Recycled Victor Kosta

Remember the 1980′s when we all wore taffeta dresses with poofy parts and those gala occasions that reflected style?

Well, some of my clients have not left that era…nothing wrong with a 1980′s dress as long as your figure didn’t slide south since then. But when things have dropped and the zipper won’t go up…you is in big trouble.

My new client has a gala celebration to attend on the East Coast…all the best people will be there and she is commissioning a local jewelry artist to whip her up a topaz necklace/collar to be worn as her “statement” piece. So let’s see what she found at the back of the closet in the 80′s section.

She brings in a brown paper grocery bag with a wrinkled up brown taffeta floor length ball gown inside with a pleated top that looks like it has outlived it’s life as a “crumb catcher” having caught way too many crumbs. It hangs open like a faded tulip flower ready to drop it’s petals.

That’s not the only issue…the zipper will never go up, it stops at her waist. Everything that used to be high is now down low. She explains she wants this gown cut off just above her knees and the scrap fabric used to make panels in the back along with huge rosettes to cover the panels. Again the client’s vision is not always mine or within the realm of good taste. Sure, I can put panels in the back, remove the zipper and re-attach it but making rosettes is NOT in my repertoire . She offers to make them and I say “sure but let’s wait until the panels are in”.

After she leaves, I release the lining at the zipper and realize Victor Kosta cheated her on the lining…with all the seams pinned together, this is how much smaller the lining was:01 inside


You can see where the pins are is where the old inside lining is sitting waiting for help.

At this point, I’m thinking I should have backed away from this project but it is too late.

The floor length fabric is removed and the scrap is made into center back panels with the old zipper attached…here is the sequence:1-interface-edges interface the edges for zipper insertion,4-patch-shape follow the muslin pattern,5-top-and-bottom line up the top and bottom sections,6-right-side pin top to bottom sections,7-zipper-ready zipper is ready8-right-side stitch,

9-wrong-side wrong side,10-back-patch patch pinned to dress,

It looks ok but has to be refined further so back to the pattern piece 11-patch-pattern12-cut-shape13-shaped At this point the patches are doubled so the inside can be used as a lining and can extend to the old smaller black lining. The horizontal seam must match exactly to the old seam.14-chalk-seam-linesThe raw edges are serged together down both sides and the chalk marks show the exact seaming with the dress center back edges.15-basted-patch The patch is basted in and the upper pleated section will have to be released to allow the pleats to try and meet in the center…fingers crossed!16-tucks-moved-center Thankfully, there was enough fabric inside the upper empire binding to allow the extra width.17-tucks-to-be-tacked Then all the pleats were hand tacked every couple of inches all around the bodice top…no more catching anything!2-front Top pleats are flatter and the hem is basted. The hem had to be “not pressed but kept rounded” as per request of the client so I used rayon hem facing and sewed it by hand.

18-lining Here is the inside with old lining pinned to new facings…they will lay flat eventually…ha ha. The funny thing is, when I asked the client if the dress lining ever felt tight when she wore it, she said yes, very tight…weird?

So the lady is off to the ball and she says she will send photos of herself all dressed up. Who knows whether she made those rosettes and attached them…if it were me, I sure would not want to draw attention to that huge back patch that screams “I have middle-age spread” and my seamstress did the best she could.

Before I go here is a photo of 2 strawberries from my garden…we have been getting about 4 cups per day for a month now…and the best part, no white pith inside, they are red and sweet throughout…yum!Strawberries-in-hand



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Finally Something simple

You all know by now that I love trying out new patterns and discovering mistakes and bad design features but this week a client left a simple pattern and challenging fabric. She actually can sew for herself and small children but this fabric was some sort of rayon blend charmeuse which tended to wander and stretch out of shape and it would have been a real struggle for her to finish it in time for her special event in Barcelona, Spain. She and her husband will be flying out for a convention and she wanted a cocktail type dress that could be packable and still look sexy when she wore it.

Let’s start with the pattern, Vogue 8961 and the Pattern Review notes:P1170514 Back in the late 80′s and 90′s the bat-wing style was very popular but it also came along with huge shoulder pads and this dress would have been cut in one piece with a line drawn on the waist of paper pattern saying “attach elastic here”. Thankfully this pattern has a separate top and skirt joined with an elastic tunnel. Big deal you say? Well, it is a big deal for fitting as my client is very short waisted and I could sew the skirt seam higher up on the bodice rather than making lots of alterations beforehand.

My only reservation was the depth of the underarm seam and whether it would be flattering or look young enough for her. On the model V8961it looked droopy and wrinkled so I did something about it after pinning it on her. The front and back bodice sections were altered:P1170509P1170512 I followed the pinned line and traced and re-cut the top part and also dropped the back neckline 2 inches. The front V was low and the client wanted an equally deep V in the back but I explained this would cause the top to be so unstable even with making bra strap guards to keep it on her shoulders…so we compromised. With the waist measuring 11 X 4 to have enough ease, the skirt sections also had to match and then flare out a little over the hips.


After all this messing we got this:P1170524P1170525

By raising the underarm seams it made the dress more modern and young and with a short waisted client you need to emphasize the waist and bust and not let it be covered up with so much fabric. So what did it look like inside? Well, the back neckline was bound and the front neckline had a facing and the shoulders had bra strap guards:inside-shoulderbra-strap-guard and the hem had a Hong Kong finish:hong-kong-hem

The one drawback to this nice slippery fabric is the weave…it can catch on sharp things and make a pull which shows, so I advised my client to wrap it in tissue paper for the trip in case it shifted in the suitcase and caught on something.

Before I get back to the brides I want to share what I find under the dresses all the time:

bad-netting Layer after layer of crumbled, folded, smashed netting will do nothing to hold out the skirt of a gown and bridal shop owners never steam/iron these layers. It makes me crazy and I iron every layer to make them crisp enough to do their job.

Next time a real treat…flash back to the real 1980′s!



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It’s a “Simple Hem”

Bridesmaids lie.

They call for an appointment late after having their dress for weeks. “Yes”, they tell the bride…”I will get my dress (from internet Hell) altered in plenty of time for your wedding.” Well, the dresses get ordered 6 months in advance from China, all in the wrong sizes and then a week before the wedding, guess who calls to say all she needs is a simple hem?

This week 2 lovelies showed up with the basic chiffon over polyester dresses and one was 4 months pregnant and the other 6 months pregnant .

One dress had enough fabric in the side seams and zipper area to let out to get 2 inches all around and did not need a patch…good thing since we were not shortening the dress so there would have been no matching fabric.

But the other was shortened and patched.P1170516P1170515


The new side panels were 2 layers of polyester with the chiffon layer over the top. The original 16 inch lapped zipper was replaced with a 20 inch invisible zipper to get more fabric involved to allow the hip area to expand enough. Here the dress was tried on and the top area is to be narrowed to make it tight while allowing the middle to expand.P1170506


Here it is pinned narrower and the finished project:


Luckily the chiffon skirt will cover the lower edge and while many of you may think this does not look so wonderful, it does serve the purpose and the dresses will all look the same from the front for the photos and the bridesmaid will be able to breath and dance without ripping open her zipper or side seams. I believe in making these custom patches just what the girl needs and not do fancy things since it is a wear-once dress.

Other “simple hems” needed this week are 3 lace babes…let’s start with how this works. Scalloped lace hems that cannot be shortened at the top have to be cut and re-attached higher up so first I fold out the fabric and measure the amount in total and that is what the distance is for each motif to move up. Here is one that was folded 1.5 inches for a total of 3 in the end:close-up-hem

Then the lace edge will be cut like this one:lace-cut Then the lace will be overlapped and basted to be tried on later.lace-overlapped The top of the new lace edge will be attached using invisible thread on the top and regular polyester in the bobbin…using a zigzag or straight stitch and embroidery foot. But some lace is so thick I would not dare use the machine.

See this one is more like real thick cotton crocheted lace and I had to remove it like the rest but totally hand sew every single edge before trimming away the back.close-up-hem-2close-up-hem-3

My thumb has been slid under the original lack skirt on the wrong side to show how much I leave behind as a stabilizing technique.

I can’t say thank you enough to the seamstresses who have written to me this week with strange stories about “their” brides and their requests. It makes me realize I am not alone in this crazy world and the constant quotient is the outlandish comments by brides and their mothers…enough to make us want to throw up our hands and shout when they announce they may go and buy a second “back-up” dress when their dream dress does not make them look taller, skinnier and busty enough. Personally, I would add: “And make sure this new one fits!”

As June approaches and those of you settling into a nice Memorial Day of bar-be-ques and outdoor adventures…may all your hems be simple ones….really simple!!!

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Neverending Vintage Remake

Six months ago a sweet young bride came to me with a project…to make a wedding dress from her recent purchases on Ebay and Craigslist. She explained she was “artistic” and had a “vision” and didn’t know if I could fulfill her dream. Then she pulled out 3 different garments and pieces of garments she had already harvested/attacked from her bag. First up was a beautiful lace coat from 1950:2-coat3-back-coat Lovely all on it’s own but all she wanted to use was the vest section at the top. The bodice would be this raggedy limp pearl encrusted rayon camisole:4-top and eventually attached to those would be a skirt section she slashed from another dress:1-skirt then to top everything off is a beaded collar she made from a collection of old earrings:5-necklace

You may be wondering what all these things have in common…nothing…and that is what makes someone call themselves an artist, I think. So here we go…down the rabbit hole of ultra shabby chic…re-used, re-purposed, recycled, re-claimed bits and pieces all whipped into the dream dress for a 20 year old with a head full of ideas.

To make this journey a quick one I have created a Pinterest board of all 68 techniques/steps I used to make this dress. I could not include all of them with descriptions here on this one posting so if you have the time, feel free to check them out HERE.

Every 2 weeks she would show up to try on the garment in progress and add or subtract or totally change her mind, then I would pin and baste again and wait for her evaluation of my interpretation. The dress remained on a mannequin in my sewing room and no matter who came by, they just shook their head and asked, “what is she like?” and all I could say was that she was a part-time waitress/artist.10-basted-parts11-basted-back16-side-view12-back-pinned13-back-pinned29-under-lining25-tapes37-center-back-waist28-doiuble-stitching23-mark-to-cut46-back-revised

Every try-on day we discovered more things that could not be adapted or changed or modified but it challenged my mind and sewing skills for sure. Making a flimsy rayon top into a structured top that would support a floor length skirt required adding boning and under lining and bust cups and almost totally done by hand, ripped out, moved and re-sewn by hand. As the skirt was added and lined it was apparent that the scalloped embroidered hem had to be shortened from the top and more and more was pinned out and trimmed from the top and then of course being more A-line the more I removed from the top, the more darts and tucks would have to be added.

The rayon top would only be used for the front section with the back being cut away almost completely except for a thin strip above the waistline seam of the skirt. The rayon top had a dropped V front which had to be highlighted and the skirt after being lined itself was to be cut away and attached by hand along the edges. The lower edge of the skirt would have the old lining cut away to reveal the new shiny lining:55-trim-lining

Just as we were getting to the deadline of the wedding date, a week before, the bride came for her final fitting and it had been a 4 week gap between fittings and the dress looked awful…all baggy and I was shocked…what had happened? Well, she says, I joined a gym and lost 20 pounds…great! As you can see from the first photos she was thin to start with and now the dress hung like a rag and everything had to be taken in and up one inch and during this time she decided that she wanted the entire front bodice covered with the remains of the scalloped lace. 53-all-attached54-back-attachedNever mind that the lace vest edges had already been sewn down, this latest fancy was to have all that lifted, ripped open and the new bit added and the lace edges folded back down and re-stitched by hand. OK…it is doable and after taking in the lower side seams of the skirt to be more tapered she added that she wanted a peplum too so those pieces were whipped together to form a back peplum and again all added by hand…are we done yet?58-back-ruffle-zipper-side59-back-ruffle-right-side

Not quite…remember she had a piece left over from the coat? Well, well, it re-appeared and she wanted an over-skirt now UNDER the peplum that had been attached and stitched down at the side seams and zipper. 63-overskirt65-back-apron-skirt66-front-apron-skirtSure…let’s keep adding more shit…and as she said…”we have a whole week to add more stuff”…let’s do it! Over-skirt added, peplum re-attached…invoice presented…but wait…next would be the beaded collar added again all by hand and the announcement that she would be totally covering the front bodice, already encrusted with pearls under the new lace layer with more huge earring jewels especially at the bottom of the front V…so leave that uncovered…sure, everyone needs a beaded feature right over their lady parts. OK…6 months of labor and we are done right?

Last try-on, wearing a grey tank top instead of bra-less…in she walks with sleeves cut from the last little bit of scalloped lace…she says she is going to hand sew them to the dress and add a hug sash cut from the remaining lining because it just “needs more at the waist”…I smile and nod and take her cash and say goodbye.67-front-sleeves68-back-sleeves

Lesson learned…after last year and the pageant princess ball gown re-make and this re-creation vision dress…my fingers are crossed to never attempt this sort of thing again…but the whole time taking 68 photos for you I was smiling about the day I could finally post them and share them. Have a look at the Pinterest page to see all what went into this wedding gown.

May all your sewing be less complicated and drawn out and you have time to enjoy the full flush of Spring (or Autumn)!

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Missing Modesty

This week we continue with the tail end of Prom season and a brain teaser.

This first dress came from China, no surprise, for $165, with a curly fishing line hem and gaping back neckline and drooping down from hem and very high leg slit. The fabric is see through nude knit net embellished with those cheap baubles and sequins. The back neck was altered by bringing one side over the other and using snaps to secure it. The weird curly hem was just cut off with scissors to get it to lie flat. The bodice needed SOMETHING/ANYTHING to cover and obscure the breasts beneath.

So I asked the mother to buy a nude strapless bra and I would attach it at the side seams to allow some support and modesty for the girl…what a concept. The remaining back of the bra would be cut away so it did not show as in the photo.

Upon further inspection I discovered that the under bust seam had never been sewn to the skirt and lining so it hung an inch lower from side seam to side seam inside the dress…why? Once that was sewn across the hem was straight. Would you let your daughter go out in this?yellowyellow-back

Now unto the mystery item…yes, this wandered in this week and have a look and see if you know what it is:P1170448P1170449P1170450

Is it a windsock or cushion cover? It is a knit….and it needs to have the elastic seams moved in….how about a couple others? P1170446P1170447

Give up? Here is the pinned article with a story about going to Las Vegas for a girlie weekend and bridal shower:


This dress might just stop traffic and get a girl a few free drinks don’t you think?

Thought I would share a photo from my sewing machine…8 May and June brides waiting to be finished….so many shades of ivory lace and so many hems that have had to be cut off and re-attached higher up all by hand. At least 2 came with little jackets…really darling and so appropriate for May weather. 


Next time, I would like to share a nightmare of a custom vintage dress that has been living here since January while the bride keeps adding more and more stuff to it but May 31 is the date and fingers crossed she will eventually stop this frantic behavior and realize enough is enough…well we shall see. Last week she came to get the dress and decided that everything on the top should be re-done differently and more should be added to the skirt and after she left…I wrote a note to Mr. Mole and stuck it on his office door, “I’m going out in the car to drive around and scream”.

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Princess and her sparkly Prom dress

Last week I mentioned this project and thought you would enjoy me sharing what I found inside the recent Prom outfit.

First thing out of the mother’s mouth was, “The day my daughter was born I knew she would be a princess and wear sparkles the rest of her life“. REALLY? Or was that just wishful thinking and the drugs given during the delivery?

The girl said as soon as she saw this dress it “WAS HERS” and nothing would stop her from having it…BUT…the big BUT in the meantime it was at least 2-3 sizes too big for her after they ordered it from China. Most dresses even from Chinese websites have a label proudly proclaiming who made it…this one did not…no tags, no label, no washing instructions…not a good sign. So normally I like to give you a link to the website and skinny model wearing the said dress but not this time…sorry.

Here it is hanging up…doesn’t look too bad…covered in bling (fake boobs on the side).


The straps were long and connected to a flap of fabric at the bottom of the armhole…weird place to put cross-over straps so that was remedied and they were re-located to the back neckline. The weird thing about the straps was they were a different length and one had an added bit tacked on and they were hand sewn to the red dress with pink thread.

The center back area was pinned out (4 inches total) so that the zipper could be removed and re-attached tighter. The lining was that crappy bagged type. They hang awful and bubble under so I told them I would hem them separately to hang flatter. Then the pinning up of the bling-laden chiffon. The front and sides were pinned up and when I got around to the train I offered to make a single bustle loop so the girl could dance without stepping on her dress and she said, “I MUST have my train“…OK then. I noticed that there was a huge vacancy in the bust area where boobs are supposed to be and offered a good sized push-up bra cup to fill the void. Then the side seams had to be taken in both lining and satin and of course those French seamed chiffon ones…don’t you just love re-doing French seams?

How soon could I finish the dress since the Prom was in 3 days? Why did they leave it so late??? Well, they drove around town to all the other seamstresses and sewing centers where they were told to “buy a new dress” as they did not want to touch it. That’s where I came in…they had finally called the Viking dealership and the manager there, thanks Julie, referred them to me…she may own me a favor in the future.

Let’s look inside shall we?First thing to notice is the food stain just above the basted new hem line, there is another on on the back. All beads had to be removed from the zipper area and re-attached later by hand NOT with a glue gun.




You can see besides hot gluing all the railroad track rhinestones and large baubles they used white thread to anchor them down as well. P1170421P1170423P1170424

At the final try-on we could barely get the zipper up but the girl said the dress was perfect and paid the bill. I did caution her that if the dress is dry cleaned the glue might dissolve and ALL the beads would fall off. Another thing I forgot to mention is that whoever glued all the center back beads and baubles on let the chiffon rest on the satin and the whole mess was actually glued together so I slowly pulled every layer apart so they could hang separately instead of bunching up.

So now ladies…lesson learned…if this shows up in your sewing room/studio…DON’T TOUCH IT!

P.S. the dress cost $250 and the alterations were $150…next time they may just buy off the rack in a real store.


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Make Me Modest

Many brides select daring/baring dresses for their bridesmaids that make them feel uncomfortable. So, frequently I am asked what I can do to cover cleavage and open backs of dresses. If we are shortening the hem there is always extra fabric to come to the rescue. Here are the steps I use for these custom fixes.

The empty spaces have to have a piece of fabric pinned to fill the gap and then a pattern is made:



Cut out the shape with added seam allowances.P1170332 Fold back the top edge of pattern to have a top seam.P1170335 Then open flat, and understitch…notice the facing of this piece is the dress lining.P1170336 Slide the pattern piece up to the top seam, fold under the lower seams allowances and run a basting stitch to mark the lower edge for placement in the neckline. This basting will be removed later.



Here is the back section pinned above the zipper and the front panel in the background hand tacked.


P1170340 P1170341

The pinked edges are folded under and hand stitched to the lining. All the guide basting threads will be removed after the panel is stitched on the right side by hand. P1170342 Before basting is removed and here is a shot of the edge of the back panel and the snaps on one side that hold it in place:P1170343 Now the bridesmaid feels covered up and she can safely bend down to hug relatives without exposing herself.

Another little trick comes this week from a pair of pants that needed about 4 inches added to the waistband and upper hip area. Since I had no extra fabric to match the waistband I got really lucky when I looked inside and found the zipper guard was the perfect length.P1170411

The red dotted line show where the zipper guard used to be and you can see the addition to the waistband. A new buttonhole was added and the old buttonhole was covered. Two frontP1170410 pleats were also let out along with some darts above the back pockets. Even though what this client ends up with is a seam line in her waistband, it gives her the needed 4 inches once the waistband is re-attached.

I hope everyone had a super Easter weekend and once all the candy has been consumed you have a great week sewing up a storm!

Next time I have the prom dress from Hell and the princess who will wear it!!!

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