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Sep 12, 2017

Some Like It Haute


Friends, I'm thrilled to be taking a class this semester at FIT called "Haute Couture Sewing Techniques."

It's the first of five classes in the Haute Couture certificate program.  Just for background, so far I've completed two (of four) classes toward a Patternmaking certificate, two (of four) toward a Ladies Tailoring certificate, and three (of four) toward a Draping certificate.  Not every class is offered every semester so, for example, I won't be able to complete my Draping certificate till next Spring.  And I may decide not to complete all of the certificate programs; the classes have value to me whether I do or don't.

Here's the official course description for Haute Couture:

This course introduces couture techniques in hand-stitching, seam and hem finishes, pocket construction, pressing and finishing. Each project places emphasis on proper cutting and sewing techniques, and attention to detail and elegance inherent in couture apparel.

We're just two classes in and it feels like we've already covered a lot: five different shaped hem facings (four of them included in the top photo), and three different hem treatments.

Our professor (whom I adore) demonstrates each technique in class and we get to work in class as well, which isn't always the case in classes I've taken at FIT.  In Ladies Tailoring, for example, our professor did in-class demos during the entire class and we sewed at home (or at FIT) between classes.

For tomorrow's class, I needed to complete my hem treatments: a bias-bound hem (called French piping at FIT), a corded hem with a shaped facing, and an all-in-one bias facing with cording.

I worked on my corded hem with shaped facing today.  Below you can see my gingham cording (aka piping), already basted and stitched onto the front piece, along with the separate facing.  Everything gets first pin-basted and then hand-basted before any machine sewing takes place.  Is all the basting absolutely necessary?  Perhaps not, but this is a couture class so we don't take short-cuts.  It's labor-intensive but it does give you greater control and (arguably) a better result.


After the facing is stitched to the main piece, the seam allowances get graded.  The layer that will be in contact with the front is the one that is left the longest.  The middle (gingham layers) get trimmed a bit; the facing layer gets trimmed the most.


Before we turn the facing to the back (wrong) side, we need to cut out v-shaped chunks of the seam allowance since they'll be squeezed into a smaller space when turned in.


After turning, the outer edge gets basted approximately 1/4" from the gingham cording.  Then the inside edge, which has been stay-stitched at 1/4", gets clipped (so the seam allowance can spread) and turned under at 1/4".  The edge is pin-basted, thread basted, and then blind-hem-slip-stitched into place.



Here's the end result from the right side:


And here's how it looks from the wrong side.


Where might you use such a treatment?  On a skirt hem or a neckline most likely.  Yes, producing this effect is time consuming, but it's lovely looking.

Here's my bias-bound hem sample, done in class with fabric our professor provided:


And here's my all-in-one bias facing (i.e, there's no shaped facing piece) with cording -- wrong side and right side.



I'm honestly surprised at how much I'm enjoying this.  I was never a fan of hand stitching but now I look forward to it.  It's relaxing and totally focuses my mind.  It slows me down yet, paradoxically, I find that techniques like hand basting take very little time with practice.

Tomorrow we'll be working on French seams on silk organza and appliques with lace.  I can't wait!

Have a great day, everybody!

One of our professor's samples posted on the front board.

30 comments:

  1. That is fascinating -- and the samples are beautiful. I love the gingham piping you're using.

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  2. Thanks for sharing! I just love this stuff. Love details and hand stitching.

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  3. Chiming in with the other commenters, in agreement! The chambray(?) and gingham is particularly beautiful. I love the rhythm I seem to find in handstitching and I find it soothing. Your work is, as always, exceptional. Love this stuff! Can't wait to see more!

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  4. Thank you for sharing Peter, this class looks great!

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  5. Oh, this looks like great fun!

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing this! It's almost like I'm living vicariously through you as I'm reading your posts of the classes you're taking at FIT. I wish there were a class similar to this where I live!

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  7. The results are wonderful. I took a class where we did basting (although by machine, not hand) prior to sewing the seam. It does indeed add more control for me.
    All of these treatments look great. I love the stripe cut on the bias that you did in class. Being a quilter, I have learned the joy of using a bias cut for edgings.

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  8. All that basting IS necessary to get the result you want. Takes less time than pinning, stitching, ripping, re-pinning, stitching, ad infinitum.

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    1. And less messy than a glue stick! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    2. Mais oui, monsieur! Whenever a presenter mentions the words "glue stick" I immediately lose interest. I'd rather remove blood from the project (via pricked fingers) than glue.

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  9. Why the notching? Could you not use a pinking shear?

    Theresa in Tucson

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    1. In theory, yes, you could use pinking shears but this is haute couture dahling. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  10. I have always found hand sewing to be relaxing. These days we need to slow down sometimes and get closer to our work. Almost without exception, when I say "French seams", the conversation becomes a show and tell. The more effort I put into a project, the more satisfied I am in the end. Sometimes it's hard to explain.

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  11. What gorgeous samples. The corded facing would be fabulous on the edge of a jacket. Hand stitching is a pain but you really do get much better results. I think finishes like these really set sewing apart as well as making garments hang better, etc. Xx

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  12. I love hearing about what you are learning. I may never use the technique but it will give me an option.

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  13. I've seen excellent sewists say to never notch seam allowances, only clip, so it's interesting to learn what you're being taught in your couture techniques class.

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    1. Carol, it depends on the context. Here we have an outward-facing curve turning into an inward facing curve. If we only clipped, all that excess fabric (in multiple layers) would have to lie on top of other layers, creating bulk. By notching, you eliminate the bulk.

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  14. Peter, I wonder what type of thread your instructor recommends for hand and/or machine basting? What would be both easy to remove and would not leave fuzz? Opinions seem to be all over the map. I was thinking rayon embroidery thread perhaps. I usually just use regular sewing thread but if there is something better ... The violet gingham with floral print is making me think of Spring already.

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    1. She'll baste with cotton but only sew with polyester as cotton breaks too easily.

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  15. Great work, your enthusiasm is so contagious you make me want to take the class!

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  16. Lovely, Peter. I so enjoy you sharing information about the classes you take at FIT.

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  17. I loved these classes when in fashion college years ago. I finally understood the value and pleasure of hand sewing. Can't wait to see your French seams!

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  18. I love seeing all of this. You're on your way to becoming a baste-o-holic!

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  19. I loved the haute couture classes at FIT; I learned so much in 'slower' techniques and it completely changed the way I sew.

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  20. Yay - another baste-o-holic in the making!

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  21. Wish I could attend those classes! Awesome! Any tutorials you would like to post would be VERY appreciated!

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