Grandma Mole Improvises

When your 12 year old granddaughter (who was 2000 miles away) asks for a favor that involves sewing…how can you resist?

Here is the pattern that she liked: simplicity-dresses-pattern-1687-envelope-front

Now, normally you all know my delight is in finding flaws with current patterns but this was not the case this time. I was given suggestions of fabrics she loved at JoAnn’s online but of course none of these were available at my local store:


What’s the next best thing? The pattern was designed for a woven and those fabrics were knits so I found this colorful Nicole Miller slight stretch twill:


The pattern had many pieces with pockets and bodice linings and princess panels and pleats…OK, it had just about everything except buttonholes. But…the big BUT…all the pieces were well marked and fit together very well and the directions were pretty good. So many patterns tell us to put the center back zipper in last…and this one showed how to do an invisible zipper BUT to do it after the whole dress is put together…yeah right…

How hard is it to do the side seams last AFTER inserting the zipper??? Get with the program pattern makers….none of us want to wrestle a zipper into the last back opening. For those of us who fit as we go along, having the last seams be the side seams allows us to make the garment fit even nicer. Just my opinion…..

The other thing I did different was to skip the facings…just use bias tape for the openings like Anne does…clean and very RTW! Also skipped the zipper at the top of the pockets…who needs those?

My smallest mannequin can be scaled down to a 30 inch bust and small waist so the dress can be seen like it had a real pre-teen body in it:P1210134P1210135 

Can you see the curved lines and pockets with the grey fabric sections? P1210144

The opened-out princess seams needed some taming so I topstitched each seam allowance down. Other seams were pressed to one side to lay flat.P1210145

I wanted the grey sections to be nearest the hem and on the front I also like the way the blue sections drop off at an angle.

So, instead of ragging and raging about how bad this pattern could be…it actually is one I would make again and maybe use piping in the seams like it shows and line the bodice. Now the dress is on it’s way through the postal service to my granddaughter. School starts on the 10th of August.

Here is the photo of the dress, on the girl, just sent after it arrived in the mail:IMG_1074-small We are both smiling! Grandma is grateful for the photo and for the way it fits after sewing long distance.

So what’s up in the garden this week? How about tarragon and eggplants and plums and beans for a change?P1210136P1210147 I have been giving away a lot of the veggies and making soup to freeze for the future. Maybe next time I will show you. Stay cool sewing sisters!!!! Thanks for dropping by…have a seat in the shade for a while and let’s swap some stories about sewing…OK?



Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 53 Comments

Such a Bargain

What if you could buy a $1500 beaded wedding gown for $200? What if it didn’t fit but you thought a seamstress could make it fit? What if you were told that it had never been worn?

This improbable story was told to me by my next bride. Here is the model from the website wearing her correct sized dress:353709ea1ad2e5e53f26df3f64a5dbc1

Stunning isn’t it? Now let’s see it in real life:


This eBay find/dream dress stated that it was new and never worn but the beads and sequins tell another story. After quoting the price for the alterations I asked the bride if she wanted me to snug-up all the dangling beads as that is what I always do before sending the finished dress out the door and her answer was, “Suit yourself”. WHAT? I told her that I was certainly not looking to make work for myself and I did it as a gift/favor to the bride for free.

  Not quite the same…back buttons missing, beads dangling, threads showing and a 6 inch gap in the zipper…just a small problem. Why is it always a 6 inch gap?

What shall we do? You know the answer don’t you? The familiar corset back will make this wearable and even though is will cost almost as much as the dress itself, the bride will be covered and can walk down the aisle safely.

Here are the loops basted on. Under the loops’ edge is an inside corset with hooks and eyes so the machine stitching has to be very close to the edge. I have asked the bride to wear underpants for the wedding as a thong is just NOT going to cut it.

No matter how tight I pull the lacing, (the ever-present blue grosgrain ribbon), the front is still flaring away from the bust. Pinning out the side seams did not take care of this weird area and it has to be taken in between the side seam and princess seam. Now this is what happens when the dress is much too small to start with.


You can also see that the length is too long but the bride likes it dragging.

I make the new front darts by following the shape and angle of the pins on the outside and on the inside. Beaded motifs are removed before any sewing.


Even after making the darts there is something strange about the bust…let’s look inside the lining and structure…ahhhh someone has been there before me…that eBay claim was bogus. I notice right away that the excess fabric over the bust cup is over 1 inch too much so I pin out 1/2 inch each side to conform with the boning on the right side (lace).


Looking further we can see that the original stitching (holes) have already been taken in once before and seams trimmed away.


So, what needs to happen is the felt underlayer needs to be taken in and the dart added on the right side of the photo. But first we have to release the stitching that holds the inner bust pad just so the the presser foot will fit into that small space. This is turning out to be more work.


Let’s stitch the thread basted line:


Completed new seam, flatter, and the excess will be trimmed away and the bust pad resewn.


Final try-on shows the bodice fits right up against her bust. She does not mind the darts  and says she has lost some weight so the lacing is narrower. She will use ivory grosgrain ribbon. You can see red-tipped pins on the center of the bodice where I will tack the lining to the satin layer under the lace to keep it flat.

P1210122  P1210123

To celebrate the ending of this week, Mr Mole has made a lo-carb cheesecake,cheesecake-1 so we cut up a ripe peach and poured sugar free syrup over it and enjoyed every bit. The rest will be cut up and frozen for other Fridays.


Our temperature went up to 104 today so staying in the shade is mandatory!

So, the squash plants have been pumping out fruit like crazy!squashes

Stay cool everyone!



Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments

Bad Backroom Alterations

This morning, the phone rings and the voice says, “Hi, I’m Lydia and I need some advice if you have the time”. So, I say, “what do you need?”

It seems that a group of 5 bridesmaids just received their dresses for a wedding and 2 girls need some help. The caller says her dress needs to be taken in 1 inch on each of the side seams and her girlfriend needs something added to hers. She wants to know if it is possible to use the 2 one inch strips from her dress to add to her friend’s dress. I tell her that even if they are used, by the time you make a 1/4 inch seam on either edge, you will end up with just two 1/2 inch strips and that does not seem like much. She says that they have shown the dress of her friend to other seamstresses in town and no one will touch it. What does this tell us?

I tell her that the best bet will be to go to JoAnn’s and find some material close to the color and ask the seamstress to add it on. I never asked when the wedding was as I was not going to be involved other than to give advice.

2 hours later there is a girl standing at the front door with this dark teal dress d2ef916cadba3a4110ba5265e81401d6

and some bright lime green polyester in a JoAnn’s bag. I know immediately that this is the friend of the earlier caller. My first question as always: “When is the wedding?” Her answer: “In 4 days”.

It seems that the bride bought her own corset back dress at David’s but went to every bridal salon in the state to order this particular color of teal/peacock and ended up buying them from a high end salon 5 hours away in Portland. Once I look inside the dress it screams “someone has been here before you!” And here is why:P1210069P1210071 You all know that you would never see home sewing hem tape in a RTW gown…never! Obviously, someone at the salon let this zipper out to make it larger and then did not manage to sell it. With more inspection we find lots of ugly in the lining and the chiffon. I will post all the photos on my Pinterest page but here are just a few boo-boos: Left side inside top of bodice.P1210062

Right side inside


Want to see more? Let’s see the real nasty stuff…take a deep breath!P1210083P1210081P1210082

So besides letting out the lining with the badly replaced boning strips, they only used an 1/8 seam which has already broken open. They also did the same with the chiffon layer:P1210072

OK…but beyond all this releasing of seams, did the dress fit the bridesmaid? You be the judge:P1210059

With a 6 inch gap in the zipper…you know what is coming don’t you? Let’s make some loops for a corset back. Like my East Coast sewing sister, Sharon, I tell the girl that I will use her removable straps to make the loops. I make the loops like bridal ones, basing them on some grosgrain ribbon folded in half. I don’t have enough strap length to make curved loops so I opt for just flipped over pointed ones.


With both sides finished all she has to do is try it on and see if we still need the zipper or can I sew up the lower opening.

After the fitting she does still need the zipper which will be only 4 inches long and I offer to add a panel/flap of the material to cover where her underpants would go. Two rows of stitching is also added at the top edge to hold the lining inside and that weird pleat thing is released and everything is now flat.



Even with the zipper zipped up, the whole center back seam is straining so I cut off 2 inches from the second layer of lining and made 4 oval shapes to add to the side seams of the2  layers of lining so she can actually sit down.


Am I charging for any of this extra work? Nah…I believe in karma and the power of the universe to bring me people who need my help in an emergency. The fact that this poor single girl had to buy her own dress for $200 and pay for the alterations is enough stress. She did tell me the name of the boutique where the girls ordered and bought their dresses and just 2 days before the wedding she finds out that 3 other dresses all have similar problems and had been pre-altered like hers. It is definitely a place to stay away from!!!! If anyone wants to know the name of the bridal salon, please email me privately to save yourself a lot of grief!

So let’s close on a happy note shall we?


Mr Mole bought this bag of frozen Pacific tuna caught with a rod and reel:fish-bottom-2

Best tuna we have ever tasted! And from Walmart.

Hope you all have a stress-free week of sewing!!!!


Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Free and Breezy

When a friend gives you a free new Haute Couture by Maggie Sottero wedding dress in a garment bag and tells you it will be perfect for you…it just sounds so wonderful doesn’t it? But if you wait 13 years to set a date and gain some weight, this happens:


This dress  is a designer gown made when the designer was having a real bad day. To start with the top layer hem is a high-low but not in a good way from front to back, this one is side to side. Then the second layer is some nasty embroidered nylon with fishing line edging to make it curl…delightful. The nylon embroidery matches the embroidery on the dress in burgundy and gold. Then there is a third layer of satin just to complicate things and to add to the weight of the dress and make the train.


Once the zipper is removed, the looped sections are pinned and made…all 16 inches of them.


Once stitched and pressed, they are ready to fold in half lengthwise for attachment. A modesty panel also joins in the mix and then we skip down to the hemming.


The second fitting has a nicer look and the bride has lost some weight so the distance between the edges are narrower.


By the third and final fitting, all the dress needs is the lower nylon ruffle layer shortened (moved up on the under skirt) to just cover the satin layer hem. I used purple ribbon to show the bride that she could purchase any color grosgrain ribbon online from Really Reasonable Ribbon to compliment the burgundy or gold embroidery.


The front view shows the lower ruffle layer pinned up under the second satin layer. She could have left the ruffle dragging but it did look sloppy and is not safe for walking. Thankfully there is no need for a bustle as there will be no dancing.


Now for a little science lesson…you know I like to grow Spaghetti squashP1210041P1210038

but there is one small problem…squash bugs! Here are 2 adults “doing it”:P1210040

Here are the eggs they deposit on the underside of leaves:P1210039 Last year, I had hundreds of these nasty bugs until I went online to find out how to control them without pesticides. It seems that a spray bottle filled with water and a couple tablespoons of Dawn dish washing liquid stops these guys pronto. They absorb the liquid through their wings and they cease to exist/drop dead within seconds. The liquid also releases the eggs from the leaves so they do not develop into adults. Cheap, green and fast solution to a problem…sorry to those folks who honor all life including insects.

Let’s get back to our summer sewing!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , | 32 Comments

Grandma Gifted

Back in January, I made a cotton blouse for myself that ended up being way cuter for my granddaughter as a skirt.

This time I tried again using cotton and Vogue 1687 because it said it was “Custom Fit”…yeah right. The bodice was going to be a magenta floral with a yellow skirt as View A.


I did all my usual alterations with the paper pattern and measured and compared and stacked all the front sections to compare…what could go wrong?


Might as well cut the fabrics and try on the bodice…about as unflattering as could be. The collar never sat well and the overall look was like many patterns I see on blogs, “pillowcase with a waist”.


This poor old seamstress worked and worked and worked the seams and sections and in the end it just did not lay right on the body,  soooo it has a new life now as a skirt and top for my granddaughter’s birthday present. The top was re-cut to a girl’s size 12 and sleeves were added and we have something wearable once again. I like to use different buttons to add some fun.

The front of the skirt retains the uneven points as in View A in the original pattern. Here is is pressed and ready to be packed and sent off.


Here it is just out of the envelope with packing wrinkles in time for the 12th birthday along with the first skirt re-made from the bird blouse.


Last Thursday, we flew to Los Angeles for a wedding…yes, I finally got to attend a real wedding! This one was for my 38 year old son who had found a nice girl to share his life with. It was a quick trip of 3 days as I have a room full of July brides to finish. Here we are, my face blurred out with Mr Mole and my youngest daughter included. My dress is a knit wrap top with a chiffon skirt that I bought online as there was so little time to whip something up. My son and all the groomsmen wore kilts (yes, my ex is Scottish) and the bridesmaids each wore blue dresses to keep with the theme of July 4th and red, white, and blue of Independence Day.


Now it is full steam ahead with all the summer brides to finish!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 34 Comments

Heavy Lace and Pearls

Isn’t this just a dreamy wedding gown? It is Wtoo Elise.

indexindex 2

The lace is very heavy and looks and feels crocheted so the trick is to work with this very bulky textile and make it look airy. The nude satin layer will be bustled with the lace with a 5 point bustle.


You can see in this photo that both side seams have been pinned and have to be taken in 1 inch (4 inch total) so that included beaded and pearl encrusted lace, under tulle and under satin and lining. Oh, and did I mention…there is a side zipper and pearl embellished straps. The look the bride wants is tight, tight, tight like a second skin. And I am not to trim away any excess fabric. In this first front view the added push up “D” cups were not enough to make a difference and the area above the cups collapsed back unto her chest…not a good look but more later about that. Just a note…if I have to take out 4 inches in your dress, that is 2 dress sizes.


Originally, the straps were attached nearer the side seams and did nothing to keep the straps from falling down…always a design feature but not practical.

Here you can see the amount to move the zipper (left) side over…1 inch both sides. Have you ever seen a horizontal dart at the hip level?


Taking in a side zipper or side seam always involves a “step-down” at the very top edge. As the front gets higher, the back section gets lower and in this case I was able to remove sections of lace to camouflage the difference. Then I had to add back the zipper guard.


See the curved section that was attached by hand on the left side and the right side (non-zipper).


Looking inside the right side we have a real interesting situation. One side was barely 1/8 inch wide before taking in the needed inch and the other side was 1 inch but is now 2 inches wide. The lining is pulled away to show the seam allowances..


Remembering not to trim anything away, I fold down the triangles and get ready to cover all this mess with the lining. There are 3 layers involved plus the lining folded inside.P1200891


I decided to hand stitch the lining to the seam allowances in case we have to get back in there before the wedding. I’d rather open a seam with hand stitching than machine and at this point I could not possible get that section under the presser foot.

Remember the bust cups problem? The caving in of the top of the bodice…well, my idea was to use a flat bust cup and turn it vertical to fill in that indentation. You may notice that I had to run the cups through my serger to trim off the sides to make them fit. Size D cups are so wide that they can get in the way of the side zipper and add bulk to the side seams.


Once you explain to the bride that her dress contains no boning and it is essentially a nightgown with no structure, she understands that you have to add a little more.


What’s left? Oh, of course, the bustle! While the first try-on had a 3 point bustle, the bride’s mother wanted every single lace edge very level with the floor so we had to go with a 5 point bustle. Each 20mm satin covered metal backed button has a clear backer button to hold the weight. Man, that sucker weighs a ton! While it looks a little flat and lifeless, once the bride gets her shape/bottom into that bustle, it will rock!


Now that this dress is finished, I can make plans to get to my son’s wedding. We will fly to LA and spend 2 days before flying back to tackle the July brides.

Try to stay cool, everyone!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 38 Comments

Shortening Chiffon Sleeves

One of my brides from last year called and told me that she had a jacket that just needed the sleeves shortened to wear to her nephew’s wedding. I agreed to see the jacket as it sounded simple…but you know it won’t be!

All it needed, she explained was to shorten the sleeves by 3 inches but…the big BUT…she didn’t want it shortened at the wrist because it was beaded there, it had to come from the top…oh no…not from the top!

For all of you who dread working with chiffon…take heart, it can be tamed!

What is the first thing to do? Well, how about thread tracing the new seamline. Do you see that the beading that is in the way? What fun this will be!



Also, thrown into the mix is the original seam. It looked like a French seam from the outside but is not. It is a bias binding. Let’s remove it and save it in a circle and spray starch it for later.


Let’s remove the sleeves (3 rows of tiny tiny stitching) and start removing the beads that will interfere with the new seamlines. Two lines of running stitches will have to be used to make the cap of the sleeve. These are done by hand instead of machine. Trim off 3 inch excess all around.


Then hand baste the sleeve into position and test to see if it looks ok.


With both sleeves basted in, then I machine stitch them and move unto the bias binding. It works well after spray starching and I can still follow the original folds and stitching lines. Pin and hand baste again.


Machine stitch and then flip to the backside and hand stitch.


The finished project so you can see why the hem of the sleeves needed to be preserved.


The close up of the new seams…they still look French don’t they?


So in the end, this simple job managed to take over 2 hours. When I mention to her that I have my son’s wedding to attend in Calif. in July, she offered to lend me her dress and jacket. I thanked her but said I would not look my best in brown.

One bit of good news this week, after a weekend of negotiating with 2 prospective buyers for my parent’s house, one finally offered the asking price so now we just have to wait for the escrow to close later this summer. All the hard work has paid off!

Stay cool and hydrated, my friends and thank you for dropping by!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , | 33 Comments