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.


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.


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:


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:


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.


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…


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!


In a couple of weeks I will land in Baltimore to do two of Susan Khalje’s classes back to back – the French Jacket Class and her Couture Sewing School. I’m more than a little excited about it all! But first there’s a little homework in the form of a workable muslin put together in a manner I’ve never attempted.


The French Jacket class is pretty straight forward pattern wise – Susan has a preference for Vogue 7975, which I’ve got and have completed the toile for view B. There have been ladies who have done the class with different patterns, but it’s apparently not preferred by the master (at least not in your first class with her). I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the ‘style’ of this pattern being something I’m going to actually like, but I came to terms with the fact long ago that I’m a complete and utter skill junkie – I’m in it for the skill-acquisition. If I end up liking it on me, well that will be a bonus. If not, my mum will be the lucky recipient of a hand-made jacket, as we’re much and the same size and build.





This toile has been made ‘couture style’ (have you watched the couture dress class on Craftsy?) by using wax paper and a tracing wheel to get the seam lines onto the muslin fabric. These lines are then individually machine sewn with a long stitch, before being sewn together. It gives you extra-wide seam allowances which I presume allows you to fit with ease.

I don’t think I’ve ever expended so much effort on a muslin before. That said, this also has the best princess seams I’ve ever sewn. And the set in sleeves are also possibly the best as well – taking in to account that this is a muslin, of course. So this method clearly has something going for it!

I’m hoping I’ll fall in love with an appropriate fabric whilst I’m there as the first day of the class is fabric and trim shopping – yay! (I have one already in the stash, but devastatingly – it’s not quite big enough to accommodate the wide seam allowances required for this construction technique!).

And perfect timing – two of my FAVOURITE bloggers, Inna and Leisa – are going to host a French Jacket sewalong. Susan Khalje herself will be chiming in. They’ve got the obligatory blog button and things kick off on October 14. You know you want to sew a long…



This one is a little more tricky. It’s open to sewing whatever you want to sew – and I’ve been suffering an acute case of indecision ever since I starting thinking about it! In order to maximise the time I have there I want to sew something that covers a few skill sets I’d really love some more expertise in.

The shortlist:



Marfy 3148. I absolutely LOVE this dress, and I originally wanted to sew it up with this watercolour painted and embroidered silk dupion (from The Cloth Shop) I have in le stash (see below). However… the pattern recommends sewing it up in silk satin (dreamy) and Susan doesn’t think the dupion will be quite right due to the stiffness factor. After she mentioned that fact, the dupion’s unsuitability became so apparently obvious I feel thankful for having asked so I didn’t ruin it trying to make something work that just simply wouldn’t. I’ve still got NO idea what I’m going to sew with this fabric… all I know is I ferverently adore it:

Embroidered Silk Dupion The Cloth Shop

Delicious Silk Dupion

The other option is Marfy 3157, which I like, but not quite to the extent I like 3148. However, it has all the elements I want to work with – boning, lace and some fiddling with fabric in order to get that volant on the skirt:



The recommended fabrics for this are macrame lace (something I’d never heard of – I found a clip on youtube of a Valentino dress being made from this lace type – it’s very ‘3D’) and satin for the skirt and bustier. I quite like the idea of the non-lace version in a soft drapey cotton or silk as well though.

And even when I sit down with both patterns in front of me, I can’t decide. I’ll probably end up making toiles for both, then deciding on the morning the class starts… !

In other news, I’ll be in Manhattan on Sunday the 22nd of September (I’m staying on the outskirts of the Garment District). I’d LOVE to meet up with some NY natives – if you’re in the area and would like to catch up for a beverage and a fair bit of sewing-related chatting during the afternoon, do let me know!!! (or email me – poppykettle at gmail dot com).

P1003 & P1004: Plenty of Papercuts

After an extremely challenging start to this year and having nurtured some pretty bad habits as a means of dealing with it all, I’ve found myself a victim of mid-section blow-out and general blergh-ness (If you only click one link in this post, make it that one. Hilarious!). What better way to get back to being better than with some new exercise gear?

Unfortunately, photographing exercise gear is not exactly glamourous. Weather and minimal daylight hours have conspired against me at every opportunity for photos… I’ve been running and weight training in this outfit for nearly a month already! Count yourselves lucky it’s still mid-winter here so sweat is kept to a minimum…

Enter the Ooh La Leggings:


And they are awesome.

As with any new pattern, I started with some recon over at Pattern Review. Kbenco has written one of the most informative reviews I’ve ever read, Katherine wrote fabulously about them too and of course, Melissa has sewn so many of these I can hardly cry for lack of inspiration.

Lucky me – I exactly matched the waist and hip measurements for the Size S. So I traced it off, cut it out, then machine basted it all together to see what was going on. This pattern has zero info on the amount of stretch your fabric of choice should have – and recommends a merino knit. Hmm. The basting was to test size, fit and fabric appropriateness. The second I pulled them on – a triumphant ‘YES!!!!’. They fit me fabulously*. Long legged peoples, Rejoice! This is a pattern for you! Sadly, I will not be rejoicing:

This is what a pair of leggings look like when they are 21cm too long for you.

This is what a pair of leggings look like when they are 21cm too long for you.

But hey, this is a standard adjustment for me. About the only time I don’t have to take pants up is if they began life as pedal pushers. I chose to use Melissa’s way of sewing in an elastic waistband – the pattern instructions do the old-fashioned ‘make a casing and thread your elastic through’ way. Yeah – no thanks, that never looks good!


At first I made the elastic waaaaay too tight (like, bayonet tight!) so after unpicking that and making it a little bigger, I was good to go. Also, somewhere between the basting for fit and the actual sewing, I added in a turquoise band at the curved seam at the hips. Once finished, I quite literally pulled them on and went for a run.


I will absolutely be making more of these in the future! Not being in possession of a coverstitch machine or an overlocker, I was worried about the seams being either irritating or uncomfortable. I’ve been exercising in these 4+ times a week for nearly a month now (yeah, I’m that far behind documenting finished makes!), and no dramas so far – but the fabric I used is really quite lightweight, and hey – it’s not exactly like I’m training for a marathon or anything.

Completely unintentionally, I sewed the side panels in reverse, and as the black fabric was shiny on one side and matt on the other, it created an effect I rather like. Here are some daring shots up close:

IMG_5794 IMG_5786

I also made the Undercover Hood, the version of which you see here is my first attempt – very definitely a wearble muslin made with a double-sided wool/nylon blend (from New Zealand Merino and Fabrics). I cut the straight M as it was bang on my bust measurement, and was pleasantly surprised as how quickly it came together. But wow – its long! Usually I have to lengthen bodices, but this time I’ll be shortening it a bit and grading down to an S at the waist and hips (the S matches those bottom two measurements for me). The sleeves are also very long… I actually ended up leaving the cuffs off on this because a) The sleeve would have gone past my finger tips in that case and b) I sewed the cuffs on-grain by accident leaving them with no stretch for me to ease the sleeve into. Unpicking lightning stitch on knits is NOT fun! So I finished it with a twin needle. The result is a half-fitted, half-baggy rather long sweat top great for wearing to/from the gym and running in the chill evening air:


Silly me cut the pocket out in two pieces, rather than on the fold. Oops! Next time I’ll be taking it up the length of the waistband, to get this length:


It’s comfortable, warm and lightweight – but if I wanted to convert this from being sloppy-at-home-wear-only to something I could do the supermarket shop in, merino knit wouldn’t be my first choice. A terry-towling/sweatshirt fleece would be great for this, like what Zo made hers from. Additionally, the instructions call for the front pockets to be just top-stitched on – making it a little flimsy. I’d be tempted to at least understitch the topside first to anchor it down. Minor construction quibbles for what is an entirely practical top, really.


*  bar some standard adjustments, naturally.

The Ooh La Leggings Stats:
00:30  Pattern Preparation
00:00  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
00:30  Fabric Preparation (cutting/basting/interfacing)
02:20  Sewing
03:20  hours
Fabric Utilisation = 1.0m (only because I committed the cardinal sin of not laying pattern pieces out directionally)

The Undercover Hood Stats:
00:30  Pattern Preparation
02:55  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
00:00  Fabric Preparation (cutting/basting/interfacing)
00:00  Sewing
03:25  hours

Fabric Utilisation = 1.8m
Stash total remains = 80.9m (Goal = 50m)

F2940: A dress to be

I’ve had a seriously soft spot for this dress pattern ever since I laid eyes on it… from the Autumn/Winter 2012/2013 collection. It’s got the three magic ingredients I really like in a dress – a bit of draping/fabric interest, a defined waist, and wearing comfort (due to being made up in a knit). Marfy’s translated description:

“This sheath dress has important draping in the bodice and the waistline is marked with two tone jersey bands matching the imprimé jersey dress”

I’m been waiting really impatiently for it to arrive in the mail and I’ve actually got three stash fabrics that would be perfect for it… but I’m going with the one that’s been sitting there for the longest – a deep red ponti knit from EmmaOneSock. For the mid-section, I’ve sourced a wool woven with red, pink, grey and cream to match (from Stitches to Style). Being a winter dress, I’m also planning to line the skirt so I can comfortably wear tights/stockings. I love bright colours in winter!!


As a knit, I figure there’s very little point in doing a practice run, so I’ve been utilising the couture method of thread-tracing the seam lines and cutting extra wide seam allowances to give me any extra room I may need for fitting, coupled with the knowledge that Marfy patterns are fabulously drafted and so unlikely to require drastic changes beyond refining the fit for my own unique shape (or the amount of stretch in my fabric). Even better, I don’t need to trace the pattern out this way. Only problem is, I forgot that this uses up a little extra fabric than the usual way. I only have 1.8m of this red ponti (which would have been enough had I not gone for fat seam allowances) so I’m going to have to get creative with the sleeve cuffs as one sleeve is about 4cm shorter than the other…

What absolutely fascinates me about patterns with draping is what the 2D pattern piece looks like. You never really know quite what you’re going to get when you unwrap the onion paper to see your pattern pieces with Marfy…


The edge of the paper pattern piece is where the seam lines will be once the fabric is arranged to line those edges up. A big thanks once more to Suzy of SuzyBeeSews who sent me what feels like a lifetime supply of silk thread in every colour under the rainbow – I’ve definitely been making use of it!

Figuring out how it all fits together is like a cross between a puzzle and making origami. I worked across it in alphabetical order according to the markings on the pattern piece, and basted them together for the first fitting…


Those two front darts could be a little lower, but I’m not unpicking them now. Interestingly, the two panels at the waistline overlay the dress fabric – so you could leave them off if you wanted to and still have a complete dress pattern. It’s almost like a facing put on the outside which hides the darts in the bodice and skirt pieces. As my contrast fabric is loosely woven I ended up underlining it with silk organza (it’s see through so you’d see the seam allowances folded over). The only thing of concern is the bulk of the ponti in the seam allowances now.

Otherwise, there’ll be a few minor tweaks here and there… but it’s looking good so far.

PS – my fitted shirt is also nearing completion! Whoo to two projects on the go at the same time!

M5929: Swaybacks and Centreback Seams

I’ve been sewing for just over two years now, and I’m noticing the result of spending all my money on fabric rather than RTW clothing is that a few specific items are beginning to look a little… threadbare.

I wear button-up shirts to work during the week – they add a little professionalism to my uniform of jeans, steel-caps and hi-vis.

But when I started working in an office environment, it seemed ludicrously expensive to pull together an appropriate wardrobe – a really good quality shirt starts at $170+, and I’m too fussy to have just bought standard high street fare (which falls apart after 6 months of wear anyway). So to bridge the gap between my french champagne taste and my cask wine budget, I turned to second hand. I tried top-end shirts on in shops and then scoured eBay like a hungry hawk, and over-time ended up with a fairly substantial collection of silk and cotton shirts for a fraction of the cost – many of which I’m still regularly wearing today 4 years down the track.

At one point I did splurge though – I had a shirt made to measure when I noticed in their shopfront they were having a rather rare half-price deal. It was a really cool experience – I got measured up in store (there was 14+ measurements taken), then I went back for a fitting a few weeks later once it had been made before finally getting to take it home a month later. I was a little unhappy with it at first, because it seemed so much bigger, but after wearing it once or twice, I was in love. It made me realise exactly what I’d been putting up with by wearing standard sized fare – not only was it extremely comfortable, but I had a full range of movement without having to worry about that front button popping open, or having the button placket strain to give the person next to me an eye-full of whatever bra I was wearing that day.

That shirt has been in retirement for some time now, and I’m thinking I’ll probably cut it up and use it as a pattern base at some point. But for the meantime, I’ve been using it to adjust the McCalls OOP pattern I’m using to sew up my first collared shirt – 5929.

Copying my made-to-measure shirt to get the darts in the right place worked a treat, the fit through the front is great, if a little tighter fitting that I would like – which is easily fixed. I’m planning to make this out of a lightweight silk/cotton voile blend – a bit different to the starched calico I’m using to test the fit. Most of the strain is around my hips and at the tops of the side seams next to my bust:

toile 1 front

However, at the back – apart from it being more obvious here to me that it was a little tight – there was that annoying pooling of fabric around my waist, which I’d already pinched out and sewn up (about 3cm all up), tapering to nothing the side seams and perpendicular to the grain line:

toile 1 back


I thought for comparison, I’d whack on my made-to-measure shirt to compare – here’s the front and back:

MTM frontMTM back

Once I’d transferred the swayback adjustment to my pattern piece, I realised that as my shirt doesn’t have a centreback seam (I also don’t WANT it to have a centreback seam) that I couldn’t just leave it as is – the ‘cut on the fold’ edge was no longer straight:


After a bit of reading and googling, and then reading and googling some more, I decided to try two different methods at adjusting my pattern. I felt like I had some time to kill whilst I waited for a particular Marfy pattern to arrive in the mail – at which point this project would be dropped like the hottest of hot potatoes to work on that.

First up – this method at swayback adjustment (from Fitting and Pattern Alternation (1992) by Liechty, Pottberg, & Rasband, pages 140-143) which resulted in a very square shoulder seam:


Sewn up and attached:

IMG_5522 IMG_5528

There’s still some pooling (ignore the tightness, I’d yet to attack that), but at this point I’m wondering if it is even logistically possible to get rid of this and still not have a centre-back seam. And I’d probably want to soften the squareness of the shoulder seam as well.

Ok, so let’s try method number 2 for comparison – I’m taking this from Sherry’s (Pattern Scissors Cloth) blog, she did an amazing post on altering for a sway back way back in 2010. I’ll admit, I fumbled around with this method for several days trying to figure out both how it worked and why, even testing it on mini-pattern pieces to get my head around it.


In the end, I just didn’t get the logic of it. I attribute that to the fact that Mr poppykettle and I are smack bang in the middle of the Live Below the Line challenge, and I am SO DAMN HUNGRY right now that I swear my brain isn’t functioning properly.

So I step back and try to think coherently.

I vaguely (very vaguely) remember reading somewhere that when fitting, you should always work top to bottom. And then a mini lightbulb moment… and all of a sudden it makes complete sense. If I add in the extra width at the sides, then the fabric pooling will be reduced – surely. I’ve been reading KathleenS’s PR Review of Simplicity 2339 (she was the runner up in PR’s Fitted Blouse contest in March this year) and staring intently at her flickr photos and I’m nigh-on convinced this will solve it.