Some Like It Haute

September 12, 2017   /   byPeter Lappin  / Categories :  Feeds

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.

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