Tag Archives: custom sewing

Working With Ribbon Lace

September and October were filled with nonstop sewing and I’m happy to have time now to get back to writing. Lace dominated and here is another gown created for the winter ballet and opera season in New York. My client is petite and has difficulty finding evening gowns that don’t overwhelm her slim shape. She spied this lace in my studio and we designed a gown to compliment her figure.

Ana

The underskirt is silk taffeta draped into a half-circle skirt. The pattern was split into thirds; two seams at side fronts and one seam at center back. Placing the grain line down the center of the skirt sections caused the skirt to drape evenly all around.
Taffeta Layout

The bodice lining and underlining were cut from silk crepe de chine. The underlayers ready for lace and tulle.
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The bodice is a simple, waist length top, 3/4 length sleeves and opens down the center back. The lace is underlined with silk tulle. Seam lines thread traced with generous seam allowances. The pink thread is the original seam line; the blue is alterations after fitting.
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Press the seams only within the seam allowance to avoid crushing the ribbon.
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Trim lace seam allowances only, leaving the silk tulle wide enough to fold over twice and bind the seam edges.
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The back closes with tiny buttons covered with the silk taffeta and elastic button looping. I use size 16 tufted-back button blanks and a Handy button press.

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A narrow stand-up collar finishes the neck edge. The collar is crepe de chine and interfaced with medium weight iron-on weft interfacing. I wanted to use the scalloped lace edge along the top but felt  the scallops were too deep and extended too high along the neck.

DSC_0344 Problem solved by hand gathering the scallop tops to create a less pronounced curve.

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The lace edge was then steamed to follow collar curve.

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Completed lace collar is tacked on from the wrong side.

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Completed collar.

DSC_0366 Looks good but I felt the neckline seam needed a little camouflage. A common technique in couture is to deconstruct and manipulate the fabric. I removed a long length of the ribbon from the lace, hand gathered the edges together to create a double sided band, and applied it over the neckline seam.

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Here is a closeup of the additional ribbon along the seam.

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Next was the tulle skirt. I used a soft finish silk tulle which would drape better than the stiffer version. Fortunately this stuff is available in extra wide widths so the skirt could be cut with only side seams. Using a circular skirt would also give fullness at the hem and allow the waistline to have a slimmer look. I felt a full, gathered skirt would overwhelm this figure.

This is the same design technique used for a bridal gown skirt, also for a slim, petite figure.

Kathleen GownBridal Gown Back

I cut four circles of silk tulle 98 inches in diameter. An inner circle with a diameter of about 4.25 inches created the waist seam. Two circles sewn together at the sides created the top tulle layer; the other two circles were for the under layer of tulle. Slit both layers along the center back for the zipper opening.

Tulle Skirt Layout

Baste the two layers of tulle together along the top edge. I had calculated the finished length of the gown before cutting but needed to allow for final tweaking of the length. The length was adjusted by raising the waistline seam, NOT recutting the bottom edge which would have been over 12 yards and taken forever! Notice I use safety pins for fitting to avoid snagging the delicate fabrics while getting the garment on and off.

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The tulle is hand sewn to the base layer; lace bodice flipped down and tacked and bodice lining tacked along side seams and upper edges.

Finished Ribbon Gown

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French Chantilly Lace/ Layout and Pattern Matching

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This strapless cocktail dress presented some interesting construction and layout techniques unique to lace. The hem is lower in the back and so the usual way of laying out a skirt with the hem following the finished lace edge doesn’t work here. Also the neckline is edged with a scalloped border. The right and left sides are mirror imaged. Picky details but never seen outside of couture workmanship.

I start a project like this by studying the lace pattern carefully and noting where and how the motifs repeat. This lace is a fine French Chantilly with a double galloon edge, meaning there are scallops on both edges.
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The lace is laid out with a scalloped edge running the length of my long cutting table. This shows the pattern repeating vertically every 11 inches. Note the top of the swirl at the end of the ruler and again at the 11 inch mark. Also notice that the same swirl is reversed at 5.5 inches. If you’ve ever worked with upholstery/drapery fabrics you’re familiar with the term “half drop match.” The pattern repeats in some form halfway between the full match.

Probably the easiest way to illustrate the entire dress layout is this:

Layout
Starting with the corrected toile, position the front piece at the far right hand edge with the hem along the scalloped edge. You will have already determined the finished length. I also trimmed the scalloped edge along the entire length, cutting around the motifs. Since back hem was longer than the front, the other pattern sections were moved upwards a full pattern repeat. The waistline was used as a reference point and was also positioned parallel to the lower edge. Now for the interesting part.

At the half drop line (halfway between pattern repeats) the pattern mirror imaged. On this diagram I’ve illustrated this with red C’s. Notice how the C’s flip. The easiest way to get perfect matching is to cut the left (or right side) first, flip the lace piece and lay it down matching the pattern motifs.
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Perfectly mirrored back sections.
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My muslin toile is folded or cut along the seam line, so matching is easy. I fold the seam allowances under and check that the seam doesn’t fall along an unwanted pattern placement. Here I will shift the piece over to avoid a prominent double “fern leaf like pattern” along the seam line.
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The dress is constructed of silk crepe de chine with silk organza underlining. The lace is backed with a layer of silk tulle. That means the dress has four layers: Chantilly lace, silk tulle, crepe de chine and silk organza. They are basted together, seams lines thread traced, and then treated as one layer. I frequently use silk tulle as backing for lace. It’s wonderful to work with and almost adheres itself to the lace. I think it softens the contrast between the lace and silk underlayers.
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Silk tulle comes in black, white and ivory but I’ve successfully dyed it when needed. Nylon tulle is NOT the same. Unlike silk tulle, the nylon version fights you all the way. It doesn’t behave and insists on doing its own thing.
Some advocate using silk organza as backing for lace, but I find it too opaque and doesn’t produce the effect I want. Here is the Chantilly lace with no underlay, silk tulle, and organza.
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Try different materials under your lace and see which produces the effect you like.

Sew major seams through all layers. I hem the crepe de chine/organza layer before finishing the seams. Working with only the lace layer, hand applique the hem border following the motifs. I found silk thread blended in best.

Lace for hem edge trimmed along motifs:

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Trim away the excess lace underneath the appliqued edge and tack it to the silk tulle.
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The neckline trim is done the same way except trim closer to the scallops so the trim is narrower and follows the shaped edge easier.
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The lining is the same crepe de chine. I fused a high quality weft interfacing to the hip line and added boning for support. This will be worn over a foundation garment, so heavy boning wasn’t needed. A ribbon waistband keeps the dress in place and prevents it from slipping down.
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Perfectly matched seam with invisible zip.
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If you noticed at the beginning of this post, the photo of the front neck shows the center front as about 3/8 inch off center. This was done to correct for one hip being lower than the other. The toile had a definite right and left side. The pattern pieces are shaped differently but the garment looks symmetrical when worn. The dress form was wearing bust pads and a spandex tank; explains the strange undergarments.

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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
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Mark the shoulder pad back and notches.
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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.
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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:
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Position sections 3 and 4 along the seam line of 1 and 2.
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Turn and place a few pins on the outside of the pad to hold the layers together.
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Stitch the darts closed on piece 5 using the three step zig-zag stitch. Place it on the underside of the pad.
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Stitch the dart in piece 6 and add it to the underside of the pad. Be sure the edges are staggered.
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Place the pad on a ham and steam. The steam will compress the batting and start holding things together.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Another style I discovered. This one is even easier to make.
Pattern 2
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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.
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Sew the dart in section 5 closed and place.
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Steam over the ham, stab stitch the layers together, and steam again.
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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.
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I tried several pdf converters but nothing gave the correct scale. I’m open to suggestions if you have experience.

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