High Flyers

This time of the year we have a wall of orange berries on our Pyracantha bushes. This time of the year, and no other, we have hoards of marauding birds called cedar waxwings who devour these berries. So you may wonder…what is the big deal?


Well, the more berries the birds consume, the drunker they get and they fly into buildings and can kill themselves from a concussion. See the yellow tips of his tail feathers…this may be where they got the name. Not all birds who crash into fences and windows die, if you leave them for the day to “sleep it off”, they will be gone and off scavenging with their friends the next time you check.dead-bird

Besides walking over stoned sparrows, Mr. Mole has planted some winter veggies…lettuce and Swiss Chard and beets and things. The cage he made keeps the hungry birds away.

But back in the sewing room…

Lots of folks find me on Yelp and Google and while I limit my business to wedding gowns and refer everything else to other seamstresses I know, sometimes you just have to get stuck in and do something unexpected.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we have huge forests and huge summer forest fires that require many firefighters on the ground and those in the air to drop water and survey the spread and damage. This client needed some extra room in his flight suit while carrying out his helicopter duties in the field.

He bought extra fabric at our JoAnn’s and tried on his 2 sets of clothes so we could determine how much was needed.  This jacket needed 3 extra inches down each side seam and the Velcro moved over for the belt.p1210487

The pants had the same story to add 3 inches with a wedge.


Before opening up the side seams, I noticed that a previous seamstress had added a football shaped patch and serged it with white thread on the inside.


You can see from the outside, it was inadequate and was starting to tear away and fray.

The opened side seams were placed on the new fabric, yes, it is not a proper match nor Kevlar, but it works OK. Then a chalk line was drawn and seam allowances added.


A pair were cut and serged.


The side seam edges were cleaned up and serged and the patch added and Velcro re-positioned.


The patch edges were double stitched after being flipped to the jacket sections.

The pants got a wedge as well and the back belt loop was re-attached. The seam allowances were double stitched after being flipped all one direction.


He can wear these comfortably and do his job now.


The other jacket needed wider wedges as it had been worn in Afghanistan and he had expanded a bit more since his service there. Once again, the side seams were opened, serged edges and patch attached and Velcro re-positioned.


It looks good hanging up on both sides. Even though this took time away from my bridal sewing, it is always a pleasure to work for hard-working, dedicated men and women who have served in the military and continue to serve now that they are back home.


Now, I know that I am just adding Kona cotton to his clothes and not Kevlar but this is what was brought to me and I’m working with it.

The pilot just picked up his garments after being in San Diego, California  fighting fires down there. The valuable work they do in the sky assists the workers on the ground with water drops and search and rescue.

For those of you who still need a bridal “fix”, you can check out Anne’s post with some daring bridal fashion!    https://prttynpnk.com/2016/10/12/wearable-wednesday-meets-the-brides/

Have a great week everyone…run through the falling leaves!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , | 22 Comments

Mama in Charge

Do you remember a couple weeks ago I mentioned a very controlling mother that removed all my pins and proceeded to re-pin the daughter’s dress?

Well, let’s start here…the phone call. The mother calls to tell me that she has a second-hand wedding dress that needs sleeves because her daughter is so modest and can I do such a project. Of course, I say, and the mother says that her daughter has hundreds of photos of what she wants on Pinterest….great. She continues describing the dress and what she wants done and the time frame and on and on and we make the appointment. The one thing the mother doesn’t bother to tell me is…the name of her daughter. Why? Because it is all about the mother and her need to control.

The girl, fresh out of high school, arrives with this heavy strapless dress and the mother tells me to get some fabric from my stash and drape sleeves to cover the front and back and her arms. The front of the additional fabric MUST BE a precise 7 inches wide in front and be very gathered. I tuck some loose satin fabric under the top edge and take the photo for them to have an image to think about. Yes, the mother says…that is what we want, the bride says nothing and shows no emotion. The dress weighs a ton and includes some sort of wacky bustle configuration that involves broken buttons, missing loops and 4 sets of huge 1 inch wide plastic snaps.


Here is the basic shape they ordered…the finished dimensions MUST BE 7 inches in front and 5 inches in back (pleated) and be 24 inches long. So to get enough gathers, I cut the front 12 inches wide and line the straps so that it is 1/2 inch narrower to pull the satin to the backside.


I’m supposed to match the gathers of the dress so no one knows the sleeves were added. I use 3 rows of gathering stitches for the front for stability.


Second fitting allows me to pin the sleeves in front and pleat the back attachment. I stand back and ask the bride to decide if this is her idea of what she envisioned. She says nothing and shows no emotion. The mother removes all my pins and starts to make it her way. I don’t know what to do but step back and almost leave the room. After she is done she says she knows how to sew and what looks best. All I can say to her is, “This is usually what I do”. The bride says nothing nor shows any emotion. The mother then decides that the front gathering is enough but the sleeves are too wide and need to be more like wide straps and tells me to make them 5 inches wide at the shoulder and 4 inches wide at the back…essentially re-cut and remake them. More photos on that later…let’s try to pin a new bustle shall we?

Using different points than the original ones it looks like 5 points will be enough to get the 6 foot long, heavy train up off the floor. p1210571At this point the mother grabs my colored safety pins and wants to change what I have done. I step back and tell her, “YOU MUST sit on the sofa and let me do my job”.

She sits down and shakes her leg nervously like a hyperactive teenage boy and tells me that she is OCD and must be involved and cannot sit still. I explain that I have done hundreds of bustles and she will have the final say when I am done pinning. There are 2 huge box pleats in the back skirt which will hide 2 of the 5  buttons and make the fabric lie flat. I turn the bride around in the mirror and show her how nice it is…she says nothing and shows no emotion. You can see the top of the knit tube top that she is planning on wearing under the dress.


End of the second fitting session, the bride has said nothing, showed no emotion nor answered any questions I have asked. Because the mother is so controlling and hints at not believing that I will actually do what SHE wants, I make thread tacks where the pins marked the edges of the new sleeves/now straps and email her the photos for my own protection later.

I also send her the photos of where she placed all the pins for the decreased width of the sleeves/now straps. I tell her that one cannot decrease the width so dramatically to 5 inches and still keep the front gathers at 12 inches. That is when she tells me, “It will be OK, I know how to sew”. (Blood pressure rising)


Her pinning, my thread tracing…keeping it real.


The front coverage is now narrowed to 5.5 inches from 7.


Can you see the weird shape this is taking?

I spread the gathers out to get an idea of the shape. I send more photos to the mother and she says she does not want that shape. Well, she is getting that shape for now until the next fitting. My experience tells me that the very narrow edge of the gathers where it drops off will have to be placed lower inside the dress to sit properly.



Let’s pin and trim and stitch and flip right side out again.


At the first fitting, the mother told me that she did not want me to shorten the separate petticoat 4 inches with a 2 inch horizontal tuck because she knows how to sew and will do it herself. She takes the petticoat home and this is the result:

It would have been nice to let a machine do its job with long, even, secure stitches but Mama knows best and wanted to hand tack here and there and leave gaps.

In the meantime, I send more photos and I get this email back:

“I’m hopeful that next week will bring a smile to my daughter’s  face. For someone who is painfully indecisive, and has trouble sharing verbally, it’s hard for her to know, and be able to say what she wants. I help based on small comments she has made over time, but it’s difficult.”

After the second fitting, I am exhausted and very frustrated and wising I had never answered the phone and agreed to take on this project. Mr. Mole reminds me that since I have not even altered or cut into the dress that I can hand it back to them…it is tempting…but I feel so sorry for the bride and want to do right by her.

Third fitting shows how much of the straps have to be dropped inside the dress to sit well.


See the new rows of gathering? Yes, that will be the new attachment line and new shape for the front straps. Mama was not right this time.


The back straps will also be gathered and not pleated (my decision) and are angled as well to sit better. Mama got this wrong too.


Let’s see inside the bodice:


In the beginning, the mother told me to shorten the front skirt hem and to just fold under the front skirt hem and hand sew it to make it a cheap fix. I agreed, but once I got to that section I realized that the skirt was actually two layers of satin and one layer of lining…3 layers plus the horsehair braid. If I had done it her way there would have been a huge wad of 6 layers of fabric all rolled under. So once it was opened up, I shifted the horsehair braid, pinned it, stitched it and did it more like the last person who altered this dress hem. Now, as you can see in the next photos, that person did not do it the right way as the factory so I just continued in that vein.


The lining will be shortened and attached by hand just at the horsehair stitching but the edge looks like the previous seamstress chewed it away:


As I move along the lining edge I see that the previous seamstress made a 2 inch tuck without trying to ease in the fabric…how clever! This will not be done that way this time! Also the hand stitching will not show.


My hand finished hem with no tucks…it can be done if you take some time to do it right.


The final 4th fitting, the mother mentions that the gathered top looks like it needs some fluffing up so I offer the bride some bust pads to slip in and try. For the first time in a month, her eyes light up…I mean really light up and she SMILES!

Call me crazy, but I sense she realizes that for the first time while wearing this used dress that was way too old and heavy for her, she may just carry it off. I tell her that she can dispense with wearing the knit tube top she has been using for each fitting and I will sew the cups securely into the lining.

Without fail, Mama steps in to tell me, “You had better not sew the cups any lower that the horizontal ruffled section”… like I had never done this before nor had it crossed my mind to position them correctly. I take a deep breath and show her to the front door and imagine them handing me a check next time.                     p1210576

The final project (missing the petticoat) is finished and waiting to be picked up for the wedding this Saturday…ahhhhh.

p1210569      p1210570

At the end of this project you just have to ponder the words from other clients, “your job is so glamorous” and pour a tall rum and diet Pepsi and sit in the patio and thank the Almighty that this has come to an end before the next catastrophe arrives with the Fall/Winter brides.

Thanks to all my readers for visiting and enduring the chaos and stress. It helps to know you are there to share and understand.

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , | 80 Comments

Too Much Tulle

This dress looks so simple from the front doesn’t it? But are no side seams in the lace as the scalloped design is placed over the satin under-dress to form a continuous pattern all around. This will become the main problem for this princess bride.


How about the back? A six foot long train with 5 layers of tulle and netting is lurking there over a satin skirt and lining. What looks airy and ethereal is really just a mess of fabric that acts as a comforter/duvet for a hot late summer wedding.


The satin layer can be bustled up and the lining layer can be hemmed to floor level. Isn’t that tulle just lovely all rolled up?


The bride wanted twenty five new buttons attached down the back and bust pads sewn in. You can see the scallop pattern with all the sequins and pearls and seed beads up close.


But there is no way I am going to get all this train bustled up and looking nice and flat so the bride says she will just carry it around all day.


After sitting on the ground for an hour and trimming all those layers with scissors so they just sit perfectly level on the floor, the bride decides that she wants another inch taken off ALL layers after she takes the dress off. So, after she leaves, I trim more away. Lots of grumbling can be heard in my sewing room.


She returns 2 more times just to stand in front of the mirror with her mother (talking baby talk to her) to complain that the dress is not skin tight.

With the bodice being a dropped style and just above where the front of her leg breaks to walk, I explain for 2 more times that it cannot be any tighter or she could not lift her leg to walk at all but she keeps grabbing at the zipper and whining that she wants it all tight, tight, tight.

When she sits down to try out the circumference of the dress, I can hear the side seams screaming! When she stands up the entire lower half of the bodice is wrinkled up and has to be smoothed down many times to get it flat. The mother gets into the act of smoothing the fabric layers down while cooing to her daughter that everything will be OK. All the bride can do is frown.

So, I ask her to walk down my hallway and do a turn to see how the tiny excess of fabric at the lower edge is really needed to raise her leg and if we make it any tighter her tummy will really stick out. Finally, she gives in and realizes that nothing more can or should be done. In her desire/vision to be a fairy tale princess with a long tulle gown, it never crossed her mind that she would have to carry/drag all that fabric along with her all day and night.


After 8 months of dealing with 60 persnickety brides and not taking a day off, Mr. Mole booked 4 days away in a salmon fishing village to get me out of my sewing room. It was lovely to not hear a phone ring or client knocking on the front door or cooking or cleaning. Here is the view from the rented apartment:fishing-village

While the weathermen predicted 4 days of storms and unending rain, it ended up only raining at night and we had 3 full days to walk and breathe in sea air along deserted beaches and also see sights like this in town:dog-walker

This local lady walks her rescue Basset hounds around town and tries to keep them organized and going in the same direction.

After a 4 hour drive home, there were new messages on my answerphone from brides for November and December weddings…so, no rest for the wicked and it is back to reality for me. Cooler weather now makes sewing easier and I hope all of you are looking forward to fun Fall events!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Not a Simple Hemming

Nordstrom has this dress:


Isn’t the lace roses hem lovely?

All this mother-of-the-bride wanted was the side seams taken in 1/2 inch and the hem shortened by 1 inch…not too much to ask is it?

After pinning, I thread trace the new side seam lines through the lace and lining layers as they are stitched together as one unit.  Same goes for the hem, except we will lose the roses and scalloped edges. The mother is adamant about showing her knees more in this pencil skirt and does not care about the pretty original hem that matches the sleeves.



Let’s look inside …yes, she paid $368 for this Tadashi dress and the lace layer is a tight woven and we also find our old friend…knit lining…why?

The hem edge of the lining is understitched all around and is actually a dress within a dress joined at the side seams. Nothing like having 2 layers of knit lining…why?

Normally, there is an opening used during construction to turn the dress right side out but I can’t find one in all the seams…wait…check out the zipper…could that be the way in?

After snipping the hand stitches…the opening is revealed!


The double layer lining is pulled out through the opening to discover another lining dress within.

Here we have the lining dress and the thread tracings for the hem. The side seams end 2 inches above the hem line and are clipped and flipped.


The side seams show the thread tracings too and they get pinned.


This photo shows that the new hem line for the back lining sections will run into the lace sections at center back…great…that will have to be opened up and moved.


Another little feature is a second underlayer in stiff netting under the lace which is also attached along the seams. Like this dress is not bulky enough inside…yes, toss in some stiff netting layer! All this has to be released before working on the back hem.


What looks like a simple alteration from the outside can become tricky once you go searching.p1210420p1210421

Center back seams is resolved and the lace hem and netting is pinned and ready for hand sewing.


What was removed….one inch stripp1210426p1210428  …the finished hem right side.

The new hem in the lining dress, all the excess will be cut off and pressed toward the back side for understitching.


Finally done with what should have been a 1.5 hour job…I lost track of time after so many steps. Lesson learned? Think twice before tackling a Tadashi!


After a monster project like this I needed a little retail therapy, so I decided to see if I could replace a favorite 40 year old Ultra-temp spatula that had been well used and loved. Good old eBay to the rescue…who knew that I could find such a wonderful replacement?spatula

No matter what your weather or projects, I wish you time to enjoy both this week. Today is 97F degrees in my back yard…who ordered up this heat in late Sept?

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

Cover My Arms!

An older bridesmaid brought this dress to me. Her main idea was to find a dress that would cover up her arms…but starting with a one-shoulder dress can be a problem…my problem.


It would have been way better to start with at least a sleeveless dress.

Here are the strips I was able to make and pin onto the armholes.  In this photo, they are not turned right side out and have the pinked seam allowances showing.

Notice that since the armhole on her left (your right) is a normal armhole, the one on her right (your left) is just a sloping neckline, the sleeves have to have different shapes.



In the back, it is the same story, the backs of the sleeves do not match in shape but they will look alike once we get done…fingers crossed!


The skirt hemming was only going to be an inch so I had to harvest fabric from the chiffon skirt side seam. The skirt was gathered and had plenty of fabric. It was impossible to make the sleeves match and you can see the different shapes they took after unpinning.



Once the short shaped ends were pinked and stitched with 2 rows of gathering, they were attached by hand on the inside of the bodice. Please ignore the bra strap. She was so happy that her arms were covered and she could still raise them up to dance.

p1210343 p1210344

Just thought I would share a couple of chuckles this week. Here is an email I received:

I accidentally put my wife’s dress through the wash and it came apart at the seems a little bit. I found your business on Yelp and you are highly rated. I was wondering if you have the availability to take a look and possibly repair it before her birthday on the 23rd.

He did come by that afternoon and I stitched up the back seams. He left a happy man.

Some gal called yesterday to say:

“I have 2 dresses exactly the same, one is too big and the other is too small and I need a professional to tell me which one will fit me for my Sept 2017 wedding.  Oh, by the way, I need to be seen this weekend or Monday”

I called her back to find that she has had both dresses for a while and she has to send one of them back and I’m supposed to tell her which one. OK

I told her that she could come on Mon or Tues and she said she works from 7:30 am until 7:30 pm and I would have to fit her in after that. I don’t see clients at night, bummer.

I said, NO, I can see you Wed…how about that and she said…ready???...

”On a whim, my boyfriend and I are flying to Europe on Wed for a month’s vacation and I have to send back the dress before I fly.”

I wished her good luck in finding an available seamstress at this late date.

This story was told to me this week from June:

I was dropping off and picking up a few garments today at the tailor’s when I ran into another client of hers, who was there to have a wedding dress altered. I overheard her trying to get the tailor to steam the dress for free and arguing a little bit over the price. When she sees the total bill ($300ish), she says the dress only cost $99. And the tailor holds her ground, just looks at her. (I was proud of her!) 

After that client leaves, the tailor tells me this – the customer starts calling her at 7 AM (an hour before she usually gets up). She agrees to see this woman and her wedding dress, and then an endless stream of text messages start pouring in all morning. The gal is clearly anxious about having this dress done on time because she’s dropping it off today (Thursday noon) and the wedding is… MONDAY!!! She initially wanted to stand around the sewing studio, not understanding that the alterations would probably take the better part of a day. (Also, she assumes the tailor has nothing else in the queue, was just waiting for her to show up so that she’d have work to do?) Unbelievable. And yet… probably something that happens a lot. 

So dear readers, if you don’t run your own alteration business and don’t understand the customer’s phrase, “Your job is SO glamorous”…rejoice and enjoy having the time to make your own clothes, quilts, pillows, table runners etc. without the chaos and drama!

Today, I experienced the worse meddling mother ever. It was the second fitting with custom-made sleeves and she unpinned all my work and re-pinned poorly for 45 minutes while I stood back (as British Mr. Mole says, “like a lemon”) and finally for the last 15 minutes I told her she had to back off and sit on the sofa while I worked pinning the bustle.

She was not happy and said she could not sit still because she has OCD. At that point I did not care if she had OCD, IBS, a UTI or the biggest bug up her butt…it was my room and my time and my pins. Her remarks of “well, I guess you have done this a few more times than me” just about made me walk out of the room to scream in the hallway. Will I share the wedding dress on the blog…oh yes, I will…you can bet on that!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 46 Comments

9 Days to Work a Miracle

Lovely dress, no?

1_product_x2  2_product_x2

Here is it on a real woman, not a model.


There are 2 sets of beaded straps and I have pinned up the train with 6 points (one satin layer and 5 ruffle layers)  just to see where we are under all these organza ruffles. While the dress is zipped in the photo, the bride is not taking any deep breaths nor able to sit down. What she needs is 3  extra inches of ease with a corset back.


See the wrinkles under her bust? The boning is 2 inches too short to do any good in keeping the side seams vertical.


The problem is the drooping top. Even though there are boning strips in the side seams, they only go part way to the armhole so I need to cover some new ones and attach them by hand.

P1210292P1210293 P1210294p1210357

What you can’t see is the fact that every circle ruffle is attached vertically to triangular panels for maximum drape and edges/hemmed with 2 inch wide horsehair braid making it almost impossible to hem this dress without taking the ruffles off and re-positioning all the horsehair braid. Can you say, mucho trabajo/a lot of work??


Corset loops made and attached and the grandmother told me to leave the zipper in instead of removing it. She says she sews and knows these things. Sure…it is always nice to have a zipper tab hanging down at the end of a corset.


What else needs to be done? My idea to help lift the hem of all those ruffles was to attach a discarded/recycled petticoat from another wedding gown. But first we have to find the right layer.P1210309P1210311P1210315

Even with the new petticoat the front panel was too long and the ruffles attached to it were too dangerous to walk with that way. The only quick and cheap solution is to make a tuck in that center panel to hike up the front hem and the lower edge of the top ruffle will cover that stitching and fold.P1210331

Corset loops basted in and bustled up with 5 points for ruffles and one point for satin underskirt. Once the corset was laced up, the bodice dropped down and the front under-bust wrinkles disappeared while the new boning kept the side seams vertical and no drooping. The outside straps were re-positioned closer to center.


The train un-bustled


Here is the ironed dress with 5 bustle buttons and loops…can you see any of them??? Nope, me neither…but I’m sure the grandmother who sews will have a good time looking for them.


You also cannot see the front horizontal tuck as it is hidden by more ruffles…hooray!


Now the princess is ready for her walk down the aisle without tripping on all that organza…success! The real secret of the day is the bride is 22 weeks pregnant. Good thing the corset is adjustable! Only 4 days to go before the wedding and everything is on schedule!

Our aging strawberry patch was pulled up this year and replaced with 2, only 2 butternut squash plants grown from seed. Well, they have crawled up out of the cage and are now wandering the length of the side of the house. Each of those bricks is over 12 inches wide so you can see how much they have grown and spread. There are about 6 squash maturing now.sept-2016-2

While our temps have dipped down to the 80’s this week for a little break, they will certainly climb back up to 95F this weekend to keep my bride toasty under all those ruffles!

With the kids back in school, maybe the moms can get to some much needed sewing and finish projects that they started months ago! Happy sewing!



Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , , | 63 Comments

A Simple Shop-worn Sample Dress Fix

You know when a bride falls in love with a dress…come Hell or high water, she is going to buy it even if every crystal is dangling by a thread or totally missing and it doesn’t fit well enough to flatter her.

This dress was found 3000 miles from here in Washington, DC on a clearance rack in an Apostrophe shop. It is polyester and it shows so much wear with pilling and dangling beads and dirty hems but the bride is thrilled with her choice…it is up to me to make it fit and give it some TLC.

The maker is etoile, Georgia gown. 34991810_011_a

What we have is this:


While the zipper does close, the hips cause the center back seam to buckle up making a ridge in the back and the back straps have no place to go but fan out away from the body. The 2 lining layers have to be shortened 6.5 inches all around and the lace layer as well about 1 inch.P1210205 Shortening the lace layer will eliminate the dirty hem. The original lace edge is raw, just folded under with just a single row of stitching to control it.P1210206P1210207

The last top layer of appliqued tulle will be trimmed with scissors.

There is no fabric to let out so the bride says she will lose some weight before her wedding next year. The best I can do is let out the skimpy side seams in the linings to give her an extra 1.5 inches:


After letting out the tiny side seams it was enough to allow the hip fabric to drop and get rid of the ridge in the center back zipper. Even the straps lie flatter now. Since the wedding is next year, she will return with shoes and we can trim the appliqued tulle layer for the hem then. Sometimes you get lucky with a sweet bride, sweet mother and a good result with minimal effort!


Mother Nature is really putting in maximum effort is providing more veggies to cook and share with neighbors.

A couple garden shots for you: Aug-25August-2016

This week I have tried to post as a “calm before the storm”…so much more is coming up that makes my head hurt!

Happy Labor Day to my US readers and best of luck for the moms doing all the back-to-school shopping for their families!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , | 26 Comments