The 60’s Bride

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

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

My poem would go like this:

Red thong, Green thong,

It’s all wrong

Pink Thong, Blue thong,

It’s still wrong

Buy, Try, Why?

Tight pants, Right pants,

Wear them for a while

Flat tum, tight bum,

Makes a bride smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , , | 32 Comments

Nancy’s Jacket

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

First we see the muslin as it is:24 front

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

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

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

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

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


Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

Inside DVF wrap dress

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

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

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

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

Inside the facing is backed with fused interfacingP1180097P1180096

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


The sleeves finish with a sewn-on cuff:P1180102

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , , | 24 Comments

Jacket Preparations

Nancy went off on a vacation and left me with the new Butterick 6106. So far you have only seen the sleeves and the short cap but how about the rest of it?B6106

Let’s see what we are up against:            P1170894
The back is normal with side panels, the right front is interesting with diagonal strips and a triangle or two that attach to the back side panel. But then we come to the left side…hmmm



What you don’t see in the photo on the envelope is a lump/tumor of sorts of fabric that pooches out from the body for some reason…OK designer’s choice. In the paper preview, the middle strip is already showing this protrusion. When we go to the muslin it gets even better/worse.

2-right-side So far so good…3-right-side-level Bring out the ruler and see where our grainlines will be…can you see the angle?4-side-shape The front of the jacket will certainly flare away from the body by 3 inches…OK designer choice.5-front The fronts overlap and then….the left side problem emerges:6-tumor-left-side7-left-side-grainline Besides the tumor, the grainlines are wandering north and also flaring away from the body. Let’s see the fabric version.

10-muslin-back9-muslin-r-side Back and right side look the same as in the paper version…how about the fronts and left side?13-muslin-sewn-front-bulge Do all the opposing grainlines make you nervous? Do all the drag lines worry you? Does the tumor pouch make you wonder WHY? Me too! Maybe you are thinking that I should have cut a smaller size but the bust and hips measure out well for a jacket to be worn over other clothing, it is just this weird shape that worries me. The designer Katherine Tilton has shown other versions of this in plaid and stripes.L1030024

Once Nancy returns she will be modeling this puppy and we will see what it looks like on a real body.

Before I go I thought you might like to see the tunic that was attached to the sleeves in the last post. This cool linen/cotton fabric was bought at Fabric of Vision in Ashland, Oregon  years ago and waited/aged until I could figure out what it wanted to be.

P1180078 2-raise-necklineIt is Butterick 5390 that I have made in 2 other versions last year. The V-neckline is very deep so I raised it up 2 inches and cut the sleeves crossgrain and pieced them to be horizontal:    tunic B53905-preview-sleeves

Until next time…does anyone need more veggies? It has been a very long growing season in the Mole’s garden…Sept-2014-2



Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Sleeve Cap Flap part 2

This week we needed a visual for a better sleeve with a taller cap. I placed the paper pattern down and traced the XL size along with the extra panel for fitting.16-new-sleeve17-added-panel The grain lines are drawn horizontally and vertically in black marker. The stitching line for the XL is the dotted line at the top and the rest as they say…is gravy. If we need it, it is there, if we don’t it gets cut off…CL-TL.

I pinned the lower half of the sleeve in the armhole from notch to notch and worked the rest of the sleeve with ease. Then I used the XXL stitching line at the cap only to give extra height…about 1/2 inch more. Here is the sleeve machine basted:18-new-cap19-front-view It is getting better with just that 1/2 extra don’t you think? But the bicep line still hikes up a bit. So what happened to the sleeve and the armhole? Dimensions please…..20-dimensions We went from 3/4 inch ease to 1 inch. Each sleeve cap section enlarged 1/8 inch so total 1/4 inch.

Then I thought…in the very first photo last week it looked like 1 inch extra sleeve cap height would be good. I removed the sleeve, drew another seam line 1/2 inch higher up and basted it in.

Adding a full inch added another 1/4 inch to the overall sleeve circumference so to reduce the ease below the cap and above the notches I pinned out and basted 1/2 inch (2 squares) all the way across. Now we have the original circumference with ease of .75 inch. While it looks like there are drag lines it is because there is no arm in the sleeve and it hangs flat.


Is there anything else we can do besides that pinning out? Of course, as my grandma used to say, “there is more than one way to skin a cat”. In this previous photo you can see you can raise the curved sections up:MuslinSleeveFlatv5_1-smalle You need to plan ahead for this as there is no extra fabric there once you have cut out the sleeve unless you want to make another muslin. Either way you are shortening the distance from the new cap line but still having a taller cap to eliminate drag lines and lay nicely over the shoulder bone. So for this pattern the real sleeve will be cut size XL with the cap cut for the XXL plus another 1/2 inch higher. The pinned area will be folded out of the paper pattern straight across.

This is just my version of making this sleeve look better, you don’t have to try it or agree. But if you look back through some of Nancy’s other patterns we have done this over and over for wovens and knits. Next week, she returns from her vacation and we can get started on pinning and slashing this jacket.

Thank you for all your helpful comments and questions. If I have not shown what you asked, please be patient, opportunities will bring more photos but in the meantime I am just working on my 45th bride this season and 33rd bridesmaid dress so time is short in the sewing room. You can always send photos and questions privately and if you have any SEW BAD photos for the Saturday feature…send them to:


Sept-2014 A sample of the garden produce this week…happy sewing everyone!




Posted in challenges | Tagged | 10 Comments

Sleeve Cap Flap

This week, I have just about lost my mind about bad/skimpy sleeve caps. There was a challenge on the FabricMart blog for a simple t-shirt pattern to be manipulated into something quite unique by well-known sewers. Normally, I enjoy these challenges for the sewers discover faults and adapt their new designs and inspirations and make something super.

When you click on the link above you will see some darling fashions but every single one of them did not address the sleeve cap that is too short and causing drag lines in every garment…some way worse than others. Check them out…drag lines up the wazoo no matter what fabric they used.

It is not just this pattern, I would say a good 50% or more of patterns on the market cheat us out of good sleeve caps…and for heaven’s sake…it is simple…the shoulder bone is round and needs extra fabric to drape over it before becoming a tube.11002Front-arrows

If the stripes are 1 inch wide, you can see that with 1 inch added to the cap the stripes would line up well with the bodice. Here is another pattern, a new-upcoming jacket for Nancy with a bad sleeve cap:Tilton-jacket

Want more? Here are a couple from another blogger who I tried to help with her sleeves:SleeveSidev1_1MuslinSleeveFlatv5_1 She needed more than one inch so she could add it to achieve the result…the first photo shows the perfect sleeve with a few pins pinching out the excess and the second shows how she did it on her muslin. OK, you say…it doesn’t really matter in a print…OK…no one will notice…except the wearer when she has drag lines and cannot raise her arm.

Want to see a perfect sleeve cap with stripes? This is my new linen/cotton tunic, with a horizontal back slash of 3/4 inch to bring the shoulder seams forward and darts in the back neckline. The sleeve stripes are parallel with the floor as they should be.

tunic-sheeve-2 So, how do you get to this point?

I use the Mrs Mole method for everything- CL-TL…Cut large, trim later. If I am cutting a size 20 bodice, I cut the 22 or 24 sleeve because the cap is higher and I can just pin out and cut out what I don’t want later. Another method I have seen in tailoring books is to cut one inch or more beyond the seam line from notch to notch. You mark the original seam/stitching line and then use whatever extra fabric you need to make the horizontal lines parallel with the floor.tailor-trick Adding to the cap will definitely drop the sleeve lower into the armscye but the alteration of raising those areas up a little make it fit better. Of course we all measure our sleeve and armscye, don’t we? Don’t we all want to know what ease the designer left for us? YES WE DO! T shirts have little ease and flat sleeve caps while jackets SHOULD have more ease and higher sleeve caps…they can have up to 2 inches of ease. But you have to measure to know this:measure sleeve

Remember Nancy’s Vogue 8821 sleeve cap? It was a knit and needed more cap ease at the top and side seams…so out came the curved ruler to make that happen. If you don’t measure the front and back opening and the sleeve then you have no idea what you have. If you rely on the pattern company to get it right…guess again!!! OK if you don’t want to bother with measuring and recording it…then just “walk” the sleeve in the armscye to see how it will sew in…it might fit but the cap will pull up and then what?

Now try looking at blog photos for the sleeve drag lines…while the bodice will hang straight…maybe…without wrinkles…it is the sleeve that shows the true expertise/patience of the seamstress. Who do you want to be…the one with perfect or sloppy sleeves?



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 77 Comments

A Treasure Hunt and a Save

You bought your dream wedding dress at a high end salon on the other side of the state, the salon assured you that the alterations would be perfect…so you left the dress with them. A week before the wedding, you picked up the dress and paid for it but they told you that you should not try it on because …WHY?…they have steamed it. (FIRST MISTAKE!)

You get home 5 hours later and try it on and realize that there is only one bustle point and the rest of the dress is dragging on the ground (like basset hound dog ears) and there are weird “wings” of fabric protruding from your hips. (SECOND MISTAKE! ) What now? The wedding is 4 days away!P1170799 copy You ask your friend who is a hairdresser who just happens to live across the street from Mrs. Mole for a favor. I accepted the 4 day challenge because I wanted to see inside the dress and make the 2 additional points on the bustle (see safety pins). Like many brides with their heads in the clouds, they try on a size 14 dress and need it to be a 8 or 10…no problem the salon says…”our back room seamstress can handle it”. Someone pins out the seams, and someone stitches them up…not necessarily the same person…and how can you tell?

Let’s see some telltale signs, shall we?open-liningFirst we open the lining to get inside,take-in-r-side here is the right side to be taken in…but where do the wings come from?P1170803




No matter where I looked there were chewed off bits and where the pencil line stopped, so did the stitching…guess the sewer did not know that she was supposed to trail off to nothing below the last pencil mark. Was this dress marked and then bagged up and dropped off at someone’s house for the sewing part? It is anyone’s guess/probably.


Beads have to be removed when they fall unto the seamline but not all seamstresses do this. Once all the new seams were sewn, EVERY seam allowance was trimmed and pressed flat and the dress was perfect and on time. I didn’t have the heart to ask what they were charged for this half-ass alteration job but there is no way the bride would have gone down the aisle looking so bad. She wrote a glowing review online for me and sent a thank you note too…it means so much to be appreciated!

Before I go, I want to share a new addition to my sewing family…drum roll please…instead of me droning on and on about my new machine, please click on this link for another seamstresses photos and reviews of the Juki 2010Q. Yes, it is targeted for quilters but it has a vertical bobbin case that I dearly wanted/needed and such a huge clearance for thick gowns and netting.JukiMy Elna has a new place to stay! A couple months ago I saw an ad for a 1930’s sewing cabinet on Craigslist. It was $30 but needed a patch of wood and some TLC as in sanding and staining and varnish to make it new again. My neighbor who built my platform added the patch and cut the chewed up legs off by 2 inches to match my counter top height.


What more does a girl want or need?

Have a super week of sewing everyone! And if you want your latest wadder featured on the SEW BAD Saturday, just email me at:

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 33 Comments