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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If you do fittings for other people you'll love the new web page I added today. It's all about how to get past the emotional baggage we all hold (yeah, some of us more than others!) Check it out here at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Cincinnati Reds Alteration!

In honor of my beloved Cincinnati REDS becoming National League Central Champs last night, I have decided to do an alteration for myself today. I've had this Bench #5 baseball shirt for many years, but seldom wear it because it is soooo big. I've put off altering it because I don't see and easy way to cut it down. If you have a suggestion, leave it in the comment box below. I'm open to almost anything.

fraying bra strap

Here is the front of the shirt. The sides are way too big and it is too long. It could use some princess seams, too. Maybe. But it's gotten to the point where several people in my family may wear this to a Reds game, so I don't want to make it too gender specific!

fraying bra strap

As you can see, I can't really take up the shoulders, because of the way they are constructed. That's my usual first place to alter.

Sew new strap to front

Here is the back. I'm tempted to add some princess seams here too, but I hesitate because of the stripes and the lettering.

fraying bra strap

As you can see, the side seams need to come in. The problem is, they are flat felled seams, so duplicating that would take a longggg time. Stay tuned. We'll see what I decide to do.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lengthening a Hem When There's no Hem Allowance Left

As fall moves in, many of our school children have dusted off those uniform skirts and headed back to class. After walking the halls for a few days, some girls are "kindly" reminded by a teacher that the skirt needs to be a bit longer. But how do you lengthen something that has already been let down as much as possible? That's easy, you put in a faced hem. Here's what it looks like.

faced hem
I used 7/8" wide single fold bias tape here to extend the length of the skirt. That becomes the hem allowance, so the skirt can be lengthened the maximum amount. The facing will not show on the right side.
faced hem
When you sew the facing onto the end of the skirt hem, it goes as close to the edge as possible. This means it is sewn about ¼" from the edge. Then it is turned up on the folded edge and stitched.
faced hem
Here is a close up of the stitching and the new hem allowance. 
Kids grow. It's hard to keep up with them. Give that uniform skirt one more new life by adding a hem facing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

For all You Plus Size Ladies Out There!

Have you finally found that great looking dress that fits well in the bust area? Then you find that it gaps terribly when you lean over! The new page I've put on the website can help you to alter you dress to fit.
The page outlines taking in princess seams in a plus size formal. However, the instructions will work for any size formal, dress or even a bridal gown.
You'll find the instructions here at .

Let me know what you think.

Monday, September 13, 2010

There is now a search box on the left side

I'm starting to get many posts that overlap a bit, so I put a search box at the top left of this blog. Hopefully, you can find what you want. You can also click on any of the labels listed below.

A page on taking in the bust area of a formal has been requested and I'm almost finished with it. I will also be posting about how to add straps to a strapless dress, or a dress where the straps are too narrow.

Homecoming season is upon us, so you may need some tips on altering formals. Let me know if I can help. Leave a comment here, or if you want to keep it private, use the "Contact Me" to your left.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Laura's Dress is Finished!

Remember last month when I had a live model for a  vintage dress remake ? Well, Laura's dress is now finished and here are pictures of the results. Sorry about the flash in the first one. Obviously I'm a better seamstress than photographer.  I'm glad I got the chance to work on such a fun project. I will write up the full details on the  LearningAlterations website soon.


The dress fits Laura well, now. And the design is much more updated. No more '80's shoulder pads and cap sleeves! She hasn't gotten a bra yet that will accomodate that scooped back, but we want to show off the dress.

Here you can kind of see both sides. Tightening that side seam brought the side edge up closer under her arms and made it fit snugger in the back as well.

Well, ignoring the exposed bra, you get an idea of how the back fits. The buttons at the neck are offset, since I moved the clasps. She will decide later whether or not to take those off, center them or reposition them side by side. The dress is  a hit and she can't wait to wear it. Right Laura??

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I need your help with this Bridal Alteration

As most of you know, I don't do a lot of bridal gown alterations any more. Today I have a veil to work on and I would love to have your thoughts. 
The bride's mom is constructing the veil. She has assembled it and attached it to the comb. You can't tell from these pictures, but it has a blusher also. 
After she sewed a small strip of beads to the bottom edge, it began to "ripple". The beads are lightweight and they are woven together with some cotton thread.

fraying bra strap

Here is the veil as it hangs from the comb. See how wavy the bottom is? The bride doesn't want this.
fraying bra strap

Here is a close up of the bottom edge. You can see that the beads are definitely not straight across.
Sew new strap to front
Here is a closer look at the beads. The seem to be lightweight to me, but they do add a bit of weight to the whole thing. Let me know what you think. Either leave a comment here, go to the "Contact Me" button on the left, or add a comment on Facebook.
Thank You ...Thank You ... Thank You ... for your help!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day

For those of us in the States, Labor Day signals the end of summer, the beginning of a new school year and the beginning of the season of Fall. Enjoy your holiday and thank you to those military folks and civilians who serve our country,

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A New Web Page is Live: Shorten Shoulder Straps on a Casual Dress

You'll find the latest web page here at .

There are many ways to shorten the straps on a dress. Here I take you through the steps for shortening straps on a casual dress. Even if your dress is constructed differently, you will be able to use these pictures to guide you. You'll find a world of difference in the fit of your dress, doing this simple alteration. Give it a try next time you have a problem with the fit in the bust area, the armholes or the neckline. You'll be surprised at the difference it will make.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cutting the Sleeves and Redesigning Laura's Dress

The dress has been fitted on Laura and it only needs a minor adjustment. In order to keep the sides flat against her body, I need to take in the side seams a little bit. Below you see the steps I have taken so far. My next post will show you how I finish the dress. Woohoo, we're almost there!


Since this dress is lined, the first thing I did was baste the lining and outer fabric together. I made my basting stitches right on the line that I marked with pins. This created the finished "seamline". Then I cut away the sleeve bodice area. I cut about an inch to the outside of the basting thread, so I could have a 1" seam allowance.


I marked the lining with tailor's chalk. This line is also the "seamline". I couldn't mark the outer lace with tailor's chalk, since it was so bumpy. So I used thread to trace the new seamline. Next I removed all the basting thread, so the two layers could be separated.


The easiest way to attach these two layers for the fitting was to fold each one inward on the marked line. Then I pinned, using many pins and adjusting so the curved line was symetrical.


I think Laura would be reluctant to try the dress on with all those pins, so I basted the two layers together, then removed the pins. Here you see the white thread marking the new seamline. The pink thread is the basting.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Reworking a Vintage Dress

Today's post includes a "live model"! My friend Laura has a dress for me to rework. She has such vision when shopping that she can pick out something that the average shopper would gag over, and turn it into a work of art.

Join me and watch as we transform this vintage beauty (the dress, not you, Laura!)


Eeek, look what this 80's dress looks like before we alter it. The ginormous shoulder pads have already been removed. Laura wants to remove all evidence that there have been sleeves on this dress. The neckline will bear the weight of the dress, instead of the shoulders.


Here I have pinned the new line where she wants the dress to end. The challenge will be to keep the dress from gapping along the bust/underarm area. I may have to add some clear elastic or a dart.


Here you see the front of the dress. The clasp at the back neck will likely need to be tightened, since it is going to be asked to support the whole dress.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finally Back, and with a New Webpage Too!

After a short trip out of town, I am desperately trying to get caught up. My first job was to create a new webpage. It is now live. It is called:

Shorten a Pants Hem with a Cuff

Let me know what you think.

I am also in the process of rescheduling one or more of my classes. If you are thinking about coming, but haven't signed up yet, could you let me know what date you're considering? It's not a commitment, you understand. I'm just trying to figure out the best alternatives.
You'll find the sign up sheet here and the flyer with the information and schedule

Thanks so much for being patient. I have lots more stuff in the works, including possible classes for those who don't live in the Cincinnati area. Leave a comment if that might interest you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Move a Side Seam Zipper in a Dress

This dress was a little big across the top edge and chest area, but not in the waist. The front had no seams to take in, so the only option I had was to take in the sides a little. The problem? The zipper is a side seam zipper. I took in one side the standard way. I took in the other side by moving each half of the zipper slightly inward, without removing the zipper entirely. The bottom half of the zipper stayed where it was and I coaxed the top half slightly off-line in order to tighten the sideseam. The alteration was not even noticeable.

fraying bra strap

To begin with, I took the zipper stitching out, but only about halfway from the top edge down. The dress has a facing at the top, hiding the raw edges and the ends of the zipper tape. I had to remove a few of the topstitched stitches in order to free that edge.

fraying bra strap

I then realigned the zipper and pinned it into place. As you can see here, the zipper is moved in about ½". Then it gets tapered back into the original stitch line. I had to stitch the zipper into place using the invisible zipper techniques I explain in step 6 in the Invisible Zipper Tutorial

Sew new strap to front

I then folded the facing back down, right sides together and serged the excess seam allowance off. (The black you see here is the ribbon for hanging)

fraying bra strap

This shows where I need to replace the topstitching. The picture is deceptive. The ends really do meet evenly at the top of the zipper!

Sometimes, messing with the zipper sounds like a scary thing to do. It may be hard to get it to look right. In this case, though it was quite easy and took very little time.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I've created a tutorial on how to replace a jeans zipper.

Replace Jeans Zipper

It is live on the site, now. Click on the link above or on your left.
There are a lot of steps. Don't be put off by that. I included them to make it clearer.
I can usually replace a jeans zipper in about 30 minutes. With practice, you will be able to also.
Don't be afraid to give it a try. There is no cutting involved, so you really can't mess up your jeans. Just rip out your mistake and start over again.
With the price of jeans these days, it's worth a little practice to save those favorites.
Let me know how you do. Email me or leave a comment and I can help you if you get stuck.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I'm Offering Classes in the Cincinnati Area

Learning Alterations Classes

Here is a link to the page with information. Click where it says to view the July Class Flyer if you want information about which classes to take. You can take as many as you like. They're all different. Don't delay, though. There's a limit of 5 per class.

Please fill out a registration form first. Then you can pay through PayPal or send me a check.

I hope to see you in July!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Taking in Gigantic Sleeves

This customer happens to be my dear daughter. Although I'd never think to charge her, she pays me back with good deeds and favors. That's a great trade-off to me!

This shirt came with the largest sleeves I've ever seen. It looked more like a Gospel singer's robe. She asked me to make it more attractive.

take in sleeves

To begin with, I turned the top inside out. I then pin marked the amount of sleeve I wanted to remove, leaving it wide enough to fit with the style of the dress. Look closely and you can see my pin.

Ick...sorry for the lousy picture!

fraying bra strap

Next I sewed a new seam. I started at the pin mark and continued through the side seam and into the side. Since I was not taking in the side seam, I tapered my new line into the old line of stitching.

Sew new strap to front

The shirt is ready for her to try on. If the seam is correct, I will serge off the excess, then press the seam. Not a bad investment of time to make a cute shirt wearable, huh?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Look What's Inside This Formal

I worked on a formal today that had an unusual detail. It had horizontal boning at the empire waist seam. This is something I don't see very often, so I want to share it with you. It would be impractical for a busty girl to fit into this dress, since the bustline is so form fitting. However, it does give a little extra support. Personally, I think a waist stay provides much more stability and comfort.

boning at bustline

Here we see the inside of the dress. The combination of horizontal and vertical boning makes that bust area very fitted. Your choice of bridesmaid bodies is definitely limited!!

boninb at bustline

Here is the close up view at the side seam, showing how the two types of boning almost intersect.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Replace a Zipper on a Bubble Coat

Once in a while, you get to do a job that turns out really super. I replaced the zipper in this winter coat. It could have given me fits, matching all those horizontal seams, but this one went in beautifully. Thank goodness, because ripping stitching on that fabric is a pain.

coat zipper

Here is the whole jacket. Look at all those points to match: top of collar, base of collar, three horizontal seams, top of waistband, bottom of waistband! Wow!

coat zipper

Here's the top half close up. The top of the zipper looks off, but it's really just bending backward a bit.

coat zipper

And here is the bottom half close up. Whew, lots of attention to detail on this alteration. I'm very happy with the result.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Repairing a Vintage Blouse

This customer found a lovely peasant style vintage top at a second hand store. Unfortunately, it must have had some old dirt holding it together, because parts of it disintegrated when she washed it. She came to me wanting a piece of fabric over the top front, to hide the decaying parts.

top with hole

As you can see here, the front center section of the top is badly worn and parts are missing. The client bought a nice piece of soft cotton to go over the existing piece.

top with hole

This shows a closer view of the damage. I created a replacement piece that was wider than the seam-to-seam area needing replacement. Then I gathered it slightly across the top, and even less across the bottom.

top with hole

I folded under the sides and sewed them to the existing princess seam line. Then,, arranging the gathers, I got the top and bottom to fit into the princess area. Then I stitched across the top and across the bottom. Although the work was a bit tedious, I am very pleased with the results, and so is she!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

LearningAlterations Has a Facebook Page

The website now has a Facebook page located Here. Please stop by and click the "Like" button next to the name to become a fan. You'll find my blog updates there. I also have a couple of questions in the "Discussions" tab that you can comment on. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hem a Formal: You Can Change a Standard Hem to a Rolled Hem

This bridesmaid's gown was too long. It had a little train on it, so the designer hemmed the front section with the serged edge, blind hem method. The remainder back/train area was hemmed using a rolled hem technique. I opted to make the whole thing uniform by altering it using a rolled hem all the way around. It was much easier and looked prettier than the 1½" hem where you could see the small blind stitches on the right side.

hem formal

After pinning the hem up, I sewed a very narrow stitch along the folded edge, wrong sides together. You are looking at the dress from the inside here.

hem formal

Here is what this looks like when the first line of stitching is finished.

hem formal

Next, I cut the excess away, very close to the stitching line. Be careful here not to cut the stitches. Also be careful not to snip the front side of the fabric. I use sharp scissors and cut rather slowly, especially if the fabric is lightweight, like a chiffon.

hem formal

Next I folded the hem from the outside to the inside, essentially doubling it. Now the garment has a very skinny hem folded twice.

hem formal

Stitching again, very close to the folded edge, you will notice that you see two rows of stitching on the inside. But if you turn the garment to the right side, you will only see one. This is what you want. The full skirt hemmed with a traditional hem, will buckle when you try to fit in the hem allowance. This method allows for the underside to look as lovely as the outer side.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dress Wreck

Part of my business includes doing work for 2 local dry cleaners. Believe me, I see some really strange garments come through. The formal shown below had all of us laughing, so I thought I'd pass along the humor. Just promise me, if you see the lady wearing this dress, don't tell her about this post.

fraying bra strap

What do you think? Paper plates on shoulders? Ruffles gone wild? You be the judge!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Replacing an Invisible Zipper in a Sweater

Sweater tops often come with an invisible zipper at the neck, closing the mock turtle neckline. This lady tugged too hard on this one and it separated. Using the same process as I did in putting a new invisible zipper into a formal , I was able to give this sweater top some new life.

invisible zipper

As always, I spent a few minutes examining the garment. Sweaters can be tricky. You have to determine if the pieces have been knitted together or sewn by machine. I had to figure out what would happen when I started ripping the old zipper out.

invisible zipper

It looked to me like the "mock" turtle neck might be knitted together around the zipper. That would make this job a nightmare, if the fabric came unraveled as I ripped the zipper out. I also had to be careful ripping out the stitching. I did not want to accidentally start ripping out the yarns that were the basis of the sweater.

invisible zipper

It turns out that the facing and the fashion fabric were 2 separate pieces after all. Putting in the new zipper was pretty much routine.!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Adding Zippers to a Policeman's Vest

As most of us know, those in law enforcement have to rely on a lot of gear to help them in their jobs. Much of those items go on a belt, or two, that an officer wears. In addition to that, he will often wear a protective vest.

In this case, the officer had a difficult time getting his vest to fasten over all that bulk. He asked me to insert zippers in the side seams in order to give him more room.

fraying bra strap

To begin with, I ripped open the side seams with a seam ripper. This was a bit time-consuming because the vest was so well constructed!

fraying bra strap

I cut a black jean zipper down to size, by creating a thread stopper at the length I wanted, then cutting off the bottom excess. Then I basted this into place. Then I stitched it, using a jean needle.

Sew new strap to front

I think it turned out really well. As you can see, it zips from the waist upward until it reaches the snap. I'm happy to help out anyone who puts their life on the line for my safety. Thanks, officer!

Friday, May 21, 2010

A new Alteration Page is Live

I have written a L-o-n-g page on how to alter the waist in a pair of khaki pants. It includes instructions for adding a seam to the waistband. You can use these same directions to take in the waistband in a pair of jeans. Check it out at and see what you think!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Videos Demonstrating How to Repair a Hole in a Sweater

Today I have uploaded two videos that demonstrate how to repair a hole in a sweater. The first one uses white thread on a black knit, so you can see the stitches. The second one uses black thread on the same knit scarf, so you can see the finished product.
Feel free to add a comment and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fixing an Uneven Hem on a Prom Dress

Once in a while, a formal dress with many layers gets to the store with an uneven hem. This prom dress had 3 layers. The outer layer was polyester chiffon. The second layer and the lining layer were each a lightweight polyester. Together they look nice and create enough fullness to give a swirling look to the dress.
The trouble is, part of the second layer was peeking out from under the chiffon. You can see it here:

And here:

When pinning this up on the girl, I try to make the second layer about 1½" shorter than the chiffon. That way if it moves at all, when the girl moves, it will remain under the chiffon layer.
The lining layer (that closest to the body) should even be 1 or 2 inches shorter than that.
Here is what that may look like:

When all is finished, you don't notice how much difference there is between the layers, but you'll notice right away if the underneath layers are too long. Give yourself enough difference between the two so that the dress can shift and flow and still look well done.