No Bridezillas Here

No Bridezillas Here

I’ve gotten a few inquiries lately to do wedding dress alterations and creations. Some tailors don’t like working on wedding dresses. They say brides are the most difficult customers there are. I don’t mind so much and, honestly, don’t find brides any more demanding than actors and actresses, which makes sense as brides are (and should be if that’s what they want) the stars of their own little wedding day movies.

Here comes the bride…

Classic pillbox.

Classic pillbox.

A lifetime ago, when I lived in Austin, TX, I did a lot of wedding dress alterations. I had a partnership with a bridal store there. The store referred all of its brides to me and I paid a small monthly fee to them for the referrals and use of their fitting rooms. On account of the University of Texas being in Austin, the city has a huge young adult population, many of whom get married there.

Most of the alterations were your straight forward hems, take in the side seams, add a bustle, kind of stuff. But a few them stick out in my mind, even all these years later, as being especially unique and fun to do.

One of my favorites was the girl who bought a dress with a tiered skirt. It was a relatively narrow skirt of about six 7” or so flat ruffled tiers that got slightly bigger as they got nearer to the hem. The dress was floor length but she wanted to be able to remove the bottom three tiers to make it knee length and easier to dance in once the reception rolled around. I bought a heavy duty separating zipper and hid it under the fabric tier that began just above her knee. It worked perfectly; you couldn’t tell it was there at all and she was able to easily zip off the bottom half of her dress skirt, like those hiking pants you can zip off the bottom of to make shorts. But a lot better.

I also did a lot of adding straps to topless dresses. Topless dresses are always good in theory but not so much in many practical situations. One client, a computer graphics and design professional, even created her own unique strap shape she wanted me to build for her. I didn’t even have to make my own pattern!

Strap design.

Strap design.


Bridal hats

I made quite a few bridal hats too. Some of them were your classic covered pillbox shapes. A pillbox is really just an oval or circle with a 2 and a half to 3 inch band made from buckram and wire, then covered with fabric. A little trick to pillbox making I learned at the very beginning of my millinery career is to first cover the shape with a thin layer of baby flannel. Stitch it on as you would the fabric, then use Sobo glue to smooth and ‘mush’ the edges. This gives the hat a little bit of weight, softens the wire on the edges, and makes your outside layer (often a light weight silk if its bridal) look much smoother and nicer. Pull the baby flannel down and around the wire on the bottom edge and into the underside of the hat.

You can use this baby flannel technique to cover any buckram framed hat you make. I created this wide brimmed hat for another bride in Austin. You can see in the photo that the edge of the brim has some substance to it even though the silk covering it is fairly light weight. That’s because there’s baby flannel under there too. It just gives a hat a much more professional finish.

Wedding hat.

Wedding hat.


Another one of my favorite unique bridal embellishments was just the addition of a fun ruffle around the neckline. This is just your basic gathered ruffle collar but it made the dress one of a kind and added a lot of interest to the top of the dress.

Ruffle neckline.

Ruffle neckline.


And that’s the thing about brides from my experience; they just want their dress to be special and one of a kind. Many of them can’t afford to pay for a completely custom dress. But with some creativity, you can make most any wedding dress unique. And if you’re able to understand and do that, you’ll find that working with brides isn’t really all that difficult at all.

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Sometimes it is hard to think of a great gift to sew for dad. It might seem like endless project options come to mind for most any other recipient, but gift ideas to sew for men don’t come quite as easy. Between the holidays, his birthday, and Father’s Day, you need a few good gift ideas each year—and that’s if you only have one dad to sew for!

Gifts to Sew for Dad

To help solve this perennial problem, here’s a long resource list of ideas to sew for men, including your dad, your children’s dad, or any other dad you might love.


I seem to list pillowcases in every gift idea post I write! That’s because they are easy to make in a hurry, everyone uses them, and none are as nice as those that you make. So they make a nice gift to sew for dad, too. My dear always loves a gift of a new pillowcase, especially for his jumbo XL long pillow. Last year, I made him one with Star Trek fabric, it is covered with line drawings of the Enterprise.  I used a vintage yard I’ve been saving and some vintage trim, too, and made him a new one today.

I think he'll love this for his jumbo pillow. I love the extra bit the sparkly trim adds to this.

I think he’ll love this for his jumbo pillow. I love the extra bit the sparkly trim adds to this.


Simplicity and other pattern makers make super easy to follow patterns for pajama pants. Or you can trace a favorite pair to make a pattern, or you can follow an online tutorial.  Make them extra nice by adding pockets and drawstring waist. My dear prefers these cut quite loose and made from plaid flannel shirting; these look great on him, too.


Make these from soft cotton; they are nice in flannel, or even knit.  Use a serger to finish all sides. For knit fabrics, you don’t even have to hem them at all. To save a step, buy these pre-made and make them more fun with tie-dye or personalize them with embroidery.

Handkerchief detail.

Handkerchief detail.


A quilt is a perfect gift to sew for dad. Make him a lap sized or larger quilt in his favorite colors if you know them. If not, you know he loves his college or pro team’s colors, or go with a muted and manly collection of scrap fabrics. My favorite quilt I made for a man was a corduroy scrap quilt, with brightly colored squares alternating with khaki squares in a Streak of Lightning pattern. Choose a high quality, super soft cotton flannel for the quilt backing, and use cotton batting for maximum comfort quilts.

Streak of Lightning quilt, Ashley Van Haeften, from Flickr.

Streak of Lightning quilt, Ashley Van Haeften, from Flickr.

Bedside or chair arm organizer

Sew an organizer pocket to go over the side of his chair and hold his remotes and things, or under his mattress to keep glasses and reading material safely at hand.

Comfy his couch

Besides making a quilt, you can make his couch even cozier with custom cushions, perhaps one which includes pockets for his remote. Or make him a cuddly plush sofa blanket.

Two layers of Cuddle Plush fabric make an ultra cozy sofa blanket.

Two layers of Cuddle Plush fabric make an ultra cozy sofa blanket.

BBQ Apron / tocque / oven mitts

Use appliqué or a fun novelty fabric to make and personalize an apron just for him. I like this reversible pattern from Michael Miller fabrics best. Make the gift even nicer by pairing it with an easy-to-make, matching chef’s hat (tocque is the proper name for these) or an oven mitt.

Reversible, adjustable apron & chef hat.

Reversible, adjustable apron & chef hat.

Handyman apron

Help him around the house by sewing a full-coverage handyman apron or an easy pocketed waist apron for holding nails or a few tools.

First aid kit

Everyone needs one. You can make it roll-up style, or with a zipper.

Zip bag

Zip bags I made for guys yesterday.

Zip bags I made for guys yesterday.

Make him a small and simple zippered pouch for holding his cufflinks and jewelry, sketching pencils, or other small items. For something a bit roomier, here is a tutorial for a boxy toiletries bag that will work well to sew for dad.

You can sew an easy zip bag in 15 minutes, or less.

You can sew an easy zip bag in 15 minutes, or less.

Phone or glasses case

These are simple and easy to make. If you prefer, make a hanging charging pouch.

Tablet tote

This one is really easy to make; scroll down to see a manly looking option. The iPlaid is a good choice for a guy, or you could make one from scrap jeans.

Laptop sleeve or bag

If you can get your hands on his laptop to take measurements, then you can make this easy laptop sleeve in an hour or less. For something with a strap, make him a messenger style bag to fit his laptop.

Lunch bag

He’d probably rather not carry a cutesy lunch sack, so here’s how to sew a reusable brown bag with waxed canvas.


Make it bifold or trifold. Or make him a simple business card wallet.

Other kits or bags

Make a tool roll or tool bag, a cord roll, a battery bandolier organizer, a monogrammed suede bag for his liquor bottle if he carries one to go, a shoe bag for travel. I’m making a patchwork quilted ukulele bag and a drumstick bag for my hubby this year. A soft padded guitar bag is a great idea, too.

This fabric is perfect for lining his ukulele case.

This fabric is perfect for lining his ukulele case.

Cup, can, or bottle cozy

Here are free tutorials to sew these for a can, a bottle, or a coffee cup.


Lanyard type key fobs make useful gifts. You can make them with webbing, leather, even recycled jean denim. Here is a neat tutorial that includes a way to make these with a zipper for a place to stash cash. Or make something else useful to hang hang on his keychain, like a chapstick cozy or earbud or iphone pouch.

CD visor or book

Plenty of dads still keep their music on CD. If yours does, you can sew him a place to hold them on his car visor. I made one with a patchwork dive flag and ocean blue fabrics for my diver dad. You can also use felt to make pocket pages and sew a folder or book for holding CDs.

Baby carrier

Dads love to wear babies, and babies love it when they do. For a new dad, make a sling type, mei-tai, or a toddler sized soft structured carrier in a manly color or fabric.

A mei-tai style baby carrier is super easy to sew and comfy for both dad & baby.

A mei-tai style baby carrier is super easy to sew and comfy for both dad & baby.

Sporting gifts

Stadium blanket, photo courtesy Fons & Porter.

Stadium blanket, photo courtesy Fons & Porter.


There are lots of ways to sew a hat. Here are tutorials and free patterns for a few different styles:


Buy a simple pattern, or use my 10-minute way to make shorts. You can make the bandana style shorts in that link for men using four bandanas instead of two.  Just use two bandanas instead of one for each leg, and add side seams to sew these together. Add length at the rise with a matching or coordinating fabric, or cut a couple more bandanas in half and sew these at the top. Or choose a funky fabric and whip up some board shorts for him.

Tie / bowtie

Buy some silk and make him a stylish tie with a pocket square to match. Here are tutorials for a bow tie and how to add a secret wallet pocket to the back of any tie, too.

Scarf / cowl

Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you probably won’t want to give dad a scarf for Father’s Day. But for winter holidays or birthdays, a scarf or cowl makes a great gift.

Do you have other ideas?

I am sewing all my Father’s Day gifts this year. What about you? Which of these ideas will you sew for dad? If you know any good gifts to sew for dad or men that aren’t on this list, please add them by commenting below.

Keep Warm with These Fleece Projects

Keep Warm with These Fleece Projects

These Fleece projects will keep you cozy and warm

I don’t know about you, but if you ask me, this Winter can’t end soon enough. I’m dreaming of warm weather and beach trips, but the reality is that it is cold outside. On cold winter days, there is nothing cozier than fleece. So I’ve scoured the net to round up some fun fleece projects for you to sew.

Tips for Sewing with Fleece

Fleece projects are generally easy to sew, but only if you know some tricks for working with this unique fabric:

Needles – Some folks prefer to use a universal point needle when working with fleece. If you choose this type of needle, be aware that fleece will dull these quickly and you will need to change needles often. I find a stretch or ball point needle works better and use these instead for sewing fleece projects. Regardless of needle type, I use use size 14 for fleece.

Foot selection – A roller foot or an even-feed foot (also known as a walking foot) will be most helpful. Reduce presser foot pressure to allow for the extra bulk.

Stitching – I prefer to sew with a stretch stitch for fleece. If your machine does not have a stretch stitch, you can use a narrow zig-zag stitch instead. For straight stitching, use a slightly longer stitch length, about 3.5mm, to prevent skipping.

Thread – Fleece is not only tough on needles; it can also be tough on thread. Don’t try sewing fleece projects with cotton or cotton/poly thread, as this may ravel or break. To prevent breakage, use 100% polyester thread.

Other tips 

  • Don’t use an iron on fleece, as it has a very low melting point.
  • To know which side is which, pull the selvedge taut; fleece will roll slightly on the wrong side.
  • It is difficult to undo stitches from fleece, so work slowly and carefully to avoid mistakes.
  • Clean your machine frequently when working with fleece, as it has a tendency to shed fibers.

And now, for my favorite fleece projects:

Fleece Projects: Hats and Headbands

A U.S. Army survival manual from 1957 claimed we lose 40-45 percent of heat from our heads. There is some controversy about this figure, and this may be overestimated. Regardless, you lose less heat from your head when it is covered!  There are many cute ways to cover heads with fleece, here are just a few.

Delia shows how to embellish a simple ear warmer headband with a huge fleece flower.

Delia shows how to embellish a simple ear warmer headband with a huge fleece flower.

Fleece Projects: Scarves

A fleece scarf can help keep you warm and fashionable, too. You can make one in mere minutes.

Scarflette, courtesy of Leafy Treetop.

Scarflette, courtesy of Leafy Treetop.

Fleece Projects: Mittens and Gloves

  • Make It and Love It shows how to make a pattern for adjustable mittens to fit anyone.
  • These fleece mittens are even easier to make and feature two layers for extra warmth.
  • Here’s how to make fleece gloves with gussets.
  • Ruffled fingerless gloves couldn’t be cuter. These only look complicated; they are actually easy to sew.

Fleece Projects: Footwear

  • This instructable shows how to make fleece socks from a blanket. If you’d rather not cut up a blanket, you could use fleece yardage instead.
  • Here’s a video tutorial for making dainty, ladylike slippers from fleece.
  • These fleece slippers will keep your ankles warm, too.

Fleece Projects: Pants

Nothing is more comfy and cozy than fleece pajama pants. Simply Modern Mom shows to make them using your favorite pants as a pattern. The tutorial is for child’s pants, but you can use this method to make them in any size. If you don’t have a favorite pair to use for making your pattern, of course you can make fleece pajama pants using most any pajama pattern in your stash.

Fleece Projects: Sweater

Here is a tutorial for making a lovely cowl-necked sweater from fleece that is as impressive as it is comfortable. The cowl neck is quite versatile. This can be worn in different ways, depending on the temperature outside.

Fleece Project: Caftan

When it’s really cold and all you want to do is stay cozy indoors, you’ll appreciate this easy fleece caftan. This is even better than the popular snuggies, as it covers both your front and your back sides.

Fleece Projects: Coats and Capes

Fleece outerwear is great because it’s warm, comfortable, and even repels water on wet and drizzly days. You can choose something easy and unstructured, such as a poncho or cape, or go with something more detailed, like a jacket or coat.

  • This instructable shows how to make an easy poncho that’s also pretty.
  • Here are several ways to make a beautiful long cape, with hood or without.
  • This little girl’s cape includes a collar and dressier design details.
  • Craftsy has collected 6 different jacket patterns. This link has something for everyone.
My personal favorite fleece coat is McCall’s pattern 5987. This coat includes a built-in scarf that can be styled several different ways.

My personal favorite fleece coat is McCall’s pattern 5987. This coat includes a built-in scarf that can be styled several different ways.

My personal favorite fleece coat is McCall’s pattern 5987. This coat includes a built-in scarf that can be styled several different ways.  It has an attractive rounded hem that looks great with both skirts and pants. I have made this coat in camel, in charcoal, in navy, and one in red as a gift for my mother. I get lots of compliments on these coats every time I wear them. While they are fashionable outerwear, they are also so cozy that I wear them as an extra layer in the house all the time. Maybe I should make a fleece robe, because I don’t have any robe that feels near as nice over my nightgown as these coats do.

Fleece Projects are Fun

Don’t be afraid of fleece. It is different than other fabrics, but nothing compares to the comfort fleece offers. I also think of this fabric as being more environmentally friendly than many others, since it is often made from recycled plastic bottles. Sewing on fleece is easy if you know the tips and tricks shared here. I hope you will try some of these fleece projects this season and enjoy them for many winters to come.