Sunday, July 22, 2012

What is a Master???........



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Ah, the Masters of the Sewing Universe......

First, what is a Master? Well, tomes could be written on that topic and I am sure controversy would ensue. For me these are people passionate about stitching, craftmanship and design. They have honed their craft in the couture world over years, love teaching  others their passion, and are the go to source for anything  that needs the perfect solution to a sewing challenge. Their careers are marked by couture history,  superb teaching credentials, inpressive clients, and great talent in design. They are often published as well, either in print or cyberspace. In no great order here are the three I have chosen.

Susan Khalje

Susan Khalje got her couture chops working at Chez Cez et Bez, a couture salon in NY city. Her 25 years as a couture dressmaker have given her incredible skills which later translated  to a position as fashion designer and manufacturing supervisor on Seventh Avenue in NY city. In 1993 she started The Couture Sewing School, making the learning of these fine skills possible in many  other areas of the country. She can be found teaching from Baltimore to LA and internationally as well. She offers an annual trip to Paris which would certainly be the ultimate sewing experience for any serious sewist. Ms.Khalje is also currently teaching a course on Craftsy on sewing "The Couture Dress" at a VERY reasonable price. This Craftsy course is a terrific opportunity for newer sewists, heck everyone, to dip their toes into the Couture water. There are rave reviews all over the internet for this class so no matter your level of expertise, sign up and count yourself taught by the best! You will be able to proceed at  your own pace and have an incredible learning opportunity.

Susan  is also  a contributing editor to Threads magazine bestowing upon us the finer points of Chanel jackets and much more. Don't we all have or covet Issue #121, the one with the black boucle Chanel jacket on the cover?  Her knowledgeable writing and sewing skills make it  probably the most coveted Threads issue published. Seek this one out if you don't have it.You will be glad you did.

Ms. Khalje has written extensively on sewing and many a bride has walked down the aisle stunningly dressed thanks to her book "Bridal Couture".  She has also written "Linen and Cotton", an essential guide to sewing these two universal fabrics. As a newbie, you may not feel the need for her couture skills yet or if ever (that will change, trust me ) but her "Linen and Cotton" book will definitely serve you well. It is currently available in PDF form from Taunton Press.  Newbies, if you seek higher sewing ground, read her books and seek out her classes.  A Sewing Master's skills will never let you down and will only enhance your own capabilities so count on Ms. Khalje to only supply you the best of knowledge available in the sewing universe.
Photo Courtesy of Threads Magazine

Photo courtesy of Ms. Khalje's website

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Kenneth King

Kenneth King's experience as a  couturier  is evidenced in his wonderful website. I love how it explains his aesthetic and of course there is that amazing gallery to peruse. You can also read numerous publications lauding his abilities. He has sewn for the Stars and is a Professor of Haute Couture at Fashion Institute of Technology in NY city. As impressive as his resume is he appears to really enjoy reaching out to us mortal sewists with his classes and fabulous books. They are essentials in my sewing library. His latest,  "Cool Couture" covers everything from accordion pleats to zippers all  clearly, concisely and with great photos.

Mr. King  offers Sit and Sew classes along with Susan Khalje this August and October. Can you just imagine?  I know from those that have attended that he is one incredible, highly entertaining educator! He also occasionally offers on line classes at very reasonable fees through Pattern Review. These are perfect classes for newbies so make sure you are following Pattern Review to see when his next class starts. Mr. King's ability to totally think outside of the box when faced with a sewing challenge is what makes him a great teacher. He supplies information you just never would have thought of and that's priceless. You can count on King to supply many more tools for  your sewing tool box!
 King also publishes frequent articles in Threads magazine and in Threads on line in his capacity as a Contributing Editor, the likes of which are often teaching mastery of amazing embellishment ideas. He makes it all so clear and easy. And his techniques are! You can also catch a wonderful class with King on Craftsy right now as well. It teaches how to capture the great fit of your favorite pair of jeans.  I think we all need that one!


So once again, with Kenneth King, Like Khalje,  we have highbrow clients, Haute Couture history, impressive teaching credentials, publication and a passion that he enjoys passing along to sewists. Newbies, seek him out! He is a Master!
 
Photo courtesy of Kenneth King



Photo courtesy of Kenneth King
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Claire Shaeffer

Ms. Shaeffer ran away from home at 17 to join the circus, really!  Her initial matriculation at Florida State University had her studying the circus curriculum. She soon had a change of heart and graduated with a degree in Art History. Her thin physical stature, while perfect for a circus acrobat, was not conducive to well fitting clothing so she decided to start sewing her own. A natural progression to pattern making courses ensued followed by a lifelong devotion to the study of couture techniques right at the source: couture workrooms in Paris. She has been in the ateliers and has cultivated relationships with some of the most renown Parisian Couturiers.  


Claire Shaeffer was a sample maker at the very  beginning of her career. Her teaching ability later enabled faculty positions at Kent State University, Colorado State University, College of the Desert, Palm Desert, Ca., Eastern Michigan University and more. She has developed curriculum and  juried many a sewing/design competition.  She has consulted with numerous museums regarding their collections of couture.  Shaeffer teaches only two workshops a year in her lovely desert home in Palm Springs. She is booked far in advance and can be contacted at sewfari@earthlink.net. if  you are interested in further information regarding her "Sewfari". Classes are usually concentrated on either Haute Couture Techniques or more specifically Chanel.
Ms. Shaeffer is well published having contributed many articles to Threads Magazine over the years. If you are a Threads Insider you have access to many of her couture techniques at your fingertips. DVDs and books fill out her repertoire. Her books ARE CLASSICS! Her Fabric Sewing Guide sits  close to my machine and is consulted with most new garments I make. In it's latest edition there is updated fabric  information as well as an encyclopedic amount of knowledge regarding needles, threads, interfacings and more. You can "study" this book. I have gone through it cover to cover three times at this point. Or, you can use it as a wonderful reference. Making a silk gazar garment? Look up Silk Gazar and you will find out what needle to use, thread to use, interfacing to use, etc. Nothing is left to chance. It is definitive knowledge. Newbies, this book is a must have for your sewing library. No where else will you get all the information on all the fabrics and how to sew them all beautifully. You've got a fabric, you look it up, simple as that. Ms. Shaeffer has a new DVD, The Tailoring DVD,   that will be released early next spring so keep your eyes open for that.  Her "Basic Couture DVD" was released this spring and is available through Taunton Press. 
Vogue Pattern Magazine has also been graced with her knowledge and she currently has a 6 part series on the Chanel jacket you won't want to miss. If you are lucky enough to have all the Threads issues on DVD or just a huge collection in your closet like I do, in issue #23, 1989, Ms. Shaeffer writes a great article on making a Chanel skirt to go with your jacket.


Ms. Shaeffer also has a very popular line of patterns she designs for Vogue. Some of her patterns are distinguished  by having both the  Haute Couture way of making the garment and the high end ready to wear method of making the garment, all in the same envelope. You choose how involved you want to get with  your garment. Her designs are very classic fashions that will give you years of payback for your efforts. The couture construction is amazing. You can take one of these patterns and teach yourself so much.  I highly recommend them to all sewists. Her latest design, the classic Chanel jacket with the three piece sleeves, vented cuffs, and all the other signature Chanel techniques is Vogue 8804.  Even if you are not at this skill level yet, get this pattern and save it until you want to be. Her first Chanel jacket pattern was disco'd and became a hot commodity out there on Ebay due to it's scarcity. I had to borrow and trace one from an internet friend.  Thankfully we are blessed with this latest iteration and don't have to go to crazy lengths to get the quintessential jacket pattern. 


In conclusion, Ms. Shaeffer is a Master. She has a  passion for sharing couture skills, knows many a couturier as a friend or a not so friend (Chanel refuses her entry to their workrooms.) She is well published and in essence has a lifetime of  credentials qualifying her as a Master in the sewing world. Your sewing library is not complete without at least one of her books but I would recommend all, for sure.  Every sewist, even our Newbies, needs "The Fabric Sewing Guide".

                                                           Photo courtesy of Claire Shaeffer
                                             Photo courtesy of Threads Magazine
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I would like to thank Susan Khalje, Kenneth King, and Claire Shaeffer, all of whom have been more than gracious in helping me publish an accurate post. While they stand on the top of the sewing mountain, they are more than generous, kind and lovely in real life. I am grateful all sewists have such honorable, gifted, and generous stars shining down on our sewing universe.
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 Based on some private emails and lots of recent personal conversations I've  decided to do some posts specifically designed to help out our more newbie stitchers. These are my totally subjective opinions and you may differ in yours but that's OK. You know I welcome all healthy comment. I will tag these posts with the Newbie Label so that they can be easily searched. There is a logical progression to what I want to say here and there will be  more posts so while you may think I have left a lot out it will probably be coming in the next post on the subject so bear with me.

My goal is to help newer stitchers know who can be relied on to have quality information, books, PDFs, patterns, tutorials, etc. I will do  a series of  posts specifically meant to help enlighten the many that have asked me, "how will I know if it's good information if I don't know what that is yet?" These posts will give you a head start on all that information. I hope it brings you a passionate desire to learn this craft as well. If there is anything I can do to help that along please let me know................... Bunny

32 comments:

  1. What great information on the industry GREATS! I will certainly be looking in on your newby posts, although I cant be considered a newby, I'm always looking to learn more!

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  2. I have been fortunate enough to attend classes with all 3 of these wonderful teachers/mentors. Their books are also wonderful.

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  3. The class I took in NY with Khalje and King will always be the most educational sewing experience of my life. They are masters, thank you for sharing!

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  4. I've read books and articles from Threads from these wonderful individuals and I continue to learn things which is awesome! Issue #121 is my favourite Threads issue too. How amazing it would be to take a class with one of these talented individuals!

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  5. Thanks Bunny! I actually have a few of these books and am now itching for more! I signed up for Susan's class. I am enjoying watching her go through the process online. With the kids out for summer holidays and it being so difficult to find waxed marking paper, I probably won't be able to "give it a go" until the autumn. I need to wait for my pattern to arrive by post anyway.

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  6. Great post!! I just bought Claire's pattern and it is in the line up of to do projects!

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  7. Great post. I do so agree with you on these three masters. I've had the pleasure of meeting Kenneth King 2 years ago and love his books and articles, am doing the couture class with Susan Khalje (I'm not an unexperienced sewist but have already learned new things, and have only watched a few lessons yet) and have quite a few patterns by Claire Shaeffer, as well as books and dvd. This post is a great way to thank them for all the knowledge shared. They are wonderful!

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  8. Thanks so much, Bunny, for anticipating the needs of newer sewists. I learn so much from the blogs of experienced folks, and the pictures are a delight. Thank goodness for the Internet, for I so enjoy the artistry, creativity, passion and humor!

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  9. This is a great post! Cynthia Guffey is a wonderful teacher, as well. Her teaching method is very technical and her explanations are exceptionally clear.

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  10. Aren't we lucky to have those wonderful artists to teach us? I'm anxious to see what you have lined up, Bunny.

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  11. I have had the pleasure of taking several classes with both Susan and Kenneth and they are just that "Masters". They are fantastic teachers and just a joy to be around / learn from.

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  12. Beautiful post! I have learned a lot in this past year of "getting-back-into-sewing" from reading articles and books by each one of these Masters, and also videos as a member of Threads. I have also learned a lot from reading blogs such as yours and reviews. Thanks for posting!

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    1. PS. I have found many wonderful sewing books by requesting them at our local library... some they don't have on our library's shelves, but they can get them for me! Some I have checked out again and again! But I hadn't yet read Cotton and Linen or The Fabric Sewing Guide, so they've now been requested! Thanks again for your informative, interesting and very well-written post!

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  13. Great post. I have taken classes with Susan and Kenneth and the are true Masters of the craft.

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  14. Thank-you, Bunny. I bought 2 of the Vogue patterns, and I put the others on my Christmas wish list. What a wonderful blog series! A gal in my smocking guild asked me, "What is couture sewing?" and I didn't really know how to answer. Maybe you could tell us, in general terms, what couture is and why we should want to sew that way.

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  15. What a great post, Bunny. I look forward to your next ones. I took the Craftsy online Susan Khalje class and thought it was great, plenty to learn and observe even though I can be considered an advanced sewist. plus it is a bargain. Also I second your opinion on the Claire Schaeffer Vogue patterns, they are fantastic.

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  16. Oh yes, these three are astoundingly talented and knowledgeable, and we are lucky to have them. I would add one comment: Even if you think you don't "need" to know couture-level sewing, for whatever reason, it's worth getting their books, reading the articles, etc. You just never know how things will percolate in your mind and life.

    So, even though I don't care for structured jackets (they just aren't "me"), I will get that Claire Schaeffer Chanel jacket pattern. I love learning new things, and I am determined to advance my skills.

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    1. I agree, Jean. You also need to know where the "bar" is set. It will only help with all of our sewing and these masters have set the bar as high as it will go.

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  17. Fantastic post. I know there would be people from all over the world (I'm in Aus) lining up behind you to salute these Masters.

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  18. Thank you for this and thank you for your educational blog posts.

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  19. In addition, Kenneth King also has a class on Craftsy on copying your favorite jeans (without taking them apart) that applies to more than just jeans. I also have to say that you learn things that apply to all aspects of sewing in this class, particularly his discussion of grainlines.

    I think it's a great deal if you want to copy anything, not just jeans.

    And, he is just so down-to-earth, as well as entertaining.

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    1. Thanks for that information. I have added that information to the post.

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  20. I am no longer a "newbie", many thanks to you, Bunny! But I learn something new every day. And I have learned so much from my classes with Susan Khalje! She is truly a master -- and a delightful person as well! She has pushed me to levels I never would have imagined and has totally changed the way I sew and approach a project.
    Cissie

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    1. Yea, Bunny! Three cheers for your three masters!

      I have only been able to study with them by poring over their books, (Well, I did study in-person with Catherine Stephenson, who used to be Susan Khalje's partner in teaching couture.), but I've learned a whole lot.

      And whose sewing reference library would be complete without a copy of Ms. Shaeffer's "Fabric Sewing Guide". (I've read mine through too, Bunny. Oh, for a cold day, a cup of tea and a nice, fat reference book!)

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  21. I had already signed up for the Kenneth King class and last night went ahead and signed up for Susan Kalje's. I'm no sewing whiz, but I'd like to be! Thanks for the prompt to go ahead and do it.

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  22. Thank you for this post, Bunny! I'm already enrolled in Susan Khalje's Craftsy course, and have Claire Schaeffer's book on Fabric, but now can look to Kenneth King for more information. I hadn't looked into his work yet.

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  23. Great post. These are some extraordinary masters. Thanks!

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  24. I'm definitely not a newbie, but I am really enjoying your posts. This one was great, even though I am familiar with all three and their work. I would venture to say that YOU are a Master as well. You have technical knowledge, artistic talent, perfect technique and follow through, and are a teacher as well. We are a blessed sewing community to have you also!

    Denise

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  25. What a great post! I seriously started sewing clothes this year and found Susan Khalje's Couture Dress course to be immensely helpful. I'm sure I'll get around to Kenneth King and Claire eventually. I hear Susan is offering an online Chanel Jacket course - out this fall!

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    1. I am going to trip getting to the computer to sign up for this class when it is available. This is awesome news...

      And Bunny, I really do enjoy your blog. Thank-you so much for sharing.

      Lorna

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  26. "Sewing" covers such a multitude of skill sets - operating a machine, using a pattern to get both style and fit, making smart fabric choices and smart finishing choices, AND actually creating something you LIKE enough to wear. However deeply you go into your mastering topic, Bunny, I'm so glad you have provided newbies (and all of us who love sewing)with these three examples of what can be achieved.
    I appreciate your efforts in creating this post and applaud your motives. Very good job - as always.
    Miriam

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    1. Thanks, Miriam. Thanks to all. There will be more of these posts, more sewing stars, info on tutes, etc.....I really want people to succeed at this craft. DH and I decided a long time ago that people with a passion are usually pretty happy people. They always have a place they can go to to rest their weary souls and get rejuvenated with the spark of creativity.

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