computerized sewing machine and SINGER® STYLIST™ 7258 non-computerized sewing machine earn recognition for delivering exceptional value in today’s marketplace.

Hamilton, Bermuda — SVP Worldwide, the world’s largest consumer sewing company, has announced that a total of six sewing machines from the SINGER®, HUSQVARNA VIKING®, and PFAFF® brandshave received the distinguished Consumers Digest Best Buy rating. According to the publication, products receiving the Best Buy designation merit special attention from consumers based on their combination of eight criteria: performance, ease of use, features, quality of construction, warranty, efficiency, styling, and maintenance and service requirements.

“Earning a Best Buy rating from Consumers Digest represents the pinnacle of excellence in consumer products, so we’re thrilled that six of our machines have received this renowned distinction,” said Katrina Helmkamp, CEO of SVP Worldwide, source of SINGER®,
HUSQVARNA VIKING® and PFAFF® sewing machine brands. “This recognition highlights our commitment to bringing products of exceptional quality and performance to the sewing community.”

Each machine comes equipped with a variety of consumer-friendly features, a selection of which are highlighted below:

  • The HUSQVARNA VIKING® OPAL™ 670 and 650 sewing machines come equipped with built-in assistance and modern features like the Exclusive SEWING ADVISOR™ feature, a large Graphic Display screen and touch panel and Graphic Monochrome Touch Screen, plenty of programming possibilities and memories, and hundreds of high quality stitches.

  • The SINGER®STYLIST™ 7258 sewing machine features 100 built-in stitches with stitch guide, a top drop-in bobbin, an automatic needle threader and a programmable needle for easier quilting and applique. The SINGER®STYLIST™ 7258 is a two time Consumers Digest award winner.

The Best Buy Seal and other licensed materials are registered certification marks and trademarks of Consumers Digest Communications, LLC, used under license. For award information, visit ConsumersDigest.com.

About SVP Worldwide
SVP Worldwide is the world’s largest consumer sewing machine company and source of the SINGER®, HUSQVARNA VIKING® and PFAFF® sewing machine collections. As a global leader doing business through its affiliated companies in over 190 countries, SVP Worldwide specializes in the design, manufacture and distribution of high quality consumer and artisan sewing, quilting and embroidery machines, software, accessories and notions.

Choosing Fabric for a Wedding Dress

At the beginning of the year, we encouraged our newsletter readers to take on a challenge and try something new. Well, I (Kathy) took that advice to heart and have bitten into a huge project - I agreed to make a wedding gown for my dear friend's niece! I have a busy job as editor of Sew Beautiful, but I just could not resist the challenge. The wedding is in May, and I've decided to blog about my progress as I tackle each component of the gown until the big day. I think it will be a fun way to share all the knowledge I gain with you - not to mention that I'll surely need some encouragement along the way!

Preliminary sketch of the gown. Start with a plan!

You must start with a plan, so help the bride decide on a design. Sarah Grace came to me with several photos and a basic "dream" in mind. I listened carefully and began to sketch. After a few adjustments here and there, we landed on the perfect design for her. She wants an almost backless, strapless dress with a fit and flare, trumpet-style skirt and a shallow train. When planning your design, you do need to be sure it is realistic for the bride's body type - luckily for me, Sarah Grace's figure fit her dream gown perfectly. Next, I purchased a combination of patterns that bore a basic liking to the top and the bottom of the gown.

Fabric, netting and lace.

An important part of the design process is choosing the right fabric to achieve that "drape" and appearance you want. We chose an oyster-colored (think mother-of-pearl button) silk duchess satin. This is a very expensive fabric, but well worth the results you get for your investment. We will use a netting overlay with alencon lace edging and appliqué as a float on top of the satin. While all of that sounds luxurious and beautiful, don't be fooled - it will only look like a badly sewn rag without the proper foundation.

I plan to use silk organza for the interlining of the dress. This will be the fabric that forms the shape to the body so that the silk satin can simply act as a beautiful shell. This fabric will lay behind the satin for every pattern piece, and the two layers will be seamed and sewn together as one. It is on this interlining that facings, seams and hems will be hand tacked. I have chosen the Martha Pullen silk "Elegance" for the lining. It's perfect because it is a silk and cotton blend. It is lightweight and smooth, but not too slinky. It is also easy to handle, and the cotton makes it breathable and comfortable for a nervous bride.

Playing around with netting for a ruched bodice. The bustier is underneath for shaping. The satin will lay underneath the netting on the final gown.

Creating a wedding gown takes a bit of smart engineering - and like every good structure, there is a cornerstone that holds it all up. For a strapless gown, that cornerstone is the bustier. This is the component that hugs the bride's body in a death grip while the outer dress appears to be floating gently over her curves without stretch or strain. The bustier holds the boning in place, while the boning holds the dress on the body and keeps all of that delicate fabric from collapsing. The bustier for my gown is actually made from a "corseting" fabric I found from Vogue fabrics at a sewing expo. It is quite stiff and uncomfortable, so the interlining of choice was a soft heirloom cotton flannel. This provides a soft, unnoticeable padding between the lining and bustier to create comfort and shape. 

Here is a list of great fabrics for various elements of a wedding gown. Most of these are available at store.marthapullen.com, and you know we carry white in everything! TIP: Try to use silk if you can possibly afford it. It just performs the best - and after all, it is your wedding gown. Go cheap on the interlining and lining if you have to.

  • Silk duchess satin
  • Silk dupioni (White, Ivory, Ecru) - Wonderful for bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, and we carry a large selection of colors.
  • Silk Taffeta - A crisp fabric great for a full style; not to be confused with poly taffeta.
  • Netting (White, Ivory) - Cotton or bridal is fine; great for overlays, lace appliqué foundations or bodice ruching. Also good for large princess skirts, foundation under a full skirt and veils.
  • Silk organza - The perfect interlining, but can also be a beautiful overlay.
  • Tissue silk - Great for an overlay or a lining. I love to see machine embroidery on tissue silk with an ecru satin underneath to really make it stand out.
  • Silk Elegance - Cotton/silk blend makes the perfect lining.
  • Cotton batiste - Can also make a great interlining or lining, as cotton is comfortable and breathable.
  • Cotton flannel (White, Ivory) - A lightweight heirloom type is best for bustier interlining.
  • Heavy satin or corseting fabric for a bustier
Muslin for half of the bustier. Sew a practice dress in muslin first to perfect the fit. Write notes on the pieces and use them for cutting the silk.

Oh, I almost forgot one of the most important fabrics - good old cheap muslin! Don't attempt to cut into that luxurious silk until you've practiced on a good-fitting muslin copy of the dress. Deconstruct the muslin, make adjustments and use that to cut out the silk. You'll be glad you took the extra time for this step. For more wedding gown sewing inspiration, I recommend the books Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide and The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques by Lynda Maynard.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Kathy Barnard