Couture Sewing School – Day 1 & 2: Fitting and Fabric

I ended up going in on the first day with two muslins – one made up of Burda 6689, and another that was a pattern mut of the Style Arc Darcy Pants (Legs of Darcy, Style Arc Flat Bottom Flo crotch curve, Colette Patterns’ waistband from their Clover pants, which I’ve previously made).

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I wore the Burda pants for fitting first – but whilst they are famed for their pants crotch curve, it’s not one to fit a lady with a pancake butt situation out the back. If you’ve got curves then definitely yes! It’s a much roomier crotch curve. Susan had a quick look at these before I threw on my pattern mutt pair – which she deemed a better starting position.

She raised the waistband slightly at the front, agreed that my ‘flat bottom flo’ crotch curve was pretty great, then had me rip the seams apart at the legs right up to an inch or so below the crotch.

I have really prominent calves – and getting the legs of any pants pattern to fit (meaning in this case – that the grainline hangs perpendicular to the floor) and not get stuck and end up twisted below my knee has been impossible for me to achieve so far. Susan repinned this from scratch, marking out two dead darts first which realigned the grainline, then pinning the side seams back together to leave me with delightfully straight  leg pair of pants!

Wish I had taken a shot before I got fitted!

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Front dead dart realigning the grainline below my legs. I believe this type of adjustment typically responds to a ‘knock knee’.

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Front and back dead darts, with new side and inner seams as a result. Previously the legs from the Style Arc Darcy pants clung to my calves and twisted around slightly.

 

Thank goodness for large seam allowances - look at all the extra space I need!

Thank goodness for large seam allowances – look at all the extra space I need!

Still carrying about an extra 10cm around my waist following my pregnancy - so a change in the waistband was required to accomodate the pooch.

Still carrying about an extra 10cm around my waist following my pregnancy – so a change in the waistband was required to accomodate the pooch.  Also a perfect profile of said pancake butt.

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You can see the new seam lines marked in red in comparison to the blue seam lines of the Style Arc Darcy.

I took the time to make a second muslin, which took up the morning of Day 2, so I could add in the details I wanted from the Burda pattern – slit pockets at the side, double welt pockets at the back. It was a winner. So by lunchtime I was aligning my pattern pieces and cutting out my fashion fabric ready to baste.

Speaking of fabric…

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I’m working with a Super 130s wool yardage I bought whilst in Quito, Ecuador – nearly 5 years ago! I’ve been wanting to work with this fabric for aaaaaaages and it’s just beautiful to handle. The lining will be an olive green silk charmeuse I bought locally.

And here I am… basting.

By the time the day was finished, I’d completed basting my fabrics and had already completed a practise double welt pocket – and was congratulating myself on picking a pattern with so few pieces :P

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The technique for completing this welt is slightly different to how I have previously been doing it, and dare I say it, easier to do and far easier to save if you don’t get your stitching quite right first go around on the welt lips. I’m pretty stoked with the result.

Here are some pictures of my fellow sewists, and a peek into what everyone else is sewing!

Margie, from Adelaide and with whom I did the French Jacket Class in Baltimore – is sewing Marfy 3022 (a jacket I’m part way finished and absolutely adore – I need to wait until I finish losing the last of the baby weight before I see if I need to adjust the fit!) in a really gorgeous floral print cotton matelasse:

Margie and Susan contemplate pattern placement

Margie and Susan contemplate pattern placement

Three ladies are all sewing Vogue 8333 – such a gorgeous and classic blazer. Sarah is sewing her’s in a wool/silk blend tweed in purple and red tones, Fiona is working in a steel grey wool crepe, and Sandra has a grey and green flecked tweed.

Interestingly, all three ladies had to add more height to the sleeve cap on this pattern – and comparing the way in with the Vogue 8333 I made drapes from the cap, I really needed to do this as well. The way the sleeves fit me on this make have been a niggle point for practically forever… I’ve even considered taking the existing sleeves off and redoing them. I’ll probably never do it though. It gets a lot of wear, regardless!

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Fiona and Sarah

Belle is sewing pants as well – Burda 6689 (I’ll be honest I stole that pattern suggestion from her!).

Sue is working with a Vogue Kay Unger dress pattern in a red wool crepe minus the collar; Jennifer is sewing a Vintage Vogue A-Line dress in a floral silk crepe de chine; Helen, who has joined us all the way from Perth, is doing the iconic Vogue ripoff of Rouland Mouret’s Galaxy dress; Helene has a gorgeous black floral on grey background fabric which she is turning into a thigh length single breasted coat from a Lisette for Butterick pattern.

Judith is sewing a shift dress with a lace overlay (which she swears she’ll never wear, except maybe with white sneakers whilst she does her shop at Woolies!).

Two ladies are working with the Simplicity 2446 – Sharon in a really dramatic grey and black striped fabric, and Denise in a classic black crepe.

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Sharon aligns her black organza pattern pieces on her bold painterly striped fashion fabric.

It’s still early days but I’m feeling great about our work so far. Not to mention that with all this uninterrupted sewing I feel like a piece of myself has been rediscovered!

 

Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

I’m back. Sort of!

Limited amounts of time have begun popping up in which I can start enjoying sewing again (limited being the key word, there is currently a tiny person bouncing up and down against my leg as I type this opening) and I’ve been sewing muslins like I’ve got Attention Deficit Disorder.

Starting with Marfy 9814. One of the very first Marfy patterns I ever bought! It’s fecking gorgeous – the standup collar is divine, and even the 3/4 length sleeves look good (and I’ve always found these to make my proportions look very out of balance. Clearly I just needed something better drafted than a RTW jacket to make it look right on me).

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Marfy 9814 – “This youthful jacket has a high neck and a tight fitting closure”. Suggested fabrics are matellas or faille.

I have no idea what catalogue/year it’s from, as I bought it from the McCalls website some 5 years ago. I had that new found hobby ‘fever’ and spent glorious hours trawling pattern websites for things I wanted to buy, when I discovered this page on the McCalls site.  This was back before Marfy had relaunched their website and ordering from them seemed too hard, so it was easy to justify paying a premium to bypass the difficulty.

Anyway – the jacket is divine. However my usual size 46 just doesn’t quite cut it at the moment (read – whilst I’m still breastfeeding). It’s a very close fit!

So it’s on temporary production hold, sad face.

I’m pretty gutted because this was my #1 choice for Susan’s couture sewing school next week…

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Secondly and completely unrelated to muslining for Susan, I’ve sewn up a muslin of the OOP Vogue 1220. Same problem. Too much boob. I never even bothered with the front closure, as clearly this is another muslin that will need to wait until bubs is completely weaned. Shame because I really wanted a shirt dress for work – this one is really fabulous. I’m going to look forward to sewing it up somepoint in the future. In fact, I love all the Donna Karen/Vogue collabs, I was rather sad to see that is no longer continuing.

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As far as muslins go, I thought perhap I’d be relegated to the bottom half of my body as an option then.

So I muslined Style Arc’s Darcy Pants. The only adjustment I made was to replace the crotch curve with that one from Style Arc’s Flat Bottom Flo pants (what a winner of a crotch curve for the pancake butted peeps like me!).

I didn’t like the elasticated waist look on me – so I pinned it out in the photo here. It’s too tight around my sizeable calves, but the crotch curve!!!!! You’ll have to believe me that it looked just as good from the back as getting a photo of that was way to difficult.

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Except my brain forgot to process that an elasticated waistband doesn’t really align with the whole couture thing?

Hmm.

So I thought perhaps I’d try and meld together the top of another pattern that has a waistband and slanted side pockets (two features I wanted this to have). Lets just say that I’m procrastinating against doing that by writing this blog post. Which is a bit of an issue because I’ve got 4 days until I need to have a finished muslin for Susan’s class, and a first birthday party to navigate in between now and then.

Oh, and I nearly forgot – one more muslin has been made. I’m also doing another French Jacket class with Susan whilst she’s in Melbourne – Vogue 7975 of course, but with the sleeves from Marfy 9814 because I love them so.

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I’m really excited about this one, and pretty confident that I won’t finish it in the week, so the plan is to leave the front princess seams ‘undone’ so I can adjust once the whole breastfeeding jag is up…

I’ve shortened this version (and not very well – the bottom hem lines don’t match up…) compared to my previous French Jacket, and in an everyday wearable fabric (which I already have and am super excited about!)

Wish me luck!

 

Hello, Strangers!

“Hi, my name is Melanie, and it’s been 6 months since I last posted”.

Yep, and about 5 of that have had zero chances to sew. But – our unlivable house is now moderately livable. Sort of. Still a lot of work to do! But the last month has had some productive sewing in it, culminating in a seasonally inappropriate top that is very different to my usual style. I do really love it though. Photos just as soon as I find my missing camera battery charger, and brave the cold! (Some sunshine might be nice too, but I wouldn’t want to be too demanding or anything…)

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Just a little seam matching perfection…

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I’ve also been working on the French Jacket for my mum. I originally thought having it done for her birthday in early May would has been SO achievable. But that didn’t quite work out, so the new delivery date has been set for early August. Better get my skates on…

Because I’ve also started sewing a new jacket (for me). Marfy 3022!

F3022 SS 2014-15 Jacket

The muslin for it is getting me very excited. Even with no adjustments I really love the proportions. Having been out of sewing practise for so long, and also because this pattern had a rather tricky looking dart/pocket configuration – I went to a lot more effort than I normally would in a muslin.

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But that’s all come to a screaming halt, because my usual size 46 is a little on the snug side. After many months of intensive renovating, with a non-functional kitchen and limited time – a continuous succession of bad dietary choices (and an underactive thyroid!) have left me about 6kg’s heavier than at the beginning of the year. So I’m deciding whether to buy the Size 48, or make it as the 46 as by the time I finish it, it will be Spring and I should be back to normal by then. Decisions…

Regardless, it’s so lovely to be back and sewing!!

 

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.

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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!

Homework

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

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.

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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…

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THE COUTURE SEWING SCHOOL

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:

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F3148

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:

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F3157

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).