Friday, June 27, 2014

Sunflower Wedding: Twirl Skirts

 In addition to the cake and flower girl dress, I wanted to make dresses for my younger daughters to wear. I ended up short on time, as usual, so I made them skirts instead.
The skirts and dress
  As with the flower girl dress, I made these out of satin and chiffon from the Casa Collection at Joann's. They only had these colors online, so the blue is quite a bit darker than the blue the bridesmaids were wearing, but it was still cute. The colors are Sunshine and Bluebird (it appears that the bluebird is no longer available in satin), and they are very different in person from the pictures on the website.

  I wanted there to be a sash on these like on the flower girl dress, so I decided to try something new and make the sash be elasticized in the front and run through the waistband.

  The bow is fake again, so they wouldn't be able to untie it.

  It worked on Becker's version (the yellow) but on Gaiw's skirt the front gaped a lot when worn.

  I'm not sure why it was different, but Gaiw's skirt was a little tighter on her, so that may account for it. There's another thing I didn't love about the blue skirt.... the chiffon layer. This time I placed the whole satin piece on top of the chiffon to cut it with a rotary cutter, so I knew I had a perfect circle. However, after I finished sewing it all together, the chiffon stretched more in some areas than others and it looks rather odd. I'm debating trimming it down and re-hemming.

  Ah well, she still looked adorable in that and her crown and her too-small shirt. (I didn't realize it was too small until we were at the church)

  For Becker's skirt, I gently pulled the chiffon past the satin and trimmed it before hemming, so it's much more even.

  We were in a room with a bunch of people besides me, so she was bawling from terror in most of the photos I took of her. Poor girl. Either I or her papa held her for almost the entire wedding.

  She didn't get a full sunflower crown, as there was no way that would stay on her head, but I did tie a sunflower on to a piece of elastic for a headband. =)

  Isn't she cute though?

  I decided to put two pieces of elastic in the back waistband, since all I had was 1" wide and the waistbands were 2.5" wide. I kind of like the effect.

  I sewed the entire waistband and skirt layers separately, then attached them with a French seam.
Inside of the skirt
  I'm thinking that next time I work with chiffon, especially narrow rolled hems, I'm going to try the gelatine method of making the fabric firmer. I didn't have enough on hand this go-around.

   The waistbands took a lot of brain-wrangling to figure out their construction... I was planning on sharing a tutorial, but I think it needs tweaking so it doesn't gape first.

  The final thing I sewed for the wedding I didn't sew alone. My sister-in-love wanted a lace addition to her dress, with short sleeves rather than just a strapless dress, so she found some pretty 4" wide lace on Etsy and brought it over to my house. Since she came with the lace, I decided to try draping for the first time. I cut strips of fabric to 4" so I wouldn't waste any lace, and carefully pinned them on her over a tight tee. It came out a little weird at the underarm area, so I think that would have worked better with just undergarments, but that would have been awkward for both of us. Once I had the draped pattern, we hand-sewed strips of lace together for all of the pieces- front, two back sides, and both sleeves. Then I French-seamed those together while she covered a button with a tiny bit of white fabric and lace and hand-sewed the back slit hems, and we hand-sewed a thread loop. This is how it looks with the dress:

  She was going to take it home and hand-sew it to the lining of the dress, but I think she got really busy and didn't have time to finish the hand-sewing, so it's just tucked in. It definitely isn't perfect, but it worked and made the dress a little more like she wanted. =)
Edit: Apparently it is sewn in! Just at the waist rather than the top of the dress like I expected. And it turns out it didn't really work either.... it had to have two more layers of lace sewn at the underarm to make it work. D'oh!

  Draping is pretty un-involved compared to drafting! This really made me realize how useful a dress form would be for me... as long as it matched me well.

 Just a few more photos:
This is another beautiful sis-in-love, who was one of the bridesmaids.

  And that's it! I may post a few photos of the decorations my sis-in-love and other relatives made in a few days here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunflower Wedding: Flower Girl Dress

  This was my second-largest project for my sister-in-love's wedding.

  No, not the little girl (although I sort of made her too!), the dress she is wearing! I initially planned on making something like the Oliver+S Garden Party dress, but with different sleeves, in satin and chiffon, and longer.... but I changed my mind. =)

  I decided on a simple bodice with a scalloped neckline:

 a layered circle skirt:

  A wide sash with ruched sides:

  And sheer sleeves with circular flounces:

  I drafted the pattern myself, using Illustrator for the first time to do it, thanks to Pattern Workshop (affiliate link) and all I learned there. There were some parts where I was going, "Seriously, Illustrator?" but they were all due to little things that I'd messed up without realizing it.

 It went a LOT faster than my pattern drafting normally does! I made a muslin, altered a few things in the program, and made a second muslin before I was satisfied, and it still took less time than normal.

  I used satin and chiffon from the Casa Collection at Joann's (online) in Calypso color, which is a dark coral (the photos with it laid out flat are closest to the actual color), for this dress.

  I bought a couple different zippers at Joann's too, but neither really matched- one was too red, the other too pink. I ended up with an invisible zipper from that was perfect. (Color was 517, 12" length.) The zipper tape on each side of a YKK invisible zipper is about 3/8" wide instead of the usual 1/2" that I'm used to from Coat's and Clark, but it wasn't a big deal.

  I sewed the bodice and sleeves using my tutorial, but left the back completely open for the zipper... then I tried in on Booper. It fit perfectly!

 Next I added the sleeve flounces, which was an absolute pain and I'm never doing it that way again on that small of a sleeve with that kind of fabric. I also spent several hours figuring out how to finish the flounce hems, since chiffon frays like crazy but I wanted something light. I tried a two-seam rolled hem... it was awful. I tried a narrow rolled hem with my sewing machine foot... I could get it to roll right on the straight areas. I tried just rolling the hem and sewing it as I rolled... awful. Finally I just took out my woodburning tool and burned the outer edge so it wouldn't fray. It was really difficult to get a smooth curve without beading or blackness, but I did it.

  Then I hemmed the skirt with a machine narrow rolled hem and added it to the bodice. The chiffon layer is another thing I would change... chiffon has a lot of stretch on the bias, and I should have hung the dress up with the skirt attached and trimmed the chiffon to match the satin before hemming it. It's a little longer in spots, although when I finished this dress I just thought it was because the chiffon squirrels around when you try to cut it... I found out about the stretch later. Since the back was open, I sewed the skirt to the front layer only, then folded the lining around the hem of the skirt and sewed it to the outer and skirt, leaving 3-4 inches unsewn near the back seam. 

  The next step was trying it on Booper again, just to see how it looked. Only there was a problem... I couldn't get her arm in the sleeves! I still don't know what happened... if I cut them wrong, sewed them wrong, or if she just grew. It was about 3 days after the first fitting, where they had been fine. So I cut the beautifully-finished sleeves out of the seam and drafted some wider ones with a shorter cap. They do pull a little toward the shoulder, but I think the only way to fix that without adding gathering would have been to lower the armscye a little. This time I left a seam allowance in the sleeve flounces and sewed them on flat, then seamed them and the underarm seam together. I still had to go with the burning method of finishing them though... this time on the sleeve cap too.

  Since the bodice was already finished, I didn't want to pull it all apart to put new sleeves in, so I carefully hand-stitched them to just the lining, then did a tiny whip-stitch over the edge and to the lining to keep the seam allowance from peeking out.

  From there on things were easier... I sewed a sash and attached it at one of the back sides of the bodice, added the invisible zipper, French seamed the two layers of skirt, and sewed the final few inches of narrow rolled hems. Then I finished the sash, tacked it down under the bow at the other side of the back bodice, and tacked/ruched the sides of it to the dress.

  It's not a true bow... I didn't want it coming undone during the ceremony, so I halfway followed this tutorial for adding a child-proof bow. I put the tail piece in front of the bow loops, but I wish I'd put it in the back like she did, it's much cuter that way. And finally it was finished!

  I also made the sunflower crown Booper is wearing in these photos, out of paper with my Silhouette! =)

  I used plain yellow, brown, and dark green cardstock, this cut file, some tacky glue, and floral wire and tape. Oh, and I sprayed it with Rustoleum clear crystal enamel in case Booper got it wet... which is always likely with a little girl of 4.

  I love how it turned out. =)

  The petals did get a little damaged after she dropped it about 8 times, but for the most part it's still in good shape. I pinned it to her hair during the wedding but it didn't really stay put.

  I planned on making dresses for the littler girls too, in yellow and blue to match the other wedding colors, but I ran out of time and just made skirts, which I will show you in another post.

  Thanks for stopping by!

P.S. Please excuse the grainy/blurry/dark photos in this post... my camera doesn't love dark rooms.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sunflower Wedding: The Cake

  As you may know if you've been following me on Instagram, I was pretty busy last week preparing for my beautiful sister-in-love's wedding. I made quite a few things, but the biggest was the cake.

   I used the Chocolate Cake recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook for this cake, swapping out half of the butter for shortening so I'd have enough butter for the frosting. This was the amount of dry ingredients I started with... I ended up adding another 2 batches of the recipe to finish!
Photo from Instagram
  It took a lot mixing to get those dry ingredients combined! Once mixed, I weighed out 2 batches of dry ingredients and beat 2 batches of wet ingredients into that with a hand mixer, and repeated for every cake or set of cakes. I was really nervous about the outer edges over-baking, so I tried pinning some wet towels around the cake, but I couldn't get them tight enough that they stayed on. In the end I baked the larger cakes at 310 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 350. It did help, though the outside was still a bit more dry than the inside.

  I also have had trouble in the past with cakes sticking in the pans and breaking, so I greased the pans, added parchment circles to the bottom, greased the parchment, then floured the whole pan. It worked like a charm! I forgot the flour on one pan and it was hard to get out, but the rest literally fell out of the pans when I turned them upside down!
Photo from Instagram
  Including the time that the cakes were in the oven and I was just waiting for them, they took 12 hours to mix and bake. Including hands on time only, it was more like 6 hours.

  Once the cakes were baked and cooled, I made a batch of extra-thick frosting and piped a dam around the edges of each layer (I considered torting the layers, but my knife skills are pitiful and I didn't want to ruin it) then filled it with homemade chocolate mousse. I used a triple batch of this recipe, because I only had cocoa powder, but used less gelatin (because I only had 4 teaspoons) and added a miniscule amount of guar gum and xanthan gum.... less than 1/8 tsp each. It held up really well... there was a bit leftover and it was still fluffy and stable in the fridge for 6 days, at which point it was eaten. It was richer than I would have liked though.
Photo from Instagram

  Next I stacked the second layer of each tier on top of the frosting and mousse, then covered them and put them in the fridge overnight. Check out the size of this one! It's 14" in diameter. =)
Photo from Instagram
  The next morning I made some more frosting, thinner this time, and did a crumb coat on all of the cakes.
Photo from Instagram
  And finally I frosted them all. My sis-in-love wanted it to look rustic, so the frosting went pretty fast. Most of the time frosting was spent mixing up new batches of it! I used frosting recipe from the back of a bag of C&H powdered sugar, but added 1/2 teaspoon almond extract to each batch.
Photo from Instagram
  Here are all the cakes, after 16 hours of work, ready to transport. I decided against stacking them first, because cakes are a pain to transport as it is, and stacked is even harder. I do want to try this method out sometime though.
Photo from Instagram
  The transportation was where everything went wrong. We have a 4-door car with 3 carseats in it, black with no air conditioning. We live in Arizona, and it was about 90 degrees outside, which translates to over 100 in the car even with the windows open. It's a 40 minute drive from our house to the church the wedding was at... you can figure it out. The frosting melted right off the sides of the cake on the drive! I was SO UPSET. I feel bad for the bride, who was trying to comfort me on the eve of her wedding. I just wanted that cake to be perfect for her and it looked like it was going to be a disaster. I finally, at the suggestion of several relatives, scraped as much melted frosting off the sides as I could without getting crumbs, and popped the cakes in the fridge at the church. The refrigerator there didn't work very well, so it took about 3 hours for the frosting to firm up again... I even stuck it in the freezer for an hour! After the rehearsal dinner, I took the cakes out one at a time and re-frosted them as well as I could. They didn't end up quite as pretty as the first time I frosted them, but it did work. That was a horrible situation! I wish I'd thought to borrow someone's air-conditioned vehicle for transporting the cake! I'm just really glad I brought it the day before the wedding instead of the day of, since I wouldn't have had time to fix it on the wedding day.

  After the wedding ceremony I brought the cakes out side to the reception area and stacked them, added a bit more frosting to cover the small cracks between layers, and tied on some raffia. We were originally going to add sunflowers and roses to the cake but there was some miscommunication. I bought gumpaste to make the flowers, and it turned out that the bride wanted real flowers on the cake. Then we found out that the flowers were not organically grown, so we needed tiny vases to keep them from touching the cake... but we couldn't find them in time for the wedding, and by the time I realized that I didn't have time to make gumpaste ones. I ended up just setting vases of flowers on the table. The topper is a Willow Tree figurine (affiliate link).

  The bride and groom cut and served the cake to all of the guests, after eating some themselves. (Aren't they adorable?) =)

  I made 172 servings of cake, not including the top tier. I'm really glad I didn't put a 16" tier under that as I'd considered doing, since there was quite a bit leftover.

  Here are some cake stats, interspersed with photos of cake:
 In all I used:
22 1/2 c flour
16 1/3 c sugar
6 1/3 c cocoa powder
12 1/2 tsp baking soda
10 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 3/4 c butter (7.5 sticks)
3 3/4 c shortening
12 1/2 c water
10 tsp vanilla extract
20 eggs

2 tsp gelatin
9 TBSP water
1 1/2 c sugar
1/4 c cocoa powder
3 c heavy cream
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/16 tsp guar gum
1/16 tsp xanthan gum

15 lbs powdered sugar
5 c butter (10 sticks)
3 1/4 c milk
5 TBSP vanilla extract
2 1/2 TBSP almond extract

  Surprisingly, the total cost of the ingredients was only $47.30. I did buy most of them at Costco. =)

  The cake was approximately 2 feet tall, not including the topper. It weighed... a lot. ;-)

  I spent 12 hours baking it, 4 hours frosting it, 2 hours re-frosting it, and 1.5 hours transporting and assembling it, for a total of 19.5 hours. If I were getting paid $15/hour, the total cost of the cake would still be less than $300... that does not, however, include the cost of re-useable tools.

  Some tools I used (affiliate links incoming!) are:
Cake lifter
14" cake pans
12" cake pans
10" cake pans
8" cake pans
Plastic cake supports
14" Cake Circle
12" Cake Circle
10" Cake Circle
8" Cake Circle
Offset spatula
Most of those were bought at Hobby Lobby... some by me, some by my mother-in-love. =)

   I made one other food item... modeling chocolate sunflowers to top cupcakes... my mother-in-love made the actual cupcakes, but I stayed up until 5am the morning of the wedding making the flowers. I wanted to make 150 of them, but ended up with 111 because I didn't buy enough candy melts. I used 4 packages and should have used 5 or 6. Rolling them thinner would have helped too. ;-)

  It worked out anyway, most of the cupcakes didn't get eaten. I started out making the sunflowers pretty complex, but by the end I was just using a daisy cutter to cut two layers, pressing the centers together with a ball tool, and adding a brown center... the center was just a ball that was pressed into a sieve for texture. The original version looked like this and took about 4 times as long. =)
Photo from Instagram

  That's about all I have to say about the edibles I made, but I did make some other things for this wedding. A few of them are in the photos above, but I'll post more about those another day. =)

Thanks for stopping by!