I got a question from a reader yesterday that I thought would be great for you all to chime in and help answer.
I think we’ve all had to fix this problem at one time or another.
Here is her email:
I got a question from a reader yesterday that I thought would be great for you all to chime in and help answer.
I think we’ve all had to fix this problem at one time or another.
Here is her email:
I get asked this question alot.
So, let’s take an example.
This morning, I found a bag on my front porch.
Inside was a pair of workout pants:
The customer said there was a hole in the seam at the knee and would I stitch it up?
Here is a photo of the small hole:
Here’s what it looked like on the inside:
So, I switched the thread to black and put in a stretch needle and sewed it up:
When I have a small job like this, I like to see if there’s anything else that needs stitching up or reinforcing..
I noticed that the other knee seam was coming apart too:
So, I stitched it up as well.
That way, the customer is happy you went the extra mile for them.
Did I charge this customer?
This customer is my niece!
Personally, I don’t charge my family members.
And there are others I don’t charge.
Sometimes, I just want to bless them.
I may not want to charge a person for a small item if they are a first time customer.
They always come back with more alterations the next time.
So, when do you charge a minimum fee?
The bottom line is, you have to figure this one out for yourself.
You have to do what seems right and best for you.
I ask myself…”Do I feel comfortable charging for this?”
If the answer is “yes”, then I charge.
If it is “no”, then I don’t.
Now you’re wondering what amount to charge, right?
Ask yourself these questions…
“What is your time worth?”
“How much work was it to get the job done?”
Answering these questions, and any others that pop into your head, should give you a pretty good idea on whether or not to charge a minimum fee.
Here’s another good question from a reader…
Judy wrote: My question regards mistakes. I’ve never destroyed anyone’s item (thank goodness!) but I’ve always been afraid of messing something up, especially an expensive item, like a prom or wedding dress. Have any of you ever made an error like this? If so, what did you do?
Here’s my answer:
Yes, I’ve made two errors in the last 13 years. First, I ruined a man’s shirt once when I accidentally serged part of the shirt in a seam and it got cut off by the serger blade. There was no way to fix it, so I gave him the money to buy him a new one, along with a huge apology, of course. I simply asked him how much he had spent on his shirt and gave him the money. He was thrilled that I would pay for a new one. By giving him the cash, I didn’t have to go shopping and find him a new one. Win-win. (The second error is explained below).
There are two things I do before I begin working on a garment.
First, I pray before I start each alteration asking that God would help me pay attention and do my best work and keep me from making any irretrievable mistakes. By His grace, that hasn’t happened since. Now, I realize that that could have happened with a wedding gown or something else that was expensive, but I determined in my mind that if that were to ever happen, I would make it right. In other words, I would pay for a new garment or pay to have it fixed if it was possible.
Second, I always examine each garment well before the customer leaves my presence. That way, I can point out any flaw, defect, stain or problem the article of clothing has and that covers my back so that the customer knows it was not something I had done, while it was in my care.
Once, when I had finished a wedding gown and had my customer try it on, I noticed a pencil mark on the front of the gown. Knowing that I had checked the gown over very well before she left it in my care, I knew it had happened on my watch. So, I pointed it out to her and told her I would get the dress cleaned for her at the cleaner of her choice.
The pencil mark came out of the gown and it cost me $50, but it was a good lesson for me and I’m just so thankful it didn’t cost more than that to fix it.
I think the bottom line is to have confidence when you take a garment in. Have faith in your ability. Take your time (haste makes waste) and be careful. Mistakes happen when you’re tired, distracted, and/or in a hurry. You’re human. You will make mistakes, but the more alterations you do, the more confident you will feel sewing on different fabrics and garments. If you can, go to the fabric store and get a swatch of a fabric that is close to the one you’ll be working on and practice on that first. The more you do, the better you’ll get.
Now, let’s hear from you.
What do you do to minimize costly situations?
Each day, I receive many emails with great questions and today I thought I’d post one I received yesterday as well as the answer to it.
Here’s the question:
Hi Linda, I am making my daughter’s strapless wedding dress. I used the fabric store feather weight boning for the muslin corset . We got it fitted very well but I am wondering when the weight of the dress gets connected if this is the best boning choice. I have been researching the topic but am still undecided. Can you tell me what would be the best choice so she isn’t always pulling it up. We will be using a waistline stay but I want to do it right the first time! Ha! Thanks! Love your website. It is so helpful and very interesting. Mom with Question
First of all, kudos to this mom for making her daughter’s wedding dress! What a cherished memory for you both.
There are a couple of things I wanted to address in this question.
First, lets talk about the strapless dress in general and then we’ll address the boning issue.
Brides and their mothers often hope to find the perfect strapless dress that will not need to be “hiked up” at the bodice. Unfortunately, that is a rare find because gravity will always win in the end. Because the bust area is larger in circumference than the waist, it will always travel the road of least resistance and want to gravitate down towards the waist. There are some dresses that need tugging less often, and that has to do with the design of the dress and how it fits the bride. First, those dresses are designed with a high bodice. In other words, the dress sits high above the largest part of the bust (think: no cleavage and sitting closer to the collar bone than not. Certainly, it is not up to the collar bone, but it sits higher above the bust than most dresses) and second, that high bust area should fit snugly around the chest and underarm area. When altering the dress you have, just make it fit as snugly as possible, without being uncomfortable, and go with that. The bride will still have to tug, but not as often. She can experiment using double stick tape to hold the dress to the skin and see if that will help the problem. To eliminate the tugging problem altogether, you’ll need to add straps to the dress, but many brides don’t like that look. That’s why they bought strapless to begin with.
Now let’s talk about boning. This mom asked about whether her featherweight boning would be appropriate in her daughter’s gown. That depends. I would buy boning based on the weight of the fabric you are using. If you are using a heavy satin, you’d want a heavier boning. If you have a lightweight chiffon, a featherweight boning would be appropriate. The reason here is that you want it to function as much like the fashion fabric as possible.
But let’s look at another facet of the answer.
First, boning is inserted in a dress to give it rigidity through the vertical portion of the bodice. Without boning, the dress would have little support, much like a house needs walls to give it structure. However, thinking about the law of gravity again, boning only helps with the structure or the rigidity of the dress. It doesn’t keep the dress from falling down. With boning inserted, it just means that the dress moves with gravity all at the same time. It doesn’t slump down in one area and leave the rest smooth. Does that make sense?
Here is a link to my post on Fixing Boning Issues. It will give you a little more insight into some boning issues you might come across. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Thanks to all of you who have written in asking questions or leaving comments. I appreciate all your sweet words and I thank the Lord that this blog is such a wonderful resource to you!
Today is the 3rd anniversary of this blog and I thought you might like to know how it all started.
About seven years ago, a customer came to my door needing his suit jacket altered. As I spoke to him about the changes that needed to be made on it, he asked me if I had written a book on how to alter clothing. That was the spark. After thinking through the details, I realized that with the incredible amount of photos it would take to do the job well, no publisher would touch the project. It would just be too expensive to print. So, I put the idea on the shelf of my mind.
It wasn’t long after that when my friend, Sharon, asked if I wanted to take a blogging class with her to learn how to start a blog. I thought it would be fun to learn something new, but really didn’t think I would ever really follow through with it. The instructor asked us to each create a blog designed around a passion of ours. He asked us to think of some subject that we were interested in or that we knew something about. He also said it would be beneficial if our blogs were on a unique subject that not everyone else was writing about.
That’s when it hit me that I could blog about all this information that I had stored in my head just waiting to come out. There were a lot of details to setting up the format and learning how to use WordPress, but it wasn’t too difficult. The next challenge was coming up with a unique name for the blog. So, on April 27, 2009, Sewfordough was born!
This site is the culmination of 45 years of sewing experience. Most of the techniques you see here were learned from just doing what seemed to make sense. As you know, there are hardly any books on these subjects and the ones that are out there, don’t have enough pictures in them. So, the goal of this website was to make each step of every technique easy to follow and understand.
Many people ask me why I don’t charge for all this information and instruction. When I was setting up the blog, my husband helped me process through that. He is great at that. And great at helping me to set goals, looking at the motives behind what I do.
If you’ve been on this blog for any length of time you know about my faith. Well, one of the things I want to do is serve others with the gifts God has given me. I feel pretty blessed that He has given me so many incredible people and things in my life and I just wanted to say “thank you” to Him for that. My hope is that you have received great benefit from all you’ve learned and it is my prayer that your sewing business (or hobby) is thriving. So, that is my free gift to you.
But there is a free gift available to you that is much more important than this blog. It is the free gift of eternal life that Jesus offers to anyone who asks. Many people have heard of Jesus but they don’t know why He came to earth. He came to save us from our sin and give us the free gift of eternal life. But He doesn’t force His gift on us and we can’t pay for that gift by living a good life. And, we can’t earn our way to heaven because of our sin. But by the grace of God, Jesus came to earth to die in our place for our sins. Not everyone gets to go to heaven automatically. We have to receive His gift by placing our faith in what Jesus did on the cross and not on being a good person or doing good things. If getting to heaven had anything to do with us, then Jesus wouldn’t have had to come. The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast.” If you’d like to know more about this free gift and how Jesus can be personal to you in your life, just send me an email. It would be my privilege to talk about these things with you.
You can reach me at
This dress had two layers of satin and two outer layers of netting:
so I folded up the amount needed and pinned it in place:
as you can see, the amount that needs to be taken up is not even all the way around:
So, I couldn’t just cut off 2 inches.
I had to find a way to mark the new line.
If your netting (or tulle) is made of polyester, you can just use the iron and press the folded edge like this:
However, if the content is acrylic or acetate or some other heat sensitive fiber, I wouldn’t iron on it.
In fact, always test the iron on a section of the netting that you’ll cut off anyway to make sure your iron is set at the right temp before going on.
If you have a heat sensitive netting, I would hand baste a long running stitch to mark the line.
Once you have marked the line, slowly and carefully, cut the edge with a sharp pair of scissors:
On this hem, I decided to keep the hem folded because I was concerned that if I opened it up, the two pieces might move apart and then it would have been difficult to get it lined up again exactly where I had it.
If you are a little uneasy about this, just practice on a scrap first.
Just as I was getting ready to cut the netting, I got an e-mail from Christy.
You remember Christy. She owns an alteration shop in North Carolina.
She gave us the great tip on using rings when making a French Bustle.
Well, she told me that she now cuts her netting with her serger!
Just take the thread out of the serger and use the blade to cut the tulle:
She said it may dull the blade a little, but a new blade is worth the time it saves her from having to use scissors.
Give it a try.
(Of course, you’ll want to test it on a scrap first.)
Whether you use the serger or scissors, your hem will be just as straight as the satin hem below it:
If you are creating a gown from scratch, you can always use the rolled hem foot on your serger to stitch a decorative edge to the netting if you wish.
I have done that when making bridal veils and it is very pretty.
You can experiment with the tension, stitch width and stitch length to get just the right look.
Have fun with it.
This is a fast and easy way to make a professional looking rolled hem on your wedding gown, formal dress, blouse or on an accessory like a scarf.
In my first post on how to make a rolled hem, I used a rolled hem foot.
This method doesn’t use a rolled hem foot.
In fact, you don’t need any extra gadgets on this one.
First, fold up your hem and press it:
Stitch close to that folded edge.
I like to stitch 1/8″ away from the fold:
Then, as careful as you can, trim close to the stitched edge, on the wrong side of the dress, taking great care not to cut the dress:
Now, turn up the edge 1/8″ more and press:
Turn to the right side and stitch close to the edge, about 1/8″ away from the edge:
Once you are finished, you can look on the back side of the hem and see that there are the two lines of stitching:
Because there are two lines of stitching, I don’t typically like to use this method on see through fabrics that are sheer.
But it works great on satins, crepes, silks, cottons, most polyesters, etc.
But on the right side of the dress, you’ll see only one row of stitching:
I like to press the dress from the wrong side to ensure that there isn’t a “shine” from the iron.
That’s all there is to it.
See, I told you it was easy!
Here is a strapless gown that a customer brought in earlier this week:
Sometimes, I can just tack the dress up at random spots and stitch a bar tack in to hold up the hem.
Most of the time, that is how I hem these bubble dresses.
But this dress needed to be taken up 2-5 inches at various spots around the hem.
The bride tried this dress on, and I stuck pins in every 4-6 inches around the hemline:
Once I was ready to start the hem, I made myself a diagram to show myself how much needed to be taken up at the various points on the hem.
I make diagrams because I like the visual.
You may come up with a different system of transferring those measurements.
This is how my little diagram looked:
CF stands for Center Front. CB stands for Center Back. SS stands for Side Seams.
The four darker lines represent side center seams (princess seamlines).
The numbers near each of the lines represent how much needed to be taken up in inches.
Just remember that when you turn the dress inside out, check to make sure that you have the left and right sides of the dress correct. It may now be a mirror image depending on what system you used for keeping track of the measurements
When you look at the hem of a bubble dress, usually, the lining is attached to the dress at the bottom of the hem. The dress side has gathers and the lining side does not.
So, I opened up a seam somewhere where it wouldn’t show or be a bother to the bride.
Here, I decided to open up the center back seam:
When I pulled the dress inside out, I pulled that hemline seam as flat as possible before I began to measure what I need to take up.
Here at the center back, I needed to take up 5 inches, using my seam gauge, so I put a pin at that point:
When I put a pin in place, I poke it through the topside:
and then I poke it through the bottom so that I can see that the seamlines match up:
I’ll put a pin at each corresponding seam and at all the points in between.
You’ll find that this does not have to be done perfectly as you would for a regular dress hem.
In fact, I just begin sewing at the center back and “eyeball” it as I sew along, using the seam gauge to guide my sewing:
You’ll notice that you have much more dress fabric than lining fabric as you sew along, so you’ll need to work in gathers as you sew.
I suppose you could spend the time to stitch in a long basting stitch and pull those threads up, but it would take much longer and this method works just fine.
No one sees the gathers when the dress is hanging.
When you are finished sewing, trim the seam and turn the dress right side out.
Here are how my gathers look. (They aren’t too bad, are they?)
Once you turn the dress right side out, just machine stitch that opening closed.
And that’s all there is to it!
If you’d like to do any other alterations to a bubble dress,
here is a link to a post that I think you’ll find helpful.
The biggest fear people have in altering a bubble dress is how to get in and tackle it.
Once you know how to get into the dress, you just do the alteration the same way you do with other dresses.
Knowing that makes it much less intimidating.
Just have confidence in your ability and you’ll do great!
Have you found the perfect dress, but it won’t zip up in back? It looks and fits great everywhere else, but you just can’t zip it up?
Well, here’s an alteration you can do to fix that problem.
It’s called putting in a corset back and it looks like this when you are finished:
I do not do this alteration very often, but my friend Christy, who owns 2 alteration shops in North Carolina does them all the time!
She is the one who has given us the instructions for this alteration.
Here are some before and after photos.
She says, “It looks a lot harder than it is and girls are so amazed they think you are a miracle worker. It always fits, too, because it is self adjusting.”
She tells me that your dress must fit well between the two bust points in front in order for this to work.
So, if your dress fits well there, let’s proceed.
First thing you need to do is remove the zipper starting at the top, using a seam ripper. Just remove it as far as you need to, maybe down to the waist, maybe farther, if you need to.
As you take out the zipper and cut off the excess zipper tape, leave enough zipper tape to fold down just like you do when you put in a zipper. It will be covered by the lining later. (Don’t have lining in the dress? We’ll cover that situation later in this post.)
You are going to be making three items for this alteration: a modesty panel, ties and loops for the ties. None of them are difficult, so don’t be intimidated.
First, look at the back of the dress when it is on.
There will be the gap where the dress didn’t zip up. If that gap is only about 2 inches wide and only needs a few loops, make the loops smaller and the tie narrow so you can see that it does Criss-cross. You just have to decide what will look the best and what will be in proportion to how much gap you need to fill. If the dress has three or four inches in the gap, make the tie a little wider because it has more back to cover.
To make the tie, you can follow my post on How To Make Spaghetti Straps.
Christy makes the finished tie about 1/2 inch wide and about three yards long. That means you need to make sure you cut the strap double the width plus the seam allowance before you cut and sew it.
Once it is made, set it aside for now.
Next, we’ll make the loops.
Christy uses spaghetti straps to make the loops. “All the dresses come with them and most of the girls don’t want them, so I keep them to use for this purpose.”
If you don’t have the pre-made spaghetti straps, you will just make them like you would make spaghetti straps. “I just cut bias strips about one inch wide and join them together. I make one long tube and sew at about the 1/4 inch mark, trim the seam and turn.
Christy suggests making one long spaghetti strap about 1/4 inch wide and then cut it in 1 and 1/4 inch long segments.
“I cut the loops about one and a quarter inch long. That is longer than you really need, but it has to be covered by the lining and I like the ends to be close to the seam allowance. You will be pulling the tie through them and you don’t want them to break because of the stress. They need to be strong!
I draw a pattern on paper, using a corset that I took out of a dress I found at Goodwill.
You want your loops to be exactly the same width and distance apart for both sides so they match up. If you don’t use a pattern, you may get some loops too fat and it won’t look good. I sew the loops on the paper straight down the middle and then peel it away from the paper.
Starting at the top, pin the first loop in. Don’t leave a large opening. You don’t want the loops to pull. Just leave enough opening for the tie to fit through and fit snug. When you insert the next one it should overlap the first one and make an X on the underside. They look like they are one beside the other, but they are really overlapping.
Pin them all in leaving the lining free. Sew close to the edge with tight stitches just like you do when you put in a zipper. If the dress has beading, I walk the needle over them. Do the same to the other side and make sure the loops match up. They must be identical! If the dress has lining, sew it back down just like you would when putting in a zipper.
If the dress doesn’t have lining, I use satin ribbon to cover the raw edges of the loops:
Here’s a view from the right side:
(You can make the loops and stitch them in, in one continuous step without cutting them, but I think it looks better when they cross over each other. I don’t like the loops to stick out away from the dress that much. I don’t even want to notice the loops.)
Here are some pictures I found on the internet. Some of them look good and some look bad. If the loops are too far from the fabric and the tie is pulling it looks bad. You will see what I mean.
Here is a good one:
Here is one that isn’t good. See how far out the loops are when it is tied?:
Here are a few photos of a modesty panel:
To make the modesty panel, I just make a wide wedge V-shape from the main fabric. Fold fabric right sides together with the top of the wedge on the fold line and then cut in a wide V shape wider and a little longer than the width and length of the dress opening. It is just like a gusset but the top and bottom is straight across, not pointed. The top is wide and it gets narrower as it gets to the bottom.
The basic shape that you would cut out of your fabric looks like this:
When you fold it along the foldline, your modesty panel will be a double thickness and that foldline will be at the top and the narrower end at the bottom.
Before I sew the sides and bottom closed, and before I turn it, I add covered boning to one side (the lining side of the panel) or I add a heavy interfacing for stability. As you can see, the boning is straight across starting at the top and added about every two inches. You don’t have to go down too far. It’s just for stability.
The red modesty panel (first of the two red ones above) photo is easier to see how the boning is on the lining side, but not on the outside. I sew it on the wrong side of the lining before I sew the fabric and lining together. When you turn it right side out, the boning is encased. Some do have the boning on the side facing out, as you can see from the picture of the ivory one:
I attach it on the left side (just tack it on) and leave the right side loose.
I usually hand sew the lining down after I put the loops on because I only want to sew down the dress one time so it is really neat. I find it hard to sew the loops, the modesty panel and catch the lining all at the same time.
Some even snap on so they can take it out if they don’t want it.
Another additional point: “I have taken some dresses in at the sides, even if it fits, so that I could make a corset back and it would show off the laces. This works well if the dress fits in the waist but won’t zip all the way up.”
Well, there you go. Now you have the step by step instructions to go and make your dress fit perfectly.
Another option, if you don’t want to put in a corset back, is to put in gussets on each side of the dress under the arm.
To learn how to do this option, click on How to Put in Gussets.
I haven’t written in almost a month. Not because I didn’t want to.
I was preoccupied with altering a bridal gown.
I should have known that taking in 8 inches at the bust was going to prove to be difficult.
Isn’t there an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t take in more than like three inches or something?
This dress was a size ten and I think the bride is a size zero.
To complicate matters, there was a band sewn in around the top edge of the dress.
As in many strapless dresses, the front was higher than the back, so when you take it in at the side seams, the new seams don’t match up.
Here’s a drawing of the side view of a gown:
If you take in an inch from the front and back, which is a total of 2″ (I just folded the paper along the side seamline to make the point here), you can see that the band doesn’t line up now.
Neither does the dress itself:
My alteration was double the amount of the one in the photo above.
Plus there was beading involved.
But those were the least of my problems.
Here’s how it looked midway through the project:
The band is lining up fairly well with the main body of the dress. I’ll need to tweak it a bit, but do you see the “sagging” at the bottom of the photo?
My next challenge was to pull the band down lower on the dress to take that excess out of the dress and get it to lay smoothly.
This was much more difficult than I thought it would be.
The more I pulled it down, the less circumference of the band I had to work with.
Eventually, it worked.
I also added some boning to give her support on that side seam.
The manufacturer had added the original boning to the inter lining (yes, it’s a third layer…not the dress, not the lining,, but another layer.)
The interlining was made of self destructing fabric (ha!) and there wasn’t much of it to begin with. So, I needed to use some Fray Block on it to save what I could.
I would have loved to tear it all out and get rid of it, but time was of the essence and I knew whichever way I went, it was going to take time. (Oh, maybe I should have just cut it out! Hmm. Hind sight is always 20/20, isn’t it?)
I think my mind was on getting ready for Christmas and not stressing out!
Haven’t you had alterations like this before?
The farther you dig in to the garment, the more work you find to do?
I don’t run into this very often, but this was just one of those times.
Notice in the photo above that the band seam is now not perpendicular to the floor.
That is because it wouldn’t match up if I did that.
Thankfully, this seam was under her arm and mostly covered with the applique when finished, so no one cared. Or noticed.
I forgot to mention that I also had to take up the hem.
It had horsehair along the bottom and a huge train (which I didn’t have to alter, thankfully)!
The bride had a rough work schedule, but we got her fittings in when we could, sometimes at night.
I finished the day before Christmas Eve!
There were bridemaid alterations that had to be done the following Monday and the wedding was Tuesday!
What about you, have you ever had a project that consumed you or stressed you out to the point that you didn’t think you could finish it on time?
I’d love to hear about it.
Also, are you making any New Year’s resolutions?
I think you know mine!!!!