Category Archives: couture sewing

McQueen Top Finished and Chanel Trims

Here is the final version of the flounce top adapted from a RTW Alexander McQueen design. Shown with jeans for an outdoor summer party.

Finished Top Front

I’ve also been busy developing a method for making custom trim to match your Chanel style jacket. The next few posts will go into more detail about this but here are some previews of what’s coming. I also have an article in the latest issue of Threads Magazine which explains how I go about adding a shoulder pad to the jacket and there is also a link to the pattern.

I love creating these jackets but am often frustrated when searching for just the right trim. Often what I find is too stiff, not the right color/width, etc. If you’ve watched Signe Chanel (it’s available on youtube or DVD) you’re familiar with Madame Pouzieux, the lady who created trims for Chanel. Unfortunately she is no longer alive and I understand no one quite “got” her method. Her loom and spinning devices were very large and beyond what any home sewer could possibly fit into a sewing room.

My search for a reasonable way to replicate these perfectly coordinated soft braids led to Kumihimo plate braiding. The braiding stand is easily made and I had very good luck with an inexpensive braiding plate.

Braid Stand

Here are two jackets trimmed with braid woven on the stand using yarns in my stash and some from Linton Tweeds.

Pastel Jacket    Threads JacketPastel Jacket Front

Pastel Jacket Detail

Threads Jacket FrontJacket Front CloseupThreads Braid

The braid is very soft and flexible but unravels VERY easily. I stitch a narrow strip of tulle across the ends before cutting. The 10 strand braiding pattern works well for these jackets and I’m experimenting with other patterns. The results will be up soon.

 

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Filed under couture sewing, French Jackets, Uncategorized

Drafting Circular Flounces

My style tends towards sleek, tailored clothing but this blouse with its many circular flounces was one I had to try.  The inspiration is from Alexander McQueen’s RTW line and retailed for over $1000.  Wonderful look for summer that I could definitely do for less.

McQueen White Ruffled Top 1 McQueen White Ruffled Top 2

I draped a slim fitting princess line top using my body double dress form. It extends to the high hip line here so I can play with the placement of the hem flounce.

Blouse Drape

An interesting technical point is that these are known as flounces, not circular ruffles. In the garment industry, a ruffle by definition has the excess fullness gathered into a seam while the fullness of a flounce comes from the curved flare of the fabric.

The flounce pattern is created by drawing concentric circles. The inner circle is attached to the garment.
circles

Drafting the flounce does require some basic math and decisions about how full you want the flounce. The left diagram shows a flounce with an inner circle of 1 inch diameter and one inch wide flounce. The circumference of the inner circle is 3.14 inches which will be the length of the seam joining to the garment. The outer edge of the flounce will be 9.42 inches. Fullness is calculated as 9.42 divided by 3.14 equals 3 or 3:1 ratio.  However, imagine that you need a 6 inch long flounce. Drawing a 2 inch diameter circle surrounded by a 4 inch diameter circle creates a flounce 6.28 inches long with an outer edge 12.56 inches long. Note that the fullness has changed from 3:1 to 2:1 (12.56 divided by 6.28).  If the desired fullness is 3:1, then the flounce will need to be cut using two of the smaller circles and seaming them together.

lower flounce

I’ve drafted a 3 inch deep flounce for the lower edge of the blouse, cut a test from muslin and attached to the toile.  To achieve 3:1 fullness, I’ll use four sections (two back and two front).

Drafting the flounces for the neckline and center front required more complicated methods.  Flounces behave differently depending upon the seam they are attached to.  Vertical hanging flounces cascade down in folds.  The fullness of a flounce is increased when attached to a inside curve and decreased when attached to an outside curve.  The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff is a wonderful resource which more fully explains these concepts.

The neckline is an outside curve. Therefore to maintain the same appearance of fullness, the flounce at the neck was drafted with 4:1 inner to outer ratio.  The math can get complicated, especially when you need to consider the length of flounce needed, width AND fullness ratio desired plus adding seam allowances.  Then compound all this with varying width flounces for the center front and armholes.  I’ve devised a relatively simple way to draft all this.

Either buy a tablet of graph paper or print some out. There are free internet sources for printing all sizes of graph paper. I like Math-Drills.com .  Search for graph paper and print out a few sheets of 1/4 inch size. Metric users try 0.5 cm; I found the 1 cm. size just a bit too large to produce smooth curves using my method.

math drillsBack neck pattern

Measure the length of the seam the flounce will be attached to. Measure the SEAM LINE, not the cut edge. All drafting is done referencing the seam line; seam allowances are added afterwards. I’ll show the back neck: seam line from CB to shoulder seam is 3.5 inches. 4:1 fullness is desired and 1.75 wide flounce so I’ll cut and tape together a strip of graph paper 1.75 inches  by 14 inches (3.5 times 4).

Cut along every fourth line leaving a tiny bit attached at one long edge. If you cut through, it’s no problem to just tape it together. Overlap the sections so there are four blocks at one edge and one block at the other edge.

Cut graph paperline up overlaps

The inside edge won’t line up perfectly but I just eyeball it. You can also draw in a line to help. Tape the sections in place as you go. This is what the pattern will look like. It’s very clear that there is a 4:1 ratio of inner to outer length. Also it isn’t a complete circle which is good as there is space to add seam allowances.

completed overlap

The pattern can be cleaned up by using it as a gauge to draw circles with a compass. Use the end points on the outer circle and connect to the center for symmetrical seam lines. I find this much, much easier than trying to mathematically calculate the dimensions of the inner circle, outer circle, width of flounce, maintain fullness ratio. With all these variables, I wound up with a partial circle and calculating the percentage needed of such circles produces some dizzying math.

cleaned up draft

The graph paper method greatly simplifies creating the long cascading flounce along the center front.  If you draft a flounce and trim off the outer edge to create a flounce narrower at one end, the proportion of fullness changes.

spiral draft

Here is a flounce which gets narrower at one end.  I trimmed off the outer edge of a 3:1 circle. If you count the squares, it goes from a 3:1 fullness to a 2:1 fullness. This may be what you want, but what if you want to maintain the same fullness the entire length?

Here’s how I created the center front flounce. Measure from center front to the desired length.  After some experimentation, I decided 3:1 was a good fullness. Create a strip of graph paper 3 times the finished length by the wider width. Draw a sloping line from wide point to narrow point.

sloped graph paper

Trim off the paper above the sloped line. Cut along every third square and overlap to create a curved pattern.

overlaped spiral

The pattern will spiral over itself.  Keep going and let it overlap. It will be divided into sections later.

completed flounce

My front flounce needed to be divided into two sections to avoid the pieces overlapping.  Deciding where to place the cuts is a trial and error process. You want a few seams as possible and the seams need to be placed where they are inconspicuous.

It may take several muslin trials to get seams where you want them.  Trace off your master pattern so it is intact in case your first seams aren’t where you want them. Since the diameter of the circle is constantly changing along the length of the flounce the circles will turn into ellipses.  Here is the lower section of my front flounce. I’ve left room for tiny seam allowances to join to the upper flounce section.

maintain ratio

My pattern traced off to pattern paper.  Label everything as the pieces will get VERY confusing. I also keep my graph paper models intact just in case I need them.

Pattern

The armseye flounce is drafted in the same way. I did experiment with a 5:1 fullness but felt it too much and ultimately went back to the 3:1 proportion. Some experimentation is necessary as every flounce will behave differently depending on its width and placement.  The fullness is removed under the arm at the side seam.

5 to one draft underarm

completed toile

Since this design is symmetrical, the toile is only of the right side. I’ve also hemmed the center front flounce as the drape of flounces does change with the edge finish used. Drape flounces in a fabric similar to the fashion fabric as a silk chiffon will behave much differently than a crisp cotton. I will use a woven textured white cotton that looks almost the same on both sides as the wrong side of the fabric will show on this. Blouse is in production for the next post.

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Filed under circular ruffles, Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, Drafting Patterns, Draping

Do You Dread Making Pants?

How many sewers have difficulty with the fit of pants? The sewing is relatively straightforward; only two fronts, two backs and a waistband or facing.  The truth is that pants ARE hard to fit. You’re asking flat fabric to attractively cover a very bumpy section of the body.  Jackets have multiple seams and attached sleeves which allow for many more fitting opportunities. One of my favorite resources is Cutter and Tailor.com which offers truly expert advice.  It is written for professionals and much of the information is geared to the expert sewer but I thought some of the ironwork techniques weren’t that complicated.

I had made a pair of pants using Style Arc’s Claudia pant. The pant is designed for stretch woven fabric but I used a non-stretch wool and added a little extra to the seams to compensate. I eliminated the seam at center front leg. The pants fit OK but I wanted to see if they could be improved.  I had purchased the fabric from B & J’s in NYC and it was not something I was willing to trash.  I tend to use better fabrics and am willing to take apart and redo if necessary.  Quality materials and natural fibers just behave better and I’m happier with the end result.

CLAUDIA-PANT

Some pattern instructions direct you to stretch the back inner leg seam while joining it to the front and also point out the need to stretch the back crotch seam but the degree of iron shaping necessary for better fit isn’t clear.

There is an  extensive article  in Cutter and Tailor about shaping the pant sections with the iron and very detailed, clear photos describing exactly how this should be done. Search for “ironwork.”  If you Google “pressing” you will get directions on how to press ready-made pants. The author points out:

The correct fit of trousers cannot be achieved by cutting alone, for this must be achieved for the most part through ironwork. Many more errors in trousers have their origins in inadequate ironwork than in the cut. The most important factor in trousers is their width. Different widths demand a different method of working up with the iron, although difference in posture and body habitus also influence this. Even the most perfectly calculated cut could never create well fitting trousers without the proper ironwork.

I eliminated most of the lower leg shaping and concentrated on the hip and seat area.  My fabric wasn’t the most pliable but eventually succumbed to stretching, heat and steam. I worked with both back sections placed right sides together at the same time. That way the stretching was equal on both right and left sides.

Pant Shaping

The pants have a half lining of soft cotton/silk voile and hand under-stitching along the waist facing.

Pants Lining Inside Pants

I’m much happier with the fit and will definitely incorporate this technique in future pant construction. My next pair will be from a softer wool which will be easier to shape but even the fit of this tightly woven plaid improved with some extra iron work.

Pants FrontPants side

All my resident photographers were unavailable so I resorted to some cell phone mirror shots. The dark fabric doesn’t show too well but it’s pouring rain so no chance of outdoor shots.

While responding to comments I found this info which may be helpful if you are having trouble with basic fitting. Note how many drafts were needed before the pants were even attempted in fabric! Also see how small some changes were and how other fit issues could result from a change.

Threads Braid

 

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Another Wedding and a New Tunic

Our family is in wedding mode.  We gathered in Miami this past weekend to celebrate our nephew’s marriage. I also finally got to meet Sarah of Goodbye Valentino in person! We have been following each other’s blogs for several years and I was invited to do a guest post for the launch of “The Tunic Bible.”  I wore an ankle length tunic to the welcome party around the hotel pool; very appropriate attire.

with-sarah

The tunic fabric was purchased in Mood several years ago. It is like raffia but much softer and woven with a knit backing. The fabric is quite flexible and extremely comfortable. I used my master tunic pattern and was able to eliminate the back waist darts and incorporate the shaping into the side seams.

I enjoy having my garments look clean and finished on the inside. All seams were bound with narrow strips of bias cut china silk. I attached them with hand sewing; much more elegant and softer than machine stitching.

inside-armholeinsid-front-facing

The side vents and hem were invisibly slipstitched, catching only the knit backing, to prevent them from flipping to the right side. The collar band was faced with a scrap of gold toned silk charmeuse.

inside-heminside-shoulder

The challenging aspect of this project was to work the trim (also purchased at Mood Fabrics) so it looked custom shaped for the neckline. The neckband trim was arranged so that the motifs were symmetrical at center front and front neck opening pieces were mirror images.

tunic-trim-1

Removing the unwanted beads and stitching was tedious to say the least as I didn’t want to damage the net backing. It would be needed to back the bald areas and prevent beads from sinking into the textured fabric. Save the removed beads for later.

tunic-trim-2

To create a neat finish at the lower edge I stitched silk organza in the desire shape to face the edge. Hand stitches here; machine stitching this would have been impossible to control. Turn and trim the organza.

tunic-trim-3tunic-trim-4

tunic-trim-5

Fill in the areas with saved beads and it looks like a custom shaped trim.

Next up will be the gown I created for this black tie wedding. Sarah just published pics of her stunning outfit; be sure to take a look.

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The Tunic Goes Couture

The Tunic Bible has been published!

tunic-book-cover

Welcome to day 2 of the blog tour. I met Sarah online through her Ready-To-Wear Fast project. I’m thrilled to present my interpretations of the tunic. At the completion of the blog tour, each of the sites will host a book give-away. In order to be entered please leave a comment before midnight October 9 and you will be entered in the drawing. The winner will be announced at the end of the tour.

The first version used a mid-weight linen and was lined/underlined with lightweight cotton/silk voile. My construction order differs slightly from the one in the book. I completed the front facing first; then stitched darts in each layer; finally joined the face fabric and lining to be handled as a single layer.

black-placketblack-hem-detail

I also added extensions at the sides to provide support for the heavy trim. Hems were mitered and all seams bound with bias binding made from the lining fabric. The excess beads were removed from the ends before turning the edges under. The edges looked a little unfinished, so I cut an additional piece of trim, folded it to form a narrow edge, and stitch in place.

trim-edgestrim-edging

black

The next version was constructed from a saree I had worn to a wedding. I couldn’t see myself wearing it again but the fabric was a beautifully embroidered silk with an interesting decorative border.

placket-layouttrim-miterplacket-insidecollar-layout

I arranged the border as the placket and used a narrow band of trim around the placket and collar. The lining/underling was handled the same way with darts sewn first and then the two layers of fabric handled as a single layer. The seams were bound with bias strips of the lining. Loads of hand sewing, but this is the world of couture!

cream-insidecream

Here’s the schedule for the tour: Enjoy!

The Tunic Bible Blog Tour Schedule

 

 

October 3

C&T                    www.ctpub.com/blog

Pattern Review            www.patternreview.com/blog

 

October 4

Cloning Couture        www.cloningcouture.com

Generation Q Magazine    www.generationqmagazine.com

 

October 5

Oonaballoona            www.oonaballoona.com

Featherstitch Avenue    www.featherstitchavenue.com

 

October 6

Allie J                    www.alliemjackson.com

Thanks I Made Them    www.thanksimadethem.blogspot.com

 

October 7

Sew Busy Lizzy            www.sewbusylizzy.com

Jennuine Design        www.jennuinedesign.com

 

October 8

Inside The Hem            www.insidethehem.com

Girls in the Garden        www.girlsinthegarden.net

 

October 9

Sew Manju                www.sewmanju.wordpress.com

My Love Affair with Sewing    www.myloveaffairwithsewing.com

 

October 10

Evolution of a Sewing Goddess    www.evolutionofasewinggoddess.blogspot.com

Creating in the Gap        www.creatinginthegap.ca

 

October 11

House of Pinheiro        www.houseofpinheiro.com

The Tunic Bible             www.thetunicbible.com

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Luxury Lingerie

I am on a ready-to wear fast for 2015, (hosted by Goodbye Valentino) participating in another year of refraining from buying manufactured clothing. Although underwear is allowed, I delved into the world of luxury lingerie.

Carine Gilson creates the most exquisite lingerie in Belgium. Pieces are made one at a time by artisans with prices to match. The Carine Gilson site has a button on the right for either French or English. Look under the “News” section and on the far right will be a video of her working in the atelier.

The line can be purchased at Nancy Meyer or you can just drool over the selections. Purchasing these creations would probably blow anyone’s clothing budget for years.

My first clone is a simple bias cut chemise which can be either a slip or nightgown. Bias techniques are from those used by Madeline Vionnet and explained in the book by Betty Kirk. The fabric is silk charmeuse and the lace is a French chantilly, both from B&J Fabrics.

Cut garment sections on the true bias allowing generous side seam allowances. The sections will stretch in length so don’t worry about extra at the hem. The side seams will narrow considerably, so allow at least 2 inches for seams.  I stay stitched the neck and armholes and draped on the dress form.

The secret to Voinnet’s garments holding their shape over the years was in allowing the bias to fully hang out before construction. She frequently weighted bias sections by hanging weights at intervals along the hem to accomplish this. I was concerned that the fabric might not hang evenly.  I created a weight which distributed the weight evenly along the bottom.

Take 1 inch bias tape and cut in about 18 inch lengths. Put two lengths together. Sew along the top edge. Sew along the middle. Then insert drapery weights along the bottom edge at both ends and about every 4 inches in-between. Slip a length of spiral steel boning in the bottom channel. I made 4 of these which will be enough to weight most garments.  The spiral steel distributes the weight evenly.

DSC_0552

Pin the weights along the hem. Allow to stretch for a day or two. You are encouraging the bias to fully stretch. As Voinnet said “the bias has done its work.”

DSC_0554
DSC_0553

Difficult to see in the photo are silk thread tacks along the center front and back lines. This ensures that the bias stays centered on the form. Don’t be surprised when the right and left sides stretch differently and you wind up with a 3/4 inch seam on one side and 1/2 inch on the other. This is because the warp and weft threads have different tensions. Remember, couture sewing focuses on the stitching line, not the cut edge.

After your fabric has had a chance to stretch, baste the side seams and remove from the form. I used narrow French seams. Now the fun of embellishing with lace. I cut around the scalloped hem and medallions, allowing extra fabric. Stitching the lace is done with a zig-zag stitch, about 1.4mm wide and 0.8 mm long. I tried two methods. One is using the Bernina BSR foot which allows you to move the fabric in any direction since the feed dogs are lowered. You can also use any free motion technique. I also tried leaving the feed dogs up and stitching with an open toe foot. All methods worked well, so choose the one you are comfortable with. Trim the excess netting after stitching is completed. Dovo lace scissors have a nub on one blade and are wonderful for this. They allow you to slip the scissors under the lace without snagging. Notice how the lace pattern is mirrored at the neck line. I noticed this detail on most of the designs.

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DSC_0567DSC_0568

Luxury at a fraction of the cost!

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Luxury RTW and More

To celebrate a friend’s birthday we did a “girls day” in NYC. Although none of my friends are sewers we all enjoyed the current exhibit at the Anna Wintour Costume Exhibit. The theme was “Death Becomes Her”; a display of mourning wear through the last couple of centuries. We were lucky enough to plan our trip for opening day and were treated to a private showing of the exhibit. My photos were terrible and no flash allowed; much better shots here. The moire fabric in photo 7 was spectacular.

After the museum we wandered our way up Madison Ave. and stopped in a very upscale resale shop. Chanel dominated the racks! Even at resale prices, my shopping splurge in Paris for Chanel fabrics looked like a downright bargain. I was able to get some shots of garments and even got inside a few.

Black Chanel Jacket

White Chanel JacketHoundstoothBlouse and RoseRose
I’m working on a clone of this flower pin. Here’s a back view.
Rose Back
Inside Houndstooth
The houndstooth jacket was lined only in the sleeves. Seams were turned so they were hidden by the lining. The seams in the jacket body were serged and turned under, making a very clean finish inside.
Blouse Back
The black silk blouse had a back neck opening constructed like a shirt sleeve placket.
Lining Seams
Seams, even in the linings, were generous. The garment sections had all been serged before sewing together; makes for easier alterations and with the generous seam allowances, the salesladies assured us that the jackets could be altered three sizes up or down.
Chanel Braid
Chanel braid looks like a bias strip of fabric frayed and sewn on as trim.
Valentino Ribbon
A Valentino design with amazing pleated ribbon detail. Crystal drops were sewn in between each pleat.
Zipper Finish
Even zippers were carefully finished on the linings.
Jacket Shoulder
The jacket sleeve seam and shoulder pads were impeccable and created the shoulder line Chanel is known for. Note how the shoulder seam is pressed open at the top. The shoulder pads have a unique shape. I managed to dissect a couple of different ones.
Pattern 1
Here is the pattern for one. These are not bulky, oversized pads but provide just subtle lift and shaping for the shoulder, Notice how the pad is constructed to extend into the sleeve and provide support. I tried to convert the pattern to a pdf file but the sizing got wonky no matter how I did it. I think it will print at the correct size if you just print the photo on a 8.5 by 11 inch sheet and don’t allow scaling. Let me know if this doesn’t work and I will email you the file, hopefully in the correct size.

I used cotton quilt batting. Pieces cut and marked with placement  lines.P1000229
P1000230
Mark the shoulder pad back and notches.
P1000231
Stitch piece 1 and 2 together. I used a 5.0 mm wide three step zig-zig stitch. Start and one end, butt the edges together and sew, butting the edges together as you sew. The pad will take on a curved shape.
P1000232
P1000233
P1000234
Section 4 will fold with the edges offset. Place the folded edge along the placement line on piece 3 with the narrower side up towards you. You want the layers to be graduated with the larger parts towards the outer side of the pad. Open the fold and stitch on the line. Fold back in place. Your piece should look like this:
P1000235
P1000236
Position sections 3 and 4 along the seam line of 1 and 2.
P1000237
Turn and place a few pins on the outside of the pad to hold the layers together.
P1000238
Stitch the darts closed on piece 5 using the three step zig-zag stitch. Place it on the underside of the pad.
P1000242
Stitch the dart in piece 6 and add it to the underside of the pad. Be sure the edges are staggered.
P1000244
Place the pad on a ham and steam. The steam will compress the batting and start holding things together.
P1000245
Using a length of doubled thread, stab stitch the layers together. Don’t pull the thread tight as you don’t want dimples in your shoulder pad.
P1000247
Add a line of stitches along the seam line where you have multiple layers. You don’t want this coming apart inside the finished jacket.
P1000249
Put back on the ham and give it a good steam to meld the layers together. The finished pad. Notice how it isn’t huge and gives support to the top of the sleeve.
P1000251
Another style I discovered. This one is even easier to make.
Pattern 2
Pattern 3
Sew pieces 1 and 2 together with the zig-zag stitch, matching notches. Notice how the neck edge is longer in the back.
Piece 3 is placed inside and then piece 4.
P1000253
Sew the dart in section 5 closed and place.
P1000255
Steam over the ham, stab stitch the layers together, and steam again.
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P1000257
Notice how the shoulder pad extends to the neckline seam.
A few readers have asked about adding shoulder pads to a Chanel style jacket. The jacket construction does not allow for internal pads, but you could cover a set with the lining fabric and tack them into the finished jacket. Some figures just look better with a little more lift at the shoulder.
I did see one quilted jacket at the shop. I couldn’t snag photos as it was carefully guarded by the salesladies. From what I could tell it was well within the skill level of many home sewers. The silk charmeuse lining was a vibrant print and the colors in the lining echoed the boucle. The trim was constructed using fibers from the jacket fabric.
We ended our “girls evening” with dinner and a painting class. We were required to purchase two glasses of wine during class so the paintings are being saved for an appropriate event.

Notes on downloading the shoulder pad patterns:
Printing directly from the photo won’t give you the correct size. Right click the pattern photos, save as a jpeg file. Open with a program allowing you to resize. You will have the correct scale if Piece number 1 measures 4 and 13/16 wide for the first pattern and 5 inches for the second.
P1000258
P1000259
I tried several pdf converters but nothing gave the correct scale. I’m open to suggestions if you have experience.

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