With a Little Help from my Friend (Mary)

Remember the bride who is being encouraged/pushed into wearing her soon-to-be Mother in law’s dress from the 80’s?

Well, here is where we left off last time. All the lace and sequins and pearls have been removed and saved (by order of the MIL).

Since the bride and her whole family did not buy plain lace fabric, I have had to completely take apart the dress, all of the pieces and cut them separate from the new scalloped lace netting they did buy. Hoping that lace fabric would be 60-72 inches wide, what I got was 52 inches wide minus the two scalloped selvedges of at least 6 inches deep.

Once all the darts and tucks were opened up and pressed flat along with the linings, it was easier to see what had to be done and in what sequence.

The bodice back lining:

The bodice back satin:

No hope of adding ease to the side seams:

Slide pleat to the side seam at the hip:

Front lower skirt with lace edging pinned under:

After all the edging is removed along with the old zipper:

Wondering what’s inside the front bodice? Look here…a facing band over the lining!

Every possible seams is let out to 1/4 inch or less for the try-on:

The sheer sections will be filled in before adding the lace layer:

What looked like princess seams on the outside are really just one long dart in satin and lining:

Once opened up and pressed flat, not much hope in adding anything to this piece either:

Back bodice satin and lining pieces pressed flat:

Bodice top and straps and lower center back panels. Safety pins mark where the bustle points may be later:


Center front lower panel:

Front skirt panel removed…how is that curve going to be used with a straight scalloped lace selvedge? The panel is folded in half with a center fold just for the photo:

How about the back skirt…how do you get that curve to be straight? There are 2 of these to be cut out. Again safety pins mark the possible bustle points:

Mary of Cloning Couture was able to help me be brave and innovate to make the skirt pieces work. You can see that I used the front skirt panel as a pattern and used some Do-Sew pattern tracing material.

You could also use tracing paper or anything else but this was handy. To get the curved edge to be straight, I cut random lines to spread out the hem edge:

Once the cuts were made and spread apart, they arranged themselves into equal spacing with either 9 or 11 inches between the sections. Yes, each section will be sewn to the adjacent section and have vertical seams but ending at the scalloped edging/hem.

Then it was time to make the back skirt do the same AND fit all this on 52 inch wide lace. Center back seam has to be 48 inches long and the side seam has to be 36 inches to match the front skirt side seam.

This time, the wedges worked out to having a spread of 13 and 36 inches to be straight. Then all I had to do was to cut 2 of those so the center back had a seam. Again, the sections will be sewn to each other and have vertical seams to close the gaps.

Here we are, all the pieces except one more back skirt panel to be cut from the remainder of lace.

I managed to get all the pieces cut out of the narrow lace and Mr. Mole thought I should include a “fed-up” photo after wrestling with these pattern pieces all day on the living room carpet.


Now the dress has been totally hand basted back together and ready for the next try-on. A huge Thank You to Mary for holding my hand along the way!!!!

BUT…the big BUT…every bead and pearl and flower and sequin had to be removed from the new seams even before I could hand baste and definitely before the machine would be used to finish. OH, and yes, I have to SAVE EVERY ONE for the MIL.

Everything is saved and bagged up. The buttons that were originally on the sleeves will be used along the new zipper down the center back.

So, dear readers, the days are shorter, the nights are longer and colder but the dresses just keep rolling in and I want to have this puppy done before Jan 1, 2019!!!!

Thank you all for following along and I wish I could share with you these delicious homemade sugar free raspberry scones that Mr. Mole has made for me:

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The Longest Wait

Most brides that come through my door are quite lively. Most brides are so excited at the prospect of starting their lives with a loving partner.

This season, I encountered the liveliest of all and for a different reason…she had waited 70 years to find her soulmate. My dear bride spent her whole life teaching and developing her spiritual side. She was an East Coast native and never expected what came next when she retired and moved to the West Coast.

Her soulmate had been here waiting for her the whole time keeping the faith that one day the perfect girl would show up in an adult community college course. Their eyes met the first day and they were smitten!

He proposed, she ordered a dress online and found me to make it right. Of course, the dress came vacuum packed in a small shipping bag and bore no resemblance to the sleek Chinese model that was on the website but that could be remedied. Satin wrinkles are courtesy of being stuffed into a mailing envelope. The only request from the bride was, “Make me look like the model on the website”…whew…it’s a little late for that!

What needed to be done? Let’s hike up the straps and take up the hem and see what happens when the sheer lace godet train gets bustled up:

The side seams were pinned to reduce the excess front tummy fabric and give more definition to her back. As you can see the lace motifs are very thick and stiff and beaded and pearled which is not the most flattering on a curved body. As usual, they will have to be removed/lifted where the side seams are taken in and then sewn back down afterwards by hand.

Have you ever seen such a train? She will need a 3-point bustle.














After red thread tracing the new tighter bodice side seams, the thick lace flowers and beads had to be removed/loosened and flipped away from that area. Below this area on the hips, the seams needed to be let out to allow the dress to drop down.


The straps were shortened 2 inches on each side:

Here we are at the second fitting with more pinning out of the bodice side seams but the hem is basted and looking even on the floor.


The hip seams were let out right to the very edge.

The bodice seams were taken in for under bust support.

Along with the dress being ordered online, so was the veil. It was just placed on her head for a trial photo. I attached it to the comb while removing 2 lace motifs.












How about this for a veil?

With gratitude, the bride and groom gave me a bag of sweet cherries from their garden.


A British colleague of Mr. Mole’s sent this link to me. I thanked her for sending it and it made me realize that besides have great hand sewing skills, we seamstresses have another key ingredient to making edges of fabric meet perfectly…PATIENCE! Sewing skin doesn’t allow for mistakes and ripping out!!!

Happy Halloween…we get 150 goblins from 6-9pm all dressed up and begging for candy…oh dear, 3 weeks until Thanksgiving!



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Custom Corset Lacing

Remember this dress? It has made an appearance before and as I recall that it had a nasty little velvet belt that neither bride was too excited about.

Wtoo Della

Here we have the bride with different beaded straps seeing if either works for her to keep the bodice up. You may notice that the top edge is much wider than the bride, this will be altered with inside and outside darts. Also there is a piece of tulle between the cups that needs to be tightened up. OK…front looks doable.

But walking around to the back tells another story. The first photo shows a screaming zipper and the bride not being able to inhale. The second photo shows the real truth. Her mother asks for a corset back which will solve the issue.


An outside dart is pinned out under the arm and an additional grosgrain ribbon is pinned into place to suggest a halter strap.

New corset loops are attached and that nasty little velvet belt has been folded in half and stitched to turn into the lacing. One good thing about stiff velvet ribbon…it holds the loops and won’t slip away…hooray!

Let’s tackle that dart by cutting the lace motif in a curved way on each side. Then slide it over as much as we need. The satin and lining will be tucked on the inside by hand.


Even with the 2 new darts, the top edge still needs some taming, so I used the twill tape trick to snug up 1.5 inches on each side.

Then the desire/need for straps came into play and I suggested that we just do some tulle straps/sleeves and both the mother and bride were happy with that as the tulle compliments the dress and could cover more of her arms.

The satin train was shortened along with the tulle as she did not want a bustle.

On the third fitting, the bodice was still too wide in front so I added another dart as a tuck without cutting any lace. This is the outside so it is not so noticeable:

The inside was hand stitched down next to the first dart. You can also see the tulle straps hand stitched to the lining. Everything I have done to this dress can be converted back to the original dress by snipping threads and removing the corset loop strips and attaching the zipper again…well, that is for the next seamstress!

The bride asked that I send her a photo measuring the width of the lacing for whoever was going to lace her up. You may notice that there is no modesty panel and I left the zipper intact as the mother wanted exactly 3 inches to be zipped up. At the top of the zipper teeth I have a big hook and eye. Originally I was going to leave the old zipper in under the lining but it showed through so I had to cut it off. They will not have a bow in back and there is an opening above the zipper to knot the laces and hide them under the zipper area.

Anyone know why there is a safety pin in the lacing?

Such a pretty result with straps:













Let’s add a really long veil!

But wait…the veil has a tear in it! You know I can repair these with invisible thread but what happens when you are missing a piece?

Best way I could see was to overlap the edges, stitch with invisible thread and trim away excess after hoping that the hole will not be too noticeable.

A pretty good result:

Resting on the sofa, you can’t see the repair.

If you are wondering why a bride would buy a dress so tight like so many of my clients…well, I will give you a hint…she shares something with Meghan Markle…12 weeks?

Before I get back to my November brides, I wanted to share this link just when you think squares and triangles when someone mentions quilts.

By now all you readers in the northern hemisphere should have lots of fallen leaves to rake/sweep up before Old Man Winter sets in. Storing leaves in bags for a year or more makes the nicest leaf mold for mulching.

Have a super week before the goblins arrive!!!!!


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Double Trouble

Very rarely do I ever get the same dress twice in a season but this year it has happened again after the last 2 sheer dresses. This time it is strapless lace Wtoo Preston.


Let’s see what both of them need: Twill tape at the top of the bodice, 1-point bustle in lace and a 1-point bustle in satin and lining.

Bride #1

Bride #2

Then they also needed a horizontal waist tuck which would be covered by a grosgrain belt sewn into the zipper edge.

Bride #1

Bride #2 also trying different placement of possible lace flowers:

The difference comes in the straps. Bride #1 wanted romantic tulle straps/sleeves and the other was more streamlined with covered grosgrain straps.


Both would get 1-point bustles in the satin and lace:


But the first bride did not want her lace hem shortened while the second bride was tall and ordered extra fabric at the hem. I understand that ordering an XL style (extra length) you can designate either 3 or 5 inches longer. I’m not sure which one she ordered but we ended up having to remove the edging and raise it up 1.5 inches.

You have to decide where you are going to cut, usually along a stable edge that can be machine stitched later. Using curved embroidery scissors works a treat on curved edges. Scalloped edging pinned on and excess lace folded under for the try-on.


Just before the final try-on, bride #2 decided that she wanted the bodice taken in even more than the first alteration. So, the zipper was removed again and moved over and up to the top of the bodice.

Looks simple enough but wait…what happens to the lining? Of course, the boning has to be shifted over as well.

Remove the side of the label, remove the boning and move it over:

A scalpel does the job removing stitches:

New position for the boning to add extra stability:

Bride #2 has to have her tulle layers trimmed as the XL length also added more tulle:

She also wanted buttons down the back after the belt was hand stitched into place over the horizontal tuck:

The finished dresses are both flattering to the brides and also they don’t have to spend the whole time tugging at the top of their dresses and can just enjoy the event.


Thinking about buttons? Here is a lady who has a world of buttons!

With Fall temps still in the 70’s daytime the veggies are still hanging in there even with frost temperatures dropping to near freezing. The spaghetti squash has done well this season. We have already had one and given one away so that leaves 8.

Happy sewing everyone and welcome to the new followers!


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Twelve Months of Anticipation

Wtoo Lapis on the model in the video looks perfect, no wrinkles or drag lines or puckers.

Some brides are so excited about their wedding that they insist that they make an appointment almost a year in advance just to get time “in the mirror” in my sewing room. So flash back to the first appointment, Nov 2017.

Can you see some problems other than the extreme length? What is that weird indentation where the lace diverts above the tulle in center front?

Can you see that the top edge of the bodice back droops down? Surely the zipper will have to be moved over a couple inches.

Eleven months later nothing has changed:



The front still has that indentation and the bustle will need 5 points.










Oh Happy days…two more layers of heavy nude knit lining to be bustled up and a 5-point tulle bustle too.


The bride wanted her 5 points to be higher in the middle and the side points lower. You can see that even with 5 points we still have some “dog ears” sections of the tulle hem that need trimming off the floor. It would have been clearing the floor with 7 points but that is what you have with tulle.

The finished bustle with lace covered buttons:


This dress also displays the fact that having thick embroidered lace attached to tulle over satin does not always flatter the figure.

Wrinkles occur everywhere as the fabrics do not “play nice” with each other while still needing ease for walking and sitting.















That front indention has been reduced by releasing the lining and satin layer at that junction and the circumference of the bodice especially at the top fits better after removing one inch on either side of the back zipper. Again…hey designer, did you check how the finished gown would hang on a real body? Or did you mean for the eye to focus on that point for some reason?

What about that horizontal waist wrinkle? No matter how much the dress is smoothed down from her waist to her hips, what it really needs are some straps or a halter to hold up the top and keep it from drooping or a belt.

Standing up very straight helps but it is really a day for lots of hugging and dancing!










What does this bride need for walking up the aisle: How about an 8 foot long tulle veil with a blusher? Draping the ironed veil over a sofa helps to keep it wrinkle free.

Very few of my brides opt for the blusher to be brought forward over their face but this time it works well:


This week after months of watching and waiting for our first watermelon experiment, Mr. Mole harvested this beauty when he found it had split itself open. Being a seedless variety and grown from seed (how does that work?) it was amazing to see only a few black seeds and such sweet flesh! I cut it into chunks and took it to my local ASG meeting to share with my friends.


The good thing is that I finished the 13 September brides and am plowing through the 6 October ones while our weather continues to be in the low 70’s and sunny for all the celebrations. This Saturday, I have 3 brides getting married so the push is on to iron more long veils, attach bust cups and steam the dresses ready to go out the front door.

Neighbors have begun decorating their front yards like graveyards with fake headstones and skeletons and ghosts hanging from trees so you know Halloween is near. Happy sewing everyone and greetings to all the new readers!



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Beauty in All Sizes

Not all brides are a size 2 trying to be a size 0 by starving themselves. Not all size 12 brides tell me that they are dieting like mad to be a size 8.

When other brides ask me if working with full-figured brides is difficult, I always answer that larger brides want 3 simple things: a zipper that slides up easily, a bustle that stays up, and good music for dancing.

This summer I met a warm-hearted social worker who wanted all three. In fact instead of being self conscious about her size or weight, she wanted her dress, Wtoo Cynthia to have extra petticoats and a very poofy bustle.

Here is the required model shot:


The scalloped lace bordered hem is gorgeous but you can see this skirt could use a little more poof. In my annex to the sewing room, I store all the petticoats that have been removed from other gowns just waiting to be recycled into another gown. It is always a nice occasion when I can attach one to a dress that needs more lift to get the front hem off the ground without having to cut and move the lace up. I don’t charge for this service, the petticoats are free as well as the labor. It is just a nice thing to do.

Here is the first fitting with 5 point bustle pinned up. All of that horsehair braid trimmed netting hanging down will be hemmed to ground level.









First things first…adding the recycled petticoat:

Next layer on top of that:

Next layer on top of that:

More layers on top of that:

And finally getting to the top layers:

Second fitting with extra petticoat…success…the front hem is off the ground! The satin layer is hemmed and bustled and bust cups sewn in.

Embroidered tulle layer on top with pinned up bustle:












Every first time bride needs a veil:

With 5 points, the train is off the floor for dancing the night away.

Pressed and ready to walk down the aisle:












Just a reminder, do you ever think about your ironing board cover? Since I work on white/ivory dresses every day, I want my cover to stay clean but soot and dust in the air settles not just on wooden furniture, but the ironing board as well. So, as I have described in the past, I spray water on my cover, rub some Resolve Stain stick over it and then wet it again and rub it hard with a white washcloth. It is downright scary what comes off!!!!

With the end of summer, some of the summer squash look a bit sad and hard but I managed to split one, scoop out the seeds, toss in four frozen meatballs, olives and cheese and tomato sauce and bake for an hour:  

Temps are back to the seasonal normal  71 and 45 degrees F!

Hallelujah! Hope you all have a super week…happy Oct 1st everyone!

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Stabilizing Straps and Paper Hems

This Narissa dress is stunning but it falls into the two categories of wedding dresses…nightgown (no boning) and ballgown (tons of boning).

A bride should really assess her assets before buying a dress. Determine if her body (full bust) needs support and choose the right one. Notice the teenie tiny skinny straps?

Can you see where those tiny straps are attached to the sheer lace back? More about that later…nice long and wide train…guess how many bustle points it will take to get it up off the floor along with a heavy knit satin layer and knit lining?

Here’s my bride with her tattoos blocked out. You can see that this dress does not hold up her bust very well and the crystal buttons will be struggling to keep the center back closed with a lot of hugging and dancing.

The lace hem will be shortened along with satin and lining layers too.

Quite the impressive train with the knit layers just pinned up to test the length.


Looks like she will need 5 point bustles for both layers, knit lining and lace.

First, let’s remove the hem edging side seam to side seam:

Angled up to 4 inches to the new hem point:

But wait…how am I going to sew that delicate lace edging to what is essentially just air connected with thread? Somewhere on my bookshelf of “weird things I might need someday” is a roll of this stuff. You heirloom sewing gals probably use a lot of this, it is basically tissue paper on a roll.

Let’s slide it under the lace edging so the machine has something to grab unto:

Before machine stitching and the second try-on, the lace edging is hand basted to the paper, then the paper trimmed a little and the excess netting folded under before the next appointment. After machine stitching the paper will just tear away and excess netting trimmed.

OK, hem secured, let’s get back to those straps. Imagine that entire dress being held up with those straps and a couple of stitches…Lordie… after a few good bear hugs and some wild dancing…poof, they could easily just rip off!

One solution was to put some reinforcement, Stay Tape, in there before shortening them. Inside photo:










Hand stitched in place before strap attachment:

Pin the strap 1 inch lower and wait for the second try-on.

Final try-on has a 5 point bustle in each the satin layer and lace layer. The back buttons popped open when the bride was putting on her pasture boots from the farm. Not a good omen!

You can see the side seam ripples so I tell all my brides size 0 to 26…Formal clothes require formal underwear! I explain how back in the 50’s and 60’s we wore “foundation garments” aka panty girdles to give a smooth look and without going the full thick Spanx route, just upping their game from a pink thong to some tight underpants with a tummy panel, they will make their dress look like the model.









The front view with tighter straps and shorter hem.

Finally at the end of this summer, the peppers are producing fruit:











And the stone crop plants have made an appearance and their tiny pink flowers are covered with bees:

Today I saw Christmas trees and Halloween costumes displayed already in the stores…can’t retailers just wait until we get past the end of September before promoting the next 2 holidays?

Wishing all of you success with your latest projects whether it be knitting or sewing or weaving.

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