Ooo la la. Bra pics. Belly pics. You’re warned.
Ooo la la. Bra pics. Belly pics. You’re warned.
Last Saturday I wound up unexpectedly home alone with my children all evening. Of course I was going to sew (I’m a single-minded obsessive after all) but, rather unexpectedly, they wanted to join in. First Tyo, then Syo, and they both wanted to make… Underwear!
Tyo, who just completed her first sewing unit in Practical & Applied Arts at Xmas, got her heart fixated on black lace boy shorts. I had some fabric I figured would be perfect—a hefty stretch lace with decent recovery, that I made a great pair of leggings from last year sometime (and didn’t blog, apparently). After a lot of googling I convinced her that not only did I know what boy shorts are, but that the Rosy Ladyshorts were, in fact, a boyshort pattern, and she agreed to make a slightly modified version—modified by adding to the bottom edge so that when she sewed on the stretch lace edging she could line its outer edge up with the fabric, and trim the excess away later. Considering she’s never sewn anything stretch before, never mind applied elastic by feel, I think she did awesome.
Syo wanted an aqua pair to match two of her bras, and we managed to find a lace in stash that was almost exactly the right colour. And fabric, but that’s less astonishing. Unfortunately not a stretch lace, which took some explaining, but we used it for the side fronts of my hacked Watson pattern. Now for some reason I feel a wee bit weird about showing you photos of my preteen’s underwear so I’m just showing you the fabrics.
So imagine this pair but made of not-see-through aqua knit with the lace at the side rather than centre front. I wound up doing most of the construction as it was a bit more complex than was probably a good idea, but Syo cut it all out on her own.
The convenient part about all of this is both children pretty much wear my same size right now in horizontal measurements, so there was little to no adjusting of size. Although that may also be saddening. /sigh.
And, for you camo haters out there, you have a win. This pair was a total fail. The lace was perfect but the mesh has way too much stretch in one direction, little recovery, and absolutely none in the other, and they were BAGGY! And no amount of taking them in would fix it. UGH. I feel like the Rosy Ladyshorts, more than any other underwear pattern I’ve made, really depend on the fabric having just the right amount of stretch and recovery. When I nail it, they’re amazing, but when they don’t work, the fail is epic. Ah, well. It’s not like I don’t have lots of other underwear in my drawer…
I really want a black lace pair like Tyo’s, dammit.
For my February project at Fabricland I took out a double project of lingerie: the plan was for one Watson set and one Marlborough (ulp!) + underwear to be determined set (ended up being another Watson bikini, because why mess with perfection? 😉 ).
This was prompted mainly by timing—it’s a season where they don’t really want you to take out projects in last fall’s fabrics, but we didn’t have much in for the spring fabrics yet—so the selection is limited to the “regular”, non-seasonal stock. This lack of options made me finally buckle down and get around to doing something I’ve been procrastinating at for years now. A lingerie project.
My fabrics of choice were from the bridal section, stretch mesh and non-stretch lace, and the main inspiration: some really gorgeous ruched elastic they carry at a ridiculously inflated price, that only comes in these stupid little one-yard packages. Way too annoying to spend my own money on—perfect for a project. Part of the problem with sewing bras based on Fabricland stock is that things are a little hit and miss—the strap elastic doesn’t match the band elastic, there’s underwires but only one style and there’s no actual power mesh. So in many ways these projects feel very ad hoc. However, having done this I’m feeling a bit more comfortable with that—it’s not like I have significant support needs requiring industrial materials.
I started with the familiar; I’ve made the Watson set before, so you’d think it would’ve been a breeze. Well, blame passing time or being still sick, but I managed some pretty good stuff ups, despite the previous experience. The stretch mesh I was using for the back band has a LOT of stretch, so I downsized the band. And the first version of the cradle I cut out, I didn’t realize that apparently a large corner had torn off the pattern piece. So I had to recut all that (in three layers), after I had basted everything together and then realized my cradle didn’t match up with my band piece. D’oh.
Then, when applying the elastic to the panties, I used too much elastic on the first leg, leaving me short for the second leg (remembering my elastic all came in 1 yard packages)—so the elastic for the second leg is significantly tighter. Either looks fine, though I suspect they will feel a bit weird on, but the bikinis look rather weirdly lop-sided. Bleh. The project must hang. 😉 one thing that did work out was adding a panel of my lace to the front of the bikini—this turned out super cute. I basically just traced off the front pattern piece, sliced where I wanted my panel to end, and added seam allowances.
Once I recut the cradle, the construction of the bralet wasn’t bad, but a couple of things bit me in the ass. First was my decision to downsize the band. BAD idea. Especially when I had also decided to double the mesh in the band. Too tight. Way too tight.
My biggest problem with my first two Watson bralets is that the wide long-line bands don’t stay in place. My ribcage flares at the bottom, and they just wriggle their way up. So to try to ameliorate that for this one, I added boning channels (with some scraps of my fancy elastic) over the side-seams. This seems a bit overkill for what’s supposed to be a soft bra, but if it works, it works, right? Mind you the jury is still out on it working. Because:
When the great try-on moment came, it became clear that the cup size that fits me in a cotton spandex jersey, does not fit me very well in a non-stretch lace. Lots of cutting in. Pouting, I got Tyo to try it on, since her bra size is about one cup letter smaller than mine these days. Yup, great fit. But, it’s a sweet off-white lacy bralet with rosettes… Not really her style. At all. Syo, on the other hand, seems to like it. Oh, and it fits her, too. So I think it will have a home. Maybe. Both my kids, like me, are foam cup types, so I’m actually not sure anything else will get worn.
And then, with the warmup done, it was time. Marlborough time. A scroll back through Instagram informs me that I muslined this pattern a mere 76 weeks ago! Yikes. At that time I was pretty impressed with the fit, which seemed to need only a minor tweak to the side seam. But in the meantime plenty of sewing anxiety had set in, and I stalled and faffed over not having the right notions and wrang my hands about what colour my first bra should be and generally just avoided the problem. So really, taking this out as a project with a deadline, was pretty much perfect for cutting through all that avoidance.
And now, having done it up, I’m not quite sure what I was so nervous about. Yeah, there are lots of little pieces and I wish there were maybe a few more notches to help keep track of which way the pieces fit together, but I love sewing with 1/4″ seam allowances, and by hopping back and forth between my 1/4″ foot and my edge stitch/stitch in the ditch foot the sewing itself was pretty slick. And the Instagram peeps were there to hold my hand while I panicked over my half-ass channeling, arguably the scariest part of the whole process.
For this set I layered the stretch mesh and non-stretch lace over a thin grey poly spandex knit. I kinda wish the grey showed more, actually, and maybe that I had used mesh over the power bar rather than lace, so it would show more. And maybe stretch more.
Because the biggest problem, again, is that the non-stretch lace is less forgiving than the stable-but-with-some-give earlier version. The power bar—the vertical piece at the side of the bra—actually kinda cuts in at the seam to the other pieces, not a nice look, though also not evident in the pictures, so it probably isn’t as bad as I think it is. And the shape is more pointed in the lace than it was in my scuba first version. Not a bad shape, but a little different.
For my own information, I’m going to add that the underwire I’m using is about two sizes larger than the “right” underwire for this size. This means it’s wide enough not to cut in at the side of my breast, which is one of my biggest complaints with store bought bras. I also had to shorten them significantly on the cleavage side to fit this pattern, which is fine if you have the tools for that but less fine otherwise.
At the end of the day, though, the biggest issue, which has nothing to do with the pattern or fit itself. This is a soft cup bra. I’m a foam padding & push-up girl, if I’m going to actually wear a bra. The last time I wore a soft cup bra was over a decade ago. In particular, the right padded bras mean I don’t need to worry about small bust adjustments in my sewing. So that, more than anything else, might be what keeps me from using this bra much. But I am curious. It wouldn’t be the first time sewing has coaxed me to experiment outside my comfort zone.
Sometimes ya just gotta jump on the bandwagon, right?
I bought Cloth Habit’s Watson pattern shortly after it came out. Then, of course, realized that my home printer was dead out of ink, so actually making it up had to wait. (Although at one point I was seriously considering tracing the pieces off the computer screen. It’s a small pattern, you could totally do it.)
Once I did get ink, I promptly made up the bikini (panties! Yes, I come from a pantie-saying family.)
My first pair isn’t overly pretty (due entirely to my choice of elastic), but the fit was bang-on; it might be the first pair of home-made undies I haven’t wanted to lower the front on after my first go round*. The only thing I wasn’t over the moon about was the three-piece exterior construction. I know some people love this because it lets you get a really neat finish on the crotch, but I don’t love the look of the front crotch seam. Purely a matter of taste. I would have photos but my kids made fun of me for taking pictures of my underwear so I didn’t take any. Darned kids. As I said, they don’t look terribly pretty anyway, but the fit and feel is great. (Actually, they look fine on, but are kind of scrunchy when not being worn, and I don’t have a chic underwear-modelling-mannequin to demo on.)
Next up was the bra. Bralette. Softie. Whatever you call those things that look like bras but don’t have underwires. I should confess that I’m not a huge fan of this type of bra; OK, I am not a fan of bras in general, really; as a teen I refused to try one on until I could reasonably fit something that didn’t say “A” for the cup size (that was the end of high school), and then after I had kids I got annoyed again and really didn’t wear them until, well, I started sewing and discovered that a nice, padded foam-cup could shift me from needing small-bust adjustments to being bang-on in pattern-bust-sizing. So basically it was sewing that got me wearing bras again. And of course, if I have to wear it, probably sooner or later I’m going to want to try to sew it, although the bras you can easily sew are, of course, not the kind of hard-cup I usually go for. The first bra pattern I bought was the Marlborough, back in the summer, but though my trial was pretty successful, it keeps getting back-burnered. Watson, not having underwires, was a lot less scary for my first “bra” type experiment.
I will pause to voice one small complaint about sizing. Both the Watson and the Orange Lingerie Marlborough suggest that you find your cup size by taking your full-bust measurement and then subtracting your high bust measurement. I gather this works for many people.
It does not work for shit for me. My high-bust is the same or (at most) 1/2″ smaller than my full bust. Blame it on broad shoulders or well-developed pectorals or who-knows-what, but according to this method I am an AA cup. (I did, however, go with Amy’s recommended band-size based on my ribcage measurement. That worked fine.) For the cup size, I went with the one that corresponds to my “cup volume” for pretty much every storebought bra I’ve ever owned—the one that corresponds with 34B/32C/30D. Now, cup size on this bra is pretty forgiving so maybe I would’ve been just fine in a the 32AA cup, but… I’m kinda doubting it. Anyway, /endrant. If you know your cup volume, just go with that.
So I made up almost the entire bra, in the long-line view, then realized what I already knew, which was that trying to fit the long-line onto any bra hook sets that I had on hand was not going to even remotely work; with the elastic finishing I had used, my back was a full 3″ (which is about 3/4″ longer than drafted for—I was using foldover elastic to finish the band top and bottom rather than folding it behind, so I wasn’t getting rid of my seam-allowance. It’s not that I was unaware of this so much as that I liked the wider band, until I actually had to think practically about how I was going to finish it off.) So, I got me to the Bra Maker’s Supply website to order some wider bra hooks (and some other doodads while I was at it). (Also, hooray for in-Canada shipping—it got here regular mail from Ontario in three business days! I couldn’t drive the distance in much less than that.)
Happily, the 4-hook bra-back fit PERFECTLY on my band. I used Tasia’s trick of hand-basting the back bits in place before bar-tacking—genius! Flawless attachment the first time. (Yes, this is my first time attaching any kind of bra back, really.
Since materials are such a big deal when it comes to bra-making, I should probably go over them: I used a standard, fairly heavy and very stretchy cotton-lycra knit, a single layer everywhere except the front band (“cradle.” I’ll figure this bra terminology out one of these days. 😉 ). I had just enough strap elastic left from my Gertie Slip to make the straps, and as mentioned above I used a wide plushy fold-over elastic (1/2″ when finished) to finish the bottom and back of the band. For the top and cups, I used my crappy-but-quick-and-easy method: serge clear elastic on to the inside, fold over, and zig-zag. Not the prettiest, but it works and doesn’t show. For the cradle, I used a double-layer of my cotton knit, and interfaced one side with fusible knit interfacing. I made this side the inside, but in hind-sight I kinda wish I’d made it the outside; since the interfaced side has no vertical stretch, but the un-interfaced side does, the un-interfaced side tends to bubble a little bit. Something to think about next time. 🙂 I didn’t line the cups in any way and I’m a bit torn—I feel like the stretch helps the fit, but on the other hand there isn’t a lot of support or shape. Not that I need much of either, really, so perhaps that’s just me being used to hard-cup bras. But the band feels very solid with the elastic and interfacing and the industrial-grade four-hook back, while the cups feel much softer and lighter. Maybe a double-layer for the cups would’ve been the way to go.
Still, quibbling aside, it was fun to make and is pretty fun to wear. I also made Tyo try it on, and it fit her pretty well on a tighter hook—I’m actually kinda liking the idea of making her bras (especially if I can sell her on simple soft ones like this), since finding storebought ones in her (itty bitty) band-size is either tricky or very expensive.
And now, back to those men’s jeans… >_<
*I like the front low on my underwear—your mileage may vary.