Couture Sewing School: Day 4

Since getting back home I’ve taken a break from sewing and blogging…  and I’ve probably been banned from leaving the country for such a long period ever again (nearly a month!) without taking the hubby-to-be along with me! In good news, I’ve just finished sewing my French Jacket, more on that another day soon. So it’s time to finish the Couture Sewing School series!

On Day 4 I focused pretty much entirely on inner foundations. First I basted together the Marfy corset to have it fitted – this was from a pattern a size smaller than I usually go for, so I was curious to see how it turned out, especially as it’s such a fitted garment. 

The trickiest thing with this style is the cups. You really can’t fit such a thing unless you’ve got some underwires in it – which I didn’t have. So the four changes marked below generally relate to the fit around my torso than anything. I’ll eventually take this apart, sew over the new adjusted seam lines, add in some boning and appropriately shaped and fitted underwires and then tackle the cups.


But to be honest, it was a pretty awesome fit! Such great lines on this pattern, I really can’t wait to properly tackle it.

Meanwhile, Leisa next to me was also making this pattern to go as a foundation structure for her ballgown. I took a happy snap to document the location of her boning channels:


She also brought along a new-to-me fabric – Sea Island Cotton. This stuff is apparently the bomb for creating lightweight inner foundations, and something Susan often used when she was a Wedding Dress couturier.

This cotton is biologically different to normal cotton because the length of the fibres used to make up the strands is much longer than in ‘normal’ cotton – which gives it the super smooth texture. Oh, and it’s breathable, lightweight and tightly woven with virtually no give along the grain or cross grain – making it perfect for foundation garments. It actually feels a bit like silk against the skin – incredibly smooth – and Susan says it doesn’t pill.

So I trace out my front bodice pieces onto some of this cotton – changing the three pieces on the bottom half of the bodice to be a single piece, then get to thread tracing. The structure will be sewn into the outer fabric bodice, and held in place by the side seams (this structure doesn’t extend around to the back).


There’s going to be two layers of cotton here, which are sandwiched wrong sides together then sewn along to create the boning channels. Once it’s together, I get to play with ‘Bone-o-rama’ (the name of Susan’s case carrying the pre-cut lengths of steel spiral boning):

IMG_6503It’s the first time I’ve touched this stuff and I’m pleasantly surprised at how light, flexible and strong it is.

Quickly I realise I should have graded the seam allowances to have one shorter than the other, because that would have made it much simpler to slip the boning through… one particular spot didn’t want to behave and it took a lot of manipulation, pleading and shoving to get the bone through there.


And the final result:


As yet un-pressed, of course. The bizarre thing about sewing in this environment is that progress seems to trump getting the little things as good as they could be, where you can get away with it with little flow on effect, of course.  Trying to get as far through a garment as possible so as to learn as much as possible meant my sewing was a little sub-par for my usual taste. Ah well!

As this will only fit into the front of the bodice, I use the silk organza and the seam allowances at the back of the bodice to create some boning channels:


And then I pin the foundation into the bodice and try my hardest to get it so there are no wrinkles from the outside when being worn:


And all of a sudden it was 6pm.

As a bunch of us were staying at the same place, that night we organised to get together in the lobby to watch Project Runway, so I thought I’d have a night off homework (and to be fair, I was starting to feel a little thin on the ground…), but then  came downstairs to find Sarah busily sewing away on her French Jacket and Leisa sewing as well, so I raced back upstairs to grab mine in the add-break for a little sew-in in the lobby:

Tim Gun on the screen!
Tim Gun on the screen!

photo 2

A great way to finish another long day :)



  1. Thanks again for such a great post. I am learning so much and love every word you write. You must have been exhausted at the end of the 2 weeks of tuition but what an amazing experience. I hope you are well and truly settled back home and enjoying some summer sewing.

  2. Thank you Melanie!! These recaps are so inspiring! I’m absolutely GASPING to see your finished jacket and dress, but will wait patiently until you’ve fully recovered from your travels and back-to-back classes… :) I can only imagine what a completely exhilarating and exhausting experience this must have been! And thank you, thank you, again for sharing!! It’s so much fun to live vicariously!!

    1. Thanks Sallie! They’re looking good! Although I’m super keen to get stuck into wedding sewing so it might have to wait. That and it’s a winter dress going into summer! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying it :)

  3. wow, that bodice looks so intense! all that seaming and boning… i can certainly appreciate all your hard work. hope you are soon recovered from your travels!

    1. Thanks Lisa, mostly so! Although I’m chomping at the big to get started on wedding sewing… so this will probably get dumped by the wayside until that’s done with. That and it’s a pretty heavy winter dress and we’re going into summer…

    1. It certainly was a little daunting on the approach! Bizzarely, being in that environment gives you some kind of super-human confidence boost. Anything is possible! Thanks :)

  4. How wonderful it must have been to be sewing with other great sewers, all with the same passion. Looking forward to seeing your jacket and dress finished.

  5. Ugh, the beauty of that bodice already inspires! Totally understand if you need a few weeks off after that. I hope the boy is making you some delicious, garlicky meals as you recoup :)

  6. I love cups on a pattern, so flattering to the female bod, especially for me so it can accentuate what little bust i have so ppl can see that my stomach and bust are separate hehe .
    I really like how much detail you have transferred on to the toile, your handwriting is so neat :)
    My fav part of the WIP process is finishing the bodice and draping it on a dressform… beautiful. Can’t wait to see the finished project!

    1. Aren’t they the best? I always find myself so drawn to dresses with defined cups on them. I’ve yet to try a ready made one on yet though. And I love seeing things pinned to the dressform, too! Such a great visual and good inspiration to get it finished :)

  7. Your dress is going to be amazing with all the detailed work. I am another one when at class who doesn’t do their best sewing as you say you are more intent on learning as much as possible and there is only so much time to sew to your usual standards.

  8. That corset is going to be amazing. So great to have someone help you with the fitting and all that specialist advice.

  9. Hi Mel. just found your blog whilst searching the web and am amazed by all you manage to do and still find tim for a `job`. I`m in the uk and we seem to be a little bit behind Oz when it comes to sewing talent and informative blogs, so thanks for bothering to share. x

    1. Thanks Cazza :) Glad you’ve found it interesting. I often (very often, actually) am a little amazed that people would want to read my thoughts like this. Funnily enough, I don’t think I have very many UK bloggers in my blogroll, proportionally to other nations, that is – although I do have a few favourites (oohbop, catherine daze and almond rock, to name names!).

  10. Thanks so much to your continues progress posts of your experience. I’m sure that in 12 months when you come back to read your posts you to will be amazed at how much valuable information you have captured. Your posts are always a pleasure to read and inspiring – I look forward to seeing your finished garments, but of course see how your time with Susan ended up. Rest well <3

    1. I hope so – it felt a bit like I was blabbering on about not much writing these posts sometimes! So it’s especially lovely to hear you’ve been enjoying them. The french jacket is finished – and I absolutely love it. Now to turn my attention back to this dress! Thanks Sanda :)

  11. Oh wow! I’m super impressed with how much you achieved in this time. Bananas! And you’re slowly winning me round to Marfy- that bodice structure is so intriguing!

    1. Marfy are awesome, I will happily sing their praises until the end of my days. I know not everyone agrees… but hey. There’s something for everyone in the pattern world at least! Thanks Amanda! :)

    1. I can completely understand, having done it now. Although strangely my lost mojo didn’t apply to hand sewing, so I managed to get my jacket finished up pretty quick. I love it! Only just getting back into the muslin/fit stage of sewing now…

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