An Alteration Dilemma

I received a good question via email today.

It concerns taking in a garment where the customer has lost a lot of weight.

How much work is too much? Long story short: it’s whatever the customer is willing to pay for.

Here is the question I received:

“I need to alter scrub jackets for a woman who lost 22 pounds after she purchased them. They are embroidered with the dental clinic she works for, so she can’t return them. These jackets have snaps in the front, they aren’t pullover tops. They are too wide in the shoulders, the sleeves are too long and too big around. My concern is is that she is very large busted. They have set in sleeves. So, my question is, should I remove the sleeves, shorten the shoulder seam, reattach the sleeves, cut off the length needed to shorten the sleeves from the bottom of the sleeve (they have ribbing cuffs) and reattach the cuffs, then take in the side seams, making sure to leave room for her to snap them closed when needed? I tried taking one in by just basting in the side seams and sleeve, but there is still too much fabric at the underarm. Would appreciate any help you can give, thank you.”

My answer:

This is a great alteration question because there are a few things to think about when taking on a job like this. First, in order to do all of the things you are thinking of doing, it could cost the customer two or three times what a new scrub jacket would cost (assuming you are charging enough for your work!) If the customer is ok with that, then doing all of those things is possible, but it is difficult to get a great fit if you basically have to remake the top. This post explains what I’m talking about a little more in detail:

https://sewfordough.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/taking-in-a-dress-thats-5-sizes-too-big/

So, let’s say she doesn’t want to pay that much to alter each of these scrub tops. You also want to consider what you can do to get the most bang for her buck. In this case, I would take as much out of the side seams and sleeves as I could, not tampering with the cuffs, as I don’t think it’s necessary. Once you’ve taken out what you can, maybe let the rest go. This post shows a hand drawn diagram that outlines what part of the sleeve and side seams need to be taken in:

https://sewfordough.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/taking-in-side-seams-and-facings/

You may need to take in much more than the diagram shows. Yes, the jackets may be still too large, but they are going to be a lot better than what she started with. It’s up to you and the customer to decide how much work is worth doing for scrub tops. Maybe fit for her is a greater priority than price and she’d like for you to take them apart and put them back together again, but I don’t think they’ll ever fit perfectly. She’d do better to buy new ones. So, perhaps alter the sleeves and side seams of one of them and see how she likes it before you do all of them. That will give you a better handle on what your customer wants.

I hope that helps!

How to Replace a Jean or Pant Zipper

You know it’s time to replace a zipper when the teeth are missing or the zipper tab has pulled away from the teeth, like this one:

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It’s almost impossible to put the tab back on the track.

(But if the tab has broken off and the zipper is still intact, you can always just replace the tab. You can find replacements at most large fabric stores or online.)

This method works on jeans, slacks and skirts.

If you want to know how to replace a jacket zipper, see this post.

Before you begin, measure the length of the existing zipper.

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As you can see, I’ll need at least a 6 ” zipper for this pair of slacks. If you only have a longer zipper, go ahead and use it. Later, I will show you what to do with a zipper that is longer than the measured area.

If you can, ask your customer to measure the zipper, buy the one they like and bring it with them to the first appointment. I don’t like to have inventory of these on hand because I never know what size or color the customer would like, or if their first choice is even available. It’s much easier and less stressful to have them buy the one they’d like. That saves you time and hassle and you’ll have the one they like.

The zipper color does not have to match the fabric since it won’t be seen, once the garment is worn.

Once you have your zipper on hand, take it out of the package and set it aside.

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Start ripping out the old zipper, paying close attention to how it was installed.

You’ll want to make mental notes of each step so that you can insert the new zipper in the same way the old one was put in.

This area at the bottom of the zipper is usually sewn in with a tight zig zag stitch or bar tack stitch. Be careful when removing these stitches as they are sewn in very tightly:

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You can see that the top of this zipper was cut off. There is no problem with that because the top of the zipper will be stitched into the slacks so that the tab can’t come off at the top.

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Next, rip out the area of zipper where the pull tab is now in this photo:

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Notice there is a double row of stitching here.

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This photo below, shows how I’m almost finished ripping out both sides of the zipper:

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Once you have the old zipper removed from the pants, insert the new zipper and begin to pin the left side as shown below:

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Make sure you tuck the top of the zipper between the waistband and the front of the slacks. If it is too long, you can cut it, leaving an inch or so longer than what you need.

Next, I fit the front of the slacks over the pinning I just did, pulling out the pins as you sew. You can line up the zipper with the stitching holes left behind by the old zipper. Stitch right over the same holes where the original zipper was sewn. Use a denim or heavy duty needle, if you have one.

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Continue stitching to the bottom of that section, pulling the top fabric until it meets about 1/8″ from the zipper teeth as you sew. You’ll know when to stop.

Now turn the pants upside down like in the photo below. This just makes it easier to pin the next section.

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Now, flip just the zipper tape on the left side over to the right side, like this below:

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Line up the zipper tape with the old sewing holes on the right side and pin. Stitch it in place, sewing over the old holes, or if you can’t see those, stitch about 1/4″ away from the zipper teeth being careful to remove the pins, but don’t move the zipper tape as you sew.

On the outside, stitch just along the curve edge and stop about 3″ and backstitch to lock in your stitches. See photo below.

If you were to stitch all the way up to the waistband, you would sew the pants shut and you wouldn’t be able to put the slacks on! So, jsut sew about three inches. When you took the old zipper out, you probably noticed how they were done that way originally.

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Once you backstitch and trim off your threads, pull the pants away from your machine and fold under the right side of the zipper, so that the right side doesn’t get caught up in the remainder of your stitching and continue stitching up to the waistband.

I forgot to take a photo of this step, but you can look at the very last photo and see what the stitching line should look like.

At this point, your waistband is still loose and open on each side.

If you have jeans, you can topstitch the waistband on in a matter of seconds.

Notice that on these slacks, the waistband is not topstitched down. Some of you will want to topstitch it because it is fast to do so, but I don’t like the look of a partially topstitched waistband. I like to hand stitch the opening:

 

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Then I stitch in the “ditch” where the two fabrics meet, as in the photo below. I went ahead and stitched it so you can see the stitches out in front of the needle. Those stitches will basically be hidden. You won’t notice them if you stitch as shown below:

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Do the same on both sides of the waistband.

Many times the button is loose even before you start working on the zipper. I like to tighten that up or resew it as a courtesy to the customer.

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There you have it….a new zipper easily installed!

 

 

 

How to Sew a Zipper into a Pillow, the Easiest Way Ever!

Yes, there are many tutorials online that teach how to put a zipper in a pillow.

But this method is Different. Easier. 

As I stitched up some pillows recently, I wondered if there was already a post out there with these instructions. To my amazement, there weren’t any. So I thought I’d share that with you today, along with some helpful tips that will save you time and trouble.

First, choose your fabric. Buy enough fabric to cover the front and back of each pillow you are making.

Buy a zipper (regular or invisible). I buy a zipper at least two inches shorter than one side of the square of fabric.

For example, if I’m making a 16″ pillow, I use a 14″ zipper. You’ll see why later.

If you have to cut your zipper down, do. Just make sure you stitch across the zipper teeth several times at the correct length so that your zipper tab doesn’t fall off while you’re constructing the pillow!

I am using a regular zipper in this tutorial.This is so that if you don’t have an invisible zipper foot, you can see how to insert the zipper.

Buy a pillow form for each pillow, make your own, or use one from a previously used pillow that’s still in good shape.

Measure the pillow form.

Most tutorials will tell you to cut the fabric one inch larger (all the way around) than your pillow form.

I’m here to tell you that you’ll be sorry if you do.

The finished pillow will look too baggy.

Cut the fabric one inch smaller than the form. You read that right… smaller!

For example, if your pillow form is 20″square, cut the fabric 19″ square.

I usually like to finish the edges with a serger, but you can use a zig zag stitch if you don’t have a serger.

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Next, place your zipper (invisible zipper or regular zipper) face down (right side of zipper to right side of pillow fabric), centering it on one side of the fabric square.

Using a zipper foot, stitch 1/4″ away from the zipper teeth all along the  zipper.

Make sure your needle is on the correct side of the zipper foot so that you don’t run over the zipper tab when you get to it.

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Turn the zipper so it is facing up and away from the pillow fabric as shown:

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Now, lay the other pillow fabric square on top of this one, right sides together, matching the edges. Pin. See photo below:

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Stitch 1/4″ away from the teeth, on the unsewn side.

Be sure to take out pins before you sew over them.

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Now, unzip the zipper part way. If you don’t, you’ll stitch the zipper inside and it will be tough to get it unzipped to turn the pillow right side out.

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Next, match the three remaining sides of the pillow squares, so that the edges line up.

Now, line up the zipper edges.

Start sewing on the zipper edge of the pillow about 1/2″ away from the zipper stitching toward the inside of the pillow.

Stitch around the 3 non-zipper sides and stop as indicated in the photo below:

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I know it seems strange that your stitching doesn’t match up with where you stitched the zipper on, but this is why this method is so awesome…you don’t have to line up your stitching and you don’t have to worry about the zipper teeth or the tail of the zipper showing!!!

Now, reach in and turn the pillow right side out and look at the zipper!

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Here is the view with the zipper closed:

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I made three of these pillows recently, and it took no time at all.

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See how nice and full they look?

And you don’t see the zippers on the bottom.

Bam! Done!

 

How To Add Lining and Hem Your Drapes or Curtains

Finding drapes in the color, length and fabric you need is not an easy task, unless you get them custom made. But that is expensive.

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I found a set of drapes in the color and style I wanted, but the length was too long. Also, when I stood on the curb outside, they didn’t look good because the window in the bedroom next to this one had white lined drapes. Maybe you aren’t concerned with that type of thing, but it stuck out like a sore thumb to me.

Back inside the house, I decided to hem them and line them in white to match the other window, Because it’s the guest room, I thought it might be nice to line them with “block out” or “black out” fabric so that whoever is sleeping there, wouldn’t be blinded by the early morning sun.

You can use most any type of fabric for lining. JoAnn’s sells a brand called Roc Lon. It is Dry Clean only. So, if you can wash your drapes, choose a lining fabric that is washable. Cottons are the most common. Check with your local fabric store for ideas.

I found some decent block out fabric by the yard and on the roll at Joann Fabrics. I chose it partly because it was a little wider than the width of each drapery panel, which would mean I could figure out the yardage easily. I only needed to measure the length of the drape panels, add those measurements together and add enough for hems (at the top of the drapes and on the bottom).

My drapery rods were hung at a strange height by the previous owners. They were hung at 90″ above the ground and store bought drapes are 84″ and 95″ in length, so I either had to move the rods or buy longer panels and shorten them. On this window, I decided to shorten the drapes. I didn’t want to rehang rods, patch holes and paint.

Let’s start with the hem and proceed to the lining after that.

My drapes have metal grommets. Other drapes have pleats or gathers.

First, I measured from the top of the grommet hole to the hem. If your drapes have gathers, measure from the top of the casing opening where your rod fits in. If your drapes have pleats, measure from where the hook goes into the hole along the rod.

Don’t measure from the top of the drape!

Do you see why?

The drape hangs from the rod, so the top of the drape doesn’t matter in this case. Measure from where the drape hangs from the rod.

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To begin, I took out the original hem with a seam ripper.

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Then, I folded and pinned up the hem at the length I needed.

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The original hem was 3 inches and had another 1/2″ turned over to hide the raw edge.

So, I measured up 3 1/2″ from the hem edge and cut the excess off.

Be careful not to cut the drape underneath!

Since you are smarter than me, you will probably choose to unfold the hem and cut it so there’s no chance of accidentally cutting the drape, but I guess I like to live on the wild side. Ha!

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Press that folded edge. That will be your new hemline.

Remove the pins as you press, of course!

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Next, fold down 1/2″ from the cut edge and press it. This may seem a little backwards, but I like to make sure my hemline is straight. If the cut edge isn’t straight, the hemline won’t be either. Does that make sense?

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Now, just turn up your hem on the fold line and topstitch along the edge of that fold on the back of the drape, using the folded edge as your guide. You can topstitch from the front of the drape, if you can see the folded edge as you sew. I usually stitch from the front, but stitching from the backside of the drape makes it easier for you to see in the photo below.

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Ok, now you are ready to add the lining.

On a flat surface, lay out your lining fabric.

This is my “block out” lining fabric.

Cut the lining fabric at least 2 inches larger all the way around than the finished size of your drape. If you can make it larger, that’s fine. This drape was 54″ wide and my blockout fabric was 60″, so it was 3″ wider on each side of the drape, which was perfect!

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Once you cut it out, lay the top edge of the lining to the top edge of the drape like this photo below:

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It looks like its upside down, but this is what you want. You are going to be sewing at that fold just under the grommets all across the width of the drape. So, lay the right side of the lining to the wrong side of the drape and it’s upside down! Study the photo above until it makes sense to you.

Keep reading and I think you’ll see how it works.

In the photo below, can you see how there is a fold (bump) to the left of the presser foot? I am stitching barely to the right of that fold (bump). You can see the wrong side of the drape off to the right in the photo:

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Once you stitch across the width of the drape, along that fold or bump, pull the lining down to cover the entire wrong side of the drape (in the photo below) and the raw edge will be hidden under the fold. You don’t have to finish the raw edge of the block out fabric because it doesn’t ravel.

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Now, you’re going to work on the hem of the lining.

As long as your lining covers the folded hemline that you topstitched earlier and as long as the lining hem is not longer than the drape, you are good. Any length in between those areas is fine. Unless your drapes are see through. Then, I would have your lining end just under the topstitched line on the drape.

Here I folded up the lining so that it was 1″ above the bottom edge of the drape:

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Pin only the lining fabric. You don’t want to set an iron on block out fabric because it will melt. It is a man made material.

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I added a half inch to the length of my lining fabric and cut the excess off.

Now my lining is 1 1/2″ above the bottom edge of the drape:

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Next, I stitched along the folded edge of the hem of the lining fabric:

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Next, measure the “side” hems of the drapes. They run along the vertical edges of the drapes. In this case, they are about one inch:

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So, I folded under the sides so that they were 1 ” from the edge of the sides and pinned it all the way down (just like I did for the hem of the lining at the bottom):

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This time, I pinned the lining to the drape along the sides:

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Next, I stitched along the edge of the lining. If you have light colored drapes and the stitching is going to show, then stitch from the right side of the drape and use the original stitching line as your guide. Stitch right over the top of it being as exact as you can be. With my drapes, it didn’t show at all.

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This is what the inside should look like, except that the bottom edge of the lining will have already been stitched:

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Here’s the length before I started:

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Here’s the length after:

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I know there are other ways to line and hem drapes, but this one works the fastest for me.

Enjoy your project!

How to Make A Dress With A Tulle Skirt

As you readers know, altering garments is my focus, not constructing them.

But, I just got a great question from a reader and I would love your input in helping her.

I’d love your thoughts on the tulle (netting) fabric. Do you have some tips on how to expedite the process and make that skirt bottom look even without a lot of heartache? Do you use a rotary cutter or what is your secret? Thank you ahead of time! Linda

Here is what she wrote:

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My daughter will be wearing this C version (green full length dress in the photo above) and I have been asked how much it would be for me to do all 8 dresses. I’m a little concerned about the skirt material.
I’ve made tutus for dance costumes, but not for dress. I would love any hints or advice you can give. I have no idea what to charge above materials, so if you can, give me a suggested $ amount to ask for. Because it’s for a wedding I’m a little nervous. I sew well, I just haven’t worked with this style.
Thank you, your blog is fantastic for referencing “how to” do different projects.
Paulette

Happy New Year!

I can’t believe its been 6 months since I posted last!

2014 was a very challenging year and perhaps I’ll write more about it soon, but I just wanted you to know I haven’t forgotten about you and I thank you for all your prayers and encouraging emails for our daughter and granddaughter.

Our granddaughter is doing wonderfully. She is growing and developing at warp speed and we love her to pieces!!! She is so much fun. Those of you who are grandparents know what I’m talking about.

Our daughter was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease and she is on some medicine to hopefully put this disease in remission. So, we appreciate your continued prayers for her as this is new territory. She and her husband are handling this all so well and trusting the Lord each step of the way.

I know many of you struggle with health issues as you’ve written and shared your stories. The Lord is good and we know that He will work all this out for good. It’s just hard to see your kids go through difficult things as you would rather carry that burden for them.

As we head into 2015, I’m hoping to get back into writing more sewing posts. I continue to get many great questions in your emails and I hope to answer many questions on future posts. I figure if one has a question, many more probably do as well.

Thanks for your friendship. It feels like I have thousands of sisters all over the globe!!! How fun to study the year end report and see all the different countries you log in from…some I have never heard of. I had no idea how far the Internet reaches!

Do you have any New Years sewing resolutions? I’d love to hear what they are. And I’d love for you to email me pictures of your most challenging alteration this year. It would be fun to post them for all to see. Be sure to include a little paragraph on why it was so challenging.

May 2015 be a wonderful year for you and your family!

Granddaughter Update

Thank you all for your prayers and sweet comments concerning our new granddaughter. I really appreciate them all. She is doing better and gaining weight, now just over 6 pounds! Thought you might like to see a recent photo. I sure am enjoying her! 

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