Making Fire

My 18th Century (specifically 1770’s) Charmander, aptly named “Le Feu du Charmander,” required a non-historical trim to create a flame effect. During the time period, fabric trims were, for the most part, various types of gathered strips of fabric or bows sewn onto the dress in artful, mirrored ways. No way would this work for the ombre look I was wanting to achieve – let alone match the texture I desired.

The solution: nearly 200 individual ‘flames.’ I simultaneously regret and love this decision. I’m often quite conflicted when it comes to costuming and time-consuming techniques, this was no exception.


  • Five 1-yard cuts of flame colored fabric
  • 2 packs of 10mm assorted flame colored glass pearls
  • Rotary Cutter
  • 3” wide Quilting Ruler
  • Cutting Mat
  • Sewing machine, thread, etc.


  • All of the flames are cut to a specific size: 3”w x 4”h. (Hence the love for the 3” wide Quilting Ruler).
  • Each flame is made of two 3×4 rectangles. The flame shape is sewn freehand on your sewing machine with a convex shape, pivot at the tip (I used about 3 stitches to pivot) and sew down with a concave curve that flares to the side, leading into the base of the flame.
  • Trim away the excess fabric, leaving a scant ¼” allowance.
  • Turn the flame outward and push out the point with a stiletto.
  • Now take that flame back to the machine, sew the bottom shut with the machines longest straight stitch, gather, and tie off.

Yay, you have a flame! Now make 199 more: approx. 20 of each color!

The process: rectangles to finished flames

Once all the flames have been created, it’s time to lay them out on your gown. I laid out both panels, did one side and then fiddled with the other side until they were as close as I could get them without going insane. All the flames were pinned down individually at their base.

Now for the fun part: sewing them on! I went methodically through the wavy lines of flames, sewing each base onto the dress panels one-by-one. I started at the bottom and worked my way to the waist.

After both sides were sewn down and the dress was all but completed, I took those 10mm glass pearls and hand stitched each flame down at its tip. This does two things: 1) keeps all the flames in place so no one sees the base and they don’t flop around; 2) weights the front of the dress nicely so the flames will always show.

And viola! Le Feu du Charmander!

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