Shiny Objects

What might be coming up for the 2018 season? Here is a sneak peek at one challenge:

Yes, this is from the late 1980’s and yes, that is staining all down the front of the dress. It came in a huge preservation box from a local dry cleaners but obviously, it was never actually cleaned before being boxed. You can see that probably champagne was spilled from the neckline to the hem and after time, the grape stain becomes dominant and dark. What to do?

As Colleen mentioned/asked in this post: about covering a dress with another fabric…that is what has to be done with this one on the satin skirt for sure. In fact the bride wants every bit of satin covered with lace fabric, 6 foot train and all…it may take 5 yards and lots of labor measuring and making an overlay pattern.

Note the unflattering pleats beneath the plastron…plastron…what is that? It is the underside of a turtle, a large pad worn by a fencer to protect the chest, a man’s starched shirtfront without pleats but also an ornamental front of a woman’s bodice or shirt consisting of colorful material with lace or embroidery, fashionable in the late 19th century.












THEN…wait for this…she wants me to remove every clear sequin and pearl EVERYWHERE.

The lower edge pins are holding scalloped lace edges under to see the pleats beneath.

So this nasty discolored piece of work will find its way back to the sewing room eventually.

Thankfully I have been away from the sewing room for a little break to re-charge before starting the new season. I took my father’s ashes down south so he could he could have his last wish fulfilled…to be buried with all of his Basque family in So California. Being a veteran from WWII, he was given a funeral with full military honors, the gun salute, bugler playing Taps and the flag folded into the famous triangle which was presented to me.

The last member of his family to be buried was in 1966 so they all have been waiting a long time to be reunited. Besides the flag, I was also given the 15 brass casings from the bullets and a leaflet telling about each fold of the flag and what it represents. Toss in prayers and a sprinkling of holy water from the local priest and a glorious day of sunshine, all in all, a sad day for the 30 mourners arms laden with huge bouquets of flowers but a perfect day of rest for my 94 yr. old dad.

Escaping the winter and arriving snow storm back home while I stay in the rented desert home, I almost feel guilty…almost, but Mr Mole and I will be making the best of it at the local iHop pancake restaurant.

Happy sewing everyone!

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Who Remembers 1978?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but that year brought me my 3rd child in 3 years with the 4th and final one arriving by 1980. Daily life was a blur of diapers before disposables and making baby food in a blender for all of them. Breastfeeding and wearing nursing bras seemed to be the only attire in my closet. There was little time for fun sewing except to make more plastic lined diaper covers and baby dresses and hope that the teething stage would pass quickly in time for their progression into nursery school.

So, imagine my surprise this week when I received a whole collection of unfinished baby quilts donated to our local American Sewing Guild. Flashback to 1978 and Holly Hobby quilted fabrics/flannel and nylon blanket binding with the original sales receipts from Sears in a huge bag. When I say “unfinished” there were 4 cut pieces 45 by 55 inches of quilted assorted colorways along with 4 cut flannel pieces that all needed to be attached and some sort of binding attached along the edges.

Since I had no idea of the best way to attach already quilted fabric to thin flannel, I decided to just use my bartack stitch on my machine and space them out as evenly as I could to join the 2 together. Then, I made the binding using fabric I had in my stash and not use the nylon binding in the package.

In addition to that darling selection, there was also a thick home dec quilted piece along with it’s own piece of flannel also unattached and needing a binding.

Thought you would like to see the label and the price back then. I can remember as a small girl in the 1950’s that you could send not $1.00 along with 3 labels for a free selection of ribbons but just 10 cents. Imagine! What you got was a nice little collection of laces, rick rack and ribbons to use for doll clothes. These days this same package costs $5.

This time I attached the 2 layers with a straight stitch following the zigzag quilted lines on the top layer and using the nylon binding as a regular binding. I attached it to the back and flipped it to the front and stitched it along the folded edge. The stitching on the flannel back looked like a frame and the corners were done separately to hold them securely.


Yes, I know the corners did not match up exactly but in the world of community sewing for charities, maybe it won’t be such a big deal to a homeless family just needing to keep the kids warm. You can see the rough texture of the home dec fabric but it was double the thickness of the Holly Hobby ones.

Finally, this navy and white beauty was left in a garbage bag for years in a storage unit after being totally pieced by hand. One of our generous ASG members offered to quilt it on her large quilting frame after another member, Sandi, added the blue borders and all those quilting swirls helped to hold all the pieces together and attach the backing. Now all it needs is the edge  binding and it can be given to a needy family too.

For those of you who are wondering…well, Mrs Mole…how about some wedding photos?

OK, have you seen this beauty on the internet from Pronovias Bridal? At least there is no train to bustle up!!!!

It will be shocking for the guests at the wedding, never mind the groom and officiant/priest…Mamma Mia! At least the flowers are strategically arranged to cover her lady parts!

Happy January sewing everyone!

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Sample Dress Labor

This dress is Mon Cheri Enchanting.

It was bought at a new local salon with no tags whatsoever inside which is bizarre! There were no labels as to fabric content or size or country of origin…all removed for some reason.

With little time to spare with a wedding booked just a month away, the bride bought this dress off the rack and the salesgirl told her that a seamstress would have no trouble making it fit…how nice!

So, we know it has fitting issues. When asked what she planned on doing with the train…she replied, “Oh, I don’t know”. The wedding will be in Las Vegas so dragging that train around all night was not an option so bustling up the satin/lining layer at one point gets it off the floor.


At least the satin layer can be bustled with just one point…whew!

All that lovely lace can be managed with a 5 point bustle and you can see that I need to take in her side seams from armhole to knees 2.5 inches on each side for a total of 5 inches. We avoid messing with all those buttons up the sheer back with loops and lower skirt zipper.

It will mean taking in the embroidered tulle layer and the satin layer and the lining layer all separately. Six seams to baste before the next try-on. Did I mention that the lace hem also need to be shortened by 7 inches too?

The lace is gorgeous and you can see the actual pattern it forms with the huge godet/wedge at center back.

Let’s start with the underarm junction where all the pieces come together with added boning…take a deep breath and release all the stitches…go get a Diet Pepsi.

Partway through you can see all the triangular seaming and layers…what next?

Time to remove the boning to baste the seams tighter:














                                                               Boning released:

Hemming the satin involves opening the side seam in the lining and removing the understitching:

Removing understitching and basting the red thread basting line for the new hem of satin and lining together. Thankfully not all hems are done this way.

                White thread basting of lace layer along the red thread marking:

This top edge of the bodice gets the twill tape trick to snug it up. Here are the steps:

                           Pin the length from side seam to center front:

Move the center pin over one inch and ease everything into the tape, re-pin.

At this point I realized that one problem was the lining was too wide so it needed a minor vertical tuck to flatten out properly and reduce bulk. Can you do that? Yes, as it will not show on the outside.

                  Whip stitch the top edge of the twill tape down:

              Then attach the lower edge, snugging up as you go along:


                           Do the left side the same way as the right:

                                        Center front is flat and smooth:



Checking the basted side seam under the lace shows that this poor dress has been tried on by many people and become fuzzy:

The satin hem is fuzzy too:

Side seams basted by hand in red and basted tighter again with green threads.

Tulle/lace layer taken in and to be trimmed:











The inside of all the side seams and lining all coming together at that same triangular point:

Outside side seams before tacking the lace motifs down:














Once the side seams are done, we have to put that boning back on but it won’t be attached as the original. I covered the boning with seam binding and hand sewed it higher up for support.














On the outside of the left side everything is flat and nice and snug.














The right side looks good and no one will know all what went on to make it fit right.














The front with the shoulders also taken up 2 inches each side. The new lace hem and satin/lining hem finished too. So glad I am not the one to do up all those buttons!

The back with the 5 point bustle for running around casinos. And that is what had to be done to make this sample dress fit properly…how many labor hours? At least 8 hours, so this dress was no bargain in the end.


Before I leave you, here is a photo of hungry winter birds in our yard gathering at the suet feeder. No snow has arrived in the valley yet this winter but these little critters are stocking up their fat reserves.

Happy Sewing Everyone! For those on the East Coast of the US…bundle up or stay inside! Who needs to be out in such freezing weather!



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A Surprise and a Stunner

Reading comments from other seamstresses and hobby sewers about their encounters with clients and family members can really brighten my day. My sewing sister, Sharon on the East coast shared this flashback recently:

Had a customer back during the ‘Dry Cleaning Center’ days that had a pair of ugly butterscotch pants that were too small, even after letting out the back as much as possible, and insisted that I add a wedge of fabric up the butt to make them fit. I had no scrap of fabric near that color and he refused to go shopping at the fabric stores (at that time we had more than just JoAnn’s). My boss persuaded me to do as the customer wanted and use the closest colored remnant I had in my bin, but to be sure the customer initialed the ticket, indicating he was aware the fabric would not match. The customer swore to me he would always wear a sweater or jacket with the winter weight pants and no one would ever notice, much less know I was the one that altered the pants. 

Fast forward 15 years …. I had opened my own shop and stopped at the grocery store one morning to pick up a few essentials. There, right before my eyes, was that little old  man toddling through vegetable produce section, wearing those damned butterscotch pants with the khaki wedge up his ass !!! Good grief !!!

This summer. Sara, a bride-to-be in the UK asked me for help with how to keep layers of tulle together at the hem. I told her that many dresses have French thread tacks between each layer to keep them from “wandering off”. Her stunning photos and explanation of her process below:

The skirt is a full circle skirt with extension at the back to create a train. I cut it in a lining layer, white base layer and then five layers of tulle, white except for a single blue layer 2nd from the top. This blue layer sandwiched in the middle gave a soft glow of colour to the skirt and the change in volume of fabric from waist to hem, characteristic of a circle skirt, concentrated the colour slightly at the lower hem for a very, very subtle graduation. The lace motifs around the waist and hip were clipped from embroidered tulle and hand stitched in place to emphasise the narrowest part of the skirt. This lace started life a creamy champagne colour and was hand dyed to match the pale silver blue of the silk ribbon used for the waistband. A single bustle point was used to bring the train up to a reinforced fixation point at the base of the concealed zip. The layers of the skirt tended to slip over each other and so were held softly together with French tacks.

The major benefit to constructing this as a circle skirt was simplicity! But I had already fallen in love with the soft, whimsical look that this shape of skirt gives, and I found narrower dresses that I had tried made me walk in a strange way… so the final shape served me well too! All those layers do create a lot of weight, so the waistband was quite a serious construction of several layers, topped for effect with a soft silk ribbon. 

What a wonderful skirt and certainly a family heirloom to pass down when the time comes. The blue undertones really make it a custom garment! Many thanks to her for sharing the finished skirt!

This final week of 2017 brings me to pause and be thankful for all the hopeful brides who entered my sewing room and left happy to start their new lives on a new path. When Mr Mole tells me that I have to think back over all the years I have worked on wedding gowns and how I have made a real difference in the bride’s special day…I can feel proud that they chose me. Being a seamstress doesn’t always impress people or make young people want to go into such a profession but your impact is huge without knowing it. Sewing for someone else or even in those stolen moments sewing for yourself shouts out, “I care!”

Thank you for following me along on this journey…we all learn together. Happy New Year!

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Vogue 1561 – the slashing

Continuing with the muslin stage of this jacket…before Nancy arrived, I tried it on myself.

Could it be more maternity ala 1950’s? That front bust curve hits at the wrong place for sure! The back curves swing away from the body too. What does that tell us? ADD LENGTH! The shoulder seams are already at their max so slashing is the answer to give more length.

Readers send me jackets photos similar to this and ask my why this looks like this and blame themselves for having a weird body. It’s not you honey…someone flat patterned this and forgot that real women have boobs and butts and hips…curves that are not taken into account on a flat piece of paper with no darts or seams. Hey, toss this muslin on a man it might just hang straight…where is Mr. Mole when I need him?

Once Nancy tries on the jacket you can see what she needed to get that front to lie flat. Of course we usually do this on all her patterns, so it is expected. Now normally, as I have mentioned, Nancy is a size 16 up top so why should we HAVE to add so much? Flat patterning. Once the patch is pinned on, you can see the front curve is sitting lower and nicer. The center fronts are supposed to just meet in the middle but they need help too…this is a size 22…really?

Have you all been paying attention to the unending collection of jackets and short coats other sewers have been posting? Do you see what I see…and what they see and moan about later…the center front hems flare away from the body and make long drag lines from the hem to the bust? Have you seen plaids tweaked beyond belief? Man, those plaids really show up fabrics that need more ease, length and slashing BEFORE cutting out. Wish I could include photos but you know that they are out there this season.

We do the back slash and the back drops another 2 inches to allow the top to drop down and into her waist. Normally I do a short-waisted/sway back  alteration but on this pattern, who knows WHERE the waist is supposed to be??









Once the front and back are slashed it also allows the underarm side seam to drop and  relax so the excess can be pinned out along with the huge flare of the skirt to show off the chevron feature. Can you see the red straight of grain lines diagonally? A final slight slash at the neck will allow the neckline to lie flatter too.

Before the lining fabrics are to be cut, I stacked them onto the fabric pieces to compare shapes and dimensions after Demented Fairy mentioned that her lining was small.

While the waists in fabric and lining are equal with 10 and 11 inches…not so with the skirt sections.

Check out the back waist of the lining…11 inches like the bodice but the skirt has its own excess flare. The hem measurements are 10 inches wider in the fabric than the lining so allowing the outside jacket to flare too away from the body and the length of the lining is 1.75 inches shorter than the fabric.

How about the front? Lining measures 10 inches at the waist but the fabric pattern is way wider. The front skirt lining is 12 inches narrower than the fabric and even shorter in length.

What’s a girl to do?

Maybe take a break, go out into the garden and rummage around in the raised bed under the plastic cover to find….SPINACH! and chard in December.

With a week to go and 2 more brides to finish…I sure hope those reindeer can find my house and leave some good gifts this year!

Wishing you all find the time for those last-minute gifts and projects while sipping eggnog liberally mixed with rum or whiskey!

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Tackling Vogue 1561

In the past I have used Zandra Rhodes patterns for my client Nancy. They are flowy and soft and suit Nancy’s Type 2 summer personality. When I saw this newest pattern with the curvy lines and flowing skirt, I just had to make a muslin…that is when the fun (?) began.









I like to cut out paper patterns at night as it is pretty mindless cutting on the bold lines and folding all the pieces back into a neat rectangles and then into a plastic Ziploc bag. Something must have happened that night as when I went to spread the pieces out…I was missing the size 16-22 top front. What’s a girl to do?

The top front for sizes 6-14 was in the envelope so I placed it on new paper and used the top front size 4-16 piece to get some cutting lines for the 16-22 size. Mainly, I was worried about the lower curved seam…should it continue to the side seam and rise to where the pencil line is? What about that bust point? On a real sized 16-22 woman that would surely be lower and further towards the side seam by 1.5 inches which will leave that curved seam right on the bust point…did anyone think about that?

Here you can see the new piece with both cutting lines. I measured the circumference of the top for the bust and even using the size 22 it only measures 43 inches…more of a 16 than a 22. So, I cut the 22 as my motto is “cut large and trim later”.

Then the pinning begins to check the cutting and seam lines…so many wrinkles! The seam lines are on-grain and off-grain and bias…great! It looks like a schematic for a roller coaster ride.

After pinning and checking that extra fabric was trimmed away and I used the higher up seam line for the 22. Then I realized my camera was not focusing so we have some fuzzy photos for a bit.

Reading the directions, it states to stay stitch every seam and clip where needed…well, using muslin and an old sheet means you will have to clip every darn curve, convex or concave every 1/4 inch…lucky me! So the hand basted jacket looks OK if you like puckers and pleats. Checking the photo on the envelope…it looks the same, so Zandra meant to have it look this way.

How did we get so many pleats? At this point I am wishing that the front curves were more gentle like the back curve but NO, they are way more dramatic.


Mr. Mole says if I would make this in black wool he would wear it as a man’s frock coat as he loves the back feature…he knows this will never happen.

Here is what the envelope does not tell you: It will be small in the bust, there are no fitting darts or easy ways to adjust this pattern, the center fronts do not overlap for buttons or any closure except maybe an exposed separating zipper and the hem circumference is a whopping 148 inches/3.75 meters. I drew grainlines 8 inches apart to show what happens if you use a striped fabric or IF you could/should use one. Nancy like stripes so I’m always thinking about her.

At this point I am wondering why anyone would make such a wacky pattern where woven fabrics will be fighting with each other at every seam. The recommended fabrics are: Jacquard, Wool crepe, Linen and Ponte knit and you are supposed to interface the bodice lining. Then there is a lining that is totally flat without any curves in Taffeta or Charmeuse AND an additional Fleece interfacing. Wait…there’s more…then you are told to channel quilt every 1/4 inch vertically. So in essence we are making a freaking quilt top or a thick tote bag.

Now call me crazy but Taffeta and Charmeuse are totally different animals as are Jacquard and Ponte but hey, while we are at it…toss in some nice thick fleece interfacing layer. What you have is a thick cozy 4 layer top that does not close…is this practical? Now…hands up who want to continue?

Can you see that at the side seams the grain lines are totally 45 degrees? I will have to draw those same lines on the back to see what is revealed…well, that is what a circle skirt will do…it has a mind of its own.

When the side seams are joined they will make chevrons.

In the end, I am thinking that I may cut the fronts like the back so they hang flatter but it all depends on how it looks on Nancy. Oh, and then there is the lining which is just cut like a regular piece with no swirls or dippity seams. Back to the cutting table…maybe changing to just the lining pieces might be the solution. Sometimes it takes a lot of convincing to make you fall in love with a pattern.

On the bridal side of life a fellow seamstress who asked me for some advice on snugging up a bodice on a dress for a friend in another state…love that long-distance sewing…sent me a photo of a solution she came up with. Now, most brides never think ahead that some time during the reception they will need to use the bathroom and what happens with all that tulle and satin?

Do you take a friend into the stall and have her hold all the layers while you sit down? This seamstress was watching Shark Tank on TV and saw something she could translate into a good technique. She ran pink ribbon through the hem of the lining so the bride could yank on the ribbon and gather up and condense all the layers up by herself…brilliant!



And here is the result from the right side…. the lining hem is now sitting just below the beaded belt and all the layers are up off the toilet seat.

Thank you to Laurie for sharing her new trick!

Hoping to get my Christmas cards in the mail this week…what about you?


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Take In and Trim Off

This dress really makes a statement. The lace is very much like Battenburg, thick and dominant.

Wtoo Lapis


The first fitting reveals a hemming job and the recommendation for tighter undergarments.

We try bustling up the tulle into 5 points and while it works well, the bride decides that just trimming some of the train might just be a better idea. The top edge of the bodice flares away from the body so twill tape will snug that up like so many of the dresses this season.


The zipper will be moved over 1 inch on each side to start with. Isn’t that lace wonderful? Well, not for stitching through as the bulk is a challenge!








Second fitting and the bride wants the bodice tighter still and the satin layer hem trimmed even with the floor and the tulle to drag behind her.

The second seamline for the zipper will be moved an additional 5/8 inch over and tried on again. All that lace will be folded to the inside and saved for the next owner of the dress.






While moving the zipper on the lace layer is no problem, we run into a little adjusting with the lining as it has the boning that will have to be shifted over one inch and sewn back down. Don’t forget to cover the top edges of the boning with some fabric!

The edge of the zipper tape is stitched to the lace to make the fold nice and flat inside. It also gives a second line of stabilizing stitches for the dancing part of the evening.

Ready for the lining edge to be hand stitched. You can see the twill tape in the photos used to snug up the top bodice edge.











The cups are now nice and snug so the bride can bend forward to hugs all her guests without exposing anything.

Some dresses come with a snug elastic strap that hugs the waist but this one was too loose. It was made with 2 straps of elastic overlapped at the ends and covered in knit. I pulled back the cover, trimmed off the elastic and replaced the hooked section and used a 3 step zigzag to attached everything flat.

By now you all know that moving a zipper over 1.5 inches on each side means you run out of fabric at the top, so this time I added an extra hook and eye to secure it.


Trying to find something to laugh about in these troubled political times, the witness2fashion blog covers such a wide variety of vintage fashion and ads from the different eras, I just had to share this wedding one.

Only 24 days until Christmas…good luck getting those homemade presents finished in time!!!



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