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How to Sew Fabric Feathers

Self-fabric adornment makes a perfect match
Threads magazine - 168 - Aug./Sept. 2013

This 1930s gown is equal parts elegant, fun, and flirty. It’s made of an airy rayon georgette with an abstract floral print. The pullover dress is graced with a cowl neck, plunging back, fitted torso, and a sweep at the hem. Perhaps the dress’s most striking detail is the self-fabric boa-like feathers at the armholes and back. Though it was considered an economical adornment during the Depression era, the spontaneous trim puts this gown in a league of its own. Read on to see how the fringe was made from Threads #168.

fabric feather on armhole

In the 1930s, while the economy brought the world’s population to its knees for a strong lesson in frugality, the designer of the dress below proved the adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” It’s likely that a self-fabric fringe was substituted for a more expensive trim because it was easily available and adorable. The results are festive and merry and au courant with the fashions we see today.


Cut the fabric.

This feather-shaped and -sized fringe is cut folded and stacked 8 to 10 layers deep for the easiest configuration. To simplify sewing the fringe to the garment, fold each piece in fourths. Raveling is reduced by cutting the fringe on the bias, as directed.

cut the fabric feathers

1. The pattern shown below starts with a 10-inch square paper. Fold in quarters and draw one feather foursome. Make the feathers about 31 ⁄4 inches long. Cut 30 chiffon pieces 10 inches square. You’ll cut more as needed. Fold the pattern diagonally, and the fabric squares on grain.

fabric feathers cut from pattern

2. Pin and cut the feathers in multiple layers. Pin through each feather to secure the pattern for cutting. The pattern is reusable.

Attach the fringe

On the dress shown, the fringe travels around the armholes, over the shoulders, and follows the plunging back edge to…

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