Tag Archives: couture sewing techniques

Do You Have $7000 to Spare?

I often take inspiration from a designer outfit and this one from Alexander McQueen caught my eye. The sweater retailed for $5000 and the skirt another $2000. Why not try to replicate the pieces?

mcqueenblacksweaterandskirt

I fashioned the skirt from a tweed from Linton Mills and added contrast black leather from Mood Fabrics. Concerned that the leather might rip at the top of the slit, I reinforced it with grosgrain ribbon. Notice the ribbon peaking out from the lining. The most difficult task for the skirt was topstitching the leather. My industrial Juki with an edge compensating foot attached made the job easy and produced perfectly even stitching. I sewed over tissue paper just to make sure there were no problems with the fabric feeding evenly.

top-stitch-leatherskirt-reinforcement

Finished skirt:

finished-skirt

For the sweater I used a purchased (on sale of course) one and added the rhinestone embellishment. Rather than apply heat set Swarovski stones directly to the sweater I opted to design each element separately and hand stitch them on.

I designed the motifs on sticky backed transfer film. The rhinestones are placed wrong side up and them heat set with an iron. I used one layer of cotton tulle covered with another layer of silk tulle.

rhinestone-placementembellishment-done

The silk tulle edge gathered, turned over a cardboard circle, and pressed flat.

gathering-tulleready-to-attach

My sweater blocking board was perfect to stretch the sweater slightly and figure out the placement for each motif. Some motifs were composed of sewn on larger stones and pins helped with placement of each stone. The safety pin marks the bust point so I don’t place a motif directly there.

sweater-boardplacement-for-sewing

The large black flower surrounded by tiny stones was the most difficult. I used a scrap of black Ultrasuede, digitized the design, and sewed in the embroidery hoop. Tiny 2mm rhinestones outlined the petals.

hoop-design-2

sweater-and-skirt

completed

My little girl Sydney decided she wanted to get into the photo. I’m on my way to a party for my husband’s parents 70th wedding anniversary! How many couples make 70 years together? Quite an achievement and the entire family gathered to celebrate with them. For all those who asked for more details,  I promise the custom dress form is coming next.

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Filed under Cloning Designer Garments

A Black Tie Wedding: What to Wear

My last post detailed my pool party tunic for the wedding our family attended in Miami earlier this month. The wedding was black tie and of course I created a special dress (when friends and family know you sew, you can’t exactly show up at these affairs in a store bought garment).

Here is the inspiration design and spectacular fabric from B&J’s. I spotted this while shopping in the NYC garment district and knew this would be the fabric to work with.

inspiration

The black silk taffeta from Como, Italy is a border design composed of hand painted flowers and dimensional black flowers in what felt like vinyl paint. A closeup look shows the brush strokes. This design was definitely done by hand; there is somewhat of a repeat but there are irregularities characteristic of hand work.

flower-closeup

Now that I have the fabric, what to do with it? Sometimes the characteristics of fabric dictate the design. I wanted a slim fitting style with fullness at the hem. I did a toile using released box pleats, but it just wasn’t right.

box-pleating

Flaring the skirt using a border print poses problems. The hemline has a distinct curve which causes he border to appear off grain. Layout showing a conventional pattern shaping:

layout-1

The hem curve may not look pronounced in this scaled down illustration but it became quite noticeable when enlarged to full scale. Solution: break up the fullness into multiple smaller sections which allowed the hem to follow the horizontal line of the border. I had three yards of fabric and planned for the hem fullness to be distributed as 1 yard in the front and 2 yards in the back. Lower bodice sections fit nicely in between the skirt sections.

layout-2

My custom dress form also needed a little tweaking as this design would follow the back hip area closely. Most dress forms stop at the hip line but I wanted mine to extend down past the low hip. I constructed a new cover and also added two flexible arms. Details of how to modify a dress form in this way will come in a future post.

refined-dress-formdress-form-arm

The dress was designed using a combination of draping and flat pattern design. I applied style lines to the form to drape the bust and hip areas. The side seam was shifted towards the back; I felt the back seam lines worked better this way. The front had a single princess line; hem flare started 9 inches below the low hip and flared to 36 inches in the front, 12 inches in each of the 6 back sections for a total hem width of 108 inches.

style-lines-1style-lines-2

The silk taffeta was underlined with silk organza. A layer of black cotton muslin provided additional support and extended from the waist to 9 inches below the low hip line. It was catch-stitched just inside the seam lines. The interior corset was cut from two layers of cotton tulle, one layer on the cross grain and one on the lengthwise grain (a technique I picked up from studying the work of Barbara Matera, the renowned Broadway costume designer). Spiral steel boning is enclosed within the casings. I find the tape used to stabilize armholes in tailoring makes a wonderful thin and strong way to prevent the top edge from stretching out of shape. The white zip is basted in for fitting but will be removed when the corset is sewn into the final dress.

interior-corset

I felt a lining in the hip area would be prone to shifting and might cause wrinkles, so I opted to finish the seams in this area with lengths of grosgrain ribbon. The white boning which extends from the top to low hip is one length of horsehair braid stretched, steamed and zig-zig stitched into another length of un-stretched horsehair braid. I find this boning is flexible yet smooths the seams over the body in a slim fitting garment.

interior-boninginterior-hip

I found a wonderful  embroidered tulle with three dimensional flowers to form the upper bodice and sleeves. An underlayer of cotton tulle was fitted and thread traced for use as a pattern when cutting the heavily embroidered tulle. Having each section with seam lines thread traced made it much easier to place the design so it would be mirror-imaged from right to left sides.

final-tulle-fittulle-used-as-pattern

A section of the embroidered edge was shaped to follow the collar. The decorative edge fell stitched in place and excess cotton tulle trimmed away.

collar-detailcollar-completed

I don’t care for the look of just sewing a plain seam when an appliqued seam could make the transition from one fabric to another look better. I sewed the back upper bodice through the layer of cotton tulle only; then hand appliqued the decorative tulle edge.


The front seam got a few appliques to disguise the seam. Working with lace is so forgiving as you can hide almost anything. Here is a shoulder seam before and after a little applique work. I also find it easier to work in sections and complete as much as possible before joining one section to another. Finish the skirt, inner corset, lace section and bodice before attaching them together. It saves much wear and tear on the dress.

shoulder-seam-1shoulder-seam-2

front-view

side-view

back-view-skirt

Another small detail gleaned from Barbara Matera: raising your arms in a close-fitting dress can be difficult. Solution: add an underarm gusset. I cut a football-shaped piece of stretch mesh (about 5.5 inches long by 3 inches wide) and inserted it in the underarm seam centered between the front and back. Sewing by hand was much easier than manipulating the dress into the machine. It doesn’t show and makes moving so much easier.

underarm

Have you ever had a major clothing malfunction? For the back closure  I found a zip with sheer mesh tape while shopping in NYC. It was only available as a two-way zip. I figured no problem, I would just insert as usual and not use it as a two way. Put my dress on; all’s fine. We are leaving for the ceremony and my daughter-in-law notices the zipper is starting to open in the middle of my back. Within minutes the entire back is open. I tried to run the slider to the bottom and realign the coils but no go. My husband asks if I have anything else to wear. This is an out of town affair and I didn’t exactly bring a selection of evening gowns. There is only on solution: get sewn into the dress. Fortunately my husband is an OB/GYN and has a fair amount of experience sewing (humans that is). I did have a supply of needles and thread so, with Holly holding a cell phone light on the sewing (operative) field, I told him to just whipstitch (non-interrupted running stitch), the zipper tapes (incision) closed. I had a backup supply of needle and thread in my evening bag just in case but his stitching held firm throughout the night. I’m replacing the zip with my standard invisible version which has never once failed.

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Filed under Evening Wear

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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Filed under couture sewing

Chanel Shoulder Pads

Anyone who has constructed their version of the classic Chanel quilted jacket is aware that there is no provision in the design for shoulder padding. Unfortunately, many figure types are enhanced by the addition of even just a slight lift at the shoulder line. I came across this RTW Chanel quilted jacket WITH shoulder pads.

jacket1jacket2

The lining is silk chiffon and is difficult to see in the photo. Each section of the jacket, including sleeves, is quilted in vertical lines about one and 1/4 inch apart. The lining seams are finished by hand: amazing to find this in RTW! There are also shoulder pads covered with the silk chiffon. Happily I was able to get inside this garment and copy the details.

jacket3

Here is the jacket wrong side out with the shoulder pad visible and the pattern I was able to reconstruct. The inner working of the shoulder pad were identical to a pattern I previously posted on 1/20/2016: The Chanel Shoulder.

Here is a copy of the shoulder pad itself:

shoulder-pad-pattern

I don’t have pdf conversion software, but if you right click anywhere on the pattern you will have an option to print. Print to fit on 8.5 by 11 paper and it should print to the correct scale.

I’ll run through the construction of the shoulder pad again so readers don’t need to toggle back and forth between posts.
pieces1pieces2
On the right are the sections cut from cotton batting. Left photo shows the sections completed. Check the post from 1/20 if you need additional hints.

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I’ve shown the inner layer (pattern piece 3) placed on the mannequin first, topped with the optional additional padding (pattern piece 4). Stitch these layers together.

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Pattern pieces 1 and 2 (already stitched together) are layered on top and pinned for sewing. Next photo shows the completed shoulder pad.

5

Since the lining in this jacket has already been attached by quilting, the shoulder pad needs to be covered by matching lining. Here are the lining pieces: Shoulder Pad Cover

 

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Sew the darts in both top and bottom cover pieces. Notice both sections are cut out bias grain. There is also NO SEAM ALLOWANCES on the outer edges. Allow about 3/4 inch or 2 cm. Pin the upper cover (the piece with two darts) on the top of the pad. Stitch just INSIDE the edge of the batting.

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10

Place the bottom cover section on top of the top cover layer and stitch just OUTSIDE the batting. I find it easier to sew with the cotton batting layer on top and the silk fabric next to the sewing machine feed dogs. It controls the ease better.

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Leave about 2 to 2.5 inches open along one side to turn. Trim the seam allowance to 1/8 inch. I increase to 1/4 inch around the opening the make sewing that closed easier.

cons14cons15

Attach to the jacket with 1/4 inch French tacks so the shoulder pad will move slightly when worn. I usually use four tacks: one at each end of the shoulder seam and one at front and back where the sleeve joins the jacket body. These aren’t limited to Chanel jackets. Anytime you need a covered shoulder pad these are wonderful. I like that the sleeve head support is incorporated into the design. Also the pad is securely stitched to the lining so these should withstand the cleaning process. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Three Gowns; One Pattern

Don’t we all love a pattern that fits perfectly and can be modified in multiple ways. I created this gown for a client last year. The dress worked so well she requested more variations. This one was done with French ribbon lace and a full circle skirt of silk tulle.

Ana

For the second version I fashioned the bodice from an Oscar de la Renta guipure lace and paired it with silk velvet A-line skirt. The black fox collar and cuffs are vintage and were restyled to fit the gown.
complete gown 2complete gown 1

 

 

The bodice lace (from Mood Fabrics) worked better cut crossgrain as the pattern could be cut attractively at the waist seam. I’ve shown it here running lengthwise. By rotating the bodice pattern 90 degrees, I was able to use the leaf pattern as an edging.

Oscar Lace

The lace was backed with black silk organza and black silk crepe de chine formed a built in strapless slip. The lace edge was flipped up out of the way, waistline seam sewn and then the edge tacked down to the velvet skirt.

Lace Overlayfront bodice

The lace was positioned as not to interfere with the side seam. Silk velvet is tricky to sew and will shift all over the place if you don’t baste. I find diagonal basting holds it firm.

invisible zipSide Seam

Vintage fox collar and cuffs were trimmed to size, backed with grosgrain ribbon, and attached with snaps. I found holding the fur out of the way by placing it at the edge of my work surface saved many frustrating thread tangles.

fur snaps

The third version required extending the bodice a few inches below the waist. For this I used a wonderful Armani stretch satin from B&J Fabrics. The lace is from Mood. If you happen to shop for lace in Mood, Carman is wonderful to work with and knows every piece of lace in her department. The skirt is a simple flared shape cut from 4 ply silk crepe.

white bodice layoutthread tracing

The bodice needed some sort of interfacing and I found Pro Tricot from Fashion Sewing Supply a wonderful product. I was skeptical about fusing a stretch fabric but the interfacing stretches and worked beautifully. I’ve thread traced the seam lines with silk thread. The armhole was cut wider at the shoulder as we were considering an extended shoulder line like a small cap sleeve, but would up just trimming the armhole at the natural shoulder line.

The heavy guipure lace had a shiny finish on the right side. I reminded me of patent leather. I planned to cut out motifs and arrange them in mirrored pairs on the bodice. Rather than cut and try to match individual pieces, I arranged the lace right sides together and shifted it around until the pattern on both layers matched. Pin together and then cut out the motifs as matched pairs.

lace pairs

I cut varying size and shaped motifs to form the pattern I had in mind. Now for hours of hand sewing as every motif was stitched in place. I made a wonderful pressing tool which is a bag of heavy muslin filled with sand. Press the appliqued sections wrong side up and the lace will sink into the sand and prevent you from pressing the lace flat and damaging the effect.

b&w gown armholessandbag

The bottom edge of the bodice faced with silk organza. The first fitting on the dress form showed the bodice hem flared out a bit to much; easily corrected at this stage.

b&w gown bodice hemb&w gown 1

An invisible zip closed the back. How to insert a white zip into black fabric? I hand sew the zippers as I have much more control that way. Press the coils of the zipper open and sew with a backstitch just inside the zipper coil. Hand stitching allows you to vary the stitch distance from the zipper coil. If you’ve ever sewn a zipper into a garment where the thickness if one section is substantially different from another, you know that the zipper often refuses to jump over the hump. I’ve stitched just slightly further away from the coil at this point to allow the zipper to close smoothly. Notice also I switch from black to white thread. A tiny bit of zipper tape shows but it’s preferable to the zip not closing or breaking. Some might prefer a lapped zipper application, but I like the clean line of an invisible zipper. A ribbon waist stay is added.

zip black to whiteb&w waist stay

 

 

The white zipper is well concealed. I waited until the zipper was installed before sewing the last bits of lace motifs in place so they would match perfectly at the back.

b&w gown back

b&w gown finished

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Filed under Evening Wear, Lace

Beach Chic Update

I totally agree with those of you who commented that you would like better pics. Unfortunately all of my photos from the evening were underexposed and not worth using. Hubby agreed to do another photo shoot so hopefully these are better. I find the photos the hardest part of doing this blog.

I also left out a few details in the previous post. I had originally intended to use Vogue 1460 as the bodice. I liked the drapey cowl neck and slight blousing at the waist.

Vogue 1460 1460 Flat

I had planned to cut the sleeves off but the muslin toile just didn’t work. The neckline just didn’t work and I could never get the sleeve/armhole to work. I will give it another try but decided to go another direction for this dress. I had already cut the bodice pieces from silk and hadn’t enough fabric to ditch them. Time for a different style; a simple sleeveless with lowered neckline would work. The back was cut on the straight grain but the front was bias. That worked fine until I got to the bust darts. If you’ve ever tried to sew darts on bias, especially on silk, they are a nightmare. The solution was to sew them by hand with a tiny running stitch and ease the fabric until it was flat.

Bust Dart

The tiny piping stabilized neck and armholes and will prevent them from stretching out of shape. It also adds a nice custom finish to the edges. The lining was understitched by hand to keep it from peeking out.

Piping w understitching

Front and back views; no selfies!

Front View

Back View

The back drapes softly and is left open. Self stick bra cups work great or you could close up the back seam to hide a bra. Please excuse all the wrinkles; I didn’t iron before the reshoot.

 

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Filed under Draping

What to Wear to a Beach Chic Wedding

What is your interpretation of “beach chic” attire? This was for a very casual beach front wedding. If you google the term “beach chic” the attire most often suggested for women is a long sundress.

I had fabric purchased at Mood last summer in the stash. It was a silk crepe de chine panel print. Very interesting but would definitely require some creative cutting to make the most of the design. I had two panels and planned to use one for a long wrap skirt and the second for the bodice and trim.

Silk Panel

Skirt draping started first. I have a professional style dress form which has been padded to my size. I find the effort spent constructing this saves so much time that I can’t imagine working without it now. The process I used is detailed in my post on April 25, 2014. How time consuming to drape and fit a design only to need to make alterations because the dress form is shaped differently than your body.

I basted a lightweight silk/cotton batiste to the silk and thread traced a reference line for the hip. Start at the left side which will be the skirt underlap and work around to the right side seam. At this point, just get the hip aligned; don’t worry about the waist shaping.

Begin DrapingContinue Draping

When you reach the right side seam, smooth the fabric downwards from the waist, which will drop the reference line. My post on November 3, 2015 also gives an explanation of how to drape this style of pleated skirt.

Right Front Drape

Form the first pleat. Second and third pleats are formed.

First PleatSecond PleatThird Pleat

Shape the back darts, pin in place and thread trace. Thread trace the waistline. I’ve also placed a thread mark at the center back line

Back Darts PinnedThread Trace Waist 2

 

Next you want to accurately mark the front waist and the pleat shaping. I pin a narrow ribbon around the waistline. Remove the skirt from the form, being careful to keep everything pinned in place.

Front WaistRemove Front Waist

Now I cut the waistline seam leaving a 1 inch seam allowance.

Trim Front Waist

I wanted the front overlap to gently curve from the hem to waist. An easy way to experiment with possible shapes is to use a length of leaded drapery weight. It is easily shaped yet is heavy enough to stay in place while you cut.

Drapery Weight

Front Curve

I had considered a lapped closure but as the bodice and skirt were attached the easiest solution was to insert a zip at the center back. How to do this with no back seam? I found inspiration from Valentino. Here is a center back invisible zip with a contrast satin welt.

Valentino

Why not turn this into a design detail? Construct it like a narrow welt pocket.

Zip 2Zip 1
The bodice was a simple scoop neck with tiny piping at the neck and armholes. It was cut on the bias so the design is shifted 45 degrees from the skirt.  I left the center back seam open to the waist so ties at the back neck were in order. I used thin drapery pull cord; measured the amount needed for the neck edge and added about 15 inches to each end for the ties. The ends were done first, cording removed from inside and then a bias strip covered the center portion. The bodice was lined to the edge with the same lightweight silk/cotton and fell stitched to the piping seam line.

Cording 1Cording 2Cording 3Piping

Finished!

Finished 1Finished 2

I must also mention that in addition to his medical practice, my husband decided to become a licensed U.S. Coast Guard captain,  which gives him the authority to officiate at weddings. We are close friends with the bride and groom and they were thrilled to have him conduct the ceremony.

Officient

 

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Filed under Draping