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 and her blog at

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. 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 🙂

  1. 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. =)

    1. 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!

  2. 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.

    1. 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)

  3. 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!!!

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