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  • Writer's pictureBarMade Bags

Wedding dress upcycling project: the beginning

Updated: Jun 21, 2020

Back in November 2019, I was contacted through my Etsy shop BarMadeBags with this message: "I'm looking to covert my wedding dress into a variety of travel jewellery cases and beauty cases as gifts for family and friends. I'm looking for someone who could use the satin, lace and tulle from my dress and make it into something useful and beautiful."

Wedding dress for upcycling
Would you upcycle your wedding dress?

I was immediately excited by this request from Therese - what a delightful idea to use the fabrics from a wedding dress in this way, instead of letting such a dress languish in the back of a wardrobe (as - I guiltily confess - mine has done for the last 45 years.)

There followed a series of messages including this beautiful wedding photo, so that I could see the dress.

However, I had a busy schedule with Christmas approaching, so we decided to put the project on hold until the New Year.

Fast forward to February this year, and the conversation with Therese resumed. She had ideas of more bags that she would like, and we arranged for her to deliver the dress to me and for us to discuss her wishes face-to-face. Although it's not essential with a bespoke project, it certainly helps to have that direct conversation. We were able to share ideas for using the fabrics, and I gained a good understanding of Therese's mind set.

My first task was to delicately dismantle the dress, taking care to retain every part of it so that as much as possible could be reused in some way. This included removing the lace that had been hand-stitched onto the bodice. The intention was also to use the zipped carrying case that the dress had been in, so I carefully unpicked that as well.

The bulk of the fabric was, of course, in the skirt which consisted of 3 layers of tulle over 2 layers of satin underskirt. Even so, with an order that now consisted of over 30 separate items, ranging in size from tiny drawstring gift bags to large tote "project" bags, I knew that I would need to use the fabrics wisely. This meant starting with the largest: the tote bags.

Initially, Therese requested three of these tote bags. They were to be about 40cm wide, 38cm high and have a depth of 18cm so I needed to make use of the stiff material from the carrying case (as far as possible) along with the satin for the lining. Each could be different and, as Therese put it, "our imaginations are our only limitation" as regards how to use the materials - particular the tulle - creatively.

Tulle gathered in tucks
Turning tulle into bag decorations

For the first of these, I covered the outer fabric with a double layer of tulle, gathered along the top and bottom edges and then brought together at intervals to create tucks.

Tote bag made from upcycled wedding dress
The first completed project tote bag

I then decorated each tuck with a pearl bead from the bracelet that Therese had worn on her wedding day.

Project tote bag made from upcycled wedding dress fabrics
The second completed project bag
Tulle in bows with lace, satin and pearl bead
Tulle and lace decoration for the third tote bag

For the second tote bag, I used more of the carrying case fabric but this time I covered it with one layer of tulle and gathered a second layer at the sides. I created the effect of a large bow with a silk band at the centre. I sewed on lace for decoration and to help to secure the edges of the bow.

I didn't have enough of the carrying case fabric for the front and back of the third tote bag, so instead I used the satin for both the outer fabric and the lining. However, the outer layer was backed with fusible fleece to provide structure. For this bag, I gathered the tulle into vertical bows with a satin ribbon and a pearl bead in the centre of each. Lace was interspersed between the tulle.

Project tote bag made from upcycled wedding dress fabrics
The third completed project bag

So here are three very different bags, and this is just the start. Therese has asked me to make another tote bag, but that one may need to be smaller and use fabric in a patchwork fashion.

Next up though, are some of the other requested items: a clutch bag, make-up bags, rosary pouches, pencil cases and jewellery rolls.

But you'll have to see my next blog to find out how I have tackled some of them and to see more of the wedding dress converted into useful items!

(Edit: the final blog is also now published!)

If you would like a bag made specially for you, take a look at some of the other bespoke bags that I've made and contact me.

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