Sunday, October 19, 2014

Marlborough Bra V3: Success!

It fits!!

Well, it mostly fits.  I find that my impression of how a bra fits can change over a few wears, so I'm going to give this one a few weeks until I try again, but it's perfectly wearable and I'm a happy camper.

Where to start? I suppose the fabric and sizing.

This bra is drafted for a low to no stretch fabric.  For me this was one of the biggest pro's of the pattern.  Most of my Marks and Spencer bras (and I rarely wear any other RTW bras) are made from fabric that has barely any stretch but quite a lot of mechanical 'give'.  The thing that I like about that fabric is that it's much better for keeping larger bosoooms in place without resorting to foam.  (I do like the idea of the thin foam that Makebra uses, but my dislike of foam stems from that thick stuff Victoria's Secret uses so much of.) Not having anything exactly like that in my stash, I used a thin cotton / silk mix for the cups and front of the band.

V1 was size 34DD. The cups were too small.  Anne and Pam rightly pointed out that I wasn't filling the cups all the way to the bottom, which meant that the cups might have been the right size, if only I filled them.  I wasn't 100% convinced, so I made V2 of the bra with almost identical materials, but this time using a size 36DD.  The other major difference apart from the size change was that I cut the cup pieces on the bias, thinking that it would give the fabric the movement necessary to allow me to sit down in to the cups.  Well the band now fit, but the cup was a little too big in the upper cup, and the lower cup was super lumpy.  It was ugly, I was bulging out in all sorts of weird places.  There aren't pictures, but trust me on this, it made for a very strange shape under a t-shirt.

I took a break for a few days and came to realise that I should start with fabrics with a little more give.  Just like other types of garments, knits allow the fit to be a bit more forgiving. I figured that since the 36DD cups were a teensy bit too big, the 36D cup would be fine in a fabric with some stretch, so that's what I made.  And it was!!

This version of the bra is made out of materials cobbled together from all over the place: the sliders and straps are harvested from and old bra, the lace and elastic is from a mystery source in Downtown LA, the casing and underwire is from Porcylenne, I think the power net is from the F&S fabrics remanent bin, and the closure is a story unto itself.  I found yardage of 3-hook tape in Trim 2000 downtown, which was $4 per yard.  Score, I thought.  Until I tried to use it.  The hook tape they sold me with the eyes didn't actually match!!  Oh well.  So the hooks are harvested from a bra, and the eyes are from Trim 2000.

My real saviour in this version is this absolutely lovely fabric that I bought from Elingeria.  It's a knit, but with only a small amount of stretch (maybe 15%), it's thick and spongy and soft. I'm really sad that Elingeria went out of business, she had the best stuff.

I used the fabric for all three cup pieces, and then just laid the stretch lace on top of the upper cup.  It was a little wider than the narrowest part of the upper cup, so I sewed the upper cup to the lower cup without catching the lace, and then let it hang over the lower cup when I attached the band.  I sort of added the lace cos I couldn't figure out a better treatment for the upper cup, I don't know why I didn't think of just using some fold over elastic.

Now that the side of the bra has some stretch, I've got it on the smallest hook, and it might actually work as a 34DD.  I think I might prefer that because I preferred where the straps were positioned in the 34DD.

I don't know why, but previous bra sewing seemed exhausting.  I would do a spurt of sewing 2 or 3 bras, only one of which would be wearable and I'd be totally emotionally drained by the whole enterprise.  I don't know if I have improved or if it's this pattern, but there is something about this design that makes the order of operations really intuitive.  I used to constantly mess up the order of my previous bras.  Maybe that's what was exhausting.  Ripping.  This one just seems to be logical.  I can't put my finger on what the difference is.  It might be that it's about the 15th bra that I've made and have nothing to do with the pattern, who can say.

I may try to make a non-stretch version some time in the future, but I'm very happy with the support in this fabric, and I like the shape under my clothes. I'll take some future review picture with it on so you can see.  ANYWAY, there was a lot of text in this post so:


It's good! Highly recommend! If you are new to making bras, it's a really good idea to have enough materials to make at least 3 bras with all identical stuff because the smallest change makes a big difference.  You will probably have to make more than one to get the right size, but it's worth it, and starting with a fabric with a little stretch might get you to a good fit faster. It's a lovely bra.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Scrap buster: Waxed fabric food wrap

This project combines some really fantastic things: it uses up scraps, it saves on adding more plastic to the trash pile, and it keeps that plastic away from my food!  Did I mention it uses up scraps? Any size will do.

I've always had a pretty healthy dose of the 'I can make that attitude', but it really got activated when I started following the food blog Food52. They have so much stuff that is clever, but mucho mucho dinero.  Seriously, I do not need to pay $60 for "6 Linen Bowl Covers" .  Still they have some great ideas.  I was especially intrigued by this waxed fabric intended to serve as a food wrap.

A quick google later, and I found a bunch of tutorials to make your own waxed fabric and I mostly followed them.  I did pink my linen fabric (left over from my Maritime Shorts) (this is probably the third time ever I used my pinking scissors)...

... but this fabric needed a different treatment.

I loved this top, and wore it here and here, but it didn't fit well, and it turns out the fabric rips like paper!! It was so easy to rip, in fact, that I had to give it a rolled hem.  The pieces are small enough that it didn't take much time at all.

Sometimes I think that tutorials go out of their way to avoid including even the smallest amount of sewing so that they don't scare away the sewing-phobic, but the rolled edge is so much nicer!

The commercially produced wax fabric uses beeswax, jojoba and tree resin.  I don't know where I'd get tree resin, but I did happen to have some jojoba, so I threw a little of that in the mix.

I've been using the wraps for bringing a sandwich to work for about a week now and it works really well!.  The waxed linen is big enough that it goes around the sandwich 3 or 4 times, so it's actually quite firm.  I just throw the sandwich in my normal handbag and it doesn't get squished.

My fabric doesn't mold as nicely as the stuff in the video of the Bee's Wrap demo.  I think that maybe the jojoba oil was a bad idea.  It probably makes the wax softer without being balanced out by what ever properties the tree resin has. I'll leave it out if I ever do another batch.

Still it's a great way to use scraps of fabric I love and avoid using plastic food containers at the same time!  Anyone else got any good scrap-busting ideas?  I've already filled a foot stool filled with them, and I fear they might start to take up more space the the main stash if I'm not careful!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pattern Notebook: Marlborough Bra version 1

Man, I had a whole thing composed in my mind, but nothing saps the damn energy out of me than a thing that doesn't fit. I was loving this pattern right up until the second I tried it on.

I have pictures of most of the construction steps - does anyone want them?  Ugh.

I used the system of determining my size described in Orange Lingerie Marlborough pattern itself, figuring this is what it was drafted to.  I came out to be a 34D,  but I knew that was wrong for sure. The DD is the largest cup size offered, so I cut a 34DD.  This didn't seem way off base; although I take a 32 band in Bare Essentials and also the Bravo Bella (which is a pretty similar style), I can't find a 32E/F in RTW usually, so I wear a 34DD.

I probably should have stopped the second I compared the band to the last bra that I made.  That bra fits me, but isn't very flattering so I haven't really worn it.  But still, the fitting issues are with the cups, the band fits fine.  The weird thing is the band is based on the 32E pattern in the Bare Essentials book, but it's longer than the 34DD in the Marlborough bra. When it was made up, I sadly discovered that I should have paid attention to the picture above.  Both band and cup were much too small, I guess I'll need a 36 band. I don't like to be too hung up on numbers, but I've never been a 36 in any RTW brand or pattern.  Weird.

Bare Essentials band, Marks & Spencers cup copy (and adjusted)
I'm trying to figure out if I should do a 36DD next, or if I should try to put the 38DD cup in to the 36 band.  One thing I considering, is make a fitting band.  I had this idea a while back, but I was reminded of the idea again when I saw that the designer from Merekwardigh does it.  I'm not going to explain what I mean, just check hers out.  It's genius.

Right, so moving on...

The fabric I used is a very light silk/cotton blend that I repurposed from failed tank top.  Happily there should be enough to make another tester bra.

I just have to say, that sewing super narrow seams on thin fabric is so much easier on my featherweight than the Janome. Those feed dogs are right underneath the narrow foot on both sides so close to the needle. The smallest amount of seam allowance moves through evenly.  It's awesome.  Another thing I do to avoid getting the fabric sucked down in to the plate is to put the needle in to the fabric before putting the presser foot down.  I don't know if it will work for everyone, but it works for me on both my machines.

The pattern doesn't say to, but I think it's easier to deal with the bridge if you baste it all around at 1/8"

I laid out all the pattern pieces in their rough position before I started sewing.  I learned this tip from the Kenneth King Jeanius class, and also from a class given by Monica Bravo, and it's especially important here because there are no markings on the pattern pieces indicating which seams align to which.  If you have made up a few bra's before, most pieces are obvious, but the lower cup really isn't, and although there's a notch on the upper cup, apparently this is the apex, not a notch for aligning seams.  I feel like it's a missed opportunity to put the same notch on the lower cup.

It really makes no difference, but I always sew the band first because it's super quick and makes me feel like I'm making lots of progress.

My lace was too stretchy so I backed it with the cup fabric.

Since the seam allowances are narrow, I tend to use marking pens on bras. I'm lucky that there's tons of Japanese stores around here, so I can find frixon pens really easily.

I will know I've really jumped the shark if I ever buy a pattern notcher.  A simple snip takes care of it.  It's not mentioned in the pattern, but this notch lines up with the seam joining the upper and lower cup.

Nearly there, but no trying on yet...

I know that my bra-sewing-hero Sigrid likes a lot of pins, but I actually find the curved seams easier without pins.  This only works as long as the pieces line up nicely, and they do.  Every single pattern piece in this pattern went together perfectly.

I've used twill tape and flannel backed poly satin in the past for wire casing on tester bras. They do the job, but they wouldn't last very long. I was still hoping that this bra could be wearable, so I harvested some casing from a worn out M&S bra.  I've been disappointed with the casing I've bought from Bravo Bella and Porcelynne (though their underwires and other findings are great).  I got fantastic underwire casing from the now out-of-business Elingeria. I've got an order in with Merekwaerdigh AND Bramakers Supply (thanks Pam!), so I'll report back when I get them.

All the colored ones to the left are from Elingeria, the white is from Porcelynne, and the black is the harvested M&S channelling.

There's no visible stitching line on the right side of this casing, so you just have to eyeball it, but it's much wider than the ones that do have stitching so it's easier avoid closing up the channel by accident.

On to elastics!  I don't measure out my elastics, I always just sew them straight from the roll

And I learned this trick from Monica Bravo: You sew directly from one seam needing elastic to the next.

It's easier to handle, and it saves on elastic.  Please don't ask why I would need to save on elastic when I have a gigantic roll.  I just don't like waste, ok??

So when you cut it apart, there's only a tiny bit extra.

It's a little hard  to see, but I left the casing on the outside of the elastic, so I could re-harvest it easily.

I also used dark blue thread instead of black.  It makes ripping things back out a LOT easier.

The pattern specifies that it should be 3 hooks high for this size pattern, but I have 3-hook high notions in several heights. The height for this size was 2 1/4". I was using some hooks stolen from that same old M&S bra which was a too short.  I just trimmed the power net down a little to accommodate.  Straps were from... no prizes to anyone who guessed 'stolen from M&S bra!

Finally! I made a little label to go in the bra.  It's REALLY easy to forget what the hell pattern and size you used when the bra has been around a while, so I started writing it on the white casing.  Since this has black casing I had to think of a different plan.  When I take the hook and eyes back off this bra for the next go round, I'm going to staple this label to the band, so I can refer back to it later.

Here are some modeled photos, I think this will be a lovely bra once I can get the right size.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fehr Trade Threshold Shorts

I'm not calling this a review, because I was a tester for these shorts. The pattern may have changed since I made it up, and honestly I can't claim the slightest amount of objectivity.  I think anyone that tests for a pattern maker is firmly in the cheering section for that person. You interact with them, you give notes, you feel clever when they implement some of them, and you want them to succeed. Objectivity is a tricky subject at the best of times, but with all the extra complication that testing a pattern for someone involves, I feel like it is a total impossibility.  So here's my account of making up the pattern, and you can judge for yourself.

I gotta be honest, I am just addicted to my duathalons, I kinda thought I didn't need any other running bottoms. Nevertheless, what these shorts have going for them, is that they're good in the heat, and we've had one heat wave after another around here.  The recommended fabrics are lightweight wovens and athletic fabrics.  Not having anything athletic on hand (and these are testers after all) I stash dove and came out with some super shifty flawy rayon challis.  This is my all time favourite fabric for the heat, and it makes some pretty nice shorts, if I do say so myself.  The shorts hardly need any fabric at all, so I was able to make do with scraps from my Paddy's day dress (whose post I've updated with a couple of more recent pictures).

I didn't take any construction pictures, but even though the seaming makes the order of construction a little strange, the instructions are good, the whole thing whizzed together in 3 1/2 hours. Not bad!  I was a little confused at the junction of the trim at the side seam, but the instructions for this step have since been revised.  Instead of fold-over-elastic for the hem, I used some of the same rayon binding stuff that I used on this dress.  The rayon has some stretch but not much, but it works fine because the pattern calls for the FOE to be applied 1:1.

I'm now realizing that I never took a picture of the sneaky back pocket.  It's a great place to tuck your keys or ID.  In the rayon fabric, I found that my phone flapped around a little too much, but it might work in a more substantial fabric.

I do think that the front pockets are a design necessity to break up the front (is there anything more unflattering that a totally plain pair of elasticated waist shorts? But for me the pockets were too small to put anything in, and since the shorts were a little big on me, they're drooping a little.  I actually think that my shifty rayon is the problem here.  I don't see it in the other testers photos, and I haven't made them up in any other fabric.  If I made up the shorts again, I would make the pockets deeper.  There are instructions for that procedure included in the pattern, so I wouldn't have to tax my brain figuring out what I'd need to do to the strange pattern pieces.

And that's it! I've been on 4 or 5 runs in them at this stage, and they've performed exactly as they should; I don't get too hot, and they don't ride up.  Exactly what it says on the tin.  

I am especially fond of these shorts because I hadn't so much as touched my sewing machine in over a month before I made them. They were so painless to make and such a success when made, that I was inspired to get up to the t-shirt hacking adventures in my last post.  What more can you ask for in a pattern?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Crazy Schemes to get a TNT-T

If you want to sew a t-shirt, there are lots of patterns out there, quite a few of them are even free.  One of the routes you probably shouldn't take, is to make a pattern-magic-y burda pattern and retroactively de-pattern-magic it.  But if you do feel like doing that, and you really shouldn't, I can tell you that it actually worked out fantastically well for me!

That's not skin, it's my belt, but still, muy bajo.
This super-roundabout way of getting to a fairly simple t-shirt pattern was actually not my idea at all, it was the pattern-hacking brainchild of Aleah.  I made the Burda 2/2014 #135 a while back.  I made it in a straight 38 with no adjustments, (if you make it, you should follow Kathy's tutorial and lengthen it, because it is super super short, and I'm shortwaisted already).  I really liked the fit through the bust, waist and hips, it just sort of hung really nicely.  I wanted more of them, but I thought that maybe the design was so conspicuous someone might think I'd found a factory sale and bought them all up if I made too many with the same weird drape. Aleah suggested taking the weird drape out of the pattern, and once she had suggested it, it wouldn't leave my brain alone until I'd done it.

So here's what happened: 

The back is easiest, lets start there.  Luckily there are CB and CF marks on the pattern.  I folded the back piece along the CB:

And then traced the neckline, and made the side seam half way between the two different side seams the pattern has at the moment

The front is a bit more tricky, but apparently less tricky than using my already traced and made up Sew U Raglan t-shirt.

To get the neck and arms, I folded along the CF:

I only bothered tracing to where the side seams cross each other.  Also that extra bit of neckline sticking up is just the seam allowance so I ignored it.

Then I folded the pattern piece on the fold line you would use to sew up the shirt, this was just to get an idea of where the hem was, so I traced the rest of the side seam and the (wonky) hem.

Then using the other piece of the pattern (that had been folded up), I matched it to the other sleeve line, and traced the side seam.

After all that, you'd think I'd have a more precise way of splitting the difference between the two lines.  Well I tried, but they finish at such different heights, it's more of an art than a science.  I used a french curve to get somewhat of the same curve that's on the wider side seam, but a little closer to the body.

Comparing the resulting pattern to a RTW t-shirt I have (that's not particularly long) I added 3" to the length.

The sleeves didn't need any change at all. 

Thanks Aleah for giving me such a fun sewing puzzle, I flipping love raglan t-shirts, you just can't have too many patterns to play around with! 

 I did make an interim test t-shirt, but I thought it'd be more fun to show off this spotty one because I was able to use up the left over scraps in a new pair of Fehr Trade duathalons.

Even though I liked my running armband fine, I got totally spoiled by the side pockets on the first duathlons I made, and I never wanted to wear anything else.  I always seemed to lose my armband, and side pockets make it so much easier to pull out the phone and put it back in than my make-shift armband.  Plus - no tan lines!

This polkadot fabric is a super slinky possibly cotton/rayon blend.  I did a bunch of burn tests on a haul of fabric bought in the Michael Levine Loft and the FIDM store, and surprisingly this was a natural fabric.  I say surprisingly because it has a lot of spring to it.  It's possibly too light for the capri's but I didn't care. It also clings a little more than I'd like to my back, but not so much that I won't wear it.  For work it might need something underneath though.

I originally bought 1 or 1.5 yards of cotton lycra for the first duathalons, and this one was made from the left overs.  It's about 3" shorter than the capri length because of fabric shortage, but I like the length!

That's it for now.  I haven't been sewing all that much lately.  Since visiting Spain in June I've gotten totally obsessed with learning spanish.  I don't think it's taken over completely from sewing, but I'm sewing from a Patrones magazine to try to combine the two obsessions in one.  Do you guys find your sewing obsession waxes and wanes?  See you later!