Knit – Not

My client/model Nancy is always kind enough to let me borrow her patterns since we are close in age and size so after her successful foray into a couple tops being made from Vogue 8815, I thought I could whip a couple up with some knits I had laying around.

The back is quite a bit longer than the front which adds to it’s charm and design but it always seems to me to also be part of the problem with more fabric back there is had become the “bully” and yanked the front neckline backwards thus choking the wearer…not great for a full day’s wearing. But knowing this I cut out the two tops anyway and added some lingerie straps inside the shoulder seams to grab my bra straps and hold the front bodice in place. After one day of wearing the top and working in the sewing room, reaching and twisting, I knew this would just not work. So what’s a seamstress to do?

I rolled out my DTD (duct tape dummy) and threw the top on her to show the problem:frontbackside

The next thing to do was just slash across the back, through 3 seams and see what happens.slash-across A huge wedge opened up and I added my favorite patch…gingham.add-gingham I tried it on at this point and it felt pretty good except the sleeves were screaming, “Release us too!” So I opened up that seam as well and let the back sleeves seam slide up to fill a one inch gap knowing I could add a triangular shaped piece later at the underarm seam…it’s knit after all…no one will know. Then I added a new strip:new-stripstrip-pinned Pinned it, and sewed it in:strip-sewn  OK with the backed sorted out all that was left is the sleeve. By allowing the back sleeves to creep up one inch to fill the gap where the strip was sewn I added a small triangle at the underarm and that worked too.missing-wedgenew-wedge-outside

OK readers….one down…another to go? Yes, this one was a different knit and just needed a curved strip and nothing for the sleeve…yippee!  But first…where to cut…holy moley…look there…they have provided a perfect line for me in the pattern…can you see it?cutting-line-curved

curved-patch side-back

A nice smile to insert curved-patch-stripinto the back:curved-back-finished

If you didn’t know what had been done back there do you think you would notice? Nah…and now these 2 tops fit way better!

Next time leggings to go with these tops…leggings? How tough can they be? Take measurements, 2 seams, no side seams and an elastic waistband…just wait! Disaster coming!

Thank you to all my new followers…I hope you enjoy future and past posts!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Sneaky Sleeves

Remember last week when I showed you the components for the new bridal sleeves?components

For some reason I just did not expect after waiting 3 months for the matching fabric and lace motifs that the fabric would be just one yard of tulle, garden variety chain store tulle, flimsy, thin, essentially air holes held together with thread. The bride and her father wanted big poofy sleeves for all the wild Irish jump dancing, high kicks, arm waving, and  quick spins that they would be doing. This was no time for snug fitting demure puppies…so what I attempted to create was (if you are old enough to remember) Imelda Marcos sleeves using two layers of wimpy tulle…oh yes, and all the added 8 heavily beaded lace motifs. I had one day to perform this trick before the wedding…no pressure!

First I stacked the 2 layers of tulle and spray starched the crap out of them for some body, any body.


Using the sample fitted chiffon sleeve, I split it and added the volume:

new-outline new-outline-blue Then I added another seam allowance all around for even more ease and a higher The sleeves were cut out and the motifs were positioned so they would be mirror images. Who thinks about this ahead of time?possible-lace-layout Happy with the spacing etc. I sewed the two layers together using a French seam to act as the clean hem and then started pinning like crazy. real-layout                                                                           double-tulle-sleeve So after adding all that ease… and in honor of Imelda, I started pleating the sleeve caps after all I only had 16 inches of armhole circumference to work with/squeeze into.pinned-cap All the motifs were hand sewn with Mettler Metrolene polyester thread 120 wt. which is very thin and fragile but it had to be almost invisible on the back of the tulle. Every edge had to sewn to the tulle and also the weight of the beads required/forced me to run thread down through every center area too…because I had loads of time/ultimate patience to finish this….NOT!sleeve-caps

Sleeve caps matching, let’s insert these puppies!

bias-binding bias-binding-openNow, before anything could be attached, the rough armhole edges had to be covered with handmade Ambiance rayon bias strips skin colored and hand sewn and attached both sides…but I had lots of time…NOT.

pinned-sleeve-seam One good thing is the seam allowance from all those pleats will act as a sleeve head…not much but a little when flipped. I was able to machine stitch FINALLY for about 3/4 of the insertion and the rest by hand. Lord knows I didn’t want those sleeves to rip off during the dance production!!!sleeve-seam-allowancesleeve-in And voila’ we have sleeves…the finished front:sleeves-finished She is ready for her wild wedding dancing debut!

 Next time a fancy bustle and a real dramatic alteration on my own clothes…HOLY MOLEY! Winter has returned…snow is predicted and the birds are wolfing down seeds like crazy…do they know something we don’t?

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , , | 25 Comments

Down to the Wire

Some seamstresses work well under pressure, they can be sewing at the last minute for a wedding or special event and it invigorates them…the rush, the tension, the stress…the black coffee, the chocolate…and then the finished project delivered minutes before the final deadline…that’s not me. I’m a planner, thinker and engineer who gets up every night to work on garments when it is quiet and dark but this week all that went down the toilet.

A wedding I have been working on for over a month ended up needing major dress alterations for 6 bridesmaids and flower girl…why? Well that bad old internet just likes to have last minute deliveries to make everyone crazy and of the six size 10 dresses…none of them fit…surprise surprise.

The mother of the bride also ordered 3 dresses from another company in China and brought those along to see which was the closest to fitting. We decided on two with the perfect colored one having sleeves so narrow she could not slip her thin arms into them…how does that work? I ended up removing the sleeves and binding the armholes all around by hand and taking up the shoulders 2 inches and the floor length chiffon and satin too…the day before the wedding.

lilac-sleeveslilac-dress The dress ended up  looking way better without the Bollywood sleeves since they didn’t match the color at all.

The next problem that arose was the fact that the bride needed sleeves and had ordered, or the salon was supposed to have ordered sleeve material and 12 beaded lace motifs to attach to the newly made sleeves. We waited and waited and 2 days before the wedding the fabric finally arrived from China. Here is what I started with:components

Two yards of tulle, a test sleeve of chiffon and 12 motifs and a change of plans from the bride almost sent me screaming. All along the sister was supposed to embellish the new sleeves but things went so hectic that I was asked to do it all….make, embellish and attach.

Next time I will show all the steps involved but before I get back to the next bride in the line here is a little darling dress that had to sneak in that final day as well….you have heard this story before…the dress was ordered online, it arrived 1 day before the Winter formal dance and since the girl was 6 ft tall…the hem of this dress barely covered her cheeks in back or her lady parts in front. Then she added gold glitter 5 inch stilettos with 1 inch platform soles…taking her to 6’6 easy….

The girl said she could go to the dance and be happy but Grandma drove her over and said different…Grandma armed with a ballpoint pen started drawing lines on the girl’s legs where she thought the hem should be. Girlie said we could add 1.5 inches and Grandma said, “Make it 5 inches”. So off they went to JoAnn’s for some black chiffon to make the new underskirts. The next day I cut and measured and mini pleated the lower layer and darted the upper layer to make the dress look like it had come this way:


Close up of the 2 new layers inside under the Georgette over skirt and knit lining:gold-and-black-waist

So now Cinderella can get herself to the Formal high school dance and not look like she is a working girl! It is a battle to keep that hoochie mama look at bay!

I had to laugh just before I tossed out a cardboard box into the recycling bin this week. Maybe you have seen this before but it was so clever:cat-box

Happy Spring sewing everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 29 Comments

Waist Not, Want Not

What do you do when you buy new jeans, give them to a seamstress to hem, and a year later pick them up to find nothing has been done?

My friend did just that and now she needs not only the hems shortened 2 inches but the waist enlarged 1-2 inches as well. OK, now I hear you all moaning and saying, jeans waistbands cannot be lengthened or altered as they are in one piece….BUT…let’s get creative shall we?

First I cut 1.5 inches off the length knowing that I could open up the previous stitched hem and find another 1/2 inch inside…a bonus when you need it! Now let’s start on the one pair that needs only one inch…well it might as well be 5 inches for the messing around but here goes. I start with this scene and seam:other-side-beforeThis is the right side that I will not be opening up. On the left side I am cutting right through the waistband to the side seam double stitching. Then I remove 2 rows of that topstitching and allow the side seam to open to a wedge. A patch is inserted, one side sewn to the raw edge and the other side just tucked under the folded edge of the previously top stitched seam edge.1-new-wedge

The only issue is what to do with the remaining raw edge on the waistband…well I just zigzagged over it to flatten it and re-stitched the double row down the side seam. Not too bad so far…but wait…what about the inside? Well, the patch folded over the top and flipped down at an angle inside so it was hand sewn to secure the edges and then the waistband topstitching was done to finish.2-inside-wedge

I am lazy so I fill the bobbin with thick jeans thread and sew from the wrong side using regular poly thread in the top spool. Then when I get to the end where it joins the old thread, I don’t back tack and make a clump of thread, I stop, cut a long tail and use the poly thread to pull the jeans thread to the wrong side of the garment and tie them together with a surgeon’s knot and snip off.

The other pair of jeans was needing 2 full inches but there were 2 sets of sewn down pleats so we could “borrow” from one, flatten it out and gain the inch on each side…OK Mrs. Mole…what happens to the waistband? Well remember I had to cut another 2 inches off the hems and I had a nice piece to attach at center back. Yes, I had to remove the entire waistband and release all the belt loops from the pants body but this is not so bad.1-waistband-patch3-front-pleat-removed

The other issue with these pants was the zipper was broken…brand new but broken so it had to be completely removed and replaced…heck, the waistband was already removed so at least that was the first step.4-back-of-zipper-flap Then baste the new zipper to the over flap for double stitching on the right side.5-other-side-of-zipper Open the slot between the two edges on the under flap and slide the new zipper in there to be top stitched down.

6-new-zipper-basted Then tuck everything down inside and do that double curved top stitching around the fly to make it look like the original and attach the waistband again. OH…almost forgot…to reduce bulk my client wanted me to remove the pockets…quite a frequent request so I serged off the inside pockets and stitched the openings closed.2-remove-pocket Belt loops were re-attached using a small straight stitch, not a bar tack…who needs bulk?

Last pair of pants were standard ladies pants from Kohl’s Apt 1 brand. They needed 2 inches to the waist as well and guess where I found it? The waistband was more like a man’s so it could be let out all in one seam but when I opened it up I was surprised, well not really, to find the center back seams were sewn way off…can you see?1-wasitband-difference2-inside-waistband But now they are equal on the raw edges…yahoo!3-opened-up-and-basted

You never know what treasures you will find in RTW…small joys for the seamstress.

Wishing everyone happy sewing times, only small problems and better weather for our friends on the East coast of the US…wrap up or stay in and sew!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , | 26 Comments

Hems Up, Hems Down

Not all brides want an elegant look…some want raunchy. This week a woman married 7 years ago wanted her never cleaned wedding dress that she wore for her wedding shortened so she could wear it to celebrate her anniversary.

She originally got married on an island and the anniversary included a trip to re-visit the same spot. The dress was simple enough but a little weird with 2 layers of thick poly knit lining and then the 2 layers of poly chiffon. She tried on the dress and when I asked where she wanted the new hem I was shocked. There I was sitting on floor with a yardstick and expecting her, like most women, to reach down and find the top of their knee and say, “about there”.

Not this chick…she drew a line across the va-jay-jay and said, “Right here and in the back, just have it cover my crack”. She looked down at me and said, “I suppose you don’t approve?” My only comment was “We are getting into hoochie-mamma territory”. Then she said that she wanted to be the hottest babe on the beach and wanted to ignite the passion if I knew what she meant. I thought with this dress, you might want to just stay in the hotel room and see what happens!

shorten   shorten-2

Do you remember the man’s coat I finished for a friend? Well, the sleeves were marked too short and it was brought back this week for an additional 1.75 inches to be added somehow. The solution was to make a cuff that was the same width at the pocket flap so it did not resemble a pirate’s coat with huge flipped back cuffs.

I first had to make a pattern that could double as a facing and patch. Here I used my favorite True-Grid fabric.cuff-pattern and when opened up it becomes the facing pattern:facing-pattern Then the pieces were cut from leftover wool and also a 2 inch strip of lining had to be attached so everything joined up. The only good thing was the cuff facing could be sewn down by machine and covered by the new flipped back cuff.facing-stitched The top edge of the cuff was understitched to keep it stiff and crisp and then hand tacked to the 4 sleeve seams before the buttons were re-attached.lining-stripnew-cuff  Ahhhhh now this costume can be worn and loved.

Meanwhile in the sewing room there are 4 wedding gowns and 6 bridesmaids dresses to finish…whew…never had such early brides before so I am hoping this is not really a glimpse of another huge volume season but I have a new little helper. Not the human kind but a slightly used machine from a sewing friend…an Elna 720 elna 720The only thing this baby needed was a newer adjustable knee lift so that has been ordered. It is a heavy metal machine that just makes the most gorgeous buttonholes and sounds so smooth without a recurring twerking bobbin.

Wishing you all much success with spring sewing and Jungle January sewing!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 39 Comments

Happy New Year and Hems

Ever since Jan 1st rolled around, the phone has not stopped ringing with folks needing new hems, dropped hems and bridal hems but first let’s start with my red coat hem.

Since it was cut with only a seam allowance, yes Mrs. Mole forgot to add a deep hem, there is a technique I use that works to add weight and make it sturdy for sitting down and not having it droop or bag out. First, I use my favorite fusible 3 inch wide interfacing from hem edge to 2.5 inch up into the coat. Then I attach a strip of lining fabric and fold it under to be double which creates a nice smooth top edge to attach.

17-hem-facing 16-hem-facing

Then the coat lining is attached to that top edge and allowed to bag down.

This technique is also good on pants that need to be lengthened. This week a gal brought in 2 pair, both brand new but one was already tackled by another seamstress. Once the hem was let down to the lowest point she had simply attached a narrow strip of rayon hem facing and it was falling apart with no stability. I replaced it with another wider strip of polyester lining fabric. A wider strip allows your pant hem to glide over your shoes instead of catching. navy-hem You can see the understitching which helps hold everything to the inside. Another pair were plaid and needed the same technique:plaid-hem This time I used Ambiance rayon lining as they will be dry cleaned being a wool blend. These pants also needed a full 2 inches let out in the waistband…OH NO! Who wants to do that? Well I got lucky as the front flap was 1 inch away from the zipper edge and the back flap could adjust to an added piece. I was able to just open the waistband up to the first belt loop, borrow one inch from the center pleats and slide everything forward including the lining. Then just sew up the old button hole, attach the button and make a new buttonhole and voila’ …pants that fit!plaid-frontplaid-waistband

The final hem is a real challenge time-wise. What do you do when your bride needs her dress shortened 8 inches and the hem edge is scalloped lace edging sewn unto chiffon? Well, every single short cotton stitch must be removed from the back as the front is sewn with invisible thread. 2-back-of-chiffon

The chiffon will be shortened and all this lace edging will be pinned on, hand basted and then machine stitched just as the original…invisible on top, cotton or polyester on the back. Here we have 3 yards…108 inches of toil and trouble and labor!1-edging-removed

Wishing all your hemming jobs this week will be simple!!!

Best wishes for a very happy and productive New Year and if you need inspiration check out  the Jungle January over at Pretty Grievances!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

Christmas Sewing

I know, I know…we were all going to take a break from sewing but there were a couple things I could not avoid.

The first one was an emergency repair on a suede jacket that was given to a grown-up son who managed to mangle it somehow. When I asked my client what did her adult son do while he was wearing the brand new jacket…her reply…”Fixing a motorcycle” and the sleeves got tangled up in the chains or something”. So here we are with ripped suede and lots of slashes that need reinforcing and hand stitching.

P1170065P1170067P1170066 On the inside everything got a new patch of help using my favorite Cold Cloth that I have used in the past for torn fur stoles. It is like heavy duty contact paper that seals the skin on the back to prevent more damage.P1170063P1170064P1170075 Skins repaired and linings restitched closed, the jacket is ready for more adventures!

The rest of the sewing time was for me…you’re kidding, Mrs Mole, do you actually do that?

Yes, I have had this coat cut out for 3-4 years and never managed to get it close to being finished but this year after seeing a shitload of badly sewn coats with huge collars and facings not under stitched or interfaced with really stiff interfacing I stopped screaming long enough to make my own version of a coat. You know the ones…they are flooding the blogsphere with front ruffles. Let’s get some perspective on techniques that work to tame fabrics and seams, shall we?

il_570xN.364559663_pylr The pattern Burda 5201 from the late 80′s and looked fast and easy with few seams and pieces. It also was pre-seam allowances…remember those days? My fabric was a strange brew labeled “recycled fibers” and there must have been some wool in it along with dog beds and cat hair and scrapings from a hairdressing salon as it looks like a cat took a nap on it in the back of my car. But it had a nice circular pattern and was thick and my color…well almost. Holding it up to my face is still needed something so I added a collar of black wool flannel to embroider later. The collar was interfaced with fusible weft stuff I have had for over 30 years…thank God the glue was still happy to bond with a steam iron and pressure! The entire body of the coat was underlined with some cheap batiste I had from JoAnn’s, of course not enough of one color. Here is the collar being stitched to the front edge:1-attach-lapel You can see some white hand basting as the two sections were really not the same thickness and pinning alone could allow one to stretch…you never know.2-back-of-embroidery The back of the snowflake embroidery (I left some of the tearaway backing)…yes, I know it is lame but the black was too dark and it needed something to perk it up…really I needed perking up.3-trim-coat-front-seam Here’s the first tip…go find your pinking shears and cut off the extra coat body fabric above the button and cut away the excess facing below the button. Then get ready for some good understitching…yes yes DO THIS to prevent the edges from peeking out and STEAM press your edges flat before ANY topstitching.4-understitch-lapel Again, see my red hand basting, pull the trimmed seam allowance under the presser foot and stitch flat, do the reverse below the button. Allow an inch or so in the front edge to have NO understitching to transition between the two.14 coat-facing5-under-collar Tack the center back of the under collar by hand and run basting stitches along the under collar and allow the black lapel to show.6-inside-facing Inside facing allows the red fabric to show.8-inside-out Turned inside out, you can see how the edges look like they have a binding, but they don’t, you create that with your understitching and trimming.


OK, Let’s think about a lining…the pattern has no lining pieces…what shall we do? How about pinning the front and back piece together and see what it looks like?7-lining-layout You can see the side seams are very straight, and the upper back has been altered…let’s get cutting all in one piece…can we do that? There are no fabric police at my house…let’s be crazy!12-lining-pinned-on Pinned on lining13-back-pleat and once it is pinned on we can pin out a back fold pleat….hooray! I will also pin a tuck at the waist for some shaping.

What else goes inside? The back edge of the black facing is attached to the batiste and then the side seam pockets are attached to the facing edge with 2 pieces of elastic…after all who needs them flopping around inside?15 coat-poocket10-outisde

There we are…my lining is attached, basting stitches on the collar will be removed, top stitching all around to be done and all that is left is the hem which will get a special treatment and be featured next time….oh and some sort of closure button or loop.

The paperwhites opened and stopped growing…just in time for Christmas day…how do they know how to that?   


What are your plans for sewing before Jan 1st?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 36 Comments