My Week with Susan

Would you mind terribly if we just skip right over the fact that I haven’t posted a single thing in 2 months? We can? No explanation or excuses necessary? Great, thanks! Moving on…

Last month, I spent six glorious days sewing with and learning from couture dressmaker and teacher Susan Khalje and an amazing group of sewists.  Yes, I’m a lucky gal.  Every year, Susan comes to Houston (and other places across the US – check out her website for more details!) for a week-long couture class and I was fortunate enough to get to attend. I followed the always-brilliant advice of you lovely readers and started working on my own version of the Tadashi Shoji dress that I so adored. While I haven’t finished my project yet, I have made wonderful progress and Susan helped take my dress from hypothetical vision to nearly completed reality.

My inspiration - a dress by Tadashi Shoji

My inspiration – a dress by Tadashi Shoji

Getting to brainstorm with Susan and the other sewists was such a treat. I never could have come up with the solutions that they provided. Here’s a brief overview of my week and progress so far:

On the first day, we went over everyone’s projects and plans for the week and then went fabric shopping at High Fashion Fabrics here in Houston. It didn’t take long for me to find the perfect black guipure lace and a dusty rose silk dupioni. I was actually going back and forth on the color of my under layer – I couldn’t decide between nude (like the original inspiration) or emerald-green (my favorite color).  While reaching for a bolt of green silk, I sat the lace down and it just so happened to land on top of the most beautiful pink silk I’d ever seen.  I think I actually heard angels singing.  So, pink it was!

Silk & Lace

I originally had a muslin made using the Colette Peony bodice and a half circle skirt, but we just could not get the bodice to fit at all. I see now why every other blogger in the world warned me about fitting the Peony. In the end, we took out all four front darts and Susan draped it on me to get the perfect fit. We ended up doing two vertical darts on each side of the bodice.

If you look closely you can see the vertical darts in the bodice

If you look closely you can see the vertical darts in the bodice

She also draped a new a-line skirt for me since the original half-circle was just too full for what I wanted.  We cut out a rough version of an a-line skirt in silk organza.  Susan then pinned the sides together and used a piece of elastic tied around my waist to hold the top of the skirt in place.  She altered the shape of the waistline to give it enough volume at the bottom.  A straight waistline will give you volume at the sides – Susan described this like a paper-doll skirt.  A curved waistline gives you pretty waves throughout the entire skirt.  Once we had a shape we liked, she drew the waistline on the organza in pencil and I marked the side seams and voila!  A perfectly shaped a-line skirt!  (Thanks to Roz at Sew Much Fabric for this action shot!  You can find her shop at http://stores.smfabric.com/StoreFront.bok and her blog at http://www.smfdesignsandfriends.blogspot.com/)

Photo courtesy of Roz at Sew Much Fabric

Photo courtesy of Roz at Sew Much Fabric

Susan taught me how to ensure the lace was lined up perfectly on each pattern piece. I was lucky enough that the seams in this particular lace were not very noticeable, so I didn’t have to do any piecing work – that looks so daunting.

Skirt bands

Skirt bands

My skirt laid out as it will eventually look

By the end of the week, I basically had the entire dress completed, but in pieces. I recently finished slip-stitching the lining to each of the two bottom bands on the skirt and now I can start putting all the pieces together. I still have a lot of work to do, but it’s all pretty straight-forward from this point on. I can’t wait to show you all the end result!

My dress laid out (minus the sleeves)

My dress laid out (minus the sleeves)

My week with Susan was full of drafting, sewing, learning, brainstorming, making mistakes and finding fixes.  It was the most fun I’ve had in ages.  Getting to escape life and distractions and immerse yourself in what you love is truly the most healing experience ever.

Although I’m still working on this dress, I did take a break to complete an instant-gratification project, so I’ll post that very soon. It’s great to be back – or as Robert Earl Keen says, it feels so good, feelin’ good again.

24 thoughts on “My Week with Susan

  1. Red Point Tailor September 18, 2013 at 1:32 pm Reply

    O you lucky woman! What a wanderful course! It will be such a fabulous couture dress! I can’t wait to see you wearign it!

    • Thimble & Cork September 20, 2013 at 9:17 am Reply

      Thank you! It was such a fun experience. I’m excited to finish it!

  2. Haylee September 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm Reply

    I may have jumped a little when I saw a new post from you. I’ve missed you lady! This dress is going to be so gorgeous too, I love that lace.

    • Thimble & Cork September 20, 2013 at 9:19 am Reply

      Aww Haylee you’re so sweet! Thank you dear. I’ve missed everyone too! I’ve been keeping up with your blog though – I LOVE everything you’ve been making lately. I have some serious wardrobe envy going on :)

  3. Brooke September 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm Reply

    It’s going to be great! Can’t wait to see it!

    I love the pink under the lace – I’ve always thought blush pink was much more flattering than yellowy-nude. =)

    • Thimble & Cork September 20, 2013 at 9:20 am Reply

      Thank you Brooke! I have to agree – that yellow-nude color is not easy to pull off. I’m loving all your pictures on instagram lately. It looks like you’re making some fabulous costumes!

  4. Karen September 18, 2013 at 8:00 pm Reply

    I was so excited to read this post! You are so right – a week with Susan is the best!! Your dress is already gorgeous – just think what it will look like when it’s completed! I am so looking forward to seeing it.

    • Thimble & Cork September 20, 2013 at 9:21 am Reply

      Thank you Karen! I am certainly looking forward to finishing it…if only I had another couple of weeks of un-interrupted sewing.

  5. laurahoj September 18, 2013 at 11:30 pm Reply

    This is such a beautiful dress! I am really looking forward to your completed dress. How fun to spend a week with Susan.

    • Thimble & Cork September 20, 2013 at 9:22 am Reply

      Thank you! It was definitely a fun week, I’m so thankful I got to attend. I’m just hoping to somehow find the time to finish it now that I’m back in the real world lol

  6. Amanda September 19, 2013 at 6:10 am Reply

    What an amazing experience! This is going to be one fabulous frock!

  7. Claire (iwanttobeaturtle) September 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm Reply

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time and such a great experience. I bet you learnt so much. Your dress is looking fabulous, I can’t wait to see it finished.

    • Thimble & Cork September 20, 2013 at 9:23 am Reply

      Thank you Claire. I DID learn a lot! It’s amazing how quickly you learn when taught by a master of their craft. Thank you for the comment :)

  8. The Amazing Taracat September 19, 2013 at 12:48 pm Reply

    I can’t wait to see this dress, it looks gorgeous. You are so lucky to get a chance to do this course.

    • Thimble & Cork September 20, 2013 at 9:24 am Reply

      Thank you! I was thanking my lucky stars all week to have that opportunity :)

  9. CGCouture September 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm Reply

    So glad to see you back! And that dress is going to be gorgeous when you get it completed, I can’t wait to see you model it!!!!

    • Thimble & Cork September 20, 2013 at 9:29 am Reply

      Thank you! It’s good to be back finally lol And CONGRATULATIONS!!! How exciting!! I do hope you’ll share at least a few baby clothes because they’re SO FREAKIN CUTE :) (Excuse my extreme excitement; I have a lot of friends with new babies right now so I’m on a baby high and am getting overly excited about baby stuff hehe)

  10. Jodie (@scaredstitchles) September 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm Reply

    This dress looks so great already!
    I can’t wait to see the finished product.

    • Thimble & Cork September 20, 2013 at 9:31 am Reply

      Thank you Jodie! I hope I can finish it beautifully now that I’m on my own – I feel somewhat like a baby bird who was just booted from the nest.

  11. Roz September 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm Reply

    Having seen the dress coming together upclose and personal, I can say this will be a knock out! Can’t wait to see the finished dress with the shoes!!!

    • Thimble & Cork September 20, 2013 at 9:32 am Reply

      Thank you Roz! Ah yes, I’ll have to remember to wear THE shoes when I post the finished product.

  12. elise // honigdesign September 23, 2013 at 7:27 am Reply

    OOh beautiful. Your inspiration photo makes my heart flutter and it looks like you’ve interpreted it perfectly. What an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see the finished version!

  13. gingermakes September 28, 2013 at 10:31 am Reply

    Oh my gosh, this dress is going to be amazing! Sounds like you had a fabulous week!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 164 other followers