Archive for August, 2008

30
Aug
08

Flutter Sleeves

My mom requested “a nice black top” to accompany a skirt I plan to make for her soon. Since I had fabric on hand and a good base pattern for a shirt to fit her (and did not yet have the waist and hip measurements I needed to draft her skirt pattern) the top came first.

This is the same pattern I’ve used for the last four shirts for her, in a sleek black 4-way stretch fabric. Flutter sleeves seemed right for the top to match the upcoming skirt… but I have never made them before, or seen what patterns for flutter sleeves look like. Couldn’t find it online anywhere either. So, I guessed! Just tried to picture in my head what it would look like to unwrap that three dimensional shape into the two dimensional fabric piece that would be needed… and it turned out fairly well, don’t you think? (Although not quite perfect).

No beads on this one – I glued sizable rhinestones all along the neckline for some bling! Mom’s pleased and plans to wear it out soon.

29
Aug
08

Third time’s a charm!

At last a bra that fits! This one does almost everything it should. The band is snug but not too tight, and sits in place. I used a wide 3/4″ elastic for the bottom edge of the band and it lies flat without curling under and pinching. The cups are large enough. The straps are wide and don’t dig into my shoulders. It is very, very comfortable.

I am going to make a few final tweeks to the shape though. The apex isn’t in quite the right place, and the cups need a bit of reinforcing (probably padding in the lower half of the cups) for the shape and support I want. I’m confident I’ll be able to make these final alterations though, and in the meantime this is absolutely good enough to wear out in public.

28
Aug
08

Strike Two

Well my second bra making attempt clearly needed further revisions. You can’t tell in the photo here, but I definitely over compensated a bit. The band was a bit too tight and the cups a bit too low cut. Still the overall fit was considerably better than the first and closer to the goal.

Bra 3 is finished too and I’ll try to post it tomorrow.

19
Aug
08

More for Mom

My bra making efforts are on hold at the moment while I wait for my supply order to arrive (it shipped today), but I am continuing to create items to expand my mom’s wardrobe. We recently purchased a stockpile of fabrics on sale from fabric.com, and I’m working my way through them little by little.

Today’s achievements made use of a bright royal blue poly knit fabric. I used the same pattern we created for her purple beaded shirt, and had enough fabric leftover to make a sleeveless tank as well. Since I used basically the same pattern for both shirts, and identical fabric, I did a couple of simple things to help make them look a bit different from each other.

The long sleeved shirt has a scoop neck, a self fabric neckband, and beadwork along the neckline.

Meanwhile, the tank is sleeveless with a V neck, and has contrasting black fabric at the neckline and along the arm holes.

And Mom, if you’re reading this, your silver shirt will come soon but it turns out I don’t still have that fabric on hand. I added it to my rapidly growing list for a trip to the fabric store soon!

18
Aug
08

Trial and Error

My first bra is finished! But completely unwearable, at least for me. I’m not discouraged in the slightest though. I fully expected a couple of trial runs before I had the result I wanted.

Because I’ve never sewn bras before, I figured it would be best to work from a pattern. I chose Kwik Sew 2374 because it features a full band (which is more supportive than partial band designs) and large cup sizes. It also has larger band sizes than I wear (starting from a 42) but I thought it would be simple enough to adjust the relatively flat band down to a smaller size; certainly easier than it would be to adjust the cup size up from a too-small pattern.

Since it was my first attempt, I pretty much followed the pattern to a T. I used the cutting lines for the 42DD size (since, going by the math alone, my 38G should be the same cup volume) and I did remove 2 inches from the band on each side, to bring that 42 down to a 38. Made sense in my head. I also checked the underwire I’d purchased -again, the right size for a 38G – to see how it fit me and it was perfect.

Now I’m curious to hear if anyone else has used this pattern, and what their experience was. Because I found that it runs HUGE. The underwire stops inches before the cups do, and the cups themselves press up into my underarms, and nearly to my neck. Just far, far too high. On the pictures below, my thumb and my finger are pointing to exactly where the underwire stops. All that bra above is excess.

Despite the fact that I won’t be wearing this particular bra, I was able to see exactly where I need to make alterations and I’m confident that my second attempt will be a far better fit! I’ve already started work on bra number two and just waiting for my order of supplies to come in the mail (I ran out of elastic! No way to finish without that!).

Full list of alterations needed: Remove 1.5″ from the top of the upper cups so they stop where they should. Remove a small bit of fabric right at the apex so there’s no funny pucker at the cup center seam. Use a wider strip of hook and eye tape (I’d mistakenly bought a 2 hook bra closure) so the band can stay a bit wider at the back. Remove excess fabric from band under cups, because as it is it just folds under itself awkwardly. Slight modification to the bridge so the cups sit about a 1/2″ inch closer to each other, which is just a better fit for my body. Took about another inch out of the band as it was still too loose and I’ll need to remember to cut the elastic proportionately shorter as well.

My second attempt should fit extremely well. 🙂

17
Aug
08

Need a Lift?

It was only a matter of time. After several years of sewing and a decade and a half struggling to find ones that suit me, I have finally started sewing bras! I have been thinking about it, reading up on it, and planning to do so for a few months now, and at last this week I got started. But before I share my initial creation, a few thoughts on bras in general:

The more I sew, the more frustrated I become with the limitations of ready to wear clothing. I am increasingly aware of FIT and how a garment should properly sit on the wearer’s body, and therefore increasingly aware of how incredibly POORLY ready to wear does this. I am also increasingly aware of what an impossible task it would be to mass produce clothing that truly did accomodate the millions of truly unique body shapes out there. I know they have to pick standards. I do wish they hadn’t arbitrarily picked a body type smaller than the average American (wouldn’t it make the most sense to pick the *actual* average?). But I digress.

Bras are the worst problem I have personally encountered for fit. I’ve heard over and over again lately that the vast majority of American women are wearing the wrong sized bra. My initial thought every time is “DUH!” How in the world could we all wear the right bra when most stores carry a very small range of sizes?? Personally, I know how to measure myself, and lately I have taken to remeasuring before I buy bras (since weight gain and loss, a pregnancy, 21 months nursing, then weaning, have meant fairly frequent changes in my bust size over the past 3 years or so). Despite this, most stores I’ve tried DON’T carry my size. I am big busted, yes, but I’m not freakishly large. There are many women in this world (several of whom I know personally) who are quite a bit bustier than I am, some of them on smaller frames than mine… and yet most stores, even lengerie shops, just don’t carry my size.

I think in many cases, women wear the wrong bra because it’s the best they can find. If a store doesn’t carry a 36DDD, for example, a women might be inclined to believe the salesgirl who claims “A 38DD is the same thing!” But it’s really not. Truth be told the CUPS should be the same size for those two bras, and hold the same amount of breast tissue, but moving up to a larger band size WILL mean the bra is not supportive. And frankly the bigger breasted you are, the more you need that support. And heaven forbid you are bigger… at this moment in time, I wear a 38G. To accomodate my bosoms with the “down a cup, up a band size” method I’d have to go to a 40F (not in your everyday stores), 42DD (maybe in stores) or 44D before I had cups that fit right. At by that band size, you can pretty much expect the bra to fit like a belt.

(On a lovely side note though, I found some instructions for altering that bra so that it does fit right, by taking in the band, here.)

So, I have alternated between buying slightly too small bras, or shopping at the special bra shop that carries non standard sizes. (If you’re in Tampa, the Pennyrich bra shop has a huge range of sizes, as well as specialty bras such as masectomy and maternity bras).

This brings me to my next rant. If a woman has the know how to size herself (good articles on that here and here) and finds she isn’t a standard size, but takes the initiative to drive an hour from her home to the specialty shop (yep, it took me an hour to get there, with my baby in tow) so she can wear the correct size, guess what she’s greeted with? $80+ bras that come in her choice of beige, beige, or beige. Am I alone in my distate for beige? Personally, I find it to be unsexy, boring, and an absolute magnent for dinge. Is it too much to ask that the bra I paid $80 for at least **attempt* to be pretty?

And in addition to all of these issues there are still challenges finding the right shape (I prefer rounder cups rather than pointier ones) from such a small selection of correctly sized bras, not to mention COMFORT and hopefully a good value. From what my friends tell me, and what I’ve seen now that I’ve looked, it is equally challenging for small breasted women to find their correct size – how many AA bras have you seen lately? And of course maternity bras, masectomy bras, etc. have painfully few options available.

Personally, I think there are many, many women out there who would get in line to buy the right bra if such a thing existed.

My own wish list for my dream bra would be: a properly sized bra with a snug band that has a wide elastic at the bottom of the band for the best support – but not the picot elastic since the little decorative bumpy bits tend to irritate my skin after a while. I want SOFT fabrics and properly finished seams, round cups, relatively full coverage but not so much so that I have to buy a whole new wardrobe of higher-necked shirts (something halfway between a demi and a full coverage bra would be my personal ideal). I want a very thin bit of padding in the lower half of the cup just to reinforce it and add more support, but not so much that I’m noticeably larger; and I want this padding under a layer of something soft like tricot. I do want underwires, and I want them to sit where they were meant to, right under my breasts, without creeping down and pressing into my ribcage. I want broad straps that sit in the right spot on my shoulders where the weight is best carried (but of course with the fabulous band on this bra, there shouldn’t be too much weight held by the straps) and I want the strap adjusters, if any (better still would be straps that were the right length to begin with) in the back because the hard plastic pieces and the seams attaching the adjuster tend to hurt if they lie on the top of my shoulders carrying weight. To finish the wish list off, I want my dream bra to come in a variety of pretty colors, with coordinating panties available in my size, and I want the bra at a reasonable price.

I honestly don’t expect ready-to-wear to have quite exactly this, because it never has. But I can certainly make my own.

And that will be our next post. 🙂

12
Aug
08

Beaded (Beta)

I decided a while ago that I wanted to try my hand at beadwork on a garment. Simple enough, but I hadn’t done it before. I’ll want a decent eye and hand for this when I get into more formal wear, and when someday I have the opportunity to work on bridal gowns.

For starters, a small, straightforward project was the way to start. So, my Mom’s newest blouse is beaded along the collar. This shirt is an original pattern I created especially for her. We tore apart a tank top that fit her nicely, traced it onto pattern paper, and lengthened it a bit. I’ve made her several tank tops from this pattern. The blouse I made here was from the same pattern, altered so the neck is a V rather than a scoop, and with sleeves added.

So I’d have a guide for the beadwork, I drew a design on the finished shirt, just under the collar. I used washable markers in a similar color (after testing on a scrap of the fabric to be sure it really does wash out; sometimes they don’t). Then I hand stitched the beads roughly along the lines I’d drawn.

I think the final result really works (despite the fact that, sadly, I failed to achieve symmetry in my bead design). My Mom wants more shirts that she can wear in a professional setting, but without a suit jacket (for several reasons – brighter colors flatter her better, jackets are stiff and uncomfotable, etc.). The beading gives the shirt a sort of “finished” look, in my opinion, and stands alone better than the shirt would without it. Mom agrees, and cheerfully took the shirt home with her today.




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