Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Drafting Patterns, Draping, Dress Forms, French Jackets, Uncategorized

Manipulate the Fabric to Fool the Eye

This is an experiment in the art of trompe l’oeil as the French call it, or to deceive the eye.  I’ll explore how to alter the grain of fabric to create the illusion of a less bumpy and curvy shape.  I’ll also use my custom shoulder pads as explained in my last post and in my article for Threads Magazine to transform asymmetrical shoulders into an evenly shaped figure.

I’ve chosen a loosely woven patterned fabric and will create a Chanel style jacket for this figure.  The dress form has been marked with the standard balance lines. Notice the back view which clearly shows the right shoulder much more sloped than the left.  A note to those readers who have seen my posts about various types of dress forms. This is an adjustable foam style with dials. Not my favorite but after padding to match the figure it works fine. A professional model is nice but you can make anything work!

Fabric Form Front Form Side Form Back

The style lines are added in purple tape. I’ve chosen to bring the princess line closer to the neck edge which creates a more vertical line makes it easier to shape the fabric in the next step.

Style Lines Front Style Lines Back

In order to even out the shoulders I constructed shoulder pads using my pattern from the Threads Magazine article. I added additional layers to the right shoulder pad to make the shoulder height the same on both sides. Rather than try and alter a pattern, it was easier to drape the jacket directly on the form. Note that I carefully marked right and left sides. Although the garment sections look symmetrical on the form they are vastly different when laid flat.
Side Toile  Shoulder Pad PatternBack Toile

The red stitches show final alterations to the shoulders. Height is added to accommodate the shoulder pads and I widened the shoulder line to balance the torso for a more flattering shape.
Right Shoulder Changes.JPG Left Shoulder Changes

Rather than cut the side front and side back garment garment sections according to the pattern, I wanted to shape the fabric to follow the seam lines and minimize an off-grain cut at the shoulder line. For the side front I started with a rectangle of fabric. I pinned the toile to the fabric and rotated the fabric so that the straight grain lined up with the princess seam. As you can see, this caused excess fabric to bunch up along the front armhole.
Cut Rectangle Front
Working slowly with a steam iron, start easing the fabric towards the armhole. The fibers will compress and you will be able to ease out much of the excess fabric.

Work carefully as you don’t want to press permanent creases into the fabric. Depending on how pliable your fabric is, you may be able to ease all of the extra out. If not just readjust the seam line to be slightly off grain but you should be able to work the seamline almost on the straight grain. Fabric choice is crucial here. Most loosly woven boucles will ease nicely. My fabric was a little tighter weave than most wool boucles and I was able to ease almost all of the excess fabric out. Trim the excess fabric at the armhole.

Start Shaping Front Trim Armhole

The fabric is now nicely shaped but very unstable and will want to return to its original shape. I cut a stay from lightweight cotton and basted it to the fabric. I’ve added two rows of machine stay stitching and eased the armhole to correspond to the toile. Stay tape keeps the shoulder seam from stretching out of shape. This fabric wanted to ravel badly. Although many couture sources frown on using a serger I use it to overlock the seams and prevent fraying. I use a very lightweight Guttermann thread (not regular sewing thread) so as not to add bulk to the seam. The lining is cut according to the pattern (not shaped as the boucle), basted and quilted as usual following the weave of the fabric. Your quilting lines will curve and a walking foot as well as diagonal basting will keep everything lined up without puckering.

Cut Stabilizer Stay Front Shoulder

Completed Front Back Complete

This clearly shows the distorted weave but it will be hidden under the arm and the jacket front will show a flattering vertically placed weave. The side back is handled the same way. It will be easier to shape as you won’t be dealing with the bust. It does nicely conceal rounded shoulders and back.

Jacket Front with Trim Jacket Back Completed

I used purchased navy fringe and sewed a narrow white cord in the middle. Two pockets looked better than four as I wanted to minimize the bust. The princess seams are barely visible and the jacket gives a taller and slimmer appearance.

I’m working on more custom trim and have a beautiful piece of Linton tweed for the next venture.



37 thoughts on “Manipulate the Fabric to Fool the Eye”

  1. Brilliant! Thank you for such a detailed post. I never seem to have the required patience or skill to ease or steam shrink excess fabric, and seeing your photos and process was very helpful. It’s a beautiful jacket!

    1. Sewing like this does take extra time and patience but I feel the result is worth it. I would rather make fewer, but better quality, things. Thanks for reading.

  2. Such a fascinating and informative post. I am assuming this jacket was for a client, and if so, she must be thrilled. It turned out beautifully due to your clever manipulation. Thanks for sharing with us!

  3. This is far more advanced sewing than I would tackle but I am still fascinated that you can successfully manipulate so much excess fabric away with a steam iron. The jacket looks great and gives an obviously slimmed appearance.

    1. You never know what you might be able to do. I was also a beginner and sometimes still make mistakes. Sewing can be an adventure in experimenting with new techniques. Thank you.

  4. Your skills is light years beyond what I will ever achieve in this lifetime – but I that doesn’t stop me from deeply appreciating your process and willingness to share it with the rest of us mortals 🙂

    1. This technique of shaping the fabric to follow a shaped seam line is often used in custom tailoring when cutting the lapel facing. I decided to apply the principle to the jacket seams. Thanks.

  5. I anticipate every post so I can read about the engineering skill you bring to each project you design.

    I admire your beautiful work but moreover, you inspire me to make each project a challenge and use my math skills to create something I love. Thank you for sharing your knowledge so freely.

  6. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I’m hoping to be able to spend more time sewing for myself now so this will be useful (I hope).

  7. What a brilliant technique, Mary!!! Proper pressing can work magic. I will definitely use this in my next princess seam boucle jacket. Did you quilt the jacket pieces, and is the sleeve a two-piece or a three-piece? Such a gorgeous garment!

    1. It’s true that pressing can take just as much time as sewing but makes such a difference. The jacket was quilted and the quilting stabilized the jacket shape, especially in the off grain sections. I was careful to use loads of diagonal basting and a walking foot. The quilting lines followed the now curved weave of the fabric. The sleeve is a three piece and I used my own drafting technique (explained in a previous post on sleeves). Thanks for following.

  8. As always light years beyond regular sewing…you make the mannequin come alive with the most common problem…uneven or sloping shoulder. By widening the shoulder seam and adding padding you managed to keep the sleeve cap and seam equal to the left side. The steam shaping is fabulous and worth all the effort to line up the threads for the final princess seam…OH MY! We are so lucky to have you giving us tutorials on projects we may never have had the guts to try! Hope you get a little rest for the holidays!

    1. Thank you Mrs. Mole. I know many sewers have similar, non-model shapes and this is one way of disguising the shoulder issue. You have also devised a few of your own brilliant fixes. I just passed along your tip on using twill tape to snug up edges without he need to deconstruct the entire garment. Happy holidays to you also.

  9. What excellent instructions that take even the laziest of us (me) from an unadorned mannequin to a flatteringly-adorned one. This is lovely work. Thank you for it.

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