Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Custom Bag - Leather Luxe

This is the bag I designed for the most recent BeTA Trauma Mama annual fund raising auction.

The winner of the auction wanted a simple black and gold bag that people would recognize as being custom. 
 The base and top of the bag are real leather as are the gold straps (which were covered with a black strap as the gold looked a little gaudy by itself).
 The bag zips shut at the top.  The inside of the bag has lots of pockets and is made with Ripstop nylon which is easy to wipe clean.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Open Bottom Pants for Wheelchair/ Lift/ Sling Use

I've been designing clothes for my mom as she has progressed through different stages of ALS.  I won't be using pictures of my mom out of respect for her privacy and dignity.

As my mom's left arm weakened to the point of immobility, she was unable to dress herself.  Unfortunately her husband, her primary caregiver, has Essential Tremors, and therefore had a lot of difficulty with snaps, buttons, zippers...  He is also pretty oblivious about comfort and fitting (He once fastened my mother's bra so that the bottom band crossed directly over her breasts.  Unfortunately since she cannot speak, and has less sensitivity on affected parts of her body, when I came by in the afternoon, it had been like that all day!  Ouch!)
Back opening dress
When mom was still using a walker, I made wrap dresses and front closing bras so that she could be dressed while sitting on the bed.  When she switched to the wheelchair full time, we tried switching her tops to back openings with velcro or snaps on the shoulders so that she wouldn't have to lift her arms as much (she was still trying to wear t-shirts - which had to go over her arm brace and her neck brace.).  This way the shirt could be pulled up over her arms, and then fastened in back.  Here's a link to how this works.  I called this a "Tulip back"

Tulip shirt front
Tulip shirt back
Electric wheelchair
Once my mom got to the point where she needed to be in a wheelchair all the time to prevent falls.  We quickly started discovering issues with the bathroom.  First of all, the wheelchair didn't fit in the tiny little potty room, so someone had to help Mom rise from her wheelchair, then help her balance until she could hold onto a grab bar mounted on the wall.  She then shuffled until she was in front of the toilet.  We had a second grab bar installed there, and she held on to that for balance.  Since by this point she only had the use of one hand, and that hand was holding the grab bar, that meant someone else had to drop her pants for her (and help pull them back up when she was done).  There was very little dignity to be found in this situation!

Suddenly we needed "open bottom" pants for my mom.

As she became less able to support her own weight, we quickly discovered that she needed a lift (including a lift in her spirits!).  The problem with lifts is that they lift you out of the wheelchair in a sling and then lower you onto the potty - which is great, except when/how do you lower your pants?!  The sling has a circular opening where your bottom "hangs out."  A quick bout of research (found an awesome site called Silvert's with some "open bottom options") and we quickly discovered this meant you had to go "commando" so your clothes had to discreetly cover you everywhere, except your bottom.

 That left mom with 2 options.

One, the tulip backed dress with a cut out for the bottom.  The person looks fully clothed when you're looking down from above.  The sides of the skirt are tucked under the person's legs and the back of the dress goes to the chair seat and stops.  We still had to add access to the PEG tube for feeding (see this post for details).
.Option two was pants, capris, shorts.  This was mom's preference, and with the purchase of a pair of Silvert's open bottom pants and this video which showed me how they worked, I thought we were in business!  She tried out the pants for a couple of days, before I made more, and I'm so glad we waited.

Step one, while still in seated
position pull pants up over legs.
Secure adjustable waistband.
"Flap" will cover hips, but
bottom is exposed when in
seated position.
In theory, these are awesome!  In everyday use?  Not so much.  The crotch seam was sewed so far down that you couldn't easily access the front parts of the body that need "wiping."  That seam had to be opened up to allow the slit to come further toward the waist.  In theory, the generous amount of fabric in these loose fitted pants, and the fact that my mom never sits with her knees spread apart, keeps them from gaping open enough to show the opening.

The worst part?  To secure the snaps in the back - already difficult for someone with Essential Tremors, Mom had to lean forward in her chair - which inhibited her breathing.  Not wheelchair friendly at all!
Original design

Shifted to side closure instead of center back.

So I opened up the left side of the back "flap" and added some velcro strips (could use a separating zipper as well).  That way the flap could be slipped behind the person and then secured on the side (much easier than trying to secure it behind their back).

This worked much better so I altered a pair of her loose fitting (she's lost about 70lbs on her liquid diet), elastic waistband, knit shorts.  Instead of velcro, I used magnetic purse snaps (my new favorite closure!).  It's pretty easy to alter the shorts (although it helped to have matching color fabric for the new flaps needed for the side closure), but I've also drafted a pattern so I can make new ones in any colors I wish.

I can add more details if anyone is interested in doing any of these projects themselves.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Modified Tops for Nursing and G-Tubes

I've been designing clothes for my mom as she has progressed through different stages of ALS.  I won't be using pictures of my mom out of respect for her privacy and dignity.

First she got a  feeding tube, also known as a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG).  This meant she needed access to the port and the carrier for the tube which is kind of like a fanny pack.  Clothing couldn't be tight across the area, and she didn't want to just lift her shirt, because that left her stomach exposed (or worse if she wanted to wear a dress), not to mention that the fabric had to be secured out of the way.

I immediately thought of some of the things I'd made for myself when I was nursing.
Fabric overlaps and secures with Velcro
Stretchy fabric is pulled out of
the way for easy access.

A similar concept with a knit fabric.  No need for Velcro because the fabric was overlapped more since it was stretchy.

I also began purchasing
"arthritis bras" and
altering her bras to
make them open in the front.
 She was actually fairly happy with t-shirts on a daily basis, but wanted some nicer dresses for church.  She'd also begun having issues with the use of her left hand so needed clothing that was easy to put on and take off (no awkward back zippers!).

Voila!  The wrap dress!

Next problem - if you untie a wrap dress, it drapes open like a bathrobe and once again shows everything. So I extended the under panel to go all the way across the body to the other side (in other words, the "wrap" part of the dress was pretty much faux.  The under panel covered the body of the dress and was secured with Velcro in the upper shoulder to prevent it from sagging.  Cut a slit in the under panel to accommodate the PEG/ feeding tube and we were done!

Until the next issue - Being dressed by caretakers and making accommodations for being in a wheelchair!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Baby got Bling!

It may not be obvious in the picture, but this dress is covered in "rhinestone" bling!  My oldest daughter was inspired by this rhinestone covered chiffon gown.  

I recently took an online class called Fast Track Fitting by Joi Mahon on, which creates perfectly fit basic pattern pieces based on detailed measurements.  I really like the class and used the muslin it made to create a cover for my dress form that can be used over and over again for each individual client

For this dress I drafted the bodice and lining by adapting the basic patterns created by the Fast Track Fitting pattern.  The skirt is simply multiple layers of tulle gathered and attached to the bodice.  Trimming the bodice is double strands of the "rhinestones" in an optical illusion of waist definition.  Draped from the waistline of the skirt is a rhinestone mesh separated into single strands that hang loose and move with the skirt.  The necklace is made from a rhinestone piece of trim held by two "rhinestone" strands.

Pattern Description: - A satin and tulle cocktail dress with "rhinestone" trim and drape.

Pattern Sizing: Custom fit using techniques from "Fast Track Fitting by Joi Mahon on" for a curvy apple figure with a 34D bust.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? This dress was only intended to be loosely based on the inspiration dress.  It did look like the sketch.

Were the instructions easy to follow? There were no instructions for this simple dress!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The "rhinestone" mesh had to be cut into individual strands and hand sewn to the bodice and waist.  It was a lot of work!

Fabric Used: White satin for the bodice, nylon lining material and "rhinestone" mesh from the home decorating department.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? This was a simple dress, flattering to the client.  I will probably make a similar silhouette multiple times for this particular client. 

Conclusion: This dress was designed for family Christmas pictures, and hopefully prom, but ultimately to wear to my 20th wedding anniversary party. This daughter loves all the shiny bling!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Chiffon Cocktail Dress adapted from RTW

Inspiration dress
Cocktail Outfit Contest

My youngest daughter tried on this dress -->
and instantly fell in love.  It was very expensive (about $300), but my main concern was how much leg showed on her 6 foot tall frame (she's obviously taller than this model because it almost showed her panties!).  She especially loved how it fit her elongated hourglass figure by accommodating her (substantial) bust, clinging to her tiny ribs and flaring over her hips.  She also asked that the hemlines in front look a little more blended and wanted a little bling added (like this other version of the dress that we found on the website).  We also created a necklace to draw the eye from her decolletage to her pretty face!

I looked everywhere for a pattern, since I'd never worked with a pattern with this particular fit and drape.  I finally stopped procrastinating, took a deep breath and drafted my own pattern using some techniques I'd learned in an online class called Fast Track Fitting by Joi Mahon on, which created perfectly fit pattern pieces based on detailed measurements.

Pattern Description: - A hi-low cocktail dress in multi-layered chiffon with rhinestone details.

Pattern Sizing: Custom fit using techniques from "Fast Track Fitting by Joi Mahon on" for a 6 foot tall elongated hourglass figure with a 34DD bra size.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? This was an adaptation of RTW LaFemme 18049 I believe it looks a lot like the original with the exception of a few requested modifications.  I wish you could see this dress in motion. We didn't have a fancy wind machine like the RTW models!

Were the instructions easy to follow? There were no instructions for this complicated dress!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I really struggled to get this dress to cling to the ribs and still flare over the hips without using any darts and very few seams. The top layer was bias cut, but the fabric wasn't wide enough to do the same for the rest of the layers.

Fabric Used: Fabric from my stash, in this case Nylon chiffon drapery fabric! Yes, this is another dress I stole from our family room curtains.  "Rhinestone" mesh for the trim and necklace.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: The original RTW dress was waaay too short in front for this 6 foot tall girl. She also wanted the hemlines in front to look a little more blended and wanted a little bling added (like another variation of the dress on the website ).

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I actually would make this dress again. Once I got over being intimidated by all the layers and how form-fitting the dress needed to be, and actually started on the construction, it turned out beautifully, and my incredibly picky client loved it!

Conclusion: I made this dress for my youngest daughter, who is a total fashion diva, to wear for family Christmas pictures, and hopefully prom, but ultimately to wear to my 20th wedding anniversary party. Over the years I've made a lot of dresses for this daughter, and she has never been totally happy with them... until this one! I tried a lot of new fabrics and techniques on this dress and I am proud of how this dress turned out.

Monday, December 23, 2013

20th wedding anniversary

1994 Original Wedding Dress 
My original wedding dress, from 1994.  Custom sewn by me, with all hand beaded lace, including the hem and train upon which was appliqued 8" deep, hand- sequined and pearled lace.

Inspiration Dress
The modern 20th wedding anniversary gift is platinum.  I wanted to wear a wedding dress for my anniversary party, but instead of white, I chose to wear a silver (platinum!) dress.  I tried on many dresses in my search for an inspiration.  This side draped dress was close to the preferred silhouette.  In my fabric stash, I found a pale silver fabric to pair with some white chiffon.

Recently I took a class called Fast Track Fitting by Joi Mahon on  I really liked this technique of creating and altering patterns based on detailed measurements, and used it as the basis for this dress and cocktail dresses for my daughters (future posts).

The final results.  A side draped dress with a sweetheart neckline.  Rhinestones follow the drape, leading to a chiffon inset (in person the rhinestones stand out significantly more dramatically).  The necklace was made from the same rhinestones as the dress.  (More details about the rhinestones in a later post).

Due to fabric limitations, the dress was not quite as full as originally planned.  Hopefully I'll lose a few pounds before the actual anniversary which will add a little more draping.  (I'll also not be sewing right up to the time the photo was taken, so I'll have time to iron!)

Final Version!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Corset - Lingerie contest - Vogue 9273

Lingerie Challenge Contest 2013

Pattern Description: Vogue 9273  Lined top has princess seams. A: front zipper. I modified this pattern so extensively I'm not sure you can still say it's this pattern.

Pattern Sizing: 14-16-18 - Modified for a 36GG cup!

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Only superficially. I changed the cup dramatically and extended the torso to a long-line princess waist.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Honestly I never looked at them.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? * In order to fit correctly it NEEDS an underwire (I made this pattern once before), and it still didn't fit flat to the ribs in front. * The zipper/buttons in front are pretty far apart which shifted part of my breasts into my armpits!

Fabric Used: Sheer ivory polyester chiffon. Made a previous version with red vinyl - not comfy!

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

  •  Self drafted bra cups from one of my bras. 
  •  Added boning since I didn't have any extra bra underwires. 
  •  Extended waist to a long-line (like B) that came to a point in front (like C) and in back. 
  •  Extended top edge of sides and back to provide more support for cups. 
  •  Added elastic to top edge. 
  •  Added self binding to bottom edge. 
  •  Used heavy duty zip ties for boning - used a modified version of a french seam to encase them between the fabric and "lining" (both layers are the same sheer fabric).

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? It's a pretty pattern and I love the corset styling. I'll probably tweak it and try it again.

Conclusion:  I really want a pretty corset and this is a fun pattern - I just wish it weren't so hard to modify to get the cups right!

Not modeling this one as it is totally sheer (you can see the bra pads I used to try to make the mannequin look more like my measurements!)!
Actually, I'm not modeling either one, as my cups runneth over in the red vinyl!!  
(Obviously the mannequin is not set up for my measurements!