A game changing draping class and some Marfy makes...

A game changing draping class and some Marfy makes...

Picture courtesy of Susan Khalje

I'd be the first to admit that draping has equally fascinated and scared me for a long time.  I love the idea of transferring a thought or image onto a dress form,  and creating patterns that are unique.....but it's an art that's so complex and technical, that I knew once I started,  it would demand time I really did not have to spare.

But, when Susan Khalje emailed and asked if I would be interested in taking a cancelled spot I was tempted...and then when she sent pictures of the dress designs we would create along with all the class info and told me how much I would love it, I knew it was time to just do it.

and as I am always aware,  there are few opportunities to experience this caliber of teaching, so after flying home from Chicago with my daughter, I repacked and left within the hour for Baltimore.

and to be honest, this is no ordinary teacher.  Julien Cristofoli was assistant to Alaia for many years (amazing!!)  and now consults at various Ateliers and design houses  around the world, he is considered a draping master and to have the chance to watch him work his magic for a week was truly humbling.  

The dress class that I attended was the last of a series of three, set over a two week period...a skirt, a top and then the dress(s).... I think about half the students were doing all three and so only half of my class was new.

and while I don't think there was a right or wrong way to do this, I personally wished I had done the block of three just to have had the opportunity to ease gently into the process.

I found the first couple of days really hard.   Although the basics of sewing are, of course relevant to draping (grain lines, darts etc) I almost wished I knew less.

You seem to need a very gentle hand with draping, an ability to see where the fabric wants to go, and then the ability to incorporate that into the design, a feel for how the overall design should look and a well thought out plan.  Nothing like a flat pattern honestly.

There is no ease in a draped pattern, its added when the pattern is finished and its minimal by American standards....so its a little strange to see what amounts to a second skin on a form...I had to stop myself from adding even a little ease as I went..

Most of us are so used to opening a pattern, and it telling us where the basics will be, darts, grains, neckline, sleeves that although we will have some design latitude to tweak and fit , the foundation is already completed for us....

So having to change your entire thought process and accept that you can do what you want within the boundaries of the grain line took a while for me to embrace, when everything is open to interpretation, its both freeing and frightening..........


but I loved it, absolutely loved it....the concept, the challenge, the learning experience....and it was such a relaxed class, lots of casual chatting and personal attention...no question was to big or small, everything was given equal thought and consideration .......and Julien's English was terrific (and far better than my French!) 

It's given me a new understanding of pattern making, because I am curious to see if  a hybrid of the two (flat and drape) will work and complement how I sew.... as well as an awareness of what can be achieved with a square of muslin and some free thinking!


So,  I've been wondering how to write about this respectfully, as in reality these teachings are Julian's life work, and not mine to share in detail.....so I thought I would show some pics of the class as well as the basic concept and then get into more technical issues about how I drape the dresses when I make them...as they will be more my work (?) and less his....  



We began our week with some lovely sewing supplies from Paris... bolduc tape, tiny sharp pins and sticky style line tape.

Before we could start to drape, we had to prepare our dress forms to our exact measurements..using strips of batting and muslin.

The muslin is secured with lots of tiny headed pins, pushed in at a angle (which are now catching on everything I put on the form!! )

When the form was exactly to our measurements,  we were able to start applying our bolduc tape.

and while I knew it had to be precise, I had no idea we were talking millimeter changes....and I do mean millimeter, Julien could see when it was angled slightly off  just by eyeballing it, crazy!

The bolduc tape  - which is similar to a very thin bias twill tape, is used to mark the main lines of our bodies, and is kept in place with hundreds of tiny pins.

and although it took the best part of the day, it's amazing to have an actual perfect size dress form to work from.

and then we got to talk about one of the dress illustrations we were using.   

This is a pattern created in two front halfs (and backs)  the left has the upper detail and the skirt included and then the right which is half a flat fitted bodice... 

and although the design is not something I would normally wear, I could appreciate just how many skills would be used in recreating it.

Julien demonstrated the draping of the dress from start to finish, which took the best part of an hour.....and it was such a pleasure to sit and watch.   We were able to make lots of notes and I took lots of pictures of each step so I could visually follow along at home....

Once the shape is formed, all main points are marked with pencil before the muslin is removed from the form and trued up.

So below is my initial muslin..there are a set of measurements used to mark the muslin that correspond to mine, and these are drawn on and then lined up to the bolduc before any draping starts.

Above you can see the sticky tape which will act as my guide for draping, its black so it can be seen under a muslin...and I admit I felt really kind of cool when all this initially started coming together! 

From here there is a lot of tweaking and manipulating....but I did come home with a full pattern I love and more importantly learnt correctly how to transfer those markings from form to flat pattern...so now its just down to finding a block of time to practice.

and if Julien does return next year, I will be signing up for all three needless to say!  



I can't tell you how much I love the emails that have Marfy attachments!


Sharon did a gorgeous version of Marfy 0757 and wrote all about it on her blog Petite and sewing..

Sharon's  skirt includes her first hand picked zipper.  I think the fit is amazing and she looks so lovely.



I love Elaine's style, she is rocking both Marfy 1913 and 0757.

She says -  the skirt is a stretch denim, mostly hand sewn, lined in silk charmeuse. There is a large zippered pocket at one side, must keep the credit card and phone handy, and both the side zipper closure and the zipper at the pocket are hand picked. Wonderful pattern and it is easy to wear, a bit big, but next time I will adjust the waist.

The top is silk and mostly hand sewn except for the narrow hem. I used the machine technique and it is a beautiful finish.  I will use this often. 



This is Lisa's wearable muslin and first Marfy and she said she's hooked!   I just love this, she's so fabulous.....



I wish Joan lived closer than Germany, I would demand she be my sewing buddy! ...I love seeing her Marfy makes and inevitably when she sends pics of a new garment she's sewn, I want it too and this is not exception.....so I had to share!

This is Marfy 3189.   Joan says she loved the possibility of using double jersey for the body and a 1 meter scrap of cashmere for the sleeves and facing. She interfaced the jacket with horsehair a wool/linen blend from a tailor’s supply in Munich. ...

Its on my fall list for sewing now of course....is this not the perfect throw on jacket?


I did start a lace skirt with 0757 last week but its got some fit issues, I've probably lost some weight over the last few weeks and it made me so frustrated over the weekend,  that I gave up and went to the beach instead!

I hope to get that finished this week, but I have a lot of sewn on lace to unsew and re sew!  :0(  

(completely my fault for assuming the pattern would still fit and not checking first...)

and other than that, there is not a whole lot going on.  Its just so nice outside and warm and oh so sunny....after the winter we just had,  it feels awful to waste it!!


and thank you so much...

I want to say many, many thanks again for all your detailed comments and emails regarding Mendel Goldbergs online site ...I received over 150 in total, and I have read, and made note's of everything suggested on each and every one.

I have learnt about new to me websites, been given ideas that are simply amazing, and got a real feel of how this website should be and I am so grateful to you all for taking the time to share.

Thank you again.


Wishing everyone a wonderful week


Marfy 0757 the free pattern V4 - princess seams and lace...

Marfy 0757 the free pattern V4 - princess seams and lace...

Marfy 1756 the free jacket pattern....and a new job!

Marfy 1756 the free jacket pattern....and a new job!