Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Carly's Christening Gown
If you read the last post you know that our twin grandchildren and their big brother were all baptized this past Sunday. I have told you about Zak's Christening gown and all its details. Carly's gown was quite special as well, for reasons other than just Grandma making it. I have mentioned before about my aunt who bequeathed me a ton of antique lace, much of it liturgical. One of the things in that gift was a priest's alb of exquisite lace netting. It had very full sleeves and the body was quite full as well, offering lots of yardage to work with . I had dreams for years of making it into some sort of garment as it was so beautiful but always felt it would be a sacrilege to make any sort of fashion garment. Talk about Catholic guilt! My research told me that young seminarians were not allowed to wear these ornate garments any more so that meant I couldn't donate to a seminarian, my first choice for this beautiful garment. Once that was not an option, I held on to it and prayed for the day that I could maybe make it into either a wedding or a Christening gown. Any other use of this lace felt like sacrilege to me, but that's my own issue! One day, feeling like I never would make use of this beautiful fabric, I decided to just go ahead and make a christening gown, and if a grandchild arrived who could use it, well, that would be wonderful. If not, well there was always Ebay. In the meantime, I had the pleasure of designing. I made the gown and it sat in the closet for about three months and then we got the announcement that we would be the grandparents of twins. Not long after, we were informed that they would be a boy and a girl.
The lace is gorgeous. Since the sleeves were so full as well as the garment itself, I had plenty of fabric to use. It was a challenge to use it to the max but given that I probably have six square inches left, I think I succeeded. I took my inspiration from several areas. The lace itself and its liturgical symbols were just meant for a garment with religious meaning. Australian Smocking and Embroidery magazine had a christening gown made from antique lace and that was my original point of departure. Then I saw in a Sew Beautiful magazine how someone utilized embroidered lace netting to make a bodice for a dress and that was added into the mix. Throw in the challenge of the actual fabric and the design was coming together. I made both gowns for size 6 months as I was not sure if my children would want to use them and also,being twins, would anyone have the time to pull this all together. When DD and her hubby announced the Christening, I was thrilled and the gowns were then given as a Christmas gift, two weeks after they were born.
This fabric is 80 year old lace netting from a priest's alb. I have lined it with silk dupioni. I had big issues with how to cut the dupioni. Some garments used it on the cross (most) and others on the straight of grain. I eventually decided to cut it on the cross. The edges of the antique garment were scalloped and had lace crosses on them. I tried to utilize this taking most of the skirt from the bodice of the garment and using the sleeves to make the tiny sleeves of the christening gown. The skirt was smocked at the top using tiny pearls and geometric smocking done with floche. For some reason smocking the netting was very rough on my hands. Tiny silk piping is on the top edge of the smocked skirt. The silk lining and the antique netting are treated as one layer for the smocking I played with the scalloped borders on the tiny bodice and came up with the design you see, using scalloped edges on the bias to accent the yoke. The neckline has a frill of the cotton netting and a bias binding of silk.
The closure in the back is a placket. The priest's garment had a beautiful placket utilizing lace on the edge. I had to make a traditional placket on the silk dupioni lining and then line that up with the gathered netting and lace edges of that placket so they we would were in sync with each other. I was pleased with how it came out.
The tiny sleeves on this garment have a rather "unseen" couple of rows of smocking at the wrist. Silk ribbon is woven thru this smocking and let me tell you, that was the most difficult part of the whole garment. Smocking netting is like smocking air, and very frustrating. On the bodice I was working in unison with the silk lining but on the sleeves it was truly just air. The 1/8 inch silk ribbon woven throughout the wrist ended up being quite lovely and a perfect scale for a new baby. ETA, 06-26: Just wanted to mention a bit about the armscye. Being sheer netting on one side and three plus layers of silk and netting on the bodice side, some thought had to go into the seam finish. What I decided to do was bind the seam with silk bias binding. That gave a pretty finish that had to happen due to the high visibility offered by the netting. All other seams, including the free hanging netting, were French seams.
I am not sure when and if I will ever sew any more christening gowns. In a perfect world I would love to sew many more. They are frothy, amazing confections that enhance their baby wearers and do their stitching grandmothers so proud. For our family the baby arrivals are done. Perhaps a cousin or auntie will ask and/or appreciate the efforts of an aging sewist whose DNA predisposes her to just make pretty things. Maybe that relative will ask for a Christening gown..........Bunny