Altering a Bubble Dress and Other “Closed” Lined Garments

This year, I’ve seen alot of Bubble Dresses for Prom and Homecoming.

Here is one I altered yesterday:

sewing blog 709

They have lots of pouf all over them, don’t they?

The hem and the lining are usually sewn together at the bottom of the dress.

So, instead of opening up the hem area, I leave that alone as often as possible.

So far, no one has asked me to hem a short bubble dress.

I have had to hem a bubble bridal gown.

Say that fast three times!

But, on this gown, I needed to take in the bust area at the side seams.

So, instead of opening up the hem area and doing the alteration from there, I opened up the lining on a side seam about two inches longer than the area I wanted to alter:

sewing blog 710

On this dress, I needed to take in the side seams from the top of the bust down to the waist.

Once I had the side seam opened, I reached in and turned the dress inside out. That made it possible to take in the side seams.

To do that alteration, read this post.

You can do other alterations as well, like this post on hemming the bubble dress, but this is the most common one I do on formal gowns.

Once I finished altering the dress fabric and the lining, I folded back the edges of the opening and stitched it closed:

sewing blog 711

I sew the stitches very close to the edge so that I don’t lose any noticeable width in the lining.

And that’s all there is to it!

I use this technique when I am working on any garment where the lining doesn’t hang loose. In men’s jackets, I tend to open up the sleeve area because it is more hidden than the back or sides of the jacket. The same is true for women’s jackets. On jackets, I tend to do alterations such as shortening sleeve length, taking in the center back seam or shortening the jacket’s length.

I like this technique because it saves alot of time and I don’t like to hand sew something together if I don’t have to!

How To Sew a Partial Hem

There are many instances where you may need to sew just part of a hem. Maybe you have a skirt that is uneven, too long in the front or back, or maybe you have pants with the same problem.

Today, I am going to use this bridal gown to illustrate how to sew a partial hem.

sewing blog 679 












The bride asked that the entire front edge be hemmed up, but that I should leave the train alone.

So, you’ll need to pin up the amount of fabric on your garment that needs to be raised.

Many times, the transition from front to back is no big deal.

But, sometimes, you’ll be raising four or five inches of the hem and you wonder how to make that smooth transition to the back of the skirt.

In this case, I am not raising the hem too much, but I still need to taper the fabric so that it has a smooth transition front to back.

For most long dresses, I like the front edge of the dress to be one inch off of the floor to give the customer enough clearance to walk without feeling like she is going to trip on her hem.

At the side seams, the hem will almost touch the floor, and then I’ll gradually taper the hem back to the train.

So, to do that, I took out the stitches for about two inches beyond the side seams and into the train area:

sewing blog 682










You’ll need to do the same. Take out about two inches of stitches into the hem area that you are not going to alter.

Fold the fabric back along the new foldline and press the new edge:

sewing blog 686










Next, press the rest of the hem, taking out pins before you get to them:

sewing blog 684



If you look at the photo below, you’ll notice that the underside edge is finished with a serger (stitching on the right) and the right side of the fabric was topstitched (the stitching on the left).

sewing blog 687










When I go to finish the hem, I’ll do the same to it.

Take note of how your hem is finished because you’ll want to finish your new hem area the same way that was originally done, if possible. (Sometimes, you can’t duplicate what has been done, but you can come close enough.)

Next, trim off any excess fabric and finish the raw edge.

I used a serger to both trim the edge and serge it. This saved me a step and some time:

sewing blog 688










If you serge it and you have the loose thread tails, you can weave them back into the serged edge or tuck them into the hem when you topstitch the edge.

sewing blog 689




Now you can see that all I have to do is fold over the finished edge:

sewing blog 690










Notice that the transition isn’t really noticeable.

Now, you’ll need to topstitch the edge.

I like to topstitch from the right side of the fabric (hem):

Since the original stitching is really close to the edge, I move my needle all the way to the right and then stitch:

sewing blog 691










When you get to the other side, just meet the original stitching and backstitch to hold it tight.

sewing blog 693










This is what the new hem looks like at the side seam:

sewing blog 694












Pretend I pressed it before I took the photo!

Keeping Your Notions Handy

Last week I showed you my sewing room.

Today, I ‘d like to show you how I organize it.

I was raised by a very organized mother.

She taught me well. When you are finished with something, it goes right back where it belongs.

But I’m not as good as I used to be. I certainly don’t have things back where they belong here. 

sewing blog 674

What is a map doing in my sewing space, you ask?

Well, my husband and I went on a trip two weeks ago and I am journaling the trip in that small blue notebook and using the map to remind me of the places we went and the things we saw.

I bet you multi-task in your sewing room too.

We all have clutter.

And we all have to move it out of the way if we are going to sew.

So, here it is after I’ve put things away:

sewing blog 676

Do you see the gray square storage unit in the photo above?

Well, my husband used to use it for storing nails, and nuts and bolts in the garage.

But, he “graduated” to a different storage unit and asked me if I wanted this for sewing.

It has 25 small clear drawers in it and I thought it would be perfect for all sorts of notions.

The inside holds various sizes of sewing machine needles, all sorts of buttons, snaps, bridal beads, trims, my jean-a-ma-jig, etc.

I use the top of it to hold a small clock, seam rippers, the tomato pin cushion, and small scissors.

The black mesh container on its left is a pencil holder my husband bought me at Walmart or Target.

I used to use an empty cocoa container, which worked just fine, but this has lots of compartments, which is nice.

The two ends hold all my pens, seam gauge, rotary cutter, crochet hooks, fray block and markers.

The middle section holds my most often used “feet” for my sewing machine, and some “post-it” notes.

Below the counter, on my right, I have several matching wicker baskets. The two top baskets hold all my sewing machine thread.

In one basket, I have spools of blue, purple, grey, black, and white. In the other, there are reds, oranges, greens, yellows and browns.

This isn’t the best solution, because I have to dig through the baskets to find the shade I need. The thread ends work their way off of the spools and get a little tangled from time to time.

I used to have a rack on the wall for my thread. It holds each spool individually so you can see the colors at a glance.

In this sewing room, I didn’t want too many things on the wall, but I think I may go back to that idea.

One basket on the lowest shelf holds my scissors:

sewing blog 677

Not sure how I got such a large collection. I don’t think I bought any of them. I think they were all given to me as gifts. Some are for fabric, some are for cutting paper, and one is a pinking shear.

The other baskets hold patterns, notions and other gizmos.

The point is, I like to have most everything at my fingertips so I don’t have to get up and go hunt something down.

In my last sewing room, I had a peg board and I was able to hang all my scissors, needle packages, mini iron, marking paper and wheel, etc. Then, all I had on the counter was my grey storage unit and my pencil holder.

You probably have a combination of things on your counter and things hung up.

You may have your iron right next to you.

I like to get up and go iron (especially with the big wedding dresses) because it gives me a chance to move around a little.

There are other reasons I get up and move around.

Sometimes, I get things out of these drawers:

sewing blog 678

They hold serger cones of thread, patterns and books.

They’re the perfect size for what I need them for.

I spotted them both as I was driving past a garage sale.

They were in perfect condition and I only paid $15 for the pair!

I also get up from the sewing machine to meet with customers downstairs.

When I do, I carry this small basket of 4 items with me:

sewing blog 675

It has my long tape measure, my seam guage, and both magnetic pin cushions.

And it’s always ready to go at a moment’s notice.

I also use this plastic container to carry all I need when I sew on my dining room table.

Sometimes the dresses or projects are just too big for my sewing area.

With this container, I only have to make one trip down the stairs with all I need.

Well, there you have a brief tour of the layout of my sewing room.

As you can see, there is nothing fancy about it.

And some things about it are rather frugal.

But  I  like to keep it simple.

What about you?

What are your favorite organizational tips?

I’d love to hear how you make the most of your sewing space and how you keep your notions handy.

My Sewing Room

Where do you sew?

Do you have a designated room where you can keep your machine set up at all times?

Is it in a bedroom, a basement, a dining room, an office?

If you don’t have a designated space, stay tuned. I will address organizational tips for you in an upcoming post.

Here is my sewing room:

 sewing blog 673










It has lots of daylight streaming in.

Why is it stark white, you ask?

It all started at our former home when my sewing room was in the unfinished laundry room in our basement.

(See, now don’t you feel better about your own sewing space?!!!)

sewing blog 666










It looked like a cave in there with a single naked bulb at the ceiling (hence the floor lamp for extra lighting.)

So, I asked my handy husband if he could craft me a sewing table and paint it white.

He questioned the color choice several times.

I said, “Just trust me on this.”

And he did.

He made the shelving unit you see in the bottom of the first photo. (Yes, he made it portable so that if we ever moved, he could easily take it with us.)

Then, he bought a laminate countertop and secured it to the shelving unit.

He also bought several sheets of pegboard and painted them white. (I bet you can find them premade in white at the hardware store these days.)

He secured them behind my counter so that I could hang most anything from hooks on the peg board.

sewing blog 667



And that worked really well. I loved having everything right at my fingertips.

We hung a long flourescent light above the counter which made for a wonderful light source.

I’m glad everything was white. I really did need it to be as bright as possible in that room.

I know the photo doesn’t do it justice, but with all that white and the light, it was a totally awesome space!

I thanked him profusely for years for making it for me.

Then we moved.

And he brought the shelving unit with us.

And it fit perfectly in the new sewing room.

This room has alot of natural daylight in it, but no overhead lighting.


sewing blog 673



So, I use a floor lamp occaionally at night.

Impressive, huh?

Well, I’m just too cheap to call the electrician and have him wire me an overhead light.

Plus, I’m not sure if an overhead light will help me see the tiny stitches up close, anyway.

So, in the meantime, the lamp works fine.

My husband bought the pre-made cupboards that you see above the counter, for storage.

Ninety nine percent of what is stored there is fabric.

I have already purged the fabric pile several times and what I have left fits perfectly in the cupboards.

I use it for making quilts and for any alterations that require a scrap of fabric to solve the problem.

Ok, so now, I’d love to hear your opinions on how I can perk up this space.

Is it too white for you?

What would you change to make it better?

I’m not gifted in the design area, so I would appreciate any help you can give me.

I’d also love to hear about your sewing space and why you like it or dislike it.

Send me photos if you’ve got them. E-mail me at

This will be fun!