Build a Bustle

How about this for a romantic wedding gown? This Wtoo Bellevista gown has it all, gorgeous train, buttons down the back, sheer coverage, real shoulders and a ribbon belt.

It also has a few issues like most gowns. We have to deal with all the fluff under the skirt and whether the bride wants an over or under bustle. Let’s pin up the satin and lining layers first to use as a base:

This French under bustle shows off the lace embroidery really well:

The normal over bustle needs so many points to avoid those deep folds:

The under bustle making use of one line of buttons and loops.

The front view with under bustle

Going beneath the satin bustle layer, you can see that the manufacturer graciously made the netting layer as long as the train…nice idea but when you bustle you sure don’t want to see this hanging out from under it. If we trim the top layer of netting to ground level, that eliminates all that.

Then getting down to the lowest netting layer, it can be trimmed too…why not make it all neat and level under there?

With the top layers pinned/bustled up, it make a more pleasing view

The bride wanted a two-tiered under bustle to get all of the train up so here is a trial look. The second lower tier would be more even in the final days.

The other alternative would be to attach the bustle points at the waist under the ribbon belt. But the bride put it to me this way: “I DON’T want to see ANY buttons or loops or ribbons in my photographs, period!” Even though this version shows off all the lace to the best advantage and is simple to attach…it was “No Bueno”. So all the buttons in the under the bustle were clear plastic.

Another couple of problems were holes…in the tulle skirt and the tulle veil. Of course, I was expected to magically fix these like it was easy. Here is the bead edged veil hole:

As with other repairs, I used invisible thread and caught the two edges together. The hole was already shaped in an oval so it worked out well. I did not bother with the really tiny holes.

This long tear was in the side seam area near the hem of the skirt and I used regular polyester thread as it would get more abuse and you would not notice it.

Getting closer with the two tired bustle:

What about the veil….hope she doesn’t plan on walking through tall grass!

Mother Nature has been making sure some of our experiments have produced some good food. This year I planted cipollini onion sets in the strawberry pots and now they are ready to harvest and store in the freezer:

Mr. Mole tried planting corn seeds for the first time and we are anxiously awaiting the first crunch of the kernels. Next to the corn in the tunnel is Swiss chard which can be picked now before the hungry birds discover it!

Do you smile in your photos? Do you get your kids to smile in family photos? Well, back 100 years ago, that certainly was not the style when sitting in the photographer’s studio.

With Fall upon us, it is time to get thinking about season sewing and Christmas sewing…oh no…can it only be 104 days away???


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Bust Cups, Buttons and Binding

How about a real classic look with real sleeves?

This Wtoo Nahara certainly delivers the look we remember from the 50’s.

To start, the sleeves are about 2 inches too long but they have a regular hem and no scallops.

With 7 buttons and 7 loops, we need to remove 4 of them at the hem. First detach the loops and buttons. Thread trace the new hem with red thread.

Fold under the hem keeping it for future brides with longer arms. Re-attach the 4 buttons higher up on the underarm seam.

Shortening the shoulders by 1/2 inch (one inch total) requires the removal of the sleeve cap and the tulle binding.

Once the first edge is released, we can see there are more rows of stitching to be removed.

After that, the binding is free and the shoulder seam can be taken in.

Here you can see the 2 layers of sleeve cap and bodice and binding.

Starting at the neck edge the new seam stitching amounts to 3/4 inch down to 1/2 inch at the sleeve section.

Basted by hand before machine stitching

The binding will now be too long and instead of folding it under and making a lump, I cut it and overlap for later.

The nice thing about working with lace is…the air spaces!!! Gathering by hand allows me to decrease the cap by the 1/2 inch it needs. Once attached back to the shoulder, it will behave itself and look nice…really.

With everything hand basted, you can see it works.

Once sewn by machine with white thread and basting removed, it will be fine.

That excess tulle will be folded under cleanly under the edge and hand tacked.

On the outside, it looks good.

The sleeve binding is re-attached

With the sleeves sorted out…what’s next? This bride wanted more coverage and the bust sections closer together. Pinching out 1/2 inch, she asked if it was possible to bring the 2 edges together without looking like it had been done.


Flipping to the back side, you can see the tacking stitches that bind the lace to the tulle base.

Once released, you can see that each “flap” could be lifted. Then what?

Here we have the exposed flat center tulle panel and the flaps pinned back.

I pinned out a 1/4 inch tuck (1/2 inch total) and basted it by hand and later back stitched along the basting to make it more permanent.

Then the flaps were flipped back into place, overlapping, and pinned down.

To secure everything, I ran another row of hand stitching down the center.

Sequins were re-attached and you can see that the coverage was complete and the bride felt confident to walk down the aisle without showing a cleavage crease and not worrying about bending over and exposing too much at the reception.

Another advantage of snugging up the center front is the profile, see how the bodice cups under her bust for a smooth transition down towards the belt.

The final photos of her dress with the veil…just stunning with lace motifs on the edges! The bride was so easy to work with, she gave me free rein to make all the alterations and said she trusted me with whatever I decided to do and try.

Just have to share what Mother Nature has blessed us with…patty pan squash normally are about 3-4 inches across and you need at least 4-5 of them in a meal. What about this one weighing in at almost 2 pounds! This is what happens when you don’t look under all the leaves!!!

How about butternut squash hanging from the cage?

Keeping my fingers crossed that this is the last week of 100 degree temps! Happy sewing to all the moms who waved their children back off to school this week!

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Halter Help

If you have the perfect figure, you can get away with wearing the Willowby Levanna.

What these photos don’t show is the fact that the side edges flare away from the body as they reach the waistline. Cleverly, this model is holding her arm flat against that area.

How about this for a headdress?

(Sorry the photos are so small but the larger ones did not appear in some browsers. For better photos, you have to click on the link above)


When a real bride wears this dress and the flare happens, all there is to do is to release the front side panel and drop it as little as is allowed with that big clump of folded-under lining. I was able to drop it and trim it about 1/2 inch and re-stitch it in place but the waistband is sheer too.

After the second try-on, the flare was still there and the bride says she will try to tape the dress to herself. I hear this all the time but tape can release in hot weather and cause problems.




Last week Scott Disick and Sophia Richie were in Italy and she didn’t quite get the bust tape stuck on well enough to keep her wrap dress closed:












So, thinking of my bride exposing the tape and possibly some side boob, I tried something else. First, I measured the length of the edge from halter neck to waistband which was 15 inches.

Then I ran a tight white running stitch from the bust to the waist along the outside edge, tightening a little every few inches but not enough to look gathered.

Then it was re-measured and the length was lessened another 1/2 inch which caused it to “cup” inwards toward the body. Hooray!

Here you can see the results and also the bust pads that were trimmed on each pointed edge to fit snugly into the halter margins.

The halter neck strap needed to be shortened 2 inches, so the 2 snaps were relocated along with adding another one in the middle to make it all secure.

The front outside view:






Full length view before steaming:


The bride opted for no bustle and will just carry her train around all day.














Let’s finish with some fresh veggies!

With 4 more months of brides left this year and the temps going back up to the 100’s next week as we crawl into September, I think it will be Squash month for sure with the Butternut ones growing larger and heavier by the day!!! The Autumn raspberries have gone crazy as well so I should have more photos next time!

When summer temps are too high to go out and exercise, take a peek at these vintage exercises you can do right in your own home…no need to visit a gym!

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Bring on the Bridesmaids

What ever happened to those 10 bridesmaid dresses?

This is the dress from Azazie that needed front modesty inserts, new cap sleeves and the left front leg slit closed up an extra 8 inches by hand to below the knee.

The mother of the bride was clever enough to order one additional dress to be used to harvest the fabric needed to do all these additional alterations.

Let’s get started:

What I needed for the front inserts was ten sections 7 inches by 15 inches of the mesh skirt. Here are the 10 sections all stacked and lined up. Paper pattern cut from my roll of medical exam paper.

Here is the front with the deep “V”. When I first saw these dresses, I thought that these are the most UN-church ready dresses ever! Even on the website model, the cleavage is revealed. The mother was distressed that the bride had chosen this style but I hugged her and told her that all would be finished on time and to not worry.

The first solution is to fold those new inserts in half and pin them into position and try a couple on the local bridesmaids to make sure of the position. Did I mention that only 2 of the 10 girls lived in the area? This doesn’t help when trying to figure out the hem length for each girl as well.

One of my followers asked me a while back how to hem this new chiffon mesh as it is not like regular woven chiffon. It certainly stretches and causes all sorts of headaches but that is what the factories are turning out. One afternoon I visited my local David’s Bridal and discovered that all their dresses are made of this fabric now. We just have to learn to work with it and treat it like the old chiffon.

Close-up of the pinned insert:

To make the new sleeves, I cut the entire knit lining from the extra dress and mapped out the sections to make sure I could get 14 sleeves. Only the 7 married bridesmaids had to have new cap sleeves. I did manage to get JUST 14 cut out but as you can tell, some of the sleeves will have vertical seams from the skirt sections. But all of them will be covered by the deep flounces.

Inside view of eased sleeve cap with one of those darn vertical seams. You can see the mesh flounce peeking out below the sleeve hem.

First, the sleeves were hand basted into place and then machine stitched and excess seam allowances trimmed and pinked off. Each sleeve hem was serged and turned under.

View from the outside with flounce pulled up:

Once the sleeve was inserted, it had to be top stitched from the outside to keep all the layers flat.

Start at the side seam and just sew in a circle:

Finish the circle stitching:

The same technique was used on the front insert. I flipped the front flounces up and away and then machine stitched the new insert down.

You get a better idea of what was added with this photo of the inside. While it might look a little unfinished, I had to console myself with knowing that these dresses would never be worn again and all this was done to conform to the church guidelines in the short time frame I was given.

Out of the 10 dresses, only 4 needed hems shortened as this company asks for the “hollow to hem” measurement like is used for wedding gowns. The only warning I give to you is this: If the measurement is done without shoes and the bridesmaid says she is wearing 3 inch heels…don’t just add 3 inches to that measurement. Why? Well, unless the shoe is a Carmen Miranda platform one, her toes will not leave the floor, only the heels rise up.

Since these days many bridesmaids dresses are longer in the back than the front, 3 inches may be too much to add. We found this with the 4 dresses that had to be hemmed. As the bridesmaids flew in from other states, slowly they arrived to try on their dresses just days before the wedding with one girl picking up her dress the morning of the ceremony!

Here is some more happy altering news. As many of you know, I get contacted all the time for advice on your own altering challenges and one reader sent me this note along with the finished photos:

After more hours than I care to count, I have now finished my granddaughter’s dress. 

 As you suggested, I inserted 5 inches on the waistband on each side. Since the lining of the skirt was relatively flat, I needed to insert additional panels which I was able to harvest from the second dress we had ordered.  The three layers made it quite a challenge to get the skirt to hang correctly. 

I also needed to add additional fabric to the top front pieces (there just wasn’t enough fabric in the original dress to cover her bust without destroying the design).  With the additional fabric, I was able to stitch the front closed a couple of inches for a more modest look.  I also  added a couple of inches to the straps over her shoulders in order to drop the waist to a more comfortable position.

Because the back was a little lower than she liked, I made a small panel that she can snap in above the zipper to cover her bra strap.

Anyway, IT’S DONE!  I don’t know how I would have managed without your advice.  I learned so much, both from your emails and from  your blog.  I can’t thank you enough – you are a real magician and a generous teacher!

It is such a pleasure and treat to be able to share these photos!!!

Close up of added side panels and added shoulder strap panels below:


Didn’t Char do a great job using ruched fabrics and fitting all the new pieces together? The center back panel hides the bra back and the front hangs properly now with longer straps. No one will know that so much was added so precisely and perfectly!


So dear readers, I THANK all of you for your lovely comments every week and when you share photos of your projects that have been successful. That is what I am here for….sharing photos so you can gain confidence to tackle those challenges! There are no books that show how to just jump right in and make up your own solutions or how to harvest fabric to complete them.

Be brave and have a super week!

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Change of Pace

After altering strictly wedding gowns for 16 years and blogging about them every week for 9 years, I am reflecting over how many techniques have been sewn and shown and documented.

Working on 80-100 gowns every year over this long period of time has me thinking that you readers have had to wade through hundreds of photos of the same things like how to shorten a scalloped lace hem, how to use twill tape to snug up bodices, how to make a bustle and how to make a corset back. To help you find these particular techniques, I have made 2 new pages with examples of past projects in the upper right hand corner of my home page. More pages will be added.

It is time for me to make sure that future blogs have something new and unique instead of the same old thing. If I think that a dress has features that are new and unusual enough to photograph and share…then I will post it.

If not, I will wait until there is something more interesting for both of us and then post about it. There will be more time between posts but they will be more diverse. Watching and reading other blogs is always encouraging and my favorite wedding alteration videos are here: Bridal Sewing Techniques

There will be more posts with Nancy and her custom clothes which are always so much fun for me working on cool fabrics that she finds during her travels and fitting issues that crop up between the paper pattern and a real live model.

So, in keeping with this new idea, I will share the few things I had to do on the first wedding jumpsuit that came my way.

This jump suit was ordered from Etsy. It is nylon lace knit lined with polyester knit. The wrap front needed to be tacked down, teardrop bust cups added, shoulders taken up and some attention given to the weird crotch issues. Here is the website model:


Here we are with a real bride. With the shoulders pinned and teardrop bust pads pinned on and suggested grosgrain belt we may be able to make this fit better and look more festive. Can you see the crotch area? What is going on there? I’m guessing the pulling is due to a too short lining.

Sometimes when a nervous bride is worried about her tummy showing in the photos, I always say that her bouquet will cover any bulges but we both had a laugh when this bride says she can’t carry her flowers over her nether regions.




My bride is 6’2 and could never see herself wearing a wedding gown. She ordered the sleeves to be elbow length. Happily the length is perfect for her enviable long legs. To show off her best feature, we are adding a removable belt.

The bride wanted a non-fussy bow so I made a sample flat one that will snap open for bathroom visits. with no zippers and an elastic waist, there is no other way to get this jumpsuit on or off except stepping into it and pulling it over the shoulders.

Side seam thread loops help keep the belt from riding up or down. The red thread shows where the top of the belt should be as the bride is longer waisted than this jumpsuit waist.

Pinned at the front for hand tacking although there is elastic inside that is trying to gather up all the fabric along with the belt.

Getting accurate placement of bow:

To remedy the weird crotch seams, the lining needed to be dropped to equal the lace although they will not stretch the same when sitting.

Let’s tackle that too high lining seam…the first basting was still too high after the second try-on. Dropping the seams 1.25 inches from the original should do the trick.

Using the zigzag/lightening knit stretch stitch will make this permanent and ready for serging.

What stitch did I use? On my Elna it is number 066.

Bow and belt are ready for back snaps:

Six snaps should do the trick along the top edge.

The tails of the bow will be trimmed at an angle when she decides how long they should be. If they are too long, you end up sitting on them and yanking the bow off.

The front belt tacked on and stretched to sit flat. The front wrap section is also flat and hugging her chest after tacking it on the wrong side.

Finally, the squash are producing with a new striped version of zucchini and a shiny dark green patty pan also new to the garden this year with temps yesterday at 100F.

Wishing you much success with your sewing projects and continued learning and experimenting with all our challenges.

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Sweet and Simple

Remember this dress? We go from a size 20 down to a size 10 this time.

This sample dress is Willowby Geranium.

She opted to not trim the train and just carry it using the long thread tacks at center back holding the layers together.

As  with the previous dress, this one also needs to have darts made between the boning strips to draw it into the chest and make it more stable. From the outside, it will just blend in and look like a side seam.

Once the dart is machine stitched and flipped right side up, the fold can be hand tacked to the nearest boning strip.

Maybe you can see through the front section of lace that there is darkness behind it. The bride revealed that she has a tattoo of words there in black ink and she wanted some solution to cover it up.

Since the lining was going to be trimmed, I knew I had some skin toned fabric to insert there. Here is the pentagon patch that was added to cover the dark tattoo:

This bride liked the original mauve velvet belt so I added French thread loops to keep the eventual bow from sliding around at center back.

Almost finished, just have to add the fingertip length veil:

Just a small shot of the bride and groom just after saying their vows in a ranch setting. Faces were blurred out.

Last week I wandered around our back yard and took a few photos to share:

We tried growing strawberries in these purpose built planters but they never did well. This year I plunked some onion sets into the sections and they love it!

It is the first year we have grown scarlet runner beans like they grow in the UK. The plants started well running up the wigwam sticks but soon outgrew them so a plastic cage was introduced.

Mr Mole’s Swiss chard nursery. To keep birds from eating those baby plants down to the ground he uses metal baskets from Walmart and the Dollar Store to protect them in the beginning.

If you ever think that sewing was an intricate and tedious art-form, have a look here at a real patient artist!

Thanks for dropping by, next time I hope to have some more complicated and swear word inducing fashions for you!



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Wedding Venue in Nature

Another favor done for a fellow seamstress. This dress is Wtoo  Locklin but bought out of town. The beading is dainty along all the edges and fits well except I raised the straps.


The hem layers of satin and lining were shortened and the train was trimmed all around.

The bride ordered a silk belt from Etsy and she wanted it narrowed to half the width.

Here we are trimming the satin train and lining away.





The too-wide belt will be narrowed.











But how to do it? Does anyone have pressing bars that they bought to make tubes and never managed to do it? Let’s get busy…reducing a 1.5 inch wide belt down to .75 of an inch.

Open the belt and re-stitch the seam down to .75 inch. Trim and flip and then slide the 3/4 inch wide pressing bar inside to press flat. The flat straps/bow were pleated to adjust to the new width.

I like to make French tack belt loops to hold the future knot in place and keep the belt from shifting and spinning around her waist.

How do you trim away so much from the train and still be accurate through 3 layers of tulle. You know that stuff shifts like crazy! Well, I trim only half to the center back seam and then pin that cut off section to the remaining half of the train and use it as a guide. I find it is better than eyeballing or measuring down from the waist which is so tiring and awkward!

Keep trimming until to get back to the front side seams…whew…we are done!

Have you run into that annoying lower layer of really stiff netting? Of course, it is not the same circumference as the tulle…oh Hell no, that would make too much sense so it has to be cut separately.

To tame that sucker, I cut it at floor level.

Wouldn’t this make a nice soft cat bed?

The finished front with narrower belt:






















To add interest to this story, the bride had a destination wedding in Southern Spain on her French grandfather’s ranch but they would take photos closer to the seaside and she warned me that they might have to walk down a slope. Such lovely scenes for a couple so much in love.

To finish this week with a nature theme, here are some flowers from my garden:

They are gladiolus that were leaning over and ready to hit the ground. There are plenty more outside where the hummingbirds enjoy drinking from them.

The crystal vase is from a special sewing friend who moved to Texas a few years ago, Barbara, who I really miss having lunch with. The ceramic vase is from a Basque relative of mine living in Pamplona, Spain and the gorgeous paperweight was given to Mr. Mole from a good friend and business colleague who recently passed. All these things reflect on great relationships we have had but life brings us so many changes.

Thank you for following my adventures in bridal sewing!!!

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