Wearable Art Vest

Kay Enyart
Sewing advocate, educator, designer E-mail ksewfab@aol.com

Fabric Manipulation Magic

Materials: Steps:
Shirred Piping:
  1. Solid-color fabrics show the shirring most effectively. Make a sample, using the materials you'll use in the finished piece, to work out fabric choice, cut width and length of bias strips, stitch length, density of shirring and how it will look in a finished seam. Rather than making one long shirred section and cutting into shorter lengths, make each unit separately for better control. For cord filler, measure seam length where shirred piping will be placed. Add 3", cut cord, tape cord ends and knot both ends. Between knots, measure and mark seam length with marker pen. Place safety pin through tape "tube" at ends. Pin prevents cord from slipping back into covering as you shirr.
  2. Rotary cut bias strips 1-1/2" wide and 2-1/2 times the length of the seam (plus 1"- 2"). Try to avoid seams in strips; they resist even shirring. The two-and-a-half-times ratio is the minimum; you may need more for thin fabric. The gathers flatten out slightly after cording is sewn in seam.
  3. Place zipper foot on machine. Set needle to stitch a scant 1/8" from cord. Wrap bias strip around cord. Cord is on left side of foot. Start below knot, backstitch, stitch about 3", leave needle and presser foot down, pull on cord knot in front of foot to shirr fabric. Continue to "sew and pull" to end of fabric. Fabric will pile up at back end of cord. Shirred section will curl and twist. Backstitch and remove from machine.
  4. Securely pin each knot-end of cord to padded surface, and distribute gathers. Use an awl or a seam ripper and your fingers. Press the gathers with your fingers if they are stubborn. Press both sides of ruffled "lip" flat. Do not press cord section.
  5. Placing shirred piping in the seam. On the vest attach the shirred sections to the side-back / side-front garment pieces to make the piping point toward the center back / center front. Set stitch length 3mm, position needle so stitching will be just outside the first line of stitching used to hold bias strip around the cord. Pin or hand-baste in place. You may need to readjust some of the gathers during this step. Press stitches only in seam allowance after this step.
  6. Close seam with stitch length 2.5mm, sewing even a bit closer to piping. If the layers are too thick to pin through, hand-baste the seam closed, before final stitching. Press stitching again, then press garment seam allowance open. These steps are similar to installing plain piping, except you do not "crowd" the shirring as much, as it may flatten out. Some grading may be needed. To hold the seam allowances open, hand-sew to the underlining.
  7. Cut and remove small section of cording at each end to keep bulk out of seam allowances. Place straight pins through cording about 4" from each end. Pull cording out and trim off at least 5/8." (Do not cut bias covering.) Cord will "pop" back into piping.

Reverse Tucks

Reverse tucks are pleated panels that use iridescent silk shantung to create a pleated panel sectional collar. The edges are bias-bound in a silk stripe. Geometric machine-stitching in variegated rayon thread is between the "louvers." Bias-cut, lightweight natural fibers work best in plains, plaids or stripes. Prints may obscure the shirred effect. The cut size of fabric to be pleated depends on size of pleater board and the fabric weight.

Pattern showing lines marked.

The collar in place.
  1. Bias-cut the fabric the width of the pleater board and as long as you can make it. Optional: Press out stretch. (Pleat as big a piece as you can, then cut size / shape sections needed.) The finished piece can get thick, so make a test sample before committing to a lot of time forming pleats!
  2. Fold 1 " of fabric over top of pleater board; hold in place with stationary clips. If fabric has a definite right side, place face down on board. Clipped end faces you. Form pleats with fingers (figure A), from center out to sides. Use tool to tuck fabric tightly into louvers. For each subsequent tuck, press the preceding tucked section with your fingers to prevent previous pleats from popping out. Press every few pleats, using press cloth. Watch edges of fabric to keep it from "wandering."
  3. Steam press again when section is complete. Apply lightweight tricot knit fusible interfacing to entire pleated section, using press cloth. Let cool.
  4. After piece has thoroughly cooled, carefully peel board off of fabric -- not fabric off of board (figure B)! Press again on right side. Machine-baste down each side of pleated section.
  5. Use muslin for your pattern pieces, as paper tends to slide around. Allow for "angle loss" when cutting your pieces. This means cut your pieces at least 1/2" larger than you think you need. If pieces are cut in a rounded shape (like my collar sections) or at an angle to the pleats, you will lose some width when the louvers are flipped up, for the "wave" effect.
  6. Place either a straight stitch or a simple decorative machine stitch between each pleat before the raw edges are finished (figure C). You have a lot of fabric weight only held in place by a lightweight fusible, and you don't want this pulling away after your project is finished.
  7. Edge finishes could be bias binding (figure D) or a satin stitch, like that used for appliques. Wonder Tape(c) (does not gum up your machine needle) is perfect for holding pleated sections in place to stitch down to garment.

Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

Figure D

Slot Buttonholes

Slot buttonholes are simply openings in a seam. The style used for this vest is two contrast fabrics, applied as a band, with a bias-bound outer edge. Draft the band pattern pieces directly on the mannequin, after the body of the vest was constructed. As usual, make a sample for your own project, to determine size and placement of buttonholes.

Slot Buttonhole

Slot buttonhole with topstitching.

  1. On my vest, I cut away a strip of fabric, minus the seam allowance, from the front openings, equal to the finished width of the buttonhole band. The cut width of the inner band includes a seam allowance. The outer band has no seam allowance, since it is bias-bound. Determine the cut widths of your bands and placement of buttonholes. Before cutting the bands, block-fuse sections of fabric with a no-stretch weft-insertion knit fusible. It is much easier to accurately rotary cut narrow bands from pre-fused fabric.
  2. Strips of silk organza make perfect "stays" for the buttonhole band. Both sides of the band will need to be "stayed." You will have a stack of four layers of fabric (organza, interfaced band, interfaced band, organza). Hand-baste these four layers together. You will have pre-determined the size and placement of the buttonhole openings from your pattern. Mark stitching line exactly down center length. Buttonhole openings are marked as cross-lines (figure A).
  3. Begin sewing band. Reduce stitch length to 2mm. At 1/2" before first buttonhole mark, reduce stitch length to 1.5mm. Stitch to mark, then backstitch 1/2". Do not cut threads. Jump to other end of buttonhole mark. Drop needle 1/2" beyond second mark. Backstitch to mark, then stitch forward. Return stitch length to 2mm. Repeat these steps until entire band is stitched.
  4. Remove hand-basting. Press as stitched, then open out bands and press flat. Outside edge of inner band is sewn to vest, and inside edge of inner band is sewn to lining.

Figure A.

Ruffled Tube

This ruffled tube is used as a curved belt to hide the raw edges of the two fabrics composing the main body of the vest. It is reminiscent of Victorian ribbon folding. The two fabrics used are the same as for the button band. The finished width can be as narrow as 3/4" and up to 1-1/2", in light, soft fabrics. Your tube can be made of one fabric bias-cut, with one seam to form a tube; or two fabrics bias-cut, seamed together. It's fun to experiment with different fabrics to test a variety of results.
The finished ruffle.
  1. Cut two bias strips of different fabric (of equal weight). Length needs to be about twice the finished length of ruffle. Allow for 1/4" seams.
  2. Reduce stitch length to 2mm, and sew both side seams, stretching slightly as you sew. Sew both sides in the same direction, 1/4" seam. Finger press seam allowances open.
  3. Using the Crowning Touch Tube Turner(c) (figure A), follow the directions for turning tube to right side.
  4. Press tube flat, moving seam allowances to center.
  5. My tucks are 3/4" apart. Mark with a soapstone pencil, or similar wash-away marker, along one edge of strip. On opposing edge, marks are staggered at the midway points between the first set of marks. Graph paper marked with a black pen makes a perfect "ruler" (figure B).
  6. Set machine on a very narrow width / very short length zigzag stitch. (All machines are slightly different, so test your machine setting.) Starting on one side, fold tube at first mark. Stitch about 1/4" down from the long edge, and about 1/8 " from fold. You do not have to stitch each tuck exactly and perfectly the same – the slight variations give it more interest. Do not stop to clip the thread loops between each tuck. Clip threads after you have completed one side.
  7. Repeat sewing tucks on opposite side. Do not press after tucks are finished.
  8. Ruffle is sewn onto garment, using invisible hand-sewing stitches. Pin or hand-baste ruffle in place (figure C). Stitch center first, then a row of catch stitches on each side. This will keep edges of ruffle from pulling away from garment, or getting caught on a purse or wristwatch.

Figure A.
Figure B.