Swapping Scary Stories

Having a sewing blog enables you to connect with the nicest people who don’t have time to blog because they sew full-time for others. For the past year, I have been sharing stories with an East Coast Sewing Sister named Sharon who told me this story and I could only imagine what it was like in person:

It had been another day filled with marathon sewing, people coming in 5 minutes before I was finished with their order, receiving annoying phone calls, answering stupid questions, tending to numerous drop-ins for fitting, and dealing with people pleading to get their special shit done in record time. An hour before closing, a rather stout woman comes in (I’m estimating about 200 lbs.) approximately our age, 60’s, with a plastic grocery bag and announces she has a gown to wear to her daughter’s wedding (in a week of course), and she was supposed to lose 15 lbs. but first she broke her foot and gained weight and then she broke her rib and gained more weight.

Let’s stop here for a moment………
She must live one hell of a life to have 2 separate incidences where she breaks first a foot and then a rib !! ??
Then she announces that the dress is too small and she tried fixing it herself (Oh sweet Jesus, why oh why do they try to help us?)
Out of the plastic bag she pulls a battleship gray, cheap, flimsy, shiny, polyester, fresh from China, racer back “gown”.
The pix I am sending is the closest thing I could find on-line to show you what I was dealing with.

When you open the link, disregard the front and focus on the back of the dress please. And trust me, this old broad looks nothing at all like the model in the pix !!!!



The straps that meet in the back were wider and self pleating, then sewn into a rhinestone encrusted ring.
However, because it was too tight, she felt the need to cut the straps that start at the side seams (boobs) at the point that they were sewn into the ring. But wait, she didn’t stop there. She had also cut off (scissor happy woman) the white twill tape loops whose original purpose were to help keep the gown stay onto the hanger, which she did not have because this whole mess had been jammed into that plastic grocery bag. She had tied one end to the now dangling strap that originated from the side of the boobs with the white twill tape and the other end of the white twill tape was tied to the ring, holding the entire mess in a somewhat original racer back fashion.

……“Can’t you just put something where the white string is?”……..
I swear to you, my first thought was, how the hell am I going to get away with taking a photo of this to send to Mrs Mole?
Deer in the headlights moment ……………..

Ahh……..give me a minute …… maybe you should try it on and then perhaps I can see what I can do ……..
Did you bring proper undergarments with you?
As soon as that came out of my mouth I knew that there were no undergarments on the planet that could possibly save this catastrophe, forgive me, but I was in shock.
Her response was “No, what I have on is fine”, and into the dressing room she went.
At this point I was already rubbing my temples.

When she came back out sporting this little honey of a dress and turned around, it was even worse than I had imagined.
She had on a ragged, nasty old flesh tone bra and the straps of the dress that started at the sides and now tied to the ring, were gaping at the side seam/zipper area, and in the back, the top of the waist was all twisted weird and when she put on the dress, she hadn’t pulled the lining down over her fat ass so it was now poking from the top of the waist and out the sides. And of course there was fat back bulging and attempting to escape at every open area.

At the front of the gown, the fabric covering the cups is also self pleating. In my world the cup should caress the entire breast, but the bottom of these cups were hitting her right about nipple height and the tits were literally spilling out over the top. She would stuff in the right one and then the left one would pop out. As soon as she had that one under control, the right one would flop out again. Thank God for that ratty old bra !!
Miss, I have no idea what I would use in place of your white string.

“Can’t you just cut some off the bottom of the dress and use that? I don’t mind if it’s a little shorter”
Miss, only if you want the dress up above your knees and even then, I don’t think I have the powers to save this.

“Oh darn, and I really loved this dress !” “Where am I going to find another dress that I like this much, that will fit, in time for the wedding?”
At that moment I was thinking ….. how much tequila is in that bottle at home?

Meanwhile, a long time gentleman customer had come in and was in the other fitting room trying on pants for me to pin. I was desperately trying to hold it together, so not to make an ass of myself in front of him. But, like most men, he was totally oblivious!

Then from behind curtain number 1, I hear her voice asking me if I know where to get a machine that does nothing except sew. Her question: “Is there a machine that doesn’t do anything but sew?”
……long silence on my part…….
All that poured out of my mouth was,”I don’t know how to answer that!! I don’t know how to answer that!!”

Then she came back with ( I assume to further explain herself ) : “One that you don’t have to worry about the thing down on the bottom or all the stuff on top, one you just push a button for the color and go?”
That’s when I lost control and think I peed a little.

I gotta get me one of them contraptions !!!!

I’ve consumed 2 extra large margaritas and I think it would be best to go lie down now !

So dear readers, you have another insight into the wonderful world of running an alteration business…East coast, West coast…makes no difference.

Sharon will read any comments you want to share after you stop shaking your head.

Next time more ridiculous bride stories will be coming, happy sewing everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 91 Comments

Wedding Planning

It goes like this:

6 months before the wedding: get engaged, get engagement ring, tell all your friends, pick a date, pick a location, celebrate!!!

5 months before the wedding: Plan an extravagant wedding in Las Vegas, invite all your friends and family, buy bridesmaid gowns, select invitations, select wedding rings, celebrate!!!

3 months before the wedding: Send out save-the-date cards, book the flights, book the rooms, book the chapel, book the photographer, order the tuxedos for groom and groomsmen, celebrate!!!

2 months before the wedding: Book the hotel caterer, order the flowers, book the limousine, realize you have gone over your budget.

1 month before the wedding: Get blood tests, get marriage license, book a tanning session, book a nail session, book a hair-do preview,book a make-up artist, plan a bridal shower, plan a stag night, book a minister, apply for another credit card to cover all the “extras” and the honeymoon.

5  days before the wedding: Panic and drive to David’s Bridal and buy a gown off the rack only to be told that they cannot do the alterations as they are booked solid with brides and bridesmaids and prom gowns. Panic and beg your soon-to-be-mother-in-law for a solution. Mother-in-law digs through her purse and finds a business card that was given to her last year when her own daughter got married and had alterations done way in advance.

Call Mrs Mole.

Bride says, “This isn’t going to cost too much is it?”

Why would shortening 2 layers of tulle, 2 layers of satin and a 4 point bustle cost much on such short notice? What a silly question.

She drops the bomb that she needs the dress in less than 4 days and it just does not matter that there are 12 gowns ahead of her, it is almost like I owe her this favor because David’s is booked solid. I agree to the work because her mother-in-law is nice.janay 3

Here is the 3 point bustle for the dotted Swiss tulle:



The one point bustle for the satin which will be covered by the tulle layer. (sorry about the wrinkles, I steam when everything is finished)


She gets everything hemmed and a 4 part bustle. The heavy satin layers are attached with the loop and have their own clear button while the lace and tulle layers are bustled up solo with 3 satin covered metal back buttons.

So with the bride done and dusted, I turned my hands to this little honey:communion-dress-1

It is a custom ordered 1st communion dress that just needed to be hemmed. And I did finish another sheer, flowy silk jacket for Nancy. The fabric was quite nice and had some horizontal and vertical brush strokes that made it look like I cut the fronts differently, but I didn’t.


Nancy recently discovered that she was a Type 2 Summer coloring so we are concentrating on making clothes in her color palette. We have swapped some fabrics and clothes because funny enough we love each others’ colors  but those colors don’t always love us.

Before I leave you to get on with your sewing, here is a great link to an article on recycling…turning crab shells into undies.

Thanks for stopping by!!!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 27 Comments

Bride includes the Groom

For the first time ever, I had a bride include the groom in her preparations!

It seems he likes to dress up and wear pocket squares for an accent of color so she asked me if I would make some squares for him for the wedding to go with the bridesmaids’ colors:P1180713 I’m not sure which one(s) he will chose but I have seen recently that men are wearing more than one color folded into each other. OK, enough about the groom, let’s see what his darling bride needed.

The dress was Wtoo Jemma 18418 which fit pretty well except it had to have the bodice taken in 2.5 inches all the way down the zipper. Once again some 18 buttons had to be removed and the zipper released.P1180626Pins and red thread basting lines mark the new fold lines for zipper placement:


There were a few surprises like a grosgrain ribbon zipper guard attached to the under-lap side of the zipper and some short boning that would have to be removed when the zipper was re-attached.


You can see in the last photo the line of red thread basting that will be the eventual under-lap edge and there is the same thread on the overlap side. Let’s see what happens next…

Here is the under-lap side. The zipper will be stitched along the teeth on the inside (wrong side) , then zipper flipped to the back side and then stitched again on the right side nearest the teeth.P1180636

Here is the set up for the lapped side. Last post someone asked how I sew zippers from the wrong side. Using the line in the woven zipper tape as a guide, I pin the teeth 1/4 inch away from the final folded edge (see the red thread basting?) and then starting at the bottom, stitch all the way up following the pins and pulling them out as I go. See the sequins…well they will be on the underside next to the feed dogs and I don’t have to worry about them. I lengthen my stitch to almost 3 and go slowly. The the lining will be folded under and hand sewn to the zipper edge. I always ask my brides if they want me to cut off any excess fabric as it is nice to leave it in there for the next seamstress.


Once the zipper is in, I have to take in the center back seam from the tail of the zipper to below the bride’s butt so let’s pin out the lace first:

P1180634P1180635 and then the satin underskirt.

Here she is with her veil and the buttons re-attached and the silk satin belt and a eventual 5 point bustle almost done.

P1180697 2P1180780

And this time of year the veggie patch is taking shape:Veggies-150422


Broccoli and lettuce in boxes, loads of seedlings in starter containers on the left bed and the mature fennel and spinach planted last Oct in the right bed.


On the other side of the patch are 4 varieties of beans (new cane wigwam ), new asparagus and raspberry beds. We have 3 new baby semi-dwarf fruit trees coming along too so it should be a great summer once all the squash get planted and the strawberry patch is netted.

But for now, I’d better get back to the brides…happy sewing everyone!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , | 29 Comments


The most requested alteration other than a hem or a sweetheart neckline is to the bust. Brides want to look voluptuous even if they are not.

So when I explain that the very un-natural rounded shape of the boned bust of their dress needs some padding (push up bust cups), they jump at the chance to have cleavage for the photos. But here are 2 brides that had different issues.

First up we have a corset back dress that needed the modesty panel cut in half:

P1180691 Not wanting/needing to display all the way down past her butt cleavage, the panel was trimmed down:

P1180711P1180712 so the result is:P1180755 OK back is sorted out…let’s move on to the bust. Now no matter what padding we put in the bust area, it just is not enough to look natural without making the dress pull away from her chest. So we go for the second option, the dreaded bust dart in lace. You have all seen me do this before in this post but this time we have the added bonus of top edge piping…oh goodie!

First pin out the excess fabric someplace where it will not be obvious and thread trace in red thread a nice dart on the outside:P1180757 Open the layers to get more access inside:


Turn the dress lining inside out and mark the lining too.

P1180758P1180759 Place the pins down the center of the dart for easy manipulation/folding and grabbing.P1180760 Pin it flat:P1180761 Hand baste it with white thread. Inside the bodice you can see an unusual sight of horsehair braid sewn right under the bust line for stability and thick twill tape covering the top of the boning along with the original bust pad. The piping on the right hand side is loose at this time.  

P1180763 Here is the bust dart in the lace hand basted and ready to try on along with the lining hand basted too. The piping is cut so it will disappear gradually at the junction.P1180799 Another view from the very inside lining.P1180800

Lining darts and bodice darts  will be pressed flat and the piping will be trimmed off.


Baste bodice to lining with piping tuck inside the seam for try-on.


Permanent machine stitching done and the finished top edge…ahhh. Now the rounded boning has been padded (see new tan bust cup in side) and the fullness of the bust area has been brought in closer to her chest with no gaps.

OK, tall skinny girl sorted out but what about a pear shaped bride who had to order a size 24 dress to fit her hips?

When wedding gown manufacturers and designers think plus-size, they think that they have to enlarge all the areas the same. Here is the inside of that dress with a new large bust pad:P1180791

The bust area has been widened and deepened way beyond what is normal or necessary and there is horizontal boning as well joining all the other verticals. This puppy is made to withstand anything! But the bride is narrow on top and of average boob-age so even with padding, the center back zipper area has to be taken in 2 inches each side for a total of 4 inches:P1180790

Then 17 buttons have to be re-sewn exactly 5/8 inch apart as there are loops on the opposite side that have to match up.


The finished back…have you ever seen this before? There is a very long detached train that snaps to the curved edge of organza for the ceremony…how clever!


 The front is now fitting well and hemmed all layers of satin and organza over-skirts.


So that is the little encounter of small busts this week and there are some real disasters coming up that need fixing and time’s a wastin’!

Happy sewing everyone and thank you for your continued viewing of the ASG video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBaIl4uRTac


Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , | 38 Comments

Salmon Run

No, I’m not talking about the seasonable spawning of fish in our local rivers…this week the salmon relates to bridesmaid dresses…some good some bad.

While most dresses come with boning and all sorts of structure to make them look good for that special event…one showed up this week that had nothing going for it…literally nothing. It is a floor length tube top with elastic at the top, short lapped zipper and a knit lining covered with chiffon and no label. It seems the bride bought a load of these in little junior sizes and expected real women to wear them. How about this for fitting?P1180764 In order to match the rest of the girls, this bridesmaid did not want a corset back installed so I had to cut fabric off the hem to make panels…you have seen this before:


Pin up chiffon and knit to find 4 inches to play with/harvest.


Remove old short 10 inch zipper and install 20 inch invisible one.P1180768


Open both side seams for the new panels.


Make new panels 4 inches wide and 16 inches long with both layers. Serge the edges.


Zipper installed and first try-on…the back actually closes up! The girl may wear a strapless bra to help control the rolls in the back.

The waist sits on her actual waist but what about those side panels?



Side panels hand basted and pinned at the point…this may work!


Now all that is left is the hemming.

Four other Alfred Angelo bridesmaids dresses came in last weekend along with 6 ladies who filled up my sewing room. 


Five sitting down and one on the platform getting pinned up and in. The dresses needed to be take in on the sides as well as hemmed.


The one thing the mother of the bride wanted was for me to close up all the organza panels by hand. I said I would not re-design the dress and said I could close up the very bottom of the back panels 2 inches to cover a few of the bra bands. To hand sew all those chiffon edges together would have removed the whole reason the bride selected them.

She also asked me why the first layer of skirt lining closest to the legs had the seams facing away from the body. I said many gowns are made this way maybe to keep from snagging the seams on shoes with beads and straps. Doesn’t it make sense to have a smoother side inside against the body and shoes, no? Then she said she wanted me to change all of them to be the other way on all the dresses…I declined. There is a second layer of lining facing that way under the chiffon so nothing shows on the right side anyway.

Mr. Mole is always offering little tidbits to enrich my sewing life and recently he shared this link for all my readers who also crochet:man shorts

If you need a chuckle please visit this YouTube video and help these women trying to earn money to buy supplies for community charity sewing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBaIl4uRTac

Thank you, Everyone and happy sewing!



Posted in challenges | Tagged , , | 60 Comments

Battle of the Bulge

A little advice to future brides: NEVER buy your dress a year in advance.

Here is why…

1. The groom backs out…you are stuck with the dress

2. The groom makes you pregnant…you cannot fit into the dress and delay the wedding for a year

3. You failed to lose the baby weight…you cannot get back into the dress

4. You celebrate with your girlfriends for 11 months and then try to zip up the dress…you gained 11 pounds and cannot get into the dress

5. Something magical (not in a good way) happens while the dress hangs in the garment bag…garment bags are notorious for shrinking bridal gowns

Then it is up to the seamstress to make some magic with the wedding date a month away.

The first thing that can be done is open the seam allowances all the way and then take in where needed.P1180687 Here I was able to let out the side seams a total of 4 inches all around and then mark where we needed to take it in and do the final machine stitching. On this dress, letting out the center back zipper area was not an option with embroidery and a huge bow at the waist.

Up next is the dress you saw 2 weeks ago when I shortened the one shoulder strap. In the month between fittings, the bride was going to go for trail runs and drop 5 pounds but when she returned the scale must have gone in the other direction as the side zipper would barely slide up. Pinning up bustle points to her lining I realized that under all that English netting, the 3 layers of linings were screaming and I could barely get a pin into the fabric as it was stretched so tight across her butt. Sitting down would not be an option for her on her special day. So I suggested that I open the side zipper area and try to get as much as I could and slide the folded under netting over to meet at the invisible zipper.

She fought me all the way and said she did not want her dress altered but in the end she agreed I could do whatever I could.P1180807 P1180808

Since the other side was embroidered over the belt and it was not possible to let it out, this was the only choice. All the linings have been let out as much as possible too just so she can sit down.

P1180809 Now these 2 dresses are ready and waiting for the next try-on appointments  and I can finish them.

Along with these two brides I also had one that bought her dress way early and also grew out of it. It was a standard floor length bridesmaid dress that needed lots of work to make it a high-low. I spent over an hour pinning/pleating up the long chiffon layers unto her hips and waist to cover a highly decorated lace corset beneath. The zipper would not zip up so I managed to get the zipper moved over 1.5 inches along with letting out the back darts (another 1/2 inch) to gain some ease. The darts had boning sewn through them so that was removed as well so she could breath and dance. The straps were repositioned closer to center back so they would not fall down.

With all this letting out, when the bride showed up 2 weeks later…the dress was just as tight as before but she did have breathing room in the back…wrinkles too as her hips had expanded to prevent the dress from sliding down and relaxing…but the front is fine and on a beach in Hawaii with the wind blowing…she will be happy to expose her legs and dance in the sand. P1180730-2P1180731-2 P1180740

After gaining almost 2 inches of ease in the back you can barely see any difference in the before and after photos except the boning is gone and the hem is finished. The hip area is much tighter and causing the wrinkles higher up…really sad.


More challenges to come next time!

If you missed viewing the ASG sewing video last time, please check it out so these great ladies can win the cash prize to buy supplies for their charity sewing. In the past they have made over 800 quilts for returning veterans and continue to make clothes for children who have little to wear to attend schools, pillowcase bags for filled with essentials for homeless teens and seniors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBaIl4uRTac

Hope everyone had some good Easter sewing time!

Thank you for dropping by!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , | 32 Comments

Heavy Metal Bride

Every day that the phone rings I hope that it will be a new bride with a simple alteration…OK…that’s just me the “ultimate optimist”. So this next dress was a little difficult for the mother to describe over the phone.

It seems that her daughter was not going to have a normal dress bought off the rack so they made a trip to a fancy Los Angeles boutique to custom order this dress from Australia. The models on the website are all very tall and sophisticated so that is the first indication of trouble. My bride is very petite and very young and nowhere close to having the dramatic body and attitude that commands such extravagance.

ShowThumbnail.aspx 2ShowThumbnail.aspx 3

The dress is all silk and the beaded/rhinestone collar must weigh over 5 pounds on its own. All the rhinestones are set with 4 prongs which catch on everything else on the dress especially the lace skirt. It consists of 2 sets of wrap ties, an elastic waist and its own set of 13 steps of direction on how to tie them:How to Tie MIRANDA2


How to Tie MIRANDA6

There is also a lace tail that has to be tucked into the back waistband and this controls the entire position of the heavy metal collar. Of course there is nothing holding that strip of delicate lace TO the waistband…just divine intervention. My first idea was to make a new longer loop for the 4 ties to slide through and a wide tab of silk fabric with 3 snaps to attach it to the elastic waistband.P1180709P1180611P1180610 P1180710 OK, first problem solved…what else do we need to do to this custom made-to-measure dress? How about the gap at the center back of the collar? It pokes out away from the body and need to have some of those precious rhinestones removed along with seed beads and sequins…tedious? You Bet! Here is the back side to see the thread tracing for a dart…Lordie…a dart in a beaded collar…I must be nuts!



Remove everything inside the dart and then hand sew the 2 edges together front and back.




OK, collar done, what else? Well, the first set of ties come off the front panels at a weird angle and will not lay flat after going through the back loop…the mother asks for a vertical dart on the outside and inside of the top ties…sure thing…the ties have only one seam so the entire top edge has to be opened to get to the inside to make the darts…but hey, it’s only labor. Let’s hand baste the darts first.P1180600P1180601

Oh, and while you are in there, how about adding another strip of boning, this time one that goes from the very bottom edge to the top, not like the skimpy original one? How does one add boning to a strip of silk without showing or managing to use a sewing machine? How about covering the boning with silk and hand sewing it to the lining…sure, it’s just labor. The first photo shows pinning the covered strip of boning to the outside for perfect placement before hand sewing it inside.


And are we almost done?  P1180609 Wait…we have to remove 5 inches off the hem of the lace and lining and then the mother produces a little bag of something hidden in the garment bag…what could it be??? M&M’s perhaps or a Snickers candy bar? Nope…something white!

P1180612 How thoughtful of Anna Campbell, the designer, to include 5 yards of lace edging for the seamstress to attach to the hem. It’s only labor after all…let’s do it…and the final try-on…remember the little loop on the big loop earlier? Well, there is a small button that makes the train into the bustle and here is the back view and front view minus a few tattoos:

P1180739 P1180737-2

So with just 5 hours of labor and lots of hand sewing, we have a “custom” dress that fits…finally! After working and thinking so much on this dress I was just a little disappointed when the bride announced that she was going to sell this dress right after the ceremony…really? Try to find a bride who wants a $3000 altered custom dress…that may be harder than you think.

A friend sent this link of a deserving group of ladies who made this video for a competition to earn money to buy supplies for charity sewing. Each viewing is counted every 24 hours towards their goal of the most votes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBaIl4uRTac

Please share the link if you can !

Happy Easter everyone!


Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 51 Comments