I haven’t worked with beaded laces in a while, other than to cut them for customers, but these ones would sorely tempt me! I got several 4-yard cuts from the Haute Couturier. You know, the one that begins with a V, and whose gowns cost upwards of $5000 in places like Saks and Neimans. Yes, that one! These are so exquisite, I just had to share!


4 Yards of Beaded French Lace, 50 inches wide, Chocolate


4 yards of Beaded Embroidered French Net, 42 inches wide, Red

Oo la la!

4 yards of Beaded French Net, 36 inches wide, Aqua, Gold and Pearl on Black

There’s only one of each of these. Each piece has enough for a spectacular dress (or skirt or jacket, in the case of the last). These are utterly fabulous!!!!

If you want to see how I have worked with beaded laces like these, Check Out This Post.

Happy (Couture) Sewing!

The What and Why of Waist Stays

Substitute Assistant Professor Ann is in the house! And class is in session!!! So, listen up! (double claps) Eyes forward. Put your electronic devices away, unless you’re reading this post on one (oh, wait…) and give me your undivided attention! We’re about to talk about waist stays.

What is a waist stay? Anyone? Anyone? I’ll tell you. It’s a cool little device used to make sure that your garment “stays” (get it?) in the proper place. Show of hands here. Who has been to a prom, semi-formal, gala, wedding or other occasion and seen women on the dance floor waving their hands over their heads and then reaching down and hoisting their bodices up? Maybe it would be easier if I asked who hasn’t seen that.

Well, I can guarantee – them that spend the night hoisting? Their dresses do not have waist stays. A waist stay is a very simple thing to add to any garment, whether said dress is a custom made beauty or a store bought stunner. A waist stay is a piece of fabric that is cut to fit the waist (with no ease), and attached to the garment.

The best waist stays are made from petersham. Petersham is a type of ribbon. It looks like grosgrain ribbon, which you can find in most craft stores for making belts. The big difference, and this is important, is that petersham does not have the bound edge that grosgrain does. This lack of binding allows it to curve around you and hug your waistline comfortably. Also, petersham is made from rayon, which shrinks and stretches, making it ideal for shaping.

So how do you make a waist stay? Easy! Measure your waist, and cut a piece of petersham that is the length of your waist measurement plus 2 inches. Fold over each end 1 inch (double it to finish it nicely). Sew a waistband hook and eye to the ends. Tack the stay to your garment lining at the openings, and vertical seam lines, so it floats a wee bit away from the lining. Here’s a picture of a waist stay for a bustier:

Note that it's tacked at the side seams and the openings, and otherwise hangs free.

And here’s a waist stay in a gown:

It's an easy add-on to any garment.

Now, you’ll notice that it isn’t actually sewn into the waistline seam. Think about it, there’s wearing ease in the garment at the waist. There isn’t any in the stay. In fact, there’s slightly negative ease in the stay. You don’t want the stay to be the same measurement as the garment. You want to let the garment have its ease, giving the garment and the wearer freedom of movement, while anchoring the garment to the wearer’s body. And there is the key. That anchor eliminates the need to constantly pull up the bodice. It keeps the waistline in place, and it gives the wearer a smooth, comfortable experience. It’s a critical addition to a strapless garment, but you can also use it to anchor garments with shoulders. It’s a regular feature in couture dresses and gowns. So try adding one to your next project, or even to a favorite dress when you plan to do the pogo at your friend’s wedding. You’ll be glad you did.

Happy sewing!

This Is Something I Would Like To Learn

Over on Stitchers Guild, someone asked a question about beading, and I was reminded that I really, really would love to learn tambour beading. I had all the supplies at one point, but I was working in high tech, traveling all over the world, and my kids were very young, so I never got around to it. I sold my hook, for which I’m kicking myself these days, along with the instructional books I bought to try to teach myself. But I saw this video recently, and I am hooked on the idea again. Ooooh, bad Ann! No biscuit!

So now I’m thinking about it again. Wouldn’t that be fun to add a little beading to my couture dress? Speaking of which, the muslin is cut out, so I’ll work on that this weekend. More later. In the meantime,

Happy sewing!

Spring Combo!

Phyllis and I spent much of the day working together yesterday. After we finished, we went to my house for wine and fashion talk, along with dish! How fun was that! I’m taking Susan Khalje’s Class, “The Couture Dress” on Craftsy, and I’ve been debating about the fabric I want to use for my dress. The pattern they supply for the class is this Vogue:

Vogue 8648

Yesterday, Phyllis helped me pick out the fabric for it, and then she went to town styling it for Spring by combining it with a bag and shoes. Prints that “clash” are all over the runways for spring. I figure I’ll wear it to the Couture Club of Chicago fashion show in May and look fabulous!

Love the contrast!

Alas, there is one slight problem. When I went to adjust the inventory for the silk fabric, I discovered someone had bought the last of it. Sniff! See? I own the store, and even I miss out on fabrics sometimes! Time to make some calls tomorrow morning to see if I can get another bolt.

Stay tuned!

More Progress on the Jacket

I got several hours to myself today. My accountant needed my computer, so I couldn’t go online. I took the opportunity to work some more on the jacket. What a treat! As I said yesterday, now that the major construction parts are done, it’s down to the details. And the details always take the most time. The next major step is setting the sleeves. Before I do that I wanted to sew the sleeve’s lining seam allowances together. I used a slipstitch to do this.

For those who are wondering, my nail polish is "Swimsuit, I Win!" from OPI

That is a slipstitch, right? Or is it a fell stitch? See, this is the reason I hesitate to write a book. I’m afraid I’d get it wrong and people would jump all over me. 🙂

Here’s a picture of the finished seam:

All done, whatever you call it.

I did have time to set the right sleeve before I had to tend to family matters and dinner. I basted it in by hand first, then I machine stitched. It’s not trimmed or given a final press yet, but this picture gives you an idea of how it will look.

It's a 3-piece sleeve

So that’s where it stands. Can I just tell you? This fabric is an absolute joy to work with. I love the feel of it between my fingers. It’s so soft, and so luxurious. Have you ever worked with a fabric like that? What did you make? Share, please!

Happy sewing!

It’s Like When the Drywall is In, but Before the Skim Coat Goes On…

That’s where the Chanel jacket stands. Major parts are done, but lots and lots of small things to go.

It’s been a while. I had to go out of town on business, followed by a big family affair last week. That means this week was spent catching up back at the office. Adding to that, DS the younger had a sore throat followed by pink eye, so we spent much of yesterday at the doctor’s office and the pharmacy. And we had a band concert thrown in for good measure. On the plus side, DS the younger, who plays bari sax, was featured prominently in all three bands.

Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of time to work on the jacket. Phyllis came up today and we had a sewing afternoon. She worked on a costume for her daughter. It’s going to be amazing. Phyllis has an eye for matching multiple diverse patterns and trimmings that is second only to Georgene. She’ll share more when it’s ready. It’s going to be good.

So here’s where the jacket stands. All the major seams are sewn. I’ve tacked down the seam allowances on everything except the right sleeve. I’ll do that tomorrow. The seam allowances of the lining are pinned down and ready to be stitched. Now comes all the detail work that will take some time. I’m hoping to have much of it done by this time next week. We’ll see! Here are some pictures of the work in progress:



Sleeves, Inside and Out

As you can see from the sleeve on the left, it’s really important to tack the seam allowances. Left to its own devices, this fabric ravels like crazy.

Have you checked out Susan Khalje’s Craftsy Class?
Shameless plug time. I signed up for Susan Khalje’s class on Craftsy, “The Couture Dress”. Can I tell you? Fabulous! I am only a couple of lessons in, but it’s great. And I love that you pay one price for the class. They don’t nickel and dime you to death with buy-the-video, buy-the-pattern. Just pay the one price and get going. I’ll do a full review once I finish it, but so far, it’s great!

And as a follow-on to my post about books for those of us who have been sewing a while, I got an email from a sewing deity recently, and I think our prayers will be answered in the not-too-distant future. Please keep your comments coming, because they are being looked at by publishers. And I really, really appreciate the kind words from folks who think I should write a book, but I’m not ready at this point. I’m really good at a lot of things, but I know my limitations, and I know my time constraints. Maybe some day, but not right now.

That’s all for tonight. DH has the new “Sherlock” on Netflix. Time to snuggle with him and have a glass of champagne. Just because.
Happy sewing!

Another Week, Some Progress, and a Reminder

This week was a bit of a loss. DH and DS the elder both had the galloping crud (respiratory) that’s going around. That meant I spent a lot of time making things like chicken soup and tea. Special thanks to Phyllis for the chickens. They make fabulous stock, Phyllis! And Hoover has been the lucky beneficiary of the meat. I managed to fight it off, but it’s going around, and everyone seems to be getting it.

Speaking of health matters, I saw my oncologist this week. The conversation went like so:
Dr. C: “So, how are you doing?”
Me: “Fine, I think. How am I doing?”
Dr. C: (scanning the labs) “You’re doing…. PERFECT! See you in 4 months.”

Woooooo hoo!
Not only have I graduated to the four month plan from the three month plan, but now when I have my blood drawn beforehand, they take three vials, down from five. Every little step is a good thing.

On the Chanel Jacket front, I’ve sewn the main body seams except the shoulders, and I’ve secured the bouclĂ© seam allowances with catchstitching. I did part of one seam in a contrasting thread so you can see it:

Catchstitches keep the seam allowances in place

You’ll notice that the stitches are pretty big and that the catching is deep in the seam allowance. This is because the bouclĂ© is big and ravelly. If I used little stitches, (say, 1/4 inch, like I would on a silk shantung or crepe), they wouldn’t catch enough of the bouclĂ© and it would come undone. The catchstitching will keep the fabric from unraveling further, and will keep the seam allowances from lifting over time. These will be covered by the lining (more on that later), but it’s a good idea with a really loosely woven bouclĂ© like this to finish your seams this way. The fabric is thick enough that they don’t show on the outside of the garment.

Here’s a picture of the jacket so far. I pinned the lining out of the way while I was stitching the outer garment SAs down.

Lining is pinned back out of the way

And, typical of working with a bouclé, my ironing board is covered with lint.

Don’t try to press anything light colored on this!

Speaking of Ironing Boards…
Kittens, I need to give a gentle admonishment. I’ve seen a bunch of posts on different blogs recently showing good work that is ruined by an obvious lack of pressing during construction. Take a read of this post:
And Now, a Word from the Pressinatrix

Seriously, it pains me to see really nice work undone by puckery seams. Nothing screams “Happy Hands at Home” more than poorly pressed garments, and you can’t leave the pressing to the very end. Bobbie Carr, rest her soul, used to say, “Pressing is sewing.” Truer words were never spoken. Know that I say this with love, not to be mean. Pressing properly adds just a few minutes to the time it takes to make your garment, but boy oh boy, what a difference those few minutes make!

Oh, one last thing. Tomorrow’s Martin Luther King Day here in the US, so we’re extending the Weekend Sale at Gorgeous Fabrics for one extra day. Have fun!

Happy Pressing! (It is sewing, after all)

A Quick Update on the Chanel Jacket

I had a little time at lunch today, so I got some work done on the Chanel Jacket. The second time is so much faster! Actually, this is technically the third of this style jacket that I’ve made, but for the first one I had not a clue what I was doing. I just joined an informal sewalong on one of the old forums and wung that mother. Now that I have a little more knowledge and experience under my belt, I cringe a little at how naive I was (not to mention the self-brush-fringe trim I made). Ah well, live and learn, right?

Anyway, I sewed the back pieces together:

Lining Side showing the quilting.
And the view from the right side

Pardon the crappy cell phone pictures. I’ll bring the good camera when it’s closer to being finished. I pinned the lining seam allowances down to “train” them. I’ll undo them before I sew the shoulder seams, since I still need to catchstitch the outer shell SAs. I figure if I don’t have time to do that during the week, it’ll give my hands something to do while watching the playoffs (Go Pats!!!!) this Saturday.

So that’s where it stands. I think I’ll be able to sneak some time this week to get the front pieces sewn together and join them all at the sides. More as it happens…

Happy sewing!

Progress on the Next Chanel Style Jacket

It’s been a busy week here, so I haven’t gotten as much done on my jacket as I would like. But I did get it completely cut out, including the lining. In a moment of “The Light Dawns on Marblehead”, I realized that the easiest way to cut out my lining was to just lay the outer shell pieces on top of it, with wrong sides together, pin them together and cut. It also will make it easier on myself when I start quilting.

So much easier this way.

Does the lining fabric look at all familiar? It’s the scraps from Last Year’s Gala Dress

LSF with the lining pinned to it

I’m not worried about shrinkage during quilting, because the pieces have inch-wide seam allowances. Speaking of quilting, thanks to the houndstooth pattern and high contrast between the colors in the bouclĂ©, I have to do a kind of crazy-quilt:

Looks unassuming on the outside
But the inside looks like a drunken seamstress was at work!

I’m hoping to make good progress this weekend. More as it happens.

Happy sewing!

Pattern Review – StyleArc Pippa’s Dress

This is what I call an “Epic Dress” (thank you for that, Georgene!) and the review is pretty epic, too. So pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and bear with me as I tell you about my dress for this year’s Winchester Hospital gala.

Pattern Description: From StyleArc’s website, “PIPPA DRESS: Gorgeous Pippa’s bridesmates [sic] dress with cap sleeve, cowl neck, bust under lay, Lace edging, small back train, centre back loops or optional invisable [sic] zip.”

Sizing: 6-20. I made a size 10

Fabric Used: An absolutely stunning and (you guessed it) sold out 4-ply silk crepe from Gorgeous Fabrics. Occasionally, someone on a sewing forum or group will ask the question, “What is your favorite fabric?” For me? 4 ply silk crepe. Hands down and no questions asked. It is a joy to sew, and even more of a joy to wear. But I digress… French beaded Chantilly lace and silk habotai from Lace Star on 40th Street in New York City. What can I say? They had the right color lining and I didn’t. 🙂

How gorgeous are these, I ask you?

Needle/Notions Used: Universal 70/10, Gutterman thread.

Tips Used during Construction: And Now, a Word from the Pressinatrix, The Right Bra Makes All the Difference

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes.

How were the instructions? Like other StyleArc patterns, they use industry-standard instructions, so they are kind of minimal. But the fact is, I didn’t need them. This pattern is so beautifully drafted that it goes together with no hassles. Plus, with the changes I made (see below), I had to do things differently.

Construction Notes: I first started on this dress in August, and I brought the muslin for fitting to the Sit and Sew with Susan Khalje and Kenneth King. We did some initial fittings, and made several changes. First, I eliminated the shoulder pads. I did a FBA and lowered the bust darts (sigh). I also added shoulder darts to shape it around the neck a little better (thank you, Susan Khalje!). Because of the bust changes, I did some length adjustments on the cowl.

When I first made the muslin, I thought the neckline was kind of high, so I lowered the V by about an inch and a half. I stayed the neckline edges with silk habotai selvages.

And then there was the lace. I added a lace overlay on the upper bodice. This one took some thinking, because I wanted the eyelashes on the lace to float free above the neckline. Here are the steps I took to do that.

  1. Trace off one half of the bodice pattern.
  2. Fold out the darts and smooth it flat.
  3. Lay the half-bodice pattern on the lace so that the neckline lies slightly below the scalloped edges (with the eyelashes) of the lace fabric.
  4. Cut out the lace along the shoulder, armscye side and lower bodice seams. When I reach the center front seam, cut around the lace motifs.
  5. Using cotton basting thread, mark the center front seam.
  6. Repeat for the other half of the bodice.
  7. Once both bodice pieces are cut out, lay one over the other, matching the CF markings.
  8. Make an applique seam (see Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture for how-to) around the motifs at the center front. This will give you your lace overlay.
  9. Baste the lace overlay to the dress outer shell bodice piece along the seamlines.

At this point, if you have a dress form, lay the combined bodice on the form. If you don’t have a form, drape it on yourself and enlist a friend to carefully pin it at various points. Make sure you don’t pin it to the form (or to yourself, ouch). Tack the lace discreetly to the outer shell fabric. This will keep the lace (which in my case is heavier than the crepe, thanks to the beading) from drooping downward.

After I attached the lace, I spent the better part of an afternoon pulling teeny weeny beads out of the seam allowances to reduce bulk. But once the lace was in, the rest was easy. With Susan’s help back in the summer, I redrafted the sleeves to be a two-piece cap sleeve that hugs the shoulder cap (the original McQueen dress had raglan sleeves which did this).  I sewed the side and shoulder seams. I pinned the cowl and lace overlay out of the way at the neckline:

Get the lace out of the way

Once that was done, I tried it on and tacked the cowl to the bodice. This is important, because (especially if you are busty) if you don’t, then from the side, you look like the prow of a ship. I just used a loose tailor tack. It let the cowl move, but kept it close. I sewed the lining and outer shell together at the neckline, then finished the hems and gave it a final steam-out. You’ve probably seen it already, but here’s a replay of the final product.

The Full Monty

Likes/Dislikes: Love. Love. LOVE! At one point last night, I was walking down the hallway back to the ballroom. I passed two women who were staring at me, and I heard one say, “I love that dress!” Can I just tell you? I was walking on air!

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I would definitely do it again. This pattern was beautifully drafted, and it went together so well. Would I recommend it? Hell yeah! I’m thinking I may make this up at some point in a knee-length version for a dressy but not formal look.

Conclusion: I was so happy with this dress. I love it, love it, love it! I’m going to wear it again for DH’s cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah (a black-tie affair at the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan). It’s a great pattern. Here are pictures of the gala, so you can see it in action.

Susan came to the gala with us. She's GORGEOUS! But you knew that.
DH and me with Cynthia and Alan
On the dance floor

What can I say? This dress is a winner.

Happy sewing!