THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

October 30, 2006

Couture Steam Shrink Method

Filed under: Couture Techniques — phyllisc @ 5:15 pm

This methods is used in couture to make a flat pireces of fabric conform to a shape. You’d use it when you don’t want to disrupt a stripe or plaid with a dart or princess seam. It’d also used to keep a stripe or plaid fabric on grain with the edge of a lapel. This works only with 100% batural fibers that shrink such as silk, wool, or a combinations of the two.

If you’d like to try this technique, a hat like this (Vogue 8306) is a good first project. I used it because because I wanted to preserve the horizontal lines of grid pattern in the silk boucle all the way around to the center back seam. As you can see from the crown piece template below, if I had cut the crown piece out the usual way the grid would be slightly on the bias as it moves towards the center back seam.

Step 1 – Make a Full Size Template of Your Pattern Piece

This is the template I mention above. The pattern piece for the crown was traced onto grided pattern paper. Center front is marked, and the ends are drawn out to make easy-to-see refernce points. You will also need to cut out a full size pattern piece for the crown.

Step 2 – Cut the Fabric

The crown piece is just a rectangle the same width as the pattern piece, and slightly longer.

Step 3 – Lay the Fabric on Top of the Temaplate.

I used my ironing board because it has a nice pad and I can pin into it. Align the middle of the fabric pirce at center front, and gently curve the fabrci into the template. The top edge will be shrink eased with you iron. and in the phote below you can see the ripples that will be shrink pressed out of the curve. If you need a bit if extra insurance, run a line of machine basting along the top edge to distribute the ripples evenly across the top:

Step 3 – Shrink out the ripples

Set your iron to full steam and a high setting. Use a press cloth (silk organza is perfect you have it so you can see what you’re doing) and shrink press the ripples out of the top edge. Don’t be afraid! The ripples really will press out almost like magic. It may take a few tries to get them all. But when the piece is nice and smooth, let it dry completely on your ironing board.

Now you’re done! As you can see above, the piece is now curved, and the back seam is on the straight grain. You can now use your full size pattern piece to trim the edges of the curved piece. You now have a beautifully curved piece of fabric that retains the original fabric grain, as you can see form the back view of the hat.

The brim was also shrink pressed using this same method. I like this technique because it’s actually not sewing. Most people assume couture always means excruciating hand sewing that’s just impossible to learn, when in fact, many techniques are easy to do; they just take a little longer.

The end results, however, are always worth the effort. There are more details on this project on Pattern Review. Also, a big thanks to Diva Ann, who gave me the fabric and supplied the handbag clips used for the embellishment!



  1. Absolutely beautiful! I can’t wait to see this on you.

    Comment by Gigi — October 31, 2006 @ 9:33 am

  2. Beautiful, looking forward to see you all dressed up.

    Comment by Els — October 31, 2006 @ 10:53 am

  3. Wow, Phyllis, that is gorgeous! I can’t wait to see it on you..

    Comment by Gorgeous Things — October 31, 2006 @ 11:25 am

  4. Wow, Phyllis – what a chic hat! Thanks so much for that lesson on keeping the grain w steaming. Very clear and yes, easy:-)

    Comment by Nina — October 31, 2006 @ 11:41 am

  5. Love your hat and great info. Thanks.

    Comment by Anonymous — October 31, 2006 @ 12:10 pm

  6. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I adore hats and yours is fabulous and inspiring.


    Comment by Anonymous — October 31, 2006 @ 11:23 pm

  7. Phyllis, great hat. Read review on PR which sent me here. Looks great and lesson was most helpful.

    Comment by Linda — November 1, 2006 @ 2:27 am

  8. That hat is fabulous! Thanks for the tutorial!

    Comment by Lisette — November 2, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

  9. […] Stream shrinking is used quite a bit in bespoke and haute couture , and the fact that the pattern envelope recommends wool jersey also offers a clue that steam shrinking is part of makign the tucks; this process can only be done with wool fabrics or silk/wool blends.  One last clue in the pattern itself   covinced me that this is what Rucci does;  the shaping bust darts are hidden in the edges of the bust pintucks, and I believe it would be impossible to sew those shaping darts if the tuck was stitched with a pintuck foot. […]

    Pingback by Vogue 1073 - Chado Ralph Rucci pintuck samples « The Sewing Divas — January 4, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

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