Stitching Memories

Whenever a grandmother dies in our valley, word gets around to the family that her sewing stash and UFO’s and machines should be donated to the local American Sewing Guild chapter…in other words…us. We do our best to help the family decide what things are worth and how they can sell them or donate them easily. Sometimes, our members can buy the supplies or they can be given to the teens in our TAG (teach another generation) neighborhood group.

This month we were given 5 unfinished quilts with the batting and backing included. All I had to do as the Community Sew Coordinator for my town was to find willing quilters who would give them some TLC and finish them. So many women now have their own long-arm machine quilting frames but I ran into a snag as not all long-arm frames are wide enough to handle every size quilt. But 4 of them were handed over and I was left with the one orphan quilt…why?

Well, it seems that quilters don’t like to work with that fluffy polyester batting that was the staple when I arrived here in 2002. I worked in a quilt shop knowing nothing about quilting but selling fabrics and selling and teaching Janome embroidery machines. Slowly, the new batting called Warm and Natural cotton batting became the ideal batting on our shelves. The result is a very flat but very quiltable project.

Since I know nothing about free-motion quilting and have no desire to get into that now, I decided to get out a needle and cotton embroidery floss and give it a real primitive rustic feel. How hard could it be anyway…you just follow along the seamlines of the squares and rectangles? Yes, EVERY seamline.

The knots on the back gave it a vintage feel and I made sure that the white squares were outlined in the red thread to make them stand out. It gave me lots of meditation time and every time I came to a new fabric, it made me think about what the quilter was thinking or planning when she added it.

Once it was finished, I handed it over to my friend Sandi who binds all our charity quilts after I had serged the edges and steamed the bejesus out of it to flatten it. Once it had been steamed, even Sandi could not tell that it had been layered with cheap polyfill batting.

As the year comes to an end, some brides for the summer of 2018 have been bringing by dresses for a consultation and price quotes. This dress worn by her future mother-in-law in 1990 will be the base with lots of altering and modernizing.

Can you see the brown stains down the front of the lace bodice and satin skirt? If the dry cleaner does not do such a great job of removing white wine/champagne remnants, then over the years the stain shows up as gold or brown from being made from red grapes.

The bride wants me to remove EVERY pearl and clear sequin and cover the skirt and flounce and train with all new lace fabric and remove the sleeves while adding rows of boning to keep the bodice flat. Also, the skirt will have the side seams taken in to be really tight/pegged to emphasize the lower flounce. Those front pleats are really hideous and may be stitched flat before the new lace layer is added. All the horizontal lace motifs on the seams will be removed and reattached over the new lace layers.













The side view shows the new 3 point bustle. Won’t it be nice to cover up all that shiny satin?

Back in 1990 dresses did not all come with linings and since this dress shows the bride’s underwear, the lace lace layer will add a bit of coverage.

She also wants about 30 satin covered buttons added to the center back for more drama.












A close-up of all the yellowed/aged/stained clear sequins and pearls to be removed and the lace points pinned up.

So this will be a real challenge and makeover and labor intensive project!

Wishing all my US readers a lovely Thanksgiving Day with moist turkeys and lots of pumpkin pie! Mr. Mole has a small stash of Walker’s mincemeat tarts to devour to celebrate the occasion!











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Return of the Satin

First of all, I want to thank everyone who left comforting comments last week about my dad. With little time allowed for grieving, the business side of my life continues. I did leave a comment last time about the twill tape tightening technique for those who asked. Sorry, I did not get better photos of that on this dress.

After weeks of lace and tulle, it is a pleasure to work with real luxurious thick satin fabric. This dress gives off that old Hollywood vibe.

Tara Keely 2152

The first fitting reveals that the top edge of the bodice flares away from the body. That will be corrected with the twill tape to tighten and reduce each side by 1 inch.

The hem needs to be shortened in the front and most of the way back to the train.

With the front and sides pinned up you can see she even has pockets.

We get lucky and can get all the train up off the ground with one point for the bustle. Don’t you just love the way a one point French satin bustle make a lovely waterfall effect even with wrinkles fresh out of the garment bag?

With the top edge tightened, the bride and her mother are very pleased and when we add the jeweled belt, it comes alive. Also, with the proper tight underwear, the skirt hangs flatter and the front and side hem needs to be re-pinned up higher.

Getting closer to the date, the bride brings in her veil totally edged in jewels and pearls and sparkles. I get to steam this puppy…it is 12 feet long.

Poor Mr. Mole always asks, “What is the purpose of such a veil anyway?”




I don’t really know the answer except in olden days I guess it was supposed to hide the bride’s face.






These days it is all about the photos and the grand effect walking up the aisle as you can see in the last photo. It makes a regal statement, no?

This week as temps struggle to reach the 50’s, a local squirrel has been doing his best to stock up before the first snow. After eating one of the last of the tomatoes lingering on the plant, he poses before hitting the sunflower seed bird feeder.

And the neighborhood birds have been packing on the weight as well…maybe they know something about this coming winter?

This week my friend, Nancy, is visiting and going to be trying on the latest sample muslin of Vogue 1561. That should be fun for both of us! Hope you all have a great week!

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Two Piece Two

Buying the $875 Wtoo Bree bustier and coordinating it with a $1000 Effie skirt should make this alteration a piece of cake…no?


How about a real body instead of a model…that top edge is not fitting well and the skirt is 3 inches too long. Unlike the last ruffled skirt that could be shortened using horizontal tucks hidden by the upper ruffles…this little critter does not have vertical rectangular panels…oh no…it has triangular panels and every hem is a DOUBLE layer of that horsehair braid…some with 2 inch and 1 inch combined and some with 3 inch and 2 inch braid together.

There is no way to shorten this skirt except by taking off the waistband…yes…it comes down to that!

First, I thread trace the new stitching line on the top edge of the skirt 3 inches below the original…gathers? Yes, there are teeny tiny gathers to deal with. Feeling overwhelmed, I retreat to the kitchen for a diet Pepsi. Not only do I have to move the waistband down the skirt but I have to duplicate the gathers as well and make them even tighter to condense the wider circumference at that level…Joy oh Joy!

Once the waistband is opened up I find loose interfacing…loose…sure, that makes sense doesn’t it? Never mind…let’s get gathering those 2 new rows to see if we can cram all that into the band without looking like Grandma had her way with this project!

The gathering rows are on either side of the thread tracing and done with the machine…are we having fun yet?

Taking a break and going to move unto something more relaxing…let’s do that twill tape trick on the top edge to bring in 1 inch on each side:

That’s better, now the top edge curves back unto the body.

That does the job so back to that waistband:

While it looks a real mess, at least the bride can try on the skirt to make sure the hem is the right length. Then all this can be trimmed away.

After everything is inspected, the waistband can be basted closed by hand:

You may notice that this bustier is being worn inside the skirt and it has a 2 inch wide belt made out of…wait for it…horsehair braid…who knew this stuff would pull double duty????

What about the bustle points? How many do we need to get all of that up off the floor? I can count 5 of organza and one of satin. How do the bridesmaids find all the loops and buttons?

Well, first they have to find the buttons under every layer and then work their way down a seam to find the loops…so glad that is not going to be my job after a cocktail or two!

With all the bustle points up there is a small problem….there is a rogue layer of tulle that insists on hanging down…well…not for long…it will get trimmed!

Here we have the finished bustle points and tulle trimmed and all the point and loops marked with matching colored safety pins…time for another diet Pepsi for sure!

The basted front clears the floor and it is ready to be machine stitched and be out the door:

All of you bridal seamstresses can only imagine how many hours went into this skirt fiddling around making sure every layer was off the ground and even and how you spent way more time that you should have on similar projects. And we tell ourselves, “oh well, I might make this up on the next project” and that day never comes. Call me crazy, I long for the days when a wedding dress was made of satin…only satin!

After a 2 week break from blogging, and caring for my dad after his fractured hip and surgery, his pain never subsided and he closed his eyes and passed away peacefully. I want to remember my dad as we walked the hall of his retirement home talking about the LA Dodgers and political events. He was a gentle man who spent 94 years making the world a better place. Rest in Peace, Daddy, you have earned it.

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$20 Bridesmaid

Sorry, earlier today, a reader has pointed out that the top half of this post was already posted…so I have deleted it and still keep the dress below:


This bargain is this Aidan dress:

The skirt is like a woven metallic brocade and the lining is knit…of course…but why?

It needed to be hemmed but the skirt hung a bit weird on one side under the waistband so that was fixed as well. The pockets, yes pockets, had to be sewn shut as well to be a sleeker look. So glad I did not have to sew through all those teeny tiny sequins!!!!













The final result is here: 

And what is the best part???

Here is the original price…I think this lady found herself a bargain! In the future she can shorten the dress and toss on a jacket and it can be worn almost anywhere!

After Sara posted her recipe for squash soup in the last post, I decided to try it out. Here is a small diced squash and onion and garlic and red pepper flakes and cumin all simmering in chicken broth to soften:  and here is what I will add later:   Next step is to add a can of chopped tomatoes to the rich base and maybe some leftover cooked chicken:

Everything tastes better with a little shredded cheese!

Happy Halloween sewing everyone!

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20 Years Waiting

Back in 2008, this gown was ordered by a local salon and there it has hung until now. Imagine how many girls have tried it on and rejected it for one reason or another.

With its full skirt and heavily beaded organza layer and thick satin skirt, it really is not a favorite with modern brides who are opting for loads of tulle and lace.

My bride has been waiting 20 years to wear a wedding dress but in the meantime she has produced 4 lovely daughters who now have their eyes on this dress as a potential dress for themselves when the time is right for their weddings.




After lacing up the corset back we discuss what the bride wants to make her day effortless and fun. She wants the satin train to be removed and shortened in the front. The organza, even though it is very long and touching the floor will remain intact and we try a one-point bustle. While it works OK, I think we may need a 3 point one to get all the fabric up off the floor for dancing. So, let’s get started and shorten that train:




Knowing that she may give the dress to one or all of her daughters later down the line I suggest that I leave a 2 inch hem instead of the original one with 1/2 inch wide horsehair braid. You can see the hem is pinned and ready to be sewn by hand. And no, the bride is not under all that organza…my mannequin likes to stand in for the brides on the weekends when I do flat-out sewing. The mannequin will stand there for days and never complain about being tired.

Like with many ball gowns, wearing an extra petticoat helps hold the skirt out and this bride managed to find a really fluffy one on Craigslist for $10…a real bargain! Combined with push up bust pads the bodice is fitting very well. Here we are with the 3 point bustle points.

You may notice that the modesty panel is in 2 pieces…Lord knows what happened in the 9 years it was hanging waiting to be purchased but the salon owner gave her 2 smaller ones that could be stitched together and attached on one side with stitching and the other with snaps for the most coverage. Once the lacing is done up, no one will know…except you.

The best part is how the organza looks with the train shortened. If only you could see how heavily beaded it is!

As the nights get cooler and frost descends in the valley, the butternut squash plants have withered and revealed this collection. Last year each squash weighed 3 to 5 pounds each, it feels the same this year. I can’t rave enough about how easy this squash is to grow…you plant a seedling, water it, leave it alone and voila’ pest-free luscious produce to make into soups or baked with nutmeg and butter.

Mr. Mole has his winter crop in one of the beds already and soon it will be covered in plastic until the spring:

Successful sewing is my wish for you this week! Two blogs to check out this week are Ruth’s Corecouture for a fabulous jacket and Kate’s Fabrickated and her boot making skills.

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Hurry Up Homecoming

How many times have we heard, “We bought this online for $20 and it doesn’t fit and the dance is at the end of the week”?

This girl was referred to me from another good seamstress in town who normally does not get into adding extra fabrics to make things fit.

Normally, when the mother describes the zipper not going up “a little” in the back, I picture an inch or so of a gap…ha ha. How about this? Yes, there is a full 6 inch gap at the top working its way down to the bottom of the 10 inch zipper. The hips are so tight that the back of the dress hikes up at the center back hem as well. Can’t even imagine what happens when this girl sits down and that burnout velvet starts to creep up…oh no!

They explained that they wanted to buy an extra large but they were sold out so they bought the large. Seeing as there are only 2 inches in between RTW sizing, even the next size would not have cut it.

I suggested four wedges/godets 3 inches wide and 12 inches long inserted into the side seams and lining seams to get the zipper to close and give some hip ease at the same time. If we follow the drag lines, they are pointing to her butt and bust equally so the wedges will certainly help!

Let’s get started…first chalk out the shapes from a remnant from the local thrift store ($1) and cut out 4 with pinking sheers as this stuff ravels!

I’ll skip the actual sewing part as it is black and not easy to capture. All four panels are attached and serged on the edges inside and the new panels are seamed at the armhole and here it is time for the understitching to hold the whole mess together:

Without the lining this cheap burn-out velvet would be very revealing. Seam allowances inside are pressed away from the new panels and then the seams are tacked together to keep them flat.With the new panels installed, the back hem is straight and the zipper goes up…hooray!


The side seams look nicer now too with less drag lines. On the real body, the fabric will drape better than on this poor stiff mannequin but I am not sure I would want my daughter wearing such a revealing dress to a high school dance.

Once she tries it on, there is a little pinning on the left side panel to tweak but otherwise, this is as good as it is going to get. If you are wondering what the front looks like, sorry I did not get a shot of that but it is a mirror image…narrow strip of fabric to the neckline and not much coverage.

Another darling dress was dropped off and this time the dropped waist skirt was raised 4 inches to sit on the natural waist. Now, I know all of you are thinking, or should be thinking…circumference, circumference, circumference. You can’t just hike a hip level skirt up and think it will work.

This skirt needed to be taken in 4 inches all around and also they wanted the waist to be tighter so once again, those side seams were also taken in 2 inches…so then the skirt had to be taken in another 2 inches for a total of 6.

There was no zipper and the fabrics were all knit but we got a great result. Sorry, I have no photos in the process as again…with less than a week to go, I can’t always get everything done the way I want. The girl was delighted and she was doing twirls in the sewing room and her mother hugged me and said, “this is all a mother wants!”.

I have been following a really cool blog about vintage fashion which really makes me appreciate the more simpler way of sewing.

Have a look and see how fashion has evolved through the decades:

Wishing you all a super sewing week!

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Lace Topper and a Rush Dress

If you are a modest bride and feel like you are revealing too much in a strapless gown…what do you do?

You can think about adding a tulle covered ribbon halter or double spaghetti straps:



You also want the floor length dress shortened to tea length:

Well, if you are in an Outlet store like BHLDN, you can buy a jacket to cover up like this one for $220.


The bride said she paid more for the jacket than the dress and it kept riding up and flaring away from her body so I made French tacks along the top of the bodice to keep the lace in place.

Once a season I get a dress that was made for a bridesmaid or formal occasion that the bride fell in love with…here is a sparkly knit dress that was purchased at Ross for $20 and just needs the side seams to be taken in…sure, should be easy, right? That middle section/cummerbund in front is gathered into the side seam. Red thread tracing in place:

Oh oh, do you see what I see? The side seams and lining are completely enclosed and the horizontal seams have been sewn last and overlocked.

Might as well mark the lining with my green Frixion pen that will disappear with the heat of the iron. What is the weird black area in the serging? Threads caught in the seam in the factory…maybe that is why it was hanging in a discount store…who knows?












Next step is to remove the horizontal serging and take in 6 seams, 3 on each side and lining seams and close everything back up…that’s when I decided to flip the top bodice seams to the inside and serge them before attaching the waist section. It was tough enough grabbing the seams inside all that and taking them in, serging off and then flipping them right side out again with the waist and hip section without wrestling with the bodice.

The last horizontal seams were serged closed and the bride is ready for her wedding in 2 days…nothing like waiting until the last minute!!!


Simple yet elegant for a Fall wedding outside:


Our late Summer harvest before the frost comes:

Every year we have planted pepper plants and they have been disappointing but this year Mr. Mole started everything from Ferry Morse Sow Easy color coated seeds and we have had a real bounty!

This week sewing includes lots of reflection on the hurricane victims and what it would be like to have everything you own blown away or destroyed and no safe drinking water or electricity and now this morning news of the massacre shooting in Las Vegas. Having a sewing room to retreat to makes me very grateful indeed.

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