The Scalloped Hem
by Susan Khalje
From Threads #85, pp. 30-35
As a bridal and eveningwear designer, I often use scallops to add a graceful finish to special-occasion garments. I've also long seen scallops in couture collections and have recently noticed them in all sorts of ready-to-wear from casual to dressy.
Scallops add an elegant, graphic line to a garment, and they are a fabulous finish not only for hemlines but also for necklines and front edges of a garment.
|More couture techniques from Susan Khalje:
• How to Finish Seams on Chantilly Lace
• How to Support a Dramatic Sleeve Cap
• Combine Topstitching and Binding for an Elegant Seam Finish
• Take a Tour Inside a Chic Couture Skirt
I want to explore with you some of the options for successfully adding scallops to a garment and also help you with the logistics of calculating size, marking, facing, and stitching scallops. But first, let's talk about fabric choices.
Scallops are most effective worked in fabrics that will curve smoothly along well-defined edges and clearly show the apex of two scallops, or angle where they meet. Firmly woven natural-fiber fabrics like cotton, linen, wool crepe, silk shantung, and silk dupioni are excellent choices. Wool crepe and dupioni were paired for the skirt at left. Loosely woven fabrics and those with loft like thicker satins, moires, jacquards, and piques may produce less effective results. Because scallops require a lot of meticulous clipping, manipulating, and pressing (more about that later), always test your fabric before cutting out to be sure it will cooperate. The results will be better and the sewing much easier.
|These sketches offer ideas for using this detail on vertical and horizontal edges.|
For scallops that are fun and easy to make, consider fabrics that can be cut without fraying and, therefore, don't have to be faced or finished. For example, edge a plastic-coated canvas raincoat with small, neat, cleanly cut scallops (see the skethces above). Or create an evening skirt with an ethereal effect using layer upon layer of scalloped tulle. In either case, carefully cut the scallops with your sharpest scissors, and always cut from the curve toward the apex. You'll need to change direction frequently as you cut, but this is the only way to get a sharp angle. Keep in mind that unfaced scallops shouldn't be too large because they may have a tendency to droop, unless, of course, they're at the hemline of a skirt where they have gravity in their favor.
Approximate the size and placement
|Plan the placement and proportion of a scalloped edge on a muslin of the garment, roughly sketching the scalloped edge in place.|
Begin planning a scalloped edge by making a muslin of the garment and roughly sketching an approximation of the scallops on it (no serious measuring yet). Because there's a lot of drawing, adjusting, and redrawing the scallops at this stage, a muslin is the perfect laboratory for experimentation. (You can also work with the pattern itself for this step, but copy it onto pattern paper so you have a full front and back to work with.)
As you plan the scallops on the muslin, keep their overall size in proportion to the garment-not too small or too large nor too shallow or too deep. If they're too shallow, they might look like an uneven edge. If they're too deep, they might look like flaps. Because each garment is different, this experimentation on the muslin is a trial-and-error process.
In terms of the number of scallops on an edge, I think an odd number-five scallops across the front of a skirt hem, for example-usually produces a more visually pleasing design than an even number. Using an odd number places the deepest part of the scallop's curve, instead of its apex, at the center of the skirt, which is also more visually pleasing. When scallops are placed along the hemline of a skirt, the bottom of the curve is technically the longest part of the skirt. However, the skirt will often appear shorter because of the areas of the scallops that are cut away. This may not matter in the slightest, but it's worth noting and considering when designing a scalloped garment.
After I draw on, pin, manipulate, and cut the muslin-doing whatever it takes to plan the scallops-I study it from a distance and look at it in a mirror. Sometimes I even leave it alone for a day or so and check my reaction when I see it again to be sure I'm pleased with the proportions and placement of the scallops. When I'm satisfied, I move on to more precise drawing.