Doing the Math

This week someone on Facebook sent me a message. It went like this:

Are you still in business? I have a friend who needs a slight alteration to her daughter’s dress in a hurry.

I try not to do prom gowns and bridesmaids dresses when the sewing room is packed with wedding gowns but I said I would see her if she would send a photo. Well, as per usual, she did not send a photo but asked to come over the very next day with the girl and the gown and gave me 3 days to make some magic.

Same old story, “my daughter wanted a one-of-a-kind dress so we ordered one off the internet…and we don’t know what to do as it needs a little something as the zipper stops about 1/2 inch from the top.”

The front has a satin bodice under the beading and sheer knit but the back is completely sheer. Two layers of polyester are topped off with chiffon and all are cut from huge circles. I measured the chiffon hem circumference…10 yards…30 feet of narrow rolled hemming.


OK, any math wizards out there? From the top of the hook and eye to the tab of the reluctant zipper is 10 inches…10 inches, people! There is no way this baby will ever close without a wedge inserted. And where do we get a wedge to match perfectly? I’m going to cut a wedge from the skirt side seams of the 2 layers of satin lining and one layer of the chiffon.

Thinking this was the most perfect solution, I told the bride and mother and the bride started to get all pissy saying, “people will notice”…yeah, right, and they won’t notice that your zipper stops at your hip. The mother tried to settle her down after I showed them that the skirt was cut as a huge circle with volumes of fabric that would never show where a wedge was removed.


While the ribbons measure these amounts, with the sheer knit back, the actual wedge will be narrower for a very snug fit that the girl demanded.







First, one side of the zipper is removed from the knit back.   Then a wedge is cut from the lining and satin from one side. One layer in interfaced with fusible and then the third layer of chiffon is added to the sandwich and stitched as a small curve at the top. Understitiching is done.


Pinned and ready to be run through the serger to neaten the edges:

Panel is hand basted into place:

Machine stitched right side and inside:

                                          The final try-on:

Now, at least, she can get the zipper up and have a good time at the Prom.

Some of you may have done this differently, like evenly adding to both side seams and increased the labor time, but I had 3 days to get this project out the door the cheapest way I could including the hemming of 2 massive layers of satin and one of chiffon ahead of the brides with their own deadlines.

When the mother paid for the dress she said, “we assume from now on we can come back anytime and have you do sewing for us”…that is when I handed her the card of the other seamstress I refer to…rush jobs and prom dresses have no place in my sewing room during the season!!!

Hoping all of your sewing projects this week are fun ones!!! Thank you to all the new followers for dropping by and to the die hard regulars who like photos of challenges!


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Second Hand Rose

Buying a wedding dress can be scary especially when faced with a price tag of $1000 plus. But if you are a cagey shopper you can find bargains out there like at Brides for a Cause.

My next bride managed to find this previously-worn beaded lace dress for around $300. It had been altered in the side seams and was very tight but once I looked inside…Eureka, the previous seamstress had left the excess there for us to find!


Too bad the previous bride was taller as the lace hem will have to be taken up like normal…do you all see a pattern here?

Once the border lace is cut off, it is raised up to the red thread 6 inch higher line. Some lace borders have long stitches so you can release the border itself but this one was not like that.

Pin the top of each motif on the new line:

Then at the side seams, allow the border to drop down to join the rest of the train. You can see the huge vertical tuck right now but it will not be there later.

Most times, I trim off the tulle hanging down but this bride wanted me to save as much as I could in case she wanted to hand it down to a daughter in the future. So, I will see if I can tuck all that under and save it just in case the next wearer is tall. The same goes for the satin layer and lining. Normally I make the hems just like the original with horsehair braid and everything trimmed off but this time I  serged off everything but 2 inches and folded that under and hand stitched it to the satin.   

After the side seams were let out, the zipper went up fine.

The only issue was the lace above the top of the satin bodice had been stretched by the previous bride from hugging folks all day…this happens.

So I have pins where the lace will be lifted and tucked inside and then hand tacked back down. The bride is not wearing the previous velvet belt and may design a new one for herself.


With the 3 bustle buttons and loops in place, she is ready for pick-up.

Two weeks ago, I shared the really lacy 1973 dress and I thought you might like to see the bride’s mother in the original.

We did add a grosgrain belt and 5 point bustle:



One last thing before I get back to the chaos, on Valentine’s Day, Mr. Mole bought me an amaryllis bulb and we have been waiting for the bloom…ta da…it opened on Earth Day 2017…perfect timing don’t you think?

Happy Spring sewing everyone! Thanks for dropping by! More vintage brides have arrived with the original photos…Lordie!

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Simple 1

Older second-time brides can be so easy to work with. They want classic lines and good fit.

This bridesmaid dress fits the bill and it came with straps that we could use to make things secure.

The skirt needed hemming and straps sewn on and of course push-up bra cups.

All my brides are told that tight underpants make the dress skim the body so that will be the next purchase for this lovely woman.



Last week, I mentioned that I would share some photos of our 3 days away which included a trip to the Oregon  zoo, and a tulip festival and a breakfast at the IHOP .

Mr Mole felt a real connection to the lions…must have been their rigorous schedule:

Even though the tulip fields included acres and acres of muddy paths, it was great to see all the colors and varieties.

The Oregon Gardens were still under the shadow of winter but the tropical greenhouse had some lovely specimens. There was a carnivorous plants that waits for insects to fall down the tube and then digests them and of course, Cymbidium orchids.







One of the real advantages of getting away is finding our favorite breakfast restaurant and ordering our favorite item…German crepes:

On the last day, since it was my birthday, Mr Mole had a dinner planned for the two of us and just before we were leaving the hotel, there was a knock on the door. I answered it and was in shock! There stood my youngest daughter who lives in Washington, DC, 3000 miles away. She had just finished a week-long seminar in Seattle and rented a car, drove 5 hours, to surprise me!Now, it is back to the brides and deadlines…more vintage dresses to modernize from WAY BACK…stay tuned!

I have to share this from Sharon, my sewing sister in Maryland…a little warped:Thanks for dropping by, hope everyone had a super Easter!

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Lace From 1973

The phone call went like this, “I have my mother’s wedding dress and I’m getting married in May and I have had a little trouble getting the zipper up”. I assured her that most dresses can be saved with a corset back and we made the appointment. Now, this bride lives almost 2 hours away and was willing to travel for a consultation.

Here is what we had to deal with:


OK, gasping time is over…let’s get real, people… First thing was to cut the sleeves off to see if we could get the shoulders up on her as she didn’t want them anyway. Then realizing that the zipper was never going to zip up, I ran ribbons across to keep the back together. With a gap of over 12 inches/30.4 cm even a corset back would not be enough.

Taking a look at the side seams, I decided that I would add two 4-inch wide panels made from the sleeves and also two 4-inch panels at the shoulder to drop the front darts in the bodice low enough to sit properly on her waist. Corset loops would be made for the full length of the zipper opening of 22 inches.

Besides all the upper alterations, the train would need 5 bustle points and I would have to remove the lower lace ruffle layer to use to replace some stained layers in the front of the skirt. Even adding side panels there would be a gap in the underarm section so that will need extra fabric too. Did I forget to mention that the bride does not want me to change any seams so that her daughter could wear this dress in the future? So in other words, everything that I do to get her into this dress must be able to be removed/reversed years down the line…nothing like having restrictions is there? No stress…

Have a look at this train…WOW! I have already removed the lowest layer of lace ruffle to fill in stained spots on the front ruffle and the satin lining will be trimmed and hemmed as well. The bustle will require 5 points just to get all of this fluff off the ground.


Let’s get started…make 22 inches of loops for the corset back and attach to the bodice.

Position the bodice on the waist and measure how wide the shoulder panels will have to be. Let out back darts, we don’t need them, see the punch holes in the satin from the factory?

Positioning the bodice on the enlarged mannequin, gives you an idea of what is needed to fill in the gaps.

With the side panels attached and shoulder panels attached you can see the curved underarm area that has to be filled in later. At this point you may be wondering…what are those little black things on the upper bodice? Well, they are glued-on fake pearls that have turned into little nasty lumps. The groom says he can paint over them with car model paints and make them white again.

The top edge of the skirt was just a jumble of thin cheap netting and all raw edges…makes you wonder what the procedure for the inside of gowns back then were. I removed the netting and reinforced the top of the skirt with white rayon hem tape. Then everything was clean finished with the serger.

Ever wonder how netted petticoats are made? Ever wonder how each layer of netting is attached equally down the netting base? How about following little marker holes cut/burned at the factory during cutting?

Next, attach the skirt and see how close it fits.

Even though this dress had been cleaned and stored in a box for 44 years…it had wine stains down the front ruffles and also the metal hooks and eyes left rust stains. I managed to get the rust stains out with my stain stick but the stained ruffle had to be replaced with cutting from the back hem ruffle.

Unto the second appointment:

There will be an armscye bust dart added/pinned and you can see the extra section that has to fill in under the arm.

But lo and behold, when I went to lace her up…look what happened!

No need for a corset back now! I will put in an invisible zipper and add grosgrain straps under the lace like she wanted to cover her bra straps. Adding 8 inches to the circumference has made such a difference and with the addition of 4 strips of boning in the side panels, new wide grosgrain ribbon straps under the lace, we may just have a winner on our hands!

So, let’s remove the skirt again and make all the side panels and underarm curved section.

Both panels are removed and darts drawn in, fronts and backs stacked.

Now for the fun part…the underarm section has a dart too…or does it? Let’s stack them and see if we can remove it.

It is a 2 inch wide dart


But not anymore…

Let’s make a paper pattern…make it with lace lined with the satin from the train.

Make the bust darts first…then attach the weird curved sections.

Add the curved panel which will have an edge binding later to join up with the straps. All seam allowances will be trimmed.

Hand baste in a new heavy duty invisible zipper and the 4 new boning strips.

Grosgrain ribbon straps basted under the lace to cover bra straps and lower lace ruffle removed and satin layer hemmed…all we need now is a body and everything can be finished…fingers crossed! Oh…we might add a belt…you never know! Final photos will be coming later!!! Thanks for sticking with me on this one!

Our 4 days away for my birthday were just magical and next time I will share a few photos when I can get Mr Mole to release them from his phone.

Happy Sewing, everyone!







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Waiting and Waiting and Waiting

Hello Readers, Mrs Mole said I could introduce myself; I’m a Maggie Sottero dress and back in 2013, I was featured as a tribute to the British TV series Downton Abbey. I was stunning, heavy, drapey and going to be a bitch to alter. I hung in a shop for 4 years waiting for just the right person to buy me.

Loads of women were attracted to my shiny exterior but none of them desired me enough to take me home. As the years progressed and more and more big-butted gals tried me on and stepped on my train I started to look very “shop worn” in other words “tatty/ratty” until my bride fell in love with me. She came to the shop wanting something simple but then we met and as they say, the rest is history…or in other words…Mrs Mole’s problem. She will describe my issues:


Normally, when brides call me for the first fitting, I ask what brand and style of the dress they have so I can find it online and grab photos of the dress on a model. If they have purchased the dress within a year, it pops right up on Google…well, not this one…I had to really dig around. I finally typed in “Maggie Sottero Nude” and in “images”…there it was.

Now, imagine all those beads being dragged across a sandy beach in Mexico…what? This is NOT a beach wedding dress with 2 layers of thick nude lining. All those scallops are heavy gold embroidered thread and every 1/2 inch there are rows and rows of gold bugle beads and rhinestones…which will have to be removed before any altering happens.

Like with ALL brides…this little critter has to be TIGHT! So I am going to take in both side seams and add push up bust pads too. The sides are pinned and red thread basted to mark the new seam lines and also to guide me where to remove all the beads that are in the way…so glad I record TV shows so I can just sit for hours and remove and save beads for later. I mentioned to the bride that to save money she could do a lot of re-beading to the damaged parts of her dress as there are lots of “bald” areas and threads dangling where beads used to be 4 years ago. Her answer was ,”I’m too busy, I would rather pay you”…so can you hear the labor costs going up?

Let’s have a look at the bodice and the right and left side seams:

You can see the gold embroidered strips were not sewn into the seam and were just butted up against each other…I will sew them both into the seam.

The thread tracing and bead removal:

The above photos show that part of the embroidered sections were overlapped and not sewn into the seam and on every row of gold thread, there was a row of bugle beads now removed from the new seam allowance before sewing.

Even with all the beads removed this hand basted and pinned side seam looks so darn lumpy.

But once stitched, it looks OK. All the removed beads will be re-attached into the curved sections.

Frustrating enough? Oh No…let’s move down to the scalloped hem…a nice thick border of heavy gold metallic edging sewn to delicate one layer of tulle makes a bold statement/me weep. I mark the floor level with red pins and then that will be red thread-traced before I move the edging up. The 2 layers of satin lining are already pinned up. The narrow hemmed edges of the lining and satin layers are so fuzzy from being dragged across the floor for 4 years.

See all the rows of bugle beads from her toes to the hem? Yes, they will all be removed before the edging is moved up. The edging will have to overlap the other gold motifs higher up as well.

Here we have the hand basted edging in place and excess 6 inches of tulle hand basted under:

But wait….look at the train hem…after 4 years, a few girls have stepped on the train and ripped holes near the edging…delightful, no? Can I fix it, too? Sure…it is only labor after all. The edging is now basted in place, higher up and away from the holes. Will this show as being uneven…not if the sand does a good job of clinging to the gold thread.

Stitching top edge with the zipper foot. Notice the joined section and everything to the right will be trimmed away. All bugle beads were removed under the edging and I used a heavy duty needle in my Juki.

Another joined section and also stitching through the bulk of the motif underneath:

So, do you really think anyone will notice the train hem repairs after a couple of margaritas???

How about the bustle??? Can we get all of that off the floor for dancing all night? Yes, we can and with just one bustle point and a 1 inch fancy button it will be done. The bustle is just pinned in the photo as the bride wants to buy her own button.


Once all the seams are trimmed and pressed flat, no one will know what was done to the dress. I spent over 2 hours re-beading all the distressed areas and with a pair of push-up bust cups attached, she is ready!

In this view she reminds me of Mariah Carey.















This week Mr. Mole thought it would be a good idea to whisk me away for a couple days for my birthday but before we toss a suitcase and parkas in the car, this present arrived for me:

It is related to this earlier post…maybe some of you can recognize it.

It is a perfect addition to our garden from my honey!

Happy sewing or sowing!

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Hawaii – Here I Come!

This dress came delivered and packed in a small pink shoe box. It cost $179 from Lulu’s.


But my real life bride did not like the thick shoulder straps so they will be removed and replaced with ivory nylon rattail cords. She also wanted push up bust pads to look “as sexy as possible”. She also wanted the front leg slit to be higher to expose her whole thigh.

p1220235   p1220236

The bodice had some ease (breathing room) in it so the one side seam has to be taken in while leaving the other zipper side alone. Taking in the outer ruched chiffon layers and the 3 sections of lining inside will be tedious. Each of the 3 sections will have to be separated, taken in and then re-attached and the same for the lining pieces.

Here is the new rattail cord strap and the 2 upper sections of lining finished.

p1220261  p1220262

When I went to hand sew the middle lining section to the skirt lining, I discovered that it was done so poorly that there was 1/2 inch or more of fabric bunched up/rolled up in the seam. So, I did what any good seamstress would do…first screamed and then steamed the life out of the wrinkled layers and then hand sewed it the correct way…but, of course, this just makes more problems lower down at the hem…I am assuming it will be at least 1/2 inch or more longer than when I marked it before…but it has to be done right and a second fitting and more hem pinning and marking will be worth it to be even.



Here’s a question…why do they use a thick industrial zipper on a delicate chiffon gown? Check out the size of that zipper tab…you could use it to open pop-top soda cans! Who wants that rubbing under your arm all day???


When the bride came for her second fitting and the bust pads were basted in, the weirdest thing showed up…the lining started to creep up and out and flare over the top of the neckline. After she had left, I discovered the problem…like many quickly made factory dresses…if the correct sized lining is not available, another sized (usually bigger) lining piece is just used…and this one was from a size larger as I pinned out and sewed a 1/2 inch tuck vertically and horizontally to make it fit properly before inserting the bust pad again.

I have even seen this factory trick on gowns costing $1000 or more. Now the lining pulls to the inside and the cups will lean into the bust instead of leaning out.

The 2 layers of satin will be machine hemmed and the chiffon top skirt layer also needs to be shortened after all the other alterations are done.


With a Hawaiian wedding no shoes will be worn so she is just about ready to fly to the islands!

Mr. Mole snapped this photo of the blooming hyacinths:

Next time a gown worth it’s weight in gold……gold bugle beads and embroidery! Happy successful Spring sewing and Fall sewing to the readers down south…we all look forward to the changes for different reasons!

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A Favorite Bride

Once in a while you get a bride who is polite and on time for appointments and it makes such a difference to how you feel…well, it makes a helluva difference to me anyway. Then, when the day comes for her to pay you and leave with the dress you have to say how sad you are to see her go.


The issues with this dress were the usual…tight hips, too long scalloped lace hem, too loose bodice and this time…a floppy flower on a belt.

The right side seam was let out to delete the drag lines from waist to the pin.





The lace motifs were cut away and re-attached 2 inches higher up and machine stitched.

The lace border is hand basted and tried on the mannequin:

Like with most lace dresses, the satin layers are much shorter and heavier so they get their own bustle point with a clear button. The satin layer and lining were sewn together with horsehair in between so that was shortened 2 inches as well.

                               The lace layer bustle point:





When I take in the zipper area over 1.5 inches, an extra hook and eye is added at the top to compensate for the higher position of the neckline:

Normally, I steam press the veils for free and this one had lots of shiny sections which I realized was glue…like from a glue gun so I made sure not to get the iron too close to the flowers!

The finished project…all the petals of the silk flowers are tacked to the dress and the bustle is up and we have the wedding this Saturday.


After our very cold winter and the veggies growing under a plastic cover, we have removed that to reveal rows of beets, spinach, rainbow chard and lettuce.

One afternoon I dug up all of the 18 autumn fruiting raspberries and trimmed them and re-planted them in 2 other beds.

Mr. Mole planted fennel plants and sweet onion sets as well. He has many other baby plants growing under a grow-light indoors for later planting.

The Red poppy plants are looking really good and the hellebores and  hyacinths are poking their heads up too. The little blue and pink flowers are lung wort or pulmonaria.

The best new thing in the garden is our new concrete fountain…it just arrived and will have to have 2-3 coats of sealant sprayed on it before running. The birds will love it for bathing and drinking and there is nothing as calming as trickling water…add a comfy patio chair and drink of your choice…ahhh…the chaos of the day will melt away…well, that’s the plan for now!

Happy Sewing everyone!

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