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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32 Responses to Hike me up, Judy

  1. I am certainly enjoying Poldark – though I recognise the lead actor as the vampire from Being Human. A bit of a change.
    I hope you are getting some relaxation amongst all these dresses Mrs Mole😃

    • mrsmole says:

      I have to confess I don’t watch vampire movies so I missed him in that. Relaxation comes in January after all the white satin has left the building. I have 37 brides booked in so far this season and they like to sneak in their bridesmaids as well like in this post. Reading other blogs, like yours, gives my brain a little rest from all the fluff!

  2. prttynpnk says:

    Sadly, I get asked to do this alteration for friends now and then- what fools these mortals be- I’m not so good at it! This is going to help a lot. I can watch the hottie from Being Human while I do it!

  3. Tia Dia says:

    I love Bleak House – I think it’s my favourite Dickens book – and the BBC adaptation was wonderful to see. I see the necessity of this garment in a lot of RTW for myself and my DD2, who is only 4’10”, and likely to stay that height. But adjusting for 4 inches length! Yikes. What do you do with the armscye? Do you find it rides up, or people don’t really care? Totally love your green nail polish, btw!

  4. mrsmole says:

    In this case the armscye was well below the top of her bra and the 2 inches front and back just made it perfect. Why do manufacturers think that in larger sizes our armhole needs to drop accordingly? If it was not so bad, I would have had to drop that so she could dance all night long.

  5. You have a lot more patience than I do. That’s why I let the alteration specialist like you do that tedious work. I’d rather start from scratch and do the custom work. My fingers just don’t like pulling out all those threads. I love the Downey woodpeckers.

    • mrsmole says:

      Call me weird….I love outsmarting the original design and construction and turning it into something custom. I have a challenging bridesmaid dress right now that some family members said it could not be done….well…well…you know this just makes me want to do it even more…never throw down the gauntlet and expect me to give up or walk away…not this girl…never!

  6. jay says:

    I’ve done this alteration, gritting teeth and praying the armhole fabric doesn’t fray away to nothing as I go. You have such patience to tackle these problems on a regular basis.

  7. mrsmole says:

    Maybe I just get lucky with seam allowances and by removing stitches one at a time with the seam flat instead of pulling a seam open and cutting in between and risking cutting fabric as well. Opening up the entire section just gives you more control….ok, it is a pain to open 3 seams but you can see that all the parts behave themselves and do what they are told with very little grief. Since I am being paid for the service, I just have very little time to moan…except on this blog…my place to vent…ha ha Thanks for dropping by, Jay!

  8. Jane Urbach says:

    I certainly don’t understand why people buy something way too big. Are these mail order purchases? Since I am short waisted, I understand some of these necessary fixes. I found this U-tube set of pictures of what people have received. and so far you haven’t shown anything quite so bad as these. I wonder what people do when something so bad arrives. I don’t think any of these you could have fixed, as they certainly qualify for the trash bad. Thank heavens no one has brought you these to fix or you told them it was impossible

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Jane. I have seen these and my heart goes out to the women who paid good money for horrible copies. That one lime green wedding dress is a mess! I am grateful that none of these have found their way to the sewing room!!!! So far!!!! Yes, these dresses are mail order but from good manufacturers. I find when the bridesmaid is not paying for her own dress, she gets really stupid and orders a size or 2 larger thinking that someone will alter it back down…she thinks, or doesn’t think about the labor costs.

  9. BeaJay says:

    Another fabulous job. Love the dress.

    • mrsmole says:

      The wedding gown is so vintage looking and being almost a taupe color it is very different but my bride is a redhead and she is stunning in it. Thanks, BeaJay!

  10. It’s a good thing these ladies have you to get them out the trouble they have gotten themselves into!

  11. fabrickated says:

    This is a really useful post in terms of making alterations at the shoulder. Personally I don’t really like one shouldered dresses – looks weird to my eye even when it fits. I feel the same about mullet hems and obviously asymetric hairstyles – maybe a little OCD on my part? Anyways thanks for another interesting discussion.

    • mrsmole says:

      My British husband is the same…every thing has to be balanced…he cannot appreciate the eye movement that asymmetrical brings to the party whether it be hair, clothes or gardens.

  12. Bunny says:

    I watched Poldark in the seventies on Masterpiece Theatre religiously. Hubby and I loved it. Is this the same or a newer version?

    It’s kind of miraculous how a multitude of fit problems for us petites can be solved by simply hiking up. Nice job, Mrs Mole.

    • mrsmole says:

      I didn’t watch Poldark in the 70’s so I can’t compare but I am sure you can find those episodes on the internet. I have watched old episodes of Robin Hood with Richard Greene just to have a walk down memory lane. You must have hiked up many a shoulder in your sewing room too, Bunny!

  13. Melanie says:

    I agree both with the excellence of that Bleak House (Shake me up Judy — loved that line!) and with the usefulness of hiking a shoulder to fit. I’ve never done such an elegant job of it as you are doing here, though — but I’ve only done it for myself so no complaints yet 😉

    • mrsmole says:

      My own clothes do not get such perfect treatment! Shoving a shoulder pad into all my blouses is what I need with narrow sloped shoulders and nothing I wear is sleeveless anyway. When I am out at a restaurant and need help getting out of the booth I always ask Mr Mole to “Shake Me Up” which makes both of us laugh.

  14. Denise says:

    Do you document via photo all of the dresses brought to you for alteration, before you do anything to the dress at all? If an owner is under the impression that her dress is a high end designer gown, and you know very well that it isn’t… do you educate her as to that truth, even maybe as a business protection for yourself? Anyone ever bring you a dress that set off your radar as to you being set up for a scam?

  15. mrsmole says:

    So far all my brides get their dress photos taken by me and most of them leave the price tags on them. Most are bought locally from a trusted shop and I have never been told otherwise. I don’t know why anyone would want to scam me for labor costs? Why do you ask, Denise?

  16. Denise says:

    I have a friend who does alterations, she recently is going through a nightmare of a customer. Prom dress, presented as very expensive, high end designer dress… her alterations were simple and did not in any way change the overall design. Owner picked up the dress and seemed happy. 1 week after the event… the dress owner threatens to sue the seamstress for “ruining” her “3,000 $ gown” (was actually the mother who complained). My friend says no way was this a high end gown to begin with, much less a 3,000 $ one! Case has not been in court yet, but my friend did (always does) take pics of the dress (both on and off of the owner’s daughter). I’m not sure about what the owner says my friend actually did to ruin the dress. I’ll have to ask her for more details.

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Dear…another reason for photographing the labels inside and finding a link to the website or maker. You would think when the gal came for the final fitting and it looked ok then that would have been the time to say something. Prom dress worth $3000….sounds fishy to me! Maybe in court the woman has to produce a receipt and get another opinion from a seamstress…how would a judge know what was good altering or not?

      • Denise says:

        This is why I feel it was a scam… client making the complaint just demanded $$, and was surprised that my friend has actually gotten a lawyer. I’m betting it won’t get to court at all.

  17. Rose says:

    I lurk often on your blog, your skill and patience is truly amazing. I wish you taught classes I would sign up in a heart beat.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Rose, I do help people fit their muslins with emails and photos if you need some assistance. I have often thought of offering private lessons but for now the brides have taken over my world. Local women come for pattern work and muslins but even that is a squeeze these days.

  18. Pingback: Battle of the Bulge | fit for a queen

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