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:


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.

How To Alter a Top That’s Too Low Cut

Have you ever tried to alter a blouse that was lower at the neck than you were comfortable with?

To make this alteration, we are going to do two things: take up the front shoulder seam and take in the collar.

Generally, you don’t need to take up the back of the blouse, but have the customer try it on so you can see how the back fits.

If the back fits well, don’t touch it.

If it doesn’t, you could pull up the back and front at the same time.

This back of this blouse fit great, so it didn’t need to be altered.

The only seam on this collar was at the back:


and I was glad because I didn’t want to mess with the “fluff” on the front.

The center back neck seam was stitched and then gathered to fit:


Let me explain what we’re going to do and then we’ll get after it.

We are going to decrease the circumference of the neck at the middle back seam and when we do that, we’ll need to decrease the circumference of the top as well.

To begin, take a seam ripper and unstitch the stitches that hold the collar and the shoulder seam together:


Take out the stitches from just past one shoulder seam, all around the back of the neck to just past the other shoulder seam like this:


Next, you’ll want to open up the shoulder seam. This was a delicate knit and I had to be careful where I placed my seam ripper so as not to cut the knit, but just cut the stitch:


I opened up the shoulder seam halfway:


Once that was opened up, I was able to shorten the front of the blouse by pinning like this:


Stitch that shoulder seam by sewing along the original back shoulder seamline and trim off the excess front fabric.

Next, you’ll need to take in the back neck seam on the collar. Can you see the excess collar material?


Since I took one inch off of the front of the blouse on the left and the right for a total of 2″, I need to take up 2 total inches on the collar as well.

I took the seam apart and stitched up two inches of fabric and trimmed the seam.

I apologize that the photo is not real clear, but I hope you get the idea:


Now, stitch the collar to the neck edge of the blouse:


You can see the newly adjusted collar:

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You might want to re-serge or zigzag any uneven edges.

That’s all there is to it!

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If you have a t-shirt type top, you may need to work with ribbing or a facing.

Use the same principle of taking up the shoulders and taking in the circumference of the top to the measurements you need.

This will work for tank tops too.

Unless you have a really long top, you may not be able to adjust more than a couple of inches before it affects the look of the blouse.

But this should help those tops that are just a little too low for your comfort level.

How to Alter a Top With an Elastic Hem

You’ve seen these blouses everywhere:

ImageThey’ve got elastic running around the bottom edge.

Many women complain that they don’t like how they look when they wear them and pass up the idea of buying them.

Altering them is an easy fix.

Just trim off the elastic close to the edge:


I use sharp small scissors to accomplish this task:


Next, turn the hem up and press if necessary.

I hand baste the hem as well so that the knit doesn’t slip around.

If you have a woven fabric, you should press the hem up as well.


In addition, if you are sewing on a woven cloth, be sure and finish the edge with a serger or a zig zag stitch first.

Next, look for a thread to match:


On this top, I will sew a double row of stitching on the hem.

This means I’ll need two spools of thread.

If I don’t have two spools of matching thread, or they are very close in color, I will wind two bobbins.

One bobbin will be used in the bobbin case and the other bobbin will be used as the second spool of thread.


Then, get yourself a double stretch needle. They look like this:


Put the spool of thread on the first spool pin and a bobbin on the second spool pin.

To thread your machine with two threads, treat them as one thread and thread through until you get to the needle area:


Then, thread one thread through each needle:


Stitch the hem, keeping the right side of the shirt facing up so you can watch to make sure you are doing a good job.

As you can see, if you flip it over, the bottom threads form sort of a zig zag stitch:


As you can see, it doesn’t take long to convert your top and the hem looks great!:


French Bustles…Making Them Even Easier Than Before!

A big thanks to Christy, at Alterations by Christy, for telling me about an even easier way to put French bustles in your gown!

Many of you have seen the post I wrote on Putting Bustles on Your Wedding Gown. Christy saw it too and wrote to tell me about a step in the process that will save you lots of time.

Please refer back to the original post and then come back here for the short cut.

This time I am using a red formal gown that came with some bustling on the back already as part of the design.

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Don’t let that throw you, if your dress back doesn’t have this poofing.

Your dress can have a simple plain train or a fancy one. The technique is the same.

This dress needed three bustles to keep it off the ground and the dress had three seams in the back, so it worked perfectly.

I always try to pin along the seams so I can hide the mechanics of the bustles under the dress.

Here is one of the bustles I pinned up.

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Then I put pins to mark the upper and lower parts of that bustle, carefully took out the original pin, and laid it out flat:

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Then, I transfered the pin marks to the underside of the skirt where I need to work on the bustles:

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Instead of creating the loops like I did in my first post, Christy suggests using these instead:

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I found them at my local Joann Fabric store for about $2.00. They were in the section where the snaps are.

Ideally, you want the ring to sit above the top pin’s mark.

However, sometimes, that isn’t possible, as in this case:

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Because of a previously sewn in bustle, my ring can’t sit above the pin mark.

You may find that this situation arises if your zipper tape is in the way as well.

So, let me tell you how to adjust for this problem.

I went ahead and stitched in the ring by hand onto the seam allowance only.

Then I measured the distance between the bottom of the ring and the pin mark:

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In this case, it’s only 1/4″, which may not seem like enough to bother with, but I do anyway.  If yours is a greater amount, you’ll want to make the adjustment or your dress will hang too low when bustled.

So, I take that 1/4″ measurement, and go 1/4″ lower than the bottom pin mark and stitch the ribbon to the seam allowance only at the new mark:

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Now, just thread the ribbon ends through the ring…

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and tie in a bow like you tie your shoelaces, and you have it!

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This bustle will stay put all through the reception and dance!

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Thanks, Christy; you saved us all alot of time!

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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

Taking In The Bust

This dress came from a mother of a groom and it needed to be taken in in the bust area, so I’d like to show you how to do that.

You can use this technique on strapless dresses as well.

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Do you see the pins in the side seam? There are pins on the other side as well.

I generally like to take a dress in at the side seams. If you take an equal amount in on both sides, the dress will hang correctly.

Very rarely do I have to move the back zipper. I will if I have to, but it really doesn’t happen that often.

Just be sure that if you take in the back zipper, it doesn’t pull the side seams toward the back of the dress causing it to hang improperly.

Can you see how we are going to take out more fabric at the top of the side seam than we are at the bottom of the bust area? First of all, that’s what it needed, but secondly, you need to pin less and less as you go because you want your seam to taper back to the original seam gradually.

Here is the dress laying down on the table. I run a measuring tape down the side seam from the top. On a sheet of paper, I mark down “L” for the left side of the dress and “R” for the right side.

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This happens to be the left side of the dress, so we’ll do those measurements first.

Do you see how I have pins at the 1″, 4″, 6″ marks, etc? There’s no science to this, it’s just where I happened to stick the pins when my customer had the dress on.

Once I have the measurements from along the tape measure written down, I use the seam gauge to tell me how far from the side edge of the fabric the new seam should go and write that measurement down.

In the photo above, do you see how I am going to take in 1/2″ at the one inch mark? At the 4″ mark, I’ll take in 1/4″.

Once you have these measurements written down, take all the pins out. Eventually, we will be working on the inside of the garment.

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The photo above represents the interior of the dress right at the side seams. I need to use a seam ripper to gently cut the stay stitching threads (be careful not to cut the fabric!) at the top of the side seams where the outer fabric meets the lining. If you are going to take in an inch of the dress, be sure to rip out about 2 inches of stay stitching so you’ll be able to work inside the dress.

See the ribbon? Those are the ribbons the manufacturer attaches to the dress so that you can hang the dress from these ribbons instead of the straps. (In this case, you could hang the dress from the straps since they are so wide.) If you have spaghetti straps, be careful. They can stretch out if you hang the garment by the spaghetti straps.

This ribbon is sewn into the dress at the top of the seam. Sometimes, you’ll find these ribbons sewn into the side seam an inch or so down from the top of the side seams.

So, in this case, gently take them out with a seam ripper.

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In the photo above, do you see that the two rows of stay stitching have been removed?

Now, it’s time to take apart the seam that holds the lining and the outer fabric together.

In the photo below, do you see that I have taken out the ribbon and the seam above that has been taken apart?

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Now, turn the garment right side out.

Sometimes, there are a few stitches holding the front fabric to the lining fabric. Just cut those threads being careful not to damage either the front of the dress or the lining.

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Usually, there is not this white interfacing fabric, but in this case there is. It is there to add stability to the area. I just cut across it as shown. We’ll lap the ends over each other later.

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I have a little extra step I need to do.

If you look at the very first photo above, you’ll see that I pinned the dress from the patterned bust area down into the solid colored blue fabric. This means that some of the alteraion is occuring below that horozontal seam and we need to open up that seam to make the alteration. If we didn’t do that, it wouldn’t lay flat in that seam area when we were finished.

To do this, slide your seam ripper or small pointed scissors under the serged stitches to the right and left of the seam as shown and rip them out.

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Take out the stitches on the seamline

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This will give you a hole like this:

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We’re going to alter the seam I have in my left hand (the skirt part) and the one to the right of my hand (the bodice section). Now, work with one of those side seams at a time. We’ll start with the bodice section (the printed fabric).

Refer to the paper where you wrote all the measurements you transferred earlier.

Pin according to those measurements. If you are working on the left side, follow the left side measurements.

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Where I put the pin into the fabric is my new guide for sewing the new seam. You may want to draw a line down the side if that helps you. Be sure and use a washable or soluble marker made just for fabrics. There are other options which we’ll go into at a later date.

Now, sew, using the pin’s entrance into the fabric as your guide to sewing the new seam. Don’t run over the pin, though. Take it out just before it gets to the presser foot.

Remember to wear eye protection. I just had a needle explode on me the other day and I was so glad I had some glasses on!

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Do you see how the two new seam lines will match up when we sew them together in the next step?

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Take out the original seamline with a seam ripper and press the seam open. If there is too much material, you can trim it. If you trim it, you might want to finish the new cut edge with a zig zag stitch or a serged edge.

Now, take that same intersection and put the new stitched seam lines right sides together facing each other like this:

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Stitch them together using the original seam line as your guide. Finish the edge if you like.

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Now do the exact same thing to the lining by putting pins at the correct spots and stitching a new seamline. Take out the old stitches and press the seam open.

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Up at the top where the two seams will meet, you will fold the ribbon in half and stuff it into the hole like this:

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Lay that intersection flat and pin it if necessary to keep it from slipping.

Stitch across the intersection like this:


Usually, if you have the white interfacing involved. you would stitch it into the seam, but in this case, I found that the interfacing was just above the seamline, so I pushed it out of the way while I stitched. This closes up the seam. If you turn the garment right side out, you’ll see how the ribbon is in the correct place:

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We are now going to stay stitch the edge. This will keep the layers from popping up under the arm pit area. To stay stitch. slide the garment onto the sewing machine with the dress fabric to one side and all the rest to the other side (this includes the lining and inside seam allowances). Just push them all to the lining side of the dress. Be careful not to get unwanted fabric caught up under the presser foot as you sew:

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I don’t usually see a double row of stitching in a garment like this one has. You don’t need to do two rows. One will suffice.

But, since this is for a customer and the original stitching holes will show if I don’t stitch two rows, I am going to stitch two rows!


I could have sewn over the ribbon on both rows, but that was not how it was done originally and, again, I want it to look like it did when she brought it in.


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I just reattached a few beads that were loose with some matching thread.

You can tack the lining to the bodice fabric underneath if you want to keep it from shifting while you wear it.

Here’s how the finished product looks.

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Now, doesn’t that look beautiful?