Hand sewing

Without claiming to show you something new or unusual, I find important to treat the subject of hand sewing in a sewing blog.

In all sewing books I had in my hands, there was a chapter on this topic. However, if you are like me and you did not read it (because you had a sewing machine and a serger), this post is to show you how important could this technique be.

Because sometimes it is faster to sew by hand than with a machine (that you need to plug, thread, choose the needle …), and sometimes this is the only available option (for sewing invisible hems or pleats) or the most aesthetic (as hand is easier to control than the machine).

I chose the Reader’s Digest book “The Complete Guide to Sewing” (the 1976 edition) to illustrate the main hand-sewing points.


The backstitch

A strog point which can be used to hand-picking zippers and pockets. Work from right to left. Bring needle and thread to underside, insert needle to all fabric layers a stitch length behind and bring it up just in back of point where thread emerges. For a more secure finish, take a very short backstitch but leave a thread loop then take another small backstitch on top of the first and bring the needle and the thread out through the loop like in the illustration below.


Even backstitch
Is the strongest of the backstitches and looks much like machine stitching. It is used mainly to repare seams and for topstitching (such as jeans’ hems). The stitches are even in length with very little space between them.


Hemming stitches

There are two types of stitches:

Uneven slipstitch is strong and almost invisible. Work from right to left. The needle is slipped between the two layers, by catching only a few yarns from the garmet.

Flat catchstitch which fixes while leaving some room for movement. It is most exposed to friction and therefore more fragile. Work from left to right with the needle facing to the left. With each stitch, the thread crosses over itself.


Blind hemming stitches
Are the same as previous, but the stitches are taken inside, between the hem and the garment. The stitch is under the edge of the fabric as in the following figure.pointdourletinvisible


Slipstitch or invisible stitch

It is used to apply a piece on another (such as patch pockets or jacket linings), or to join two folded edges that would be difficult to reach from the inside (between two pleats). pointglisse

Slant or vertical hemming stitches
The first is the quickest but little durable because so much thread is exposed and subject to abrasion.
The second is more stable and durable and used to set bias or linings.


I chose the points that I use most. Feel free to tell me if you prefer other stitches for hand sewing.
And check the other tutorials at sewitall and simplicity.

A kimono dress

I do not sew silk very often … it frightens me, so slippy and expensive … But I enjoy wearing it. So, I like to buy silk in different colors or prints and let it rest for months into my drawers, until the day I need to make some room and reduce my stock.

I found this printed silk in Saint Pierre Market. Originally, I intended to sew pajamas or a longue dress. 12 months later, I did not like the colours so much and I decided to hide the print under multiple folds.

Without pattern, I cut three rectangles, one for the bust and two for the sleeves, I sew a long scarf as a collar and left the freeboard as a hem.

Shortly after, my kimono dress was ready for fitting. I was completely embedded within three meters of fabric and I had trouble tying my belt because of the very wide sleeves. But once my obi in place, I seemed to come from far away. Very comfortable to wear, this dress is a bit theatrical. I still do not picture occasions for wearing it and I hesitate to put the word “success” or “missed” on it. The silk is really a headache

  IMG_8157IMG_8161 IMG_8162IMG_8164IMG_8171IMG_8172

A ruffled shirt

After a summer break in the mountains, I find little by little the desire to get back to my normal activities. However, the return to the reality of automn remains difficult, hence my very short post.

After transforming a man’s shirt into a backless top, I tried the extreme simplicity with this second transformation: less radical but more versatile.

To begin, I cut a small blouse in the man’s shirt.


I cut the sleeves lengthwise to retrieve the underarm parts.


Here’s everything I kept from the original garment:

I put together the pieces cut from the sleeves and sewn them together



I wrinkled them and I then pinned them on the bodice.



And after a short walk in the neighborhood, I took one picture for the front and one for the back. So, that’s all folks, thank you, goodnight and see you soon. IMG_7999


Summer upcycling

It‘s been a while that my articles were revolving around geometry and were becoming a little too serious.

I was keen on sharing with you lighter and more inspiring posts. Normally, summer sewing projects take less time than their winter equivalents, but in reality it happens that I sew much less in the summer. I am less attracted by home activities such as sewing and more busy organizing the holidays and sorting all my house to get rid of all unnecessary collection of things.

I wanted to catch up with an easy project, a rapid and smart transformation which would reconcile me with the free time blogger life.

When I received two white men shirts, I knew that my task would be easy and interesting.

For the first shirt, the transformation is quite radical.
To begin, I removed the collar and one cuff that were very worn out.


I cut the shirt horizontally under the armhole and I got everything down and two small front pieces.


I started to create folds with the big piece of the bottom. For convenience, I molded the fabric on my dress form to replicate the shape of the bust. The challenge was to create balanced folds and I had to start over several times to arrive at the correct number and width. I stitch the folds from the neck to the waist.




Former collar stand was attached on the folds and closes behind the neck.
The two small pieces were sewn up front together, folded and attached to the non-worn cuff.


The idea was to take advantage and to highlight the placket of the shirt. It is visible on the sides and serves to button the front with the back piece. I had to move only two buttons and the fit was perfect.


The photos are below. The shirt is a bit transparent but pleats make it opaque on strategic spots.









You will see the result of the second transformation in September. Meanwhile, I wish you a great summer, full of inspiring sewing.

How to draw a made to measure shirt collar

Your blouse waited enough to be finished. The bust, sleeves and cuffs should not present any more secrets for you. It is the time to deal with the masterpiece: the collar. As this is a fairly complicated part to draw, I have chosen to present a simplified version: the self collar stand. The collar band is less high and less close to the neck than for the classic shirt collar (with separate collar stand).

To start, let’s follow ESMOD “The women’s garments, Volume 1” instructions:

First, we must draw a vertical line representing the center back:

1. Perpendicular to this line, draw AB = 1/2 neckline measurement.
2. Parallel to center back, trace BB ‘= 1/20 AB.
3. AC = ½ AB. Join CB ‘ by a slight curve.
4. B’E = AD = 2 cm (collar band width), B’E being perpendicular to B’C.
5. Draw a straight line DE and outline crease line parallel to neckline ACB ‘.


6. Drop A to A ‘and C to C’ = 2 cm. DA = collar fall width = 4 cm.
7. Extend EB ‘ to EB’ ‘= 6.5 to 8 cm.
8. Draw A’C’ with a straight line and join C’B” by a curve.
9. Fold crease line DE and outline collar fall DA’C’B”E.


10. Re-draw new center back line AA ‘ with a straight line. Keep a right angle at A ‘.
11. You can extend the center front to accomodate a button. For this, extend CB’ with the amount of overlap = B’F.
12. Your new collar edge is: ACFEB”A ‘(in red on Figure 3).


13. Draw two gap lines perpendicular to AC, one from C and one from the middle of AC.
14. Cut along these lines and open 0.5 cm along collar edge.
15. Re-draw ACB’F and A’B” maintaining a right angle at center back.
16. Verify that collar neckline measurement and garment neckline measurement are identical.


I hope these tutorials have not given you headaches and come back soon for lighter posts.

How to draw made to measure cuffs

Continuing the custom shirt series, the third chapter is dedicated to the construction of cuff patterns.

If only I could decide, shirts would never have cuffs. Their precise construction and assembly seems tedious and unlikely to succeed on the first try. Meantime, I cannot agree more that custom and made-to-measure cuffs give a neat look to a shirt.

So I struggled to understand how cuffs are made and the answer came from ESMOD book “Women Garments: vol 1”.

There are “simple” cuffs like those I will describe here, and “musketeers” cuffs which are returned cuffs, worn with cufflinks.

For simple cuffs, before starting to draw, you should already have these measurements:

  • the cuff width and
  • the wrist circumference increased by the ease (between 3 and 4 cm).

You normally decided these measurements during the construction of the sleeve pattern. Also provide an amount of overlap equal to width of buttoned tab on sleeve and seam allowances.

The easiest way is to cut the cuff outside and inside in a single piece as shown in Figure 1:


If you want rounded or beveled angles, you must cut the outside and inside of the cuff in two separate pieces as shown in Figure 2:


If your cuff width exceeds 5.5 cm, it must follow the arm’s shape and be enlarged lengthwise as well. Cut your pattern in 5 rectangles and spread them apart equidistantly to obtain a value equal to the arm circumference (with ease), as shown in Figure 3.


I hope you found this exercise useful and will come back soon for next tutorial.

The pattern of a shirt sleeve

After drawing your made-to-measure shirt bust pattern, you can proceed to sleeve pattern. Unlike conventional sleeve, the sleeve head is flatter as it does not include fullness,

To build the sleeve pattern, you need 3 measurements:

  • front and back armhole measurement (from the pattern of the bust)
  • the length of your arm
  • the width of your sleeve on the wrist (depending on the desired width and the desired number of pleats)

Let’s start with the sleeve head (Figure 1):

1. Draw a vertical line AI representing the center of sleeve
AI = arm length – the height of cuff (usually 5 cm) – the amount of shoulder length given for garment (1.25 cm in our example, but this value may be higher)
2. Draw AB = ¼ armhole measurement + 1 cm
3. From B draw a perpendicular line at center of sleeve
4. From point A, draw AC = back armhole – 0.5 cm
5. AD = front armhole – 0.5 cm
6. Place the intermediate points: AG = GH = HC = 1/3 AC and AE = EF = FD = 1/3 AD
7. Move up E 1cm to E’ and move up G 1.5 cm to G’
8. Draw the shape of sleeve cap CHG’AE’FD with a parrot
9. Check that CHG’AE’FD = armhole measurement, otherwise adjust by adding on both sides of CD

Your sleeve head thus constructed, you can now finalize the bottom of the sleeve (Figure 2)
2 EN

  1. From I, draw a perpendicular line to center of sleev, KJ = width of the sleeve on the wrist + the amount of sleeve pleats
  2. Join CK and DJ
  3. Draw IL = ½ KI and IM = ½ IJ
  4. Move up M 0.5 cm, drop K and J 0.25 cm and L 1 cm
  5. From L, draw the button placket 8 cm long, parallel to straight grain
  6. On both sides of line L, draw a tab with a width of 2.5cm
  7. Place the first pleat at the middle of sleeve
  8. The 2nd and 3rd pleat are on both slides of L
  9. Close pleats towards the opening of the sleeve and retrace the bottom of sleeve

This method comes from the ESMOD book “Become a pattern drafter: women’s garments, Volume 1” which I find quite clear and simple to follow. What do you think? Do you have the patience to wait the next tutorials (cuffs and collar)?

How to draw the blouse pattern

When reviewing my pattern-making tutorials, I was surprised that I had not found the blouse yet. This essential element of the female wardrobe. I am talking about the fluid large shirt made of silk or muslin.

For the first part of this tutorial, I’ll talk about the bodice pattern and then I will continue with the shirt sleeve and some types of collars. I was inspired by the ESMOD book “Become a pattern drafter: women’s garments, Volume 1”

To draft the bodice, start with your basic bust pattern, without darts. (figure 1)

You must then make a few changes (Figure 2).

  • From the shoulder line tips, draw an horizontal line perpendicular to the center front (in blue) and extend this line by 1.25 cm
  • On the shoulder line, open the neckline by 0.7 cm and continue the shoulder line to the blue line
  • On the center front line, lower the neckline by 1.5 cm and by 0.25 cm on the back
  • Extend the cross-front and cross-back lines by 1.5 cm
  • Parallel to the underarm line, enlarge by 2.5 cm and lower by 3.75 cm
  • Enlarge the hip line by 2.25 cm
  • Lower the center front by 4 cm and the center back by 6 cm and draw a smooth curve for a “large shirt style”.


Trace the bust outline by joining the new points. If you want to make the shirt more fitted, I recommend waist darts. Personally, if the shirt is made of silk, I prefer it large, without darts.

If you choose a button front, you need to add a button placket to the right of the center front line. The width of this placket depends on the diameter of the selected buttons, and it is about 2 cm. Then add the facing, its width is 1-2 cm longer than the width of the button placket (Figure 3).


You have the shirt bodice now. You will also need the shirt sleeve and to choose the type of collar.
With a little hope and few bank holidays in May, these tutorials should not take too long.

The pattern of a kimono sleeve

One of my readers asked me to write a tutorial on the kimono sleeve. I tried it once, I found the pattern making method rather simple but the result was so disappointed that I completely put that idea aside. It was problem with the fabric choice more than the pattern. So I prefer to warn you, for this type of sleeve, choose a light knit fabric. The kimono sleeve is very fashionable this year, in its various versions.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you the simple one, the kimono sleeve without gusset. This method of construction comes from the book “The fashion pattern-making, Volume 2” by Teresa Gilewska. Let’s start with the beginning.

1. Take your made to measure bust pattern, without darts but with enlargements, and make sure that the front waist width is equal to the back waist width. It other words, remove 1 cm or more from the front and add 1 cm or more to the back (Figure 1).

2. On the balanced front and back pattern, draw an horizontal line from the neckline. AB = shoulder length + the desired sleeve length. From point B, draw a vertical line in right angle that corresponds to the sleeve bottom. BC = ½ width of the bottom of the sleeve (Figure 2)

3. From point C, draw the under-sleeve line. This line must meet a platitude of few inches below the wrist and therefore form a right angle in D. CD forms the shape of the kimono. Following the desired amplitude, D is between the armhole line and the waist line (Figure 3).

4. The pattern can be done on fold by removing the stitching on the shoulder. In this case, unfold the pattern and draw the front and back neckline (Figure 4 and 5). Place the notches. You have your dolman sleeve

5. This construction is not suitable for heavy fabrics, because the thickness of the folds formed under the arms can cause discomfort in the movements. To reduce the wideness, you need to move down the sleeve. This inclination of the sleeve is limited to the shoulder line (Figure 6). Below the shoulder line, the kimono sleeve requires the construction of a gusset.

Your sleeve expertise continues to increase. After the basic sleeve, the raglan sleeve and kimono sleeve, are you ready to learn the shirt sleeve or the pivoted kimono sleeve?

The camel coat: Season 2

I do not exactly know the origin of this obsession or of the image that was printed in my mind and made me totally hooked on this color. Perhaps, is that in winter, camel reminds wonderful gourmet memories such as caramel, cognac, cappuccino, vanilla or mocha.

Not entirely satisfied with the camel coat made last year (very warm but also very thick), I wanted to make a lighter version for mid-season.

I found a heavy woolen fabric that spared me the difficulty of interfacing. I chose a simple and straight cut and concentrated more on collar and pockets.

It was not the first time I drew a soft suit collar (incidentally, I would like to write a tutorial for geometry lovers), but sewing it into a thick fabric was a real challenge. The welt pockets also required great precision and finesse; they ended with a double flap, to hide unperfect seams.

For the lining, I chose pink rose. Worn with very black and white python boots, the camel coat is not likely to melt into the greyness of March.

I also created loops for a belt, in case I want to change the shape. But for now, I prefer to wear it without. What do you think?












Exceptional crafts and techniques

An unprecedented event is taking place these days at “Première Vision” fabric tradeshow in Paris. “Maison d’exceptions” is an exhibition that brings together crafts and know hows from around the world, traditional but also contemporary techniques. It is a space for discovery and encounters with artists who work mostly for big fashion houses. They are unknown for the general public. But their stories are worthy of being told.

Born and educated in Kyrgyzstan, Aidai is the daughter of a felt yurt-maker and the grand-daughter of felt carpet-maker. Textile expert and teacher, Aidai is determined to contribute to the conservation and recovery of traditional Central Asian textile work. Her scarves combine silk and muslin weavings with wool felting and pearl embroidery techniques.
aidai 4

In Japan, Amaike Textile Industry combines craftsmanship and technological prowess. They created the “Super Organza”, the thinnest and lightest clothing fiber over the world. Its thickness is one-sixth of a hair thread and fabric weighs only 10 grams per square meter.

In his workshop in Tournai, in Belgium, Daniel Henry masters textile printing like no other. His watchwords are “coating, dévorage, blistering”. He experimentes with the most varied media such as knits or pleated fabrics and combines his own techniques with embroidery or airbrushushing.

In Yushisha, a traditional Japonese workshop, artisans produce Fujifu, old fabric made from wisteria with a soft handle and quiet shine, which is now considered ” material cultural good” in Japan. Wisteria fibers are processed into yarns and woven by hand.

In Italy, Marcello Antonelli, businessman and former director of textile companies, and his designer daughter Marta, have developed an innovative material that combines wood with textiles. Their idea was to find an aesthetical alternative to leather and reduce the effects of factory farming and the tanning industry. Their unique patented process is to adhere very thin sheets of wood onto a textile support with an environmentally friendly glue. This produces an unespected material that combines the traditional properties of wood with the suppleness of textiles.

In her research workshop in Aubervilliers, Luce Couillet uses her loom to create custom fabrics for fashion, sports or interior architecture. She blends fibers and threads of all sorts such as wool and metals, mohair and recycled inner tubes, stainless steel and nylon braids. It consists of refined hybrid weaves with unexpected touches and volumes.

Valerie Colas des Francs is an artisan who has been practicing straw marquetry for over fifteen years. In her workshop in Nemours, she shapes rye straw, dye it and braid it to restore furniture and objects. Today she is going beyond the classic modes of straw marquetry and she is moving into the realm of fashion jewelery and accessories in order to enhance the radiant qualities of this simple and adaptable material that catches and reflects light in a surprising way.

The work of Sarah Radulescu grows out of conversations between her private experiences and encounters. During her childhood in Cameroon, she learned to sew and embroider. Later, she discovered her husband’s country, Romania, and traditional handcrafted pieces known as “macramé”. Today she combines embroidery and felting to create animal, vegetal or more abstract forms.

The ancient technique of Shibori is still practiced in the craft workshop of Arimatsu. It is a traditional Japanese textile dyeing technique, dating back over 400 years. Portions of the fabric’s surface are tied, sewn and folded, creating after dyeing, degradé and color contrasts as well as three-dimensional motifs and pleat effects. The Murase family ennobled fabric for five generations and considers Shibori as their own cultural heritage. Today they use innovative techniques to develop contemporary creations such as lamps to refresh the image of this artisanal craft.

As for me, I was very happy to be able to look at these beautiful objects and discuss with some of these artisans. Their scrupulous work motivates me to continue with my “vernacular” technique: sewing.

2015-2016 Pre-fall: the Italian lesson

I was recently reading an Alber Elbaz interview where he declared himself a little disappointed by the business side that these mini-collections have been taking in recent years. At first, the pre-fall was a preview of the best pieces from the fall/winter collection to come, presented to a small and very informed public. But today, pre-fall stands for a reinterpretation of the last automn/winter season best sales. It is ultimately a “post” rather than a “pre”-collection.

Alber Elbaz, designer for Lanvin since 2001, would love to see more clothes that make women dream and not only clothes women love to buy. But, when you know that today a designer is not anymore an all-powerful creator but an artistic director who must take into account the house strategic decisions and its customers taste, his words sound like an utopia. Alber Elbaz himself declares not always looking for new ideas, but reworking the same from one season to another, like a perpetual search for perfection.

Among the pre-fall collections, I was mostly seduced by those that did not seek to impose a new line. I found the most beautiful expression of an ageless and glamor aesthetics to the Italian houses: Gucci, Pucci and Fendi.

For Gucci, Frida Giannini managed to revive the golden age of elegance by choosing timeless shapes (flared pants, long and mid-knee dresses) in two self-enhancing colors: brick-red and anthracite-blue. The leaf pattern was treated like an optical camouflage rather than a naive fall garden.




For Fendi, Karl Lagerfeld has cut out the fetishes materials of the house (leather and fur) in stripes that he then re-assembled in coats and dresses folowing a colorful sophistication. We would like to believe that he only used the scraps to reconcile with the animal rights defendants.




For Pucci, Peter Dundas cut very classic shapes in pink and indigo blue suede. The knits remain close to the body. Optical prints come in several neon colors. For evening, jewels and lace remember two reliable values of a timeless elegance.




In my case, I’ve seen enough to dream and feel inspired. Must still find these wonderful materials on fabric markets that are accessible for all.