Look, Mom, No Hands!

Great news, everyone! Now that I have my mirror in place, I have fabulous extra potential for embarrassing myself online. Here’s a photo of me with a bust cup toile piece from Gertie’s Bombshell Dress. Look, Mom, no hands!

So this is where I’m at:

I’m using the thread tracing process for the first time ever. I can virtually feel the electricity coursing through my synapses with the novelty of learning new techniques. When you get to my age, you don’t often have the joy of discovering new stuff. Is that why we all love sewing so much? It takes us back to the classroom?

Anyway, this is what thread tracing looks like:

The lines traced and then sewn here are the seam lines. You make your own generous seam allowance for the toile, so that any adjustments are easily accommodated.

You pin along the seamline, carefully matching up each line of sewing on each pattern pieces, pinning along the line rather than perpendicular to it.

New experiences ticked off the list this week:

  • Tracing pattern pieces with carbon paper and a serrated tracing wheel. What fun!
  • Thread tracing.
  • Balancing bust pieces on my bazoomas. More fun!

I believe the theory with thread tracing is that it enables extremely accurate sewing together of small pieces in a complex piece of construction. I must say, I can’t entirely get pieces to match up 100 per cent perfectly but I expect that comes with practise. (And isn’t that why I bought a nice, busy print for my first attempt at this dress?)

What do I think to Gertie’s course so far? I absolutely love it. But be warned – you will want everything Gertie owns. I spend a lot of time gazing at the monitor thinking, That’s a nice wrist pin cushion, I wonder where she bought it. They’re a nice pair of scissors, look how sharp they are. That’s a lovely wedding ring… Woah! Stop right there, little sister.

I’m also being introduced to supplies that wouldn’t look out of place in my boyfriend’s tool shed:

Spiral Steel Boning

That corset is going to stay up! I still suspect I’m making a dress I will never or hardly wear, but I don’t care. I am loving the process. I never thought I’d bond with online video tutorials, but Gertie’s is great.

More as it happens!

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28 Responses to Look, Mom, No Hands!

  1. PammyJ says:

    Nice to know you’re enjoying it. I just decided on a fabric from my stash. A very busy print for the same reason. 😉 Now must buy the muslin and boning. Will you be making your dress with a slim skirt or a full one? Still deciding here.

  2. oonaballoona says:


    and i’m glad to hear your hood is healing with sweets. that’s the best mojo.

  3. Kerry says:

    Looks like you’ve been making great progress so far, and as you say, it’s great to learn something new to get the creative juices flowing. Am sure the end product will be fab and you’ll be inventing reasons to wear it everywhere 🙂

  4. Roisin says:

    When I have a bit more cash I’m going to do this course – you know me, over-dressed for every occasion. But Karen, we must get you into the finished frock, perhaps in some kind of sewing bloggers meet for cocktails type do at some point. Deal?

  5. Graca says:

    Your post made me laugh out loud this afternoon (so needed that, thank you). I feel the same way about Gertie’s fabulous sewing tools. I’ve already put word out that I want a pin-cushion bracelet for my b-day next week [fingers crossed].

  6. reader says:

    I can’t entirely tell from the photo, but it looks as though you’ve thread traced with a machine. It’s usually done by hand. The hand method is superior for many reasons. It’s easier to sew with more precision by hand than on a machine, especially using a basting stitch. The manual thread tracing identifies the right side from the wrong side (two short stitches on the RS; a long and a short on the WS) and the intersections of the seams. It’s also easier to remove than machine stitching. In couture sewing, the machine stitching is placed on top of the hand stitches, which are later removed.

    Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Books and DVD, among other materials,explain how to do it.

    • Thanks for this. It’s a whole world of new discovery!

      • New Yorker says:

        You’re welcome. BTW, I got it backwards: Most people do the thread tracing from the right side of the fabric so the long and short stitches are on the right side and the short stitches are on the wrong side. The right side looks something like this:

        ______ __ ______ __ ______

        The wrong side looks something like this:

        _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

        But it really doesn’t matter, so long as you remember what you designated as the right side. The great thing is that you can easily distinguish the sides which is very helpful for a fabric whose wrong side is not obvious. Thread tracing by hand also makes it easier to match seams, intersections, and to create fold lines for hems. It’s also obviously much easier to control the length of the stitch when you’re basting by hand.

      • New Yorker says:

        Unfortunately, the html formatting destroyed the spacing I created to show the difference in the appearance of the stitches, but if you look up thread tracing by hand, you’ll see.

  7. Scruffy badger says:

    How exciting! Cocktail blogger meet up!
    Funnily enough i’ve just been tracing with a wheel and carbon paper- and maybe thread tracing ?not sure ? But boy was it an epiphany in helpfulness. Mine is for a jacket though and no bazooma shells for fun…….. Can’t wait to see your progress!!

  8. Felicity from Down Under says:

    I’ve never even heard of thread tracing – is it a first cousin to tailor’s tacking or another name for that? Tracing with a wheel and carbon paper is something I have done in the past and I agree, it’s great. I think the idea of inventing an occasion to match an article of clothing is also great and cocktails seem just the thing for that. (Any excuse for cocktails also gets my vote.)
    As for loving sewing because it takes us back to the classroom, not so sure. I think the satisfaction of getting it right with sewing is huge, as it is with many things but when you’re talking of clothing that you wear and, gasp, other people actually see, it’s more critical than whether or not your scones turn out blue ribbon (so to speak). The scones will be gone in a flash, the clothing will last for a while. Mental and intellectual challenges are good for us and we do get a buzz from learning new things, but (speaking for myself)I’m glad not to associate those sorts of things with the classroom.

    • New Yorker says:

      Thread tracing is a method of transferring markings to fabric that’s usually used in dressmaking, not tailoring. It’s done on a single layer of fabric. It permits the accurate matching of the sewing lines, and people use it as sewing guide. They sew right over the stitching, or right next to it because it’s easy to see. When they’re done, they remove the basting. It takes time, but not as much as time as removing a badly sewn line of machine stitching, which may also have ruined the fabric.

      Tailor tacks, by contrast, are done through two layers of fabric. A long loop is sewn, the two pieces of fabric are gently separated and the thread in between is cut. The wrong side of the fabric shows a series of running stitches. The right side shows a line of thread “hairs.” (Helpful if the fabric doesn’t have a clear “wrong” side.) Depending on the need and the sewer’s preference, tailor tacks will be used just on critical points, like dart legs and the vanishing point, or a series of loops will be be sewn along key seams or to pocket placement lines. This is also called “loop basting.”

      “Tacking,” at least in the United States (I used to be confused by this) is when one sews a couple of permanent running stitches on top of each other to secure something, like the end of a lining to a garment. I think that in the UK “tacking” may sometimes be a synonym for “basting.”

      The advantage of thread marking is that it’s a clean method that will stay in the garment indefinitely, unlike using a temporary marker. You can put something down for weeks and when you come back you know exactly what you have. I was taught that wax tracing paper is only for muslin because wax paper smears. I chalk the lines and then thread trace over them.

      There’s an even more precise method called “pouncing,” which is used for more complex couture garments. Essentially, small perforations are made with a wheel on the lines of a paper pattern. (Some people use their sewing machine.) The pierced pattern is placed over the fabric, and a special pad filled with powder is brushed over the paper. The paper is removed and the the transferred lines are thread traced over before the powder disappears. Embroidery designs are transferred this way, too.

      • karen says:

        Thank you so much for this extremely comprehensive explanation.

      • Felicity from Down Under says:

        I second Karen’s thanks for sharing that detailed information. That’s utterly fascinating. My admittedly vague memory of the fairly distant past when I learnt dressmking is that we tailor tacked everyting; however, now you’ve said that about marking darts and the like, it’s starting to come back to me that that might well have been the case: more used for shaping points than straight seams. Many thanks.

  9. Shelly says:

    I haven’t started mine yet. I will when I finally decide which fabric to use and when it get a bit closer to summer. Like you, I’m not sure if I will wear it much or even at all, but I will enjoy learning new techniques.

  10. Eugenia says:

    I agree with you that it’s great to learn new things! Spiral steel boning – now that’s scary! Sounds like you are having a lot of fun making this dress – even if you don’t get to wear it much it will be a worthwhile process.

  11. Suzie says:

    I’ve just bought Gerties course but I don’t think I’ll be starting it any time soon – looking forward to following your progress – all tips welcome!!!

  12. Shawnta says:

    I have one other dress in my cue and need to be able to commit to a fabric for more than five minutes and it will be a go!

  13. grenouille78 says:

    Wow, I’m learning so much reading this post and comments! But maybe I’m missing the point on the thread tracing; it seems like an extra step. It’s just marking the seam allowance, right?

    Also, the steel boning both intrigues and terrifies me. Do you have to cut it down to size {ulp] or does it come in pre-cut lengths? I’ve never seen it in real life.

    • No, you’re not missing the point – it IS an extra step, but one that hopefully will allow for a more accurate fit. The steel boning – it intrigues and terrifies ME! Mine are bought in pre-cut lengths or, if you’re feeling brave, you can buy a continues length of it and cut it to suit. I’ll let you know how things progress!

  14. janine says:

    wow – this is going to be an amazing dress – you really are going to have to create an occasion to go out – but I hope you dont have to go through a metal detector – that could be interesting !! By the way dont be embarrassed by your bust cup toile – at least you have some that stick out and not 1/2 way down to your knees .

  15. LinB says:

    My own wrist pin cushion is a small stuffed rectangle of fleece (abt. 3 x 5 cmm), mounted on a strip of medium-wide elastic. I sewed a snap fastener on the ends of the elastic, rather than making a closed loop. The soft elastic is fastened with enough slack to slide to the inside or the outside of my wrist as needed, but not so much slack that it flops about. (Tried ribbon, but only elastic had enough je ne sais quoi to stay put — even grosgrain ribbon was too slippery.) Cost me nothing but time to make.

  16. Clio says:

    Oh! Don’t be scared of the boning! I’m just finishing my first project with steel spiral boning and it really was much easier than I thought it would be. I signed up for Gertie’s course too – I’m doing a different dress (actually a jumpsuit with a boned strapless top) but I wanted to hear her take on boning, how to do a waist stay and also on fitting the bodice. Totally worth it IMHO. Even if I don’t thread trace on a regular basis, it’s a good skill to learn. I’m sure your dress will be smashing and you will create opportunities to wear it.

  17. Rosesred says:

    The threadtracing is a fab thing indeed! I’m pretty much at the same point as you in the course, and I love all the new discoveries as well!

  18. ooobop! says:

    I’m completely with you on learning new stuff! How exciting. I would love to do this course but I’m a bit strapped for time so I will enjoy your journey instead. Loving it so far. Im not sure I get the thread tracing bit yet but will bear it in mind.

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