A Favorite Bride

Once in a while you get a bride who is polite and on time for appointments and it makes such a difference to how you feel…well, it makes a helluva difference to me anyway. Then, when the day comes for her to pay you and leave with the dress you have to say how sad you are to see her go.


The issues with this dress were the usual…tight hips, too long scalloped lace hem, too loose bodice and this time…a floppy flower on a belt.

The right side seam was let out to delete the drag lines from waist to the pin.





The lace motifs were cut away and re-attached 2 inches higher up and machine stitched.

The lace border is hand basted and tried on the mannequin:

Like with most lace dresses, the satin layers are much shorter and heavier so they get their own bustle point with a clear button. The satin layer and lining were sewn together with horsehair in between so that was shortened 2 inches as well.

                               The lace layer bustle point:





When I take in the zipper area over 1.5 inches, an extra hook and eye is added at the top to compensate for the higher position of the neckline:

Normally, I steam press the veils for free and this one had lots of shiny sections which I realized was glue…like from a glue gun so I made sure not to get the iron too close to the flowers!

The finished project…all the petals of the silk flowers are tacked to the dress and the bustle is up and we have the wedding this Saturday.


After our very cold winter and the veggies growing under a plastic cover, we have removed that to reveal rows of beets, spinach, rainbow chard and lettuce.

One afternoon I dug up all of the 18 autumn fruiting raspberries and trimmed them and re-planted them in 2 other beds.

Mr. Mole planted fennel plants and sweet onion sets as well. He has many other baby plants growing under a grow-light indoors for later planting.

The Red poppy plants are looking really good and the hellebores and  hyacinths are poking their heads up too. The little blue and pink flowers are lung wort or pulmonaria.

The best new thing in the garden is our new concrete fountain…it just arrived and will have to have 2-3 coats of sealant sprayed on it before running. The birds will love it for bathing and drinking and there is nothing as calming as trickling water…add a comfy patio chair and drink of your choice…ahhh…the chaos of the day will melt away…well, that’s the plan for now!

Happy Sewing everyone!

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Mother of the Bride

Sometimes mothers work too hard at searching for the perfect navy blue dress to comply with their daughter’s wishes. They will drive over 5 hours north or south and troll through racks at Nordstrom and Macy’s to find a dress that works for them. Sometimes, they just give up and buy something, anything that is navy.

Enter the size 14 unforgiving dress:

After lots of grunting and shoving and holding of breaths…we got the zipper up only to realize that this dress had other problems. The back was way too wide at the neck and the lace panels were too long and would need to be moved lower under the satin bodice…not too bad but wait!

With the mother facing to the left, you can see the zipper is flipped up making a darling duck tail and the side seams are screaming as the butt yanks fabric one way while the front tummy yanks the upper side seam in the other direction. Have you ever seen such a thing? Not me!

The back view is even more weird!

Mother facing right you can see the right side seam screaming from the butt borrowing fabric

What the mother wanted was for me to find some extra fabric and let out all the seams to make the duck tail lie flat and add to all the side seams to make them hang straight…some days I have to “cry uncle”.

But I didn’t….I told her I would harvest fabric from the hems and try my best to make it work and then quoted her a ridiculously high price for all this labor with no guarantee it would look good in the end.

An hour later, I got a phone call from her saying she had found a size 18 in navy at a local shop and all it needed was a hemming.

She showed up days later with this dress in navy.

We had the same issues with this Jade by Jasmine dress…too wide back and too long lace panels and she did not want the bust boning. The lace was dropped and pinned lower and the center back zipper was marked for taking in at the waist. The boning was removed and I found the nicest boning soft rubber end covers…so I kept them.

Here is the new seam line basted and also the new placement for the 3 buttons that will be moved over.


The invisible zipper will be taken in too to give her a shaped waist.

Lace panels pinned and ready to hand baste:

Seams basted:

All seams hand basted and ready for machine stitching, please ignore the puckering!

Once all the seams were machined shut and pressed, 3 layers of chiffon and satin hemmed, I had one very happy mother indeed!

So now starts the season with 9 wedding gowns to work on this month and I hope to avoid bridesmaids and mother of the bride dresses altogether. I have changed the message on my answerphone to reflect the booked brides on the calendar…“I’m sorry to tell you that I am booked solid through October, but if you are a November or December bride please leave your message and speak slowly”. In the collection in the photo above are 2 vintage wedding dresses to be made over…one is from 1973 and the other from 1953…challenges for sure!

Welcome to all the new readers this week…I do answer questions if you have any…surroundedbywhite@gmail.com.

Spring is coming….it really is and our clocks spring forward one hour tonight…I HATE daylight saving time!

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Ponte Dresses

Two years ago when I was visiting Southern California, I was able to have a sewing weekend with my youngest daughter and we made this dress with Very Easy Vogue 8630.

At the time, we bought ponte knit from JoAnn’s in a deep teal. It made up well and as usual I did not follow the sewing sequence especially when they had you put the zipper in last.

This Christmas, a second lined purple version was made up with ponte from The Smuggler’s Daughter  online fabric store. I bought enough to make cropped leggings for myself as well. Unfortunately, these photos were taken without the mannequin expanded to her correct measurements so it looks sloppy and baggy and needs a belt. I was in a hurry to mail this off and I have learned my lesson to make the mannequin fit the dress…ha ha.


I like to put in the zipper once the waist seam is sewn and the back is flat. The zipper area is fused with black tricot interfacing


Then for fitting, the final seams are the side seams in both the knit and the lining. It is easy to adjust with one long seam no matter who has to do the altering now that my daughter has moved back East to Washington, DC.


This Spring, I bought more ponte knit from the Smuggler’s Daughter which was lighter weight and made this dress with Butterick 6332.

Even though the pattern called for woven fabric, it worked up fine in ponte using the smaller size with very little ease.


The mannequin has been extended to the proper measurements and the zipper installed and the final seams just pinned.


It is lined and the shoulder yokes have been topstitched as well as the neck and armholes edge stitched. The pattern was easy to put together and the instructions very clear. Again the side seams were the final seams so that if any altering is needed, they can be done in knit and lining easily. Pulling this dress over the fuzzy fabric of the mannequin caused the wrinkles on the lower half of the skirt.


For those of you who need a bridal fix this week and wonder: Do you ever get easy alterations? Yes, early in the season I have Hawaii bound brides who want dresses that pack easily. This one is a bridesmaid dress but for the bride by Adrianna Papell. I love the matte finish sequins. All I had to do was insert bust cups, lengthen the straps and hem satin and chiffon layers and she is ready to go.


For those of you who are thinking of getting fit before the summer season…this woman named Ernestine is incredible!

Happy sewing everyone!

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Too Big for the Suitcase

Since my last post, things went downhill quickly health-wise. On the Sunday morning, I ended up in the Urgent Care Center/Emergency unable to take a deep breath and an unending tight cough and fever.

Thankfully, I was able to be seen and given a prescription for antibiotics, an inhaler and narcotic cough medicine just like the last time this happened 18 months ago. Then I cancelled all my bridal appointments for the next week and did nothing but rest and drink fluids. You know you are really sick when you have to call brides to tell them that their February wedding plans have been delayed a week when time is tight as it is!

So, now that all I had left is a barking seal sounding cough, I had to resume working on this dress. The bride is planning on a wedding in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico but never thought about packing this dress in a garment bag or any sort of luggage.


Even though this dress was custom ordered, the length was 2.5 inches too long with all the layers from lace embroidered hem and all 9 layers, yes 9, beneath it. Half of the layers had 2 inch wide horsehair braid attached just to keep the hem of this dress poofy enough so lots of labor running all those edges through the machine.p1220199

Normally, you know I like to shorten lace hems from the bottom by cutting/removing the border/motifs and moving them up to the correct level but this was too much for me. The lace was way to tall and way too wide to deal with so I broke down and opened the waist seam to slide the lace layer up 2.5 inches. Now, lots of you write to me privately to tell me that I am doing the lace hems all wrong and should be opening the waist seams and that sounds really nice but the issue is always…what do you do with the top circumference when you slide everything up on an A-line skirt as it gets wider? Do you want to open up and re-do the French side seams…not me. And how smooth a transition can you make reducing 12 extra inches at a waist down to the hips with French seams?

You have seen than many of the dresses I deal with need at least 6 inches of length removed and by the time that amount is raised up at the waist, you have at least another 12 inches of excess fabric to deal with.

This time the excess was only 4 inches so the bride said that she would not mind having small tucks. I also suggested that we replace the 1/2 inch wide white grosgrain belt with a 7/8 inch wide one in a darker shade to make a real feature of her waist.p1220248

The new wider grosgrain ribbon belt hand stitched top and bottom:

Besides the hem, the bodice needed to be taken in at least an inch through the zipper.


We opted for a 3 point bustle (just pinned in the photo) and no, the bride will not be wearing a white bra for her ceremony. Imagine this heavy fluffy dress crammed into a garment bag and the look on the flight attendant’s face as she walks into the plane…brides don’t always match the size of their dress with the destination venue!


Besides phone calls from brides, I also get other calls needing help. Yesterday, a man called to tell me that he has moved to our little rural valley from Hawaii (why would anyone do that?) and he makes the best Panama hats in the world…ok…quite the opening line isn’t it? Then he said, “I saw your reviews online and I decided that you were MY GIRL“. Now for those who know and love me this is just not the phrase I ever want to hear. But he carried on to tell me that he wants someone with skill and precision to sew sweat bands and ribbon trim on his hats. I referred him to a friend of mine who MAY be interested and said that he will have to call her to see if she has the time. His response was, “She had better have the time or I am out of business!” Is this another case of poor planning…moving to a location with no knowledge of the services and resources available?

Wishing you all a healthy week and lots of progress on your sewing projects!


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Mystery Solved

Do you remember the post that had the Oriental/Asian looking garments?

Well, Claire responded with this:

Hi Mrs Mole! The Chinese wedding outfits you have here are called Qun Kua or just Kua, they are traditionally worn by the bride for at least part of the wedding ceremonies (usually the tea drinking) and they are almost always elaborately decorated with beads, sequins and embroidery. If you look you can see the traditional marriage symbols of dragon (for the man/groom) and the phoenix (for the woman/bride) on the pink set. The red skirt is missing its jacket, it was probably beautiful and kept by someone to wear on its own. Red is a lucky colour for weddings in China and even though many modern brides there now choose to wear white western style dresses for part of the ceremonies, almost all brides will have a kua too.

Many Thanks to Claire for researching for me! More about these garments and prices here.

This week, I find myself down with a nasty cold like many other bloggers and have had to cancel bridal appointments but I want to share a killer gown that will be worn at a ski resort in the snow in 2 weeks.

This Lanesta dress was made in Greece, shipped to a company in Canada and then sent to the US bride:  


The bride is tiny and so the shoulders were too wide and kept falling off her shoulders. The lace is very very thick and heavy and the dress weighs over 6 pounds with most of that being the train itself. The back corset has 2 flaps, one being wider than the other and it slides under the narrow side to look centered on the body when laced up. The bride will not have a bow on her butt and will slide the laces down the opening at the bottom of the corset.

You can see how much has to be cut off of the front hem with the bustle just pinned up to ground level…over 6 inches!


Shoulders pinned out and feeling more secure:


Almost 2 inches will be taken up to help pull everything up and also get rid of the front bodice droop. So what do you do with the sleeve cap? All the seam allowances are bound with a strip of tricot so that has to be removed first. The sleeve cap was condensed by moving all the open bits of lace closer together to make it fit the new armhole. I did not cut off the excess fabric as it aided the stability of the open lace. It will be flipped to the back and hand tacked flat. p1220209p1220153p1220202

The next thing was the hem. The original hem was also bound with a tricot/tulle strip before a tiny lace edging was applied. I removed all the tiny lace edging and ran a thread basting line in red thread to make the new hem edge. I had a roll of Seams Great tricot binding and sewed it to the right side of the lace.p1220211p1220213

Once the binding is sewn on and the red thread removed, I trimmed away the excess lace.


The binding was flipped to the wrong side and stitched down so the tiny lace edging could be re-attached.


What about a bustle? Sure…all we need now is a one point bustle and sturdy loop and button, some bra strap guards to hold the shoulders to her bra.p1220217p1220218

Using double threads for the loop…this puppy has to be strong! So, no button shows and the threads blend in. On the day, the bride and her bridesmaids will be wearing fake fur jackets as they walk through the snow but at least the hem of the dress will be dry…fingers crossed!

p1220219  p1220220p1220221

Going back to my sofa to sneeze and blow my nose and drink Theraflu. My sewing sister Sharon says it tastes so good she would drink it every day…hopefully it is working!

Stay warm and dry and stay well my friends!

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Still Winter

Mother Nature has given us a little break from the snow and wind but the hummingbird feeders are still frozen every morning so let’s get started on some warming soup. Remember the butternut squash from last summer? This is the last one and the top half is cut off and skinned.



The bottom half will be used later and cooked whole. Slice the peeled section into 1 inch rounds and cubes.


Cut up half an onion to fry first until soft.


Assemble the spices…Bragg Organic Spice and herb mix, ginger paste and bullion concentrate or real chicken broth.


Once the onions are soft, add the squash and the ginger paste, add the bullion paste,


Toss in the spice mix and cover with water or real chicken broth.


Additional ingredients can include garlic and nutmeg.


Cover and simmer for 2 hours until everything is really mushy.

Then like with all blender soups…pour into blender jug and whizz until smooth. Pour back into the pot and add 1 tablespoon or more of sugar free pancake syrup.


Enjoy immediately or freeze. Like with others, you can add cream or half and half before serving.


Another way to keep warm is by wearing a new robe. Last week, I shared Nancy’s new robe made from thick gray sweatshirt material but we also bought some other thick fabric on our buying trip to Portland last year. As the Mill End Store does not always have the fabric content listed on the end of the bolt, we really did not know what was in this material but when I was pressing it, I could smell SHEEP. So there is a touch of wool for sure in it.


We used the same pattern but instead of hemming under the sleeves and pockets, I flipped an inch to the right side and used the fuzzy wrong side as decoration.

The two-way zipper was 36 inches long in medium gray. Here are the sleeve cuffs hand basted.


Here is the underarm seam topstitched on either side of the seam.


The back neckline is stabilized with narrow twill tape along with the shoulder seams.


The front neckline is also stabilized.


Unlike the previous robe, this did not need a collar for warmth so I basted the front facings down and then trimmed all the seam allowances very narrow and wrapped them with a strip of the knit fabric fuzzy side inside. The inside edge was just serged and stitched down twice.


Here is a small indication that Spring is coming…can you see the two tiny yellow blossoms on the crocus emerging from the bark chips?p1220111

We can still get snow as late as the end of March but these buds will be long gone by then.

Last week Elin mentioned that all she can make is pillowcases but the lowly pillowcase can be a wonderful thing if you are homeless. Our local ASG makes 100 drawstring pillowcases each year filled with essentials like soaps, shampoo, deodorant, razors and shave gel, gloves, socks, mittens, hats. If you would like the directions and pattern dimensions, just email me: surroundedbywhite@gmail.com  Wishing you all a stress free week as we break into February! p1220112

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Craigslist Finds

I like to troll Craigslist for all sorts of crafty things. I have bought 2 sergers and blindhemmer and fabrics in the past and I have sold many things on there too. It is also a great way to get rid of heavy bulky things that you cannot haul to the dump to recycle like bathroom cupboards, piles of river rock, slightly used barbecues and heavy concrete benches…yes, all that has been given away from the Mole household.

This week I saw an ad for this: A velvet hatbox for $5 filled with silk scarves for another $5. Well who can pass up such a bargain?hatbox

The woman selling these items wrote to me during our snowstorm and said she would be willing to come into town and drop off the goodies. What a deal!!! No scary driving over icy roads, so I agreed and then she said since I was a seamstress she would bring more things from her collection. It seems that her grandmother who was a hoarder passed away and the family was going through the storage unit(s) and garages and her home to claim their share.

She said she had some vintage clip-on earrings too along with some clothes if I wanted to have a look. How can you say no??? The earrings were just the type that Nancy wears (big and sparkly) so I bought this collection for $1 per pair.earrings

But the real surprise was what she pulled out of another box:


Every pearl was hand sewn on separately and the dragons were an inch high/thick over padding and all made with pronged rhinestones. The rest were silver bugle beads and coral beads. The jacket must have weighed over 10 pounds. Guess what went with this jacket?


Yes…it is a skirt made in the same fashion with straps…straps? Yes, to hold it up on the shoulders because it weighed as much as the jacket!!!


And one more orphan skirt:


The mystery is the country of origin as her grandmother never labelled anything. The red skirt is a satin fabric and very thick with bird motifs instead of dragons. If anyone knows anything about such garments, please let me know. She was originally trying to sell each piece for $25 and I told her that they must be worth more, even to a museum or Asian establishment as a display feature.

Before I leave you, I wanted to share what Nancy and I did on Saturday:2-hats-2

I made the hats and decided as a determined seamstress “on vacation” that I did not like the floppy ears so I attached strips of boning inside to make the ears stand up straight and then just because a girl can always use some bling…attached sequins on the ears. So many people wanted to take our picture!

It was a joyous respectful march with everything from newborns in strollers, men and ancient grandmas with walkers and wheelchairs and scooters and young boys carrying signs supporting their mothers and sisters.

With only a week left for my time off, next time I have another robe to share and another yummy soup for you. Just got my list of the first wave of brides from the salon…20 to start with and 3 new ones on the 1st of Feb. After spending a month cleaning and clearing out stuff from my sewing room and waxing floors and gathering dust bunnies off of ceiling fans and tall bookshelves…it is time to start the chaos!

Happy sewing everyone!

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