Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merckwaerdigh E-BHS10 - Getting my moneys worth

Apologies to all that are sick to death of reading about bra sewing. **Cough Aleah cough** but I bought a huge supply of laces and underwires from a sale at Rimmon Fabrics, a store in west LA which had bought out some supplies from a local lingerie designer.  So I'm sorry to say, this won't be the last lingerie post!

I don't seem to be able to make the same pattern more than a few times before my eye starts wandering, and I want to see what's up with all the other shiny options out there. A while back I wanted to order some of the famous kits from Merckwaerdigh, and took the opportunity to get some of her patterns too, including E BHS-10.  I've now made 3 out of the 5 views of.  5 views! This is a very good value pattern!

I started with View A which is a very simple soft bra.

I made this mainly to get an idea of the sizing because I've never made anything by this company before. It was a super quick sew, and I was very surprised by how it was actually fairly supportive, and did give a pretty nice shape. The fabric is a really nice cotton/lycra/acetate mix from The Fabric Store. It seems like very good stuff for lingerie because it has a pretty firm stretch to it.

I might have moved straight to View D, except I had recently found some fabric in the Michael Levine loft that I was sure would make a great sports bra. It looks like normal cotton in this picture, but it feels like it has a lot of lycra, and it's really beefy.

Unfortunately it wasn't beefy enough.  I added seam allowance to the neckline when I traced it, so I could line it with some stretch mesh. I inserted the picot elastic in the way you would insert piping in to a seam. Even with the lining, it's not nearly supportive enough for vigorous exercise, certainly not running.  Ho Hum, it's also very comfortable. No major loss.

So on to the last version.  Time for a proper review

View / Size used: View D, size 34D which was according to my measurements. Unfortunately the band is too big and the cups are to small.  If it existed, I would likely be a 32DD or E, but it doesn't. Sad face.

Fabric/Notions Used: With bras, there's a lot of bits and pieces and the supplies are always one of the major sticking points.  Because I tend to pick up supplies here and there, I've made myself a post-it note for each pattern with a list of all the stuff required so I can tick them off until I've made myself a 'kit'. I'm pretty sure I got this idea from the Sewaholic blog, but I can't find the post it was mentioned.  Here is where all this stuff came from:

Stretch lace: Rimmon fabric in West LA
Cuplining (non-stretch lining for center front): Silk organza
Wide Picot Elastic: 1/2" plush back elastic from the huge roll I got in the LA garment district
Picot elastic: 1/2" elastic, but much lighter 'knicker' elastic from a huge roll as above
Cup elastic: I used the same elastic as the "Picot elastic" but I cut the picots off
Shoulder elastic: Sorry, can't remember where it came from
Rings and sliders: Stolen from a RTW bra
Hook and eye: Probably the new closed Elingeria
Channeling: Bramakers supply - hand delivered to me by my bra sewing neighbor!! Thanks Pam!
Underwire: Porcelynne

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: 

Were the instructions easy to follow?
If you have made bras before, you'll have no problem at all. If you haven't they won't be enough. Sigrid has actually done a very in depth bra making tutorial using this pattern, but her own construction techniques.  I did follow the order of construction as laid out, but I got confused about how to deal with the channelling at the center front where there's a 'V' shape.  You can see that I messed it up a little.  Otherwise it came together easily.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
Here's the thing about this pattern. I actually think if you were to teach a course in bra making, this would be the absolute perfect pattern. If you start at View A and work your way down, they get steadily more complex adding one new idea at a time. First adding lace, then lace with the bra back, then underwire, finally underwire and padding.  But the instructions are not great.  Someone should use this bra for a class!

I don't know if I like quite this much lace in my brassieres. I'm not usually a lacy person at all, but there's something about making my own stuff that makes me want to make things that look 'real' and lace does seem to sell 'real bra'.  I can't tell if I like the silhouette yet because it doesn't fit me that well.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the finished garment?
The center front doesn't sit flush against my skin, so I do need a bigger cup, but somehow it's still comfortable and I've worn it plenty now without trouble. I think it might be because I know my underwire size, and I have to think that's the biggest factor when it comes to comfort.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I might, but I was disappointed to find that I fall between the sizes available in this pattern, but my size is also not covered in the other pattern I bought.  When I was buying the patterns,  I did exchange emails with the designer / shop owner, but I didn't know exactly what size I was, so it was hard for her to advise.  To the second question, I would certainly recommend the pattern.

[ETA] Construction Notes:
Totally forgot to add any construction notes when I was writing this first!  Sometimes I write a post so much in my head I forget to actually, you know, write it!

I underlined the the cups in a light mesh. For the side cup piece I only extended the mesh up to where it turns in to the strap.  I sewed the cup seams on the featherweight, but did serge it after using wooly nylon in one of the loopers. I don't trust my accuracy on the serger for the cup seams, but I do like the neat seam allowances.  Having said that, my accuracy attaching the side cup to the other cup pieces was likely not very good. It's hard to keep track of where the seam lines should be with the scallops getting in the way. I'll have to figure out a way to mark this better next time.

I used the same light mesh on the band, but as Anne points out in the comments, I might have got a better fit with a heavier power mesh.  It's such a narrow back, that it needs all the support I can provide.  In fact in any future versions, I'll likely widen the back to a 3 hook closure.

I've always had trouble getting the hook and eyes on nicely, for this bra I actually used a little fabric glue stick to keep them in place, did a straight stitch first, and then finally zig zagged them. It seemed to go more smoothly than usual.

I have to say I was skeptical that my flimsy knicker elastic would be enough support for the lace portion of the straps, but there are two rows of elastic on the strap in the end, and it seems to be holding up just fine.

Machines / settings used: 

I don't have any settings for View D, but for View A I used my serger with wooly nylon in the top looper, so that it was next to my skin when the seam was topstitched down. It worked pretty well.

Brother 1034D serger
Differential Feed: 2
Stitch Length: 3
Stitch Width: 7
Tensions:  Left Needle: 4.5, Right Needle: 3.8, Upper Looper: 3.3, Lower Looper: 4.2

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pattern Notebook: Burda 6990 - Wrap hack

Hey guys! I'm back with another round of "why did I hack that when I had not one but two wrap dresses (that I could have just hacked off the skirt of) already??"  Today I actually have a legit answer, which is that I love a raglan and neither of those dresses had raglan sleeves.  I've basically wanted a cosy wool ballerina wrap since forever,  and this one I made a long time ago didn't really work for me in the end for reasons I'll get in to further down.

I started off with Burda 6990 (reviewed here), because it was closer fitting than my other recently hacked raglan.  Now I'm realizing I could have done a second-generation hack, and I'm wishing I'd used that instead.  Oh well, first generation it is.

So first, I put the top on, and drew on myself (in washable ink) where I wanted the cross over to go.  Having the pattern made up, and doing it this way is a million miles easier than trying to guess where it should be by paper fitting.  Does anyone actually get a good result from paper fitting? It's always been very hit-and-miss for me.  It's hard to see the line, I know, but that's the nature of disappearing ink.

I made a copy of the pattern piece which was the full front rather than on the fold.  My paper wasn't quite long enough, but I didn't care about losing a tiny bit of length.

Then I transferred the line from the shirt to the paper.

Smoothed it out a little with some french curves.

And put on some seam allowances.  Since I had the wrap starting right at the original neckline, I needed to add a tiny bit of extra paper to have full seam allowances there.

Despite the fact that I was hacking a well-fitting top, I wanted to make a test run, before I cut in to my lovely wool.  I don't seem to have any pictures of that top except for one posted on instagram.  Sorry for the filter, but I usually filter my IG pictures mainly so details are visible on dark fabrics.

Bonus view of Madame wearing the burda double layer dress from 06/2013.  Great pattern! Very simple. I should really review it.

It had worked pretty well!.  I used binding on the neckline all the way around, which started as 2.5" folded over, and sewn on with a 5/8" seam, so the binding ended up about 1 1/4" (right?? I sew in inches because everything here is set up that way, but I still hate doing inch-maths).

The ties on the purple version were separate to the binding, but it ended up being a little bulky where the two meet.  For the black wool version, I combined the binding and the ties.  First, I sewed on the binding portion in the normal way (doubled over, wrong sides together), but stopped about a few inches from the side edge.  Then I sewed the rest of the binding/tie right sides together to form a loop.  I turned the loop right sides out, and tacked down the place where the serging and the loop met.  I still wasn't happy with the flipping-out-potential of the serged seam allowances, so I zig-zagged them down.  The zig zags really sink down in to the wool, I don't think they're that noticeable, but I actually like zig-zags, I know some people don't.

The main changes arising from the tester version were the side shaping on the wrap pieces.

For the underlap side, the shaping below the waist is basically surplus to requirements, and hangs in a slightly weird way, so I straightened it out.

 I also shaved a little bit off the hem on the lapped side, so it wouldn't peek out.

For the overlap, I lowered the place where it wraps around me.  I'm very short waisted and I need the underlap side to wrap right under my bust to be flattering, but most ballet tops have the wrap lower down.  This is actually one of the reasons that most wrap tops don't work for me.  There is hardly any space between my under bust and waist, so things that wrap further down the body just work their way back up.  This happened so much with my previous attempt at a ballet wrap, that I donated it. You can see in the top above that the wrap is right under my bust, but in the black version the line doesn't have such a sharp turn under the bust.

I thought it would be visually nicer if the overlap side extended slightly over the side seam, so I drew the side seam line directly upwards from the widest place on the hip.  I kept both sides on the same piece of paper, it's easy to just fold away the relevant pieces.

Finally, I was ready to chop in to my wool, another piece of merino from The Fabric Store.  Kbenco pointed out in the comments of my merino running top, that 100% wool can sag a little over time, so I was really happy to find this black merino with 2% lycra - and in one of their periodic 30% off sales too.  I want this to be close fitting, so it's nice that the lycra gives it a little extra spring.  Hopefully this will stop it from bagging out over time.

It is so hard to photograph black wool!!  Can you tell I was getting frustrated? I used the full sleeve, and a cuff for the wool version.

These pictures don't show off the lines very well.  For some reason the best picture I have of this top was taken in the bathroom of my office.  Yes... I was so excited to show this top to the world that I IG'ed it from my office lavvy.

I'm wearing it with a Grainline Moss skirt.  No one needs another review of that skirt right? I made an 8 this time, and the fabric is left over from my red burda jeans.

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.