THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

May 20, 2009

Silk jacket

Last year I ordered some fabrics included a few yards of a beautiful silk tussah fabric from Melody at, which I used to make a long jacket.

I already posted some pictures of my sleeve in the blogpost  sleeve heads.

The jacket design and pattern are drafted by me.

The collar is 2 3/8 inch wide (6 cm) and needed some more structure besides the sturdy woven fusible interfacing to keep its shape, so I used some rigilene boning threads.

wide collar


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 2, 2009

Not Couture

Filed under: Fit/Pattern Alterations,Musings,sewing couture — georgene @ 6:36 am

BRITAIN-FINANCE-ECONOMY-G20 Hillary and Michelle are out there this week, highly visible on their charm tour of European capitals.

Hillary, as Secretary of State, has a different portfolio so to speak, for her presentation. Her first foray of the G20 stop in London was to 10 Downing St. A photo essay showed up the good and bad points of her ultramarine jacket choice.

Slightly longer than the jackets she usually wore on the campaign trail last year, it had an almost outerwear feel to it. The button placket was strange and bulging at the waist, and did her no favors. 85703157OS007_PRESIDENT_OBA

This was not (I hope) a custom fit piece. The sleeves were just awful, with the cap set too far toward the back. G20/

Mlle. Gogel, my draping teacher in Paris, insisted that one had to be able to put a suitcase in the overhead rack whilst wearing a coat or jacket. It’s obvious that Hillary will be having a hard time with that, as you can see here by the terrible drag lines. I suppose that she has someone to put the suitcase up there for her nowadays, but that has got to be uncomfortable. 85703157PM020_PRESIDENT_OBA

I did like the matching rib sweater under the jacket. We won’t discuss the jewelry. 85703243DK004_WORLD_LEADERS

The sleeve could benefit from a more relaxed fit in general, there is that sort of sausage casing effect in the upper arm that is not flattering. The Hillary in the sunshine photo shows the pouching just below the sleeve cap. There are so many things wrong with this sleeve, I don’t know where to begin. I just want to rip it out and start all oer again!

I suppose we shouldn’t be analyzing what the Secretary of State is wearing, we should be more concerned with what she is doing and saying. I saw a great quote from Madeline Albright’s daughter today. She said that the newspapers would try to figure out what was meant whether her mother wore a hat, or did not wear a hat – when all it meant was that it was a bad hair day!

I do think it is worthwhile to note what Madame Secretary choses to wear, or the First Lady, if we are interested in seeing what the choices of women of power are in today’s world.

January 13, 2009

Vogue 1073 – Chado Ralph Rucci, Parsing the Pattern Pieces

Filed under: Couture Techniques,sewing couture — phyllisc @ 11:17 pm

Here is a photo of the center front piece pinned to my dressform; as you can see, the darts wrap around the body and they are hidden in the tucks.

Last night I cut out my pattern and began to study it in more detail, but first let me share with you some interesting information I received today about how this dress is constructed.  Gail (who is certainly in a position to know) has confirmed that the construction method I’m investigating for the pin tucks is correct.  She also offers more insights into the tucks that I’ll excerpt for you:

“…. I thought I’d offer some comments to let you know that you are on the right track. I have not seen the commercial pattern that you are working with, but I can tell you how the samples are made in the (Rucci) workroom. The pattern allows 3/16″ for a 1/8″ pin tuck. You are constructing the pin tucks correctly, and you are right, there is no stabilizer or cording in the pin tuck. The knit that was used for this dress is not jersey, it is actually interlock, which is a different knit construction. If you are a knitter, you will recognize jersey as having a flat side and a bumpy side, like stockinette stitch. Interlock is a double knit construction, it makes a beefier, more stable cloth, it is flat on both sides…. “

Needless to say I panicked and immediately inspected my sample to determine the type of fabric I have, and this wool knit is indeed interlock, albeit one that is very lightweight, but it does have the stability that Gail references.  Whew. 

So now we know that Vogue’s fabric recommendation is wrong: you need wool interlock, not wool jersey.  It also must be 60 inches wide because the front needs to cut single layer (and I suspect this is also why Vogue does not offer this pattern graded higher than Size 16.)

Now that I know the exact fabric this design requires, I need to hit Jo-Ann’s to find an inexpensive interlock to use for muslins, which brings me to my pattern observations.

After giving it some thought, I cut off the seam allowances because I’ve decided to thread trace the pattern seam allowances onto blocks of fabric in a single layer layout. Why? Because that’s how it’s done in haute couture, and also because basting the pin tucks by hand onto flat laid fabric will require a single layer layout anyway. The seam allowances also just made it too difficult see the finished lines of this dress

A quick observation on petite and FBA adjustments in general:

  • I’ve decided to go down one size to a 12 for the 1stmuslin. Vogue slopers have linebacker shoulders, and I have narrow shoulders.
  • This dress really hangs from the shoulders and bust. Fortunately, the shoulders and sleeves are simple, there is no set in sleeve, just a kimono-like shoulder with a single seam that runs runs down the top of the arm from the side neck to the wrist. Ease is supplied by the knit fabric and under arm gussets. To determine your own size match the pattern as closely to your bust size as possible because the skirt portion is a very simple A-Line shape that skims the body and will be easy to alter; the fit through the bust however is crucial.

Next post I’ll pin the upper bodice front and back to my dressform so you can see how those pattern pieces relate to the body.

 Thank you Gail!  To say I was a little verklempt when I read her comment is putting it midly.  You can read all of Gail’s comment here (scroll to comment 16.)

 Next post: How I’ll tackle the muslin and more photos of the pattern pieces.

January 4, 2009

Vogue 1073 – Chado Ralph Rucci pintuck samples

Filed under: couture sewing,Couture Techniques,Designer,sewing,sewing couture — phyllisc @ 7:47 pm

Today I spent the afternoon with Ann at the Gorgeous Fabrics Studio; we had wonderful time together.   Ann worked on a muslin for Burda 3477  (a pattern with a really great draft BTW that is obvious even in a flat pattern stage) that I helped her fit, and she helped me figure out how to make the pintucks for my Ralph Rucci dress.

Mentally I’ve been going back and forth between two techniques to figure out how Rucci does these.  The obvious choice is a pintuck foot, and another idea would be pintucks basted from the right side and stitched with a walking foot.  I made a sample for each technique, and one came out a clear winner over the other.  Both samples were marked on the right side with a water soluble marker in a zip-zag shape much tighter than the tucks on the Rucci pattern.

Pintuck Foot Tucks

This sample started off well, however as soon as I started to turn my wool jersey into the curves disaster struck:  the fabric got sucked into the feed dogs, which ripped a hole in the  jersey.

What a mess

What a mess



This idea was clearly problematic and while  it occured to me that I might be able to avoid this problem with a light stabilizer; I had to ask myself, “What would Rucci do?”.   Based on what I know about his construction methods, I have a hard time believing he would use something as mundane as a pintuck foot and stabilizer, so this idea was scrapped.

Hand Basted and Sewn with a Walking Foot

This method, along with a consult with Ann, gave me the result I was looking for.  Here the tucks are hand basted from the right side, and then carefully sewn with a walking foot.  

Laid Flat and Hand Basted From the Right Side, Not Yet Stitched

Laid Flat and Hand Basted From the Right Side, Not Yet Stitched

Not bad, but not quite the right effect.  As I looked at it on Ann’s ironing board I noticed her new gravity feed iron quietly heating up next to me.   Eureka!  Steam shrink it!

I removed the basting and  steam shrunk to remove the ripples.  Ann agreed this must be what Rucci does and she added a final steam blast on her ham to set the ridge of the tuck.  I think we got it!

Stitched, Basting Removed and Steam Shrunk - the Winnah!

Stitched, Basting Removed and Steam Shrunk - the Winnah!

14Stream shrinking is used quite a bit in bespoke and haute couture , and the fact that the pattern envelope recommends wool jersey offers an additional clue that steam shrinking is part of making 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.

A last consideration was whether or not the tucks are corded, and I don’t think they are; the original runway version of this dress is really drapey, and corded tucks would add quite a bit of weight.  I also don’t think Vogue Patterns version uses cord, rather that fabric just happens to be a much heavier wool knit than the one used by Rucci (and I think my fabric actually comes pretty close to the weight he used in the runway version.)

So – I need to practice this technique a bit more, and then proceed to  the question of whether this pattern can be adjusted via a vis an FBA and/or for a petite – I think it can, but not in the usual way we might think. 

Stay tuned! 

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