Do You Ott?

Ripping open white dress seams and basting white dress hems can take a toll on your eyesight unless you have an Ottlite. I have two lamps,

one clamp-on one over my sewing machinelight-bulb-E

and one clip-on one at the edge of my hand sewing station aka sofa. light-bulb-E-and-Aside-table

It may look a bit messy but it contains all I need and use every night from 7-11 pm. You can see the bags of boobs under the table and my step that goes with the platform too. But the most important feature is the Ottlite so when the bulb burns out….I go nuts. They do say the bulbs last 10,000 hours…so when I mentioned to Mr. Mole this could not possibly be the case for me…he reminded me that 10,000 hours in Mrs Moletime is less than 7 years. Makes you stop and think doesn’t it? Of course, I use the side table lamp way more than just 4 hours every night so I can only get 6 years use from a 10,000 bulb. I went and removed the bulb from the other lamp even though it is the same 13 watts, it is a newer variety called an “E” (electronic) bulb with a rounded top and for now it works but is much shorter than the “A” bulb, 6.75 inches versus 7.5 with a squarish top.

Then, I went on Amazon to find a replacement for either bulb and guess what? The new bulbs measures 8.2 inches long. Now what? I phoned Ottlite and the service man said they all fit…sure…so I ordered the replacement and fingers crossed when the delivery arrives this week I hope the new bulb fits one or other of the lamps. So maybe you are thinking…why buy a bulb for $8 if it only lasts 6 years? Well, the fact that it is glare-free and true full spectrum light is the reason to splash out…in fact I ordered 2 to be damn sure I never have to do without again. If you buy from Ottlite or Michael’s they are $17.99 so shop around!

In the meantime, I had/stole a day or so to make something for my 10 year old granddaughter for her belated birthday. Making crop tops and shorts is fast business and makes you realize how freaking tedious/maddening bridal gowns are compared to cranking out kid’s clothes! Here is what I managed in 2 days from scraps I had at home…yippee no shopping! The jumper (linen/rayon blend) was from a 1990 pattern and I made 3 different belts to change the look:pink-jumperyellow-shorts-setred-blouse The red poly top had velvet dots for a different feel. But then it was back to the brides….here is the view from my desk of what has to be finished by next week and the week after…yes…9 dresses should be out the door or close to it. July-20-1014 Yes, 7 out of the 9 dresses are lace and required that cutting and moving up of the edging and motifs…so labor intensive! But let’s finish with a laugh shall we?

Remember the man who emailed me to make an appointment for the wife with the sad old silk suit last month? Well, I had another Bozo call to tell me:

“My name is Jack Winter and my wife needs a bolero jacket made…it will be simple, it will be easy…no buttons, no collar, no buttonholes AND you will have a whole 9 days to do it before she needs it to wear to a wedding”.

My reply was, “Well Jack, let me tell you that I have 9 brides ahead of you in the sequence of sewing projects so I will not have a whole 9 days to produce such a garment” and referred him to someone who might.

What you want to say is, “Actually Jack I was not just sitting by the phone hoping you would ring and ask me to stop everything and whip up a jacket for your wife who cannot possibly call for herself.” But I really really wanted to!!!

Our temps here have been over 100 for 11 days straight…thank goodness I never have to leave my sewing rooms except to harvest veggies and water hanging baskets! Have a great sewing week everyone and thanks for stopping by! Next time a zipper trick and adding to pants waistbands!



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 41 Comments

Don’t bring anyone to your fitting

Brides need an audience. If they don’t have an entourage like you see on TV shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” where 6-8 reluctant people/hostages recline on couches and wait for the bride to appear with yet another high priced mound of fluffiness …she feels cheated. If the bride buys her dress from a small salon or consignment shop all by herself, she feels cheated out of the whole experience of having her “posse” gasp/fake approval at her in the dress of her dreams and tell her she looks like a real life princess…OK, now back to reality.

In April, I measured a bride so she could order her custom dress in advance of her August wedding. Not a big deal…at that time the body measured: 32.5 bust and 27.5 waist. These were the only measurements she wanted and when the dress arrived from a China factory…the label was printed with those measurements:P1170611

Did you know that a size 0 is a 32 bust, 25 waist and 35 hips? But it was a whole different story when she tried on the dress and announced, “Make it so I cannot possibly breathe.” The scalloped lace hem hung at least 6 inches on the ground but all that she wanted was the bodice to be tight tight tight. I pinned it tight and once the zipper was removed and the measuring tape used…we are looking at 27 inches NOT 32.5. Missing 5 1/2 inchesP1170609

The waist also dropped from 27.5 to 24….where did 3 1/2 inches go??? P1170610Her high pitched baby voice kept saying, “I’m so tiny” over and over while staring in the mirror while her steadfast matron-of-honor/best friend ( a generous size 24 ) was following her barking orders for organizing the day with her cell phone lining up florists and caterers for this little princess. I felt so bad for the overworked friend and wished the tiny princess would stop with the self indulgent comments.

The next bride who thought bringing her teenage daughter to the fitting was equally disturbing. It was like seeing an aging Barbie doll primp and pull and smile brightly in the mirror while stuffing larger and larger push-up bust cups into the bodice to give herself cleavage…any cleavage.

image.phpback The dress was light and airy and included a very huge train of five back lace godets which would all have to be bustled up for the fabulous Hawaiian wedding on the beach. It made no sense to me to put a teenage girl through this performance by her mother like she was a giggly 20 year old virgin. The prospect of a new step-dad entering her world and being part of the whole second time around festivities was not enough to make her look up from her cell phone once during the hour fitting.

To bustle all this frothy wonderfulness and get it up off the sand it will take one bustle point just for the under satin layer


and 7 buttons and loops for the lace godets with the center 3 all being hooked on a center button:7-bustle-points-lace

Does any of this make sense… fake boobs and a fake tail/train…and sand and sea?

Well, we do the best we can and  long for the 5 pm cocktail time to arrive!

This week I have 5 new brides coming for their first fitting bringing the total so far to 28 with the rest of the year to go. They join the 32 bridesmaids who have waltzed through the sewing room in all their divine chiffoness in the past 21 weeks….but who’s counting?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

Dodging a bullet…again

An email came in from a man about his wife and her need for a seamstress and a silk suit:

Love your website! We are based up North but spending a few weeks in your town. There’s an upcoming wedding in Ireland in early August and my wife has decided she wants to wear the suit she wore at our wedding 27 years back. She can get in it but, to be comfortable and realizing that going on a starvation diet is not a great idea, it would help if it could be modified to account for a minimal but measurable increase in size.

Do you have a telephone number and convenient time to call so we can call to discuss this? We’re in your town during the week Mon – Fri and she is free normally ~ Midday for an hour and after 5pm.

So, I agree to meet the wife at 12 noon. She calls at 12:30 to say, “I couldn’t get away so you will see me when I get there” and then hangs up. At 12:50 she parks her car and opens the trunk and back seat to drag out 2 huge bags, the type you see refugees carrying when they flee their country. I’m imagining that the suit is just the foot in the door and she has brought a closet clean-out for me.

I open the front door and she announces, “Well, you had better be able to make miracles.” We go into the sewing room and I ask to see the silk suit. From out of the bag comes a faded, stained, once was coral, now poopy orange colored skirt. It is unlined with pockets and it has been let out on both side seams 1/2 inch many many years ago and the original seam and needle marks make a defining wear line. There are no seam allowances left to release and I say it is not possible. She grabs the skirt and holds it to her chest like Gollum in Lord of the Rings with his “precious” and says, “but I have to wear this, I wore it 27 years ago” and I reply, “There are clothes in my closet 30 years old but I sure am not going to wear them to a wedding. If you want to make a good impression and look classy…this ain’t it.”

She says that she has been to every store in the entire northern half of the state and not one store has anything better than this to wear to the posh wedding…at that point I realize there is no pleasing this woman and I show her the door…but one last request…Can you just make me another silk suit in 2 weeks?”As another seamstress sister tells me…”you have a “NO” card in your pocket…be strong and use it”…so I did. I watched her walk back to her car with those 2 huge bags packed tight with clothes and I smiled with relief!

To keep my sanity I wander through my backyard/veggie beds to remind myself that life is not all about cranking out wedding gowns…hope you enjoy these photos taken 2 weeks ago…the baby plants have tripled in size by now…corner-bedsarchwayblue-flowersraised-bedsresting and a parting shot of Mr. Mole resting in the shade

Wishing you all a chance to sit back with a cool drink and enjoy this time of summer, especially the 4th of July, the season of rapid growth both for veggies and pesky weeds. Thank you to bridal seamstresses who have been writing to me privately to share their stories…it makes me smile to hear that there are lots of clients who reside in Crazytown!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 38 Comments

Did you lose something?

The quickest way to piss off a bride if you are one of her many bridesmaids is to lose weight. Once the dresses are ordered and paid for it seems as though it is just the perfect time to sabotage the program. So, they do their best.

This particular bridesmaid had a real “beef” with the bride…the color of the dresses. While I am pinning up 3 layers of chiffon and satin she looks down at me and says,”Everyone knows that redheads don’t look good in pink, look at my pure white porcelain skin, this is not my best color, you would think the bride would have taken this into consideration before she chose the color.” REALLY?

So to make a point, this little chickie decides to drop 20 pounds…just before the wedding in 2 weeks. The alteration involves removing the zipper, as per usual, and taking in the center back seam 5 inches (2.5 inches each side) and re-attaching the zipper. Then I ask, “Are you planning on losing more weight?” and she sheepishly says, “I don’t know”. I say, “well, tell me now as I’m not going to do this alteration twice in 2 weeks.”P1170602-2

Following her, a bride arrives with this Allure Bridal dress, nice corset back with a very heavy dragon tail:IMG_3690

She says she got a real good deal on this sample dress, less than half price, but all the beads are all falling off, 3 loops have been trashed and hanging off the back and she somehow has mysteriously lost 20 pounds too. What does this do to the dress? Well, the corset, when laced up now meets in the middle with no spread, not pretty so I have to figure out a way to make this dress narrower so we have that gap in back. The only side seam without encrusted beads is the right side so I can pin 2 inches out. Now, we get a little gap but that actually throws off the center back a lot but the bride only wants the tightness, big bust pads and the portion below her butt taken in so that she cannot possible sit down…OK…nothing new there! Let’s look inside:1-take-in-butt take in the butt,

2-take-in-side-seam take in side seam

7-new-seam17-loop-out18-loop-hole19-basted-back-and-bustle The dragon tail must weigh almost 4 pounds and will be bustled up using a very sturdy button and loop. Back photo has had the tattoo covered over.

The next July bride, one of 8, comes for her second fitting, she arrives 45 minutes late and only thinks to call after I call and leave a message on her cell phone. It seems the hair salon was running late and it never occurred to her to phone me as she was going to miss her 11 am Saturday morning appointment. I never accept clients on Saturday or Sunday as those are my “flat-out sewing days” but I stupidly made an exception.


I ask if she has gained weight and she swears nothing has changed…and when I look around to the front bust area…there is a huge problem…the bride has decided to bring along her own extra set of rubberized gel boobs the size of tennis balls and tuck those behind the already huge bust pads I have sewn in…well, well…adding another 2 inches in front certainly affects the back. I tell her to take those puppies out or she will never get her zipper up and she whines in her baby voice, “I just wanted to look bigger”…yes, bigger but not better. Brides…most live with the boyfriend before the wedding so he knows what the package is before the wedding vows so the extra padding is always to impress the audience and look more like Jessica Rabbit. That darn cartoon character has caused more pain and havoc for seamstresses ever since that movie came out! There are even women who have had plastic surgery to look like her.

As the weather is heating up to the 90’s + I wish you all cool sewing rooms and refreshing drinks and backyards filled with zucchini plants!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

Be Careful What You Wish For

A couple weeks ago, I said to Mr. Mole that with all I had stacked up for July, the 8 brides and additional bridesmaids and custom sewing, I could use a whole week to myself with no clients.

Then the universe sent me a mean sore throat which turned into a nasty cold which turned into a gut-wrenching cough that landed me in the Saturday clinic at the hospital. After x-rays and a thorough listening to my lungs the verdict was “acute bronchitis”. At least I now had a reason why I could cough non-stop day and night and not get better. With the 2 prescriptions of steroid tablets and codeine laced cough syrup, things are better.

In the meantime, during this recovery phase, I have been getting inside some complicated bridal gowns to solve problems. Somewhere “up North” there is/are Cambodian dressmaking shops where one goes to be measured and then 7,600 miles away silk is cultivated and cut and made into wedding dresses and formal wear. But somewhere along the way, something happens to the measurements…like they disappear into the mists because the garments then arrive back here and the local shop has to alter them.

My latest bride did not buy her Cambodian silk wedding gown new…she found it in a consignment shop complete with sweat stains up top and water marks on the hem. She did ask a dry cleaners if they would get the stains out and they said they were afraid if they started, the dress would disintegrate…lovely! She decided that what she liked about the dress and then paid someone to change the one thing that didn’t/shouldn’t need changing…the length of the zipper. What started it’s life as a 18-20 inch invisible Swan brand zipper was shortened to a 8 inch length…we are talking center back zipper here…not a fly front crotch one! So the seamstress did what she was told but instead of shortening from the bottom and just sewing the center back seam up higher and letting the zipper dangle inside or secure the bottom teeth with thread and cut it off, she removed it, moved it up and then tucked the entire rest of the zipper under at the top edge leaving a nice lump/speed bump. In moving the zipper up, the matching sides of the bias ruffles had no place to go so she dropped them lower and lower which distorted the butt area and made the remaining ruffles stick out like a point. Now the bride had her tiny zipper but with a sort of butt flag waving in the breeze…delightful!

My job, should I accept it, is to eliminate the flag and make all the butt ruffles minimize her backside…sure easy peasy…NOT! Once the ruffles were lifted up 9-center-backyou could see the problem: it had been sewn at least 1.5 inches too low. Now pinned at the correct original level you can see the cut edge that used to be sewn to the zipper and is the issue. It will be darted to lay flat



Where the arrow is pointing is a 1/2 in folded under rolled hem edge made of shiny rayon thread. In fact the entire dress is made of bias strips folded under 1/4 inch at the top and stitched to a base fabric in a spiral pattern and the lower edge is totally rayon rolled hemmed. You can also see that the center seam line is tilted to the left but even letting out the left side seam did not alter the angle.

Inside the dress you can see it’s history and only imagine what happened once it landed back in the US:3-side-seams-lining Some lining seams serged, some altered and chewed off,4-side-seam-lining

lining side seams so tight they are making holes after one wearing,6-side-seam-lining

some side seams 3 inches wide,7-other-side-seam-liningother seams barely there and uneven,

5-bust-points Bust points 5 inches apart with boning running somewhere between bust points and side seams. Now hands up…how many women do you know with their nipples 5 inches apart? Really, 5 inches is the distance from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pinky…really, ask any old female x-ray tech how to measure for an object centered on an 8 by 10 inch film…you all know your apex to apex measurement from measuring patterns and yourself by now after seeing me work on Nancy’s patterns and custom clothes.

Other issues include the zipper not closing 3 inches from the top…needing more fabric from somewhere, taking in the side seams more at the hips and beyond to be a mermaid shape, adding bust pads and shortening the hems. Now Cambodian dresses are made fronts and backs all ruffled and then stitched together, be they cocktail length or floor length. This means the side ruffles never match…how can they…they are running diagonally all the time.  Here is the hem(s) that need shortening:12-hem-line-back13-front-hem-line14-side-hem-line So how does one shorten all these bias strips to keep the bride from falling but also dancing until 3 am when their band will be let go and NOT cut anything off? Well, Mrs Mole is sure as Hell NOT going to remove the layers and move them all up…so by making horizontal tucks in the base fabric I will be able to raise every layer to the desired floor length. but not all alterations can be so hidden. Here I let out one side seam 1/2 inch and you can see the previous needle marks and darker sweat stains as the new seam allowance is lighter…15-side-seam

Work continues but you get the vague idea of what I am up against:

P1170573P1170574 Ribbon straps are attached while I use the dress form to help me make all the horizontal tucks in the bottom 3 layers. If you can imagine this same dress made over and over in a little sweat shop and the only variation would be cocktail length (above where the ruffles get much deeper) or floor length…this is my 4th dress like this in the past couple years…none fit no matter what the perfect measurements were.

While I wait for the drugs to take over and let me breath more and cough less, I wish you all healthy and happy sewing this week!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , | 55 Comments

Little Miss Bride Come Lately

For months I knew she was coming. Her wedding date was given as June 14. She was the last of the June brides to even show up for her first fitting 3 weeks before the date.

She had ordered her dress and been measured and re-measured, signed the contract, agreed on the dress sizing and then showed up on my doorstep.

As she entered the studio she started right on her list of “wants”:

I want it taken in very, very tight

I want fake boobs sewn in

I want the straps shortened

I want the straps to be hand lined as they are scratchy  P1170503

I want the train removed P1170505 copy

I want the entire lace hem edging removed and re-attached higher up

She tried on the dress and I started pinning and discussing her options.P1170501

During the pinning she explains to me that she had a tight budget and saw the perfect Anthropologie dress for $600 but didn’t buy it. She went whole hog and bought this Wtoo dress for $1000 and now had buyer’s remorse. She claims the sizing was all wrong. She tries to dump this on me knowing the quote is coming up next.

For all that she wanted, most of it done by hand would be at least 6 hours. The removal of the lace hem edge (3.5 yards) and re-attachment would take 4 hours on it’s own. Every single stitch would have to be unpicked first and carefully placed higher up, basted and re-stitched on by hand unto the fragile tulle beneath.

My suggestion of a bustle to eliminate the train being removed and edging replaced would have saved her 2 hours but she stated emphatically,

“NO TRAIN, NO BUSTLE”.back Frenchback

She tosses into the conversation that she has a friend up north who is a professional seamstress who makes costumes and maybe she could do some of the work…I say she can farm out whatever parts she wants, I don’t mind. Then she says the friend is so busy making all the lace tablecloths for her wedding that she cannot ask her to do one more thing…lucky girl.

To save another couple hours she could have had the dress just hemmed without the edging attached, not as nice but if we were going for the bargain alterations…that would be the ticket. Her answer was “NO NEVER”.

Then, I said, she could think about it over the weekend and/or see another seamstress and her answer was : “NO, You are it”.  Crap…sure wish she would have dragged that dress around town to try and find a better quote.

Three days later, no word from her so I called to ask what she wanted me to do…she said she needed more time and while being so fixed on what she Didn’t want, she could not focus on the price vs. what she really did want.

Three more days went by, we are 2 weeks from the date and she calls me from morning until night asking for more photos and different ways for me to lower the price…all she wanted to pay for was 2/3 of the quote…really just mental masturbation as I am surely not dropping the price and she will have to slim down her “wants”.

I’m sure she spent the whole day sending the photos to all her friends and family and wedding planner and photographer asking their opinion and in the end she caved. In her last phone call, she said I should go ahead with everything and SHE would make the decision about the 4 hour hemming job as we rolled along.

That’s when Mrs. Mole put her foot down/took a deep breath…I said, “NO WAY, I don’t start a project without a definite ending, drop the straps, drop the lining, drop the bustle idea and we can work together”. So I started in a cut-down version of her list and a week later, 1 week before the wedding date, she finally agreed to come for her second fitting when everything was basted.

So there we were, Friday afternoon, she OK’s the bastings and I ask when does she want to pick up the dress. “I will be back Monday to pick it up” and I returned, “you won’t be picking it up because it will not be ready ” so she says “Don’t even ask me to come Tuesday, I am way too busy“. So we agree on Wednesday which is 2 days before the wedding. Cutting it very fine, I can manage the final alterations and as she is at the front door putting on her shoes to leave she casually remarks, “at least I have 2 weeks before the wedding”…WHAT? Yes, readers…Brides lie too.

Wednesday arrives and she tries on the dress…it is perfect, it is really tight and the hem has been all sewn by hand. She looks at the hem and says, “Yes my friend up north is a professional seamstress and she said it would HAVE to be done by hand.” Well, la-dee-da, so glad I did it the professional way!!!

Sadly, these are the brides that leave an impression and not the good kind, but I can smile…there is a check in my hand and 8 more brides to get through for July and they are nice and appreciative…small mercies.


Posted in challenges | Tagged , | 48 Comments

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



Posted in challenges | Tagged , | 36 Comments