Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Inspiration Field Trip!

Pattern, Costume and Ornament in African and African-American Art
Fashioning Kimono: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan
Birmingham Museum of Art

Couture Hand Stitching

In May, several members taught a workshop on couture hand stitching. The hand stitching techniques included: Catch Stitch, Slip Stitch, Half Back Stitch, Tailor Tacks, Covered Snaps.

Each member completed a sample like this one.
The catch stitch is used to attach the raw edges of facings and interfacing to the wrong side of the garment, hems for stretchy fabrics like knits and secure pleats or tucks in linings. See this YouTube video for instructions .

The slip stitch is used to hem, attach linings and hold pockets in place. Use this stitch when you want a finish that is almost invisible. See this YouTube video for instructions.

The half back stitch is a very strong stitch and can be used for almost any seam. On the right side of the fabric, the half back stitch looks like a running stitch or machine stitch however on the wrong side, the stitches overlap. I couldn't find a video for half back stitch but here's a YouTube video of the BACK stitch. The half back stitch is the back stitch only with a smaller stitch length.

Tailor tacks are used to mark fabric where other marking techniques would permanently mar the fabric like silks, velvets, or tweeds. Use basting thread like this Cotton Basting Thread or this Japanese Basting Thread. The Otis Fashion Senior Studio video on YouTube is excellent. If you don't want to watch the whole video skip ahead to 3:14 minutes to 3:46 minutes to see how to sew tailor tacks then skip ahead to 4:20 minutes to 4:30 to see how to cut tailor tacks. Here's another YouTube video on making tailor tacks. This video doesn't have sound.

Covered snaps are used when you want to minimize the appearance of snaps. Use lining fabric or some other thin fabric to cover snaps. I covered the bottom of the snap only. Sorry, I couldn't find a YouTube video for this. I did find these instructions from New Mexico State University - scroll down the page to figure 9.

This was my first attempt and hand stitching in a long time so my stitches are not perfect. The stitches are not hard and instructions can be found in any good book on sewing. My advice to members who want to learn couture hand stitching...Practice, Practice, Practice.

Monday, July 26, 2010

frayed edges

When using frayed edges to finish a garment there are several factors to keep in mind. The first is your fabric. Choose something that has a loose weave or is lightweight so it will ravel easily with a stiff brush. Then be certain you love working with it. If you think it takes a long time to finish seam edges, wait until you ravel a few!

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

These techniques are all about the fabric, so find one that’s interesting with unraveled edges. For example, a fabric with different color warp and weft yarns has an entirely different look when unraveled.

Make lots of samples so you can see results before committing your time.
  • Bias, crosswise and lengthwise grain may yield very different final results in color, texture, length and thickness of fringe.
  • Experiment with different width seam allowances to get the look you want.
Make some sketches of your finished piece to determine which edges you want to fray. Frayed seam allowances in the body of a garment can be used to accent inside design lines.
When raveling fabrics, use a stiletto to work from the outer edge in, especially on bias edges.

If raveling on crosswise or lengthwise grain anchor the fabric along the edge you are fraying. You can do this by pressing the work with your anchoring hand against a flat surface. Keep tension on the yarns that are perpendicular to the yarn you are pulling to make the work go faster.


Here is my take on Kenneth King’s technique for making a brush fringe.

(Source: Threads Magazine, Issue #137)

Think of this fringe technique as a fabric sandwich. You have a top and bottom piece of fashion fabric that have fringed edges and a stabilizing layer in-between.

Here are the steps:

Cut your top and bottom pieces out of fashion fabric. From your samples, you’ll know if you want to have both pieces on the same grain or if you want to cut the bottom piece with the grain running in a different direction for a better fringe effect.

Cut your support fabric layer. Experiment to find the right level of support, the fabric could range from organza to hair canvas interfacing.

Sew the support layer to the wrong side of the top layer on the seam allowance.

On the support layer only: trim corners and clip or notch curves, as needed. Press the seam allowance away from the edge you will fringe.

Add the bottom layer to the “sandwich”. Place the wrong side of the bottom layer against the support layer. Sew on the previous stitching line from the top.

Add a decorative chain stitch to cover the stitching line, using yarn harvested from the fabric, if desired.

Ravel edges on top and bottom layers to create fringe.

frayed edge

Here is my interpretation of Louise Cutting’s technique for making a frayed raw edge.

(Source: Threads Magazine, Issue #121)

Think of this edge as a frayed trim. You have a bias strip with frayed raw edges sewn to the back of your fashion fabric and flipped to the front. Experiment with different fabrics to find the most appealing combination - sheers seem to work especially well with this technique.

Don’t give up couture techniques because you’ve chosen a simple embellishment. Use an underlining if your fabric calls for it, it can add to the trim effect. And if you’re using this edge in lieu of a facing you can add a stay tape to stabilize the edge, too.

Here are the steps:

Cut your fashion fabric, leaving seam allowances at the edges. (Underline as usual, if your fabric calls for it.)

Cut a bias strip that is twice as wide as the seam allowance, minus 1/4 inch. (If your seam allowance is 5/8 inch, the bias strip would be 5/8 + 5/8 - 1/4 = 1 inch.

Align the edges of the fashion fabric and bias strip, wrong sides together.

Stitch together on the seam allowance.

Turn the fashion fabric seam allowance and bias strip to the right side and understitch 1/8 inch from previous stitching line, catching only one side of the bias strip. (The bias strip will be flat, with the understitched edge on the garment and the other edge off the garment.)

If you want to add stay tape to the edge, carefully sandwich it under the fashion fabric on the right side before understitching, butting it against the fold. (Or baste it in place on the front side, with one edge on the previous stitching line before turning the seam allowance to the front.)

Press the other edge of the bias strip over the understitching.

Fray the edges of the bias strip and fashion fabric with a stiff brush.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Claire Schaeffer DVD available soon

Taunton Press has sent some emails out receently.. One of the featured items was a new DVD by Claire Shaeffer:

The two discs retail for $39.95, and will be available August 25, 2010. Here's a pic of the set:  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

binding technique

When attaching binding (bias or straight) to an edge that is continuous, it is often desirable to avoid bulk where possible in the joining of individual pieces. This occurs when there is too little length in your fabric to avoid piecing. The typical way to join the short pieces to make one long piece is to cut each end at a 45 degree angle and stitch the angled ends together. The can be accomplished in a variety of ways. My favorite is to start with the ends squared off as if you were going to simply sew a seam at a 90 degree angle to the length of the binding. Then I lay the two pieces right sides together at a 90 degree angle and stitch across the diagonal of the square formed. NOTE: pin along the proposed stitching line and open it out to make sure you are sewing the CORRECT diagonal. One makes a miter which is not desired here. The other diagonal is the correct one. You can start in one corner, take a few stitches, and then hold the thread tale in the direction you are sewing so that it forms a visible diagonal to follow as you stitch. Then just cut off the excess triangles on each piece.

If you are attaching the binding to a piece that is continuous in that it does not have a specific start and end place, then it is also desirable to attach the beginning and ending of the binding in a similar diagonal manner. This is important, for example, when you are binding a quilt, or even the outer edge of a jacket when the finished edge runs along the hem, front edges and neckline. Simply sewing the two ends together in at a 90 degree angle from the length of the binding creates a lot of bulk and is also a fairly weak seam.

To join these two pieces in a perfect diagonal, first begin sewing with a generous tail left over at the beginning, say around 7”. Then sew around the object to within about 10” of the beginning of your sewing. Remove the piece from your sewing machine. Now you need only measure the width of the binding piece. This is the amount of overlap you'll need for the perfect diagonal (curly braces in figure 2). For example, if your binding starts out as 2” wide, then the overlap between the beginning of the binding and the end should be exactly 2”. Once you have the overlap cut precisely, then fold one end at a right angle and finger press. Slide the other piece under it. It is now possible to see where the diagonal stitch will go. You may wish to mark it with a pencil or, as indicated above, use the thread tail on your sewing machine to guide you to a perfect 45 degree angle. Finished join should look like the drawing below. You can now finish attaching the binding to the piece, fold and finish as you normally do with a binding.

See you next time, Martha

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ornament Magazine

Have you seen the latest edition of Ornament Magazine? It has a cool article on Koos Van Den Akker. You can read part of it here: and I plan to bring my copy to our Saturday meeting. He has very interesting patterns in Vogue patterns and his process is fascinating. I like this quote "I just sit behind the sewing machine. That's all there is. There's nothing else to tell." Well, me, too. But my creations are a far cry from his ;)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I can't wait to see everyone on Saturday. I just returned from a family vacation in Colorado and finally got to see all 3 grandgirls wearing semi-matching dresses I made them. They live in 3 different states so this is the first time they've worn them together.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fashion Illustration

Rachel gave the group a wonderful demonstration on fashion illustration. Here is a book found at the Barnes and Noble (Cobb Pkwy and Akers Mill Road) for $6.98 in the bargain book section. It has extensive how-to's on fashion illustration:

Our Next Couture Group Meeting is July 24th at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church

Our program for July 24th will focus on edges -- a demo by three of our talented members. They may inspire you to use one of the edges on your vest! We will also be doing Show and Tell with a focus on the progress made on our vests. Of course, other Show and Tell goodies are encouraged.
A few of our willing fitters will stay after the regular meeting for one hour to help with any fitting challenges.

See you on July 24th
10 - 12 am

St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church
4393 Garmon Road
Atlanta GA 30327


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