Hike me up, Judy

Phil Davis portrayed the deliciously nasty moneylender Mr. Smallweed in the BBC adaptation of Dickens’ Bleak House a few years back.  Here is a YouTube video of his granddaughter, Judy, shaking (hiking) him up: Bleak House.  My UK viewers may also recognize the actor as Jud, the caretaker, in the new series Poldark.

So what does this have to do with sewing? Well, this time of year I have many requests for “hiking up shoulders” to make RTW dresses fit better on petite figures.

The first one involves a one shouldered wedding gown from David’s Bridal. All the fitting is controlled by that one shoulder and by taking up the seam 2 inches, it will make the bride feel and look better. She also wanted the shoulder drape removed so here is what I did.


To get inside the seams, I detached the lining from the zipper and opened up the entire shoulder to get a grip of each seam of fabric and lining. Pulling the whole mess through the new opening lets us see what has to be done:


Remove beads that will be in the way of the new stitching first. Measure down 1 inch on each lining side and lacy fabric side, stitch each one:




Stitch the outer edges back together and turn right side out:





It looks nice from the right side but I then hand sew understitching to keep the lining in place.


The next dress is for a bridesmaid and needs 4 inches taken away to sit correctly on her body.



I trimmed away the excess fabric with my pinking shears and flipped the seam allowances away from each other to reduce bulk for the final stitching. My pins are positioned in the direction of the sewing so they can be removed as I stitch and the green nail polish was for St. Patrick’s day.



Once the shoulders are turned right side out, we have a nice flat finish.

There are different ways to make this same alteration but I like this one as it gives me the most open area to work on all the seams. I hate fussing and wrestling within a small space as it seems to take more time and adds to labor costs. This dress also required me to take in the side seams from the armhole to the hem 4 inches on each side (and lining) and hem 2 layers.

Why people insist on buying a dress 3 or more sizes too big baffles me. If your dress is 8 inches too big around you and 4 inches too long in bodice length…then it just ain’t your dress! I told the girl that this would essentially be a total remake of the dress since almost every seam had to be opened and altered and put back. The labor may be more than the original cost?



Now that spring has come to our valley you can catch a glimpse of a downy woodpecker stocking up on suet before the breeding season:Downy-woodpecker May you all have a super week of sewing and enjoy watching Poldark in the UK (soon to be coming to PBS in the US) and I hope none of you have to do any “hiking up” of shoulder seams!!!


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Perfect Prom Dress

The prom season has begun and what a nice change to see a dress that actually looks nice instead of the usual hoochie-mama-tube-top ballerina tulle skirt I-can-see-your-underpants concoction.

Here is what we started with…not a seamstress’s dream fabric….that fluffy embellished knitted rose sheer over layers of satin but still feminine and dare I say – age-appropriate…halleluiah!


Can you see the hem is pinned up along with the 2 layers beneath it? But wait…what is lurking in the zipper area?

P1180640  Yes, well spotted…the usual back zipper alteration…this time let’s remove 1.5 inches on either side and get that grosgrain belt effect lined up with that invisible zipper. Lots of bulk with all those layers and then folded under and expected to lie flat and the zipper to slide smoothly…not too much to ask is it? The other request is for the narrow original hem to be kept deep enough so it can be worn with high heels instead of sneakers…yes, sneakers but at least they will be hidden.

The one cool thing is the story behind the dress. It was bought 2 years ago in anticipation of this event and just brought out for it’s debut. See the price tag and see why they could not pass it up:


It’s not everyday that you find an Adrianna Papell dress on sale for $89 reduced from $278. So with the addition of some bust pads (above) and 3 hems and tightened zipper (lubricated generously with Zipper-Ease), this prom dress will be worth under $200 and be able to be worn again or sold knowing nothing was cut off and could be restored to the original size.

Now for a close-up view:P1180669 and the finished product with hand sewn hem:P1180670P1180671

Finally what is a gal to do with all that fluffy fabric around the zipper teeth to keep it from jumping in the path of the zipper pull tab? Maybe some hand stitches will do the trick?P1180674

Not the prettiest solution but imagine catching any of that raw-edged fabric at any point and the yanking and swearing that would happen along with trying to release the snagged fibers! I’d try anything to keep those roses away from the zipper and keep the frilly bits tamed!

This week an order from Wawak arrived…what could be more exciting than a box of boobs and jumbo pack of invisible zippers? Yes, there is also a pack of 144 satin covered metal backed buttons that I use for bustles so all this will be put to good use and who doesn’t love a bargain like buy 2 pair of boobs and get one pair free!!! Yippee!box-of-boobs

Thanks for dropping by this week and there will be more brides in the parade and good stories next time!

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Bargain-hunting Bride

So many brides want me to know about what discounts they managed to get on their dress. They are so pleased if they get 20% off or more and I admire their determination to try to save money where they can since weddings are crazy times to watch money disappear for a one-day event.

This next bride should get a medal for her find. She is having a garden wedding and wanted something light and airy and cheap and while trawling through re-sale shops in town she found the perfect dress:


It had sweet scallops at the top edges and an embroidered beaded organza over skirt over a satin layer and a lining. All that was needed was hemming but there was a slight problem…the hem was trimmed with thin narrow rayon edging which the bride had removed to cut down the costs. Cost….I almost forget…here is the original price tag:



Now in our area, consignment/resale shops list garments for 20% of their original cost and then they take 50-60% commission. In the end the seller gets about 10% of what she originally paid which never seems like a great proposition to me. But would you be shocked to know that this $775 designer dress was priced at $30? Yes…that means the seller got less than $15 and the bride got a real bargain!

Now, back to the alteration…let’s hem the lining and satin layer and tackle the rayon edging.


Next lay and pin the edging on the agreed upon finished men length and stitch it on.


Trim away all the excess below the edging and you can see the red thread line marking the hem edge.


and you end up with the lace hem just about 1/2 inch below the satin hem…perfect!


Since the edging was so fragile/frayed after the client removed it, I ended up sewing it all by hand as I thought for sure that using the sewing machine would further damage it with following all the curves and loops in the design.

Before I leave you, Mr Mole found this photo on the internet and he shared it with me. It has been on Google images for a while and you can find it and more if you do a search for “women sewing fishing nets”:sewing nets

They make sewing on wedding gowns a piece of cake!

Happy Spring sewing everyone!

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Ponte Pants Success

Remember a couple weeks back when the ponte knits shrunk and I was disappointed that I could not cut out my leggings?

Well, I did come up with a way to cut the top edge with an extension to at least get the top half fitting right. The legs will have to remain on the short side but here is what I did first:

Cut out the grey knit which did not shrink as much but you can see the leg length will be cropped after the hemming:P1180556

Then to make the center back section, I folded down the top edge 3 inches:P1180557

Then I made a little triangular add-on sectionP1180559


Add seam allowances and cut it with the extra fabric along the fold:



Fold the paper in half and cut a 2 shapes in the pink and 2 in the magenta.



Open the shapes flat and trim away excess to end up with 2 triangles in each color. Attach to the top of the waist center back. This will allow a 3 inch extension which when folded to the inside will give me a 1.5 inch extension to the already folded over cut-on waistband. Could I have cut the exact shape first by opening the fabric flat…sure…but I was not using that section for anything else and I could afford to cut it randomly.



P1180580 Once the top triangles were added, the horizontal seams were pressed flat and topstitched 1/4 inch either side of the seam and trimmed. Then the center back seam was sewn and serged (in black). All this is flipped to the inside and sewn down to make the waistband and 1 inch elastic is inserted into the tunnel.


Yes, the final stitching crosses the other stitching but I rarely have my back waistline on display and knowing all this is flat is comforting…ha ha.

So I finished a black pair made from Sophia ponte knit   (poly/rayon) and the grey pair (rayon/nylon). The interesting thing about knits is what direction they want to stretch. The Sophia, from which I have many things only likes to stretch crosswise but these latest knits like to stretch both ways so the fit in the crotch area has to fit tighter in the last 3 or you end up with “droopy drawers” after a day of sitting on the floor pinning up hems. Here are  the final two:


Just to add a little bridal to your day, the short dress that came in that needed altering. The bride explained that she got a real bargain…which is shorthand for, “So you can do all sorts of magic on it to make it fit.” Someone asked me what the front looked like:


A reader who asked yesterday if I always alter through the zipper…yes I do…if I tried to remove 2 inches on every armhole…she could not get her arm through the opening and the chafing would be so nasty!

So wishing you all a perfect sewing weekend as you watch snow fall or snow melt or bulbs pushing up through the frozen ground…Spring is trying to come…fingers crossed!

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Knitting in 1960

Hands up, who had one of the first Barbie dolls in 1959/60?

They were all the rage and for $4 your mom could give you the opportunity to see the future of fashion and celebrity status. Never before did we have high fashion dolls with a chic wardrobe!

Last weekend, I finally made a dent in the cardboard moving boxes in the garage. Some of them had been packed over 20 years ago when I went to live in England to marry Mr Mole. So deep inside one box jammed with old photos and old costume jewelry from the 80’s I found an old plastic bread wrapper filled with my first Barbie clothes.

My mother did not buy me the real Mattel doll, she opted for a fake one that did not have movable hip joints so my doll could not sit down. Also my doll came in a cheap box and when we tried to remove her from the box we realized that her ponytail was stuck with a huge wad of industrial glue. The only way to release her was to cut off her entire pony tail and leave her with just fuzz. So there I was holding a non-bendable doll with a hair-do looking like a dandelion top…great. I have asked some of my sewing sisters if they knew of these cheap Barbie clones and some have said they had them but were too embarrassed to play with their friends who had the real deal.

So was I. 7e6eaea9350f6ab347015031712a5d47

Even buying nice clothes for her could not raise her profile, she was a little freak with fuzzy hair and had to stand up all day. But there was one bright spot…my grandmother knew how to knit and taught me to knit simple stitches and when my mother shipped me off every summer to stay with her up North, my grandma taught me to make my own Barbie clothes by knitting and sewing using a child’s Singer sewing machine that made only a loose chain stitch. Here is what I found in the box:P1180582

The outfits were all made with thin fingering yarn and the dress was lined and decorated with baby rickrack and lace. P1180583

Then this got me to thinking…where did the pattern go for the clothes? Can you still find them and wouldn’t it be nice to have a copy to put with this collection for future generations? And look what I found on Ebay


There is the 3/4 length rust coat with brown ruffled trim and the ivory turtleneck sweater. I have not been able to track down the striped parka or cardigan pattern but I have asked the Ebay seller to check for me.

Meanwhile in the sewing room, it is full speed ahead, 7 gowns have arrived that need extensive alterations. Already there has been a scalloped lace hem on a adult pageant dress that was shortened, a bridal gown with the same labor intensive hem and an early prom gown that will be shown next time covered in roses.

An unusual short wedding dress came in this week and I have to show you what brides think is OK.


Because she got a “good deal” she figured a seamstress could make it fit…sure…taking 4 inches out of the back zipper is a piece of cake and adding 1.5 hours of labor just adds to the “bargain” price doesn’t it? At least it will be plenty tight when it is finished just like the brides like it…breathing is optional.

Wishing you a great week of planning the next season’s sewing and minimal altering to get that perfect fit…fingers crossed! Thank you for stopping by to walk down memory lane with me!


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Sew Bad Saturday #6

This week we have Lorraine of the Spottydogsocialclub blog.

She wrote this email to me to start her process:

I am a long time fan of your blog, and am totally amazed at the skill and patience that you have. I have also been following your Sew Bad Saturday, and have a contender for you. It seems that pretty much EVERYONE in the sewing world has made up McCall’s 6844, all with great success. I happen to love cardigans, so what could go wrong (I hear you ask)? Well, here is my version. Sigh! OK, so the wonky photo probably does not help (at least the floor is horizontal!), but what a wadder. I was so disappointed. So much so, that I went on to make it again (different view), and guess what? Yep, it still didn’t work out. And yes, I can hear everyone telling me that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (thank-you Albert Einstein). The pattern has now been dispatched to the great pattern box in the sky. . . . .

So here we go – My version of McCall’s 6844front-closeback
Why did you pick this pattern?

I had seen gorgeous versions of this all over the blogisphere. A quick search will show you some fabulous garments that other seamstresses have made – and every.single.one looks gorgeous. I am a self admitting cardigan fan, I love, love, love drapey collars, I’ve got knit fabric in my stash and my serger is waiting patiently for me. What could possibly go wrong?

What size did you think you were according to their envelope numbers?

An XL or XXL – I’m a 44″ bust and I like room in my clothes. Ease is usually my friend. Note the word ‘usually’.

What size did you cut and did you alter before cutting?

XL. I can be pretty brazen and this was to be a wearable muslin. I do have short shoulders, well, to be fair, once pattern companies start designing for us plus sized ladies, they tend to over compensate in the shoulder area so it is not all my fault. I also have a rounded upper back and would usually make a swayback adjustment, but as this was stretch fabric and a casual design, I cut it straight out of the packet. I should mention here that I am pretty much a cylinder in shape. A few bumps and dents, little difference between my bust, waist and hips. I certainly ducked the traditional British pear shape!

Did you encounter difficulties others would like to avoid?

No-one else seemed to have any problems . . .

Is there anything in the photos we cannot see that you wanted us to know about?

Not really. What you see is what I got. The front looked rather nice – I was quite happy with that although it made my hips look fluffy – and they are certainly not that, but the back. Oh-my-goodness. There was enough space to fit another person in the back. Instead of being a nicely fitted cardigan with a peplum, it was a swing-back with a peplum – and not in any good way.sideside-2

Is this garment wearable with tweaking or not?

No. There may have been choice swear word or two, and then the jacket was tossed in the garbage.

Thumbs up or thumbs down on buying this? Worth the effort?

For me, a definite thumbs down. A waste of time and money in both pattern and fabric.
Do you want suggestions on how to “make it work” or is it beyond that?

I probably should have contacted you earlier, but both the fabric and the pattern are happily rotting away in the landfill. What I did learn was to carefully measure the pattern pieces before cutting out my size, and to avoid peplum for the foreseeable future. I have recently made up Simplicity 2154 to much more success.

And the link to the much more successful Simplicity 2154 post: http://spottydogsocialclub.blogspot.ca/2015/02/late-to-party-simplicity-2154-with-side.html

Many thanks to Lorraine for sharing her jacket and I over lightened the photos to show the details but it was much darker to start with. Please direct your helpful comments to Lorraine and she will respond.

Before I go, I wanted to share a delightful video of two 90+ year old sisters who are still sewing for clients. The very end brought tears to my eyes when they explain why they have continued: The video.


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Nancy’s Jacket

All of us have been waiting a long time for the very much altered/redesigned Butterick 6106 jacket for Nancy. She has been patient and gone along with my suggestions and additions and subtractions in order to get the perfect fun jacket from a piece of painted linen.

Having taken photos all along the way to document what went into this final garment, they are all assembled in 4 boards (147 photos)on the Pinterest page:


After all the pinning and tucking and shortening and lengthening, I told her that we should line the jacket with rayon Ambiance so it will slide on and off and resist wrinkles. 41-front-liningWe also decided on topstitching all the horizontal seams to show them off. 58-front59-side60-back

The buttons have small clear backer buttons behind them to keep them from pulling through the fabric and the entire jacket has 1/4 inch edge stitching with a neutral thread to hold them flat. The sleeves have a 2 inch facing to be folded up and shown. All the hems have been faced with 2 inch wide self facings.


Shoulder pads were covered and snaps attached for easy removal during washing.46-cover-pads50-zigzag-tails

After I had worked on this puppy for months, the sleeve heads looked all wrinkled and then I decided that the painted bits of the fabric caused the sleeve cap to go up and down and so I opened up the hand sewn lining and attached wool sleeve heads to fluff and smooth that area.52-sleeve-head53-stitched-by-hand54-the-fold57-cap-done They look much better now. The buttonholes were quite wide 1.25 inches and in the making of them, the painted areas stalled the zigzag of the needle path and had to be coaxed/yanked along to finish the lines.45-make-samples45-1 buttons

I used masking tape to attach the buttons for placement.

I won’t bore you with all the photos but if you want to see the process, visit the Pinterest page and the 4 boards.

Good news this week, remember the ponte issue from last week? Well the president wrote to me saying they are taking my suggestion of testing their fabrics and issuing a warning on the shrinkage and they wanted to send me a free replacement for the magenta knit as the hot pink and grey had been sold out. So I want to tell you that the company Sawyer Brook has been great and they pride themselves on good customer service and in the end could not do enough for me. This week I have cut the 3 pair of leggings and managed to figure out a way to salvage the fabric to “make it work”. Next time I will share the photos and layout. But before I go, I have a photo of a RTW pair of leggings with a possible solution for the cutting layout:grey-pants A wedge might just save the day!

Bad news is I see more and more sewing blogs are “pimping for products” and offering “free stuff” that they have been given by suppliers and asking for more testers for badly designed patterns and direct knock-off from the Big 4….really folks…is this what we have come down to? I even saw a sewing blog this week with a woman who was dyeing her hair at home with a nationally known product and announced that she gets it free as long as she promotes it…what’s next? Dog food, tampons or pizza delivery? Wish we could just get back to real sewing without shilling for everything under the sun…stepping down off the soapbox to sew some wedding gowns now…24  brides have booked themselves in for the season so far.


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