THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

July 20, 2008

Table Talk

This photo from last year’s New York Times slide show of the Christian LaCroix workrooms is inspiring. A simple wooden table, a portable machine underneath, a stool. What more could you want?

The cutting table is your most basic tool. Raise your hand if you are not cutting on a table at waist height. 2 points off if you are cutting on a cardboard mat on your bed. An additional 4 demerits if you are cutting on the floor. I know, I know. You don’t have the space, or the money to have a dedicated cutting table.

When we first moved to New York City, my dear husband and I were poor as the proverbial church mice. We had one room in a shared apartment. So we built folding saw horses, and put a piece of plywood on top, and that was my table. But what a table! It was painted an elegant matte black, and for the saw horse hardware I used gold metal cuphooks and window hanging sash chain to fix the width between the legs. Saw horse tables are easy to make, and can be put up and down with ease.

Check out Ikea’s version, the Artur.

Now to me, the width of the table top in this photo is not nearly wide enough…and I am not sure I want a glass tabletop. You can use a different tabletop with the Artur legs though, which are adjustable from 28″ to 36″ high. My table is 36″, as are most commercial cutting tables. Here is a nifty link for folding sawhorse plans. This other plan with a simple hinge is closer to my NYC sawhorses, but with the cross piece at the bottom higher up the leg. I had a some boards I could sling underneath to make a shelf that sat on top of those cross bars. Can you guess that my table was more or less a permanent part of our bedroom? For those who might like to trade up, check out the Ligne Roset Trestle Table. My DH could totally make this elegant version of the sawhorse table!

Seriously though, your table can have a huge impact on your results. From not being able to get the proper angle for cutting those niggling little curves and notches, to dreading cutting because you break your back every time, there are a hundred reasons why not having a proper table can hurt your results. This is true not only for cutting, but for having a place to lay out your work in progress. All kinds of garment sewing require large surfaces at waist height, and most particularly when working on home decorating projects.

What matters? Not only height, but width, and, tables are not just for cutting!

The main thing for home dec is to have a BIG PRESSING TABLE.

One of the biggest revelations I ever had was walking by a design shop in Paris, up near the Sacre Coeur and watching thru the window as they laid the curtains out on a huge padded table at waist height to press. Light bulb moment!

I now have a layer of padding I can roll out on my cutting table to turn it into a pressing table. I also got 2 giant pieces of ½” thick foamcore and duct-taped together for a folding mat to make it 60” wide if needed. (had to do that for the taffeta of the recent prom dress.) You can see it here propped up in the corner.

I can think of nothing more helpful than a large table at the proper height for any curtain or bedspread wrangling. I even put the portable sewing machine up on the table and sew standing up for the big wide jobs.

This commercial set-up for a drapery workroom is interesting on several levels. I love the little skirt in front that looks like it can be extended to allow the fabric to fall in to it to keep from dragging on the floor. Also, check out the table-top pad. Now there is a really smart idea, to put elastic around your pad, sort of like a fitted bottom sheet for the bed. I just have some layers of flannel sheet and gigantic beach towel that I roll out, but this is worth a try. I am definitely going to adopt this idea for my table.

Also see this clever portable folding cardboard cutting table. Not widely available yet, but congrats to the person came up with this idea.

July 14, 2008

Double-fold knit binding

Filed under: Tutorials — Gigi @ 2:52 pm

Many of us have these binding plates for our machines. I have two for my Bernina and quite a few for my coverstitch machine and industrial zigzag (which also fit the Bernina) and two for my walking-foot machine. When I bought my first binder I was terrified to use it but, like the narrow-hem foot, once you get the hang of it they are so easy to use and give great results! Before we get started, please note that your machine must have attachment holes on the bed in order for you to use industrial-style binding plates. I can use these on my Bernina but not on my Pfaff so check your particular machine. Some machines use a special foot instead.

Yes, you can bind in the round but it can be pretty fiddly when using a knit – it’s not bad on placemats with cotton fabrics. You’ll need to insert the fabric before taking any stitches and then stop before you reach where you started so that you can join the ends and fold the edges under and stitch. This method has been filed in my Life’s Too Short folder. This is the type of thing I would do on a fine garment where I wouldn’t be using a binding plate in the first place.

On a surplice neckline you’ll sew the shoulder seams and then just bind from one edge to the other. On other necklines you will sew one shoulder seam only, bind the edge, then sew the remaining shoulder seam closed. This is how it’s done in RTW and it is perfectly acceptable.


There are basically three types of binders:

Double-Fold: Raw edges are folded under on the top and the bottom. The binding looks the same from both sides.

Single-Fold: The raw edge is folded under on top only. This is the type of binder used most often with a coverstitch machine as the bottom raw edge is encased by the looper threads.

Raw Edge: A raw edge binder is generally used to bind edges with a tape or other non-ravelling binding such as leather or ribbon. However, it can also be used with pre-folded bias tape.

The binder on the left is made for my Bernina along with the binding foot. Like all things Bernina I had to pay the big bucks for it – I think it was around $80 ten years ago. Then I discovered the wonderful world of Industrial Attachments! I purchased the binder on the right from my local industrial machine shop for under $20 and it works just as well as the Bernina binder and is available in many different widths. If a binding foot is not available for your machine you can have one made by your local mechanic or make your own! This involves buying an extra zigzag or open-toe foot and having the right toe cut off and then buffed smooth.


The binder used on my top makes a 1/4″ finished double-fold binding. This is the same binder I use on placemats. It works beautifully with knits especially if you cut them a smidgen wider than what the binder calls for. This causes the fabric to stretch a little as it passes through and allows the neckline to hug your body quite nicely.

The fabric I used is a polyester ribbed sweater knit from Glick Textiles. I save scraps of knits I think I might want to use as bindings (and they are the ONLY scraps I save!) because they can add such an interesting touch to a garment – that little extra something that can give you that expensive RTW look. As long as it’s an 1/8 yard or more it goes into the scrap bin.

Step 1: Cut your knit binding on the crossgrain (or direction of greatest stretch) to the width needed for your particular binder. My binder takes strips 1 1/8″ wide. If you buy an industrial binding plate the width will be stamped on the plate itself. That being said I often cut binding wider – for knits and bias wovens – as the width tends to decrease as it’s pulled through the attachment. You’ll need to experiment a little bit with scraps to find the right width for your particular fabric and project. I cut my knit 1 3/8″ wide on the crossgrain for this project. A rotary cutter and quilting ruler is perfect for this job!

Step 2: Angle cut one end of your strip and feed it into the binder before you attach it to your machine. You can use a pin or seam ripper to gently move it along.




Step 3: Attach binding plate and pull the folded binding under the presser foot. Change your needle position as desired and take a few stitches to secure the end. Here is where you want to make sure everything is even and folded properly before you stitch. A bad start will result in a poorly sewn binding.


Then feed your garment into the binder and watch your beautiful finished edge emerge!


With a double-fold binder your edge will look the same on both sides.


I’m going to be a copycat and insert my parting shot here! I could not resist because Ricki looks so cute here vying for my attention as I type. She is such a honey.


July 10, 2008

Not So Hot Couture

 I saw Liana’s blog post of today ” Perfect isn’t perfect anymore”  and was inspired to show you some more flaws which can be prevented if you know what to look for, or better, can be avoided.

Liana’s post is about the new fall 2008 couture show from Valentino designed by Alessandra Facchinetti, and she points out that some of those new fall 2008 couture garments, which sell for a lot of money, could be sewn with more dedication to strive for perfection.

Like Liana, I looked at the pictures of this show, including the detail shots, and saw some more points which could use some fitting and sewing guidance.

 (All photos in this post are courtesy of  where you can see all the fashion designer shows like the couture collections and ready to wear.)

Puckered dart ends at skirt and not enough hip width so the skirts creeps up:
















Not enough walking room:









Uneven skirt hem length at center front:                          Frumpy inner collar, less sleeve cap height:  






 Not so invisible zipper, no smooth inner collar: 



Dimples at armhole maybe they are a design feature but it can also caused by uneven ease in of the sleeves :



July 4, 2008

Fine Men’s Tailoring: Pants Hemming

 Do you recognise a European tailor made or High End RTW men’s pants or trousers by the way it is hemmed?



 Since I never found any information about this way of hemming outside Europe I thought it would be interesting to show you.


 The hem has a tape sewed on at the hem allowance partly covering the hem fold by 1 mm or 1/24 inch to protect the hem from wearing out, and for reinforcement.


 Grey pants example detail  : which shows the 1 mm ridge which is peeking out but is hardly noticeable by others , or you must be lying on the ground so your eyes are on the same level as the pants hem. 














 Detail outside view black pants















 Inside view black pants















This tape is sewn by 2 stitching lines after the hem fold is steam pressed and the ridge should peep out  for 1 mm ( 1/24 inch) 

 I used a non matching thread for better view.





 This polyester or cotton tape is 15,5 mm wide (5/8 inch) and has a small ridge at one long end.


 The tape which is called “Stootband” in Dutch, “Trouser Kick Tape” in English, “Hosenstossband” in German,  “Talonnette” in French, “Slidbånd” in Denmark, “Cinta Talonera” in Spain.
























Visible ridge 1 mm, 1/28 inch






















This way of protecting a hem from wearing out is mainly used in men’s pants/trousers but I also heard that in theater clothing it is used for floor-length gowns or skirts to protect the hem from wearing out.


 I have sewn this tape too in a pair of wide legged pants for myself.


 This tape is available in several colors like dark blue, black, beige, grey and brown and can be purchased at European well stocked notion stores, it is sold per meter or at prepacked cards which consist of 2 meters (2.18 yards)
















 I bought a few cards from a store who was selling out their inventory

(1 grey, 2 1 beige, 5 3 black and 5 3 dark blue) which I can part off if anybody wants to try them out.


 The price per card is Euro €1,25 plus shipping.

 If you are interested in a card contact me at diva-els  hotmail dot com








July 2, 2008

Do U Speak Marfy?

Filed under: Els,Fabric,Georgene,Marfy,Patterns,sewing — georgene @ 6:04 pm

Diva Emerita Mary Beth over at The Stitchery had this question for us when she got her new Marfy catalog:

What is “smeared fabric”????

Spring-Summer 2008 Collection – Mod. 1752
1752Mod. 1752
Mt. 2,80 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46, 48.
This short, somewhat form-fitting trench coat closes on the diagonal with double crossover thatbecomes single-breasted. It has a yoke at the shoulders, large strips at the cuffs and pockets inset into cuts. Suggested fabric: gabardine, smeared fabric, leather.

Georgene: Coated? Bad translation?

Els: Hi ladies, I looked at the french page at Marfy, and then my textile translation book:

Mod. 1752
Mt. 2,80 alt. 1,40. Disponible en taille 42, 44, 46, 48.
Court trench semi-moulé avec fermeture double endiagonale qui devient simple, empiècement sir les épaules, larges brides aux poignets et poches intérieures insérées dans les coupes. Réalisable en gabardine, tissu ciré, cuir.

Tissu ciré is waxed fabric like the Barbour coats from the UK but also use laminated fabric which is the translation from the Marfy French text

Georgene: Waxed, yeah. Or coated which would be ‘enduit’ in French. But waterproofed or water resistant., which is a good thing for a trench coat

There is a special article at on the Festival at Glastonbury with lots of waxed Barbour coats in the photos. Very hot item! funny you picked up on that.

Els: Read more information about the Barbour coat

Els: Water repellent or waterproof fabric for outerwear like this Marfy raincoat can be found at online stores like Seattlefabrics.

Els: I read all the descriptions and found some weird translations, like:

Mod. 1721
Occ. mt. 3,00 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 46, 48, 50, 54.
This form-fitting dress is made of four panels which are cut on bias at the bottom. It has a V-shaped empire cut with hooded collar and drawstring gathers at the shoulders. Suggested fabric: jersey, silk jacquard, or satin.
“cowl neck”

Mod. 1625
Occ. mt. 1,40 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46, 48.
This single-breasted form-fitting jacket has inserted belt, patch pockets set on the basque and ¾ sleeves. Suggested fabric: jacquard, piquet or microfiber with satin or patent leather trim.
Basque should be “peplum”

Mod. 1603
Mt. 1,60 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46, 50, 54.
This single-breasted, somewhat form-fitting jacket has an original double neckline with gathers, 3/4 sleeves and opens with a single lapel. Suggested fabric: cady, satin or shantung.

Mod. 1619
Mt. 1,60 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46, 48, 50.
This form-fitting skirt is loosened at the bottom and is made of five panels with full hips
~has “gathers at the waistband”

Mod. 1637
Mt. 1,50 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46, 48.
This form-fitting jacket is reminiscent of the 1960’s. It has a broad, rounded shawl neckline and turned up collar, an inserted belt and oblique flaps on the rounded yoke. The 3/4 sleeves have slits at the cuffs. Suggested fabric: faille, piquet, microfiber.

Mod. 1661
Mt. 1,40 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46.
This straight, form-fitting dress has a neckline that is square at the front and V-shaped at the back. It has double darts that converge at the center and inset pockets. Suggested fabric: denim, linen, piquet.
“This shaped slim fitted dress”,

Mod. 1663
Mt. 1,60 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46, 48.
This straight, somewhat form-fitting shirt-waist dress opens at the front. It has a belted waist, short drop sleeves softened by gathers, a shirt neckline, oblique darts and side slits. Suggested fabric: cotton batiste, taffeta, light denim.
“Slanted darts”

Mod. 1706
Mt. 1,50 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 46, 50, 54, 58.
This tight-fitting blouse has a torchon motif at the neckline that creates draping and 3/4 shirt sleeves. Suggested fabric: jersey, cotton muslin, satin.
“A twisted center front neckline”

Mod. 1714
Mt. 2,10 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46, 48.
This dress has a bodice with soft draping at the neckline secured with a jewel fastener.The flared skirt has wedges inserted at the bottom. Suggested fabric: jersey or satin.
“Inset godets”

Mod. 1725
Mt. 2,80 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 54.
This form-fitting dress has panels which are flared at the bottom. It has a low-cut empire waist bodice and overlaid panels which are knotted and draped to create a shrug effect. Suggested fabric: cady with panel and flared sleeves in chiffon.

Mod. 1774
Mt. 2,30 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46, 50, 54, 58.
This elegant tunic has a cowl collar and handkerchief sleeves made of two superimposed layers. The bottom of the panels is rounded and crossed. Suggested fabric: crêpe de chine, chiffon or muslin.
“Two overlapped layers”

Mod. 1792
Mt. 2,80 alt. 1,40. Available in sizes 42, 44, 46.
This American-style slip dress has torchon shoulder straps knotted behind the collar, a wide embroidered or lace waistband and long flared skirt. Suggested fabric: chiffon, voile, jersey, satin.

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