The Inside Story

Silk organza must be the best fabric ever made.  The more I use it, the more I appreciate and value its unique properties.  Having first become aware of it as the building block of couture sewing in the Couture Dress Class by Susan Khalje on Craftsy, I quickly adapted my sewing to incorporate it whenever possible and feasible.  Although I fully expected to be using it for my color-blocked coat, I wasn’t sure if I would need to add more to the inside construction in the way of interfacings or other support techniques.

The pattern envelope and instruction sheets were somewhat mystifying, as they listed yardages for both interfacings and underlinings.  However, the diagrams on the instruction sheets clearly showed interfacings only.

The Inside Story - interfacing detail from instruction sheet It was just so lovely to have Susan Khalje’s input and expertise to help me with this during my Couture Sewing School class with her in February.  Silk organza was clearly going to be the only “support” mechanism I was going to need (with the exception of the collar, to be discussed below.)  With each jacket section underlined with black silk organza, I was able to control the inside seams by catch-stitching them to the silk organza.

Here is the inside of the back of the coat, with the seams catch-stitched to the organza.

Here is the inside of the back of the coat, with the seams catch-stitched to the organza.  Click on the photo to see  details.

A quick note here on pressing.  Because my fabrics each have a distinct nap to them, making them easily impressionable, and because they are heavier coat weight fabrics, pressing seams required some extra attention.  Susan had me insert sheets of paper under the two edges of each seam for its initial press (before trimming  them down for catch-stitching).  This prevented the impression of the seam allowances to show up on the right side.  With a really good steam iron, a wonderful finish can be achieved with this method.

The pockets were one of the first details to be tackled.  It had been a while (like years!) since I had made flap/buttonhole pockets.  Once again, Susan’s guidance gave me confidence.  She had me make a trial pocket first, and then I was ready for the real thing.

My sample flap before pressing.

My sample flap before pressing.

Showing the "buttonhole" type opening.

Showing the “buttonhole” type opening.

Showing the "inside" of my trial pocket.

Showing the “inside” of my trial pocket. 

With the flap concealing the opening of the pocket, there is no room for error (or else you will end up with puckers at the edges of the flaps).  I basted and basted and sewed with extreme caution.  I ended up with pockets with which I can, thankfully (whew!), be  happy.

One finished pocket . . .

One finished pocket . . .

. . . and the other one.

. . . and the other one.

And here is what it looks like under the flap, with the opening basted together temporarily.

And here is what it looks like under the flap, with the opening basted together temporarily.

So now on to the collar.  The collar was cut on the bias, and it had a clearly marked roll line.  With the organza basted on (the only “interfacing” I would need), Susan had me run an invisible line of tiny hand stitching along the roll line.

The curved line is the roll line.

The curved line is the roll line.

This anchors it for the subsequent pad-stitching.  Although the pattern instruction sheet shows only half of the collar interfaced, you will see the pad-stitching detail, which is required to get the collar to roll properly.

The Inside Story - collar detail

I am grateful to my classmate Sylvia for taking a photo of the pad-stitching which I did on the collar.  What this shows is the small pad-stitching below the roll line, with larger pad-stitching above it, extending to the fold line.

The inside story - collar pad-stitching

Click on the photo to see it in detail.

With the side seams sewn, my collar showed a clear roll where it was supposed to be.

The inside story

And here is the collar on my dress form.

And here is the collar on my dress form.

I had one more important question for Susan:  what about the buttonholes on that concealed fly front?  Normally, when sewing with wool, I would do bound buttonholes, but we both agreed that would add too much bulk to what should be a clean, sleek finish on this coat.  It seemed machine-made buttonholes would be the ones of choice.  I must admit, I had a bit of reluctance to do machine buttonholes in wool.  I even practiced making buttonholes by hand, but I wasn’t happy with my trial runs, and even they seemed too bulky.  So, I simulated the thickness of my layers at the fly front and made some machine buttonholes in a sample piece.  And – I thought they were great!  On to the real thing – and this was clearly the way to go:

The buttonholes show up better on the camel wool. Click on the photo for a close-up.

The buttonholes show up better on the camel wool. Click on the photo for a close-up.

The middle buttonhole is a slot-seam one.

The middle buttonhole is a slot-seam one.

The next step, before inserting the lining, is to finish the hems in the sleeves and the body of the coat.  Here I may add a bias strip of soft interfacing to insure that the hem has a soft edge to it.

The Vogue Sewing Book from 1963 includes this detail on The Soft Hemline, as part of its section on Haute Couture Techniques.

The Vogue Sewing Book from 1963 includes this detail on The Soft Hemline, as part of its section on Haute Couture Techniques.  I also asked Susan about sewing on a chain at the hem as well.  Because the two wools I have used are slightly different weights, she agreed this may be a good idea, to help ensure an even hang.

So – the miracle of silk organza, pressing techniques, and practice, practice, practice – are helping to make my long-awaited color-blocked coat a reality.  On to the finish line!

15 Comments

Filed under Coats, Color blocking, couture construction, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

15 responses to “The Inside Story

  1. FabricKate

    Lovely workmanship. The collar and pockets are particularly nice. Well done.

  2. Kat

    Oh how wonderful you got to meet SK in person and get her guidance…I bet she’s even more wonderful in person than on the Craftsy vid! Love your trial pocket, looks fabulous and looking forward to your colour blocked coat!

  3. Cissie

    Wow. Another work of art. Your buttonholes look perfect — as do all of your other techniques. Can’t wait to see the finished product which I have a feeling you’ll be wearing for years.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience and giving us such clear photos! One of the first things I learned about theatrical cosumes is the importance of flat-lining, as you did with silk organza. It gives body to your fabrics, takes the strain on the seams of loose-weaves like raw silk, and allows you to make truly invisible hems, among other things. Too bad we’re going through a period of clingy, light-weight knits — which require a perfect body underneath. Most of us need a little illusion — which couture used to provide.

    • Love your comment. I am not a fan of knits, although I’m sure I am in the minority on this. There is nothing quite like a well-fitting dress made with couture techniques – at least from my dressmaking viewpoint!

  5. I love following this process. The workmanship and fabric are so wonderful. what skill you have. I can’t wait to see more!

  6. Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I am constantly working on those skills – and I find the more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn!

  7. It is such a treat seeing your progress on this coat. Thanks for sharing the tips you’ve learned. And it is true that practice makes perfect, no?

  8. Gosh this is interesting. The gentle stepwise forward movement through the process of making this coat. I haven’t yet discovered the many uses of silk organza but I will, I’m sure.

  9. Once you use it, you will be hooked forever!

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