Tag Archives: Color-blocked coats

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!


Filed under Color blocking, couture construction, 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.


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