Couture Sewing School: Day 1

You know, seven days straight of sewing and I’m not even sick of it yet.

Yep, I spent the Sunday between the French Jacket Class and the Couture Sewing School sewing. A few of the other ladies from that class were around and willing to get together – so we figured, why not? I’ve now got both sleeves in with lining sewn shut, pocket locations mapped out and hem locations pinned in place. Oh, and the first row of trim is sewn on, too.

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I was super excited for this week as I’d be meeting some people I’ve admired from afar for a long while (Leisa from A Challenging Sew, Norma from Orange Lingerie, Sarah from Goodbye Valentino to name a few) plus some fabulous personalities even Susan had raved about the week before (Cissie, that’s you! :D).

So Monday was like a groundhog day of sorts!  Same location and same teacher – but all new people with big ideas and fabulous projects to work on!

I decided on sewing Marfy 3157, mostly because I love the drape detail on the skirt, and working with spiral steel boning is something I’d been wanting to try.

F3157

To make it difficult, I’ve strayed from the straight and narrow of the recommended macrame lace and silk satin – and am instead making up the bustier and skirt in a dusty rose pink wool crepe, lined with a matching but paler shade of peach charmeuse, and for some visual interest the overlay in a mottled but matching wool/cashmere blend:

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If there is one thing I can never remind myself enough of, it’s that moving away from the recommended fabrics changes everything. One of the ladies made a gorgeous Marfy dress during the course of the week (to be worn whilst in Paris… ooh!) and that was certainly the theme of her week. If one is willing to stray from the recommendation, one must be willing to put up with a little heartache.

Also – Leisa so very kindly traced out her copy of a Marfy bustier (F2630) for me. Between Susan and Norma, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up having fitted! Even before I got the niggle to want to learn how to sew, corsetry was of huge fascination for me.

Marfy bustier F2630

And here it is again:

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Well, we kick start today with a bit of show and tell – who we are, where we’re from, what pattern and what fabric. I think if I had my time again, I would bring fabric along with me – leaving it to chance on the shopping trip to A Fabric Place left me a little anxious! Although they do have some seriously lovely stuff, it’s touch and go – if you’re after something specific – find it beforehand and bring it along.

Then we head straight into the fitting phase. This time it’s doubly as fascinating because everyone has such varying things to fit – dresses, coats, skirts and jackets. I again watch with fascination! When it comes to my turn, I again get away with virtually no changes – I’m talking extending the darts on the skirt slightly and raising the height of the bustier. I know I shouldn’t complain… but I feel a little cheated of having my toile ripped to pieces and put back together again by the Master ;) Call me the almost-perfect size 46? Ha!

After taking apart my muslin to be traced onto my silk organza underlining, it’s the end of the day. You know, it’s not always a good idea to underline with silk organza – but it’s more common than not. Sandra asked previously why I underlined my French Jacket with batiste rather than organza – and the answer is because organza would change the hand of the fabric to the extent that it would lose the suppleness that a French Jacket is known for. It’s supposed to feel like a cardigan, not a blazer/jacket. I underlined my Octopus’ Garden Jacket which was sewn in a very loosely woven tweed with silk organza, and you can see the stark difference it makes:

silk organza underlining difference

Hmm…. I wonder if I’ve got enough of this left over to make myself another French Jacket…?
I reckon I might!

If you were making a drapey top out of silk charmuese for example, but wanted to increase the opacity of the fabric, you would underline with a crepe de chine as it has similar properties to both the fashion fabric and the soft drape of the look you are trying to achieve. Underlining a drapey silk top with organza would totally ruin the look of the garment! You need to match your underlining to both your fashion fabric AND the desired end result of your garment.

Obviously, a heavy wool crepe like what I’ll be sewing with can happily handle a silk organza underlining – as in couture sewing – the organza holds all of the pattern piece information needed to put your garment together whilst allowing you to have the wide seam allowances necessary, provides a fabulous base to secure hems to without having your stitches go through to the outer layer and also can provide additional structure and support where required.

Phew.

Mid afternoon, we pile into cars and in convoy make our way to A Fabric Place to buy more fabric. You really never can have enough of the stuff, yes?

The rest of the day is, for me, spent transferring changes to the muslin and separating all the pieces ready to be used for transferring onto the silk organza underlining.

That night I get a serious arm workout steaming all 4.5 yards of my wool crepe and wool/cashmere (oh yes people, I speak imperial now!) which took over an hour, thankfully I had Stephen and Jon to keep me company…

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My pattern pieces are all traced out on organza ready to go for tomorrow morning :)

Oh, and both Leisa and Sarah have written wonderful posts on our week of sewing – I’d highly recommend popping over to have a read! And yes… the contents of that mysterious box will be revealed soon!

French Jacket Class: Day 1

Wow. It’s almost a little surreal that this is finally happening! I’ve had two days of fabric shopping in New York which passed in the hungover haze of jetlag, and now I’m adjusted, ready and rearing to go.

Bryant Park, New York

Bryant Park, New York – my favourite spot for lunch whilst shopping for fabric!

Day 1 of Susan Khalje’s French Jacket Class is all about acquiring the materials needed for the next 6 days. I’m meeting Susan and the other French Jacketeers at Mendel & Goldberg in New York when they arrive around midday, but I’m here two hours early to peruse fabrics and just enjoy a bit of introverting.

This shop really does have the best of the best – Valentino and Etro silks, Chanel boucles, Elie Saab beaded laces and on and on. Boucle is the fabric of choice, due to its loft which allows you to quilt the fabric and lining together without the stitching showing through. If you’re keen to know more – I’d highly recommend this read by Leisa which is part of the French Jacket sewalong :) Like with any fabric, you can choose to pay as little or as much as you like – but unravelling the edges of the more expensive stuff and you can see why it costs as it does.

I’m looking to get boucle and silk charmuese to line it with (although you can also use crepe de chin or georgette – suited for lighter weight boucles for warmer climes). Before everyone arrives I’ve picked out two potential options and matching linings with the help of Josie:

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After looking at my blog banner/carousel the other day and noticing that just about EVERYTHING I’ve made recently has been blue, I vowed to not buy a single piece of blue fabric whilst here… it seems I’ve slipped quite comfortably into a rut!! I thought the orange/lilac or the yellow/grey would be excellent to kick the habit.

When the van from Baltimore lands, there’s a flurry of activity and 8 other jacketeers to meet! And would you believe it – another Australian! Whoooo, represent!! I meet Susan (um, celebrity alert?) and we all talk about fabric choices, guided by her expertise.

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Alice, the shop’s 3rd generation proprietor (and character extraordinaire…) has a ‘killer’ (in joke) eye for a good match. It’s a riot just to watch her from the other side of the room! The woman is outrageously flamboyant and a has an eye for a good match.

After lunch we all head to M&J Trim in the garment district to find buttons and trim to match our fabrics – the choices seem endless but Susan manages to help each one of us find something to really make the fabric shine.

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I picked out a fabric from Mendel & Goldberg’s last season of fabrics, and unfortunately Alice didn’t have anything left in stock to match from the Northern Hemisphere’s summer silks collection!! Although to be fair, my hip-pocket was pretty happy about this. So I made a quick mad dash to B&J’s (not that I minded – that place is my own personal heaven) to get a solid silk charmeuse to match and a really, really lightweight cotton batiste to underline my boucle fabric with. This is highly unusual apparently (the underlining) – but my boucle is so lightweight that it’s actually see-through…

And here’s what I end up with – Chanel Haute Couture (I haven’t hunted down which year or collection as yet) which has a greyish white base with lots of sherbert-y orange and lilac, a matching lilac charmuese, an off-white beaded trim with an orange velvet ribbon (not sure on that yet) and some bling-y buttons:

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Then it’s time to settle in for the long drive back to Baltimore and the chance to chat and get to know the other Jacketeers – many of whom have already done this class multiple times. I check in to my serviced apartment down the road from the Khalje carpet gallery where we’ll be sewing – home for the next two weeks. Tomorrow the sewing starts in earnest…

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When I first visited Susan Khalje’s website, I’ll admit I wondered why it was called the French Jacket Class and not the Chanel Jacket Class. Reading up about it online I got lost in a web of links (as you do), and discovered that back in September 2010 Chanel took out a full page advert in WWD magazine which went like this:

“A note of information and entreaty to fashion editors, advertisers, copywriters and other well-intentioned mis-users of our Chanel name:
Chanel was a designer, an extraordinary woman who made a timeless contribution to fashion. Chanel is a perfume. Chanel is modern elegance in couture, ready-to-wear, accessories, watches and fine jewellery. Chanel is our registered trademark for fragrance, cosmetics, clothing, accessories and other lovely things. Although our style is justly famous, a jacket is not ‘a Chanel jacket’ unless it is ours, and somebody else’s cardigans are not ‘Chanel for now.’ And even if we are flattered by such tributes to our fame as ‘Chanel-issime,  Chanel-ed, Chanels, and Chanel-ized’, PLEASE DON’T. Our lawyers positively detest them. We take our trademark seriously. 
Merci,
Chanel, Inc.” 

Quite simply, they could sue you for using the Lord’s Chanel name in vain. Many websites I visited talking about this ad had statements from Anna Sterba, an intellectual property attorney who reiterated that a trademarked name cannot be used as an adjective without the permission of the company that owns the trademark. From commentary online it appeared that this request was perhaps less a case of protecting themselves against Genericide and more about being able to prove in a court of law in the case of a trademark infringment that they were doing enough to protect their brand (thus giving credibility) before going on the knee-jerk offensive and brandishing their lawyers about the place.

So in keeping with this, I too will be refraining from using the C word. Instead, it’ll be the F word all the way… hehe

Epic Stash Enrichment Outing

fabric haul

I hadn’t bought fabric since the start of October last year, people. And like all diets of the strictest kind, you’re likely to break your rules at some point and binge on the very thing you sought to restrict.

That breaking point for me was on Saturday just gone past - with 11 of my favourite sewing enthusiasts, Social Sewing went on the road! We had visitors from multiple states – Suzy (SuzyBeeSews) from South Australia, Amanda (Bimble and Pimble) from the ACT and Kirsty (RocketSews) from Tasmania. There’s already evidence floating around that the Sydney Sewing Girls had their own massive fabric binge on the very same day – good minds eh! Our day started early, and we covered 8 shops and trekked all over Melbourne stopping for lunch somewhere in the middle and then topping it off with dinner at Rockwell & Sons (the restaurant co-owned by Belle’s (Bella’s Collectanea) husband. I skipped out on that though as I had a hot-date with my beau.

Thankfully I had plenty of advance notice this fabric shopping expedition of most epic proportions, so by extension I had ample chance to strengthen my fabric-grabbing reflexes. I think I did myself proud. The other ladies did too – Lara (Thornberry) walked out of one fabric shop with a whopping FOUR BAGS of fabric! And check out the boot of 1 of the three cars it took to get us all around town here.

Shall we look what came home with me?

Some floral/lace printed knit (not pictured) and minty green marle knit from the remnant bin at Rathdowne Remnants, destined to be a Papercut Undercover Hood for winter this year:

Mint Marle knit from Rathdown Remnants

Some super-sturdy and strong silk twill in a pinky red (I thought it was some really soft cotton twill when I picked it up!) from The Fabric Store (50% off, whooo!) which will hopefully become some Patrones shorts before the end of summer (thanks to the Curious Kiwi for posting about this issue so I could ‘discover’ this pattern!):

Silk Twill from The Fabric Store

Also from The Fabric Store, some oyster coloured silk satin for lining, plus some delicious baby blue silk/cotton voile bought specifically to underline the eyelet fabric on the right (bought previously) to become a Mad Men/potential SewcieTea dress:

Oyster Silk Satin and Duck Egg silk cotton voile from The Fabric Store

LIBERTY! We all love liberty. This is a bit unusual in that it’s a little warm, fuzzy and certainly not lightweight – it’s almost flannelette like. I lurve the colours and I scored some bright red silk habutai to line it with – no pattern ideas as yet, but definitely a autumnal dress (both from The Cloth Shop):

Liberty Love and Red Habutai from The Cloth Shop

And finally fabric-wise – my ultimate score for the day – some painted and embroidered silk dupion, also from The Cloth Shop. A long time friend is getting married at the end of the year, so I’m thinking of whipping this up for that. The print is giant, so it will need to be a fairly simple dress pattern to let the fabric shine. A big circle skirt and a crinoline are floating around in my imagination…

Embroidered Silk Dupion The Cloth Shop

I also had a rather exciting moment, because I finally found a shop that sells petersham ribbon – The Button Shop. And it’s within walking distance from my house – gah! I’ve been looking everywhere online and found nothing (Ribbons Galore used to sell them but have stopped stocking it) – of course, it was right under my nose to begin with. So I bought quite a bit of that, plus some simple and small mother of pearl buttons to be put on a button up shirt (there’s also some lace trim from the Alannah Hill Outlet in Brunswick in there):

petersham ribbon The Button Shop

Everyone’s been asking me… so how many meters does that add to your stash, Mel? Well, unfortunately for me the number don’t lie. Looks like I’m back on that fabric diet (until New York and Baltimore in September) if I’m EVER going to get down to 50m:

Stash total prior to Saturday = 79.8m 
New additions to stash = 18.7m
Current stash total = 98.5m

Le sigh. Anyway, here’s a sneak peak of what’s currently being sewn up!

sneak peak

Will work for fabric

Photo, thanks to TJ (The Perfect Nose) accosting a very attractive Scottish fellow

On Saturday a whole stack of Victorians, New South Welsh(wo)men and Tasmanian sewing enthusiasts and bloggers alike descended on Tessuti, and it was a bit like a long lost family reunion! Seeing so many familiar faces (but for the very first time) was an odd, but slightly exhilarating feeling :) Low lighting isn’t friendly at the best of times, but I had already chosen to leave the tripod at home in favour of more fabric carrying capacity! 

Sarah (Sew Squirrel) and Kat (All the Whimsical Things)


I’ll admit I was distracted by chatting and lusting after fabric (although I managed to restrain myself… unlike others!) and didn’t take many pictures! Afterwards we headed to Fed Square for some sustenance and good (sewing related) conversation…

It was great fun and I have no doubt there will be future meet-ups and fabric shopping excursions. The best part was ‘discovering’ some new and very local blogs to watch!

Rachel from Boo Dog and Me (the organiser extraordinaire)
TJ from The Perfect Nose (she’s just as funny in real life as in blogland)
Leith from Sew Brunswick (Like Rachel, totally taller than I expected!)
Helen from Funk Bunny’s Garden
Kat from All the Whimsical Things
Christy from Little Betty
Rachel from The Two Windmills
Kirsty from RocketSews
Belle from BellaCollectanea 
Sarah from SewSquirrel (and queen of the Renfrew)
Rachel from MyMessings (purveyor of the most amazing pink and grey Minoru)
Robyn from Sew Love Red
Lara from Thornberry

There was also Catherine, Anna, Sue and Heather. Quite a few of the more diligent photo takers (Kat caught the mood and fabric frivolities and TJ got some seriously cute scottish dude to get a few snaps of us at Fed Square) have some great shots up. Kudos to them!

Now, a few months back I made a bit of a pledge to myself – not to buy any new fabric until I’d made a more significant dent in the stash I currently have. Excepting of course, this little excursion, and a VIP night I went to at D’Italia back on the 8th of August. Yeah, I’ve kinda failed at that already (I bought some swimsuit fabric from EmmaOneSock) but surely I can hold out for the rest of the year?

On returning home, I thought it might be nice to go through my hoard and remind myself of the projects that inspired my stash enhancement purchases in the first place, you know – a bit of retrospective motivation…

Like this gorgeously minty green boucle that I scored in a 50% sale (woot!!), from my new favourite friends at Stitches to Style. There’s only one thing this could be – a Chanel style Jacket! Vogue 8804 is GO. Or at least it will be, hopefully sometime soon…


At that fabulous OOP sale on the Vogue McCalls website a while back, I snapped up a whole stack of patterns I’d been wanting… but not bad enough to pay full price for them ;) Enter McCalls 5929. This fabric – a blue and white abstract print cotton/silk voile (from Emma One Sock) is bound to be a button-up shirt. Now I know I can use the buttonhole foot on my machine, there’s nothing stopping me – except mastering plackets of course!


If you’re a follower of Erica B’s DIY style, you would have seen this ripper of a dress made from McCall’s 6460. Like the sheep I am, I bought that pattern on impulse pretty much immediately after seeing her post. And ever since, I’ve been seeing dress after dress in shop windows with a lace overlay. Gorgeous Fabrics delivered, and I’m planning to dye this currently-cream lace another colour. Summer dress, sorted. But – sleeves or no sleeves?

And this. You will be seeing this very VERY soon. If you haven’t guessed what this will be already then I’m not going to spill the beans. But it’s lace, it’s French, and we fell in love and ran away together. Did I mention that the Stitches to Style ladies know me by name now?


Mmmmm… silk crepe sherbert-coloured confection. I’m intending them to turn into an entirely edible version of Vogue 1192, which I’ve had my eye on ever since I pinned this dress a while back. Although 1192 has some terrible reviews on PR… so maybe I need to rethink that one. Butterick 5672 may have to come to the rescue. Or Leith of Sew Brunswick did an lovely rendition of New Look 6000

Those silk fabrics (along with another silk chiffon you can see me holding below and a wool/cashmere blend fabric destined to be a suit) was bought at D’Italia‘s VIP night back at the start of August, to celebrate their 10th Birthday. It was a fabulous way to spend an evening – they had champagne, nibbles and a guy playing classical guitar. More pictures here! Recognise my jacket? :)

And then, there’s the two fabrics I picked up in Tessuti whilst hanging out with the Melbourne Sewing Scene. They don’t appear to be very interesting at first… but this textured white cotton and latte coloured knit will be spun into something a bit special for every day wear come summertime.

Time to get sewing!!

The Fabric District in Buenos Aires

La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

I can’t believe we’re nearing the end of our South American Odyssey… Back in January Sarai did a post on Coletterie about her visit to Buenos Aires – the part that caught my eye was that she visited the fabric district! I quickly bookmarked that and locked it into our schedule (I have a Killer spreadsheet).

We weaved our way in and out of market style textile shops (with bolts of fabric spilling out into the street) all the way down Lavalle on either side of Avenida Pueyrredon. I bought some bright blue cotton sateen (with the amazing wool I bought back up in Ecuador behind it):

To be honest, I wasn’t that taken with the fabric shops – but the notions shops just blew me away. Walls and walls of buttons, trim in every style and colour imaginable, incredible laces, feathers and things I didn’t even know existed. It would be a decorating dream come true for any gay man prepping for his mardi gras costume!

I bought some beaded decorations that you can see in the picture above, which I plan to add to tops sometime down the line (in the ever increasing sewing-to-do-list), here’s a couple of them:

Needless to say, I’m itching to get stitching!