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Sep 12, 2011

Doing Alterations for Others - Yea or Nay?


Like many home sewers, I'm not into altering other people's clothes.  Heck, I don't even like to alter my own!  (Though, ironically, that's the original reason I bought a sewing machine in 2009 -- to shorten some thrift store jeans -- and look what happened.)

I find it much harder to alter ready-to-wear than just make something from scratch and I hate taking things apart when I'm not really sure how they were put together in the first place.

Well, lo and behold, I find myself needing to alter something for somebody.  Our friend Stephanie, who happens to be directing Michael's show, asked if I wouldn't mind taking in a skirt for her, and, since I'm extremely fond of Stephanie, I said yes.

 
Stephanie, who is an amazing dancer/singer/actress, is also an extremely generous person.  She was in Legally Blonde: The Musical on Broadway a few years back, and we got to see the show twice and get a backstage tour.  There I was, front and center on the Palace stage, just like Judy had been -- albeit in an empty theater.


It felt so right....  But I digress.

It's a very simple gathered skirt with a wide waistband and a back zipper.  It's from Zara, and is made of this really cool fabric that looks like a photograph of flowers, all done in acid tones.   Her mother got it for her when she came to visit and Stephanie hasn't been able to wear it because she has a 26" waist and the skirt is a 28-29" (it has a little stretch in it).  Cute, no?







I thought I'd just open up the back, cut off an inch on either side, and then close it back up, most likely adding a new zipper.   There are also two mirror-image side seams, but the skirt has pockets, and I didn't want to have to fiddle with those.



What do you think, readers?  I'm going to have to open up the waistband, right?  I mean, I can't rightly slice out 2" of width -- and the zipper -- with the waistband finished, could I?  I fear that would look crappy.





I do think this will be an interesting little project that shouldn't take more than a few hours tops and you know how poor most performers are these days.  I don't think I'll end up hating Stephanie and/or the skirt.  But I certainly don't want to set a potentially dangerous precedent.  I'm not a tailor, plus I've already had enough headaches lately making things for other people, as you well know.

Also, do you think this skirt is too spring-like for fall?  Stephanie wasn't sure and I'm on the fence.  Does it read flowers at first glance or does it look more abstract?

Look at how cheaply this skirt is hemmed -- they use some kind of fishing wire-type filament to do it.   I've seen that in pants from H&M.



Anyway, that's today's chore (one of a few).

In closing, friends, I must ask:  Do you do alterations for others?  Do you resent being asked?  Are you able to stand up for yourself and say, Bring that to your tailor and don't waste my time! -- though not necessarily in those words?

Will you take on these kinds of tasks, but only for money? 

I know some people get asked to do this all the time (for free) but I rarely have.  What's the kindest way to say fuggitaboutit!?

Doing alterations for others -- yea or nay?

Jump in!

94 comments:

  1. I don't like altering anything for others. Usually I will tell people "I can show *you* how to sew a button on," and that ends the discussion. I'm not good at alterations and I don't like doing them, so I do my best to steer people away from me. The only exception was hemming a pair of suit pants (by hand) for a friend's father, so said father could wear them at his wife's funeral. I was happy to be able to do that.

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  2. I will do alterations for a very select few people. It is a huge pain, and your time and skills are worth far more than most people are willing to pay. It was hard at first, but I have gotten extremely good at saying "No" to alterations. Ease into it, by saying you're too busy (not a lie!), and offer suggestions as to where they can get the work done. If your heart is not in it, you will rue the moment you said "yes"!
    As for the lovely skirt (spring for sure), can you just do some darts in the waistband? Sometimes that will work just fine, with a busy print and lightweight fabric. Good luck!

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  3. Oh how perfect your post is today, Peter. I just got an email from a "good acquaintance" asking me to hem a skirt for her. I have done a favor for one or two people but usually have no problem recommending a local alterations person since I have no interest in doing this for like or money (I do it for love when I alter for DH:-). In my current case, however, this person does do some favors for me throughout the year and I do have some time right now. So when I do agree to do an alteration, I have to do it with an open heart....and give up any expectation that this person will really understand the time it takes to alter RTW gracefully. I think you'll do a lovely job and Stephanie sounds like a delightful friend.

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  4. I end up with this problem all the time. I get friends who ask me to alter stuff and then offer to pay me. I won't take money from them b/c that's just kind of weird. We often babysit for each other for free, we BBQ together, play date together, carpool to school together, so it seems weird to take money for hemming someones pants ya know? So I end up doing it for free and they know I always end up doing it for free. However, sometimes I say I have never done 'that type of alteration' and 'don't want to mess it up'. That gets me out of stuff too.

    But I cannot escape my hubby who always seems to rip/shred the crotch in his pants. How does this happen all the time!! Is he doing lunges at work or work or something!? Its nearly impossibly to fix and look good.

    On a side note, anyone know how to politely let your friends know you are not a sweatshop and won't make their kids or themselves clothes just b/c "it would be fun and your stuff always looks so cool". Ugh.

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  5. I don't like to alter clothes. I much rather sew it from the beginning. As for the skirt, if you take too much out of the back I think it will cause the pockets to hang more toward the back. If you take it in from the sides it would sit better. You just have to deal with those pockets. Good luck! I think I would wear it in the fall with some tights.

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  6. I'm building a business in doing alterations for others, amongst my other sewing (working for a young designer doing both production and samples and also alterations for a local bridal shop) but I'm quite prepared to say if something isn't 'worth it' for whatever reason. If it's a complicated job I estimate high, so that I won't feel resentful about something taking over my life!

    E.g. Lady brought a reversible jacket. shiny mac fabric on one side and knitted kind of cardigan look on the other. Miles too big for her. I can do the job, but it'll need another fitting and lots of time to unpick carefully. I quoted £50 and suggested to her that it depended on how she feels about the jacket. It turns out she loves it and that it cost over £200. She couldn't get a new one for £50, so for her it's worth it.

    For me it's worth it, as I now have an increasing number of people coming to me for sewing services, which has meant that I was able to give up my (fairly short, but disruptive hours) job for someone I didn't want to be working for. I can work at home and hours to suit myself. I'm quite patient though and good at fiddly work.

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  7. I do alterations for a select few people - besides my family.

    I choose whether or not to do the alterations based on my time and whether or not the job can be done easily or for a good cause.

    This week I am lengthening 2 dresses for a friend's daughter - she grew taller by several inches in the past 2 months - and mom would like her dresses a little longer...

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  8. I say no all the time! The only alteration jobs I will accept are hems and that's on an extremely limited basis. I don't bother taking in my own clothing that is too big so why would I do it for someone else?? That skirt is really cute though. I think the only way to do it right is to remove the waistband and reconstruct it.

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  9. i ONLY alter for my OH and my two daughters...call me selfish, but that's the way i roll. I don't like doing it and it shows with the trousers that my OH asked me to re-hem that have been sitting in the sewing room for months.

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  10. OK, sorry the skirt. She needs about 3" taking out of the waistband. Unpick the waistband facing apart from round the zip. remove the waistband apart from the bit round the zipper, I think you can leave this in place. Make a seam at each side of the waistband, right above where the side seams of the skirt are. take in a 3/4" seam ...2 x 3/4" is 1 1/2", one at the left and one at the right is 2 x 1 1/2" so 3 ". the next thing you need to do is take a total extra amount of gathering off the main skirt bit, so again , 1 1/2' over the front and back skirt sections = 3" total. There may be an existing gathering trhead you can use, otherwise just some extra little tucks in here and there. Then sew the band to the skirt again and sew down the facing.

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  11. I will do alterations, but only for love not money. Also it is wise to make sure you can do the task before making a commitment. I learned this by agreeing to lift the wrist hem of a coat with a placket edge. Nightmare project.
    About the skirt: I second the idea of darts as stated above. You might be able to bring it in at the sides and avoid the back at the zipper. To take the sides in undo the band, sew a 1 inch seam on each side then bring it down again. I'd press open the new seam but not cut the new seam allowance as she may "grow" later can bring it out again. Can't tell you how glad I was to be able to do this over the years.

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  12. PS, I don't think you need to remove any width from the skirt...just the waistband. You can regather it and spread the 2 inches over the course of the new smaller waistband. Divide the new smaller waistband into 4 even sections and you'll know where your pocket seams need to go. You wouldn't need to mess with the zipper either. I think that would be the fastest way to fix the skirt...and have it look professional.

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  13. If you haven't started taking apart the waistband, you might have a look at Maripat's blog, What I'm Altering, http://whatimaltering-blog.learning-alterations.com/

    She has some excellent tutorials that may help.

    The last time I altered a skirt for someone (a very sweet neighbor lady), she refused to try on the skirt. Wanting it nipped in at the hip area "just an inch or two", I was really sweating. An inch can be too tight. She says the skirt fit, but I have doubts. Who doesn't try it on first for the fitting????

    From that point on, my standard answer is, "I'm a sewer, not an alterer. Alterations is completely different from constructing a garment. Here's the name of the alterations' shop I use..." ☺

    Good luck! I look forward to your post-Post. ☺

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  14. i'm the go-to alterations girl for my circle of friends, actually, and their friends & co-workers & rando people i've never met in my life. i hate doing alterations, but it's easy easy money and i'm very picky about what i will & will not alter (no suits, for example. nope! sorry!). most of what i end up doing is hemming pants, patching jeans, and taking in shirts to be more fitted. like i said, the money is easy, and i am willing to barter (one friend trades me vintage clothing - it is awesomeeeee). and no, i won't alter for free. my sewing time is precious to me.

    for your alteration in question, i would do exactly what you are suggesting. you don't even have to open up the waistband that much - unpick the stitches a few inches past the zipper on either side, cut the seams down to size (with seam allowance) and then re-insert the zipper & facing as you would with any handmade skirt.

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  15. I don't like doing alterations at all, not for others and not even for my own. Although it happens that I say yes, more or less by accident, and I hate it when that happens.
    Usualy I tell people that I also take my own stuff to the best seemstress in town and I give the adress. I really do.
    Only if I'm too attached to a garment or it's something that I made myself, I won't let anyone else touch it.

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  16. I may have to outsource this project to one of you!

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  17. Change out the zipper?? But it's so gorgeous! No no no...always avoid working with the zipper seam when possible. Take in the waistband at either side, since you're only taking in 2" (1" on the fold) you shouldn't have to do both. And you won't have to fuss with the pockets...just take the skirt apart from the waistband 4-5" in both directions and re-distribute the fullness, lining up the side seam (and pocket) with the new side seam.

    As for doing alterations for others, yea! But I'm professionally trained and worked at a shop for a year, and love doing alterations. Yes, I charge, but always less than what we would have charged at the shop. Generally a sort of flat rate for friends.

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  18. Ah, skirt alterations--I do these sorts of things a lot for myself! :) I agree with Kerri's comment about just removing the waistband, adjusting the length and gathering the skirt to fit the shorter waistband. Easy! Although it does involve the annoying part of fiddling with the zipper. :p Good luck!

    I rarely do alterations for anyone. I've done a couple for my husband (just finished hemming the pants I pinned five months ago! :p Egads. I'm so bad...), and might if my sister or someone like that asked. But generally, no. I am not someone who likes doing alterations for others (although ironically I adore refashioning clothes for myself... Selfish seamstress, maybe?! ;). I think mostly because it involves doing "boring" things like rehemming a finished garment. Boring. Not to mention I always resent the fact that when people (non sewers) find out that I sew, they automatically think I'll do alterations for them (gratis usually). :p Sewing does not make me the same as your neighborhood tailor! lol.

    Yikes. Hope I didn't sound too cranky there. ;)

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  19. My husband is a little on the short side and as such, can't find slacks the right length. I've told him I would be happy to hem no cuff slacks but the ones he buys always have cuffs! I tell him that I'm scared to hem cuff slacks for the same reason - I don't really know how its put together and I don't want to ruin them. So, off to the tailer he goes.

    Of course, I could always just make his slacks and I've even bought a few patterns for it but I always seem to sew something else, heh.

    Hey!!! How 'bout a men's slack sew-a-long?

    Peter???? Anyone, anyone?

    *hears crickets chirping*

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  20. Wow, I'm shocked at some of the complicated sewing directions given in the comments! Pinkie swear it's not that difficult.

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  21. bampitt- Hemming cuffs is easier than hemming no-cuffs since you don't have to fuss with a blind hem and can do it all with a straight stitch. :) I'm sure there are lots of good tutorials online. Annnnd at thee comments I think I'm done, hehe.

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  22. Remember all that stress that nearly sent you to the hospital over the Burda dress?
    That's the kind of issue I have with doing alterations for other people. To me it's even more neurosis-inducing than sewing them a new garment, because here they have a perfectly good item of clothing, that I could very well make completely unwearable.

    The last thing I did was hem my partner's new suit pants, and it took me a week to do the first pair because I was so nervous about cutting them. Finally after multiple fitting sessions alternating with deep breathing sessions and calls to the men's store to assure myself that they had another pair in stock, I was able to cut them at an appropriate length in order to sew the hems. Geez!
    I can not imagine the anxiety I'd have about taking in someone else's skirt!

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  23. Yes, I will occasionally do alterations. If I am asked with just the right amount of deference or in special circumstances, assuming I have time, of course. I recently altered a little girl's cheerleading top for a friend. The top was huge, the girl was to be in a parade the next day, and the mother was 40 weeks pregnant. She had the baby two days later, in fact. THAT is a special circumstance and I didn't mind at all. I do ask that the person I am altering for stays with me while I work to entertain me through a boring task. And for most people, I offer to teach them to do the alteration and like the previous person said, it works like a charm.

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  24. It's a cute skirt! I agree you can wear with tights in the Fall.....

    but as for alterations I'm with you, I would rather do a whole garment from scratch than alter one. I will occasionally do a hem for free, but a simple hem job, not those blind stitch in ditch jobs...I do get asked all the time, but usually tell people that I don't do alterations. Sometimes I feel bad saying no, but I really don't enjoy it, and to be honest, I think it takes a certain skill set to do them properly, and I'm just not that technically proficient.
    I hate the reaction of some people who act like I'm being unreasonable as if it will only take 5 minutes of my time to do a simple alteration, this request was for changing a neckline on a silk bridesmaid's dress...

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  25. My sewing time is pretty limited, and sewing is what I do for fun. Alterations are not fun. So, unless a friend or family member is truly desperate and needs immediate help, I don't do alterations, not even for myself these days (I send things out to be altered). The one person who kept asking me to alter things seems to have gotten the hint when I explained that to her (more than once), suggested that a seamstress could do it, and then suggested that she learn to sew so she could do her own alterations.

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  26. doing alterations is a slippery slope and like a lot of others I will only do it on rare occasions. The best things to say is "I'd be happy to do it but I'm pressed for time right now, sorry."
    While on the subject "Sorry I don't sew for other people anymore because I cannot charge what my time is worth". Then explain the time doing such and such would take. Then someone asked me if I do bridesmaid dresses - I felt like saying "Not on your life!" Instead I said
    "I only sew for family because I am a slow sewer'.

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  27. The first 2 sentences of your post are my feelings exactly! I'm self taught & have never learned alterations. I will do them for family members or a good friend if the alteration isn't too involved. I won't completely take something apart to make a little change. And it's a big NO to co-workers & casual friends.

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  28. I have done many alterations, I enjoy solving the problem. This alteration needn't be a refashioning. I agree with the dart method. A half inch to three quarter inch dart at each side seam that tapers to the top of the pocket will serve quite well. Hammer down the dart and stitch it in place. Like a seam on some jeans. I would also consider taking loose the band at the sides , cutting out and inch on each side, and regathering the skirt into the smaller band. Not so quick and dirty as the first, but will look more impressive when delivered. I would not touch the zipper in an alteration of this sort. Too much work for the task required.

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  29. I used to hate alterations but as my sewing has got better so have my alteration skills. For instance, I knew instantly why altering that skirt by taking in the zipper seam was a bad idea! And I wouldn't hesitate to "mess with the pockets if I had to (but I agree that it's better to cut down the waistband and regather). It's the hesitating that used to slow me down. Now a lunge at my alterations and marvel at how they fly by (and I quickly have something new to wear or a very grateful friend, son or husband. Yes, I do alterations, and no, I don't find them difficult or boring.

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  30. Absolutely not. Alterations aren't fun but they are often worth doing on thrifted items I find for myself.

    As for others, my mother had people begging her to sew for them when I was a little girl. She always refused and I finally asked her why. She was always on the lookout for ways to contribute (she was a SAHM -stay at home mom) more to the household finances. She said others invariably had unrealistic expectations and since they did not sew, had no idea what could be done and what was against the laws of physics. Turns out, she was entirely right.

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  31. It's a lovely little skirt for fall especially worn with tights! and pleaseee don't use a different zip just carefully take it out and you can put it back in again.

    hmmm i'm choosy when it comes to alterations, if it's trouser/skirt hems or fancy dress costumes then I'll do it (usually for a small fee). If it's for a party,ball,wedding etc and they want the garment taking in I pass as i'm afraid i'll mess it up ( i do recommend a good alterations shop instead though lol).
    however i will take my own clothes in as their's no worry if it goes wrong, but a little tip is that a lot of designers (when starting out at least) buy clothes just to take them apart to see how they were constructed, once a garment is opened you can usually suss out how it's was put together in the first place.

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  32. I used to not be able to say "no" to anyone who asked for an alteration.. but then people started using me big time.. I had friends come over and just bring bags of stuff to be altered, without even asking me first. A co-worker once brought a few hours worth of alterations stuff, plus the curtains and expected me to do it for free!! So thats when I finally snapped and said NO WAY IN HELL!! Since then, I have absolutely no problem saying no, I found very few people understand how much work patiene and hours go into altering someone elses clothes, and they dont *really* appreciate it. Now I sew and alter clothes only for my family and myself, gratis. Anyone else, find a tailor and pay for it, thank you very much..

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  33. I loathe doing alterations for others. When I was in highschool, my mum used to volunteer me to do alterations for her friends (Oh, Heather will just remodel your coat, turn the collars on your husband's shirts, remake that dress for you as she's not doing anything important.) I spent weeks doing alterations, for free, for people I'd never met. These days, I only hem DH's pants.

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  34. if it were my skirt...my kind of style too... I would sew a casing 3/4 to one inch down from the top and insert an elastic. The 1" above then would form a bit of a ruffled look and would balance out the cute full skirt. As for altering others...just hemming is it...and only easy hemming like zip it up on the machine. :)

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  35. When I was in high school, someone (I never found out who) recommended me to the local men's clothing store, and I was hired (age 14) to be their tailor. Seriously! I knew how to sew, but certainly had not been trained to alter clothing. Mostly I hemmed pants, and most of those were thick polyester fabric (it was the mid-1970s). But I did re-make a number of jacket sleeves and take in a good share of vests. I totally made stuff up as I went along--paid attention to how the sleeves were made when I took them apart, then re-made them so they looked (as close as possible) to the same when I was done. But I was FOURTEEN! I'm sure most of my work looked like crap.

    I tell you this not to suggest I have great alterations skills, but as a cautionary tale to those of you who outsource your alterations!

    When my daughter was in HS, the one formal dress she bought needed to be taken in. I was really busy at work, so I outsourced it. Bad idea! It was incredibly expensive and the work was shoddy.

    The bar for alterations is very low. Take in the skirt the easiest possible way. Do not under any circumstances mess with the zipper.

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  36. I do alterations for friends, as well as repairs. It's the Future Housewives of America gene asserting itself, maybe, but I like doing stuff like that for others--either it's routine and I have something to do with my hands while I watch a movie, or it's complicated and then I get the satisfaction of having figured it out.

    (plus, the boys will usually pay me for alterations in beer)

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  37. ...Er. They will trade beer for jeans-crotch-mending and sleeve-shortening. I am not altering the beer in any way, except by digesting it.

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  38. I do alterations for others all the time. Mostly vintage garments which can make your head spin. I like the challenge of either mending or restoring a garment. I just did a 20s cloche, and now Im repairing and possibly changing the sleeves on a late 40s dress.

    The restrictions of altering can be hard. It's far easier to make a new garment than work in the confides of an already completed garment. You don't know how its fixed, or even if an alteration is possible...and taking out the stitches!! Yuck!

    I always charge for alterations, always. They always end up taking twice as long as anyone ever thought.

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  39. This is a real sore point for me. There were PLENTY of people who expected my mother to do alterations for free because they were (Insert here: family, friend, neighbor, acquaintance, fellow parent, fellow inhabitant of this planet) and it was “just” an alteration. It was time consuming and once she did one garment, these people would show up at a later date with steamer trunks full of clothes for her to “just” nip here and there, expecting all of this as a “favor.” So I say NAY to alterations. Nay, I say. Get thee to a tailor. For those of us still learning, we have a perfect excuse, “I don’t know what I’m doing and I will probably ruin your garment.” For those who are more experienced, “I know how to sew, but I don’t know how your garment was constructed, so I may ruin it and I wouldn’t want to take the responsibility,” or, “I just don’t have the time.”

    The skirt is really cute and I think it could be worn in early fall, before all the woolens come out. I wouldn’t mess with the zipper or the back seam. The side pockets would be thrown off. Good luck!

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  40. I agree that alteration are not ideal but I have got some great shirts at second hand stores for $2-3 and altered the shoulders and sleeves. I have long arms and most shirts are too big for me in the body and getting the shoulder seam right is not easy. I have done some alterations for my daughter and even got my son to hem some pants. I am a believer but I wouldn't do it for anyone else except immediate family.

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  41. You're right about charging Shelleyj. I charge on the high side for alterations on the whole, but I do an excellent job and often for items needed soon. I'm getting recommendations to other folks, so I must be doing something right. Anyone that doesn't like my prices can find some other mug to do the job...if they can! I've been 'officially' working in alterations for less than a year. I've not had anyone say they'll go somewhere else as the price is too high! SOmeone wanted their garden furniture covers changing and they refused the price I quoted for that, but hey-hoe, I don't need the work that badly!

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  42. I do NOT like to do alterations. Alterations are worse than mending, even, because the person actually expects a better looking garment at the end of the day, rather than just restored functionality. And alterations take much much longer. The more I sew, the more I realize good fit comes from good cutting, not good sewing. In any case, I would suggest taking the easiest route possible on the skirt which is leaving the zipper alone, and taking in from the side seams. You will still probably need to mess with the waistband, redistribute the skirt gathers, but better than messing with the zipper or the pockets.

    As for doing alterations, I avoid at all costs, I won't even do them for myself. My only exception is for my sister. Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that she is going to Europe and could bring me back some sewing magazines...

    Oh, and as a side note, to me the print looks like flowers. But I don't see why this couldn't be worn in fall/winter in any case? I don't know, being on the west-coast side of the country most people I know use most of their clothes year round, and only jackets of varying thicknesses have any sort of seasonal rotation, so perhaps my view is a bit skewed there.

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  43. I would take off the waistband except for where it is attached to the zipper. then make a seam in the middle of the waistband to take in the inches and then re gather the skirt onto the waistband. the seam in the center will not show. And take out that fishing line and redo the hem.

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  44. Firstly, the skirt totally reads "painting" to me before it reads "flowers" and I think the colors will make the transition to fall just fine. Secondly, I agree with the above poster that suggests only taking the excess from the waistband & not the skirt. This will keep your pockets in the correct place and make sure she doesn't lose any of that wonderful fullness.

    As for alterations, I hate them just about as much as anybody. But I'm much more likely to do them (for myself and for others) these days than i used to. I worked in an alterations department of a bridal store for about a month (won't say where but it rhymes with Pavid's Pridal) and being forced to do it day in and day out means it feels a bit less of a chore to do one or two items now. That said, if someone asks me for alterations I am apt to say "no" if it seems too terribly time-consuming or if I don't think I can alter it to look "unaltered." (e.g., I only ever do jeans alterations for my husband and myself) Know your limits & stick to them. I'd much rather spend an hour designing some fun new something than re-setting a sleeve. Once people get over the initial shock of "he/she said no!" they eventually become comfortable with your limits & respect them. (& if they don't, you should *definitely* say no!)

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  45. Hah, my own mending pile is huge, so I'm never touching alterations for others! But it's true, when ppl hear that you sew, the "oh, maybe you can hem these pants for me?" questions come rolling in. Not on your life, honey.

    I do minor repairs for my husband (replacing buttons, fixing a seam), & those are even on a barter basis. He has to make me dinner or give me a ride somewhere special (I don't drive). No freebies ever!

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  46. You're deluded if you think it'll only take a few hours. A few days is more like it, when you're taking apart the most structured feature in a garment. But go ahead, clearly you need the experience :-).

    I thought you were a fan of the selfish seamstress? This is the top of a very slippery slope, and you'd do well to think before you strap on those roller blades. Personally, I've had girlfriends try to humiliate me by pointing out to people their stapled/ducktaped hems, while I was sitting their oblivious in my new pants, but I haven't let that push me in a direction that'd for sure result in my quitting sewing entirely within a couple months. I have enough with my own projects, thank you.

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  47. Do you NOT read the Selfish Seamstress and take all of her wisdom to heart?

    My own mother asked me to hem her pants and I told her $25 a pair. She said the cleaners would do them for $10 a pair. I said, "there's you're answer!"

    Cadienne

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  48. I will hem RTW pants/trousers/jeans and make minor repairs for other people who live in my house with me, but I will not do any other alterations. I don't do them for myself, either. I have done, but will no longer. Too much work for not enough reward. I rarely even alter my own made clothes if I find they don't fit right at the next seasonal change of wardrobe.

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  49. I only do alterations for my best friends (less than 5 people), but they make/buy me dinner in return.

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  50. I hate altering, but I did learn a lot about construction techniques when I altered higher end clothing. That being said, now I invite that person over for the weekly dinner and open sewing night gathering at my house and help them learn how to do it themselves. That way they also see it's not as easy as they think it should be.

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  51. Nay by a longshot. I don't do 90% of my own alterations nor my husbands, why would I do someone elses?

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  52. Well, I alter clothes for people of either money or a nice meal (Maine lobster will do!) Just this weekend I took in a sports uniform shirt for an 8 year old. Took 2 hours of cutting the thing apart and practically remodeling it, all the while trying to keep the white 'swooshes' that ran down one side of the shirt in place. All this because some soccer mom ordered everyone's shirts 2 sizes to big!!

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  53. Alterations for other people? Oh hell no. The anxiety would not be worth it. Because I sew, I am asked to create or alter items of clothing. I would worry about ruining a perfectly good piece of clothing so I always decline. I have looked up local people who have alterations businesses and I provide their contact information. One of my co-train riders wanted me to create a few vests for his big busted, small waisted wife. I gave him the contact information and several train riders had their own comments about those I'd mentioned and the names of others who make a living doing this very tedious and demanding task. I've got a full time demanding job and need my sewing time to be for my own pleasure and creative outlet. Yes, be selfish and say, no thanks - I have so many projects on my plate I couldn't possibly spare the time.

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  54. As a general rule, don't do alterations or mending. The only exception is if you're someone VERY dear to me and you're in danger of embarrassing yourself in public without alterations. Like my cousin who needed a bridesmaid dress altered to prevent flashing 200+ wedding guests in a church. Otherwise I send people to a tailor or over to Lori's (previous commenter) house. :)

    I also hem my brother's pants because he'll come over and do emergency plumbing for me.

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  55. "Marie-Christine said...

    You're deluded if you think it'll only take a few hours. A few days is more like it, when you're taking apart the most structured feature in a garment. But go ahead, clearly you need the experience :-)."

    What? Oh darling, no. This alteration would cost $15 max at a shop and take a skilled seamstress no more than an hour. Probably less than that.

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  56. The most I ever do is hem pants for my brother... and mend things.

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  57. I do alterations and mendings for others all the time, but usually only for people I'm particularly close to (siblings, best friends, etc). I also usually stipulate that I will do them on MY time, not on theirs, that way if things get busy at work, I don't feel obligated to go sew all night. One friend who asks me to mend/alter things for her does so because she knows that I will do it right, and she will usually have me bring my sewing things over to her house and make dinner while I'm working. It's the perfect excuse to have some girl time!

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  58. The only alterations I will do are like hems for other people and making pants into shorts. I don't really do it for free unless I really like you. I have done it for money, cocktails and lunch. I would not do the kind of alteration you are doing, not even for myself. Not my skill level. I would much rather make it from scratch.

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  59. Hmmm, round here you may have trouble finding a shop to do your alteration...lady here on Saturday could hardly take her dress into the dry cleaners, strip off, try it on, have the seamstress pin the uneven hem level before having it hemmed. They wouldn't have the O/L to replicate the rolled hem. The other place she tried at the other side of town wanted a month or so. She wants to wear the dress Tuesday.

    Re your skirt alteration? I would expect an hour should do that easily.

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  60. I do a ton of alterations for myself, but have a hard time doing them for other people. I don't mind sewing on a button or quickly hemming something up in a pinch. I've learned, however, that doing any substantive changes, ie that require trying something on multiple times, or that may call for "unprofessional" techniques is not enjoyable work for me. Trying to work inside of someone else's expectations (often unspecified) has been frustrating in the past, and I don't want to ruin someone else's precious item.

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  61. Alterations.....only for love honey! I did this for years and yes, everyone thinks it only takes minutes, not days. Even then only if I'm positive I can do it and have it look good. I'll do them for my SO but will often just offer to buy him a new item that's similar to the one he wants repaired. As for the free business...you can work for anybody for nothing and the old maxim I learned at my mother's knee "if you give away your work, you devalue it."

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  62. I would take it in on the sides. I did this alteration for myself as soon as I hit adolescence and only stopped when I hit 50 and the waistline re-adjusted itself.
    So, I guess that makes me an expert, imho! Even if you have to sew the pockets closed, it is better to keep the side seams on the side of the body, so it will hang right.
    Don't be afraid to take things apart, it is a wonderful way to learn construction techniques! I would unpick the waistband at each side seam, sew the new side seams on the skirt, and new side seams on the waist band. Press open, then re-attach the waistband. Unpick as much as you have to, in order to have plenty of room to work. As far as the print- it reads spring to me, but that's no big deal. She can wear it now, then pull it out again in the spring.

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  63. This is why you should never take free tickets to the theatre.

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  64. LOVE your blog (and you) Peter!...You tell us an amusing anecdote that reveals something new about your personality and then....(drumroll here)...you ask our opinion! It seems I'm always a day or so later than your other readers, but I must put in my two cents here!...(smile)
    As I've already mentioned, I learned to sew because of my paternal grandmother. She was a dressmaker, but, most of the time she took in alterations as the major source of income. She did everything...including the very tedious task of reweaving (NOT the hair kind)...lol..

    Anywho, I got her sewing gene, but not the alteration chromosome. Some people have the temperment for the deconstruction phase. Not me...I work hard to avoid using my seam ripper! (I recently discovered the surgical steel rippers...love 'em!) I'm just delighted to meet other people who would rather make you a new item over making major alterations on a RTW garment.
    I have memories of my grandmother completing extensive work just to have the garment hang around until the owners next payday...with no regard for the bills and obligations of my grandmother's household. Those who do not sew have no idea of the work involved, and are less inclined to pay a fee that refects the true value of the work. Oh, I wish I had a nickel for every time I was told to, "Just run a seam up the side..." And, if another person tells me to, "Just put in a gusset.." I think I'll explode...
    So, no...I don't do alterations. After decades of refusals, I've gotten quite good at saying, "No." You will get there, too....I have faith in you...!

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  65. Years ago I did various sewing alterations for extra income (and out of financial necessity). Most were fairly simple things, but it did become a chore. These days when people find out I sew 99% of the time the first question is, "how much do you charge for alterations?" or, "can you fix (insert item name here)?" I decline as politely as possible by saying that I don't really have time to do so. Truth, as I work full time and don't always have time to sew for myself!

    It's a little frustrating, that sewing in the mind of many of the non-sewing public public immediately means 'alterations' or 'fix-it' though!

    Micky

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  66. Peter, Peter, Peter! "Fasten your seat-belt.....it's going to be a bumpy ride"! There is nothing I loathe more than doing alterations. It is the most tedious and nerve wracking task! I want to give people who couldn't thread a needle a Joan Crawford back hand when they persist in twisting your arm about taking their jacket in and how it will only take a few minute! Also when the subject of money comes up they either don't want to pay you or if they do, it's ten cents on the dollar! The damn cheap skates won't go to a cleaner or tailor that specializes in that kind of thing because they know they'll have to pay for the labor and time involved! I don't even tell people I sew because the first thing out of their mouth is that they have a skirt or pants that need to be taken in. Leave me alone.....period!!

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  67. OMG, I can't count how many times I've been ripped off by people who said they would pay for my work. People are so accustom to purchasing cheap disposable clothing that they are rude and aggressive when you try to tell them how much you will charge them for alterations. And I'm not charging what I think I'm worth. So, no I do not sew or do alterations for people anymore.

    But no matter how many times or ways I gently decline and say "no" people are persistant.

    I had someone ask me to hem a pair of pants once and I said that I was not able and suggested that they take it to a local shop if they were looking to have the pants hem. And the response was "I don't want to pay that much, I'm looking for someone to do it cheaper."

    I'm so done being taken advantage of... so nay on this one. I love sewing, I would to keep it that way.

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  68. I hate doing alterations, especially for others, as you are not sure how it will turn out and whether they will actually get around to liking it, now imagine they are not so happy about it and you have spent your most precious sewing hours on a dress / outfit that has gone waste!

    I wouldn't alter for diamond, rubies, shares, stocks, gold, whatever! for others

    I do alter clothes of my sister for whom i sew most of her outfits, but rarely she does get some RTW stuff which are not of her size(She is petite and lean) and i end up altering it for her. Hubby dearest has his way as i alter the Pant hem (if required , though more rarely)

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  69. As a New Yorker, I just say "happy to do it, I charge $700 per alteration. Or you can take it to your dry cleaner/tailor instead!" They never follow up with me.

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  70. I've noticed the crappy nylon monofilament (fishing line)in clothes recently, and I don't like it one bit. It always falls out and feels terrible.

    I'd never do more than ask a sewing friend for advice on how best to undertake an alteration myself.

    Unless you want to do an alteration as some kind of practice exercise, I would never do it.

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  71. friends do things for friends. While I do abide by the selfish seamstress' dicta, I also believe friendships must be cultivated. this beautiful person got you free tickets and backstage passes? you must fix her skirt, remove the monofilament, and then thank her. I repair or alter many of my friends clothes. Sometimes (rarely) I make them things. They tolerate me in return. I am so grateful.

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  72. Wow!! I didn't realize Alterations were hated this much! I have been working in Alterations for the last two years... starting out at that same chain that's rhymes with Pavid's Pridal. Now I work for my mom whose Alterations business is twenty years strong.

    So how would I fix the skirt? Well I would reset the zipper. Before doing anything, I'd turn the facing "inside out" and see if the zipper was simply sandwiched between the facing and the skirt (right sides together so that the teeth "pop" out when you turn the facing to the inside-- Sarai just had a tutorial on the Colette patterns website about setting zippers with facings...). If that's how it was constructed ... I would remove only the part of the zipper where the waistband is. Then I would remove the waistband from the skirt about six inches on either side of the zipper (12 inches total). Redistribute the gathers to ease out your 2-3 inches that you are taking in and restitch the waistband to the skirt. This will make the waistband too long, but DO NOT CUT OUT THIS EXCESS UNTIL SHE HAS TRIED IT ON. If you have not cut, you can always restore it to the way it was originally. You then stitch the zipper back down by turning the facing over to the right side of the skirt, and following straight up from the center back seam. This makes the waist smaller because of redistributing the gathers AND leaves all the fabric in the skirt in case she only needs 2 inches taken out...

    I'll try to draw a couple pics and email them to ya... After taking apart and resewing the burda dress several times, this really shouldn't take you long. I would guess something like 3 hours tops.

    SOMETHING TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A METHOD... where is she curvy? Does she have a big dip for the small of her back, or is her curviness at the sides above her actual hip bones. My method works for average to big badonka donks... but if she's only small to average in the behind but curvacious on the side, take in the side seams of the waistband and redistribute the skirt along the band. That way you won't have to mess with the pocket (assuming pocket is below waistband).

    Good Luck!!

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  73. Always Alice- I would bet that the reason your hubby blows out the crotch of his pants is that they hang down just a tad from the nether regions and then when he squats or bends down he doesn't grab his pants and scoot them up. This is SUPER common in jeans that men wear as work pants because there isn't enough extra in the crotch area for the squatting business. There are pants specially designed with a gusset (silly little diamond of extra fabric in the crotch seam) for men whose profession requires them to bend or squat. I know you can buy construction pants (they might be Carharts...) with this and I know that sheep shearers pants have this too, because they are squatting and standing all the time. Get him to scoot his pants up his thighes before he sits or squats and he will blow them out less!!

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  74. I don't do alterations, hardly even for myself - I sew buttons on and mend split seams on mine and my husband's clothes and that's it. People don't usually ask though. I used to knit all the time, and people would ask me to knit things for them - and change their minds when they heard the price.

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  75. NAY NAY NAY NAY! I hate doing alterations! Everyone always wants me to alter their shit. And I hardly ever get asked to alter anything nice (like that skirt). It's always someone's disgusting t-shirt they bought for $2.50 or their boring work pants that have a hole in it.

    ARGH! That's what alterations ladies were invented for.

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  76. NO NO NO! "They do alterations down at the dry cleaners" is my answer.

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  77. I only do alterations if it's really simple, like a split seam. I'm sure someone else has suggested this, but if it was me I'd open the waist band at center back about 7 inches and add a new seam there. If the idea of a center back seam at the waist is bothersome another alternative would be to add two side waistband seams. The skirt looks gathered so the extra fabric can just be gathered more.

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  78. What am I saying? I forgot about the zipper! Well instead I'd definitely add the two side seams on the waistband. The last thing I'd want to do to would be to remove the zipper and re-install it. that would turn a 2 hour project into a four hour project. The print is so busy that no one will even notice the side seams on the waistband.

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  79. I detest alterations. Now I rarely do my own past a simple hem because I begin to think "Why buy this RTW item that needs altering when I can sew it myself?" But I do some alterations on a case by case basis, like I recently did a wedding dress for a cousin. Now I just hope word doesn't get out that I can do that kind of thing, or like some of the other commenters, I will have to come up with some creative excuses.

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  80. No, no and thrice no! Spent too much time when I was young watching my mum slaving over a sewing machine altering garments for friends and neighbours and getting a box of chocs in return. Non-sewists do not realise the amount of work involved in altering. Good luck with the alterations! x

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  81. I hate loath detest doing other peoples alterations. If your neighbor is a good cook you don't ask them to fix your dinner because you aren't a good cook. If your neighbor paints, you don't ask them to come over and paint your bathroom. But everyone who knows you sew thinks you want to hem, alter or make something for them because you sew. WELL I compare alternations to cleaning a toilet, you have to do it but you don't expect someone to do it for you. I've always had trouble saying no to family and friends but I really really hate it. Beth Conky

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  82. Currently up to my ears in alterations and other sewing chores for folks ... mostly paid work, although I'm also a volunteer seamstress for my son's activities (marching band, theater). I think this explains why the fabric for my Lady Grey coat is still sitting on my work table, a year after I joined Gertie's sewalong. Gotta find time for that ... ;-)

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  83. It's so funny, but there are two ladies at work that I did something for and it's only because I genuinely like them, but I made them take a solemn oath that they wouldn't tell anyone I did the work for them!! I had a supervisor whose son was getting married and she was having a hard time finding a gown, being on the short side, she finally found a chiffon dress, but it needed shortening. The shop she bought the dress from provided alterations at an additional cost. She kept moaning about how expensive it would be and tried to needle and cajole me into doing it! I never worked in chiffon and I'm well aware of how difficult it is to handle if you don't have a 'hand' for it. I told her no on several occasions and she finally paid to have it done. Can you imagine me sitting there sweating, cursing and crying trying to pull that off! I would have wound up in a straitjacket in some padded room at the local booby hatch!! People who don't sew think that we can work with any type of fabric and don't have an inkling of how hard it can be to do what they want and of course the end results better rival a couture seamstress best work, or your name is dog doo-doo!!

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  84. NAY! I'll hardly do them for myself. There's that whole judgment/may not meet their expectations thing. I don't need anymore angst/guilt in my life!

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  85. the saying at my house is "if you lose a button on the shirt, Nancy would rather make you a whole new shirt, so throw it out". That being said, I am in the process of doing a "small alteration" in a 45 year old kilt made by Thos Gordon & Sons, in Glascow. I took the job, but had to laugh when the guy who told me it was "small" asked for 8 inches added to both aprons across the front. I guess small is a relative term.

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  86. Peter, in the end, whatever method you choose, I only beg that you do not cut the fabric anywhere... rip stitches, take deeper seams, add darts, but once you cut you cannot go back. I don't think alterations is that scary of proposition, especially after the Burda mess you just went through. Think of it like removing the bodice, reworking the pleats and reattaching the bodice. Start this, though, when you are well rested because you will tend to be more patient than late in the evening after a full day...

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  87. reading comments fast today, so I'm glad others pointed out remove and and shorten the waistband, and gather the skirt to fit the new waistband. No moving pockets, no new zipper.

    I've never been asked to alter for others, but unless it's the family, I think I'd rather not go down that road.

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  88. Peter did you set a specific date when you would have it ready? I've learned from past experiences to never get pinned down with a scheduled date of completion. One more word of wisdom.......don't even think about starting until you are in the right frame of mind....the most aggravating part is taking out the stitching, especially if the fabric is soft and the garment is well made, so start it only when you're in a relaxed state of mind. If you did set a date, remember time waits for no one and I think it would be wise to see if you can just arrange to get it done at your leisure. Those who are accustomed to doing alterations might say I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill, but if there is a scheduled date and you're apprehensive, you'll have problems.

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  89. Adding that I wouldn't remove the entire waistband, I'd just open it up 6-7 inches at the side seams to give me enough room to maneuver and make two new waistband side seams and also re-gather the skirt to fit the new waistband. As much as I hate alterations the reverse engineering thought process is kind of fun!

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  90. Lucky me, on of my dear girl friends does alterations, and I can say, "Oh, my friend does that! Let me get you her card!" She does it as a profession, so I "wouldn't feel right" about taking business away from her. (And, bless her heart, when I buy things, she pins for me!) It gets me off the hook. So, here's the weird part: she REFUSES to mend jeans. Absolutely. Especially the current 'ripped' styles, because invariably, someone will try to put on a pair, and stick their foot in the 'rip' & it gets ripped further than they want, and they want it fixed back to the way it was, which is never really possible. They're going to LOOK mended. OR, the crotch seam gets ripped out. (He needs to 'hike' his jeans up in the crotch before he tries to squat down, that's why they tear there.) Since I don't mind working on jeans,(but wouldn't touch a suit with a ten-foot pole!) I'll take those and have no qualms about charging...not when I know what those dumb ripped jeans cost new!

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  91. Run away really fast. I did alterations like hemming for pay for extra money when the girls were growing up.That was ok but no longer necessary for me to do. I have to alter most rtw clothing I purchase and have some waiting right now so not about to take anyone else's. After you spend a day picking out someone else's project stitch by stitch to resew you learn to say no. You'd be surprised how many say no way if you offer them the seam ripper to take home and remove the stitching for you to resew or to come for a fitting. I finally pretty much quit sewing for my adult daughters as they don't have time or don't want to change to try on stuff for fitting. I don't have time to redo hems and such either. As I said run away fast or quote a huge price. mssewcrazy

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  92. I've done a lot of "instant" alterations for people, and for myself, when there is a time issue. I would just open the inside of the waistband a little bit and insert some wide elastic into each side from the side to the center back. Make each piece of elastic 1 1/2 inches shorter than that part of the waistband, voila, 3 inches out! Anchor each end of it straight through the waistband, neatly of course, and close up the opening by the zipper, again, neatly. She'll be able to wear it right away, and you can do the big job later, if she still wants you to. Good luck!

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  93. GET THEE SOME TWO-INCH WIDE ELASTIC!!!!! Seriously, Ustabahippie is totally on the ball with this one. I'd just rip the stitches between the zipper and waistband, thread in the elastic, re-stitch, and off she goes. I did this to a skirt just a few weeks ago (with a narrower waistband, mind you), and it took about a half hour.

    As for alterations, I do a bit here and there on the cheap for people close to me. I've patched pants for my boyfriend's dad, replaced jeans pockets for his brother, fixed I don't know how many things for The Man, himself. I'd like to expand my refashioning skills, actually, because I have a box full of ill-fitting clothing that I'd love to wear and can't :P

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  94. Alterations for friends are a nightmare! I was asked to shorten a pair of red stretch short shorts for a stripper friend, she refused to try them on for me, just said 'make them 2 inches shorter, I did as instructed and when she tried them on they were much too short, she became very angry, accused me of ruining her shorts and has not spoken to me since! no good deed goes un-punished!

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