How to Make a DIY Garter

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Last week I showed you how I made the wedding bouquets for my upcoming wedding.  This week, let’s talk about the garter toss tradition.

I did a little research about the history of the garter toss for this post (and by research, I mean I typed “wedding garter toss history” into the search box on Pinterest and read what came up).  The general consensus seems to be that the custom originated as a way to ensure the bride’s virginity before the wedding night.  Wedding guests would accompany the happy couple back to the bedroom as witnesses to the act and take the garter as proof of the consummation.  Because the garter was considered to be good luck, this somehow evolved (around the 14th century) into guests ripping pieces of the brides clothing, including the garter, off of her so that they would be lucky. In order to avoid an all out brawl, some smart bride and groom decided they would remove the garter (and other bits of clothing) and throw it to the guests to avoid them tackling the bride.  (Sources: The Garter Girl, Absolute Soiree and Wed Alert).

I’ve seen a lot of chatter about the garter toss and whether it is scandalous, immoral, passe, etc. and there are all kinds of ways to do a garter toss everythign from the groom removing it with his teeth to having the garter pre-placed on a football and the groom throwing it.  And there are so many beautiful garter sets on Etsy!

I think the garter toss is awesome, not to mention totally hilarious.  I will be having a garter toss, complete with Mr. C fetching it from under my dress and whomever catches it placing it on the leg of the lucky lady who caught the bouquet!  (Side note: if you have met my sister, ask her about her experience with this sometime.  She probably won’t tell you, but then you can come ask me.  I’ll tell you when I finish laughing.)

But (say it with me now!) “I refuse to pay a whole bunch of money for something I can make myself for much cheaper.”  And garters are incredibly easy to make on your own if you have a sewing machine and can sew a relatively straight line.  It doesn’t even have to be perfectly straight since it gets all scrunched up.  I’ll run through the steps I used to make mine below, but here is a really awesome tutorial from the blog Something About Katie with better pictures than mine.  (I forgot to take the step by step photos.  Again.  Sorry!)

So here we go- making your own garter:

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Step 1: Find your materials.  There are all kinds of garters out there and you’ll need some different stuff depending on what kind you make (I ended up making three because I couldn’t decide what I wanted.).  But no matter which kind  you’ll have some variation of ribbon, fabric and lace, thread to match and elastic. Make sure you get your elastic in a width thinner than the ribbon/fabric/lace you’ll be using for the band of the garter — I had an oopsie on this and had to go get a different kind of elastic– and make sure it is sturdy enough to keep your garter on your leg.  You don’t want it slithering down because it’s too heavy for the elastic to hold up. It won’t show, so it doesn’t matter if it’s ugly, just that it will hold the thing up on your leg.I bought two widths- one for the thick garter and one for the thinner garter.

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It really doesn’t matter what kind of stuff you get to make your garter out of, as long as you like it. I used ribbon by the spool in one of our wedding colors in two sizes, the solid one pictured above (5/8″ I think) and a skinnier one with solid and see-through vertical stripes (3/8″ I think) that you can see in the first picture on the right hand garter, and ivory ribbon in the 5/8″ size.  I really love the ivory ribbon because it has a cool thread detail border on it (you can sort of see it in the right hand garter in the top picture).  I got these on sale, but even regular price they are only $3.99 and $2.99 and you can always find a coupon.

I didn’t mind buying the ribbon by the spool at the craft store because I know I will use it for something else; if you don’t think you will use it you can always get your ribbon by the yard at the fabric store, which is what I did for the two kinds of lace.  My oh so scientific way of determining how much I needed was to wrap the lace around my leg in the store and then double that length so that I would have extra in case I messed up.  For the thicker lace, since I wanted to put it on both sides of the ribbon, I tripled the initial amount from around my leg. You can also buy lace fabric off the bolt and use that (which is what the Something About Katie tutorial shows).

Step 2: Put together the top layer of the garter band. I sort of followed tutorials and sort of made up my process as I went.  First you have to measure your materials.  I once again used my super scientific method of wrapping the ribbon around my thigh at the point I wanted the garter to sit.Make sure once you have that measurement you add an inch or two extra length so it makes the pretty scrunches once the elastic is in. Then, use the ribbon to measure and cut your lace or other ribbon. Cut the length of ribbon for the bottom layer of the band now and set it aside for later.

How you sew this layer of the band depends on what kind of garter you are making and how you want it to look.  If you are doing a thicker garter with lace and ribbon, sew those two things together with the ribbon and lace placed like you want it (lace on both sides, lace on one side, etc.).  For the skinnier garters, I just sewed the two layers one right on top of the other using a zigzag stitch to give it a little more hold.  Once you have all your pieces put together, sew the two ends together to make the circular band.  (I did this a little differently than the tutorial from Something About Katie; she doesn’t sew her ends together until after she puts the elastic in.  Her way is easier, but I didn’t want a thick seam digging into my leg, so I hid the seam under the bottom layer.  Either way works.)

Step 3: Sew the top and bottom layers of the band together.  It’s as simple as it sounds; I put a second layer of ribbon behind the ribbon and lace of the top layer and ran a straight seam around each edge of the ribbon.  Make sure you leave a wide enough space between your two seems to run the elastic through.  Don’t sew the ends together of the bottom layer because you need the gap to put the elastic in.

Step 4: Put in the Elastic.  Measure your elastic by pulling it as tight as it will stretch and wrapping it around your leg to get the length.  Release the tension and cut– it will look very short but that’s ok.  The easiest way to put your elastic into the garter band is to thread it through using safety pins.  Put a safety pin at one end that is parallel to the elastic and another on at the other end that is perpendicular to the elastic (this one will keep this end from pulling through the slit in your band).  Start feeding the elastic through the band using the parallel safety pin as a “needle” so that you can feel it to move it through the casing (the space in between the two seems).  Once it is all the way through, pull the two ends way out of the slit with the fabric bunched in the middle.  Remove the safety pins and sew the ends of the elastic together using a zigzag stitch.  Now pull the fabric back around so the elastic is hidden.

Step 5: Finishing the Garter Band. Sew the gap closed at the ends on the bottom layer.  Do any cleaning up that needs to be done (cutting threads, etc.).  Your basic garter band is done!

Step 6: Add the Embellishments. This is the fun part because it is what makes your garter yours.  I desperately wanted to have a peacock themed wedding but Mr. C put the nix on that, although I did still get to use peacock colors. BUt he did say I could have some peacock touches here and there and on of them is on my keepsake garter.  I’m so proud of how they both turned out.

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A few final thoughts on making garters.  I bought the beaded lace because it just creamed bridal garter to me, but when I made the garter it didn’t play so nicely.  Because the pearls were so stiff, it didn’t scrunch like it needed to in order for it to look and fit like it should.  So, as you  chose your materials to make your garter keep in mind that they need to be thin and flexible enough to bend and stretch with the elastic.

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What do you think about the garter tradition at weddings?  Did you have a garter toss at your wedding?  Have you heard different origins of the tradition?

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