I’ll warn you in advance…this is longer than my usual blogs! I’ve been desperate to share the making of this top with you and it’s lovely to finally be able to do so!
When we first got engaged I didn’t have an immediate idea of what I wanted to wear. I was sort of thinking teal… but I wear teal all the time so decided that traditional white or ivory would be a bit more special.
My decision to wear separates rather than a dress came from my desire to design and knit a top. But then I started to think that a knitted top (even in a fine cotton) might be a bit too warm for an August wedding. When the heatwave kicked in I was glad I’d made that decision! But I had already fallen in love with and bought my skirt from Monsoon… so separates it was!
By this point I had been attending sewing classes with Deidre at All Things Creative for a while and felt confident that I could make a simple top to go with my skirt. It ended up being far from simple, but with Deidre’s expert knowledge and calming influence I got it finished two weeks before the wedding.
I decided to use a beaded top I bought from Topshop last year as a starting point for the shape because I liked the fit. The final top is a similar shape, but I had to change the measurements and darts quite dramatically because the fabric I bought behaved so differently.
The original top has a bottom layer of jersey polyester with the beading on a fine fabric sitting on top. I like the fact that the layers are only joined at the shoulder and hem so there’s quite a lot of movement in the fabric. It hangs beautifully with the weight of the beads and although it’s not a snug fit it’s still flattering and the perfect length with my skirt.
I had numerous moments where I thought maybe I should’ve just worn this top!
For my wedding top I chose a beautiful floaty silk for my lining and bottom layer which was an absolute nightmare to work with! And a fine tulle to do the beading on (which was also a pain in the bum). I regularly lost bits of the tulle because it was basically invisible when sitting on top of white fabric!
I’d been spending many enjoyable hours browsing weddings on Pinterest and was feeling drawn to art deco, beaded 1930’s style dresses – with this one being my favourite.
The beading was the most time-consuming element of the top.I settled on a design which was largely based on the dress above. I love the large petals at the waistline so I used that shape and the rest developed from there.
I drew my design out on paper – traced it onto the tulle in running stitch and used the running stitch lines as guidelines which I removed as I beaded. I worked on the large areas of beading in an embroidery hoop which made it portable enough to take to knit group.
Once the larger sections were beaded, I removed the fabric from the hoop and pinned it to the floor on top of my paper template to complete. This is when I discovered my hips and knees can no longer cope with hours of kneeling on the floor! I’m sure there’s a better way to do it but it worked!
I left areas near the seams and darts free of beading as much as possible so that I could ensure the lines of beads met at the seams and across the darts after making up.
In the meantime I had been making many toiles to finalise the fit of the top. It’s surprisingly difficult to make a loose(ish) simple shape look flattering! The second toile looked fine in cotton but as soon as I made it in the silk it looked awful as the fabric was bagging out around the darts. I ended up removing the waist darts because it just hung so much better without. And a few toiles later I was ready to cut the final peices!
Because I had to do the majority of the beading before cutting out and joining the layers of fabric… cutting was a bit scary!
I was worried that something would go wrong and the beading would be wasted but it more or less went to plan. The tulle was shifting all over the place and the only thing keeping the silk in place was the interfacing tacked to the lining – but it more or less fitted together so I could breath a sigh of relief and move onto the side seams and armholes…
By this point I was feeling pretty confident. Nearly finished right? And then….
One of the armholes was a disaster! I was folding in the outer layers of silk and tulle from one side, the inner layers of silk and interfacing from the other side and hand-stitching them together along the edge, clipping as I went, to work with the curve.
The first one went okay. I wouldn’t be winning the sewing bee… but it was okay. And then the second one was really bad! I didn’t catch in the tacked interfacing (I couldn’t use iron-on with the silk), the fabric for the top layers was shifting around so there seemed to be too much silk and not enough tulle. The result was a very messy armhole that was beautifully set off by the fact that it was on my more sloped shoulder! I didn’t know until I started sewing that my left shoulder sits higher than my right (?!).
I was scared to undo it because I thought it might just fall apart where I had clipped it as the silk was fraying a lot. So obviously the best solution was to cry and look online for alternative wedding tops!
After getting that out of my system and deciding that it was unwearable as it was – I took some deep breaths and very carefully unpicked and re-tacked the layers. It still wasn’t perfect but it was so much better and certainly wearable.
I think we analyse our hand-makes more than shop-bought clothes. I’ve since noticed that most of my clothes crease a bit around my right arm… so it must be my wonky shoulder and definitely not my bad sewing!
By the time I’d done all this faffing, the silk at the hem had frayed so much that I no longer had any seam allowance at the centre front. I tacked the layers together to try and stop it fraying more and then Deidre showed me how to add a false hem which folded to the inside and sandwiched in the lining.
This meant that the top ended up a bit shorter that my original plan, but it still sits over the waistband of my skirt (just!) and the false hem gives the edge a nice weight.
The most fun part of the whole process was beading the edges! I used Swarovski pearls which come on a string so I just had to ‘couch’ over the string rather than going through the beads.
I had the buttons and loops made by Harlequin – the service was quick and great value. So much easier than fiddling about to make your own tiny cover buttons and loops! You just send a small amount of fabric and details of what you need. The rouleau loops come on a tape which you can then insert into the seam
All of my beads were bought from The Bead Shop Nottingham. They were super helpful with choosing what I needed and giving me tips on how to do the couching. I also bought some memory wire to make some matching, quick and easy bracelets with leftover beads.
I’m not sure that I would have taken on this project if I’d known how long it would take and how difficult it would be. But I’m so glad that I didn’t know – because I’m so happy with my wedding top! It’s truly unique and that’s a very special thing.