Heavy Lace and Pearls

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

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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!

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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!

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Strap Me In!

If you have brown hair and tan skin, this is the dress for you. The bodice includes a mid-range shade of tulle so it looks like the lace is just floating on the model.


But if you have light skin, the tan tulle makes your skin look dirty and drab…what to do?

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Let’s tackle that lace hem first. Yes, you know I have to remove the bottom edging one stitch at a time and then reposition it higher up…this time a full 5 inches higher.All the excess tulle will be cut off later.


It is pinned and then hand basted with red thread and the bride tries it on.


She likes the length and spreads her skirt out like a butterfly. But now the real challenge: she wants to remove all the tan tulle in front but leave the tulle in back…WHAT?

I grabbed some of my favorite nylon (not shiny rayon) rattail cording from the corset making box and pinned on some to give her an idea of what might be done. The edge of the tulle would be wrapped around the cording and hand stitched with tiny stitches all on the wrong side. Then the tulle would be cut away. Have I ever done this before…Hell No…but it was worth a try.


First side done and tried on…the cording will continue across the back to the row of buttons and under the back armhole.


Here is the close-up…can you spell T-E-D-I-O-U-S? and S-C-A-R-Y?


After both straps were attached, the front tan tulle is cut away.


And the result is just what she wanted…hooray! There is still a strip of tan tulle between the new straps but it is way less noticeable.


All that is left is the 5 point bustle to get all that gorgeous lace just up off the floor for dancing. There are 5 buttons at the back waist to hold all this double layer tulle skirt and a one button bustle for the satin under skirt. I only buttoned up every third button for the photo so they look a little weird.


Thank you for the comments on the last post of Nancy’s new jacket. I didn’t make time to answer your kind words as we have been a little busy for the last 2 weeks with moving my parents into assisted living, sorting and selling all their treasures from collecting over 70 years together and clearing and cleaning out their house to list for sale this week. It has been a whirlwind of packing and carting boxes off to charity shops and storage units after having a 2-day estate sale…Mr. Mole and I have been going through a lot of Tylenol and rum and diet Pepsi after logging in over 100 hours of manual labor. Fingers crossed we can both get back to normal soon.

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Nancy’s Sofa Jacket

Remember the last jacket I started for Nancy? Well, as the fabric looks more like expensive home dec, it sort of has a nickname now.

Well it has progressed along and it is finished…yea!P1200339

Since the muslin stage, I used each muslin piece, some altered, as the pattern because not all the parts will be mirror images of themselves and working with that fabric it does have challenges like wide and narrow stripes.


Here it is basted and ready for the first try-on. There is a small strip of copper showing through on the right side band and that will need to be narrowed and eliminated.


I love the back with the center back seam, darts and the snakeskin.


Once it was tried on, the shoulders were a little droopy even with shoulder pads. The pocket piece was pinned on for placement and as I added to the length of the short jacket and not quite as long as the coat version, a decision was made to just extend the pocket all the way to the hem. The top edge of the pocket will have the silver fabric trim. The pocket is sewn into the princess and side seams.


When cutting out I added a little extra to the back lower section but decided that it was not needed so it will be trimmed back.


The bands were interfaced with tricot knit and now you can see the copper edges that will be hidden in the seam allowances, This fabric ravels like crazy so I pinked all the edges. I never worry about the interfacing not being perfectly placed out to the edges as all that will be inside concealed inside the bands.


To make the top of the pocket binding, first I attached the lining, then the silver strip. Flip the strip to the inside and fold under the raw edge and pin. Stitch in the ditch on the right side and the view from the inside. Then this will just sit even in the princess and side seams.


Nancy tries on her jacket for the hem marking and she is very happy and feels so artsy and elegant at the same time. The hems with be stitched by machine and she may want some sort of closure later as the pattern suggests.


With our 100 degree temps, the new squash and pepper plants are off to a good start:P1200710

The perennial raspberry plants have shot up already and filled in the raised bed:P1200711

Happy summer sewing everyone (in the Northern hemisphere)!

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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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