Posts Tagged ‘alteration


This is how I work (… or not)

I am the queen of procrastination.

I am also the queen of finding-anything-else-to-do-but-what-I-have-to.

An hour or two before I took this picture, I was perched on my roof (first AND second floor), meekly holding on to the roof tiles with my bare feet, cleaning the gutters. It had to be done, there were PLANTS growing in them.

What I should have done instead, is work with these:

4 bridesmaid dresses

1 wedding dress

1 reception dress

1 maternity dress

4 pairs of pants

4 shirts

and a bag.

What I’m saying is: give me a deadline.

I work greatly under pressure.


Oh no! … I brought my work home!

I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain…. a lot of people HAVE to bring their work home to get it done.  Usually, I try to avoid it, though, as much as I can.  As a small business owner, I feel like I am wearing so many hats already:  I am shopkeeper, bookkeeper, buyer, marketing exec, website updater, blogger, employer, and many more at the same time.  Let’s say this:  being your own boss has its certain ups and downs.

At least on one of the days that I am not at the shop, I will still do some work:  fabric shopping, ordering, bookkeeping.   This ‘weekend’ I have decided I need to work on my alterations – because they all have a DEADLINE of this coming week.



The bridesmaid dresses are made of a beautiful shantung silk and are one of the mail-order cases:  they fit in one spot and are wrong on ALL the others.  The waist  and the straps need to be taken up, the sides need to be taken in and they need to be hemmed (which is the least of all problems….)

The pink assembly on my cutting table include:  a vintage dress (peach color, left), which had the armholes completely torn – I have already serged around them; now I need to turn the edges under so it can be worn again.  The tutu (middle) needs to have the waist moved; my customer wants the skirt to be a lot more puffy.  The slip on the right has to have the straps shortened and the hem taken up.

This is work for FIVE customers who all need it by FRIDAY!

This is how my room will turn into a WORKSHOP.  And yes, it was designed for that:


My Babylock and the coverlock are always here, because I do not have room for them at the shop.  I LOVE my cutting table:  it can be pushed into the wall and almost disappear – it is the best place to lay out big bolts of fabric, cut and assemble.


Unfortunately, I own only ONE sewing machine.  This Brother is my WORKHORSE and I dread the day when it needs repair because I have NO backup.  I have no other room for it than on my (messy) desk.

So, here I go:  I have my work cut out:


I has taken over my room.


Grandma’s Coat No.2

J. has not picked it up yet and I will get a picture of her wearing the coat when she does.

This one was not in as good of a shape like the other one that I did for her.  The lining was torn in places and the wool turned brittle in a few spots.  The tailoring on this coat is very elaborate and that’s why J. wanted to preserve the coat as best as she could.

You can tell from my pinning where we wanted to go with this.  Instead of taking it in at the sides, I tapered the three back seams.  The front side seams have pockets in them.

Before picture

The coolest part of this coat is the label that is sewn into the garment.  I bet you don’t find these anymore.

Union Label

It reads:

Union Made

International Ladies Garment Workers Union

Internet, if you know when these were used, I’d like to know!

I also significantly shortened the sleeves.  With the leftover fabric from the bottom I inserted triangles to make the sleeves wider.

After picture

Arm detail

Grandma, if you’re watching from above, I hope you approve!


Such a mountain!

The hemming gods meant well. I will never wonder again what I will do when I come back to the store and have nothing to hem. N E V E R. This shelf was empty last Sunday. There are 4 projects on it right now. The last one arrived late yesterday. Six pairs of pants, two for her husband. They seem to like me. My work. I keep the original jeans hem. Not that I particularly like THAT type of work (but I will do it!). A frayed jeans jacket in need of a zipper where it had snaps. Exercise pants. More jeans, a cuff and a ripped side seam. This is only one shelf, mind you! There are more hems in limbo one level up. A mini dress that needed cap sleeves and a longer hem (I added lace). A tunic, arm ripped (I cut off from the bottom and applied a patch from the selvage). Oh- and let’s not forget the fuchsia bridesmaid dress that turned out to have two linings! This one needed to be shorter to look cute.

I was about to state that I love doing other things but hem. Such as the occasional bonbon like the Chinese inspired blouse last week. But I guess I get also a lot of smaller projects that no one else will tackle. I love a challenge!


Grandma’s coat

This is one transformation I am rally proud of. I hope my customer likes it as much as I do. She was telling me about a coat she had inherited from her grandmother before last Christmas, in perfect shape, however hopelessly out of style. My customer wanted to preserve the coat in her grandma’s memory… and wear it too, if possible. As I am always curious what my customers love and why, I was intrigued and wanted to see the piece before making any commitments of altering it.

So finally, about two weeks ago she brought it by. When she put it on, we determined it needed to be taken in, mostly at the waist to give it shape. It is probably around a 1940’s vintage, broad and generous at the chest, 3/4 sleeves, high side pockets, knee length. The tailoring on it is pretty creative – instead of straight princess seams down the length of the coat, it has angled, outward curving seams at the back, which meant I could not take in the seams to make it slimmer. In addition, I always want to preserve as much of the original lines as possible. Therefore, I opted to take in the side seams and shape it that way. At the same time, I felt it needed some updating to make it look more modern without sacrificing the ‘vintage feel’ of it. I whipped out the needles and just pinned it up about 5 inches. What a difference! Now it looked more like a car coat with enough enough fabric around the bottom to keep her warm.

The work itself evolved over a few days. Taking it in was easy enough – them came cutting it off. Once something is cut off, it is pretty dramatic; it won’t go back on and look good so I have to be careful. The cut off piece wanted to be a belt right away – it is slightly curved and therefore will smoothly lay around the body. After the usual hemming and finishing, I now had to find a buckle for the belt – the fabric is thick wool and probably would look too bulky if just tied. This was a lot more complicated than I thought. Back in Berlin, I had found a store that would wrap just about anything button-ish or belt-ish. But here – no luck. Not the local button and notion emporium, nor the web had any solutions. I envisioned a simple pull-through buckle, not one with a thorn, because I did not want to get into punching holes in the belt. When I ventured out to one of my favorite local big fabric stores (with coupon in hand – so I had to go anyway!), I found just the right size buckle, not oval as I had wanted but square, which I thought would look just as good. I guess I could have used it as is (after removing the thorn), but I SO wanted it to be covered. This particular challenge actually followed me to bed and by morning I had discovered a way that might do it. (sometimes sleeping over a challenge proves to be helpful!)

The next day at the store, I made a simple pattern, cut out the fabric from the belt left-overs, pinned the buckle and the fabric under my sewing machine – and broke a needle right away. Learning this lesson – do not hit metal with machine needle! – I pretty much zoomed through the rest of the project. When I tied the belt and buckled it, I was so enamored!

So here it is – the finished project:


Flickr Photos


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