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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A New Webpage: Fitting Room Interviews

Fitting Room Challenges

Do You Know How to Talk to a First Time Client?

When a client come to you with an alteration she wants to have done, you have more things to think about than just pinning up a hem. You actually have to interview “the job”.
My new webpage Fitting Room Interviews explains some of the techniques you can use to make sure both you and your client are happy with the job. Go check it out and let me know what you think.

Oh, and I am in the process of redesigning the website. It needs lots of polish at this point, so please bear with me.

As always, thanks for reading. Leave a comment at the end of this blog post, or in the “Contact Me” tab on the sidebar on the left.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Great News! The first of my videos is on my site and ready for purchase.

You will find it on my site here: at

Although this video is close to 27 minutes long, the introductory price is only $5.00

I actually alter a customer's pair of jeans. She needs to have the waist taken in (that gapping problem so many of us have). I take off the beltloop, split the waistband, and put it all back together so that you can't even tell. You see every step.

Please check it out and let me know what you think. For $5.00 you really can't go wrong, right?

*When you pay through PayPal, you don't need to have an account there. Just click at the bottom where it says "Don't have a Paypal account?" ** Be sure to click all three of the orange buttons PayPal asks you to click.

"Review and Complete", then

"Pay Now", then

"Complete Purchase"

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ever Have Your Skirt Lining Rip All the Way up the Center Back?

Edited  3/26/13
This alteration is now available on video at

The lining on this skirt was really tight. Lining fabric doesn't have any give in it anyway, so this one just split beside the seam. The rip was several inches up from the hem, along the seamline. I had to add fabric to give the girl some room for movement. That is called a gusset.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Making a Really Tight Dress Fit Better

Sometimes you really have to get creative. This prom dress would not even close when the girl put it on. It had been previously altered and the seams (including those around the zipper) had been snipped. She was in love with the dress and wearing it to prom was her only focus. Ohhh, to be a teen again....

Pin Seam Allowance to Zipper Tape The zipper had been originally stitched on the right side of the dress, even though it is an invisible zipper. I'm seeing a lot more of this lately. I think the word is out to manufacturers that those zippers are weak and unreliable. So I could get about 1/2" out of each side of the center back seam. You can see this by the folds and the needle holes. Since that was not enough, I actually exposed the zipper tape. This got an additional 1/2". That gave her 1 1/2" total, just enough for her to zip the dress and head to prom.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Create a "Tall Man" Tie

This client happens to be my husband. I really don't get much in the way of payment from him, but he is awfully patient with my time schedule! He has a very long torso and a large neck size. These two things combine to make it a real challenge to find ties that fit . When we find something that's close, I can work some magic to help the tie look longer.


Here is the tie as it originally came. Although it says XL, it really is not much longer than a regular size.

Of course I have already had him try on the tie. He tied it so that the finished length is correct. That means that the smaller part underneath is really small and doesn't reach the label. I start by removing that label.

Then I move the label to the spot marked in the first photo. Hand stitching is fine for this minor operation.

And here is the finished product. It's the best way to make a bad situation better. Tall ties are not very easy to find, and when you do find one, you better like the style...and the price. This way he gets more variety and it's easier on the wallet.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Another Non Sewing Tool in My Sewing Room

What's next on my list of unconventional sewing tools? An IV pole!! I went to a medical supply store and bought a used one. Yes, they thought I was crazy, but it's perfect for my needs. The hanger slides easily into the hook area and it even has wheels!

From a distance, you can see that this dress would be a pain to press without someone or some thing holding it up. Since, like many of you, I work by myself, I needed help. I want to hold the dress upright while pressing the skirt sections.
IMG_1746.JPG This close up view lets you see how nicely the skirt lays on the ironing board. It is free to drape down the sides a bit too, without being distorted by the weight of the dress.The dress stays off the floor, so there's no risk of dirt or threads messing up the finish.

The IV pole is wonderful for several reasons. Number one, it is adjustable. If I am pressing a wedding gown or formal I can raise it (and the dress) so that the train or skirt fits on the ironing board without dragging the rest of the dress. You can see the adjuster knob in the first photo.

Here's the top of the pole. See how easy it is to hang a hanger? The pole will swivel on its wheels, or I switch the hanger position, as I rotate the dress around for pressing.

So don't be afraid to repurpose something if it suits your needs! Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Are You Using the Right Size Needle?

It wasn't until I sewed a few inches on this hem that I realized that I hadn't changed my needle. I usually use a large needle that will go through most anything. I only change when the garment is delicate. Below you see why.

The needle is puncturing the fabric, not poking in between the threads. My stitches are actually distorting the fabric. Sometimes this is caused by a dull needle. Today, I know it is the size. I forgot to adjust for this bridesmaid dress.
IMG_1790.JPG Here's a little clearer view. Since the needle is poking the thread, rather than going through the weave, it pulls the threads, leaving those lines. They are not repairable. They are permanent.
IMG_1789.JPG Luckily, they are not visible from a distance. The client will not know my mistake. Whew! And I caught the trouble early enough that it only affects a small part of this hem job. Sometimes when you have done a job like this so many times, you get complacent. Avoid that at all cost, so your quality remains its best.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Flapper" Dress Needs a Little Tweaking

Today's client has a lovely shape that was hidden by the improper fit of this dress. Since she had a definite waist curve, the dress fit better after I took in the sides just a bit. As you can see, though, the extra detail made it a little more difficult.Sorry that I do not have a full length photo of the dress. It would remind you of a flapper, with the black lace at the bodice and thin layers of fabric running horizontally down to the hem.

After pinning the garment on the lady, I transferred pin marks to the inside of the dress. As best I could, I felt for the placement of the layers so I could align them before sewing. Basting this new seam would be another option to keep the layers matched.
IMG_1767.JPG You can see here that the new seam looks pretty good. Originally, the layers were not perfectly matched. However, the client may not know this (I didn't point it out at the fitting) and I don't want her to think I didn't care enough to do a better job of matching.
IMG_1769.JPG The dress is a polyester fabric and these layers are not hemmed. They need to be light and swirly so that the dress "shakes" when she moves. So I can careful trim a bit off of the layers that are mismatched and taper that into the side seam.
IMG_1764.JPG Here is a picture of the result. Each layer matches better than it did originally and the dress looks perfect. Trimming those ends a little bit sure beats ripping and redoing two side seams and using trial and error to get results that may never be perfect. I'm very happy with the finished dress!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Buttonhole Tip for a Manual Buttonholer

One of my sewing machines is a beautiful industrial machine that I use for light manufacturing. If I can guide the fabric, it will do all the rest, including automatically trimming the thread! Some times it even makes my lunch for me (ok, not really). It is so great for all these things because that is all it does.

One of my other machines is a nearly 30 year old Bernina. It's been tried and true for thousands of alterations and it's still going strong. It has a 5 step buttonhole maker that was state of the art for a mechanical machine back in the day. Today, a lot of machines are electronic and buttonholers are automatic.

I don't create a lot of garments anymore. Alterations keep me pretty busy. I don't miss the buttonhole functionality much. When I do have to make buttonholes, I have found a way to make them uniform. It involves a non traditional sewing notion called electrical tape!

I start with a chalk line marking the center of the buttonhole. After determining the distance from the edge that I am placing the buttonhole, I place a piece of tape where the top of it will land. I then measure the length of the buttonhole, as you see here. I put a piece of tape where the bottom of the buttonhole will land.

Since this is the top of a new curtain for my sewing room, I want the buttonholes to be even. I tried using Scotch tape, but it didn't show up too well. The blue tape makes it was to see where my machine needs to stop.

Now I let my machine do the work. It doesn't hurt to sew into the tape once or twice. It will dull your needle just a little faster than normal, though.
IMG_1721.JPG And the finished product! Now this fabric was a sturdy twill for a curtain that closes off one wall of my fitting room. Of course you will want to try the tape on a piece of scrap to make sure you don't damage or stretch the fabric. I haven't had any trouble, though. It is much easier to reposition if the first try doesn't work, and it's easier to see than a line of chalk or fabric marker.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Conversation on Taking up Shoulders with Bias Binding

I had a nice conversation with reader Ann this week. Here is our correspondence. She actually clarified the instructions I had given her. Sometimes what I type and the ideas I want to covey are not always the same. It's nice to see a success story!

thanks for this website! Very generous of you! My question is this: how does one handle bias trim when taking up shoulder strap on a tank top- you end up with excess trim at shoulder when take in the shoulder and it looks ugly if you cut the trim and sew one end on top of the other. Hope this makes sense! Thank you!

Hi Ann

Thanks for your kind words! That's such a great question. I haven't done that alteration in quite a while. What I can suggest, is to rip the stitching where the bias binding is attached to the shirt. Go further than you need to, so it is unattached 1 1/2" or so past the new shoulder seam. That way you have a little extra room to manipulate. Next, put right sides together (you have to "flip" the ends inside out) and stitch your bias tape seam right sides together. Trim seam allowance, flip back, press seam open, then position next to the shoulder area. Stitch it to the t shirt in the same way it was originally. This sound a little confusing, as I reread! I hope it makes sense to you. See if it works to reduce that bulk. Please keep in touch and let me know how that works.

Hi Maripat,

Thanks for your reply! I think you were saying that I should spread open the bias trim as wide as it will go (i. e. open up the fold) and then seam it to take up the excess. Then once the bias trim seam is trimmed etc. fold it over the garment edge (which has also been taken in) and apply it to the garment edge like before. No need to respond to this unless I'm way off base as now that I've written it down I think I get it! I'll let you know how it goes! Thanks so much for taking the time to respond! Regards, Ann

And finally she writes...

Maripat, Thanks so much- that technique worked very well-and it looked so much better than my previous unprofessional looking attempts. I'll continue to peruse your site! Thanks again! Ann

Go tackle something new this week. Practice on an old garment if you want to. You will surprise yourself at how well you can accomplish a new goal. Leave a comment if you've been brave this week!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How to Hem Stitch by Hand

Some folks feel that they cannot start an alterations business because they do not have a variety of sewing machines. That is simply not true. Hemming is a perfect example. You can easily make a very conceiled hem, using the following instructions. Take care to space your stitches very evenly. Then if they show slightly they will be consistent. Many clothing shops and alterations places will charge extra for a hem put in by hand. After all, fine handwork is one sign of professional couture.

After tucking the thread knot under the hem allowance, I come up through the serging stitches. I then carefully insert the needle into the fabric, picking up 2 stitches. On a fine fabric it can be one, but on most fabrics, that may cause the single stitch too much stress. It could pull, or possible break the stitch.

The right side of the fabric will look something like this. You will see the sparkle of the needle, but not too much of it. If the needle looks too visible, you have taken up too many stitches. It is a warning that your hem stitches will show.

While I am still grasping the needle in the same position, after taking a stitch in the fabric, I take another one under the hem allowance. This will become one smooth stroke as you improve your skills. I then come up again through the serging.

The final product should look like this. Of course your fabric may prevent you from totally conceiling the stitches. But if you match your thread color well and take care to make your stitches evenly spaced and uniform, you will get a professional look.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Double Work for Replacing This Jean Zipper

I have never seen a zipper constructed like This. It honestly wasn't too much different than replacing a regular jean zipper. But sometimes ya just gotta ask "Why?"

Jean Zipper with Extra Fly

At first I was confused by this extra fabric. What is going on here? Of course I had to take my own instruction, here. I begin almost every tutorial with Step One: Examine the Garment.
Jean Zipper with Extra Fly

After a closer look, I determined which stitches to rip out and where to place the zipper. Everything had to be attached to the inside fly area.
Jean Zipper with Extra Fly

Lastly, I had to attach the fly to the outer pant area and topstitch. Do you know why they made this like it is? Leave me a comment if you have it figured out!

Friday, March 9, 2012

What Goes on at a Fitting with the Stitchin Magician?

Today you get to see a little bit of my fitting room. We have converted the dining room of our home to an office/fitting room. I have 2 mirrors covering the corner area. I have two bridesmaids today (one is taking these photos). They have dress with the same fabric, but different designs. The first one needs only a hem. The second one needs what I call Major Surgery. We'll catch up with that fitting with Amy another day.

Here you can see that most of my fitting work puts me on the floor. I actually prefer to work without a platform for the client to stand on. My hem marker is sitting off the the right, next to my desk. I have already made a line of pins where the client wants the new hem to be. After that, I pin the excess under, like it will be in the finished hem. That way she can look at herself and the dress and see if it's what she wants. I tell people, it's easy to change your mind now, so be honest about your feedback.
IMG_1726.JPG Here I am almost finished pinning the excess up underneath the dress. This dress has a distinctive flare, a few inches short of where the new hem will lie. I have advised the client that this flare will be somewhat exaggerated with the new length. The area from where the flare begins to the new hem is small, only 5 or 6 inches. We agree that it will create a kind of "babydoll" look. She thinks that's cool, so I finish up the fitting.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How Do I Get Inside this Coat Lining??

This post is in response to an email I got yesterday from Kathy. She writes:
Great site! Here's my dilemma- I have a men's suit coat; the two pockets are torn from the outside corners, approx one inch down. Hands in pockets, anyone? Should I separate the lining from the jacket, stabilize the tear with fusible interfacing then stitch with a narrow machine zigzag, or hand sew from the outside and hope for the best?

I advised her against hand sewing. This is obviously a point of stress on the garment, so hand stitches won't hold. I would also use a three step zigzag, if you have one. I use it for all my mending.
Below I show photos of how to get into the lining so the client will never know.

First of all, you need to turn the sleeve inside out. With the lining showing, rip the stitches from the underarm lining seam to create a "hole" about 5 or 6 inches long. This is your point of entry.
So here you see how big the hole is that we created. If you are working on something in the body of the coat, like Karen is, you can reach all the way up the sleeve, through the armhole and down into the jacket. The only time this doesn't work is when the armhole stitching connects the lining and coat.
Now you can insert your hand. Here I am working on the sleeve hem. I only need to reach in toward the sleeve bottom. I will then grasp the area to be sewn and pull it through the hole, so I can work on it without disturbing the rest of the coat.
After doing the sewing, push all the coat part back into their original positions. Make sure the lining is not twisted. Align the seam edges and sew close to the edge, as shown here. Turn the sleeve right side out and you are finished. The client will never know. After all, who checks out the inside of their sleeve lining anyway?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Have You Ever Said "Pass" on a Job?

At first glance this looks like a typical Formal alteration. The shoulder need to be pulled up and the hem needs to be shortened. A closer look, however, tells me I really need to interview this job, to see if I want to take it on. It turns out I did something here that is truly rare for me... I declined.

Chiffon Formal Nightmare

This is a beautiful mother of the bride dress, made from a very lightweight silk chiffon. The place where the lady bought it does alterations, but were going to charge her in the $130.00 range to shorten it, and an additional cost for taking up the shoulders. Our conversations revealed that she had been to 4 places, getting estimates for the alterations.
Chiffon Formal Nightmare

So I look at the hem and realize that all of these panels are individual and need to be individually shortened and the curves recreated. This would have been less of a problem if they had been free from the dress, kind of like streamers, hanging from the waist.
Chiffon Formal Nightmare

But no, they are all attached to one another, with multiple layers of lining beneath. Each has to be disconnected from the next, shortened, reshaped and then reattached.
Chiffon Formal Nightmare
Another nightmare for the shoulder area, because there is no shoulder seam. Sometimes this is not a problem, but this dress requires that I add a shoulder seam. The client is ok with this, but upon reflection, it was better for her to pay the store to alter it. Their tailors are paid by the hour, not the job. I would have lost money accepting this job!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Take in Sides of a Knit Shirt

Today's job was to take in the sides of 3 thermal shirts for a gentleman. In order to accommodate his long arms, he has to buy shirts that are too big in the body. This larger size does give him the length he wants, though. Below you see me taking in 4" on each side of the shirt. That's right, a total of 8" is coming off the torso.

I started at the hemline, making sure the top and bottom of the shirt are perfectly aligned. I had made a small chalk mark here, which is not visible from this camera angle. It is 2" from the existing stitching.
take in shirt I know I want my needle to end up where the sleeve meets the side seam, so I am just picturing a diagonal line going from hem to armhole. If you are more comfortable using pins or chalk to mark your line, feel free.
take in shirt My needle meets the armhole stitching. On thermal knits, as well as other sportswear, the seam is a flatfell seam. It is constructed by a machine that leaves no seam allowance on the inside of the fabric. I have to blend my stitches into this area. The underarm will hide any slight imperfections.
take in shirt Another view of the armhole area. I have tapered my stitching into the sleeve just a bit to give it a smooth transition. Then I'll serge the edges. I won't get any money from this client. It's ok, though. My son pays me with a smile and a hug and that's worth more than the green stuff any day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

You Want Me to Shorten the Pants How Much?

IMG_1554.JPG by
IMG_1554.JPG, a photo by on Flickr.

Sometimes ya just gotta laugh at the things people give you to alter.
This pair of pants came to me from one of my dry cleaners. 1/8"? Really? Hmmmm.

I've been wayyy behind in my online work lately. My time has been spent making videos for display on the webpages connected with this blog. will be getting some new videos soon. I am also planning some webinar type classes that you can either join in live, or watch as a recording.
Let me know what you think. Leave me a comment on the comment page, or drop me an email.
Thanks for your patience, as I move in this new direction.