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

October 9, 2008

Sleeve heads

Filed under: Dressmaking,Els,Notions,sewing,Tailoring,Tutorials — Els @ 11:08 am


Sleeve heads, by Dutch dressmakers and tailors aka “snorren”, English translation called “moustaches” because the shape mimics a moustache.

 I never saw these shaped sleeve heads in the USA, but we in Europe can choose if we want to use the straight ones or the shaped ones. I prefer to use these shaped ones, but the sewing technigue is the same.


 The shape of the sleeve head mimics the shape of the sleeve cap, and the purpose is to support the sleeve cap in custom made garments like jackets and coats. The sleeve head fills out the gap between the arm and the sleeve top and it helps to have a nice roll line in a high cap sleeve plus it also prevents to show the seam allowance from the right side.




The shaped sleeve heads are different in material, size and weight and can be used for tailored jackets or coats. It will depend on the fabric you use and the size of the armhole.
 The larger ones are used for a coat or jacket in a medium or heavy weight fabric, and the thin smaller ones are good to use in a jacket made with a lightweight fabric.







The sleeve heads are sewn at the armhole after the sleeve is sewn in at the armhole. You can see that the left and right side of the sleeve heads are different in length and shape.












If you fold the sleeve head at the shoulder notch (small slit) you will notice that one part is longer and has a more angled shape at the end, the longer length needs to be attached at the back side armhole.

 The shorter length is going towards the front side armhole.This is due to the shape of the armhole, in a well drafted pattern the armhole at the back is always longer in length than the front armhole.


 I made a jacket using a gorgeous silk Tussah medium weigth fabric that I ordered from Melody at (now sold out) and used the larger thicker sleeve heads, which you can see at the previous picture.




I fused all the pattern parts with a thin stretch fusible interfacing to add some support and to keep the ravelling at the cut edges to a minimum.

 I always use 3/8 inch (1 cm) seam allowance at the armhole and sleeve, and have used a fusible bias cut tape to stabilize the armhole.


 Pin the sleeve head shoulder notch matching the shoulder seam and pin towards the back and from the notch towards the front armhole with the edges matching from sleeve, armhole and sleeve heads. 

You can sew the sleeve heads into the armhole while you are removing the pins or you could baste the sleeve heads in first, which I did here for an example. I used orange basting thread and basted over the stitching line from the set in sleeves






Sewing the sleeve heads in with the sewing machine a hairline away (inside the seam allowance) from the previous stitching line (sleeve inset)

 The sleeve head is not visible because it lays on the machine bed so I can see the previous stitching line from the sleeve inset which is my marking.

 I sewed the sleeve heads with a 3 mm stitch length, which is a bit larger than the usual 2,5  mm stitch length which I used to sew the jacket.





Remove the basting thread, add shoulder pads.( The seam allowances are heading towards the sleeve of course)

December 30, 2007

Covering zipper for furry fabrics

Filed under: Closures,Els,Notions,sewing,Tutorials — Els @ 8:16 pm

If you want to use a zipper with a faux or real fur fabric it can be difficult to open and close the zipper because of the hairy fabric.
You can prevent this by covering the zipper teeth with a piece of tape.
For the example I used a piece of satin bias tape, which was pre folded but I pressed it open and folded it again in half and sewed the covering tape with a loose tension so I can remove that stitching after I have sewed the zipper in the garment. I used a different colour because it is easier to see which tread has to be removed later.
This is not necessary, if you do not want to remove the first stitching use a matching colour thread and a normal tension. You can use any other piece of tape or a strip of folded lining fabric.
I sewed the tape that covers the teeth of the zipper with the zipper tape on top:


February 27, 2007

Pressing equipment part 2

Filed under: Els,Notions,Pressing,Tools — Els @ 6:00 am

Since there were some questions asked by readers of the previous post I will try to answer those.

Pressing tools like hams,  clappers, steam rolls  can be ordered from suppliers of tailoring tools like wardrobesupplies  or greenburg-hammer in the USA.

Pressing aids from the UK

Different shaped tailor’s hams from my supplier in The Netherlands

Some of you asked for information about where to look for the press buck ( persbok)

To my knowledge this rectangle one is a Dutch design, made for a  tailoring course at a fashion school, I never saw this rectangle shape outside The Netherlands.

And I was lucky to find one at a Dutch Auction site.

If you are interested in buying one, let me know and I can look around to see if I can find another one.

Press bucks and tailoring hams are used by tailors and dressmakers and are available in different shapes and have different pressing features, like you can see from these German tailor suppliers, the press bucks  from  are velvet covered . Like this one.

The bucks from  k-m-versand  are covered with linen.

ebay has an auction for a bügelblock covered with linen right now

I could not find any information about ordering from outside Germany, but it will give you an idea what kind of bucks are used in tailoring and dressmaking.

At the famous vintagesewinginfo website you can find lots of info for pressing  like pressing needs for pressing ,

scope of tailoring 

Pressing techniques can be found in a lot of vintage tailoring/ dressmaking books .

A  pattern for making different kinds of pressing hams and a ham holder can be bought from

February 22, 2007

Pressing equipment part 1

Filed under: Els,Machines,Notions,Pressing — Els @ 7:00 am

Like anyone who sews, we all know the important part of sewing is pressing. It starts with preshrinking the fabric prior to cutting  the fabric, but also the pressing which takes place in the process of sewing the garment.

Ann already showed in Threads magazine issue 126 how to use  some pressing tools and if you missed that article you can see Ann’s video clip Pressing tools

My pressing equipment: a vacuum suction pressing board , steam iron with a 3,5 liter water tank, the  sleeve board is turned under the board .My pressing board is 116 cm long ( 45 inch) and 38 cm wide ( 15 inch) The pedal on the ground is used for the suction function.My press iron has a Teflon cover.

pressing station 3,5 liter water tank vacuum suction board

You can see the sleeve board ready to use.

 My singer press which I use  for fusing interfacing

Besides the use of the oval shaped edge of the pressing and sleeve board, I use several pressing tools, like this large tailor’s ham for any contoured  shapes or curves  like princes seams in jackets, coats and dresses. 

This small one , which I covered on one side with a piece of wool crepe fabric I use for bust and waist darts and collars, sleeve cap easing etc.

I have a June Tailor hamholder but I hardly use it, maybe because it does not fit my small tailor’s ham very well. Probably the size of the US tailor’s hams are different than my Dutch one.

You can see the difference of the two hams in size now they are on top of each-other.

A press buck ( in Dutch called pers bok) which has a different shape,  straight lines and curved corners. The buck has a wooden base and legs, the size of the rectangle is 31 cm ( 12,5 inch) wide 22 cm ( 8,5 inch) the padding is 5 cm thick ( 2 inch) The total height is 23 cm ( 9 inch) which is lower than the all known oval shaped ham.

The advantage of this press buck is the different shape and size above the other 2 hams.Use for pressing seams open like shoulders, bust area, neckline, collars and darts .

I bought this buck last year for only € 16.00 it is a used one but still in a very good condition. New ones costs about € 50.00. Tailor hams are expensive but will last a lifetime. 

Point presser/clapper is a great tool to press seams open and to beat the steam into the fabric to flatten bulky edges.

Point turner to press open for the hard to reach seams where the point presser is of no help.


But also a wooden spoon is a great tool, even a wooden chopstick can be helpful.

 Also a toothpick or large embroidery needle with a blunt end helps to press a dart open,

I inherited this press block from my grandfather who was a tailor but I only show you this because it is old one (about 80 years)  and not very smooth anymore , but I keep this for sentimental value.

I asked a timber to make me some new press blocks from steamed beech wood because the advantage of steamed beech wood is, it will not bend out of shape .


The large block is great for pressing seams open like pants or any long seams, and I use those blocks to flatten seams while cooling down.

You can see a detailed picture of the shape of these blocks here, the small one is a rectangle while the large one is a curved one. They can also be used by pressing the seams open or to flatten the edges from a jacket or coat while the fabric is cooling down.

The seam roll is made from a Saturday newspaper tightly rolled and covered with 2 layers of fabric, the first one is cotton the second layer of wool fabric .

The handle of a  shoe-brush made of unvarnished wood is also helpful as a pressing block and the brush side I use for removing threads or brush fabric.


For sleeves I use the sleeve board but sometimes the arm roll gets some use too, this one is made to use with a dress form but I like to use it as a seam roll for a 2 piece sleeve. Here you can  see the upper side.

The underside of the arm.

Card board rolls for ironing or pressing very long seams,

As press cloths I use silk organza

As well as fine linen cloths.

I made a sort of mitt from 4 layers of heavy Terry which  can be helpful if I need to press any small curved seam.

 There are many ways to prevent pressing imprints like,

 brown paper strips.

Templar sheets used for appliques are a great tool to prevent pressing imprints.

 I cut the desired shape for example if I need to press a bound buttonhole.

 Pressing a bound buttonhole form the inside , you can see the Templar sheet is placed around the bound buttonhole edges.

No visible pressing imprints.

Because you can cut the desired shape I use those sheets too for pressing mitered corners on a skirt or jacket hem.  

A teflon sheet is also a helping hand ,

To seal, seam seal tape for covering the seams in rain coats.

Another tool which I inherited from my grandfather was a wooden hat shaping block, and I found it very useful to use as a pressing aid when I made a hat and needed to press the seams open. Here you can see the hat block closed.

And open.

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