Tools and a Twit

A while back a reader asked me to list the tools I use. Eventually I will have a page with many of them featured but here are a couple that make life easier for me.

First up…scissors…I have almost every Gingher scissors ever made. They are great and will sharpen and tighten their own brand if you send them back with a check for $8 to the repair department.

But the one pair that I could not live without is one I purchased a year ago. They are the 8 inch lightweight nylon version. What they don’t state is that one blade edge is almost micro-serrated and what this does is hold slippery fabrics and cuts through tulle like a dream. I spend hours sitting on the floor with the wedding dresses fitted unto mannequins so I can trim tulle and netting under the satin hems. These scissors just hold unto the tulle just right to make a straight line. Being lightweight they don’t make my hand tired either.gingher black scissors

Another tool I have used for years and years is moleskin. It has a fuzzy side and a sticky side that you can buy in the foot care section of your drugstore. moleskinmoleskin-2

I cut a small square or circle and attach it to my middle finger to push the needle through hours and hours of hand sewing like re-attaching lace borders. I have tried tons of thimbles over the years and they are just for me. I have seen recently that quilters can buy little pre-cut circles to attach to their fingers in the notions area of fabric stores.

Speaking of lace borders/hems…another reader asked me to post a tutorial so with the last dress I worked on I managed to make a Pinterest list of the steps that I use. Now mind you, there probably is another way to do this crappy labor intensive task but this is just my way of dealing with it…here. The steps are numbered in sequence although #14 pops up first instead of last.

You all know I am fussy about where bust darts should end and I just go crazy when I see photos on blogs where the darts end over the nipples!!! Ladies, darts have a job…they release fabric where it is needed and that has to be 1.5 or more inches away from the bust apex/point. So here is a gadget you can make at home to keep handy when altering your paper patterns. Find a plastic lid from a yoghurt or butter container (mine cam from some shredded cheese).tool-1 Draw a circle with a 1.5 inch radius or 3 inches across. tool-2Trim away the excess and poke a hole in the middle…voila’ now you have a special dart limiting tool!tool-3 Place the hole over your carefully plotted out bust point on the paper pattern and back those pesky darts back to where they should end!

Now for the final thing…the Twit…a woman dropped off a dress she was going to wear to a wedding reception and wanted to ask me about all the gowns that were hanging up and waiting to be finished. I told her that sometimes a bride will come for her final fitting and ask that I take in a waist an extra 1/8 of an inch just days before the wedding. While this seems frivolous I do my best to accommodate her as long as I am not having to mess with layers of linings etc which will run into more labor. That’s when this woman asked, “Don’t you ever just NOT do what she wants and tell her you did?” As I suppressed a righteous scream, I straightened myself up and declared, “NEVER!” What a crappy question to ask a professional and was I supposed to admit that, yes, I do cut corners and cheat my clients? Get real, Girl!

Before I go I will share the last of the veggie garden bounty. With freezing temps approaching in our valley I pulled up the pepper plants and eggplants and found all these little guys:    final-crop

Now with the raised beds re-planted with winter crops and under cover it is Mother Nature’s job and my red worms to do their magic!

Nancy is coming over next week so we can finish up with her jacket muslin and move along…I am so excited! Happy sewing everyone!

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SEW BAD Saturday #2

We have our second entry from Wadderland!

Tia Dia has posted on her own blog MezzoCouture about this dress but she thought it would help others to see it here too.

Why did you pick this pattern?

In all truthfulness, I chose this pattern because it looks so flattering in Burda’s sneaky photos. Mind you, it’s made up in black, and what isn’t flattering in black?

What size did you think you were according to their envelope numbers?

Well, I’m supposed to cut around a size 46 for Burda and a bit larger through the hips, but I traced off the regular sized version (44) of this pattern from the November 2012 issue because I thought I’d just alter it. How hard could an FBA be and additional width on those seams?

What size did you cut and did you alter before cutting?

I added width to each of the seamlines in the skirt and did an FBA for that pleated bodice. Because there wasn’t already enough fabric in those darned pleats as drafted, of course. I just had to have more across the bust!

Did you encounter difficulties others would like to avoid?

Gosh. Where do I start? First of all, DO NOT MAKE IT IN A WOVEN. Secondly, never ever do an FBA on this dress pattern. It’s not required. Under any circumstances. And for the love of all things sewing, make a muslin. You may want to take out a lot of the fabric in those busty pleats.burda-11-2012-138-armscye

Is there anything in the photos we cannot see that you wanted us to know about?

Yes. The first set of sleeves didn’t fit me at all because I forgot to compensate for the woven vs. knit fabric change. So I cut the 2nd set of sleeves (originally posted) set from a Vogue dress (I can’t remember which), and they were still too tight!!!! And I didn’t add enough width around the skirt, so I had to let out all those seams to the bare minimum of 1/4″ allowances.

Burda 11-2012-138 armscye problemBurda 11-2012-138 sleeve issue

Is this garment wearable with tweaking or not?

Well, I tried to tweak it after putting it aside and taking deep breaths so I didn’t just take the shears to it and turn it into minced wool. I took the sleeves out, took apart the bodice and took out all the FBA-added fabric, which improved the bodice a lot, I thought. You can see from the altered pics how low the armscye is, and there was no fixing that.

Thumbs up or thumbs down on buying this? Worth the effort?

It’s a nice idea of a dress, but I think you’d need the darker fabric of Burda to keep the attention-drawing bust darts to a minimum. And I’d probably play around with just how many of those darts you really wanted if you did try this dress. Seriously, if I had been serious about having this dress work for me in the first place, I should have done a muslin.

Before   burda-11-2012-138-front-before-adjustment   and after  burda-11-2012-138-adjusted


R   Burda 11-2012-138 side  SIDE VIEW

Do you want suggestions on how to “make it work” or is it beyond that?

I made notes of the changes I’d need if I did want to make this up again, but for now, it’s destined to be a skirt. But if this was your dress, what would you do to keep it out of the trash bin?

Please direct your comments and suggestions to Tia Dia.

Thanks for sharing, Tia!

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Where are the Easy Jobs?

Probably most folks don’t even think about the level of difficulty involved with their garment when they drop it off at the local seamstress. She nods and says it will be ready on a certain day and they leave happy. Then the fun/torture begins.

My East coast seamstress sister, Miss S, very kindly shared this photo of another one of those too-short baby-doll dresses that have been de rigueur these days. ALL she had to do was take in the zipper…easy peasy right? What’s to complain about? Until you see the beading…take off beads Can you see all the tiny rows of glass bugle beads that were removed and have to be re-attached after the zipper is moved over? Here is her partial pile of salvaged beads:beads Yes, big nasty cheap plastic rhinestones and seed beads and lots of labor. The finished product will look familiar once all the hand work is done…finished length of dress: barely covering the lady 2 One of these graced my sewing room as well but all the girl wanted was the layers to be taken in to not have too much pouf.P1180116 Yes, that is a corset back and there is a modesty panel but it could not span the entire width of her back so she is not using it. Mothers allow their daughters to parade around in public with these ballerina dresses…scary!

Brides like to expose their backs as well as this dress, Ti Adora 7406, wandered into the sewing room too:TA7406-2 What you cannot see on this professional model is the side seams…one side is fabric, the other side is mesh. MESH? And what do I get to do….you know what’s coming…remove the invisible side zipper, take in 1 inch each side (2 inch total) and re-attach it so no one knows you altered it. Then I take in the other side the same way. No raw seams, everything is hidden within the lining.right-side

All the mesh side seams had to be folded under the zipper tape and hand attached to the mesh bodice so there were no puckers or lumps. You might be wondering…well Mrs. Mole…how can you take in the bodice 4 inches and not the skirt…oh yes, the skirt also had to be taken in all the way down to the hip area but I didn’t manage to get more photos. The beaded little belt had to be totally removed, 4 inches deleted and then all attached by hand.


Thankfully the bustle was a one point one.single-bustle

The shoes were Badgley Mischka for $245 in white satinLAVENDER-II01.1200.1

The last bride I want to share had a 5 foot long train of layers of vertical strips of tulle and lace and organza…yes sounds pretty and fluffy…train-steamed but for the bridesmaids to be able to find the buttons and loops for the 3 point bustle I had to tie 1/8 inch wide satin ribbons around each loop so they had something to grab unto. The satin layer underneath all this meringue also had 3 bustle points. Lots of fabric/insulation for a hot summer wedding!

all-bustled-upside-bustle 2

More brides keep pouring in this week and I am booked through until 2015 and even beyond with brides making appointments to make sure they get on the schedule…whew…it’s an epidemic!

Before I go, remember that the SEW BAD Saturday feature is just waiting for your wadders…everyone is welcome to send in photos of disasters! Be a star and submit your project!

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Jacket Paper Pattern Alterations

After pinning Nancy into her jacket and seeing all the areas that needed to be narrowed and flattened you are thinking…how is all that going to come together?

This week the muslin-back-to-paper changes are revealed. Let’s start with the back section since we started with that in the pinning.1-back-folded The muslin has been taken apart to make this easier to duplicate the changes. The paper pattern is placed on top each piece and the same changes are made.2-back-marked The shoulders and back side need to be narrowed so 2 parallel lines are drawn 3/4 inch apart. The lines in the above photo were just drawn on the muslin before I removed the pins. 4-back-paper-on-top5-back-lines-drawn8-back-done Here you can see the 1 inch slash across the center back and paper added. There is the new center back stitching line at the waist and the shoulders narrowed down to the waist but then allowed to fan out towards the hips.9-9-right-side-back This right back section is also attached to the back and needed to be narrowed. There is also a similar left section.10-front-marked The right front has lines drawn on the muslin, again narrow the shoulders to the notch area and take in at the waist.16-right-front-trimmed The front gets a new paper strip and trimmed on the side seam. Dropping the front 1 inch will make me raise the armscye later the same 1 inch front and back so the sleeve will fit. Since the front is a flat piece of fabric with no shaping, I can add a 1/2 inch dart (total 1 inch) to give the jacket some bust shaping from the armscye but that will come later on the mannequin or on Nancy.15-match-shoulders Whatever you do to the back shoulder, you have to duplicate with the front since they sew together. You can also see the neck may be taken in 1/2 inch to tighten it up.12-middle-right-side The middle right section just needed to be narrowed and the lower right as well:11-lower-right-front Saving the toughest part for last…the dreaded left side with the tumor/pouch. Remember on Nancy, I pinned out 4 small darts to remove the excess fabric to flatten it out. To make this all work the left front sections will have to be removed and treated separately. Let’s see the left top section…same shoulder treatment as the right side:23-left-front-trimmed Now the lower sections:17-darts-to-flatten Once marked with pen and pins removed the darts lines are visible.18-separate-sections19-lower-section-darts-clos I cut through one leg of the lower darts and overlap them and pin flat.20-middle-section-darts21-middle-dart-closed

The middle section darts are closed and flat. Now let’s see if the match up?22-pin-together Happy Days! Now let’s lay the paper on top and do the same again.26-middle-section-left-pape27-lower-sections-pinned Can you see the little section between the middle and lower sections that has the dotted lines? It needs a little paper there to fill in:28-add-paper

One more section to be altered and added on the left side:25-left-front-side-trimmed Now that all the paper and muslin has been altered and trimmed, it all has to be put back together and sewn to prove the point. Let’s take a break for a Diet Dr Pepper….

OK, breaktime is over…let’s baste the jacket without the sleeves and see what we have:30-flat-front

Pretty nice isn’t it? Once the puffiness was removed, we have a very interesting curved shape on left side that will certainly create interest if done in contrasting colors/textures. As before, I will have these and more photos up on my Pinterest page when they are all assembled in one batch.

Next time I will show the sleeves and armscye changes…I’m sure your brain is on overload by now. Maybe you are thinking, “why go to all this trouble?” And my answer is always, “Why Not?” It gets me away from the brides and I love cutting up paper.

Before I go I want to share the second Alabama Chanin sample I made using a homemade plastic stencil and that same backstitch and embroidery floss technique. What you realize as you do these is how long it take to go around each leaf and knot and cut every thread. It was much faster doing the free-form zebra stripes! The technique calls for pinning the 2 layers together but I opted for just basting every 6

blue-done-frontblue-done-back Not sure what this and the zebra print will be but maybe just vests, lined with something slippery or fuzzy for warmth.

Thanks for hanging in there with me for all the pattern changes…have a super week of creating your own wonderful garments!

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The 60’s Bride

Every wedding dress has a story and history and I feel blessed to handle and alter them.

This month I accepted a bride with a dress she found and bought in a consignment shop. It was definitely from 1960 and too tight and too sheer in the skirt. The bride has come for fittings wearing different colored thongs complaining that you could see her underwear and I thought of how often this happens. It made me smile to think of how many hundreds of times I have told the brides to wear proper undergarments. I say “formal clothes require formal underwear”. It reminds me of the Dr. Seuss rhyme “Red Fish, Blue Fish“.

My poem would go like this:

Red thong, Green thong,

It’s all wrong

Pink Thong, Blue thong,

It’s still wrong

Buy, Try, Why?

Tight pants, Right pants,

Wear them for a while

Flat tum, tight bum,

Makes a bride smile.

Here we go…let’s have a look …from the outside it looks homemade and from the inside it looks homemade:5-front6-inside-bodice 7-inside

But after digging around inside I found this tag:P1180136 Yes, it IS a union label when seamstresses had protection when they worked in US factories. Back then, wedding dresses didn’t even have linings or boning or mounds of tulle and petticoats or a myriad of buttons and bows…they were just a dress to be worn once.

This dress was very tiny and had a metal zipper up the back which is being replaced with tiny loops for a corset back. The original bust measurement was 30 inches and waist of 24 inches but the side seams had been taken in 2 inches making the bust 28 inches…imagine!8-loops

The lace overlays were all intact, no tears or holes but the lining did have a horizontal tear at the hip level that had to be fixed using some fusible interfacing strips and hand sewn invisible thread.9-torn-lining   P1180143

The bride is opting for a 3 point bustle and will have ivory stain ribbon instead of the green color I used for a trial lacing up. A skirt lining was added and stitched by hand to all the raw edges inside to follow the empire shape. Now her underpants, no matter what she wears, will not show through:P1180145

Two things I want to mention this week are 2 solutions for strapless dresses that can make the day for a bridesmaid a lot nicer. The first is adding a halter strap. This is just a 1 inch wide piece of grosgrain ribbon covered with the chiffon I cut off the hem. One side is sewn to the dress and the other side has 2 big snaps inside so the bridesmaid can remove one side and hide the strap for the ceremony but use it for dancing.


The other is adding small straps on both sides to keep a big collared strapless dress from falling down:

P1180141P1180142 These straps are organza ribbon but they will be covered with the lace removed from the side seams once they are taken in. This dress was made in China and was too long and too wide so the bridesmaid asked for a small bustle to help shorten the dress for dancing.

Before I get back to the October brides, I want to share half the harvest of butternut squash from the garden cages:

Happy cooler weather sewing whether it be for real clothes or Halloween costumes!

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Nancy’s Jacket

Remember the last post with the jacket muslin? Well, Nancy is back from her trip and ready for her fitting. Maybe those of you who have been following along as we add to Nancy’s wardrobe know that there are certain alterations that pop up every time and this pattern is no exception.

First we see the muslin as it is:24 front

It looks as bad on her as it did on the mannequin…how about the back view?26 back You can see the back sections are too wide and the yoke line is curving up…what shall we do? How about the side view?25 side Lovely drag lines are pointing to the bust line which seem to be shooting up instead of parallel with the floor.

Some of you have asked in the past…where do I start? I always start at the back yoke area because patterns cheat us there…the horizontal grain line is curving up and needs a slash to bring it down…let’s do it!27 slash back Counting the gingham squares we see one inch is needed and also the center back needs tapering in. I will also start pinning a vertical tuck from the shoulder seam to the hip in back and shoulder seam to the bust in front to narrow the shoulder and side back areas.29 side Back is done so let’s move on to the front.28 front I removed the one sleeve to allow me to slash all the way across the bust line into the armscye. In previous patterns/muslins you will remember that when we add the front slash it not only drops the front grain line but also allows the sides to swing out wider so the actual side seams will be pinned out 1/2 inch. A few more tweaks for the right lower front pieces:31 right side And now for the left…lumpectomy. Seeing as the sections curve out as a convex circle , I will pin out a concave dart to bring the fabric back into the body.32 left side Each of these curved darts will be transferred to the paper pattern sections and we will see how flat they can become. Even if they are not perfect we will still keep the integrity of the original design since that is what compelled Nancy to purchase the pattern in the first place…those cool angles and lines but without the lump. I also discovered that the armholes could come up 1/2 inch or so and that will be added to the paper as well. Yes, the sleeves will change a bit if the armholes of the bodice change but you have been following the sleeve cap saga. Since I added an inch to the front armscye, that will also be added to the front of the sleeve. As we progress I will put all the photos and steps in a Pinterest page like before but before I leave I want to share some photos from the Alabama Chanin projects.

Ruth of Corecouture has been really busy creating gorgeous outfits with the book and I had bought the class on Craftsy and finally finished watching. I used all those $5 t-shirts as fodder for the first try. Here is the first hand drawn zebra motif:

P1180042P1180107 The technique involves either spray painting the shapes or stenciling the shapes on first before stitching and cutting away the top layer. Since I have no desire to use paint around the bridal dresses, I drew the shapes with a fine tip marker. Unlike Ruth, I have been using a back stitch instead of the running stitch. It takes much longer, uses 3 times as much thread but I like it.

Wishing all of your a super sewing week while leaves start to fall outside!


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Inside DVF wrap dress

With all the wrap dresses and patterns for these iconic garment I thought you might like to see inside the real Mc Coy. This week a regular client brought in her DVF dress to be shortened and a snap added to the front closure.

Inside the dress there is the ubiquitous label but I didn’t know that they now have holograms merged into them. This photo did not capture the hologram as it was pretty shiny but you can imagine it.

P1180099 The other label described the fabric content:P1180100 So, no wonder those dress drape so well and look so flattering…silk knit is the key…what a dream to sew!

All the shoulder seams and back neckline have clear elastic in them:

Inside the facing is backed with fused interfacingP1180097P1180096

P1180104 The interfacing goes just past the fold line.P1180095 The back yoke extends to the shoulder seam to be sewn into the sleeve, also with clear elastic inserted. Hang tie ribbons are attached to the underarm seam.


The sleeves finish with a sewn-on cuff:P1180102

The inside is stitched in the ditch from the right side:P1180103 and after attached a black snap to keep the front modest, here we have the dress:P1180106

More silliness from the sewing room…today, I got a call from a bridesmaid needing her bodice taking in and could I do it for her before her flight tomorrow…I wanted to ask, “when did you buy the ticket” but passed her to friend who might be able to whip this out for her.

The other was a bride from India who needs alterations for a Jan 3, 2015 wedding. So some clients have no sense of time and others have so much sense they can plan into the next year. Some March brides have already called to make sure they get their slot before they are filled…good girls!

While trolling through the internet when I get notices from sewing stores in the US pushing sewing classes, I found this:jacket class

Here is a jacket class that says you will emerge with this jacket at the end of 5 hours and $45 fee. Would you pay for this class? For those who ask me what are “drag lines”…have a gander at this puppy…I only wish we could see the back view!

Don’t forget to check out the winner and loser this week at the FabricMart challenge and vote for your favorite who was able to do the best job of copying RTW…should be really interesting to see the photos up close! Last week Ann did a superb job! And is anyone following Tim Gunn and the contestants on Project Runway…that Kini does amazing work!

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