Lace Hem and a Broken Needle

A stunning Casablanca gown that needed a few things done like shortening the satin skirt and a bustle, but let’s start with the scalloped lace hem. Remember, if you fall in love with one of these and the salon salesgirl tells you the seamstress can shorten it…yes, she can but you will pay for all her labor!



As you know from previous gowns, I pin a huge horizontal tuck from just past the side seams to side seams as the rest becomes the train. Then that tuck is measured for the amount the border will be raised and re-attached. This is one of the few dresses that the lace had a definite repeating motif that could be cut evenly and stitched back on.


Once cut away from the dress, the border is basted by hand higher up and in these photos you can see the original dangling bits underneath that will be trimmed away later. Can you see the line of green thread where the points will be relocated?


All was going well, the second try-on allowed me to tweak the length and then I was ready to machine sew the border back on. Was I excited…no hand sewing this time…the top edge of the border had a track for my needle and into the Juki it went. I got almost to end of the strip when something happened….



As careful as I had been, sewing slowly, the needle hit a glass bead hiding under the border and stuck itself into the fabric. Of course, the machine went nuts into a sort of Parkinsonian shaking episode before I could turn it off. The needle had a real nice curve in it after that. My Juki went to visit my repairman so he could rub out any burs or damage on the bobbin case.

That’s when I realized that you could buy stronger needles than the Organ HA x 1 ones I had been using. Yes, Organ makes HL x 5 in the same sizes so now I have a stack of those waiting for the next tough project. I buy my needles here. Why do I buy Organ needles? Having had Janome and Elna and Juki machines, I find they just work better with them and being slightly shorter in length, the stitching is nicer than using Schmetz ones.

Once the lace was re-attached, the bustle was planned with 3 points for the lace and 3 for the satin underskirt. But there was something wrong.

The bride decided that the dress felt too heavy for our 100+ degree summer temps and asked that I trim off the whole train. So it was done and she had her lace train on its own for some great photos.


And what footwear went with this luscious lace gown…come on let’s all say it together…COWBOY BOOTS!

The garden is still producing for us…Japanese eggplant/courgettes, crookneck squash and cherry tomatoes and Autumn raspberries…thank you Mother Nature!



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41 Responses to Lace Hem and a Broken Needle

  1. Shari says:

    How elegant with just the lace for the train/bustle!

  2. Thanks for the info on the Organ needles. I have been using schmetz. After years of sewing for myself I still find choosing the correct needle can be difficult even though I have read all the articles. I love reading your blog. I don’t often comment, but I think I learn something every time. Thanks for taking the time to document and for the outright belly laughs!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you Tracey, I find new tips and tricks all the time reading blogs.I have my favorite 75/11 universal or titanium that works for me or a ball point for knits. Jeans need a 90 or 100 and then on chiffon dropping down to a 70 does a nice job. If I did more varied projects I would be using a lot more sizes and sharpnesses.

  3. pretty gown! and wouldn’t boots be hot too? I have hemmed a couple of lace bridesmaid dresses recently (do it only for friends) and I was thinking I had to remove and raise the skirt in order to keep the scalloped hem. Only to find (to my relief) that the scalloped part is just sewn on. Which makes sense for factory production.

    • mrsmole says:

      Scalloped borders sewn on…hooray…but after 70 dresses so far this season, only 2 have been made that way…boo hoo. Cowboy boots are hot but these brides would suffer anything to wear them and stomp through forests and fields and vineyards to think that they look so unique. It seems that no one gets married in churches or even a building these days…wineries have become the new places to recite your vows.

      • Robin says:

        So true! And even if they get married indoors, they still take a lot of photos outdoors. One of the bridesmaids came running back inside for bug spray when they noticed crickets climbing up through the tulle in the skirt of my daughter’s gown.
        😉 Thats what you get for going outside into a field!
        ha hah

  4. maryfunt says:

    They really should manufacture these dresses with the bottom unfinished and a length of lace edging. The length will need to be adjusted anyway so why not make it easier on the seamstress? So you had to hem the back also and taper it into the already finished side seams. Too bad she hadn’t figured that out to begin with. Train too hot but cowboy boots not???
    I hate when I hit an unseen hazard. Luckily Juki’s are durable. Thanks for the tips on needles.

    • mrsmole says:

      Yes, Mary, after shortening the front from side seam to side seam, I had to even everything up to floor level…it made the dress much lighter without the satin train the lining so I could understand her wanting it but doing it last was just a little bothersome. Cowboy boots for walking in fields and vineyards…church weddings are out, wine bars are in.

  5. Martina says:

    What a pretty dress! I love the lace. I just made a lace t-shirt for myself andi used the same trick for the hem. The whole cowboy boot thing is mind boggling. My last friend to get married wore royal blue satin heels with sparkly buckles…they were great!

  6. Bunny says:

    This bride has great taste compared to some you’ve shown. The gown is gorgeous and really flatters her shape. I love that lace bustle. Beautiful work, Mrs Mole!

  7. erniek3 says:

    My dad paid for half of my wedding on the condition that I wear heels. It was a small, cheap wedding, but I am a small and cheap person and was happy to call my dad’s bluff (and make him happy for once).

  8. Valerie says:

    Cowboy boots? In the heat? She’s probably got a white cowboy hat to go with it as well..but it’s a lovely gown (for once).

  9. Sharon says:

    Don’t you feel helpless at the moment you realize a cherished loved one (Juki, Janome, Bernina, Pfaff) is afflicted? I had a similar experience with a Bernina Serger. I heard her screams…… Oh the horrors of her agony when her lower looper snapped! Glad your Miss Juki is recovering from her Parkinson’s episode.
    A customer brought me items to alter and attempted to explain that she could do it herself but her machine was skipping stitches. When I asked if she was using a new, correct size needle for the fabric, her response was, “Oh, you can change the needle”?
    Thanks for the needle advice Mrs. Mole! Gorgeous dress!

  10. mrsmole says:

    OMG… a snapped lower looper…hope that never happens to me! Your story about the never changing needle woman made me remember my days working in a quilt store and asking customers about their machines that were brought in for repairs. When asked “when was the last time you changed your needle, they would say, “when they break” and when asked when was the last time they cleaned their bobbin case, they would say, “I let the repairman do that when he services it”. Treating our machines well keeps them happy and for those who resent spending $60 for a servicing every 2 years, I just wonder what they are spending in the nail salon on a regular basis?

  11. June says:

    When you described the Parkinsonian shake, I could picture it exactly. Glad the needle didn’t snap off and fly into your face! Thanks for the recommendation of Organ needles. I have some but also can get the Schmetz more easily, so guess which one populates my machines…?

    • mrsmole says:

      When I bought my first Janome machine 15 years ago, it came with Organ needles and the titanium ones were so good for the machine embroidery. If you buy in bulk, then changing them more often is not such a big deal. We have all had needles break and fly and even some go right through our fingers…ouch!

  12. jay says:

    Another clever alteration! The needle bend is pretty impressive too. Mine usually break if I hit something hiding in the fabric.

  13. fabrickated says:

    Nice frock, and a great way to alter lace, it seems. I still find the whole cowboy boot thing rather shocking, but then I am British! I hate the idea of your machine being damaged in the course of your work. It may cost more to repair than you can charge for the alteration. That needle must have been strong to just bend, rather than snap. And the vegetables are such beautiful colours – so joyful.

    • mrsmole says:

      Luckily, I have a great retired man who is reasonable and very good at what he does. I used to use various dealers in town and even driving 4-5 hours away to have someone else do the work but not since I found him. For US gals they should check with their local American Sewing Guild chapters for good repair people…my guy has a wife who is very active making quilts in the ASG for returning veterans. They are both very committed to what they do. If I had damaged my machine on a cheaper project, I might have cried or used some choice swear words…

  14. That is a very pretty dress and not too tight! Thanks for a great post again!

  15. symondezyn says:

    LOL I despise cowboy boots with a wedding dress, but it’s oh-so popular for some reason ^_^ Amazing lace matching, and thanks for the tips on needles! That’s the most expertly bent needle I’ve ever seen!! Hope your beloved machine is feeling better after its ordeal ^_^

    • mrsmole says:

      You know after a servicing all machines are way happier and sound so nice.So, Amanda, we know who WON’T be wearing cowboy boots to her own wedding….hooray!

  16. terri says:

    What you did with that border is amazing!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Terri. There are so many variations whether they are scalloped or straight, sewn on or not that you just have to pick the right one. Most brides are worried that the hem edge will look bad with overlapped lace but it looks really nice with 2 layers and adds weight to the edge. If you can leave 1-2 inches of under-flap, then amazingly the hem can actually be let down 1-2 inches in the future for a taller bride.

  17. Kayla Green says:

    What a lovely wedding dress! And oh, so sorry for having a broken needle in the middle of this project! It is really a tough job to alter dresses as intricate as this since it already includes bead works.

    • mrsmole says:

      You know it, Kayla. On so many projects you can remove beads ahead of time for smoother sewing but not on this one. Normally I remove beads for re-attaching a zipper after snugging up the back and that works fine.

  18. Nice dress and another great job. You must have been horrified when you hit that bead – I am glad the machine wasn’t too upset. I will check out Organ needles here in the UK.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Kim, the Organ needles are standard with all Janome/Elna machines so you should not have any trouble finding them.If you do, be sure and let me know!

  19. prttynpnk says:

    ‘Please refer to the poster on the wall- I need to see your footwear choice so I can match my level of commitment to yours’

  20. mrsmole says:

    Oh Dear, Anne, what about girls who want to go barefoot?

  21. Fashionista says:

    Lovely, flattering frock and the lace train looked very pretty. I don’t understand the cowboy boot look either but in the early 1990s I had a bride wear high laced Doc Martins that she had had covered in the wedding frock material. Hideous. The frock was a severe Edwardian style, high neck, leg of mutton sleeves, long train, eleventy billion tiny covered buttons everywhere in the most glorious ivory silk dupioni so the boots were quite a contrast. Her excuse was “comfort” but I suspect her reasoning was to (successfully) annoy her mother as the boots were a secret until the end. Unfortunately the comfort bit didn’t quite work out as the shoes were extremely stiff and difficult to walk in.

  22. Vicki says:

    Do you just slide the lace edging up, even though it then overlaps the other motifs? I sure can’t imagine moving all of them!
    Your work is, as always, so beautiful.

  23. mrsmole says:

    Yes, Vicki, I just position it and either pin or hand baste through all the layers. But watch out for hidden pearls and beds on the lower level!!! The final trimming is done after the permanent stitching and then some steam. The thickness and extra weight help hold the hem edge down for windy photos.

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