The most requested alteration other than a hem or a sweetheart neckline is to the bust. Brides want to look voluptuous even if they are not.

So when I explain that the very un-natural rounded shape of the boned bust of their dress needs some padding (push up bust cups), they jump at the chance to have cleavage for the photos. But here are 2 brides that had different issues.

First up we have a corset back dress that needed the modesty panel cut in half:

P1180691 Not wanting/needing to display all the way down past her butt cleavage, the panel was trimmed down:

P1180711P1180712 so the result is:P1180755 OK back is sorted out…let’s move on to the bust. Now no matter what padding we put in the bust area, it just is not enough to look natural without making the dress pull away from her chest. So we go for the second option, the dreaded bust dart in lace. You have all seen me do this before in this post but this time we have the added bonus of top edge piping…oh goodie!

First pin out the excess fabric someplace where it will not be obvious and thread trace in red thread a nice dart on the outside:P1180757 Open the layers to get more access inside:


Turn the dress lining inside out and mark the lining too.

P1180758P1180759 Place the pins down the center of the dart for easy manipulation/folding and grabbing.P1180760 Pin it flat:P1180761 Hand baste it with white thread. Inside the bodice you can see an unusual sight of horsehair braid sewn right under the bust line for stability and thick twill tape covering the top of the boning along with the original bust pad. The piping on the right hand side is loose at this time.  

P1180763 Here is the bust dart in the lace hand basted and ready to try on along with the lining hand basted too. The piping is cut so it will disappear gradually at the junction.P1180799 Another view from the very inside lining.P1180800

Lining darts and bodice darts  will be pressed flat and the piping will be trimmed off.


Baste bodice to lining with piping tuck inside the seam for try-on.


Permanent machine stitching done and the finished top edge…ahhh. Now the rounded boning has been padded (see new tan bust cup in side) and the fullness of the bust area has been brought in closer to her chest with no gaps.

OK, tall skinny girl sorted out but what about a pear shaped bride who had to order a size 24 dress to fit her hips?

When wedding gown manufacturers and designers think plus-size, they think that they have to enlarge all the areas the same. Here is the inside of that dress with a new large bust pad:P1180791

The bust area has been widened and deepened way beyond what is normal or necessary and there is horizontal boning as well joining all the other verticals. This puppy is made to withstand anything! But the bride is narrow on top and of average boob-age so even with padding, the center back zipper area has to be taken in 2 inches each side for a total of 4 inches:P1180790

Then 17 buttons have to be re-sewn exactly 5/8 inch apart as there are loops on the opposite side that have to match up.


The finished back…have you ever seen this before? There is a very long detached train that snaps to the curved edge of organza for the ceremony…how clever!


 The front is now fitting well and hemmed all layers of satin and organza over-skirts.


So that is the little encounter of small busts this week and there are some real disasters coming up that need fixing and time’s a wastin’!

Happy sewing everyone and thank you for your continued viewing of the ASG video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBaIl4uRTac


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Salmon Run

No, I’m not talking about the seasonable spawning of fish in our local rivers…this week the salmon relates to bridesmaid dresses…some good some bad.

While most dresses come with boning and all sorts of structure to make them look good for that special event…one showed up this week that had nothing going for it…literally nothing. It is a floor length tube top with elastic at the top, short lapped zipper and a knit lining covered with chiffon and no label. It seems the bride bought a load of these in little junior sizes and expected real women to wear them. How about this for fitting?P1180764 In order to match the rest of the girls, this bridesmaid did not want a corset back installed so I had to cut fabric off the hem to make panels…you have seen this before:


Pin up chiffon and knit to find 4 inches to play with/harvest.


Remove old short 10 inch zipper and install 20 inch invisible one.P1180768


Open both side seams for the new panels.


Make new panels 4 inches wide and 16 inches long with both layers. Serge the edges.


Zipper installed and first try-on…the back actually closes up! The girl may wear a strapless bra to help control the rolls in the back.

The waist sits on her actual waist but what about those side panels?



Side panels hand basted and pinned at the point…this may work!


Now all that is left is the hemming.

Four other Alfred Angelo bridesmaids dresses came in last weekend along with 6 ladies who filled up my sewing room. 


Five sitting down and one on the platform getting pinned up and in. The dresses needed to be take in on the sides as well as hemmed.


The one thing the mother of the bride wanted was for me to close up all the organza panels by hand. I said I would not re-design the dress and said I could close up the very bottom of the back panels 2 inches to cover a few of the bra bands. To hand sew all those chiffon edges together would have removed the whole reason the bride selected them.

She also asked me why the first layer of skirt lining closest to the legs had the seams facing away from the body. I said many gowns are made this way maybe to keep from snagging the seams on shoes with beads and straps. Doesn’t it make sense to have a smoother side inside against the body and shoes, no? Then she said she wanted me to change all of them to be the other way on all the dresses…I declined. There is a second layer of lining facing that way under the chiffon so nothing shows on the right side anyway.

Mr. Mole is always offering little tidbits to enrich my sewing life and recently he shared this link for all my readers who also crochet:man shorts

If you need a chuckle please visit this YouTube video and help these women trying to earn money to buy supplies for community charity sewing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBaIl4uRTac

Thank you, Everyone and happy sewing!



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Battle of the Bulge

A little advice to future brides: NEVER buy your dress a year in advance.

Here is why…

1. The groom backs out…you are stuck with the dress

2. The groom makes you pregnant…you cannot fit into the dress and delay the wedding for a year

3. You failed to lose the baby weight…you cannot get back into the dress

4. You celebrate with your girlfriends for 11 months and then try to zip up the dress…you gained 11 pounds and cannot get into the dress

5. Something magical (not in a good way) happens while the dress hangs in the garment bag…garment bags are notorious for shrinking bridal gowns

Then it is up to the seamstress to make some magic with the wedding date a month away.

The first thing that can be done is open the seam allowances all the way and then take in where needed.P1180687 Here I was able to let out the side seams a total of 4 inches all around and then mark where we needed to take it in and do the final machine stitching. On this dress, letting out the center back zipper area was not an option with embroidery and a huge bow at the waist.

Up next is the dress you saw 2 weeks ago when I shortened the one shoulder strap. In the month between fittings, the bride was going to go for trail runs and drop 5 pounds but when she returned the scale must have gone in the other direction as the side zipper would barely slide up. Pinning up bustle points to her lining I realized that under all that English netting, the 3 layers of linings were screaming and I could barely get a pin into the fabric as it was stretched so tight across her butt. Sitting down would not be an option for her on her special day. So I suggested that I open the side zipper area and try to get as much as I could and slide the folded under netting over to meet at the invisible zipper.

She fought me all the way and said she did not want her dress altered but in the end she agreed I could do whatever I could.P1180807 P1180808

Since the other side was embroidered over the belt and it was not possible to let it out, this was the only choice. All the linings have been let out as much as possible too just so she can sit down.

P1180809 Now these 2 dresses are ready and waiting for the next try-on appointments  and I can finish them.

Along with these two brides I also had one that bought her dress way early and also grew out of it. It was a standard floor length bridesmaid dress that needed lots of work to make it a high-low. I spent over an hour pinning/pleating up the long chiffon layers unto her hips and waist to cover a highly decorated lace corset beneath. The zipper would not zip up so I managed to get the zipper moved over 1.5 inches along with letting out the back darts (another 1/2 inch) to gain some ease. The darts had boning sewn through them so that was removed as well so she could breath and dance. The straps were repositioned closer to center back so they would not fall down.

With all this letting out, when the bride showed up 2 weeks later…the dress was just as tight as before but she did have breathing room in the back…wrinkles too as her hips had expanded to prevent the dress from sliding down and relaxing…but the front is fine and on a beach in Hawaii with the wind blowing…she will be happy to expose her legs and dance in the sand. P1180730-2P1180731-2 P1180740

After gaining almost 2 inches of ease in the back you can barely see any difference in the before and after photos except the boning is gone and the hem is finished. The hip area is much tighter and causing the wrinkles higher up…really sad.


More challenges to come next time!

If you missed viewing the ASG sewing video last time, please check it out so these great ladies can win the cash prize to buy supplies for their charity sewing. In the past they have made over 800 quilts for returning veterans and continue to make clothes for children who have little to wear to attend schools, pillowcase bags for filled with essentials for homeless teens and seniors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBaIl4uRTac

Hope everyone had some good Easter sewing time!

Thank you for dropping by!

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Heavy Metal Bride

Every day that the phone rings I hope that it will be a new bride with a simple alteration…OK…that’s just me the “ultimate optimist”. So this next dress was a little difficult for the mother to describe over the phone.

It seems that her daughter was not going to have a normal dress bought off the rack so they made a trip to a fancy Los Angeles boutique to custom order this dress from Australia. The models on the website are all very tall and sophisticated so that is the first indication of trouble. My bride is very petite and very young and nowhere close to having the dramatic body and attitude that commands such extravagance.

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The dress is all silk and the beaded/rhinestone collar must weigh over 5 pounds on its own. All the rhinestones are set with 4 prongs which catch on everything else on the dress especially the lace skirt. It consists of 2 sets of wrap ties, an elastic waist and its own set of 13 steps of direction on how to tie them:How to Tie MIRANDA2


How to Tie MIRANDA6

There is also a lace tail that has to be tucked into the back waistband and this controls the entire position of the heavy metal collar. Of course there is nothing holding that strip of delicate lace TO the waistband…just divine intervention. My first idea was to make a new longer loop for the 4 ties to slide through and a wide tab of silk fabric with 3 snaps to attach it to the elastic waistband.P1180709P1180611P1180610 P1180710 OK, first problem solved…what else do we need to do to this custom made-to-measure dress? How about the gap at the center back of the collar? It pokes out away from the body and need to have some of those precious rhinestones removed along with seed beads and sequins…tedious? You Bet! Here is the back side to see the thread tracing for a dart…Lordie…a dart in a beaded collar…I must be nuts!



Remove everything inside the dart and then hand sew the 2 edges together front and back.




OK, collar done, what else? Well, the first set of ties come off the front panels at a weird angle and will not lay flat after going through the back loop…the mother asks for a vertical dart on the outside and inside of the top ties…sure thing…the ties have only one seam so the entire top edge has to be opened to get to the inside to make the darts…but hey, it’s only labor. Let’s hand baste the darts first.P1180600P1180601

Oh, and while you are in there, how about adding another strip of boning, this time one that goes from the very bottom edge to the top, not like the skimpy original one? How does one add boning to a strip of silk without showing or managing to use a sewing machine? How about covering the boning with silk and hand sewing it to the lining…sure, it’s just labor. The first photo shows pinning the covered strip of boning to the outside for perfect placement before hand sewing it inside.


And are we almost done?  P1180609 Wait…we have to remove 5 inches off the hem of the lace and lining and then the mother produces a little bag of something hidden in the garment bag…what could it be??? M&M’s perhaps or a Snickers candy bar? Nope…something white!

P1180612 How thoughtful of Anna Campbell, the designer, to include 5 yards of lace edging for the seamstress to attach to the hem. It’s only labor after all…let’s do it…and the final try-on…remember the little loop on the big loop earlier? Well, there is a small button that makes the train into the bustle and here is the back view and front view minus a few tattoos:

P1180739 P1180737-2

So with just 5 hours of labor and lots of hand sewing, we have a “custom” dress that fits…finally! After working and thinking so much on this dress I was just a little disappointed when the bride announced that she was going to sell this dress right after the ceremony…really? Try to find a bride who wants a $3000 altered custom dress…that may be harder than you think.

A friend sent this link of a deserving group of ladies who made this video for a competition to earn money to buy supplies for charity sewing. Each viewing is counted every 24 hours towards their goal of the most votes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBaIl4uRTac

Please share the link if you can !

Happy Easter everyone!


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Hike me up, Judy

Phil Davis portrayed the deliciously nasty moneylender Mr. Smallweed in the BBC adaptation of Dickens’ Bleak House a few years back.  Here is a YouTube video of his granddaughter, Judy, shaking (hiking) him up: Bleak House.  My UK viewers may also recognize the actor as Jud, the caretaker, in the new series Poldark.

So what does this have to do with sewing? Well, this time of year I have many requests for “hiking up shoulders” to make RTW dresses fit better on petite figures.

The first one involves a one shouldered wedding gown from David’s Bridal. All the fitting is controlled by that one shoulder and by taking up the seam 2 inches, it will make the bride feel and look better. She also wanted the shoulder drape removed so here is what I did.


To get inside the seams, I detached the lining from the zipper and opened up the entire shoulder to get a grip of each seam of fabric and lining. Pulling the whole mess through the new opening lets us see what has to be done:


Remove beads that will be in the way of the new stitching first. Measure down 1 inch on each lining side and lacy fabric side, stitch each one:




Stitch the outer edges back together and turn right side out:





It looks nice from the right side but I then hand sew understitching to keep the lining in place.


The next dress is for a bridesmaid and needs 4 inches taken away to sit correctly on her body.



I trimmed away the excess fabric with my pinking shears and flipped the seam allowances away from each other to reduce bulk for the final stitching. My pins are positioned in the direction of the sewing so they can be removed as I stitch and the green nail polish was for St. Patrick’s day.



Once the shoulders are turned right side out, we have a nice flat finish.

There are different ways to make this same alteration but I like this one as it gives me the most open area to work on all the seams. I hate fussing and wrestling within a small space as it seems to take more time and adds to labor costs. This dress also required me to take in the side seams from the armhole to the hem 4 inches on each side (and lining) and hem 2 layers.

Why people insist on buying a dress 3 or more sizes too big baffles me. If your dress is 8 inches too big around you and 4 inches too long in bodice length…then it just ain’t your dress! I told the girl that this would essentially be a total remake of the dress since almost every seam had to be opened and altered and put back. The labor may be more than the original cost?



Now that spring has come to our valley you can catch a glimpse of a downy woodpecker stocking up on suet before the breeding season:Downy-woodpecker May you all have a super week of sewing and enjoy watching Poldark in the UK (soon to be coming to PBS in the US) and I hope none of you have to do any “hiking up” of shoulder seams!!!


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Perfect Prom Dress

The prom season has begun and what a nice change to see a dress that actually looks nice instead of the usual hoochie-mama-tube-top ballerina tulle skirt I-can-see-your-underpants concoction.

Here is what we started with…not a seamstress’s dream fabric….that fluffy embellished knitted rose sheer over layers of satin but still feminine and dare I say – age-appropriate…halleluiah!


Can you see the hem is pinned up along with the 2 layers beneath it? But wait…what is lurking in the zipper area?

P1180640  Yes, well spotted…the usual back zipper alteration…this time let’s remove 1.5 inches on either side and get that grosgrain belt effect lined up with that invisible zipper. Lots of bulk with all those layers and then folded under and expected to lie flat and the zipper to slide smoothly…not too much to ask is it? The other request is for the narrow original hem to be kept deep enough so it can be worn with high heels instead of sneakers…yes, sneakers but at least they will be hidden.

The one cool thing is the story behind the dress. It was bought 2 years ago in anticipation of this event and just brought out for it’s debut. See the price tag and see why they could not pass it up:


It’s not everyday that you find an Adrianna Papell dress on sale for $89 reduced from $278. So with the addition of some bust pads (above) and 3 hems and tightened zipper (lubricated generously with Zipper-Ease), this prom dress will be worth under $200 and be able to be worn again or sold knowing nothing was cut off and could be restored to the original size.

Now for a close-up view:P1180669 and the finished product with hand sewn hem:P1180670P1180671

Finally what is a gal to do with all that fluffy fabric around the zipper teeth to keep it from jumping in the path of the zipper pull tab? Maybe some hand stitches will do the trick?P1180674

Not the prettiest solution but imagine catching any of that raw-edged fabric at any point and the yanking and swearing that would happen along with trying to release the snagged fibers! I’d try anything to keep those roses away from the zipper and keep the frilly bits tamed!

This week an order from Wawak arrived…what could be more exciting than a box of boobs and jumbo pack of invisible zippers? Yes, there is also a pack of 144 satin covered metal backed buttons that I use for bustles so all this will be put to good use and who doesn’t love a bargain like buy 2 pair of boobs and get one pair free!!! Yippee!box-of-boobs

Thanks for dropping by this week and there will be more brides in the parade and good stories next time!

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Bargain-hunting Bride

So many brides want me to know about what discounts they managed to get on their dress. They are so pleased if they get 20% off or more and I admire their determination to try to save money where they can since weddings are crazy times to watch money disappear for a one-day event.

This next bride should get a medal for her find. She is having a garden wedding and wanted something light and airy and cheap and while trawling through re-sale shops in town she found the perfect dress:


It had sweet scallops at the top edges and an embroidered beaded organza over skirt over a satin layer and a lining. All that was needed was hemming but there was a slight problem…the hem was trimmed with thin narrow rayon edging which the bride had removed to cut down the costs. Cost….I almost forget…here is the original price tag:



Now in our area, consignment/resale shops list garments for 20% of their original cost and then they take 50-60% commission. In the end the seller gets about 10% of what she originally paid which never seems like a great proposition to me. But would you be shocked to know that this $775 designer dress was priced at $30? Yes…that means the seller got less than $15 and the bride got a real bargain!

Now, back to the alteration…let’s hem the lining and satin layer and tackle the rayon edging.


Next lay and pin the edging on the agreed upon finished men length and stitch it on.


Trim away all the excess below the edging and you can see the red thread line marking the hem edge.


and you end up with the lace hem just about 1/2 inch below the satin hem…perfect!


Since the edging was so fragile/frayed after the client removed it, I ended up sewing it all by hand as I thought for sure that using the sewing machine would further damage it with following all the curves and loops in the design.

Before I leave you, Mr Mole found this photo on the internet and he shared it with me. It has been on Google images for a while and you can find it and more if you do a search for “women sewing fishing nets”:sewing nets

They make sewing on wedding gowns a piece of cake!

Happy Spring sewing everyone!

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