Tag Archive | alteration

The Shotgun Wedding Dress

One Sunday morning in 2013, my cell phone rang…
“Hi, this is Donna.”
“Oh hi!  How are you?”
“I’m sorry but I have an emergency and I need your help.”
“Sure.  What’s up?”
“My daughter is getting married in less than two weeks, she’s 5 1/2 months pregnant and the dress doesn’t fit anymore!  This is an $850 wedding gown that we bought back in May of 12 and it fit up until a week ago!  I’ve been to 3 seamstresses and none of them will touch it.  I’m so desperate, I nearly broke down and purchased another wedding dress last weekend but the ones on the rack that fit were horrible and it would take too long to order another.   This one took 6 weeks to come in and we don’t have that long!  Then I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought of you.  Do you think you can you help?”

Now this is a woman in sheer desperation!  How can I say no?  “Well, I can try.  We’re in Houston right now but we should be home in a couple of hours.”  “That’s OK.  Her shower is today from 2-4 so we’ll be by after that.”  “OK.  See you then.”  As I hang up, I wonder if it’s a bridal shower or a baby shower… 🙂

Funny thing about the pregnant body.  One day you’re one size, and the next you’re two sizes larger like someone took a bicycle pump to the girls overnight.  Which is fine, unless you’re hoping to fit into your pre-preggo size 4 wedding gown.

I know that wedding gowns come with an additional 3 inches in seam allowance on each side – that seems to be an industry standard.  I did some online homework before they arrived and found the perfect solution – the corset back wedding gown.  That would solve the problem of her possibly getting bigger before the wedding after the alteration.  When they arrived, I see why no seamstress will touch it.  This strapless dress is covered top to bottom in a layer of silk organza folds and ruffles.  Oh boy.  Fortunately, the bride wasn’t fussy and when I asked her about converting the back of the dress, she was good with it.  I mean really, what choice did she have?  When she put the dress on, the top of the zipper had a 5 inch gap and there was no way it was going to close.  Here is the front of the dress.dress front

And here is the back.dressBack

The first step was to match the fabric and no single fabric would work because of the organza overlay on the gown.   I had to haul this monster dress to the store to find fabrics that would work and I found them at #HancockFabrics.  While lighting can be a challenge with store fluorescents and incandescent lighting at home, I ended up choosing the wrong side of a candlelight organza (or the less-shiny side…it’s hard to tell) over the wrong side of white satin.  The effect was nearly identical.

Now to put them together.  If you’ve never done it, sewing slippery, shiny fabrics is an absolute nightmare.  So I reached into my Mad Quilting Skills part of my brain and hauled out the miracle of all miracles…Sullivan’s Quilt Basting Spray.

First to make the tie.  I read somewhere that the tie needed to be 3 yards long and I didn’t want a mid-seam which would create a stress point on satin fabric that shreds like crazy.  The LAST thing the bride needs is to have the tie holding in the girls to give out during the reception!  So I purchased a full 3 yards of both the satin and organza even though I didn’t need that much.  I know you’re supposed to sew sheers on tissue paper, and I didn’t have any, but I did have a huge roll of white plastic table cover left over from a company Christmas party.  (It’s always good to be on the decorating committee in case of any leftovers).    I’ve experienced pulling paper off the back of quilt pieces when paper piecing, so I thought, well – why not plastic too?   I swept off the screened-in back patio to get rid of the dog fur, locked the dogs into the house, and rolled it out.backPatio

I folded the fabric and cut the strip with a rotary cutter on my cutting mat.  It’s one, 3-yard long piece – not pieced together like custom bias binding.  I laid out a 3 3/4” wide strip of satin onto the plastic, sprayed it with quilt basting spray, and pressed and smoothed a 5” wide piece of organza over it using my Pampered Chef Baker’s Roller.  (Adapt and overcome amiright?)

The image below is the plastic (with CRAZY static cling [ugh! Major PITA], then satin, then organza.  bastingSpray

I pinned like crazy, cut it out with scissors at least an inch away from the edge of any fabric, and sewed a long basting stitch about 1/8 inch from the edge of the satin along both long sides.


To make the tie, I sewed the end of a piece of cording into the end of the tie for a tugging rope, and then right sides together using a tiny 1.8” stitch length, I sewed the cord within the length of the tie inside the basting stitch.  Then I inverted the tie by pulling on the loose end of the cord and coaxed the fabric to turn right side out as I tugged, and tugged, and stuffed, and tugged the opposite end through itself.  It was a total and complete pain and took me 45 minutes!  Check the shredding on the seam.  See why there cannot be a stress point via a center seam?  I know I could have simply folded the fabric WST and top stitched one side but…tacky.  I wanted this to look factory with no visible seams.  I mean, it’s a wedding gown and everyone will be staring at her back as she walks down the aisle.turningTie

The whole process of prepping, laying, spraying, laying, pinning, cutting, sewing, and turning took 2.5 hours.  But it turned out absolutely perfect.  I had a little happy dance!colorMatchTieToDress

See how the color matches nearly exactly?  And the outside fabrics are both organza so the texture is the same as well and there’s no seam on the tie.  Gorgeous.

Creating the corset loops was tricky.   I know you can order these online but I had little time and didn’t want to chance not matching the color correctly.  At Hancock Fabrics I found a close match of satin cording and my first attempt by sewing the cording to twill tape was a fail.  The twill tape wouldn’t stay straight which I anticipated would cause a wonky tug factor from one side or the other as the corset was pulled together.  The beauty of a corset back gown is the perfect serpentine that is created when the tie is run through the loops.  To get this effect, the loops must be the same distance apart on either side of the bodice and evenly spaced.  I decided on a stiff boning-by-the-yard to make the loop sets and broke out my heavy-duty machine needles.  The boning was perfect and stabilized the loop sets.  Again with my quilting skills, the loops were held in place until sewn with Clover Wonder Clips (‘cuz you CAN’T pin the cording into the boning evenly) and I attached the loops with a zipper foot straight stitch down the center of the boning.  Then I reinforced those babies with additional horizontal zigzag stitch on each loop end.  Those bad boys were NOT coming loose on my watch!makingLoops

I was hoping not to have to deconstruct the dress to remove the zipper.  So I sewed the boning by machine to the outside of the dress with the loops facing toward the side seam.   I left the top loop about 1/2 “ below the top edge of the dress.loopsOnDress


Once the loops were turned toward the inside of the dress, I stitched the folded portion by hand to the inside of the gown using a heavy upholstery thread and curved upholstery needle.  The top layer of the skirt’s organza ruffle came up over the bottom of the zipper.  It looked like I wouldn’t have to deconstruct the dress.  Yay!loopsInsideDress

Once both loop sets were installed, I had to make the modesty panel.  I read online somewhere the modesty panel had to be 10 inches wider than the final gap in the gown so the top of the panel needed to be 15 inches across.  (I’ve noticed in wedding gowns since this event that you barely get an inch on each side of the panel – cheapo manufacturers!) Again I used a spray basting method to adhere the organza to the satin and sew them. I drew my sewing line with a Frixion pen and left a small opening in the bottom so I could turn it right side out.  sewingPanelskeded

I trimmed up the panel, turned it, poked out the corners with a chop stick, gave the panel a good press and top stitched the opening closed.  Then I hand stitched it, using a strong polyester thread, to the left side of the gown right next to the left loop set.panelInstalled

Here’s the secret to a perfectly centered serpentine down the corset back gown.  Run the tie through the top two loops, then standing way back, hold the ends of the ties like reigns on a horse, to get them even and straight.  Then drop them, and run the right tie through the 2nd left loop on the left side so both ends hang on the left making sure there are NO twists in the tie as it goes through the loop.  Then take the tie in the top left loop and run it across from right and back to left inserting it into the 3rd left loop.  You always start with the top tie on the left side, over and back.  Don’t run the ties like a tennis shoe.  Continue this process down the dress, left to right to left, until it is completely tied.  When you get to the last right loop at the bottom, create a bow with the ends and tuck them down inside the dress.  Here is a pillow modeling the final effect.tiedUp

And Here Comes the Bride! (Not really.  This is a final fitting in my LR, not the actual ceremony!) ha  Seeing that I could have made the modesty panel a little longer, I advised the bride to ensure her undergarments were white for the ceremony.bride2

The corset back was the perfect choice for this bridal alteration.  Her mom told me the gap at the top of the gown the day of the wedding was even farther apart than it was when she brought the dress to me.  The bride was thrilled with the outcome and really, so was I.  I hear she was absolutely gorgeous at the wedding and the dress got rave reviews….And they lived happily ever after!

In case you are wondering, because I didn’t know what I was doing when I started, I was a sucker and did this for a case of beer + the cost of fabric ($75).  Mom offered more and I said no.  I know, I know… but I felt good about the outcome and told her to consider it my wedding gift to them.  Besides, her sister Dana and her hubs have done so much for us and that’s what friends are for, right?  🙂

How to Girley-Up a Men’s T-Shirt

Supplies: Ugly T-shirt, Cute Tee to use as a pattern, Pins, Chalk, Seam Guide, Double Needle

Last February at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, hubs and I went with friends to see Little Big Town. I love them and wanted to get myself a really cute “Day Drinking” tee.   Although, I knew if they had a cute “Pontoon” shirt complete with double-decker, slide-wielding-grilling-fun, I knew I’d be in a pickle because, well, I’m not going to drop $60 on two t-shirts. I mean I can…but I’m not, ya know? So…I’m a bit of an audiophile and follow a lot of the new Country artists and I was having visions of looking super cool in a pink and white, LBT bedazzled, cap-sleeve, scoop neck, shapely, princess-cut cutie. Before the show, I went hunting around the booths for a shirt. And what do I find? IMG_3115The ugliest, most gawd-awful royal blue blah t-shirt known to man. The only other one they had was a black LBT shirt with concert dates on it. So it’s the royal blue or nothing. It wasn’t even in a ladies style. It looked like it was yanked from a Hanes bag in the WalMart men’s underwear aisle and run through the printer. Really? You want me to drop $30 on a piece of crap ugly tee just because it says, “This is my Day Drinking Shirt”?  OK. I’m in. The day after the concert, I got to work. First – WASH THE ORIGINAL SHIRT.   You want as much shrinkage out of the original as possible.  That, and you need to get the Bangladesh off of it.  I’m pretty sure those t-shirt factories don’t have signs that say “Employees must wash hands before returning to work” if you know what I mean.

The Pattern
I like the shape of my Bucky’s tee so I used it as my pattern. If you’ve ever driven the Texas highways, you understand Bucky’s. If you’ve never seen a Bucky’s, it’s literally a gas station that is bigger than some WalMart stores with the cleanest bathrooms you’ll ever find for a “pit stop”.  They have nearly 100 gas pumps, cheap ice, and cute stuff.  And I don’t care what time of day it is, those stores are PACKED! Now, you should know right off, there’s nothing to be done about the neckline. Just get over it and move on. If you can’t, don’t buy the ugly version to begin with. It’s virtually impossible to reconfigure a neckline on a pre-made t-shirt and have it come out looking right. I’ve tried and it sucks Turn the original tee inside out, fold it in half vertically, and then lay the pattern tee (also folded in half) on top of the original making sure the center folds are even.  Arrange the height of the pattern tee to the underarm seams so they match exactly as possible. Pinning them helps. Again, ignore the shoulders and neckline – there’s nothing for it. Take chalk and draw an outline of the pattern tee down the sides and be sure to use a seam guide to add hem length for the sleeves and bottom hem. Remember, you’re not going to do anything with the shoulders or neckline. I moved my pattern tee over a bit so you could see the chalk line.IMG_3120 The Sleeves
Using a seam guide on the sleeves, add a cuff length big enough to fold up as much as the original so it looks “factory”. You can true-up the line if you have a French curve and then cut on the hem line.IMG_3121 IMG_3122IMG_3124 On the side seams, use a boat-load of pins to pin exactly on the chalk line, (not perpendicular to it) almost to the point of creating a faux seam, and do this the entire length of the tee to include into the sleeves.IMG_3126 Flip the shirt over and draw another chalk line where your pins lead the way. This makes the shirt symmetrical and keeps it from shifting.IMG_3127 If you have a serger, you do not have to cut the sides. The blade will do that for you. If you don’t have a serger, cut the sides of the tee using the chalk line as a guide very close to the pins. Don’t take the pins out first or you’ll make yourself miserable.  Then look for an overlock stitch on your machine.  If it doesn’t have one, you can use a wide zig zag to finish the edges.IMG_3135 I used my serger to finish the sleeve edges and then folded them up and pinned a bunch to keep them straight.  Lots of steam in the iron helps with this. Do you love my ironing board cover?  I totally made that.  Fabric from WalMart.IMG_3129 The Side Seams
My serger cut and finished the sides for me (I was a by-stander) and I just followed the chalk line, pulling pins as I went.IMG_3128 If you don’t have a have a serger, use a very wide zig zag stitch (so it looks almost straight) down the sides of the shirt on the chalk line and then press with steam to set the stitches. After you’ve pressed, cut the excess fabric off the shirt (on the outside of the seam line!) and then use your machine’s overlock stitch to finish the side seam edges. I know it seems a little backwards to stitch and then cut, but believe me, your life will be much easier in the long run to do it this way. The Hem If you have a coverstitch machine, I’m green with envy. But for the rest of us that don’t… Once again, break out the seam guide and add length to the bottom for the hem (I didn’t because I’m tall so I just used the edge of the original hem as a guide) and then cut along that line. I know the image below looks out of order from the side seam images above.  It really doesn’t matter which order you do this in if you’re cutting off the bottom anyway.IMG_3125 If you have any stretch stay tape it would be good to use it to stabilize the hem but I didn’t have any. Just fold up the hem to the size you want (look at the original for a guide) and then pin, pin, pin and use steam from the iron to even out any ripples. Time to sew. Using a double needle is really easy and I recommend using a Stretch Twin Needle (ball point).  IMPORTANT!!  Set the needle position to CENTER!  If you skip this, the left needle will break if your machine defaults to a needle-left position. Of course, I didn’t learn this lesson from personal experience (ha-ha).  Also, you can’t use the auto-threader (duh).IMG_3131 A ball point (or Stretch) needle will not pierce the fibers of the fabric but instead move them out of the way as the needle goes up and down. If I don’t have two top threads of the same color, I’ll make a bobbin real quick and use that as my 2nd top thread. My machine says to thread both threads through the machine at the same time (check your manual for yours) and then thread the needles separately. Thread one needle completely first and then thread the second. Don’t worry about the threads getting tangled in the machine…they won’t.IMG_3132 Set your stitch length to 3.5 or 4.0 for a more factory look and then starting on a side seam, start sewing on the FRONT of the shirt. Right side up and you want to try to capture the underside edge of the hem between the two needles. Sew slowly and take your time. This ain’t NASCAR.IMG_3133 Use lots of steam for a final press and ta-da!  A super-cute, fitted, rockin’, “Day Drinkin” Tee!  IMG_3139