I’ve been about to bust to write a post but sadly I have nothing to show.

I’m in the midst of The Couture Dress Craftsy course with Susan Khalje for whom I have great admiration and respect. Composing a symphony, climbing Mt. Everest and making a couture dress must have similarities, although I bet climbing Mt. Everest takes less time than making this dress.

I have been working for days making a muslin, cutting the underlining, and now, I am         f i n a l l y  assembling the dress.

Susan recommends using large (huge) sheets of waxed tracing paper which I just cannot find, so I used my little skimpy pieces of wax-free paper to mark the stitching lines. The stitching lines were disappearing by the time I was ready to baste the silk organza to my fashion fabric, and I found myself using a flashlight to find them.

Then Divine Intervention descended into my sewing room.

I decided to forgo basting the dress pieces together having already fitted myself with the muslin. The Sewing Angels knew what I was up to and came down and broke my beloved Bernina. The machine needle went down and it never came up.

It needs a new gear…….

Only, the local sewing machine mechanic can’t work on Berninas anymore. He suggested I go to Myrtle Beach where the retired Master Mechanic for Bernina lives – four hours away from my home. That’s not going to happen.

Meanwhile I’m back to basting and hand sewing like I should have been doing all along. I bet interns in Couture Houses have to catch-stitch the underlining to the seam allowance all day long.

One of these days I’ll finish my dress, and I only hope my exposure to this distinctive style of sewing doesn’t  prejudice me against the quick and easy sewing that brings me great pleasure.

Until soon. ;)

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38 Responses to IN THE NAME OF COUTURE

  1. Pauline Droy says:

    How annoying for you – I hope that your machine is mended quickly.

  2. Tia Dia says:

    I feel your pain. A completely couture dress is something I would LOVE to own and make, but the slow progress tends to make it a daunting dream rather than any reality that will be mine in the near future. That said, yes, the seamstresses DO sew by hand all day every day. They each work on a project until it’s complete – sometimes weeks in a row on ONE GARMENT. What would make me think twice about working for the House of Chanel would be if I was offered the job of buttonhole-maker. By hand. All day. Nothing but buttonholes. I bet they can do them super fast, though, with all that practice.

    • Many thanks for this information! This class will definitely improve my skills but it is a different way of sewing. It’s easy to understand the price of couture after this experience :)

  3. Cissie Wellons says:

    Richard the Thread carries the large sheets of waxed tracing paper and you can order online. Can’t imagine doing all of that tracing on those itsy bitsy pieces! I know you’re bummed about your machine. Hope you are up and running soon!

    • Thanks, Cissie. It’s ordered in red, white and blue :)

      • Amy says:

        I was going to write the same. I’m glad you’ve got it ordered in all kinds of colors.

      • Cissie Wellons says:

        Word to the wise! When you get your sheets, be aware that the color really rubs off. Use a very light touch when tracing and don’t lean on it (especially not while wearing white!). It will totally wreck up your clothes and your manicure! After you’ve used a sheet for a while, this diminishes. I prefer my older sheets but since I’m hooked on this technique, I use it all the time so have had to break in the newer pieces. Also, use the lightest color that you can see! The yellow shows up on almost everything and seems less likely to rub off as much. The red is deadly!!

  4. Art Attack says:

    This is a travesty! You should be getting extra credit from the Universe for this endeavor. I hope your Bernina doesn’t have to be in intensive care…I’d feel obligated to come and sit by her bed.

    • It was sad leaving it an hour away from home, but hopefully she’ll feel better soon :) This place was soooooo wonderful and gave me a Bernette to use while my machine was being repaired!

    • PS……… I think the sewing angels wanted me to do this right, but I agree- the extra credit would have been much appreciated! Many thanks for writing :)

  5. Karen says:

    Your experience with the waxed tracing paper is so typical of the new ones being produced. I have my old tracing “set” (multiple colored sheets and tracing wheel from probably about 1972) – and although the sheets have all been well used, they still do the job for me, with markings that are crisp and clear. About a year ago or so, I thought I’d get a new tracing set, to supplement my old one – and the colored papers are all but useless – I need a magnifying glass to see the markings.
    I am doing a lot of sewing using Vogue’s couture patterns from the ’60s and ’70s – and the sewing directions in them are so fabulous – kind of like having my own private teacher (although wouldn’t I love to take a class with Susan Khajle!!) I write about sewing with these vintage patterns on my blog…
    Finally – I’m so sorry to hear about your machine. It’s kind of like having your best friend very, very ill, isn’t it?

    • Hi Karen and thank you so much for writing! I’ve just placed an order for tracing paper at Richard the Thread. I really love your blog and just became your latest followerer!

      • Karen says:

        I am so, so happy to have you as a new blog follower!! I hope you enjoy my “Fifty Dresses” as much as I enjoy reading your “Good-bye Valentino”.

  6. pinkstar says:

    Ask Susan where she gets it now…she used to send us to Greenberg and Hammer but they have since closed. It is the only thing she uses so I am sure she knows where to get it. Send her an email on her site….

  7. Irene says:

    I do hope that your machine is soon back at its workstation! So annoying – always happens at the wrong time!
    I do admire you for taking the couture route. That should be one gorgeous dress when you’re done!

    • Hi Irene!
      Fortunately I was given a loaner to use while my machine is being repaired. I’m sure I looked as sick as the machine when I handed it over. The couture route is enlightening – time consuming but enlightening :)

  8. RoseOK says:

    It’s like loosing a friend when my machine needs repair. I bought a travel machine this past year. It comes in handy when the good one has to go into the shop. Good Luck with Susan’s class, I heard she was tough.

    • Hi Rose and thanks for the sympathetic comment. The store where my machine is being repaired gave me a wonderful loaner which I so very much appreciate. :)
      I’m really enjoying Susan’s class. She is an exceptional instructor – I didn’t realize how much time the project would take which could be a good thing!

  9. MareeAlison says:

    That’s terrible. I have a chainstitch on my overlocker which would be good for basting. I’ve never really used it but I’ve heard it’s good because it can be undone very simply. My overlocker may have it because it’s a combined coverstitch / serger but I’m unsure. Just a thought. I hope you get your Bernina fixed soon. I love mine and couldn’t bear to think of it ‘hurt’. :)

    • Many thanks for writing, MareeAlison! The store gave me a loaner to use while mine is being repaired so all is not lost! That’s a great idea about checking on the serger for basting stitches – thanks for the tip!

  10. Jamye says:

    Not good news at all! Not sure how close you are to Asheville. There is a Bernina mechanic at Asheville Cotton Co. if you aren’t able to find anyone. For the couture sewing……..I was feeling the lure and am now rethinking that whole strategy! LOL Enjoy the weekend and have a new go at it next week.

    • Hi Jayme,
      Thank you so much for informing me about the Asheville Cotton Co.! I drove the machine to Shelby, NC where there is a certified mechanic AND the store gave me a Bernette to use while it’s being repaired which should put me back on track :)
      I will still check out the Asheville Cotton Co. if you recommend it!

  11. I’ve often thought of taking that class. I’m sure I would learn so much. I’m such a renegade seamstress, I could use a little refinement. I can’t wait to see your final project. Good luck and I’m sorry about your sewing machine. I would be lost without mine!

    • Hi Beth! Many thanks for writing……… You hit the nail on the head because the class is truly all about refinement! It’s a great class. I have a loaner which is seeing me through while the Bernina is being repaired, thank goodness!

  12. In the brief time that I’ve been sewing it already seems to me that sewers are pretty differing on their views of hand sewing. Some (myself included) find hand sewing to be so pleasurable that we enjoy the long process before completion. Its like enjoying the journey as much as the destination. Others just really enjoy sewing because the end result (something to wear) is what it is about after all (Not to say they don’t enjoy putting their project together) Its just that hand sewing takes lots of patience.

    • Thank you for writing, Violet and you are so right! I suppose I didn’t realize just how long it would take to put the dress together and I wish I had judged my time better. The sewing machine distraction hasn’t helped either.
      However I am loving this class – it is unbelievably informative!

  13. Jeana Maksym says:

    I was in the middle of this class and took a break. I also used my regular sheets, but since it’s a muslin, I’ve used colored pencil (map) or regular pencil over some of the lines. I hope she does more classes.

    • Many thanks for writing Jeana. This is a wonderful class with an unbelievable amount of information, and Susan Khajle is an excellent instructor. I should have taken a break with the unexpected problems I’ve encountered but I’m determined to finish it. I found large sheets of tracing paper at Richard the Thread in case you are still looking for it.

  14. eumoronorio says:

    My muslin is still in pieces but I love watching the videos. Susan explains everything so well! I used the little papers too. We’ll see if the marks are still there when I pull the muslin out next time. But I feel a strange sense of accomplishment just getting as far as I have taking the slow way. An odd side effect of Susan’s class isn’t it? =) I look forward to seeing your photos when you finish climbing that Parisian mountain!

    • Many thanks for your comment! I know what you mean regarding a sense of accomplishment just with the muslin. I felt exactly the same way! The mountain is far higher than I ever imagined :)

      • eumoronorio says:

        indeed! I love when Susan talks about the land of couture with all the time in the world! It makes me laugh because I’m usually squeezing as much as possible into nap time!

  15. Lulu says:

    That online class looks very interesting. You are braver than I am to start out on a dress. I have started a straight lined skirt and using Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techiniques as reference. The hand work is slow but enjoyable and the men’s tropical wool suiting fabric I found is a joy to use. If I ever finish I will make a dark navy silk twill skirt for my daughter per her request. This endeavor is quite humbling as I realize how little I really know.

    And thanks for this blog. It is such a pleasure to read and the comments are wonderful too.

    • Thanks for writing, Lulu! I’m using the dress pattern Susan illustrates in her video, so I could follow along piece by piece, but you succinctly stated what I’ve been thinking all along “This endeavor is quite humbling as I realize how little I really know.”
      Well put! :)

  16. I too enjoy hand sewing and it is nice to try out a different machine once in a while, particularly if it is a good one. You have reminded me that I need to get my Bernina in for a service soonish. Lord i hope they don’t find anything major or I will be without – my local don’t do loaners unfortunately.

    How wonderful to be taking such a fascinating course. One day one day one day I will.

    PS congrats on receiving such a complement in-store, as it were. But then, it is a lovely top :o)

    • Many thanks for your nice comments! The loaner an entry level machine – but it sews! I’m hoping my machine won’t cost major $$$$$$$. I’ve learned so much from Susan Khajle’s course :)

  17. Teresa says:

    I know this is quite a bit since your original post but wanted to share that A Fashionable Stitch sells the large wax sheets as well. Options are always good. I originally learned to hand sew as a kid from my mother and then studied Haute Couture sewing and pattern making. Sadly I wasn’t able to finish the diploma and my life took a different direction and I packed in my sewing. I just started the course with Susan after recently making a skirt and helping with some costumes for a play that revived my love of sewing. Thought it would be a good refresher to get me going again.

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