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?

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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.

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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!

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9 Days to Work a Miracle

Lovely dress, no?

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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.

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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!



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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!

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Two Many Choices

Six months ago a bride came to me with 2 dresses and expected me to tell her which one to choose for her cowboy wedding complete with old broken-in, dirty farm boots.

The story went like this, “my sisters made me buy the David’s Bridal floral first dress“.


and then “I went online to order a custom made dress from China for $60.”P1210160-2  While the corset back is what she really wanted, you can see this second dress, when it is laced up, the 2 sides came together right at the waist so there was very little lacing showing below that and the side seams would have had to be taken in at least 4 inches to fit her hips…6-8 inches if she wanted the lacing to be open enough to look right. Also you can see the front hem of the lace layer was way too long and would have required the usual expensive cutting off the border and re-attaching it 6 inches higher. But she wanted quotes for both dresses so she could decide.

The main ingredient was the belt…it had to work for both dresses even though one was more country and the other was more blinged-out Las Vegas.

This week she made another 90-minute appointment to stand in front of the mirror and remain indecisive. The first floral dress only needed some side seams taken in and hemming and a bustle but the second dress was going to need about double the time in labor and she went with the floral embellished one.

I did all the required alterations and basted them for her 3rd 90-minute visit and she was pleased…enough. But then she sent an email telling me that she hated her dress because it did not give her enough curves. She wanted the dress to not have even a half inch of ease so that when she stood up you could not pinch any fabric…in other words…fit like a second skin. I tried to reason with her that she would actually have to sit down and be able to walk up steps and get into a car and at the end of the day…be able to pee without taking the dress off…but nothing I said could change her mind. The side seams were taken in again another 2 inches total this time.

Here you have the tightened dress on the mannequin…30 inch bust, 21 inch waist:


Under that top back ruffle is a 3 point bustle:P1210199

I sent her the photos and made the next (4th) appointment for this Friday and she seems pleased until later that day I got this email:

“While the bustle looks neat and clean, can I come by and try my dress on Monday evening or Tuesday evening? I’m afraid it still doesnt fit how I’m hoping, I’m worried and stressed another week down and waiting until Friday is going to make it harder to get something else figured out.”

So she moved the appointment to the beginning of the week instead, insisted on always arriving at 5 pm for her 5th 90-minute visit in front of the mirror and you can hear in her email that she may decide that she needs another dress for her wedding a month from now.

After the try-on she thinks this might just work. At this point after 5 appointments, I am wondering whether I actually made any money on this project. It will be nice to see this dress go out the front door.


The hot weather is ripening all the Fall raspberries early and the squashes are still growing along with red bell peppers:


And what is coming up? How about 13 brides in the next 2 months and here is just the first batch…all tulle…delightful!too-much-tulle

Wishing you all simple end-of-the-summer sewing projects, thanks for dropping by!

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Soup, Salmon (the color) and Scuba (the knit)

This week we take a little break and post about non-bridal projects!

If you are like me, your squash plants have been producing like crazy with the high temps and while having lots of produce is certainly a blessing, it can also be a curse. Having given away squash to neighbors and clients and service people, the final alternative is to make it into soup for the winter.

Mr Mole bought this little appliance a while back and it has come in handy. Now, before you all go out and buy this gadget, I have to say while it does a good job turning raw veggies into hot soup in 30 minutes, our particular model will only do this trick once a day as the motor and heating element need a whole day to cool down. If you re-fill it and press all the buttons…all you get is an ERROR message. Maybe this is a good thing as I would try to get into production mode otherwise. Here is one recipe that works well. Take 3 medium squash, 1/4 to 1/2 an onion, cut into 1/2 inch diced pieces and toss into the container:


Add fresh or dried herbs (I have tarragon growing) and chicken stock (I boil the carcass from Costco rotisserie chicken) along with a tablespoon of butter or oil and 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste. Just to be crazy you can add some garlic powder and/or a small chili pepper.


There is a veggie fill line and a stock/water line. Start the program and watch it whizz around and boil. 30 minutes later, the bell rings and 1.2 quart of soup is ready.

There are many products on the market in various sizes and prices here in the US and Europe and blogs with many cool recipes. Now you have one quart of soup to enjoy or freeze in plastic containers.



A long time client dropped off this “bargain” dress for the next wedding she has to attend. It is salmon poly chiffon layered ruffles and she thought for sure this could be repaired…what do you think? Yes, that is a huge hole right next to the zipper and one smaller above it.


First the zipper is released along the one side.


The ruffle is pulled past the area of damage (see excess under my thumb) and basted into place (see white thread).


The zipper is pinned back into place and the lining will be hand sewn.

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Excess ruffle is pinked/trimmed away. Finally the repair is done and no one will know what we started with.

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Scuba knit is really quite something….no fraying and interesting cut-out designs. I was asked to narrow the shoulders of a designer jacket.

  Marie Gray and her husband started St. John Knits in 1962.  This brand is from Marie Gray and her daughter.


After thread tracing the new seam line for the sleeve, I removed the serging from front notch to back notch…OK, there were no notches but you get the idea.


Then the sleeves were re-positioned and hand and machine basted into place. You can see the excess that will be serged off.



What you realize after the basting is done is that there are places where the only thing holding the 2 parts together is a thin row of thread and AIR!

The serging stitches have to be close together enough to form a real tight binding. The final stitching was a 3 step zig-zag. You never know how tough the client will be on seams so it is always wise to use extra secure stitching even when the original garment did not have any. On this occasion, I didn’t want to think that the only thing holding these sleeves on was one row of serging!!!


Wishing all my readers who are experiencing the dog days of summer, some cool shade or chilling A/C and the sound of ice cubes in a tall glass of your favorite drink. Thanks for stopping by!!!

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Outlet Find

By now, you all know my feelings about J.Crew clothing. While they are always in need of alterations thus making good money for us seamstresses, they are also a nightmare for the client as they NEVER fit.

Here is the latest example of what looks so great on the website for $3000 and is sold out, this dress in reality bears little resemblance to the fit on the model. On the outside it is all asymmetrical layers of silk organza folded back on itself trying to look light and breezy. But this dress weighs a ton and is weighted down with extra layers and bindings and double zippers that rarely allow a seamstress to alter in the right sequence without removing so many sections just to get to the real problem.

42942_NA6434_m   42942_NA6434_b

Inside there is a boned knit corset with the smallest bust cups I have ever seen! Also makes me wonder why adding boning to knit makes any sense at all as it is stretching larger than the woven fabric of the dress and linings? The fabric is silk throughout, mostly organza and relies on copious amounts of 2 inch wide horsehair braid in the hems to give this dress some shape. The skirt has HH (horsehair), each of the 2 layers of petticoat layers has HH over a plain flat lining and then another lining under that. Are you guessing that every single hem has to be shortened? Yes, you are correct. The circumference of all the skirts is 5 yards/meters, yes, 15 feet to hem for every layer.

Pulling this dress out of a clear plastic bag, no hanger, no garment bag, I notice that the entire lower half of the dress is covered in black dog hairs. I ask the bride if this dress used and been worn before and she says, “Oh no, I bought it online at an outlet mall and those are MY dog’s sheddings”… how nice.

She starts by telling me that the top of bust cups hit her right on her nipples as they are designed for a Barbie doll and not a human being…no surprises there…thanks J.Crew.


Her mother who does not know anything about sewing wants every single hemmed edge to be professionally sewn as to have no raw edges or anything to catch on twigs during the ceremony. So, I am thinking that this will be some grand wedding in a garden setting with formal attire and trays of champagne flutes and harp music… more about that later.

The bride also mentions that her groom has a closet full of J. Crew clothes and they fit him well so why does this dress fit so badly? My answer is always the same…women have boobs and these clothes don’t address that.

Let’s get started:P1200739 You know you are in trouble when the label has been swiped with a black marker…why? Because it means it has been tried on by many girls and no one wanted to buy it off the rack. To start with the bride is probably a size 0 with a 30 inch bust. So translated, that means that the circumference in the bodice is 4 inches too large for her. The back princess seams will each be taken in 2 inches and the knit corset as well and linings. The waist stay ribbon will also be shortened by 4 inches all around. P1200740

The knit corset has an edge binding top and bottom that has to be removed to start. There is also a corset zipper that has to left in place. Boning will have to be removed just to take in the 2 inches each side. The top edge of the corset will also be removed from the lining.

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After the tuck is made, the binding is re-attached by hand to the top and bottom edges before being hand sewn back to the lining.



Thread tracing shows the back princess seams with the new seam lines.



Even thought the inside bust cups are tiny, the outside bodice needs to be taken in to eliminate one inch of excess each side.


So with bodice sections all taken in 4 inches…of course we have to take in the skirts as well and the linings. The waistline seams are opened up first to manipulate the others. The top skirt involves 5 layers of ruffles which will be again folded back in themselves and most definitely adding to the immense bulk/rooster tail in back. The under skirt will be taken in as well as the lining.P1200746P1200747P1200749

With the new 2 inch tuck in the skirt layers, you can see the waistline seam pinned with everything together…lots of bulk!


With that mess basted, we move unto the hems. All hems had 2 inch wide HH Horsehair braid. The skirt hem was shortened 5 inches and the double ruffled petticoats had their HH turned under twice for a total of 4.5 inches shorter and now nice and thick and stiff.P1210162

With top and bottom basting done, the zipper has to be re-attached for the try-on. Let’s not forget the grosgrain ribbon guard as well.


Then attach the corset to the lining.P1210177

But don’t forget the French tacks that hold the lower edge of the corset to the lining and skirt.P1210178

The second try-on shows that some of the ruffles hang below the new HH hem length and have to be altered. Wouldn’t you know it…to shorten them you have to remove the 1/2 inch wide strip of bias binding.P1210055

Trim off the excess fabric and re-attach the strips by machine…shortening it also as needed…can you spell tedious?


Lordie…are we done yet? Of course not…every bride need a bustle and this dress gets two points, one on either side of the zipper to pull up the remaining train ruffles.P1210216

The final try-onP1210212-2P1210213-2 and the steamed dress is finished and ready for transport to the wedding venue.


Can you get an inkling of where the venue will be? Does the thick leather belt give you a hint? Under the dress the bride will be wearing knee-high leather hiking boots…come on…guess…a barn? a backyard, a winery, some gorgeous outdoor scene with those white gloved waiters with trays? NOPE!

Give up?

This steamed silk dress after all the extensive alterations will be stuffed into a rucksack and backpacked into the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range to the most inaccessible spot on the West Coast where the happy couple will be saying their vows on a remote cliff in the forest. To complete this scene, the bride will be wearing knee high hiking boots that are required for this monumental backpacking excursion as the terrain includes snakes and bears and cougars along with enough twigs and pine needles to start a bonfire to signal any search  and rescue teams.

I’ve asked the bride for photos of the wedding…if she remembers, that should be quite something!

This weekend our temps will be heading to 107 F or 41 C so I won’t be spending too much time in the garden picking veggies but here are a couple photos of recent gatherings:Aug-12P1210179

Have a super sewing week!!!

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