Pattern Puzzle & Quiz: Threads

I intended to post this entry well before now but better late than never. The dress on the left (below) comes from the back cover of a recent edition of Threads Magazine. I don’t know which because I didn’t buy the issue but my photo is dated April 20th (took the picture at Barnes & Noble). Threads typically has some gorgeous outfits on their back cover. In my opinion, they should publish a coffee table book of their back covers. I don’t always buy their magazines and books but I’d be first in line to buy a book like that.

Circa 1940’s (I’m guessing based on the detail and slender silhouette of the skirt), I think this is a wool crepe. Wool crepe always drapes so beautifully.

Here’s a close up of the design effect (above right). You’ll notice the threads are a lighter color than the fabric. I doubt this was an intended design effect. It’s more likely to be a case of the thread having faded over time.

Now here comes the multi part quiz and challenge part of today’s pattern puzzle. There are two obvious design features, described as being on the left and right.

  1. What is the technical description of the design feature on the right?
  2. How is it done?

On the left, there are technically two processes going on. What are each called? One is rather obvious, the second is not so obvious and not usually expressed in this way so this may amount to a trick question.

On second thought, that weave doesn’t look like a crepe to me. I suppose we could amend this challenge with suggestions as to fabrication.

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  1. Jonquil says:

    On the right is applique of self bias-tubing.

    On the left is cartridge pleating, and then I’m stumped.

    In the picture close-up that actually looks like a twill to me.

    I look forward to the real explanation!

  2. Robyn says:

    I worked at a company that did the embroidery technique shown all the time on ladies blouses in the 1990’s. It was called Passementerie. I had to look it up on Wikipedia to find out how to spell it.

  3. RebeccaF says:


    You have no idea how excited I am to see this Quiz, I have wanted to know how to do this for several years and I have no idea, I tried piping feet but it was too difficult to do the circle’s etc. I also thought maybe my Commercial Embroidery machine with a cording foot but then I would have to digitize it and I’m not very good at that Plus The cording foot isn’t for my machine so that would be out unless I buy a newer one. Wow looks like I will finally have my answer. Thank you Kathleen!

  4. Els says:

    I have that issue of Threads magazine and it does not look like it is a wool crepe.
    The embellishments is done by self corded bias tube and beading.
    For self corded bias tube cords you need some seam allowance to fill the tubes to get the round shape without a filler. Cut the seam allowance as wide as the stitching wide of the tubes, turning the tubes with a loop turner.
    Wool crepe would be a good choice to make such embellishments, but I would hand attach the cords with an invisible stitch.

  5. Helen says:

    On the right is passementerie: applied decoration of braid or tubing. It is also beaded.

    On the right is a draped flounce or ruffle, cut in one with the front overlay. Then the piece is slashed, the ruffle is gathered (I wouldn’t call it cartridge pleated because it is sewn into the seam, not to the edge of the pleats as in a cartridge pleated skirt or ruff). It looks to me as if the ruffle is not evenly gathered — there’s a group of gathers, then a space with a flare, then another group of gathers.

    Hard to tell on the fabric. I don’t think it’s wool, could it be a silk crepe or rayon?

    My guess on the date is very late 1930s. The shoulders show the beginnings of pads, but the skirt is still narrow. It would be helpful to see the length, but it’s probably an evening gown, so floor length.

  6. Lisa Bloodgood in Portland says:

    It says on the back cover that it’s a 1940s dress. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even say what the fabric is.

  7. laurie says:

    I would call the embroidery “bonaz” sometimes spelled “bonnaz”, it’s done on a special machine. It can be self or a trim cord. They don’t do it much domestically anymore, but do a lot in India and China. The draping part almost looks like smocking to me but it’s hard to tell from the picture.

  8. kaaren hoback says:

    I love puzzles- especially when you say the question might be a trick.

    I also agree as to the Passementerie embroidery work but am not so certain the bias tube is self filled, or filled with a very fine cotton cording plus the lovely beadwork. Is the skirt flounce shirring? The fabric does appear to be fine wool maybe a serge or challis.


  9. Manda says:

    I looooooooooooooooooove this dress! It reminds me of one that I recently bought at I dunno if they still have it, but it was quite similar!

  10. Liz C. says:

    On the gathering–it appears to be stroked gathering.

    One or more rows of running stitch are worked at identical intervals, and drawn up. A blunt point is used to “stroke” the gathering pleats into alignment.

    The seam allowance of the non-gathered piece is folded to the wrong side and pressed, then laid over the stroke-gathered section. The individual gathering pleats are then whipped very carefully to the folded edge–or really, just *behind* the folded edge, so no stitches show on the outside at all).

    If the item has a lining layer, the whipping process is repeated with that layer.

    The running stitches that gather the work may or may not be removed; given the “holding” effect on this particular piece, I suspect the stitches below the seamline have not been removed.

    Stroked gathering is similar to cartridge pleating (or gauging, as you’ll find it called for the mid-19th century, which is my favorite era), in that the finished results are both low-bulk and very orderly. Stroked gathering is worked along a cut edge and that edge is eventually included in the seam; gauging is worked through a folded edge of the fabric, and is not included in a stitched seam with the flat portion of the garment.

    In this case, the flounce also appears to be cut in one piece with the garment, but extended, then slashed and gathered. The gathered portion would end with a miniscule seam allowance tapering to nothing on the inside, as you would end a dart. A bit of bias tape on the inside serves to face and reinforce the slashed/gathered portion, but you don’t end up with seams all the way across the lower hip of the tunic, and don’t disrupt the embellishment.

    As to that, I’d call it rouleau–self-filled bias tubes stitched into interesting patterns on the garment.

    (By the by–I adore this site!)

  11. Marji says:

    I love reading the answers here just as much as the entry. My first reaction was passmenterie and cartridge pleats – but I’d never heard of stroked gathering. And I wasn’t thinking about the finer nuances of the pleating being applied vs sewn into a seam.
    By the second technique on the left side, are you referring to the flounce?
    I keep thinking I’m missing something really intricate, but maybe it’s the obvious.
    Definitely I’m with you on the coffee table book.

  12. Donna Sebastian says:

    Looking at the close-up picture the fabric is a twill weave not crepe. My guess is it is a very fine wool based on what was used then.

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