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.

Planning: Decisions!

I spent most of Saturday was spent playing with tissue paper, tape, colour pencils and rulers – making FBA (full bust adjustments) to the patterns I am planning to make in the Easter holidays (one and a half days to go!!). I have been umm-ing and ahh-ing over my choice of fabrics, and after recieving some swatches from Stone Fabrics (this did not make my decision easier since it gave me more potential choices) I have some sewing plans for the holidays. Hooray!

First up is the spring jacket. I made a muslin of the  BurdaStyle 02/2013 #106 jacket and decided that I actually liked the lapel-less style. I showed my blog post  to my colleagues at school, asking if the turquoise was too bright, and was told by A “You don’t need a plain navy jacket – you’re not 50!” That was me told! I ordered a swatch of it and as soon as I opened the envelope I was squealing with delight.* The colour is so much better in real life and so I am placing my order tomorrow, along with some white for the contrast bands (and I think they have some polka-dot contrast lining that will work! double squeal!) My only remaining dilemma is whether I need to underline the fabric, and if so with what (I used silk organza to underline my couture dress). I think I need to read Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Bible in bed!

For the Cambie dress fabric choices, again A gave me a stern talk. “NOT the red one, you already have too many polka dots.” Too many polka dots? Is that a real problem? Hmm… Then I remembered an episode of New Girl (starring the quirky Zooey Deschanel, new series starting tonight) when she gets accused of “rocking a lot of polka dots.” Her response, which could also be describing me, was:

“I rock a lot of polka dots. I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children. And I find it fundamentally weird that you are not a dessert person – that’s just weird and it freaks me out!”

So did I choose polka dots for my Cambie? Nope. The clear winner among friends I showed my swatches to was in favour of bunnies!

 

I also really liked the swatch of this floral print – it is not as bold as some of the other designs but has bits of hot pink, purple and turquoise so will match all my favourite cardigans! I am going to make both versions of the dress pattern, partly for a bit of variety, and partly because the bunny fabric was the most expensive and the narrowest so I’m going to try to reduce my costs slightly.

fabric choices

 

I made a muslin of the bodice in calico and then cut up my IKEA fabric to make a wearable muslin. (I wanted to make sure I posted this before I get distracted by hot-cross buns and mini-eggs, so apologies for the mirror-pose photos). I love this dress so much already – after doing an FBA the neckline fits perfectly with no gaping. I was planning to make this to wear, however I think the fabric is a bit too stiff (the bust darts are too pointy however I sew them and the skirt doesn’t hang right). I want to get the fit just right before cutting up my expensive bunny fabric so I may make a final test in plain black fabric (with some black and white stripy piping to add a bit of fun).

cambie muslin

*another colleague has commented how cute it is that I am so easily excited when I talk about/stroke fabric! This did start the day I got all those free Liberty samples.

Planning

One of my new year sewlutions was to make less but make what I make much better, so I’m going to have to plan my makes a bit more.

I got my Cambie dress pattern in the post last week and have searched my stash for suitable fabrics. It seems my stash is not as extensive as I thought it was – lots of fancy-dress/toy/home-decor fabrics but not much dress-making fabric.

004

The only suitable things I could find were (clockwise from top)
1. some black poly-something bought when I was first trying to make trousers. Is a black summer-dress too dreary? I could add a pop of colourful piping to the waist and neckline… would that be more fun?
2. Some black and pink floral IKEA fabric. I think it might be a bit too heavy for the gathers on the sleeves and skirt, but I might pre-wash a bit and see what happens. (yup, my new sewing attitude includes pre-washing fabric occasionally now!)
3. A shiny dotted turquoise fabric with a bit of stretch, bought ages ago from Fabrics Galore. I am tempted to make an everyday version before using this fabric as this is a bit too shiny for wearing to work. Or could I use the reverse and just have shiny dots?

Since my stash is so small it is a good job Karen has introduced me to Stone Fabrics (I am so tempted to join the swatch club!) Here are some potential fabrics – click on the pictures for links):

Fabrics Galore: Poplin pinstripes

Fabrics Galore: Cotton linen-look spots

Stone Fabrics: 1940′s floral Liberty archival printed Cotton Tana Lawn

Stone Fabrics: Irregular trellis printed Cotton Lawn

Fabrics Galore: Cotton tiny stars

Stone Fabrics: Batik flower bubble cotton

Stone Fabrics: Bunny Rabbit Printed traditional Japanese Cotton

Fabrics Galore: Cotton Lawn

Stone Fabrics: Kaffe Fasset printed cotton

Stone Fabrics: Spiral Printed traditional Japanese Cotton

Stone Fabrics: Italian fine cotton lawn

Fabrics Galore: Liberty Lifestyle Woolf cotton

So what do you think? Simple polka dots, classic flowers, or quirky bunnies? Too much choice!

Another project I want to tackle is to make a nice spring/summer jacket.

BurdaStyle 02/2013 #106

First I saw this pattern in last month’s Burda – the cover girl was wearing it with jeans and a simple top and looked effortlessly cool. Or should I make a more traditional blazer-style, like the jacket in this month’s Burda?

Burda Style 03/2013 #102

And the potential fabrics…

Stone Fabrics: Wool/Acrylic Bouclé Knit

Stone Fabrics: Laurent Garigue Turquoise Blue Cotton Bouclé

Stone Fabrics: Linen and cotton medium weight denim

Stone Fabrics: ‘Gudrun’ heavy linen

Simple navy to go with everything or bright summer turquoise? Decisions, decisions. Help me decide!

A quick catch-up

I thought I should write a quick post before I go back to work tomorrow and get busy with real work again, so here is a quick round up of some of the things I’ve been up to this weekend.

  • I met up with some friends and we played board games and decorated cupcakes. L had got some amazing tools and cutters for her birthday, including some adorable teeny, teeny, teeny, tiny ones. I said I couldn’t eat mine until I took a picture when I got home, but they was a slight jumble in the tin as we power-walked for the train so there was only one photo-ready cake…
    cupcake
  • The train journey there and back, plus a movie night meant I’m making good progress on my red cardigan. I think I showed a swatch in the summer (August to be precise) and never revealed what it was for, so I will make sure I take some pics to show you what I’m knitting.
  • I whipped up a quick top using the purple floral remnant I showed you at the beginning of the week. Not much to say about it. It is my go-to jersey top pattern (a mish-mash of BurdaStyle Sadie and Lydia patterns). Since I was using a remnant I had to have some designer seams on the sleeves (there is a seam below the elbow and a wide cuff band) but the pattern is so busy you really can’t tell. The other change from my normal making is that I applied iron-on seam tape to the shoulders and neckline to minimise stretching (my black and white striped top is on its last legs now and much more revealing than it originally was!)t-shirt
  • I saw this picture online this week:
    It reminded me that I have to show you my dinosaur embroidery. A T-Rex trying to knit except his arms are too short! I love his puzzled face. I can’t decide if it is finished or not. Should I keep it as it is, or risk filling in the outline with colour (satin stitch is not my strength!). What do you think?finished

What do you think should happen to T-Rex? Have you been crafting this weekend?

Half-term plans

Yay! Half-term is finally here after what has felt like the longest week ever. I have woken up everyday thinking it was one or two days later in the week. So what am I going to get up to, now I have time at home to be awake and crafty?half-term plansClockwise from top left:

  1. I have two silks I got in the John Lewis sale to make some nice tops/blouses from. I resisted them twice, but decided £14 for a silk top was probably a good buy. Underneath them is a jersey remnant, about 80cm long, so I’m going to see what I can squeeze out of it (sleeves or no-sleeves, that is the question).
  2. I need to quickly finish my pieces for #imapiece and get them posted. First Hannah mentionned it on Monday and then Tilly had a guest post by the Craftivist Collective so I had to whip out my embroidery threads (well pick my case up off the floor) and get involved. Two out of three are finished but number three needs some sparkle of some sort…
  3. Pressing some sad looking flowers. Since I read Attic 24’s review of the year in flowers I’ve started buying the occasional bunch of flowers to brighten up my little flat and this morning afternoon I managed to grab some flowers before they looked too sad and have pressed them in my flower press.
  4. My current crafty reading list. A cute jacket I can’t stop thinking about in one issue of Burda and a spring tunic in another (I need to get some muslin fabric asap). Gertie’s portrait blouse is a contender for using my sale silks. 100 flowers to knit and crochet is filling the post-blanket crochet hole.

Fabric Frenzy and Half-term plans

On Saturday I got up bright and early to meet Kathyrn, Elisalex, and some other lovely bloggers/sewing fanatics to go to the Peter Jensen fabric sample sale. We got there just after it opened at 10am which was a good plan as it was already very busy and the queue to get fabric cut was huuuuge. The sale was in a design studio which was interesting to nosy around – look at the pin-cushion attached to the sewing machine!

There were mostly plain solid fabrics and no sign of the crazy prints we were expecting, but they were all lovely quality and bargain prices. I was queuing with some lovely aubergine corduroy and deciding how much I needed and for what (cord skirt, winter shift/pinafore dress, jacket… someone suggested a Minoru) and got convinced to take the whole roll end. Uh oh! Except it was only £20 for over 6m of lovely fabric, which is what you would expect to pay for 4m (which was what I was planning on getting). I’m still deciding what to make with it as I realised I have quite a few skirts planned already. (The other roll is some spare inner tubes I grabbed for school – to make a wigwam? – which were interesting to take on the tube!)

I also got a roll of black ribbed jersey from the random remnant bin. All the bags were £1, £2 or £3 and the £1 bags really did just contain off-cuts. My bag/roll was £3 and unrolled it looks like there is almost 4m of it! This is going to be a snuggly long-sleeved top with a cosy cowl neck, although I’m not sure if it is warm t-shirt or cool jumper thickness.

There were various ribbons and elastics for 20p a metre, rolls of bias binding (the pink was 10p and white was just £1) but my most exciting buy was these super sparkly buttons. They are black with faceted edges and I got two sizes – the tiny ones were 20 for £1 and the larger ones were 20 for £1.50. What a bargain!

Today I have cleared my table and am going to get cutting my stash – its not my favourite part of sewing so I am going to cut out multiple projects ready to sew bit by bit over the next few weeks. With the weather turning cooler I am looking forward to cutting into some of my wools from Goldhawk Road  – a simple charcoal ginger skirt and some stretchy herringbone grey trousers – and a wine pinstripe that I got in the summer sales to become a chevron Ginger skirt. I also grabbed a remnant in John Lewis a few weeks ago (when in to get a zipper for the wool skirt) which I couldn’t resist (John Kaldor fuscia with black and grey splodges) as it was exactly the right size for another Burda Septemeber 106. I think this will quickly become a wardrobe staple as it feels so good to wear something fitted and woven.

Wow! That sounds like a lot (2 skirts, 2 tops and 1 pair of trousers) but I suppose it is what you could buy in a day of shopping and I know I will live in them (if they are successful!) now it is getting chilly! I better log-off now and get to work!

p.s. Any pattern recommendations for a good winter corduroy dress? I want to be able to wear it over long-sleeved tops and pockets are a must! I am thinking about drafting it by combining a good bodice with a Ginger skirt…

 

Crafty updates

I have been away from blogging all week, busy in the real world, but I am back with lots of exciting updates.

Apart from working and sleeping, I have spent most of this week sewing my Sewaholic Minoru and it is finished! Of course that means the weekend has been super sunny, but I did test it in a light shower on the way home/to the pub on Friday. I forgot to get someone to take action shots so here are some close ups of my favourite details.

I LOVE the pink lining – it is such a cheery colour (and I read something this weekend that said navy and pink were one of the new “in” combos) – and the fleecy pocket lining. The piping was a pain to do (piping + shiny fabric + gathers + elastic = nightmare) but it does make the jacket look more finished and less homemade. My favourite part is the elastic waist as it makes the jacket fit and look good, which is not normally something you would associate with cagoules! I got some good compliments about the fitted waist when I did a bit of a fashion show at work. There are a few tweaks I would make if I made this again – the adjusted muslin pieces are safely tucked away in my pattern file.

I also meant to get a proper photo of my finished corduroy Ginger, but I have been wearing it too much and getting paint on it at school., so please excuse this slanted self-portrait. There were an awful lot of headaches making this, despite having already made the pattern before, but it was definitely worth the time spent as I have worn it three times this week. It is warm, comfortable, black and has super-sized practical pockets, so it will be worn to death over the winter.
Oh, and I am wearing my skirt with a new blouse! It is the French dart Burda blouse made from a £1 vintage skirt and jersey contrast sleeves (I couldn’t get the sleeves from the skirt, but I’m liking the effect the jersey adds).

I have been so busy that I totally forgot that I had hosted my first giveaway and was supposed to have chosen a winner! Oops! Lets see who the winner will be…
…. it is Tania! Email me your address or I will get in touch (whichever comes first) and I will try and send your goodies to you this week!

A spot of impulsive sewing

I have to change at Oxford Circus on my way home from work, and on Friday evening it was packed. I couldn’t even get near the platform, so there was no chance of getting a tube for a while. What could I do, but wait for the crowds to clear in the comfort of John Lewis? Well, I needed some ribbon for school to colour-code my new class’ bookbags (in an effort to get them to do more jobs for me  become more independent – each key group will have a different colour of ribbon on the handle so a child can hopefully grab everything for their group). See, I had a real reason to go into John Lewis!

When in there I got slightly side-tracked by the new layout of all the displays, the new cutting table and, of course, all the new fabrics. In my confused state I accidentally headed towards the new display of fabrics and a navy dotty fabric (I want to call it crepe, but I’m not sure) caught my eye. I picked up the ribbons (seriously tricky getting the three colours I wanted in the same width) and some hand embroidery needles, but felt drawn back to the dots.

I had been planning on spending Saturday making the muslin for my Minoru, but ended up tracing, adjusting, cutting and sewing this…

It isn’t the Burda blouse I showed in my last post, it is actually pattern 106 from the September issue (my August issue was temporarily missing, so I thought I’d give this one a go). The pattern is actually meant for jersey, but after tracing the pattern onto garden fleece (cheap, transparent and robust) I tissue-fitted it to do a FBA. I really like to fit of this top and the french darts, even if they could still do with a bit of tweaking.

As the pattern was designed for jersey, I graded up a size before tracing then marked the stitching lines on as I traced using my double-wheel tool. I have just remembered, while looking for the link to the pattern, that Burda doesn’t do seam allowances – so effectively I didn’t go up a size at all! This could explain the fitting difficulties I later had!

After tweaking the darts the top had a good fit, but when it was time to add the sleeves I found I could barely move them. Luckily I remembered last weekend’s reading – Gertie’s new book – and how she inserted underarm gussets to allow for movement. This took a bit of trial and error, not to mention time with my seam ripper (I had some lovely french side seams!), but I managed to get something that works (luckily the print hides it pretty well).

Other modifications I made were:
– lengthen the bodice by a very precise “two ruler widths” (chunky craft ruler approx 2″ wide) so it is a great length to wear over trousers or tucked in.
– add little 2″ long side slits (I should have graded out more for my hips, but this was a satisfactory fix)
– lower the neckline slightly as the tissue felt like it would choke me
– deepen the back neckline. Looking at the photos, I could have made the back v-neck even deeper if I had wanted to, for more impact.
The next photo doesn’t show it, but the back is actually a really good fit with just the right amount of curve for me (the wrinkles are the way I am trying to pose)

Even though things went wrong and there are a few issues to be fixed, I love this blouse! I tried it on when all the hems were finished and it just felt good (I ended up having a little fashion show in front of my mirror trying it on with different bottoms and accessories). Being quite curvy I never used to wear woven tops as they didn’t fit or look good, but I think I am just so excited to be able to wear a fitted blouse that is comfy! After the arm gusset drama, I can now move my arms and have test-driven the top while changing bed sheets, doing a supermarket shop, and pattern cutting – all activities involved lots of arm movement and the blouse has passed the test.

Oh, did I mention pattern cutting? I may not have done any of my Minoru yesterday, but today I made the first muslin. I did a FBA and moved the dart to the shoulder for extra gathers, which seems to fit well so far. Using the couture tricks I learned at the beginning of the year, I marked the stitching line onto the muslin, with generous seam allowances. It is a good job I did because the way it is leaves no room for winter jumpers at all! I will let out the sleeve and side seams and try it on again.The only thing that is confusing my is the hood – how is it SO big? I hate it when hoods are too tight and don’t sit properly on your head, but this seems a bit too big. Or is my head a few sizes smaller than my body?!

A/W 2012 Sewing Plans

I’ve been a bit quiet around here due to being back to school and totally exhausted, and a busy weekend in which the only time I was home involved sleeping or napping! I have lots on my to-sew-list when I have the energy to trace some sewing patterns. Yup, you read that right – I’m going to try some new patterns instead of reinventing my tatty tried-and-tested ones.


The two Burda designs come from August and September issues of Burda Style (I’m not sure which is which without getting up and looking) and the Ohhh Lulu pattern was recommended by Gertie during the summer. The fabric colours and designs are some of what are lurking in my stash – I have lots of different black and white jersey prints which I really want to mix-and-match. I don’t have lace in my stash, but I’d really like to have a go at adding some to a simple top – I am imagining a black top with black lace collar or something subtle like that…

I have some calico ready to make a muslin of the Minoru jacket at the weekend, but I am already thinking ahead to fashion fabrics. I already own a purple coat and a red and white dotty coat, so I think blue would be a practical make but that is as much as I have decided.My decision will depend on whether I want my jacket to be water-resistant or not (it has a hood so I am leaning towards yes) and whether fun prints exist in these types of fabrics. I also need to decide how warm I want the jacket to be – do I underline the fashion fabric with some wool for warmth? Should I make a big feature of the zip? I know I definitely want a fun silky lining! Too many decisions! I will definitely be spending the weekend reading all Tasia’s sew-along posts.

Does anyone have any jacket-sewing tips?

p.s. I never knew I used my little finger so much when I type, but am realising just how much after trapping my finger in a door at school (how many times have I told kids not to play with the door?!) It was too sore to knit on my journey home but I am hoping it will calm down and not affect my sewing (it does look better now I have removed my purple nail varnish!)