The dress is done. After a few of us took one of the Soutache Ribbon classes (see Embellish This post on August 3, 2010), I wanted to find a project to test my new talents. I chose to lengthen the hem on a casual cotton dress I bought earlier this summer. I wore it most of the summer, but I needed another 3 inches of hem to make it look, well, appropriate.
With dress in hand, I headed to Soutache and was inspired by a box pleat look I saw in Ribbon Trims by Nancy Nehring. I needed two trims: one trim, preferably with a pattern for the top, and one trim to serve as the background. With the some expert guidance, I selected a 1/2″ black-and-white polka dot ribbon and placed it on top of two different widths of black Petersham grosgrain: a 3″ for the hem and a 1-1/2″ for the waistband. The Nehring book suggested to measure what you wanted to embellish and then multiply by 3. That seemed like a lot of trim, but her example showed the pleats were placed very close together. After a few minutes to rough out my desired pleat spacing, I left with about 5 yards of polka dots, about 3+ yards of 3″ Petersham grosgrain, and almost 2 yards of 1-1/2″ Petersham grosgrain.
I’m not going to lie to you, it took some time to do this. If I subtract the time I spent practicing and bonding with my seam ripper, the finished product took close to 4 hours. Granted, I sew slowly. Also, this time doesn’t include pre-washing and pressing either. Definitely, take the time to either hand wash or use a lingerie bag with the washing machine for all trims prior to working with them. I chose to hand wash and let my ribbon hang dry. Then I pressed using a water mister and kept a piece of muslin between the iron and ribbon. I achieved some success in avoiding grosgrain shine when I didn’t use the steam setting on my iron. Be sure you do a press check on a small bit of the ribbon before you begin.
These aren’t exactly step-by-step instructions, but essentially here is how to repeat what I did, working from the left to the right on the ribbon and using a 1″ wide guide with 3″ pleats for the waistband and 5″ pleats for the hem:
- Sew polka dot ribbon down the middle of the grosgrain. Try not to show the stitching by adjusting the needle placement to sew along the farthest edge of the polka dot ribbon. I did they by eye and not pins.
- Serge the end of the fabric and apply a small amount of a non-fray product to the end using a paint brush (A little tip from Soutache).
- Use a guide and place it about 5″ into the ribbon. Make the first pleat by folding the ribbon to the right and over the guide. This will give you a 1″ pleat and leave you with 2″ of room at the end.
- Slide out the guide, place it next to the fold. Then place another guide directly against the previous guide. Fold the ribbon to the left over the second guide to create another 1″ pleat with a 1″ gap between. Slide out the guides and either pin or sew a small stitch to keep the pleats in place.
- Measure 5″ from the fold of the last pleat. Place the guide on the ribbon and fold over from the left to the right. This will give you a 3″ wide pleat.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have the desired amount for your project.
- Either hand- or machine-stitch the pleats in place prior to attaching to your project.
Because I chose to have 1″ between and a 3″ wide pleat, these steps are a bit different than steps to make standard pleats by stacking. Choose the method that works best for you.
Before I sewed the trim to my dress, I added a strip of single fold bias tape at the very bottom to reinforce the lightweight fabric then sewed the ribbon on top of that. Cute as the dress is, the fabric is almost sheer and marks showed on the few places I had to rip and replace.
A couple of items I realized which may be helpful tips if you attempt this, include:
- Use satin or silk pins if working with quality ribbon; thicker pins can leave a small gap in the ribbon.
- Avoid, if possible, repeated rip/replace if you are attaching grosgrain by sewing along the edge of the ribbon; I noticed some minor fraying in a few spots.
- Remember to allow for zippers. I was ready to sew when I realized I pinned the ribbon directly over the zipper. Whew. That would have been a mess.
Now that I sort-of know what I’m doing, I’m ready to attempt another hem-lengthening adventure . . . I bought the same dress in white. Share your ribbon and trim stories, tips, and ideas with us. We’d love to know what we’ve inspired you to do.