The Prom Pickle

Earlier this year my beloved Katie excitedly prepared for the prom. She shopped and shopped for the perfect dress. One evening she emerged from her bedroom with a troubled look.

“Mom, my prom dress is going to be way too long,” Katie announced.

“Can you get someone to hem it?” I asked.

She frowned. “If I get the seller to hem it, the dress won’t arrive in time and the price goes up significantly,” she replied. “Do you know of anyone in the area that does alterations?”

I didn’t. The last person I knew who did alterations passed away several years ago. In this age of off-the-rack clothing, it is a dying art.

That said, I used to be pretty decent with a needle back in the day. I taught myself how to sew after my mother died as a way to remain close to her. I used to sew clothes, quilts, costumes, curtains, and could even craft custom-fitted furniture covers. Here are a few pictures I have on my computer that were taken during that time.

My oldest daughter as “Queen Cabbage” in a school play.


Middle Daughter’s school play outfit. I made the legs a bit long since she was in the midst of a growth spurt. She wore those overalls for years.


I sewed the baby quilt the kids are stretched out upon using gifted and clearance fabric.


A baby quilt I made on a whim once.


A quilt I made after being inspired by the fabric.


The Lone Star quilt I made in memory of my mother.


“Mom, do you think you could hem it if I got you the thread and stuff?” Katie asked when our search for a seamstress came up empty.

“I’m not sure. I’m a bit out of practice,” I replied, hesitant. I’d not sewn on so much as a button in years; between that and the fact that my daughter and grandson have liberally raided the few sewing supplies I kept left me wondering if I had so much as a single sewing needle to my name.

“Would you try?” Katie persisted.

I nervously agreed. Katie set about replacing my missing straight pins and sewing needles while she located the right color and quality of thread. Before I knew what was happening she was up in a chair, patiently still as I pinned the skirt to a proper length.

I had one week to hem this voluminous monster and fancy fabrics have never been my forte. Even worse, once I began the project I discovered that the method the manufacturer had used to assemble it…

…Let’s just say that my inner pirate came out. In order to hem the dress properly, I would have had to partially disassemble the skirt to hand-sew both the skirt and lining as different sections. The manufacturer had hemmed the lining and skirt first then assembled the section by sewing them both together along the side seams.

I didn’t have time for that. I had less than a week by this point and would have to work on it between my shifts at work.

I examined the beast, madly brainstorming a solution. If I adjusted things just a bit, I’d be able to treat the lining and skirt as a single item. It wouldn’t be my best work but it was do-able with the time limit and the fact that the two pieces had been hemmed before the dress had been assembled. I explained my dilemma to Katie and demonstrated my solution.

She agreed so fast my head spun. She didn’t need perfect; she just wanted it to look nice.

I spent four days tethered to that dress. When I wasn’t at work I sat in the kitchen, stitching madly to hem the dress. Katie kept me company when she was home and a friend kept me company via speakerphone otherwise.

I completed the task with one day to spare.


The story of that adventure is making the rounds in our little town. Since prom I’ve been approached to alter wedding dresses and today a friend is dropping off a jacket that needs a zipper replaced.

Katie is now convinced that I need to start hanging out a shingle. She’s even volunteered to leave her sewing machine behind when she moves so I would have another tool in my arsenal.

I’m considering it. I will have space to create a work area once the kid moves out and I will definitely need something to keep my mind occupied. I already have the skills and there is a shortage of seamstresses in the area. The extra income would make things easier as I adjust to life alone.

Do you think I should try this?

Have you ever helped someone out of a situation only to discover that you had a marketable skill? Please share your stories in the comments below.