Friday, 19 January 2018

Couture Sewing School with Marfy 3507

Kia ora and happy New Year! As I sit on the plane returning home after eight intense days in Melbourne I thought I would share the amazing experience that is a couture masterclass with Susan Khalje.

I arrived to class on day one looking forward to not only meeting Susan but also to meet Melanie aka Poppykettle. It was so surreal meeting them both - isn't it funny how social media and the internet can make us feel like we already know someone without having met them in real life.

After settling into the sewing table next to Melanie we all gathered for some introductions. As it turns out most of the others in the class were returning for a second year of couture sewing under Susan's guidance, but we all very quickly got to know each other and spent the week in awe of each other's work.

When I left home I was a little unsure what I was going to make to take full advantage of my time with Susan. Option number one was Marfy 3507, a coat-dress. I'm in love with the collar and zippers of this pattern.

The second option was a jacket with a lace insert panel at the back. Marfy 3791. Again the collar was the feature that caught my eye.

Before I left home I made a toile/muslin for both patterns and hoped that by the time I turned up to class I would have a definite preference. But it was the class who helped me make the decision in the end with the coat dress clearly the winner :-)

Day one was all about the toile/muslin. Watching Susan work her magic and do fittings for all the different body shapes with all the different garments was truly magical. Unfortunately I was so engrossed in the day that I didn't take one photo :-(  I've done a few fitting classes on Craftsy and read a few books but I still struggle with fitting, so for Susan to talk through what she was doing with each one - I learnt sooooo much.

After all the adjustments were marked up on the toile it was pulled apart and used as pattern pieces.

Day two was all about tracing the toile onto silk organza and wax tracing all the markings. Then taking all the silk organza pattern pieces and laying them onto the fashion fabric and thread tracing each piece. Day two was a productive day, feeling as though I had achieved quite a bit by the end of the day.

In June last year I treated myself and purchased two pieces of fabric from Mendel Goldberg in New York. When a place opened up in Susan's class I knew that I wanted to use the Mendel Goldberg fabric and luckily enough all the stars aligned and I had just enough fabric to make the coat-dress, because I definitely didn't buy it with this pattern in mind.

… and then there was day three *sigh*. It started off really well, I attached both side back pieces to the centre back, matching up all the lines perfectly *happy dance*.

But then for the next six hours I only managed to sew four seams, two for each side front attaching to the centre front pieces. Most of that time was spent counting stupid lines and trying to work out why the lines didn't go perfectly around the body, I was doing some very loud screaming in my head. So after some expert assistance from Susan I finally worked out that adjustment was needed in a couple of places. I was glad to see home time that day.

Day four and it was beginning to look like a dress and I could do my first fitting and make some initial style decisions. Thanks to Roz (the keeper of all things) the decision on the zipper was a no brainer. She had this black metal zipper with gorgeous rose gold teeth - I was instantly in love. So with that Roz took a few of us off to Jimmy Buttons, and well that is a whole separate story!

As you can see from the pattern there are pocket flaps, but with this lofty fabric I decided that the flaps sitting above the box pleat would just be too much bulk so we opted for a couple of buttons instead. Thanks to Susan who found the perfect option in among the ciaos at Jimmy Buttons. The zipper went in by hand, stripe matching all the way. However my stripe matching wasn't that great first time round so I had to unpick one side and do it again. This time I closed the zipper in small sections so I could match the other side as I went.

Day five - it was time to put together the front facing and upper collar. I needed to draft a back facing so everything would sit better and I could hide all the collar joins. I machine stitched from the start of the collar roll (top of the zipper) all the way around the collar to the other side. Once again paying attention to those dang stripes! Can you see the corner seam where the collar attaches to the dress?

Just before the end of the day I was able to have the sleeves fitted, alterations marked, silk organza marked and fabric cut.

Day six was all about fitting those sleeves. Susan very kindly fitting one sleeve then sent me away to fit the other one. While I got all the stripes lined up Susan still had to undo the stitches and adjust the amount of fabric in and out of the seam so it was a much smoother fit. Hopefully I've taken that all in and can replicate that next time. She makes it look so easy.

I'm still coming to grips with the fact that I had six days of nothing but sewing and I didn't finish, but that is couture sewing. I return home to stitch in the sleeve zippers, under-stitch the facing on the inside of the front zipper, tidy up armholes, hem and put in the lining. Here is a sneak peek of the progress to date.

Head on over to Susan's Instagram to check out what others in the class made. I'll do an updated post once I've finished and got some decent photos.

Happy sewing everyone :-)


  1. Wow, amazing. That will be one dress that never gets thrown out! So why did you use the organza? Is it to keep the fabric more stable or is it something Susan does with all her couture sewing? And I must visit Jimmy Buttons before I go back to work!

    1. It has been a labour of love but the fit is perfect. Because with couture sewing you don't use traditional seam allowances, all the stitching lines and other information is transferred to the silk organsa, which is also used to catch all the internal stitches so nothing is seen from the outside. Silk organise is lovely and light and stable enough to work with. The Silk organza also helped with the soft tailored look of this garment, while keeping it nice and soft. If you can't take her class in person I would highly recommend taking her Craftsy Couture Dress class, it covers everything.

  2. What a gorgeous dress! Thanks so much for sharing your experience at the couture sewing class with Susan.

    1. Thanks Bernice for stopping by by blog. A class with Susan was an experience I would do again in a heart beat.

  3. I have just had time to read this post and relive my two weeks with Susan in Brisbane. I had 13 days of just sewing and didn’t finish my couture dress or French jacket. No one but Susan’s students will appreciate all that work underneath the fashion fabric. I have since finished both garments and look back on the intensity and exhaustion with absolute gratitude to Susan’s tuition and friendship. Aren’t we fortunate. I love your coat dress and I hope you enjoy wearing it

    1. I think it's the subtle learnings from Susan that I appreciate the most, especially when I think I spent six hours counting rows around my dress to make sure it all aligned. Her tips to help work this out was invaluable. I'm looking forward to winter if only to wear my dress.



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