Friday, August 17, 2007

Stories from beyond the veil

by Suw on August 17, 2007

I wasn't very sure whether I should blog this publicly or not, because I fear it might actually be quite boring unless you're really into making wedding veils. But it has been pointed out to me that you are the best judges of what you find interesting, not me. So I'm bunging it up, and if it's not up your street, you can always skip it. But I must warn you, there'll be yet more wedding blogging over the next few days…
So, a few weeks ago, I bought three metres of tulle in order to make my 'test veil', but when I spread it all out I realised that not only is three metres quite a lot of tulle, but that there's also just nowhere near enough room in our flat to spread it all out flat. I also learnt that it's really hard to fold that much tulle up on your own in a confined space.
Last Tuesday, I went back to Dorset to get some wedding planning done whilst Kev was away on his trip. Mum and Dad have a lot more room in their place than we do, so I took down the tulle so that I could work up the alpha version of the veil.
The main set of instructions I'm using were written by Jennifer Haley, but there's this Michael's Stores illustration of how to make a veil as well, and lots of veil pictures on The Veil Shop to give you an idea of how it should look. What I'm going for is a two layer veil, with a fingertip or waltz length lower layer, and a blusher that comes to just above my elbows. The exact lengths will be determined at my first fitting for the dress, so that I can make sure that the veil and dress work perfectly together.
So, right before we get to the whole making the veil thing, a little geometry. When you think about a veil, you think about something that's longer than it is wide, right? Hm, yes, me too. And when you read the 'making a veil' instructions, they all make it sound like you're making something that's longer than it is wide too. But the tulle is 108″ wide, and if the blusher is 50″ long, and the blusher is 35″ long, that's 85″ long… which means that the rectangle of tulle that I'm working with is actually wider than it is long.
The key thing to getting a veil that hangs well, with lots of wavy edges that cascade down your back, is the shape of the tulle. In Jennifer's instructions, she suggests that you fold the tulle in half, and round the corners off with a radius equal to half the full width. Indeed, the diagram makes that look like a pretty simple thing. But the problem is, with a rectangle that's wider than it is long, you run out of length before you've finished your half-width curves. Indeed, given that the curve for the blusher has even less length than the curve for the waltz layer, the whole thing ends up being, well, a bit squished.
Rather than the expected U shape, geometry insists we have a sort of asymetrically flattened 0 on its side.
So, right, Veil Mark 1. I cut the tulle to roughly the right length and rounded off the corners with a radius of 24″, which was at that time my estimate for the length of the blusher.
This is where I have to interject that tulle is a right bugger to cut. It doesn't matter how sharp your scissors, it's a nightmare to get a straight line or, indeed, a smooth curve. It's also quite hard to cut tulle if you have a kitten sat on it.
Anyway, back to the veil. I folded the blusher part over, and then used whipstitch to gather up the tulle along the fold, leaving 24″ on either side ungathered. I didn't have a comb so I had to test it out by pinning it to my hair with one of mum's spring-loaded interlocking toothy comby thingies. You know the sort of thing I mean.
Can't say that I was overly pleased with the way that this one worked. It didn't really hang all that well – you couldn't really see any of the edges cascading in a nice wavy way, nor was the blusher long enough.
Veil Mark 2. I'd only loosely sewn the veil up, so it was easy enough to undo the gather, and fold more fabric over for a longer blusher – this time, 34″. I also this time whipstiched all along the fold, from edge to edge, rather than just gathering in the centre. Whilst the blusher looked about the right length once pinned to my hair, it really didn't fall well, and the waltz layer looked again quite drab.
Mum kindly offered me her veil, but whilst it's a lovely veil it's way too short, but I spent some time studying it and trying to figure out how it had been made. It seemed to me to be made of two separate pieces of tulle, rather than one that's been folded, so I decided to try that tactic.
The problem with the folded tulle is that the gathers of the blusher become smooshed up with the gathers of the waltz layer, and it become hard to separate them when you bring the blusher forward to cover your face. That affects the way that the tulle falls, and it obscures the edges, so where they should be falling attractively to frame the face, they are buried in the depths of the longer waltz layer.
My veil experiment didn't take place all in one day, although if you had nothing else to do, one day would be more than long enough. Rather, I spread it out over three days, picking it up and putting it down. I'm pretty sure that I can make the real thing in one day, or maybe one weekend, given that the real thing will need more embellishment than this trial veil.
Veil Mark 3. I cut the tulle in two, one piece 51″ long (I had intended 45″, but it came out a bit longer), and the other around 34″, and then gathered the longer piece with whipstitch all along the flat top – now it really did have the fabled U-shape. The blusher piece I trimmed down further, so that it was the same width and length as the blusher on my Mum's veil, and then I gathered that too. I sewed the two together and again pinned them to my head.
Now the blusher was falling better, but because I am going to have it pinned quite far back, rather than on the crown of my head, it was producing a rather unattractive undulation in the hemline when brought forward. I pinned it where it was falling too long, then took it apart again, and trimmed the bottom into a smoother, more circular curve. Sewed it up again, and bingo, problem solved.
That just left the longer bottom layer to sort out. By this point, I'd figured out that to get a very subtle veil with few waves you need a U shape; to get what they call an 'angel' veil you need a V shape; but what I wanted was something in between, without the V point of an angel veil, but more curvy than a U veil, which has all it's drapes in the middle instead of the edges. (Bearing in mind, of course that the U and V are wider than they are tall.)
Veil Mark 4. I undid the waltz layer again, spread it out on the floor, marked out a longer curve with pins, sort of a half-oval, and shooed Castor away. (The little blighter had decided I was paying way too much attention to the veil, and had come to the conclusion that a good tactic to regain my attention would be to position herself in the middle of the veil and then move as if to sharpen her claws on the tulle. I will admit, it was a tactic that worked flawlessly.)
It took four attempts, but the last, more sweeping curve worked just fine. The edges of the tulle cascade nicely down the sides, and it works really well with the narrower blusher.
I then took my lace samples that I made a couple of months ago, and sewed three of them to the bottom of the blusher, just to see what they would look like. I was surprised that the wider sample actually looked far better than the narrower ones. I still need to find some other patterns to try, because it's going to take 4ft of lace to trim just the blusher so I need to be able to make it quite quickly. The rest of the veil would need 17ft, which is really rather a lot, so I need to think of an alternative trim for that.
Friday, we popped into Ringwood and I managed to get a proper comb, albeit black, and some satin bias binding, so I could see how the veil looks with the waltz length layer thusly edged, and with the whole thing attached properly to a comb. And I have to say, it looks good! The bias binding is a little bit stiff and it flattens out some of the curves, but it's a possibility.
That's as much as I can do, really. Next thing is to try it with the dress and see how the lengths work, and to buy the right coloured tulle. Obviously I can't do that until I have a sample of the ivory silk dupion that the dress will be made of. I might see if I can find some real silk tulle – although it's much more expensive than synthetic tulle, it falls much more softly.
I also need to decide how to decorate the veil, and how much decoration I should indulge in. The dress is going to be quite simple, so the veil can afford to be a little bit more flamboyant, but I don't want to overdo it! Still, we have time to think about all that yet!

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