A Beginner’s Guide to Couture Techniques

couture jacket 268bWhile working on my jacket I have used lots of tips and tutorials online (and in print). Here is my list of the best resources for learning to sew couture techniques.

  • Susan Khalje’s Craftsy Couture Dress course. I made my Peacock Dress using this course, and used lots of the techniques again for this jacket. I would definitely recommend the course as it is full of lots of tips that can be applied to most projects; eg. use the stitch-lines not cutting lines for accuracy when sewing, and never baste in space (keep work flat so layers stay together and don’t bubble)underlining
  • Kenneth D King’s Couture Techniques. I borrowed this from the library but will buy my own copy when I have to return it. He covers lots of techniques and tips and has a great approach to sewing; save your perfectionism for when/where it counts (said much more eloquently  on this podcast)
  • Gertie (blog and book) cover lots of classic techniques in an accessible way.details
  • Seamstress: PoppyKettle I was googling for sleeve-head tips and discovered this new-to-me blog and ended up staying and reading lots of other posts.
  • BurdaStyle has a great article about making a couture Chanel jacket, and the discussions make an interesting read.
  • Linking from BurdaStyle is Frabjous Couture’s day-by-day account of her couture jacket course with Susan Khalje. The course sounds amazing, and again I kept clicking through to different posts on her blog.welt pockets b
  • Welt-pockets – Lastwear tutorial
  • Welt-pockets – Colletterie’s Sew-Along post
  • My archive of Threads magazines always has useful tips and tricks. The recent special issue about fitting has been referred to a lot over the past few weeks. I can’t work out whether my subscription entitles me to free Insider access or not.couture
  • Finally, it isn’t specifically a couture book but if one of the marks of a great couture garment is a great fit then I have to include the brilliant Fit for Real People.

Have you sewn using couture techniques? If so, what tips and resources do you recommend? If you haven’t, I hope these books and blogs give you some inspiration.

FO: BurdaStyle Turquoise Couture Jacket

Two months after planning and deliberating and after three solid weeks of sewing and construction, I have finally finished my BurdaStyle spring jacket, using couture techniques! This has been a bit of a marathon project, but in line with my sewlution I was determined to make it as good as I could. So here it is, my couture Chanel-esque jacket…


couture jacket 203b

I took lots of pictures now that I have a fresh battery for my remote-controlled clicker-thingy and had a bit of a photo-shoot (complete with outfit changes) in my building’s hallway. I suppose if I was doing it properly I would have painted my chipped-nails, however I have been putting off a good tidy-up until the jacket was finished (the bouclé makes SO much mess, there was no point vacuuming before it was completed) and I always make the mistake of doing my nails before I do a job that ruins them!

PicMonkey Collage

I love the colour of the jacket with navy and white – perfect for summer – but will have to see what other outfits it works with. There are a couple of tweaks I had to make (poppers aren’t as strong as pins over a large moving bust, so I ended up having a lower v-neck than planned…) and a few adjustments I am going to make after seeing it in pictures; I added weights at the front but the jacket really needs a chain-weight to pull the back down as well, and the sleeve lining is a touch too long.

couture jacket 132b

You can see lots of the couture details (welt pockets, hand-stitching, etc) in my previous post but here are a few details I am rather proud of; the hand set-in sleeve head (done on the first attempt), the covered poppers/press-studs, and the invisible hand-stitching.

details

The images of the jacket in the magazine (and on the website) didn’t inspire me much, but I loved the front cover styling. Here is my version – can I pull off the stylish model pose?!

inspiration

I originally planned to get this made before Me Made May started (I didn’t quite realise the time this would take!) and have only just managed to complete it before the end of the month. I wonder if the weather will let me wear it before the month is over? Now if you’ll excuse me, after all that concentration, I’m off to whip up some 1-hour jersey tops!

*****
Turquoise Couture Jacket

Pattern: BurdaStyle 02/2013 #106
Modifications: serious FBA, modified neckline due to popper-pressure over bust!

Fabric: Laurent Garigue cotton bouclé in turquoise and white, multi-coloured dot viscose lining, all from Stone Fabrics; underlined and interfaced in silk-organza from John Lewis.
Notions: 3/4 press-studs/poppers (will add chain weight)
Approximate spend: £65

Time taken: 2 weeks fitting, 3 weeks constructing (including 3 days of half-term holiday)

Constructing a couture-style jacket

You may remember that one of my Sewlutions this year, inspired by the lovely Karen, was

I am going to try to make less but make those things better (with more focus on fitting, finishing and doing things properly).

Well I think my next almost-finished garment should certainly meet the goal; my Burda Style jacket has taken almost 3 months to plan and make, so I hope all the extra time invested has made it a better make. Since the jacket will be fully-lined, I remembered to take some pictures of the couture style techniques I have been using, before they get hidden from sight. You might call it a behind the seams (geddit?!) look at my most recent sewing project.

I spent a few weeks making a muslin of the pattern, doing a Full Bust Adjustment on the princess seams, and then used the muslin as my pattern. I underlined the whole piece in silk organza (to give the loosely-woven cotton bouclé some structure), so transferred all the markings onto the organza before using this to cut out the main fabric. All the pattern pieces were then hand-basted along the stitching lines before I then hand-basted them together.

organza b

Despite having made a muslin I was happy with, the fit around the bust took a lot of tweaking to get right. I remember spending 2-3hours one night unpicking and re-basting the same 4″ of seam to get it right, and it took a week from cutting before I felt confident to sew on my machine.seams b

One of the main benefits of using a silk organza underlining is that it is so easy to catch-stitch the seam allowances to it, without touching the main fashion fabric at all. All the seams (I mean ALL, not just the important ones) were pressed flat then open, over a rolled up towel (my makeshift tailor’s ham) where necessary. Seams were clipped or notched before I sewed them flat against the jacket.

Once I had sewn the jacket together I had the next panic – welt pockets. Having never made them before, I did a practise on some scraps and found it wasn’t as tricky as I imagined. I measured the markings a million times before I sewed the welts in place, and then sat staring at the pockets for ages before I was brave enough to cut holes in my jacket. I finished the welts by hand, and fortunately the texture of the bouclé camouflaged any minor imperfections.
welt pockets bI read that a couture jacket takes 70-80 hours to construct, including 17 hours to set-in the sleeves by hand, so the sleeves went in surprisingly smoothly. I basted the underarm and fitted the sleeve cap (must remember, fit left sleeve if right-handed!) in the mirror, before transferring the markings to the other sleeve. I took a bit off the height of the sleeve cap, which meant it fitted well with just a little easing by hand needed. I added a sleeve head after sewing the seam to be sure of the seam accuracy; the sleeve head made such a difference to my lumpy shoulders and I almost considered omitting the shoulder pads, but decided they gave a slightly better silhouette. The shoulder pads are raglan pads and were pad-stitched in place, again just to the underlining of the jacket.shoulders bWith the shoulders in place I could add the lining. The lining was cut the same as the jacket, except with an extra couple of inches at the centre back for movement ease and slightly lowered shoulders/sleeve cap to accommodate the shoulder pads. It is joined to the jacket at the contrast band; first I hand basted the lining in place to the jacket seam allowances, then I pressed and stitched the band over the lining.
hand sewing b

This has been a lot of work, more than I would normally go into, but the jacket should hopefully be worn for many years. I got rather frustrated with the time needed to hand-baste the seams and hand sew all the seam-allowances, but yesterday I was rather glad of the hand-sewing as it meant I could work on my jacket AND enjoy the rare sunshine. I took my jacket and a sewing kit to the park near my house and sat sewing while tourists wandered past. It was a much nicer environment than my living room, which is currently covered in a million little threads; if you haven’t used it before, I should warn you that bouclé can fray.pros and cons b

All that is left to do is decide on the sleeve length and finish the sleeve/lining hems, and attach the poppers/press-studs. Hopefully there will be a finished outfit post before the week is over…

 

Me Made May 2013 – Week 4

Here is Me Made May Week 4…

Week 4

Day 20
Basic Bella Cardigan
Self-drafted Linen Trousers (unblogged)
Black-striped detail Burda Sadie top (unblogged)

Day 21
Jacuzzi Miette Cardigan
Stripy Tiramisu Dress

Day 22
Black Corduroy Skirt
Refashioned Burda Blouse (same post as skirt)
Basic Bella Cardigan

Day 23
Magpie Top (unblogged)
Self-drafted Linen Trousers (unblogged)

Day 24
Self-drafted Linen Trousers (unblogged)
Red Ruched Burda Top (unblogged)
Self-drafted Black Cardigan
M
inoru Jacket
Flickr Theme Friday was “Home town” so I lazily took a self-portrait on the tube home.

Day 25
1-hour striped t-shirt (unblogged)
Blue Jeanius Jeans
Basic Bella Cardigan

Day 26
1-hour striped t-shirt (unblogged)
Summertime Maxi Skirt

Hmmm… not a very inspiring week this week. Work was crazy and the weather was very British (some freezing days where my heating came on, and a mini-heatwave today). There was a narrowly-averted MeMadeMay disaster when my washing didn’t dry and I almost ran out of Me Made underwear, but I found a test-pair that I could wear that day. Must remember 8 pairs of pants is not enough for someone lazy and doing washing.

I have made some progress on my couture jacket and the outer-part is almost done (just 17hours to set in the sleeves!) so I hoping there will be a sneak peak of the construction soon. It is half-term and I have thirty end-of-year reports, so I am pretty sure I’ll find plenty of crafty distractions!

*All days I have worn new me-made underpants and my Minoru rain jacket; this will apply for the rest of the month, unless specified.

Stripy Tiramisu

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Today I wore my stripy Tiramisu as I needed a feel-good outfit for a busy day. Everything went well and I got home in the sunshine ready to take some pictures of my new dress.

The fabric was an impulse purchase from John Lewis, so more expensive than the jersey i normally buy but great quality. I lengthened the bodice and shortened the waistband slightly to improve the fit, but the first time I wore it I realised it gaped a bit. So obviously I sat at work sewing the crossover together as I was wearing it (worryingly nobody batted an eyelid!).
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The stripes were a little more time-consuming on this make, so I had to redo the front and back centre seams a couple of times to get them perfect. It turns out stripes on the bias need more pins than normal seams!
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I couldn’t resist an action shot of some twirling.
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Me Made May 2013 – Week 3

Here is Me Made May Week 3…

Week 3

Day 13
Basic Bella Cardigan
Self-drafted Linen Trousers (unblogged)
Spotty Sorbetto Blouse (unblogged)

Day 14
Floral Sorbetto Blouse
Jacuzzi Miette Cardigan
Self-drafted Linen Trousers (unblogged)

Day 15
IKEA Birdie Skirt (before blogging)
Another Sadie Long-sleeved Top (unblogged)
Self-drafted Black Cardigan

Day 16
Self-drafted Black Cardigan
Floral Long-sleeved Top
Self-drafted Linen Trousers (unblogged)

Day 17
Refashioned Maxi Skirt (before blogging)
Grey Striped Sadie Cowl
Purple Shrug (unblogged)
The Flickr ThemeFriday was “hats” so I piled all the hats for Team 1’s assembly on to  my head, in tribute to the Spectrum ZX “Mr Silly’s Hat Game” I played as a child.

Day 18
Magpie Top (unblogged)
Black Jeanius Jeans (never got around to blogging)
Basic Bella Cardigan

Day 19
Black Jeanius Jeans (never got around to blogging)
Liberty Self-Portrait Blouse

This week the weather was gloomy and so was my mood (my knitting-injured wrist has got worse after I began using it again, despite not looking at yarn) and I think it shows in my outfits; No pretty summer dresses but a lot of black. My newly-made black trousers and cardigan got a lot of wear this week, highlighting the need for some sensible basics in my wardrobe among the crazy prints!

Still lots more unblogged garments. I had been hoping to show you my new trousers but have been side-tracked by catching a bad cold and having lots of work to do; Next week is going to be hectic, so you may have to wait until half-term for some new garment posts.

*All days I have worn new me-made underpants and my Minoru rain jacket; this will apply for the rest of the month, unless specified.

Self-drafted cardigan

Today was a gloomy day; weather was grey and I woke up with a sore throat. I didn’t feel like wearing a jacuzzi bright cardigan, and then remembered that I had experimented with making this cardigan last weekend when I realised that lots of clothes didn’t got with aqua or red cardigans. It was super cosy and I got told I looked very smart (obviously I refused the compliment by asking people to guess how much it cost!)

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I used my jersey bodice block, cut the back and sleeves as normal, and cut the front in two parts with an extra inch on each side. I tried it on and pinned where I wanted the neckline to be before cutting the v-neck shape. Then I added folded bands around the neckline and sleeves, and hemmed the bottom (not enough fabric for hem bands) I decided not to add buttons as I didn’t want to risk buttonholes on the ribbed jersey.

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The fabric was a remnant from the Peter Jensen sample sale and half had been used to make a polo/cowl neck jumper, so this cardigan cost a whopping £1.50, however this meant I had VERY little fabric to play with. I had way too much ease in this make as I didn’t account for the weight and stretch of the ribbing- I took a good few inches from the side seams to get a nice fitting silhouette.

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Quick post on a quick make. Sorry about the phone pictures, due to being full of cold. I had planned to show you my new trousers this week, but a lovely child at school tapped my leg with a chalk-covered hand; photos after they have been in the wash!

Me Made May 2013 – Week 2

Here is Me Made May Week 2…

week 2

Day 6 – Choir singing, hence all black
Black chiffon Sorbetto (unblogged)
Black corduroy “Ginger” skirt adaption

Day 7
Stripy Tiramisu Dress (unblogged)
Jacuzzi Miette Cardigan
Sandals! Did NOT wear Minoru*!

Day 8
Basic Bella Cardigan
Piped Polka Dot Skirt
1 hour stripy t-shirt (unblogged)

Day 9 – School class picture day
Floral Cambie
Purple Shrug (unblogged)

Day 10
United Stashes of Awesomeness Skirt
Grey Striped Sadie Cowl (both blogged together)
Basic Bella Cardigan

Day 11
Self-drafted jeans
Burda Ruched Raglan t-shirt (unblogged)
Self-drafted Black Cardigan (unblogged also)

Day 12
1 hour stripy t-shirt (unblogged)
Refashioned Splodgy Maxi Skirt (made before-blogging)
M&S pink cardigan

Night time
I have been wearing my polka dot pyjama party pjs this week

Eeeek, I’ve worn a lot unblogged garments this week. I will try to remedy this soon for the recent makes (including this weekend’s latest creation). The weather cooled down after the bank holiday “heatwave” which meant I could wear long-sleeves to give me more wardrobe options this week.

After a week of the challenge I realised I didn’t have many plain garments to match with my crazy patterns. There were three options; Wear crazy clashing prints, wear nothing but dresses for the month, or make something. I chose option three. The stripy t-shirt was whipped up in an hour using left-overs from my Tiramisu and making up the pattern from my jersey block to give it inbuilt cap-sleeves. You will probably see more of these before the month is finished!

*All days I have worn new me-made underpants and my Minoru rain jacket; this will apply for the rest of the month, unless specified.

My Sewing Space

On the Flickr group for Me Made May there is a theme for taking photos every Friday (aka #ThemeFriday) and this week it was “Sewing/Knitting/Crafting Space.” So let me take you on a brief tour of my sewing station…mmmay 13 theme friday sewing space

I live in a tiny flat in London, so I definitely don’t have a spare room to call my sewing room. My sewing room also doubles as my living room, my office/study AND my dining room, so clever storage is essential.

I have a sturdy fold-out table that my machine lives on and a foldable chair that can be hidden when I need to enter/exit the room. So I can access all the tools and notions I need easily I have an over-the-door shoe-caddy to store all my bits and bobs (see below). This is too small for keeping the little scraps and random pieces of fabric, so I made a larger hanger from some canvas fabric and a coat hanger.

PicMonkey CollagebIn the middle of sewing projects I tend to “store” patterns/pieces on the arm of my sofa (it looks much tidier in the picture than it does in real life!); somewhere among the pile today are all the pieces for my couture jacket (half are hand-basted together) and the turn-ups for my trousers…

 

 

Giveaway results!

WOW! I can’t believe the response my little spur-of-the-moment giveaway got!

It was really interesting reading what colours everyone is into (and trying to guess what hemisphere the colour choices were from!) and there were a few choices that kept appearing.

There were over 35 different favourite colours, so I took all the colours that more than one person liked and analysed the results:

colour

Green was the most popular with 45 mentions, followed closely by aqua with 43 mentions. I was really suprised to see so much love for grey – I love it as a neutral to pair with bright colours, but thought I was the only one. Next up are pink and purple. Should I be surprised readers of my blog also like these colours?!

There were also lots of colour combinations that kept re-occuring. For simplicity of data analysis I only used pairs of colours for this, so people who mentioned 3 colours got divided into multiple pairs (red, blue and yellow became red +blue, blue + yellow and yellow+red). Unsurprisingly given the high popularity of the colours, the most popular combination was green and purple.

colour combos

A surprise second place was aqua and red; I love both these colours but have never combined them before so will give it a try. Hopefully these colour combinations will inspire you too!

Oh, did you want to know the winner of the crafty goodies? Are you sure? Okay then…

winnerComment 132 was jillamsberry who has just blogged a cute coral top with black and white stripy details. Please email me your postal address and I’ll pop your goodies in the post.

winner!

Thanks to everyone for entering and visiting my little blog – hope you stop by again soon!