Pintucks on Project Runway All Stars

Hello, readers! I’ve been away from the blog for two weeks (or three), and I’m hoping that you missed me a little bit.

I felt the urge to write this post after watching episode 9 of Project Runway All Stars  on the Lifetime Channel, where my sewing-nerd hopes got a little shattered.

Zac Posen showed up and laid out the following design brief: create a red carpet gown that showcases your signature techniqueTechnique!!  Finally, a focus on what goes into the creation of a high fashion evening gown, rather than the usual “inspired by….” theme.  This Project Runway All Stars episode looked promising.

It went downhill (in my opinion) when the contestants started to select their techniques; two people chose “sculpting fabric” (another word for draping, I guess); another one chose ruffles, and so on – you should really watch the episode on the Lifetime channel. Things looked up when designer Joshua selected pintucking as his chosen technique. Pintucks! Now I became excited and rooted for Joshua as the challenge proceeded.

Can you see the pintucking? 

When Joshua selected a heavy, two-sided fabric for his design, I became worried.  Still, I thought he was going to create a showstopper gown, with pintucks playing a starring role. It did not end well, and Joshua seemed to realize that, when he made a comment that his design seemed “unresolved”.  Sad.  What did he do wrong?  Here’s my unsolicited opinion: He chose too heavy a fabric.  Pintucks are small and dainty and look best in a thin or medium weight, crisp fabric such as organza, voile and linen.

Pin-tucking comes under the general category of “heirloom” sewing, or “French heirloom” sewing.  You make a fold perfectly on grain, run a line of stitching just 1/8” or less away from the fold, and you’ve created a tuck. You then make pintucks parallel to the first one and another one, the distance between the tucks being pre-determined by you, the designer.  One can use a special presser foot if it’s available from your brand of sewing machine – Bernina makes a “pintuck foot”. It’s used with a double needle.  I will be addressing that in a future post.

These are traditional pintucks; but then you can go all sorts of ways to manipulate the pintucking for an original design of your own making – which I expected from Joshua.  Well, let’s do the next best thing and look at the highest level of fashion design showcasing pin tucks; high fashion from about 80 years ago. I’m referring to Madame Madeline Vionnet, and to Mademoiselle Coco Chanel – all created on the 1920s and 1930s, and you can see that pintucking , or tucking, has been taken into realms far from the straight and narrow.

Madaline Vionnet

Madaline Vionnet, circa 1936
Vionnet 2
Inside out. Notice the waist seam? 

This is how this black silk voile (organza?) beauty is described in my book:  “Dress with hand stitched hexagon shaped tucks in graduated size as surface design”.  So lets assume these are tucks. How was this ever achieved? I can picture separate hexagon pieces patchworked together, but tucking?  I have tons of questions for Madame Vionnet when I join her in heaven.

Vionnet cross hatch
Madaline Vionnet, circa 1926 – 27
Vionnet crosshatch
cross hatched or latticed direction of the pintucks

Here you have another, earlier version of pintucked beauty in the form of “cross hatch” or “latticed” design. This dress is silk crepe de chine and provides gives some visual weight to the design.


Coco Chanel

Chanel Circa 1937-38
collar cloeup
Notice the pintucks?

This outfit was donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum by Diana Vreeland, legendary editor of Vogue magazine.  A quick glance will tell you this is just a frilly, lacy jabot on an ecru blouse under a sequined jacket. Look closely!  Tiny pintucks at the neck  (tapering away from one another) are released to form a longer line at the other end of the chiffon band, which is attached to the lace, and ends up as a ruffly jabot without bunching up at the neckline. Oh, I get it!

Had Joshua rendered his pintucks more thoughtfully, he might have been saved from elimination. That’s ok, he may have another chance. Wait, here’s some breaking news:  the fate of the Project Runway brand is in jeopardy due to extreme misbehavior of someone, high up in the production company.  #Consequences.

Keep pintucking alive, sewers!  As always, Here are three books and a Craftsy class which were my resources for this post:

  1. Fine Machine Sewing by Carol Ahles, Taunton Press (instructions for making pintucks)
  2. Haute Couture by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (Vionnet dress images)
  3. Modern Fashion in Detail by Claire Wilcox and Valerie Mendes  (lacy jabot image)
  4. Chanel, The Couturier at Work, by Amy de la Haye and Shelley Tobin (lacy jabot image)
  5. Craftsy class: Heirloom Embellishments by Susan Stewart (pintuck instructions)

Now go forth and sew up a spring wardrobe…..




6 thoughts on “Pintucks on Project Runway All Stars

  1. My pin tucking efforts have been limited to straight lines using the traditional method and random wavy lines using the double needle/foot combination. The trad way seemed to be less fabric dependent. Now the hexagons – that is really throwing down the gauntlet. Are they true tucks, in one piece of fabric? Can’t wait to try it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jay, the captions and descriptions on all the images say they are pintucks. I’m wondering though — it would be a huge challenge to make the hexagon tucks with one piece, and have the hexagons in different sizes to fit the shape. I see you’re up to the challenge 🙂 . I’ll give it a go, too.


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