Sunday, 4 October 2015

Susan Khalje - 'The Couture Dress' on Craftsy

I've been feeling a bit under the weather (why do they say that?) this weekend and so decided to catch up with some of my (many) Craftsy classes. Please note, this is NOT an affiliate link.

I've had this class for a long time but hadn't got around to watching it - partly because I thought that perhaps 'couture' was beyond my skills.

A dress pattern came with the class - Vogue Options 8648. This is basically a princess seamed dress with skirt and sleeve variation and a separate midriff area.

I haven't been too sure about the dress; with my current extra weight I feel it may not suit me. The dress is not recommended for rectangle shaped people and though I reckon I'm a pear, I'm a pretty rectangular pear at present! Also, I wasn't that keen on the choice of sleeveless or short sleeves. The neckline is pretty low at front and back, too. So it was very much on my back burner, to the extent that I hadn't even watched the class.

In fact, last year, I made my youngest daughter, Helen, a dress and we considered this pattern, though in the end I used another Vogue pattern, 8766 - I did use underlining and lining there, too, so it would have been a great substitute for this class. She liked the neckline of the other pattern, though wanted it lower still I think, but didn't like the midriff band and the size range started too high on the pattern I had. At the time I didn't feel able to tackle that differently. I modified the neckline of V8766, which was easier for me.

I've now watched the whole class, though I confess I fell asleep during a couple of parts, not due to the teaching style, which I enjoyed. I'll re-watch those parts.

The first part is about getting a muslin to fit. This is the part that concerns me, but yesterday and today, I was simply watching the video. After the muslin is fitted, it is taken apart and used as the pattern, so the paper pattern pieces have no further part to play.

The model, Emily, was a tall slim young girl probably quite similar to Helen. The fit changes required were to lengthen the torso and the hem length. The style changes made were to raise the height of the front neckline slightly and the back neckline significantly. In addition, Emily wanted a slim 3/4 length sleeve. these are all changes I would have to make. In my case I would also need a full bust adjustment but neither Emily nor Helen would.

The key message from the video lessons was that it is the stitching line that is important, not the cutting line. I found this to be a very helpful message and felt that marking all the stitching lines would be very helpful in construction. It also fits in with the idea of using my body blocks.

Susan Khalje used a rather thick wool with an asymmetrical plaid pattern. She used a silk organza underlining and a silk crepe de chine lining. I enjoyed watching through her steps dealing with fitting adjustments, which then had to be transferred back to the muslin for use in cutting out the lining, and for future garments, fitting zip, modifying sleeve, doing hems, lining etc.

There is a fair bit of hand sewing required. However, somewhere along the way I had got the wrong impression - that the whole garment was hand sewn! Fortunately, this is not the case. Susan set out the reasons for using hand sewing in particular cases, and the reasons for the type of stitch. there are a lot of advantages to doing certain area by hand, as I found when I've struggled trying to do them my machine in the past.

I'm still not sure about attempting this particular pattern for myself. However, I very much enjoyed the lessons and will certainly put quite a few of her techniques into practice. I still haven't decided on what to make for my MOB outfit, if indeed I make it. I've broken my RTW fast after 9 months due to shortage of clothes as I simply don't make enough, quickly enough; and many of those that I have made are no more suitable to me than RTW. I have a long way to go yet.

I enjoyed Susan Khalje's teaching style. I tried to buy her book 'Bridal Couture' but was only able to buy it on CD. I haven't looked at it yet, but assume it is just a book on screen, so there won't be more of her teaching style observable. a shame, as I would have enjoyed that. I prefer a physical book to an on-screen book, where sewing books are concerned, as I can turn to the expropriate page when I need it but the style of this book may well lend itself okay to this format.

Next week, I am away from home for a few days and will have some opportunity to visit some fabric shops, I hope, the first being Fabworks in Dewsbury. I've heard good things about them. I'm looking for some silk organza, silk crepe de chine and some bridal practice supplies.


  1. Lots of people rate this class, and the dress made up seems rather beautiful (if it is well fitted). I was interested to read your review (even if you dropped off during some of it Anne.)

    1. I agree that the class is great and the dress is beautiful, if well fitted, on the right body. The dress made up in the class is gorgeous. I dropped off entirely due to not feeling well, not due to the class! I can't do a full review until I actually try out all the techniques, but I feel enabled to do so.

  2. I think learning about the couture approach will help you understand sewing - which I think you will enjoy, once you feel better. I hope that is soon. And while recovering, the hand sewing will give you something to do :)

    1. Thanks, I agree. I'm reading a couture sewing book and that's also great (Lynda Maynard). I originally thought that couture was a different entity to 'normal' sewing but realise that's not the case. There are things I want to incorporate into my regular sewing as I feel that will improve my results, and wearability. The first things I'm going to try (apart from Susan Khalje's toile methods with seam marking, which I will/almost do use) are the 'balanced dart' and the method for binding/lining skirt panels. I don't understand the 'couture dart' and would have to see that in person or on a video - that's the one where the bobbin thread and upper thread are linked but I can't get my head around it; I might just have to try it. I'm feeling a bit better, though too late to make the top I'd planned for my daughters engagement party but no matter - I don't want to rush it as I'll be using crepe backed satin (polyester not silk at this stage) which I've never used. I'm going away for a few days, too, from Saturday, and might take a small tapestry with me to sew in my time on my own in the evening. I love flowers and have a couple of small flower tapestries (kits). I'm keen to get back to sewing but am content to wait until the way is clear, so by the end of the month.

  3. Found you from your comments on other blogs. I hope you feel well enough to tackle sewing soon. I've watched Susan Khaljie's Craftsy class and it is helpful learning basic couture techniques. Lynda Maynard's book is a good machine finishing techniques but not strictly couture.
    The couture dart you mentioned is also a single thread dart. It is useful on sheer fabrics and silks where the thread tails at the dart point could show. To make it unthread the upper thread from your machine. Pull the bobbin thread up through the throat plate (allow enough thread to stitch one dart) and thread the machine in reverse. Start stitching at the dart point. You may find a straight stitch throat plate makes avoiding a pucker here easier. Re thread the machine for each dart. Hope this clarifies things for you.

    1. ank you for commenting. Yes, I see that the Lynda Maynard book is not really couture; I'm reading one by Claire Schaeffer now which is more so. It's not illness holding me back now, just a busy schedule at present. However, I can sense a reluctance in me to getting on with the practice (for my daughter's wedding dress) which I do need to do.
      I think I'll just have to try the couture dart. It could be good for the bridesmaids dresses. I have a straight stitch plate and foot. Thank you for your clarification.

  4. I completed this course when preparing to make my daughter's wedding dress three years ago. I was delighted to find that my long-standing preference for hand sewing zips and hems could be counted as 'couture techniques'. Not the way I do them! I used most of the techniques in making my daughter's dress, my MOB outfit, and then a year later, my own and my lovely wife's dresses for our civil partnership. It's brilliant stuff, and reinforces the fact that you don't have to stick to pattern instructions, and it's all about what works best. Very liberating! I also don't rate the pattern with the course for my body- I got as far as a toile, and when I recovered from my faint of horror, binned it. It did get used for my bridesmaids' dresses though, and they are both very pear shaped. Go figure!

    1. I'm just about to try a hand sewn zip (advised by my tutor) on the pleated skirt I'm sewing for my daughter. I do hand sew a lot of hems. I read your blog but must go back in time to look for your wedding sewing as that's what I need to be getting on with now. I think the dress with the course looks lovely on Susan's daughter, less so on Susan herself.


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