The best news for someone sentimental like me, in a list of good things, is that two people are getting married. Of all the happy events, a wedding must be somewhere at the very top!
My immediate family totals 31, including nieces and nephews. Our offspring form a large group of cousins – 17 – and we’ve had eight weddings so far.
So much has changed since my own wedding, which was in a small country church in Simondium followed by a brunch for just over 100 guests in the garden of my husband’s family farm. Catering was done by my mother-and-sister-in-law. No stylists, no events planner, no grand white marquee (I hired a red and blue striped tent that may have come from a circus)…… friends and family took care of flowers, photos, music; I made my dress, my mother’s outfit and the outfits for the two tiny page girls. It was all completely d.i.y. and probably the most fun and least stressful event I’ve organised and taken part in, in my life.
Weddings have become big business. But sometimes this causes lots of stress and too much pressure on everything being beautiful; snag lists get drawn up and people run around panicking. The day passes in a blur and all the bridal couple have after it is all over, is a huge collection of utterly stunning photographs that look like they come from Vogue magazine. But they don’t remember much of the event. They wish they could go back and do it again, this time absorbing every moment. Stress does that to you – it makes you absent.
So when you know that a bride is loving every minute of her special day, and that the only reason she would wish to do it all again is because she loved it so much, not because she can’t remember any of it, you will feel the love and joy and always remember with warmth in your heart, that you witnessed the betrothal of two very dear people. Just what a wedding should be.
My niece grew up in the same old house that I did. We were both to leave that house in a wedding dress, driven by our dads towards our future husbands at a church. She also knows the nooks and crannies of the farm where her father, my brother, had spent his childhood – as our father had before us. It is nothing short of special that she is the fourth generation of the woman whose name she carries, gifted the farm by her own father when she got married around 100 years before.
Now she was getting married. Her sister and two of her close friends would be her maids of honour and her younger brother would be her personal attendant.
I would say it is quite easy to dress a woman – the choice of what she can wear is without limit. Not quite the same for a man … usually it’s trousers and a shirt … or a shirt and trousers … all you can do is play with the length of leg/sleeve/collar detail, width and fit, fabric and decorative detail. On top of that, perhaps jacket and shoes. The more conventional you are, the more it narrows down. But if you are not too conservative, there is still a little bit of fun to be had.
Our bride decided to jazz up her brother’s slim-fit, crisp white mandarin-collared shirt with some embroidery, some colour to tie in with the floral skirts of the maids of honour. And with pleasure, that is where I came in.
First I traced the exact shape of the space from the shirt onto paper, then designed the layout of blooms, colouring them with crayons according to the coloured thread I would use. I have never used carbon pricking before as a means of tracing and was quite thrilled to discover how well it works! For want of a pricking tool, I used a pin. Rather tedious, but it worked. A sheet of tailor’s carbon paper is placed onto the fabric, face down, and then the design is placed over that, pinned in place so it doesn’t shift. Once the design is completely pricked, the sheets are removed. The design on the shirt is visible in dotted lines. With water soluble colouring crayons, I joined the dots.
The next step was to clamp the section of shirt into an embroidery hoop and to begin embroidering.
This was the most time consuming part of the work because embroidery is a slow and careful process. When working with a hoop, the needle is stabbed through the cloth at 90 degrees with the result that the embroidery at the back of the cloth looks pretty much exactly as it does at the front. It is a soothing occupation. So calming, in fact, that it can make you very drowsy! I had no idea how long it would take to complete the design. Initially, when I first considered the request, I estimated that it would be a day’s work (8 hours). I must admit that I’d had something a lot more simple in mind then.
When I finally snipped off the last thread and totalled up the log I’d been keeping, I was quite astonished to see that, excluding time taken to map out the design and transfer it onto the shirt, I had been busy embroidering for 23 and a half hours. Working for just a few hours a day, it took the best part of a week. But, you see, when you are creating a piece for a wedding, there must be no “stage props” effect; everything must be genuine and made to last, just like the marriage.
The bride’s dress was breathtakingly beautiful, the attention to detail and pattern making fantastic. The designer has true passion and is unhindered by limitations of convention – she created a masterpiece. My niece wore the dress as an extension of herself: uncomplicated, down to earth, pure, fantastic.
My heart is warmed that something I can do, my embroidery, was included and worn so beautifully by my nephew on his sister’s most special day.