How To Put Gussets in Pants or Shirts

When a garment is really too tight in the crotch area of a pair of pants or in the underarm area of a shirt, you might want to add a gusset.

A gusset is typically a diamond or triangular shaped piece of fabric that is sewn into one of those areas to give some extra room to the clothing.

(If you need extra room in a strapless dress or a dress or top that has straps, you’ll want to look at the post on How To Put Gussets In a Dress or Top.)

However, this post will focus on diamond shaped gussets that are inserted into an area where four seams intersect. They are usually found in pants or the underarm area of a shirt that has sleeves.

For this type of gusset, you’ll need to make a diamond shape gusset, and I’ll show you how.


The gusset shape and size will be determined by how much extra room you need in the crotch area or the under arm area.

To be more specific, in a pair of pants, the gusset is sewn into the intersection of where the inseams meet the center front and center back seams of a pair of pants. It is the lowest point of the pant before you start into the leg area.

This is a view of the underside of a pair of pants after a gusset is put in so you get the idea of what they look like:


In the under arm area, the gusset is sewn into the area where the under arm seam and the side seams meet the sleeve seams. It would look basically the same as the photo above only it would be located in the armpit area and there would be no zipper!

(You may have guessed by now that I am going to use diagrams exclusively on this post because I think they might be easier to follow than actual photos.)

Read through all the instructions before starting. This is not a difficult alteration, but you will want to be familiar with all the steps before you start.

To begin with, have your customer try on the slacks and then provide a mirror so they and you can see what you are looking at. (If this alteration is for your own pants, you also should try your slacks on in front of a mirror.)

If the pants are too tight in the crotch area, the fabric will bunch and pull and you’ll see horizontal lines or folds of fabric that seem to originate from the crotch area.


A rule of thumb here for any garment:  tight “pulls” of fabric always “point” to the problem. So, in this case, the tight pulls “point” to the crotch area.

Measure from the lowest “pull” line on the left side of the pants to the lowest “pull” line on the right side of the pants. The diagram below illustrates where to measure. That will give you one measurement of the gusset. Let’s say it is 3″. Write that measurement down.


I used to also measure the crotch length of the customer which looks like this:


But, I have found that pants do not sit at the natural waistline very often anymore and each customer likes their pants or slacks to sit at a different place in the front and in the back. So, ask your customer to tell you how much more they want in the front and the back to make the pants fit and feel better.

Let’s say the customer wants 2 more inches in the back and 1 more inch in the front.

You’ll need a total of 3″ for the vertical measurement of your diamond shape.

The same rules apply if you are measuring for an under arm area.

The first measurement in the under arm area is how much more they need in the arm circumference and then how far it is between pulls:


Once you get those two measurements, (for either the crotch area or the under arm area) you are ready to draw a gusset pattern on paper.

Even if you don’t want to add any to the crotch length, (or the arm circumference), you’ll need to, in order to make the diamond shape. In that case, it could be a skinny diamond by only adding 1/2″-1″ to the crotch length area. (I will only be referring to the crotch alteration from now on, but apply the principals to the underarm if that’s your alteration.)

Let’s say you need to increase the crotch length by 2″ and the width by 3″. (Again, you could have any combination of measurements, based on the measurements you need, so your gusset shape most likely will differ from mine. Yours could even potentially be a square shape.)

Here is how I would make the gusset. Mine needs to be 2″ high by 3″ wide.

So, I get out a ruler and a piece of paper and draw 2 dots representing the increase of the crotch length measurement (shown below by the red dots..mine is 2″). Then, I draw a vertical line between those two dots (below).

Then, I use the ruler to find the middle point of that line (In my case, it is 1″). Because the measurement along the inseam from pull to pull is 3″, I draw a black dot 1 1/2″ to the right of the midpoint and a black dot 1 1/2″ to the left of the midpoint. Next, draw a horizontal line connecting the 2 dots (represented below… mine is 3″ total).


Then I draw the diamond shape by connecting the dots like this:



This diamond shape is the base of your gusset shape.

Next, I add seam allowances to the diamond shape. This is very important. If you don’t add them, your gusset will be too small.

If you are feeling a little unsure of the size of the gusset you made, or this is your first time making gussets, add 1″ seam allowances all around the gusset shape. Doing this will give you some added room to adjust it later, if you need to, without having to make another gusset.


(Just so you know, on the garment itself, you will be using the original seam allowances to stitch on when we get to that point.)

Cut out your paper pattern.

Next, cut your gusset out of any scrap of fabric that matches your garment, as close as possible. It may be difficult to get it to match exactly, but get it as close as you can.

Mark the stitching line (1″ in from all the edges) on your gusset. You can use a piece of chalk, washable marker, or hand stitch a running stitch to mark it.

Finish the edges of the gusset with a zig zag stitch or use your serger. This will prevent the gusset from fraying as the garment is worn and washed.

Next, you will open up the inseams in the garment where you will put the gusset in. So, my measurement was 2″.


Only open up exactly the amount you need and back stitch those openings well with your sewing machine so that they are anchored well and they don’t open up any more.

Next, you will stitch one continuous side of the diamond to one side of the pant opening. Right sides together!

Make sure you line up the correct side of the diamond to the correct side of the pant (center front, right leg, center back, or left leg). You want your diamond to be in the correct position when you’re all finished sewing.

Also, be sure to line up the drawn stitching lines on the gusset to the original stitching line on the garment. The seam allowance on your pants may be 1/2″. If your gusset has 1″ seam allowances, the edges will not line up evenly and that’s ok. Just be sure to match up the gusset seam allowance to the pant seam allowance and pin well or baste between the dots on the gusset. This will be explained further below.

Use the original stitching line of the garment to stitch the garment and the gusset together being sure not to catch any part of the gusset in the stitching as you go.

Be sure and stitch only from dot to dot. Do not stitch the diamond piece all the way to the gusset edges. The corners of the gusset should always be loose. If they aren’t, the gusset will not fit properly.

In the diagram below, the wrong side of the gusset is facing us while the right side of the pants are facing us.



Stitch the next side of the diamond in the same manner:



Both seams should be sewn tight. If there is any open area, stitch it up being careful not to catch the gusset in the seam.

Now, you should have a perfect gusset!


If the gusset is too tight, take out the stitches and use a smaller seam allowance on the gusset which gives you more room in the gusset.

If the gusset is too large, take in more of the gusset with even larger seam allowances on the gusset.

Once you get the fit correct, stitch over the original seam again. This will secure it and keep it from coming undone in the future.

Update: February 1, 2018: I’ve received some really great questions about specific situations concerning gussets….

First, the reader asked if you need to pay attention to the grain line of the fabric when cutting out and sewing in the gusset. Here’s my answer:

Personally, I don’t think it’s critical to pay attention to grain lines unless you are working with a stretchy material. The lengthwise grain of the fabric has the most stretch and should be placed in the same direction as the inseams (side to side in the diagram on the post.) Don’t use the bias as the bias is too stretchy and the weakest part of the fabric. It will stretch too much, and in some cases leave a bulge in the gusset over time.

Second, the reader asked how to stitch over the thick intersection of jeans where the inseams meet the center front and back seams. Here’s my answer:

There is an amazing tool called a Jean-a-ma-jig and it makes this job so much easier. Check out this link on How to Use a Jean-a-ma-jig. You must also know how tough your sewing machine is. If you are having trouble sewing on denim, you may want to hand walk your needle over the thickest part of the intersection. To do that, just stop sewing right before you get to the thickest part and use the fly wheel located on the right side of your machine and turn it toward you until you’ve “walked” it over the hump. It should still be pretty secure and that way you don’t break a needle. If you need to trim the seam a bit before you sew, just be sure you’re not taking out too much fabric and not leaving enough to hide the raw edges inside the seam. Top stitch over the original stitching line.

Congratulations, you’ve just accomplished making and inserting a gusset!

Now, for those pants that are too baggy in the crotch area, here is a post on How to Take in the Crotch Seam on Pants.










This is Luke!

Happy New Year, everyone!!!

I hope each and every one of you had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying the first few days of the New Year!

We had an amazing Christmas with our kids and grand kids here and I realized that I never introduced you to the newest addition to our family.

But, first, an update on our granddaughter! Many of you prayed us through the very difficult first few months of Addie’s life and we are forever grateful to you for that! God answered your prayers, and ours, in amazing ways!

Addie is now 3 1/2 years old and very healthy. She is a delight to us all!


Last year, our daughter became pregnant with a baby boy and Luke Aaron was born this past July 9. While her doctors were not super optimistic about her pregnancy or the delivery, (due to an autoimmune disease), both went extremely well! Luke was born weighing more than twice what Addie weighed, at 7 pounds 12 ounces, and he has not had any health issues!

So, I’d like you to introduce you to Luke! He’s such a sweet boy and probably the most quiet baby that ever lived!


Every grandma loves her grandchildren and thinks they are the BEST and I’m no exception! These kids are definitely a gift from the Lord!!!

In other news….I want to welcome you to the new website! After months of reconstruction, we are ready to roll! I hope you are enjoying this new spot on the world wide web. SewForDough is now The Sewing Garden. I hope to have many new and exciting posts up soon for your encouragement and help along your sewing (and life) journey!

I also want to let you know that I’ve written 2 E-books that I think you’ll find invaluable in your sewing library. One is a comprehensive guide to starting a sewing business. The other is all about how to price your sewing for customers. I think you’ll find them incredibly helpful!

Please post a comment and tell us your favorite Christmas memory or a goal (sewing or not) that you have for the New Year!








How to Permanently Restore a Mattress Pad

Mattress pads wear out fast, don’t they?

The top is usually in good shape because they are quilted and made fairly well.

But, usually, the sides of the mattress pad are either made of a paper-like material or a thin nylon type that gets holes in it easily. I’ve fought both types for years. And it doesn’t matter how much you pay, they are never made to last.

You can see by the zig zag stitches I stitched on this paper-like material, that I had tried to mend it before.

But, it didn’t last long in the washing machine.


In some areas, the elastic had torn away from the rest of the material:


Recently, I decided it was time for a new solution, a more permanent solution….I needed to put new sides on.

This is easier than it sounds.

You will need some cotton fabric and some elastic. The amount you need of both will depend on the size of your mattress pad top. I’ll show you how to calculate what you need. The mattress pad I am revamping is a queen size.

First, measure the width, the length, and the depth (or height) of the mattress pad and write down the measurements on a piece of paper.



Once you have done that, you will add seam allowances to each of the measurements.

As you can see below, I drew what each of the pieces would look like if they were separate and lying flat on the table. This is to help you see what shapes you’ll need to cut from the cotton fabric.

I added two inches overall to the width, two inches overall to the length because I want 1/2″ seam allowances.

I added three inches to the height because some of the pad extends underneath the mattress and the extra inch will make it hug the mattress nice and snug.


I found some scrap muslin fabric that I had in my cupboard and cut the pieces out according to my measurements.

You don’t need muslin fabric. Any cotton or cotton/polyester blend should do.

After you’ve cut those pieces, set those pieces aside for now.

Next, trim away all the side material from the top of the mattress pad, cutting as close as possible without harming the top. If you don’t cut real close, it’s not a problem.


Once you have the top piece cut away from the bottom piece, you are going to save the top piece.


Next, you will stitch together the rectangles of fabric to form the sides of the mattress pad.

Stitch the vertical seams making sure you have the two short ends opposing each other and the two long pieces opposing each other. Also, make sure you are stitching all the pieces right sides together. You don’t want to twist them and have to rip some of the seams out later.

Here is what one seam looks like from the right side. I haven’t pressed the fabric yet, but it would be a good idea.


Once I stitched the seams, I serged the edges to finish them off nicely. If you don’t have a serger, you could zig zag the edges together. This will keep your seams from raveling over time.


Once the seams are serged, you should have a giant tube of fabric. Go ahead and serge to top edge of the tube all the way around.

Now, let’s talk about the elastic. The company used elastic “thread”. To duplicate this on your mattress pad would require alot of time and work. We are going to make a simple casing and add one piece of elastic.

I like a method that is fast. Most people would tell you to make the casing and then feed the elastic through the casing with a bodkin or a safety pin attached to the end of the elastic. That takes a very long time. I’m going to show you how to streamline and do two steps at one time.

To make the casing, fold up and press the bottom edge twice. I like to use 1/2″ wide elastic. So, to make my casing, I folded up the bottom edge 1/4″ and then 3/4″ . The 1/4″ hides the raw edge and the 3/4″ gives you enough room to stitch the elastic in without actually stitching on the elastic itself. We want that elastic to be able to stretch inside the casing as we sew the casing down.


The cotton tube I sewed for the sides of the mattress pad has a perimeter of about 280″ (80″ + 80″ + 61″ + 61″=282″)

Let’s use the number 280″ for easy math.

Divide 280″ in half and you have 140″ or about 4 yards.

You’ll need to cut a piece of elastic about 4 yards long.

If you don’t have that much on hand, you can certainly use less. It’s not rocket science and you don’t have to be precise on this. You just don’t want your mattress pad to creep up or come off while you’re sleeping.

Turn the elastic into a tube and stitch the ends together as shown below. I overlap the ends and sew two rows of stitching to make it stronger.


Next, I divide the elastic tube equally into fourths and put a pin in each of the four spots:

Then, I divide the cotton tube into fourths and put a pin in each of those four spots.



Next, I just match up these pins.


Then, I tuck the elastic into the folded edge and put one pin in that spot to anchor the elastic until I can sew it in.

Remember, I am not going to stitch on the elastic itself, just the casing, but the elastic will be tucked down in there.


Next, I stitch the casing down, making sure the elastic is inside the folded area:


You will have to move the elastic inside the casing when it gets too bunched up as you sew. Just keep pushing the elastic back as you sew.


Don’t sew over any pins.

When you get to a spot where there is a pin, take the pin out and stitch across the casing to hold the elastic in place. There will be four spots where you stitch across the casing on the tube, by the time you are finished.


Here is another angle of what that will look like:


This is what the elastic edge will look like when you are finished sewing in the elastic:


Now, it’s time to attach the tube to the mattress pad:

Start by dividing the mattress pad into fourths, just like you did with the tube.

Then, divide the tube (the non elastic side of the tube) into fourths.

Once you match up the pins from the mattress pad and the pins from the tube, pin those in place in the four spots.

***The seams on the tube should line up with the corners or curved edges of the mattress pad. This will keep your mattress pad and the sides fitting together nicely.

Now, pin all the way around the mattress pad. It should be a good fit.


If it’s not exactly right, you can ease in the extra as you sew the two pieces together, but if you did your math correctly, it should be just right.

If there is a large difference, you may have to take in the seams on the corners of the tube before you sew the two pieces together.


Stitch all the way around the mattress pad.


Can you see how the two are attached? The seam runs basically vertically through the photo below:


Here is the mattress before I put the updated mattress pad on:


Here is the new mattress pad:


Because the new mattress pad has durable cotton sides now, it should last for many years to come!


Here’s a post on How to Mend a Bed Sheet, if you’d like to learn!





How to Sew a Zipper into a Pillow, the Easiest Way Ever!

Yes, there are many tutorials online that teach how to put a zipper in a pillow.

But this method is Different. Easier. 

As I stitched up some pillows recently, I wondered if there was already a post out there with these instructions. To my amazement, there weren’t any. So I thought I’d share that with you today, along with some helpful tips that will save you time and trouble.

First, choose your fabric. Buy enough fabric to cover the front and back of each pillow you are making.

Buy a zipper (regular or invisible). I buy a zipper at least two inches shorter than one side of the square of fabric.

For example, if I’m making a 16″ pillow, I use a 14″ zipper. You’ll see why later.

If you have to cut your zipper down, do. Just make sure you stitch across the zipper teeth several times at the correct length so that your zipper tab doesn’t fall off while you’re constructing the pillow!

I am using a regular zipper in this tutorial.This is so that if you don’t have an invisible zipper foot, you can see how to insert the zipper.

Buy a pillow form for each pillow, make your own, or use one from a previously used pillow that’s still in good shape.

Measure the pillow form.

Most tutorials will tell you to cut the fabric one inch larger (all the way around) than your pillow form.

I’m here to tell you that you’ll be sorry if you do.

The finished pillow will look too baggy.

Cut the fabric one inch smaller than the form. You read that right… smaller!

For example, if your pillow form is 20″square, cut the fabric 19″ square.

I usually like to finish the edges with a serger, but you can use a zig zag stitch if you don’t have a serger.


Next, place your zipper (invisible zipper or regular zipper) face down (right side of zipper to right side of pillow fabric), centering it on one side of the fabric square.

Using a zipper foot, stitch 1/4″ away from the zipper teeth all along the  zipper.

Make sure your needle is on the correct side of the zipper foot so that you don’t run over the zipper tab when you get to it.


Pull the zipper out so it is facing up and away from the pillow fabric as shown:


Now, lay the other pillow fabric square on top of this one, right sides together, matching the edges of the new square with the edge of the zipper that hasn’t been sewn yet. Pin. See photo below:


Stitch 1/4″ away from the teeth, on the unsewn side.

Be sure to take out pins before you sew over them.


Now, unzip the zipper part way. If you don’t, you’ll stitch the zipper inside and it will be tough to get it unzipped to turn the pillow right side out.


Next, match the three remaining sides of the pillow squares, so that the edges line up.

Now, line up the zipper edges.

Start sewing on the zipper edge of the pillow about 1/2″ away from the zipper stitching toward the inside of the pillow.

Stitch around the 3 non-zipper sides and stop as indicated in the photo below:


I know it seems strange that your stitching doesn’t match up with where you stitched the zipper on, but this is why this method is so awesome…you don’t have to line up your stitching and you don’t have to worry about the zipper teeth or the tail of the zipper showing!!!

Now, reach in and turn the pillow right side out and look at the zipper!


Here is the view with the zipper closed:


I made three of these pillows recently, and it took no time at all.


See how nice and full they look?

And you don’t see the zippers on the bottom.

Bam! Done!



How To Add Lining and Hem Your Drapes or Curtains

Finding drapes in the color, length and fabric you need is not an easy task, unless you get them custom made. But that is expensive.

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I found a set of drapes in the color and style I wanted, but the length was too long. Also, when I stood on the curb outside, they didn’t look good because the window in the bedroom next to this one had white lined drapes. Maybe you aren’t concerned with that type of thing, but it stuck out like a sore thumb to me.

Back inside the house, I decided to hem them and line them in white to match the other window, Because it’s the guest room, I thought it might be nice to line them with “block out” or “black out” fabric so that whoever is sleeping there, wouldn’t be blinded by the early morning sun.

You can use most any type of fabric for lining. JoAnn’s sells a brand called Roc Lon. It is Dry Clean only. So, if you can wash your drapes, choose a lining fabric that is washable. Cottons are the most common. Check with your local fabric store for ideas.

I found some decent block out fabric by the yard and on the roll at Joann Fabrics. I chose it partly because it was a little wider than the width of each drapery panel, which would mean I could figure out the yardage easily. I only needed to measure the length of the drape panels, add those measurements together and add enough for hems (at the top of the drapes and on the bottom).

My drapery rods were hung at a strange height by the previous owners. They were hung at 90″ above the ground and store bought drapes are 84″ and 95″ in length, so I either had to move the rods or buy longer panels and shorten them. On this window, I decided to shorten the drapes. I didn’t want to rehang rods, patch holes and paint.

Let’s start with the hem and proceed to the lining after that.

My drapes have metal grommets. Other drapes have pleats or gathers.

First, I measured from the top of the grommet hole to the hem. If your drapes have gathers, measure from the top of the casing opening where your rod fits in. If your drapes have pleats, measure from where the hook goes into the hole along the rod.

Don’t measure from the top of the drape!

Do you see why?

The drape hangs from the rod, so the top of the drape doesn’t matter in this case. Measure from where the drape hangs from the rod.

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To begin, I took out the original hem with a seam ripper.

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Then, I folded and pinned up the hem at the length I needed.

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The original hem was 3 inches and had another 1/2″ turned over to hide the raw edge.

So, I measured up 3 1/2″ from the hem edge and cut the excess off.

Be careful not to cut the drape underneath!

Since you are smarter than me, you will probably choose to unfold the hem and cut it so there’s no chance of accidentally cutting the drape, but I guess I like to live on the wild side. Ha!

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Press that folded edge. That will be your new hemline.

Remove the pins as you press, of course!

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Next, fold down 1/2″ from the cut edge and press it. This may seem a little backwards, but I like to make sure my hemline is straight. If the cut edge isn’t straight, the hemline won’t be either. Does that make sense?

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Now, just turn up your hem on the fold line and topstitch along the edge of that fold on the back of the drape, using the folded edge as your guide. You can topstitch from the front of the drape, if you can see the folded edge as you sew. I usually stitch from the front, but stitching from the backside of the drape makes it easier for you to see in the photo below.

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Ok, now you are ready to add the lining.

On a flat surface, lay out your lining fabric.

This is my “block out” lining fabric.

Cut the lining fabric at least 2 inches larger all the way around than the finished size of your drape. If you can make it larger, that’s fine. This drape was 54″ wide and my blockout fabric was 60″, so it was 3″ wider on each side of the drape, which was perfect!

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Once you cut it out, lay the top edge of the lining to the top edge of the drape like this photo below:

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It looks like its upside down, but this is what you want. You are going to be sewing at that fold just under the grommets all across the width of the drape. So, lay the right side of the lining to the wrong side of the drape and it’s upside down! Study the photo above until it makes sense to you.

Keep reading and I think you’ll see how it works.

In the photo below, can you see how there is a fold (bump) to the left of the presser foot? I am stitching barely to the right of that fold (bump). You can see the wrong side of the drape off to the right in the photo:

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Once you stitch across the width of the drape, along that fold or bump, pull the lining down to cover the entire wrong side of the drape (in the photo below) and the raw edge will be hidden under the fold. You don’t have to finish the raw edge of the block out fabric because it doesn’t ravel.

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Now, you’re going to work on the hem of the lining.

As long as your lining covers the folded hemline that you topstitched earlier and as long as the lining hem is not longer than the drape, you are good. Any length in between those areas is fine. Unless your drapes are see through. Then, I would have your lining end just under the topstitched line on the drape.

Here I folded up the lining so that it was 1″ above the bottom edge of the drape:

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Pin only the lining fabric. You don’t want to set an iron on block out fabric because it will melt. It is a man made material.

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I added a half inch to the length of my lining fabric and cut the excess off.

Now my lining is 1 1/2″ above the bottom edge of the drape:

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Next, I stitched along the folded edge of the hem of the lining fabric:

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Next, measure the “side” hems of the drapes. They run along the vertical edges of the drapes. In this case, they are about one inch:

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So, I folded under the sides so that they were 1 ” from the edge of the sides and pinned it all the way down (just like I did for the hem of the lining at the bottom):

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This time, I pinned the lining to the drape along the sides:

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Next, I stitched along the edge of the lining. If you have light colored drapes and the stitching is going to show, then stitch from the right side of the drape and use the original stitching line as your guide. Stitch right over the top of it being as exact as you can be. With my drapes, it didn’t show at all.

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This is what the inside should look like, except that the bottom edge of the lining will have already been stitched:

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Here’s the length before I started:

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Here’s the length after:

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I know there are other ways to line and hem drapes, but this one works the fastest for me.

Enjoy your project!


Thank You!

The WordPress annual report just showed up in my inbox.

I am speechless.

There were over 290,000 visits to this blog in 2013!

That’s about 800 per day….incredible!

And you are reading this blog from 179 countries all over the world…

(from some countries I have never heard of)…..even more incredible!

Thank you to each and every one of you for making my “job” so much fun!

Sewfordough will be five years old this coming April.

I didn’t really intend to start a blog and this three years after I started, I wrote a post about that called, “Celebrate With Me…It’s Free!” 

And this post tells about my father who taught me how to sew.

It is inspiring to see which posts you look at each day.

And I love getting your emails, questions and comments.

Keep them coming!

Oh, and before I close out the year, I just want to let you all know that my husband and I are going to be grandparents, for the first time, this coming June!

We’re so excited!!!

So, any tips you have on sewing for grandkids or how to be a good grandma, will be totally appreciated!!!

I hope you and your family have a very blessed New Year filled with God’s richest blessings!


Should You Charge A Minimum Fee For Alterations?

I get asked this question alot.

So, let’s take an example.

This morning, I found a bag on my front porch.

Inside was a pair of workout pants:

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The customer said there was a hole in the seam at the knee and would I stitch it up?


Here is a photo of the small hole:

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Here’s what it looked like on the inside:

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So, I switched the thread to black and put in a stretch needle and sewed it up:

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When I have a small job like this, I like to see if there’s anything else that needs stitching up or reinforcing..

I noticed that the other knee seam was coming apart too:

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So, I stitched it up as well.

That way, the customer is happy you went the extra mile for them.

Did I charge this customer?

Actually, no.

This customer is my niece!

Personally, I don’t charge my family members.

And there are others I don’t charge.

Sometimes, I just want to bless them.

I may not want to charge a person for a small item if they are a first time customer.

They always come back with more alterations the next time.

So, when do you charge a minimum fee?

The bottom line is, you have to figure this one out for yourself.

You have to do what seems right and best for you.

I ask myself…”Do I feel comfortable charging for this?”

If the answer is “yes”, then I charge.

If it is “no”, then I don’t.

Now you’re wondering what amount to charge, right?

Ask yourself these questions…

“What would you want to be charged for this alteration?

“What is your time worth?”

“How much work was it to get the job done?”

Answering these questions, and any others that pop into your head, should give you a pretty good idea on whether or not to charge a minimum fee.

Many readers ask how much to charge for alterations. I’ve just written an e-book on how to price your alterations and it will be so helpful for you as you price your work.

It will pay for itself in the first hour you use it!!!


Sewing With Treadle Machines in Africa

My family and I just returned from an amazing, life changing trip to Zambia, Africa!

It is a trip we will never forget.

Our daughter, Michelle, works for an orphan ministry called Every Orphans Hope.

We wanted to go and see her working first hand and help where we could.

There are 11 orphan homes consisting of one mama and eight children.

The mamas are hoping to learn to sew so that they can run a business and make some money.

My part was to teach the mamas how to sew.

Last year, we raised money to buy each mama a sewing machine:


We had heard that some of the machines were not working correctly.

After looking at several of the machines, we realized that report was accurate.

Each one had different problems.

So, because of this, some were being used as a table:

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Kristin, a teammate of mine, learned how to use a treadle machine before we got to Africa.

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I watched Kristin use the fly wheel and her feet simultaneously.

As she explained, it’s sort of like working the clutch on a car…there’s a point when you know when to start with the feet.

(I watched a You Tube video before I left and thought it looked easy, but it was something I never got the hang of.)

The machine Kristin learned on here in the states was a Singer sewing machine and she was taught to turn the fly wheel away from you as you start.

We finally figured out that, with these machines, you need to turn the fly wheel toward you as you start.

There were many dissimilarities like this that we needed to work through.

After about three days of trying to get them to work, we realized we needed to visit the sewing machine dealer where they were purchased last year.

The owner assured us that he would fix them all.

What a relief!

He also let us know that these machines can be altered from treadle to hand crank.

Hand crank machines means you crank an added piece on the fly wheel while you sew with your left hand.

The mama in the middle, uses her own hand crank machine:

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She made this bag on my shoulder last year and my daughter bought it as a gift for me!

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The owner at the sewing machine shop also explained that we could buy a kit that would convert the treadle machines to electric for about $15 US dollars!

This would be great for the mamas that live in the city, who have some electric power daily.

At the Every Orphan’s Hope office, we worked with a Zambian volunteer, Agatha, to show her how to make a simple tote bag.

Agatha is a tailor in Zambia, but I’m not sure if she had made a bag before.

Here is the finished product:

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We saw Agatha at one of the homes the next day.

She was hemming a chitenge, which is a 2 yard piece of fabric that the women of Zambia drape around themselves as a skirt.

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As you can see, she is using an electric machine.

It amazed me that these women can sew without a table and while sitting on the floor!

As soon as we left, we saw the mamas moving into this house ready to take a lesson on making tote bags.

What joy to see the ladies taking something they learned and teaching those around them.

It is our hope that they will be able to practice and soon start their own businesses.

The mama who made the tote bag for me is already selling her bags.

Update: February 2018:

The mama who sewed bags is currently fighting cancer. We’d love for you to pray for her.

And while they are not selling bags at this time, there are two projects that you can help with that would greatly benefit the orphans:

Chicks For Orphans and Bikes for Orphans.

Check them out!

What a great way to help an orphan without traveling to Africa!


How to Choose Boning for Your Dress

Each day, I receive many emails with great questions and today I thought I’d post one I received yesterday as well as the answer to it.

Here’s the question:

Hi Linda,  I am making my daughter’s strapless wedding dress.  I used the fabric store feather weight boning for the muslin corset .  We got it fitted very well but I am wondering when the weight of the dress gets connected if this is the best boning choice.  I have been researching the topic but am still undecided.  Can you tell me what would be the best choice so she isn’t always pulling it up.  We will be using a waistline stay but I want to do it right the first time!  Ha!  Thanks!  Love your website.  It is so helpful and very interesting.  Mom with Question

First of all, kudos to this mom for making her daughter’s wedding dress! What a cherished memory for you both.

There are a couple of things I wanted to address in this question.

First, lets talk about the strapless dress in general and then we’ll address the boning issue.

Brides and their mothers often hope to find the perfect strapless dress that will not need to be “hiked up” at the bodice. Unfortunately, that is a rare find because gravity will always win in the end. Because the bust area is larger in circumference than the waist, it will always travel the road of least resistance and want to gravitate down towards the waist.  There are some dresses that need tugging less often, and that has to do with the design of the dress and how it fits the bride. First, those dresses are designed with a high bodice. In other words, the dress sits high above the largest part of the bust (think: no cleavage and sitting closer to the collar bone than not. Certainly, it is not up to the collar bone, but it sits higher above the bust than most dresses) and second, that high bust area should fit snugly around the chest and underarm area. When altering the dress you have, just make it fit as snugly as possible, without being uncomfortable, and go with that. The bride will still have to tug, but not as often. She can experiment using double stick tape to hold the dress to the skin and see if that will help the problem. To eliminate the tugging problem altogether, you’ll need to add straps to the dress, but many brides don’t like that look. That’s why they bought strapless to begin with.

Now let’s talk about boning. This mom asked about whether her featherweight boning would  be appropriate in her daughter’s gown. That depends. I would buy boning based on the weight of the fabric you are using. If you are using a heavy satin, you’d want a heavier boning. If you have a lightweight chiffon, a featherweight boning would be appropriate. The reason here is that you want it to function as much like the fashion fabric as possible.

But let’s look at another facet of the answer.

First, boning is inserted in a dress to give it rigidity through the vertical portion of the bodice. Without boning, the dress would have little support, much like a house needs walls to give it structure. However, thinking about the law of gravity again, boning only helps with the structure or the rigidity of the dress. It doesn’t keep the dress from falling down. With boning inserted, it just means that the dress moves with gravity all at the same time. It doesn’t slump down in one area and leave the rest smooth. Does that make sense?

You will also want to make sure that the side seams are snug, giving the bride a snug fit which should also help with keeping the dress up. Here’s a link to How To Take In the Bust and also one on How To Take in Side Seams with Piping.

Here is a link to my post on Fixing Boning Issues. It will give you a little more insight into some boning issues you might come across. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Thanks to all of you who have written in asking questions or leaving comments. I appreciate all your sweet words and I thank the Lord that this blog is such a wonderful resource to you!


How To Replace a Zipper in a Jacket or Coat

If you read my last post on How Much To Charge To Replace a Zipper, I promised I’d be back to show you how to put in a new zipper.

Here’s the jacket with the broken zipper:

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The zipper teeth didn’t hold together when the jacket was zipped:

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Before you begin, be sure and choose a zipper that is long enough for the jacket opening.

Try to buy a zipper that is the same length as the current zipper.

If that is not possible, get one that is longer.

You can always shorten the top of the zipper.

Here are two different types of jacket zippers:

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The zipper on the left is a heavy duty silver metal zipper.

The one on the right is made of durable nylon.

For this jacket, the metal zipper was chosen.

Before you buy the zipper, zip it up and down several times to make sure it doesn’t stick and that it actually works.

You’d hate to sew it in and find out it was defective.

You’d only do that once!

If your zipper tape is wrinkled, you could iron it, but be careful that you don’t hit the teeth on the nylon zippers with the hot iron.

I don’t usually have that problem with jacket zippers.

But occasionally, a dress or pant zipper is wrinkled.

Let’s begin.

I start by grabbing my seam ripper and beginning just below the zipper, start taking out the stitches:

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Pull out all of the stitches on both sides of the jacket.

As you can see, in this jacket, there is another row of stitching right next to the zipper tape.

It needs to come out too:

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Here is what this jacket looks like as the zipper is being taken out.

I think it’s funny that the manufacturer used pink thread:

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Here’s another look… near a snap:

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I’ll show you how to deal with the snap in a moment.

Before I take the zipper out of the top edge of the jacket, I pay attention to any detail I need to, so that I can put the new zipper back in the same way, if possible.

The zipper tape at the top is usually folded back inside the jacket so it doesn’t show from the outside.

You can’t see it very well on this jacket, but just take mental notes of your jacket as you disassemble the area:

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Once you take out the entire zipper, be sure to take out all the loose little threads.

Sometimes, a lint roller is very helpful with this:

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I insert the new zipper making sure the correct side of the zipper is on the corresponding correct side of the jacket and pin it every couple of inches:

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I like to pin because it anchors the zipper down enough so it doesn’t move as I sew.

If you are uncomfortable doing this, you can always hand baste the zipper in place.

Be sure to pin or baste the zipper so that the zipper slide won’t get caught in the fabric edge when you zip it.

I don’t measure this. I just eyeball it and give it about an eighth of an inch clearance.

Make sure that the lining of the jacket is lined up correctly to before you pin or baste.

You don’t want that bunched up on the back side at all.

Now, let’s talk about the snaps, if you have them.

When you get to a snap, you may notice that the zipper tape doesn’t fit down into the “hole” too well.

The snap is in the way.

Do you see how the zipper tape rises too high because of the snap?

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I place a pin right next to the snap on the zipper tape (see photo below).

It doesn’t have to be perfect placement as you’ll see in a moment.

You just want a visual marker:

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Next, with a pair of scissors, notch out a little semi circle on the zipper tape just below your pin, like this:

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That semi circle is going to fit around the snap.

Now, remove that “marker” pin.

It has done its job.

Place the zipper tape back in the “hole” and continue pinning:

See how slick that looks?

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Your zipper will not pull out because you have that notch. Your stitches will hold it in place.

Trust me on this!

Once the entire zipper is pinned in, put your zipper foot onto your sewing machine.

I also use a denim weight needle.

They are better suited for a jacket, than an all purpose needle.

Begin stitching and be sure to back stitch so your stitches don’t come out later.

Stitch on the stitching line where the original zipper was, being careful not to run over your pins.

Take them out just before you get to them:

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When you get to a snap, just stay on course.

You shouldn’t have any trouble staying on the original stitching line.

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You might think from the photo above that there would be a small pucker.

To avoid that, I just make sure to hold it tightly as I sew.

Let’s look at how that stitching line looks near the snap:

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When you reach the bottom of the zipper, you’ll notice that the zipper tape has a thick, stiff area about one inch long.

I go slowly over this area.

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Sometimes, I may even “walk” my needle over the stiff area so that I don’t break my needle.

You may have noticed that the original zipper ended a few inches above the bottom edge of the jacket:

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The new zipper was longer and it fit perfectly into the bottom of the jacket:

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If your zipper is too long, just fold the excess under at the top of the jacket before you stitch it in.

If it is several inches too long, cut the excess leaving about an inch or more so you can fold it under at the top.

Some people don’t like any bulk from the zipper, so they cut it off.

If you do that, just make sure you have some extra so you don’t have a raw edge at the top.

You may need to satin stitch the top zipper teeth so that the zipper slide (or pull) doesn’t come off. To do that, set your stitch width to the widest setting you have on your sewing machine. Then, set your stitch length to zero. You don’t want your needle to move forward while you stitch this wide stitching in place.

Remember that second line of stitching that was next to the zipper tape? You don’t need to worry about that.

This one row will hold your zipper in tightly.

Here is the finished zipper:

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It’s easy to replace a zipper. It just takes a little time, but the effort is so worth it!