Vogue 1561 – the slashing

Continuing with the muslin stage of this jacket…before Nancy arrived, I tried it on myself.

Could it be more maternity ala 1950’s? That front bust curve hits at the wrong place for sure! The back curves swing away from the body too. What does that tell us? ADD LENGTH! The shoulder seams are already at their max so slashing is the answer to give more length.

Readers send me jackets photos similar to this and ask my why this looks like this and blame themselves for having a weird body. It’s not you honey…someone flat patterned this and forgot that real women have boobs and butts and hips…curves that are not taken into account on a flat piece of paper with no darts or seams. Hey, toss this muslin on a man it might just hang straight…where is Mr. Mole when I need him?

Once Nancy tries on the jacket you can see what she needed to get that front to lie flat. Of course we usually do this on all her patterns, so it is expected. Now normally, as I have mentioned, Nancy is a size 16 up top so why should we HAVE to add so much? Flat patterning. Once the patch is pinned on, you can see the front curve is sitting lower and nicer. The center fronts are supposed to just meet in the middle but they need help too…this is a size 22…really?

Have you all been paying attention to the unending collection of jackets and short coats other sewers have been posting? Do you see what I see…and what they see and moan about later…the center front hems flare away from the body and make long drag lines from the hem to the bust? Have you seen plaids tweaked beyond belief? Man, those plaids really show up fabrics that need more ease, length and slashing BEFORE cutting out. Wish I could include photos but you know that they are out there this season.

We do the back slash and the back drops another 2 inches to allow the top to drop down and into her waist. Normally I do a short-waisted/sway back  alteration but on this pattern, who knows WHERE the waist is supposed to be??









Once the front and back are slashed it also allows the underarm side seam to drop and  relax so the excess can be pinned out along with the huge flare of the skirt to show off the chevron feature. Can you see the red straight of grain lines diagonally? A final slight slash at the neck will allow the neckline to lie flatter too.

Before the lining fabrics are to be cut, I stacked them onto the fabric pieces to compare shapes and dimensions after Demented Fairy mentioned that her lining was small.

While the waists in fabric and lining are equal with 10 and 11 inches…not so with the skirt sections.

Check out the back waist of the lining…11 inches like the bodice but the skirt has its own excess flare. The hem measurements are 10 inches wider in the fabric than the lining so allowing the outside jacket to flare too away from the body and the length of the lining is 1.75 inches shorter than the fabric.

How about the front? Lining measures 10 inches at the waist but the fabric pattern is way wider. The front skirt lining is 12 inches narrower than the fabric and even shorter in length.

What’s a girl to do?

Maybe take a break, go out into the garden and rummage around in the raised bed under the plastic cover to find….SPINACH! and chard in December.

With a week to go and 2 more brides to finish…I sure hope those reindeer can find my house and leave some good gifts this year!

Wishing you all find the time for those last-minute gifts and projects while sipping eggnog liberally mixed with rum or whiskey!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

Tackling Vogue 1561

In the past I have used Zandra Rhodes patterns for my client Nancy. They are flowy and soft and suit Nancy’s Type 2 summer personality. When I saw this newest pattern with the curvy lines and flowing skirt, I just had to make a muslin…that is when the fun (?) began.









I like to cut out paper patterns at night as it is pretty mindless cutting on the bold lines and folding all the pieces back into a neat rectangles and then into a plastic Ziploc bag. Something must have happened that night as when I went to spread the pieces out…I was missing the size 16-22 top front. What’s a girl to do?

The top front for sizes 6-14 was in the envelope so I placed it on new paper and used the top front size 4-16 piece to get some cutting lines for the 16-22 size. Mainly, I was worried about the lower curved seam…should it continue to the side seam and rise to where the pencil line is? What about that bust point? On a real sized 16-22 woman that would surely be lower and further towards the side seam by 1.5 inches which will leave that curved seam right on the bust point…did anyone think about that?

Here you can see the new piece with both cutting lines. I measured the circumference of the top for the bust and even using the size 22 it only measures 43 inches…more of a 16 than a 22. So, I cut the 22 as my motto is “cut large and trim later”.

Then the pinning begins to check the cutting and seam lines…so many wrinkles! The seam lines are on-grain and off-grain and bias…great! It looks like a schematic for a roller coaster ride.

After pinning and checking that extra fabric was trimmed away and I used the higher up seam line for the 22. Then I realized my camera was not focusing so we have some fuzzy photos for a bit.

Reading the directions, it states to stay stitch every seam and clip where needed…well, using muslin and an old sheet means you will have to clip every darn curve, convex or concave every 1/4 inch…lucky me! So the hand basted jacket looks OK if you like puckers and pleats. Checking the photo on the envelope…it looks the same, so Zandra meant to have it look this way.

How did we get so many pleats? At this point I am wishing that the front curves were more gentle like the back curve but NO, they are way more dramatic.


Mr. Mole says if I would make this in black wool he would wear it as a man’s frock coat as he loves the back feature…he knows this will never happen.

Here is what the envelope does not tell you: It will be small in the bust, there are no fitting darts or easy ways to adjust this pattern, the center fronts do not overlap for buttons or any closure except maybe an exposed separating zipper and the hem circumference is a whopping 148 inches/3.75 meters. I drew grainlines 8 inches apart to show what happens if you use a striped fabric or IF you could/should use one. Nancy like stripes so I’m always thinking about her.

At this point I am wondering why anyone would make such a wacky pattern where woven fabrics will be fighting with each other at every seam. The recommended fabrics are: Jacquard, Wool crepe, Linen and Ponte knit and you are supposed to interface the bodice lining. Then there is a lining that is totally flat without any curves in Taffeta or Charmeuse AND an additional Fleece interfacing. Wait…there’s more…then you are told to channel quilt every 1/4 inch vertically. So in essence we are making a freaking quilt top or a thick tote bag.

Now call me crazy but Taffeta and Charmeuse are totally different animals as are Jacquard and Ponte but hey, while we are at it…toss in some nice thick fleece interfacing layer. What you have is a thick cozy 4 layer top that does not close…is this practical? Now…hands up who want to continue?

Can you see that at the side seams the grain lines are totally 45 degrees? I will have to draw those same lines on the back to see what is revealed…well, that is what a circle skirt will do…it has a mind of its own.

When the side seams are joined they will make chevrons.

In the end, I am thinking that I may cut the fronts like the back so they hang flatter but it all depends on how it looks on Nancy. Oh, and then there is the lining which is just cut like a regular piece with no swirls or dippity seams. Back to the cutting table…maybe changing to just the lining pieces might be the solution. Sometimes it takes a lot of convincing to make you fall in love with a pattern.

On the bridal side of life a fellow seamstress who asked me for some advice on snugging up a bodice on a dress for a friend in another state…love that long-distance sewing…sent me a photo of a solution she came up with. Now, most brides never think ahead that some time during the reception they will need to use the bathroom and what happens with all that tulle and satin?

Do you take a friend into the stall and have her hold all the layers while you sit down? This seamstress was watching Shark Tank on TV and saw something she could translate into a good technique. She ran pink ribbon through the hem of the lining so the bride could yank on the ribbon and gather up and condense all the layers up by herself…brilliant!



And here is the result from the right side…. the lining hem is now sitting just below the beaded belt and all the layers are up off the toilet seat.

Thank you to Laurie for sharing her new trick!

Hoping to get my Christmas cards in the mail this week…what about you?


Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

Take In and Trim Off

This dress really makes a statement. The lace is very much like Battenburg, thick and dominant.

Wtoo Lapis


The first fitting reveals a hemming job and the recommendation for tighter undergarments.

We try bustling up the tulle into 5 points and while it works well, the bride decides that just trimming some of the train might just be a better idea. The top edge of the bodice flares away from the body so twill tape will snug that up like so many of the dresses this season.


The zipper will be moved over 1 inch on each side to start with. Isn’t that lace wonderful? Well, not for stitching through as the bulk is a challenge!








Second fitting and the bride wants the bodice tighter still and the satin layer hem trimmed even with the floor and the tulle to drag behind her.

The second seamline for the zipper will be moved an additional 5/8 inch over and tried on again. All that lace will be folded to the inside and saved for the next owner of the dress.






While moving the zipper on the lace layer is no problem, we run into a little adjusting with the lining as it has the boning that will have to be shifted over one inch and sewn back down. Don’t forget to cover the top edges of the boning with some fabric!

The edge of the zipper tape is stitched to the lace to make the fold nice and flat inside. It also gives a second line of stabilizing stitches for the dancing part of the evening.

Ready for the lining edge to be hand stitched. You can see the twill tape in the photos used to snug up the top bodice edge.











The cups are now nice and snug so the bride can bend forward to hugs all her guests without exposing anything.

Some dresses come with a snug elastic strap that hugs the waist but this one was too loose. It was made with 2 straps of elastic overlapped at the ends and covered in knit. I pulled back the cover, trimmed off the elastic and replaced the hooked section and used a 3 step zigzag to attached everything flat.

By now you all know that moving a zipper over 1.5 inches on each side means you run out of fabric at the top, so this time I added an extra hook and eye to secure it.


Trying to find something to laugh about in these troubled political times, the witness2fashion blog covers such a wide variety of vintage fashion and ads from the different eras, I just had to share this wedding one.

Only 24 days until Christmas…good luck getting those homemade presents finished in time!!!



Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Trim, Twill Tape and Repair

This feminine wedding gown is a Wtoo Della.

This poor model doesn’t seem to have enough bust to make the bodice look good.

On a real bride, the bodice looks quite different and you can see the little section of tulle holding the cups together in the center. It comes with a velvet belt which does nothing for the overall look so we ditch it.




There will be hemming of the tulle and this train will be chopped off at ground level. The first thing I see before removing the dress from the garment bag IS the bag. It has a tear in it because they stored the dress at a friend’s house who had an aggressive dog. While he tore through the plastic garment bag, he also tore a hole in the tulle in the back skirt.

Thankfully, it was in the back and I was able to repair the two round holes and make them into one line of stitching using invisible thread by hand.


Once repaired and steamed flat, most of the guests will not know what happened.


Onto the bodice, once again out comes the twill tape to the rescue! We went for maximum effect by adding push-up cups AND twill tape to keep the top edge close to her chest. From the inside, the twill tape makes wrinkles at the top edge but on the outside it snugs up the lace just fine and stabilizes it.


The satin layer is trimmed level with the floor and the tulle will be about a 1/2 inch longer. Yea! No train to bustle!

Can you see the repair in the tulle? Nope, not me!


                                 So nice to have a simple dress to work on!

This week, after a month under cover, we lifted the plastic to reveal the lettuce and chard and broccoli seedlings. It’s November but these little guys are warm and toasty and growing like weeds! The other thing growing well are the snails and slugs chomping holes in the leaves. Snails usually hibernate from Oct to May here but if they can find a cozy green spot, they don’t.

Today is Black Friday but I am thankful that I can stay home, avoid the chaos, and work on dresses for charity balls for my long-term clients:

I think the stores have already started playing Christmas carols to put us in a warm fuzzy buying mode…at least they waited until Thanksgiving was over and the turkey carcass was in the trash! Happy seasonal sewing everyone!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Stitching Memories

Whenever a grandmother dies in our valley, word gets around to the family that her sewing stash and UFO’s and machines should be donated to the local American Sewing Guild chapter…in other words…us. We do our best to help the family decide what things are worth and how they can sell them or donate them easily. Sometimes, our members can buy the supplies or they can be given to the teens in our TAG (teach another generation) neighborhood group.

This month we were given 5 unfinished quilts with the batting and backing included. All I had to do as the Community Sew Coordinator for my town was to find willing quilters who would give them some TLC and finish them. So many women now have their own long-arm machine quilting frames but I ran into a snag as not all long-arm frames are wide enough to handle every size quilt. But 4 of them were handed over and I was left with the one orphan quilt…why?

Well, it seems that quilters don’t like to work with that fluffy polyester batting that was the staple when I arrived here in 2002. I worked in a quilt shop knowing nothing about quilting but selling fabrics and selling and teaching Janome embroidery machines. Slowly, the new batting called Warm and Natural cotton batting became the ideal batting on our shelves. The result is a very flat but very quiltable project.

Since I know nothing about free-motion quilting and have no desire to get into that now, I decided to get out a needle and cotton embroidery floss and give it a real primitive rustic feel. How hard could it be anyway…you just follow along the seamlines of the squares and rectangles? Yes, EVERY seamline.

The knots on the back gave it a vintage feel and I made sure that the white squares were outlined in the red thread to make them stand out. It gave me lots of meditation time and every time I came to a new fabric, it made me think about what the quilter was thinking or planning when she added it.

Once it was finished, I handed it over to my friend Sandi who binds all our charity quilts after I had serged the edges and steamed the bejesus out of it to flatten it. Once it had been steamed, even Sandi could not tell that it had been layered with cheap polyfill batting.

As the year comes to an end, some brides for the summer of 2018 have been bringing by dresses for a consultation and price quotes. This dress worn by her future mother-in-law in 1990 will be the base with lots of altering and modernizing.

Can you see the brown stains down the front of the lace bodice and satin skirt? If the dry cleaner does not do such a great job of removing white wine/champagne remnants, then over the years the stain shows up as gold or brown from being made from red grapes.

The bride wants me to remove EVERY pearl and clear sequin and cover the skirt and flounce and train with all new lace fabric and remove the sleeves while adding rows of boning to keep the bodice flat. Also, the skirt will have the side seams taken in to be really tight/pegged to emphasize the lower flounce. Those front pleats are really hideous and may be stitched flat before the new lace layer is added. All the horizontal lace motifs on the seams will be removed and reattached over the new lace layers.













The side view shows the new 3 point bustle. Won’t it be nice to cover up all that shiny satin?

Back in 1990 dresses did not all come with linings and since this dress shows the bride’s underwear, the lace lace layer will add a bit of coverage.

She also wants about 30 satin covered buttons added to the center back for more drama.












A close-up of all the yellowed/aged/stained clear sequins and pearls to be removed and the lace points pinned up.

So this will be a real challenge and makeover and labor intensive project!

Wishing all my US readers a lovely Thanksgiving Day with moist turkeys and lots of pumpkin pie! Mr. Mole has a small stash of Walker’s mincemeat tarts to devour to celebrate the occasion!











Posted in challenges | Tagged , | 46 Comments

Return of the Satin

First of all, I want to thank everyone who left comforting comments last week about my dad. With little time allowed for grieving, the business side of my life continues. I did leave a comment last time about the twill tape tightening technique for those who asked. Sorry, I did not get better photos of that on this dress.

After weeks of lace and tulle, it is a pleasure to work with real luxurious thick satin fabric. This dress gives off that old Hollywood vibe.

Tara Keely 2152

The first fitting reveals that the top edge of the bodice flares away from the body. That will be corrected with the twill tape to tighten and reduce each side by 1 inch.

The hem needs to be shortened in the front and most of the way back to the train.

With the front and sides pinned up you can see she even has pockets.

We get lucky and can get all the train up off the ground with one point for the bustle. Don’t you just love the way a one point French satin bustle make a lovely waterfall effect even with wrinkles fresh out of the garment bag?

With the top edge tightened, the bride and her mother are very pleased and when we add the jeweled belt, it comes alive. Also, with the proper tight underwear, the skirt hangs flatter and the front and side hem needs to be re-pinned up higher.

Getting closer to the date, the bride brings in her veil totally edged in jewels and pearls and sparkles. I get to steam this puppy…it is 12 feet long.

Poor Mr. Mole always asks, “What is the purpose of such a veil anyway?”




I don’t really know the answer except in olden days I guess it was supposed to hide the bride’s face.






These days it is all about the photos and the grand effect walking up the aisle as you can see in the last photo. It makes a regal statement, no?

This week as temps struggle to reach the 50’s, a local squirrel has been doing his best to stock up before the first snow. After eating one of the last of the tomatoes lingering on the plant, he poses before hitting the sunflower seed bird feeder.

And the neighborhood birds have been packing on the weight as well…maybe they know something about this coming winter?

This week my friend, Nancy, is visiting and going to be trying on the latest sample muslin of Vogue 1561. That should be fun for both of us! Hope you all have a great week!

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Two Piece Two

Buying the $875 Wtoo Bree bustier and coordinating it with a $1000 Effie skirt should make this alteration a piece of cake…no?


How about a real body instead of a model…that top edge is not fitting well and the skirt is 3 inches too long. Unlike the last ruffled skirt that could be shortened using horizontal tucks hidden by the upper ruffles…this little critter does not have vertical rectangular panels…oh no…it has triangular panels and every hem is a DOUBLE layer of that horsehair braid…some with 2 inch and 1 inch combined and some with 3 inch and 2 inch braid together.

There is no way to shorten this skirt except by taking off the waistband…yes…it comes down to that!

First, I thread trace the new stitching line on the top edge of the skirt 3 inches below the original…gathers? Yes, there are teeny tiny gathers to deal with. Feeling overwhelmed, I retreat to the kitchen for a diet Pepsi. Not only do I have to move the waistband down the skirt but I have to duplicate the gathers as well and make them even tighter to condense the wider circumference at that level…Joy oh Joy!

Once the waistband is opened up I find loose interfacing…loose…sure, that makes sense doesn’t it? Never mind…let’s get gathering those 2 new rows to see if we can cram all that into the band without looking like Grandma had her way with this project!

The gathering rows are on either side of the thread tracing and done with the machine…are we having fun yet?

Taking a break and going to move unto something more relaxing…let’s do that twill tape trick on the top edge to bring in 1 inch on each side:

That’s better, now the top edge curves back unto the body.

That does the job so back to that waistband:

While it looks a real mess, at least the bride can try on the skirt to make sure the hem is the right length. Then all this can be trimmed away.

After everything is inspected, the waistband can be basted closed by hand:

You may notice that this bustier is being worn inside the skirt and it has a 2 inch wide belt made out of…wait for it…horsehair braid…who knew this stuff would pull double duty????

What about the bustle points? How many do we need to get all of that up off the floor? I can count 5 of organza and one of satin. How do the bridesmaids find all the loops and buttons?

Well, first they have to find the buttons under every layer and then work their way down a seam to find the loops…so glad that is not going to be my job after a cocktail or two!

With all the bustle points up there is a small problem….there is a rogue layer of tulle that insists on hanging down…well…not for long…it will get trimmed!

Here we have the finished bustle points and tulle trimmed and all the point and loops marked with matching colored safety pins…time for another diet Pepsi for sure!

The basted front clears the floor and it is ready to be machine stitched and be out the door:

All of you bridal seamstresses can only imagine how many hours went into this skirt fiddling around making sure every layer was off the ground and even and how you spent way more time that you should have on similar projects. And we tell ourselves, “oh well, I might make this up on the next project” and that day never comes. Call me crazy, I long for the days when a wedding dress was made of satin…only satin!

After a 2 week break from blogging, and caring for my dad after his fractured hip and surgery, his pain never subsided and he closed his eyes and passed away peacefully. I want to remember my dad as we walked the hall of his retirement home talking about the LA Dodgers and political events. He was a gentle man who spent 94 years making the world a better place. Rest in Peace, Daddy, you have earned it.

Posted in challenges | Tagged , , , , | 66 Comments