In late August, I had the pleasure of taking part in a “Sit and Sew” with Kenneth King and Susan Khalje. For this class, which is really more of a directed study at the feet of these two masters, I decided to make a beaded lace bustier to wear for singing gigs I have coming up. Grab a cup of coffee, this is a tome. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the result!
Pattern Description: Tightly fitted bustier.
Fabric Used: French beaded and corded Chantilly lace for the overlay, silk duchesse satin for the underlay. Muslin for the backing. I bought the lace and duchesse satin from Lace Star in New York City. The muslin is from Gorgeous Fabrics. Silk habotai for the lining.
Needle/Notions Used: Size 70/10 universal for the machine sewing, Japanese handsewing needles that I purchased from Susan Khalje at the class, spiral steel boning, seam binding (for boning casing), 22 inch zipper, petersham ribbon, hook/eye, snap and waistband hook/eye.
Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Ummmm….
How were the instructions? Sucked. Seriously. No – not seriously. There were no instructions. Self-drafted, don’t ya know. You can see more about that in this post.
Construction Notes: Okay, where to begin? Let’s go step by step…
To start to pull this beast together, I got out my style tape and taped the style lines on my dress form (pictures tomorrow). Then I pinned muslin to the form and used a pencil to trace the lines. Because this is a standard princess line garment, it had 8 pieces: back (*2), front (*2), side front (*2) and side back (*2). Originally I thought I would have a CB zipper, but Susan and Kenneth recommended a side zip. So I changed the CB seam to a CB fold and ended up with 7 pieces. You can see all the final pieces here:
This is a close fitting pattern. I put it on and Susan started working on it. You can’t fit a pattern like this by yourself; you really need someone else – preferably someone who knows what they are doing. The first thing Susan did was pinch a dart right at the bust in the two front pieces, starting at center front and tapering out to the side-front seam. This eliminates the “uniboob” look that you sometimes get with this kind of design. You can see the pattern pieces above, and here is the sewn dart in the garment
Because I want it for singing, I had originally designed it with a couple of inches of ease through the torso and waist (singers breathe in their lower torso, not up in the shoulder area, so you want some room). Susan pinched out a bunch of that ease. When I protested, she said, “Well, I’ll give you the side seams, but I want the front.” The next day, I put on a muslin to have her check the fit. She was doing a demonstration, so while we were watching, Kenneth walked over to me and looked at me in the muslin. Without saying a word, he started pinching, pinning, and generally eliminating all the ease I built in. Then he showed me where to slash the pattern, add an inch all around and put in a waist stay. Susan was very happy when she saw it. I forget what she said, but it was along the lines of “Oh good, Kenneth took out the ease!” I decided it was wise to capitulate. Susan marked up my pattern for boning.
Three muslins later, I was ready to create the backing and buy my fabric.
Buying the Fabric
Ka-ching! But can I tell you? Gowachuss! And I had Susan Khalje shopping for me! Pinch me I was dreaming. No, don’t pinch me, I don’t want to wake up. Susan Khalje, French lace, duchesse satin, and a credit card that couldn’t say no. It was a once in a lifetime event.
Dem Bones Dem Bones
The next morning, I sewed the boning channels in the muslin backing, then I applied the muslin to the satin. At lunchtime, I took my boning requirements and went shopping. I needed 16 pieces of spiral steel boning in various lengths. The longest pieces, at the CF/SF seams, were 14 inches long.
Can I just tell you?
Was there a piece of 14 inch boning to be had anywhere on the Isle of Manhattan? No! Greenberg and Hammer? Nope. Sil Thread? Nope. Pacific Trims? Nope. Any other store between Penn Station and Central Park South? NO! There was 13 1/2 inch boning. There was 14 1/2 inch boning. There was 10 inch, 24 inch, 18 inch, 7 inch, 2 inch, but there was no frickin’ 14 inch boning anywhere! I came back to the class in an utterly foul mood. I put as much of the boning in as I could, and Susan sent me two pieces of 14 inch boning as soon as she got home (thank you, Susan!)
Once all the boning was in, I tacked down the hems and seam allowances using a catchstitch to give a smooth line and to make applying the lining easier.
Applying the Lace
Here’s another time when having an expert nearby makes your life so much easier. My biggest hurdle with this project was actually cutting into the lace. It’s delicate, it’s expensive, and even to someone who is afraid of next to nothing when it comes to sewing, it’s intimidating. Susan and Kenneth eased my anxiety right away. Susan showed us all how to cut around lace motifs to make them blend together, and how to attach them.
Want to know one of my biggest revelations of this project? When applying the lace, you do it all in one piece! No cutting pattern pieces. Susan showed me how (this really takes two people, or you need to do it on a dress form). Because lace is so moldable, you simply drape it and pin it in strategic places to the backing so it doesn’t gap or balloon away from the body. Susan placed the lace so one scalloped edge ran along the bottom of the bustier. More about the top of the bustier below. Once the lace was placed, I tacked it loosely to the backing to secure it. Here’s some of the tacking from the wrong side.
The tacking is the dark green thread.
To finish the top edges of the bustier, I used the other scalloped edge of the lace. Once the body lace was applied, I cut off the scallops from the other selvage of the lace. One of the beautiful things about lace is that it’s 90% air, so you can move it around, shape it and generally
abuse it play with it all you like, and it takes to it beautifully. I took my time placing the scallops so the upper curves matched those on the bottom hem. I hand basted everything in place – have I mentioned that this is mostly hand sewn?
Once I had the scallops basted, then came another nerve-wracking part – removing beaded motifs from the lace. If you look at the picture of the bustier in this post you’ll see that there are several beaded motifs that wrap over from the front to the back at the top hem. Those had to be fully or partially removed, otherwise you’d see beading poking through the lace, and it would have a kind of lumpy, unattractive effect. For the motifs where the beading continues below the scallops, I affixed the beads that were to stay by hand and carefully snipped the threads holding the beads to be removed. It was easy, but tedious work, so I did it while watching
the Pats/Bills game (go Pats!)
After I removed the beads, I sewed the scallops in place using tiny hand stitches, I was careful only to attach the scallops to the lace, keeping the silk backing free. I tacked the scallops to the backing loosely at the top.
Inserting The Zipper
I hand-inserted the zipper using Susan Khalje’s hand-picked zipper application.
I used a 22 inch closed-end zipper. More on that a little later…
I really wanted to line this with silk crepe de chine, but I couldn’t find any in the right colors, so I ended up getting some habotai. I used the pattern pieces from my muslin, and sewed it together. I finger pressed the top and side edges of the lining at the sewing lines and applied it by hand to the bustier using a fell stitch. It’s a little hard to see, but here’s a picture of it:
One side note about all the hand stitching. I used plain old Metrosene thread that I had run through beeswax and then ironed. That makes it easier to work with and gives it strength.
After attatching the lining at the top and zipper sides, I smoothed it over the curves and tacked it at the CF dart and the bust points. Then I smoothed it down toward the bottom, turned up the hem and finished stitching it.
Susan taught us a neat trick in class. When making a bustier, rather than using a separating zipper, use an extra long closed end zipper. Then apply a snap at the top of your lining by the zipper and to the bottom of the zipper. Once you’re in the bustier, you can then snap the zipper tail, pulling the end of the zipper out of sight.
Likes/Dislikes: I love it! There was nothing to dislike about this project. It was a stretch for me, and it was my first foray in quite some time back into the world of couture-level sewing. I really enjoyed all the techniques I learned, and I loved meeting people, both old friends and new, in the class.
Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I would make another lace bustier again now with no hesitation. Well, maybe my bank account would hesitate, but I really loved this project. And I loved, loved, LOVED the class, Susan, and Kenneth! I highly recommend it, and I recommend pushing yourself out of your comfort zone every once in a while.
Conclusion: A fun, challenging, rewarding project! Here are the finished garment pictures