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

Manipulate the Fabric to Fool the Eye

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

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

Fabric Form Front Form Side Form Back

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

Style Lines Front Style Lines Back

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

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

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

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

Start Shaping Front Trim Armhole

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

Cut Stabilizer Stay Front Shoulder

Completed Front Back Complete

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

Jacket Front with Trim Jacket Back Completed

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

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

 

 

Dress Forms

The Custom Dress-form

Many sewers dream of owning a dress-form that duplicates their body. Anyone who sews knows how tough it can be to fit yourself. Imagine the luxury of being able to put your semi-completed garment on your body and step away to evaluate the look and fit.

I posted details of my method to create a custom form in 2014. Fitting For Couture in April and Dressforms Continued in May.

I’ve tweaked the form a few times since then (extended the hipline lower) but the method remains the same. My reference lines (bust, waist, high and low hip, center front and back seams) are marked by machine stitching with two strands of black thread before attaching the cover. The style tape in this photo is for the gown I was draping.
style-lines-2
This gown was draped and fitted on my custom form and required very little final adjusting.

20170115_212318

My key to knowing where and how much to pad the form is guided by a custom drafted moulage (Suzy Furrer’s Craftsy Class walks you through the drafting) which is sewn in lightweight canvas and forms the new dress-form cover. Several readers have asked about using one of the fitting patterns by Butterick/Vogue, etc. or even a princess line dress pattern.

Butterick patterns were on sale so I made bodices from B5627, the fitting pattern. I measure for a size 12 but normally cut an 8 when using one of the big 4 patterns. The results:

fitting-1

Size 12 on the left, size 6 on the right. I adjusted the bust for a C cup on both samples.

The size 6 fits my form pretty well but the 12 is ENORMOUS! Who allows this much ease in a fitting shell? Another view showing how much extra room.

fitting-2

Experienced sewers know to downsize but if you blindly follow the measurement charts the result will be a very over-sized garment and multiple fitting adjustments. If you want to skip pattern drafting at least choose the size based on your high bust measure (that’s the one taken high up under the arms) and EXHALE when measuring.

The size 6 still needs minor adjusting but wouldn’t be impossible to work with. I’ve narrowed the back, added to the front and taken a dart to conform to the chest hollow. The bust point needs lowering by an inch. I would also raise the underarm in front if using this for a form cover.

fitting-4fittting-3

The process is messy but worth it. Un-bonded cotton batting makes it easy to feather out edges and it also compresses well. Rochford Supply sells this by the roll; too much for one form but maybe split among your sewing buddies. Don’t use light weight muslin for the cover. It needs to be sturdy and drill cloth works wonderfully.

padding

Have fun with this. It’s not a project to finish in a day but once completed you will not regret the time spent. Next post I’ll show how I construct a pair of flexible arms.  Questions, problems or suggestions: please comment.

My suggestions for specific forms:

Wolf: The top of the line. Very well made by hand from paper mache. Heavy base and cage very smooth and well finished. Mechanism sturdy and constructed to last more than a lifetime. I have one of these (found on Craig’s List for $200). The cover was almost gone but inner structure functioned perfectly and with a new cover she looks wonderful. New Wolf forms are $800 and up depending on options.

Superior, Royal, Milano: Very well made with sturdy mechanisms and heavy cast iron bases. The cages are well finished and no rough edges to snag fabrics. Very close to the quality of Wolf. I found a Milano form at a going out of business bridal shop. These brands sell new for $650 to $750.

PGM, The Shop Company: Fiberglass forms covered with a layer of foam and canvas. These are probably the most cost effective if you are buying a new form. PGM forms cost more ($299 to $229) than those from The Shop Company ($195 to $219). The skirt cage on the PGM form has more supporting wires than The Shop Company version. I’ve worked with these forms and the wire cages have rough edges which are a snag risk for fabrics although this is easily overcome by covering the cage with canvas. I haven’t used either brand long enough to attest to the longevity of the shoulder/height mechanisms. If you are looking for the least expensive option this is probably the way to go. You will probably be adding padding and your own canvas cover so the fiberglass and foam covering won’t be a factor.

Adjustable Forms: Don’t waste your money. Flimsy bases and they tend to tip over. The body proportions are STRANGE. I once took a hacksaw to the shoulders of one because they were so badly shaped.  They aren’t that much less than the much sturdier version by The Shop Company. I’ve also worked with these and the gaps created by changing sizes and the adjustable dials bothered me less than the lightweight base. Fitting entails a fair amount of tugging and pulling on the garment and it’s extremely frustrating to have your creation on the floor because the form constantly tipped over.

Duct Tape Forms: Wrap yourself in duct tape or plaster casting tape. There are tons of videos demonstrating this process. Some have had luck but most have ended up trashing the final product. I think the toughest part of this approach is constructing a solid stand. I actually tried this once just to see how it would work. For the time, effort and money for materials I would opt for one of the lower cost professional models with cast iron base.

 

 

Wedding Gowns

The Wedding Gown: Inside Details

My youngest son was recently married and I had the joy of creating my new daughter-in-law’s gown. But before elaborating on the details of her gown I thought I would share photos of gowns I created for my other two daughter-in-law’s.

My oldest and his bride opted for a beach wedding on a far flung island in the Bahamas; not easy in terms of travel and logistics, but spectacular. She chose heavy silk crepe fabric and I embroidered abstract roses on the skirt. Random petals were cut out and backed with silk organza. The embroidery doesn’t show well in the photo. Silk organza flowers covered the narrow shoulder strap and cascaded down the bodice.

liz-gown

My middle son’s bride chose an antique looking crochet lace woven from silk, wool and cashmere. The ivory lace was backed with white silk charmeuse and underlined with ivory silk tulle. The lace required precise layouts as it had a large pattern and I wanted to position the scalloped edge to skim the ground in the front. Hemming this lace wasn’t an option so the toile needed to be carefully fitted. I also played with various edge and seam finishes using the lace borders. Here is a pic of her getting unrumpled and set for her entrance.

sarah-gown

My youngest and his bride chose a beach setting for their wedding so her choice of a simple gown sewn in heavy silk crepe worked well. We designed a dress with a fitted and flared skirt, bodice with low necklines front and back, and jeweled belt.

The problem with low neckline in both front back is keeping the shoulder strap up. The bride doesn’t want to spend the night struggling with falling straps. Spiral steel boning solved the problem. After attaching the strap to the back bodice, interfacing with a channel for the boning was stitched to the underlining. The boning extends to the waistline seam in order for the strap to be supported from the waist up.  Seams were turned under and catch stitched, ready for lining.

back-boningback-strap

My first draft of the bodice had all the shaping transferred to one dart but no matter how I shaped and pressed the dart it ended in an unattractive point. The day before our final fitting I removed the front bodice and remade it using princess seaming which had a much better silhouette. I added a layer of cotton flannel to the front to camouflage a stick-on bra. The flannel was catch stitched just inside the stitching lines to avoid unnecessary bulk.

bodice-first-draftbodice-second

Firm cotton sateen reinforced the center front. I normally use silk organza for this but the deep plunge neckline needed something firmer.

front-stabilizer

The lining was inserted by hand. There was no way to do this by machine and sometimes sewing by hand is simply easier and produces better results. Hand sewing enabled me to ease the lining in much smoother than could have been done by machine.

lining-1lining-2

A final touch for good luck is a horseshoe covered in silk ribbon. I start with a small cardboard horseshoe shape. Wrap narrow silk ribbon from both ends meeting at the top. Secure with narrow double sided tape and add a bow.

hs1hs1

hs3hs4

A French bustle held the skirt up for the reception. Color coded silk ribbons made it easy to tie everything up after the ceremony.

bustle-diagram

The bow drooped but all else stayed secure.

bustle-back

veil-in-wind

preview

 

French Jackets

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.

12

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.

34

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

 

67

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.

89

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.

1213

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!

 

 

 

Drafting Patterns

Custom Pattern Drafting and My Version of the Six Napoleon Dress

Mariana of Sew2Pro challenged her fellow bloggers to draft this dress:

mini-six-napoleon-challenge

I learned about this project from Kate of fabrickated.  Several other sewers from all parts of the world are giving it a go. I don’t have a better pic of the dress but check out Marianna’s blog for better views. Some sewers saw asymmetrical lines in the bodice seaming; others didn’t. A few have drafted the skirt and everyone has a slightly different interpretation.

I’m doing just the bodice of the dress as I don’t wear big poufy skirts but Kate suggested in one of her posts that the bodice might do very well as a top. I’ll be showing you how I used my custom drafted sloper/block to arrive at a workable pattern.

Having a custom block saves hours and hours of fitting time and I think makes drafting a custom design so much easier and more accurate. I’m using the method explained by Suzy Furrer in her pattern drafting course available on Craftsy. I have no affiliation with Craftsy but you might want to investigate Suzy’s method as I’ve found it very accurate. It’s not a one day project. It might take several tries to perfect the fit but once you’ve done the work, you be able to use the master pattern for everything. I also used the moulage draft to create a custom dress form and find that invaluable when creating custom styles.

First trace your master block onto pattern paper. Never, ever cut up your master unless you want to duplicate hours and hours of work! This is my master bodice block. It’s drafted after you create the moulage pattern by lowering the neckline, underarm and adding minimum wearing ease. Other drafting systems put all the bust/waist shaping into a single dart but I find many advantages to splitting it into multiple darts. Princess lines are better defined and waist shaping is easier to manipulate.  Mine has been copied onto heavy card stock for durability.

sloper

 

Here is the block traced onto plain pattern paper. I’ve redrawn the armhole 1.5 cm in from the edge and redrawn the armseye. I wanted the princess line to pass the bust point 1 cm towards the side seam; shifted the bust point and waist dart 1 cm. Rather than one dart for the waist shaping I drew two darts, each half the width of the original, and positioned them where I wanted the bodice seaming. Changes are shown in red.

new armhole

The new princess seam line ends in the armhole halfway between the cross front line and the underarm line. Another style line is added close to center front. Split the pattern along the new seam lines and remove the dart bulk in the waistline darts.

seam lines

Close the waist shaping; close the bust darts; smooth the neckline, armholes and bustline. The excess fabric at the bust point, a result of moving the princess line, will be converted to ease. The final lines are shown in green.

adjusted seams

I chose to fit the pattern before deciding on the shaped hem. Muslin fabric cut and seam lines traced. My working patterns are always net, meaning no seam allowances added. I find it easier to visualize the finished shape without seam allowances. I check the fit on my custom dress form and there are usually very few alterations needed because the pattern is drafted to my shape from the start.

front toile
back toilefitting

A couple of small changes were needed at the princess seam and shoulder. I left the toile unsewn in the hip area as I wanted to tweak that area for ease of movement.

bust adjust

shoulder adjust

A small amount of ease was added over the back hip and ease removed from the front.

front adjustback flare

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice I have lapped the seams from the right side rather than placing right sides together and stitching from the wrong side. I find this gives me more control and is easier to perfect the final result. Couture workrooms also construct toiles in the same way. Here is a photo from the latest exhibit at the Metropolitan Art exhibit: Manus x Machina where several working toiles were on display.

bust seamlapped toile seams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally I used style tape to test possible hemlines. Since no back photo of this design was available, you are on your own to decide what looks best. Several other bloggers have experimented with echoing the asymmetrical point in the back. I also tried this but found no way to obtain a smooth transition from front to back and ultimately opted to omit the point from the back. What looks good from the front and/or back might not work when viewed from the side.

Alexander McQueen said: “I design from the side. That way I get the worst angle of the body. You’ve got all the the lumps and bumps, the S-bend of the back, the bum. That way I get a cut and proportion and silhouette that works all the way round the body.”

So true on this design. Look at the hemline from every angle and get a smooth transition the entire way round the body.

hem view 1hem view 2
Once I’ve decided on a hemline it is marked with a water soluble pen and thread traced for a final try-on. No reason to cut and mess up hours of work before the final decision.

 

 

 

 

hem trial

Final draft ready for cutting. Front draft and back draft. This will close with an invisible zip in the center back. The first version will be made in a white cotton pique.

front patternback pattern

It will be interesting to see what my fellow bloggers create. I’m sure there will be many interpretations.

My Donna Karan jacket, described in blog post March 14, 2015, is featured in the current issue of Threads Magazine. Check it out if you want more details about Vogue 1440 and the jacket construction.

Way to go Portugal! Last weekend we spent in Bristol, RI with our Portuguese family. Bristol hosts the oldest July 4 parade and my grandson is a full fledged fan in his soccer shirt. We celebrated with a wonderful family gathering under the grape vine covered pergola at uncle Tony’s.

parade

Evening Wear, Lace

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

Draping

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.

 

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

 

French Jackets

The Chanel Shoulder

One of my latest projects has been to reshape the shoulder line on two Chanel jackets for a client. These are not couture but from the Chanel RTW line. Chanel does produce some of the very best RTW clothing and many of the techniques can be incorporated in home sewing. The first jacket was long, almost a coat. I’m not sure who they intended this coat to fit, but the sleeves were inordinately long. There is a white cotton cuff, attached by tiny buttons, which gives the illusion of a tailored shirt underneath. I’m fairly tall with longish arms so imagine how this looks on a petite figure! Also notice how the plaid matching is slightly off from sleeve to jacket body.

The sleeves needed to be shortened by a whopping 5.5 inches. In addition the shoulder was too wide and needed 3/4 of an inch removed and 5 inches of width removed from the body.

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The width alterations needed to be done at the side back seam as that was the only seam without pockets or vent. Chanel leaves wonderfully wide seams in both the outer garment and lining. 3/4 inch or 2 cm. seems to be standard. Notice the hand sewn hem. Chanel also finishes each garment piece by individually overlocking so that taking in or letting out seams is a dream.


The sleeves needed to be shortened from the top down, leaving the working sleeve vent intact. My method is to remove the sleeves and open all seams except in the area of the sleeve vent. I certainly didn’t want to redo that detail! Trace off the sleeve patterns without seam allowances.


The completed sleeve pattern needed to be narrowed by 2 inches at the bicep, tapering to 1/2 inch at the hem. I slit the pattern and removed the excess width.


Place the altered pattern down the required length to be removed and recut the sleeve. I thread traced the new seam lines.


Notice that Chanel presses the center 3 inches (1 and 1/2 inches each side of center) open. The remainder of the seam is pressed towards the sleeve. The blue thread is my mark for the amount to narrow the shoulder when the sleeve is reinserted. I use Japanese basting cotton as it has some texture and tends not to pull out during construction.

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Here is a second jacket getting similar treatment of narrowing the shoulders.


Notice the little shoulder pad with built in shape for the sleeve head. Here is my pattern for making these. I make my own shoulder pads and find them far superior to purchased ones, not to mention being almost free.
I posted two variations of shoulder pads Chanel uses in RTW on November 18, 2014. One of my readers, olden bears, kindly sent me pdf files for these and I’m inserting the link in case you want those patterns.

Shoulder Pad Pattern

This post has been edited to link to a pdf pattern. Click on the above link and the pattern should open in pdf format.
(I’ve scanned the new pattern but don’t have software to convert to pdf. I think if you open the picture and print, scaling to 8.5 x 11 paper it should be close to size. The size isn’t too critical and you can add or subtract according to your shoulder length.)

Here is the pattern for another shoulder pad with a built-in sleeve head.

Shoulder Pad Pattern
For each shoulder pad you will need to cut pieces 1 and 2 twice, piece 3 once and 4 once. Piece 4 is optional. Use it if you want an additional layer for more lift in the pad. Butt the edges together and sew. I use a three step zig-zag stitch.

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You will have two (or three) dish shaped pieces. If using piece 4, place inside the sewn outer layer sections; Place piece 3 on top and pin the layers together.


Baste through all layers. I just discovered the basting stitch on my Bernina. Maybe I should read the manual. Your machine may have a similar stitch. Loosen the tension so you don’t wind up with a puckered mess like this.


Fit the pad over a tailors ham and steam heavily to set the shape. Let the shoulder pad dry before removing from the ham.


Completed jacket with a beautifully shaped and supported sleeve cap. I was also able to get a better pattern match between jacket body and sleeve.

Draping

Draping an Asymmetric Skirt

One of my blogging buddies, Kate at Fabrickated, has been exploring the world of garment draping. She has several recent posts documenting her experiences and produced some lovely draped skirts. Head over to her site for some inspiration. Her latest post deals with an asymmetric pleated skirt drape, not the easiest thing to tackle. I’ve done this a few times and offered to post a pictorial of the steps I take when doing this type of garment.

Judging from the directions Kate was given, I suspect her instructor is referencing a text “Draping: Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design” by Annette Duburg. It is sold on Amazon for an exorbitant price and was (as I understand) out of print for awhile. Fortunately it is now available at the Center For Pattern Design in St. Helena, CA. Latest price when I checked was $60. It’s not a beginner book but will push those with some experience to a new level.

This is a detailed post with many photos but I wanted to err on the side of too much information rather than too little. Draping is more technical than just wrapping the muslin around a dress form and this might shed some light for those of you who want to give it a go.

You will need a dress form. The closer your form is to your (or person you are doing this for) size, the less fiddling you will need to do with the finished pattern. A professional form is ideal. If yours is the adjustable kind it will have gaps and knobs, so cover it with a tight tee (or two) so you have a somewhat solid surface to pin into. I’m working on a professional form which I have padded to my exact size and covered it with a tight linen cover that mimics my shape. Permanent  lines mark center front, back, bust and hip. These serve as points of reference during the draping process.

Choose a fabric which has similar weight and drape to your finished garment. You don’t want to drape in heavy canvas or a slinky sheer. A solid light color is best as a print will be distracting and prevent you from seeing the style lines clearly.

TEAR, don’t cut, a length of muslin the guesstimated skirt length plus 60 cm (about 23 inches). This is overly generous but what Kate was given in her directions, so I won’t confuse the issue. I used 150 cm (60 inch) wide muslin, which is what is called for in Duburg’s book. The book has five photos of the process and assumes you are quite experienced so this will be a much more detailed explanation.

Lay your muslin out flat and mark a line 50 cm (20 inches) in from the left side along the lengthwise grain. I like to do this in a dotted red line to distinguish the fabric grain from subsequent markings. The light colored muslin allows me to see the dress form lines through the fabric. Leave about 15 cm above the waist and pin the muslin to the center front at the waist and bottom of form. Keep the grain line straight.

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Closeup of my grain line marking:

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Starting at the center front hip line, gently smooth the fabric along the hip line towards the right side seam.

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Smooth the fabric around and pin at the waist on the right side.
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You will have fullness at the waist. This would be converted into a waist dart on a straight skirt but I don’t want a dart on this draped panel, so we’re going to transfer this excess fabric to another location. If you’ve ever studied dart manipulation, you know that fitting darts can’t be taken out but they can be moved.

Working diagonally from the center front hip towards the waist side seam, smooth the fabric. You will be able to remove some, but not all of the excess fullness. Don’t pull or stretch the fabric, just gently smooth it with your hand. Re pin the side seam.

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Now work from the right hip diagonally up towards the center front smoothing out the remaining fullness. Remove the pin at the center front waist and allow the center grain line to move to the left. Don’t get right and left confused here. When I refer to right or left, I’m talking about the FORM’S right or left side. Pin along the waist from center front to right side seam.

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You will now see some fullness along the left waist. We are going to incorporate this into soft pleating.

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The fabric is tight above the waist and I like to clip it, relieving the tension. Be careful not to clip into the seam. I fold the fabric towards me along the seam line, insert sharp scissors not quite to the fold and clip. No risk of clipping too far that way.

Form the first pleat: Decide where you would like the uppermost pleat to lie. I wanted it to run diagonally across the abdomen from the left side to just above the hip on the right side. I find it easiest to visualize it as a big dart. Place your left hand at the dart point and hold the bulk of fabric on the form’s left side in your right hand. Lift the fabric and allow a soft pleat to form.

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Adjust the depth of the fold. I have about 2.5-3.0 cm takeup. The depth of the fold is your choice but this seems like a good amount, not too shallow so it looks unintentional and not so deep you are dealing with unwanted volume. Pin through all layers at the waist seam. Repeat the process for the next pleat. I offset the pleats from each other at the waist so they don’t stack up one on top of another. You may need to play with holding the fabric away from the form and letting it fall into a soft fold a few times before getting a pleasing look. Don’t rush. Get each one right before going on. It is much harder to come back and adjust after you have pleats on top of more pleats. Let the fabric fall as it wants. An important part of successful draping is to let the fabric tell you what it wants to do. Don’t force it.
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Repeat for a third pleat.

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Notice how the red grain line is drifting all over the place. This is supposed to happen. Having it marked in red and being able to see the black CF line on the form is helpful so you understand exactly how this grain line is shifting.

I think three pleats here are enough and now I’ll shift the pleat direction and allow them to fall more along the side seam.

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These pleats are formed exactly the same way. Decide where you want the pleat to fall, how full it should be, hold the fabric up with your right hand and let it fall into a soft pleat. Pin at the waist and repeat two more times.

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Happy with the look. If not, unpin back as far as needed and try again. Nothing has been yet cut so you are free to do this until you are satisfied. Be aware of how much fabric overlap you are creating. This pleating resulted in 13 layers of fabric so be sure the fabric you are planning to use is thin enough so multiple layers won’t be a problem. I would use a fairly lightweight fabric for this design and even so, it’s going to need some serious pressing to get a smooth waistline seam.

Now you need to mark all the design and seam lines so this design can be laid flat, cut and put back together. A professional form will have slightly raised side seams so you can feel them through the fabric. Mark along the right side seam line.

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Also mark the hipline and new center front. I mark seam lines in black and balance lines (that’s the hip and CF) in blue. Tie a length of elastic around the waist and carefully draw the waist seam.

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Trim the excess fabric. I leave a 2 cm seam. Make sure all your pleats are laying nice and flat; mark and cut the seam carefully. You’ll need the resulting odd shaped edge to re-position your pleats. I have also placed a little mark about where I want the curved edge of the skirt to end.The reason for marking this will become clear when we remove the fabric from the form. Mark the hem. Also I placed pins in the approximate place where I want to trim the left side.

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Mark each pleat carefully. I have marked all the pleat fold lines in green and drawn arrows to indicate what folds where.

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Starting with the last pleat you formed, work backwards marking each pleat and removing pins as you go. I like to mark almost the entire length of the folds; it makes it easier for me to see exactly where I want each pleat placed when I return this to the dress form.

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Remove the fabric from the form and re-pin all the pleats. Lay it flat on your work table and mark the new center front line. Also drop the right side seam to the hem, tapering slightly if desired.

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Remove all the pins from the pleats and lay the fabric flat. I now want to cut a smooth curve along the left edge. Using a drafting curve create a smooth curve from the hem up to the mark I previously placed at the left side seam. The mark was to ensure that the pleat underlay was covered by the last fold.

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Finished drape. The irregular edge is your guide to reforming the pleats so be sure to cut it accurately when you cut your fashion fabric.

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Return the section to the dress form and pin in place. Check that everything lines up and you are happy with the final look.

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I decided to create a steeper curve along the left edge.

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The remainder of the skirt is draped as a simple straight or pencil skirt starting at the right side seam, around the back, past the left side seam to the center front. Don’t forget that this still needs to be sewn up and fitted on the wearer’s body. The closer the form is to the body shape, the less altering will be required. If you decide to do much draping, then a form which mimics your body will save hours of work.

I hope this has made the draping process clearer. There are many ways to approach draping but the more you do it the faster and more adept you will become. It will also give you a clearer understanding of with fabric will and won’t do and you will be better able to judge if a particular fabric will work in the design you have chosen. Have fun!