Custom Week

Do you all remember the photo of the wedding dress/tunic that a bride sent to me telling me that she thought the bust area might be tight?

Well, when the dress and bride arrived and she tried it on the zipper could not zip up all the way and all you could see was her “bunnies in the hutch” trying to make a run for it. The scalloped lace hem barely covered her butt cheeks and she could not sit down.

I told her that there was really nothing I could do for her as there was too little dress for her body…a nice way to say she resembled a sausage. She was bragging that she could spend so little on a dress for her wedding and she was not being stupid like all her other friends who had bought proper wedding gowns…not her…no siree… she was the smartest of them all. That’s when I thought I would never hear from her again. Two months go by….

BUT…3 days ago she sent a message through Facebook asking for an appointment to see her latest purchase.

Here is the model wearing this nightgown/no boning dress:

I stupidly agreed and this is what showed up:

Some of the obvious needs are letting out her side seams, shortening her straps, and her request of making a horizontal tuck across her tummy to raise the scalloped lace hem 3 inches. The bust area came with triangular pads which were positioned too high for her bust thus giving a 4-boob look. She is holding ribbon at her waist so we can hide the tuck. You can see the bust cup peeking over the top of the bodice.

These odd bust cups will be dropped 2 inches:

Her straps will be shortened 1.25 inches.

To shorten the straps I open the lining side seams and reach inside and pull out the end of the straps. What a joke to find that the end of the strap had only a 1/4 inch in the seam. The stitching is released and the strap is pulled 1.25 inches out and re-stitched. I did not trim off the strap for the next seamstress.


The bride wanted me to give her a real shapely butt so she asked for pleats…sure, let’s toss in 3 of those just above where the lace bustle point will go. Hiking the lace up will require shortening the lining hems 2 inches. The 2 layers of knit lining will have their own bustle button under the lace one.

The lining is a double layer of thick polyester knit and it is very heavy so I am adding a strip of grosgrain ribbon to the tail end of the zipper which will serve as some support for the clear lining bustle button.

A small backer button is used behind the larger clear button for extra security. 

Now for the real challenge or hiking up only the lace layer 3 inches to shorten the hem. The pins mark the waist level and the lower red thread line will be brought up to meet the upper thread and all covered with ribbon…a fine mess and not too professional. Sometimes we have to bite our tongue and just do whatever the bride wants even though it is not the best way of doing things.

Unfortunately, the lace layer is attached to the side seams at the waist and so something has to be altered to allow some sort of gradual transition to the back zipper. Fingers crossed that ribbon will hide lumps and bumps from seam.

To make the ribbon lie flat it will need a dart at the side seams:

The bride decided she needed some boobage coverage using the scalloped edge of the additional lace she had ordered. That will be added and stitched  by hand.

The extra yard of lace was ordered ($150) to make sleeves. Here the lace is just pinned into place roughly shorter in the front and longer in the back.

The right sleeve is used as a pattern to cut the mirror image left sleeve. You can see how lace with the eyelash edging comes attached to a woven selvedge that will be trimmed away.




Here’s a weird thing I found inside on the lining…a huge white area. Could this have been cleaned for some reason? Was this a second-hand dress?


Here is another weird thing, the side seams on one side were stitched almost 2 inches from the edge so I am thinking, yes, indeed this dress has been altered before but the bride claims she ordered it new.

The new sleeves have been attached to the thin straps by hand:

The original bust cups were angled and not meant to be used that way and as a result, there were creases no matter how low I sewed them. I managed to get a rush order of tear drop bust cups from Wawak in DD/E size and these will give some support although the dress has none. Another reason why I think this dress was either a sample or worn before was the fact that these bust cups are supposed to be sewn in horizontal not vertical.

Boobs in place, sleeves attached, lace modesty neckline and the dress is ready to go out the door…7 days to create a custom dress!!!


Just so thankful that most brides give me more than 7 days to make magic!

Yesterday was Earth Day and Mr. Mole and I celebrated by working in the garden for 3 hours weeding and transplanting veggies and planning out where the new baby plants will go when the frost subsides. Next time I will bring some of the worms from the garage wormery to introduce into the raised beds along with new chicken manure to refresh and enrich the soil.

After a crazy bridal week and lots of squatting and tugging outdoors, we rewarded ourselves with the first margarita of the year and watched the birds flirting.

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Too Much Tulle!

Not every bride needs yards and yards of tulle in her train but when they do, you need a plan to get all of that up off the ground for dancing.


Here is the front with all the multiple uneven asymmetrical layers:

The train just seems to go on and on:

Once the dress is on the mannequin and the top layers of tulle are flipped over the top you can see that the lining has its own layers of tulle as well, so using 5 points should be enough to get it up to floor level.

That works so let’s do the other embroidered tulle layers:

Using another 5 points, most of the tulle layers will clear the floor. The safety pins at the hem hold each layer together at the seams before the buttons and loops are attached.

The mother wanted the shorter top layers of tulle to cover the bustles, so here we have everything like she envisioned it. The last layer will be trimmed to be even with the bustle levels. You can see in the photo below how the safety pins hold the many layers together and the hem level where the longest layer will be trimmed.

The bride wanted some sort of coverage and straps so we are going with tulle. The length will be cut at 25 inches and gathered at both ends with the long raw edges turned under.          

You can hide a lot of chubby areas with tulle but at the same time add a bit of romance to the top of a boring strapless neckline.

The top edge of her bodice will also be snugged up with twill tape.

For those of you who ask about the garden…well, it is almost the end of the frost season and plants in the house are doing well especially this gardenia plants that was almost dead last year. It had a hard winter and never recovered in the garage and during the summer it just was a bunch of brown twigs. Mr Mole was ready to toss it in the compost bin but I said I would work on it. Now that it has spent the whole winter in the living room, it has buds and flowers!!! Gorgeous scent and it has even inspired the almost dead amaryllis bulb from last year to make a flower stem and produce a huge bud!!!











Mr. Mole bought this orchid for me for Easter and I hope it has a long life too!











Not so sure about these seed potatoes though…they have been sitting on the north-facing windowsill for months now and sort of resemble alien life forms don’t you think?

Wishing you all a great week whatever hemisphere you live in!

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Bustle, Busts and Birthdays

A lovely dress arrived and it was not a ball gown for a change. It has a peek-a-boo lace center insert and a corset or zipper back.


What it needed was lots of hemming of the tulle layers and satin and snugging up the top of the bodice and bust pads. With the bustle pinned up for the first fitting,  you can see how pretty the back view will be. 

The modesty panel is very wide and it needs to be shifted over the tighter the lacing goes. You all have seen lacing that is 6-8 inches wide just to bridge the gap but this girl only needs 2.5 inches for it to fit properly.

The lace layer is not machine hemmed, just cut with scissors which is very unusual but it can be bustled with the satin .

Then the remaining layers of embroidered tulle can clear the floor with 5 points.











Even though the bodice is tight with the lacing, one issue seemed to be that the lace layer was not attached to the lining and it bubbled away from her ribs. All the layers will be tacked together by hand. All the pins along the lower line are actually situated above a ribbon inside that is supposed to be sitting on her waist.

Once the dress is tried on after the twill tape is attached to the top edge and the lining tacked to the lace layer in front, everything sits well and the bride can lean forward without exposing anything.

All the excess tulle has been trimmed to floor level all the way around.


Last weekend, Mr. Mole whisked me away for my birthday and some of you may remember that he gave me my very own wormery last year. Good news, it has been flourishing and the worms are producing good soil, castings and baby worms like crazy, in fact they are almost up to the top layer of the 4 layer condo!

So, this year when he told me he had a chance to get tickets to a reptile show up north, I jumped at it. Now, mind you, I have never been around exotic pets or pet stores and not really crazy about snakes and spiders but I do like watching chameleons, so he booked 2 nights away.

This woman is from Creature Teachers and was showing off a rescue snake who was given to them by the owner who could not take care of it anymore.

Other vendors wore their snakes as neck warmers and there were all sorts of spiders:

But what I really wanted to see was the chameleons. They like to hang upside down using their prehensile tail and can change colors according to their mood. To keep a chameleon we were told that they need a very precise humidity and temperature and an owner should have their own generator in case of any power failure so definitely not for the beginner!!!










After the show we went to the largest indoor carousel in the US. It was made in the late 1880’s in New Jersey and stored for many years until it was donated to be restored in the Northwest. All the animals have been carved by volunteers and sponsored by local families to reflect special aspects of beloved family members. Right now the number of animals is 35 but that will eventually be 50. They also swap out animals for seasonal times like Christmas and Halloween.

Here is Mr. Mole standing with one of the original carved lions from the 1900’s and a dragon in progress.


We arrived early on Sunday morning and got a private tour of the carving workshop. You can see the drawings on the walls of the eventual finished projects

Now it is back to business and enough wacky brides and wacky requests to keep me busy!




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Nancy’s Jacket Alterations

This alteration comes with a disclaimer…this does not come from a textbook, it is just my way of cheating on paper to add much needed height to a sleeve cap with drag lines.

Normally, I measure the armhole and the sleeve to see how much ease the designer has given me…this time I forgot. IF I had measured, I would have seen that the sleeve was 1/2 inch smaller than the armhole instead of having ANY ease. If this was a knit, you could call it negative ease. Bummer.

I cut the sleeve using the last bit of fabric so there was no chance of adding up top. You all could see the drag lines in the last blog and here are the sad numbers.

By adding an additional inch to the sleeve head, I gained one inch in ease but there was a trade-off…more on that later.

First, trace the original sleeve cap, then slide the pattern down 1 inch or more. Using a curved ruler, blend the new curve back into the sleeve.


Lay the new pattern on the already cut fabric sleeves.


Here is the downside to this…that new inch has to come from somewhere, and it shortens the hem by inch. Nancy wanted the hem shorter anyway and I offered to make a solid blue band to tie all the fabrics together so this will not be a big deal. You can add a band to any sleeve and call it “artist’s prerogative” instead of a mistake.

Trim away the excess fabric and go back and pin it to the jacket…smile at your success.









What about that weird vertical tab thing on the center front since the pattern only allows for the front edges to “kiss” and not lap…how do we make that puppy? First, draw two parallel lines the width of your seam allowance, I chose 1/2 inch. Pin the test tab on paper and sort of trace around with a pencil.

Remove the test tab and draw the final edges plus seam allowances, this time it was 3/8 because the curved ruler is 3/8 inch wide.

The top portion has a more rounded curve just because it looked better on Nancy while the lower edge just angles back to center front. Can we change this later…sure.

Cut out the tab from leftover fabric in solid blue.

Smile, you have just created a custom feature for your client

New sleeves and tab basted in place. No drag lines on the sleeves and Nancy wants snaps under the tab to keep the jacket closed. I will embroider leaves and stems on the solid tab to make it blend in with the rest of the bodice and finish all the trimmings.

The lining is polyester bridal satin but I used the dull side inside the skirt section but will use the shiny side for lining the sleeves. I also cut the lining the exact dimensions of the denim skirt since they have to hang together and will be attached with french tacks at the side seams. It is still a mystery why the designer would make the lining so much smaller than that the outer fabric of the skirt…bizarre… and others who have made this have complained at how it grabs the body instead of flowing flat.

I don’t know if anyone else who has made this jacket found this but the facing piece that attaches to the skirt was twice the needed width once it was attached to the denim skirt.

On all the seams I have used a top stitch on my Elna but you probably have the same stitch. It takes two stitches forward and a one back and then continues like -=-=-=-. Here is the back side of the front curve:

And the right side of the front curve:

All the seams have been top stitched 1/4 inch on both side of the seams for the shoulder and side seams:

I interfaced the front bodice with fusible tricot and pinked all the edges. The underneath seam of the skirt was clipped almost every 1/4 inch just to get it to lay flat and down.

Sleeves have been lined with shiny side out and the 1/2 inch solid binding has been added.

While the new panel looked OK, just OK, I decided to trace off some lines and leaves to make it blend in with the other denim.

Using that same stitch as before, it now looks like maybe that was the plan all along.












Snaps have been added in a zigzag pattern to keep the tab shut flat.

Hems in denim and satin lining are done and the sleeves have been added. French tacks have attached the lining to the denim. Snaps are also added to the covered shoulder pads so they can be removed before dry cleaning.

Now,  Nancy can wear the jacket as a coat or as a tunic depending on what she chooses to wear under it. Today, she wore a thick knit sweater (poor choice!) for the final try-on instead of her usual tank top so it looks tight.

We had a lovely lunch to celebrate the final fitting and have more sewing projects planned.

Happy sewing everyone! Next time…brides with issues!

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Layers and Layers

Remember the dresses last year with hems made with horsehair braid? Well, Wtoo has done it again in Rowena dress.


What is not apparent from just looking at this beautiful skirt is that it is just many layers of circles and offers no great or easy way to bustle them up to be pretty or simple for the bridesmaid to handle. You can see the safety pins buried under all the layers.

Every weekend I cover a mannequin with a dress to discover what is shaping the dress which in most cases are layers and layers of netting which have to be trimmed and tamed before the satin layers are involved. To support and shape all those horsehair braid layers, this dress needs all of this netting.

A small pile of trimmings:

Now for the satin layer and a one-point bustle:

Ending up with 5 points for the tulle bustle, it is starting to look manageable and doable for the bridesmaid.

One last thing the bride wanted was to have the bodice taken in tighter. The pins mark the new zipper edge.

It is a real treat to see that the lining is not covering the zipper tape so moving it over is easier.

Once it is taken in, an additional hook and eye is used to secure the top edge of the lace scallops.



Can you see the 5 bustle points under all those layers? There are 5 satin covered buttons but they do blend in nicely.

Final try-on with her veil:












Speaking of layers, Mr. Mole has turned a bookshelf in his study into a seedling nursery complete with grow lights.

The results are quite something knowing that we are not frost free yet and the more mature plants have a really great jump on the season waiting to be planted out in a cold frame which for now has been keeping the new red onion sets toasty underground.

Soon they will be able to join the veggies that have been producing all winter under plastic covers:

Determination gets us through our days and work load and this week I read this story of a real gutsy woman who sewed day and night to raise her family.

Happy sewing everyone!

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St. Patrick’s Day Quincenera

Normally, I do not take on bridesmaid or MOB dresses during the wedding season so I can concentrate on the brides but this week things were different.

Both of my sewing friends to whom I send these other projects like bridesmaids etc. were unavailable with one having knee surgery and the other in a horrible car accident so this new desperate client came back to me for help.

In the Latin culture, when a girl turns 15 or 16, the family throws a party for their daughter to celebrate coming of age and it is called a Quincenera.

Using the link, you can see it involves a ceremony and lots of accessories. It also includes 7 female attendants and 7 male attendants and lots of relatives and best of all…a Tiara!

Dresses run around $700.


This dress had been left at another sewing center and as time was passing, they were less and less inclined to finish on time, so the mother retrieved the dress and brought it to me. It needed 2 layers of green satin hemmed 4-6 inches and lots of the beadwork repaired and all of the tulle layers trimmed with scissors. The corset back allows it to be worn by many sizes of girls. The push-up bust cups will be attached too.

But the main issue that shocked me was the petticoat that the salon “rented” to her which the mother said included a “hefty” cash deposit.

The petticoat had seen better days and came with tears and rips and a hem that looked like a rodent had chewed it all around: 

After pressing all the layers of netting I could see what had to be done…repair the holes before they grew and serge the hem to clean it up as well. 

In the post in Feb that showed the gold beaded wedding dress, I never got to show you how I made a center front modesty section. The bride wanted her cleavage hidden so using the gold tulle that was cut off the hem, I made the V-shaped structure. Here you can see some scrap ivory tulle just pinned into place to become the pattern for placement.

First, I folded the 2 strips in half lengthwise and overlapped them and pinned where the seam would be. Then I chalked the lines and removed the pins and re-pinned ready for stitching.


Once stitched together, the seam is trimmed to 1/4 inch wide:


Then the seams are pressed open and stacked flat unto each other to form the “V”. Then the section is pinned into place and attached to the lining by hand.

The final step was to find a bustle button that matched the lace and gold fabric so I coffee-dyed a lace and satin metal backed button from Wawak to tone down the ivory color.

Happy Spring sewing everyone and enjoy the buds on the trees if you have them and welcome to the new readers who were referred by Kate this week!

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Nancy’s Knits

When Nancy travels, she finds the most interesting fabrics to bring back to me. This knit fabric was gorgeous with so many cool colors but it was very thin and stretchy and not tough enough for a jacket/cardigan. She also gave me the pattern Vogue 8910 designed for a woven not a knit. It has front shoulder pleats and back darts in View A and B. The front facing wraps all around the neck to become the stand-up collar.


I checked on pattern review to see if anyone else had used this pattern with a knit and didn’t find anyone brave/crazy enough to try it.

The knit was cut bias to show off the stripes and as it stretched equally crossgrain and bias, I figured that if I had enough circumference around Nancy, it really didn’t matter what the pattern suggested.

Without too many alterations (rounded back), I cut it out and hand basted all the seams. I also cut a grey knit lining to give stability as well but I may not line the sleeves.

Here we are all pinned with no sleeves, it would make a nice vest, don’t you think?

And with sleeves:

Once Nancy tried on the jacket, you could see that the lining was rolling to the outside and not letting the blue knit to relax.

So, placing the jacket inside out on the mannequin and pinning the grey knit allows us to see how much more fabric has to be added to the lining. The blue knit had so much more stretch than the lining fabric and I am not sure that there is a way to tell ahead of time. Both were cut diagonally but the lining needed more. You can see that a triangular piece will be needed to fill in the gap.












Here is the new patch attached and hemmed with the coverstitch machine.

The facing is cut on-grain and is basted on and you can see that the lining is now hanging straight. While the pattern called for having the lining not attached to the blue knit until the very end, I cheated and treated it as an underlining, keeping all the seams at the shoulder and neck all together as well as the armholes.

I also kept the lining and blue knit seams sewn together at center back to keep it from growing with every wearing. The center back makes such a nice chevron as well as the sleeves which are not lined.

You can see the shoulder and neck edges have been serged and taped for stability. The shoulder pads will be covered and attached with snaps for easy removal for cleaning.

Both hems had to be finished before the final front facing was attached. Then the facing will be machine sewn to the lining only.

The cool thing about this jacket/cardigan is that it will pack well for all her travels. And speaking of travels…

Do you remember that lovely quiche plate that I received from Kim when I visited her in Birmingham? Well, here is it holding a crustless quiche made with eggs, cheese, half and half, bacon, onions, spinach and mushrooms.

Add some avocado and it is just perfect for lunch with Mr. Mole.



Wishing you a great week of sewing projects to be started or finished or just some stash busting!

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