Phone Calls and Red Flags

A woman called and the first thing out of her mouth was:

I have a white 3 piece silk suit made in Hong Kong 40 years ago”

“The lining is hanging out. The pants don’t fit anymore. I want you to make them fit.”

I have a matching skirt that I want you to make into a top.”

“I read your reviews and I want you to do the work,  I’m attending a wedding in one month.”

In the past, I might have taken the challenge but more and more I have learned that this sort of request/command is usually made by a woman in her 70’s who is used to telling servants what and how to do her bidding and then never satisfied with their work. I sure didn’t need to tangle with her in the wedding season. She was mighty disappointed when I gave her the name of someone else who might want to help her.

Another bride called last Sunday night at 6:30 and said she had her dress and her mother’s dress to be altered. I could hear kids screaming in the background and she told me what she wanted:

“I want the dresses to be done expertly by a highly trained professional.”

“I want the dresses to be done as quickly as possible.”

“I want the dresses to be started immediately.”

“I want to know the price you would charge me.”

After I told her I was booked up through November and could not help her she said:

“But I wanted YOU to do them!”

Then I received this email:

Hi Fit For A Queen Blog Team,

Jason here from (No Name Company), a service and marketplace where you can easily make, buy, and sell fun and useful 3D printed products. I came across your blog recently and absolutely love the ideas and styles you come up for with for all different kinds of weddings!

I wanted to reach out to you and see if you’d be interested in writing a post for your blog about some of the unique and special gifts that brides and grooms can customize and 3D print for their wedding party. Many designers from our community of makers have already created beautiful rings, key chains, and other amazing products that brides and grooms to be can pick out and personalize! The best part is – you can choose which material you want it in, including precious metals like gold and silver!

We’re excited about sharing the custom gift possibilities 3D printing can offer your readers. Please let me know if you’d be interested and I can send you some example designs!

My reply went like this:

Thank you Jason,
But if you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I have a huge issue with people “pimping for products” that they don’t actually buy or use themselves. Whether there are kickbacks or not, it is not for a public blog. My blog is for teaching and encouraging sewers to try hard things not for selling things or even mentioning products that I don’t buy and use myself.
I wish you luck…there are plenty of women who have less scruples and are willing to hawk anything for money. While this might suit them, I have a full-time alteration business that provides me with honest income.
Mrs Mole

After forwarding this email to a couple sewing sisters, they wrote back their version of a reply:

Dear Brandon,
Let’s cut out the crap and get right to the point.
You came across the Fit For a Queen blog only because you went on a desperate search to find poor suckers to market your cheap wares for you. 3D printed gifts for wedding guests? Really? How sad are you? What wedding favor was ever worth keeping? Except for chocolate, and I highly doubt your little gizmo can crank out any Godiva or Lindt. Isn’t there enough crap from China already overflowing our landfills?
And by the way, if you had read the blog on a regular basis, you would know that Mrs. Mole is not comprised of a team. She is an over worked, underpaid, seldom appreciated for her talent team of one.
Now you know not to mess with my sewing sister. Bet you didn’t expect any woman that sews to call you out and kick your ass!

And another opinion:

This seamstress says, rip the jerk !
I understand being approached by companies wanting to gain exposure for items that you use on a regular basis. I understand them offering their product to the writer of the blog for free and then the writer promoting the item IF the writer finds it truly a good product, better than anything currently in her/his studio. (Better since sliced bread). I’ve read blogs where the purpose of the blog seems to have disappeared and it’s merely advertising. Those are the ones where I find that little “unsubscribe” button. A blend of both is good, provided the emphasis is not on the product. It’s all a matter of choice.
With that being said, this chump was grasping at straws. To my memory, you don’t give party favor ideas, or suggestions for venues, decor, or honeymoon destinations. You are pure garment construction &/or deconstruction.
If you do use his e-mail in an upcoming blog, perhaps you could point out that he was assuming any woman that sews for a living must be so naive that she would take his bait. On the other hand, maybe it was just spam.

To finish up I thought you might like to see some really crappy sewing done in a high end boutique out of town for a friend of mine. She bought 5 pairs of expensive wool pants and had them shortened and taken in at the center back seam. You can see that nothing was trimmed away after taking in the seam by 3/4 inch.

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For some reason they altered the waistband and could not manage to make the stitching look any nicer. How about the hem, isn’t 2.5 inches a little deep? And what about that loose stitching? It is actually coming away from the pant leg already.

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Another pair of pants had other issues. Who uses fishing line in their serger for hems? They thought that the gap was ok with the nylon thread making a bridge?

 

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How about this waistband that was never sewn back down after altering?P1190476

This is the worst of all….see the original seam? See the altered seam where they took in the center back seam? It didn’t occur to the seamstress to trim off the excess..oh Hell, no…just leave that flap back there and don’t bother trimming the thread tails. Imagine paying for this as “expert tailoring”?

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The lesson here is: If you are paying $300 for designer wool pants or ANY pants, THINK TWICE about who is doing the altering unless you just don’t care. Most of you are gasping at this level of sewing and that is good knowing how much effort you put into your sewing. You can take pride in knowing that this rubbish sewing would never leave your sewing table!

 

 

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Make Me a Sweetheart

Another thing David’s Bridal cannot/will not do is make sweetheart necklines…so it is up to me to make this dream come true for one bride.

Like the rest…here is what we started with:canvas 6

While it is pretty plain the bride had her vision of a deep sweetheart so here is how we went about it.P1190245 P1190246I pinned a piece of cotton fabric on the front and drew a V in pencil to make sure that this is what she had in mind. She also wanted a lace edging hand stitched to the whole top edge of the dress so you can see part of it. On the inside this is what was done:P1190272 Center was thread basted along with the accurate legs of the triangle on the lining. P1190274 Then machine stitching along the lines with that same cotton patch attached to the right side of the front as it will flip to the inside to form a facing.P1190275 Take a deep breath, say a few Hail Marys, and trim away the facing with pinking sheers. Cut away the beaded bodice with regular scissors. Flip the facing inside. All this will be hand understitched along the top edges to keep it flat before adding bust pads.P1190276P1190360P1190361P1190362

OK, top edge done…what next? Hem the front using 2 inch horsehair braid in the hem and lining. P1190277

 

How about adding/hand stitching a heavy beaded belt and that lace edging? OK, and a back view too?

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What you can’t see above the 5 buttons for the bustle are 2 diagonal seams that run either side of the center back buttons. Each of those seams were taken in 2 inches to cup above and below the butt. This puppy had to be TIGHT! Here is one shot of the back diagonal seams pinned out for a second time:

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Also, what you cannot see is that the train had pleats near the hem edge created with thread tacks so that even when the train was down, it was lumpy. No matter how much I encouraged her to let me cut the tacks she refused…until the last day when her mother showed up and said I should cut them and I was so relieved! If she had left them there, even the bustle would have had those lumpy hem edges with 2 inch wide horsehair inside as well.

The fabric in this dress was thick upholstery fabric that had been over beaded and embroidered so any altering or even cutting was a chore/bitch. You can see by tightening the back it caused front wrinkles even when standing.

Before I go, I wanted to share a view from my chair of the week ahead…9 brides, nine fittings:

August-2015

and 2 more brides who cannot fit in my one sewing room and have to hang in the sewing room annex:Aug-2015--2

Two more organza and tulle concoctions with 7 and 8 foot trains to be bustled up…Lord Have Mercy!

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Nancy Brought Me Clouds

In this sewing room filled with all shades of ivory satin and tulle, a nice little project helped me keep my sanity.

Maybe you remember the last floral jacket I made for her with Butterick 3339, a basic shirt pattern with a side bust dart. We eliminated the collar and added patch pockets and lining with 3/4 sleeves. This time she brought me some thicker home dec fabric that had a directional pattern.

It had rows and rows of clouds in shades of grey and salmon and lime green. You can see that the lines ran horizontally which would not flatter so I cut the pattern pieces out to be vertical. Can you do that? There was hardly any difference in stretch crosswise or lengthwise and it had been pre-shrunk to compact the woven threads.

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You can see my well-worn paper pattern with the front FBA adjustment and the rounded back adjustment with neck darts so the only thing left to do is think about the direction of the clouds. I cut the fronts to have the clouds face each other and the sleeves to follow that direction too. The back was cut on the fold so the clouds just went one direction.

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P1190389 What I wanted to share with all of you is a new little tool that makes measuring curved and straight lines.

The designer of this cool gadget is Clarie Cochran who has been making and selling rulers with a French curve on one side and straight edge on the other. Since I have bought all her rulers in the past and love using them for pattern work, she wrote to me and offered me the chance to try out this new tool. Here is the link to her pre-launch on Kickstarter. If you are like me and are tired of turning the measuring tape on its side and tediously working along the curve, this gadget can help. Nancy brought me a new pattern and I was able to measure and compare sleeve caps so quickly by rolling this pizza/rotary cutter type device along the seam allowances. Maybe this may make you think of a surveyor’s wheel. In his new book,  The Shirtmaking Workbook, David Page Coffin features this in his tools section. There is even a larger version in the works which would suit even more applications. Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch shares her love of this tool, too .

As with the last floral jacket, this one is lined and edge stitched and topstitched and has self covered shoulder pads with Velcro. P1190481Using a very basic shirt pattern allows you to let the fabric do the talking and if you are lucky enough to have scraps that allow you to make pockets that match the front motifs…well that is just a huge bonus!P1190448

Here they are lined and ready to attach.

Can you see them? Me either.

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Here is Nancy showing off her pockets in her loose summer jacket:

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Seven inch vents and the back is 1/2 inch longer for a little style:

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The back darts were added but she still has plenty of ease for driving and hugging friends:P1190523

The back neck darts hug her shape with no gaping and the sleeve caps are generous enough to allow for lots of movement.

This week from the garden…what do you do with an old greenhouse that has outlasted its plastic cover? Park it near the spaghetti squash plant and let it wander:August-2015

Happy sewing everyone and remember…Drag Lines are your friend…they point to the problem and scream…”add more fabric, add more ease or drop your crotch curve”. Thank you to all the folks who have asked for help offline with their projects…my pleasure!

 

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Sentimentality Versus Stunning

Hands up…who remembers 1987?

When I showed this dress to East Coast Sharon, she nailed the date.

My bride wanted to honor her deceased mother by wearing her 28 year old wedding dress for her own wedding. Sometimes this works out well but this girl really gave me the challenge.

Let’s start with the shape and sleeves:

P1190295This poor girl has been swallowed up with shiny fabric and beadwork. The lines hit her in all the wrong places and levels but with adding some straps (one ivory and one blue grosgrain ribbon that was handy) we can hike the front and back up and remove the sleeves. There is one small line of boning in the front princess seam and that is all. The back and train don’t offer much promise either.

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I agreed to pin out all the excess and remove the sleeves and use the fabric to make other straps and drooping narrow half sleeves and to re-use the beaded motifs hanging from the gathered centers. Let’s get busy and remove the sleeves and see what is inside.

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Quite an elaborate collection of techniques were used back then…ruching, gathering and elastic to hold them up on the shoulder and lace and beaded dangling bits and bows. But what really did the job of holding them solid was the netting…layers of gathered netting.

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All the fabric was gathered into a circle and lace motifs applied at one end while the other top end had a tunnel of elastic. What I really found fascinating with was the actual shape of the individual pieces that went into such a sleeve. When I was doing my internship at a wedding dress factory back in 1990, we made smaller versions of this for every dress we turned out, even bridesmaids’ sleeves had these types to mimic the brides.

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Check out the shaped components!

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So with the sleeves removed, all taken apart, zipper replaced with an invisible one, boning adding to the side seams, the bride called to say she had gone to David’s bridal to check out the dresses for skirt shapes to replace the gathered on that her mother’s dress had.

In the process of checking out skirt styles, she fell in love with this dress. I think you will agree it hugs her curves and makes the most of her figure. She tells me that she feels bad and cannot make a decision but will come around to have a second look at the dress. For me, this is a no-brainer…go with the modern dress and use some of the beaded fringe in your hair or bouquet.

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When she arrives she shows me a unique solution to using parts of her mother’s gown for the ceremony by making a lasting reminder to cherish:

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Brides are now opting for fabric roses bouquets that never die. My bride will add some other colors to hers to match her bridesmaid’s colors and have an heirloom to pass unto the next generation.

This week our dying beetle eaten peach tree has produced some delicious fruit:peaches-2015

Next week, a break from ivory satin as Nancy returns with some cool fabric and I make her another jacket and use a new tool that makes life sooo much easier. Until then, thank you for all your comments and I wish you easy sewing with no ripping out!!!

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A Gift from David’s

There is a store policy that does not allow store seamstresses to alter a designer’s original design. Well, that is how the story went when I got a phone call from a bride who wanted something unusual done to her dress.

Here is what we started with minus the belt:KP3738_IVORY_CORE_WEB_2743_H_FRONT.jpg.fpx

The back neckline was straight across but this bride wanted a “V” added and lots of tightening of the seams to make it skin tight, of course.

First, I unzipped the zipper down to the point of the new back neckline and pinned out the seams. She also wanted some sort of straps so we tried different placements and a halter. Hemming will involve removing horsehair braid and shortening 3 or more inches in the satin and all the netting and lining.

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Let’s move to the inside and get started:

P1190055-take-in-lining Pin out the lining layer

P1190056-stacked-linings Stack and duplicate both linings

P1190058-stacked-side-seams Pin out satin fabric layersP1190064--1.75-side-seams 2 inches removed and trimmed later

P1190062-back-seamsTake in center back seam under her butt

P1190067-interfacing-layer- Take in interfacing layers

P1190069  Hand baste new “V” back stitching line, remove boning strips in the lining

P1190070-other-sideThe other side

P1190071 Hand basted

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Lining will be hand understitched.

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Rat-tail nylon straps pinned on and bustle points selected. Dress now has a 20 inch waist (yes, I measured) and it is so tight than you can see all the boning through the satin and interfacing layers.

Let’s make those  straps and anchor them to some grosgrain ribbon with snaps so they can be attached after the ceremony. The cord was stitched down the center of the ribbon and then the other end was flipped up and sewn all the way around and snaps added.

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In all, the front ribbon tabs will have 4 snaps each to attach to the bust cups inside and the back tabs will have 3 that attach diagonally as they criss-cross.

Add a 3 point bustle and she is ready to walk down the aisle…wait…there is more to be added?…she has asked a friend to make a big organza and lace bow for her waist in the back which I may get photos of later. The one thing that bothers me is the amount of wrinkles now that the dress is skin tight but I can only do what I am asked and the zipper started out that way from the factory.

When I mention to these girls that having such a dress so tight under the butt and not being able to sit or go up stairs, get in and out of a car, they just laugh it off. Sometimes I mention that they will have to totally remove the dress to pee…as nothing will get that tight area near the bottom of the thighs to slide up to the hips but then no one wants to think about that on their wedding day.

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This week, my darling Mr. Mole has made a new gadget for our crops to keep the goldfinches off the new baby lettuce and chard plants:July-2015-17

Last week someone asked if just one of us tends the garden…we both do our best at wedding/weeding and trim and harvest and plant from seed although I like just planting seedlings from the nursery. Most of my plants are gown vertically to save ground space, here are the crookneck squash as you can also see in the background:

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The green beans and scarlet runner beans are also climbing and protected with a sun shade along with the blueberry bushes:July-2015-14 Autumn raspberry plants in cages were transplanted this year from pots and they have taken over this 4 by 4 foot bed.

Happy sewing everyone…stay cool!

 

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Blush or Champagne?

She ordered her custom made dress 6 months ago. She wrote and asked me first if she should add an extended train to the totally tulle skirt…I said no, as it could not be bustled up for dancing…she ordered it anyway and didn’t tell her mother.

The appointment was confirmed, she and her mother arrived on time after rushing over to the bridal salon for the late but promised wedding gown of her dreams. Never thinking to open the garment bag before paying for the dress was the first mistake.

I welcomed them into the sewing room and unzipped the garment bag…the bride covered her mouth and shrieked, “That’s not my dress” and the tears started to flow. I sat her down, gave her a glass of water and discovered that the dress was meant to be ivory but had been confused with blush and now we have a very tan/pinkish dress with a very long extended train on our hands. The new garment bag was so full the zipper was already broken.

She tried it on anyway and we got all of it back into the garment bag for her to return to the salon to try to make things right. The salon owner refused to own any responsibility and would not do anything to remedy the situation. The next day, the bride called to tell me the bad news but asked if she could return and work with me to make the dress work. She said, “I own it and I’m going to make sure everyone at the wedding knows that I OWN it.”

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The dress will need to be shortened in front from side seam to side seam and something done with that train. Because the train was lengthened in the factory, to control it the hem of the train had been tacked to the lining every 4 inches to look like a balloon shade. This would not allow me to make a proper bustle so I had to remove the tacks all around the entire train by hand.

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The center back zipper area flared away from her back just below the waist as it had not been cut on the straight of grain. To bring it back to being flat, I pinned a huge chunk, you can see the pins:

P1190293 The first thing to do was take in the center back zipper (remove the zipper) area below the waist as it flared away from the body. Later, I would discover that it would have to be re-attached completely by hand as none of this would fit into the sewing machine. There were 2 rows of pearls on the cap sleeves so they had to be removed and the sleeve narrowed (removing the cap) so that a strip of lace edging could be attached. The shoulder seams had to be taken up 1.5 inches as well.

P1190304   P1190305 The bride wanted the straps to be 3 inches wide as the finished width.P1190306P1190294 Once attached and the under fabric trimmed away it looked like it was made that way originally.

The inside corset had to be taken in twice as the bride started losing weight which meant the skirt lining also had to be removed and taken in and re-attached.

 

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After the straps had the lace edging attached, the underarm area had to have the original tiny bias binding re-attached by hand. I pressed them flat first and then got to work.P1190329P1190330

 

Another issue was the front neckline with lace edging and the bride wanted small darts made to keep that edge flat.

 

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Now that the top had been fitted we move unto the 8 foot train. What will it take to get all that fabric up off the floor for dancing in cowboy boots?

One Saturday morning, the mother came along, and I used her to help me decide on all the bustle points. We both worked pinning up and down for 3 hours. Nothing pleased the bride…nothing. She actually wanted all that fabric to be perfectly straight across the bottom and the satin bustled with the lace as one unit. This would never work as in most dresses the lace layer is 3-6 inches longer for a nice effect. I sent them home and got to work on making all of this work.

How about 11 bustle points for the lining???

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and how about 7 bustle points for the 2 layers of tulle??? All seven points are hidden up under all that bling hanging down from the waist. The bride was insistent that no one could see her satin bustle buttons. You can’t see the small clear buttons or the loops and the tulle folds nicely into flat triangles without adding too much bulk…well, we can only hope for the best with 8 feet of fluff to start with!

At one point during all this pinning, the frustrated, overheated mother asked the bride, “Remind me again why you needed such a long train?” and her answer was, “because I want one”. When the mother suggested trimming the tulle shorter to have a more manageable length the answer was “NO”.

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In the end, it was a relief to have it all done and just thinking about all those points being attached the day of the wedding made me smile.

Another thing that makes me smile are the regular harvests from the veggie garden. Here’s what I found yesterday:July-2015-13

Wishing all of you easy breezy summer sewing and time to reflect on your blessings.

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Guess Who is Back?

Remember my 3-dress bride?

She wrote to me last week with this request on the number 2 lacy dress:

Getting down to the last days before my wedding! I am curious if you’d have time to fix the lining of my dress. I’m noticing some issues with the seams building a bit at the sides and they make the dress stick out a bit and also Id like to make the long lining short… its floor length but I’d like to bring it up to my mid thigh… I don’t want to be too hot!

I don’t think it would take much time but I know how busy you are! If you don’t have the time, that’s fine..

I agree to see her lacy dress..OK, I have to admit I was just a little curious as to how it fit so here are 2 photos:

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The lining in the hip area was too large and it had to be taken in on the curve along with extending the side dart (no side seams) which was serged so it did not have a smooth ending point. This whole dress is serged on every seam and you can see how very long the dress is and how very short the lining will be. The lining is fabric you would make into swimsuits or dance wear…very thick, snappy and not drapey at all.

Here are the alterations:P1190258P1190259P1190260P1190261

I also had to attach some of the lace motifs on the sleeves as they have come undone with them being so darn tight. For women who think they would look good in this dress…guess again…the 2 layers of swimsuit material will be like wearing 2 pair of Spanx and then the flimsy lace overlay that has been sewn badly and missing areas make it a dress with a warning. 

So after a couple hours, I was pretty pleased I was able to finish this dress….but you know what’s coming don’t you???? Cue the soundtrack from Jaws…..

With the wedding  in 10 days and I received this email last night:

“Don’t pull your hair out just yet… Just a simple fix on the original strappy dress, I swear ! :)

I’m here trying on the original strappy dress again for my mother.. she’s recommending that I alter it as a hot day alternative/backup… I must say, after today’s heat and after sweating in the long sleeves in your home, I have to agree! I have taped myself into the bust and tied the shoulder straps together with the extra length of rattail  that you left for me. That all looks great and I can see it working just fine. The remaining issue is the waist/back area near the zipper could use taking in… At this point I don’t care about little buttons or fake boobs :)

Are you available to fix another crazy bride’s dress, her first dress, or would this throw you over the edge?! :)”

I did agree to see her again and work on dress number 1. Now before you  pick your jaw up off the floor and say, “No way I would agree to that!”, it all boils down to honor.

My honor compels me to finish something I started albeit pinning and planning and suggesting. My honor also comes into play when dealing with a sweet salon owner who sends me almost 20 clients a season, who trust her judgement and sincerity in recommending my services, so her “girls” get the best treatment I can provide.

Do I ever feel like saying “tough titty”…of course I do. Do I ever feel like my back is up against a wall and as one client’s aunt told me recently, “You will just have to be gracious and suck it up”…of course I do.

But remembering the late Maya Angelou’s quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,  people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” draws me to do the right thing. Making brides feel beautiful is my job but making brides feel respected also goes along with the service.

The bride picked up both dress #1 and 2 today but still had not decided which wil be worn…I asked her to send photos of the day so I would know.

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The wedding was last week and guess what dress was worn for the ceremony?final

Yes,  she went with the first dress for the ceremony but wore her 3rd dress for her Facebook photos. She will probably be selling that lace dress on Ebay or Craigslist pretty soon.

A little photo from the garden bounty this week:July-2015--18

Happy sewing everyone and welcome to all the new followers!

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