Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Silk Strawberries for the Strawberry Sacque (La Fraise Robe a la Francaise)

 One month in the Saint Louis Historical Sewing Society the question of the month was;

“What do you start on first? Dress or trim?”

I was taken aback.

Starting on the trim first?? Was that even an option? The idea had certainly never crossed my mind!

But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made - make the complicated trim before you’re worn out, burnt out, and stressed out by the immanent deadline.

Within the week I began making the strawberries to go on my long dreamed of 1780ish Robe a la Francaise. (And it’s a good thing too, because if I hadn’t made those strawberries first, I’m pretty sure my gown would have been strawberry-less at the ball!)

First things first, I had to pick some red silk from my stash. I had a bit of pink silk (the same that I used for the bodice of this dress and the accents on my mom’s mother of the bride dress) which I thought paired really well with my striped silk. I decided I would use the pink for the bows on the stomacher and sleeves of gown, and perhaps a few "accent" strawberries on my skirt. 

I have a couple 1 to 3 yard cuts of red silk in my stash, but none of those were quite the right shade when placed next to my striped silk, pink silk, and the real actual strawberries I would be attempting to replicate in silk. So I dug deeper into my silk stash.

My silk dresser

I unearthed a red silk blouse, which I picked up out of a "free" bin at a thrift store several years ago. 

It was the perfect shade!

I pulled out a seam ripper and began dismantling.

Once dismantled enough, I cut the ties and collar pieces up to make strawberries.

I started by making a bunch of little cones.

I used ivory silk Gutermann thread to embroider a bunch of French Knots onto each cone to make strawberry seeds.

Some of these French Knots were done well, others. . . well, they got the job done!

Once embroidered, each strawberry was stuffed with a bunch of little fabric scraps.

So many little fabric scraps!

Then the top edge of each strawberry was gathered up, and sewn closed.

Ready for the strawberry tops to go on!

When I began on my gown itself, almost exactly 2 months before the ball, all my red strawberries were pretty well done, and the pink strawberries were on their way!

The pink strawberries were stuffed and embroidered a little at a time in-between other hand sewing projects. And the day before the ball, I had 24 silk strawberries in need of their tops.

After considering several different green silks from my stash for the strawberry tops, I decided to use the tealish green silk left over from my mom's mother of the groom dress. (And my Rilla Blythe evening gown). It wasn't the most realistic of color choices, but /i liked how it paired with the loopy trim I was using on my gown.

I folded little silk scraps the way one would fold paper for paper snow flakes, and cut a rough leaf shape.

The shape and number of leaves wasn't quite perfect, but as I was in the final 36 hours before the ball and still had a bunch of trimming left to do on my gown, I didn't have time to worry about that!

I sewed a small circle of running stitches in the center of each leaf thing and gathered them up.

The gathered green silk thing that-maybe-resembles-a-strawberry-top was sewn to the top of each strawberry.

Most of these strawberry tops got sewn on while I was riding in the car as my husband drove me to Walmart to buy make up and jewelry for that evening. ("Oh, you have to go into town for something? Could you pretty please take me along and drop me off at the store? I need to go, but I've got too much sewing to finish in the next 4 hours to take the time to do it. But if you drive, I can sew on the way to and from!)

Once the strawberries were all topped, they needed to be sewn into bunches of three to trim my skirt.

This "bunching on the strawberries" happened on the way to ball set-up that afternoon. (Thankfully my husband was driving again.)

I used a green silk thread (Which amazingly matched my strawberry tops perfectly. Thank you excessive fabric and thread stash!) to attach the strawberries together.

At the ball venue, after everything was set up and decorated to perfection, I sewed the strawberry bunches to my skirt before donning my gown.

There are 3 bunches of strawberries down either side of the gown skirt, along the front opening. There are also supposed to be 2 bunches of strawberries on the petticoat. However, as I was quite out of time, I decided to skip those for the ball. 

I'll add them before I wear the dress again!

The strawberries were certainly the perfect finishing touch on my gown!

In my next blog post I'll share all about how the gown came together!


  1. Those little strawberries are just to die for!!! They're so cute. I think that's a good idea to do the trim before the dress in some cases--hmmm...

  2. Excellent! Gorgeous gown and beautiful trim!

  3. Looks fantastic! I made the trim before the gown for Fetes Galantes last year. First time I did that and feel it's definitely the way to go, for exactly the reasons you gave.