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More Sewing Projects and Ideas

Susan Khalje has describes three garments fom her recent couture sewing class. All are very creative and successful combinations of design, fabrication, engineering and technique.

By Susan Khalje
DIY--Do It Yourself Network

M.G. worked on a fabulous evening dress — silk satin with enough lycra to give it some stretch, and she made a very wonderful full-length, form-fitting gown which was accented with fagoting on a number of the prominent seams. Fagoting is now usually done by machine, but of course it's originally a hand-sewing technique. It's a stitch that's used to join, in a decorative way, two sections of fabric.

It was very striking on M.G.'s design — we did take extra care to choose a really strong thread, though. Fagoting is particularly effective when there's enough tension for it to be clearly seen, and knowing there would be a fair amount of pull on the dress, I wanted to make sure the hand stitches would hold up. And they did.

For extra strength, as well as modesty, we doubled the fashion fabric. Given the stretch that it had and the design of the dress, it would have been very difficult to match a lining to it, and with all the fagoting, it would have been a tremendous effort to put the lining in. It would have had to go in by hand, carefully applied along all the fagoted edges.

L. made a beautiful gown — lots of horizontal as well as vertical boning on the bodice — it reminded me of the prow of a ship. And what was really innovative was her fabric layering: she chose a soft, warm pink-brown moire and placed black silk organza over it. The organza, which of course is transparent, somehow intensified the patterns in the moire — it really was very beautiful and created a sort of a woodland effect.

The gown had princess seams, with godets, as well as long streamers of matching hand-painted organza attached at hip level. It laced up the back, which was the perfect closure for such an ethereal sort of gown.

Finally, M.H. made a bias dress — we debated for a long time over fabrics, and decided to self-underline a 3-ply silk crepe. Self-fabric underlining does guarantee that the fashion fabric and the underlining will behave in exactly the same way, and M.H. made sure to duplicate grain and placement when we cut the second, identical layer. The back was stunning with a double cowl that reached nearly to the waist.

Fortunately, M.H. is petite, so she was able — after much fiddling — to eliminate the darts in the front. I always think that it takes a lot of careful balancing — design, fabric, movement in the bias itself, gravity, etc. — for a bias dress to "work," but M.H. achieved it, with her careful preparation, marking and basting, which really is essential for this kind of dress to be successful, and the result was elegant.

You can see what a treat it is for me to work with such talented students — they always inspire me, and I hope they've inspired you to try something new.


(Susan Khalje is an author and host of DIY-Do It Yourself Network Sew Much More. Contact her at or Box 51 Long Green, MD 21092. For more information, visit or

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