Thursday, March 1, 2012

Practicing "Couture Sewing Techniques"

I love Claire Shaeffer's book "Couture Sewing Techniques" and I really try and use some of the techniques that she espouses on my own projects.

I am applying two such techniques to finish my Summer Dress, making a button loop and a rolled hem. The button loop turned out to be pretty simple, since I only had to make one it wasn't too bad but it could be pretty labor intensive if making many.

I used the fabric that I made the straps and belt out of, since it is cut on the bias there is a lot of stretch allowing it to accommodate the size of the button quite well.  

Biased Button Loop & Vintage Button
I used a button I found in a jar of buttons that I had bought at a thrift shop, I really like the texturing and find it interesting. Clair Shaeffer suggests that the width of the loop should be 1/8"...I tried this but I could not turn it for the life of me so I ended up doubling the size and going with 1/4". I think it works fine for this application but finer loops would be more appropriate for a row of them, like the type seen on the back of a wedding dress.

The other technique I am attempting to use is the rolled hem...this is taking FOREVER! I am sure with practice it'll speed up but it took me like 1-1.5 hours to finish a 6" long section. I like how it looks though, from the outside anyway. The inside could look a lot better but no one hits the bull's eye with the first arrow, right?

A Rolled Hem
 Ms. Shaeffer recommends slightly moistening your fingertips while rolling to achieve a tighter roll. I had to use copious amounts of "moisture" to get the fabric to cooperate even in a remotely attractive way but even still I couldn't get the roll nearly as tight as illustrated in the book.

Not great but it'll do...
When using this technique you must use a line of basting stitches to trace the hem line and then stitch a row of tight machine stitches an 1/8" below the hem line. That row of stitches should be encased in the roll, I am obviously not a very good roller, even with all my liberal use of "moisture" as you can see that line of stitches is far from being encased.

I enjoying trying out her techniques and improving my skills that way. I really sew for the "art" of it; obviously I don't sew clothes because it's cheaper than buying them, in fact I could go out and buy clothes for cheaper. I just enjoy the discipline and the techniques and the materials and the ability to "design" some what. It is really satisfying seeing all my hard work, blood, sweat and tears (literally sometimes, lol) come together into something I can proudly wear about. There is nothing better than being able to respond to a compliment by saying, "I made it" and watching people's is nice to be appreciated for something and recognized as a part of that elite group of people that can actually construct a garment. I mean what we do is pretty cool and difficult, not everyone can do it. Likewise, most people don't think about what goes into making an article of clothing so when they find out that you made something it can force them to think of something they take for granted in a different light and appreciate the skill that must be involved. I have been thinking a lot about my motives for sewing and my related goals lately.

I have asked myself, why am I doing this? I have determined that I am doing it because it brings me joy and makes me happy. Because I work in a technical field (industrial manufacturing & engineering) within a male dominated industry and I have very little occasion to put my creativity to use. My days are spent herding cats, male cats, toward the completion of complex packaging systems. I have to herd them up, down and all around to avoid all the problems that pop up that could potentially derail us, wrong parts, broken tools, project scope changes, priority shifts, design modifications, the list of problems to solve and fires to put out is endless and it all takes place in a shop environment, which is loud, cold, dirty and greasy.  There is absolutely nothing beautiful or aesthetically pleasing about it and I spend as much as 50-55 hrs a week up in here. Sewing is a perfect creative outlet for me, so completely opposite from my professional life; soft, quiet, lovely, vibrant and I can do it whichever way I like and as slowly as I like. I am jealous with my time during the week, I spend a lot of time at work being with people and talking to people all day so when I'm  at home I like to partake in solitary quiet activities, sewing and playing my harp. 

For me and my purposes it is fun to try out all the over detailed, ridiculously painstaking couture type techniques, I have the luxury of not needing to finish a garment on a deadline and I live alone. Anyway, I've just been thinking about this a bit lately. I am going to begin undertaking a "project" to further expand my sewing technique arsenal and to refine the techniques I already am comfortable with. I want to not only sew but I want to sew well, like Gertie or Debi or Tilly any one of the other lovely ladies I follow online and hope that their awesomeness might seep through the internet and rub off on me...I finally realized this is not likely to happen so I might as well actively do something to acquire these skills. I am still sort of formulating this "project" and will be speaking on it pretty soon.

Anyway, I'm almost done with my dress.




  1. Amelia! That's so awesome that you are learning from that book. What you have made so far looks amazing and the fact that you are taking the extra step to lean the techniques is commendable!

  2. It's great that you are trying to be meticulous and precise in your sewing. This is what makes a home made garment look professional. Thanks for sharing lady!

  3. Thanks ladies, I'm trying and it's fun.