Shopping Adventure

This month, after planning all summer to visit fabric stores in Portland, Nancy and I finally found 3 days to escape.

We shared the driving and on the first day we hit 2 stores- Josephine’s and Bolt.

Nancy has bought fabric from Josephine’s in the past and it seemed right to visit the most expensive and exclusive one first. Besides the most luscious wools and silks they also have the ubiquitous Liberty cottons displayed like this on wooden cutting boards:


At $36-45 a yard and mostly teeny tiny prints, I was not tempted. Nancy bought some gorgeous brownish/burgundy wool for pants and some very cool solids for jackets.

Next we moved unto Bolt situated in the funky Albert Street neighborhood filled with cool shops and restaurants. Nancy found some silk for blouses and I bought 2 remnants of cotton. Now, I know some of you will just say, “Hey Mrs. Mole, those are just ordinary quilting cottons” but I rarely get out of my sewing room to shop so these caught my eye and they were on sale in the remnant bin…always treasures in those bins!fabric-1 There were lots of more Liberty cottons and natural fabrics and quilting cottons. We decided that what they need is a mirror in the main section of the store with better lighting for people who want to see the colors next to their skin.

For dinner we dined at Nostrana and Nancy introduced me to a Budino, a rich little concoction like a creme brulee but with a salted caramel layer. I was assured that if eaten after the Meatball Monday special, it would not add to my hips.

Day 2, we visited Fabric Depot in the morning and found they were having a 25% off everything sale. I found some lovely poly chiffons to make some sheer jackets/blouses. Nancy found some things as well and by the time we got them cut and priced, the check-out line was very long at the cash registers.

That’s when I remembered that you can pay for fabrics around the back of the store where they do the special ordering and mail order. We left the line and skipped around to the back desk and were out in no time.


Lunch was delicious at Pho Van and if you click on the link you can see over 100 photos of the location and the food. Stuffed to the gills, we left to find a Starbucks for a hot mocha before we set out to find the next fabric store.

If you have never been to Mill End Store, you owe yourself a visit if you are ever in the Portland area. This place is HUGE! Everything is laid out well and it is clean and bright and the clerks are super helpful. Nancy found some of the most unusual fabrics for jackets and a wool blend fabric for a long cozy robe. The prices were very good and if you are a senior, they have discounts every Tuesday morning from 9-11 am. Since we were there in the late afternoon, we missed out but the prices were so low anyway it didn’t matter.

I found another poly chiffon in these colors and it will look nice over a black tank top as the other one abovefabric-3

Day 3, we started the day with a morning walk to a darling little coffee house called Twenty Six. It was raining that morning and it would have been nice to sit inside to stay warm and toasty but as with so many coffee bars…it was filled with old coots/retired grandpas and their laptops. There were no tables open inside so we had to sit in the un-heated back patio. We thought they might have patio heaters but no such luck. We enjoyed our coffees and a blueberry scone while chatting with her daughter-in-law who lives next door.

Nancy wanted me to experience Helser’s on Alberta Street for a hearty brunch, so while waiting for a table we walked down to another fabric store/Bernina dealer called Modern Domestic. They have classes and lots of cotton fabrics and of course, Liberty fabrics. While being a light and airy store, we didn’t find anything that had to go home with us, so we browsed shops along the street before heading out for another Starbucks. You may wonder why we keep sipping coffee…are we caffeine deprived…well, no, but since I had no cell phone or internet connection, I needed their WiFi to download my email and daily edition of the UK newspaper The Daily Mail, my favorite read for gossip and politics.

Our last port of call was Cool Cottons on Hawthorne. slide_imageIt was in a darling pink house packed to the rafters with gorgeous fabrics. Nancy found some of the softest flannel for a night gown and I found a companion piece for my first purchase, the black cotton with blue circles.



Before dinner we wandered through a delightful garden shop called Garden Fever.  They had the most unusual  collection of things for the home and garden and it will certainly be a place to re-visit next time. There were so many things to touch and think about.

Dinner that night was next door at Lucca’s on NE 24th Street. We had a small pizza covered with fennel sausage and a Caesar salad.

In the morning, we packed and headed home with our delicious new fabrics. Soon you will see what garments are created with Nancy’s fabrics. Mine will take a little longer as there are brides to finish before Jan 1.

Hope you are all catching up with raking leaves and getting the garden ready for the winter…I know Mr Mole has been very busy with his leaf blowing and leaf collecting for next year’s compost bins.


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It’s not every day that someone brings in a flag for repair but one of my regular clients asked if there was anything I could do for this sad item. It seems that while it was flying so proudly, it got caught on the roof and snagged and tore open one of the seams on the stripes

Since it was sewn as a flat-felled seam, I had to open it a bit wider to get in to see what damage had been done.P1200007

After opening the seam and basting the 2 layers back together, you can see how much of the white fabric has been frayed away. In order to be able to catch this properly in the new seam, I will fold over more and baste it down by hand first.


Then let’s flip the new folded edge down and pin to sew flat with white thread in the top and red in the bobbin using 2 rows.


Here you can see the red side and no one will ever be able to tell that a repair was done. many of the hem stitching lines were frayed away so I stitched over them as well.


I have heard so many stories about US flags being made in China and it is nice to see this was sewn at home. My only criticism of this flag is that the thread used was almost like a very thin Wooly Nylon used on sergers and will not hold up too much stress and weather. Maybe I should write to them and ask about it?


Another flag of sorts showed up, a red one this time for a bride. She bought this dress out of town and thought is might work but the more she tried it on, she realized that her grandparents might have a heart attack with so much of her (and a small back tattoo) being exposed:


So she headed for a salon in town and bought this one that she felt covered her up better. She added a simple satin ribbon for a belt and no bustle or train. So she went from hoochie mama to demure bride and felt more covered up (tattoo blurred out).


For those who like to follow the veggie patch photos…here are some November harvests:


Wishing you all peaceful and thoughtful times for sewing in the light of the recent Paris tragedy.

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What happens when you combine the bodice of this dress:

and the skirt of this dress:

You get a Monster! P1190379

The front


The back and train.

The bride custom ordered this from Lazaro and had it custom made but you know what is coming don’t you? Alterations to make it fit…yes indeed. You would think that if a salon charged you over $6000 for a custom made dress it might fit and be the right length?

Let’s start at the top, mostly see-through, no real lining, except for the flower petals and strips of boning.P1190714

First, remove all the beads and flowers so we can take in the bodice zipper 1.5 inches on each side…total of 3 inches…is this custom? Hand baste the invisible zipper and sheer backing and hope it is enough.


On the outside you can see that every flower petal and motif was sewn by hand one at a time:


Here are the leftovers from the bodice:P1190861and the leftovers from the over-skirt:P1190860

Moving down to the satin layer hem with horsehair braid:P1190381

This hem has to be shortened at least 5 inches, maybe more, along with 4 more layers of netting and a lining and a layer of super gathered netting ruffles…all 5 inches shorter.


What about the top layer with rows and rows of bias cut polyester organza ruffles stitched from 1/2 inch to 1 inch apart?P1190380

See the back side of the top layer…beautiful, no? I told the bride that she could wear this skirt inside out as it is a work of art. Every row is stitched in a chevron pattern.


How does one shorten this? Once the hem length is determined, each layer of ruffles will have to be removed until there is just one layer hanging down to cover the hemmed organza base…well, that is the plan anyway. You can’t just cut it off and fold a hem under can you? You can’t toss it in the serger and make a rolled hem can you?P1190742

I planned on not cutting off any of the 5+ inches of the hem and hand sewing that edge up on the wrong side in case this dress was ever sold or given to a taller girl. All of the removed bias ruffles were saved as well so they could be attached as well…so in a way, a versatile skirt.P1190854

First, I tried making 3 over-bustle points for the satin layer below. They were OK, but by making the same points as under-layer bustle points that satin will lay flatter before the ruffled over-skirt falls over it.



Here is the result below, soft folds that can be flattened and way easier to sit on for the meal. You do have to think about the whole event and not just the walking down the aisle or photo sessions. You don’t want your bride to be sitting on her own “tuffet” the whole day.

The bride preferred the ruffled over-skirt to also be bustled under. (The straps in the photo are just to hold this heavy dress on the mannequin). I know, it looks weird…and I preferred the over bustle as the chevrons looked prettier but it is not my dress.


Here is an insider’s view of how I shorten all those lace petticoat layers. I make deep horizontal pleats all around using a long machine basting stitch. If the bride ever sells or gives her dress to a taller girl, these can all be let down.


The red thread basted line below is the new hem edge of the satin layer. The green thread line is the horsehair attachment line. The horsehair braid is attached with a 1/4 inch stitching line down the unmarked edge and flipped to the wrong side and everything trimmed off.


P1190838 P1190839

Quilters will recognize the 1/4 inch foot above…it sure does come in handy!


Here you can see the 1/4 inch folded edge and now after trimming off all the excess beyond the horsehair braid edge, it will be hand sewn to the lining.


On the final day for her fitting, the front was a perfect length, the bodice was tight enough to hold up her bust and no one will know what was done to this custom gown. (Tattoos have been photo-shopped away)P1190863-2

This dress was the most expensive I have ever worked on…was I nervous, overwhelmed, scared shit-less? YOU BET! But with lots of thinking time and working backwards, the puzzle was solved and the bride gave me a tip…that makes 3 this year and I appreciate that!

So, is the bridal season over yet?….ha ha…is it 2016 yet?

More on the horizon and already 8 brides are booked in for next year from one salon.

Thanks for visiting and spending time reading through all this…happy sewing everyone! Hope you still have some leftover Halloween candy!


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Got My Belt, Bustle, and Real Shoes

Last week, I left the sewing room to fly across the country to meet up with relatives traveling from the UK but had this recent post to share:

Another form-fitting dress that needs hemming, a belt and bustling but this lace is special. To feel it you might think it is burnout velvet.


But is was stitched on organza with a flocked fluffy thread to add some weight to it.


Besides looking lovely on the outside, you have to see what I see when lifting the skirt for the first time…this mass of wrinkles and nastiness is the netting and petticoat layers. Most dresses come into my sewing room like this.

Lord knows how they can sell a dress without having steamed or pressed the netting which, as I explain to my brides, is the main structure holding the shape of your dress.

The netting is all balled up and it takes about 30 minutes of hot steam from my new generator iron to get every layer to lie flat and thus do its job. Then we can go about deciding on how many points are needed to hike the train up off the ground for dancing.


Since all the satin layer lower points will be attached along a line at the top, here is the mapping. I use buttons and loops but they could easily be done with ribbons. So, I think 5 or more points for the satin will work. Notice the lovely wrinkles fresh from the salon.


The lace layer also gets 5 points and will attach the same way but the buttons will be satin covered metal backed ones. The lace layer has 2 or 3 other tulle layers and one organza layer with a rolled narrow hem all sandwiched together.


We ended up using 7 satin bustle points as it was way more evenly spaced and pretty and really makes a nice sturdy structure base for the lace.


Like most brides, this one added a blinged-out type belt with lace edges and I sewed it to the dress by hand and cut off the tails and attached it on either side of the zipper.


Satin bustle buttons in place and belt attached with vertical buttons sewn back over the top left edge.


The front hems were done with rolled hem for the organza, scissor trimmed for the tulle and scissor trimmed for the lace as it had a raw edge. This was the before photo.


And what does this gorgeous bride and her dress have under it on her feet…OMG…cowboy boots?… won’t believe it….real shoes…Jimmy Choos!  They are perfect for walking through tall grass and twigs without getting heels stuck in the mud but the price is almost more than the dress!


The wedding season is far from over with Thanksgiving November brides coming for appointments and December and January brides calling so the posts continue. Soon my client, Nancy, and I will do a buying trip to purchase new fabrics for her upcoming wardrobe now that we have identified her with a Type 2,   summer,   color palette.

Hope all the ghouls and goblins visiting your door this Saturday are friendly little ones…Happy Halloween, everyone!




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East Coast Woes

You all remember East Coast Sharon from before with her crazy clients, well she is back with a mother-of-the-groom dress to share.

Hey Mrs Mole,
Here is a MOG (mother-of-groom) gown that came in yesterday. image4

Actually, there are 2 gowns. One in a size 6 and one in size 8. The size 6 is too tight on the top and the size 8 is too large in the butt. Of course, she had to try on both gowns, just to show how unhappy she is with both and the looooong story of how she acquired them.

She was concerned that I would need to take the zipper out of the size 8 gown and reset it in order to make it tighter. No, it’s crap knit fabric, so if I take in the sides, it should stretch across your butt just tight enough to make you happy! And she needs it by Thursday, of course !!
But take a closer look at this Ralph Lauren $250 knit mess. The brooch has a large stone missing. I will swap out the brooch with the one from the other dress.


The back seam is opened at the bottom of the zipper, so that needs to be closed.

image1 And the hem is falling out, or was never put in properly. But it needs to be shortened anyway. image2
I don’t know how many Ralph Lauren items go through your doors, but what I have seen in the past 2 or 3 years seem to be garbage. Remember last winter when a woman brought in the $800 black leather dress that had an invisible zipper where stitching caused the very thin leather to act like perforated paper? It was a Ralph Lauren.

And every time someone brings in nearly new sheets that the elastic has come loose or the header is coming off, they have all been Ralph Lauren.

I’ve altered Lauren men’s shirts whose sleeves are not identical.
Hey Ralph, you might want to reconsider some of your designs and put some of your money into quality control ! Just sayin’.

So she has over $500 invested in these 2 gowns plus what I will be charging her. All for a 4 hour function where there will only be 75 guests.
Think she could have done much better at David’s Bridal ……or a consignment shop !!!

My answer to Sharon is – Yes, I have had clients who bring me loads of RL from outlet malls and the pants legs are NEVER the same length. The fake price tags says $200 reduced to $20. What my clients never realize is that these garments are actually made for outlets, not just “overruns“. That $20 pair of pants were NEVER $200, they are worth $20 on a good day. So don’t be like Sharon’s poor client had to buy 2 dresses,  just to get one single one, decent enough to wear to a wedding.

I tell them if they are going to continue buying these “bargains”, to make sure they have a tape measure handy as it will cost more than $20 to fit them properly. The legs are not just an inch longer, they are completely different sizes stuffed into the same crotch shape…beware!

Veggies this week?Oct-2015-2Oct-2015-3

What about citrus fruit?Oct-2015-4

Mr. Mole brought in these brand new first harvest key limes from the baby tree before bringing it into the garage before the first frost hits.

This week we have escaped the sewing room and office for a little R&R, so no brides, no writing assignments…just time to see different things and different people and return ready for the next deluge of clients. Hope all your sewing projects are pleasing and productive and wearable, not wadders!

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Simple Gowns

Do I ever get simple wedding gowns?

Yes, and they are a delight to work with.

Suzi Wong

Here is a latte colored 2 layer knit dress with soutache braid embellished English netting that has had about 6 inches of the hem pinned up.

P1190235-2  P1190236-2

All that had to be done was a hem.  You can see the 3 layers of skirts and the vertical panel that holds it all together. Each knit layer was hemmed with the coverstitch machine and the netting layer with soutache braid was done by hand and then all were attached to the panel. It looks a bit weird but this is how the original looked so I try to duplicate it.P1190462

Want more simple?

How is this for simple…simply Vegas baby!

WTOO-by-Watters-Caprina  wtoo-caprina-10015-1507-wedding-dress-188097-2

The center back zipper had to be taken in and a bustle added and the front slit raised to expose the top of her leg. Imagining dragging the small chiffon train all over Vegas, I just made a small French under bustle button and loop for her to at least be able to walk backwards without stepping on her tail.

You can see how much the zipper is pinned out (1 inch each side), at least this actually brings up the top edge and stops showing the top of her butt cleavage (crack).


All hand thread tracing and hand basting to get all the pleats to stay put and at the correct angle. Lining is basted shut temporarily.


Again, like with most dresses, I do not cut off the excess at the zipper in case she needs it later or sells it to a larger girl. It is all tucked inside along with the lining excess. The zipper had a strip of interfacing, so I moved it over to use it.


Let’s baste the invisible zipper for the second try-on and before machine stitching.


With all these thick pleats coming together, it is a real effort to get the zipper tab up without catching the chiffon so I made small back stitching stitches. The original was done with machine stitching and looked very industrial. There was no hook and eye before, so I added one.


How about a close-up of the bling brooch? Blue aquamarine stones and pearls really are gorgeous! P1190786

But wait…did you see a glimpse of her $899 shoes? They came in their own padded box. The platform soles are almost 2 inches high and the heels are over 7 inches tall.  Here is a Pinterest link.


Did you know that you could even order a blinged-out $400 garter too?P1190782

So, while all of these accessories are pretty darn nice, the bride never stops to think…”wait a minute, my dress is chiffon and it will catch on anything rough.” I see rhinestone sandals and bracelets catching on the hem edges and ruffles all the time. So imagining the garter catching on the dress and being worn for most of the evening is a worry. It probably is NOT the one the groom will be tossing into the crowd of reluctant groomsmen!

Fall temps (85 F) bring more fruit with cherry tomatoes that come up every year, a gift from the birds and Autumn Bliss raspberries.


Thank you to all my readers for taking time to add their great comments and welcome to the new followers!



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Exotic Insert

What do you do when you win a dress in a silent auction and it doesn’t fit?

Find a seamstress with a sense of adventure and convince her that it will be fun to “make it work”?

Look at what wandered into my sewing room: P1190547-2

In the first photo, I blurred out the client’s breast since this side seam zipper could not be closed.

The second photo shows how much the center back seam is shifted.

The plan was to make a new center back “dart” that could be slashed open to insert something 4.5 inches wide and 10 inches long to fill a gap and allow the zipper to close. I sent the client to JoAnn’s for samples.

She returned with some nude knit lining and non-knit lace. I made 4 different samples to pin and preview.


As the lace had a slight crosswise stretch and a scalloped edge, it could be used in different ways.P1190756

Once we selected the one she wanted, the dress was prepared. The top section already had a center seam where all the pleats converged. It was very thick.

You can see it is a Sue Wong, the price tag was over $400 and it is silk. First, thread trace the actual center of the back through the outside to the inside. This will be the cutting line down the middle of the new dart. I decided to treat the 2 linings as one as the lace will show everything in the end.


As with most dresses, beads can only be cut apart of the new edges have been secured, so every bead is back stitched on and others removed for the new opening…is this tedious or what?

I hand baste a row of stitching on either side of the original red thread basting before cutting. Taking a deep breath and murmuring a quick Hail Mary helps me slash through 3 layers of silk like I know what I am doing. Have I done this countless times before…ah, no.


Once the panel is hand basted into positioned, we have the try-on. In this photo I was showing the client that she could have her halter straps attached unto the dress to feel more secure while also taking in the lace panel to feel tighter with pinning it down the center. This poor little panel has to do a lot of work!


This photo shows the halter ties with the tassels. She opted for that for now.

OK, for those of you who have spotted the fact that the panel dips way below her waist…yes, you can see through it and she will have to wear nude colored panties. So the question comes up…why did you make the panel so long, Mrs Mole? The front of the dress was also pulling too tight across her tummy and once the zipper could be closed, it would have made the front drape sections pull way apart.


The finished panel with the seam allowances all flipped  away from the lace edges.


The lace panel edges are serged and hand sewn to the top lining. You can see the very bottom of the dart which is pressed flat. Even though there were 2 layers of satin lining, they all managed to lie flat for me.


Last thing to do was hem the top layer, remove the lower beads, hem and replace the beads.


Now you can see why the back panel had to be so log as the front drapes were very dependent on hanging straight. Funny enough the 2 layers of lining were short enough and did not need hemming, just the over skirt. A close -up of the front beading is a little blurred…sorry.


So another happy customer went out the door!

For the reader who asked about more veggie photos…here are some this week:sept-2015-5sept-2015-6

Have a great week of stress-free sewing everyone!

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