THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

May 3, 2009

Sculpting Venise Lace

camiVenise lace is a very different kind of lace. It’s actually heavily embroidered on an underlying support cloth that is then washed away, leaving all of the thread and none of the cloth.

Once upon a time there were a lot of embroidered fabric and trim companies right across the river from Manhattan., in Hoboken and other small towns along the Hudson in New Jersey. The solid rock of the Jersey Palisades was ideal, mirroring the mountains of Germany and Switzerland, the immigrants’ home country. The huge heavy embroidery machines were on the ground floor, on bedrock, and the family lived above, just as they had in the old country.

Some pattern cards with the designs have been used for maybe 100 years. If you bought eyelet embroidery 50 years ago in the USA, or something with Venise trim, it was probably from a town on the Palisades. As you can imagine, only a few companies there survive today.

This past fall Prada used the Swiss version, called Guipure lace. Hundreds of years ago this was handmade needle lace. Eventually it was mechanized. The little bar that connects the larger parts is known as a‘bride’ (pronounced ‘breed’ in French), that gives the characteristic look to the ground of this style of lace.
Edges and trims are commonly available; all over patterns can be found, although it can become quite expensive. I remember buying 1 yard of heavy rayon Venise lace for yokes and cuffs on a friend’s wedding gown at $150/yd, and that was 10-15 years ago.

It is wonderfully soft and malleable though, and can be formed into all kinds of shapes. Recently I needed a Venise lace yoke of a certain shape. I searched high and low for something that would fit, but was unable to find just the right thing. So I set out to build my own, using various trims of the same quality and color of ivory.
Lace appliqué techniques are clearly taught in Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture
Don’t let the title fool you, there is so much more than wedding gowns in this book. It’s actually a guide to haute couture techniques applied to formal dress construction. Whenever I approach a project that uses some aspect of what she covers in the book, I use it as a refresher course to remind me of all that stuff I have to forget in the more ready-to-wear world we live in.

I had a hand drawn shape of the finished piece that was needed, and set about using the building blocks of trim to make the shape. Snipping and pinning the pieces together, I made first one side, then mirrored the other. After all was placed I stitched the parts together with a tiny stab appliqué stitch. In just a few spots I had to build a little bridge (the ‘bride’) to make it work, similar to a handmade thread loop for a hook.
The finished piece worked out well. I wouldn’t throw it in the washing machine! It is, after all, very delicate. (Not to mention the rayon spandex cloth that would shrink like crazy.) back
I used the ½” Dritz bra sliders and rings, with self fabric straps to match the ivory garment. If this piece were going into production I would send a scan of the neck yoke trim to the lace manufacturer and the essence of the layout would be used to create the stitch pattern for the Venise. For a special one of a kind piece though, this is one way to get the results.


April 30, 2009

Vionnet’s Legacy Lives On

The latest news from The Center for Pattern Design landed in my inbox recently. Located in beautiful St. Helena in northern California, the Center is a repository of all things related to pattern. Patterns and tools are available thru the website, and older sewing and pattern design texts are being republished thru the Center’s Antiquity Press.

Cutting Cloth, the newsletter from Sandra Ericson’s Center for Pattern Design, was chock full of interesting tidbits. Not only is there a CPD conference slated for October this year at the Art Institute in San Francisco, there is news of a Vionnet exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, running until January 2010. The museum is the recipient of 750 of Madeleine Vionnet’s toiles and all her papers. Sandra says this show is the first time since 1939, when Vionnet’s house closed, that her work has been shown.
Sandra has been studying the work of ground-breaking French couturier Madeleine Vionnet for years. Vionnet is considered the inventor of draping on the bias, and used a half scale dress mannequin to work out her ideas. She was one of the first early 20th century designers to set up a series of ateliers and industrialize her designs
This past January, Diva Emerita MaryBeth from The Stitchery and I were fortunate to be in Palm Springs at back-to-back Claire Shaeffer workshops. We did a 5 day workshop with Sandra Ericson on Vionnet style draping, followed by a Couture Tailoring Techniques in the style of Yves St. Laurent. The draping class was so much fun; Ms. Ericson packed a lot in to each day. In the mornings we were treated to a teaching presentation of Vionnet’s methods and work, then a daily ‘show and tell’ with garments as examples of the day’s topic. Each afternoon we worked on half size dolls (aka My Size Barbies pressed into service as mannequins) draping our own styles using Vionnet’s approaches.


Chronicle Books’ oversize book Madeleine Vionnet, with diagrams and photos is the go-to reference on Vionnet today. For those who are interested in looking at the historical context of her work, there is a lot about her place in the Cubist movement in the book Cubism and Fashion, by Richard Martin, that came out at the time of the exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in 1999.

Vionnet lives on, with many of today’s designers taking pages out of her book, sometimes quite literally.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to get to Paris before January 2010.

March 30, 2009

Draping How to Do

Filed under: Couture Techniques,Draping,Els,Tutorials — Els @ 10:38 am

Surfing around the web I found some video lessons from the Académie de Poitiers in France, that shows you how to make a basic skirt and bodice using “moulage” or in English called draping using a dress form.


You do not have to know French as a language to understand these visual learning video lessons. Just watch and enjoy.

Draping a basic skirt    (Moulage de la jupe de base)

Draping a bodice     ( Moulage du corsage de base)

March 20, 2009

Sewing Diva Movie Review

Documentary on the fashionable life, work and love of the legendary designer Valentino Garavani
Acolyte Films
Matt Tyrnauer, Director

A friend invited me to the press preview of the new Valentino documentary today in San Francisco. It’s a must see for any sewing enthusiast, as the scenes in the atelier are truly wonderful. If you love beautiful clothes and fabrics, mount an expedition to go see this film. New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have limited engagements, but I noticed that the film’s website has a button to click to ‘bring the film to your city’.

I am waiting for the day that it is released on DVD, so that I can pause it to take in the details shown of the making of the garments. We get to see the process from Valentino sketching, to him working with his chef d’atelier, to the cutting and draping of the garment. Finally there are the fittings, and the runway. The director, Vanity Fair editor Matt Tyrnauer, said he wanted ‘the viewers to feel that they knew how to make a couture dress by the time the film was over’.
Valentino shows flashes of a wicked humor, and more than a little of that prima donna behavior alluded to in the title of the film. There is archival footage to bring the arc of his career into focus. Lots of time is spent showing us the struggle to keep control of the house once it goes public and the fabric house Marzotto gains a bigger and bigger share. The bean-counters ultimately win, and within months Valentino is gone.

The film has made the rounds of international film festivals after being introduced in Venice. Tyrnauer says it’s ultimately a love story, about Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti. Maybe so but for me what remains are the ethereal dresses, especially as shown in the 45th anniversary celebration in Rome in 2007 that is the centerpiece of the movie. It’s a lovely window on another world, fast disappearing

February 8, 2009

Draping. Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design

Draping. Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design (English)















Moulage. Kunst en Vakmanschap in Modevormgeving (Dutch)


Author: Annette Duburg, Rixt van der Tol

Publisher:  d’JongeHond

ISBN number for the English book:   978-90-89100-87-0

ISBN number for the Dutch book:  978-90-89100-86-3

Type of binding: Paperback

Number of pages: 248 page with 1000 illustrations

Weight:  869 gramme

Price: Euro € 39,95


Take a look inside this book at:

Christian Dior 1952 Moulage

Christian Dior 1952 Moulage

This is THE most fantastic and thorough reference book about moulage and draping.  It is a new book published November 2008 and I bought this book in December 2008 .  I bought of course the Dutch version called Moulage Kunst en Vakmanschap in Modevormgeving.

But it is also translated into English as Draping  Art and Craftsmanship in Fashion Design.  This book is like having a private teacher on hand in moulage and draping technique.  It is chock full of very clear pictures and diagrams which will guide you through each step. It covers the history but also the present and will teach you how to make 3 dimensional patterns by using a dress form.

There are 1000 pictures which help you to achieve to moulage/draping patterns. It not only teaches you how to make a bodice, skirt, dress, jacket , coat and pants etc but also variations on those garments.

Additionally, the book shows you how to make a moulage pattern which mimics some famous designer outfits; on page 160-243 it covers 12 famous designer outfits and what to do to get a similar look.  The 12 designers outfits examples are from Charles Frederick Worth, Cristoff von Drecoll, Madeleine Vionnet, Madame Grès, Christian Dior ( 2), André Courèges, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Yohji Yamamoto .

This book is a must have for anyone who wants to know and learn more about  moulage.  I have several moulage/draping books both in Dutch as well as in English  but this is the most comprehensive and I can without question recommend this book to you as a valuable addition to your sewing library.

pleated skirt

pleated skirt


pictures source publisher DeJongeHond

I searched for a link where you can order this book in English and found a Belgium website where you can order this book. For international orders you can sent an email to inquire, click at the button “Enquiry” at the top of the above link.

Barbara added the  index for the English book see comment 21 below.



I contacted the publisher for some more information about translation on their website for this book in English and also for ordering this book.

You can order this book in English or Dutch via the  publisher  see below

email sent to 

For ordering they need the following information:

-the book title,

-how many books,

-your name and address,

– if your credit card has a different address please share this information too 

De Jonge Hond publisher can ship this book to you for € 10,00 to Europe and € 20,00 for outside Europe destinations.

 Or you can order this book from the US from center for pattern design  



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