Posts Tagged ‘alterations


Seamstress Karen

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure to meet and befriend a fabulous seamstress who owns an alterations shop near my office. I’ve been meaning to talk about her for a while now! (But like many other blog posts in the planning stages, it was delayed by all my time spent actually sewing!)

Karen started sewing a little over seven years ago, when her son had a seizure at birth which caused damage that required a great deal of therapy in the early years of his life. She quit her day job, and started working for an established seamstress while she learned the trade, so that she could begin working from home. And, focusing solely on alterations work that she aquired from a chain of drycleaners, Karen was able to make a very reasonable living while doing the very important work of caring for her son (who is ENTIRELY healthy now!)

I was excited to hear Karen’s story because I can sympathize and relate to that burning desire to be home with her child so that she could meet all his needs. And, when she let me know what she was able to earn from home, I became all the more intrigued. Suddenly, the idea of sewing for ‘extra’ income when I become a stay-at-home-mom seemed far less like a pipe dream, and far more like a very realistic goal.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Karen had hoped for a long time to be able to help teach and mentor others, the way that she had been taught, in order to pay it forward and empower other women. So when she heard that I sew, she was ever so eager to offer to teach me “anything you want to learn.” Um, that would be everything. “Okay then, everything.”

I’ve been visiting her shop several times a week, watching her work, showing her things I’ve sewn. She is extremely impressed by the custom sewing I have shown her (and I’ll admit, I love it when people compliment my work). For all her truly impressive ability and her very successful business, Karen has never ventured into custom work and continues to strictly do alterations. And so, she has offered me a few custom jobs now that have come in from clients she would previously have turned away. Soooo wonderful!

I’m amazed at my good fortune to make such a wonderful friend and business contact! And while I continue to feel that the benefits there are a little more one sided than in most of my relationships, Karen assures me that having the opportunity to talk with another sewing enthusiast, and get input on challenging jobs that come in, is a delight.

I’m sure I’ll talk about this more in the course of blogging about what I have sewn, but I wanted to make an introduction. This is what has inspired the shift in my thinking, from sewing just because, to sewing because it will one day mean I too can be home with my kids. And really, that’s the most wonderful thing of all.


The return of Aunt Bonnie!

This post is long, long overdue. I started the draft weeks ago and much has transpired since then, but since I haven’t yet taken photos of my progress I’ll start at the beginning.

Aunt Bonnie asked me to make her another dress. You all remember Aunt Bonnie, right? My stunning, talented, and delightful aunt who sings for Tampa Bay’s Horn Band, Late Night Brass? She asked me to make her a gown for their performance at the Christmas party of one of the large law firms here in Tampa. It’s one of the most formal gigs they’ll perform this year. The men will all wear tuxes with gold bow ties. And Bonnie as the lone gal on stage thought a gold gown was in order.

We started talking about her gold dress back in May, contemplating what pattern might workand what detail work would make the gown really POP. We settled on Vogue 3830, and, with the great advance planning, Bonnie was able to snag the pattern on sale back in June(?). We bought our fabric in July. And now it’s November and things are nearing completion (though I haven’t spent all of the past 3 1/2 months working on this dress; much of that time was spent sewing bras and other fun stuff).

Here’s the pattern envelope for Vogue 3830. For a change, we’re actually making the dress as the pattern intended (for the most part anyway), in View B. The empire waist is a great look for Bonnie, and the cut of this dress over all is very much her style. The back (below) cuts away except for a narrow band, so it’s a bit showier than the other dresses we’ve made, which is very much in keeping with the formal nature of this event.

Now the big busted seamstress in me looks at a stunning but narrow-strapped gown like this and thinks “we need to add some support.” And since I was merrily sewing up bra after bra while we were planning this, and since that band across the back even looks reminiscent of a bra, I suggested we sew a bra right into the dress, custom sized to fit the dress dimensions, custom dyed to match, and far more supportive than the dress on its own would be.

Bonnie agreed, and I got to put my bra-cloning skills to work again, making a draft bra (the stunning purple shown below) cloned from one of her well-fitting favorites. I wanted to be sure I had the fit of the bra right before making the gold bra, because, unlike several bras I’ve posted here before with contrasting black elastics and trims, the gold bra would have custom dyed-to-match gold elastics. And I didn’t want to dye twice. So here’s the original and test bras:

And that brings you up to speed with my progress as of about a month ago.

In the time since then, Bonnie has learned that Late Night Brass will play two formal charity balls this November, which pushed our time frame up from the first week of December to this coming Saturday. And also in that time, I have learned how very, very, very time consuming beadwork is. The endless sewing has kept me busy and I blame my enthusiasm as a seamstress for my slacking as a blogger. But photos, descriptions of my process, and many more posts will follow soon!

I hope. 🙂


Bras, bras, and more bras

In case that all so clever title didn’t clue you in, I’ve been sewing more bras. And even though it’s been WEEKS since I came here to post about it, I have been very productive.

I received my copy of The Bra Maker’s Manual not long after I posted the purple bra, and it has been EXTREMELY helpful! (Though, if I’d known ahead of time how unsatisfactory the online ordering process would be, I would have paid a few dollars more to order the book from one of the domestic bra supply stores that carry it). The chapter on fittings alone brought me so very much closer to my goals! And, in addition to working towards a perfect fit, I have continued to experiment a bit w/ different styles and materials.

This, is my fifth bra. The band fits snugly but not too tightly, the bridge is actually a perfect size and shape to fit between my breasts, and my breasts fill the cups without gushing over at all. However, since it is no longer 1950, I think it’s a tad pointy for my comfort.

Bra number 6, shown below, is just about perfect. It lifts my breasts as high as they could reasonably be lifted, and creates a very flattering shape. The straps are wide and *padded* and the band sits right where it should. Plus LOOK how pretty! Pink satin. 🙂 How delightful.

With my own bosom in a good place now, I’m starting to work on some bras for other women, but I do believe I’ll post that separately. More soon!


Trial and Error

My first bra is finished! But completely unwearable, at least for me. I’m not discouraged in the slightest though. I fully expected a couple of trial runs before I had the result I wanted.

Because I’ve never sewn bras before, I figured it would be best to work from a pattern. I chose Kwik Sew 2374 because it features a full band (which is more supportive than partial band designs) and large cup sizes. It also has larger band sizes than I wear (starting from a 42) but I thought it would be simple enough to adjust the relatively flat band down to a smaller size; certainly easier than it would be to adjust the cup size up from a too-small pattern.

Since it was my first attempt, I pretty much followed the pattern to a T. I used the cutting lines for the 42DD size (since, going by the math alone, my 38G should be the same cup volume) and I did remove 2 inches from the band on each side, to bring that 42 down to a 38. Made sense in my head. I also checked the underwire I’d purchased -again, the right size for a 38G – to see how it fit me and it was perfect.

Now I’m curious to hear if anyone else has used this pattern, and what their experience was. Because I found that it runs HUGE. The underwire stops inches before the cups do, and the cups themselves press up into my underarms, and nearly to my neck. Just far, far too high. On the pictures below, my thumb and my finger are pointing to exactly where the underwire stops. All that bra above is excess.

Despite the fact that I won’t be wearing this particular bra, I was able to see exactly where I need to make alterations and I’m confident that my second attempt will be a far better fit! I’ve already started work on bra number two and just waiting for my order of supplies to come in the mail (I ran out of elastic! No way to finish without that!).

Full list of alterations needed: Remove 1.5″ from the top of the upper cups so they stop where they should. Remove a small bit of fabric right at the apex so there’s no funny pucker at the cup center seam. Use a wider strip of hook and eye tape (I’d mistakenly bought a 2 hook bra closure) so the band can stay a bit wider at the back. Remove excess fabric from band under cups, because as it is it just folds under itself awkwardly. Slight modification to the bridge so the cups sit about a 1/2″ inch closer to each other, which is just a better fit for my body. Took about another inch out of the band as it was still too loose and I’ll need to remember to cut the elastic proportionately shorter as well.

My second attempt should fit extremely well. 🙂



Alterations, to be more specific. Now that I’ve finished the corset, my next big project is to help my Mom expand her wardrobe, and we’re starting by making some pieces she owns already work better for her.

The top pictured below is a great color on her and a fabric she loves, but the original neckline was far too low for her to wear in any sort of professional setting. So, I removed the panel of fabric set into the V, and added one that came higher. Since I couldn’t find a matching fabric, we used a solid black. Now, it’s a more appropriate style.

The second quick fix involved a nearly identical technique. This top originally had slits on the sides. Unfortunately, the effect when she wore it was that the peek-a-boo of fabric from her slacks tended to highlight her hips in a less than flattering manner. So, once again, I stitched small V’s of dark fabric in to fill the gap.

I’m making some original garments for her as well, but none are far enough along to blog about just yet. So… more soon!


Dress Form Boob Job

My dress form got implants yesterday.

Now that Shawn’s shirt is finished, I get to spend some time sewing for me with all those lovely fabrics I bought on sale.  One of my first steps was to adjust my dress form to a size I could use.  The problem with the dear is that she is molded plastic, and as adjustable as she is (with dials at the waist, hip, and bust) she is always going to be a… C cup, I think.  Which I have not been in many, many years.  So, if I set her bust measurement to mine, then her ribs are quite a bit larger than mine, and the result is that the blouses and peasant tops and empire waisted or wrap style dresses I hope to make will all fit her very, very differently from how they’ll fit me.  Which largely defeats the purpose of having a dress form!

So, in a moment of inspiration, I decided she needed a boob job.  I dialed down her bust until her ribcage measurement equalled my own (blurry on purpose… wouldn’t you love to know).  Then, I pulled out a nice clean nursing bra I never actually wore (because Eva weaned) but that fits correctly, and tried it on her.  I unsnapped the cups and stuffed them full until her bust measurement also equalled my own!  Yes, those are plastic grocery store bags.  I’m sure I could have found something to produce a more natural look, but she’s plastic already and this is what I had on hand, for free, easy to grab a hold of.

I was so pleased with the outcome of this that I padded her belly too.  Because the reality also is that I do not have an hourglass figure… I have a four months pregnant figure, even though I haven’t been pregnant at all in over two years.  So now she’s got a trimmer curve to the small of her back (like me) and a nice pouch in the front (also like me).  She resembles me far more than she used too (though if I get into any more fitted garments, I’ll need sturdier padding for her belly and a bit more work on getting quite the right shape).  For the time being though, this should help me make minor adjustments for fit and drape, which I will want to do when I get started on a couple of dresses in the near future.

Here she is wearing my favorite shirt, so you can get the full effect:


Grantie’s Ugly Dress

I was able to spend a good amount of time working on the muslin for Bonnie’s dress yesterday evening, and it’s nearly ready for her to try on. I should definitely point out that my wonderful daughter was very well behaved and let me devote more time to the project than I normally get in the evenings! Which was especially wonderful, since I don’t think I’ll have time to sew tonight or tomorrow.

While I was sitting in an armchair, pinning fabric together, she came over and asked to sit on my lap. She pointed to the pile of diaper fabric and announced “dress”. I suppose she knows the drill now! I told her that yes, Mommy was making a dress for Grantie (my Aunt Bonnie, her great aunt). After a few minutes of delightedly discussing this, and about the time that she stole my pin cushion from me, Eva and I agreed that this is Grantie’s Ugly Dress.

Eva “helps” me pin the fabric (and the chair, and my knee, and her knee – just to confirm my claim that it hurts).

It’s ugly because I made it out of diaper fabric. I mean, come on, how stunning is that going to look? The fabric I used isn’t a great representation of what the final dress will fit like either. The cotton diaper twill I have on hand is lighter weight and a looser weave by far than the taffeta, and the result is that it has stretched a bit just from me handling it and sewing it, and that it drapes differently to boot. Still, I think it will let us see where we want to add or delete some fabric, and using the twill allowed me to accomplish this for free!

I made one alteration yesterday evening, before Bonnie’s fitting, because I knew I needed to alter the existing pattern and I want to fit the altered dress on her to make sure I did so well. Even just looking at the pattern pieces, I suspected that the bodice was not going to provide enough coverage.

Bodice first attempt.

The finished gown will have lining sewn to the fabric along the neckline, so we’ll lose 5/8″ of coverage from the unsewn pieces (seam allowance). I wasn’t about to sew a lining in to the practice dress, but I serged 5/8″ in from the raw edge to be able to see what was leftover. The photo above is the first bodice.

I definitely thought that it looked a bit scant for Bonnie’s build. I pinned the fabric onto my dress form, sized to Bonnie’s measurements, to see it in 3D (because let’s face it, my carpet is flat and my aunt is not). The photo doesn’t really do it justice. I didn’t cut away and serge the lower seam allowance, where the bodice will attach to the skirt, and so in the photo it looks like it might be plenty of fabric. Not so. With the unaltered pattern, we won’t have enough space for the sew-in bra cups, let alone Aunt Bonnie. It comes up high enough on the sides but dips a bit too low in the middle.

So, I traced over the old pattern piece and drew up above the existing line an amount I thought would work. It was really a visual guess. I promise I will photograph my alteration techniques at some point, and post about them in more detail, but I was racing to get a second bodice sewn, and attached to the skirt, in one evening so I’d have the dress ready for Thursday when she is coming to try it on, so I didn’t do so yesterday.

Aside from redoing the bodice, and the previous alteration to the shape of the skirt, I left the rest alone. I suspect though that we will probably take in the waist to make it more form fitting. I’m not sure whether Bonnie will want the skirt to flare more, or less, or whether this will work. On the whole though, I think we’re in good shape! And after she tries on her ugly dress, I’ll get to start working on the pretty one. 🙂

June 2018
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