Kirstie's Vintage Home
Reusing an old item in a new way gives it another lease of life and allows you to incorporate a very personal item into your room design. Like many former brides up and down the country, Janine had used her wedding veil on her big day and then kept it hidden away for the next ten years. This was a pity, because her grandmother had hand-stitched it when she was 90, so the piece held special significance. Happily, when Janine and Shaun decided on a fin de siècle look for their bedroom, it provided a great opportunity to reuse the veil in a new and romantic way. Legendary textile and interior designer Sue Timney took the veil out of the cupboard and incorporated it into a beautiful canopy to hang above the couple ’s bed. The best bit is that she didn’t damage the veil in any way, so should Janine ever wish to pass it on to future generations for its original purpose, she still could.
The main part of the canopy consists of three layers of silk, which were dyed in toning shades of grey and silver to complement the room’s colour scheme. The edges of these under-layers are bound with undyed silk ribbon to hold them together, and that ribbon provides a visual link to the bound edges of the veil, which was simply draped over the post supporting the canopy. The result was a beautiful and romantic addition to the bedroom. Have you or another family member got a wedding veil tucked away that might be ripe for reinvention? If not, you can buy vintage wedding veils from specialist shops, and occasionally they pop up in charity shops and markets.
Extracted from Kirstie's Vintage Home by Kirstie Allsopp, to be published on 11th October by Hodder & Stoughton, £20. The accompanying series will begin on Channel 4 later this autumn. Text and photography © RTRP 2012.
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• Sue used inexpensive Dylon fabric dye, which is widely available in high street shops, supermarkets and online. The water for the dye was heated to 40°C.
• Always follow the packet instructions because the type of container used (plastic or metal), or even a slight difference in water temperature, can affect the outcome.
• Adding salt to the mixture helps the fabric to become more porous and take the dye better.
• Dyeing fabric is a real art, and with practice you can create unique colours and finishes. Sue mixed two colours to get the colour Janine wanted for her canopy.
• Always do a test on a small amount of fabric first to check that you are happy with the colour, and make adjustments as necessary.
Calculating your materials
The veil used can be any size because it is simply draped over the post supporting the finished canopy. For underneath the veil, you need both gauzy silk tulle and slightly heavier habotai silk (often used for lining men’s jackets), plus silk ribbon for binding the visible edge of the canopy. If your budget doesn’t extend to these materials, you can use cheaper tulle, netting or other synthetics for this project, but they tend to be stiffer and therefore will not hang in the same way as natural silks. To work out how much fabric you need, start by finding the central point on the headboard, then mark how high above that point you want the canopy to hang. Measure from the high point down to the corner of the headboard, where the canopy will be tied back, then measure from there down to the floor. Add the figures together, multiply by two, and that gives the total length needed for each under-layer and the ribbon (you can add extra if you want your canopy to drape on the floor as Janine ’s does). Janine ’s bed was king-sized, so Sue used 12 metres of silk tulle (6 metres for each layer), 6 metres of habotai silk, and 6 metres of ribbon.
Repairing and washing the veil
If your veil is an antique or made from an unusual material, consult an expert for advice before you attempt to repair or wash it. A local dressmaker, alterations shop or bridal shop will be able advise you. If you don’t require expert advice, use a fine needle and silk thread to repair any holes in the veil, making your stitches as small and discreet as possible. Once the repairs have been made, gently wash the veil in lukewarm water with mild soap; never use harsh detergents. Rinse thoroughly, gently squeeze out the excess water by hand (do not spin), then hang up to dry.
Dyeing the under-layers
Thoroughly soak each length of tulle and habotai silk in cool water. Meanwhile, wearing rubber gloves and an apron, prepare your chosen dye according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s ready, testdye a scrap of each fabric to check that it is the colour you want. When you’re happy that the colour is correct, gently squeeze the excess water out of your soaked fabrics and place them in the dye. Stir continuously with a large metal spoon for about 15 minutes, or according to the packet instructions. After that, leave for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the dyed fabric with tongs and rinse in cold water until the water runs
clear. Finally, wash in warm water and hang up to dry away from direct heat
and sunlight. Once the fabric is dry, it can be steam-ironed, but the iron itself must not directly touch the fabric. Always press through a damp cloth. Take your time over this as it’s all too easy to burn the delicate fabric.
Stitching the ribbon to the tulle
Fold the ribbon in half along its length and iron flat. Place the silk fabrics on top of each in any combination you want and align the edges. Tuck the front edge of the three fabrics inside the folded ribbon and pin together along the whole length. This bound edge of the canopy will be visible, so take your time to do it accurately and neatly. Tack together, then machine-stitch with matching thread.
Hanging the canopy
Steam-iron the joined fabrics before you start the hanging process, pressing them through a damp cloth to avoid any risk of burning. Sue used a large vintage yarn spool to hang the canopy from. You can source something similar from second-hand shops or online. Attach the spool to the wall at your chosen centre point above the bed. Hang the silk layers over the spool, with the ribbon edge facing outwards. Drape the fabrics gracefully, then use ribbon to fasten them to either side of the headboard. Finally, place the veil over the spool, ruffling it to make it look beautiful .