Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Customized Wedding Gown


This bride wanted to change her wedding dress to add a blue ombre effect to the skirt and add a few inches to the bodice width. 

Designing the Ombre Look

Finding Fabric

First, we need to start by finding the fabric needed. We measured the full circumference of the dress hem. (~278"). Then the length of the train from the waist to the end of the train (~63"). It took quite a while but we finally found a fabric that had the right texture, sheer but not so sheer that you couldn't see it, the right colors, the ombre going in the right direction on the fabric, and most importantly there was enough available to make the whole skirt! We looked at fabric stores, curtains, sheets... and finally made an amazing find on amazon. 
NICETOWN Navy Blue Ombre Sheer Panels for Indoor Outdoor Wedding Ceremony/Party/Pergola Canopy, 2 Panels, W60 x L216



The bride wanted the darkest part of the ombre at the end of the train so the lightest part of the sheer would be at the waist. This meant the front of the skirt wouldn't be as dark at the hem as the back of the skirt (the train). 

The skirt as a whole was a tube but the front was hemmed to floor length so the bride could walk; therefore, the hem on the front of the dress was a much lighter blue than the hem of the train.

Making A Tube Into A Skirt!

This is an A-line skirt, not a full skirt so the tube needs to be taken in at the waist with darts and seams instead of gathering. The skirt has a circumference of about 280" and the dress waist of about 48". That's a lot of fabric to trim out! The good news is that this ombre layer doesn't have to be perfect because it is going under the top layer of the dress (the top layer is sheer with all of the lace attached to it)! 

The bodice has princess seams, darts, side seams, and a back seam. These are where I made darts in the ombre layer to remove excess fabric. 

All of these numbers are approximate and aren't taking into account seam allowances and ease. This is why I pin/baste everything before cutting!

The Numbers

The front panel of the skirt. 
Front hem circumference ~110". Waist ~25"... amount of fabric needing to be removed ~85". 
Center Front between the princess seams is 8.5". On either side of the princess seams is a pair of darts 3.5" from the princess seam. The side seams are 4.5" out from these darts.

That means there are 6 places at the waistline to line up seams/darts in the skirt and take out the excess fabric. 4 darts and both side seams. I view side seams as 1/2 of a dart - the other half comes out of the back of the skirt).  So I divided the amount I needed to remove (85") by 5 darts (4 actual darts and the side seam half darts combine to be one). I needed to remove about 17" per dart (only 8.5" on the side seams). 

Clear as mud, right?!

The reality is that no one is really looking at this layer. Feel free to play with and tweak it. Spread out the top layer of the skirt, drape your new fabric over it and pin random darts into it if you want to. I wouldn't do too few darts or make them too short or your silhouette won't look very smooth. 

The fuller you want the skirt to be at the waist, the more you can use gathers or pleats instead of deep darts. Feel free to mix and match darts, gathers, pleats... On this dress, I did some pleats at the back waist instead of darts to leave a little extra fullness in the back. 

Before cutting, I pinned and/or basted the darts and seams. I wanted to make sure everything lay smoothly when removing so much fabric.

Seam Finishing Tip:
This ombre synthetic fabric frayed easily. Rather than doing narrow hems or serging yards and yards of raw edges, I burned them! I practiced using scraps a LOT because it was terrifying but once I felt confident, it went quickly! 
  • make sure to remove any little strings/threads hanging from the edge (they act as wicks and cause bigger burns)
  • use a candle rather than a lighter - you don't have to struggle to hold the lighter and keep it lit.
  • have a system to move the fabric past the candle quickly and steadily. I attached each end of my fabric to a hangar suspended like a hammock and ran the candle along the fabric edge instead of the fabric edge along the candle.

Adding Inches

This bride needed a few inches added to the width of the bodice. I let all of the seams out as much as possible but still needed a few more inches across the back. Many brides switch to a corset-style back but this bride wanted to keep the sheer and the button detail.

I cut away the original tulle along the lace edges and replaced it with new (using the original as a template). I extended the bottom edge of the tulle to V downward to fill in the lower back area where the zipper wouldn't zip any higher. (I had the bride switch to a bra with a lower cut back). I then stitched the lace and button tape onto the new back.

During a fitting, ALWAYS have the client wear the shoes and undergarments that the client will be wearing on the big day. 

  1. When hemming a dress, it helps to have the client look in a full-length mirror so they can see what you're doing without looking down. Looking down drops the hem lower to the floor and when the client straightens back up the dress is too short! Direct the client to look straight ahead with arms hanging loosely at the sides. 
  2. When working on a dress with a train, always shorten the front of the dress an inch or two shorter than it seems it should be, especially if the bride is not wearing a petticoat. Otherwise, when the bride walks, the dragging train pulls the front of the dress toward the body, which makes the hem lower and causes it to roll under. The bride is more likely to step on the dress and stumble walking up the aisle!

TIP: To help convince the bride to let you shorten it, fluff out the train and have the bride walk forward about 10 steps (preferably while looking toward a mirror that shows the feet). The bride will see the issue. 

This hem is too long in front!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sewing Room Organization

Sewing Room Organization

Pegboard. My favorite aspects - the thread holder and scissor/ruler hooks. We could also probably find a way to hang ribbon spools. Clears up shelf/tablespace. https://www.blueistyleblog.com/sewing-room-organization-ideas/

Organizing Chart
 Keeps track of multiple projects. Can list them all out as well as where you are with them. 

Ex. I use a dry-erase board divided into sections with washi tape to keep all my projects, deadlines, and seamstresses organized. 

I sometimes write my to-do list with a dry-erase marker on the large mirror I use for fittings. 

A picture frame with w/plain white paper or an empty printed chart inside the frame is quick and portable. You can then write on the glass with a dry erase marker. 

Fabric Management Ideas:

Styrofoam board - wrap smaller bits of fabric around a small Styrofoam board and then put them into the shelves organized by color or print

Fabric folded on shelves – this might be the cheapest option. I tend to stack in rainbow colors order (ROYGBIV) and keep only one color per stack. One problem with this option is trying to pull one out from the bottom, as well as having slippery fabric (silk/satin) making things want to slither. 

Ruler Folding Technique - Larger yardage - use 5" to 8 1/2″ x 24″ acrylic ruler depending on the width of your shelves or other storage spaces. 

For example, if you have a 30" wide bookshelf and you use a 6" ruler, then you can get 5 stacks of fabric per shelf. If you use a 5" ruler than you can get 6 stacks. If you're storing them on end in a drawer or tub that is 9" wide, then you can use the 8 1/2" ruler. 

Pin a post-it with measurement info to your fabric!

Baskets and clothesline - a little impractical, but essentially it works great for fabrics of all different sizes but similar colors.

I have a lot of small scraps that I use for applique and patchwork that I keep in a large, legal-size paper organizer with drawers that pull out. They’re sorted by color (each drawer has a different color) and occasionally by type (ex. Large Prints, Small Prints, Leather, Denim...). The scraps are folded and placed on end so that you can see the top edge of each of the scraps when you pull out the drawer. 
Rubbermaid Tubs – Put fabrics on cardboard bolt, write the yardage on the end of the bolt, and set the bolts, labeled end up, in a Rubbermaid tub.

- would require an investment in that many buckets. Especially ones clear enough to see the fabric in. This seems especially good for little scraps. Or use larger ones for slippery/specialty fabrics.

Legal-size paper organizer
I have a lot of small pieces of fabric that I use for applique and patchwork that I keep in a large, legal-size paper organizer with drawers that pull out. They’re sorted by color (each drawer has a different color) and occasionally by type (ex. Large Prints, Small Prints, Leather, Denim...). The scraps are folded and placed on end so you can see the top edge of each of the scraps when you pull out the drawer.

Fabric/Trim Organizer- Roll upholstery fabric and ribbons/trim on the rolls that upholstery fabric comes and stand them in a trash container like flowers in a vase. 

DIY Ribbon Holder- I drilled holes in a 2x4 and glued in dowels. I stack ribbon spools sorted by color and style (I have a lot of rick rack!).

Projects -  to keep projects together, you can label a storage Ziploc bag or paper/reusable bag. These can be stacked/stored in a milk crate or on a shelf.

Pattern Organizers
Filing Cabinet. I took all my patterns out of their envelopes and put them in manilla folders labeled and organized by pattern company (where applicable), pattern number, and size. 

Milk Crate. I have a milk crate I use to hold the folders of frequently used patterns. (I keep this in an easily accessible spot, so I also keep my rulers and other pattern drafting here). 

Expanding File Organizer. I then open out the envelopes flat and put them in an expanding, accordion file organizer divided into categories (Tops, Bottoms, Business, Casual, Bridal/Evening, Costumes, Children, Men…) so I didn’t have to dig through all my patterns to find what I needed (and the envelope usually has material requirements). For patterns without an envelope, I use a piece of paper with a sketch or photo.

Notions Organization

Button Organizer. I keep my buttons and similar notions organized by color in a box normally used for organizing screws and such. I painted mine white to match the room.

Dresser. I have a lovely small vintage set of drawers that I've painted and labeled with the contents (fastenings, elastic, trim, misc...). Don’t use deep/large drawers, things will get lost!

Thread Organizer - tiered, adjustable spice organizer – organized by color.

I love Dollar Store stuff for inexpensive organizers.

Silverware organizer kept near my sewing machine (I put it in the pullout keyboard drawer under my desk) allows me to keep things nearby and in one place things like seam rippers, 6” rulers, elastic, thimble, binders, and clips.

Fishing tackle box
. For notions/projects/tasks with small pieces. Ex. wedding-specific stuff (small hook and eyes, white fabric button, safety pins, random bits of lace and lace appliques, cording, labels..).

Sewing machine hooks. Attach Command Strip hooks to your sewing machine and never lose your scissors again.
Sewing Machine Mat. Keep your notions at hand and even a thread catcher. DIY Sewing Machine Mat Pattern- https://www.polkadotchair.com/diy-roll-up-sewing-machine-mat/ 


Project-specific organizers 

Gallon storage zip lock bags to keep fabrics, trims, and all materials needed for an individual project. I store these in a milk crate (sometimes I keep the bags stacked on a shelf, but they're pretty slippery and tend to slither off the shelf so I rarely do this).

Plastic bins or boxes
to keep materials needed for specific projects together in one place and portable.


Over the door hook that holds multiple items.

Clothes rack
–They come with wheels! I put the base of mine on bed risers to make it tall enough to accommodate the longer costumes. 

Cutting Table –

I love my cutting table. The sides fold up and down, it’s on wheels, and it even has storage underneath. This one even has an adjustable height (mine doesn’t). https://www.sewingpartsonline.com/adjustable-home-hobby-table-sullivans.aspx

Adjustable Dress Form
You probably don't have to have an adjustable dress form, but I like mine. 

I purchased (I think I spent less than $75 including shipping) a size small adjustable dress form (most of the bridal gowns I alter are for tiny young women), and then I pad up to what I need. Most dress forms only go up to a B cup (I'm a double H with a 32" rib cage). So for myself, I adjust the ribs of the mannequin to be my size and throw one of my bras on it. (Make sure you're wearing the right size bra! {Are You Wearing The Right Size Bra?}
{When I was in college I left my dress form "naked" except for a bra. My roommate asked me to throw clothes on it because it was upsetting her boyfriend! lol}

Custom Dress Form Cover
I found a great measurement format called Fast-Track Fitting by Joi Mahon It offers a very detailed measuring system. I'll be honest, making the customized pattern is a lot of work, but when you're done you have a "master" pattern that fits perfectly and you'll know how and where to use those adjustments on any patterns you use in the future. {Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) and Other Pattern Alterations}

I used the muslin made using this system as a cover for my mannequin. I added padding where it needed filling out and when I was done it was much more accurate than my adjustable mannequin. This gave me a better form to drape on and cut down on the number of fittings needed. I made one for each of the people I sewed for often or who needed a custom, fitted dress. 

Hanging Chain
– My favorite! A chain on a bike hook that hangs from the ceiling. It can hold multiple items. I love it for the longer/heavier costumes and dresses.

Dresses/costumes can be moved to different heights by hooking the item’s hanger onto different parts of the chain.  This allows me to leave the item on the hanger and raise and lower the costume so that I can work on different parts of the item at a comfortable height.

(Ex. The bodice can hang right in front of me while I do hand stitching rather than draped over my lap or the table. No boiling because I have multiple layers of a dress on my legs. No dress slithering to the floor when I’m not looking. No getting an applique twisted because I can’t tell that it’s no longer where I put it. No (ok, rarely) sewing the dress to my pants or the front to the back.)

The weight of a wedding dress can be supported by the chain and kept off the floor too while the dress is being hemmed. For bridal gowns, I keep the dress storage bag on the hangar so things like a long train can remain safely in the bottom of the bag while I work on the bodice or part of the hem. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Full Bust Adjustment and Other Pattern Adjustments

Whether sewing for ourselves or others, we all struggle with making pattern adjustments to handle fitting challenges. I use a combination of several techniques when adjusting a pattern, especially for a fitted garment. {Are You Wearing The Right-Sized Bra?Getting To The Perfect Dress}

I love this article about figuring out what proportions look best on your body, especially because it focuses on full figures. DEFINING STYLE: HOW TO DRESS FOR YOUR SHAPE.

I feel a good place to start is with Nancy Zieman. Her books and videos make adjusting patterns simple to understand and do. 

Sewing With Nancy - Fitting Finesse

Yes, this series was made in 1994 so feel free to laugh at the fashion but the techniques never go out of style!

It's All About The Shoulders
One key point in Nancy's videos/books is that the shoulders are the most important area to fit because everything else is easily adjustable.

If we cut a pattern based on our bust measurement and that measurement is different than the average B cup then the shoulders will not fit. I've bought tops that were an XL to accommodate my bust only to have the top drown me everywhere else because I have a small frame. 

Nancy's method uses a unique chart that helps you choose a pattern based on your shoulder width and then helps you make any adjustments needed everywhere else (bust, waist, hips, back...). Nancy then teaches easy-to-understand techniques on how to do that. Her pivot technique is great.

Full Bust Adjustment (FBA)
Unless I'm missing something (and I'll admit I haven't looked at it in depth in years and mostly skimmed it for this post), Nancy's technique adds or subtracts size adjustments to all of the seams equally. In my opinion, this does not make sense. If you're adjusting for a larger/smaller bust, the changes should be made in the bust area! Adding or subtracting these adjustments from all the seams including the back ones makes no sense. The same idea applies to people with a larger belly and/or backside.

For example. The bust measurement for a pattern size 14 is 36". If your bust measurement is 40" then most of the 4" difference should be added to the front, right?! 

Custom Fit

The pattern for this dress was customized using the base
 pattern created through the Fast-Track Fitting Technique. 

For more fitted clothing, you'll need detailed measurements and adjustments. 

I found a great measurement format through Craftsy. Called Fast-Track Fitting by Joi Mahon It offers a very detailed measuring system. I'll be honest, making the customized pattern is a lot of work, but when you're done you have a base pattern that fits perfectly and you'll know how and where to use those adjustments on any patterns you use in the future. 

Note: I used the muslin made using this system as a cover for my mannequin. I added padding where it needed filling out and when I was done it was much more accurate than my adjustable mannequin. This gave me a better form to drape on and cut down on the number of fittings needed. I made one for each of the people I sewed for often. 

The Beginners Guide: Full Bust Adjustment by curvysewingcollective.com
Most Big 4 patterns are drafted using a B-cup bodice and it’s rare that Indies are drafted larger than C-cups. If your bra size falls outside this range, then an FBA is for you! Even if your measurements are exactly identical to those on the pattern envelope, chances are weird fitting issues will crop up with a large cup size. It’s astounding the number of these issues a good FBA can fix, from floppy shoulders to gaping button bands and armscyes. 

How to do an FBA on a dartless knit bodice. See this awesome tutorial at https://blog.cashmerette.com/2020/10/how-to-do-a-knit-fba.html 
  1. Create a muslin (sample garment) using fabric the same weight and stretch of the knit you plan to use for your garment. 
  2. Put the muslin on and measure how much the muslin's hem rides up in front. This will be your Bust Adjustment amount.
  3. Draw a horizontal line across the front pattern piece across the bust apex.
  4. Cut along the horizontal line and separate the pattern pieces by the Bust Adjustment amount. keep the pattern lined up with the front edge of the pattern.
  5. At the side seam, add a slight curve—essentially, a "boob bubble." This helps create additional width for the bust. This bit is more of an estimate, but we recommend adding about 1/2″ to 3/4″. Trace a new pattern piece.
  6. Notch the fabric at the top and bottom of the Bust Adjustment gap.
Sewing Instructions
1. Pin the Front piece to the Back piece starting at the hem and going up to the bottom notch.

2. Pin from the armhole to the top notch.

3. Stitch the Front to the Back starting at the hem and going to the bottom notch. When you get to the bottom notch, gently stretch the back piece until it lines up with the front piece, and continue to sew. When you get to the top notch, stop stretching and sew the rest of the seam as you would normally.

FBA with Bras/Corsets/Fitted tops 

One thing I found super helpful was to make/draft a pattern from a bra that fits me {Are You Wearing The Right-Sized Bra?}. I often use the underwires from my old bras that are worn out or from cheap bras that have the right size cups even though the rest of the bra is too big for me Ex. I wear a 34H, which is impossible to find cheap, but I can use the underwire from a "sister-size" bra - 34H, 36G, 38F(aka38DDD), 40DD, 42D, 44C... one of those sizes should be much more common and therefore I can find it cheaper. You can also order underwires in all different shapes and sizes online.

To make my own corsets, I've adapted patterns using the techniques listed above ^.
{Corsets - Vogue 9273, Wonder Woman Costume} I've also learned a lot from the free tutorials at the Corset Academy (I've never purchased any courses because as far as I can tell, they wouldn't be very useful for someone with serious curves but the sewing techniques are great. They have a lot of free stuff on their YouTube channel as well. 

More good articles about FBAs

Good articles about making large FBAs


Pant Pattern Adjustment (Some Notes)

(Photo attributed to Beyond_Measure_UK but I'm not totally sure it's theirs). 

Pants Fitting Guide by 5 out of 4 This post gives pretty good descriptions of how to tell why the crotch doesn't look right on an individual based primarily on the wrinkles and bulges. 

Tin Foil Crotch Curve by 5 out of 4 This post has a DIY way of determining your crotch curve (you can also use a flexible ruler). Their video of Tin Foil Crotch Curve.

Full Tummy Adjustment If your garment offers a good fit in the back, but the front feels tight in the abdomen, you need a full tummy adjustment. A fuller abdomen requires two things: additional room in the midsection as well as a little extra length. This post also tells you how and when to raise and lower darts. This adjustment is super easy and will help you achieve a better fit.

A good video tutorial by Dorothy Daughter on adjusting patterns based on "reading the wrinkles."
Adjust The Back Of Pant Patterns  (Ex. Flat butt (13 min), Low seat (15 min). 

I like this tutorial on blocking/drafting a pattern based on crotch curves. 


This post has a ton of resources for fitting and constructing pantshttp://curvysewingcollective.com/pantsmaking-resources-fitting-and-construction/ 

Tips For Stopping Shorts From Riding/Bunching Up
1. Polyester boning - Try adding flexible covered polyester boning to the inseam. (you can also order iron-in or adhesive boning designed specifically for shorts  - https://noriders.com/ )
2. Garment Weights - This works best for loose, flowy skirts and shorts.
3. Size Up and Tailor To Fit - Purchase or pattern shorts that fit your largest dimension (or even a size above that) -- for me this is the butt! and then tailor/alter to fit the rest of the body. 
4. Secure the Hem - Wear shorts that have a rolled-up hem or are fairly snug so they cling to the leg instead of going traveling up north!
5. Wear The Right Length for your body. Not only do you not want short's hems to go across the widest part of your thigh (drawing attention to that part) but if your pants are too short then that wider part of your thigh actually pushes them up into the crotch area. 
Stand in front of your mirror in just your undies.Take a look at those legs in total honesty. The length of any bottom garment should hit right where your leg gets to a thinner part, a slim zone. You will probably have a few of these locations on your legs.

When you try on shorts, stand back and see if they land within those slim zones.

Most of us girls have some sort of “swell” at our upper thigh. If you’re lucky like me, you have a super ample thigh in every direction. I want my shorts to hit where that curve is completely resolved. For me, that means about a 6”- 7” inseam. Absolutely NO shorter if you want the to hit at a more slimming length.

A mid length short that has a bit of looseness is my most flattering because it doesn’t create a horizontal line across the widest part of my thigh. It’s also long enough to cover that part under my “hind cheeks” that I  call “my second butt”. 50, Fat & Free to Wear Shorts