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…