Nancy’s Jacket and New Job offer

For those of you who wanted to see more of Nancy’s floral jacket…here we go! It was made from my blouse pattern a couple posts back…the camo looking one. I made Nancy try it on and she decided to try the floral fabric, Alexander Henry, for a summer jacket. An Ambiance lining would help sliding it on and off so that was cut from the floral fabric pieces used as patterns in the last post. Now we have the rest of the photos of finished sections…the lining is caught under the facing and topstitched:


The inside of the vent has the lining hand stitched.outside-vent

The outside of the vent continues the 1 inch spacing for topstitching.attach-binding The neck edge is bound with self made bias binding flipped to the wrong side. The bulk of the seam will be trimmed with pinking shears and clipped,


then hand sewn to the lining to stay put:inside-neck and result is:finished-front finished-back  back-neck-darts

Here are back neck darts and rounded back alteration and added 2 vertical back fish-eye darts. Yes, there are 2 large lined pockets…can you see them? One is invisible with a scrap matching exactly the right position and the other a bit off but no scraps were left that matched the fabric below. Nancy did not want any closures but she may opt for a top button later if the jacket fronts slide around too much. She likes 3/4 sleeves and the shoulder pads could have been thicker but it is a casual jacket to cheer up all her other clothes.

This week I got a phone call from the local David’s Bridal manager…it goes like this:

Manager: I want to invite you down for a sewing test and if you pass, I would offer you a job altering bridal gowns in our back room.

Me: Really? Don’t you have your own seamstresses?

Manager: Well 2 of our girls have left to go on their own and we are down to only one girl. If you pass the test, we might even LET YOU pin as well as sew. And if you show some expertise I would offer you $1 more per hour to start.

Me: Well, what is your starting pay normally?

Manager: $10 an hour and you must work weekends.

Me: I don’t mean to be rude but you are going to be hard pressed to find ANYONE let alone someone who can sew well to work for $10 an hour.

Manager: We have had women come in for the test and just leave shouting, “TOO MANY LAYERS”.

At this point in my career (40+ years) I will not be taking any sewing test as I have enough pinning and sewing going on right now in my 2 sewing rooms…ha ha. So the next time you gasp at the prices for alterations at bridal salons…know what those hard working ladies in the back room are making…the same as folks stocking shelves at Walmart or bagging burgers at McDonald’s…sad isn’t it?

Be thankful most of you sew for fun and as a hobby or can actually charge decent rates for decent work you take pride in!


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A Little Stress, A Little Hem

Those of you who know me or write to me regularly know me to be a calm, patient and very non-confrontational introvert who just wants to help clients look good but this week someone changed all that.

It started with a phone call from an older woman:

Woman: I have a very much loved 1939 jacket I want perfectly copied and a perfect pattern made.

Mrs Mole: I can do that, please tell me more about the jacket

Woman: I bought it in a thrift store in California for $14 and it has to be reproduced in the finest wool available and be perfect, every seam, every detail.

Mrs Mole: I can do that, but normally I don’t take apart the garment to copy it and make a pattern.

Woman: I WANT it taken apart and copied exactly and I WANT many more jackets made in all colors.

We make an appointment for the following day but after speaking to my friend and  fellow seamstress, Joyce, she says she sees “red flags” and warns me yet again this gal may/will probably be trouble. But, ever the optimist, I decide to not judge the woman too harshly as on the phone some come off as bossy/hostile/demanding but in person they are more relaxed and easier to work with.

The doorbell rings the next day, 20 minutes early, an in she walks, complete with Kabuki make-up kabuki 2 on an 80 year old face. She looks around my sewing room and asks, “How long have you been sewing” and I reply “only 40 years for clients” and she replies, “And you LIKE doing this?” My response is always, “Yes, I love it”.

She immediately tells me that she was a “wardrobe consultant in a fashion institute” and she continues to know all about fashion and pulls the old jacket from an old bag. It is a raggedy, stretched out, sagging black wool one-button waist-length jacket with a narrow shawl collar and 2 double welt pockets and the weirdest shoulders I have ever seen. They look like someone shoved a baked potato in each where the shoulder pads should be so I mention to her that they look a little wide. “Well”, she says, “That is what I love about this jacket and you can see I have worn the elbows completely away and put on suede patches by myself. Yes, indeed, there they were both put on with long hand stitches and even they look very worn through.

She continues to parade around my room admiring herself posing in the mirror telling me how well it fits, pulling it at the sleeve hems and waist and primping and repeating how perfect it is on her and how perfect it has to be once reproduced and how she wants these exact baked potato shoulders. That’s when  I straightened up and told her: “I won’t be copying your jacket.”

Her totally encircled black kohl-lined eyes opened wide and her heavily hot pink rouged cheeks sank and her mouth dropped open in shock. She said she did not drive all the way to my house (7 miles) to be told NO. Then I explained that I did not judge her on the phone but noted that every third word was “perfect” and I decided to meet her in case things were different in person but they are not. I said I could not work with someone who expected such perfection because instead of looking forward to the process and client I would DREAD it every day. I said that at my stage of life it is wise to honor instincts and gut feelings and not add more stress than is necessary.

She puffed up and corrected/blasted me and said, “I am very easy to work with as long as the jacket ends up exactly perfect and you can find the finest wool in the world just like this one”.

I said I was sorry but I was set on not doing this for her and there was nothing she could say to make me change my mind and wished her well on her quest to find someone who COULD work to her specifications. Once she was on her way to her car, I wandered into Mr. Mole’s office to tell him what had happened and he said he did not know how I could have been so brave and stand my ground so well since this is not my nature. To recover, I managed to pour myself a diet Dr. Pepper and take a few deep breaths and try to stop shaking….whew!

So, back to sewing projects, just to tempt you, here are a few photos of lined sleeves for a new jacket for Nancy.


The sleeve lining is cut the length without hem allowances. The sleeve hem is 1.5 inches with a 1/2 inch seam, that leaves a 1/2 bagging for the lining hem. I stitch the sleeve and the lining separately and then together in the round RST. Pulling the lining flat I stitch in the ditch on the wring side and this makes an inch topstitching on the right side and allows the lining to bag a little.

sleeve-liningstitch-hempin-lining-to-cap Pin the lining to the gathered cap, the underarm seam and allow the hem to bag a little:pin-lining-to-underarm Fingers crossed it will be finished this weekend so Nancy and I can go out to lunch and celebrate my birthday.

Wishing you all stress-free clients and easy sewing!


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Prom Problems

Being a seamstress you have to walk the fine line between moms and daughters and some sense of decency. Really? Or do you just throw in the towel and put your hands up and cry “Uncle”/ just give in?

Last week, a 15 yr old high school Sophomore brought in a very short 27 inch long dress that her mother thought might be too short for the Prom. The girl is at least 5’9 so imagine how little 27  inches covers. Looking at the dress I could actually see her underpants in front and her butt cheeks in back, never mind the fact that when she sat down, there was no fabric under her her behind. That said, the girl loved the Trixxi tutu dress and didn’t want anything changed and announced that she would be wearing 4 inch platform heels to the dance making her 6’1 inches tall. Here is what the dress looks like on a model:spin_prod_961310512 Her dress differed as the top 2 tulle layers were attached to fishing line so they curled up:1 gold-front2 gold-back The lower edge of the sequined knit top is supposed to sit on the waist but it fit her like an empire top. What I suggested was adding 4 inches to the dress with a real lining and 2 more layers of tulle to total 23 inches. The original lining was made from ivory cotton knit like from a t-shirt. I added an A-shaped lining over the old knit one and 2 layers of tulle 3.5 yards long mini pleated on my machine and all layers hand sewn under the original curled tulle:4 gold-front-finished This would now cover her underpants but a day after picking up the dress the girl had other ideas. She tried on the dress and folded under the new lining to the exact level of the original lining and asked for another 2 additional layers of tulle to be added by hand. The only thing she liked was the white ribbon belt held in place by white thread loops. Here is what we will end up with:6  gold-dress-revised Once she wears her high heels you will be able to see everything she owns front and back but she will be happy. The final dress on the dress form:


In contrast with that short ballerina dress, a 17 yr old Senior brought in her dress and it needed lots of hemming. OK, so what’s the big deal, Mrs Mole, get your scissors out and just do it…small problem…the sequins and beads are attached in a horizontal zigzag pattern so they dip down and back up all along the hem edge. This means if you want to cut any off, the entire unstabilized/knotted fishing line that holds them there will release all the beads at once. Great so after hemming the poly lining, the satin and poly underskirt, I had to hand sew every bead on the lower edge before cutting the tulle. Even with anchoring the lowest bead with thread and knots that darn fishing line weaseled it’s way back up the dress and started releasing more beads…Holy Mother! So now we have at least 2 beads secured for every dip down of the zigzag pathway of fishing line. But the girl and her mother have visited me last year with an equally challenging dress and they are very respectful of my time and we have a laugh as she promises to never return with a Prom dress again…of course not, the daughter is graduating…ha ha.217307_1_85_110  2-front-blue3-back-blue Nice dress isn’t it? There was a little surprise inside attached to the lining:1-petticoat  All of this raggedy tulle was half pleated/half not and just barely basted to the skirt lining way up at the waist…so nasty, so I removed it for a smoother line.

Both my sewing rooms have filled up with bridal gowns so I have lots of work ahead of me but it all makes for great photos for all of you. Thanks for dropping by and I wish you stress free sewing this week!

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Muslins and Mothers

Welcome to all the new viewers this week who found their way from Ruth’s blog:! While my sewing is dictated by clients I follow her and envy her creations and final great fit and choice of fabrics and colors.

This last week was filled with anxious teenage girls and their mothers and Prom dresses that would need some work and mothers with children who reeked havoc in my sewing room. The first mother called to ask about dropping off 5 pair of new pants to be hemmed and after making a date and time she added,”I apologize for my children in advance, they are 4 years old and 10 months and are very inquisitive and crawling.”  After feeling my stomach start to churn, I replied, “My sewing room is a very dangerous place with machines and pins and someone will have to be watching your children while you try on the pants.” She decided to come alone.

The next mother came to have her bridesmaid dress hemmed and brought along her 8 year old daughter as a surprise and in the 30 minutes they were there that girl went through my entire room touching picking up and moving everything I hold near and dear no matter how many times I asked her not to. At one point I wanted to ask the mother to put the kid back in her car but having someone jumping off the sofa unto the floor and opening drawers can really speed up the pinning process!!!

The third mother brought her 6 year old pageant princess to have a dress hemmed. Now I don’t know if many of you have seen Toddlers and Tiaras on TV but it involves taking average looking girls and transforming them into mini Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe with fake teeth, fake hair, thick make-up and lots of drama all competing for a prize/crown. The mothers whip these little girls into a frenzy to perform dances and strut their stuff for the judges. The tiny girl in my sewing room was a size 4 and her custom made dress ($350) needed hemming but during this process of pinning up 20 vertical flounces and hem and linings she really had ants in her pants. The mother said they had to wear 5 different outfits for the competitions and the prize was a trip to Disneyland. Lord only knows how much money is spent for each competition!


The real fun this week was having my client/model Nancy over to try on her Vogue 8947 muslin. In my last post I showed the sample dress on the dress form but once she tried it on, the weird sleeves had to be removed. Then we got to pinning and marking and laughing.1-front-pinned Can you see where the designer thought the bust points should be? The neckline had already been moved in on the sides 5/8 inch on paper but the eventual finished edge will be the cut edge. What we really like is the princess seams extended all the way past the waist instead of a seam there, so the paper pattern will be altered to reflect that. It will elongate her and draw the eye up and down instead of across her waistline as in the photo with red lines. Since Nancy is 2 sizes or more different from bust to hip, I cut the dress for the hip ease and pinned out the excess in the top. Since she is short waisted, I prefer to pin out instead of make patches.2-back2-side You can see the drooping center back before and after and the side seams in the bodice that need to be tightened up. Can you see the rounded back line across her shoulders? That will be added on paper later.

3-back4-back-pinned Besides the shoulders pinned up, the zipper will also be taken in and the amount I add to the upper slash will be removed from the swayback area at the same time…why? Well the length we have here is perfect so adding at one area and taking away at another on a straight center back seam will cause the seam to conform to curves and that is what we want. The hips fit so well and the skirt falls from the yoke just right. 5-front-neckline

The neckline will be raised, the edges you see will be the finished edge with seam allowances added on paper and center front folded out on paper too. Without making that adjustment, the shoulders tended to slide off…who needs that?

Next time I have wild Prom dresses and brides to delight you and more hoochie-mama dresses that need some modesty adjusting! Nancy has a new floral jacket coming and lots of paper pattern adjustments too! Have a super week for sewing for Spring!

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Coming Out of the (aging) Closet

Many of us have projects we started with good intentions and then had to abandon for various reasons. Mostly of my reason is the sheer volume of bridal dresses taking over my life from Mar-Dec. Last week, I decided to uncover one blouse from the aging closet (like cheese or fine wine) and bring it into the light of day after 4 years and finally finish it.

Originally this Butterick 3926 96 had been cut with a collar and collar band and all nicely interfaced and sewn together as one unit ready to be attached to the shirt….not a lot to do but no one goes out without a collar do they? I pinned it all together and tried it on and decided it was way too much activity of the print high up on my neck so I took apart the collar and band and just kept the band like a Mandarin collar…less is more. Of course the collar was already understitched and trimmed with pinking shears, so that left the band smaller as well.collar inside-bandneck-band Here are the band center edges which have to be re-shaped into straighter edges. Nice thing about interfacing…you can draw on it!new-seam-linesnew-seam-lines-2 With a ruler I drew the lines straight up and at 90 degree angles from each center front You can also see the dotted lines where the lower edge would be folded under and attached to the neck edge later.

Then I thought…do I HAVE to turn all that bulk under and stitch through all the layers? Is there some way to keep it flat, not use a nasty serged/overlocked edge? Well IF I treat it like a waistband facing and attach a Hong Kong binding…that might work. The lower edge was trimmed to 1/4 inch and Ambiance bias strip was sewn on and flipped to the wrong side and edge stitched to hold the HK in place.10-fold-under-line

Here is the inside band facing with the HK binding and the understitching at the top edge:


13-ready-to-stitch Now I can stitch in the ditch from the right side and everything will be flat inside…ahhhh.14-collar-shut Band overlaps, sits flat and now for buttons…when in doubt I always make covered ones as it raises the perceived value. Let’s make seven 5/8 inch ones:buttons and make some black buttonholes and sew on those buttons:front-finished Can you see the buttons? Most just blend in…just the way I like it and with a snap at the band, I’m ready to wear it out!

Before I go I will leave you with 3 new sheer jackets for my model/client Nancy. She keeps buying wild polyester chiffon for the same great drapey jacket to wear over tank tops and t-shirts. Traveling a lot with her husband she can change her looks and these jackets take up no space in her suitcase and never wrinkle. red-chiffongreen-chiffongrey-chiffongrey-chiffon-back So a little secret…the grey jacket was cut crossgrain to have the flowers on the bottom back edge…holy crap…you can do that? Yes, it is a tight woven and we can do what we want! It still drapes the same as the rest. And a sneak preview…. Vogue 8947 , you have seen it on many blogs, and now Nancy wants it too so here is her muslin waiting for her:1-front

Until next time….watch for signs of Spring!!!! It’s coming!!!

Thank you to all the new followers who have signed up to receive notices of new posts!

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Pole, Patches and Prospectives

Week after week I ramble on about fittings and brides and all sorts of nonsense from my sewing studio but Mr. Mole has reminded me that something he has done for me went unmentioned. So today he has his time in the spotlight.

Last year, I finally bought a real professional steamer and while it works fine it made me realize that I cannot steam dresses while they are hanging flat against a wall if I want maximum fluff. I needed something like a pole in the middle of the room to hang them and steam in a circle. Thankfully, Mr. Mole is quite inventive and said he could hang a pole kitty-cornered (diagonal) across the far end of my room where the dresses hang on huge hooks which he also installed for me above the door jambs. To solve the problem of how to mount a pole across a 90 degree corner, he said he would find something at the local hardware store. He arrived home with flag brackets…they really fit the bill as the walls, like most, are not really 90 degrees. Here are the brackets:pole-holder and the pole in position: pole Now all dresses can be steamed in the round and swiveled and allowed to dry…what a honey of a hubby I have! Take a bow!!!

Last week a client brought me 14 garments that she bought when she had lost weight last year and now that she has gained some of it back, all the clothes need letting out/adding to just to be wearable. Most still had the tags on them. One particular denim dress was a challenge. It required 3 inches of extra ease all around to get the center front zipper to close. I was able to steal a horizontal strip from the hem and work it vertically into the side seams like a huge long wedge and top stitch the whole thing to blend in with the other seams.side-patch-and-top-stitchin The only other problem was letting out the lining which was easy and wide enough but the armhole facing was too narrow: inside-gap

I hand sewed a patch of lining into the gap and understitched everything down so nothing shows from the right side and her friends will never know she grew out of the dress before it’s debut this Spring.

Before I leave you, have you ever thought about how lines affect your mood or balance? I watched a show called Yogi Cameron where they were helping a woman redecorate her front room with cheerful uplifting colors and they brought in someone who was a line specialist…it seems that the brain likes either vertical or horizontal lines and finds one more pleasing that the other…who knew? So to make this a reality in my 24 hour occupied sewing room I draped a small baby quilt over my TV in both directions to see which one suited me best.


You may laugh but try it and see if one makes you calmer…and then when you have to select new blinds for your windows you can pick the correct directional aspect.

Which one made me calm and happy and relaxed? The horizontal one let my brain coast along slowly and took my mind to lovely landscapes at the seashore…Lordie, I could almost hear the waves!

The vertical one was jarring and dominate saying “Get up…follow me”… luckily for me I already have horizontal blinds in my sewing room.

Can it almost be March already? Wishing you all happy almost-Spring sewing and fun Mardi Gras /Fat Tuesday next week!

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At Last Leggings

About 6 months ago I purchased the Espresso Leggings pattern from  patterns. It sat for a while waiting for the flurry of brides to subside and this week I was able to open the huge worksheet and do all the measurements and tracing of my custom pattern. Now, you all know that I moan on and on about people who never measure themselves and their paper patterns and assume that it comes out of the envelope all ready to go…so did I.

What could go wrong? I measured, I traced, I used high quality Ponte knit from Marcy Tilton and here are the steps for those of you who are thinking about jumping into this project:

1-charted Looks great doesn’t it? So simple…nice crotch curves front and back, no side seam…only 2 seams and some elastic fold-over at the top…a breeze right? Let’s trace it with my favorite tracing material and lay it on the fabric:2-layout So far so good:3-cut-out I’m ready to baste!4-crotch-too-low Here’s the first shock…the crotch is a full 2 inches too low and the pants legs will not allow me to pull them any higher…how did this happen?5-side-view The side view is horrible…the hem is supposed to be a cropped style but because the pants won’t pull up higher, they sit on my ankles…what to do?6-slash-open-side-seams Since there is no side seam…let’s create one…slash the full length from waist to ankle.7-added-strips Adding and pinning in 4 inch wide strips might help.

.8-fold-over-top OK, so the pant legs pull up and now there is a 4 inch fold-over at the top but happy days…the crotch is where it should be.9-side-view The new pinned side panels don’t bother me and at least I can get them on and off.

So, after all this messing and adding, I wondered what exactly was the magic formula that was used to make this work sheet for this pattern.

I went back and measured ALL the dimensions and discovered: my waist measures 37, the pattern minus seam allowances measures just over 32 inches…so the pattern removes 5 inches from my waist for a knit…OK but how in God’s green earth will 32 inches with elastic waistband fit over my hips at 42 inches? The waist dimensions do not get larger for the hips, they go straight down to the crotch curve.

You are asked to measure your upper thigh…it measures 25 inches but the pattern measures 21.5 minus seam allowances….so almost 4 inches are removed from the actual body measurement for a knit. Nowhere is there anything for a hip measurement…is it not necessary to clear that region on the way up or down?

The next measurement we make is the knees…simple right? My knee circumference is 16 and the pattern measures 13.5 again for a knit. Now granted Ponte is mentioned as a fabric choice on the envelope and you all know how much it stretches and it should at least get up over my butt but it could not without a huge struggle.

Could I have used something else, sure but this is my fabric of choice and without the (4 inch) 3 1/2 inch minus the seam allowances strips, NO amount of swearing would get those pants to fit.

3-cut-out copy

My leggings now have 7 inches added from top to bottom and the waist is 39 inches before elastic casing, (will slide over my hips) each thigh is 25 inches like mine and the knee is 17 inches. I have cut off 3 inches from the top fold-over so there is just 1 inch to fold and insert the elastic. Want to see the almost finished leggings?

To start with, I wanted the long new 4 inch wide strips to lay flat toward the pant legs, not flip towards the strip…do you know the secret? Whatever you want on the top to be seen has to have the right side of the serging. So that means serging/overlocking in opposite directions to get the right side of both edges…make sense? I know you all have been taught to sew in one direction your whole entire lives but if you have ever worked in a factory that is just a joke. All garments are sewn on a circle with the presser foot never without fabric under it, all seams are fed into the machine right after another with no breaks, so you have my permission to sew one side up and flip it and sew the other side down. See how nice my new seams will lay flat:10-inside-patch Some more views of the almost finished leggings:11-side-view13-front-view and with the eventual shorter length after hemming:12-shorter-length What have we learned from all this messing?

If your leggings pattern measures LESS than your measurements…BEWARE! Wrap your knit fabric of choice around your waist and drag it down over your hips to discover what circumference you need to get them on and off. Do the same for your thigh…wrap one and drag it up and down. Do the same for your knee. This will vary from knit to knit so no one pattern will work every time…SORRY!  Using a very stretchy knit might work with “minus measurements” but only you can decide how tight you want to wear them. Making a muslin using cheap fabric will not always mimic the real fabric.

Adding 7 inches at the waist and hips makes my leggings wearable and sit-able. Adding 3 1/2 inches at the thigh and knees allows my legs to bend and recover without bagging or feeling like I have a tourniquet on.

One last thing…I promised a cool bustle so here is your moment of fantasy….this dress had a huge beaded focal point and I used 5 points to feature it and get the dress off the floor for some dancing:10-close-up-bustle15-bustle I use colored safety pins to mark bustle points and also include under the lining, a memento of the wedding date if the bride wants it. It is embroidered, and hand sewn so that it can be removed later if they want it to be framed or made into a pillow:label

Happy sewing everyone!

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