A Knitted Wedding Dress by Lydia Pears

Ok, so a few weeks ago I saw a headline: Thrifty bride KNITS her own dress from the Daily Mail and I thought….Oh dear me!  No!!!

However, a bit like when Amanda Holden has famously admitted that she felt ashamed for pre-judging Susan Boyle and has eaten her words since.  I am most definitely eating my “oh dear me!  No!!!”  And I’ll happily admit it.  I opened the link to see the most gorgeous dress, it’s light, delicate and lace like.  It is nothing like a Barbie toilet roll holder, which is exactly what I had visions of.  And more to the point the bride and groom both look so happy!

I was tweeting about this when the lovely Lydia got in touch with me.  And I thought I just had to write a blog on her and what she does.  Lydia runs her own knitting and wool shop, Spun and like me she loves her craft and is clearly an expert knitter (unlike me). 

I have always sewn but I only started learning millinery about 8 years ago.  I wondered how long Lydia had been knitting or if like me, she still feels fairly new to it some days!

I started knitting when I was about 6 or 7 (judging on the picture) from a knitting kit my mum bought for me, however growing up got in the way and I didn’t knit much. Luckily I picked it back up again, for some reason that I don’t remember when I was about 16. I used knitting books, borrowed from my mum and granny, to progress to different stitches but I mainly knitted scarves. Then I found knitting magazines and other knitters and I started to knit other things.

As you may know I don’t have a shop of my own (yet) so I am always really excited to read of those that have taken their dream and made it a reality.  Lydia’s shop Spun is in The Byram Arcade in Huddersfield and it opened in October 2010.

And event though they are not even yet 2 years old, already they are winning awards.  Spun won runner up Lets Knit Best Local Yarn Shop in 2011.

I know there are various different materials, as I use them all.  But to me wool is wool.  I thought the different wools were dependent on pink wool, red wool, beige wool or flecky wool with little coloured bits in it.  But again I have now been proven wrong.

Spun stocks a range of yarns including Wendy, Twilleys, Artesano, Manos del Uraguay, Schoppel Wolle Cygnet and British Breeds so far but I’m always wanting to get new yarns. We also have a small range of fabrics and, of course, lots of knitting needles (inc Knit Pro) and accessories. I like to get yarns that are not that available in the area, but quality is always high in my priorities when I choose a yarn to stock.

And so I suppose seeing that there are so many different wools and sheep too.  Apparently the sheep that look like clouds are not the only sheep!  (I did actually live on a farm for a year and helped out a lot in lambing season.  You wouldn’t think it would you?!)  But I wanted to ask Lydia about her dress.  I know that when I am designing something for myself I have a set idea in mind….and I change it as I go.  It’s for me, I can do this.  I wondered if Lydia was the same designing for her.

I love being creative and making things, so when we were planning our wedding I knew I would want lots of handmade things. I spent alot of time looking at pinterest and other sites and magazines to see what other people had done. There were lots of great ideas. When I first suggested that I knit my own dress, Ash (my husband) thought it was a great idea and really encouraged me to do it. Other people were a big sceptical!

When we were planning the rest of the wedding, there were lots of other things we wanted to make. We made the save the date cards and the invitations, the place names and table plan (the table plan was very recycled, using a piece of cardboard box wrapped with some hessian I had, then we pinned the names to it!). I also made my bouquet and my mum made lots of bunting for the room. I did knit a couple of shawls for my bridesmaids, but as it was so warm, they didn’t put them on once and we even forgot to get a photo of them!

The dress took 4 months from casting on to being able to wear it. The knitting only took about 5 or 6 weeks. My mum, who is a much better sewer then me, helped me to make the silk underdress. The whole process was very interesting for me and the design changed quite a bit from what I ‘planned’ before I cast on. When I was knitting the skirt, my knitting group were asking what the top was going to look like. I said ‘ I don’t know yet, I’ll see when I cast on’! It was a very organic, evolution design process!  (glad it’s not just me then! J )

I used Schoppel Wolle’s Merino Lace, which is a merino, mohair mix. I looked at lots of different lace patterns before I found the one I used, I’m not sure what the stitch pattern is called but I used it because it looked like a pear leaf. Our wedding was pear themed (kind of by accident) because Ash’s last name (and now mine) is Pears, so I thought a pear leaf stitch would be perfect.

I designed it. Or rather, I created it, as I feel the word ‘design’ gives the suggestion that it was pre-planned! From what I hear about ‘real’ designers, they seem to sketch alot and make little samples, then make what they have designed. I don’t really like sketching, though I did knit samples. I knit and make something, if it works, it works.

I think what I love most about Lydia’s story is that this has been a completely created from her love of knitting and making things; she is in my opinion an expert in her craft.  And I am humbled by her story and once again apologise for my initial thoughts on reading that head line.

And my favourite quote about this whole story is one I found on her won blog about the dress:

I made my wedding dress for Ash, my love, my husband, my better half.

And so if you have been inspired by Lydia’s story, she also runs classes in the Spun workshop where you can learn lots on different aspects of knitting and sewing. Including dying, spinning, sock knitting, crochet, rag rugging, felting and a few more!  Check it all out here for more info.  

Thanks for sharing all of this Lydia. 



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