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Last autumn I took an online class in hand stitches (after several years, I finally decided to perk up my rusty sewing skills, and it was the only class available that month) and after the first session I knew that all I wanted to do was learn couture sewing. Fortunately, there are now many resources available for anyone who wants to master this amazing and exquisite craft. Couture sewing is not cheap, neither it is fast, but the results are worth it! Even if you use only one technique in a garment, such as a balanced dart for example, you will be surprised how it elevates your garment from mass production. And you know what? There is a remarkable number of home seamstresses using couture techniques in their sewing.

Take this quiz to find out whether you are an Haute Couture aficionado as well:

-You know the difference between even and uneven basting stitch
-You always have handy a spool of Japanese silk basting thread and at least one pack of the finest hand sewing needles
-You have more than one type of many sewing tools and can justify why you need each of them
-You know the difference between interlining and interfacing
-You have yards of silk organza in your fabric stash
-You know at least four different ways to handle darts
-Your seam allowances are often humongous
-Sewing hand-picked zipper or hand-bound buttonholes is a breeze for you
-You know what beeswax is used for
-Constructing a Chanel-inspired couture jacket is/was on your to-do list…and you can name at least five characteristic features of a couture Chanel jacket
-Every time you sew with loosely woven fabric you feel the urge to quilt the lining
-You often spend more time pressing than sewing
-You shudder every time you hear the word ‘fusible’
-You have spent more money on sewing courses than on ready-to-wear garments
-Your family is versed in most couture and tailoring techniques you use and can explain them to a stranger
-You wonder why this list is so short and are able to add at least twice as many items to it

Did you say yes to most of the points on this list?
Then please leave your blog address in the comments section – I am sure I can learn something from you!

You didn’t understand most of the questions but are nevertheless intrigued?
Stay tuned to my follow-up posts – I will be blogging here about resources, classes and workshops, slow sewing, best couture-inspired blogs and lots of other fascinating topics.


Marina von Koenig blogs at Frabjous Couture about her daily discoveries in
Haute Couture. She takes every opportunity to learn more about creation of
exclusive one-of-a-kind clothing and loves sharing it on her blog. While working
on couture-inspired garments, she now features a tutorial on creating custom silk
neckties for men. Check it out for a perfect Father’s Day gift!

Photo courtesy of My Vintage Vogue, early 20th century couture sketch.


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    Feb 21, 2012, 11.34 PMby Suellen Tomkins

    Ha! Just started Susan’s online course. Besotted and already taking to my husband about slik organza interlining. Has inspired me to improve my sewing skills. Love it.

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    Jun 9, 2011, 01.00 AMby gwynhug

    Love it! Want it on a t-shirt… Or is that oxymoronic? ;)

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    May 26, 2011, 08.00 PMby alliewilson771

    I can’t wait to learn all about these! And I’m definitely picking up a couture book soon.

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    May 25, 2011, 06.26 AMby urbanseamstress

    As I am a completely self-taught home seamstress, I was surprised but pleased that I could answer “yes” to most of the techniques mentioned, although there are a couple I only wish I could include: I dearly wish, for example, that my local, otherwise fairly decent fabric store would stock a better selection of silk organza, silk thread and proper, i.e. non-fusible and horse hair, interfacings — or how about starting with stocking any at all rolleyes I also dearly wish I didn’t have to order many of the more and less specialist supplies — including something as basic as thread wax, believe it or not! — online. I’m sure I would be lightyears ahead of myself if supplies were more readily available around here, although, of course, it can perhaps only be expected that one has make an effort to achieve exclusivity ;)

    Funny enough, moving towards incorporating couture techniques in my home sewing seems to be a bit of a natural evolution for me, an evolution which has taken a serious leap ever since I started developing an interest in historical costuming. Obviously, many couture techniques are in fact classic tailoring techniques or share a great resemblance to those. I have noticed that my sewing has actually been “slowing down” instead of “speeding up”, mostly because I have come to include a lot more hand sewing, pressing and proper seam finishing than I used to. However, I find great relaxation and satisfaction in this new “slow-sewing”, and the results just look so much better — better than what I used to make AND, in my opinion, better than RTW! Anybody else annoyed with the generally shoddy construction and crappy fabrics used in the average RTW garment? Really, if I can get something RTW, why should I even bother spending a lot of my precious time and energy creating something more or less similar, if I couldn’t do a better job at it myself?! ;)

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    May 20, 2011, 06.58 PMby pao

    http://paola-delcarmen.blogspot.com/ you forgot the most important after being a great sketcher to the point that your seamstresses have to KNOW your sketching … IRON/STEAM AFTER EVERY SEAM! and never settle for fusible go for horse hair, padding, or tulle instead ;) just to mention a few…bisous P.

    1 Reply
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      May 20, 2011, 07.00 PMby pao

      read it for the third time- my bad- but good ;)

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    May 18, 2011, 06.01 AMby dj1

    i really enjoyed this blog ..Im nearly obsessed with haute couture , i cant tell you how many times i watched Signe Chanel and the last emperor… it’s a dying art form . but I’ve decided to learn it and make pieces for my self for like one of posters said clients want their fashion now ….

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    May 17, 2011, 11.01 PMby chanel2005

    I love this new post, I have been soooo interested in couture the moment I discovered it existed. I done a bit of work experience in an upmarket bridal workroom where I hand stitched beautiful embroidered and beaded fabrics into waist bands, used bees wax for the first time. Although I use fast sewing methods now like the the over locker and sewing machine as people want there clothes made fast and they want to wear them straight away, I really love slow hand stitching and couture methods. For anyone interested in finding out more about couture or actually watching it check out “Signe Chanel” on you tube, and “The Secret World of Haute Couture”, it is amazing to watch also you can purchase “Valentino The Last Emperor” on dvd, it will show you some parts with the ladies in these Ateliers hand stitching all these exquisite dresses one by one, simply amazing.

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    May 17, 2011, 02.43 PMby FashionSewingBlog

    Hi Marina As I was reading through your post, It brought back memories of some of the techniques I used to do and some that I still do…. “haute couture” is such a beautiful art form. I hope to develop this skill further and teach some techniques in the future. My career has led me into teaching fashion sewing in colleges and university for many years now. As I’m sure you know, fashion sewing is a faster means of sewing in balance with fashions fast pace and is possibly the only way to entice the youth of today to sew. I will look forward to your other posts. Here is a link to my blog – www.fashionsewingblog.com teaches faster sewing although there’s probably not a great deal you could learn.

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    May 17, 2011, 01.13 PMby ladykatza

    I knew over half! I’ve even used a few of them! I am thrilled you are taking on this series. And of course, Gertie just talked about a corselet sew-a-long too!

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    May 17, 2011, 01.13 PMby ladykatza

    I knew over half! I’ve even used a few of them! I am thrilled you are taking on this series. And of course, Gertie just talked about a corselet sew-a-long too!

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    May 16, 2011, 11.16 AMby ajtak7171

    Love this post and am so excited to read more from you! I know most of the answers, but I consider myself between the two worlds. I LOVE handsewing/couture techniques, while at the same time I have my other foot in contemporary RTW techniques. I have a STRONG urge to make something entirely by hand though, so there is a heavy interest in couture I guess… http://ofdreamsandseams.blogspot.com/

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    May 13, 2011, 07.45 PMby 00nihila00

    dear fabric artists, please consider researching information on the sometimes horrific problems associated with non-organic/non-fair trade fabric production…..

    i was inspired to research cotton production issues after reading a Burda Style post on cotton prices……

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz-yuGFiPpg&feature=relmfu (a video on Endosulfan & cotton farming by The Environmental Justice Foundation)

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    May 13, 2011, 12.05 PMby lynnevv

    So thrilled to see this post-yes to all questions! Beeswax sits right next to my machine-lol, but it helps to pass it over a warm iron to melt the wax into the thread, I find there is less drag that way. Looking forward to your next articles!

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    May 13, 2011, 10.27 AMby carolyn-s

    Fantastic! I look forward to your posts. I made up a version of Vogue 8333 recently, which teaches some couture construction techniques. It was really eye-opening…!

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    May 13, 2011, 08.36 AMby corlina

    Thank you so much for the post! Although I am a self-confessed novice (I only knew a couple of answers to your quiz and I still struggle a bit with the invisible zipper), but I will be really looking forward to your posts. I think, sewing is such a great skill to have and if you end up with well-sewn, quality garments that complements your shape – even better.

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    May 12, 2011, 08.50 PMby ahearta

    I am eager and excited for this series. Thanks Marina!

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    May 12, 2011, 06.43 PMby irenewhelan

    been there done it all sewing more than 50 yrs but something new is always happening in sewing .so forever learning ..

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    May 12, 2011, 02.52 PMby bodicegoddess589

    Yeah – I’m with most of the folks here. I’ve become weak and soft and reliant on my Husqvarna Viking. I used to only hand-sew, and there’s a few ways I apply it because, well, it’s just EASIER. Like when I’m putting together the top seam of a bodice sleeve, or tacking an edge the fancy way.

    But you know what? It got me to add you to my blog roll, and come back here and comment.

    Can’t wait to see what wisdom you impart upon us!http://www.bymaggie.com

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