SEW BAD Saturday #4

Meet Stephanie, while her fascinating blog contains travel photos, artwork and sewing, she felt compelled to share her latest creation with us. I will just include everything she said to me:

Hi Mrs. Mole,
I have an entry for your Sew Bad column, inspired after seeing Kate of Fabrickated’s version a few weeks ago. I’m not the most experienced seamstress so I don’t know if this would be of interest to your readership. Something I find frustrating about blogs is that people are generally “nice.” I’m not suggesting that people should be mean, but I like a debate and an honest opinion, as I’d like to learn how to sew properly and don’t have any in-person guidance. I think I can trust your readers to provide sincere feedback. (I write a journal/blog here: , although I write about things other than sewing for the most part.)

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Why did you pick this pattern?

I can’t remember! Knowing me, I probably liked the floral fabric in the picture on the pattern envelope. I also had not made a shirt yet at that point and so didn’t understand that this shirt does not have a collar stand. Oh, I remember – I was thinking of making the shirt dress version, to wear belted, although I decided to try the shirt version first to get the hang of the pleats. I am also a big fan of vintage patterns generally, especially pre-1970, although as a relatively inexperienced seamstress I am not yet the best judge of whether a vintage pattern will produce a garment that can be easily worn as a contemporary style.

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

The pattern is a size 12, bust 32, which is what I consider to be my base size, based on my shoulder size and upper bust measurement.


What size did you cut and did you alter before cutting?
Same. I think I did narrow the bust darts a bit out of a fear that they would be too pointy. I could definitely have moved the darts down on the finished product, as my bust is not sufficiently pointy (or rather my undergarments are not) and sits lower than the dart! I recall measuring everything on the paper pattern and deciding that I would go ahead with the darts in the pattern’s position.

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Did you encounter difficulties others would like to avoid?

This is not a difficult pattern. The instructions were clear and I had no problems putting it together. I actually quite enjoyed making the front pleats. I’ve always liked pleats.

One thing to note is that I know that the sleeves are not set in properly. There was too much sleeve ease when I got to that stage, so in the end I allowed them to pucker in the back. I’m not sure whether there was too much ease because I had originally cut the shirt fronts and back for the sleeveless version of the garment and had to cut some of the armscye out once the shirt was sewn together and I realized my mistake. I could probably have taken the sleeves out and hacked away at the underarm a little bit to make the sleeves fit, but by that point I was sure that this was not going to be a shirt worn as is. I don’t like the length or the cuffed look of the sleeves. The shirt might be nicer if I take the sleeves off and turn it into a sleeveless version – a project for next summer.

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

As I mentioned above, there is no collar stand. I don’t like a collar with facing, as it turns out. It feels a bit flat to me and doesn’t open out as I would like.

Is this garment wearable with tweaking or not?

As I noted above, I think I might wear it if I were to shorten or remove the sleeves, although the bust darts kind of bother me. I’m mostly thinking of it as an “experience” garment and if I make the shirt again I’ll make a sleeveless one in a prettier fabric and with lower bust darts.

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

I haven’t tried making the pants part of this pattern yet, which might also suit me, so I can’t dismiss that part of the pattern. As for the shirt and the shirt dress, I wonder if with some tweaks to modernize a bit and a nice fabric they could be attractive summer casual wear items. That said, I don’t think this is a spectacularly interesting pattern. I am excited to receive comments from your readership.IMG_5510 (683x1024)

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

As I noted above, the shirt suffers from my poor fitting and sleeve sewing. I also think the cotton voile that I chose is not the greatest pick for this style, especially in Pepto Bismol pink. I don’t know what I was thinking. The button placement also makes it look dowdier than it has to be. Oh and oops – I did reverse the button placement to the wrong placket, but that doesn’t bother me. Improving each of the above, however, would probably improve the style.

I suppose in summation I would say that with the sleeves that length and with their cuffs, it looks to me like a uniform for cleaning or for working in a cafeteria, or possibly bowling, which are all fine activities, but not what I was aiming for on this occasion. I think I was thinking something a bit more Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, perhaps as she is learning to dance on a log in the forest with Patrick Swayze…as one does! In other words, the final modification that I would make would be to go sleeveless or shorten the sleeves.

Any thoughts from your readers would be welcome, as would suggestions of alternate patterns.

Please direct your comments to Stephanie so she can make this pattern work for her. Thank you, Stephanie for sharing and being the guinea pig for this post. The SEW BAD Saturday spot is always open for new talent and submissions!

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Nancy Returns

Yes, it is the final fitting of the jacket muslin Butterick 6106 after all the paper work and pinning and folding and taping and measuring ….TA DA!


You will see a few additions like 1/2 inch armscye darts to compensate for the 1 inch gingham patch and the front panels lie flatter now…the pouch on the left front is almost gone. The sleeve still need more cap height and the neck edge is still too wide.

2-right-side We will shorten the top neck edge by 1 inch, take in the center back and let out the side back seams at the hip area. Also a swayback tuck will be added in later photos and on paper.3-back The gingham patch will be widened by 1/2 inch so the yoke area relaxes down.4-left-side You can see the left front panel needs more fabric folded out to lie flatter.8-final-pin-out Here it is pinned out like a huge dart and this will be transferred to paper in later photos. The total excess fabric is 2.5 inches at the hem narrowing to nothing at the top.

5-left-sleeve As far as the sleeves, I have re-pinned the blue (second) gingham sleeve to make the horizontal bicep line parallel with the floor. The red shoulder seamline will be shown in the paper alterations.7-dart Here you can see that the dart needs to be re-angled to point to the bust point.


Let’s transfer the left front folds to paper,

9-first-line  first make the vertical line,10-fold-lines then draw in the actual fold lines from the muslin, fold out the excess and pin or tape down. This alteration makes the 2 middle and lower strips become more curved and actually more interesting.11-folded

12-back The back will get the extra 1/2 inch added to the upper patch, the swayback is folded out and pinned down (1.2 inch total to nothing at the side seam) and the extra 1/2 inch added in the hip area.

How about the sleeves? So glad you asked…I have measured the front armhole and back armhole and they measure 11.75 inches (front) and 12.50 (back) then the sleeve with the added cap height measures 12 inches (front) and 13 inches (back). We have 1/4 to ease in the front and 1/2 inch to ease in the back. I think for a jacket this will be acceptable and the fabric is a linen/cotton blend that will work well. You can see that the second gingham sleeve had the added portion that I have shown before. If I had not added it, we would have run out of seam allowance for the muslin fitting. This way I know how much extra was needed. Again I use the CLTL technique…cut large, trim later…it’s only fabric.13-sleeve-cap


Add tissue paper, re-trace seam and cutting lines and measure and record.


The jacket fabric will need some time to talk to me and tell me what motifs…flowers, buildings, words etc will want to go where to look the best on Nancy. She bought 4 yards of this 60 inch wide material and said that with the leftover fabric I could make myself a matching jacket and we could go out to lunch together…ahhh…maybe not! Lunch OK…matchy matchy…nope!


The fabric is washed and dried and ready for cutting but I still have more brides to finish!

How about this:     7-5-point-bustle A bustle that requires 2 more points than in the photo for a total of 7 points just to get it off the floor. So much fabric and weight will really be hard to dance in and maneuver but the brides seem to need these huge trains to be happy…go figure.

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Another NYC wedding

For some reason I seem to get loads of West coast bridesmaids and guests heading to East coast weddings this time of year. Last week we had the little bridesmaid with a too tight top and this week, the reverse.

Here we have a perfectly normal dress that comes in regular and petite sizes through Nordstrom and other stores. You can order your size and even return it no problem.

$_12_9613633 In the tiny, tiny photo the dress shows that the shoulder seams are rounded/curved and are meant to sit on the very outer edge and act as a small cap sleeve. My client bought this dress a size too small and not petite even though she needed it…go figure.

To start with she tries it on and the zipper barely gets up and the whole hip area is sliding at a rapid pace upwards towards her waist. I grab the side seams and yank them down but it is determined to crawl upwards for the life of the garment. She say, “why does it do that” and my answer is, “fabric seeks its own level, the hips need more space so they have to migrate up the waist to relax and stop, I guess you will be sliding your dress down all day.” She tells me that the wedding is at the Waldorf-Astoria in NYC to impress me. OK

Then, I do what I always do for front wrap dresses…pin the wrap shut and offer to hand tack it inside to keep the sides flat and not (as Anne says) not let the “bunnies out of the hutch”. She looks down at the 2 pins and says she is NOT going for that and she wants the cleavage to show as much as possible. OK.  She says that when she sits down the wrap REALLY opens up and she is OK with that too. At this point I am thinking that instead of looking like she is a posh guest she make look more like a girl off the streets looking for work.

Then she grabs the shoulder seams and pulls them way up saying, “this is all it needs and I want them to stay on my shoulders and not slide down”. I notice/point out that the seams are definitely curved and meant to cup the top outer edge of her shoulder but she is not having any of that either. I tell her I will make bra strap guards for her. So then the shoulders are pinned and everything is discussed and I say the job will take 1.5 hours and quote her my normal price for regular clothes, not bridal. She steps back and say, “well that is a bit extravagant but I guess it may be worth it.” In my mind, I am thinking, well Honey,  there is the door and I am sure you can find someone who might do it cheaper, but I smile and ask when does she want this little frock.

“I will pick it up in 7 days” is her answer and as she walks down the front pathway, she turns to say, “And make sure that I can gain weight after this alteration and have it un-done”. So in other words….don’t cut off any fabric. OK, I can stuff all that sequined shit into that seam and leave it lumpy…you get exactly what you ask for here. If you want to see what was done to this dress the photos are here:

Thread baste the new stitching/seam lines 1.25 inches apart:



Open seam and pin sequined fabric, not lining:




make sure the curved seam is going to be sewn straight:




Open original seam and hold flat, flatten lace edges to opposite seam allowances:





Fold edges under, pin and hand sew:



Hand stitch all edges closed and re-attach the rubber strip. Add the bra guard and a snap at the neck edge.




Before I go, I want to share another little annoying trait of bridal clients. One new bride had an appointment at 10 today so she called at 9:30 to tell me she decided to stay home and address all her invitations instead and would turn up around 2 pm. “Besides”, she says,”I don’t even have any underwear to bring with me so I have to buy that as well before I see you.” The wedding is in 3 weeks and last week when she called to make the appointment she announced,”I will be bringing all my children to the appointment and I want it on a Saturday”. I responded, there are no Saturday appointments and I do not accept children. I see a red flag….

These days of Fall we have had to bring our citrus trees into the garage for the winter until May. But the bonus is…the smell of lemon and lime blossoms!



Happy sewing everyone!

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Short Trip, Long Trip

Yesterday, a mother brought in a tiny size 4 bridesmaid dress for her 13 year old daughter to wear in a family wedding back East. They had ordered the dress from David’s Bridal in NYC and had it sent to the West coast. Of course, we know it did not fit…the zipper could not be zipped up the last 4 inches.P1180297

So the mother did what all good mothers do…dropped it off at the local dry cleaners a month ago. She waited and waited. Then she dutifully went back 3 weeks later and found that the seamstress there did not want to touch it to let the side seams out. Then the dress made the rounds of other seamstresses who also refused to touch it. Finally she found me.

“All we need is 3/4 inch somewhere so we can zip it up” said the  frazzled mom. I looked inside and sure enough there was some decent seam allowances to let out in the fabric/lace and the lining and the buckram type interfacing with the encased boning. Let’s have a look:

P1180284 First remove the understitching and hang tags and open the seam,

P1180285 The plan is to let out the top section and middle section down to nothing at the waist.P1180286 The boning in the side seam will be removed and the buckram edges sewn together to get that 1/2 extra needed.P1180287 Open the top edge seam,P1180288 now you can see that the boning was never actually sewn in properly nor were the rough ends ever encased in fabric.P1180289P1180290

This buckram seam will be 1/4 wide when finished and lie flat.

Separate the buckram and see what we have!!!!

This makes seamstresses so happy!!!!P1180291

Now open the top section and midriff seam.P1180292P1180293 Now all we have to do is pin them narrower.                                P1180294

Once stitched and old seams removed they will be sewn back together and attached to the lining with the hang tags. New understitching will be used to keep the lining inside and lying flat. You can see the extra 1/2 inch we gained from that alteration…so with both sides done the girl has a full inch so she can breathe and dance.P1180295 P1180296

So how long did that take? I time myself for labor and it was exactly 1 hour. Why was this dress passed around like a game of hot potato? Was it too much trouble to open seams and re-stitch them? Who knows?

The good thing this week was Mr Mole’s return from 2 weeks in the UK visiting his family. He likes to bring me a token of his love and this time it was this box:gift-2 Beautiful isn’t it? But what is inside?gift The most delightful smelling lotion and hand wash is now residing in my sewing room. I’m so glad he visited Wisley Gardens and thought of me.

Time for getting cozy for Northern hemisphere sewers while our Southern hemisphere sisters are looking forward to easy breezy summer wear. No matter what the weather, hug your machine and give it some TLC…open the bobbin case, toss in a drop of oil and brush out all the lint that has been living there…and if you listen very closely, you will hear your machine sigh with delight…replace your used needle and really make her smile.


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Mistake Made, Mistake Fixed

Grandmas like to sew for the family. Mostly, the grandmas I know quilt up a storm and produce way more quilts than there are members in the family but some do make clothes in their spare time.

Every so often I get a day to cut out a garment or two for my youngest granddaughter who is 10. She has graduated out of the little girl patterns into the Simplicity “Suede Says” young teen sizing. The envelope says “Preppy” and maybe some of you remember the designer known as Suede when he was on Project Runway? It was annoying that he referred to himself in the 3rd person the whole time but for some reason Simplicity has picked him up in 2012 to attach his name to teen patterns.

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This pattern has lots of options so I was quick to cut out the dress and top and also the contrasting drapes that are sewn unto the necklines and armholes before the bias binding is attached and flipped to the inside. What could possibly go wrong…simple, no?

Well, after cutting the 2 little drape sections (one pink and one green) I realized that one of them did NOT have a deep V shape and was supposed to be closed in…bummer…now what? I dug through my old lace stash and found a pink lace scrap that would fill in the blanks. Is this legal…who cares?1-missing-insert First, the neckline needed some stay-stitching which would serve as the edge for turning,2-fold-back then press flat 4-pin-laceposition the lace behind it, pin,5-fold-flatfold it flat in half to re-cut with the pattern piece,6-trimtrim off excess,8-ready-to-topstitchready to topstitch (wrong side),9-donedouble row of stitching catches the raw edges together, 10-trimmed-inside trim away excess lace


The finished back shows the fabric through the lace nicely. I could adapt this technique to other things…I could really get hooked on it! The drape is bound with the contrasting green from the top that also was made with the same fabric.


The back strap and hem was decorated with a built-in stitch from my Elna 720. You may be wondering what the floral fabric is…Any Butler. I bought a whole bolt of it on Craigslist a year ago so you will eventually be seeing other renditions of it in later garments. I should probably cover my desk chairs in the sewing room but home dec was never my forte. But before I go…a small sneak preview of more of this fabric:8-hanging-up-front A maxi dress for me in need of contrasting armbands and hem bands and much more to jazz up this wrap front creation. And, no, I will not be wearing this dress with my granddaughter…she lives far away and I’m not into matchy-matchy…Lord help me!

Now finish off that Halloween candy and get back to work, dear readers!

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Squash and Silly Things

Having filled my huge bowl with Halloween candy and removed any objects that might get damaged near my front door with small critters stomping up my front porch, I wanted to share a few things not necessarily sewing related.

First, you know I grow butternut squash in tomato cages but this year with our very hot summer they did strange things while my back was turned…they grew personalities!

Here a a few waiting outside my sewing room window for their turn in the oven:

laughing-squash and earlier this year we found these cherry tomatoes just thriving near the compost tumbler:mutant-tomatoes It was a mystery to me since this huge plant was covered in round fruit with these guys hiding…what were they? Well this week I found them and they were a gorgeous Roma variety growing inside the original volunteer plant:roma

Now, a few tales about recent clients…recently there has been a very disturbing trend in our little rural town…it causes havoc with seamstresses who like to make appointments with their clients to keep an even flow during the day but this takes the cake. I have had a bride and 2 bridesmaids late or even miss their appointments because they were having their eyelashes “done”. Yesterday, an older woman made an appointment to pick up her adult daughter’s dress at 11 am that had to be hemmed before Halloween. Well, I waited and waited and finally called her at 11:45 to say, “I don’t know if you are coming or not, I have no idea what the plan is, please call me.” At 12 noon, the phone rang and it was the mother saying, “I certainly will not be there at 11 (DUH) to pick up the dress as I am having my eyelashes “done” and could not possibly get there any time before 2 pm.” I am learning that having your eyelashes done requires 2-3 hours of lying on a table while a technician glues long mink lashes unto your eyelids for only $150. Of course this is way more important that picking up your altered clothes! When she arrived to pick up the dress her lashes were so long and thick that she could barely open her heavily lidded aging sagging eyelids…you go Grandma!

Another babe called me to say she needed to be measured for some internet custom pants to be made. I don’t charge for measuring adults and children, it takes like 10 minutes and usually involves a good story so I made an appointment for her. She arrives with a box packed with pants that do not fit her and wearing a badly worn-out old pair of jeans that were probably bought in the little boy’s section of a thrift store. Her fist question is, “Do you know anything about stretch leather?”She then shows me a pair of black leather pants that were sent to her but did not fit and she was going to get a full refund and the the chance to have another pair made better and all she had to do was provide the correct measurements. Simple right? Well, I measured every singe dimension on this gal and her sad sagging jeans and wrote them down. She then said she needed a full front and back line drawing sketch with the numbers attached to each line…OK, I can do that…BUT, the big but…she then says, “Now you have to go to your copier and make me 2 copies for the manufacturer and myself.” This is where having a tech savvy husband comes in handy. Yes, we have a copier but I never use it and since Mr. Mole is off visiting relatives in the UK I told her I did not have any idea of how to use it. Then she sighs and says this will FORCE her to go to the Kinko’s copy center and pay them to make 2 copies of my drawings…well, honey…free is free and that is as far as I can go!

Before I go I want to share a cool package that arrived yesterday in the mail. Craftsy is offering discounted prices on their clothes kits and I bought this shirt and navy chambray fabric kit:

It has the most interesting front neck darts and side darts so some time in the future it will be a muslin to share.

Wishing you a safe but scary Halloween with some candy leftover to nibble on while doing your fall sewing projects!


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SEW BAD Saturday #3

This week we have a another brave soul, Kate from blog who wanted to share her wadder:

Why did you pick this pattern?

The pattern I used was Vogue 1247, a Rachel Comey pattern. This pattern is beloved by many on the internet – SewRuth, Did you make that, and Sew Busy Lizzie to name just three. I bought it for the skirt, which I like and have made up three times. However I don’t like to see a pattern go to waste, and am interested in learning new techniques, so I thought I would make this up. It has French seams throughout. I usually like Kimono sleeves and this pattern has them, with cuffs.


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

I am a size 10 according to the pattern envelope. I measured the pattern pieces and thought this would drown me.

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

I cut out the smallest size, the size 6, flaring out to a 10 at the hips. Even so I shaped the side seams to create the semblance of a waist.

Did you encounter difficulties others would like to avoid?

Its actually quite fun to make, especially joining up six sections to make the front. It is a bit like the union jack! The main issue is the huge amount of ease, and for me, the very unflattering design. The curved hem seems to emphasise the size of my hips and thighs in an unhelpful way too.3-back


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

The photographs do not lie. There are no fastenings so it doesn’t gape and is pulled on over the head like a T shirt.


Is this garment wearable with tweaking or not?

I think it is probably a good pattern if you

  • are bigger at the top than at the bottom
  • suit V necks
  • like your clothes to billow about the body
  • enjoy patchwork but don’t get the time
  • are in the first trimester and don’t want to tell people yet5-front

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

I don’t think this works as a “set” with the skirt. I have noticed people using the top and hating the skirt and vice versa. The very short skirt is ideal for a youthful figure (or lengthen and wear tights), the top, well? I think it would not be out of place on my dentist, or an intensive care nurse. Woe betide the person who made it up in green.

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

Lie on the operating table, breathe deeply and count from 10 to zero.


Please leave your suggestions and comments to Kate in the comment box below.

Thank you again, Kate for sharing your version of this pattern with a great commentary!

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