I’ve invited the couture seamstress and teacher Marla Kazell to be our guest blogger this week. Marla, who studied under the renowned couture dressmaker Roberta Carr, served as technical adviser to us as we published Bobbie Carr’s book, Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing (you’ll find sample pages at the bottom of this post). Trust Marla to guide you as you learn couture techniques! ~ Pati
GUEST BLOGGER MARLA KAZELL
Thanks, Pati! I’m delighted to be a guest blogger.
Pati and I go way back. A mutual friend introduced us in the mid-1980s. Pati hired me to sew a blouse for her, and I was soon assisting at Fit and other Palmer/Pletsch workshops. I met Roberta (Bobbie) Carr in the late ’80s and studied couture sewing with her for more than 13 years. She was an incredible mentor and friend. It was a privilege to serve as technical adviser when Pati published Bobbie’s book, Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing. I went on to teach the Palmer/Pletsch Couture Workshop for many years. Since 2009 I have offered my own 4- and 5-day workshops in Lake Oswego, Oregon, teaching students the art of fine sewing. Check out my 2020 workshop schedule at marlakazell.com/classschedule.htm
Don’t you love two-sided fabrics? They give us instant coordinating fabrics! When my client Anna Brannen brought this wonderful piece of cotton/wool to me, we knew we had to incorporate both sides into the garment. We decided on a jacket, McCalls M7665. (This pattern is now out of print, but still available on the McCall’s website.) Any jacket with a lapel and collar would work. Anna chose the green side for the jacket. The brown side became accent “mystery binding” trim and triangle buttonholes.
After tissue-fitting the pattern and making adjustments, I cut out the jacket and made interfacing tests. I chose Palmer/Pletsch PerfectFuse Medium interfacing for the collar pieces, front facing, yoke and small patches behind the buttonholes for support.
A sample buttonhole was made to check the size. I marked the buttonhole stitching line on my interfacing patch with a Frixion pen (which work well for this application, but are not recommended as a general fabric marker). Following the instructions in Bobbie’s Couture book, I stitched, cut, turned and pressed the buttonhole. A single row of stitching across the base of the triangle holds all the layers together and voila!—a perfect triangle buttonhole.
I decided to make the final buttonholes a little bigger so more of the great buttonholes would show when the buttons are buttoned. Making the test sample first gave me the opportunity to see the buttonhole in fabric and make a judgment. This jacket has 7/8” buttons with 11/2”-long buttonholes. You can make these triangular buttonholes any size and dimension. Here’s your chance to get creative! Stripes and plaids will automatically chevron in the center of the buttonhole and the technique is really easy.
For the mystery binding trim on this jacket I followed the instructions in the Couture book to make pattern pieces and to apply the trim to the upper collar and front facing. (See pages from the book, below. You’ll see that “mystery binding” was Bobbie’s term for this Chanel technique.)
For the lapel piece, I ended the trim at the notched collar corner and about an inch below the bottom of the lapel. The ends of the trim pieces on the lapel were turned under and hand-stitched in place.
After stitching and pressing, the trim was hand-basted in place along the stitching line so there is a stitching guide when the collar and facings are stitched onto the jacket. Accuracy counts here so the trim is nice and even.
Before closing up the lining, I made triangle openings in the right front facing to finish the backs of the buttonholes. Use silk organza to face the openings—it’s thin and stable and presses flat to give a clean finished edge.
Slipstitch in place to the buttonhole back. (See pages from the Couture book, below.)
There—a few couture touches added to make a notched collar jacket unique!
Then, to give Anna an even more distinctive jacket, we selected a very unexpected lining!
Don’t let the word couture scare you. It simply means using fine sewing techniques and paying attention to details. When I sew a garment, Bobbie Carr’s “Rules of Couture” guide me.
THE RULES OF COUTURE
1. Sew with your head.
2. Maintain accuracy.
3. Let grain be paramount in all decisions.
4. Talk to the fabric and listen to the fabric talk to you.
5. Reduce bulk wherever possible.
6. Understand that couture requires judgment.
7. Know that your hands are your best sewing tools.
8. Accept the fact that pressing and sewing are synonymous.
9. Anticipate that the final garment will show “evidence of effort.”
10. Enjoy the process as well as the result.
from Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing
Think through the steps, answer questions, and anticipate problems. Make judgments based on your knowledge and testing. Be accurate, especially in the small details. Pay attention to grain and the characteristics of the fabric. Reduce bulk with thoughtful grading and trimming. Use your hands—your best sewing tools—and press, press, press. Your garments will show “evidence of effort.” And of course rule number 10: Enjoy the process as well as the results!
In my classes and workshops, I emphasize slowing down and learning to sew with your head. My 4- and 5-day workshops have a maximum of six students so everyone gets plenty of individual help with fitting and sewing. If you are ready to put a little couture attitude into your sewing, a great place to start is with my Practical Couture Workshop. We’ll slow down, learn how to apply the “rules,” make samples of some great techniques, practice some basic hand stitches, and work on a project of your choice to use all your new skills.
The details and registration form for all my 2020 workshops can be found on the Classes and Workshops page of my website: marlakazell.com
the art of fine sewing
Here are some sample pages from Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing covering the topics of buttonholes and mystery binding.
And here’s some buttonhole inspiration from the book: