Tutorial on how to Sew Angel Gowns from Upcycled Wedding Dresses- Decluttering Sentimental Clothing. These were sewn for a group service project.
Tutorial on how to Sew Angel Gowns from Upcycled Wedding Dresses. This year our service project for MOPS was to make these- we made 11 as a group to donate to our local hospitals.
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A few years ago I went through my closet to declutter old bridesmaid gowns and my wedding gown. It was so tough. They didn't have true resale value from what I could tell, particularly after alterations. I wasn't quite sure what to do with them and I hated the thought of them going to waste. I heard about a program called Angel Gowns. People in the program sew small gowns using upcycled wedding dresses or bridesmaid gowns. These Angel gowns are donated to the hospital and if a baby passes the parents are offered the gowns for burial. I thought this was a great cause so I decided to donate my gown to the program.
Fast forward a couple of years and my MOPS group needed a service project for the year. I suggested we make these angel gowns as the seamstresses for the program have difficulty keeping up with the need. A few women donated their gowns and we made 11 angel gowns during the event plus the 2 I made for practice.
If you're able to donate your own dress and can sew the angel gowns yourself, that would be so helpful to your local Angel Gowns program. Our local program always has more dresses than they have people to sew them. It's a project that is feasible for someone new-ish to sewing and if you make the angel gowns with your own wedding dress, then it's easier to also use some of the fabric to make something meaningful to keep for yourself (such as a wreath with tulle, a small purse, use a small piece of the fabric for a backdrop to your wedding photo in a shadow box, etc).
Here's a tutorial about how to make angel gowns. I used the free pattern and instructions from 7 Pine Design to make this, but I wanted to include a video tutorial to explain how to sew the side seams so I hope this helps.
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- Wedding and/or bridesmaids dresses: You want something with a lot of fabric because it gives you more material to work with. A knee length bridesmaid gown isn't going to provide much to work with (maybe 1 angel gown made from it), but a full wedding gown can make many gowns.
- Snaps, buttons, velcro, or ribbon to add for closing the angel gowns
- Sewing machine and other sewing equipment. You'll want a seam ripper.
Upcycling the Dress
More material is key. You want to make sure you have as big of cuts of fabric as possible. I cut along seams that were already there. I removed the tulle (not sure what to reuse the tulle for, but I'm keeping it because I hate to see anything be wasted). I removed the bodice from the bottom portion of the gown.
A group of my friends sat with seam rippers and removed lace and other pretty embellishments from the bottom of the tulle. It's painstaking work, but the embellishments can be sewn onto the angel gowns after. They're very pretty, as you might expect.
Beads weren't cooperative. I ended up with MANY beads all over my floor. I don't know if there's a better way to upcycle them.
Some parts of the dress can be upcycled, but not really used in the angel gowns. I kept the zipper to reuse but it's obviously too big for an angel gown. It was just ideal not to waste anything. You can just seam rip the stitches that held the zipper to the fabric.
Making Angel Gowns as a Group EventThis actually is a feasible service project, even if only one person in the group knows how to sew. MOST of the job is actually pinning, cutting, and ironing. And honestly it makes the sewing person's job so much easier when someone else is taking care of the other steps.
The key for making these as a group is setting up everything in advance, then making sure to give everyone their own task. Using an assembly line process is KEY to being faster when sewing in bulk. This was my setup. My sewing machine was on the table in the top right corner. There were toys in the area for the youngest kids to play while the older kids played in the basement playroom.
That said, there was definitely a bottle neck at the beginning. I'd suggest cutting a few of the dresses before the event so everyone has something to work on initially. Maybe get one dress at each step so you can explain everyone's job.
I also recommend getting the dresses cut up for use as fabric before the event. I spent some time trying to figure out the best way to cut them.
We made 11 dresses total in maybe 4-5 hours (and our kids were with us playing), but I think we could go faster now that I know what worked or didn't work.
I think the best setup is:
- 2 people cutting: 2 cutting mats and 2 rotary cutters for cutting
- 1 person machine sewing: Sewing is NOT the bulk of this project
- 1 person seam ripping embellishments
- 1 person hand sewing the embellishments onto 1/2 of the gowns (1/2 of gowns should be plain for boys): Machine stitching some of the embellishments isn't a good idea due to all the beads and such that can break machine needles.
- 1 person ironing
- 1 person pinning
Angel Gowns: Tutorial
Here is the step by step outline for the process. I used this as a reference for getting everyone setup.
- Cut pattern pieces for exterior and liner.
- Pin shoulders, right sides together
- Sew shoulders
- Press shoulders open
- Pin lining to exterior, right sides together. You need to pin the neck, the end of the sleeves, and the inside of the back (where the gown is open in the back and comes together)
- Sew neck, end of sleeves, and inside of the back. Leave a small area on the inside of the back to turn and top stitch (much much later)
- Snip around curves of the neck, making sure not to clip the stitching.
- Turn right sides out and press.
- Pinning the side seams: This is the complicated part, but it's easy once you "get" it. You're pinching the sleeves so they fold in half, right sides together. Then you're pinning the entire side hem. Watch the video.
- Sew the side seams. Snip around the curves for the armpit, making sure not to clip the stitching.
- Turn right sides out, press.
- Optional: Someone can hand sew the embellishments on right now. This can also be done earlier in the process or later. I sewed on the neck embellishments after the dress was finished.
- Now you'll want to flip it right sides in again, touching the bottom of the dress right sides together. Pin.
- Sew dress bottom.
- Turn right sides out through the hole you left in Step 6.
- Top stitch.
- Add snaps (or other closure)
Love it? Pin it!
Have a lot of tulle leftover and nothing to do with it? I love to use small pieces while I'm making felt soap. Small pieces of the wedding dress can be used to make a Christmas tree angel.
Make sure to check out more posts in the organization series!
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