Miss Seamstress

My grandmother was an amazing seamstress. AMAZING. There seemed to be no end to her talent. When my godmother (Grandma’s youngest daughter) was married in 1993, Grandma singlehandedly made the dresses for the 6 bridesmaids, jr bridesmaid, flower girl, and 3 house party girls. 11 dresses, perfectly fit. I still have my house party dress somewhere. It’s perfection. Too bad it’s sized for a 10-year-old. ::winks::

Grandma taught me to sew as soon as I was old enough to be interested in the machine that was a constant presence on the kitchen table. From practicing straight lines on random swatches of fabric (which, bless her, she always ended up putting together to use as potholders) to helping fit my baby sister’s Easter dresses, she guided me every step of the way. By my sophomore year in high school I was pulling off entire costumes (my claim to fame was the 3 full Renaissance gowns I did OVERNIGHT when we all realized we’d forgotten to get costumes to wear to the school-sponsored faire trip), and had an intricate knowledge of LA’s Fabric and Garment Districts. Seems natural that I’d go into textiles or fashion design, right?

Except … no. I have no head for designing a garment from pure imagination. I can work wonders with a pattern, I can adjust that pattern to no end, and I can draw a damn pattern* from a photo or sketch. But not just dream it up.

In college, part of my general theatre studies was to work in the costume shop. Where I fell in love with the ladies, refined my techniques (under the AMAZING Pat Skinner … who I can’t find online to save my life), and had numerous pin-in-the-foot contests.** I worked there for several semesters, and developed an undying need for a high-end serger. Which still eludes me, as I DO. NOT. have the cash for one. Stupid expensive tastes.

Long story short, I sew. This, every once in a while, comes in very handy.

Take Michelle‘s wedding gown, for example.


Side note … of COURSE I work to The Simpsons. Who doesn’t?

Michelle needed a bustle. CAN DO!


Pretty, yah? Well, that photo does NOT do it justice, I promise.  Check out how it looked on her! (Photo totally snagged from her blog, btw.)



YAY! Perfect! My ultimate goal with a bustle is to not disturb the line of the dress. If you can’t tell it’s bustled from the front, and there isn’t a big old lump of fabric in the back, I’ve done my job. I’m calling this a TOTAL success.

And you guys? Can I talk about the gorgeousness that is her dress for a second? The fabrics were TO. DIE. FOR. The design was just stunning, and it was PERFECT for her. Plus, it was a dream to work with. =)


My next project? This one’s a little special to this community … it’s a Sisterhood of the Traveling Dress*** gown!

The freaking amazing Rachel gifted her gorgeous gown to Jenn … pretty cool, right?

The gown itself is just beautiful … a killer silhouette with simple embellishments. Perfect for Rachel. Awesome on Jenn. But we want to make it perfect for Jenn, too, right?

So remember how I said I can’t design for crap? Well, I can alter a design like a madwoman.

Jenn had some fantastic ideas, and after a brainstorm session (or three) we came up with the final design … and you guys? It’s STUNNING. It’s been sitting in my living room for the past 36 hours, just so I can look at it and tweak any little bits of it before I begin the sewing … and I just love it. I love love love that I get to be a part of making this gown into Jenn’s dream.

And all the work that has gone/will go into it? WORTH IT.

Now, since Jenn’s wedding isn’t until September, we can’t show all of it. BUT! Here’s a sneak … a taste of things to come:


Gah, that lace! Am I right?

And yes, I am fully aware I used “amazing” far too much in this post. Handle it, I’m excited!


* Drawing a pattern is a task I hate, and will try and get out of, if at all possible. But I can do it.

** We all worked barefoot, which led to many many pins-in-the-foot. Whoever had the most at the end of the month got free lunch and the title of “Human Pin Cushion”. To this day I still work barefoot. And yes, still get pins in my feet. (Not as painful as it sounds. Generally you can’t feel it at all, the pins are so small, and the skin on your feet so tough. I promise.)

*** Re-reading the Sisterhood post, I am reminded that our get together (and Rachel sending in the photos) gave Meg the final push to setting up the book clubs. On behalf of Jenn, Rachel, and myself … YOU’RE WELCOME. ::winks::

11 Comments to “Miss Seamstress”

  1. I’m really impressed with your mad skills. Kind of speechless, actually! Everything is so beautiful!

    And: thank you. 🙂

    • Thank you! I can’t wait to share the finished gown.

      And, I have to laugh about it. When I look at what it’s become, just a year later. Hooray for Rachel and bringing her camera!

  2. I love it! Both my grandmothers are extremely accomplished seamstresses and knitters, and my mom nearly all of our (awesome) clothes when my brother and I were kids. I’ve always been a bit sad that I never sat down and learned those skills from them. Maybe I should buy a sewing machine and start practicing making straight lines on fabric scraps?

    • Seriously, getting over being scared of the machine is half the battle.

      JoAnn’s ususally does a few classes (the bigger ones anyway) for basic skills … I highly recommend signing up. You never know when it can come in handy. =)

      • Thanks for the tip! I’ll scout out what we have around here. (Also, totally forgot to mention that you did a gorgeous job on that bustle! Since brides spend 75% of the day with the dress bustled up, having one that’s not sad-looking [or that doesn’t look like the bride is pooping fabric, AHEMonepointbustleattachedatthebutt] is worth its weight in gold)

        • Thanks!

          My dress had a bustle that was supposed to be a one hook UNDER bustle (grumbles). Yep … broke 10 minutes in. So, while we pinned it up out of my way, I had this bump of fabric that looks like I’m trying to hide something in the back of my dress … and it shows in ALL OF MY FANCY PICTURES. (You know, all two of them.)

          I consider it my duty to make sure noone else I love has to deal with that ARGH moment when they see their photos.

  3. As the recipient of said bustle: 1) I remain thoroughly pleased that it was conceived and executed during the Simpsons and 2) it worked PERFECTLY. Thank you Sarah for listening and for executing so well for this not-initially-bustle-enthused girl. (P.S.? Super glad I didn’t have to play back into the WIC’s game of hide-and-go-pay-more just because the dress I happened to fall in love with for non-train reasons happened to have a train. Much happier to work with a friend, who did a better job anyway!)

  4. That dress is gorgeous. I have always been super leery of working with anything that delicate or important, though I did once alter the wedding dress of a coworker after the dress shop sold HER dress to someone else, and the replacement they got did not fit and they didn’t have an in house seamstress to alter it in the 36 hours before her wedding.

    I too sew barefoot though, and you are right, pins in the foot don’t really hurt that bad http://www.pbase.com/mhartman/image/133335367 . We never got a prize though for lodging pins anywhere in our bodies, just got chastised by the designer.

    Ohh and thinking of high end sergers, have you seen the tensionless sergers? I know Babylock makes one and it is to die for. Auto tension setting so you never have to deal with that again, and they are easy to thread. I know easy threading sergers are some sort of oxymoron I am sure, but it is the truth!

    • Oh my god, I really really hope your friend was compensated in some way. How horrifying. But hooray for you for jumping in to help! I’ve found with some of the bigger scarier projects, the best way to learn them (and not be scared of them ever again) is to just jump in. It’s always helpful when you don’t have a choice about the matter. =)

      That picture of the pin is PERFECT. Looks crazy scary, doesn’t hurt a bit. And as for the award … we were all a bit nutty in that shop. ::winks::

      I honestly think once you can thread a serger you’re almost there. ::laughs:: And no, I HADN’T seen the tensionless sergers .GAH! Way to go, you’ve added more fuel to the I WANT! fire!

  5. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. I am so jealous of your awesome awesome Talent. With a capital T because that’s what it is. I have no physical creative skills, not even with a pattern. None. And that bustle is beautiful and the picture text you sent me – I can’t BELIEVE how fab it is turning out!!!

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