Category Archives: Color blocking

Figuring It Out

Having completed my first Marfy dress, I now have the pleasure of reflecting upon its creation. Unlike my “Ghost Dress” which caused me so much angst (but turned out okay in the end), this ‘60s-inspired design went together without a hitch, although it definitely took some “figuring it out” along the way.

First I’ll cover the four changes I made to the dress, based on my muslin (toile). Initially I had to lower the apex of the bust darts, an alteration I am now used to making. Second, I decided to lengthen the sleeves by about 2 inches. I did this mostly to make the dress more comfortable to wear in the cold winter months. Even covering bare upper arms just a little bit more is helpful. I was hoping this would not detract from the lines of the dress otherwise. I made a tracing to try it out on paper first:

Marfy Dress

Somehow, the longer sleeves did not look good with the very distinct A-line silhouette of the dress. I thought they would look better with more of a straight skirt. I knew from the muslin that the front detailing had a built-in kick pleat, so narrowing the skirt was entirely doable. I would still be able to walk in it!

Alteration number four was the neckline. I widened it a bit, as I think that looks better on me. Then I widened it again later in the process (I’ll get to that in a bit.)

With no written and illustrated instructions to follow, I relied on my sewing knowledge and experience to execute the seaming on the front left of the dress. I was able to sew the seam by machine from the sleeve down to the lower angle of the point. From there down to about 8” from the hemline, I sewed the seam by hand.

An inside look at the this seam stitched by hand

An inside look at the this seam stitched by hand

There is a pleat hidden beneath the dress here, and sewing by hand seemed to be the only solution.

Showing the built-in kick pleat

Showing the built-in kick pleat, before the hem is sewn

And here is the finished kick pleat.

And here is the finished kick pleat.

When it came to the sleeves, they are shown in the illustration with a contrasting band. However, no band was included with the pattern. I did a muslin mock-up to test the visual appearance of the width of the band.

Marfy Dress

Because I had cut the sleeves with a slight curve to the lower edge, I had to make a muslin guide for the bands, which included the same curve.

The sleeves with bands attached

The sleeves with bands attached

With sleeves, hand-picked zipper and all seams complete, I turned my attention to the lining. Instead of cutting the lining with the same angled detail as in the dress, I chose to cut a symmetrical front, thus reducing bulk at that critical waist area. However, I needed to add a kick pleat to the front lining to coincide with the built-in kick pleat of the dress. Here is how I did that:

First I marked where I wanted the pleat in the lining to be.  By the way, the lining is Bemberg rayon.  I usually like to use crepe de cine for my linings, but I had this Bemberg in the right color, so I decided to use it.

First I marked where I wanted the pleat in the lining to be. By the way, the lining is Bemberg rayon. I usually like to use crepe de chine for my linings, but I had this Bemberg in the right color, so I decided to use it.

I centered a triangle of the lining fabric  (about 10" x 8") on top of the marked line.

I centered a triangle of the lining fabric (about 10″ x 8″) on top of the marked line.

I stitched on either side of the marked line, graduating up to a point at the top.

I stitched on either side of the marked line through both layers of lining, graduating up to a point at the top.

I cut along the marked line and turned the placket to the wrong side.

I cut along the marked line and turned the placket to the wrong side.

I sewed another piece of ling fabric (10" x 8") to the wrong side of the turned placket.  It is stitched around the edges - a little difficult to see.

I sewed another piece of ling fabric (10″ x 8″) to the wrong side of the turned placket. It is stitched around the edges in a 1/2″ seam.

After securing these stitched together pieces across the top through all layers, I had a kick pleat!

After securing these stitched-together pieces across the top through all layers, I had a kick pleat!

Back to the final part of the dress: the neckline. I still wasn’t sure I had a pleasing neckline, so I got out my French rule and re-chalked one with a little wider stance and depth.

Marfy Dress

For the top-stitching around the neck and around the angled detail on the front, I did what I did with my jacket out of the same fabric: I hand-picked it. I am so happy with how it looks. It’s very subtle, but adds just the right emphasis. The buttons are smaller versions of the (concealed) buttons on my jacket.

Marfy Dress

I set the lining in by hand, under-stitched the neck-edge by hand, and finally the dress was complete.

Marfy Dress

Marfy Dress

Marfy Dress

And of course I have to show it with the coat!

And of course I have to show it with the coat!

Fifty Dresses

Marfy Dress

It is probably unfair to do an assessment of Marfy patterns after just one make, but I’m going to anyway! The things I really like, so far, about using a Marfy pattern are 1) its preciseness, 2) the individually sized patterns, 3) the pattern pieces without seam allowance added. And is there anything I dislike about Marfy so far? Yes, one big thing! I really miss having a pattern envelope with an illustration, variant views and back views. I am so accustomed to vintage patterns, most of which sport envelopes which are like small works of art. There is so much pertinent information on them (fabric suggestions, zipper sizes, garment descriptions, thumbnail pattern piece diagrams, etc.) and even wearing suggestions. The illustrations show outfit styling suggestions (hats, handbags, shoes, etc.). I love studying them. So, yes, it’s true – I feel like something is lost without a pattern envelope for this dress which I like so much.

I won’t be waiting long to wear this dress. Our American holiday of Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and Marfy will be one of my dining companions. To my fellow citizens, may the day be as meaningful and blessed for you as it always is for our family. To all my readers around the globe, my thanks to you for sharing your love of sewing with me!

 

 

37 Comments

Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, car coats, Color blocking, couture construction, Marfy patterns, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, woolens

Time for Wool and Something Marfy

It seems like we just welcomed in Autumn – and although the calendar says it will still be Autumn for a few more weeks, the chill in the air tells me that Winter is bearing down on the northeastern United States. Winter means many wonderful things, including WOOL season.

When I made my color-blocked coat last Winter, I purchased some extra yardage from Britex Fabrics with the thought of making a sheath dress to wear with it on occasion, but not exclusively with it.

Magnificent Obsession My original intent was to make a two-toned dress, with a front and back yoke with short sleeves. The bottom, longer section of the dress would be out of the camel wool, with the yoke and sleeves in navy, zipped up the back.   I did not think much more about it during the Spring and Summer, but a few weeks ago, after seeing a full page Marfy ad in a current Vogue Pattern Magazine, I began to think of an alternative to my plan. This dress was featured in the ad:

Marfy Dress

I not only really liked the dress, but it seemed designed with my two color-blocking fabrics in mind. I also liked its mid-century styling. For a while now I’ve been thinking of trying a Marfy pattern, and, I thought “Why not now?”

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I knew that Marfy patterns come without seam allowances (the stitching line is the outside perimeter of each pattern piece), and in only one ordered size. One of the reasons I love vintage patterns so much is that they, too, were produced by particular size. (So that, for those of you who only sew from current multi-sized patterns, if you ordered a size 10, only a 10 was in the envelope.) Most vintage patterns include seam allowances, and the stitching line is marked as well. For those of us who use couture methods for our fashion sewing, having the stitching line marked is incredibly helpful. The stitching line is THE point of reference for alterations, for basting, for sewing. Knowing these two facts about Marfy patterns made me comfortable with the idea of sewing with them, even though they come with no written construction details other than a few notations on the pattern pieces.

What I did not expect was the teeny tiny package in which the pattern arrived. The only identifying mark on the folded up pattern was the pattern number.

Marfy dress I pressed the pattern pieces and got busy making my muslin (toile). From my adjusted muslin, which took the better part of a week to perfect (hopefully perfected, that is), I transferred sewing lines onto white silk organza underlining. (I will go into some of the changes I made in my next post on this dress.) In true couture mode, I then basted the organza onto the fashion fabric. It is always rewarding to sew the first “real” dart or seam! I feel like the dress is practically finished, although reality is sure to set in when all the finishing details start to occupy my time.

The front, showing the seam detail which I like so much.

The front, showing the seam detail which I like so much.

Marfy dress

 

Incentive to finish this wool dress is fanned by Winter winds to my back , by looming holiday sewing, and the excitement of finishing my first Marfy.  To be continued, hopefully soon!

16 Comments

Filed under Color blocking, couture construction, woolens

Magnificent Obsession

Sometimes the dreams and aspirations of our younger days take a long time to come to fruition.  Although I was doing a lot of fashion sewing for myself when I was in my twenties, there were many more Vogue pattern designs which I never had the opportunity to make.  One was Vogue Paris Original #2668 by Hubert de Givenchy (1927-).

Coats of certain length - 7 I never forgot the jacket, in particular, featured in this Designer Pattern.  Over the years I occasionally obssessed about this pattern, regretting that I had not purchased it.  I never imagined I would have a second chance to make it mine, but thanks to the marvels of the Internet, I did.  When I saw a listing for it in this Etsy store months ago, and it was in my size, I knew it was time to buy it.

The use of color blocking, as featured in View A, became stylish in the mid-1960s, when Yves Saint Laurent introduced his classic Mondrian dress.

This little sketch from The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New , York, 2010, p. 329, shows the classic blocked design.

This little sketch from The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New  York, 2010, p. 329, shows the classic blocked design.

The appeal of the use of large geometrical sections of contrasting colors was widespread then and has, for many of us, never lost its cachet.  The clean precise lines, and diverse use of fabrics in color blocking must have appealed to Hubert de Givenchy’s sense of design.  Known for simplicity and refinement, according to Arlene C. Cooper, writing in the St. James Fashion Encyclopedia, Givenchy emphasizes “line rather than decoration”.  Further, Givenchy is known for “coats that are marvels of line and volume…”  (St. James Fashion Encyclopedia, Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI, 1997, p. 154).  Vogue Patterns must have been exceptionally pleased to have the rights to this design for its Designer Series in the early 1970’s.

I started my jacket in early February this year in Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing School class in San Francisco.  I just finished it.

Magnificent Obsession

Magnificent Obsession

I like it worn open as well...

I like it worn open as well…

A look inside...

A look inside…

A back view.

A back view.

Making this was one of the most enjoyable sewing experiences I have ever had.  Being privileged to get Susan’s expert guidance on some parts of the jacket certainly was part of the equation.  In addition to that, however, were the preciseness and subtle design details of the pattern, which made it a pleasureable sew.  A few of those details are:

1)  the genius of the extra side panel, which enhances the “swing” line of the coat.

2) that side panel  also allows the use of a Dior dart which adds just enough to the bust to keep the line smooth, but ample.

Th instruction sheet gives a good diagram of the small Dior dart tucked into that front side seam.

The instruction sheet gives a good diagram of the small Dior dart tucked into that front side seam.

3) the concealed front allows the clean appearance of the coat to be unencumbered by buttons.

I chose these navy blue buttons for the concealed front.  They are flat, simple, and match the blue exactly.

I chose these navy blue buttons for the concealed front. They are flat, simple, and match the blue exactly.

4) the flap pockets, which conceal the openings, again with minimal interruption to the clean and “simple” look.

The concealed opening, with a flash of pretty pocket lining.

The concealed opening, with a flash of pretty pocket lining.

I did make a few changes/alterations to the jacket, ensuring a better fit for me in 2014.

First, with Susan’s assistance, I took some of the volume out of the back seam, as it was just too full for my frame.  Second, I added ½ “ to the diameter of each sleeve, as they were just a little too slim for comfort.  Doing this allowed me to enlarge the lower armscye, also adding comfort and more flexibility.  I felt like I was able to do these alterations without changing the look of the jacket.  I also made two “visible” changes, although still in keeping with the design.  The original flaps looked a little too “’70s” to me.  I reduced the “depth” of them by 7/8″, so that they are more in keeping with modern sensibility.

These muslin patterns are folded in half to show the depth of the original flap and the depth of the altered one below.

These muslin patterns are folded in half to show the depth of the original flap and the depth of the altered one below.

The pattern had separate pieces for the lining, and even the lining followed the blocked design.  I had chosen a printed silk charmeuse (at Britex , naturally!) for my lining, which did not need to be block sewn.  So, using the muslin I had made for the lining, I cut the “lengths” as one piece, eliminating 16 horizontal seams.  I also underlined the silk charmeuse with a very lightweight rayon voile, which made the lining fabric easy to control, and adds another layer of warmth to the overall coat.  This photo shows the underlining in the sleeve linings before I sewed them into the coat.

Magnificent Obsession

The jacket turned inside out, showing the lining.

The jacket turned inside out, showing the lining.

The inside back of the coat.

The inside back of the coat.

Finally, the pattern called for topstitching the exterior edges of the coat.  Due to the nature of my napped fabric, I thought machine topstitching would detract rather than add.  But – I wasn’t happy with the thought of no topstitching, either.  So I decided to do it by hand.  It wasn’t nearly as time-consuming as I thought it would be, and I am happy with the result.

The topstitching is very subtle, but you can see it here on the pocket flap.

The topstitching is very subtle, but you can see it here on the pocket flap.  Click on the photo for a close-up.

One more thing about this pattern.   When I received it, the pattern pieces for the pants and sleeveless tunic were cut and had obviously been used (although every piece is intact).  The tissue pieces for the coat were still in their factory folds.  On the outside of the pattern in the upper right hand corner is the name Georgia Sanders.  I guess I’ll always wonder if she had plans to make the jacket, too.  I’m so glad she bought this pattern and kept it in such good condition so that it could find its way eventually to me – to help me realize my magnificent obsession from my younger self.

20 Comments

Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Coats, Color blocking, couture construction, Dior darts, underlinings, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns, woolens

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

Powerless in Pennsylvania, Sewing in San Francisco

“She had the loaded handbag of someone who camps out and seldom goes home, or who imagines life must be full of emergencies.”  – Mavis Gallant

Actually, the handbag I took to San Francisco was small, tucked inside a larger tote bag – so that I could use my allotted “carry-on” space for an extra suitcase for fabric purchases.  Off I went on February 1st for Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing School held at The Sewing Workshop in San Francisco.  I had carefully packed myriad sewing supplies and my prepared muslins, hoping to be ready for any contingency.  Little could I have known that while I was to be sewing on the West Coast, the camping out (or really, camping in!) and the emergencies would be on the East Coast – with the county in Pennsylvania where we live especially hard-hit by a devastating ice storm.  Our house was without power for 5 days, and knowing that my husband was dealing with downed trees, downed power lines, blocked roads, confused pets, a house getting colder and colder with each day, and limited means of communication, weighed on me mightily as I worked away on my color-blocked jacket.

Coats of certain length - 7

Most of us in the class needed to purchase all our fabric or coordinating fabric or supplies for our intended projects, so off we went to Britex Fabrics on Monday after Susan had fitted most of our muslins.  I had thought long and hard about what color combination I would like to have for this coat.  Knowing that many, many hours of work would go into this project, and also realizing that this jacket could be a go-to piece of outerwear if I chose my fabrics carefully, I decided to look for more conservative colors.  So – no hot pink and apricot orange, at least this time.

Britex carries an extensive selection of coating wools, so much so that it is definitely advantageous to be helped by one of their incredibly knowledgeable sales assistants.  I was fortunate that Inna, who has such a trained and talented eye for color and texture, was able to assist me. We started with a lovely camel hair coating wool, which had a napped silky sheen on one side and was just the right heft for outerwear.  First I wanted to look at pairing it with gray, but nothing in the gray family seemed to strike my fancy.  Then we moved on to the navy blues – and there nestled in among the bolts was the perfect “medium” navy blue, also with a napped sheen on one side.  It was a little heavier than the camel hair, but Susan felt confident we could make the two fabrics work together, especially because their colors complimented each other so perfectly.

Silk lining fabric was next on the list, and I wanted something figured rather than plain.  Inna pulled out a bolt of Italian charmeuse, which picked up the geometric feel of the jacket, and introduced a little red into the mix.  I couldn’t be happier with it.

I am not so sure this gives the best sense of the colors of the fabrics, but you will see more in a future post.

I am not so sure this photo gives the best sense of the colors of the fabrics, but you will see more in other photos.

Back at The Sewing Workshop, armed with fabrics and enthusiasm, I spent the next two days cutting out the multi-, multi-pieced pattern (31 separate pieces, all of which would be cut in tandem, making 62 in all, not including the lining!), and basting the silk organza underlinings to each and every piece.

My well-lit and spacious work space at The Sewing Workshop.

My well-lit and spacious work space at The Sewing Workshop.

Because of the color blocking, I needed to pay great attention to which piece was to be cut in blue and which piece in camel.  Initially I went through and labeled each muslin piece “navy” or “camel”.  Susan double-checked me, but then suggested that, because I absolutely could not make a costly mistake, that I pin the muslin pieces onto the available dress form in our studio.  What a great idea, one of so many which I picked up from Susan and my classmates!

Here is the "front" of the jacket, pinned onto the dress form.

Here is the “front” of the jacket, pinned onto the dress form.

And here is the back.

And here is the back. 

Now, I felt confident and set about to cut my fashion fabric.

Here are the silk organza underlining pieces arranged on the blue fabric.  I pinned a small tag on each piece, telling me each piece's pattern # and description.  A lot of the pieces look alike!

Here are the silk organza underlining pieces arranged on the blue fabric. I pinned a small tag on each piece, telling me each piece’s pattern number and description. A lot of the pieces look alike!

Two piles showing all underlinings basted onto the fashion fabric.

Two piles showing all underlinings basted onto the fashion fabric.

By this time, I was half-way through the 6-day class.  I assessed my situation and determined the parts of the jacket construction upon which I wanted to get expert advice  from Susan:  treatment of the concealed fly front, flap pockets, rolled collar (all of which will be detailed in a future post).  Now I had a plan, which seemed to be much more than anything that was happening back home in Pennsylvania.

My husband joked during one of our few cell-phone conversations, that he had a vision of the power in our house coming back on Sunday evening, February 9th, as he would be driving me home from the airport in Philadelphia.  He was right.  That is exactly what happened.  I came home to a 39F degree house, but the lights were on, and soon the heat was, too.  Almost a week later, it is still snowing and snowing – perfect sewing weather for this sojourner home from San Francisco.

12 Comments

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