couture sewing, French Jackets, Uncategorized

French Jacket Pattern Matching

Several years ago I began experimenting with techniques for a better pattern match along the princess seams of the French jacket. Here’s a photo and link to the post explaining my approach.

Techniques used in this jackethttps://cloningcouture.com/2017/12/

Since then, I’ve continued to refine the method. It’s easy to achieve this match across the upper chest on model shapes but what about figures that have more curves? I started by giving one of my mannequins a much curvier (about a G cup) body and started playing with the fabric.

The middle photo shows a thread traced outline of the typical jacket front pieces. The front princess seam is pinned together and put on the mannequin. Notice how the horizontal pink lines match below the bust point but start to angle in a different direction and don’t match from the bust point to shoulder. You also will see a bubble of excess fabric where a horizontal bust dart is normally placed. That’s because this curvy figure requires more shaping than the pattern has.

I could add a dart, either along the side seam or at the front armhole, but that still didn’t solve the issue of the front princess seam mis-match plus the pink stripes now looked even more mis-matched and I had to deal with the bulk of the dart. A third solution would be to unpin the seam and shift the front side panel further towards the center front but that increased the discrepancy between the pink stripes.

It’s clear that the only way the horizontal lines will match is if I can get the side front princess seam on the straight grain. Cut open a side bust dart and spread the dart until the princess seam is on the straight grain? That leaves a GIGANTIC side dart to deal with. How about splitting the dart into two darts, one at the side seam, one in the armseye? The darts are smaller but I really don’t like the way darts look when sewn. Could I convert the darts to ease and steam out the excess rather than sewing?

Getting the side princess seam closer to vertical would help. Here’s my half scale pattern to start experimenting with. If I reposition the bust to shoulder seam and move it closer to the neck, that will decrease the angle of the upper side princess seam and lessen the width of side/armhole darts when I place the seam on vertical grain. Now the darts are small enough that they can be dealt with by steaming and compressing the fabric rather than using a sewn dart.

Back to the fabric. Change the position of thread tracing (left photo, orange thread shows new seam line placed on vertical grain) so now the front princess line is moved closer to the neck edge (pattern has been altered with repositioned upper princess line). Pin the side front to your pressing surface at the bust line and using a press cloth to protect the fabric, start to rotate the upper princess seam to match thee curve of the pattern. Fabric will bunch up in the armhole and just below the armhole along the side seam (where the darts were in photos above). Middle photo shows original pattern shape in white, repositioned princess seam in blue, and vertical grain in orange. You can also see how the fabric is bunched up in the armhole. Gently steam and compress this bump of fabric. Start where the dart tip would be and work towards the outer armhole edge. Go slowly steaming and working the ease out. You don’t want to press creases. The success of this depends on how loosely woven and compressible your boucle is. Most boucles aren’t tightly woven. A boucle with a high percentage of wool will be easier to manipulate than synthetics. Test on some scraps first to see how your fabric will react to heat and steam. Photo on the right shows what the side front should look like after shaping.

Allow the piece to cool completely before moving. The armhole area will be very unstable and needs to be reinforced with silk organza. Pin the pattern to the right side of the fabric; I cut the pattern from sturdy brown paper as it won’t stretch out of shape. Turn the piece over, wrong side up. Pin silk organza to cover the armhole and princess seam. The organza should extend about 2-3 inches below the underarm. The organza is placed on the original grain line. Baste into place. Organza is added AFTER shaping. Don’t try and shape the boucle with organza already attached. The organza won’t shape like the boucle and you don’t want it to anyway. The organza is to help stabilize the boucle. The armhole is likely to stretch so it’s best to either apply a narrow tape or row of small running stitches, secured at both ends, to keep the armhole from growing.

Here’s the finished result back on the mannequin. The fabric is distorted in the underarm area but is in an inconspicuous area, especially after sleeves are inserted and no bulky darts to contend with. Front view shows now the pink stripes travel uninterrupted across the upper chest. Sleeves can be matched and the horizontal line will be continuous. The lining sections are cut as normal. I hand baste the lining in place in the upper chest area of side fronts to be sure nothing shifts around while quilting. The quilting lines follow the grain of boucle so, yes the quilting lines will be curved.

Remember to shift the back princess seam also if you want the seams to line up along the shoulder. The same shaping can be done for the back princess seam. It’s much easier as the back shaping is rarely as curvy as the front. It is a great technique if you are dealing with a very rounded back.

Join me for a 6 day class where we’ll explore this and more: how to shape and fit the sleeve, adding a collar, custom trims and more. Details here.https://cloningcouture.com/french-jacket-class/

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In-Person Classes: Finally!

Create a custom French jacket:

November 8-13, 2021

DoubleTree Hotel, PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Class hours 9 AM to 5:30 PM Monday, November 8 through Saturday November 13

We’ll explore techniques such as:

How to achieve a perfect pattern match at the princess seams with a simple pattern modification and ironwork to shape the garment sections.

Change a two piece sleeve into a three piece

Draft a perfectly fitting stand collar

Professional quality handworked buttonholes

Using coordinating yarns, fabrics and fabric fibers to create coordinated trim

Link for additional information and registration

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Pick Your Own Project:

January 3-7, 2022

DoubleTree Hotel, PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Class hours 9 AM to 5:30 PM Monday January 3 through Friday January 7

This 5 day class is an opportunity to receive expert help on a project of your own choosing. Work with an unfamiliar fabric, get fitting help, finish a stalled project: you choose.

Information and registration link:https://cloningcouture.com/couture-sewing-class/

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Working with Lace Class

February 7-12, 2022

Papermaple Studio, New Orleans, LA

Class hours 9 AM to 5:30 PM Monday February 7 through Saturday February 12

Hesitant to work with laces? This class will give you the confidence to tackle lace projects. We’ll explore types of laces, choosing the best styles for your lace, seam variations, linings, finishing details and more.

Information and registration link: https://cloningcouture.com/working-with-lace-class/

creating designer trim, French jacket trim, Uncategorized

More Custom Braid

I purchased this lovely boucle fabric from Apple Annie Fabrics and started experimenting with custom braids to compliment the fabric. Possible choices of materials: navy cotton tulle, gray silk georgette, chunky ivory and charcoal yarns to stuff tubing, gray yarns, ivory with flecks of gold yarn and thin silver metallic yarn.

First step was to make narrow bias tubing using the tulle and georgette. Cut bias strips of fabric about 1.5 inches wide. Fold in half lengthwise and stitch 1/4 inch away from folded edge. Trim seam to 1/8 inch.

To turn the fabric tube, insert the largest brass tube (available here) that will comfortable fit inside the tube. Gather the tube of fabric onto the tube.

Thread a length of sturdy thread that is at least twice as long as the brass tube. Stitch through one end of the fabric tube and pull thread ends so they are even and make a loop. Pass the cut ends of thread through the tube. When they emerge from the other end, pull gently on both threads. The fabric tube will easily turn right side out.

Pin the right side out tube to your ironing surface, pulling gently to stretch the fabric. Steam gently while pulling; don’t rest the full weight of the iron on the fabric tube. You don’t want to flatten it.

Reinsert the brass tube into the right side out fabric tube and gather the tube onto the brass tube.

Take the heavy thread, cut ends together, and insert into the tube. Pull through until there is a loop on one end. Loop the chunky yarn through the loop and pull gently. The yarn will be pulled through the brass tube. Holding yarn and fabric tube, pull and the yarn will go through the fabric tube, filling it out.

I repeated this using navy tulle and filled it with ivory yarn. The gray georgette was filled with dark yarn. Gently steam and stretch both fabric tubes.

I made a three strand braid using one length of gray georgette, one length of navy tulle filled with light yarn and one length of ivory sequins on a thread chain.

To give a more finished look to the braid, I wanted a crocheted edge along both sides of the braid. None of the yarns in my stash were exactly right, so I un-wove several inches (on the crosswise grain) of fabric.

I chose one yarn and combined it with the thin metallic silver yarn to work a single crochet in each loop of the braid. Chain 1 between each single crochet. The yarns from the fabric were 54 inches long (width of the fabric) but can easily be tied together and the knot positioned on the wrong side. Work the yarn tails into the wrong side and clip.

Completed trim. The sequins show more yellow in this photo. It is a perfect match IRL. I also love that the trims created by this method are soft and flexible. They can be turned at a right angle without any puckering.

Here’s another trim version I considered. I used the navy tulle cord threaded through a crocheted base and added chain stitching around the edge. The samples are quick to make and allow you to preview before committing to a long length.

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, creating designer trim, Drafting Patterns, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Uncategorized

Guest Post by Joyce: “amakersshowandtell”

I’ve been writing this blog since 2014 and am thrilled to learn the tutorials presented are helpful to other sewists. Joyce posted photos of her completed jacket on Instagram and tagged me as a resource for her construction methods. I invited her to write a post, highlighting the information she found especially valuable.

Thank you Joyce, for taking the time to write this and allowing me to share your work.

Hello! My name is Joyce. After my recent completion of a French jacket, Mary asked me to write about my experience in a post for her blog. Before we get started, here’s a bit about me: I live in southern Manitoba, Canada with my husband, who is also my best friend! We have raised two children, who have blessed us with five grandchildren. I am a retired Interior Design Consultant & Kitchen Designer. My talented mother taught me to sew, crochet, knit, and hand embroider. From the time I was five years old, she allowed me to use her sewing machine. I made a lot of clothes for my dolls until the age of ten when I began sewing my own clothes. My favourite things to sew are coats, jackets and dresses. My favourite fabrics are made of natural fibers. 

About seven years ago, I began dreaming of making a French jacket. While reading blogs of sewists who documented their experiences on the subject, I became aware of the hours involved, as well as the couture techniques they had learned along the way. It was when I discovered Mary’s blog, cloningcouture.com, that I soon realized what a treasure store of information it is. Her precision and her impeccable attention to detail reveal incredible skill. I was amazed that she was willing to share her extensive knowledge and experience with her readers at no cost to them. I read each post in detail, bookmarking those I wanted to refer to later.
By early 2019, I had collected all my supplies for this project, and was ready to begin. My fabric is appropriately called “Giverny Tweed”. The lining is silk charmeuse.

Of course, the first step was to make a well-fitting toile. I cut the body of the jacket according to Vogue 8804, but in reading online reviews, I heard repeatedly that the sleeve in this pattern was wide. Since I have thin arms, I knew I would have to draft a narrower sleeve. This is where Mary’s post https://cloningcouture.com/2014/08/04/chanel-and-the-sleeve/came to the rescue. I know she has since updated it, but her original method worked for me! I also changed my sleeves to full-length instead of the three-quarter length from the pattern. 

As many of you already know, after fitting the toile, it is cut apart and used as the pattern to cut the pieces in the tweed and lining fabrics, adding wide seam and hem allowances. In hindsight, I should have fused Pro-Sheer Elegance Couture interfacing to the tweed at this point, since I was working with a fabric that frays very easily. Mary gives this advice in the following post: https://cloningcouture.com/2018/02/15/finishing-details-the-french-jacket/Instead, I used a stepped zigzag to secure the fibers along the edges.

Detail of the front, ready for machine quilting

Over the next couple of weeks, I interfaced the fronts with silk organza, quilted the silk charmeuse lining to the front and back pieces, before joining them along the princess and side seams. I really enjoyed slipstitching the lining seams together by hand.

Now that the body of the jacket was taking shape, it was time to turn my attention to the trim. I was unable to find a ready-made trim that complemented my fabric, but then I remembered Mary’s post on making your own. My first attempt was a crocheted chain using fibers from the tweed, but it was too narrow and did not contrast enough with the fabric. I was intrigued by Mary’s detailed instructions on Kumihimo braiding, so I decided to try my hand at it. See her post here:  https://cloningcouture.com/2017/08/30/create-custom-trim-for-your-french-jacket/After locating a Kumihimo plate at my local fabric store and watching some YouTube videos on 10-strand braiding, I was ready to begin. After a couple of false starts, while deciding which fibers to use, I settled on four blue strands and two ivory from my fabric, in combination with four strands of ivory Phildar yarn left over from a sweater I knitted for my husband many years ago.

This was the set-up I used. It is certainly not the traditional way, but it worked for me. Every few inches I had to stop and release more material from my “bobbins”. It took me about three days to work out my setup and make three and a half yards of trim. 

You can see it being “auditioned” here with the buttons I planned to use. Btw, although these were inexpensive buttons, they remind me of Coco Chanel’s favorite camellia rose. 

After making the trim, I did some work on the sleeves, then packed the project away before going on vacation in March 2019. As it turned out, this is where the project stalled out until a couple of weeks ago.

I had been putting off making the handworked buttonholes, but one day I gathered up courage and got to work. First, I made a sample buttonhole to work out the method. Then, in a pleasant afternoon’s sewing, I made five buttonholes on the jacket front. You can see Mary’s post on buttonholes here: https://cloningcouture.com/2020/01/07/buttonholes-and-more-trim/

After crossing this hurdle, I knew I was on the home stretch. The next two days were spent finishing the sleeves.

Completed sleeves with trim and handworked buttonholes

After this, I applied the trim to front and neck edges with a running stitch and the occasional backstitch. It was actually easier to do than I thought it would be. Then I fellstitched the lining to the jacket edges. This was my favourite step!

Stitching the sleeves in by hand
Sleeve lining basted into place
Completed jacket

In summary, I learned so much about couture sewing methods while working on this project. I easily spent a hundred hours on it, but the result is something I will wear with much satisfaction for years to come. It has also given me a great appreciation for the work of couturiers. They are indeed a skilled lot!


Mary, many thanks for all your informative, detailed and inspiring posts on couture sewing! Thanks also for letting me share my experience with your readers.
You can find me on Instagram at amakersshowandtell, where I post photos of my projects. They include sewing, watercolor painting, home decorating, gardening, knitting, and occasionally, upholstery. 
Best regards, Joyce

creating designer trim, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Uncategorized

Woven Trim Variation

This is a variation of the trim in the last post. I’ve used the same crocheted base and woven three knitted cords through. For the base, I used a sport weight yarn and size E (3.5mm) hook. This will produce trim which is about 5/8 to 3/4 inch wide.

Crochet a chain the length of trim. Turn and work double crochet in the 4th chain from the hook. Work double crochet in every stitch.

Knit icord three times plus several inches the length of trim. You can use three strands of the same icord or any combination. Insert the knitted icord into the smallest tube it will pull easily through. The knitted cords can be threaded on a large needle and pulled through, but feeding them through a tube is easier and prevents the cord from fraying. A larger tube will be more difficult to weave through the crocheted base, especially when inserting the second and third rows of cord.

Weave the tube with cord inserted in and out of the crochet stitches. Hold the ends of the crocheted base and cord in one hand and pull back to remove the tube, leaving the knitted cord in place.

To prevent the knitted cord from unraveling, tie thread around the cord at the end and beginning of each length. Weave the second cord through, alternating with the first cord. Nudge the first and second cords to one side and repeat with a third cord.

A row of chain stitches can be worked in the front of each stitch along the outer edges if desired.

More examples of trim with three cords woven through the basic crochet base. The top trim used three strands of the same cord and a chain stitch worked along the edges. The bottom trim used fine variegated sock yarn for cords, the darker shade along the edges and lighter shade in the middle. Have fun creating additional combinations. Trims using a three strand braid as a base coming next.

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Custom Trim for Linton Tweed

Here’s the step by step method I used to create this custom trim for a fabric from Linton Tweeds. I used a sport weight black yarn which had a fine strand of silver thread running through. I made knitted tubing with fine linen yarn using the Embellish Knit device mentioned in the last post. The yarn tube was filled with a soft thicker dark charcoal yarn. Finally a line of metallic silver chain stitches in the center of the braid.

I use this crocheted base as a starting point for many trims. It’s very simple to make. I make a sample using about 30 stitches to test yarn combinations, yarn weights and stitches before committing to a long length. If you’re creating trim for a jacket, I would suggest doing trim for the sleeves in one length, all the pockets as another length, and finally enough to do neckline, fronts and hem if desired. The trim is very soft and can be pieced if necessary.

Here’s an illustration of two variations of the stitch pattern. Chain a length as long as you want. Keep the stitches loose; you can also make the chain with a larger hook to avoid pulling the stitches too tight. Then switch to a hook 1-2 sizes smaller. I make the lengths several inches longer than needed to avoid running short. Chain 4 more stitches. Turn. Make double crochet in the 4th stitch from the hook. Chain 1. Skip one stitch on the chain and make double crochet. Chain 1. Repeat to the end.

To make the double crochet bars closer together, you can work a double crochet in every stitch and omit the chain stitch between the double crochets. Experiment to see which look you prefer.

Samples of both variations worked in bulky yarn.

Double crochet worked every other stitch
Double crochet worked every stitch

For the braid shown in this post, I used the second version (double crochet worked every stitch). It doesn’t show well in black.

Double crochet worked every stitch. Sport weight yarn, size F (3.75mm) used for initial chain stitch. Switched to size E (3.5mm) for remainder of work.

Next, I used the Embellish Knit (available on Amazon) and thin beige linen yarn to knit a cord twice the length of the crochet base plus several inches. The weight supplied with the knitted wasn’t heavy enough to pull the yarn over the tiny latch hooks. I’ve discovered the key to success with this knitter is fine relatively smooth yarn, adequate weight to pull the stitches over the latch hooks and turning the hand crank slowly until the stitches start forming. A surgical clamp with several large washers works well. Add or subtract washers until the stitches form easily.

The resulting cord measured about 1/4 inch in width. I though it would add additional interest to fill the cord with a contrasting color yarn. I chose a tube (https://cloning-couture.com/products/trim-tubes ) which looked small enough to thread through the center of the knitted cord and large enough to allow the fill yarn to pass through.

Although the brass tube will feed through the center of the knitted tube, it’s easier to insert a crochet hook, hook side first. The crochet hook will stop at the wider thumb rest, creating a slightly rounded end. Insert the crochet hook end through one of the stitches in the tube and feed the brass tube through the middle of the knit tube. The knitted tube will likely be longer than the brass tube. Allow the excess to bunch up.

Next take a length of heavy thread about 30 inches long, fold in half and insert the cut ends into one end of the brass tube. Push the thread through until the ends emerge from the opposite end. Pull the thread until a loop remains on the end. Insert the fill yarn through the loop and pull the cut ends of the thread, pulling the fill yarn into the brass tube.

Holding the fill yarn and knitted cord in one hand, gently pull the brass tube back, leaving the fill yarn inside the knitted cord. Ease the scrunched up knitted cord towards the tube end and continue pulling until the entire length of knitted cord is filled.

Don’t try and make 5 yards of trim in one shot. I measure the positions I want to use the braid and work in manageable sections. I like to do the shorter lengths first and longer sections after a bit of practice. If I’m doing a very long section, maybe for a jacket neckline, fronts and hem, I’ll make the crochet base and cording in one long length and do the next step of weaving starting at the center and working out to both ends.

Next, select the smallest tube that the now filled knit cord will pass through and weave the tube in and out through the bars of the crochet base.

Use heavy thread as before to pull the filled knitted cord through the brass tube. Hold both crochet base and filled cord in one hand and gently pull brass tube out, leaving the knitted cord woven through. To secure the cut ends of knitted cord, wrap with thin yarn or thread, tie and cut.

Use the blunt end of a crochet hook and force the cording to one side of the base. Thread the brass rod alternating the previous weave, as shown. Remove the brass rod.

I wanted the black edges a tiny bit more defined, so added a row of chain stitching to both edges using the same black sport yarn and a size E (3.5mm) hook. I also used thin silver metallic yarn and size D (3.25mm) hook to make a line of chain stitches along the middle if the braid.

Final braid is very light and flexible. I’ve pinned to the fabric and even without any steaming or stitching, it turns a tight right angle without any bunching or thickness. To invisibly join edges I steam heavily placing the edge of the iron at exactly the point I want the braid to turn under. Place a clapper, edge of clapper on the line which will be turned and allow to cool. You want to completely flatten the braid which will turn under and not flatten the braid which will be seen. Secure the cut edges with a couple of rows of machine stitching or narrow strip of light fusible interfacing.

Trim used on RTW Chanel jackets is thin, light and flexible. Most pre-made trims available are heavier and won’t navigate tight curves this easily. Here’s a view of several jackets I took during a pre-COVID shopping trip. Notice how the trim curves easily in the pockets. I’ll show my method for recreating this version in the next post. Thanks for reading.

I received a comment suggesting that the fill cord could be added while knitting the cord, eliminating the step to insert fill yarn after the cord was finished. I had experimented with this in the past but did more testing to determine if it would work. This is what I found. You can do short lengths but the knitted cord spirals as it is formed, causing the fill to twist. You can untwist the fill for several inches but when working a length longer than about 10 inches, it becomes difficult. You also need to watch carefully that the fill cord stays in the center and doesn’t get caught on the latch hooks. It’s worth a try.

creating designer trim, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Uncategorized

Crocheted and Braided Trims using Trim Tubes

Since the last post on creating custom trims, I’ve been inventing more combinations and ways to vary the three cord braid shown in this post. Here are a few ideas.

D815B4EF-E17A-4817-952E-507CAD1AC8AC9616D49A-1F09-4633-BA10-61B593E668E2B6A09E2B-1064-477B-BD8F-4B35980D18D366BD8588-064A-4C70-B0D4-BAD26FE99CBE

I’m usually frustrated when shopping for pre-made trims. What’s available is wrong colors, wrong size, too rigid, they have 2 yards and I need 5, etc., etc… Much easier to create your own. I’ve developed two trim styles, one based on a three cord braid and the other on a crocheted base. This post will cover trims based on a three cord braid. I’ll explain the crochet base in the next installment.

The cords used for the braid should be 3/16 to 1/4 inch wide. Soft, pliable cords made from tubes of fabric filled with wool yarn work very well. Knitted fabric tubes created with this knitter have volume yet are flexible and won’t result in a stiff finished braid.

This little gadget is available on Amazon. It produces yards and yards of soft, knitted cord in minutes. I’ve discovered a few helpful hints for getting this to work. 1. Use THIN yarn: fingering, lace or sock weight yarn works great. Thicker yarns such as sport weight will cause the tiny latch hooks to jam up and break. I see tons of product reviews of customers complaining that it broke with medium weight yarn. The directions say fine yarns and they mean it. Yarn with a relatively smooth surface also works best; fuzzy yarns and those with slubs tend to get caught on the hooks. Start slowly and make sure the yarn is feeding properly. If the yarn doesn’t drop below the hooks, try adding more weight to the end of the cord emerging from the bottom of the knitting device.

I often fill the knitted cord with a contrast color yarn. The fill adds some volume and is more interesting than a solid color. I created this set of brass tubes to help with turning, filling and weaving the trim.

I’m using the third tube from left (5/32 inch) and a 2.75mm (size C) crochet hook. Exact size isn’t important. Choose a size that is large enough for your filler will slide through easily and is small enough to fit through the middle of the knitted tube.

Insert the crochet hook, hook first into the tube. It will stop when the flattened thumb rest reaches the tube opening.

Insert the rounded end of the crochet hook into a stitch in the knitted tube and thread the hook and tube into the middle of the knitted tube. Hold the open end of the tube against a table or your leg to keep the crochet hook in place. Don’t try and force the hook further into the tube or you will cause damage. The tube can be threaded through the knitted tube but the slightly rounded end of the crochet hook makes it easier.

Make sure the entire length of knitted tube is on the brass tube and remove the crochet hook. Fold a length of heavy thread in half. The thread should be several inches longer than the brass tube when folded (brass tube is 12 inches long so thread should be at least 30 inches). Insert two cut ends of thread into one end of brass tube and push through until the thread comes out opposite end.

Insert end of filler through the thread loop. Pull the two opposite ends of thread. The filler will be pulled through the brass tube.

Holding both filler and knitted tube in your left hand, gently pull the brass tube with your right hand, easing the knitted cord over the filler.

Cut the filler several inches longer than the knit cord. I pull the finished cord gently, pin to my ironing surface and steam to block and set the stitches. Make the cord a little longer than you think you need. If I’m creating trim for a jacket or dress, I break the trim construction into manageable lengths. I’ll do the pocket trims as one length, sleeve trim as one or two lengths. If I’m making a length to do the neck, fronts and hem as one length, save until last when you’ve practiced with shorter lengths and worked out any problems. If I need to fill a very long length, start at the midpoint and work to each end. Much easier than working all the way from one end to the other.

Next post will cover braiding and adding crochet edging to create a more finished look.

Testing out trims to compliment this Linton tweed fabric. Trim turns a right angle corner easily. Beige linen yarn knitted tube with black wool filler yarn woven through black crocheted base. Line of metallic silver chain stitched through middle.

couture sewing, Tailoring, Uncategorized

Make Your Own Professional Pressing Tools

Pressing plays such an important role in producing great results when sewing. Unfortunately, many professional pressing aids are difficult to find and extremely expensive. They tend to be bulky and heavy which further contributes to the cost if you need to have them shipped. I’ll share some of my favorite tools and methods I use to make my own for very little cost. Warning: You need access to a few power tools or someone who has them.

I love this press buck for long, gently curved seams such as the back sleeve seam in jackets, hip curves for pants/skirts or center back seam with shaping at the neck and waist. I also works well for basting the canvas to the front of a tailored jacket.

This is about 28 inches long, 8 inches wide and 1.75 inches high at the highest point. To construct this, you’ll need two pieces of wood 8” x 28” x 3/4.” Print out the file for Press Buck here.

Trace onto one piece of wood. The pattern is for 1/2 the template, so flip and trace the opposite side. Cut out with a jigsaw. I used two unfinished short legs from Home Depot and attached them as shown. Attach the remaining piece of wood to the legs from the underside so the screws don’t show (countersink the screws so they don’t scratch or snag any surface).

I used a length of heavy wool and cut concentric shapes as shown. You want the thickest part on top of the right hand leg, tapering to nothing along the edges.

View from the top of layers. I cut a paper pattern the shape of the bottom layer and worked upwards. Cut a layer of wool fabric, trimmed the pattern down a little around the edges and continued until the shape was built up. View from the side. The thickest part is about 1 and 3/4 inch high.

Cover the entire top with two layers of wool. Staple the wool to edges of the wood base.

I added a finishing layer of wool felt (available in the utility fabrics section at JoAnn’s), wrapped it under the edge and secured with double sided masking tape.

Ease the felt around the curves, stick to tape and trim the excess.

For the cover, add about 2.5 inches all around the pattern. Cut from heavy muslin. Cut a bias strip about 1 and 1/8 wide long enough to go around the outside edge of the cover (piece as necessary). Starting in the middle of the larger curved end, turn end of bias under and stitch at 1/4 inch. Fold end under when you reach starting point.

Wrap the bias around a thin sturdy cord and stitch, making sure not to catch the cord when sewing. The cord will act as a drawstring to tighten the cover. I’m nudging the cord against the fold and stitching along the seam line (badly in need of a manicure; COVID hands).

Place the cover on the press buck, making sure there is equal amount to turn under on all sides. Place a few pins to hold the cover in place while you pull the drawstring tight and tie.

Adjust the gathers and steam to smooth out any wrinkles. I’ve added a couple of lengths of twill tape secured with safety pins along the underside of the long edges to tighten up the cover in that area.

The sleeve board is made the same way except instead of multiple layers of wool, the surface is flat.

Cut a piece of acoustical ceiling tile using the same template. Glue it in place. Cover with thick felt and a muslin cover. The muslin cover should be about 2.5 inches larger than the pattern template to allow for the increased thickness. The combination of ceiling tile and thick felt makes a pin-able surface to secure the work when pressing.

Sleeve board. This one is much more stable than most. A rolling tool chest stores loads of supplies and the top is a sheet of plywood covered with the pin-able tile and felt. The heavy canvas cover can be replaced when worn. Can you tell Home Depot is a great sewing supply store.

Last tool is a point presser.

Cut 3/4 inch wood the shape of the pattern and mount from the underside. The base is 8” x 28.” Shape the point with a wood file and sand smooth.

I have more of my favorite makes coming: seam stick, pressing block and pin cushion which goes around the palm of your hand. I think it’s easier to use than the typical wrist location. Thanks for reading and enjoy making new tools.

Drafting Patterns, Dress Forms, Uncategorized

The Mannequin Arm Updated

Several years ago I posted a pattern and instructions for creating a custom arm for your dressform. Since then, I’ve made a few improvements to the pattern and written more detailed instructions.

Here’s the new and improved pattern. It has cut lines for adjusting the width of the biceps as well as length.

The pattern is available here:

Download and print the pdf file. Pages should be assembled as shown.

Be sure to set your printer to print at “actual size” or “no scaling.” The test square on page 1 should measure 2 inches square. The file is 7 pages. Tape together as shown and cut out the pieces. You will have an upper arm, lower arm, wrist cover, armseye cover, and shoulder attachment which will enable you to pin the arm to your dressform. The pattern has NO SEAM ALLOWANCES. This is to make any alterations you need to do easier. It is drafted for a bicep measurement of 11 inches. If you want a smaller or larger biceps, cut on the dotted lines and overlap or spread the pieces to desired measurement. Measure along the balance line located at the underarm on the lower arm and corresponding balance line on the upper arm. The length of the two balance lines added together are the finished biceps measurement. You can also lengthen or shorten the length between shoulder and elbow and elbow to wrist as desired. If you alter the biceps width, remember to add to the circumference of the large oval the same amount you added to the biceps. The wrist circumference can be increased or decreased in the same way. Adjust the wrist oval in the same way so that the circumference of the oval matches your desired width.

Here’s a sample layout if you want to increase the biceps width. Cut the upper and lower arm patterns apart on the dotted lines. Spread by the desired amount (if you want an additional 1 inch, spread the sections 1/4 inch). Notice I’ve increased the wrist only 1/8 inch at each cut line for a total of 1/2 inch more at the wrist circumference. You’ll also need to alter the wrist and armseye covers to compensate. This can be a bit of trial and error as the circumference of an eclipse (oval) isn’t straightforward math the same as a circle. Smooth out the seam lines over any spaces.

Cut out pattern pieces and lay out on sturdy muslin. I use this heavy weight muslin: Cloning Couture ~ Products ~ Muslin, Heavy Weight ~ Shopify (myshopify.com) but cotton drill cloth is a good sub. Add 3/8 inch seams with these exceptions: 3/4 inch seam allowance around the armseye oval and 1/2 inch around the wrist oval. Cut two shoulder attachment shapes. I prefer to mark the cutting lines lightly in pencil. Tracing with dressmakers carbon paper can leave unwanted marks on the finished arm form.

Mark all balance lines and match points with an erasable marker.

Stitch two rows of machine stitching 3/8 and 1/4 away from the cut edge along the elbow. Pull bobbin threads to take up ease in the elbow area. Tie threads.

Steam the elbow area to smooth the seam. Make sure you don’t have any creases. Join the upper and lower arms along points A, B and C. Press the seam open.

Close the dart at the top of the shoulder. Press towards the back.

You can add the balance lines now. Either stitch along the vertical and horizontal balance lines with contrasting thread or draw lines with a permanent marker. The lines can also be added when the arm is completed but it’s easier to do now when it’s flat. Smooth out any little jog at the elbow.

Stitch the remaining seam along points D,E and F. Press the seam open. I use a sleeve board and seam stick made from a length of stair rail handrail with one flat side.

Stitch along the top of the arm with a longer (about 3.75mm) stitch at 3/8 and 1/4 from cut edge. Pull bobbin threads to create a curve at the top of the arm.

Steam the seam allowance to shrink excess fabric. Be careful not to press in creases. Tie thread ends. Place the two shoulder attachment pieces right sides together and stitch around the outer convex curve. Trim seam to 1/8 inch, turn, press and stitch close to the edge. Clipping the seam isn’t necessary if you trim the seam allowance to 1/8 inch.

Matching shoulder points, pin the shoulder attachment piece to the top of the arm. Make sure you orient so that front and back are correct. Start at the shoulder point and work out from there. The shoulder attachment will end just past the seams.

With the arm on top, stitch the arm to the shoulder attachment.

Turn the seam allowance towards the arm.

Cut the batting to stuff the arm. I use high loft quilt batting to stuff the arm. Using small bits of batting to fill out the arm shape will result in a lumpy, bumpy arm. A better way is to use a larger piece of batting rolled. I start with a piece of high loft (about 3/4 inch) polyester batting cut 30 inches by 24 inches. Roll up the 30 inch width and determine if that gives you a roll the measurement of your biceps. 30 inches of my batting loosely rolled results in a tube 11 inches in circumference. If you adjusted your biceps, then the 30 inch dimension might need to be adjusted. 24 inches is the length of the arm from tip of shoulder to wrist. If you lengthened or shortened the pattern, adjust as necessary. Tear, rather than cut one 24 inch side. This will give a smooth edge when rolled. Start rolling from the short (13 inch) side. The resulting roll of batting will be fatter at one end and taper to a smaller diameter which will be the wrist. Temporary quilt adhesive spray helps adhere the edge. Test the dimensions of your roll and when all looks good, spray the feathered edge with adhesive spray, roll and press the feathered edge down. You should end up with a roll that is fatter at one end and tapers at the other, like an arm.

To pull the roll of batting through the arm, pin a length of ribbon to the narrow end. Attach a weight and drop the weight through the top of the arm. Pull the ribbon through while pushing the batting in from the top.

Turn up 3/8 inch seam allowance at the wrist end of the arm. Cut cardboard the size of the wrist cover pattern. Hand sew a running stitch 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric. Pull the threads to gather the fabric around the cardboard shape And tie securely. Press to flatten. Mark all match points. The wrist should be an oval with the longer side of the oval matching the marked balance line on the upper arm.

Check that all points match and whip stitch, using strong thread, the fabric covered oval to the wrist.

Cover the armseye oval in the same way. Handsew a running stitch around the edge, pull thread and tie, covering the armseye oval. Mark the match points. Make sure you have the underarm and shoulder points oriented correctly. The back armseye length is slightly longer than the front, so the shoulder point is slightly forward of center. Press to flatten.

Check that there isn’t excess batting in the armseye area and the arm will sit flat against the dressform. You want enough batting to fill out the top of the sleeve but not so much that the arm is pushed away from the dressform.

This is the hardest part: attaching the armseye cover. Pin match points at the shoulder. Work around to where the shoulder attachment ends on both sides, pinning in place as much as possible. I use a sturdy needle and upholstery or heavy duty polyester thread. Begin sewing so that you will attach the section along the top of the arm first, then moving towards underarm section. If you can use a thimble, it will help immensely. I’ve found stitching like this: bite into the arm section and take a small stitch parallel to the seam line. Pass needle through the fabric on the armseye cover along the edge of cardboard, then back to the arm. Pull tight every stitch or two. Keep an eye on your match points to be sure all will line up.

Take a couple of extra stitches where the shoulder attachment ends as that will be a stress point when you use the arm form. The area along the underarm can be sewn with a whip stitch as the arm is flexible and easier to sew along that area.

Attach the arm to your form with pins. I use Clover double forked pins and angle them so they are pointing inwards. Use one pin at the shoulder, one in front and one in back. Push them in parallel to the surface so that just the tiny curve is visible. There are no pin heads to snag on clothing. Determine the best pitch (angle) for your arm. Some arms are pitched with the arm more forward, others figures have the arm angled more towards the back. You can draw the shoulder line on the shoulder attachment when you’ve determined the ideal placement.

Arm pitched forward
Arm more towards vertical

I use Clover forked pins to attach the arm to dressform. Angle the pin so it’s pointing downwards. It holds the arm securely and the rounded tip doesn’t snag on clothing.

The idea for a flexible arm came while watching Signe Chanel. The film gave an inside view of Chanel workrooms and all their mannequins were outfitted with these wonderfully flexible arms. I’ve tried the arms supplied with commercial forms which are rigid and heavy. I’m much happier with this version. No wonder this is what Chanel uses.

This pattern makes an arm for the right side. If you want an arm for the left side, just flip the pieces over and duplicate. You can also print the pattern at 50% and use it for a half-size dressform. If making a half-scale arm, use regular quilting weight muslin as the heavier weight will be difficult to handle. I keep seam allowances at 3/8, maybe trimming slightly, but 1/4 inch tends to fray easily and makes things difficult. Enjoy!

Uncategorized

Creating Custom Trim

Dress is finally finished and I’m very happy with the finished result. I’ve also posted the progress of this dress on a few private Facebook groups and have many requests for detailed instructions explaining how I created the trim.

First, here’s some photos of the finishing details. Rather than attach the lining at the armseye seam, I took a tip from Valentino (this technique is often used) and bound the armseye of the lining with narrow bias cut from the silk crepe de chine. French tacks keep the lining in place and allow for easy movement. A thin shoulder pad is also covered with silk crepe.

Gutermann gimp and silk twist for loads of handworked buttonholes. I’ve read that Gutermann no longer produces gimp but I’ve managed to find a supply so click on the link if you’re interested. It does help produce very professional buttonholes.

Trim: here’s my process for creating this braid to match the boucle fabric. Finding this pre-made would have been impossible so there was no choice but to invent. I started with orange, turquoise and lilac silk double georgette. Cut bias strips 1.5 inches wide. Tissue paper is an immense help in taming slippery, stretchy silk. I put a layer of tissue on the cutting mat; tape in place. Place first layer of silk on top, square the grain and tape in place. A second layer of tissue paper next. Then the second color of silk. Another layer of tissue; third color of silk. Interesting that the turquoise and lilac silk ripped cleanly on the crossgrain but the orange refused to do so. All were ordered from Emma One Sock who carries a wide range of colors. A final layer of tissue paper covers all. A rotary cutter allows cutting without moving any of the layers but you can use loads of pins and scissors. I use my collection of antique irons to hold everything down.

Fold the bias strips in half and stitch a scant 1/4 inch away from the folded edge. Trim the seam allowance to about 3/16 inch and turn the tube right side out. A narrow brass hollow rod makes turning the narrow tube easier. I thread a large tapestry needle with sturdy thread. Take a stitch in one end of the fabric tube. Drop the threaded needed through the brass rod and pull gently. The fabric tube will easily turn right side out as it passes through the rod. I don’t try and make trim in one long length for the entire dress. I’ll do the hem in one length, another for collar and maybe one pocket, a third length for other pocket and sleeve hems. Pin the fabric tube to your ironing surface, pull gently and steam. You want to stretch the fabric and create a narrow tube of fabric. Try and keep the seam from twisting.

Thread the turned tubes of fabric back onto the metal tube. Using the tapestry needle, attach thread to a length of yarn (worsted weight wool yarn is soft and springy; works well). Pull on the thread to pass the yarn through the tube. Pull both fabric and yarn together to create a tube of silk fabric filled with yarn. The yarn adds a little loft and volume to the fabric but is still light and flexible. The goal is to keep the trim soft and easy to shape.

The brass tubes are similar to another product: Fasturn tubes, available on Amazon. The Fasturn tubes have larger sizes but I needed tiny tubes for this. I’ve sourced the tubes in sizes from 3/32 inch to 8/32 (1/4) and may offer the set if there is sufficient interest. Set of 6 tubes would include 3/32, 4/32, 5/32, 6/32, 7/32 and 8/32 inch. I used the 7/32 size for this project and have additional trim tutorials in the works which utilize more sizes. Let me know in comments if you’re interested.

Secure ends of three strands (one of each color) with a short machine stitch. Use a standard three strand pattern to braid the strands together. Secure the ends with machine stitching.

Next I added a row of single crochet along both sides of the braid. Make a slip knot in the yarn. Insert into a loop of braid. Make single crochet. Single crochet in each loop of braid. I created custom lengths of braid for pockets, sleeve hems, collar and lower hem. Start a couple of inches short of the length you need. Crochet to where you want the braid to end. Make two single crochet stitches in the same loop of braid; that will form a corner. Rotate the braid and make one single crochet along the short side, then two single crochet stitches in the loop on other side of braid for the second corner. Work down the opposite side. Double check you have the desired length, turn another corner and work back to starting point. Joining the yarn along the straight edge is easier and less conspicuous than doing it at a corner. Overlap the yarn and secure with regular sewing thread and small stitches.

To complete, chain stitch around using metallic thread. Keep the chain stitches fairly loose. I’ve attached a couple of videos. This actually takes longer to describe than to do. The first video demonstrates how to add the single crochet border; second video the chain stitch. Note that the chain stitch is done through only one loop of the underlying row.

More custom trim coming. Thanks for watching.