Last week was one of the most exciting and fun weeks I have ever had. It was the week of my Couture Sewing class with Susan Khalje in Baltimore, and it was truly wonderful. I learnt so much, met some absolutely lovely ladies, and came away with an almost-finished jacket and even more enthusiasm for sewing (if indeed that was humanly possible!)
Front and back views of almost-completed jacket
All the ladies on the course had come with different goals. I wanted to make a fitted jacket with pointed lapels, Ms BH was making a Marfy coat-dress, Ms JL was making a beaded skirt, while Ms Bd’E was using exqisite fine lace to make an elegant evening top. The other ladies were making dresses – evening dresses, sundresses, smart dresses – all very different styles, but all utterly glorious.
The first day was spent getting acquainted, refining the fit on our toiles and – for those of us who needed to – going fabric shopping at A Fabric Place in Baltimore.
Ms T’s bias dress
Ms V’s elegant slim fit dress
Ms K’s feminine sundress
And if I thought the patterns were gorgeous – oh my – the fabrics my fellow sewing students were using were just divine!
Miss C’s gorgeous fabric (on roll)
Ms JE’s (left) and Ms JT’s (right) fabric choices
Ms V’s silk and cotton
Ms K’s beautiful blue floral fabric
Ms JL’s glorious beaded fabric
Ms BdE’s delicate lace
Ms M’s beautiful floral and lace combination
Ms E’s divine blue
By the end of day 1, I’d learnt more about fitting than I thought possible, and, in the process of having my own toile fitted, I discovered why it was that dresses, tops and jackets never fit me properly. Now I’m tall (5’10”, 177cm), so I always have to add length to a pattern when I’m making my own clothes. In the past, I’d always used the lengthen/shorten here lines on the pattern pieces (which are always below the bustline). What I learned from Susan was that, given my figure (small frame, narrow shoulders, full bust), I actually need to add the length above the bust to accommodate its fullness. She cut my toile horizontally above the bust, we patched in a 1 1/2″ strip of muslin – et voila! My toile suddenly fitted! Needless to say, this was an absolute revelation, and I’m so excited to think that such a simple alteration as that will have such a huge impact on my future sewing projects. Wow!
First toile fitting – needs more length in the front
Taking jacket in at the back
Adding length above the bustline
Wow, it fits!!!
As the week progressed, everyone’s projects really began to take shape. New techniques were learnt (bound buttonholes, hand-picked zippers, bodice-boning, attaching sleeves…) and refinements were made to patterns where necessary.
Ms BH’s bound buttonhole
Inserting a hand-picked zipper
Apart from the fitting adjustments to my toile, there was only one area of the jacket pattern I consciously changed. Neither Ms BH nor I much liked the sleeves on our pattern (too loose, no structure) so Susan helped us morph a sleeve pattern of hers onto our respective coat-dress and jacket. It was a three part sleeve (a concept I had never come across before), and it suited our patterns beautifully!
Spot the difference!
On left of picture (right hand side of jacket) – unaltered toile, with icky, shapeless sleeve.
On right of picture (left hand side of jacket) adjusted toile with new, elegant fitted sleeve
We all supported and encouraged each other, opinions were sought (and given!), Ms BH and Miss C lent out their dressforms and work progressed beautifully.
And slowly but surely my jacket started to take shape…
Using deconstructed and altered toile to cut out silk organza underlining
Cutting out from my fashion fabric – eek! Pattern matching was not easy…
Basting underlining to pattern pieces
It’s getting there…
By the last day of the course, Miss C had finished her beautiful dress, and all the rest of us were well on our way.
Mother and daughter Ms BH and Miss C
I left for the airport to begin the long trip home feeling absolutely shattered but elated by what I had managed to achieve, and certain in the knowledge that I would be back to learn more as soon as I can manage.
(With many thanks to Ms M, who took a lot of these photos and has kindly allowed me to use them here…)