Repair - Resize - Redesign

Linda Robinson – Jet Steppers Square Dance Club –Maple Valley, WA.

I have been a Seamstress for over 45 years. I specialize in designing and creating Ballroom gowns, Ice Skating costumes, Square Dance clothing, Wedding gowns and formal wear. My experience also includes alterations, repairs and redesigning garments. My latest hobby is recycling old household items into yard art for my garden and deck. Hopefully some of my ideas will be new and helpful to you, save some things from the garbage dump and save you some money!



Repairing a Stain or Bleach Spots:

Tie-Dye - Back in style and a great cover up! Try tie dye on your light colored garments that have a light stain you need to cover. Works even on sheets!

Patches: Look your garment over and find a place where you can “steal” a bit of material to make a patch to cover your stain or bleach spot. I have used tabs from roll up sleeves, the back of a cuff that doesn’t turn up, a long shirttail, the back of a waistband and even a pocket. This is radical but worth it if the garment is nearly new and costly. The wonderful product “Stitch Witchery” is the magic that seals the rounded patch over the spot. Repair the place you cut the patch from with a like color fabric and seal it with “Stitch Witchery”. For holes, you will need a back patch as well to “seal” the hole from both sides. Read the product directions for explicit details.

Embellishments: Sometimes the “boo boo’s” are in a place that you can use appliqués, buttons, fabric paint, Rick rack, ribbons, brocade ribbon, etc. to form a design and cover the stain. If it’s part of a two piece outfit, you can also use a similar embellishment on the “mate” to make it look the same.

Repairing a sewn in Zipper:

Remove the metal stopper at the bottom of the zipper with a pair of pliers. It takes some effort but it does come off. Zip the zipper all the way down to the bottom, stopping just below the last of the teeth. Don’t pull it off completely. Using your fingers, rearrange the teeth of the zipper so that one side isn’t bunched up. Straighten them out. Slowly zip up the zipper halfway, paying careful attention to whether or not the teeth are not locking together.

Once they are straight, we can secure the zipper. Using a needle and thread, sew around the place where the metal stopper was. The idea is to replace it with thread. Sew around and around the bottom of the zipper until you have six or more stitches in place. Tie off in a knot on the backside of the zipper.

Missing Zipper pull:

Replace your missing zipper pull or just make a personalized new one out of your favorite key chain. Use your round-tipped pliers to pull the connecting ring open. You will be using the open ring to attach the key chain to your zipper. If the ring is also missing, you can replace it easily with a small slip ring usually found on a key chain, or use a ring off an old necklace or Square Dance Badge dangle. (You could use several dangles if you want) Hook the open ring into the opening on the zipper closure. Hook your decorative pull onto the ring. If you are using a single round ring, close the ring with your round-tipped pliers. Be sure that it is closed. Your jacket has been saved!

Replacing Western Snaps:

Easy as pie! Go to and order an applicator and snaps. They are a reasonable price and simple to apply with their tool and a little hammer. Take your pliers and pinch the broken snap to bend it a bit and then gently pry it off the shirt. (You may have to coax the prongs off with a small screw driver). You’re ready to replace the snap. Men are usually pretty good at this task! (hint, hint).


Letting out a Wedding gown, Prom Dress or Square Dance Dress:

If you have a wedding gown or dress that is too small through the waist and hips, you can easily make it bigger by letting it out. Follow these simple instructions to adjust it: 

You will need (Scissors, Seam Ripper, Chalk or Washable Marker, Measuring Tape, Sewing Machine and Iron or Steamer and Ironing Board.)

Turn your dress inside out. Use your measuring tape to see how much seam allowance you have. Some wedding gowns or cocktail dresses will intentionally have a lot of seam allowance to allow for letting out. If your dress only has a 1/4" or less seam allowance, then there probably isn’t enough to let out the dress. This would require a more complex alteration.. Be sure and check the zipper seam allowance as it’s very often larger than needed and could be let out there. Once you have determined whether or not you can make your dress larger, measure around your waist and hips. Measure the front and back of the dress at the waist and hips. Subtract the difference of each measurement. This is approximately how much room you need to let out of the waist and the hips. You will be calculating a quarter of the amount you need to let out. For example, if you need to let out two inches, then you would mark ½” from the stitching on each side. Using a small piece of chalk, mark your seam where you will be sewing it. Once you have marked both sides, you can remove the stitching. 

Using your seam ripper, remove the stitching on each side of the dress where you have marked. Be careful not to pull too hard and cause holes to stretch or tear. Begin stitching at one end of the open seam, at your chalk mark. Use a similar colored thread and back-tack at each end. Iron or steam each seam flat. Test a small area with your iron first to make sure the fabric won't be damaged by heat.

Take in a dress that is too large:

Sometimes the favorite dress is a little too large in the waist and hips. You don't have to be a professional seamstress to fix this problem. Take your measurements. Measure around your waist and hips making sure you measure hips at the same location on the dress by measuring down six inches from your waist and the dress waist. Measure the front and back of the dress at the waist and hips. Add the front and back of both measurements. Subtract the difference between your measurement and that of the garment. This is approximately how much room you need to take in the waist and the hips, respectively. You will be calculating a quarter of the amount you need to take in. For example, if you need to take two inches, then you would mark ½” from the stitching on each side. (Calculating front and back seams per side) 

Using a small piece of chalk, measure in from the seam and mark where you will be sewing it. Remove stitching with seam ripper and pin sides. Begin to sew where the side seam crosses another seam, like at the armpit, bust or hips. Sew straight down using a straight stitch. Leave the extra fabric in place as a very large seam. Press open. This way, you can let it out if you need to in the future.  

For a perfect pattern size:To find a free download of a measurement chart, go to This chart will show you what size of pattern you should purchase to fit your measurements.

Making a Prairie Length Skirt from a shorter skirt:

Many of us have opted to go with a longer skirt length than we wore when we were younger. The Prairie skirt became a popular alternative. But now we have a closet full of shorter length outfits that we spent a lot of money and/or time on. I have a couple of suggestions for lengthening your skirts so you can continue to enjoy them. This is resize and redesign.

For a gathered 3 tiered square dance skirt: Measure the length of the skirt you are going to resize. Now determine how long you want to make it. (Measure your prairie slip or another longer skirt if you don’t know your length) I am going to add 2 inches to each tier length of my 3 tiered skirt. I will cut sections of fabric long enough to go around all three tiers of the skirt at 3 in. wide. (¼ in. seam allowance each side of strip plus each edge of cut tier = 1in.) First find a seam in each tier where you will cut the tier open to insert new section.  Open at least three inches in that seam. Measure and mark with chalk the circumference of each tier 2 inches above the seam line. Measure how long each tier section will be and cut the strips accordingly. Sew the strips together for each tier. Proceed to cut away each tier at the 2 inch marking. Determine if you want to add lace or other trim in between the seam now, or if you want to add trim later. Now pin the extra strip to the top tier and stitch in place. Next stitch the bottom of the extra strip to the first tier. Continue until all three new tier pieces have been added. Next sew up open seams. You now have a “new” skirt the length you wanted and the hemline is already finished!

Zig Zag the inside seams to prevent them from fraying. You can chose to “decorate” your skirt or leave it as is. I top stitched two different colors of Rick rack on each side of my insets to bring out the blue and white in the print I added to my solid red skirt. This way I can wear a blouse of either of three colors. To lengthen other skirts, you might consider using other compatible prints. Lace also makes a nice inset that you would probably want to put at the very bottom of the top and middle tier, taking out the original stitching between the top and middle tier and repeating this for the middle and bottom tier. A little more work but beautiful results with three inch lace and   ribbon edge.

Lengthen a full circle or gored skirt.

In my opinion the easiest way to accomplish this is to add a ruffle. If it’s a print skirt you can add a ruffle with a complimentary color. Maybe one that would co-ordinate with a blouse?  You could also cut the bottom of the skirt approximately 5 or 6 inches up from the hem in a circle and insert a gathered inset or again, possibly lace cut circular, or a contrasting color or print inset and trim the edges. Most square dance clothes are expensive, so if they are in good condition it’s worth the time and expense to fix em!


Shoe Boxes

I admit that I’m a bit of a shoe diva. I’ve collected many shoe boxes over the years and have used them for various storage purposes. You’ll find them in my garage, closet, sewing room and attic. As a square dancer, I have yet another collection of shoes. I store them in the boxes that they came in, in a hanging closet organizer. Sometimes I forget what shoe is in what box and spend way too much time looking for them. I recently read a tip online about covering the boxes with similar wrapping paper and printing labels to identify the contents. I have taken that suggestion and incorporated it using up pieces of left over fabric that would otherwise be thrown out. It also serves to strengthen the boxes.

I simply cut pieces for both ends that would wrap under the box a half an inch, into the inside of the box a half inch and extend around the side of the box a half an inch. I cut the sides and bottom piece in one section, wide enough to cover both sides and the bottom of the box with an extra half inch on each side to lap into the box. I used pinking shears to cut the fabric so it would have a finished edge. Tacky glue spread thinly works great to adhere the fabric. You could also try spray glue. I cut fabric for the top of the box in one piece and cut out the corners. You could also use small patches of fabric and overlap them for a patchwork effect or decoupage. A permanent maker can be used to identify the contents or use labels, or take a picture of the shoes and paste it on the end of the box! I LOVE my shoe boxes! They can also be useful in your dresser drawers for hosiery, socks, etc.

Shoe Bag from Baby Overalls:

Many of you have already seen these but they are worth repeating! Purchase a 3mo. to 9mo. Size pair of baby overalls from your neighborhood Thrift Store. Mine were only a couple dollars. Check the length of the straps and cut them to your preferred length making sure the shoes will fit inside. Sew shut. Now stitch along the snapped leg to keep it closed then sew the bottom hem of the legs together. You can decorate them to your hearts content. I like lace on the bottom of the legs. In case your Male partner would like a shoe bag, purchase a pair of boys size 9 to 12 mo. and decorate with sports theme. Football appliqués, etc. Washable, hang-able treasures! (You can toss a sachet inside for a sweet smell!)

Shopping bags from jeans:

You know how durable jeans are and when they are no longer wearable, there are many recycle uses for them, including a shopping bag. We will soon be forced to use other than plastic bags, so this is a great alternative and it keeps some old jeans out of the landfills. There are patterns available online if you search for Jeans shopping bag but this is how I made mine. I used the tops of the jeans and added a bottom with spare fabric from the legs. Cut the legs off a couple inches past the crotch. Then, cut away close to the crotch seam separating the crotch area so you have a large opening to make a bottom for the bag.  Lay the jeans flat and cut the curved crotch area away forming a V shape. Cut a piece of denim from the leg to fill in the V area. Stitch in place, front and back. You don’t have to hem it as the denim will fray and enhance the look.

Make sure the handles are long enough to fit over the headrest on the back of the passenger seat so they are handy when you get to the store. Cut the remaining leg pieces open along the inseam. Cut 3 inch strips approx. 18 inches long for handles from one leg. Measure the circumference of the bottom of your “bag”. Cut an oval from the remaining leg piece the circumference of the bag. Sew bottom in bag with rounded ends at side seam area. Seam can be on the right side of the jeans if you like the frayed look. Attach handles to the front and back of the “bag” at the waistline approx. 5 “ in from each end. No need to hem. Cut pockets out and top stitch them shut. Decorate!

Remedy for sleeveless or strapless dress:

If you have a dress that you love except for your exposed arms, here are a couple of “fixes” to redesign the outfit. One quick fix for strapless is of course the popular Shrug. It comes in many designs both ready made and in patterns. It can be very “cut away” or cover up. You can use complimentary fabric and colors or even a contrast. Try adding a wide strap, short or long sleeve to your dress. Butterick pattern B5184 has a nice set of all three. For a sleeveless dress you could add cap or a flutter sleeve, depending on the armhole. A puffy sleeve is probably the easiest to incorporate. Experiment with scrap fabric and sew it on with a basting stitch. Sheers are usually an acceptable addition to most fabric.

Yard Art from Household Items:

My favorite crafting hobby is using table lamps, floor lamps, chandeliers, candle holders, wrought iron, small tables, etc. to make yard art. I have a passion for birdhouses so most of these things become platforms. I also use dollar store figurines to decorate them. I leave the light fixture in some of them for a base, cutting off the cord. Others I strip clear down. I also use the lampshades which mount on a lamp halo, so the hardware has to remain intact. You can use plywood to form a base if you can find a way to mount it on the lamp. I strip the material from the lampshades and spray paint them. Then I decorate the frame with artificial foliage or flowers to attract the birds. I mount a small birdhouse by drilling a hole in the floor of the birdhouse for the lamp fixture to support it. I have a chandelier on my front porch with three small birdhouses and figurines on it. Birds nested in one of the houses last summer. I have a wrought iron chandelier hanging from my tree which has been there for five years now. I buy them all at thrift stores very cheap. You can make a mosaic table top on an old end table using ceramic tiles. Ask your local hardware store for broken tiles. If you have some on hand, put them in a bag and hit with a hammer to break them into small pieces. Glue to the table top and fill cracks with grout. Great table for your deck.