Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How to Make a Bride's Garter from a Vintage Wedding Dress

bride's garter

My daughter and I are both celebrating anniversaries within the next couple of weeks. It made me think of one of my favorite projects ever. I hand made her garter from my mother's silk wedding dress. A little piece of nostalgia from 1956 that doubled as her something blue.

One day while talking on the phone to my mother she told me that if I still had her old wedding dress stuck in a closet somewhere it would be fine to throw it away.

"It's probably dry rotted anyway."

I dug it out of an upstairs closet, washed it and hung it out in the sun to dry. Looking at it, I had an idea. A couple in fact. I wouldn't be throwing it away, but I did cut it up. I photographed it first, for posterity's sake.

Next I cut it into different sections and thought how they might best be used. Don't be afraid to cut up something to rework it. It's much better to make use of it and share it than to keep it tucked away where it is just in the way. Cutting it up also makes it possible to share it throughout a family instead of having to decide who gets to keep it. This is also a great tip for quilts and other treasured family textiles.

I decided it would be nice to make my daughter's garter from this vintage silk taffeta, and gifts for my mother, sister, and niece as well.

 Normally, to do this you would cut a strip of fabric, fold it over and stitch together to form a tube.

 This dress however had a bow with 2 long tails ready made for this. I love it when I can save a step.


Once you have your tube of fabric you take a piece of elastic shorter than your tube and begin working it through. Tweezers and patience are useful for this task. It is also helpful to pin a safety pin to the end going through so you can determine the end of the elastic. Pinning the other end to the opening will keep you from pulling it through accidentally. The tube/elastic ratio is going to depend on how gathered you want the garter to be. I wanted something that would mimic the bride's dress, so I needed just a soft gather. My elastic was about 2/3 of the tube length.


Sew both ends of elastic together when you are finished. Then fold over the fabric and neatly stitch the two tube ends together.

 This is what you have. At this point you could add any embellishment you like, fabric flowers, bows, lace, beading, etc. I wanted something simple and elegant. I used blue embroidery floss to hand stitch a heart (there's her something "blue") and cream floss to work the date. Simple. Pretty. Meaningful.

I made the throw away garter (which--have you noticed?-- no man is ever trying really hard to catch) from the lace of my own wedding dress. Nothing about synthetic fabrics says "heirloom".

I also saved some lace from the dress to give to my sister, niece, and mother in glass pendants. They were perfect gifts to commemorate the event. This summer when my niece and nephew visited I gave them both pieces of fabric and lace from their grandmother's dress to make their own heirlooms in the future.

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