Tag Archives: techniques

Pretty Little Herringbone Stitches

7 Jan

Herringbone stitches on the inside neckline

Although overlockers leave the insides of your garments looking neat and tidy and professionally finished, sometimes I feel it takes something away from the ‘feel’ of a handmade garment, especially one made from a vintage pattern or vintage fabric. I love looking at the insides of old garments and finding where the maker has left their personal touches – stitches to alter size, mend holes, or finish raw edges. Once upon a time someone took the time to sit down and finish all the unseen parts of their creation, little guessing that it would survive many decades for another seamstress to marvel at.

Herringbone stitches are particularly lovely. Originally a decorative stitch often used in embroidery, you can use it to finish a raw edge to stop it ravelling, or to hold up a hem securely. It works really well on loosely woven fabrics as well as it makes kind of a ‘net’ to hold the threads down.


Image from funfabrics.com


In the first picture I have used it to finish a strip of bias tape to the back of a neckline. Folding the tape under and slipstitching it proved to be too bulky and not pliable enough to curve around the sweetheart neckline, so I experimented with the herringbone stitch. I think it looks rather pretty! This dress, made from a 1940’s evening dress pattern (but in a much more daytime gingham), felt suited to a more handmade finish rather than having the insides overlocked. I think I might even pull out the pinking shears!


Fun fact: the German word for herringbone stitch is ‘hexenstich’ – literally, ‘witches stitch’. It does look a bit like old runes or pagan symbols, I think!

Costume School // Making Millinery Flowers: Part One

19 Oct

Tiny scraps of silk left over after cutting the petals. I can't throw them out!!


Today was my first day back at TAFE after two weeks off. It was also the first day of what I consider ‘proper’ Spring weather, in which the temperature strays above the 30 degree (Celcius!) mark. I suppose making silk flowers fits the season, but I was feeling a bit wilted myself, and certainly never miss the opportunity for a good pun.

In this first session we cut out and stiffened our petals in preparation for next week’s actual making of the flowers. Using fabric scraps consisting of all natural fibres, we cut out a bunch of petals in different shapes. Some students used a template, but I just went at it freehand for a more naturalistic feel.

Paper templates you could use to cut out scraps.

Most of my scraps were bits of silk I fished out of the stash, but I painted some calico with fabric paints as well just to see how a heavier fabric will perform. Other students used cottons, tulle, hessian and even leather – basically any natural fibre we could find. After cutting out, we painted/dipped the petals in stiffener and left them to dry on sheets of paper.


My silk petals, stiffened with gelatine solution.

The two stiffeners we are using are a chemical lacquer used in millinery, and a gelatine-based water soluble alternative. The former has a very strong smell and should really only be used under a fume hood. I ruined a brand new pair of leather shoes last term by spilling this stuff on them, so needless to say I don’t have fond feelings towards it! The gelatine is completely safe, but takes longer to dry and may not respond to being heated as well. I have also heard that a mix of PVA glue and water can be used. We will find out next week!


A whole garden of petals laid out to dry.

It was quite lovely to see everyone’s petals laid out to dry. They ran the gamut from quite psychadelic to beautifully handpainted, and I’m quite interested to see how the hessian ones will turn out.


PS. I do apologise for the bad quality of the images in this post – I only had my phone camera with me at school, so I had to make do!