C is for Couture . . .

. . . And Courage. I guess “C” could also be for Craftsy, come to think of it. Although I thought I would be writing only one post solely devoted to my guipure lace skirt (when finished!), I really feel the need to address my progress and the Craftsy course which is leading the way for me.

When, just a few months ago, Craftsy announced a new class by Susan Khalje, The Couture Lace Skirt, presented by Threads Magazine where Susan is a Contributing Editor, I jumped at it. Susan has not only written about these skirts in Threads Magazine (November 2014, number 175), she has also developed her own skirt pattern – with one view expressly intended for a guipure lace skirt – and, of course, she teaches the construction of these skirts in her own classes, too. Now with this class on Craftsy, there is ample reason to feel confident in plunging ahead with the construction of one of these elegant skirts.

View C is the version intended for use with Guipure lace. Although this looks like a simple straight skirt, there are subtle details which make it a step above ordinary. For example, the side seams are set slightly back from the front. There is slight fullness built in at the hip; not enough to be noticeable, but enough to make it more comfortable for wearing. This pattern is available on Susan’s website.

I knew I could not go wrong with this course, but it is even better than I imagined. To look at one of these skirts, one could never imagine the amount of work in something with such a simple silhouette. About halfway through the lessons, it dawned on me that there are quite a few similarities between making one of these skirts and making a classic French jacket. Both have very specific, and unusual, construction techniques. Both defy many of the normal sewing rules. Both have a tremendous amount of handwork involved. And both garments go through a really messy stage – almost chaotic! – before emerging in their final manifestation.

Here is one of the skirts illustrated in the Threads article from November 2014.

The course has ten parts, and although it is a couture sewing course, Susan’s directions can be implemented by someone with no couture construction experience. However, patience is a must. She walks you through the making and fitting of a toile, followed by preparation of the underlining and fashion fabric (the fabric which peeks through the lace, usually silk charmeuse), then the sewing of the side seams (only) and hem. I had never worked on a skirt where the back seam is not sewn until so far into the construction process, but such is necessary to provide a flat surface on which to shape and attach the lace overlay.

Another example of one of these skirts, from the Threads article.

This is where Courage comes in. Shaping the lace to lie properly on curves and darts requires a good amount of snipping and clipping and cutting of the lace! This is not for the faint of heart, but once you get into the process, it really is logical and even captivating. Besides, as Susan says, if you make a mistake, you can always patch!

A detail from my skirt, with the lace pinned and ready to attach.

This is also the part that looks somewhat chaotic, with great flaps of lace waiting to be tamed, and a crazy network of tiny stitches emerging on the underlining, but invisible on top.

One section of the underlining cotton showing the maze of stitching required to attach the lace to the top of the skirt. Leaving the basting stitches in helps to orient the lace properly.

I am about ready to insert the hand-picked zipper, which will be hidden when finished.

Ready for inserting the zipper. This is a good example of the flaps of lace which still need to be “tamed.”

What an interesting process this has been so far. Susan has so much sewing wisdom to impart, and she does it in such an engaging way, that it is like having your own personal couture teacher right by your side. If you have ever admired these skirts and thought about making one, you will find this course to be invaluable!  More on my skirt to follow in the next post on Fifty Dresses.

These opinions are my own. I purchased my subscription to the course on Craftsy and have no affiliation with the company.  



Filed under couture construction, Lace, sewing classes, silk, Uncategorized, underlinings

14 responses to “C is for Couture . . .

  1. Cissie

    What a great post, Karen. You are so right about the amount of work involved in creating one of these skirts. When I made my latest, I couldn’t believe that it took one solid week to make what appears to be a simple skirt! Can’t wait to see your finished ensemble!

  2. Mery

    Oh, I’m so glad you posted this. Letting us vicariously share your experience is a nice gift. Interesting and lovely.

  3. Looking forward to reading about it. I have her skirt pattern, and it’s currently second in line in the to-sew list. I need to start sewing some bottoms to balance out all the tops I’ve been working on. I’ve heard good things about it so far!

  4. This is going to be great! This lace attaching technique is what makes the skirt extraordinary I think. 😄 off to Craftsy to check this out!

  5. Elizabeth Noel

    I am always thrilled to see ‘ fifty dresses ‘ in my inbox , yet more inspiration and what a beautiful skirt , a work of art .
    I have been following your blog for just over a year and suddenly realised there were a long list of posts I had never read . I started off November 2011 and so far have reached November 2014 . What a treasure trove ! I have been utterly inspired by your creativity, sense of style and impeccable sewing skills . Thank you for taking the time and trouble writing about your
    projects and sharing your experience and skills.
    I too am intrigued by the timeless quality and elegance of fashions from the 1950’s and 1960’s . Last year when visiting the exhibition here in London of 100 years of Vogue it was all the black and white photos from those years that were the show stoppers for me . As for Vogue I received my December copy yesterday and all I can say is bring back Mrs Exeter ( your post October 2012 )
    You have shown us all that classic definitely doesn’t equate with dull .

    • I am so flattered by your kind comment, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for your words of appreciation. It is very reassuring to know that there are many of us who can see the value and beauty in classic fashion. And I completely agree – Mrs. Exeter should make a comeback!

  6. I love the colour combination in your skirt. It’s going to be just beautiful. I’m always hesitant to take the plunge and begin cutting lace to shape it, too.

  7. This looks like a wonderful project. Just from the close-up glimpses of your lace I can tell this will be an absolutely beautiful skirt. The hours of handwork are definitely worth it. You are right that what appears a simple skirt is actually very challenging. I’m looking forward to the finished photos.

  8. I have had a go at making a skirt like this and have done a Crafty course on sewing with lace by Alison Smith. My own experience, even when I stitched the lace to the organza underlining the motifs caught on knobs and handles so I would be keen to know how you overcame that. I wear the skirt quite a lot as it is nice and “heavy” despite being made of lace. I so look forward to reading more as you progress. Thank you Karen.

  9. I’ve seen this course on Craftsy, but haven’t tried it yet. Thank you for your comments. It’s always nice to have some input on a course before buying!

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