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!



  1. Oh, Mel. I’m in serious withdrawal from my sewing buddies! Hope your drive was uneventful. Still drolling over your yet-to-be revealed fabric! xoxo Cissie

    1. Like you said… Re-entry is hard! The drive was totally uneventful, and took just under 7 hours minus a few breaks :) And yes – said fabric is securely packed away in its boxes… I’ll be fondling it again when we both arrive home!

      1. Okay. It is the mother/grandmother in me, but I was really thinking about you all day yesterday — worrying about your drive. Glad you are safely there!!

      2. Aw, you’re such a sweetie. I did see a few full sized deer right next to the live traffic lanes that were very recent road kill victims which got me a little antsy… but otherwise it was a great drive! Thanks for your concern :) Which reminds me… I promised Leisa I’d let her know I made it alive. Better scoot over and email her now! xoxo

  2. The hotel iron and ironing board are a bit challenging too!! Interestingly for me, until I met Leisa in June I had never read a blog of any description. I now eagerly await each of her weekly instalments and have then discovered yours and then others…..for me in rural Western Australia it’s my link with sewing peeps and I’m loving it. Definitely looking forward to following the construction of this dress. Did you take your own sewing machine with you? How did you go about it? I used Susan’s last time but I’m thinking about taking my own in March.

    1. Luckily I had a half decent iron and board in my room! Oh wow! Well, if you’re ever in Melbourne, I would so very happily take you to my favourite fabric haunts :) I didn’t take my machine with me – but I would if I ever went again. There was no way I was going to sew my charmuese lining pieces together on that machine… it was great for the french jacket, though (mainly because you’re dealing with bulky fabric under the foot). Which class are you going to do in March? Lucky you!! :)

      1. I’m doing back to back classes like you did in March. I’m going to try to keep up with the Little French Jacket sew along so I’ll have more of an idea of what I would like to do with Susan. I bought some extraordinary fabric from Mendel Goldberg in June so I want to make a dress in the second week. It has some very interesting features to it that I’m not sure how to deal with. I have a few favourite fabric places in Melbourne that I visit if I’m there or request samples if needed – D’Italia and The Fabric Store are my standards. Tessuti and Cleggs are standbys. Perth fabric shopping is so limited, only one shop that I know of that has really nice fabric but apart from bridal the range is small :( definitely going to look into taking my machine!!

      2. Those are two of my favourites – if you like them, you’ll also adore Stitches to Style, which is very close by to D’Italia :) How awesome that you’re doing both! The French Jacket class was amazing. Which shop in Perth do you go to? I’m going to be there soonish so would love to visit it :)

      3. The fabric shop is Fabulous Fabrics. They have a shop in the city and one in Balcatta, but you’ll be disappointed :(

  3. I am loving your French jacket posts. I have been wanting to make one for a while now but am too intimidated to start. I have been doing a lot of reading on the subject and am still trying to figure out how to make a 2 piece sleeve into a 3 piece sleeve. The sleeve cap looks so different on your French jacket than on a normal jacket.
    I can’t wait to see your dress.

    1. You know I found this was like most things… it certainly seems intimidating but when you start working through the steps 1 by 1, it becomes really very simple, albeit time consuming! The split from a 2 piece to a 3 piece sleeve is cut directly down the middle of the upper sleeve – starting from the point where your sleeve cap centre meets the shoulder seam. Thanks Kathi :)

  4. Hi Melanie, You have really convinced me now that I need to go to Baltimore and I really thank-you for these posts.
    Your Marfy dress pattern is beautiful and I am going to really enjoy seeing this lovely fabric transformed into this dress.It must have been the most amazing 2 weeks and to come home with 2 beautiful garments of couture standard must make you feel very proud of yourself.
    I am so looking forward to seeing what is in your mystery package. Being a romantic, I am thinking something special for your wedding dress.

  5. Mel, Thanks again for documenting your experiences in these classes. It’s enjoyable watching to gain these skills from such an expert and with great sewing colleagues.

    1. I couldn’t agree more Sarah – maybe we’ll cross paths again sometime soon in the carpet gallery! It was so lovely to meet you. And I certainly will… although it will only be after the event!

  6. Hi Mel, thanks for posting about your classes. I’m really enjoying following along. I am getting a bit confused though with the timeline (something you said on prior post and then the comments – have you already completed this week? Not that I need to know, just getting confuzzeled in my old age, lol) Great projects planned (or done). How lucky to have Norma there as well.

    1. haha – am I getting my tenses out of order? It’s highly likely! Yes, I finished up the couture sewing school on Saturday just past – I had two weeks consecutively with Susan. So my posts are a little far behind and written in light of knowing what comes next! Sorry for any confusion ;)

  7. Thanks Melanie, batiste v silk organsa makes perfect sense. I love the dress pattern and look forward to your hearing all about your second week with Susan – it is amazing to following your posts daily. The amount of work you are getting through is phenomenal :-)

    1. Glad to hear it :) I know, it’s amazing how much can be done when you don’t have everyday life to annoy you and get in the way of progress! hehe ;) Thanks Sanda!

  8. Congratulations on your french Jacket, it is stunning. I am a grest Fan of Marfy patterns and cannot wait to see the end result.
    I am really envious that you have been to one of Susan’s classes, but being from the UK makes it a bit difficult. Anyone up for a seing trip to the USA?

  9. i’m so glad you went with that marfy pattern, it will be beautiful on you! and oh man… steaming that much wool on a tiny ironing board… never fun!

    1. Yep, both arms were killing by the end of it all, that’s for sure! Serves me right for picking a difficult fabric… Fingers crossed it will turn out the way I’d like it to! Thanks Lisa :)

  10. WHAT’S IN THE BOX?! OK, I guess I can wait… ;)

    Thanks for sharing the information about underlining! I hadn’t really thought about using something like crepe de chine, but that would really work well!

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