A Little Help with the Zipper

The phone rings…the bride says, “We have a little problem getting the flower girl’s zipper up” and since “you are working on my dress, I figure you can make this work too”.

How tough can it be? The bride mentions the fact that ALL of the family says that ALL she needs is a corset back. OK then…my job is set isn’t it? Or is it? Let’s take a look at the “Before” photo shall we? Hold your breath!

Want to peek at more? Armhole cutting into her skin and a belt that will never go around the waist altered or not.

Can you see the side seam curving to the back? The seam is being pulled toward the front to cover her tummy and lower down pulled towards her butt in the back.

Under the center back zipper the fabric is being pulled up as well with no ease.

Right away, I say I will have to make side panels in all the layers to make this work. Then I ask how much did this dress cost as I think that it could be re-ordered in the right size and save them some money.

The answer was “$60” and the bride says that the flower girl, her soon to be 13 yr old stepdaughter will not compromise with a new dress as this is her “dream dress”. REALLY! OK then…let’s plan for some real labor costs.

I cut the belt away from the zipper so they can go and buy some ribbon to match or contrast with the other bridesmaids who are wearing shades of purple. I measure the waist to let the bride know how much ribbon to buy…hold your breath…45 inches or 114.3 cm.

Let’s get started by carefully opening up seams and shifting lace motifs shall we? One good thing is the seam allowances are almost 1 inch wide so the new panels have to be 2.5 inches wide to make up 4 inches of new ease on each side seam.

The tulle lining has wide seam allowances too…hooray!

If you approach this project as a treasure hunt…let’s see what $60 gets you. For each of the skirt layers, five, there is a row of stitching but, bummer…a couple of those rows ended up making a fold which will be released later.

Can you read Chinese? What size did they order?

Wondering why the center back seam was pulling up? How about a pleat in the lining?

Opening and releasing the lining allowed things to relax. Note the huge slash at the end of the zipper.


Someone forgot to close up the lining center back seam:

Skipping down to the skirt hem where the lining and satin were sewn together. Not a good day for keeping the stitching ends even was it?

One layer of the skirt was organza and here is what they used for the hem…the selvedge…nice touch!

Before I saw the dress the bride told me that I would have to find fabric to match the grey. I told her that SHE would have to find the fabric and this is what the whole family came up with. They shopped at two JoAnn’s and came up with mauve….hmmm.

Moving on to the waist seams…another bad day for matching:











In the end I went to JoAnn’s and found the 5 layers of grey needed:

Here you can see the 4 inches of ease using all the wide seam allowances:

Each bodice strip had a narrow seam and understitching just like the dress armhole:











Not bad except the only tulle was a sparkle variety. Once on the wearer, it should blend in and not be too noticeable.

Each layer of the skirt was measured to see how wide each new strip should be. One side to another varied by 2 inches. In other words, not all the strips were 4 inches wide, a couple were 6 inches to bridge the gap.









The layers in order of sequence:

Skirt layers attached and ready to be basted to the bodice, left side and right sides:












As we come to the end, I noticed that the center back seam in the lining was sewn by hand:

And opening the hem edge, you can see that it was another bad day for matching. No wonder that the back hem was pulling up when sewn to the satin layer. All this was just wadded up inside.

Second try-on:














Flipping the dress inside out to check the lining:












What else do we need? Maybe a purple belt hand tacked to the waist seam:

Front view of finished dress with the old side seam lace motifs re-attached and pressed:

After all this I had to go outside and see what Mr. Mole had gathered from the garden. Yes, those are plums, orange cherry tomatoes, romaine lettuce, summer squash and white eggplant/aubergines.

The smoke continues to drift in and out of our 100 + degree valley while the fire crews are making back fires to slow the rate of growth but it will be a long time before they can contain the perimeters. It seems the whole West coast is under siege!

Stay cool everyone and I wish you a great sewing week!

Posted in challenges | Tagged | 88 Comments

Make Me a Diva!

Here is a dress bought online costing $120 from Mingda Dress.

The bride told me that her groom wanted her to look like a cross between Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce…more like this model’s photo:

He wants big boobs on show and a big butt too. Well, I’m going to do my best to comply even though the bride does not have either of those attributes.

We will be adding push up bust cups and taking in the side seams and under the back zipper to give her a real good butt curve.


While the length of the dress is too long in the front and the lace hem drags, the bride didn’t want anything done to it. Working with this dress has turned up a small problem and maybe you can see the drag lines under her bust and waist. This is because the front section of the dress is too long and will need some sort of horizontal tuck covered by a belt to hang properly.







She tried two different widths of ribbon and settled on the off-white 1.5 inch grosgrain. It blends into the matte finish of the lace. Then she thinks she may add another color down the middle. This particular color of off-white is hard to find as our local JoAnn’s only carry pure white or beige in the photo below. I buy my ribbons from Really Reasonable Ribbons as they carry great colors and all sizes and have fast delivery.

Despite being a cheaper dress than normal, the lace and hem border are very nice.

Once the larger bust cups are attached, the bride feel self-conscious about her cleavage and asks what can be done so I suggest we make a small triangle of tulle to connect each side and overlap the two lace scallops in the center front for modesty ignoring what the groom wants on show.

The patch is tucked under the bust cups and all sewn down by hand.

The result is neat and discreet and the bride is happy. The groom will be less happy but as I remind the brides…the groom is merely the backdrop for you.

The public side:

Once the side seams and linings are taken in, the underarm areas that are sheer are sewn by hand.


The satin hem and lining are attached together, so opening up the side seams of lining, pulling the entire hem out and shortening that way works out.

Some final photos of the belt. The bride chose the grosgrain ribbon along with a metallic edged ivory ribbon. The belt is sewn unto the zipper after the two buttons were removed and sewn back on.


Do you ever wonder what we are doing to help the planet? The fashion industry is the largest polluter and user of natural resources and so many of our donated clothes end up in landfills. Mr. Mole found this article that sheds some light on the future of used fabrics:


Last photo for you…after weeks of 100 degrees temps, massive clusters of out-of-control wild forest fires, worse air quality in the US and watering 2-3 times a day, even our brown sunflower gave up trying to stand upright and draped herself over the asparagus bed:

Wishing for cooler Sept days!!!! Happy sewing everyone!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 31 Comments

Peachy Beachy

Is this beginning of a trend?

Last year, I had a bride who had been with her husband for 10+years and had children plus a brand new baby but never gone through a ceremony. Then she decided to invite all the rest of the family to a fake “family reunion” on a beach in California.

While everyone was frolicking in the sand, dragging seaweed up to make castles, digging for sand crabs and letting ice cream drip down their arms and eating snow cones, she and her groom would appear in gown and tux with a minister and surprise all by getting married. Well, now I have another such event planned.

This Madison James dress is similar to the bride’s but as the label had been cut out, I suspect it was from a past collection.

Let’s see what needs to be done…add some bust cups and shorten the shoulder straps.

Take in the hips in lace and lining, Hem the satin and lining and shorten the lace hem by about 5 inches. The hem had a tiny lace edging which will be removed and moved up. The bustles will be a 3-point for the satin and a 5-point for the lace. This lace looks light but it is very thick and heavy! The satin and lining are peach colored and shiny.


Pinning out a 2.5 inch tuck to mimic the final hem edge at floor/sand level:

Even though I marked the levels 5 inches apart, I changed my mind and removed the dainty edging and used a newer thread tracing level instead. See the black line?

Pinned on the black line and the rest will be trimmed away.

The satin layer ended up needing 5 points, not just 3:

One her left back, the strap has a gap which will be snugged up by hand with a running stitch. The lace layer will have 5 bustle points too. The lace edging is basted and has to be extended further back to the train to skim the floor/sand.



  Picture this train skimming the sand collecting all sorts of rubbish…no don’t!

This photo shows the satin train bustled on it’s own.









The final 5-point bustle with lace covered buttons:

At the end of all this altering and steaming of the dress and veil, the bride asks me the most important question of all, “Can I nurse my baby in this?” Sure…maybe spin the dress around and you have full access?

As we are surrounded by forest fires and the sky is thick with soot and smoke,  

this story of a calmer day on the Thames River takes my mind away: http://spitalfieldslife.com/2018/07/19/swan-upping-on-the-thames-x/

If you have clean air where you live, go outdoors and breathe deep for me, please!!!!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

A Vintage Look

                              This Catherine Deene dress is so delicate.

You can see that the flare of the skirt comes from 12 lace godets/triangles. The hem is also scalloped. The saleslady told her that any seamstress can raise the skirt by taking apart the waist seams…really?

Remove the entire skirt and zipper to maintain the horizontal patterns of lace, remove the satin layer, remove the lining layer and raise everything up 3 inches…great idea…then the hip circumference will be at the waist…can you say “add a load of darts?”

My solution was to raise just the scalloped hem.


Here is the first photo I received from the bride in a salon. I am always amazed at what they make the bride stand on. Check it out…an old wooden box with barely enough room to move around…watch out you don’t fall off!!!

 Once she arrives, the lace hem is pinned up 3 inches and a one-point bustle is pinned too. Push up bust cops are added too.


Two parallel lines of red thread will be stacked on each other to reduce it by 3 inches.

Two layers of thick stretch satin lining to be hemmed and side seams taken in…oh wait…do you see those French seams? Oh crap, that just adds more labor…let’s see 4 side seams, stitched once WST, trimmed and flipped and sewn RST…yes, 8 separate rows of stitching and pressing and the will never be seen.   

Hems are red thread basted up and ready for try-on and then narrow hemmed.    

Map out the first and second stitching lines for the French seams.

Make first stitching line and pink off the excess as it makes such a curve now. Press and flipped the pinked edge and stitch the second row starting at the top and finishing where the original stitching is.



Take in side seams of lace and trim away excess:

Using the flower and curves as a guide for cutting away and new placement. Using a straight thicker line of lace allows me to use the machine to re-attach it later. The two red thread tracing lines will stack and I will pin.

Starting the pinning

Of course the edging is now much bigger in circumference than the skirt higher up so the  edging will have pinned tucks where it has the original seams first and then each seam will be stitched wider and trimmed.

There were 11 folds of the scalloped edge to be taken in and trimmed away before attaching.

What’s left? The train…is it normal…oh no…it is a center back godet train. Luckily it has its own center back seam for stability when attaching the loop (see the little green thread).

Just a view with the satin bustled on its own and with both layers down:


Brides need to know that some of their pictures can show off the lace better if the satin is bustled up for some views.

The final back view with the lace bustled up:










With another week of 100+ temps, the squash and peppers are producing!

All the larger variety of tomatoes are showing up and this year we have a brown sunflower as a surprise!


Wishing you all a great week of sewing and some relaxing too!


Posted in challenges | Tagged , , | 24 Comments

Just Sweet

First time I have ever worked on this brand…Sweetheart. The dress looks lovely on the model so what could be needed to have a perfect fit and a perfect wedding?











In real life, here is what has to be done to get this bride down the aisle:

Bust cups, hem lining, hem satin, hem chiffon, 1 point satin bustle, 5 point chiffon bustle, take in chiffon skirt side seams, take in the zipper 2 inches and take in the underarm area, then add a new belt. Now that is a lot of hand basting for sure!










The new beaded belt doesn’t quite fit around but her veil will cover that. Once the zipper is taken in it won’t be so noticeable.

Take in both side seams in chiffon and satin layer and lining:

Make a one point bustle in the satin:

Reducing center back seam at zipper one inch on each side:

Second try-on with zipper basted and bustle pinned:


Hemming satin layer by moving the horsehair braid up about 5 inches and  3/4 around the hem:

Five lace covered buttons for the bustle, they do just blend in. To reduce the extra chiffon, I had to make new fish-eye darts in the chiffon from the waist to the hips just under the middle buttons on both sides.

Taking in the side seams 3/4 inch under the arm by hand. Here is the outside view:

Here is the inside view. By sewing by hand you can get just the right amount of excess fabric removed and flat and still leave the excess fabric inside the fold in case the next bride needs it.

The bride is wearing her sister’s veil for “something borrowed” but they discovered it had a hole in it. You can’t just pull the sides together and start stitching. What is required is that same technique doctors use for skin…

Extend the opening to an oval and then bring the flat sides together:















A hole becomes just a slit using polyester invisible thread by hand. Once the bride is wearing it, the repair will just fade away. I just love the dainty pearl and sequin edging!

With our temps being over 100 for the next 2 weeks, our tomatoes are finally ripening. Yes, it IS this big! Mr Mole grew everything from seed this year. The grape tomatoes were grown from slices taken from store bought ones last year.

I leave you with a quote from another seamstress who made history for not giving up her seat on a bus:


Knowing what must be done does away with fear.

Rosa Parks
Visit Gratefulness.org
Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

I Think I Will Pass

Some of you may think that I accept anything that walks in the front door or gets into my email box…but I don’t!

If the dress and bride present themselves as way too much trouble, I can say I am booked or just decline.

Here are a couple who got a thumbs down:

This was an email asking me for a set price to make this dress fit. Obviously the salon owner convinced her that a seamstress would be delighted to remove excess fabric and remake the dress.

From this view it looks OK…but wait, do you see what I see? Are those 3 industrial clamps on her back?


I’m betting that the clamps are grabbing at least 2 inches all the way down…for a total of 4 inches. Imagine moving all those tulle straps from the gathered/clamped center back to back where they belong under her arms. Do you overlap them or reshape them? Then the zipper…at what point do you have to take in the whole center back of the dress? Maybe all 4 inches are taken out at the side seams…again what happens to the tulle straps under there?

Another dress that was stunning and similar in price to this other Marchesa dress needed some help. The bride’s email and model photo:

I will need to move the waist area up a bit and tightened so it fits more snug and doesn’t fall down. I’m guessing we’ll also then need to take in the sleeve a little bit so it doesn’t fall down. And of course we will have to shorten about a foot and a half or so.



Now, seriously, hands up who wants to remove the cummerbund and huge back bow and trailing sash and raise it up?  How about the sleeve? Want to shorten that too and then whack 18 inches off the hem? What do we do with the flowers? Can you also see a bustle being done? Not me, not this time.

Call me crazy but if you spend $7,000 on a designer dress…shouldn’t it be closer in the fit especially if you are petite? Even Amal Clooney would need alterations on this dress!







How about something simple for a change? All this bride needed was bust pads, hemming the lining and satin and shortening the halter. We added a one point satin bustle but she wanted to keep the tulle train and trim the tulle in front. Here is the model:

Here is the real bride…such a relief that it fits so well!


I don’t have an “after” photo but you can get the idea that this was one of the quicker projects.










Before I go, here are some garden photos now that we have 90 degree temps everyday:

First, we have tomato plants grown from store-bought slices of cherry and grape tomatoes and a wandering watermelon plant:

Next up in the pot are teddy bear sunflowers and zinnias grown from seed along with a huge lettuce grown from seed too:

Another raised bed with marjoram in a pot, pepper plant, more grape tomatoes in a cage, cantaloupe half on the ground and half crawling up the cage and a huge cauliflower with a new bed of asparagus inside a white cage in the far back. The gladioli in the vase were cut and rescued from the birds who like to tear through the buds at the top and shred them. You would think with all the lettuce and stocked feeders, they would leave the flowers alone. 















Here is our weather forecast for Thursday. You can see the high and the nighttime low. Nice to have a 56 degree drop at night to chill the house down and the 15% is the humidity. Dry heat is tolerable as long as the plants get water!

4:00 pm
Sunny Sunny
104 °F
48 °F

Thank you for dropping by…wishing you lots of time to sew and do some weeding in your garden too!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 31 Comments

Summer Shiny Flowers

Hands up, who likes metallic flowers? Wtoo added lots of metallic flowers to this dress.

Can I sew through thick flowers and beads? Probably but who wants all that in the seams?

Like so many other brides, she needed the zipper taken in 1 inch on each side and also something done in the lower bodice to fit back with the narrowed skirt.

The straps were too long as well by 2 inches and the hems needed shortening and a 3 point bustle of tulle and one point bustle of satin.

Besides that, I had to add bust cups and take in the hips 2 inches as well but first had to remove ALL the metallic flowers at the side seams, straps and replace them once I was done. Add in the linings too and you have quite a lot of labor.

Where to start? How about the top…straps. The straps were delicate and just netting so I layered the metallic flowers for stability and kept the larger seam allowance flipped to the back.


How about removing all the flowers, one stitch at a time, and beads that would be trapped in the new seams?

Taking in the side seams and linings:


New zipper seams red thread marked….remove all flowers:

Flowers removed:

Release lining:

Reveal netted bodice attachment to be narrowed by 1 inch:

Bodice released from skirt:

Release zipper and move over 1 inch each side…re-attach:


All zippered up and hook and eye added:




How did I narrow the bodice near the loops and buttons? Well, the flowers can hide lots of solutions so I made 2 darts and hand stitched them down. On the outside, you can’t even tell.

Have a peek at the inside:

All that is left is the 3 point tulle bustle over a 1 point satin bustle and trimming the front tulle after hemming the lining and satin layers.

Ready to be picked up and worn down the aisle! I love the back view!


This week our first seed potatoes were ready for harvest and Mr. Mole dug these up for a scalloped potato side dish along with my first red onion. Of course if there are any small squash available, they will all be sliced very thin and added to the baking dish.

This morning I am headed for a rally in my town in support of the families separated at the Texas border and held in cages. There are 700 of these events scheduled today in the nation to make known our concern for 2000+ children and babies alone away from their parents for an indefinite time.

Keep cool my friends!

Update: The rally was great, good speakers and music and so many signs made by hand to support families torn apart. We were asked to wear white to promote peace so I added a hat with buttons given to me by friends and joined 500 other folks in 90 degree heat to take a stand.

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , | 33 Comments