1.10.2014

Soundtrack of a Sweater: My Wedding Dress


As always, the soundtrack to my design as I was writing the pattern and knitting the sample. I walked down the aisle to "Perpetuum Mobile" and finished the ceremony with "The Winner Is." Enjoy!

I promise...

My wedding dress was knit with love and made from treasures carefully collected on our shared adventures. It’s a celebration of memories past, as well as a meditation on hope for our future. It’s a dress that I designed to commemorate my decision to become a professional knitwear designer, to relive trips taken and muse on those yet to come, and to honor my husband’s Austrian ancestry.

AlexSquared: How Knitting Led Me to Alex

Knitting is my life, so it’s fitting that knitting led me to my husband. In 2009, I attended my first knit night. It was such a wonderful experience that I wrote a blog post about it. Rachel, another young woman saw the post and was inspired to join the group. Our friendship grew, as did our knitting skills. It was Rachel who would introduce me to Alex (mostly because I think she found it humorous that we shared the same name, but also because she knew we shared a love of travel and adventure).

Although Alex doesn’t knit, he is very good about visiting yarn shops. He’s patiently waited as I’ve fondled yarn across the US and the world. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was on a trip to Peru in 2012 that I found the yarn that would become my wedding dress, a luscious alpaca-cashmere so heavenly soft that you want to swaddle yourself in it (more on the yarn below).


Finding the Luxury Alpaca-Cashmere at the Michell Fiber Factory in Peru.

Designing a Wedding Dress

In August of 2013 I began sketching. I knew the silhouette I wanted: a fitted bodice with a full skirt and I knew that I wanted an Austrian stitch motif to honor Alex’s family (his father is Austrian, as is his mother’s mother). I found my motifs in Maria Erlbacher’s Twisted-Stitch Knitting. For the center-front panel I selected “#91 Large Chain with Twisted Bands” flanked by two braided cables, and for the remaining dress “#166 Double Chain”. I originally designed the dress with a high round neck and a large shawl collar, but later changed to an elegant fold over boatneck. 

Sketching the dress.

Choosing the Yarn 

Once my ideas were transferred to paper, I shifted my focus to the ideal materials with which to bring the design to life. The yarn decision came easily when I remembered the 20 skeins of Michell Luxury Edition Alpaca-Cashmere in an ecru colorway that I had purchased in Peru the year before. Who knew I’d be able to stash bust for my wedding dress?! While the alpaca-cashmere would become the body of the dress, I wanted something more delicate and ethereal for the lace at the hem and collar. Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze Glamour, a mohair silk blend studded with delicate glass-like sequins, fit the bill perfectly. 


Casting on for my dress October 22, 2013


Creating the Pattern

All patterns begin with swatching. I started by working my desired motifs in the DK weight yarn using US 6 needles. I was pleased with the even tension and stitch definition, so decided to proceed on the 6s. The key measurement for this design was the waist; it would be here that all of the double chains would converge. After subtracting out the center-front motif, I learned how many of the double chains would make up the remaining circumference at the waist. 

Next, I needed to make a decision about the hem. To keep the visual line of the chains from being broken, I decided to enlarge the chains from 6 sts across at the waist to 12 sts across at the hem. This solution allowed me to avoid having to add more horizontal repeats of the chains, which would have thrown off the continuity of the pattern.


The continuous line of the double chain motif from the hem to the neck.

The skirt with front detail.

Finally, I had to negotiate the waist-to-bust increase, keeping the visual line of the chains unbroken. Unfortunately, increasing the size of the stitch motif wasn’t an option, as I wanted the bodice fabric to look delicate. I decided to eliminate two of the chain motifs at each side of the dress and instead worked a seed stitch motif across these stitches. All of my increases were invisibly worked into the seed stitch section, solving the problem of broken lines.


The transition from double chains to seed stitch on the bodice.

The top of the sleeves mirror the body of the dress with a single chain, surrounded by smaller versions of the braided cables. The seam line of the underarm features a seed stitch motif that transitions seamlessly into that of the bodice when I lift my arms.

Construction

The dress is worked in the round from the hem up so that it is seamless to the underarms. I began with a simple mesh lace at the hem, worked only in the Kidsilk Haze Glamour (KHG). The asymmetrical shape of the lace (it’s longer in the back than in the front to mirror the chapel length train of the underskirt) was achieved by working short rows. I didn’t want the lace to transition immediately into a solid fabric so the 12-stitch chain motif at the hem uses a combination of yos and k2togs to create lacework within each chain. 

Initially, I held one strand of the KHG together with the alpaca-cashmere to blend the two yarns. As the chains became smaller and smaller, I transitioned from lacework to seed stitch and dropped the strand of KHG as I worked the smallest chains in reverse stockinette. I separated the front and back at the underarms and worked each piece flat. The sleeves were worked flat and set in, giving the dress a very stable fabric at the shoulders (this is important because this is the area that is holding the weight of the dress).

The body of the dress was finished on November 20.


Embellishing the Design

I opted for a crocheted lace edging to save on time. I chose "Romanesque Arches" from Interweave’s Crochet Edgings & Trims (The Harmony Guides).The lace edging had an art deco feel reminiscent of my vintage engagement ring and looked beautiful with the dress.


crocheting the lace border
The finished lace.

The final step was to sew on the pearls. When I was in Guatemala in 2010 I found strands of organically-shaped freshwater pearls. The subtle ivories, champagnes, rosy pinks, and dusty silvers were too beautiful not to include on this dress. There are 459 individually sewn on pearls. After using a beading needle to sew the pearl, I knotted each one, cut the thread, and used fray check to glue the knot. Unfortunately, after hugs at the wedding, I heard the tiny ping of a few of the pearls hitting the floor. My mom thought my small "trail of pearls" was like something out of a fairy tale. I’m going reinforce the pearls with a second dot of fray check now that the wedding is over and replace the ones that fell off.


Sewing on the pearls.

The Big Day

The night before the wedding my petticoat still hadn't arrived. UPS finally delivered it at 6pm. The petticoat was vital to the design because it served not only to fluff up my dress, but more importantly to hold the weight of the knitted fabric (the dress weighs 2.5 pounds). I tried all of the pieces on together for the first time that night.


Coming down in the dress for the first time the night before the wedding. My soon-to-be husband was not present.

Our wedding day had arrived. My husband met me at the alter in a wool-cashmere suit we had made while in China, and not to be outdone, a handknit tie I made for him using a vibrant shade of green ToshMerino Light. I walked down the aisle feeling like I was floating on air. We were married in my friend Rebecca’s restaurant, Kybecca. The venue was draped in hundreds of colorful pompom garlands, crafted by Alex. The ceremony was beautiful and it was followed by a brunch celebration with friends and family. A bride and a knitwear designer couldn’t ask for a better day.





Alex showing off his handknit tie.


You may recognize my little brother on the left. He's my knitwear model.


Question and Answer

I’ve tried to answer possible questions below. If you think of others please leave them in the comment section. You can also communicate with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Is a pattern available for this dress?

I’ve decided not to publish this pattern. While I love designing for others, I’d like to keep this as my own. If you like this dress you will also like Bryn Mawr, a dress I designed for Interweave Knits Fall 2013. It’s a heavily cabled dress that transitions from an A-line skirt to a fitted bodice.

How long did it take you to knit the dress?

The dress took about 7-8 weeks to complete, with one false start in the first week. I began knitting it at the end of October and had the body of it completed in 4 weeks. After catching the flu on a trip to China over Thanksgiving, my work slowed down a bit. I finished the sleeves, crocheted lace edging, collar and beading in the remaining 3-4 weeks. Hour-wise, I’d estimate the dress took somewhere around 275-300 hours.

Where did you purchase the skirt underneath your wedding dress?

I made the skirt underneath using Buttericks pattern #B4131 and a satin fabric and lined it using china silk lining fabric.

Where can I find the yarn?

You can find the color card for Rowan Kidsilk Haze Glamour here and Tosh Merino Light here, but be sure to support your local yarn shop when you purchase the yarn. I bought mine at Old Town Yarnery in Fredericksburg, VA. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Michell Luxury Alpaca-Cashmere is available outside of Peru (if you know of a source let me know).

Where did you have your wedding?

We had our wedding at Kybecca Wine Restaurant in downtown Fredericksburg, VA. They serve dinner 7 nights a week and have an amazing chef and beautiful bar. 

Where will you take your honeymoon...and will you bring your knitting?

For our honeymoon, we will be visiting the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, with plans to visit each of the other six islands on our 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 year wedding anniversaries. We're excited because we'll be there for carnival. The theme this year is Cartoons; we plan to dress up like Where's Waldo and Wenda, who of course will be spotted in the crowd with her yarn and needles.

Can I see the dress in person?

The dress will be on view at Old Town Yarnery in Fredericksburg, VA through February 15, 2014. If you stop by on a Friday or a Saturday chances are you’ll be able to meet me as well.


Stop by Old Town Yarnery in Fredericksburg, VA to see the dress in person and check out their great selection of yarns while you're there.

What will you do with the dress?

After the dress is removed from display, it will be carefully packaged and put away. I plan to eventually donate the dress to a museum.

33 comments:

  1. It's beyond gorgeous! It's breathtaking!! Well done!

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  2. You know rather than donate it, wouldn't it be special to, I know=don't hate me, take it apart then make a beloro for yourself to wear on your anniversary and few blessing gowns for your children, to be passed down? Anyways, it's beautiful! I wish I would have thought of this. Congratulations and best wishes!

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  3. First: Congratulations and my very best wishes to you and your husband.
    Second: Your dress is amazingly beautiful!

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  4. I enjoyed reading your post so much, congratulations on your marriage, but also making this dream dress come true.

    Also, petticoat came at 6pm the night before?! Freak out!

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  5. I loved reading this account of how you designed this unbelievable dress. Congratulations on your wedding and best wishes for a joyful future.

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  6. Congratulations on your wedding and your stunning dress. Thank you for sharing this with so many of us on your blog.

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  7. This gown is absolutely gorgeous! But why on earth would you donate something like this?! This is the kind of thing that should be handed down in the family as an heirloom, especially with how many hours of work you put into it!

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  8. What a beautiful dress! And how nice to find another Alex and Alex - I married my Mr Alex 16 years ago. I wish you all the happiness in the world.

    MrsAlex UK

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  9. What a beautiful love story - punctuated perfectly with your amazing, fantastic wedding dress! While I can certainly agree that this is heirloom-quality, I think your decision to donate it to a museum is generous and very appropriate - this dress is simply too beautiful to only be shared within the family. Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Alex, may your marriage be as beautiful as your dress!

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  10. This is one of the prettiest knitted things I've ever seen!

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  11. Congratulations on your wedding and all the best wishes for the lovely couple.
    The design of your wedding dress is just beautiful, magnificent job all around!

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  12. Hi Alex. Love the wedding dress. Had to go straight to Interweave and buy the Bryn Mawr pattern.

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  13. Congratulations to you both. What a beautiful wedding dress and tie! So unique and special. Xxx

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  14. O Alex, congratulations on your wedding. I thought your Bryn Mawr dress was the most gorgeous knit dress I had ever seen. How TOTALLY WRONG I was. Your dress is the most spectacular wedding dress ever.........and I have seen other gorgeous ones but none touch yours. And you look gorgeous in it.

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  15. The above comment if from Judith Pool who wishes she was in Fredericksburg to see this dress and to give you ahug.

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    1. Judith! Thank you. I wish that you were here to see it. Next time you're coming for a visit, let me know and I'll have the dress waiting for you at the shop. Hope you're enjoying your new home!

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  16. What a gorgeous creation, one to treasure for a lifetime! Congratulations on your wedding :)

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  17. Just wanted to stop and tell you that I found your dress via pinterest and wow! I'm breathless. Your dress is stunning.

    And then I saw Fburg mentioned! I'm a UMW student and I love running across other people who have ties to Fburg. :)

    Congratulations on your wedding!

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    1. I went Mary Washington (although it was the college then)! The wedding dress is downtown at Old Town Yarnery on William St. You should stop in :)

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  18. Congrats on your wedding.
    Your dress is absolutely stunning

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  19. I’d like to thank everyone for their well wises and incredibly kind words. I’m overwhelmed by the love and unbelievable response I’ve had for my dress. I really appreciate people taking the time to read my story and share it with their friends. Thank you all! This was a super special knit :)

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  20. That’s like the coziest wedding gown I’ve ever seen. Such a sweet and brilliant idea for you to wear a knit-sweater wedding gown, as knitting was what brought your husband to you. By the way, congratulations to both of you! May you have a happy and pleasant life together. Dustin @ Crystal Gardens

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  22. This wedding dress is breathtaking. I really appreciate the designer who knitted it so beautifully and cleanly. I will bookmark this post for future consideration. Thanks for posting.

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  23. Wow! It is pretty, elegant and beautiful gown. I saw this kind of gown for the very first time and liked the idea. I have already bought Vera Wang Wedding Gowns for the wedding of my two daughters.

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  24. I am stunned by how beautiful your dress turned out - what a wonderful idea! Congratulations on your marriage and your beautiful gown.

    I did a doubletake when I saw that you're in Fredericksburg VA - I'm an MWC alum as well! Class of 1998. I refuse to call it a university. LOL. I moved from F'burg about 15 years ago (currently living in New Mexico) and am laughing that there's a wine bar AND a yarn shop - the town definitely wasn't that fancy when I was last there. :)

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  25. Just found this through Ravelry - Your dress is unique and amazing and lovely! Congrats on your wedding. :D

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  26. Hi Alex, what a wonderful story.
    We have all been swooning over it in the Rowan office.
    We would love to feature you in our Rowan newsletter.
    Can you please get in touch with us if you would like to take it further?
    Our PR lady is Sarah.Brook@coats.com.
    Looking forward to hearing from you.

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  27. whoah this weblog is great i really like studying your articles.Keep up the good work! You understand, many people are hunting around for this info, you can aid them greatly.

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  28. Oh what can I say? While reading the the whole story, I felt I was in heaven for a few minutes! The dress is so gorgeous, never seen anything like this. Thank you for taking me thro' the whole process.

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