Selection by Posse’ Part 2

As promised…once the skirt has been raised up, let’s tackle that zipper complex.

Check out how many stitching lines have to be removed to re-position the zipper!!! I can see 6 but there are more hidden under the final edge bias binding.

On the outside all you can see is the mesh binding…wait…it is only on the outside while the polyester binding is on the inside? What does this mesh binding do??? Absolutely nothing.

Here is the tail…can you see that the operator sewed the binding in a half circle and it is cupping and making a lump? Who needs that on their butt?

How much time does it take to remove every row of stitching just to free up the zipper? Sequence certainly comes into play here…what the Hell came first or last?

Here you can see how the zipper is stuck in the middle between the inside binding and the outside decorative mesh binding. This is the waist junction and the mesh has to be removed…delicately!

Slowly, the layers are peeled away and I am wishing I had never agreed to this! You can see the operator managed to catch some of the lining into one row of stitching…nice.

For some reason, the designer decided to keep the sequined fabric 1/2 inch away from the zipper and allow the satin layer to run all the away across…why? To reduce bulk? My nail is sliding up under the raw edge.

Let’s hand baste the bodice to the zipper BEFORE the mesh strips return. Now it is ready for the second try-on before adding the mesh.

Zipper hand basted with new darts in skirt:

Onto the zipper binding phase, lay all the parts out flat. The mesh strip remains attached at the very bottom.

With the zipper attached and slid up 2.5 inches, the mesh strips are hand basted before machine stitched:

What happens at the neckline? Well as per the original, this is what it looks like:

Of course, there is another useless strip of mesh along the neckline and it stands up.

Once the center of the mesh is attached, the outside edge is machine stitched to the sequin layer…very slowly and carefully as I am stitching through metal sequins!

Re-attaching the bias binding and discovering that it was sewn VERY tight so now that it is relaxed, it comes up short.

Original factory stitching up close:

Once it is snipped in the middle, you can see the problem. At least the pleat is gone.

Next step is attaching the binding by machine.

The tail has to be bound so I use a strip of lining:

Let’s make it flat and squared off.

Fold under and secure the edges:

Then finally hand baste it to the center back by hand.

Basted and ready for machine stitching:

I made 2 rows of hand stitching to get the teeth closer to the mesh without catching the mesh in the teeth…again…why?

Stitching between the 2 rows for a perfect fit keeping that darn mesh out of the way:

Almost done…just remove the 2 rows of basting and the dress is ready to go out the door…whew!

A couple of you have asked about hours of labor…well, this is one of those projects that you learn a valuable lesson from. I quoted the bride 3 hours before I saw all the steps it would take to remake it. In the end I put in over 6 hours but charged for the original 3…”Lesson Learned”.  I was so happy to see this dress go back out the front door that I forgot to take the final photo and the bride never sent one to me.

After looking through all these steps just for this zipper, any future zipper removal/reattachment will seem easy peasy! Right?

Before I get back to the final 4 brides for December, I wanted to share with you some Gingher scissors I recently purchased. Now, I have used Ginghers for over 40 years and always needed the 7 inch size with my small hands so when the new ones came I was surprised at the difference. The newest pair made in Italy are wider and heavier than the older ones from Mexico. The top blade in these photos really demonstrates:

Whatever your preference for scissors, please clean and oil your favorites from time to time. Another job that had to be done was cleaning out the bobbin case after all that sequin sewing….can you imagine that poor bobbin whizzing around with clumps of lint and a stray sequin?

I remove the rubber ring, clean in there and put a drop of oil into the center wick…treat your machine!!!

Sending you best wishes for all your holiday planning! I still have 4 gowns to finish before Dec 25 so the drama continues and more crazy posts to come!

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Selection By Posse’ Part One

   This sequined dress from BCBG will be a real challenge!

The bride said that she took her whole family to the salon to select a dress and this is what THEY came up with.

Selection by committee convinced her to buy a dress larger and longer than she needed because…why?…the salesperson told her a seamstress could make it fit.

First, we have to pin out 1.25 inches (total 2.5) at the waist since we cannot just whack off the tulle at the floor level. This will require removing the skirt and lining and bring it up 2.5 inches along with making the circumference the same as the original to be able to attach unto the bodice.

On inspection, all the skirt seams are French, even the sequined layer…wonderful…I love bulk!

Let’s get measuring…the numbers add up to needing to reduce the waist of the skirt by 5.5 inches once it is raised up. So the side seams of the sequin layer will have to be taken in 2.75 inches each side seam and the lining as well along with darts. Notice the fabric label hanging from the waist seam? Yes, it says you cannot return this dress if it is removed.

The tail of the zipper will remain in the center back seam but all the rest will be removed, binding removed and moved up to the neck 2.5 inches. Good thing the salesperson told her this was an easy fix…tearing my hair out!

Only one thing could make this a more un-enjoyable job…have you had clients call “just to check up”?









Let’s pin and mark the 2.5 inches that have to be removed at the top of the skirt:

See the new waist seamline 2.5 inches lower?

Here we have the inside and the amount I have to take in the back hip dart in the lining:

New French seam for the sides:

Skirt hand basted to the bodice:

That center front sheer area hand basted:

Zipper hand basted with new darts in skirt:

After the second try-on, I need to take in the side seams AND darts more:

The white thread indicates the new French seam line:

See how much longer the new dart will be?

French seams in the sequined layer. Every sequin will have to be removed to make this possible. First wrong sides together:

Ready to remove all the sequins in the waistline seam?

Trimmed seams:

There is no way I would run this new seam through my serger without removing those darn sequins!!!!

Hooray…it looks like the original now!

Next time, I’ll show all the steps involving the insanely labor intensive zipper and the mesh strip and the narrow edge binding in Part 2 but here is a little holiday cheer.

Mr. Mole has bought me an amaryllis bulb in the past but this year I sneaked a new one into his study. Not only is this flower a double double but there are 2 more stems ready to stand up and burst forth with more flowers!

Still plowing through wedding gowns…I think I have enough to keep me busy until Santa comes!


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Vintage Look

Now here is a treat for all of you who are tired of strapless revealing dresses!

I didn’t even know that the salon carried something so timeless and modest and feminine as Wtoo Kensington :

On the model, it is perfection, on my bride is just needs a little tweaking up top and a one point bustle.







Can you see what I see? Check out the hem…does the left side look like it is dragging? How could that be? Surely everything was cut perfectly and stitched well? Ah…no.

What we discovered is that that left side is 3-4 inches longer than the rest of the dress so I pin out the excess for adjustment.

Here is the chunk that has to be eliminated… all between the two red thread tracing lines.

First decide where to cut:

Slide the motifs up and pin and machine stitch:

One other area to reduce is the underarm seam of the sleeves. Pinned out and ready for basting. Thankfully it was not a French seam!! What you can’t see are the darling covered buttons in a row at her wrist.


The back neckline flared away from the brides back, so I made a tuck on both sides just behind the shoulder and stitched it down by hand.

To top off this romantic dress a bride needs a really long veil! It took 2 hangers to hold all the folded tulle…about 12 feet long.

Now that the nights bring frost warnings, the succulent tower has been moved into the garage for the winter along with fuchsias and the lime tree. Mr Mole has been busy planting for the winter outside under plastic and has been experimenting with growing lettuce in his study with the grow light.

Ever wonder how permanent pleats are made? Here is a gentleman who knows all about it.

Now the rush to get everyone on the Christmas list taken care of…and maybe get all the cards mailed before Dec 24!

Thank you for all your comments last time!

Happy Holiday Sewing!!!


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Lots to Reveal

This Madison James dress found its way to my sewing room in March.

It then spent the entire summer with me until the Fall wedding as the bride lives out of state and could only come back for 2 fittings in 6 months.

The train is huge and heavy being thick satin. The shoulders need taking up as well. The hem is stiff with 2 inch wide horsehair braid.







Starting with just 5 points pinned up tells me that we might have to go up to 7 just to get all this up off the ground. The weight of all this satin is unbelievable! Covered buttons and rhinestones run the full length of the center back seam to the ground.

You can see how much the bride wants removed from the shaped cap sleeves. Can you also see how doing this causes wrinkles/drag lines in the side bust panel? Push up bust pads are pinned in place but this bride will have to compromise on what works and what doesn’t. This happens when you take up the shoulders so much as to distort the actual curve of the bust seam. Where does that fabric have to go to lay flat again?

The top waist beaded belt needs to be shortened by 2 inches, one inch on each side.

First, all the rhinestones and pearls have to be removed one at a time, no bead cracking this time! The naked edge is folded under and 3 hooks and eyes are attached and the resulting belt is together without looking like anything has been done. Did I save the beads for her??? YOU BET!


I have thread marked where the fabric will be removed from the strap and cap sleeve.

Also this bride wants to have triangular cut-outs made in each side seam so skin colored mesh can be inserted to make it look like she is not wearing any underwear. Guess what…SHE ISN’T wearing any!

The openings will be 5 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. The mother was not happy knowing this was the bride’s request but I lucked out as the bride wanted the entire length of the side seams opened to the waist to reveal more and more. The second strip of rhinestones is actually glued tight to the satin and I was not about to get into that mess so we are stopping at the top level.

There are 2 layers of thick satin and one layer of lining and a strip of boning to deal with. Not what a seamstress wants to see when she opens the seam…layers!

Before the second fitting I made two 2-layer skin colored chiffon inserts to fill the open side seams and have them attached by hand.


Tucked into that triangular space…hand basted…hmmmm. That way the bride can still change her mind if they don’t  look like she envisioned.

Second fitting with 2 inches taken out of each strap thus raising the entire dress up, we still have the drag lines in the bust but the bride is so happy that the waist is sitting on her waist. Once I get inside of the bodice, I will take in the princess seam to see if that helps. You can see how the whole design of the bodice changes once you hike the straps up.

The bust would have fit better lower but we have changed the whole arc of the bust points and adding those side pieces just adds one more issue to create problems. While the straps are now shorter and narrower, the design still needs to rest at the outer edge of her shoulders and not like regular straps. Raising the shoulder straps also makes the underarm fabric crawl right up into her armpit so the armhole will have to be lowered an inch or more to compensate.

The upper belt fits tight and the lower belt sits well on her hips without revealing too much in the cut-out. Originally she wanted the back “V” dropped even lower…so glad I talked her out if it! The 5 point bustle could use a few more points but she likes the soft loops of fabric. To me it looks messy and uneven.

Let’s tackle the bust drag lines…taking in the princess seams 1/2 inch on one edge only.

With the satin layer and under layer basted, the only thing I could think of for the lining was to hand tack a tuck and not bother messing with the boning. I could reduce the volume by 1/2 inch with a 1/4 inch tuck…fingers crossed it is enough!

Here you can see how I shifted the princess seam over 1/2 inch on one side. I wanted to maintain the spacing between the bust points and not take in both edges, only the offending one.

Can you see the furry edges? Man this stuff can ravel just by looking at it!!!

The shoulder seams of the straps are thread marked for narrowing…can you see the dirt marks? This dress had spent many seasons being tried on in the shop.

More worn and dirty edges:

Both triangles under the armhole are marked ready to be basted and folded under:

The shoulder seams are machine stitched, narrowed and under stitched along the neck edge.

The final nude netting (doubled) with French seams at the top edge for stability.

This photo shows the netting in place before the lining is attached by hand. So many variables with so many layers all trying to get into the act. Have to tame all the layers but at least the bust drag lines are gone…hooray!

On the outside I ran a tiny row of machine stitching along the edge to keep everything nice and secure.

Finally the bust cups are attached and ready for the final try-on:

Steamed and ready to leave the sewing room…no more bust drag lines!

The final bustle…messy and drapey….just what the bride wanted and with 11 bridesmaids, they should have no trouble finding the loops and buttons.

Before I race back to the other gowns, these two beauties were produced and for some strange reason, they each have a pigtail curved section that you could run a string through and hang them up.

The final squash harvest:

Three days until Turkey day and then the following day we help set up for the 100 ASG drawstring pillowcases filled with all of life’s necessities for homeless teens and seniors. Doing charity work over the holidays fills one with a real sense of gratitude!!!

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With a Little Help from my Friend (Mary)

Remember the bride who is being encouraged/pushed into wearing her soon-to-be Mother in law’s dress from the 80’s?

Well, here is where we left off last time. All the lace and sequins and pearls have been removed and saved (by order of the MIL).

Since the bride and her whole family did not buy plain lace fabric, I have had to completely take apart the dress, all of the pieces and cut them separate from the new scalloped lace netting they did buy. Hoping that lace fabric would be 60-72 inches wide, what I got was 52 inches wide minus the two scalloped selvedges of at least 6 inches deep.

Once all the darts and tucks were opened up and pressed flat along with the linings, it was easier to see what had to be done and in what sequence.

The bodice back lining:

The bodice back satin:

No hope of adding ease to the side seams:

Slide pleat to the side seam at the hip:

Front lower skirt with lace edging pinned under:

After all the edging is removed along with the old zipper:

Wondering what’s inside the front bodice? Look here…a facing band over the lining!

Every possible seams is let out to 1/4 inch or less for the try-on:

The sheer sections will be filled in before adding the lace layer:

What looked like princess seams on the outside are really just one long dart in satin and lining:

Once opened up and pressed flat, not much hope in adding anything to this piece either:

Back bodice satin and lining pieces pressed flat:

Bodice top and straps and lower center back panels. Safety pins mark where the bustle points may be later:


Center front lower panel:

Front skirt panel removed…how is that curve going to be used with a straight scalloped lace selvedge? The panel is folded in half with a center fold just for the photo:

How about the back skirt…how do you get that curve to be straight? There are 2 of these to be cut out. Again safety pins mark the possible bustle points:

Mary of Cloning Couture was able to help me be brave and innovate to make the skirt pieces work. You can see that I used the front skirt panel as a pattern and used some Do-Sew pattern tracing material.

You could also use tracing paper or anything else but this was handy. To get the curved edge to be straight, I cut random lines to spread out the hem edge:

Once the cuts were made and spread apart, they arranged themselves into equal spacing with either 9 or 11 inches between the sections. Yes, each section will be sewn to the adjacent section and have vertical seams but ending at the scalloped edging/hem.

Then it was time to make the back skirt do the same AND fit all this on 52 inch wide lace. Center back seam has to be 48 inches long and the side seam has to be 36 inches to match the front skirt side seam.

This time, the wedges worked out to having a spread of 13 and 36 inches to be straight. Then all I had to do was to cut 2 of those so the center back had a seam. Again, the sections will be sewn to each other and have vertical seams to close the gaps.

Here we are, all the pieces except one more back skirt panel to be cut from the remainder of lace.

I managed to get all the pieces cut out of the narrow lace and Mr. Mole thought I should include a “fed-up” photo after wrestling with these pattern pieces all day on the living room carpet.


Now the dress has been totally hand basted back together and ready for the next try-on. A huge Thank You to Mary for holding my hand along the way!!!!

BUT…the big BUT…every bead and pearl and flower and sequin had to be removed from the new seams even before I could hand baste and definitely before the machine would be used to finish. OH, and yes, I have to SAVE EVERY ONE for the MIL.

Everything is saved and bagged up. The buttons that were originally on the sleeves will be used along the new zipper down the center back.

So, dear readers, the days are shorter, the nights are longer and colder but the dresses just keep rolling in and I want to have this puppy done before Jan 1, 2019!!!!

Thank you all for following along and I wish I could share with you these delicious homemade sugar free raspberry scones that Mr. Mole has made for me:

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The Longest Wait

Most brides that come through my door are quite lively. Most brides are so excited at the prospect of starting their lives with a loving partner.

This season, I encountered the liveliest of all and for a different reason…she had waited 70 years to find her soulmate. My dear bride spent her whole life teaching and developing her spiritual side. She was an East Coast native and never expected what came next when she retired and moved to the West Coast.

Her soulmate had been here waiting for her the whole time keeping the faith that one day the perfect girl would show up in an adult community college course. Their eyes met the first day and they were smitten!

He proposed, she ordered a dress online and found me to make it right. Of course, the dress came vacuum packed in a small shipping bag and bore no resemblance to the sleek Chinese model that was on the website but that could be remedied. Satin wrinkles are courtesy of being stuffed into a mailing envelope. The only request from the bride was, “Make me look like the model on the website”…whew…it’s a little late for that!

What needed to be done? Let’s hike up the straps and take up the hem and see what happens when the sheer lace godet train gets bustled up:

The side seams were pinned to reduce the excess front tummy fabric and give more definition to her back. As you can see the lace motifs are very thick and stiff and beaded and pearled which is not the most flattering on a curved body. As usual, they will have to be removed/lifted where the side seams are taken in and then sewn back down afterwards by hand.

Have you ever seen such a train? She will need a 3-point bustle.














After red thread tracing the new tighter bodice side seams, the thick lace flowers and beads had to be removed/loosened and flipped away from that area. Below this area on the hips, the seams needed to be let out to allow the dress to drop down.


The straps were shortened 2 inches on each side:

Here we are at the second fitting with more pinning out of the bodice side seams but the hem is basted and looking even on the floor.


The hip seams were let out right to the very edge.

The bodice seams were taken in for under bust support.

Along with the dress being ordered online, so was the veil. It was just placed on her head for a trial photo. I attached it to the comb while removing 2 lace motifs.












How about this for a veil?

With gratitude, the bride and groom gave me a bag of sweet cherries from their garden.


A British colleague of Mr. Mole’s sent this link to me. I thanked her for sending it and it made me realize that besides have great hand sewing skills, we seamstresses have another key ingredient to making edges of fabric meet perfectly…PATIENCE! Sewing skin doesn’t allow for mistakes and ripping out!!!

Happy Halloween…we get 150 goblins from 6-9pm all dressed up and begging for candy…oh dear, 3 weeks until Thanksgiving!



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Custom Corset Lacing

Remember this dress? It has made an appearance before and as I recall that it had a nasty little velvet belt that neither bride was too excited about.

Wtoo Della

Here we have the bride with different beaded straps seeing if either works for her to keep the bodice up. You may notice that the top edge is much wider than the bride, this will be altered with inside and outside darts. Also there is a piece of tulle between the cups that needs to be tightened up. OK…front looks doable.

But walking around to the back tells another story. The first photo shows a screaming zipper and the bride not being able to inhale. The second photo shows the real truth. Her mother asks for a corset back which will solve the issue.


An outside dart is pinned out under the arm and an additional grosgrain ribbon is pinned into place to suggest a halter strap.

New corset loops are attached and that nasty little velvet belt has been folded in half and stitched to turn into the lacing. One good thing about stiff velvet ribbon…it holds the loops and won’t slip away…hooray!

Let’s tackle that dart by cutting the lace motif in a curved way on each side. Then slide it over as much as we need. The satin and lining will be tucked on the inside by hand.


Even with the 2 new darts, the top edge still needs some taming, so I used the twill tape trick to snug up 1.5 inches on each side.

Then the desire/need for straps came into play and I suggested that we just do some tulle straps/sleeves and both the mother and bride were happy with that as the tulle compliments the dress and could cover more of her arms.

The satin train was shortened along with the tulle as she did not want a bustle.

On the third fitting, the bodice was still too wide in front so I added another dart as a tuck without cutting any lace. This is the outside so it is not so noticeable:

The inside was hand stitched down next to the first dart. You can also see the tulle straps hand stitched to the lining. Everything I have done to this dress can be converted back to the original dress by snipping threads and removing the corset loop strips and attaching the zipper again…well, that is for the next seamstress!

The bride asked that I send her a photo measuring the width of the lacing for whoever was going to lace her up. You may notice that there is no modesty panel and I left the zipper intact as the mother wanted exactly 3 inches to be zipped up. At the top of the zipper teeth I have a big hook and eye. Originally I was going to leave the old zipper in under the lining but it showed through so I had to cut it off. They will not have a bow in back and there is an opening above the zipper to knot the laces and hide them under the zipper area.

Anyone know why there is a safety pin in the lacing?

Such a pretty result with straps:













Let’s add a really long veil!

But wait…the veil has a tear in it! You know I can repair these with invisible thread but what happens when you are missing a piece?

Best way I could see was to overlap the edges, stitch with invisible thread and trim away excess after hoping that the hole will not be too noticeable.

A pretty good result:

Resting on the sofa, you can’t see the repair.

If you are wondering why a bride would buy a dress so tight like so many of my clients…well, I will give you a hint…she shares something with Meghan Markle…12 weeks?

Before I get back to my November brides, I wanted to share this link just when you think squares and triangles when someone mentions quilts.

By now all you readers in the northern hemisphere should have lots of fallen leaves to rake/sweep up before Old Man Winter sets in. Storing leaves in bags for a year or more makes the nicest leaf mold for mulching.

Have a super week before the goblins arrive!!!!!


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