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:

image

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

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?

 

 

 

 

 

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 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?

 

How To Take in a Dress with Piping

This formal dress has piping along the top edge:

It has to be taken in at the bust area, which means I need to address the piping:

I could take off all of the piping, make the alteration and restitch the piping down.

However, that would involve taking off the hook or eye near the zipper and fiddling with the piping at the zipper area.

Many of you would go that route.

But for some reason, I would rather eat mud than hand stitch a hook or eye back on.

And I really don’t like trying to match the ends so that the top of both sides meet again after you zip it up.

Silly right?

I know.

But we all have those jobs that we really loathe and that is one of them for me.

It may be that your dress would be easiest to alter that way.

Or, it could be that altering the piping at the armhole is your only or best option.

So, let’s look at altering the piping one step at a time.

We will end up making a seam in the piping, but it will be barely noticeable.

You’ll see what I mean.

First, take out the understitching on the wrong side of the top of the dress with your seam ripper:

Pull the lining away from the piping:

Then, take out the stitching that holds the piping to the dress:

Next, take a pair of scissors and cut through the piping, making sure you are cutting at the point where the side seam of the dress lines up to it:

Alter the bust area accordingly.

To see more detailed instruction on how to take in a bust area, see this post.

Once you’ve made the alteration to the bust area, you’ll now address the piping:

Take out about two inches of stitches on both sides of the cut:

Next, open that out and you’ll see the white string type material (the cording):

You’re going to trim that off 1/2 the total amount of the alteration.

If you’re taking in a total of one inch on the side seams, take 1/2 inch off of the cording:

Next, mark with a pin, the amount you want to take in.

You can tell the amount, because it will match up to the new side seam you just altered:

Next, pin the edges right sides together:


Stitch across the strip, parallel to the cut edge like this:

Be sure all parts are laying flat or you’ll have to rip it out and restitch.

This is how it should look on both sides:

Trim your seam and finger press it open:

Fold the strip WRONG sides together, like this:

The point of my seam ripper shows where I have tacked that down:

You don’t need to tack it down, but I like to so I don’t have to keep wrestling with the thing while I pin it to the dress.

If you took out a ribbon hanger from the dress in the beginning, this is the time to put it back in:

Next, line up the cut edge of the dress and lining with the piping sandwiched inside.

Make sure all these line up and lay flat.

If not, alter the areas that need it and then come back to this step.

Once they all line up, place a pin through all the layers:

If you’re doing an underarm alteration like this (as opposed to altering piping in a straight seam), you’ll notice that the old seam lines don’t match up.

You’re going to have a situation similar to this diagram:

So, you’ll need to line up the piping along a new imaginary seamline and then sew your new seam next to the piping:

I can do this quite easily because I’ve done it for so many years, but you can pin it or even mark it with a fabric marker if you’re not sure.

Do you see my new stitching line that I sewed with burgundy thread in the photo below?

Once you’ve checked the outside of the dress to make sure it looks good, run a second row of stitching either right on top of the first, or right next to it for added reenforcement.

On the outside of the dress, you’ll see a tiny little seam in the piping, but it’s hardly noticeable:

Here’s another example of one I did this past week:

If you need to understitch the inside of the dress, be sure and do that.

If you’re not sure how to understitch, look at the instructions at the end of this post.

I think you’ll find that you can use this technique on many applications from clothing to upholstery.

How To Put In Gussets

Do you know what a gusset is?

It’s an inverted triangular piece of fabric used to enlarge a garment so it will fit.

Usually, you have two gussets….one in each side seam.

You know you need a gusset, when you are zipping up a dress or skirt and it won’t zip up all the way.

(There are other instances where they are needed, but we’ll focus on this problem for now.)

I’ve written a post that tells you how to put in a corset back in your dress, but not everyone wants a corset back.

Especially, if you’re enlarging a bridesmaid dress and you want all the dresses to look the same from the back.

Or, you need to enlarge a bridal gown or formal dress and there’s no other option.

I have had a few e-mails asking how to enlarge a garment that’s too small.

And I get several customers each year that need this alteration as well.

I have been meaning to write this post for over a month.

In August,  my daughter came back home to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding and the bodice of her dress was too tight to be comfortable.

She ordered it in the same size as the one she tried on in the store, but the one that came in didn’t fit the same.

Sound familiar?

I know it does. So many gals have the same trouble.

So, with about two hours to spare, I knew what it needed.

You guessed it: gussets.

This is what one of them looked like:

Just so you know, the gathered fabric to the right of the gusset is a tie that was sewn into the dress and it tied around the waist.

Here’s what it looks like with the ties pulled away from the bodice:

Chances are, your garment won’t have ties like this, but if it does, you don’t have to take them out.

Just ignore them and forget they are there.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the gusset-making process when I added these to her dress, so today I’ll show you how to make these gussets using mostly diagrams.

Here is the back of a dress and what this dilemma looks like:

The area above the zipper is where the problem lies and where we’ll concentrate.

You’ll need to take two measurements.

They are marked in the diagram below by the dash lines:

Let’s say that the measurement across the top is 4″ and the measurement down the side of the zipper to the zipper pull is 5″.

Jot your measurements down.

Grab a piece of computer paper (or something of similar size.)

Make a big dot at the top middle of the paper.

This mark will symbolize the center back.

Take the top measurement (in this case, it was 4″) and divide that number in half.

You’ll be making two gussets: one for each side seam, so that is why you divide the number in half.

In this case that means 2″.

You are basically going to add 2 total inches to the left side of your dress and 2 total inches to the right side.

Measure out to the left of that main dot one inch and make a second dot. Now, measure out one inch to the right of that first dot and draw another dot, just like in the photo below.

Then, measure down 5″ from the first dot (or whatever your second measurement is) and make another dot.

Connect the dots with a ruler like this:

As you can see, the measurement that is horozontal, represents half the opening you have in your dress along the top.

The vertical line represents the opening you have from the top of the dress down to the zipper.

Make sense so far?

Ok, now draw a line from the bottom dots up to the outer dots like this:

This represents your gusset without seam allowances.

Now, we’ll add the seam allowances.

I add a half inch to the sides and bottom of this triangle, like this:

Whether you have lining in your garment, or not, you’ll need to place the top edge of this triangle on the fold of the fabric scrap you have chosen to make your gusset out of.

Otherwise, if you didn’t set it on the fold, you’d have a raw edge at the top.

(Sometimes, when the garment has a seam in the armhole, then I’ll add a seam allowance to the top edge and cut two pieces out and seam them at the top edge before inserting the gusset into the garment.)

But I try to avoid that step if at all possible.

If I don’t have to add the seam allowance at the top edge, I’ll cut this triangle out like this:

To me it’s much easier to have a fold at the top edge of the gusset I make.

This means you need to pay attention to how much fabric you need to make the gusset out of.

I try to match the gusset fabric to the main fabric of the garment as best I can, from the scraps I have around the house.

Many times my customers think that if I take a few inches off the hem of the dress, I’ll have enough to work with, but many times I don’t.

Many times that hem scrap is curved and I don’t get a full triangle piece when I place that pattern on the fold of the scrap.

You may have to go and buy a small piece of fabric (a quarter yard is usually plenty) that matches.

Once you do that, place the top edge of the pattern you just cut out on the folded edge of the fabric and cut it out along the lines.

Press the top edge of the gusset piece with an iron to set that fold.

Many times, I’ll iron on interfacing on the underside of the back piece of that triangle (which, if you unfolded it, would look like a big diamond shape.)

The interfacing will add some stiffness and body to the gusset piece.

Now, mark the seam allowances on the gusset pieces.

Mark those dots on the gusset piece too (except you don’t need to mark that center back dot.)

Now, set aside the gusset pieces and pick up your garment.

Looking at the garment where the side seam meets the underarm, you may have understitching there.

See the horozontal stitches in the photo below?

I’ll take out twice as many as I think I need to work in that area.

Take apart the side seam.

You may have boning in there.

Remove it.

Then, take out the side seam stitches, only and exactly to the 5 inch mark (or whatever your measurement was…no more!)

Lay the gusset (right sides together) to the right side of the dress, matching the seam allowance line of the gusset to the stitching line of the dress.

Match the top dots to the top edge of the dress.

Match the bottom dot to the 5 inch mark, right at the point where you stopped when you took out the side seam.

You’re only doing the front edge of the gusset right now. 

Using the original seamline as your guide, stitch along one side of the gusset, starting at the fold area and sewing down to the 5″ spot.

Backstitch and cut your threads.

Now, stitch along the other edge of the gusset from the top fold down to the 5″ spot again.

Check to make sure you dont’ have any bumps or haven’t caught any stray fabric in that seam.

If you have, rip it out and restitch it.

If you don’t it won’t look good on the outside of the dress.

Next, pin the other end of the gusset to the lining, matching it in the same way you did the original end.

 Stitch. Then, double check your stitching again.

If you need to put boning back into the dress, add it to the side of the gusset that is closest to the back of your dress.

You can stitch through the boning (if it’s not the heavy plastic kind.)

If it is the heavy plastic kind, you can make a casing in the side seams by stitching the outer edge of the gusset and that back side seam.

Then, slide that boning right down into that casing.

Then, I push the seam allowance to the back and tack that casing to the lining, if necessary, so it doesn’t move.

The gusset should look lay flat.

You shouldn’t need to iron it at all.

I like that, because many bridal or formalwear garments are made of un-iron-able (is that a word?!) fabrics.

Now, sew the other gusset into your garment.

If you measured correctly, this dress will be perfect!

So, here is the photo of it again:

If the top edge of your gusset looks a little wavy, don’t be alarmed.

When you, or your customer, or family member puts it on, that waviness will disppear.

Most likely it’s wavy because it is a fitted garment and it’s not on the person yet.

Now, try it on, or have them try it on and you’ll be the new hero because they can zip it up, it looks great, and they can breathe!

How To Fix Boning Issues

I’d like to address how to fix a few problems with the boning in your dress or tops.

Recently, a customer tried on a dress that just didn’t seem like it fit correctly in the bust.

I knew right away that it had an issue with the boning, because one side was fine and the other was dimpled.

So, after I finished marking the hem, she handed the dress over to me and I looked inside.

Can you see what I saw?

On one side, the boning was just fine and the curve was “pushing out” like it should be.

In other words, it followed the natural curve of the body.

The other side, however, was the exact opposite.

Do you see how the left side looks just fine, but the right side is incorrect?

Here’s a side view. You can see that the dress fabric (where my hand is) is sticking out like it should, but the boning (where the lining of the dress is) pokes towards the body:

That meant that the boning was in there backwards.

To fix the problem, I needed to take the dress apart, remove the boning, and put it back in correctly.

Here’s what I found when I turned the dress inside out:

The lining is attached to the dress. That is why it looks all scrunched up.

So, remove the cording that connects the two together:

I usually just cut it in the middle so that when I go to put the two layers back together later, I know exactly the spots on both sides where I need to attach a new cording.

Once that was finished, I noticed that this particular dress had the boning stitched directly onto the lining. It wasn’t enclosed in a casing.

We’ll talk about those that are in casings in a few minutes.

To get this boning out, I needed to rip out the topstitching that was holding the boning in place:

I just start by finding a stitch I can rip and then continue pulling out stitches until the boning is out.

Before I take the boning completley off, I mark it so that I know the direction it was in the dress:

I used a black pen on this one because I knew it would never show.

If you are uncertain about the mark showing, use something that won’t show, or stitch some loose stitches in the boning and take them out later.

I mark the boning so that I don’t put it in the same way it was before.

Hey, I’ve done that before! You only do something stupid once, don’t you?!

Now, turn the boning over and lay it in the same spot it was when you took it out.

If you have a bit of fabric or ribbon wrapped around the top of the boning, keep it there:

It is meant to protect the sharp ends so that the boning doesn’t poke through your dress.

If your dress doesn’t have this ribbon or fabric, you can put a piece on if you want.

If it looks like your boning is going to slip around while you are sewing it down, just anchor it to the lining with a few stitches to hold it in place:

Now, stitch the boning in place, from the right side of the lining, being very careful not to catch other parts of the dress underneath.

Make sure everything is out of the way before you begin.

I just sew along the original stitching lines:

Sew down one side (be sure and pull out your pins so you don’t run over them)

Then, sew across the boning to anchor it in.

(Don’t worry, you won’t ruin your machine by stitching over it.)

You might want to go slow, though.

Then, stitch back up to the top again:

Now, you can stitch across the boning at the top, again being careful not to catch the dress itself underneath the presser foot:

That should be all you need to do.

Make sure you replace the cording that holds the lining to the dress (or use ribbon or a strong thread).

Have the customer try the dress on again and you’ll see how it takes care of that bad dimpling problem.

Now, if your boning is enclosed in a casing, just take out the understitching in the dress that is found at the very top:

Turn the dress inside out and take out a few stitches of this top seam:

You only need to take out three or four stitches, the minimum amount needed to pull the boning out, turn it around and put it back into the casing.

Once its back in the casing, just stitch the seam back up.

I don’t generally restitch the understitching, because it really doesn’t need it.

But you could if you wanted to.

Another problem you might have with boning is that it may be cutting into your skin at the top of your dress.

That means the boning is too long.

Just open up the dress as I explained above.

If the boning has a piece of fabric over the end, remove that first.

Then, just use a regular pair of scissors and trim off the end.

I usually take off 1/4″ -1/2″ .

Put the fabric back on the tip of the boning (or if you didn’t have a piece of fabric on there in the first place, you may want to put a piece on now) and stitch it in place so it won’t slip around.

Put the boning back in and restitch the dress closed, if applicable.

That should fit alot better and keep you comfortable.

There may be other configurations with your particular dress but, hopefully, with these tips, you’ll be able to figure yours out.

If not, shoot me an e-mail found in the “Contact” section and I’ll walk you through it.

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