Make My Dream Dress

Can one turn a $299 David’s Bridal gown into a $5,400 Monique Lhuillier designer gown with a keyhole back and cap sleeves?

Here is what the bride started with, flat lace and 1/2 inch wide lace edging:keyhole back 4keyhole back 5

and here is what she wanted:

keyhole back 1keyhole back 2

All the while she kept telling me that she wanted a modest gown.

I was told ALL I had to do was cut off the short train and make sure all the narrow flat lace edging was used to make it look like the designer dress with embroidered  lace scallops and drop the top of the zipper down 10 inches to her butt crack and add buttons. Supposedly, this alteration was done for her friend’s and sister’s and it only cost $200.

So can you tell she was setting the limits? It must be that simple, right?

You have the Pinterest photos, you have a dress and voila’ the seamstress can do it for your set price, right?

Well, I said that I could not fit it into my summer August schedule and suggested she seek help elsewhere. If she can find someone who will do all that and make her happy, then I wish her luck!

Meanwhile I have been working on a MOB dress. Here is how I shortened the hem 5 1/2 inches.

First, open a side seam in the lining and fish out the entire hem and lining edge, replace the line of pins with red thread and then chalk a straight line.


The hem drops off dramatically as the MOB wanted to keep the short train.


As you can see in the photo, the lining is cut the same length as the satin but shifted 1/2 inch away in the factory so it pulls the satin to the inside when hanging.purple-seams

Next on the outside there were vertical ruffles…don’t we love those, that had to be shortened 8 inches….the MOB suggested I just tack the ruffles up so, looking inside, I managed to use the French seams to do just that. After tacking up about 8 of these seams, the ruffles cleared the floor and she can dance. Sorry I did not get a finished photo but it is the inside that counts isn’t it?

Another dress, this time a bridesmaid one was bought way too big because, “the seamstress can make it fit” story.

Let’s take in some side seams on a dress that was partially cut onbias.P1180722P1180718


Simple alteration, take in side seams in satin and lining 6 inches all around, re-attach bodices to skirt sections. Hem the skirt 4 inches by hand.


To reduce bulk, pink the bodice side seams, serge the skirt side seams and press either open or flip flat depending on the original.

P1180729 This polyester fabric raveled like crazy no matter whether is was cut on-bias or straight of grain…weird.

This week besides sewing and sowing in the garden we harvested a lovely fennel bulb that was planted from seed back in Oct in the raised beds and grew over the winter under cover.P1190076P1190074 Sliced up and fried to accompany some Pacific wild salmon makes a tasty dinner!

Wishing all of you a great successful week of sewing…remember to measure you, measure the paper pattern and add ease!

This week, Mary Funt has a great blog where she is starting to create a wedding gown from scratch if you want to see the process:

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4 Photographing Friends

Some brides bring their mothers, some brides bring their bridesmaids, but I never have had them bring their neighborhood.

At the end of a long day of pinning and assuring new brides that their dress choice was good and the fitting would turn out perfect, all I had left was a bride to pick up her simple wedding dress that had been hemmed. As I watched from the front door, two cars parked out front and in walked the mother and the bride and then like a circus clown car…more bodies starting emerging. I turned to the mother to ask if she was expecting more to come in and she said, “yes, they are our neighbors and they were bored”.

After removing their shoes, they all gathered in my one intimate/cramped sewing room to witness the try-on. Pillows were tossed off the sofa unto the floor, two wheeled office chairs were pulled out for the best viewing, the stool under the serger area was dragged out and everyone got settled and made themselves at home. One dislodged the attached sewing table next to a sewing machine so she had a place to park all of her stuff.

I left the room (to take a deep breath) while the bride got into her dress and then returned to witness the show. Immediately, the phone cameras started flashing and the bride was directed into all the different poses she could manage. I stood way out of the way while the photo shoot continued and the mother wrote the check.

The bride changed back into her street clothes and left her dress with the mother and went back to her job while the 4 neighbors continued to ask questions of the mother like, “What made you choose HER?” (meaning me). Really? Who asks that in front of the seamstress? Thankfully, the mother replied that I came highly recommended.

Then another neighbor decided to remove all the plastic dust covers from my 3 sergers and ask about their age and function. Another told me she had a serger she could not thread and started asking questions about all the different models on the market that would air-thread. Another chimed in that she was a quilter and used to work in a dress factory and do pattern work.

It was like having 4 toddlers in the room and not being able to keep them from touching all my stuff. They critiqued my artwork on the walls and asked why I had chosen each one and where did I get them and then told me that they all had some artwork too that was similar…I just nodded and agreed with them hoping that they could get off the sofa and chairs and find the front door.

Just when I thought all was done and they would be leaving, they started showing me photos of weddings they had attended on their phones…I was expected to nod and smile and ooh and ahhh with each photo of anonymous brides. Then one brought up the notion of tattoos and how she hated them. I explained that I sure do see my share of huge wings on backs and snakes on legs and animals on biceps but this was the current style. One woman said her doctor told her that the ink would surely kill people 30 years from now…nice touch.

After 30 minutes had passed by, they all departed…leaving the room and this seamstress in shambles/totally frazzled. Being an extreme introvert, the words- “the more the merrier” just does not work for me. The purposeful playing of calm spa music and restful colors of the sewing room just had no effect on these neighbors. They were animated and agitated and not at all bothered that they had invaded my oasis of serenity uninvited.

This year I have issued a “no children” warning to my clients but maybe I will have to add, “No neighbors” too…ha ha

Wanting to end on a  high note….see if you can figure out what was delivered this week?


Lordie, it could be anything from Wawak!


Inside the packing box….


Lovely white cardboard box…


A mess of wires and tubes…


A seamstress’s delight!


It has a new home!

Happy sewing everyone!


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Swapping Scary Stories

Having a sewing blog enables you to connect with the nicest people who don’t have time to blog because they sew full-time for others. For the past year, I have been sharing stories with an East Coast Sewing Sister named Sharon who told me this story and I could only imagine what it was like in person:

It had been another day filled with marathon sewing, people coming in 5 minutes before I was finished with their order, receiving annoying phone calls, answering stupid questions, tending to numerous drop-ins for fitting, and dealing with people pleading to get their special shit done in record time. An hour before closing, a rather stout woman comes in (I’m estimating about 200 lbs.) approximately our age, 60’s, with a plastic grocery bag and announces she has a gown to wear to her daughter’s wedding (in a week of course), and she was supposed to lose 15 lbs. but first she broke her foot and gained weight and then she broke her rib and gained more weight.

Let’s stop here for a moment………
She must live one hell of a life to have 2 separate incidences where she breaks first a foot and then a rib !! ??
Then she announces that the dress is too small and she tried fixing it herself (Oh sweet Jesus, why oh why do they try to help us?)
Out of the plastic bag she pulls a battleship gray, cheap, flimsy, shiny, polyester, fresh from China, racer back “gown”.
The pix I am sending is the closest thing I could find on-line to show you what I was dealing with.

When you open the link, disregard the front and focus on the back of the dress please. And trust me, this old broad looks nothing at all like the model in the pix !!!!


The straps that meet in the back were wider and self pleating, then sewn into a rhinestone encrusted ring.
However, because it was too tight, she felt the need to cut the straps that start at the side seams (boobs) at the point that they were sewn into the ring. But wait, she didn’t stop there. She had also cut off (scissor happy woman) the white twill tape loops whose original purpose were to help keep the gown stay onto the hanger, which she did not have because this whole mess had been jammed into that plastic grocery bag. She had tied one end to the now dangling strap that originated from the side of the boobs with the white twill tape and the other end of the white twill tape was tied to the ring, holding the entire mess in a somewhat original racer back fashion.

……“Can’t you just put something where the white string is?”……..
I swear to you, my first thought was, how the hell am I going to get away with taking a photo of this to send to Mrs Mole?
Deer in the headlights moment ……………..

Ahh……..give me a minute …… maybe you should try it on and then perhaps I can see what I can do ……..
Did you bring proper undergarments with you?
As soon as that came out of my mouth I knew that there were no undergarments on the planet that could possibly save this catastrophe, forgive me, but I was in shock.
Her response was “No, what I have on is fine”, and into the dressing room she went.
At this point I was already rubbing my temples.

When she came back out sporting this little honey of a dress and turned around, it was even worse than I had imagined.
She had on a ragged, nasty old flesh tone bra and the straps of the dress that started at the sides and now tied to the ring, were gaping at the side seam/zipper area, and in the back, the top of the waist was all twisted weird and when she put on the dress, she hadn’t pulled the lining down over her fat ass so it was now poking from the top of the waist and out the sides. And of course there was fat back bulging and attempting to escape at every open area.

At the front of the gown, the fabric covering the cups is also self pleating. In my world the cup should caress the entire breast, but the bottom of these cups were hitting her right about nipple height and the tits were literally spilling out over the top. She would stuff in the right one and then the left one would pop out. As soon as she had that one under control, the right one would flop out again. Thank God for that ratty old bra !!
Miss, I have no idea what I would use in place of your white string.

“Can’t you just cut some off the bottom of the dress and use that? I don’t mind if it’s a little shorter”
Miss, only if you want the dress up above your knees and even then, I don’t think I have the powers to save this.

“Oh darn, and I really loved this dress !” “Where am I going to find another dress that I like this much, that will fit, in time for the wedding?”
At that moment I was thinking ….. how much tequila is in that bottle at home?

Meanwhile, a long time gentleman customer had come in and was in the other fitting room trying on pants for me to pin. I was desperately trying to hold it together, so not to make an ass of myself in front of him. But, like most men, he was totally oblivious!

Then from behind curtain number 1, I hear her voice asking me if I know where to get a machine that does nothing except sew. Her question: “Is there a machine that doesn’t do anything but sew?”
……long silence on my part…….
All that poured out of my mouth was,”I don’t know how to answer that!! I don’t know how to answer that!!”

Then she came back with ( I assume to further explain herself ) : “One that you don’t have to worry about the thing down on the bottom or all the stuff on top, one you just push a button for the color and go?”
That’s when I lost control and think I peed a little.

I gotta get me one of them contraptions !!!!

I’ve consumed 2 extra large margaritas and I think it would be best to go lie down now !

So dear readers, you have another insight into the wonderful world of running an alteration business…East coast, West coast…makes no difference.

Sharon will read any comments you want to share after you stop shaking your head.

Next time more ridiculous bride stories will be coming, happy sewing everyone!

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Wedding Planning

It goes like this:

6 months before the wedding: get engaged, get engagement ring, tell all your friends, pick a date, pick a location, celebrate!!!

5 months before the wedding: Plan an extravagant wedding in Las Vegas, invite all your friends and family, buy bridesmaid gowns, select invitations, select wedding rings, celebrate!!!

3 months before the wedding: Send out save-the-date cards, book the flights, book the rooms, book the chapel, book the photographer, order the tuxedos for groom and groomsmen, celebrate!!!

2 months before the wedding: Book the hotel caterer, order the flowers, book the limousine, realize you have gone over your budget.

1 month before the wedding: Get blood tests, get marriage license, book a tanning session, book a nail session, book a hair-do preview,book a make-up artist, plan a bridal shower, plan a stag night, book a minister, apply for another credit card to cover all the “extras” and the honeymoon.

5  days before the wedding: Panic and drive to David’s Bridal and buy a gown off the rack only to be told that they cannot do the alterations as they are booked solid with brides and bridesmaids and prom gowns. Panic and beg your soon-to-be-mother-in-law for a solution. Mother-in-law digs through her purse and finds a business card that was given to her last year when her own daughter got married and had alterations done way in advance.

Call Mrs Mole.

Bride says, “This isn’t going to cost too much is it?”

Why would shortening 2 layers of tulle, 2 layers of satin and a 4 point bustle cost much on such short notice? What a silly question.

She drops the bomb that she needs the dress in less than 4 days and it just does not matter that there are 12 gowns ahead of her, it is almost like I owe her this favor because David’s is booked solid. I agree to the work because her mother-in-law is nice.janay 3

Here is the 3 point bustle for the dotted Swiss tulle:



The one point bustle for the satin which will be covered by the tulle layer. (sorry about the wrinkles, I steam when everything is finished)


She gets everything hemmed and a 4 part bustle. The heavy satin layers are attached with the loop and have their own clear button while the lace and tulle layers are bustled up solo with 3 satin covered metal back buttons.

So with the bride done and dusted, I turned my hands to this little honey:communion-dress-1

It is a custom ordered 1st communion dress that just needed to be hemmed. And I did finish another sheer, flowy silk jacket for Nancy. The fabric was quite nice and had some horizontal and vertical brush strokes that made it look like I cut the fronts differently, but I didn’t.


Nancy recently discovered that she was a Type 2 Summer coloring so we are concentrating on making clothes in her color palette. We have swapped some fabrics and clothes because funny enough we love each others’ colors  but those colors don’t always love us.

Before I leave you to get on with your sewing, here is a great link to an article on recycling…turning crab shells into undies.

Thanks for stopping by!!!!

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Bride includes the Groom

For the first time ever, I had a bride include the groom in her preparations!

It seems he likes to dress up and wear pocket squares for an accent of color so she asked me if I would make some squares for him for the wedding to go with the bridesmaids’ colors:P1180713 I’m not sure which one(s) he will chose but I have seen recently that men are wearing more than one color folded into each other. OK, enough about the groom, let’s see what his darling bride needed.

The dress was Wtoo Jemma 18418 which fit pretty well except it had to have the bodice taken in 2.5 inches all the way down the zipper. Once again some 18 buttons had to be removed and the zipper released.P1180626Pins and red thread basting lines mark the new fold lines for zipper placement:


There were a few surprises like a grosgrain ribbon zipper guard attached to the under-lap side of the zipper and some short boning that would have to be removed when the zipper was re-attached.


You can see in the last photo the line of red thread basting that will be the eventual under-lap edge and there is the same thread on the overlap side. Let’s see what happens next…

Here is the under-lap side. The zipper will be stitched along the teeth on the inside (wrong side) , then zipper flipped to the back side and then stitched again on the right side nearest the teeth.P1180636

Here is the set up for the lapped side. Last post someone asked how I sew zippers from the wrong side. Using the line in the woven zipper tape as a guide, I pin the teeth 1/4 inch away from the final folded edge (see the red thread basting?) and then starting at the bottom, stitch all the way up following the pins and pulling them out as I go. See the sequins…well they will be on the underside next to the feed dogs and I don’t have to worry about them. I lengthen my stitch to almost 3 and go slowly. The the lining will be folded under and hand sewn to the zipper edge. I always ask my brides if they want me to cut off any excess fabric as it is nice to leave it in there for the next seamstress.


Once the zipper is in, I have to take in the center back seam from the tail of the zipper to below the bride’s butt so let’s pin out the lace first:

P1180634P1180635 and then the satin underskirt.

Here she is with her veil and the buttons re-attached and the silk satin belt and a eventual 5 point bustle almost done.

P1180697 2P1180780

And this time of year the veggie patch is taking shape:Veggies-150422


Broccoli and lettuce in boxes, loads of seedlings in starter containers on the left bed and the mature fennel and spinach planted last Oct in the right bed.


On the other side of the patch are 4 varieties of beans (new cane wigwam ), new asparagus and raspberry beds. We have 3 new baby semi-dwarf fruit trees coming along too so it should be a great summer once all the squash get planted and the strawberry patch is netted.

But for now, I’d better get back to the brides…happy sewing everyone!

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The most requested alteration other than a hem or a sweetheart neckline is to the bust. Brides want to look voluptuous even if they are not.

So when I explain that the very un-natural rounded shape of the boned bust of their dress needs some padding (push up bust cups), they jump at the chance to have cleavage for the photos. But here are 2 brides that had different issues.

First up we have a corset back dress that needed the modesty panel cut in half:

P1180691 Not wanting/needing to display all the way down past her butt cleavage, the panel was trimmed down:

P1180711P1180712 so the result is:P1180755 OK back is sorted out…let’s move on to the bust. Now no matter what padding we put in the bust area, it just is not enough to look natural without making the dress pull away from her chest. So we go for the second option, the dreaded bust dart in lace. You have all seen me do this before in this post but this time we have the added bonus of top edge piping…oh goodie!

First pin out the excess fabric someplace where it will not be obvious and thread trace in red thread a nice dart on the outside:P1180757 Open the layers to get more access inside:


Turn the dress lining inside out and mark the lining too.

P1180758P1180759 Place the pins down the center of the dart for easy manipulation/folding and grabbing.P1180760 Pin it flat:P1180761 Hand baste it with white thread. Inside the bodice you can see an unusual sight of horsehair braid sewn right under the bust line for stability and thick twill tape covering the top of the boning along with the original bust pad. The piping on the right hand side is loose at this time.  

P1180763 Here is the bust dart in the lace hand basted and ready to try on along with the lining hand basted too. The piping is cut so it will disappear gradually at the junction.P1180799 Another view from the very inside lining.P1180800

Lining darts and bodice darts  will be pressed flat and the piping will be trimmed off.


Baste bodice to lining with piping tuck inside the seam for try-on.


Permanent machine stitching done and the finished top edge…ahhh. Now the rounded boning has been padded (see new tan bust cup in side) and the fullness of the bust area has been brought in closer to her chest with no gaps.

OK, tall skinny girl sorted out but what about a pear shaped bride who had to order a size 24 dress to fit her hips?

When wedding gown manufacturers and designers think plus-size, they think that they have to enlarge all the areas the same. Here is the inside of that dress with a new large bust pad:P1180791

The bust area has been widened and deepened way beyond what is normal or necessary and there is horizontal boning as well joining all the other verticals. This puppy is made to withstand anything! But the bride is narrow on top and of average boob-age so even with padding, the center back zipper area has to be taken in 2 inches each side for a total of 4 inches:P1180790

Then 17 buttons have to be re-sewn exactly 5/8 inch apart as there are loops on the opposite side that have to match up.


The finished back…have you ever seen this before? There is a very long detached train that snaps to the curved edge of organza for the ceremony…how clever!


 The front is now fitting well and hemmed all layers of satin and organza over-skirts.


So that is the little encounter of small busts this week and there are some real disasters coming up that need fixing and time’s a wastin’!

Happy sewing everyone and thank you for your continued viewing of the ASG video!


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Salmon Run

No, I’m not talking about the seasonable spawning of fish in our local rivers…this week the salmon relates to bridesmaid dresses…some good some bad.

While most dresses come with boning and all sorts of structure to make them look good for that special event…one showed up this week that had nothing going for it…literally nothing. It is a floor length tube top with elastic at the top, short lapped zipper and a knit lining covered with chiffon and no label. It seems the bride bought a load of these in little junior sizes and expected real women to wear them. How about this for fitting?P1180764 In order to match the rest of the girls, this bridesmaid did not want a corset back installed so I had to cut fabric off the hem to make panels…you have seen this before:


Pin up chiffon and knit to find 4 inches to play with/harvest.


Remove old short 10 inch zipper and install 20 inch invisible one.P1180768


Open both side seams for the new panels.


Make new panels 4 inches wide and 16 inches long with both layers. Serge the edges.


Zipper installed and first try-on…the back actually closes up! The girl may wear a strapless bra to help control the rolls in the back.

The waist sits on her actual waist but what about those side panels?



Side panels hand basted and pinned at the point…this may work!


Now all that is left is the hemming.

Four other Alfred Angelo bridesmaids dresses came in last weekend along with 6 ladies who filled up my sewing room. 


Five sitting down and one on the platform getting pinned up and in. The dresses needed to be take in on the sides as well as hemmed.

The one thing the mother of the bride wanted was for me to close up all the organza panels by hand. I said I would not re-design the dress and said I could close up the very bottom of the back panels 2 inches to cover a few of the bra bands. To hand sew all those chiffon edges together would have removed the whole reason the bride selected them.

She also asked me why the first layer of skirt lining closest to the legs had the seams facing away from the body. I said many gowns are made this way maybe to keep from snagging the seams on shoes with beads and straps. Doesn’t it make sense to have a smoother side inside against the body and shoes, no? Then she said she wanted me to change all of them to be the other way on all the dresses…I declined. There is a second layer of lining facing that way under the chiffon so nothing shows on the right side anyway.

Mr. Mole is always offering little tidbits to enrich my sewing life and recently he shared this link for all my readers who also crochet:man shorts

If you need a chuckle please visit this YouTube video and help these women trying to earn money to buy supplies for community charity sewing:

Thank you, Everyone and happy sewing!



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