Nancy’s New Jacket

With so many brides dropping off their dresses, it was nice to start something new for Nancy, my client, using one of the fabrics we purchased on our Portland trip in November.

Here is the fabric:P1200339 and a close-up…yes Anne, it IS Jungle quality! You don’t often find Type 2 summer colors all together in one piece.It might be a home-dec fabric but the woven threads are just so yummy.

The pattern is from Grainline Gear

P1200340                  abdcaefbf97c3ca14eb601025c894482

A muslin was made using a few alterations on the paper pattern like adding a center back seam for better fit and rounded back adjustment. The front with pocket and front bands were left as is. While the front bands were too short, I added to their length along with adding 3 inches to the jacket length. The back has a 2 piece sort of apron over-layer but I did not include it.


Here we are for the first try-on with shoulder pads and horizontal lines drawn and pinned at buttonholes:


Can you see the drag lines pointing to above the bust points? Can you see how the horizontal line just under the bust arches up? Remember the past slash and spread techniques we have done? OK let’s do it:P1200352

While adding 1.5 inches make the front look good, how about the back? We could use some center back taking in at the waist and some side darts too but the excess fabric across the upper back needs to be there for reaching and driving ease. A slash and spread at the yoke area allows the horizontal lines look better too.

P1200350   P1200354

Just a few other tweaks, a pinch at the shoulder and the waist:


So there we have a good start on this jacket right out of the envelope. Next time Nancy visits we will use these muslin pattern pieces to place them on the huge color sections to create a very unique color-blocked jacket.

In the meantime, I have 30 brides booked in for the start of the season, 3 known pregnant ones and a few with over-sized egos…what does that mean, Mrs Mole?

Well,  just last week a bride marched in with her 3-girl posse and 2 wedding dresses. She warned me she may bring 3-4 dresses but decided against it. She was 30 minutes late and one of her girls was 45 minutes late. When the last girl arrived she asked the bride where they had been and the bride said she and the other 2 had been getting their trial wedding make-up done (July date). Then the late girl asked what did the beautician charge and the bride snapped back, “Any make-up artist knows that she cannot charge ME for the service as I will take that into consideration when selecting who gets to do it the wedding day. I will be consulting every make-up artist in the valley before I make MY decision”.

I learned something new this week at the local ASG community sew gathering…how to make a churn dash quilt square:


Then I made 11 more and stitched them together:quilt-squares-12

And while it is nothing compared to quilts that Ruth makes, mine will be finished and be given away to a charity for homeless teens and children in shelters. My learner mistakes will be passable and overlooked!

Spring is coming soon!!!! I saw a huge robin this morning!


Posted in challenges | Tagged , | 44 Comments

Crummy to Cute

We all have wadders from time to time and they happen here too.

Over my vacation, I made up the quilting cotton bird fabric that I bought in Portland using a pattern I had used before. It was going to be fast and easy. Alterations were made on the paper pattern and cut out thoughtfully.bird-blouse

The back had the usual alterations too, rounded back, sway back and extra length added. The 2 previous blouses I had made with this pattern were rayon batik and very soft linen.


Yes, it was a no-brainer, raise neckline, add the previous bust dart and make the facing to match…but as I have warned people in the past…a cut-on sleeve is never your best look…I ignored that and went ahead with this quilting cotton. It was basted and tried on.

In this first photo, it looked like a sack and the top of the front flared away from my body so I tried making vertical tucks on the left side. It was a little better but not great, then I decided to pin out the front shoulder seam on the right of the photo…a little better. Then I pinned out the shoulder seam both front and back and side seams…a little better.

P1040772  P1040774

A close-up of the shoulder pinned out:


Close-up of the tucks:


Taking in the side seams and shoulder seams and removing the tucks:


The final result…a better fitting sack/pillowcase top with those folds of fabric where the armscye should be and a sad looking droopy sleeve…not for me. For you gals who think you can wear this style with narrow sloping shoulders like me…guess again. This does nothing for you or me. How did I manage to get that lens cover right over my bust point?


So what can be done? Well, I have a 12 year old granddaughter who could use a new skirt…let’s open the side seams and shoulder seams and re-cut this puppy. The center back seam was already French seamed so that became the back seam. The center front seam was piped and topstitched in pink and a pocket was added along with elastic in the waistband and the curved hem edges bound with the pink fabric and buttons.


Do I have any grown up clothes to work on this week?…well so glad you asked.

Has anyone ever heard of a Canadian designer from the 40’s and 50’s called Rae Hildebrand? No, neither had I until this dress came in to be altered:P1200228P1200256

The sleeves and neckline were way too wide so I have pinned/taken in 2 inches and hand basted all the way from the neckline down tapering to the wrist. To keep this dress on the client’s shoulders a thin strap will be attached from the front to the back and perhaps beaded using the original beads from what I will cut off.

Here are some other vintage styles from the same designer I found on Google:9760ab57f2128f9a8eef54ed668ef6baaut_0198images

So, this dress has started the season off nicely. My first 3 brides have announced they are pregnant and have moved their dates up and one has also already bought a larger empire dress to accommodate the tummy. There are now 21 brides on the schedule and I sure hope this is not going to be a trend this year although it makes you really good and fast making corset backs!

This advert came out in a local special wedding edition magazine yesterday…makes you wonder? The perfect wedding gift?shotgun

Happy Sewing everyone! Check out Anne’s new dress at Pretty Grieveances.

She has definitely found her way out of the Jungle…welcome back into civilization!



Posted in challenges | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Vacation Over

I have squirreled myself away for the month to re-charge and make a few things before the onslaught of brides for the 2016 season.

You have asked to see photo of my projects…none are earth shaking or trendy or artistic, just functional for working on the floor. If you are expecting to see useless angled pockets or off center collars and flared hems…ah no.

Before we arrived at our destination, I was rummaging through my overnight bag and my finger caught the edge of a new disposable razor that had lost its cover. It sheared off a layer of skin and there was blood all over the place. Now one week later you can see the length and width of the slash:P1040762

To start with I am sewing in a rented house with my Janome Jem and a bag of fabrics and patterns and an iron I found in the closet:iron-2 Can you see the bottom edge? Yes, this puppy has seen some rough treatment…I’m guessing it has been dropped unto the tile floor more than once. If you pour water into it for steam, it just drips out the bottom…nice.

But what can you sew on vacation while sharing opposite ends of a narrow dining table with your husband? You can see my “station” in the background…machine and ironing board and after cutting my TNT tunic on the kitchen counter, it is pinned and ready to stitch in the round. The crummy part was…this fabric has the circles wandering off at about a 30% angle so there is no hope of matching anything so using it on a baggy tunic seemed the best way to use it without folks thinking I have cut everything lop-sided.


When sewing in the round, each section is fed into the machine right after you back stitch the last section, then cut the short connecting threads after you get to the last section. Yes, I know lots of you want to sew “directional”…I have seen all the shows that say side seams are sewn from top to bottom and shoulders are sewn inwards towards the neck…lovely for home sewing and if you think this matters when sewing on quilting cotton. I learned this way in college and in the factory so I am stuck doing it this way.

sewing-in-the-round-2  sewing-on-the-round-3

I ended up adding vertical front and back darts to eliminate the bagginess and added the sleeves. The red thread tracing will be where I topstitch the inside facings to add a little pizzazz to this plain tunic…I may use the blue thread so it shows up instead of black.tunictunic-2

You can see all the angles now and how your eye is doing flips just following the circles…what a mess, but it is my work uniform for sitting on the floor and it will look fine with black shorts.

What else was sewn you ask? Remember that other co-ordinated cotton with the blue dots? I had just enough to make some shorts and some other blue quilting cotton to make a longer version of cropped pants…all with elastic waistbands for sitting and pinning all day. Can the new blue shorts be worn with the new tunic…sure, but the white striped pair will have to be worn with a plain white blouse.P1200221

Now I have a question for you…yoga pants…the type with at least 6 inches of fold-over at the waist…WHY? I ordered some online and then tried them on…who needs all that extra fabric around your waist if you don’t do Yoga? I decided to fold the top over and thread trace the top edge with a fold back to insert some 1 inch wide elastic. This seems way more practical for my life style. You can see I cut off 2.5 inches, serged the top edge and will fold it down.


I used a 3-step zigzag to sew over the serged edge and use navy thread just in case I ever have to unpick that to put in new elastic…you would never see the black thread…ever!


OK, with the pants sorted out…what did I find when I got home from the desert? How about some fresh snow on my raised covered veggie planter…can you guess what has been growing inside since Mr. Mole planted seeds in Oct?


How about this….happy and healthy rainbow Swiss chard…yummy and bug free and the more you pick, the more you get and they can produce for 2 years if you keep the hungry birds off them.


Next time some not so happy sewing and maybe a peak at some of the new brides finding their way to my doorstep…so far there are 17 signed up starting this week…a couple have grown out of their dresses already due to over-eating and pregnancy…I feel some corset backs coming….

So glad to be back home in the sewing room with carpets and heating and my grown up sewing machines! Wishing you all a great week of sewing and maybe for the US gals…some special time to get away from the Super Bowl football watching husbands and sons…one can only hope!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 33 Comments

My Habit Knitwear

Have you ever bought anything online and it arrived looking better than you imagined or worse?

Recently I ordered a tunic from a website called

Here are the tiny photos of the model wearing the tunic:


Even though it looked like some wrinkles were forming at the back hem, I decided it was worth a try as the price was right at $29.

The fit was perfect except for one thing…see the striped strip running vertically down the center back? Well, it was buckling and caused the hem to flare away from the body and who needs a rooster butt? P1190187

What was needed was to remove that strip and allow it to relax and add more to it once the length was determined. Let’s do it:


Great, now that we know what we need…where was I going to get it?

Luckily there were some long ties at the elbow and I could “harvest” a section and attach it.


Once the strip was stitched on both edges and all down the middle as the original, I realized that the sleeve treatment was really very clever. It involved a strip of knit binding sewn in an oval and the ties left as is.P1200046

Another great online shopping site is Zulily. My first purchase was a knit tunic that ended up being very thick like a child’s soccer jersey, almost indestructible. With the first order, they sent me a survey as to how I liked my purchase. I replied that it was not quite what I was expecting and within a day I received an email telling me that they would refund my payment and for me to give the garment to a charity.

I was shocked and pleased that such a thing could be done but lately I have been seeing more and more of the same story on Facebook pages about this company and their no return policy. They treat customers well!

So with only 2 days left of vacation, I feel relaxed and re-charged and instead of shopping and buying stuff I did not need, I had 3 Thai massages instead. If you have never had someone walk up and down your back and work for 90 minutes getting all the kinks out…you should try it. Some of you may be asking…but what about buying fabric…they have one JoAnn’s, almost identical to the one I have back home…sad… and one tiny quilt shop so no place for me to spend my mad money.

I’ll be back next time with the things I sewed on while away and a new crop of brides who have been emailing me while away…a few red flags…always good for a blog post! Hoping you all have had a productive month of sewing and sorting through your stash and not too much snow fell where you live!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Vacation Home Rental

For the past 4 years we have escaped our home-based businesses and headed for a desert hideaway to re-charge. We have rented through a company called VRBO or Vacation Rentals by Owner. There are lots of photos and grand descriptions of the homes along with prices and local amenities.

The first 2 years we rented a divine single level house in a residential neighborhood on the south side of an airport and golf course and we watched flights land silently and gracefully and old men with golf carts wandering off to find lost balls. It was idyllic with a small office for Mr. Mole and huge dining table for sewing projects and a kitchen equipped with every imaginal gadget and cooking item. It was clean and quiet and had a shady back patio with a small reflection pool. Then the owner moved to Seattle and had to sell the rental house…bummer.

Ever since then we have been trying to find a comparable house to re-live those days. Last year, we ended up renting a 2 story condo in a huge complex with 8 pools and massive lawns that required a team of gardeners to come and mow or blow every other day. There was no privacy and lots of noise from carpenters and maintenance people and loud tourists coming for weekend parties. The owner had only owned the condo for 2 years but in the fridge were bottles of condiments from 2008…yes…7 year old ketchup and mustard…delightful. The dishwasher looked like it had never been wiped or scrubbed out and the dishes had so many cracks in them we could not use them in the microwave. We ended up having to buy a new wet mop unit as the one there broke the first time I used it to mop the tiny kitchen. So after a month there, we vowed to find a better place next time.

This year we opted to have another go near the airport (this time on the north end) and golf course closer into town and the owner told us you could only hear airplanes in the distance and it had been a celebrity neighborhood. He has only owned it for 2 years and supposedly we are the first renters since the painting and upgrading has been done. OK…really looking forward to the extensive entertainment center, large music collection and game/library area…well-equipped kitchen, excellent WiFi …what we got was something very different.

To start with it is a corner house and the street on one side runs parallel with a busy highway a block away and locals use this 2 lane back road as a shortcut…cement trucks, school buses and huge semi trucks roll past the front door 24 hours a day.

Overhead departing flights arching toward the heavens are screeching over the back patio. I checked the airport website and they only list commercial departing flights with private Lear jets not being counted but seem to be equally interspersed with the big jets. The flights number 46 in a 12 hour period, so with private jets it can double to over 90 and then adding an extra 6 hours it can total to 145 flights every day from 6 am to 10 pm. OK, so the owner cannot control this volume but what he can control is the generous/misleading description of the interior of the house.

Let’s start with the iron…circa 1960 and a victim of being dropped on the tile floor a few times. I filled it with water for steam and it just ran out the bottom. Then, there is the toaster…I have seen better and cleaner ones at the thrift stores.


Let’s get to that extensive video/reading library and music/games/entertainment center described in his advert. So far we have found no music or player, 5 old DVD movies and boxes of adult games. The DVD player is attached to the wall mounted TV with a collection of wires and sockets all strategically/tastefully hidden behind a vase. The fast internet connection reminds me of the dial-up days from 15 years ago. The only way a celebrity would be near this neighborhood would be to be flying over it in his Lear Jet to or from a celebrity golf tournament.

P1040763   P1040764

Moving to the kitchen we have a dishwasher that has to be reset after every wash by going outside to the garage to re-set the circuit breaker to keep it from locking and lighting up all the control lights. You can see it is not actually attached to anything under the counter, just shoved under there at an angle.


The pots and pans are certainly not just 2 years old since the house was listed for rent. These puppies have been found in the clearance box at the nearest Goodwill shop. The Teflon coating has been artfully scrapped off from people using metal tools and the underside has enough food baked on, a mouse would  have a feast. How about cutlery…well there are 6 of each forks and knives and soup spoons but only 2 teaspoons. We found 4 small plates and 6 large ones and it makes you wonder how someone can advertise this place to accommodate 6-9 people? P1040767

So maybe you are thinking…bathrooms…how about those? Well, you know how you can pull the lever on the back of the faucet/tap to plug the sink? Well, forget that feature…P1040769

These new faucets were installed so close to the backsplash that the levers cannot be pulled up at all…nice. And in the tub, the older faucet does not even have a lever to pull (notice the hole)…it must have been broken off years ago and the drain plug that was attached to it is just left sitting on the side which would not really seal the tub from draining…nice and check out the corroded drain edge..


Usually rental properties come with a roll or two of toilet paper and I just had to photograph this paper. Have you even been able to read fine print through your paper?

I can…regular paper on the left and the rental paper on the right…even the smallest print is readable. Man this stuff would be good underneath sewing tricky fabrics like chiffon!P1040790

Oh, you might have noticed the scar on my index finger….

Before we arrived at our destination, I was rummaging through my overnight bag and my finger caught the edge of a new disposable razor that had lost it’s cover. It sheared off a layer of skin and there was blood all over the place. Now one week later you can see the length and width of the slash:P1040762   Classy so far, no? How about holes in the walls…just patch them and hang a picture over them…oops…maybe you want to rehang this one more to the right?

P1040768   The first night the owner told me to keep the floors clean and there would be supplies in the closet. I did find an old vacuum with the dust cup completely filled and this:

P1040788   It is supposed to be a Swiffer Wet Jet mop but most of the parts are missing and there is no pad on the bottom. I ended up buying a sponge mop so I could mop the tile floors as there are no carpets. One night after a bit of intoxication, I told Mr Mole that I should start a blog called VRBO-NO! or “Dumps I have stayed in” so people could submit their own experiences using this rental site.

Even though I have shared all the down sides of the house, it does have a nice backyard so that was the main reason for coming…to relax and read in peace with or without 100 jets flying overhead…ha ha.

Soon we will be heading home and in the weeks we have been here, the emails from brides have been stacking up and I know what is waiting for me…you can’t hide forever! Meanwhile my youngest daughter just moved to Washington, DC for a new job and she is awaiting the first big snow storm of the season in a basement apartment with her 2 cats… keeping my fingers crossed that her power does not get cut off!!!

Safe and happy sewing to all of you…stay warm!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 48 Comments

Trainwreck to Wearable

Some days I feel like Rod Serling of the Twilight Zone series back in the 1960’s where he opens each program with the statement, “Imagine, if you will…”

So, imagine if you will, a wedding dress created by a seamstress who uses her Disney costume making background as her qualifications to charge $500 for this dress:

5. too many issues6. barely closes

Now, if you have been following me for some time, you know that bust points and princess seams are never 5 inches apart and normal would be 8-10 +. So without a pattern this dress was whipped up without much regard for fitting well.

The unlined sleeves were gathered unto a very high armhole, the hips were too tight, the lining was 2 inches less in circumference than the dress and the lining hung 3 inches below the hem while the hem was 3 inches too short. Bad enough but the bride had asked for a high neck collar and removable lace bustle and tapered skirt. We did mange to zip up the center lapped zipper but the bride could not even take a breath. In the back photo, the original zipper was removed in preparation for an invisible one later.

To start with, outside there was a bump at the end of the zipper, so looking inside this is what caused it:1. lining bubble

You can see that the lining was attached after the zipper was stitched and just laid beside the teeth and double stitched over the first stitching adding lots of puckering. All stitching on this dress was double stitched using a 1.5 stitch length…really nasty to remove and leaving tracks in the satin.4. double stitched zipper69. damaged fabric

Armhole double stitching to be removed and lining tacked to bust points of satin…who does that?

7. armhole double stitching8. bustpoint lining tacked on

Looking inside we find rows of “shark’s teeth” seam allowances in lining and satin. Because the lining restricted the zipper from closing, I compared the circumferences and discovered the lining was over 2 inches smaller so all the vertical seams were let out as much as possible but avoiding more raveling as they were all unfinished.

10. all bust points11. comparing

Once all the layers were equalized, they were basted by hand on all edges before tackling the front panel. Another disturbing feature was the many black pencil marks on the seam lines.

19. neck and shoulder layers

In order to add a patch (to make a new pattern for a new panel) down the center front to widen the bust points to 8 inches, I had to stitch 2 vertical rows before cutting between them with pinking shears:

20. prepare to slash front panel22. front slashed

Let’s add a temporary white poly vertical patch and a new invisible zipper:

23. front patch 24. new invisble zipper basted

The new patch was too wide at the neckline so it was darted, overlapped and pinned and raised up (to accommodate a high collar) before cutting  new fronts of satin and lining fabric.27. cutting new panels 28. new front panels30. new panel

Even though there are tons of wrinkles still in the photo on the mannequin, on a real body they do mostly disappear.

You can see we are getting closer to fitting properly but the issue becomes the hem. A lace strip is proposed along with making the hem edge equal all around first and narrowing the skirt.31. taper side seams The wrinkles in the sleeves and back princess seams are due to the fact that they have not been dropped in the armhole, nor trimmed and pressed.

Did I fail to mention that this stiff satin fabric from JoAnn’s has a very strange vertical stretch like a knit so any vertical stitching causes the fabrics to grow? I believe it was from the Home Dec section and should have been used for drapes, pillows or to cover a headboard. The satin had no crosswise stretch and the poly lining had no stretch at all, so not too compatible to start with!

After measuring the hem and lining, the gathered lace strip was attached by hand:36. equal all around39. pinned front

The other issue was the lace bustle which had to be attached to a self covered 1.5 inch grosgrain ribbon belt:47. hand stitched

First the lace panel was zigzagged to the belt, then flipped and hand stitched on the top and bottom edge.48. zigzag stitched Five large snaps were attached to hold this bustle/back apron together tightly without drooping.

49. flipped and hand tacked51. safety pinned      57. try on53. front of belt

Then at the try-on, the lace bustle was trimmed to floor level.

What next? The high neck collar from a straight strip of the bustle lace. It has to go around a curve so the seam allowance had to be slashed to sit flat and a bias strip of lining attached to the inside seam allowance to cover the raw edges:

54. pinned collar 65. hand sew bias

To keep the 2 edges together at center back I used the hanging snap technique:67. hanging snap closure

Sleeves were repositioned lower in the armhole:56. lower sleeve

After all the seams were pressed flat and trimmed, the seams looked as good as they could and the bride was happy.She decided on the lace hem with no gathers.

Here is a photo of her although with her husband and others hugging her around the waist, it sure made lots of wrinkles. Don’t know what happened to the lace bustle…maybe it was attached later?sarah-2015-2

If you want to see over 60 photos taken during this transformation and 20 hours of labor I have created a Pinterest page to view them:

This was my last dress of 2015 before I closed the sewing room for a break.

Thank you for reading through all of this and I wish you happy sewing!

Posted in Uncategorized | 89 Comments

End of Year Push

Holiday times and I was given a red sleeveless brocade lined dress, like a MOB dress, that had to have the shoulders shortened by 2 inches each…the woman did not bother to buy the petite version which would have fit her perfectly. So, I agreed to undo the entire shoulder seam and lining and shorten everything and also shorten the hem by 2 inches and the skirt lining and restitch the invisible zipper as it was torn away from the center back seam. Sorry, website photo is so small.54036314_6960

Since I had worked on her blue MOB dress before and shortened from the waist, I said it would take me 2 hours.1-back

So the day she came to pick up the dress she asked if it had given me any trouble and I just said…it always takes longer than you guesstimate with the lining and all. Then she tells me that, “I sew, and I could have done it myself but I thought I would LET you do it”. Sure you do, Honey, and next time you can just tackle it yourself, too.

Then, the phone rings, we are a week away from New Year’s Eve and the woman says, “You probably don’t remember me but you sewed on my daughter’s prom dress many years ago and I want you to do something for me”. OK, I say, what is it? Well, she says she has just purchased the most darling, darling halter dress online to wear to her own wedding on Jan 3 in the Bahamas but the hips are too tight and she wants me to work on it. I tell her that I am booked solid until Jan 1st and will be closing the studio until Feb 1.

Then she says, “well, if you won’t work on my dress, I will have to return it, I only want you to work on my dress.” I try to give her the name of another seamstress who can do it and assure her that this other woman is perfectly capable of letting out side seams and it would behoove her to at least see this woman and then decide for herself because there was no way I would take on this project even with threats.

Just to share what was hanging in my sewing room on Christmas Eve:Christmas-brides-2015

Five dresses were ready to be steamed and picked up and paid for.

Hoping all your new 2016 projects get off to a fabulous start after lots of measuring. I will be trolling through my patterns and stash to make up a few things for myself before the February brides show up. Did I mention that 15 brides have already called to save the slots for the new season? It is time to re-charge my batteries and brain!

Happy sewing everyone and thank you for following these sewing room tales and adding comments. I love hearing from all of you and the sharing of your own trials and clients’ demands!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 42 Comments