As I mentioned in my last post, RR’s lovely cousin Miss L got married last month, and I spent the summer sewing away to create two different outfits I could wear to her wedding. My fair weather option was a beautiful 1950s-inspired sundress with contrasting collar and cuffs (which I was happily able to wear – it was a glorious day!) – but as you can never really count on the weather in England, I also had a chilly day standby option – my beautiful peplum dress.
Back at the start of the summer, when I initially made the toile for this dress, I had plans to make it in a beautiful blue and white heavyweight stretch cotton.
But as I was making adjustments to my pattern, it occurred to me that this fabric would be far better suited to a summer-weight coat instead. And once I had this thought, I couldn’t get rid of it. I couldn’t envisage it as a dress fabric anymore, it was definitely coat fabric! So although I loved the pattern, and the toile was fitting beautifully, I needed a Plan B.
Cue a morning of fabric rummaging, as I made my way through my dressmaking stash, and hit upon what, if it worked, could be an absolutely stunning option. The remnants of my pink bouclé fabric I’d purchased last year for my couture sewing class with Susan Khalje, and which ended up becoming my Marfy jacket.
Me in my Marfy jacket
At the time, at Alice’s insistence, I’d bought enough of this glorious fabric to make a matching skirt, but had never quite got around to it. And now I realised why – this fabric was just crying out to be made into a beautiful dress instead! Especially when paired with a divine purple silk satin lining I’d picked up at The Silk Society on Berwick Street on my last trip home.
The only problem was, the pattern called for 2.3m of fabric, and I had a mere 1.3m left. And the fabric has a directional weave, limiting my layout options. What’s more, I’m a bit OCD about pattern matching, so I wanted the weave to follow through across the width of the dress. Nothing like trying to make things easy for myself, eh?!
But nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say! And so I cut my pattern pieces out of silk organza underlining, spent pretty much an entire weekend playing with the layout until I managed to get it all to fit.
And without including any hem allowance, leaving out the collar, and scrapping any idea of a belt.
Still, a hem can be faced, a collar wasn’t absolutely necessary, and I don’t much like belts on dresses anyway, so this wasn’t a huge issue for me!
So I basted the organza to the bouclé fabric, took a deep breath, and cut. And then very slowly started to sew.
At first, it all seemed to be going like a dream. I used the same couture techniques I had learned from Susan to make my jacket (using a silk organza underlining, then catch stitching all the hem allowances down to the underlining to control any fraying), and used a walking foot to make sure the fabric didn’t slip as I was sewing it.
The dress was almost finished, and fit like a glove, when the unthinkable happened.
When trimming back my seam allowances, just before catch stitching the final seam, I accidentally cut off the skirt vent on one half of the back of the dress. I just wasn’t concentrating, and before I knew it, that little rectangle of fabric was no longer attached to my dress, but sitting forlornly on my sewing table, asking me what the heck I was thinking of.
It has to be admitted that at this point some Very Very Bad Words were uttered, and I can neither confirm nor deny whether they rhymed with “Oh bucket!” They may well have done, and worse too!
Still, I’d invested a lot of time into this dress, and the fabric could in no way be described as inexpensive, so what’s a girl to do? Gather the scraps and try and carefully piece them back together to make some kind of vent facing, which could then be sewn back onto the dress as if nothing had happened.
So that’s exactly what I did! I am a quilter, after all…
Gathering the scraps
Matching pattern and sewing together to make a large enough piece for the vent
Attaching the new vent onto the bottom of the centre back seam
Buoyed by my success, I wondered whether I could repeat this exploit to create a collar for the dress too. I mean, it didn’t strictly speaking need one, but it would be a lovely addition if I could. So, after a whole day’s work with silk organza, fabric scraps, needle and thread, I created this lovely piece of FrankenFabric…
… which was just big enough to allow me to cut out the collar piece. Yay!!!
Finally, I added the hem facing and attached the lining, to create my glorious, beautiful, learning experience of a dress.
Finished peplum dress
Lovely little side peplum
Magnificently pieced bias-cut collar
Divine (and exceedingly flattering!) little cap style sleeves
With my Marfy jacket (sporting newly attached trim!)
And after all that, this is all the fabric I had left.
So the fabric may not have been cheap, but at least nobody can accuse me of wasteful extravagance, can they?!
After a bit of a sewing hiatus this summer, my Marfy couture jacket is finally finished!
I started the jacket back in June, when I was fortunate enough to travel to Baltimore to take a week-long couture sewing class with Susan Khalje. I had a fantastic time, learnt more than I thought possible, and left with an almost-completed jacket and a list of things I needed to do to finish it up.
Here’s how things looked back in June…
The exterior was all done. The lining was almost put together, apart from the sleeves. All I had left to do was finish the inside of the jacket, finish the lining, and attach one to the other.
When I got home, I put the jacket on my dress form in my sewing room, and I’m sorry to say that there it stayed until the end of the summer. I did have a bit of a crazy summer, and, after all, it’s hard to find the motivation to finish making a jacket when it’s way too warm to wear it.
Come the beginning of September, I decided it was finally time. There was a bit of a nip in the air in the mornings and it was clear that autumn was on its way. Ideal jacket-and-jeans weather was on its way. I decided my jacket Needed Finishing, and the best way to do it was to tackle one job at a time,
First up, finishing off the lining by attaching the sleeves to the main body of the lining…
… and may I just say that this was probably the hardest part of the entire jacket – that silk charmeuse is one slippery fabric! There’s absolutely no give in it, and just when you think you’ve managed to ease the sleeve into the sleeve-hole (for want of a better word), you realise that you’ve managed to rotate the whole sleeve by about 45° and the blasted thing’s all wonky, so you have to take out the basting stitches and start again. It literally took a week to get it right, by which point I was seriously considering leaving the sleeves unlined!
Then, catch stitching the seams of the jacket exterior to the underlining…
… hand-overcasting the arm-hole seams…
… and giving it a good pressing.
After the trauma of attaching the sleeves to the lining, attaching the lining to the exterior of the jacket went like a dream …
… and then it was time to create and attach the patch pockets…
Et, voilà! My jacket was finished! I think it’s gorgeous, but then again, I could be a wee bit biased!
I’ve decided that, for now, I’m not going to add any trim. I haven’t found anything I like enough, I’m not sure that it really needs it, and, to be honest, I’m not entirely convinced that adding a trim is really ‘me’ (I’m more of a jeans and sneakers kind of gal). There’s always the possibility of adding something at a later stage, if I choose, but for now I’m more than happy to wear my beautiful, perfectly-fitting, hand-crafted jacket with pride, all the while planning my next couture sewing project 🙂
(Fabric from Mendel Goldberg, 72 Hester St, New York, NY100o2)
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…)
For Christmas last year, the wonderful RR bought me a week-long couture sewing class in Baltimore with Susan Khalje.
Wow! A whole week of learning high-end couture sewing techniques with a group of like-minded ladies! Sounds too good to be true, right?
Well, after months of anticipation, trying to decide on what to make during the class, and (most recently) butterflies in my stomach thinking that everyone else is going to be a bazillion times better than me and will surely laugh at my pitiful attempts at sewing, it’s finally here. I’m in Baltimore (the vagaries of the US transportation system notwithstanding…) and the course starts this morning.
I am more than excited!
So – what did I finally decide to make?
I had initially thought I would make a beautiful cocktail dress. Then I realised that I never actually go anywhere that requires me to wear one. And seeing as there’s no real point in making something I won’t really get to wear, however beautiful it is, I eventually decided to make a jacket. I hadn’t made a jacket before (well, until I made my Chanel-style cardigan jacket, that is, with its attendant sleeve issues…), and given my lifestyle, I’m much more likely to wear a jacket than a cocktail dress 🙂
So, I was all set to make a jacket from Simplicity 4014. I love the figure-flattering shape of both the short jacket and the longer, knee-length coat (I love the dress too, as it happens!)
I couldn’t decide which length I preferred, so I made my toile of the longer length – and here it is, looking like a glorified lab coat with writing on…
But then, a couple of weeks ago, I came across this free Marfy pattern – 1756 – for a similar, but altogether more elegant jacket. That put me into a bit of a dilemma, as I loved this jacket too. So I decided to make a toile for the Marfy jacket as well, and then let the fabric decide once I had picked it.
I arrived in the US just over a week ago, and have been staying with friends just north of New York. This, of course, presented me with the ideal opportunity to pop into the city for the day to do a touch of fabric shopping. At Susan’s recommendation, I schlepped down to the Lower East Side to the fantastic Mendel Goldberg on Hester Street. The wonderful Alice devoted a good couple of hours to helping me pick out a bouclé for my jacket and a matching silk charmeuse for the lining. It was divine! I was like a kid in a candy shop, and I seriously could have spent thousands of dollars in there, but in the end I was very restrained and confined myself to this.
Isn’t it beautiful???!
After much deliberation, I think the fabric would suit the Marfy jacket better, so that’s what I’m going to make.
So my pattern is chosen, my toile is ready, and I am abuzz with Tiggerish excitement. I’ve been awake since the crack of dawn! So all I can say is roll on 9.30, when the course officially starts and I can finally get stitching!