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Add Textural Dimension to Fabric

Adding additional texture to fabric through various means of fabric manipulation by creative folding, twisting, gathering and then stitching enhances the pattern, color and dimensional detail of any sewing project.

Ruching (from the French, rhymes with ‘who’) means to plait or pleat evenly. Think of a fabric gathered hair scrunchy and you have a good contemporary example. Ruching is a textural embellishment or trim, with a look somewhat different from ruffling or gathering, historically seen on the edge of women’s and children’s fashion bonnets, a neckline or front dress opening, at times at the edge of dress hems. Pulled tightly into a circle, a ruched narrow tube of fabric becomes flower-like that was also used as ornamentation. Fashionable uses for ruching today can be seen as piping on the edge of decorator throw pillows or quilts, fabric flower motifs, wide for insets, and edge-trims on ladies wear clothing.

Broomstick is a type of deliberately added length-wise crinkle to fabric that adds not only texture, but movement to a long or short skirt. The term may have derived from the method of gathering and twisting the entire length of a skirt around the length of a broomstick to set the folds to get that wrinkled look. The finished look also mimics the even long strands of a straw broom.

Pleating using multiple, regular folds in the fabric add motion to a finished garment; they are a control technique to manage fullness. They can be box pleats, inverted pleats, knife pleats, or accordion pleats. All are vertical folds of the fabric that are partially stitched down, left soft or pressed to keep their shape intact. Careful measuring and pressing during garment construction is a must.

Pin tucks are usually seen on heirloom garments but are also seen as a modern embellishment. They are tiny, parallel, straight of grain folds of the fabric that have a line of stitching about 1/8” away from each fold.

Embroidery as an art form and fabric embellishment has a long history. Done by hand with needle and thread or by machine today, using a variety of stitches and thread colors to create designs and patterns, embroidery adds a slightly raised, visually pleasing dimensional look and feel to any fabric piece. Embroidery adds a signature statement to a finished garment.

Appliqué is a pieced sewing technique in which pieces of fabric are sewn onto a fabric background to create designs or scenes. Appliqué is like painting with fabric and can be highly symbolic. All the world’s cultures, through-out history have used some form of appliqué as an accent on fabric or leather. A reverse technique creates a cut-out look, as the design peeks through the cut-out shape. Many quilt-makers use an appliqué technique as a design embellishment.

Trapunto is done by machine or by hand sewing that outlines a design or picture on the fabric, and then commonly lightly padded from behind to add a dimensional defined look to the fabric. Thought to originate in Sicily in the 1300s, popular in the 1700s in colonial America, and an entire industry in France 200 years ago, the raised designs play with light and shadows to highlight the visual effect of texture and dimension.

Smocking is a combination of embroidery and gathering, done by hand or machine, producing multiple, tiny pleats that are then over-stitched with decorative, usually contrasting threads to produce a design element over the gathers. Seen often in children’s clothes as an inset in a yoke in a dress or blouse, smocking is an ancient craft.

Shirring uses multiple, gathered, parallel rows of stitching. Gathering is one row of stitching where the running thread stitch is pulled tight, scrunching the fabric into soft folds. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably but the effect is quite different.

Lace insertions, such as entredeux, incorporate a strip of lace inserted between cut edges of fabric, usually with no background fabric behind the lace strip. It is seen in heirloom sewing, on very delicate blouses as a design element, or edges of pillow cases or sheets. Fagoting, often seen with lace insertions, is a type of twisted stitch created by pulling out horizontal threads from the fabric that are then crossed or twisted. Originally a hand-sewing technique seen mostly on vintage clothing, can be recreated today by machine.

These are but a few of the ways to manipulate fabric to add interest, depth, and texture to any sewing project.

Sew happy, sew inspired.

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