Mom with a Camera

Not many brides show up with their mothers but when they do, they ask mom to take their photo with their phone to record the fitting experience. They both giggle and have a good time snapping candid shots and most of the time I have a laugh as well…until this time.

My bride was sweet and serene and just wanted something simple. Her mother had other ideas.

In the 40 minute appointment over 60 photos were taken with a real camera and zoom lens and at one point the mom even had the chutzpah to move my ironing board and expensive steam generator iron out of the way so she could get her semi-professional shots. I was commanded to smile and pose and do tricks like I was a trained seal instead of a serious seamstress. And no matter how much I stressed that I did NOT want my $500 iron and board moved across the room, she insisted that SHE did not want it in the photos.

At one point I wanted to shout, “You’re not Annie Leibovitz, as even Annie L. would respect another person’s equipment”. In fact this went on for so long, I did not even get to take any of the shots I usually take with being an accessory/prop to this photo shoot.

After they left, I asked the bride to have her mom send me a couple views for the folder. Here is what I got:


The following fitting appointment, the mother did not come and I was able to take these views. The original white satin belt was removed and replaced with an aqua satin ribbon. There will be no bustle and the bride is thrilled to have her simple yet elegant gown.


Meanwhile, the veggie garden is putting on a good show with the first crop of strawberries and more delphiniums in various shades of purple and lilac along with more plate-sized pink poppies among the orange ones. P1200717P1200708

Wishing all my readers a relaxing Memorial Day weekend!


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Well Fitted Gown…almost!

Here is a classic wedding gown from Casablanca.49ccfd8cdb7fb34e93e8cf37c0061c2a

So, it makes a seamstress wonder why a dart has to be added to eliminate the excess fabric here:


The bride has plenty of her own breasts and we added push up cups as well and there was still a problem. I have done this alteration before and it is way easier than it looks when this type of lace in involved. Let’s begin:


Thread trace the proposed dart and remove the pins.

Make sure the dart legs are equal in length (3 inches). Measure the dart width (1.5 inches).


Thread trace the final stitching line and remove the lace from the tulle…gently! Peel the lace back to reveal the fabric.


Map out the back side with pins and see that the dart point ends right up against the boning…rats! Pin out the darts and make sure not to catch any lace parts. Trim off any excess.


Before machine stitching, hand baste and double check everything is out of the seam! Remove any excess lace parts.


Once machine stitched, start to flip the lace edges back over the new seam/dart.


Hand tack the inside darts to the lining. I never cut off any fabric as the next seamstress may need it! Finished dart, not invisible but looks like an original design of the dress.


What’s left? Shorten the straps and, of course, the bustle needs some designing and stabilizing as all that heavy lace will not be safe attached to just 2 layers of satin charmeuse. Here is where the engineering hat comes in handy…I needed something long and wide and strong enough to hold a train and 3 buttons and loops….hmmmm


If you stitch 2 lengths of 2 inch wide grosgrain ribbon together and hand sew that to the tail of the zipper and the lining and use backer buttons…it might just work but the bride has to try it on to make sure the new ribbon does not show through.


The ribbon is also hand tacked along the center back seam for security!P1200677  P1200672-2

So, the test shows that even when just pinned into place, the ribbon structure holds and does not show…the only things that show are the 2 ribbons used to hang the train from the plastic hanger…see them under the bustle? They will get tacked up for sure!

This week one bride picks up her dress and 4 new brides arrive for their first fitting. Have to be grateful though, only 6 brides for June with 8 brides for July…more fun and blog posts to come!

Happy sewing everyone…enjoy the weather, sit in the sun and plan your next project!

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A Little Chiffon…Thanks Zandra!

Do you remember seeing the Zandra Rhodes Vogue 1491 pattern?


Nancy fell in love with this look and asked if it would work with some of the fabrics we bought in Portland last November. There was a chiffon in her colors and it was worth a try.

First, we had to decide which way the blue section would be the most flattering…can you tell which one she picked?


P1200413 Being such a strange combo of romantic swirls and animal print (Yes, Anne, I know it’s perfect for Jungle January!) it was decided to make the blue go across her shoulders. Simple right? But wait…what are those strange cut out circles for?P1200417

At first glance this reminds me of the tissue toilet seat covers ever-present in US public restrooms, admit it, you were thinking the same thing…but NO…the center circles are the armholes and the half circle cut on the fold is the neck opening…can this be? No shoulder seams, no side seams and just 8 more strips/panels to add to all these edges to make it long enough to cover the arms, a tummy and butt?

Here is being tried on, the basic square, no sleeves and no extra strips/panels over a t-shirt…a little underwhelming, no?P1200429P1200430      P1200431

Here’s a little secret, I am actually wearing this back wards but at that point I could not tell.. Then Nancy dropped by for her try-on.  Things got a little more optimistic:

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We decided it had potential and I went back to the cutting table and used every last scrap of the chiffon to make the strips/panels for the front, back and sides and sleeves. Then everything was basted together for the second try-on:P1200666P1200668

Can you see the black border on the side hem? That was one selvedge edge I was able to add it to the sides without making it a feature on either the front or the back. Then, the only problem was the bias neck binding. I had no fabric left…what to do? Wait, remember those 3 circles I had to cut out for the armholes and neck opening? I had saved them and sewed them together so I could cut a bias strips to bind the neck and in this photo you can see the little tail of the binding just hanging, waiting to be machine sewn and cut off.

We left off the sleeve lower panels as there was no extra fabric and the length was perfect. The chiffon will look very different if Nancy wears a dark tank top versus a light one as in this photo so the animal print will be more prominent depending on her whim. Now, all I have to do is narrow hems every edge and machine stitch every panel.


Nancy looked like an exotic butterfly and since it was her birthday we went out to lunch to celebrate. Notice that she is wearing one of the many chiffon jackets I have made for her in the past. Yes, we did split that dessert, a flour-less chocolate cake with raspberry sauce.


Just 2 more photos to share from the garden, this poppy is almost 10 inches across and popped up inside the red poppy group…who knew they did that?P1200655


Happy Successful Spring sewing, everyone and thank you for dropping by!


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Baggy Bridesmaid

Normally I don’t have time to squeeze in bridesmaids dresses but a woman called and said that I had helped her with a dress 8 years ago, kept my name and phone number on a scrap of paper in her pocket and well…she made it clear that I actually owed her the favor to now work on a bridesmaid dress for a young girl she knew…did I mention she called at 7 pm and expected to come over …right now?

Here is what the Sorella Vita dress is supposed to look like on a tall mature woman: 8640.1445979915.0-530x8458640.1445979902.1-530x845

But this is what it really looks like on a petite young girl:

P1200524 The pleated straps are 4 inches too long for this size 4 dress and tiny framed girl. I have basted the pleats where they will be attached to the bodice and side seam boning.P1200518 

Of course, the entire bodice lining is closed and the only way in is here between the boning strips in the lining:


Let’s turn everything inside out and see what we can do. The idea will be to open that boned seam and slide the basted strap inside and stitch it down.

Other things that this dress needs are padded bust cups and hemming of satin and chiffon layers and letting out the side seams which are so tight that the front of the dress is just one huge horizontal pleat across her tummy and hips and thighs.

Here it is on the mannequin as I didn’t feel comfortable snapping a shot of the bulging seams while on the girl:

P1200525 She could not even bend her knee or raise her leg to walk!!!

Letting out the side seams sometimes results in marks where the original seams were. The last couple of dresses I have altered like this have been stitched with very thin, nasty thread like serger thread that shreds as you cut and remove it.


After the second try-on the straps were adjusted and the side seams had to be let out all the way to the serged edges.P1200620P1200621

Side seams pressed open


The bodice lining and boning were about 5/8 inch too long so they were shortened:


Straps stitched to the side seam boning:P1200527


Trim off excess with pinking shears and make a loop extension for the neck:

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So, the lesson learned from this Sorella Vita dress…hmmm…a size 4 is huge on the top and very tight on the bottom and the neck will choke the wearer. There are 5 other girls in this wedding and I am so glad that I am NOT altering this dress again. The bridesmaid said that after paying me for all these changes, she will not have enough money to buy a wedding present for the couple…maybe spending the money to make it even wearable for one day is enough to ask?

The poppies are making a show in the garden …something to celebrate!poppies


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Tiers Not Tears

Can you picture this Allure dress worn with a 12 foot long veil edged in lace? Can you picture it bustled?

Now can you picture it being worn on a short girl and not a 6 foot tall model?


Here is my bride striking the same pose:P1200478-2P1200482

Maybe you can see the ridge created by the too-long boning strips across her tummy. Maybe you can see the front lace scalloped hem is hanging over the edge of the platform and will surely drag on the ground…not a good sign.

So let’s list the alterations: bust pads, take in top of the hip area, shorten 9 boning strips, move zipper to tighten, shorten lining, shorten the satin layer, trim all netting, 5 point bustle, shorten a beaded belt, hand tack lining to top edge of bodice, and remove the 4 inch wide lace edging and move up…my personal favorite.

The zipper and bust pads you have seen a zillion times but shortening boning by 2 inches when it is securely sewn to the lining…let’s get started.P1200487

The stitching was removed and the little binding squares saved for the lower edge of each bone. Easy right? Cut off excess with paper scissors and then attach the squares, but how?


You can’t get that area under the presser foot so what else is available? How about fabric glue? Yes, it works to hold the ends together long enough to hand sew them back unto the lining.


The lace bordered hem was 1.5 inches too long so that was removed and re-attached higher up. The crummy part was instead of just being attached with a straight stitch at the top of each motif, it was also sewn all along the scalloped hem edge too…double the labor and half the fun.


Then the edging was hand basted into position and machine stitched top and bottom edge and the extra tulle trimmed away.


Of course, the beaded belt was 1/5 inches too long so all the beads were removed at the end and Velcro re-positioned and hand stitched down. Adding 2 snaps helps keep the underside secure.


Bustle time…how to get all those layers to look nice and play nice…maybe having all the buttons up under the top “apron” will work and it will cover the whole bunched up mess…finger’s crossed!


The loops will be at these positions to pull everything up off the ground…did I mention that this train weighs a ton? The top apron in the photo is flipped up to show the numbered .safety pins


In the meantime, the bride has been losing weight so from one visit to the next, the bodice is getting looser and her boobs have been disappearing so the bust pads have been doubled and the zipper and corset moved over twice.P1200591P1200586

Hand stitch and machine stitch the binding to both sides.


Machine stitch the zipper from the wrong side and add the buttons back on.

Hopefully when this bride comes on Thursday to pick up her dress, the top will be as snug as she wants and she won’t be able to take a deep breath like she asked for. When I mention to her that with a wedding starting at 2 pm and reception following until 2 am…it will be a long day to be in such restrictive dress, but she says this is exactly what she wants.

Another bride came to pick up her dress and related to me that she is so worried about the size of the zipper tab that she has stopped eating completely and would I be able to replace the factory zipper with a smaller tabbed one. If I had refused, she said she doubted whether she could go through with the wedding…REALLY?

So, I did replace it, otherwise I would have never been paid! She also has been losing weight and I have moved her zipper over of a total of 2.5 inches in 2 weeks and she says she cannot guarantee that she will not lose more before the June date…HOLD ON…my alterations do not come with a lifetime warranty. She has insisted on making 5 visits when all my other brides get 3…she has brought in her granny, her granny’s friend and sent the photos to her whole family asking over and over what they think every step of the way. She even sent me a YouTube video of how to bustle a lace train like I had never done it before. You may have ascertained that this has not been a good week in the sewing room.


What I really need is more time to sit in the patio and listen to the birds and the fountain with Mr. Mole.P1200562  P1200559

If your seasonal allergies allow…enjoy the blossom-filled week!

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Crying Thighs

This gorgeous beaded dress is stunning…if only it fit! It has the most unusual train…uneven layers of tulle and organza. My first thought was – what would the bustle look like? But let’s not go there just yet…


What bridal gown factories don’t want you to know… If you custom order a size 4…your dress probably started life as an 8 or larger and someone took in the seams and trimmed away the excess and shipped it out as a 4. Anyone looking at the inside seams can see what a hack-job was done to make this dress smaller.


As a result, the seams in the thigh area after one try-on are shredded and strained with French seams in the organza.


A patch was needed so I cut away a wedge from near the hem to use at the top of the skirt.

The new wedge in place to give some ease to the rest of the organza seams.


What else had to be done? How about adding new panels to the under skirt/satin layer. Center panels were added under the zipper and 2 side panels were added for a total of 8 inches so the dress would actually drop down over her thighs and get rid of all the wrinkles and bunched-up fabric around the waist. No amount of yanking would get the hip and thigh area down where it belonged without some intervention/patching.P1200497P1200498P1200529

After working on all the top layers…what about the lining layer where all the netting/petticoat is attached? Well, I opened the entire seam and netting seams down to the knee level and folded back the edges and hand stitched them down. When the dress is on, the opening is 8 inches wide and the bride says she wants it to stay open without a patch so she can have “air conditioning”. Last year, when I worked on a $6000 Lazaro dress, I discovered that their linings were not attached and left open below the zipper so it is works for Lazaro, it’s just fine with this dress.


How about bustling all these sheer layers, first we start with the satin layer, one button-one loop. Then drop the skirt back down and see all the 5  bustle points (safety pins) with the matching safety pins below:


Let’s attach them all and see what happens…on the flat-butt mannequin we have a few “dog ears” drooping down but on the bride herself…


The bustle clears the floor and with a little extra hemming in the front (still pinned) to be done, she is almost done and she can actually lift her knees to walk and dance and sit down…all it took was 8 extra inches in circumference. So we went from a size 4 to a 12 if you figure 2 inches between sizes.


What is the lesson with this dress??? The lesson is the same as for any dress and that is to check the hips and thighs circumference. Many dresses that LOOK like they have volume and flare from the waist only do that with the top layers and you are stuck with a tight pencil skirt underneath which will not allow you to dance, climb steps or even pee. There is a bridesmaid dress that displays this even better in an up-coming post.

Also, Nancy is back with more goodies and things to fit and finish!

Happy and successful sewing everyone!

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Ten to Zero

Weddings involve lots of forward planning so most brides think about the dress first…but not all of them.

Six weeks before the event this bride decided it was time to start the search for her “dream dress”. She went to David’s to order a dress in size 0 but was told it would take 6 weeks. Then she went to the other salon in town to order a custom made dress and was told it would take 20 weeks. Finally, she decided to try on a dress on the rack and she liked it…only trouble was it was a size 10 and she wanted a zero.

I met her at the salon and pinned out the entire center back which with the lace overlay was the only/easiest/cheapest place to alter it. What you cannot see in this photo is that 6 inches have been pinned out. So, yes it involves removing 23 buttons, taking in 2 layers of linings, removing 2 sets of boning just to see where we are going. The hem will also be shortened and the hem of both the linings.

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After the first try-on with everything basted by hand and the zipper re-attached and hem basted up, the bride wanted it even tighter from the top edge of the bodice all the way down to the bustle point below her butt. I have thread traced the new seam lines in red and drawn them for you:P1200445 So here we are with the whole dress opened up flat:P1200448P1200447

After removing the hand basted zipper, you can see the added amount that has to be removed.



Another row of boning will have to be removed from the lining as well and everything trimmed away as we don’t need an extra 8 inches of fabric inside. Each layer of lace, tulle and 2 layers of satin lining will all be taken in separately and trimmed and pressed before the bustle is done. Will this cost a lot in labor? You bet! But with many mothers of the bride, nothing is too much for their little princess. Oh, and yes, don’t forget to sew all those buttons back on! Thankfully, there was only a one point bustle.


Maybe you are thinking like most sane people…surely she could have found a simple lace dress closer to her size…yes, she could have, but she didn’t want to and the tight time frame didn’t seem to bother her either. All she wanted was a perfectly tight dress to wear with her old cowboy boots.

As a reference, here is the same dress, in the correct size from the same salon ordered ahead of time and trimmed with a beautiful pearl and rhinestone belt.


Sensible brides make my day!

Other things make my day as well like a box from Wawak:


Nothing like taking possession of 60 pairs of boobs for upcoming brides this season!

Upcoming posts include a bride who needed to ADD 8 inches instead of remove and Nancy’s new Grainline jacket is almost finished!

Happy sewing everyone and thank you for dropping by!

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