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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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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).

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

 

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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.

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(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″.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

How To Alter a Top With a Low Neckline

Have you ever tried to alter a blouse that was lower at the neck than you were comfortable with?

To make this alteration, we are going to do two things: take up the front shoulder seam and take in the collar.

Generally, you don’t need to take up the back of the blouse, but have the customer try it on so you can see how the back fits.

If the back fits well, don’t touch it.

If it doesn’t, you could pull up the back and front at the same time.

This back of this blouse fit great, so it didn’t need to be altered.

The only seam on this collar was at the back:

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and I was glad because I didn’t want to mess with the “fluff” on the front.

The center back neck seam was stitched and then gathered to fit:

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Let me explain what we’re going to do and then we’ll get after it.

We are going to decrease the circumference of the neck at the middle back seam and when we do that, we’ll need to decrease the circumference of the top as well.

To begin, take a seam ripper and unstitch the stitches that hold the collar and the shoulder seam together:

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Take out the stitches from just past one shoulder seam, all around the back of the neck to just past the other shoulder seam like this:

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Next, you’ll want to open up the shoulder seam. This was a delicate knit and I had to be careful where I placed my seam ripper so as not to cut the knit, but just cut the stitch:

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I opened up the shoulder seam halfway:

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Once that was opened up, I was able to shorten the front of the blouse by pinning like this:

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Stitch that new shoulder seam by sewing along the original back shoulder seam line and trim off the excess front fabric.

Next, you’ll need to take in the back neck seam on the collar. Can you see the excess collar material?

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Since I took one inch off of the front of the blouse on the left and the right for a total of 2″, I need to take up 2 total inches on the collar as well.

I took the seam apart and stitched up two inches of fabric and trimmed the seam. You may not need to take the seam apart. You might just fold the collar at the original seam line and stitch across at the one inch mark (you are taking one inch from the left side and one inch from the right side to equal 2″)

I apologize that the photo is not real clear, but I hope you get the idea:

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Now, stitch the collar to the neck edge of the blouse. The collar and the blouse should fit perfectly.

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You can see the newly adjusted collar:

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You might want to re-serge or zigzag any uneven edges.

That’s all there is to it!

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If you have a t-shirt type top, you may need to work with ribbing or a facing.

Use the same principle of taking up the shoulders and taking in the circumference of the top to the measurements you need.

This will work for tank tops too.

Unless you have a really long top, you may not be able to adjust more than a couple of inches before it affects the length of the blouse or top.

But this should help those tops that are just a little too low for your comfort level.

How to Alter a Top With an Elastic Hem

You’ve seen these blouses everywhere:

ImageThey’ve got elastic running around the bottom edge.

Many women complain that they don’t like how they look when they wear them and pass up the idea of buying them.

Altering them is an easy fix.

Just trim off the elastic close to the edge:

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I use sharp small scissors to accomplish this task:

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Next, turn the hem up and press if necessary.

I hand baste the hem as well so that the knit doesn’t slip around.

If you have a woven fabric, you should press the hem up as well.

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In addition, if you are sewing on a woven cloth, be sure and finish the edge with a serger or a zig zag stitch first.

Next, look for a thread to match:

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On this top, I will sew a double row of stitching on the hem.

This means I’ll need two spools of thread.

If I don’t have two spools of matching thread, or they are very close in color, I will wind two bobbins from one spool of thread, because….

One bobbin will be used in the bobbin case and the other bobbin will be used as the second spool of thread.

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Then, get yourself a double stretch needle. They look like this:

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Put the spool of thread on the first spool pin and the newly wound bobbin on the second spool pin. (or use two different spools of thread if you have them).

To thread your machine with two threads, treat them as one thread and thread through until you get to the needle area:

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Then, thread one thread through each needle:

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Stitch the hem, keeping the right side of the shirt facing up so you can watch to make sure you are stitching straight.

If you flip over the top, you can see that the bottom threads form sort of a zig zag stitch:

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As you can see, it doesn’t take long to convert your top and the hem looks great!:

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Last Minute Gift Ideas

I thought you might like some ideas for Christmas presents for those who you know who sew.

And I may be talking about you!

Here are a few ideas in various price ranges from lowest to highest price:

1. How about some cute and practical flower head pins?

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These are great for all kinds of sewing including quilting projects.

They are 2″ long, nice and thin, and come in a variety of colors.

They run anywhere from $2.99 to $11.99 depending on the brand and number of pins per package.

Here are some shown at JoAnn Fabrics.

2. My daughter bought me this really cool Dritz Omnigrid suction cup device.

If you use a rotary cutter and cutting mat, this is a great tool

You push the suction cup ends down on the mat and it helps you keep your ruler in place while you cut with your rotary cutter.

It’s great for all of you who quilt!

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This is what the underside looks like:

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It will keep you from cutting your hand accidentally as you cut the fabric.

It’s very easy to use and runs around $14.

Here’s a link to where you can find it at JoAnn Fabrics.

If you are on their mailing list, you can get one for 40% off.

3. How many of you have really nice scissors?

I mean REALLY nice?

I didn’t, until my husband bought me these for our anniversary.

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What a great guy, huh?

I have used the orange Fiskars my whole life and they work great.

BUT, when I got these puppies in my hand and cut some fabric,

OMG….it was paradise!

It’s like cutting butter….smooth and easy.

You just have no idea.

If you don’t get some for Christmas, use your Christmas money to get you a pair!

Did you notice how cute the design is on them?

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Ok, you noticed that they have a five inch blade, right?

I’ve never had a 5″ pair of scissors before in my life.

I either use the 8 or 9 inch scissors or the really small 2 to 3 inch blades.

But, I find that I can do everything with these scissors, whether it’s a large project or small.

I don’t know if you can get the cute handled scissors in a longer blade or not.

My husband got these at the local quilt shop and they were $44.

If you haven’t tried Gingher, or a similarly high-end scissor before, treat yourself this year.

You won’t be sorry!

How To Alter Tulle or Netting on Your Dress

This dress had two layers of satin and two outer layers of netting:

so I folded up the amount needed and pinned it in place:

as you can see, the amount that needs to be taken up is not even all the way around:

So, I couldn’t  just cut off 2 inches.

I had to find a way to mark the new line.

If your netting (or tulle) is made of polyester, you can just use the iron and press the folded edge like this:

However, if the content is acrylic or acetate or some other heat sensitive fiber, I wouldn’t iron on it.

In fact, always test the iron on a section of the netting that you’ll cut off anyway to make sure your iron is set at the right temp before going on.

If you have a heat sensitive netting, I would hand baste a long running stitch to mark the line.

Once you have marked the line, slowly and carefully, cut the edge with a sharp pair of scissors:

On this hem, I decided to keep the hem folded because I was concerned that if I opened it up, the two pieces might move apart and then it would have been difficult to get it lined up again exactly where I had it.

If you are a little uneasy about this, just practice on a scrap first.

Just as I was getting ready to cut the netting, I got an e-mail from Christy.

You remember Christy. She owns an alteration shop in North Carolina.

She gave us the great tip on using rings when making a French Bustle.

Well, she told me that she now cuts her netting with her serger!

Yeah!

Just take the thread out of the serger and use the blade to cut the tulle:

She said it may dull the blade a little, but a new blade is worth the time it saves her from having to use scissors.

Give it a try.

(Of course, you’ll want to test it on a scrap first.)

Whether you use the serger or scissors, your hem will be just as straight as the satin hem below it:

If you are creating a gown from scratch, you can always use the rolled hem foot on your serger to stitch a decorative edge to the netting if you wish.

I have done that when making bridal veils and it is very pretty.

You can experiment with the tension, stitch width and stitch length to get just the right look.

Have fun with it.

Thanks Christy!

French Seams

I want to teach you how to alter a garment that has French Seams in it.

But, first, I’d like to talk about what they are and how they are made.

The French Seam is a seam that is encased within itself so that no raw edges can be seen.

You’ve probably seen French Seams on many types of garments including lingerie, bridal and even on fancy pillow cases.

I use them most often when making a “wrap” for a bride or a girl going to prom.

French Seams are often found on fabrics that are sheer like this blouse:

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The photo above is taken of the right side of a blouse and the photo below is taken on the inside of the blouse:

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French Seams are also found on garments where the fabric frays easily.

They are generally sewn on seams that are straight.

It’s very difficult to make them on a curved edge like a sleeve or princess seam.

But they are perfect for side seams and shoulder seams.

Let’s take a look at how they are made.

I found a scrap of sheer fabric:

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The main point I want to emphasize here, is that the consruction of a French Seam is different than that of a regular seam.

In this case, to sew the seam, you will put the two pieces of fabric wrong sides together!

Stitch that seam with a 3/8″ seam allowance.

I used a contrasting bright pink thread so that you can see it better:

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Trim the seam to a scant 1/4″.

“Scant” means that the seam allowance should be a little less than 1/4″ wide after you trim it off.

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You might feel more comfortable trimming with scissors.

Here, I used a rotary cutter and mat to do the job.

Next, press the seam open.

Be careful not to scorch the fabric.

Some fabrics are not to come in contact with an iron.

They might melt.

In that case, just “finger press” the item by pushing it down with your fingers and running your fingernail on the seam to help it lay flat.

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Next, fold the fabric so that the seam allowance is on the inside and press close to that edge. Again, you can finger press if you can’t use an iron.

You want the stitches to be on the very edge, not going toward one side or the other:

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Make sure you trim off any frayed edges along the seam allowance.

This is a very important step. If you don’t do it, you’ll risk having lots of wispy “whiskers” sticking out after you sew the seam.

Now, stitch using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

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Press the seam to one side or the other.

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Ok, now let’s alter a garment that has French Seams.

Whatever amount you need to take in, is the amount you’ll need to trim off the raw edge of the fabric.

For example, let’s say you need to take in 1/2″ all the way down the side seam of a blouse.

I would open up the French Seam all the way (From armpit through the hem) and press the seam flat.

Then, trim off the 1/2″ off the raw edge of the seam.

Then, referring to the instructions above, put the seam back together wrong sides together first.

Follow the rest of the instructions above.

What if you don’t need to take in that much all the way down the seam?

Let’s say you need to take in 1/2″ under the arm and then taper it to nothing, seven inches below the underarm.

Then, just rip out about 9 inches (or whatever you need to have room to work) of the seam, press it flat and trim off the amount you need to take in.

Then put the seam back together again.

It’s the same procedure for any French Seam.

Before you begin, just be careful to do the math and check it twice before you begin!

Shortening Shoulder Straps on Your Dress or Top

When your dress or top needs to be taken up at the shoulders, the process is not difficult.

Often, my customers will tell me to just stitch across the strap and cut off the excess.

Yes, you can do a version of that, but it seldom looks professional.

Many times, that procedure won’t work because when you pin it up, the front strap is narrower than the back strap. (We’ll cover what to do about that problem at the end of this post.)

If you want to know how to shorten spaghetti straps, here’s a post on how to shorten spaghetti straps.

But, if you’re taking up wider shoulder straps, stay right here because this is the place to be.

Here’s an example of a wedding dress that I got in this week where the straps are too long:

The customer tried the dress on and I just pulled up the straps and pinned them where the customer wanted.

This made the dress fit 100 times better.

You can see the closeup of where I put the pin in on one shoulder:

If you turn the strap over, you’ll see that this dress has lining and under stitching:

You could take some of the understitching out now, or you can turn the strap inside out and remove the stitches that way.

It’s up to you.

I reached up into the dress between the dress fabric and the lining and pulled the strap inside out:

You can see the seam in the above photo.

Then I flipped the strap over and you can see the lining seam:

So, we have to take out a portion of the side seams here so that we can take up these two seams.

On the left strap, I needed to take up 1 1/4″.

So, I remove more stitches than you need because I want extra room to work.

I ripped out about 2 1/2″ of stitches on each side of the shoulder seam:

Since I hadn’t removed the under stitching before, I will do it now.

You should see two rows of stitching (one is the seam and the other is the under stitching) and I am removing both of those rows with my seam ripper.

The under stitching is the stitching that is closest to the cut edge, so I take a little more of that out so that I don’t have puckers when I resew the seam later.

I remove the stitches on both sides of that strap.

Once that is finished, you can see inside where the rest of the strap is:

The only reason I am showing you this scene is that you won’t want to catch that inner strap when we go to sew it up later.

But right now, we are going to take up the 1 1/4″ at the shoulder seam.

To do that, get out your seam gauge if you have one.

Measure the amount you need from the shoulder seam down.

In my case, it’s the 1 1/4″:

Stick a pin at that point.

Now, I want to match up the two layers. My goal here is to make sure the upper layer matches the lower layer.

On most fabrics this is easy because you can see the old pin holes:

Once that pin point is in the right place, I go ahead and finish pinning:

Do that process again on the other side of the strap.

In the photo above, do you see the spot where the pin first went into the fabric?

That is where I’ll begin my stitching. Actually, I begin on the edge of the fabric, but I sew right where the pin entered the fabric.

Some people would rather draw a line from one pin to the other. That works great too.

I have been doing this so long that I can just “eyeball” the seam I need to make:

See how I am stitching from the entrance of the first pin to the entrance of the second?

Now this seam is parallel to the original seam:

Sometimes that is not the case. It would not be the case if you needed to take up more fabric on the arm side of the strap in comparison to the neck side of the strap, since many people’s shoulders are not straight across.

Once your seam is stitched, trim off the excess.

Since my fabric unravels quickly, I didn’t trim as closely as the manufacturer did when they constructed the gown.

I trimmed the seam off at about 5/8″:

You could zig zag the edge to keep it from raveling if you like, but since it is a wedding gown, it will probably only be worn once. It’s your call.

Now, you’re going to repeat the process with the lining seam.

Again, take your seam gauge and measure 1 1/4″ down from the lining shoulder seam and stick a pin there:

Then, be sure to match both the upper layer and the lower layer at the side seams and pin the fabric accordingly, just like you did with the main fabric.

Next, stitch across the strap being careful not to catch unwanted fabric underneath:

Trim the seam:

Now, you are going to stitch up the side seams following the original seamline.

It may be easier to show you what I mean with this drawing:

Make sure the shoulder seam is open flat.

Then, stitch your side seams like it is shown in red in the drawing above.

Here is what it actually looked like as I was sewing:

(Note: I find that it’s almost impossible to understitch a strap that is narrow like this one is. And really, it’s not necessary. A good pressing of the strap usually makes the strap lay down well.)

Now, turn your strap right side out:

Here is what it looks when I flip it over and you see the lining:

If the straps need pressing, do so from the wrong side, or else use a thin white cotton cloth and lay it over the right side of the strap. Make sure the strap doesn’t have any wrinkles in it and it sitting the way you like. Then press on top of the cloth. The reason for the cloth is so that the iron doesn’t cause a permanent “shine” on the fabric. It’s a sign of the fibers melting and it doesn’t look good when that happens.

Now, what if you pinned the strap and once you make the alteration, the front strap is narrower than the back strap as shown in the diagram below.

In that case, if the side seam edges do not line up, follow the instructions above until you get to the part where you sew up the side seams of the strap.

Your straps will probably look something like this:

sewing blog 903

You’ll stitch your new side seam along the red lines like this:

Make sure you have an adequate seam allowance. My diagram shows them a little skimpy, but you’ll need to have at least 1/4″ seam allowance on both side seams.

Once you sew the new seam, trim off any excess fabric and turn the straps right side out.

That should take care of the problem and make your straps look great!

If you’ve got very narrow straps to alter, here’s a post on how to shorten spaghetti straps.

 

 

 

Adding a Corset Back to Your Wedding Dress

Have you found the perfect dress, but it won’t zip up in back? It looks and fits great everywhere else, but you just can’t zip it up?

Well, here’s an alteration you can do to fix that problem.

It’s called putting in a corset back and it looks like this when you are finished:

I do not do this alteration very often, but my friend Christy, who owns 2 alteration shops in North Carolina does them all the time!

She is the one who has given us the instructions for this alteration.

Thanks, Christy!

Here are some before and after photos.

Before:

After:

She says, “It looks a lot harder than it is and girls are so amazed they think you are a miracle worker. It always fits, too, because it is self adjusting.”

She tells me that your dress must fit well between the two bust points in front in order for this to work.

So, if your dress fits well there, let’s proceed.

First thing you need to do is remove the zipper starting at the top, using a seam ripper. You are going to remove the zipper just down to the point where you couldn’t zip it up any further. When you remove the zipper, be sure and back stitch so that the part of the zipper you want to remain in the dress stays secure.

As you take out the zipper and cut off the excess zipper tape, leave enough zipper tape to fold down just like you do when you put in a new zipper. It will be covered by the lining later. (Don’t have lining in the dress? We’ll cover that situation later in this post.)

You are going to be making three items for this alteration: a modesty panel, ties and loops for the ties. None of them are difficult, so don’t be intimidated.

First, look at the back of the dress when it is on.

There will be the gap where the dress didn’t zip up. If that gap is only about 2 inches wide and only needs a few loops, make the loops smaller and the tie narrow so you can see that it does Criss-cross. You just have to decide what will look the best and what will be in proportion to how much gap you need to fill. If the dress has three or four inches in the gap, make the tie a little wider because it has more of the back to cover.

To make the tie, you can follow my post on How To Make Spaghetti Straps.

Christy makes the finished tie about 1/2 inch wide and about three yards long. That means you need to make sure you cut the strap double the width plus the seam allowance before you cut and sew it.

Once it is made, set it aside for now.

Next, we’ll make the loops.

Christy uses spaghetti straps to make the loops. “All the dresses come with them and most of the girls don’t want them, so I keep them to use for this purpose.”

If you don’t have the pre-made spaghetti straps, you will just make them like you would make spaghetti straps. “I just cut bias strips about one inch wide and join them together. I make one long tube and sew at about the 1/4 inch mark, trim the seam and turn.

Christy suggests making one long spaghetti strap about 1/4 inch wide and then cut it in 1 and 1/4 inch long segments. (My suggestion is that you may want to make these segments longer. Up to two inches long may help! You can always trim the excess amount later.)

Christy says, “I cut the loops about one and a quarter inch long. That is longer than you really need, but it has to be covered by the lining and I like the ends to be close to the seam allowance. You will be pulling the tie through them and you don’t want them to break because of the stress. They need to be strong!

I draw a pattern on paper, using a corset that I took out of a dress I found at Goodwill.


You want your loops to be exactly the same width and distance apart for both sides so they match up. If you don’t use a pattern, you may get some loops too fat and it won’t look good. I sew the loops on the paper straight down the middle and then peel it away from the paper.

Starting at the top, pin the first loop in. Don’t leave a large opening. You don’t want the loops to pull. Just leave enough opening for the tie to fit through and fit snug. When you insert the next one it should overlap the first one and make an X on the underside. They look like they are one beside the other, but they are really overlapping.

Pin them all in leaving the lining free. Sew close to the edge with tight stitches just like you do when you put in a zipper. If the dress has beading, I walk the needle over them. Do the same to the other side and make sure the loops match up. They must be identical! If the dress has lining, sew it back down just like you would when putting in a zipper.

If the dress doesn’t have lining, I use satin ribbon to cover the raw edges of the loops:

Here’s a view from the right side:

(You can make the loops and stitch them in, in one continuous step without cutting them, but I think it looks better when they cross over each other. I don’t like the loops to stick out away from the dress that much. I don’t even want to notice the loops.)

Here are some pictures I found on the internet. Some of them look good and some look bad. If the loops are too far from the fabric and the tie is pulling it looks bad. You will see what I mean.

Here is a good one:

corset-back-5.jpg

Here is one that isn’t good. See how far out the loops are when it is tied?:

Next, you’ll make a modesty panel.

Here are a few photos of a modesty panel:

To make the modesty panel, I just make a wide wedge V-shape from the main fabric. Fold fabric right sides together with the top of the wedge on the fold line and then cut in a wide V shape wider and a little longer than the width and length of the dress opening. It is just like a gusset but the top and bottom is straight across, not pointed. The top is wide and it gets narrower as it gets to the bottom.

The basic shape that you would cut out of your fabric looks like this:

When you fold it along the foldline, your modesty panel will be a double thickness and that foldline will be at the top and the narrower end at the bottom.

Before I sew the sides and bottom closed, and before I turn it, I add covered boning to one side (the lining side of the panel) or I add a heavy interfacing for stability. As you can see, the boning is straight across starting at the top and added about every two inches. You don’t have to go down too far. It’s just for stability.

The red modesty panel (first of the two red ones above) photo is easier to see how the boning is on the lining side, but not on the outside. I sew it on the wrong side of the lining before I sew the fabric and lining together. When you turn it right side out, the boning is encased. Some do have the boning on the side facing out, as you can see from the picture of the ivory one:

I attach the modesty panel on the left side of the dress (just tack it on) and leave the right side loose. (The left side I’m referring to is when the back of the dress is facing you.)

I usually hand sew the lining down after I put the loops on because I only want to sew down the dress one time so it is really neat. I find it hard to sew the loops, the modesty panel and catch the lining all at the same time.

Some modesty panels snap on so the bride can take it out if they don’t want it. So, you could sew on snaps if you prefer.

Another additional point: “I have taken some dresses in at the sides, even if it fits, so that I could make a corset back and it would show off the laces. This works well if the dress fits in the waist but won’t zip all the way up.”

Well, there you go. Now you have the step by step instructions to go and make your dress fit perfectly.

I have written another post on How To Put In A Corset Back, Option #2. I think it will be helpful to see more instruction on the process.

Another option, if you don’t want to put in a corset back, is to put in gussets on each side of the dress under the arm.

To learn how to do this option, click on How To Put Gussets in a Dress or Top.

 

Hem…Using the Inseam Measurement

Several of my customers leave their pants to be hemmed on my porch without ever coming inside.

It’s because I hem their pants using their inseam measurement.

Once I know what their inseam measurement is, they never have to try pants on for me again.

I just sew each pair of pants at that same length.

This works well for men’s pants especially.

Men’s pants fit pretty uniformally across the board.

I’ll use the inseam measurement for some women too.

Women’s pants, however, can fit differently in the crotch area depending on the style and brand.

Some hang low in the crotch area and some don’t.

That can make for a variation in the inseam measurement.

Today I received a few pairs of men’s slacks for hemming.

This customer wants his pants hemmed with a 27 1/2″ inseam.

(Just so you know, that is a very short inseam. Most inseams are between 28″-36″)

There are two ways to find out what your inseam measurement is.

First, you can measure a pair of pants where the customer loves the length.

Second, you can measure their body (or your body, if you are hemming your own), from the crotch area to the point at which they want their hem to be.

For this example, I will show you how to measure the pants.

In this photo, you can see that I have laid the pants on the floor so that the inseam is showing from the intersection of the two seams to the bottom of the pants:

Here’s a close up view of that intersection of the two seams:

 

To get the inseam measurement, place a measuring tape at the point where the seams intersect:

Run the tape measure down the inside leg seam to the bottom of the pants. Whatever that measurement is, that’s your inseam.

Because my customer wants his pants to be at 27 1/2″, that is where I put a pin:

Notice the hem. It is put in with top stitching with a sewing machine. I always try to duplicate the original hem when I put the new one in.

First, take out the original hem with a seam ripper:

Take note that the original hem was folded up 1 1/2″:

Once you have taken out all the thread, spread out the entire hem so you can see all the way to the raw edge of the fabric.

If you measure from the fold of the original hem, you’ll see that there is 2 inches of fabric beyond that.

Measure from the folded edge to the pin.

That will tell you how much fabric to press up for the new hem.

Or you can measure from the original fold to the pin:

Press up that amount all the way around the pant leg:

Then, measure out that 2 inches and trim off the excess:

You’ll now fold up 1/2″. I know that because I left 2 inches of extra fabric and my original hem was 1 1/2″ deep. So, 1/2″ is what’s left to turn under.

Fold under the hem twice (once at the 1/2″ mark and again at 1 1/2″) and pin in place, matching the side seam lines:

You don’t have to pin this hem in place. You can just stitch if you like and if you feel comfortable doing that.

If I do pin the slacks, I like to pin on the outside (right side) of the pants.

I place a pin at each side seam and one in the center front of the pant and one in the center back.

Then, top stitch the hem in place, stitching from the right side of the pants. That way, I can make sure the seam line looks good.

This blog has all sorts of posts on different ways to hem garments. Be sure to click on “Alterations” above and then click on “Hemming”.