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 Fabricated.com 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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Blog Hop found me

You know it is just the latest thing to circulate …the Blog Hop where you answer 4 questions and then pass it along to 2 different bloggers.

So, Accordion3 of Bobbins Bikes and Blades added my name to the list…thank you so much!  Let’s do this the officially shall we? Now the 4 questions:

Why do you write?

My writing is to express my frustration with clients (my bitching and moaning) and to share techniques and possible solutions (I make up in my head) that may come in handy for other sewers. Some of you may know my real identity but I like to stay anonymous as well as my clients just in case things get a bit over the top (nasty and catty). Writing allows me to connect with others who may be struggling with a project or just need a look at the stuff that wanders into my sewing studio and say, “Thank God, I don’t have her clients!” I also write to inspire and give folks confidence to cut up paper patterns and muslins and get the feel for good fit. After sewing for people for over 40 years you get a lot of bodies to mess with and alter their clothes to make them look the best they can. I can always remember a woman who came to me back in the early 80’s with some Ultrasuede for a coat commanding me to just “make me look 20 pounds thinner and taller”. My response back then was honest, “If I could do that, I’d do it for myself, but I can’t.” But we can come pretty close to making and wearing the best fitting garments if we have the time to measure us and the pattern, alter the paper, make a muslin and then cut out the real fabric.

What are you working on?

Like most days it is a wedding gown or custom project that keeps me busy. Once the brides found me 10 years ago, there has been little time for anything else. I learn something from every dress even if it is the fact that I never want to see a particular style ever again! But controlling the styles is like controlling the volume…both seem out of my reach. This season I have worked on 46 wedding gowns, 37 bridesmaids gowns and assorted formal wear garments so my butt has done a lot of floor-sitting and hem pinning. As I tell other sewers, who sew as a hobby…don’t ever think I wouldn’t trade places with you so I could sew for fun and produce all the clothes I have stored in my head…one day…one day.JoAnn-at-work-090325

How does your blog differ from others of the same genre?

The most obvious difference is most of the photos are of ivory gowns and ballerina prom dresses. Lots of bloggers make beautiful detailed specific tutorials, some bloggers sell stuff and have links to sites that earn them money. Lots of bloggers test patterns and get free fabrics and some travel to exotic places. Some bloggers create their own line of patterns or promote their favorite lines. I don’t do any of that, in fact I like to make muslins from all pattern lines to find the design flaws and use them to make a point…a point…what point? Being a pattern detective is fun! If you think you can make a garment after just pulling that wad of folded paper out of an envelope…you are living in a fantasy world. People tell me that reading my blog is like just listening to me in person…yes…I write like you are the only one listening…and some days you just might be as I write in the middle of the night when I am sewing.

What is your writing process?

This is so easy… as soon as the new client comes through my front door she is a potential blog post…she doesn’t know it, I don’t know it until she opens her mouth and her garment bag…then the wheels start spinning. My camera is always handy for pre and post photos all the while telling the client that I will surely email her these photos for her to share with her family before the wedding to confirm certain things like bustle shape and position etc. She receives her photos but then she may be added to my blog list for the future. Then sometime during the night, when the mood strikes me and a title forms in my head, I just stop what I am doing, normally basting something like a satin hem or lace and start typing while hoping those good sewing fairies will keep basting until I’m done writing/griping.


So now I will pass the baton/4 questions to two other cool bloggers. First is Bunny from LaSewist who makes the most precise and insightful tutorials while she creates drop dead gorgeous clothes for herself and family. Second the multi-talented, try-anything musical TiaDia from Mezzocouture. She shares her successes and disasters with us to inspire.

Click on the links and have a real good snoop around their blogs…surely you will learn how these two clever women emerge victorious from their projects…well, almost all the time!





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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 parts.photo 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 inches.blue-fullblue-section

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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