Thursday, February 27, 2014

CoutureGRAM: Chanel Strapless Lace Dress

Back to CoutureGRAM series! If you haven't read these posts yet, I am occasionally featuring in-detail images of couture garments I find on the web. Occasionally, because it is not easy to find detailed shoots of couture garments. This lace dress was posted on ebay, and it is undoubtedly a couture piece. So, why don't we learn something new from the few available details. Luckily, there is a fair use doctrine that allows us to do just this.

Back to the dress. It is a simple, slightly flared silhouette, and you can see that the dress has seen better times. But for me, it was interesting to see how the closure was treated on lace and lining layers, and the innards of the dress foundation, with boning and breast padding. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hand Embroidery: Lost in Cross Stitches & Sampler No 4

Ooh, I think I have a very soft spot for hand embroidery, and it is developing into a crush...

The fourth sampler with cross stitches made me want a lot more, judge yourself

Cross Stitches: 1. Traditional cross stitch; 2. St. George cross stitch; 3. Star stitch; 4. Herringbone stitch; 5. Herringbone stitch variations; 6. Leaf stitch
Cross stitches are so much fun, I got carried away. I enjoy Jessica's teaching style and hope she will have more courses on Craftsy besides this one. Her tips are great.

Look at the star stitch, for example, (blue and slate grey rows). The first star in the slate grey row is the usual way of making the stitch, but Jessica shows how to make it differently (all the remaining stars), and, honestly, I like her way better. You can say it, right? You start by making a simple cross stitch. And then, usually they'd tell you in books to go over the cross that you just made. But Jessica goes under it, it makes the stitch flatter.

The next, herringbone stitch, is the one that we use so much in couture sewing for seam allowances, but we call it simply a cross stitch. It's a simple but effective stitch that covers large area with just a little thread.

My favorite - the leaf stitch. Those red leaves are so graphic, I love them!

So, one more sampler is to be done and then it's over with the class. I am looking forward to more, and I already found a nice guide for beginner bead embroidery. It is basically a few samplers for each stitch family, but made in beads. Techniques are very similar - I have already read the entire book while waiting for my parent-teacher conferences appointments. I am lost in an embroidery daydream, readers, join me!

Are you actually interested in embroidery posts? If yes, I'll continue sharing embroidery posts here once a week or so...

More posts and samplers from the class:

Hand Embroidery: Yes, I can! I mean, I will (Sampler 1)
Hand Embroidery: The second sampler is completed
Hand Embroidery: An Ode to Bouillon Stitch (Sampler 2)

Monday, February 24, 2014

SSDA 5: What are (perfect) darts? Assessing dart intake, zzzz...

Back to nuclear pattern-making, readers! Aren't we all happy to delve into a world of high mathematics, technical drawings and nerdy formulas? After two Valentine's Day celebrations at school and one parent-teacher conference after another, I am really happy to be back to this! Oh, well, this post is actually short and sweet, and painless. You just need to stay awake!


Our fellow sewers, Liz and Kate!

If you remember, they both have the same waist and hip circumference. Their shapes are, however, very different. Liz has stronger buttocks, and Kate has strong hips. Both of them have protruding tummies.

The next thing we discussed earlier is that (almost) any garment, and in our case, a skirt, starts with a cylinder, which is then shaped with the help of darts, just like a soccer/foot- ball. But while a football is a sphere with equal dart intake, our body require different intake depending on the area being shaped. This very basic concept is essential for understanding the fit and custom patternmaking or draping.

Let me give you a brief list of areas that need shaping for our straight skirt:

  • front: usually two darts, from waist to the most protruding part of the tummy
  • back:  usually two to six darts, from waist to most protruding part of the buttocks
  • side:  usually two darts, from the waist to the most protruding part of your hip/thigh
As you see, there are pairs of darts in each area. If you have a symmetric figure, each pair will have two equal darts. For asymmetric figure they will be slightly different. 

Now, since both, Liz and Kate have the same waist and hip measurements, most patternmaking books would give you same values for darts. One system that approaches it differently is Mueller & Sohn, but the disadvantage there is that you have to do different calculations for different types of bodies, and learn to identify them in a first place. Finally, Mueller & Sohn only gives you a very few body variations, and as we know, each body is unique. Whatever the system, most of them often require a considerable fitting effort after the drafting. 

Let's look at our picture above again and try to identify where will Liz and Kate require shaping and how will it differ for each of the girls. I drew a gray cylinder/rectangle (our future skirt) for both of them, and shaded the areas that need darts in blue. It is just as simple - shade the area between the body contour and the (excess) rectangle outline! 

What do we see? Let's draft a simple checklist, that you can use for yourself as well:
  • Liz needs the biggest dart intake in the back
  • Her front darts are the smallest
  • Her side darts are the longest
  • Kate needs most dart intake on the sides
  • Her back darts are the longest
  • Her front darts are the smallest.
  • Liz has longer side darts than Kate
  • Both have almost the same front darts
  • Kate has longer back darts
  • Liz has deeper back darts than Kate
  • ...
Are we on the same page, readers? If yes, the next step is to realize what fitting issues can arise with wrong intake. here is a very short...

  • Liz/Kate: What will happen with the side seam if we take in more in the front? The rest needs to be distributed so the waist circumference won't change
  • Liz: How will less intake in the back affect the side seam? The waist circumference should remain the same, that is the excess fabric will need to be somehow redistributed.
  • ... continue thinking of possible scenarios, or even try to drape a muslin around a dress form a watch how its behaving while you are pinching out darts. 


Are you actually doing your homework? If you made your photographs, as I asked you in one of previous posts you can draw the same rectangle shape for your body and shade areas that need intake. Analyze intakes and, if you want, contact me with questions here, or by mail at mvk(dot)fashion(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Previous Straight Skirt Draft Along (SSDA) posts:

Coming up:

SSDA 6: Measuring and Calculating Darts
SSDA 7: The Measuring Session
SSDA 8: Drafting the Skirt
SSDA 9: Making a Toile and Analyzing the Fit

Please do comment here and let me know if anyone needs help or feedback. In that case I will set up a discussion group on a different platform - it all depends on the number of people participating and your involvement. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hand Embroidery: An Ode to Bouillon Stitch

Shall we take a break from nuclear pattern-making, readers? My husband says you will abandon me after those highly dry and technical posts. But you won't, will you? I mean the worse is still to come :)

Anyway, it's a great time to get an embroidery love break. I finished my third sampler, from the Lesson 4 of the Craftsy Hand Embroidery class. I absolutely love it...

Knotted stitches: 1. French knot; 2. Pistol stitch; 3. Bouillon stitch; 4. Coral stitch; 5. Double knot 

Take a bouillon stitch for example, it is so tricky, but so intricate. Luckily Jessica, the class instructor, gave me a few tips how to handle it. You see the results yourself. The light blue element is stitched with 3-ply thread and was easier to handle, the red and dark grey - with 6-ply thread and were much trickier with a normal embroidery needly. I need to get a millinery needly for this stitch, Jessica told me. It is my favorite knotted stitch now.

Bouillon stitch (Lesson 4)

More posts and samplers from the class:

Hand Embroidery: Yes, I can! I mean, I will (Sampler 1)
Hand Embroidery: The second sampler is completed

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SSDA 4: Measuring length

The simplest method to measure length is to measure from the waist to the desired garment length. The problem with this method, however, is that your curves are completely ignored. Look at the picture below: you'll see that all the curves are different and, thus, require more or less fabric to accommodate the volume.

To solve this issue, we will be measuring all four sides from the waist to the floor. But before, let's agree on terms. We will use 
GL - for the desired garment length,
RSL - right side length,
LSL - left side length,
BL - back length,
FL - front length 
A measuring tape should follow the curve from the waist to its most protruding part; and from there, it should fall down perpendicular to the floor. If the measuring tape falls to the floor at an angle it may give you an error.  Proceed the same way for all four measurements (RSL, LSL, BL, FL).


  • Measure yourself, or be measured, in front of a mirror to make sure that the measuring tape falls perpendicular to the floor from the most protruding part of the measured body curve.
  • Before you start measuring, observe yourself in a mirror, determine which curves are bigger, which are smaller. This visual examination should serve as a control for your measurement-taking session. Bigger curves will give you bigger length values, while smaller curves - smaller. 
  • Take measurements at least three times (in one session), until you get consistent results. This is necessary for practicing. As you move along, your measurement-taking skills will improve, and you will be able to complete the session in a very short time. 


To determine the desired garment length (GL), measure on the right side (as a suggestion), from the floor to the desired hem length, keeping the measuring tape perpendicular to the floor. This value (LD for length difference) will be the same on all sides as long as the hem ends below the lowest body curve. For our draft-along, we will draft a knee-long skirt, the grey line on the graphic hits at the knee.

Calculate all four garment length by subtracting the measured value from the entire length.
GLRS  (garment length right side) = RSL - LDGLLS (garment length left side) = LSL - LD
GLB (garment length back) = BL - LD
GLF (garment length front) = FL - LD


There are a lot of variables in a fit assessment. Usually, one fit problem interferes with another and, unless you are an excellent fitter, it is often impossible to accurately pin point a fit problem just by using photographs and graphs from fitting books. That's why it's worth to have a fit check procedure. I always recommend checking the widest circumference first. For a skirt it is hips.

  • Have you measured your hip circumference correctly? 
  • Did you think of a protruding stomach? 
  • Thighs? They all may require extra centimeters added to the true hip circumference.

Only after you are satisfied with hip circumference you can proceed to length check.  Here it is important to understand that fitting issues arise from incorrect length measurement between the most protruding point of a curve and the waist. That's why patterns that use more than one length measurements are even at the hem, but end at different height at the waist.

Too short measurement at the back for Liz (on the picture above) will result in a hem that rides up in the back. Side seams will tilt toward the back, and, when looked at from the front will look tapered at the hem. These are typical symptoms of a too short back measurement.

However, if you haven't checked hips circumference before and it was measured too tight, your skirt may ride up in the back after you have moved or sat. And, because fabric is too tight around hips, the skirt won't easily fall down in the back and may bulge a little above the most protruding part of the buttocks. So, if you see a similar bulge, try re-measuring / increasing hip circumference before trying to solve the issue with darts.


Practice measurement taking. This is not the last post on taking measurements, what's left is darts. Yes, we will measure darts on your body and then use them to determine side seam placement on your pattern. I will explain in the next post.


Dear readers, I am looking for posts about innovative (but not necessarily new) tools for measuring length. If you've come across a tool that helps measure length accurately, please write to me at mvk(dot)fashion(at)gmail(dot)com. Include a paragraph or more about the tool, an image, and a link to more information.

Post your questions and comments, readers. I will  include them in an upcoming Q&A post, just to reinforce the topic. Hope you have been enjoying the Draft-Along so far! 

Previous Straight Skirt Draft Along (SSDA) posts:

Coming up:

SSDA 5: Darts: Recognizing Dart Intake
SSDA 6: Measuring and Calculating Darts
SSDA 7: Final Measuring Session
SSDA 8: Drafting the Skirt
SSDA 9: Making a Toile and Analyzing the Fit

SSDA 3: Taking waist measurement

Back to our drafting, readers! Or, more correctly to our measurements. In the previous post we discussed hip circumference, the ease and the relation between your hip measurement and the fit. Have you made the hip measurement band, by the way? If you did, you probably noticed that your new hip circumference is larger than your true measurement. This is normal, and it is a good practice measuring it several times, noting down the values.


As next, we are going to measure the waist (we will use letter W, to note down our waist measurement). Grab an elastic band and tie it around your waist. Don't wear anything loosely fitted or thick. Don't take the measurement right away. Move a little, bend, sit down... This will allow your elastic to move to the most natural position. It may not be parallel to the floor, but it is positioned where your skirt tends to hang from after you worn it for several minutes. However, pay attention that the band doesn't shift a lot. In most cases, it can be only slightly off a parallel line to the floor. If in doubt, repeat the exercise couple of times.

At this point we are only practicing and taking measurements individually. The final measuring session should include all measurements at once. The waist is our reference line, and all measurements, except for the hip circumference, are taken from the waist, so consistent position of the elastic band is key to accurate measurements.

We are ready to take the measurement. Place your measuring band along the waist and note the value. Add 2cm ease, and note the final value.

W= measurement + 2cm

2cm are needed to allow you to sit down and to move in your skirt. As an experiment, try taking your waist measurement while seated. Normally, body volume in your waist area will expand slightly, and those 2cm will allow for the comfort and help prevent unsightly bulges when seated.

This was a short post. I will upload another post by tomorrow, this time covering the length. It is an important measurement that affects skirt balance and creates unexpected fit challenges if taken incorrectly. Stay tuned!

Published Skirt Draft Along (SSDA) posts:

SSDA 4: Length measurement and the Fit
SSDA 2: Hip circumference and the Fit
SSDA 1: Introduction: Pattern Drafting and the Fit

Coming up:

SSDA 4: Skirt balance and Length Measurements
SSDA 5: Darts: Recognizing Dart Intake
SSDA 6: Measuring and Calculating Darts
SSDA 7: Final Measuring Session
SSDA 8: Drafting the Skirt
SSDA 9: Making a Toile and Analyzing the Fit

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Blog sick leave until Monday

Morning, readers. As you are waiting for the next installment of the straight skirt draft-along, I have to take couple of days off. I got a vicious flu by the tail, so I have to prioritize a little. I will compensate for the Draft-Along post next week, posting two installments, the first one will be pretty easy and short, no worries. This will also give you some time to pose in front of the mirror with your new hip measurement tool and take pictures.

As I got some time for browsing while sick, I was wondering whether anyone is interested in discussing the skirt draft-along on a more interactive platform. I find Flickr is not a good solution for discussions. Maybe Ning. If you have suggestions, let me know. Obviously I'd prefer a free solution, but can also look at low-budget options.

As for me, I will try to work on my lace skirt - no escape. And, probably, the only nice part of being sick, work on the third sampler for my Craftsy hand embroidery class, on my cosy sofa, although interrupted by two recovering girls who keep on demanding My Little Pony coloring printouts.

I am off to check ProjectSewn. Participating bloggers are all so awesome, that I have difficulties deciding who to vote for. Will occasionally log on to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - need some interaction for keeping up my sewjo.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Jacquard love

Readers, I a-d-o-r-e this jacket from the February issue of Burdastyle magazine. Ok, not a unique style, but. What really appeals to me is the classic slimming silhouette combined with the texture of a beautiful jacquard piece. I am so-o much in love with it that I even decided to sign up for a classic tailoring class (on Craftsy, of course) which I will follow for 9 weeks and sew-along. The class has 10 lessons and covers classic tailoring techniques, with a lot of hand-stitching, just what I love. Dividing the process into nine weeks, lesson by lesson (the first one is an introductory lesson), and blogging about it, will, I hope, allow me to stay on track and gain more confidence with tailoring. 

Over the past few years I have become very confident with dressmaking and pattern-drafting. Tailoring, however, is my weak spot. I can, but it takes a lot of time, and I have to look up techniques all the time. I think this class can change it, we will see... 

Some time this year, I hope to take a tailoring class with Thomas von Nordheim, author of my favourite Vintage Couture Tailoring and a couture tailor based in London. If this happens, I want to go there with solid foundation to be able to learn critically and focus on things that are new or different. It is my goal to gain proficiency with tailoring this year. 

Meanwhile, I will start with my Craftsy class next week (once I am done with my Lace Skirt and the hand embroidery class), and, hopefully, finish the jacket by the end of March . I got a beautiful yellow
jacquard, yay, in my stash!!! (bought in New York's Mendel & Goldberg one year ago)

What about you, do you have tailoring projects this spring? Have you taken any tailoring classes? 


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