Lace and Layers

Once again we have lace embroidered on tulle and delicate straps and the killer lace back:

Wtoo Shelia on a real body:

Pinning up a bustle using all the layers together…not a great idea!

Maybe just start with the straps and leave that crazy bustle till the end.


Here is another alteration, tightening up at the back neckline, with lace, the swirls can be overlapped and hand tucked to be released later if needed.

With this being a sample dress, a button has escaped but will be replaced by the last one at the end of the zipper.

Before I start, I like to iron all the layers flat to see what needs to be shortened. The first layer needs a 4 inch horizontal tuck all the way around. I do this so I don’t have to mess with the 2 inch wide horsehair braid in the hem also attached to a layer of netting. You can follow along with all these photos below:

Hand basted 4 inch hem:

Getting closer:

More wrinkled tulle:

Now we have the maximum lengths for all layers before being trimmed/hemmed.

To shorten the shoulder straps, each side/flap of lace is detached and folded back to reveal the seam. A new seam is taking in by hand to equal 1 inch total on each strap.

New hand basted seam that will not be trimmed. You know by now that I try not to trim off the original seams and save them for the next bride. The raw edges will be turned under and whip stitched flat.

The lace motifs overlapped and pinned:

Thread basted into place and ready for try-on:

Time to kick back a Diet Pepsi and get to it…the big bustle. All the layers are tossed over the mannequin’s head to reveal the satin layer with 3 points. The satin layer will be hemmed in front and not trimmed away as the bride wants to keep her dress for any future daughters.

The 3 point bust for the top layers:

Finally, it is looking almost presentable albeit just needing a little haircut for the dangling bits.

The side seams had to be taken in to give a more mermaid look just above where the bustle starts. At least she could still sit without popping any seams open.







While these alterations and ironing seemed simple enough, I had just 2 days to get it done from Monday night to Thursday morning. The MOB was in a hurry to get the bride in a white wedding dress and legally married before she would grow out of the dress so time was on our side.

When the bride came to pick up her dress, she gave me a lovely thank you card and a nice tip and these roses.

So much to do in the garden this time of year…OH MY…the leaves from neighbor’s trees are clumping everywhere! But Mr Mole has most of his winter veggies and seeds planted so looking forward to that later!

More unusual projects to come…one involving a flag…yes, a flag and patriotic braid!

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Stunning Back

Willowby Mandara is the standard strapless concoction…but wait…the MOB has plans!!!

What is this?

Seven point tulle bustle?

How about a halter to hold everything up? What about pinning out some side bust darts? Can you see the right one pinned? Is this starting to make sense? Will the bride carry fabric down the aisle?

With a grosgrain ribbon pinned on as a halter, we mark the eventual width of the new back panel:

New side bust darts hand basted and halter pinned for effect:

Now, I didn’t just make a dart through all that thick lace…I have to do it the hard tedious way…so come along and count the minutes….

First, before removing the pins, red thread baste the new dart legs on the outside.

Ditto for the inside base layer:

On the outside, detach all lace and flip the edges back to reveal the base and boning.

The inside dart/tuck controls the whole width and length of the dart. It is hand sewn.

Left side dart:

Find the actual edge of the lace, detach and pull across to the new location and stitch with red thread on the right side.

The left side lace pattern:

Let’s tackle that back panel…have I done one before? No. Do I know what the edges will be finished like? No. Will it be single or double?

How will it be attached at the waist? Zipper…Velcro…safety pins…hooks and eyes?

We decide on 2 layers for stability so they are stacked and cut together.

You can buy extra fabric from the maker.

Can you see that one side of tulle is wider than the other? I am giving the mother a chance to decide which side she wants.




What about the halter strap? You can’t just use it alone can you?

Of course not…why not trim off 3 inches from the train to cover the halter.

Each layer was different but they looked nice when wrapped and sewn on.


Each strap has a curve and a job to do.

Getting closer to the end:

The mother wanted the narrower version and the edges will be sewn stacked and left with a 1/4 inch raw edge. You can see that the panel will be sewn on the left and snapped on the right.

Maybe some of you have made baby clothes and used Snap Tape for the crotch opening to change diapers. Well, it will come in handy here. First, find the center of the panel and pin the tape.

Machine sew across the edges and also in a diamond pattern between the male snaps. Attach corresponding side with the female snaps inside the bodice.


Halter strap placement is crucial for optimum support!!!

At this point, the bride said she felt very secure with such a tight fitting bodice.

All the red thread is replaced with ivory thread by hand.


As usual, I mention that any future bride can release all the stitching and have the dress back to the original dimensions as nothing was trimmed away.

What about that bustle??? Well, that is the best part…the mother told me that this dress will only be worn to walk down the aisle and the reception dress will be beaded and quite fancy for dancing. The bride did not want to bother with a bustle and will just drag the train around for a short time. I never saw that other dress but doesn’t it seem a shame to put so much time and effort into a dress that will only be worn and seen for 20 minutes?

In cleaning up the garden before winter and I found this monster scarlet runner bean hiding. We are saving the inside red seeds to plant next year.

Wishing you all stress-free sewing projects and lots of compliments as we race towards Thanksgiving here in the US. Thanks for dropping by!!!

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Ruffles Galore

As a seamstress, you know you are in trouble when the bride announces at the first fitting, “I have been a beauty pageant queen all my life!”

So, after wearing gorgeous custom made gowns all her life, the wedding dress has to be quite something.

Here we have the model wearing the Kitty Chen Kendra.

Let’s start with the back…I have to remove the zipper and take in each side one inch and re-attach the zipper. Can you see that the beaded layer is not connected to the under skirt layer? Just a small problem which requires the under layer to be altered and the top layer to be detached and then snugged up/gathered and sewn back into place.

How about this volume of layers and ruffles? Can you bustle all this up for walking and dancing? You can if you hand tack all the longest layers to the shortest layers.

First, figure out which long layers can be attached under the shorter layers so the whole mess doesn’t look like a huge cupcake. The tiny beaded straps will be shortened as well. Imagine the stress on those skinny straps to hold this whole heavy dress up!!!

Before wrestling with this dress, I placed it on the floor and decided what to tackle first…let’s hit the ironing board and warm up that steam generator iron!

Nothing like finding more layers of gathers and netting…

Starting with the lower layers:

Of course, Kitty Chen had to add horsehair braid to the hems.

More horsehair braid….

Ta Da….all steamed and pressed so now we can see what has to be done

Lots of fun here to hand tack and stand back to admire the volume.

The beaded layer of the bodice did not hug her under bust area tight enough, as in second skin, so all the beads had to be hand-tacked all the way through to the lining to emphasize the tiny waist and larger bust. See all the glass head pins where the lines of stitching have to go?

Now, if any of you have done this, you know that the needle and thread catches on every other bead as you go along. This step is a real patience trier….

The nude colored side seam panels of mesh had to be reduced in width by half to snug up that area as well…all by hand:

Some final narrow hemming of an organza layer:

Everything snugged up and shortened and ready to walk down the aisle:

If you are worried that this dress might be too large to dance in…never fear…she told me that she had 2 other dresses that would serve that purpose at the reception.

More veggies photos before I get back to the sewing room. How about these melons?

Back in Flapper era, the 1920’s, busts were flat and very little fitting was done to dresses. Click on this link for some cool patterns.

Hope all your Halloween costumes turn out just as good and scary as you planned! I already have my candy ready by the front door for the 150+ little scary monsters.

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Good Golly Godets

When brides ask me what was the most difficult dress I have ever worked on…this one tops the list. It is a Melissa Sweet from David’s bought in the Boston store and flown all the way across the country to land on my doorstep.

I could not find a good website back view of the train and the 8 godets/triangles that are added to all the vertical seams to make the skirt as wide as possible and a huge headache when producing a bustle. Can you see how wide each godet is? Each one of the 8 was over a yard wide at the hem.

This was found on Google images:

Yes, those are baby blue tennis shoes peaking out from under the satin skirt. The satin layer and lining can be bustled up with one point on their own but the remaining layers gave me fits and over 5 hours of trying and swearing in the process.

Here is a side view of an attempted solution to gathering up that train into something manageable. Yes, you see correctly…we have a pink layer lurking under the white embroidered tulle.

Trying a halter to help keep those under bust wrinkles at bay. The halter suggestion was quickly dismissed.














What was needed was to insert more boning for support:

One new center one was attached to the inside lining. Note the fact that this heavy strapless dress was only supported by 2 under bust strips so no wonder the bodice collapsed into wrinkles.

Two new side bonings will be wedged between the existing side seam ones.

The covered boning can be easily and quickly attached by hand as this dress had an inside lining and an outside lining.

Now unto the bustle…pull everything up and clamp tight to reveal the satin and lining layers and the point for bustling.

Using the top of each godet as the attaching point, I quickly realize that no matter what I do, each godet just hangs down extra long.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just pull everything into a pony tail??? Wouldn’t that make quite an entrance?

OK, try another technique…pick one point with all layers together and attached at the waist.

Then hike up 4 more bustle points to clear the ground…this is not working either.

Is this a mess or what?



The side view looks OK but not the most flattering having wads of fabric on her hips.
















The front view shows what could be moderated panniers.

The bride agrees that this train is a real problem and says whatever I can come up with will be fine. I really cannot send a bride down the aisle looking this sad and droopy.

So, after a full Saturday afternoon wrestling for 5 hours pinning up and down and all around…it hit me! Make the pink and sheer under layer bustled on its own. Yes, it will add 5 additional buttons and loops but it might just lay flatter and more even off the floor…could this be the solution?

With the pink layer bustled first and the white embroidered tulle layer bustled over the top with also 5 points…we see a flatter bustle and less bunching and clumping. The embroidered tulle layer will be trimmed even with the floor with scissors.
















For some reason the salesperson convinced her that adding a bronze metal flower headpiece as a belt would be wonderful. It only reaches from side seam to side seam and had to be hand tacked to stop falling off the dress.

These delicate headpieces don’t come cheap!!!














One last trick to making this train work. To manage the godets, I hand stitched the top 12 inches of each to close them up before adding the loops 12 inches down. Yes, all 5 of the back ones were done this way. The front 3 godets were trimmed at floor level.

So happy to hand this dress over to the bride knowing that all was accomplished for her special day.

As our nighttime temps drop to almost freezing, we have just enough time to harvest the remaining veggies of the season. Corn, green and red papers, spicy peppers and zucchini, patty pan squash and on the front left…scarlet runner beans have made a nice final showing with more corn to come.

My friend Nancy is back in town the end of this month so I can share what I have been working on for her soon! Thank you to all the followers for your comments!

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Timeless Lace

Wtoo Kensington reminds me of gowns from the JC Penney catalog in the 60’s. Back then gowns hadn’t changed much since the 50’s when brides wore dresses like this:


My bride chose this dress for modesty but also it has a little more modern feel. Right away you can see the baggy sleeves…they have to be tightened for sure!

Starting from the top…back zipper will be moved over 1.5 inches each side.

Using quilting pins to replicate the feeling of a nice tight zipper.


Moving the zipper over and not trimming much from the seam allowance. The extra fabric will to turned under and hand tacked thus saving fabric for the next bride. I know I get some flak from doing this from my readers, but if you wanted to wear this dress 30 years from now and it was your mother’s or 50 years from now and it was your beloved grandmother’s dress…you/your seamstress would be grateful for finding and extra couple inches to let out.

Since from the waist down, the lining was involved, it will be folded under and not trimmed also.

Once the zipper is removed almost all the way to the bottom, it can be pinned into the new position and hand basted for try-on.

Both shoulders will be taken up 1 inch.

On the right shoulder, the lower one, I will move the front horizontal panel of lace to snug it up as well. That front lace neckline actually fans out away from the chest and this will help make it behave. So the lace edges are released and moved towards the sleeve. All will be hand stitched later.

Inside you can see the bound sleeve seam and where the hand stitching will be.

On both sides the lace scallop is released and move up towards the shoulder and hand tacked down.

The bride needs to have the newly tightened sleeves to feel comfortable. The right sleeve has to be released from pin to pin after being taken in the first time. The left sleeve was fine as it is not her dominant arm.

Now the sleeves have just enough ease to spend the day hugging folks and the extra fabric the length of the zipper is not much wider than the original photo. The off-the-shoulder design sits perfectly on her shoulders without wanting to slide down her arm and she won’t have to be tugging at the neckline. The 3-point bustle is nice and flat and clears the ground for dancing. We both loved the fact that the sleeves, albeit a bit long, looked so romantic and reminiscent of days gone by. But what is peeking out from under her scalloped hem???

This week I have some special news…after sewing for clients for 50 years and looking to retire in January 2020, a dear friend of mine in the ASG, recommended a young lady who might like to be mentored for a year for bridal sewing. I am so looking forward to sharing all that I know with her. I told Mr Mole that it is a blessing for this to happen as what would all my life have been unless I can pass the knowledge down. He agreed that this works out well for everyone.

I’ll leave you with some veggie photos this week:

How about this as a bouquet for the rustic bride? Happy sewing everyone!




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Build a Bustle

How about this for a romantic wedding gown? This Wtoo Bellevista gown has it all, gorgeous train, buttons down the back, sheer coverage, real shoulders and a ribbon belt.

It also has a few issues like most gowns. We have to deal with all the fluff under the skirt and whether the bride wants an over or under bustle. Let’s pin up the satin and lining layers first to use as a base:

This French under bustle shows off the lace embroidery really well:

The normal over bustle needs so many points to avoid those deep folds:

The under bustle making use of one line of buttons and loops.

The front view with under bustle

Going beneath the satin bustle layer, you can see that the manufacturer graciously made the netting layer as long as the train…nice idea but when you bustle you sure don’t want to see this hanging out from under it. If we trim the top layer of netting to ground level, that eliminates all that.

Then getting down to the lowest netting layer, it can be trimmed too…why not make it all neat and level under there?

With the top layers pinned/bustled up, it make a more pleasing view

The bride wanted a two-tiered under bustle to get all of the train up so here is a trial look. The second lower tier would be more even in the final days.

The other alternative would be to attach the bustle points at the waist under the ribbon belt. But the bride put it to me this way: “I DON’T want to see ANY buttons or loops or ribbons in my photographs, period!” Even though this version shows off all the lace to the best advantage and is simple to attach…it was “No Bueno”. So all the buttons in the under the bustle were clear plastic.

Another couple of problems were holes…in the tulle skirt and the tulle veil. Of course, I was expected to magically fix these like it was easy. Here is the bead edged veil hole:

As with other repairs, I used invisible thread and caught the two edges together. The hole was already shaped in an oval so it worked out well. I did not bother with the really tiny holes.

This long tear was in the side seam area near the hem of the skirt and I used regular polyester thread as it would get more abuse and you would not notice it.

Getting closer with the two tired bustle:

What about the veil….hope she doesn’t plan on walking through tall grass!

Mother Nature has been making sure some of our experiments have produced some good food. This year I planted cipollini onion sets in the strawberry pots and now they are ready to harvest and store in the freezer:

Mr. Mole tried planting corn seeds for the first time and we are anxiously awaiting the first crunch of the kernels. Next to the corn in the tunnel is Swiss chard which can be picked now before the hungry birds discover it!

Do you smile in your photos? Do you get your kids to smile in family photos? Well, back 100 years ago, that certainly was not the style when sitting in the photographer’s studio.

With Fall upon us, it is time to get thinking about season sewing and Christmas sewing…oh no…can it only be 104 days away???


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Bust Cups, Buttons and Binding

How about a real classic look with real sleeves?

This Wtoo Nahara certainly delivers the look we remember from the 50’s.

To start, the sleeves are about 2 inches too long but they have a regular hem and no scallops.

With 7 buttons and 7 loops, we need to remove 4 of them at the hem. First detach the loops and buttons. Thread trace the new hem with red thread.

Fold under the hem keeping it for future brides with longer arms. Re-attach the 4 buttons higher up on the underarm seam.

Shortening the shoulders by 1/2 inch (one inch total) requires the removal of the sleeve cap and the tulle binding.

Once the first edge is released, we can see there are more rows of stitching to be removed.

After that, the binding is free and the shoulder seam can be taken in.

Here you can see the 2 layers of sleeve cap and bodice and binding.

Starting at the neck edge the new seam stitching amounts to 3/4 inch down to 1/2 inch at the sleeve section.

Basted by hand before machine stitching

The binding will now be too long and instead of folding it under and making a lump, I cut it and overlap for later.

The nice thing about working with lace is…the air spaces!!! Gathering by hand allows me to decrease the cap by the 1/2 inch it needs. Once attached back to the shoulder, it will behave itself and look nice…really.

With everything hand basted, you can see it works.

Once sewn by machine with white thread and basting removed, it will be fine.

That excess tulle will be folded under cleanly under the edge and hand tacked.

On the outside, it looks good.

The sleeve binding is re-attached

With the sleeves sorted out…what’s next? This bride wanted more coverage and the bust sections closer together. Pinching out 1/2 inch, she asked if it was possible to bring the 2 edges together without looking like it had been done.


Flipping to the back side, you can see the tacking stitches that bind the lace to the tulle base.

Once released, you can see that each “flap” could be lifted. Then what?

Here we have the exposed flat center tulle panel and the flaps pinned back.

I pinned out a 1/4 inch tuck (1/2 inch total) and basted it by hand and later back stitched along the basting to make it more permanent.

Then the flaps were flipped back into place, overlapping, and pinned down.

To secure everything, I ran another row of hand stitching down the center.

Sequins were re-attached and you can see that the coverage was complete and the bride felt confident to walk down the aisle without showing a cleavage crease and not worrying about bending over and exposing too much at the reception.

Another advantage of snugging up the center front is the profile, see how the bodice cups under her bust for a smooth transition down towards the belt.

The final photos of her dress with the veil…just stunning with lace motifs on the edges! The bride was so easy to work with, she gave me free rein to make all the alterations and said she trusted me with whatever I decided to do and try.

Just have to share what Mother Nature has blessed us with…patty pan squash normally are about 3-4 inches across and you need at least 4-5 of them in a meal. What about this one weighing in at almost 2 pounds! This is what happens when you don’t look under all the leaves!!!

How about butternut squash hanging from the cage?

Keeping my fingers crossed that this is the last week of 100 degree temps! Happy sewing to all the moms who waved their children back off to school this week!

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