Think Couture with Charles Kleibacker: Cutting the Fabric, 1979

Think Couture with Charles Kleibacker: Cutting the Fabric, 1979


we’re ready to cut these pants could I
give you my way of thinking about cutting I first of all do an initial
rough layout with my muslin pieces to see how much fabric I need this is that
red silk taffeta that we will be using for the entire garment that you saw on
tawny which my workroom is cutting right now so I have not divided this fabric so
to speak yet in other words I’m preserving grain remember that trouser
is completely on the bias this is my pattern and notice please how
with bias I always leave a selvage and a cross grain so I know exactly what I’m
doing when I place that muslin on to my fabric for the initial tryout that is
the center front of the trouser this is the center back and of course I keep
adjusting the pieces until I get the best layout to have the most
advantageous use of the amount of the fabric and if I move this way I’m able to fit
this back piece in and at this time I would and notice again please how I am
lining up the salvaged grain with the salvage now here on the front piece we
may have to piece a little bit but I don’t think that would ever be seen this
bias trouser does have a third piece and of course unfortunately I can’t get that
out so we’re going to have to think of more fabric somewhere along the line I
do remember that I have my waistband pieces and of course I place those where
it will work very advantageous ly for me now here for instance is an area where
you might be thinking those little skinny spaghetti straps all right now
that’s giving me an idea of how I’m going to place this pattern the next
thing I do is to take that pattern off and I divide these equally so I have
given myself a cut here and when it comes to woven’s I never ever think of
ripping that fabric of tearing it and I wish you wouldn’t I pull a thread and I
very carefully cut to me pulling that fabric tearing it is a sin and I don’t
think you should do it because you get these fibers very what will I say so
heavily concentrated that for to my way of thinking a good inch of the fabric is
ruined so take a little bit more time won’t you
when you’re working with a good woven and pull that thread until you’re all
the way across remember I’m not thinking of fast sewing in this Couture session
here at Iowa State University we’re doing it very very much the pure cooter
way another thing you noticed before I finish cutting there that I had folded
this over to get the rough layout but please be very careful you don’t want
to think of placing your pattern on that fold so to speak in other words in my
work room in New York we are always cutting in the same direction and I
always give myself some kind of a mark on such a fabric as the silk taffeta
which has two sides looking the same to know invariably what is the right side
we use a different colored thread with a knot that indicates our right side now
what I’m trying to say to you is I’ve got all of this going in one direction
so that I’ve given myself another knot here so that I don’t get mixed up and
have two different up-and-down you may not think that’s always important but I
feel it is certainly if you’re working on a velvet or a satin you can ruin your
garment if you are turning that back so please won’t you do what I do always
keep it going in one way all right now by pulling this thread we are finishing
and the next process which I would like you to remember with whatever fiber
you’re working with silk cotton wool linen especially the wovens especially
the naturals excuse me especially the naturals but even such a fabric at fiber
as Keanu I always go to the ironing board and it’s high time I got rid of
this jacket I’m in the workroom am I not I go to the ironing board and I give
these two pieces of equal length fabric what I call a steam bath I’ve left the
sleeve board here I feel to do a great garment you must have a sturdy ironing
board a good steam iron a very sturdy sleeve board and am it not a ham what
identifies the MIT is this pocket omit that with that pocket you can slip onto
the end of that sleeve board and we can work sleeves we can work bust areas
where we’re holding in the fiber of those necklines that I talked to you
about that we hold in we work those on round of this hand and you can shrink
out all of that ease of course easier in the natural fibers now this is what I
mean by a steam bath with this fabric on grain right side down yes right side
down wrong side up to me I give this what I call a steam bath I get all of
the steam I possibly can and people I’m not working above I’m working directly
on that fabric now notice I am moving all the time so don’t dream that is
indeed when you might burn but you’re not going to burn this with steam if you
will really keep moving and in this way you got out all of the wrinkles and more
important you get out the shrinkage and there will always be some in natural
fibers I don’t feel it necessary that you washed this beautiful silk but I
indeed feel it necessary that you give it this steam bath notice how I am
directly on this fabric moving all the time I do let it dry momentarily before
I move it to the next section in this way doing this initial process should
you send a garment to the cleaner or should you wash it if it is a washable
fiber if you have not done this the cleaner it’s certainly going to use the
heavy steam iron and that is when that garment will start pulling up and it
really is not his fault then if you have not done this so please again thinking
the cooter way will you give the fabric this heavy steam bath now let’s say that
I have done both of these pieces I come back to my very flat working surface and
there people it must be flat or you’re not going to get a good garment and here
I’m thinking of those trousers and they are on line so it is important that you
bare with me that we’re thinking an unlined trouser as we are cutting I
line up my selvage with the edge of my table I forget the cross grain
invariably it’s going to be a little bit off don’t force it back remember with
this piece I’m right side up to me wrong side down I take my second piece and I
have my knot to show what is the right side and I’m the knot here and of course
I want the knot here not reversed this way I know I’m going
in one direction and again I line up very very carefully thinking always of
that selvage your cross grain I ignore it no matter how expensive the fabric I
find that cross grain is usually a bit off one time when I worked on 7th Avenue
we would try to force that fabric back with the steam iron on the cross grain I
feel that that’s not right flat flat flat please huh and as you notice I’m in
a rectangle so everything at the moment is grain and that’s where I want you to
concentrate I now take my pins if he knew what he did with them and I very
carefully pin those two pieces of fabric together all the way around I’d say
about an inch and a half apart and for the sake of time I’m not going to go all
around but you’re going to think please that I am all the way around I’m going
to just put a pin now and then but as I said to you I should be not more than an
inch and a half apart with these pins around the edges not in the center at
all but I am impeccably flat now with all of that pick around the four sides I
take my tracing papers and I don’t quite know what happens here at Ames and Iowa
State University but in New York you can buy these large pieces of
tracing paper you can get them in red which is ideal for muslin you can cut
them in yellow again ideal for muslin and you can get them in navy again ideal
for muslin or you can get them in white which is what must be used for your
fashion fabric please don’t ever mark your fashion fabric with one of the
colors it stays in forever a cleaner can’t get it out now
having said that will you bear with me because somewhere along the line I’m on
a tour and somewhere along the line I have lost my other sheet of white so I’m
doing what I asked you not to do but I’m only giving you the method here can we
think of this as a white sheet and I get those sheets very flat under me remember
they’re called tracing paper in new york city i buy them retail for 30 cents a
sheet so you’re not breaking the budget and if you will keep them flat they
really can stay with you a long long time so here I am
remember pinned all the way around with these two layers and I remind you we’re
thinking an unlined garment in this instance a trouser and I placed my
pattern pieces exactly the way I had them again aligning them with these
selvages so that I’m not thinking bias at the moment I’m thinking grain meaning
Salvage with selvage here in this instance I’ve left the selvage and the
cross grain and I’m asking you again to think in terms of inch and a half seam
allowances everywhere not 5/8 of an inch I don’t feel that’s enough if you will
do inch and a half’s if we need to let out we have that fabric after I have fit
stitched pressed then I trim those seam allowances to say 1/2 inch
I find this tracing wheel the ideals that you
raishin for me remember please I’m not thinking of the tracing reel that has
those long spokes that’s only for very very heavy wools
this one has a very fine what will I call it indentation so that you do not
cut into a beautiful silk because you must be pressing rather hard and watch
my fingers how I have learned to put three of them down so this fabric does
not move under me cooter takes time but where I can save
time I save time I don’t find it necessary to pin in here if I’ve got
these three fingers holding with me and I never pick up my eye as I am wheeling
and I’m very very careful to see that I move the fingers along with me and as
you notice I use muslin as my pattern I wish you would go from paper to muslin
meaning that if you want to do a Couture garment via a vogue or simplicity or
Butterick or macaw pattern that you would trace that first on to muslin fit
it and use one half of the muslin as your pattern that you could keep for
years and it would be to your Anatomy I find muslin a great great help
I’m hoping the camera can pick up that dart which I explained to you in the
semi fitting on Tony this is the back part of the trouser and this is that
very important little dart it is in the back part it is parallel with the inseam
which is right here it is about an inch from that inseam and it is about three
and a half inches long whether you are doing as I said a pants for a man or a
woman I feel that little dart is going to do everything in the world for you
now I’m perhaps juggling that table when I shouldn’t have but I want to reveal
this and of course you realize that with the tracing paper under me I’m picking
up all of the marks on the other side and of course
I’m pinned right sides together with the wrong side up to me now will you
visualize please that I have done the the front of the trouser in exactly all
of this wheedle manner because now I picked up my pattern pieces and on this
side I now have all of those marks showing very very definitely I leave the
pins in and I turn over to the other side and again I line up my selvage with
the edge of my table and now I see all of the wield marks on this side remember
please forget the yellow you should be in white and I’m now ready to wheel
those marks on to the other side of the garment I find this the surest the
quickest way to cut you see this is bias but I have not cut into any of that bias
grain because the minute I do and I start handling it it’s going to stretch
by preserving the grain doing it this way with this rectangle I do preserve
the grain and I preserve preserve that bias now whether it would be a skirt or
a trouser and you have to visualize please as though I have wheeled all of
this it is it it is at this time before I cut into the any of the fabric that I
am ready to do my thread tracing and we’re going to halt right for a moment
and let you catch your breath while I do some more threading of the needles and
we’ll come right back remember please that we have marked this bias trouser
I’m now right and I’m remember I’m still pinned all the way around I’m removing
the tracing paper these large sheets and I’m ready to
hand baste that by a seam you see I feel you must hand based by essenes if we’re
going to do a very decent Couture job you simply cannot stretch which I want
you to do with the bias seams once you’re at the Machine you cannot stretch
if you have pinned you cannot pull those pins through the through the machine so
I’m hand basting I do start with a knot and if I were doing a skirt or a dress
with a long bias seam in the front sight I would exactly be doing this same
process I start with a knot I go just a few stitches in this instance we can go
up to the dart because we would not be doing too much stretching until they are
I cut my thread and I no longer use a thread for that bias seam because
remember in this long muslin say of this dress as I said to you I want you to
stretch that seen like mad once you’re at the Machine this shows you why you
must have hand basted these two together so that you can stretch like that as
you’re stitching at the machine and that there are no knots to hold you so that
is the reason why I hand baste these bias seams in sections remember I’m on
the back of this trouser and I’m at the crotch area so I can hand baste this
before we even cut into the fabric and in that way I have preserved the grain
and I would say I usually based about oh four or five or six inches and I then
cut my thread and you notice I’m basting hand basting right on the stitching line
I cut that thread no knots and I go over a couple of the threads so that as I am
stretching at the machine all of these unknotted threads give with me and let
me stretch that bias most comfortably notice to please that I’m not doing very
long stitches I’m doing more like an enlarged eighth of an inch here
sometimes in the seminars such as I’m doing here at Iowa State University for
the clothing and textile department or the textile and clothing department I
believe is the correct way I find the participants giving me very long half to
quarter of an inch basting Zand that drives me up the wall if we’re thinking
Couture please no more than these enlarged eights and again I’m going to
be cutting my thread and doing another section and you see how I try to hold my
fingers firmly on this fabric so it moves as little as possible although you
can do a number of stitches in this instance if you’re putting in a zipper
by hand I beg you not to do the number that I’m doing here one stitch at a time
but here you can do a few more now when I get to the very top of this seam there
I do want you to go over a number of times just as I’m going to show you in a
second so that we hold the fit right there go over it anchor it very very
firmly you see with all of these unknotted hand basting x’ once you’re at
the machine they’re all going to give with you as you stretch these bias seams
and of course as I see it all of this sewing and designing and construction is
common-sense and remember that on the body where there is no seam that bias is
going to stretch with you on this woven and that’s why when you’re doing long
bias seams I feel at the machine you must stretch them bias I find it the
most fascinating of all cuts and people so often ask me what kind of fabrics do
what does one use for bias cutting I find most of them you

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