Cover My Arms!

An older bridesmaid brought this dress to me. Her main idea was to find a dress that would cover up her arms…but starting with a one-shoulder dress can be a problem…my problem.


It would have been way better to start with at least a sleeveless dress.

Here are the strips I was able to make and pin onto the armholes.  In this photo, they are not turned right side out and have the pinked seam allowances showing.

Notice that since the armhole on her left (your right) is a normal armhole, the one on her right (your left) is just a sloping neckline, the sleeves have to have different shapes.



In the back, it is the same story, the backs of the sleeves do not match in shape but they will look alike once we get done…fingers crossed!


The skirt hemming was only going to be an inch so I had to harvest fabric from the chiffon skirt side seam. The skirt was gathered and had plenty of fabric. It was impossible to make the sleeves match and you can see the different shapes they took after unpinning.



Once the short shaped ends were pinked and stitched with 2 rows of gathering, they were attached by hand on the inside of the bodice. Please ignore the bra strap. She was so happy that her arms were covered and she could still raise them up to dance.

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Just thought I would share a couple of chuckles this week. Here is an email I received:

I accidentally put my wife’s dress through the wash and it came apart at the seems a little bit. I found your business on Yelp and you are highly rated. I was wondering if you have the availability to take a look and possibly repair it before her birthday on the 23rd.

He did come by that afternoon and I stitched up the back seams. He left a happy man.

Some gal called yesterday to say:

“I have 2 dresses exactly the same, one is too big and the other is too small and I need a professional to tell me which one will fit me for my Sept 2017 wedding.  Oh, by the way, I need to be seen this weekend or Monday”

I called her back to find that she has had both dresses for a while and she has to send one of them back and I’m supposed to tell her which one. OK

I told her that she could come on Mon or Tues and she said she works from 7:30 am until 7:30 pm and I would have to fit her in after that. I don’t see clients at night, bummer.

I said, NO, I can see you Wed…how about that and she said…ready???...

”On a whim, my boyfriend and I are flying to Europe on Wed for a month’s vacation and I have to send back the dress before I fly.”

I wished her good luck in finding an available seamstress at this late date.

This story was told to me this week from June:

I was dropping off and picking up a few garments today at the tailor’s when I ran into another client of hers, who was there to have a wedding dress altered. I overheard her trying to get the tailor to steam the dress for free and arguing a little bit over the price. When she sees the total bill ($300ish), she says the dress only cost $99. And the tailor holds her ground, just looks at her. (I was proud of her!) 

After that client leaves, the tailor tells me this – the customer starts calling her at 7 AM (an hour before she usually gets up). She agrees to see this woman and her wedding dress, and then an endless stream of text messages start pouring in all morning. The gal is clearly anxious about having this dress done on time because she’s dropping it off today (Thursday noon) and the wedding is… MONDAY!!! She initially wanted to stand around the sewing studio, not understanding that the alterations would probably take the better part of a day. (Also, she assumes the tailor has nothing else in the queue, was just waiting for her to show up so that she’d have work to do?) Unbelievable. And yet… probably something that happens a lot. 

So dear readers, if you don’t run your own alteration business and don’t understand the customer’s phrase, “Your job is SO glamorous”…rejoice and enjoy having the time to make your own clothes, quilts, pillows, table runners etc. without the chaos and drama!

Today, I experienced the worse meddling mother ever. It was the second fitting with custom-made sleeves and she unpinned all my work and re-pinned poorly for 45 minutes while I stood back (as British Mr. Mole says, “like a lemon”) and finally for the last 15 minutes I told her she had to back off and sit on the sofa while I worked pinning the bustle.

She was not happy and said she could not sit still because she has OCD. At that point I did not care if she had OCD, IBS, a UTI or the biggest bug up her butt…it was my room and my time and my pins. Her remarks of “well, I guess you have done this a few more times than me” just about made me walk out of the room to scream in the hallway. Will I share the wedding dress on the blog…oh yes, I will…you can bet on that!

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46 Responses to Cover My Arms!

  1. Sylvia says:

    😂 She unpinned and changed all your work in your studio?! I’m aghast. Why did she hire you to do it if she thought she could do better? You have superhuman patience powers!
    I’m looking forward to seeing the finished dress.

    • mrsmole says:

      At the first appointment she told me that she would do half the alterations to save money. At the second appointment she did not even bring the big petticoat that she was supposed to have taken up 4 inches so the dress hem and bustle could not be measured accurately. More to come!

  2. Trish says:

    Oh Mrs Mole, your blogs are so reassuring for we fellow alterations ladies (or for this one, anyway)!
    The last minute requests/demands with a good dose of entitlement thrown in would be funny if they weren’t so annoying and time-wasting.
    As you would know, if you relent and rush a job through for that sort of client, it’s always more trouble than it’s worth, and there’s usually no gratitude shown. Thanks for reminding me to stand my ground.
    Great job with the sleeves on the bridesmaid’s dress. She must have been thrilled!

    • mrsmole says:

      We try to be nice, try to understand the frenzy, try to fit into the timing and schedules and then we get shafted and pushed aside and our expertise challenged. Makes me wonder if I can continue this for much longer. It has been a most challenging year since Feb.

      • Cheryl says:

        The added sleeves are LOVELY 🙂 You did a GREAT job 🙂 I am also happy you were able to help the gentlemen with the seems of his wife’s dress 😉 I laugh when people ask if I still do ALTERCATIONS 🙂 I am not laughing AT them, not at all 😦 Sometimes I just want to reply, “I avoid ALTERCATIONS as much as possible 🙂 “

  3. Mindy says:

    You have the patience of a saint! I’m no seamstress, only a retired nurse, and I so understand how people can just absolutely pluck your last nerve.

    • mrsmole says:

      Even if I wanted to I would NEVER challenge or piss off my hairdresser, massage person, dental hygienist, etc. knowing that they held so much power over my body and hair and teeth. How much more important is the wedding gown to a bride and her mother? It’s not good talking down to your seamstress especially when there are so few of us left that want to do this section of the public.

      • SJ Kurtz says:

        This is exactly what doesn’t make sense to me about customers and service. You paid me to do work for you (sell you tickets, fix your software, hem your pants, whatever job I’m at today) and you want to explain to me/ micromanage how I should do this for you. Well, do it yourself then. Keep me out of it, certainly.

      • Cheryl says:

        Yep, we are RARE these days 🙂 I just IGNORE the comments about..”I used to sew. I could do this. I just don’t have any free time these days.” 🙂 I don’t have ANY free time these days either 🙂 I am a self-employed professional seamstress 🙂 I live alone with a two acre property to maintain along with the home studio and outbuildings. Vacation=HAH!!!!! I have never had to do it but…… if someone meddles and insists on continuing, they will be shown to the door. I don’t have TIME to deal with drama or problems. I have PLENTY of customers 🙂

  4. The sleeve work on that purple dress is really something to behold.

  5. sheryl says:

    What a lovely solution to a seemingly impossible problem. Your posts always spark so much creativity, and really teach me a lesson in patience.

    • mrsmole says:

      Here is the real lesson, Sheryl….never agree to alter a wedding dress!!!! UNLESS you know the customers are super nice and respect your knowledge…there are a few good ones out there!

  6. maryglenn says:

    You are so patient. I love when they tell you when they want to come.

  7. mrsmole says:

    Like my hours should be from 7 am until after 7:30 pm for their convenience…this is not a 7-11 store…I don’t serve Slurpies or sell Cheetos for people with the munchies…I have regular hours 5 days a week and I sew during the night every night just to keep on track…if the sewing fairies showed up once in a while things might be different!!! Thanks for the wine to go with my whine!

    • Monique says:

      Reading this, I was wondering what sort of effect reality shows have on perceptions. I don’t watch them as a rule, but can imagine certain behaviours become the norm, just by seeing them on screen again and again. I don’t watch Project Runway, just the Great British Sewing Bee – both do seem to have lead to much more interest in making your own clothes. How about the reality of tailoring, especially wedding dresses, showing what real work goes on? A factory in Bangladesh is maybe emotionally too removed from one’s normal life to make one think deeper, so local is better, no? Or a series on the Chinese wedding dress manufacturers, whose work you so often encounter? The myth that someone has lovingly crafted your most special dress could surely not survive and all this could lead to a new appreciation….?
      Dreaming, not had my coffee yet, and enjoying your blog too much, otherwise I would wish you only lovely, appreciative, well-paying clientele. 🙂

  8. I love your posts! They make me laugh out loud! As a fellow seamstress it reminds me to keep a sense of humour with those more challenging clients. Thank you for your honesty & inspirational craftsman(woman)ship.

  9. Pauline Wright says:

    I do have to point out to my customers from time to time that it costs the same to alter a £500 garment as it does a £5 one from the charity shop. Why? Well it’s the same amount of work!
    It’s up to them to decide if they want the alteration badly enough.

    • mrsmole says:

      Labor is labor no matter what you work on. I love the clients who say, “I only paid $$ for this” and that is supposed to make me drop my rates.

      • Cheryl says:

        🙂 I love it when they say that 🙂 I get a phone call that takes MY precious time. I give you an estimate of the alteration charges and you tell me that’s MUCH more than you paid for the garment. Why is this MY problem? I especially get it with hemming jeans. I charge $15 per pair. Hemming tee shirts- $10. You can WHINE all you want but I am NOT changing my price so stop BOTHERING me…… I have work to do 🙂 Go find another seamstress, since there are SO MANY of us around 😉

      • mrsmole says:

        Oh Cheryl,
        Could you come visit me and coach me on being more assertive, please???? I love your comments!!!!

  10. maryfunt says:

    I love your stories although I’m sure some of the most entertaining ones aren’t entertaining to you while you are doing the work. Some of those transformations look absolutely impossible. In my experience altering inexpensive, cheaply made clothing is actually harder than the pricey designer ones. Better clothing has wide seam allowances and doesn’t have every seam serged. They are also constructed in a way which makes taking them apart and putting back together easier. Cheaply made bridesmaids dresses are the absolute worst! Fabrics fray at the slightest touch, nonexistent serged seams and a jig-saw puzzle to put back together. I hope you have a few lovely, appreciative clients to offset the demanding gems.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks, Mary, yes dealing with quality dresses and fabrics are the best but we can’t pick and choose can we? Challenges just seem to come in spades some weeks!

  11. Girl in the Stix says:

    That sleeve alteration was genius! As for the “OCD” mom, you could charge the PITA tax 😉

  12. Sharon says:

    In regards to the call from the Sept. 2017 bride, I must ask you Mrs. Mole, How much do you charge to predict the future? I have a closet full of garments in a multitude of sizes and would love to eliminate the excess. It would be so convenient to have you tell me what will fit me properly a year in advance !
    Surely you charge less for ‘mirror time’ than for ‘fortune telling’ ! Sometimes it’s good to have those sorts of phone calls so you have something to chuckle over, leaving a grin on your face before tackling the real P.I.A.s such as the overbearing/taking charge MOBs.

  13. ANGELA says:

    Oh yes, could you predict my size a year from now? That would be lovely, and make cleaning out the closet a much easier task. LOL! That was too funny… I agree with the others, you do have the patience of a saint!

  14. sewruth says:

    Totally ignoring all the PIAs – genius sleeves! Let’s focus on the good.

    • mrsmole says:

      Getting a good result sometimes requires wading through a lot of mud…but in the end the celebration comes as they walk out the door and I have a check in my hand. I told the bridesmaid NOT to tell any of her friends where she had the sleeves created!

  15. Katherine Rockey says:

    Beautiful solution to the sleeve dilemma, and I would never have thought to do it.
    In my job as a RN in pre op, we tell folks the night before “NOTHING at ALL to eat or drink after midnight, and that also means no smoking, chewing gum, rinsing and spitting, sucking on candy” And today 5 FIVE patients came in and had had something to eat or drink, because they didn’t think we really meant not even WATER!! The good news for me is, either their surgery gets cancelled! (They are SHOCKED when it happens) or it gets delayed and I am responsible for poking them with a sharp implement when I start their IV. Not that I enjoy that. 🙂 You need to accidentally poke some people with pins. You are so patient.

    • JustGail says:

      I know about the no food/drink/smoking before surgery, but had no idea it also included chewing gum or rinse/spit. Then again, thankfully, I haven’t had that much experience with needing to know. Now where’s that wood to go knock on…..

  16. mrsmole says:

    The only person who gets poked with pins is ME! If I tell a bride to stay still she has to fidget and pop pins and make it really difficult to get all the layers together. Luckily I can get rid of blood stains without them noticing! When I was an x-ray tech doing heart caths and angiography, we had the same encounters with folks who could not follow instructions…they sure never want their exams delayed!

  17. karen says:

    I could never do your job (assuming I had the necessary expertise). There are too many sharp objects in a sewing studio for safety. Your objectionable customers would not last 15 minutes. Menopause is far in my rearview mirror, but tolerance levels have decreased to all time lows.

  18. mrsmole says:

    Mr. Mole always reminds me, “All things must pass” and my friends remind me of the second part to that phrase, “like a kidney stone”. They say childbirth is like passing a kidney stone and when one is laboring over these dresses and dealing with mothers, it seem apropos. Is that why you are called, “Grumpy Karen”?

  19. prttynpnk says:

    If you acknowledge that you need a professional- why do you doubt the professional??????

  20. mrsmole says:

    Exactly! Thanks, Anne!

  21. I have seen from your blog, you work so hard and are so talented – I’m sorry you get these comments … I hope only occasionally. Myself? I would probably just want to “pop” someone in the nose!

  22. mrsmole says:

    On the outside, I just smile, but on the inside I am screaming and shaking my head!

  23. Shams says:

    Those added sleeves look so lovely, Mrs Mole!!! I am NOT kidding when I say that I would not even attempt that! In fact, if I were wearing that dress and needed sleeves, I’d travel to your state and bring it to you! Yes, even as an experienced sewist!

  24. mrsmole says:

    Oh Shams, I’d love to hang out with you and make sleeves! What that gal needed was a bolero jacket and to call it a day…ha ha!

  25. Kim Hood says:

    I love reading your posts – so nice now that I have decided to ‘call it a day’. I did the happy dance three times round the kitchen when I refused a lady who wanted a wedding dress made for her partner ‘who was as round as she is tall’. Despite being told I was retiring ‘so no’ she continued to give me chapter and verse on the job. A good one to have turned down I think! 😉
    The sleeves you created for this dress look great. I’m sure the lady must be exceedingly happy. Lets hope she follows instructions and doesn’t say who did them!

  26. Pingback: Mama in Charge | fit for a queen

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