Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Adventures in Bra Making Part II

Well, this sure was a bust! Looks nice though, doesn't it?

Too bad it doesn't all. 

The frustrating thing about bramaking is that you don't know whether something fits until it is completely finished.  The 34B white Marlborough that I made at Camp Workroom Social was a bit too small. Wearable but not perfect.  Norma noted that my cup size was between a B and C and advised that for my next bra (the black bra), I cut out a 32D.

Sometimes we must take two steps backward...The 32D doesn't fit at all around the band, though it appears to fit in the cups.  Even with a bra extender I can hardly wear it for 5 minutes!  Although the 32D black bra is unwearable, the sewing experience was still valuable. I really worked on better understanding the construction of the bra and made a ton of notes and changes to the Marlborough construction sequence, etc.with help from my sewing instructor Sharon.

Courtesy of the remnant bin at Sposabella! ($10 for the 3!)

I am bound and determined to make a bra that fits!  Especially now that I have invested so much time and money in the process.  Next up is a 34C using a remnant from Sposabella.  Here's hoping that third time is the charm!


  • Don't forget to trim down the finished seam allowances after topstitching!  In particular after steps 3, 7, and 8 of the Orange Lingerie instructions.
  • The Orange Lingerie instructions have you measure out the wire casing along the actual bra cup and add 2 inches (step 12).  This means that 1 inch of casing is sticking out both at the center front of the bra and at the sides.  Once the bra is complete, you cut the casing flush with the bra center front.  After following these instructions, I found that the center front casing was peaking out a little bit from the bra center front in my white bra. For the black bra, I placed the center front casing about 1/8" below the center front and angled it slightly toward the center. When I sewed the casing, I was sure to angle in toward the centerfront and pivot before sewing the next casing/cup combination.  This resulted in a finished bra that didn't have the casing peaking out the center front.  Much better! 
  • The Orange Lingerie instructions had me clip the curves along the bra cup seam allowance.  Later, I would need to sew the underwire casing to the seam allowance.  It would have been helpful to have the uncut seam allowance when sewing the underwire casing to the seam allowance so that the underwire casing  has more seam allowance to "grab onto." Next time, I will not cut the curve of the bra cups.
Sewing Sequence
  • Complete the cups in full before attaching elastic to underarm (13A) and bottom band (13B).  Using the Orange Lingerie instructions, I skipped step 13 and instead completed 13A after step 19.

  • Attach the ring to the elastic first.  Next, create the strap elastic and place it through the ring.

  • Demiwires:  The D cup underwires are a bit too large so I never put them into the casing of the 32D black bra.  I really prefer the look of demicups, so for my future C cup bra I am going to order demiwires from BraMaker's Supply.  Demicups (also known as "half cups") are shorter than the full underwire and are often characterized by being the same height at the front and the sides. See detailed explanation here
  • Thick vs. thin straps/elastics.  When I sized up to the D cup, I also sized up in the elastic (from 3/8" to 1/2") and the bra straps (3/8" to 1/2").  As Norma explained, this is intended to provide more support.  She suggests the larger straps/elastics for all D cup and higher.  I really don't like the look of the larger straps and intend to go back down to 3/8" for my future C cup bra.  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

FĂȘte, set, GO!

My childhood best friend and second sister, Sara, is getting married in April. (Yes, MORE weddings....) Although Sara and Derek are our neighbors in NYC,  they will wed in our South Carolina hometown.  I am very excited!

My parents co-hosted an engagement party in honor of the happy couple in October. What to wear?  I was on the hunt for a conservative silhouette suitable for cocktail conversation with our parents' friends.

I decided to go with a fit and flare.  The pattern is a rub-off of a much-loved H&M dress:  1/4 circle skirt, waistband, bodice with bust and front/back lengthwise darts.  See the initial version here in black ponte.

The fabric is an Italian matelasse knit from Mulberry Silks in Carrboro, North Carolina.  The weight is similar to a light ponte. The dress is unlined.

I constructed everything on my sewing machine using the walking foot.  To stabilize the shoulder seams (which hold the weight of the dress) I sewed in seam tape along the seam allowance.

I sewed all seams using a straight stitch (not zigzag) before reading in a back issue of Threads magazine that zigzag is the stitch of choice for knits.  Apparently the zigzag stretches and recovers with the fabric.  In contrast a straight stitch easily breaks knits.  Is zigzag really a hard-and-fast rule for knits?   

I stay stitched all the pieces.  I thought this was probably overkill at the time, but it seems the neck gaping is from the fabric stretching out and not because I need to make additional tweaks to the paper pattern. Next time I work from this pattern, I will try to be extra careful to not stretch out the neckline and stay stitch immediately after cutting.

I really love how the sleevecaps stand off the shoulders.
In process picture of the sleeve caps

The sleevecap insides are not my best work.  If I had not been pressed for time, I would have made a bodice lining to hide the sleevecap construction, but admittedly I "franken-sewed" the sleevecaps to the armholes 2 hours before the party.  Luckily, it's not visible from the outside.

The horsehair hem is my favorite part of the dress!

The horsehair makes the skirt stand slightly at attention while still encouraging wavy movement.  Quite party festive, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Turning over a Pink and Gold Leaf for the New Year!

My 2015 RTW Fast was marked by last minute sewing for special events.  I am pleased to say I turned over a new leaf in the final hours of 2015!

Originally I had planned to make Gertie's Bombshell dress for a New Year's Eve wedding in Boston.  I allocated Monday-Wednesday of the week between Christmas and New Year's to sew.  Since my office was closed for the week, I just assumed that lady-of-leisure-me could get it all done! WRONG.  By 3am Wednesday morning, I was only on lesson 9 of 16 of Gertie's Craftsy course (no longer available) and thoroughly enjoying the slow pace and couture techniques.

There was no way I would finish in time for our Thursday train to Boston.  So I stepped away from the sewing machine and went "shopping" in my existing wardrobe.  Turning up a New Year's appropriate me-made dress from December 2010!

Vogue 1174,  a now out of print Cynthia Steffe pattern.

I made Vogue 1174 for my husband's holiday party in London in December 2010.  It was a fancy British affair and I can remember being self-conscious about my me-made frock.  I haven't worn it since.

The pink and gold fabric is from Winmill in Boston.  I cannot remember the details of the dress construction.  This is quite an advanced pattern, as it involves boning in the lining and a 15 piece bodice. I worked on the dress over the 2010 Thanksgiving weekend with much needed assistance from my Mom.

For the Boston wedding, I accessorized the dress exactly as I did in 2010.  I wore a little leather and gold flower in my hair purchased on the day of the London party at Liberty.  I sewed up a matching stole made from the leftover fashion fabric and embellished my shoes with me-made shoe clips using gold organza and a rhinestone center.

Cheers to slow and deliberate sewing in the new year!