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

Should You Charge A Minimum Fee For Alterations?

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:

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The customer said there was a hole in the seam at the knee and would I stitch it up?

Certainly!

Here is a photo of the small hole:

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Here’s what it looked like on the inside:

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So, I switched the thread to black and put in a stretch needle and sewed it up:

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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:

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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?

Actually, no.

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 would you want to be charged for such an alteration?”

“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.

How to Avoid Ruining a Garment

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?

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate With Me…It’s Free!

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 

Altering the Shoulders on a Jacket

A customer brought me two jackets to take in at the shoulders.

Both of these jackets had shoulder pads, too, which she wanted removed.

You don’t see those much anymore!

She tried the jacket on and I put a pin marking the spot where she wanted the sleeve to be moved to.

See the white pin head about one inch in from the armscye (sleeve seam)?

This customer is a very classy lady and I know this jacket probably cost a pretty penny.

But, doesn’t it just scream “80’s” to you?!

Let’s get started.

The first thing you want to do is, turn the jacket inside out.

You are going to open up the forearm seam.

Open it up about 5 or 6 inches using your seam ripper.

Then, pull the shoulder area out so you can work on it.

Unsew the lining seam:

If you have sewn blouses or jackets with a pattern, you know that there are notches on the pattern of the sleeve.

This diagram shows how far you should take the seam out:

You don’t have notches on your sleeve, but you can eyeball the distance.

Next, take out the shoulder pads.

These particular ones were made of foam rubber!

That’s the first time I’ve seen foam rubber shoulder pads….ick!

They just disintegrated:

Shoulder pads are usually just attached with tacking threads.

Just clip those threads to free the pads.

In rare cases, however, you may have to open up the shoulder seam, take out the shoulder pads and restitch the seam together again before doing any alterations.

Once you take out the shoulder pad, you’ll notice that there are a few items you may not be familiar with.

One of them might be the white interfacing strip (or a strip of seam tape).

It is there for support

The second might be a  flannel-like sleeve cap (or one made of a similar material).

In this case, it is the grey fabric strip:

This gives the sleeve stability and shape.

Take that off.

Before you take apart the shoulder seam, put in a tailor tack at the top of the sleeve.

You will put it in directly across from the shoulder seam.

You need this tack in order to match up the sleeve after you make the alteration:

Next, match up the tailor tack mark to the pin mark on the shoulder:

Be sure you are matching the seam allowance of the sleeve to the pin mark, not the cut edge of the fabric to the pin  mark.

Next, pin the sleeve all around the arm seam.

To sew, just stitch over the original seamline. It will work great.

If for some reason, your sleeve doesn’t match up to the armhole, make a deeper seam in the shoulder seam first.

To do that, put a pin down from the shoulder seam (in this case, 1/2″ away from the shoulder seam).

Stitch from somewhere near the neckline out to the edge of the shoulder, tapering in a smooth manner before reaching where the pin mark is.

Then, rip out the original stitches and “finger” press the new seam open so it lays flat.

Then, stitch the new seam of the arm (from imagined notch to imagined notch) to close it up:

Don’t forget to get the grey matter in there!

Once you’ve sewn that seam, check how the sleeve looks by turning the farment right side out again.

If it looks good, trim off the excess fabric:

If your jacket came with these “stays” (this one has blue stays), be sure and sew those back on. One end should be sewn to the jacket on the seam allowance and the other end gets sewn to the shoulder seam allowance.

These keep the jacket and lining from straying too far from each other.

Stitch the opening closed in the sleeve lining.

Make the same alterations to the remaining sleeve and the lining on both sides of the jacket.

It is easier than it sounds and I hope it gives you incentive to give it a try!

Update: 2/28/12:

Below in the comment section, you’ll see a comment from a Linda M.

Here are the photos which go along with her comment.

She adds pleats in the seams to take in the extra fullness.

Its another option if your customer would like that look.

Since one of you posted a reply asking for photos, here they are:

You can see how they look in the photos above.

Thanks Linda, for sending those to me.

 

How To Make a Sewing Pattern

A question came in yesterday asking how to line the inside of a nightgown.

Without having the original pattern, one might think it impossible.

But, I have found an answer to that diemma and I’d like to share it with you.

Call it my early Christmas gift to you!

All you need is some wide paper of any kind.

I use the end rolls of newsprint.

Our local newspaper office gives these ends out free, so I grab one or two a year.

They are great for all kinds of purposes.

If you can’t find wide paper, just tape what you do have together to make pieces wide enough for your project.

This is what my newsprint looks like:

Begin by rolling out a length of paper for your project.

Do this on the carpet, not on your floor.

You’ll see why in a minute.

I chose a simple T-shirt as my example.

Lay your garment on the paper:

You are going to do what I call “pin tracing”.

So get out your stash of straight pins for this.

You are going to trace each piece of your garment.

You will need to trace the front, the back, the sleeves, the collar pieces, the plackets, the cuffs, the leg, the waistbands, etc.

Get the idea?

Ok, to pin trace, you are going to start at one point (any point) on the first piece and poke a pin (through the paper) along the edge of that piece every inch or so like this:

This is why you need to work on carpet, because the pins can scratch your floor and it makes it difficult to poke them through.

On this shirt, I am pin tracing the front of the shirt first.

Pin trace all the way around.

If you’re not sure what a pattern piece should look like, take out  a similar one in any of your Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, etc. pattern envelopes and study it.

Just keep poking your pin all around the piece.

Along the side seams, it will look like this:

See the pin holes? Look closely.

Now, just connect the dots with a pen or a marker:

I’ve done only a partial section of this shirt, but you get the idea, right?

Can you see the shoulder seam, armhole and side seam in the photo below?

When you are finished tracing, be sure to  add on your seam allowances.

Next, move the shirt to a fresh spot on the paper and trace the next piece, making sure you’ve left enough room for it.

There’s nothing more frustrating than tracing one piece over another.

But I wouldn’t know anything about that!

Be sure to think ahead. If you are tracing a sleeve, you’ll need to either: fold the paper and line up the edge of the sleeve on it, or trace half the sleeve, move the sleeve and trace the remaining half.

Does that make sense?

Just be sure to think through each piece well before you cut it out of fabric to make the new garment.

This technique works well with garments and linings.

The idea came about because I had an favorite pair of shorts and I wanted to reproduce them, but I couldn’t find a pattern that was even close to it in style.

It’s not beautiful, but it’s cheap and fast and it works!

Give it a try.

 

How To Sew On Satin Covered Buttons

I admit I don’t get a request to sew on satin covered buttons very often.

It’s happened twice in eight years.

You’ve seen these before, right?

They are usually seen on wedding dresses or other bridal items.

The button is covered in satin on one side and has a softly padded shank on the other.

As you know, my daughter is getting married soon and she wanted me to add satin covered buttons to the back of her dress.

I thought I could run down to the local fabric store and buy a pile of them.

Wrong.

They don’t carry them.

Thankfully, they were available in the big city 75 miles away.

Some of you buy them on the internet.

I thought of that, but I wanted to make sure they’d match the dress closely as her dress is not a bright white, but a cross between white and candlelight.

I took a swatch of the fabric to match and wouldn’t you know, they had a bag of bright white ones and a bag of candlelight!

So I chose the candlelight color because the bright white made the dress look dirty.

Have I lost you in the details yet?

The owner of the store (they’ve been in business 50 years this year!) told me to figure two buttons per inch, and a few extra for the bustle, (that’s if she chooses an over bustle.)

So, I put a pin in the zipper area every 1/2″, starting at the 1/4″ mark.

Use one long continuous double thread to sew them on.

Be sure and put a good knot on the end and come up from the back of the dress with your needle.

Make sure your knot doesn’t get in the way of the zipper.

Using one long continuous double thread saves me major time sewing on the buttons one by one.

 

Do you see how I sew these on?

As I’m sewing one button on, I put the needle in just past the next pin.

Then, I push the needle into the button shank making sure it is horozontally inserted:

Here’s a side view of the buttons after stitching them on:

They look like little mushrooms all lined up!

Then, repeat the process, following the photo:

Push your needle to the back of the dress and knot it securely.

Halfway through the sewing, I poked my finger with the needle by accident.

I drew a little blood.

If you’ve noticed on my sidebar on this blog, I mention a way to get rid of blood on your wedding dress.

Saliva.

Yeah.

In the photo below, on the middle button, you can see where I have already dabbed a bit of my saliva on the blood stain.

It was bright red, but now it’s pink:

A little bit more saliva and the stain is gone! (I’m not kidding! See the second button from the left):

In the above photo, look at the third button over from the left.

That one is not the one that had the blood stain.

This button has a flaw.

Unfortunately, I only bought just enough buttons, so I had to use this one somewhere in the lineup.

Can you relate?

I’m hoping it won’t show.

At least it’s not on the front of the dress.

See how easy it is to sew on a set of covered buttons?

 

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