by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
GLENBURN — A slender silvertone crochet hook and her own 10 fingers are the only tools Sharon Harris, 74, of Glenburn needs for the project of a lifetime that already has claimed more than 300 hours of her time. She is engaged in crocheting a wedding dress for her granddaughter, Sarah Harris of Bangor, a task contained by the fact that she only devotes an hour or so per day to the project.
“I’m pretty excited,” Sarah said. “I was 16 when I asked her to make my wedding gown.
She calls before makes any major changes and I give her ideas I’ve seen on Pinterest and in magazines. I knew I wanted [the dress to have] an open back. We’ve had lots of conversations about the dress.” Sarah is engaged to marry John Giles, also of Bangor.
She is, quite literally, creating lace out of thin air, working without a pattern from a design she and Sarah brainstormed, and which she sketched on sheets of plain white paper as this or that detail was added. “Sometimes my mind works overtime,” she said, “it’s easier to put my ideas down on paper.”
The dress consists of two pieces — a floor-length circular skirt crocheted in the classic pineapple pattern, and a fitted, waist-length bodice that will have a low back, possibly in a V though that has not yet been decided, a below-the-collarbone neckline and narrow straps. The bodice will be lined and the bride will wear white satin petticoats under the skirt. Harris is still trying to determine whether to make the bodice all of one piece or in three — front and two sides. The skirt’s scalloped bottom edge will be filled in with individual motifs embellished with dangling loops of white seed pearls.
“People keep asking, ‘When’s the wedding,’ and I say, ‘When I get the dress done,’” Harris said.
Harris also has made the bridal veil of white tulle, edged with narrow braid trim and attached to a comb adorned with flowers and a pearl pendant that once belonged to the bride’s great-grandmother, who was Dolores Billington Canney of Milo.
Sarah never thought she would walk down aisle in a hand crocheted wedding dress. “It’s going to be one of a kind,” she said.
“This dress has caused a lot of interest in a lot of people,” Harris said. The reason for that is because she takes it with her to medical appointments to work on in the waiting room. Harris said she has serious medical issues that have made it necessary for her to embrace the realization that her life is finite.
But rather than sit around and dwell on her health, Harris spends time every day crocheting her granddaughter’s wedding dress. “I leave it in God’s hands,” she said. “I think God is going to let me finish this dress.” She also strums her guitar with two of her musical friends, sings, plays the keyboard, attends the Neighborhood Church in Bangor and is planning to take a hot air balloon ride.
Harris’s interest in crocheting a wedding dress was sparked by crocheting wardrobes of Barbie doll clothes for the little girls in her family. Then one day something clicked in her mind and it occurred to her that she could design, then crochet, wedding dresses for Barbie dolls, some of which are on display in her living room. Each of the dolls wears a dress of her design and making, complete with veils, bouquets and leg garters. “When I first started on the Barbie doll wedding dresses, I had a booklet of patterns — I had such a good time doing those and I liked it so much, I thought I ought to design my own. Soon, I was turning them out by the barrel,” she said.
Sarah liked the wedding finery her grandmother had created for the Barbie dolls and that prompted her to ask her grandmother to crochet her wedding gown. When Harris heard the request, she laughingly told Sarah, “You should have asked me that when you were 12!” But the idea stuck with her and now she is 4,000 yards of number 10 white crochet cotton into the skirt part of the dress. She expects it will take at least 6,000 yards of crochet cotton by the time the dress is completed, which equates to 3.4 miles of crochet cotton.
Harris said she has been crocheting most of her life. Both her mother and her foster mother crocheted. She took up the craft, teaching herself, when she began to have children. “That’s when sewing, knitting and crocheting became a necessity,” she said. She has six children — three boys and three girls, 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. “Everyone in my family has an afghan I crocheted,” she said. “I must have made 50.”
Harris also is crocheted wedding bells to use at table decorations at her granddaughter’s wedding reception. So far she has made 44 and she believes that is enough. The bells are stiffened and embellished with tiny silk roses and sheer pink ribbon.
“I like to create,” Harris said. “I like a challenge.”
“I want an April wedding — next year — she has some time,” Sarah said.