Great Grandma Would Be Proud

Back in 1953, brides wore gloves and covered their shoulders with bolero jackets and gave little thought to who would wear their dresses again.

This dress was tossed into a dress-up box for the grandchildren to use when they played. Sadly the jacket went missing.

Sixty-three years later the great-granddaughter has an idea to wear the dress for her wedding and great grandma approves. Repairs have to be made like replacing a broken zipper, tears in the tulle layers, tears to the center front pleating and evening up the satin hem. Oh, and figuring out how to find more ease in the bodice and what can be done to keep it from falling down.








With push-up bust cups pinned in, we try out different strap options.

Tulle sleeve/straps solve two problems in front and back and still look feminine.

Then we try out a halter style which makes the bride very happy to know that the grosgrain ribbon can be covered with tulle to match her dress and she will feel secure while dancing. The designs on the front are little velvet, yes, velvet appliques with tan beads. The halter angles compliment the front tulle collar “V” section.

Let’s remove the broken zipper:




Even though this was a RTW gown, the previous seamstress took in the side seams unequally and the boning was covered and stitched on by hand. Luckily, I was able to take the side seams back to the original position. The grandmother admitted that this dress was played in and even was worn to climb trees by all the grandchildren through the years never thinking that it would be ever worn again for a wedding. After all, it was not her dress…it was her mother’s.


The fact that all the boning was covered, pinked and stitched into place with long hand stitches really makes sense for alterations! How practical…snip threads, remove, alter a seam and tack it back into place! Now I wish all boning was done this way!!!

When the previous seamstress took in the side seams, she stacked them, flipped them and tacked them both forward leaving a huge ridge inside.

I will take the stitching back to the original line and open the seams and press them flat but not trim them for the next seamstress.

Another victim of the dressing up days is the hem…the original horsehair braid had a drawstring at the top to make it curve but a lot of it has been caught and stretched out and the hem itself is so uneven and droops below the tulle layers. The hem will be leveled to the level of the tulle and netting.

There are also spaces where the braid is frayed away:

One of the holes in the tulle top layer was jagged. Instead of just trying to get both edges together and hope for the best, I used the technique that plastic surgeons use on skin. The top and bottom edges are elongated to make sharp points that will lie flatter after stitching. How do I know this? Well, last July I had a large skin cancer removed from my face and this is how it was done to minimize a scar.

I use invisible poly thread to sew the edges back together by hand. Now the hole is just a line that will blend in with the rest of the skirt…it’s not great but it works.

The other place that needed fixing is the front…it had a 45 degree tear inside and out and I used the same clear thread to repair it.

You can also see the velvet applique pieces up close here:

We add some bust cups and she is ready to walk down the aisle. So far no one has shown the photos of the alterations to great grandma as they are afraid she might cry…they are waiting for the day of the wedding when the bride reveals the dress in person. OH MY…get the tissues ready!

  A final look inside reveals something not quite right…can you see it?

Yes, under all the tulle at center front, it goes unnoticed…the front top of the center satin skirt seam has been caught and makes a pleat/pucker. Who knows how long it has been there…since day one? I will release it so it lays flat.

New center back zipper:


Just before the final day, the bride drops off a darling matching flower girl dress to be hemmed that has buttons down the back and I suggest that we add buttons on her dress too:


Modern additions done and just in time for a change in the weather…from the 50’s a week ago to the 90’s this week…happy squash and tomatoes!




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Halter Girl

This dress by Tadashi Shoji comes with a list of descriptions and one of them is this:

Can be shortened; using an experienced bridal tailor is recommended.

You will notice that the model has a perfect figure for this body-hugging creation and is the perfect height.  The lace edging is all along the bodice top edges and along the hem. The thin drawstring holds the top to the neckline.

Here is what it looks like on a real bride:


The front neckline is very high and a bit choker-like leaving no room for jewelry. The back neckline is darling with little crystal beads at the end of the ties.


But…the hem…always a little too long for average height brides. The edging will be removed and restitched about 4 inches higher up along with 2 layers of…yes…you got it…KNIT lining with coverstitch finish. So every bit of thread is removed to release the scalloped lace edging.

We are leaving the small train which will be bustled up.

To shorten/drop down the neckline, I fold over more fabric to the inside…about one inch.

Now unto the hem: You can see by the red thread basting, the new hem line for the lace edging. The top red thread line is just holding the excess up and out of the way for the try-on. It will be trimmed away later.

Satin layer and 2 lining layers hand basted and later cover-stitched and trimmed.

Both knit layers are coverstitched:

Here is the dainty one-point bustle with the knit lining layers hanging free. Finally, something relatively simple that does not require the magic wand…it is being recharged anyway!

The view from my sewing room window this morning:

Marigolds, poppies, pear trees, irises and lots of veggies surround the new frog fountain. The squash plants are in and mulched by Mr. Mole.

This year I am recycling an older fountain into a succulent tower:

I’m still plowing my way through all the vintage gowns and fingers crossed, I will have the final photos for you soon!

Happy sewing everyone!

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Lumpy Lace

Some brides troll through the racks at David’s Bridal, some troll through racks at Outlet bridal stores or boutiques and try on dresses until they find one that fits close to what they want and need.

Then there are brides that wander into the murky world of eBay and fall in love with a photograph. This is where I got involved…bride tries on the bargain $140 dress and we start pinning out all she wants tighter and shorter.

To start with, this dress needs to be a petite, so the shoulders will be shortened to bring the waist up and the princess seams will have more taken in at the armhole and the zipper will have to be removed and moved in 2 inches…but wait…back up, girl, FIRST, all the lace has to be removed from those areas or we will have a huge thick mess.


Let’s pin out 3/4 inch on the shoulders to start while the rest of the dress is pinned and tucked. The whole length of the zipper is pinned out as well.

As the dress warms up and starts to droop, the shoulder tuck is increased to 1 inch for a total of 2 inches each side…and yes, there is sheer lining as well to take up separately…where is my Diet Pepsi? Can you see the bust cups? Yes, I can too as they are not nude colored, they are rock hard white puppies…where did the seamstress get these? They will be replaced with nude colored soft push-up ones from Wawak. Yes, this dress is not a RTW dress…it was homemade.

Remove the zipper and a pile of lace:

Red thread trace the new seam lines and clean up the area.

Red thread trace the extra amount to be taken in the top of the princess seam like a dart…and yes, there is a separate lining too to deal with…it is just more labor.

Red thread trace the new zipper seams:

Measuring the shoulder liningg to be taken in before being attached back into the fabric with lace.

Let’s do the other side…I think I will leave that little sliver of lace edge in the seam…at this point I am fed up making everything perfect.

Measure the dart intake…1.5 inches:

The length will be 3.5 inches and taper off into the original seam.

Lace is removed and flipped back to make the seam and then flipped back into place and overlap.

Since the rest of the dress has overlapped thick lace…why not just do more of it?

Don’t forget the lining under the princess seam dart!

With all the bodice alterations done, the bride wants a belt attached. Let’s sew a rhinestone chunky thing onto the pre-crinkled ribbon and tack the whole thing around at the top edge.

No ribbon bow for this girl so the ends are tucked under and stitched down at the zipper.

The satin hem and lining have been shortened and then the tulle skirt will also be shortened by trimming with scissors. The satin layer/lining has a 1-point bustle and the tulle has a 3-point bustle.

The final photo shows the great fit in the bust area along with the almost invisible bust cups.

Maybe you’ve notice that I use a nice ruler in my photos and work.

For 40 years I have been using the same C-thru brand of rulers.

The markings are embedded inside the plastic and do not wear off but recently I lost one of the 6 inch ones and went crazy trying to find it. In the end, I resorted to buying one online and the new one is a cheap imitation with the marking just painted on the surface and rough. It seems the original company folded and were bought out and this is the crappy substitute we are being sold. I wrote a review to the drafting company selling these and asked them not to claim they were the same quality. They thanked me…we shall see. Even Amazon is selling these cheap versions so beware!

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Doing the Math

This week someone on Facebook sent me a message. It went like this:

Are you still in business? I have a friend who needs a slight alteration to her daughter’s dress in a hurry.

I try not to do prom gowns and bridesmaids dresses when the sewing room is packed with wedding gowns but I said I would see her if she would send a photo. Well, as per usual, she did not send a photo but asked to come over the very next day with the girl and the gown and gave me 3 days to make some magic.

Same old story, “my daughter wanted a one-of-a-kind dress so we ordered one off the internet…and we don’t know what to do as it needs a little something as the zipper stops about 1/2 inch from the top.”

The front has a satin bodice under the beading and sheer knit but the back is completely sheer. Two layers of polyester are topped off with chiffon and all are cut from huge circles. I measured the chiffon hem circumference…10 yards…30 feet of narrow rolled hemming.


OK, any math wizards out there? From the top of the hook and eye to the tab of the reluctant zipper is 10 inches…10 inches, people! There is no way this baby will ever close without a wedge inserted. And where do we get a wedge to match perfectly? I’m going to cut a wedge from the skirt side seams of the 2 layers of satin lining and one layer of the chiffon.

Thinking this was the most perfect solution, I told the bride and mother and the bride started to get all pissy saying, “people will notice”…yeah, right, and they won’t notice that your zipper stops at your hip. The mother tried to settle her down after I showed them that the skirt was cut as a huge circle with volumes of fabric that would never show where a wedge was removed.


While the ribbons measure these amounts, with the sheer knit back, the actual wedge will be narrower for a very snug fit that the girl demanded.







First, one side of the zipper is removed from the knit back.   Then a wedge is cut from the lining and satin from one side. One layer in interfaced with fusible and then the third layer of chiffon is added to the sandwich and stitched as a small curve at the top. Understitiching is done.


Pinned and ready to be run through the serger to neaten the edges:

Panel is hand basted into place:

Machine stitched right side and inside:

                                          The final try-on:

Now, at least, she can get the zipper up and have a good time at the Prom.

Some of you may have done this differently, like evenly adding to both side seams and increased the labor time, but I had 3 days to get this project out the door the cheapest way I could including the hemming of 2 massive layers of satin and one of chiffon ahead of the brides with their own deadlines.

When the mother paid for the dress she said, “we assume from now on we can come back anytime and have you do sewing for us”…that is when I handed her the card of the other seamstress I refer to…rush jobs and prom dresses have no place in my sewing room during the season!!!

Hoping all of your sewing projects this week are fun ones!!! Thank you to all the new followers for dropping by and to the die hard regulars who like photos of challenges!


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Second Hand Rose

Buying a wedding dress can be scary especially when faced with a price tag of $1000 plus. But if you are a cagey shopper you can find bargains out there like at Brides for a Cause.

My next bride managed to find this previously-worn beaded lace dress for around $300. It had been altered in the side seams and was very tight but once I looked inside…Eureka, the previous seamstress had left the excess there for us to find!


Too bad the previous bride was taller as the lace hem will have to be taken up like normal…do you all see a pattern here?

Once the border lace is cut off, it is raised up to the red thread 6 inch higher line. Some lace borders have long stitches so you can release the border itself but this one was not like that.

Pin the top of each motif on the new line:

Then at the side seams, allow the border to drop down to join the rest of the train. You can see the huge vertical tuck right now but it will not be there later.

Most times, I trim off the tulle hanging down but this bride wanted me to save as much as I could in case she wanted to hand it down to a daughter in the future. So, I will see if I can tuck all that under and save it just in case the next wearer is tall. The same goes for the satin layer and lining. Normally I make the hems just like the original with horsehair braid and everything trimmed off but this time I  serged off everything but 2 inches and folded that under and hand stitched it to the satin.   

After the side seams were let out, the zipper went up fine.

The only issue was the lace above the top of the satin bodice had been stretched by the previous bride from hugging folks all day…this happens.

So I have pins where the lace will be lifted and tucked inside and then hand tacked back down. The bride is not wearing the previous velvet belt and may design a new one for herself.


With the 3 bustle buttons and loops in place, she is ready for pick-up.

Two weeks ago, I shared the really lacy 1973 dress and I thought you might like to see the bride’s mother in the original.

We did add a grosgrain belt and 5 point bustle:



One last thing before I get back to the chaos, on Valentine’s Day, Mr. Mole bought me an amaryllis bulb and we have been waiting for the bloom…ta da…it opened on Earth Day 2017…perfect timing don’t you think?

Happy Spring sewing everyone! Thanks for dropping by! More vintage brides have arrived with the original photos…Lordie!

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Simple 1

Older second-time brides can be so easy to work with. They want classic lines and good fit.

This bridesmaid dress fits the bill and it came with straps that we could use to make things secure.

The skirt needed hemming and straps sewn on and of course push-up bra cups.

All my brides are told that tight underpants make the dress skim the body so that will be the next purchase for this lovely woman.



Last week, I mentioned that I would share some photos of our 3 days away which included a trip to the Oregon  zoo, and a tulip festival and a breakfast at the IHOP .

Mr Mole felt a real connection to the lions…must have been their rigorous schedule:

Even though the tulip fields included acres and acres of muddy paths, it was great to see all the colors and varieties.

The Oregon Gardens were still under the shadow of winter but the tropical greenhouse had some lovely specimens. There was a carnivorous plants that waits for insects to fall down the tube and then digests them and of course, Cymbidium orchids.







One of the real advantages of getting away is finding our favorite breakfast restaurant and ordering our favorite item…German crepes:

On the last day, since it was my birthday, Mr Mole had a dinner planned for the two of us and just before we were leaving the hotel, there was a knock on the door. I answered it and was in shock! There stood my youngest daughter who lives in Washington, DC, 3000 miles away. She had just finished a week-long seminar in Seattle and rented a car, drove 5 hours, to surprise me!Now, it is back to the brides and deadlines…more vintage dresses to modernize from WAY BACK…stay tuned!

I have to share this from Sharon, my sewing sister in Maryland…a little warped:Thanks for dropping by, hope everyone had a super Easter!

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Lace From 1973

The phone call went like this, “I have my mother’s wedding dress and I’m getting married in May and I have had a little trouble getting the zipper up”. I assured her that most dresses can be saved with a corset back and we made the appointment. Now, this bride lives almost 2 hours away and was willing to travel for a consultation.

Here is what we had to deal with:


OK, gasping time is over…let’s get real, people… First thing was to cut the sleeves off to see if we could get the shoulders up on her as she didn’t want them anyway. Then realizing that the zipper was never going to zip up, I ran ribbons across to keep the back together. With a gap of over 12 inches/30.4 cm even a corset back would not be enough.

Taking a look at the side seams, I decided that I would add two 4-inch wide panels made from the sleeves and also two 4-inch panels at the shoulder to drop the front darts in the bodice low enough to sit properly on her waist. Corset loops would be made for the full length of the zipper opening of 22 inches.

Besides all the upper alterations, the train would need 5 bustle points and I would have to remove the lower lace ruffle layer to use to replace some stained layers in the front of the skirt. Even adding side panels there would be a gap in the underarm section so that will need extra fabric too. Did I forget to mention that the bride does not want me to change any seams so that her daughter could wear this dress in the future? So in other words, everything that I do to get her into this dress must be able to be removed/reversed years down the line…nothing like having restrictions is there? No stress…

Have a look at this train…WOW! I have already removed the lowest layer of lace ruffle to fill in stained spots on the front ruffle and the satin lining will be trimmed and hemmed as well. The bustle will require 5 points just to get all of this fluff off the ground.


Let’s get started…make 22 inches of loops for the corset back and attach to the bodice.

Position the bodice on the waist and measure how wide the shoulder panels will have to be. Let out back darts, we don’t need them, see the punch holes in the satin from the factory?

Positioning the bodice on the enlarged mannequin, gives you an idea of what is needed to fill in the gaps.

With the side panels attached and shoulder panels attached you can see the curved underarm area that has to be filled in later. At this point you may be wondering…what are those little black things on the upper bodice? Well, they are glued-on fake pearls that have turned into little nasty lumps. The groom says he can paint over them with car model paints and make them white again.

The top edge of the skirt was just a jumble of thin cheap netting and all raw edges…makes you wonder what the procedure for the inside of gowns back then were. I removed the netting and reinforced the top of the skirt with white rayon hem tape. Then everything was clean finished with the serger.

Ever wonder how netted petticoats are made? Ever wonder how each layer of netting is attached equally down the netting base? How about following little marker holes cut/burned at the factory during cutting?

Next, attach the skirt and see how close it fits.

Even though this dress had been cleaned and stored in a box for 44 years…it had wine stains down the front ruffles and also the metal hooks and eyes left rust stains. I managed to get the rust stains out with my stain stick but the stained ruffle had to be replaced with cutting from the back hem ruffle.

Unto the second appointment:

There will be an armscye bust dart added/pinned and you can see the extra section that has to fill in under the arm.

But lo and behold, when I went to lace her up…look what happened!

No need for a corset back now! I will put in an invisible zipper and add grosgrain straps under the lace like she wanted to cover her bra straps. Adding 8 inches to the circumference has made such a difference and with the addition of 4 strips of boning in the side panels, new wide grosgrain ribbon straps under the lace, we may just have a winner on our hands!

So, let’s remove the skirt again and make all the side panels and underarm curved section.

Both panels are removed and darts drawn in, fronts and backs stacked.

Now for the fun part…the underarm section has a dart too…or does it? Let’s stack them and see if we can remove it.

It is a 2 inch wide dart


But not anymore…

Let’s make a paper pattern…make it with lace lined with the satin from the train.

Make the bust darts first…then attach the weird curved sections.

Add the curved panel which will have an edge binding later to join up with the straps. All seam allowances will be trimmed.

Hand baste in a new heavy duty invisible zipper and the 4 new boning strips.

Grosgrain ribbon straps basted under the lace to cover bra straps and lower lace ruffle removed and satin layer hemmed…all we need now is a body and everything can be finished…fingers crossed! Oh…we might add a belt…you never know! Final photos will be coming later!!! Thanks for sticking with me on this one!

Our 4 days away for my birthday were just magical and next time I will share a few photos when I can get Mr Mole to release them from his phone.

Happy Sewing, everyone!







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