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

Buttonholes and More Trim

C2F04906-FBA3-42ED-A583-0BEE9E6284D2Although many machines can sew acceptable buttonholes, there is nothing like a handworked buttonhole to distinguish a garment as couture. Now for the good and the bad. The good thing about making buttonholes by hand is there is one basic stitch and you simply repeat it over and over. The bad is that it takes hours, and hours, and hours of practice to get the stitches narrow and evenly spaced with just the right tension.

There are a few hints that can make this process easier. Using professional materials does make a difference. After making hundreds of buttonholes I’ve found there really is no substitute for Gutermann gimp. It’s not easy to find outside of professional tailoring suppliers but it makes a tremendous difference in the quality of the finished buttonhole.

Gimp is a stiff cord that lifts the stitches off the surface of the cloth and gives a smooth surface for the buttonhole stitches to sit on. Silk buttonhole twist also comes in various weights. The thicker size F is easier to work with and requires fewer stitches but produces a bulkier buttonhole. My preference is Gutermann R753 which is just a bit thinner and makes a finer buttonhole.

Cutting the buttonhole is also easier with a couple of tools. I found an antique buttonhole cutter which cuts the circular hole and slit in one step. This probably isn’t sharp enough to use.

299DA0BE-F273-47A0-AA6B-3AA94CE417D4 0183CA8B-BFEE-4652-83E0-BF98F27E3A4F

What works for me is a sharp hollow punch for the keyhole and a chisel for the slit.

C2115563-0C90-4FA0-AED0-8403FB072607 0A072FBD-4ACA-4141-8B8F-A91C68B693BE

To actually make this buttonhole first carefully mark where you want the buttonhole and baste all the layers of fabric together. This prevents  things from shifting around while you are working. I forgot to take a photo of just the basting so this photo shows the buttonhole cut. Blue thread is the basting.

CCF3C16E-28C3-416B-BD1F-DD0D541E6416

Before cutting anything (this is especially useful if you’re working on a loosely woven boucle type fabric) machine stitch around the buttonhole. I run two rows of stitching using about a 0.8 to 1.0 mm stitch. The machine stitching will really hold everything in place.

41872E87-ED4D-4A56-A156-7F724D452D79

How’s the time to cut. Unlike machine buttonholes which are cut after stitching, the handworked buttonhole is cut first. I use the hole punch pliers to cut a clean hole. Then carefully place the appropriate size chisel along the center of the buttonhole and tap the chisel a few times with a hammer. I use thick cardboard or a piece of heavy scrap leather underneath both the hole punch and chisel to prevent damage to the tools.

I prefer the look of a teardrop shaped buttonhole so I carefully trim away the little triangles at the base of the circular hole.

I begin stitching the buttonhole with the rounded end away from me and begin work on the left side. Thread the gimp on a large eye needle, put it between the fabric layers and bring it up just inside the cut edge. Wax and press the buttonhole twist. Rule of thumb is that 1 yard of twist for 1 inch buttonhole. Stitches are worked by inserting the needle about 1-2 mm from the cut edge. Wrap the thread in the direction you are sewing; in this case I’m wrapping the thread around the needle clockwise. Pull the thread through and upwards forming the purl knot on the top edge. Using a traditional tailor’s thimble is helpful to control your needle and place the stitches accurately. Putting you left thumbnail where you want the needle to exit the fabric also helps. You want the stitches almost touching but not crowded. Practice definitely helps. Your 10th buttonhole will look much better than the first and number 100 even better.

33CAFA4B-361B-405B-98E2-47401BB07E0E BF389A5E-4F19-43AC-9B6F-5A812333CA5D

Work up the left side, fan the stitches around the circular end and down the right side. Turn the cloth so you are always making the same stitch from the same position. The cloth moves, your hands and stitches don’t. Bend the gimp around the buttonhole as you work.

2889694E-1D4B-4BCB-A2ED-EAC23E68190C

When you get back to where you started pass the gimp between fabric layers and cut it off. Take three stitches across both sides of the buttonhole with the silk twist and bury the thread. Baste the edges of the buttonhole together and use a bodkin to shape the end into a nice circular shape. Press and leave the basting in place until the garment is finished.

In my quest to replicate Chanel jackets, I did a little sleuth shopping. These are from the new spring cruise collection. Looking at the price tags, I’m happy to be creating my own.

The trim was what I was most interested in. I’ve managed to create a fairly good duplication and am working on refining and variations.

Here’s my version.

Buttonholes, advanced garment shaping using ironwork, Chanel style trims and more in a French jacket class, Palm Beach Gardens, FL February 10-15. Only 2 spots left; more classes coming. Dates to be announced.

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Drafting Patterns, French Jackets, Tailoring, Uncategorized

French Jacket: The Details

In this post I’ll explore the seemingly little details will make your completed jacket look professional. I love the look of a patterned fabric perfectly matched across the seam lines. Here are the changes I make to the pattern. I also shape certain garment pieces using heat and steam.

A basic princess line pattern. I’ve drawn it on grid paper. It has been cut so that horizontal threads in the fabric match along the lower portion but look what happens in the upper chest area.

077935F7-3AB5-4432-AC2B-C925A101A0D8 First Draft

Here’s what happens if I’m able to manipulate the fabric in the side front.

draft 2 draft 3

In order to minimize the amount of shaping required, I’ve shifted the front princess seam from the bust point upwards and brought it closer to the neck. The violet pattern shows the original; in the red I’ve shifted the princess seams (both front and back so they match at the shoulder) closer to the neck. Overlaying the patterns shows the changes. The same amount of fabric removed from both center fronts and backs has been added to the side back and fronts.

pattern 1 pattern 2

Here is an illustration done on a full figured model. The first photo shows the fabric without shaping. Second photo shows how the fabric pattern matches and gives a much less disruptive line.

Linton demo 1 Linton demo finished

The ironwork does push a lot of fabric into the armseye area and makes the grain quite unstable. I deal with this by cutting a piece of silk organza using the original pattern and baste it in place. The armseye can be further stabilized by taping the seamline. The lining is cut according to the pattern and basted in place before quilting (this is a sample and the lining wouldn’t stop below the armhole).

Linton demo 3 Lining basted

Here’s the front of my white jacket. I’ve moved the princess seam and manipulated the fabric.  The horizontal lines in the weave are continuous. I’ve chosen to add a standup collar. It is also cut as a straight piece and shaped with the iron. Cardboard cut to the shape and size of the finished collar helps press a smooth curve and keeps both sides identical.

Shaping side panel White jacket front

collar 1 collar 2 template

An easy way to match the fabric design when cutting sleeves is to pin the muslin sleeve onto the jacket body. Pin scraps of fabric to the muslin sleeve, matching the fashion fabric along seam lines. Remove the muslin sleeve, lay it flat keeping the scraps of fashion fabric in place. Carefully trim along the seam lines. Now you have an exact guide to cut the sleeves and be sure they will match. The sleeves should be mirror images of each other but check to be sure.

pin sleeve pin scraps

cutting template

Next I’ll tackle handworked buttonholes. If you would like hands-on instuction, I’m teaching a French jacket class in Palm Beach Gardens, FL from February 10-15, 2020. We’ll cover fitting, ironwork using professional equipment, jacket construction, custom trims, handworked buttonholes and more. If you’re interested, leave your contact info and I’ll send further details.

 

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Uncategorized

Tips for Sewing Leather

Making leather garments can be intimidating.  Leather skins are relatively expensive and there is no room for adjustments as stitching marks are permanent. I’ve discovered a few tips that make sewing leather look more professional.

Always, always make a test garment in medium weight muslin. Get the fit perfect before cutting anything in leather. The test garment can be taken apart and used as a pattern. I mark using chalk or a soft lead pencil. Ink pens tend to smear and the marks can be permanent. Even if used on the wrong side, pen marks can bleed through to the face.

I was surprised to learn that leather can be steam pressed. Many sources advise against pressing, but unless you use loads of heavy steam, it works just fine. Having a teflon shoe for your iron helps protect the leather. Teflon shoes are available from most tailoring supply sources and are specific to the iron. Here’s mine for the Naomoto gravity feed iron. Make sure you also get a steam diffuser, which is a piece of heavy felt lining the shoe. The diffuser spreads the steam more evenly and prevents marks from the steam jets. Both are available from Wawak and other sources.

Teflon Shoe Teflon shoe on iron

Gentle steam pressing is effective at removing creases. Here’s a sample that I intentionally left folded for awhile and the result of steam pressing. Some sources advised using leather tape (also known as cold tape) to stabilize the seams. The tape can be difficult to source and is a PIA to stitch through as it gums up the needle. Narrow strips of lightweight fusible interfacing worked fine.

Wrinkled Leather Pressed Leather  Stabilize seams

Darts can be difficult to press flat so I sew darts this way:

Cut away the dart. Spray a scrap of leather with temporary quilt basting spray. Carefully line up the sides of the dart and finger press gently to tack the dart closed. I position one side first; then align the second side. Doing this over a tailors ham helps get the proper contour.

Cut open dart  Dart underlay Dart Tacked Stitch dart

I’m using a leather roller foot on my Bernina; the roller feet are are also available for industrial machines and probably other brands.

Here’s the settings for Bernina. I’ve positioned the needle left of center so it stitches very close to the roller. I’ve also threaded the machine with two strands of polyester thread and wound the bobbin with two strands. Topstitching thread was a little too thick and a single strand of thread didn’t seem enough. I was surprised that the machine sewed fine with two strands in the bobbin. No adjusting was needed. Be sure and use polyester thread. The chemicals used in tanning leather will degrade cotton thread over time.

Roller foot setup Double Thread

I prefer the clean look of invisible zippers but they can be tricky to get right and you can’t remove misplaced stitch marks. Use a zipper at least 2 inches longer than the finished length. In this method you’ll need the extra length to pull the zipper slide out of the way for stitching.  I stabilize the seam with lightweight fusible interfacing. Press it on the wrong side using an iron fitted with a Teflon shoe. Stitch the seam closed up to the zipper. Lightly steam press (I also use a press cloth or brown paper when working on the right side) and pound the seam open. I use a soft face mallet and place the seam over a rounded wooden stick to prevent the seam allowance from making an impression on the right side.

Zipper Seam Pound seams

Measure the width of the zipper tape. This one is 7/8 inch. Mark exactly 1/2 of this width (7/16) on the inside seam allowance of each side of the zipper opening. Pin the zipper along the marked line placing pins within seam allowance only. Machine baste along outer edge of zipper tape.

Measure zipper tape Measure half tape width Pin Tape Baste

Repeat for the other side of the zipper. The zipper is now basted in place but since the basting stitches are on the outer edges there is enough room to reach in with narrow nose pliers or a clamp and pull the slide below where the zipper will stop. Mark where the zipper will stop. Using a regular zipper foot (an invisible zipper foot won’t work as it doesn’t allow you to end exactly where the seam begins), roll the coil out of the way and stitch close to the zipper coil. Stop exactly at the mark. I pull threads through and tie rather than back-stitching which would weaken the seam in leather. Now pull the slide to the zipper top using pliers if necessary.

Pull slide through Stitch along coil Coils stitched Pull slide closed

The stitching should look like this. Notice that the seam line stitches and zipper coil stitches don’t line up exactly. The zipper coil stitches are slightly further into the seam allowance. If the stitching lines weren’t offset just this small amount, you would get the dreaded pucker at the bottom of the zipper. Here’s the completed zipper installation totally smooth and no tell-tale sign of where the zipper stops.

 

Offset seams Completed

Sewing hooks and eyes on the waistband for a closure won’t work too well. I use a hook and bar with prongs and a backing plate. The waistband has been sewn on from the right side. I’ve interfaced it with Petersham ribbon and added a rectangle of Ban-Rol (a rigid interfacing which resists tearing) to support the fasteners and prevent them ripping through the leather. I’ve used an awl to create small holes for the prongs. The hardest part is determining the exact location before punching holes.

Prepped waistband Hooks Hooks back Bars back

Once the bars and hooks are in place, fold the waistband over and stitch close to the previous stitching. Trim on the underside.

Stitch waistband Trim wrong side

Finished skirt:

Skirt Front Skirt back

 

 

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, creating designer trim, Uncategorized

Create Your Own Custom Pleated Trim

To create this Gucci inspired silk crepe de chine shirt, I needed to find pleated ribbon trim. Where do you find such trim in the right color, width, etc.? It’s much easier to make a custom pleating board and make your own.

Pink Shirt Front closeup

I started with a length of drapery heading. It’s a stiff buckram used to support pleats in drapes and worked great for this. Cut of a length about three times the length of your finished pleater board. You don’t need to make it more than about 4-5 inches long. I started with about 13 inches of buckram.

Pleating lines Pleating folds Pleating folds 2

Mark parallel lines (I used a water soluble marker rather than a lead pencil. I might want to use this for white trim later and was afraid of pencil marks rubbing off). Mine are 3/8 inch apart. Score the lines with scissors to make folding easier. Line one folds up, line 2 folds down, line three is a placement line. Score and fold the length of buckram.

Pleater interfacing Compleated pleater Insert ribbon

Press the pleats flat. Fuse a stiff interfacing to the wrong side of the pleater. The right side will have little louvers that ribbon or fabric can be tucked into. When you’ve inserted trim into all the louvers give it a press, let cool and remove. If a longer length of trim is needed, tuck the last pleat into the left side louver and continue.

Remove ribbon Stitch pleats

Notice the pleats reverse direction. I did this at the center back collar so that the pleats would fold towards the front on both right and left sides of the finished collar.

Complete back collar

Form enough pleats to reach from center front to center back of the collar. Then flip the ribbon over to the “wrong side”, line up your last pleat, and continue with the opposite side facing up. A box pleat will from at center back. I also made sure the pleats on the cuffs were facing towards the back of the garment.

I like to use a finer thread for the buttonholes; 60 weight cotton works well. Hopefully all goes well and the buttonhole foot holds the fabric securely. Sometimes disaster is lurking and the fabric slips.

Buttonholes Bad stitching

Getting those tiny stitches out without damaging the now complete shirt is nerve-racking. I discovered a new use for my furriers knife.

furrier knifeisolate stitches iso;ate stitches 2

This little baby is SHARP and does a wonderful job of precision cutting. I used a fine gauge machine needle to isolate a few stitches, then carefully cut the threads using the machine needle as a buffer to protect the fabric. This works better if you work in sections. This knife is also my new tool for cutting buttonholes. The blade is super thin and makes cutting a narrow slit easy.

threads removed

After the stitches have been removed and fabric pressed there’s almost no sign of the mishap. Work a new buttonhole and the disaster is averted. I also found that increasing pressure on the buttonhole foot helped avoid this happening in the first place.

A couple of my blogging friends have explored the world of pleating. Jacqueline of Words to Stitch By mentioned this book: Complete Pleats by Paul Jackson. There is a chapter detailing his method for making pleating molds and steam setting pleats in fabric. Doing yardage is probably best left to the pros, but I’m excited to try a few of the ideas on smaller sections of fabric.

Poppykettle just wrote about her visit to the pleating shop in Melbourne. Melanie posted some wonderful photos of the process. I’ve used International Pleating in NYC for large projects like the skirt for my mother-of-the groom dress a couple of years ago. The pleats have stayed perfect even after being covered with dust and sand and a douse in the sink to clean. Use synthetic fabrics only if you want to try a pleated project. Natural fibers will pleat but the pleats won’t last through the cleaning process.

Pleating Front Pleating side

 

 

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, creating designer trim, Drafting Patterns, Fabric Shopping, Uncategorized

The Chanel Style Tunic

For the backyard wedding, I wanted something easy, yet elegant. When you’re the resident dress designer/maker, showing up in something not of your own creation doesn’t work! I had my hands full with the bride, mother of bride, bridesmaids, etc. but managed to crank out a tunic style dress with Coco (and Karl) in mind.

My starting point was fabric from the Haute Couture section of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. I chose a wonderful French boucle highlighted with tiny sequins woven into the fabric. With careful planning, the dress required only one yard of fabric; here is what was left over.

Boucle scraps

I used my basic pattern block and made the following adjustments. If you start with another tunic style pattern, and want to get this look, make sure your pattern has a high, jewel neckline. If your pattern has a lower neckline, the collar might be too large and will stand away from the neck.

Basic Sloper combine darts

Close the armhole and shoulder darts, combining them into the underarm dart. Angle the new underarm dart towards the lower edge.

Final Pattern

I chose to eliminate the front fisheye darts and transfer some of the dart shaping to the side seam. The bib placket drops from just outside the neck edge to the bust line. I played with shaping the bib wider at the top and tapering slightly but that design created a problem with trim placement. Having the bib placket the same width from top to bottom allowed the trim rows to be evenly spaced. The back was used as is with fisheye darts. The shoulder dart will be eased. The skirt was pegged about 3/4 inch from low hip line to hem.

Next I drafted a collar and stand. Some drafting books suggest curving the collar stand about 1/2 inch but I find the stand will hug the back neck better if more shaping is used. I’ll increase the curvature of the stand by shaping with a steam iron.

Collar patterns Stand pattern Collar offset curve-runner.jpg

All collar pieced are cut from cardboard which will help when pressing. I’ve also cut a collar lining pattern 1/8 inch smaller to keep the undercollar out of sight. The Curve Runner makes measuring curved edges easy; very helpful when drafting collars to fit the neck.

The cardboard helps when pressing seam allowances under and ensures the collar is perfectly symmetrical. Fell stitch the under collar to upper collar.

collar-cardboard.jpg under-collar-cardboard.jpg

collar-pinned.jpg

Pressing over cardboard also helps shape the collar stand. I used satin faced organza to line the collar, stand and as a base fabric for the bib. This organza is more opaque and stiffer than regular silk organza and is harder to shape into a smooth curve.

Collar band

Collar 1 Collar 2

Designing trims for the placket was the most fun part. I used the same satin faced organza as a base fabric and applied multiple layers of ribbons and braids. Most were sewn on by hand to maintain a soft, couture feel.

Designing front placket Front trim

I had some leftover tweed from Linton. I save my scraps of tweeds and boucles as there is often wonderful trim hiding in the fabric. Linton fabrics are woven with continuous strands so un-weaving produces a long continuous length of trim. I also used the fringed selvedges from the French boucle.  Also found great buttons!!!

Linton tweed Front buttonholes

Hem trim Hem 1

I had just enough scraps to cut bias strips for a hem fringe. Two layers of cotton batting padded the center. A blunt tapestry needle helps to un-weave the edges.

Finished tunic

Finished! Here’s a glimpse of the inside. Silk crepe de chine fell stitched to armseyes and placket. Side zip makes it easy to get into.

Inside view Side zip

Chanel Tunic full length

Next post will detail the design and construction of the bride’s outfit.

 

 

 

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

A Designer Skirt and Family Wedding

So much had happened since my last post; all of it good.  My son and daughter-in-law welcomed baby Milena. Her arrival coincided with my construction and installation of draperies in their new home. Needless to say, it was a very, very busy time.

Milena

After helping the new family get settled, it was time to head home and prepare for my dear sister-in law’s wedding, held in our backyard. When you’re the resident family dressmaker, weddings mean loads of sewing; all of it fun and leading up to a happy celebration.

The rehearsal dinner was an informal gathering and I chose to replicate a designer skirt I had seen.  This Oscar de la Renta skirt, from his “paint splatter” collection was white denim with applied sequins and priced at a mere $1900.

Inspiration Skirt

I had a length of white denim with a bit of lycra in the stash.  The skirt front was drafted by using a jeans pattern, lapping the right over left front, and tapering to a mid-calf length straight skirt. The back was slightly more complicated. My jeans pattern back wouldn’t cooperate and produce a well fitting rear.  Draping on my custom dress form solved the problem.

Skirt Drape 1 Skirt Drape 2

I placed style lines for the back yoke, waistband and side seam.  The waistband is slightly lowered at center front. I used flat felled seams and the only problem was my machine didn’t like the bulk of multiple fabric layers and the thicker thread I was using for topstitching.  I found that hammering (use a clean regular carpenters hammer) the seams, especially at points where seams intersected, made a huge difference. Hammering the fabric prior to sewing seems to soften and compress the fibers. A heavy duty jeans needle also helped. The long, sharp point pierced the denim much easier preventing skipped stitches and thread nests.

TopstitchingSequin Closeup

Now for the fun part. I gathered sequins, beads and started drawing. An air erasable marker lets you preview the placement and size of the “paint blobs.”
The large yellow sequins had holes in the center but I decided they would be better if the holes were closer to one edge. Joanns Fabric carries this punch in the leatherworking department. It’s pricey at about $40 (great time to use the discount coupon), but makes the tiniest holes and was perfect for the task.

Hole Punch

Completed and on to the more wedding sewing.

Close-up Finished skirt

Next post (and I promise it will be soon) will detail the design and construction of the bride’s dress, little girls’ dresses, mother-in-law’s dress and (as if I didn’t have enough going on) a Chanel style tunic constructed from a wonderful fabric from Mendel Goldberg. Here’s a few preview shots:

Casey Mia

Sage Chanel Dress Preview

I also want to mention that my friend, Kate Davies, has published a book, Making Life More Beautiful, about sewing, crafting, knitting and life. I met Kate while on a trip to London and immensely enjoyed the time with her. She is doing a sew-along emulating the style of Frida Kahlo, so hop over to her site and check it out.

Kate book

Also, I’ve written another article for Threads Magazine detailing the draft and construction of a designer skirt.  The skirt was based an Yves St. Laurent style straight skirt and I’ve explained many of the details that take an ordinary style into the designer realm.  There is also a web extra explaining a few adaptations which are helpful when using a heavier fabric, such as a designer boucle.

Threads Cover

Thanks for reading!!!

Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Fabric Shopping, French jacket trim, French Jackets, Uncategorized

Embellished Sleeve Jacket

Jacket Front

This jacket was inspired from a Chanel couture collection.  For the jacket body I used a lovely open weave boucle from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. The fabric is a very open weave and needed to be backed with another fabric for construction. I used a lightweight ivory wool crepe and quilted the two fabrics together along horizontal stitching lines. Thank goodness I used quite a bit of steam on the fabrics before quilting as the boucle tightened up with steam.

Steamed boucle  Wide seam allowances prevent too skimpy seams and the walking foot kept the layers from shifting during the quilting process.

The fun part of this jacket was designing the sleeves. I used two layers of silk organza as a base for the trim.  Scouring NYC’s garment district turned up nothing for a ruffled trim. I had planned on using butterfly pleated organza ribbon but absolutely no one had any. One store offered placing a custom order but the minimum was 100 yards and 6-8 weeks time frame. No choice but to make it.

I decided polyester organza would actually work better than silk. Silk fabric creases and presses much better than polyester but I wanted the ruffles to hold their shape so the wiry nature of polyester was an advantage. I cut strips of organza along the lengthwise grain and finished the edges with a narrow ziz-zag stitch; stitch width of 1.8mm and length of 0.5mm on my machine worked well.  The strips were gathered down the center and drawn up to a 2:1 fullness.

A narrow beige ribbon layered with gold tubular yarn from Linton was sewn down the center with a serpentine ( width 5.0, length 1.25) stitch.

Make organza trim Place Ribbon Linton Yarn

The garment district did yield several suitable trims, including a gorgeous sequin banding. The double organza sleeve was sewn along the back seam, leaving the less obvious front seam open. Seam and hem lines had been thread traced to ensure the trim fit the finished sleeve. Trim was arranged, keeping the sequined trim and ruffles out of the underarm area. The sequin banding was catch stitched on the wrong side to prevent sagging as the jacket was worn.

Trim Placement Sleeve Underside

Excess sequins removed from the seam allowances and ends of the braids are steamed and flattened before sewing the seam.

Finished sleeve trim

 

Jacket Sleeve

The black jacket is also complete. Fringe from the selvages was paired with a soft, flexible braid. I opted for a custom made zipper from Botani.  They use Lampo (Italian) zippers and you can choose tooth color, tape color, pull and length. The small 3mm size works well for this.

Black Jacket Black jacket closeup

Next project is a Chanel inspired summer tunic and playing with more trims. Thanks for reading.