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.
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!
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.
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/)
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.
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 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.