Nancy’s Knits

When Nancy travels, she finds the most interesting fabrics to bring back to me. This knit fabric was gorgeous with so many cool colors but it was very thin and stretchy and not tough enough for a jacket/cardigan. She also gave me the pattern Vogue 8910 designed for a woven not a knit. It has front shoulder pleats and back darts in View A and B. The front facing wraps all around the neck to become the stand-up collar.


I checked on pattern review to see if anyone else had used this pattern with a knit and didn’t find anyone brave/crazy enough to try it.

The knit was cut bias to show off the stripes and as it stretched equally crossgrain and bias, I figured that if I had enough circumference around Nancy, it really didn’t matter what the pattern suggested.

Without too many alterations (rounded back), I cut it out and hand basted all the seams. I also cut a grey knit lining to give stability as well but I may not line the sleeves.

Here we are all pinned with no sleeves, it would make a nice vest, don’t you think?

And with sleeves:

Once Nancy tried on the jacket, you could see that the lining was rolling to the outside and not letting the blue knit to relax.

So, placing the jacket inside out on the mannequin and pinning the grey knit allows us to see how much more fabric has to be added to the lining. The blue knit had so much more stretch than the lining fabric and I am not sure that there is a way to tell ahead of time. Both were cut diagonally but the lining needed more. You can see that a triangular piece will be needed to fill in the gap.












Here is the new patch attached and hemmed with the coverstitch machine.

The facing is cut on-grain and is basted on and you can see that the lining is now hanging straight. While the pattern called for having the lining not attached to the blue knit until the very end, I cheated and treated it as an underlining, keeping all the seams at the shoulder and neck all together as well as the armholes.

I also kept the lining and blue knit seams sewn together at center back to keep it from growing with every wearing. The center back makes such a nice chevron as well as the sleeves which are not lined.

You can see the shoulder and neck edges have been serged and taped for stability. The shoulder pads will be covered and attached with snaps for easy removal for cleaning.

Both hems had to be finished before the final front facing was attached. Then the facing will be machine sewn to the lining only.

The cool thing about this jacket/cardigan is that it will pack well for all her travels. And speaking of travels…

Do you remember that lovely quiche plate that I received from Kim when I visited her in Birmingham? Well, here is it holding a crustless quiche made with eggs, cheese, half and half, bacon, onions, spinach and mushrooms.

Add some avocado and it is just perfect for lunch with Mr. Mole.



Wishing you a great week of sewing projects to be started or finished or just some stash busting!

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Make Me Look Like a Million Bucks

The phone rang with a desperate voice on the other end….“I have tried on 40 dresses and finally found the best one for the wedding I have to attend”.

“The wedding is on the East Coast and it is being put on by one of the richest families in the world”. Now, that is intriguing enough to keep me on the phone…right? Blog material for sure, right?

Quickly calculating the purveyors of high end dress shops in our rural valley, all I can think of is our tiny Macy’s in a dying mall next to the freeway which I would bet that they would not have 20 decent cocktail/reception dresses in any one size let alone 40. She also says that her girlfriends are all bringing over shoes and jewelry and accessories for her to try and borrow for the big day which involves the ceremony, a dinner in a posh restaurant and the luncheon the following day so this must be some dress. So this must be some “do”.

Well, the “dress” is something she describes as, “You can’t imagine that the dress is actually pants but you don’t know it is pants until you move your leg”. Splendid, tell me more…

“All the dress needs is hemming and a strap shortening”, so I ask if she knows what the fabric is and she says no. I mention that she will need to bring along shoes for the hemming and she says she does not know where to buy fancy heels and that is has been a long time since she wore heels every day when she worked in “corporate”. Now call me cynical…but how many women tell me that they have worked in “corporate” but gave it up just when they needed their medical coverage and pension plan the most? Again, if our dinky Macy’s doesn’t have shoes adequate for such an elaborate function, I suggest her only resort is discount stores like Ross or TJMaxx.

But in spite of all these red flags, I agree to see the dress and ask about when she needs it finished…ready for this…“The end of the week, I am flying”…and today it is Wednesday. So, I agree to see her the next day after she has purchased some shoes.

Finally, she asks what the price will be for my services and I tell her my hourly rate and the her voice goes silent. Then she says, “I had no idea it would be that much and how do I know that you will do a good job and have  enough experience?” “I see that you have a 5 star rating and great reviews but I am still worried”. The other alteration place I went to, I had to take other things back 3 times when the hems kept falling out.”
Finding a decent seamstress seems to be a real gamble doesn’t it?

Here is what the “dress” looks like on a website.

The fitting involved the usual round of listening to the whole life history of the bride and assorted family members along with her retired life after “corporate”. Lordie, I could not pin up 3 inches of slippery knit fast enough!!! All the time she is reciting the litany of the family wealth, I am thinking…this is all stuff a hairdresser would be listening to and I surely am not qualified to cut hair or have a beautician’s license.

Here is what it looks like in person after hemming with my coverstitch machine. It is very cheap polyester knit:


And here is the price tag and notice the thick rubber strip that runs all along the neckline:

Did you notice the invisible zipper that runs up the back? My client tells me that she will not be able to get in or out of the dress by herself and never thought of that when she bought it. She also did not plan on having to use the bathroom during all the events. My suggestion of using a safety pin at the edge of a length of ribbon might help her get a grip on the zipper tab ring but it will still be awkward.

She said she also did not think about what kind of bra to wear under it and maybe she might change her straps to clear plastic. My first thought was, nothing says classy like shiny plastic bra straps. It may be OK for a teenager for prom but not a retired woman.

So, you tell me if she will look like a million dollars?

In the meantime, I have been sent this photo of a wedding dress to come:






No need to worry about hemming or a bustle but the question should be, “where is the rest of it?”




Thinking about my sewing sisters on the East Coast and the storms and power outages…so scary! For the rest of us on the West coast, the bulbs are peeking through the soil and we already have our second set of doves nesting outside on a book shelf full of gardening trays.

Wishing you all a great week of sewing and dreaming up new projects!



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Hand Me Down Rainbow

Another desperate phone call yields this little honey of a dress.

It will be worn at an international film festival as she will be an invited guest.


From a distance it looks…well “quite something” but on closer inspection, it is the thinnest cheapest polyester chiffon known to man and the beads are all just dangling off and it needs a side seam to be taken in and the halter shortened. The hem will drag at least 4 inches but the wearer is not bothered by that fact.

The dress was given to her free of charge as it was originally meant to be worn by a bridesmaid of a now defunct wedding salon and a cancelled wedding. The dress is cut diagonally on bias thus the body hugging appearance but it is lined with a thick gold polyester knit cut on-grain.

So let’s get started on the halter. Since both edges are bound all around and form a lump, I decide to fold back the 3/4 inch on one side only and remove the end binding. If the halter ever needs to be let out, the extra length can be restored. The knot of green thread is the final end of what holds all the beads on, so it is just left there to keep from unraveling.

The back neckline has the gold lining sneaking up over the edge so I decide to tack the whole thing down using the top beads as an anchor and going through them with a running stitch on the back side.

The one side seam needs about an inch removed for 4 inches so the lining is stitched first and trimmed away after the chiffon binding is removed and the seam opened up under the arm.

Using my needle nosed pliers, I break all the beads that will be trapped in the new side seam and hand baste the line before sewing by machine. I hand basted first as this fabric is just so thin and ravely and I was not sure that the needle would not just chew it all up and make holes. This foot allows me to get very close to the seam and it is better than the zipper foot.









With the 2 side seams finished, it was time to match up the 2 fabrics and you all know that when taking in slanted seams, you get the “step-down” effect so all this has to be trimmed to put the green binding back in place. See how thin the chiffon is??? Pink beads attached with green cotton thread?


All of this was hand stitched as I was really afraid the needle would mess all this up with the now added bulk.

 It looks a little ragged but it has to flipped to the inside and will be anchored down using the top edge beads as before.

How about a close-up of the inside? Can you see why the beads are all dangling? Thick cotton thread with no knots to anchor the beads on bias chiffon…precarious!

Speaking of International, ever wonder what it takes to pack a Dior gown for transport to an exhibit in an other country? This fascinating video tracks the experience.

Just when Mother Nature was sending us unusually warm Spring weather and the bee keepers and orchard growers were panicking, 3 inches snow has returned to the valley to make skiers happy while they enjoy over 20 inches of fresh powder.

Hope your sewing week is successful no matter what the project is!!!

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Nancy is Back

Anyone wondering about the Vogue 1561 pattern for Nancy’s  jacket?

Well, how about some photos of the paper pattern alterations?

Starting with the front, it needed more length to drop the bust point. You can see the yellow paper added along with a new dart.

Here is the dart folded out to make sure it is OK. The added 1.25 inches is taken up by the new dart.

What happens to the back? Let’s do a rounded back alteration. The original center back seam was cut on the fold but I added a seam allowance (curved)  instead.

For the lining piece, I kept the center back seam on the fold and added a neck dart instead. That way there are no seams in the outside denim, only the lining which will be cut from the same fabric for stability.

Let’s get cutting some denim and hand basting…

Just in case the center fronts do not have enough ease to cross over, as the pattern only allows for the meeting of center edges, I made a shaped tab in pink (later blue denim) that can be used as a feature or hidden. If Nancy chooses to button her jacket using the left front like a man’s jacket, then the tab will be hidden.

Here we have the whole jacket hand basted and pinned closed. Nancy likes the shaped tab so it will be cut from the solid blue denim of the skirt and have some stitching to echo the leaf pattern. It will be interfaced for strength as well and buttons or snaps chosen later.

Other changes will be to straighten the shoulder seam on the neck so it lies flat and not curve upwards like the pattern. The skirt will have a slippery lining as will the sleeves and the sleeves will have a 1/2 inch solid blue binding at the wrist to pull the colors together.

The back fits well with the curved center back seam and you cannot see the neck darts in the lining. Once the skirt is lined, it will not get hung up on her pants beneath. At this point, the side seams are just pinned and sticking out in a weird way.







But one issue did crop up that needs fixing…did you see the sleeve head drag lines? So many blogs feature jacket and even blouses with sleeve head drag lines…OK ,it makes me crazy!!!

From the side you can see that I released the top of the sleeve to let it drop down 1 inch to make the horizontal grain lines parallel with the floor where the line of pins are.

I will re-cut the sleeves to make the sleeve head higher. Can you do that? Yes. Next time all will be machine sewn, topstitched, hemmed and pressed!

At this early stage of the bridal season, 3 weeks into it, I have 7 dresses hanging and basted and 6 more to come for fittings…but before all that runs down the conveyor belt AKA ironing board, it needed a good cleaning.

I have shown this in the past but it is always good to remind me and you about dust. If you dust your furniture/machines in your sewing room…what about the ironing board? I know I can remove and wash my cover but I don’t want to go to that trouble with the generator iron so I use water in a spray bottle and my favorite Resolve pre-wash stick. I spray the entire cover, swipe the stick over the top and then rub like crazy with a white flour sack towel. Yuck! But at least this is not going on my gowns!!!!

Now, before I go, I will challenge all of you to do the same. If you don’t have a stain stick, just using water will bring up some nasty stuff and dust as well…please try it!

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Shiny Objects #2

Maybe I have been complaining too much about the number of tulle-skirted wedding gowns so the universe has sent me the reverse…totally beaded.  


Yes, just like recent gowns the back is shear and the bride wants it tighter in the waist and hips all the way down past the end of the zipper.









You can see the pinned back zipper with one inch taken out each side:  

This will require removing all the beads in the area to be taken in and the zipper removed from the top of the waistband past the original end of zipper. But before you go snipping and ripping, every bead adjacent to the removed beads has to be individually anchored down so the whole row of beads doesn’t end up in your lap! Non-sewers have mentioned to me that it must be so easy to snip and rip beads off dresses…sure!

I’m sure the client has no idea how long this takes and how tedious it is to find each controlling bead in a row/motif and run more thread through it before anything can be done and then saving each bead for later. At the waistband area there are strips of rhinestones on metal bars that have to be cut with pliers once the zipper is sewn.






The zipper is just hand basted now and when it is machine stitched, the waistbands will match and no one will ever know that 2 inches were removed. Funny thing to me was that the bride was worried about her guests looking back there and knowing that her dress had been altered.


Shortening the straps, I discovered that they were not equal in length (one inch vs 1.5 inches) but they will be when I get done:


The skirt will be shortened in the front 5 inches on the embroidered top tulle layer, the satin layer and the lining layer and finished with a narrow rolled hem.

The small train will need a one point bustle to clear the floor for dancing and photos in a field. Once the hems are finished, everything will be at floor level.











This week Mr Mole and I decided to take the plastic covers off of the raised beds to see how his winter experiment went.  So far our winter has been very mild with little rain or snow and temps in the 50’s. He planted lettuce, spinach, chard and broccoli seeds in the Fall. Everything was harvested so new Spring veggies can be planted and the soil refreshed with chicken manure and compost loaded with worms. Here is the unveiling:



You can see that we have plenty of greens to last us for a while. What we don’t eat as fresh or give away to neighbors, I turn into a green soup for freezing. After an afternoon of soaking and washing all these leafy veggies, I put the scrappy ones in the kitchen compost bin but the next morning I found this:

Seems as though this little slug had an adventure in mind!

Meanwhile in the sewing room, the phone has been ringing non-stop with appointments being booked and excited brides describing their dresses and dreams! I hope all your sewing adventures this week turn out great!

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Adding Support

This Casablanca dress didn’t need too many alterations except to add straps and more support. See the under-bust crease wrinkle?

I like to cross the straps in back for real stability and this way they will never slip down. The ends, be it front or back, can be sewn to squares of ribbons with snaps to be removable or sewn to the dress permanently if the bride can slip it over her head without taking her make-up with it.

The tattoo has been obscured.

Just need to hem the lining and the satin about 2-3 inches by machine:

After opening up the lining away from the satin layer I could see that it could use a bit more boning. I positioned 5 extra strips in the second photo which will be covered with fabric strips top and bottom.

This is a common problem that other seamstresses have shared with me. Below is a gown from a reader that had only 2 boning strips which is never enough for a full-busted bride. I suggested that she add 5 more like a picket fence…which she did in the second photo:


So, here we are pinned in place with fabric guards top and bottom.

Once sewn by machine to the lining, the skirt lining at the waist is French tacked at the side seams:

The new Rigilene boning is attached and flat and doing a great job.

On the inside you can see the twill tape trick was used to bring the top edge of the bodice back into the chest. The straps have been hand sewn to the lining.

Once the dress was tried on, the bride asked if the lining could be even more supportive, so I made more vertical tucks by hand to make it hug the body like a corset would have.

The result is a very nice bodice and a very happy bride and no more under bust horizontal wrinkles and the top edge cups into her chest:















The tulle hems were trimmed all around at floor level and the train was removed as well. You can see the trimmed fabric lying on the floor like a small animal.








Now that I am back home from the desert, the phone calls and emails from frantic brides have not stopped.                          

What might be coming up for the 2018 season?

This is going to be a challenge for support and coverage, don’t you think?

Plenty more weird stuff coming including some “howlers” for Kim and “why did I agree to this” challenges for Kate as she writes her new book…stay tuned!

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Shiny Objects

What might be coming up for the 2018 season? Here is a sneak peek at one challenge:

Yes, this is from the late 1980’s and yes, that is staining all down the front of the dress. It came in a huge preservation box from a local dry cleaners but obviously, it was never actually cleaned before being boxed. You can see that probably champagne was spilled from the neckline to the hem and after time, the grape stain becomes dominant and dark. What to do?

As Colleen mentioned/asked in this post: about covering a dress with another fabric…that is what has to be done with this one on the satin skirt for sure. In fact the bride wants every bit of satin covered with lace fabric, 6 foot train and all…it may take 5 yards and lots of labor measuring and making an overlay pattern.

Note the unflattering pleats beneath the plastron…plastron…what is that? It is the underside of a turtle, a large pad worn by a fencer to protect the chest, a man’s starched shirtfront without pleats but also an ornamental front of a woman’s bodice or shirt consisting of colorful material with lace or embroidery, fashionable in the late 19th century.












THEN…wait for this…she wants me to remove every clear sequin and pearl EVERYWHERE.

The lower edge pins are holding scalloped lace edges under to see the pleats beneath.

So this nasty discolored piece of work will find its way back to the sewing room eventually.

Thankfully I have been away from the sewing room for a little break to re-charge before starting the new season. I took my father’s ashes down south so he could he could have his last wish fulfilled…to be buried with all of his Basque family in So California. Being a veteran from WWII, he was given a funeral with full military honors, the gun salute, bugler playing Taps and the flag folded into the famous triangle which was presented to me.

The last member of his family to be buried was in 1966 so they all have been waiting a long time to be reunited. Besides the flag, I was also given the 15 brass casings from the bullets and a leaflet telling about each fold of the flag and what it represents. Toss in prayers and a sprinkling of holy water from the local priest and a glorious day of sunshine, all in all, a sad day for the 30 mourners arms laden with huge bouquets of flowers but a perfect day of rest for my 94 yr. old dad.

Escaping the winter and arriving snow storm back home while I stay in the rented desert home, I almost feel guilty…almost, but Mr Mole and I will be making the best of it at the local iHop pancake restaurant.

Happy sewing everyone!

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