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Category Archives: sewing machines

Ecole Holt Couture – Can we help you?

Do any of these predicaments resonate with you?

  • Being an ardent admirer of authentic haute couture and while you attend vintage haute couture exhibits, the displays make your mouth water and your heart leap to just witness the artform with its high level of craftsmanship, ‘they look so perfect, no one can do that anymore!’ You crave everything about haute couture garments and are drawn to their glamour, elegance and fine craftsmanship.

  • As a devoted fan of high-end designer work; in awe you wonder who makes up their amazing clothes! You wish you knew how to do that too. Disappointingly, you are not aware of any master couturiers taking on new apprentices in your locale. ‘Are apprentices even a thing anymore? Who teaches sewing at that level anyway?’

  • Determined to make-up that design idea you’ve played with in your head for months now, maybe years. In fact, you have a load of great ideas pinned to your peg board or sketched in your journal. You want to create them, and you know you could do it, if only you had the right skills. But you are stuck. ‘They all said it is easy, anyone can do it. So, why can I not do it! And, I have watched hundreds of how-to videos! What are they not telling me?’

  • Searching everywhere for a commercial sewing pattern that closely resembles what you have in mind, you finally found one, looked at it again but saw some issues that you cannot resolve. Confused now, ‘what point are all those bits and pieces, how to they attach and where do they go, and why are they that odd shape? I could do better starting from scratch!’

  • Seriously, you would be happy to just sew everyday clothes that you love wearing. Like at least one decent winter coat that really would keep you warm and the wind out, has right size pockets in the right places, and looks like it literally leapt right off a fashion runway stage. To sew a pair of comfortable trousers that fit properly making you look a bit taller, thighs smaller, making your booty look totally awesome, but at the same time obscures your slightly embarrassing love handles. Or a jacket, with sleeves that reach right down to your wrists even when you bend your arms, and buttons-up easily over around your bust-line. ‘These are not unrealistic fairy-tale expectations, they really aren’t! Why can’t I get it to fit right?’

  • What materials should I use? I don’t even know what it’s called but, ‘it is really soft and feels like’… ‘But I’m afraid to mess it up, and I really don’t want to waste more fabric and money, again. What does ‘good quality’ fabric mean anyway, and how much in reality would it cost to make? What is the problem with cheap fabric anyway?’ Now your conscience bites; ‘what about all the mountains of tossed garments that will never decay’ (and you’re already feeling rotten about the environmental burden). ‘How can anyone justify having anything new at all! What about re purposing stuff in my wardrobe, how do I do that?  I just want something new that will last for a long time!’

  • You’ve collected a lot of ‘time saving’ sewing gadgets you realize haven’t lived up to their claims, but they look pretty neat on the shelf. You loaded your credit card up again by purchasing that dream sewing machine [yup, another one that you don’t have room for] that promises to do everything you fantasized about. And you will use them all some day once you figured out how they work. ‘Does everyone have trouble getting the stitches to look straight? Aren’t sewing machines supposed to miraculously sew things together at lightening speed? Why would anyone sew anything by hand anymore? But then, why can’t we sew and put together things by hand? I’m not sure I could do that, it seems complicated.’

  • You never have owned an iron and are ‘darned proud of it!’ You are not going to slave over anything that needs pressing. Ever. That was over decades ago. Although, you do admire how well clothes stand out when they are brand new. You recognize some clothing seems to stay so much neater looking than others, and wonder why some look totally rubbish after they’ve been worn a few times?  ‘How did they ever manage to keep clothing wearable for so long years ago? Why don’t mine look smart and stay like that?’

  • Miserable and defeated, your hands up, incapable of instantaneously turning out a decent garment like the neighbourhood seamstress who claims to sew up a suit in a few days! Or maybe, you have misunderstood, convinced that is the amount of time it should take, shouldn’t it? In any case, ‘I wish some one would actually say the words – it doesn’t magically happen at the snap of your fingers!’

  • Discouraged with the results that you are getting, nothing looks perfectly right, and some things are most definitely ‘off’ about your creation. You followed all the instructions condensed and distilled from the mountain of ‘how to’ sewing guides. You are continually frustrated because there is no one that has the knowledge or experience to guide you along.  ‘Why can’t I just find an expert to ask and show me how! Where is everyone!?!’

The sting is real! We get it.

That overwhelming extremely frustrating feeling, of resignation that it might be too late, my expectations are too high and unachievable, and that I will never get there.

But, what if the solution to relieve those feelings of frustration, helplessness and creative despair was available.

What if your skills deficit was fill-able and your knowledge barrier were removed?

What if it became possible and accessible to you?

What if, you had found an experienced guide who would [take you by the hand figuratively speaking] lead you through the wilderness of information, clear cutting a path of learning for you.

If at the end of your journey [by the way this is not just a casual stroll] the result would be a transformation from ‘unknowing’ to ‘confidence’ in your skills and knowledge that would enable you to become the master of your creations.

And you could also then visualize many more routes of opportunity that you never knew existed before.

This is who we are and what we do.

Ecole Holt Couture was designed to be that kind of professional guide.

To help you prepare for the hike (up the learning curve), first we begin by assuming that you are a complete novice.

With simple explanations and demonstrations, we teach you the basics that you can learn and practice on your own before you commit to the amazing journey of transformation ahead.

  1. We will have our foundation instruction videos posted on our YouTube channel. You can follow and practice the basic modules in the privacy of your own internet space for free. No one ever needs to know that you didn’t know how to accomplish them all along.
  2. After you have completed the basic modules, perhaps you discovered that you hate sewing by hand, it is a nightmare, and don’t want to do this after all. That is good!  Because then you haven’t wasted any money or invested more time than necessary! There will be another way for you to realize your dreams, just need to keep searching.
  3. But on the other hand, if you discover you love how satisfying [and seriously FUN] it is to be able to be a little bit self-sufficient to know how to sew buttons back on, sew up a loose hem, mend a broken seam, feel inspired to sew something completely by hand, then you may have also discovered the key. The relatedness between your eyes, hands, mind and your soul.
  4. If you discover being in your own head-space alone with your thoughts is enjoyable and stimulating (and a little piece of heaven) then read on.
  5. And along the way, you’ll have discovered a way that you can be instrumental in keeping our precious earth safer from suffocating under the ever-increasing mountains of tossed clothing, just by fixing [aka recycling, up-cycling, re-purposing] clothing up again!

This is how we can help you!

Whenever you are ready to take the next step, we will guide you through the secret world of couture sewing. We will help you understand the connections and relationship between unique body measurements, shapes and postures, and your design, to be able to draft your own original patterns – drawn by hand.

We will unravel the mystery about fibres and materials, and why they do what they do best. You will discover that you can do most everything you need to without a sewing machine, and when you do use one, it doesn’t need to be of the spacecraft variety.

Pressing irons are just tools, just like any other tool. Once you know how, you will be astonished at the professional looking results that are achieved by pressing properly. And perish the thought that it will end your reputation as an ‘iron free’ independent human being with rights, who protested and fought for women’s liberty and equality in the home.

Many myths will be exposed. Yup, they lied to us. Turning out top end couture and tailoring does take more time, more attention to detail, lots of patience, and happens with purposeful intensity that turns into a project into a masterpiece. This is not training for speed sewing!

We will unearth the beauty of clothing that fits you well, and what that will become to mean for you (another thing that standardized sizing lied about). Once you have worn a couture garment made just for you with its corresponding virtues, you will understand why the challenges of mass producing ‘ready-made’ garments can never be overcome.

Inspired to refine your design ideas, you will begin balancing designs with functionality, using appropriate materials and construction methods, achieving a more perfect fit, adding interesting details, all with synchronous harmony for aesthetically satisfying results.

The best part is that in time you will gain the confidence to try things you’ve never attempted before with a reasonable but predictable expectation of success by applying what you now know and pushing beyond those limits (we call this calculated risk).

Great couture, like great Art, can be achieved in a few days or weeks, but only after years of previous practice and experimentation.

There is always a next idea to try out, to explore without having to relearn the skills to reinvent yourself as a creator. It never gets dull!

Still interested?

Like you, we count ourselves among the few who still believe in the importance of nurturing this artform and high level of sewing skills that fills our need to create from the soul as well as our minds.

To not only move towards a future by just clothing our own bodies, but to support a more sustainable fashion industry that puts an end to needless waste and reliance on the exploitation of industry workers. Together we can support our local economies.

But we need to make it more accessible to those who share our vision and are working on it now. For more information and updates on our courses please visit:

EHC website: www.ecoleholtcouture.com

Follow EHC FaceBook Page

Watch EHC Youtube channel for videos.

Join our email list: info@ecoleholtcouture.com

 

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IMG_0926After asking our students about topics for this blog, they immediately replied ‘what about what we do in class all day long!’ Other than our particular projects (which are pretty exciting in themselves) this is what happens.

At the moment we have 3 separate classes running at different levels, but at some point during the week all the students are together and interact with one another to share struggles, ideas, and insights (including their opinions on what they’ve seen featured on entertainment awards this spring). Here we strive to promote good communication as a key factor in effective mentoring as well as in learning (this is not unique).

On some days the class room and the studio at EHC can be a very quiet and serious place. You can literally hear a pin drop, and when it does, it can turn out to be a bothersome distraction to everyone.  As in professional haute couture or bespoke tailoring, only very rarely do you hear the constant chinking or motors buzzing from sewing machines; more commonly heard is the sound of a steam iron sighing and its thermostat switching on and off, and the tinkle of a pair of scissors coming to rest on a padded table.

On another day, if you were to drop in secretly like a fly on the wall, you may witness trivial chatter,  classical music, silly hilarity and occasionally the smell of coffee gone cold (from a quick well-deserved break) still all signs of productive creativity wrapped up as a combination of stressful cockup and victory, agony and ecstasy.

We usually start the day around the table altogether with a short informal meeting (and usually a hug) before new class material is presented. Classes are intensely concentrated, so this helps everyone to settle and prepare for the 5 hours of tuition ahead. It is courteous to allow everyone to become oriented, shift onto the same track, and make sure that everyone is ‘in’ on the latest updates.  But, it is also extremely productive to the rest of the day, and good management practice as it happens. If someone has experienced problems or unsettling events, sharing it usually soothes frayed emotions and provides support; on the other hand sharing reasons for high spirits makes everyone more cheerful and focused.

One of the 4 or 5 major areas of study in the program (other than design theory and history, pattern drafting, sewing and construction, and couture business essentials), is learning how to Fit a garment.

Fittings for each project module, which are made life size, are demonstrated on the student’s actual garments by the students under supervision. Everyone’s Body is unique and, we’ve found this to be the best way to teach methods and concepts to the art and science of achieving a perfect fit, rather than on mannequins.

Students learn by observing and doing fittings and are encouraged to ‘think out loud’ as they progress through the fittings, to express every little reaction or plan of action. All this can be extremely intimidating for the beginner (student and client alike), and so tactfulness and truthfulness are balanced by being patient and courteous (this helps a great deal), verbalizing the ‘ins and outs’ of the fitting process, and having knowledge of the intended outcome, all contribute to fully understanding what to do.

Open communication is also crucial when performing fittings on paying clients – a couturier or tailor not only needs to take mental note of their client’s reactions and comments, but at the same time should explain to their client ‘what’ and ‘why’ they are making a certain adjustment. This may seem ‘unprofessional’ to some, but most clients really appreciate being involved in the fitting to know that they are being taken seriously.

By the end of the school day, everyone is exhausted. Though it is challenging it is fulfilling at the same time. Some days your head just spins ridiculously with new ideas and plans, and other days seem to be dedicated to just jumping one hurdle and busting that terrifying mind block – but each new day, we really looking forward to doing it all again.

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Visit our new webpage called ‘couture sewing tips and secrets’ for a new video series on ‘how to’ sewing basics and some secrets…

 

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Couture vs. Labels

The Label says you are ‘one of the girls’; Couture says: You Are The Woman.

Couture Wedding Gown

As one of the many great wearable couture items in the couture fashion event ‘Eleganza’ www.couturecalgary.com, EHC will be featuring a wedding dress – more correctly wedding “Gown” which in concept, was started in 2009.

First let me explain why ‘gown’ and not ‘dress’. A ‘dress’ is a one-piece garment for women and girls combining a bodice, with or without sleeves, and a skirt, and covering most of the body and even though the clothing is required for a particular occasion the definition and connotation doesn’t quite measure up to the distinctive occasion such as a wedding.

This ceremonial declaration of two individuals in agreement vowing to share a life of love, companionship and devotion forming a recognized legally binding relationship called marriage is a big deal – sorry – an IMMENSELY BIG DEAL. (For those of you who don’t agree – try getting yourself out of this simple little contract with your emotional and financial health intact).

Therefore, for this occasion deserves to be called a ‘gown’, an elegant dress or a woman’s full-length or formal dress worn for special occasions. This wedding gown will be modelled by the bride herself in Eleganza on November 20th, 2011. How this couture gown evolved will be revealed in an ongoing feature…to be continued keep posted…

The Labelled wedding gown

About ready-made, made-to-measure, prêt-à-porter, and off the rack wedding gowns, these are all pre-made or manufactured on an assembly line with standard measurements no matter how unique they claim to be – at or after production may be altered to suit the buyer. In our experience with these bridal gowns no matter how close they come to fitting the bride-to-be one thing that never fits properly around the bust line is the strapless gown.

This one area either gapes losing the less-than-full bust altogether (crumb catcher), or worse presents the bust like cream puffs on a platter, with the underarm and back really MT (muffin top). Sadly, one may think this is attractive or erotic, but most women (and men if you ask them) find it vulgar or embarrassing to look at. Rather, the strapless bodice should be sensual with the fabric moulding over the bust embracing it, holding you under the arms, following around caressing the back enhancing your allure.

Why is this always a problem with ready-made? My polite guess is that when the dress is assembled on the production line, very little time is spent and little expertise employed to shape the bodice properly – straighter lines are just easier to handle. So make sure to ask your dressmaker to make certain that the strapless bodice fits properly when having alterations done. More on this later as well….

I won’t request wedding gown disaster stories – I couldn’t cope with them all, but perhaps some of your questions will be answered and problems explained as you follow EHC on this lesser traveled road called… ‘Couture’.

www.ecoleholtcouture.com

Proud sponsors of Eleganza:

 

Silent Auction prize - retreat getaway http://www.hiddensprings.ca

 

 

 

Something old, something new ….

People ask us all the time about the sewing machines we use at the school, expecting some brand new whiz-bang computerized machines that will do everything imaginable – perhaps even by themselves! They are terribly disappointed when we tell them they are mere humble 1950’s vintage all metal industrial strength Singer 306k models. Industrial strength in this case means extremely strong, which means this machine is not industrial or commercial sewing machine but powerful enough to work as industrial sewing machine.

  

Above photos captured from the internet.

EHC students use them and are now working on their first leather and synthetic leathers projects which are interpretations of the classic Bomber Jacket using the Singer 306k to construct them. As clothing trends come and go, the bomber jacket has stood the test of time and is more popular than ever, this fashionable leather jacket is over 90 years old, but where did it start?

Bomber Jacket roots can be traced back to WWI, where “bomber” pilots with the Royal Flying Corps in Belgium and France were the first military to be issued long leather flying coats in 1915. Cockpits in the fighter planes were not enclosed and pilots wore leather coats, leather caps to protect their heads from wind and weather, plus a woolen scarf and goggles. American forces took this practice of wearing leather on board and two years later in 1917, the U.S. Aviation Clothing Board was established; modified the design and began issuing fighter pilots their first leather flight jackets and the term bomber jacket was born. Navy officials soon followed suit with their own version of the bomber jacket.

To make a long story very short Hollywood actors from Gregory Peck to Tom Cruise and countless female celebrities, have made the bomber jacket skyrocket into popular fashion,  for men, women, children, athletes, motorbike riders, and you name it now is considered a staple classic.

The 306k sewing machine is perfect for what we do at the school as well as in the studio. Unlike for heavy Industrial machines for this one you don’t need any special electrical outlets.  This machine has been in constant service in EHC’s couture studio since 1954, with only the motor and belts having to be replaced.

To fill you in, another part of EHC’s history is the professional couture studio – and having said that – we want to emphasize that MOST work was and is done by hand thus explaining the longevity of the machines. Our students report that each of the machines has their own quirky personality, but once you get to know them they work properly for you. The 306k does a good job of topstitching leather because of its strength, ability to maintain thread tension and its feed mechanism.

In the school studio another secret to success is the fact that our machines are dropped in and level with the worktop surface so fabric can run smoothly through the pressure foot without the uneven drag force in front and behind it.

At Ecole Holt Couture and in the design practice we use old traditional equipment to produce new and exciting creations. The best tools for couture are still skilled eyes and hands.

The above photo is one of our own machines taken with a Canon point and shoot digital camera which is what we generally use, however for the Fashion Event ‘Eleganza’ coming up in November we have a great photographer, Aaron Mccullough at Reddot Photography http://www.reddotphoto.net doing his creative thing with a slightly more sophisticated camera and new technology. Aaron is super great guy, a highly creative individual who appreciates artisanship in many forms – he’s done some wonderful work for us (sneak peek) http://www.youtube.com /watch?v=22b8DbclWXg for our first Fashion Event “One” in 2010, and we’re looking forward to his creativity as official photographer for this years Eleganza Fashion Event.    www.couturecalgary.com.