Size Doesn’t Matter

Here is the story: “I just went into the bridal salon not expecting to buy anything but once I tried on this dress, I had to have it.”

It is a lovely dress on the proper sized model, 2 layers of embroidered lace netting buttoned down the back…only one problem…this one is a size 10 and she really needed a size 2 or smaller.

Wtoo Amalthea


She told me that the salon owner “clamped” her in the back and it looked wonderful. I told her “clamping ain’t sewing” and by the looks of my pinning, we had a huge job ahead.

Here you can see the first fitting with push up bust pads pinned inside and the famous blue grosgrain ribbon testing out a halter. The side seams are pinned and 2 inches will be taken in each side down to the hips, 4 inches (10 centimeters) total in circumference. The petticoat and layers of netting were shortened 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) all around.


Next area of pinning is the center back zipper, another 2.5 inches each side for a total of 5 inches reduced from the circumference…OK, let’s add that up…4 plus 5 equal 9 inches (22.86 centimeters) to be removed…why am I complaining?

Each seam has 6 layers to contend with, 2 lace layers, 2 tulle layers and lining and satin fabric layers…all have been seamed individually so that is how they will have to be altered. OK…let’s count those up – 6 times 2 areas…12 plus the zipper seams for only 14 different vertical seams and some horizontal lining seams inside. Removing all the buttons and the zipper and 2 strips of boning is the first step.

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Here you can see the waistline in the lining and the horizontal seam that joins everything together. That has to be opened up since it was sewn last in the sequence of construction. See the red thread basting lines.


There was a elastic bra sewn into the side seams and that had to be tightened by moving it over 3 inches each side along with the side seam lining. The lining is knit…odd for a bridal gown.


Once the waistline seam is opened you can see the interfacing layer too, a gauzy kind of stuff.


Zipper is basted in for her second try-on. Halter is pinned on too. Everything went well until the bride whipped out a bag from JoAnn’s filled with 5 yards of 104 inch wide folded red tulle. OH OH…where is that going?


How about making hundreds of mini pleats and attaching all of it to the bottom layer of the lowest layer of netting?


Sure what else can we add? How about making a red and orange satin belt from ribbons and a chunk of bling. Sure. All I have to do is sew 2 layers of ribbon together, attach all the beads and then attach it to the dress…let’s get started.P1190811P1190812

Let’s use the Blind hem foot with the black metal edge guide and crank the needle all the way to the left position. I hand basted the edges together so let’s get sewing.


Belt is done and attached to the dress by hand with a final 22 inch waist measurement, just have to finish the halter attachment:


Attaching an extra long hang tag from the back zipper area to the center front area and under another French tack helps keep the dress hanging upright on the hanger. This can be done with any dress using satin polyester ribbon.


Buttons (19) re-attached, hook and eye at the top, all that is left is the one point bustle and we are done! At least seven hours of labor were packed into this dress.

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Yes, you can see the red tulle layer through the dress but the bride is thrilled and she can fly to her destination wedding in Mexico and dance knowing that her red tulle will show and her belt will celebrate the Fall colors. For those of you who want to know what kind of shoes the bride will be wearing…none, as the ceremony will be on the beach.



Maybe some of you have seen this story about the heirloom wedding dress that has been worn by so many brides in one family. Here is a the link from the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK:

Wishing you all a great week of trauma-free sewing!

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Lace Hem and a Broken Needle

A stunning Casablanca gown that needed a few things done like shortening the satin skirt and a bustle, but let’s start with the scalloped lace hem. Remember, if you fall in love with one of these and the salon salesgirl tells you the seamstress can shorten it…yes, she can but you will pay for all her labor!



As you know from previous gowns, I pin a huge horizontal tuck from just past the side seams to side seams as the rest becomes the train. Then that tuck is measured for the amount the border will be raised and re-attached. This is one of the few dresses that the lace had a definite repeating motif that could be cut evenly and stitched back on.


Once cut away from the dress, the border is basted by hand higher up and in these photos you can see the original dangling bits underneath that will be trimmed away later. Can you see the line of green thread where the points will be relocated?


All was going well, the second try-on allowed me to tweak the length and then I was ready to machine sew the border back on. Was I excited…no hand sewing this time…the top edge of the border had a track for my needle and into the Juki it went. I got almost to end of the strip when something happened….



As careful as I had been, sewing slowly, the needle hit a glass bead hiding under the border and stuck itself into the fabric. Of course, the machine went nuts into a sort of Parkinsonian shaking episode before I could turn it off. The needle had a real nice curve in it after that. My Juki went to visit my repairman so he could rub out any burs or damage on the bobbin case.

That’s when I realized that you could buy stronger needles than the Organ HA x 1 ones I had been using. Yes, Organ makes HL x 5 in the same sizes so now I have a stack of those waiting for the next tough project. I buy my needles here. Why do I buy Organ needles? Having had Janome and Elna and Juki machines, I find they just work better with them and being slightly shorter in length, the stitching is nicer than using Schmetz ones.

Once the lace was re-attached, the bustle was planned with 3 points for the lace and 3 for the satin underskirt. But there was something wrong.

The bride decided that the dress felt to heavy for our 100+ degree summer temps and asked that I trim off the whole train. So it was done and she had her lace train on its own for some great photos.


And what footwear went with this luscious lace gown…come one let’s all say it together…COWBOY BOOTS!

The garden is still producing for us…Japanese eggplant/courgettes, crookneck squash and cherry tomatoes and Autumn raspberries…thank you Mother Nature!



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Emergency or Not?

My real business website brings in new possible customers all the time. People find me on Google and Yelp and send me emails or phone to ask questions. So this came in last week:

Sent: Monday, September 07, 2015 1:45 PM
Subject: Wedding gown emergency!
My name is Melinda and I have a bit of an emergency.

I have a gorgeous wedding gown that I need taken in about 3 inches in the waist by Sept. 20th. The gown fit perfectly initially, however I fell very ill recently have lost a lot of weight. Which is wherein lies my dilemma, I cannot gain weight now, I have tried everything but because although I am much better than I was, I am still not well.

So all that aside, I was hoping to get a general price range from you so I can budget it in and also let my mother who lives out of state know who may be helping me pay for the alteration.

I am in a bit of a panic, this day only happens once and I have waited nearly 32 years for it so naturally I want my gown to fit perfectly. Please let me know if you can help me and if the time frame is feasible, also if possible, how much the alteration may cost. Thank you so very much for your time and consideration.

Hi Melinda,
You will need to make an appointment so I can see the dress and give you a price. I am booked through Nov, but I will see you and help you out. I have openings Wed, Thurs and Friday this week, please let me know if you have time to drop by.


Thank you so very much! I will give you a call tomorrow, Tuesday, to schedule an appointment, as I have been busy with my niece’s birthday and getting my daughter ready for the first day of school today…5th grade. Thank you again, ever so sincerely.

Hi Melinda,
I have 2 openings for an appointment tomorrow Wed at 12 noon and Friday at 2 pm. Since I did not hear from you today as you said you would call, I have to say that time is running out and I have no other openings for new brides until the end of Nov. If you want either of those times, please tell me which one, otherwise, I am afraid you will have to find someone else who will alter your dress within 10 days.

It is now 5 days before her wedding and no word from her…makes you wonder how the emergency is going to pan out?

Another emergency came in from a bride, her mother’s mother-of-the-bride dress was custom made in Los Angeles at Siri. It was a gorgeous bias cut pleated silver silk dupionni dress that for some reason was made at least 2 sizes too big. Her measurements were taken at a very posh salon in Portland where the alterations were done. The fact that the seamstress told her that she was a professional and the best in the business and that she would be thrilled with the results gave the mother some false reassurance that the dress would be perfect. The price of the dress was expensive enough but the alterations, according to the mom, cost a fortune to take in side seams, straps and hem.

I opened up the left side zipper at the lining so we could both look inside and what we found was the shoddiest work ever! Old seam allowances left inside, nothing trimmed away properly or trimmed within 1/8 of an inch. Lots of rows of stitching leaving bulk and seams not opened up and pressed flat…in other words, very amateurish at best.

The mom was shocked and asked if I thought I could make things right and expand the armholes wider to allow her arms to actually move. After checking seam allowances, I said I would do whatever I could and then started taking photos and documenting the procedures for the mom to present to the salon owner. I have listed all the photos of before, during and after on my Pinterest page as there are way too many to show here. 

Once my alterations were done, the dress fit well and the mom was delighted!

Gail-2   Gail 1

Another week of harvests from the garden…thank you Mother Nature!sept-2015

Crookneck squash and peppers with hundreds of baby squash on the vine:


Happy Fall sewing, Everyone!


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The Blue Dress

Some of you spotted the blue dress in the collection hanging up. OK…it is unusual, but we have the same problems we do with all gowns from Chinese websites…it just doesn’t/will never fit. Here it is on a model: Blue wedding dress


It made me laugh when the bride said she could only find this gown in 2 places in the whole wide world…one was Paris, as in France, and the other some website in Canada.

So, since it has been her fantasy dream dress her whole life, she ordered one, from Canada, that had no resemblance to her size. Before the first fitting, I was told over the phone all she wanted was to chop off the train and straps. Seemed simple enough and since I am booked through November, I agreed to see her and her small alterations.

I left her alone in the room to get into the dress and always offer to do up zippers for the girls if they need help…well, she got the zipper up but the entire dress was hung up on her hips and butt…no amount of pulling and grunting would bring that dress down to the floor level…now what?

Sure, I can cut off the straps, but re-positioning them would work well and look more modern…let’s try that. Yes, cutting off the train will work but we have no idea how much to cut off with the hem dangling a foot or more off the floor…OK,  let’s pretend shall we? I put some pins in the hem and just shake my head and explain that what really has to happen first is to open all the side seams of the satin and lining and hope to Hell that they left something in there for us. Fingers crossed!



The hems are the traditional crappy cheapy cheapy polyester that uses colors that don’t match and like to cling with industrial strength static. It involves opening the lining side seams and pulling out everything and running basting rows all around for the next try-on.

The front straps are removed and slid towards the armholes. She wants droopy hanging straps…like looking all romantic and coy…you know that look…temptress and virgin at the same time. We can do that.


Then I get to the removal of all the invisible nylon threads that were left from the factory lace attaching…I spent one whole evening cutting and stacking this stuff into a pile.


Besides letting out as many seams as I could, I did have to take in 2 front lace princess seams from the hips to the hem by 4 inches (8 inches total) for each. She could not have any flare.


After everything is basted we can slide the dress down over her hips to the correct position and see what we have:


Straps are now almost in her armpit. A 5 point bustle will work out OK.


How did this happen? Luckily there was excess fabric in the seams so I could open them up and re-stitch them adding at least 4 inches all around. P1190651P1190652P1190653P1190654P1190655

You can see the holes in the lining that were caused by the dress being too tight when tried on. The new stitching line is at the very fraying edge.



Then that train had to be marked with thread basting and pins before it was machine stitched and trimmed off. You can see how the familiar hem seaming is done by cutting the lining and fabric the same length and then slipping the lining 1/2 inch down to pull the fabric to the inside. Only one problem, the lining is over an inch too narrow to lie flat so I have to take in the satin fabric to avoid puckers. Could I have left it and said…”the lace will cover it”…sure…but it is not my style.




Another funny thing about this outfit was the fact that the bride had a pair of simple white pump shoes and did not want to leave them at her house for fear that the groom would see them. So I stored them. Once the dress was done and steamed and looking the best it could, she just rolled the dress up into a tiny tight ball and stuffed it into a shopping bag along with the shoes. So much for the Cinderella effect.

So some of you might be thinking…isn’t the wedding season over yet? OH NO…brides are booked through November so there is no slowing down yet. The venues change, more Hawaiian and Vegas weddings in the fall but still the same issues and drama.

The season looks to be filled with very large dresses, in volume and size that will need to be cut down and fitted with a few ugly alterations done elsewhere that are re-done in my sewing room. And a new jacket for Nancy is in the works…hooray!

Happy sewing everyone and thank you for all your questions and challenges in private emails!

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I Didn’t Want to Order the Next Size

Some days you just want to scream! A bride calls to say her dream dress from China has just arrived and it is a little too small.

Here is what it looks like on the model on the website.

The bride said she measured herself and checked her measurements with the size chart on the website and decided that she did not want to order that correct size and chose a smaller size. Here was her chance to actually make a good decision and pick a dress size that might have fit her…she had the power to do it. Does this make sense? It sure did to her when ordering so here is what you get for being pig-headed:



The zipper is 4 inches away from any hope of closing:


The further apart the 2 sides are, the more we will see gaps in the lace neckline. You can already see that in the top right in the photo.

And the armholes are so tight and tiny that they will have to be altered big time! Pins mark the new edge.


You can see I will have to trim away and rebind the front and back armholes just so she can move and this means all the lace overlays will have to be removed and re-attached by hand…lovely.


The back armhole needs more widening.


Once all the curved bits have been thread marked, I cut bias strips of poly organza as binding.


Once the curved edges are bound, I can make loops for a corset back so the dress will be wearable. The other issue is that the lace bodice offers no structure so I slide 1/2 inch wide Rigilene boning up inside the side seams to give some support.P1190581P1190562

The back neckline is sagging and flaring away from her back so I pin out 4 darts in the lace to make it hug her back. The zipper will remain in the lower part of the opening but is only 2 inches long by now. For some reason she did not want the corset back loops to go the extra 2 inches like normal.P1190587P1190585

OK, let’s lace this puppy up with my famous blue grosgrain ribbon which will be replaced by ivory satin later. The top gap is still 4 inches and the 4 darts have been pinned. They will be sewn by hand.


You can see the front armholes sit well and the satin bodice will be tacked to the lace along the top edge to keep it from sliding down and making wrinkles just above the waist. All things that should have been done in the factory.


Satin and lining have been hemmed, the 2 top layers of tulle will be cut with scissors and the original separate satin waist sash will be cut into 2 long pieces and joined to make a lacing ribbon to match the dress. Once tied, the tails can be trimmed off and finished with a point to make it easier to thread through the loops.


In keeping with the produce section of the previous posts…here is the harvest gathered this week:Aug-2015-3

The Asian pear tree has been prolific this year and the Autumn Bliss raspberries are packed with bees and buds and fruit. The basil will be turned into pesto sauce and the spaghetti squash will be given to some of my neighbors. The strawberry plants have begun producing a second crop as well.

Welcome to all the new readers and if you notice that there is a recurring pattern of too small dresses week after week…it is true, it is an epidemic!


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Phone Calls and Red Flags

A woman called and the first thing out of her mouth was:

I have a white 3 piece silk suit made in Hong Kong 40 years ago”

“The lining is hanging out. The pants don’t fit anymore. I want you to make them fit.”

I have a matching skirt that I want you to make into a top.”

“I read your reviews and I want you to do the work,  I’m attending a wedding in one month.”

In the past, I might have taken the challenge but more and more I have learned that this sort of request/command is usually made by a woman in her 70’s who is used to telling servants what and how to do her bidding and then never satisfied with their work. I sure didn’t need to tangle with her in the wedding season. She was mighty disappointed when I gave her the name of someone else who might want to help her.

Another bride called last Sunday night at 6:30 and said she had her dress and her mother’s dress to be altered. I could hear kids screaming in the background and she told me what she wanted:

“I want the dresses to be done expertly by a highly trained professional.”

“I want the dresses to be done as quickly as possible.”

“I want the dresses to be started immediately.”

“I want to know the price you would charge me.”

After I told her I was booked up through November and could not help her she said:

“But I wanted YOU to do them!”

Then I received this email:

Hi Fit For A Queen Blog Team,

Jason here from (No Name Company), a service and marketplace where you can easily make, buy, and sell fun and useful 3D printed products. I came across your blog recently and absolutely love the ideas and styles you come up for with for all different kinds of weddings!

I wanted to reach out to you and see if you’d be interested in writing a post for your blog about some of the unique and special gifts that brides and grooms can customize and 3D print for their wedding party. Many designers from our community of makers have already created beautiful rings, key chains, and other amazing products that brides and grooms to be can pick out and personalize! The best part is – you can choose which material you want it in, including precious metals like gold and silver!

We’re excited about sharing the custom gift possibilities 3D printing can offer your readers. Please let me know if you’d be interested and I can send you some example designs!

My reply went like this:

Thank you Jason,
But if you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I have a huge issue with people “pimping for products” that they don’t actually buy or use themselves. Whether there are kickbacks or not, it is not for a public blog. My blog is for teaching and encouraging sewers to try hard things not for selling things or even mentioning products that I don’t buy and use myself.
I wish you luck…there are plenty of women who have less scruples and are willing to hawk anything for money. While this might suit them, I have a full-time alteration business that provides me with honest income.
Mrs Mole

After forwarding this email to a couple sewing sisters, they wrote back their version of a reply:

Dear Brandon,
Let’s cut out the crap and get right to the point.
You came across the Fit For a Queen blog only because you went on a desperate search to find poor suckers to market your cheap wares for you. 3D printed gifts for wedding guests? Really? How sad are you? What wedding favor was ever worth keeping? Except for chocolate, and I highly doubt your little gizmo can crank out any Godiva or Lindt. Isn’t there enough crap from China already overflowing our landfills?
And by the way, if you had read the blog on a regular basis, you would know that Mrs. Mole is not comprised of a team. She is an over worked, underpaid, seldom appreciated for her talent team of one.
Now you know not to mess with my sewing sister. Bet you didn’t expect any woman that sews to call you out and kick your ass!

And another opinion:

This seamstress says, rip the jerk !
I understand being approached by companies wanting to gain exposure for items that you use on a regular basis. I understand them offering their product to the writer of the blog for free and then the writer promoting the item IF the writer finds it truly a good product, better than anything currently in her/his studio. (Better since sliced bread). I’ve read blogs where the purpose of the blog seems to have disappeared and it’s merely advertising. Those are the ones where I find that little “unsubscribe” button. A blend of both is good, provided the emphasis is not on the product. It’s all a matter of choice.
With that being said, this chump was grasping at straws. To my memory, you don’t give party favor ideas, or suggestions for venues, decor, or honeymoon destinations. You are pure garment construction &/or deconstruction.
If you do use his e-mail in an upcoming blog, perhaps you could point out that he was assuming any woman that sews for a living must be so naive that she would take his bait. On the other hand, maybe it was just spam.

To finish up I thought you might like to see some really crappy sewing done in a high end boutique out of town for a friend of mine. She bought 5 pairs of expensive wool pants and had them shortened and taken in at the center back seam. You can see that nothing was trimmed away after taking in the seam by 3/4 inch.


For some reason they altered the waistband and could not manage to make the stitching look any nicer. How about the hem, isn’t 2.5 inches a little deep? And what about that loose stitching? It is actually coming away from the pant leg already.


Another pair of pants had other issues. Who uses fishing line in their serger for hems? They thought that the gap was ok with the nylon thread making a bridge?



How about this waistband that was never sewn back down after altering?P1190476

This is the worst of all….see the original seam? See the altered seam where they took in the center back seam? It didn’t occur to the seamstress to trim off the excess..oh Hell, no…just leave that flap back there and don’t bother trimming the thread tails. Imagine paying for this as “expert tailoring”?


The lesson here is: If you are paying $300 for designer wool pants or ANY pants, THINK TWICE about who is doing the altering unless you just don’t care. Most of you are gasping at this level of sewing and that is good knowing how much effort you put into your sewing. You can take pride in knowing that this rubbish sewing would never leave your sewing table!



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Make Me a Sweetheart

Another thing David’s Bridal cannot/will not do is make sweetheart necklines…so it is up to me to make this dream come true for one bride.

Like the rest…here is what we started with:canvas 6

While it is pretty plain the bride had her vision of a deep sweetheart so here is how we went about it.P1190245 P1190246I pinned a piece of cotton fabric on the front and drew a V in pencil to make sure that this is what she had in mind. She also wanted a lace edging hand stitched to the whole top edge of the dress so you can see part of it. On the inside this is what was done:P1190272 Center was thread basted along with the accurate legs of the triangle on the lining. P1190274 Then machine stitching along the lines with that same cotton patch attached to the right side of the front as it will flip to the inside to form a facing.P1190275 Take a deep breath, say a few Hail Marys, and trim away the facing with pinking sheers. Cut away the beaded bodice with regular scissors. Flip the facing inside. All this will be hand understitched along the top edges to keep it flat before adding bust pads.P1190276P1190360P1190361P1190362

OK, top edge done…what next? Hem the front using 2 inch horsehair braid in the hem and lining. P1190277


How about adding/hand stitching a heavy beaded belt and that lace edging? OK, and a back view too?


What you can’t see above the 5 buttons for the bustle are 2 diagonal seams that run either side of the center back buttons. Each of those seams were taken in 2 inches to cup above and below the butt. This puppy had to be TIGHT! Here is one shot of the back diagonal seams pinned out for a second time:


Also, what you cannot see is that the train had pleats near the hem edge created with thread tacks so that even when the train was down, it was lumpy. No matter how much I encouraged her to let me cut the tacks she refused…until the last day when her mother showed up and said I should cut them and I was so relieved! If she had left them there, even the bustle would have had those lumpy hem edges with 2 inch wide horsehair inside as well.

The fabric in this dress was thick upholstery fabric that had been over beaded and embroidered so any altering or even cutting was a chore/bitch. You can see by tightening the back it caused front wrinkles even when standing.

Before I go, I wanted to share a view from my chair of the week ahead…9 brides, nine fittings:


and 2 more brides who cannot fit in my one sewing room and have to hang in the sewing room annex:Aug-2015--2

Two more organza and tulle concoctions with 7 and 8 foot trains to be bustled up…Lord Have Mercy!

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