THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

August 16, 2010

Paris by Design

Filed under: couture sewing,Draping,Georgene,Industry,Notions,Tools — georgene @ 6:48 pm

Patternmakers’ Supply House

No reason to keep it a secret. There is a specialists’ mercerie or notions store in the Sentier garment district in Paris.

Yes, in France there is a separate place to shop for needles, thread, buttons, zippers, and other trims, as well as needlepoint canvas, embroidery threads, etc. Often there are other things like yarn and knitting supplies, or stockings and hatpins there too. NO fabric, that is to be found in another, separate boutique.

Of course, just like independent fabric stores in the USA, these shops are on the endangered species list.

But I digress. I was staying near the Sentier last month, so it wasn’t far to go to find a specific color of thread I needed for an emergency button repair. I must have walked by the mercerie around the corner from the Rue Montorgueil a dozen times before stepping in to see what I could find.

Since I was there, I decided to buy a half a pound of my favorite Bohin Couturex straight pins, and to ask plaintively if they carried DMC Lacet Super-fin, otherwise known as bolduc band from my days in haute couture school in Paris. This is the flat, narrow cotton shoelace-weave tape used to mark the dressform. DMC stopped making it some time ago, and it has gotten scarce as hens’ teeth. The Chinese owners at this mercerie were stumped, they had no idea what I was talking about.

Another patron in the shop came to my rescue, and suggested 2 other merceries deeper in the garment district, saying that I would surely find my bolduc band there.

Bohin Couturex pins are my favorite for draping, as they are  long and fine, in hardened steel.

Bohin also packages my favorite Millener’s (Modiste) # 9 needles, long and fine for hand sewing muslins and other fine handwork.

That I how I found myself on the Rue Reaumur in front of the Papeterie du Textile, with the small hole in the wall notions shop next door exactly as described. Well, they were doing a land-office business! No danger of this place closing anytime soon. I found what I was looking for, and a few other things jumped in my bag as well: a new tracing wheel with different teeth from the 2 others I have, as well as a mechanical pencil for tailor’s chalk.

Tracing wheels top to bottom: new,  Dritz,  pinpoint

Draping at YSL with bolduc band: from Yves St. Laurent by David Teboul

The fellow at the cash register told me that they order their bolduc band special from a manufacturer down south, since it is no longer made commercially.

My informant also told me about Hamon, a draper-patternmaker’s specialist mercerie on the Rue de Clery. I made a foray up the hill of the Rue des Petits Carreaux past Rue Reaumur, to check it out. Located in an older building on a street of old buildings, the giant scissors above the front door told me I was at the right place. It was indeed a modeliste’s paradise, with scissors, paper, dressforms, irons, muslin, pins, bolduc, and books to teach all about draping and patternmaking (mostly in French, but some with English translation). Fortunately there is a website, so you may be able to acquire items difficult to find in your area.


54, rue de Cléry
75 086 Paris cedex 02, France

Fil 2000

62 rue de Réaumur, 75002 Paris

métro Sentier sortie rue de Petits Carreaux.

Papeterie du Textile

61 Rue Réaumur, 75002 Paris

February 21, 2010

Faux Ribs for Faux Fur

Filed under: Fur sewing,Georgene,sewing — georgene @ 6:40 pm

Thanks to Els invaluable tutorial on making your own rib! Another costume character, another design problem, for the upcoming Seussical production. The director chose this purple faux fur with lurex. Horrors! I looked everywhere for a chunky rib that would match to make this bolero style work. I finally found a very thin crinkled raggy piece of jersey that was the right color, but not even close to the texture I wanted.

It’s sort of the opposite of Mary Beth’s bolero that has faux ribs in the fake fur for the cuffs.

Calculating how many ribs in Els’ precise equation was not really possible, so I decided to keep tucking until I had a block big enough to cut my pattern pieces out.

2 days later I was still making double needle pintucks. There was a lot of uneveness and twisting, the thread kept breaking, it was sort of a nightmare all by itself, before I even got up to my elbows in the flying faux fur.

Since this was for a costume, I didn’t worry about the crazy, wonky  nature of the pintucks. I kinda like the texture that it imparts to the rib.

My only concern was that this was taking far too long to do, and I had  to move things along a bit more quickly.

The solution was to piece together lengths to make up the needed parts  – easy enough to do if you just lay one tuck on top and topstitch over it.  It blended in with the tucks on the piece underneath. Thankfully I was  able to cobble together enough lengths to make the trim for both the  bolero collar and cuffs, as well as the top waistband of the skirt.

The folded over bands of faux rib look great.

I followed some instructions I found for fake fur sewing to cut and join the  seams, then stretched my rib bands to the body. All of the seams are sewn  with zigzag at the edge.

Dress rehearsals start soon – can’t wait to see how all of this turns out!

December 23, 2009

It Only Comes Around Once a Year

Filed under: Designer Inspirations,Embellishment,Georgene — georgene @ 9:30 pm

Christmas is the only time of year that this sweater can be worn. Not exactly a candidate for the Ugly Christmas Sweater contest, it  only comes out in December.

It was a sample, made in China,  for a collection I worked on a couple of years ago. It got rejected for its ‘unusual’ color combination. The factory just  decided to use what they had on hand, not the colors I had requested. That’s often the way with prototypes, they use what’s lying around, just to give an idea of the design, so that the next piece can be corrected. This poor sample never had a chance to go any further than the first piece.

It’s beautiful, its flawless embroidery and dazzling rhinestones are perfection. But everyone blinks when they see it, and it languished in the showroom until I rescued it and put it in the archive.

Here is the inspiration for the artwork of the embroidery – a Persian carpet my friend brought back from Turkey.

The beautiful but lonely sweater is the result.

Season’s best to all. It’s so great to share this sweater with those who might appreciate it for the little gem it is.

October 4, 2009

Gail Gondek at The Center for Pattern Design Conference

 San Francisco California Oct 2, 2009

evening ensembleSilk charmeuse lined suede shell with pick stitch detail around armholes and hem over sequined skirt. Worn with a silk/wool angled circle wrap and stone disk pendant on a black silk cord. – Gail Gondek patterns for Ralph Rucci

The Center for Pattern Design held its first annual conference on Saturday. Pattern designers and educators from near and far came to talk about their art, and listen to a great group of people involved in designing and making patterns at the all day conference.

Julian Roberts spoke about his methods of subtraction cutting, with great folded paper demos of how it’s done, along with some of dresses made by participants at the previous day’s hands-on workshop.

The keynote speaker was Gail Gondek, who has designed patterns for Ralph Rucci and Peter Som, after many years working with Geoffrey Beene. She talked about some of her experiences working with a designer to create their vision in cloth, about the process of taking a design from concept to the runway. Afterwards, we got to look at some of her pieces from Ralph Rucci, inside and out.

Wtih Gail’s permission, I took a few photos to share with you, knowing you would love to see some of these details as much as I did.

This silk dress had his signature back zipper set into the side panel instead of the center back seam.

dressdress back detaildress back


Here’s a detail of the front of this dress. A spaghetti cording is whipped to the body with silk embroidery thread, the same detail as seen on the center back.

dress top

I loved the easy ‘floating away from the body’ shape of this black sheath dress –

sheath sidesheath backsheath back detail





Check out its lovely little peek-a-boo detail at the lower center back – just a little surprise – in an area where most women still can show a flash of skin and get away with it, no matter what your age. The display mannequins are covered in black leather, so the contrast doesn’t show up so much as it would if skin was showing thru the cut out.

The fabric is a double face wool crepe – a truly wonderful soft but firm hand. That’s a fabric that I will have to look into. If you have seen any in your travels, let us know!




The peek-a-boo detail was used on this jacket as well, on both the front and back. The contrast satin insets at the waist seam are a nice touch too.

jacket frontjacket back


Sigh! Wouldn’t this jacket just be lovely over that sheath dress…??

Thanks to Gail for sharing some of her great work. I am looking forward to next year’s conference already.

September 28, 2009

More Jeweled Inspiration

Filed under: Designer Inspirations,Embellishment,Georgene — georgene @ 7:57 pm

Continuing my current obsession with sewn jewelry, I thought I would share some of the latest entrants to the field.


lanvin bracelet 5This Lanvin bracelet, while it does have some hardware, is a nice combo of pearls, ribbon, and some rhinestone brooches.



I have my needlenose pliers, and it’s not hard to find jumprings and clasps at the local bead store.



I think deconstructing thrift store costume jewelry could yield some useful elements.


Lanvin crystal ribbon necklaceThe scale of this Lanvin piece is quite wonderful.

Lanvin crystal ribbon necklace 3

lanvin dbl pearl necklace 1I love the double row of pearls on a  mesh covered double-face silk satin ribbon here – Notice the crystal bead sewn in every now and then. It’s very subtle with the two different sizes of pearls.


marni plastron 1


Here’s another of the felt  plastron styles from Marni. While the elements used here are more ‘real jewelry’, I can see doing something in this vein with beads, sew thru stones, crystals, or buttons.


marni plastron 3










Again, the scale of this is interesting.

Not for the shy or faint of heart!





marni stone felt necklace 1




This one from Marni is a more eclectic mix of elements. Here you can see that the black ribbon ties are inserted into big grommet holes, and then just knotted.





Again, the big statement. These felt plastron style necklaces may keep your chest warm under your coat this winter, nestled in at the neck to protect you from the wind blowing in off the lake. Or the Hudson if you are in NYC. I was never so cold as waiting for the bus on 42nd St. with the wind whipping across town.


marni stone felt necklace 2

One final piece, from Phillip Lim, rather interesting in that the fabric is pleated.philip lim pleated necklace 1

I can’t really say what is going on, but it looks like the pleats are stitched to the chain. The chiffon bow is a nice touch.




philip lim pleated necklace 2









I just uncovered a trove of my old costume jewelry (gulp! it’s vintage now) that I can use to cannibalize for chains, pendants, and clasps. Good for Christmas (coming all too soon). I may never have to buy a thing for the ladies on my list.

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