lazy saturday, sewing and self-soothing.

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made this today, out of nylon bra tulle, a blush floral lace, and a self drafted pattern drafted around a demi wire. I wasn’t really thinking about proportions when I altered it for the wider wires I’m using now (thanks, pregnancy body), but could have expanded the cradle / reduced the back band for a little more front band real estate, but the fit is good. My wire size is significantly larger than what would be typical of my cup size, so the proportions aren’t standard. *shrug*

Here’s an internal view:

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making this one is complicated! I do the band and cup separately, leaving the underarm elastic for almost the very end of the process. For the band, since doing the gothic arch in the center requires flipping the elastic, but you want to preserve the scallop edge of the lace and still enclose the seams, i find it’s easiest to work with the tulle layer separately from the lace overlay for most of the construction process. I sew the tulle cradle and lace cradle separately, only joining at the center front top edge between the cups. Then I add the elastic to the bottom edge. Once the first pass of elastic is finished on the outward facing side of the tulle, I turn it to the inside and then pin the ever loving crap out of everything to keep it in place, using the second pass to secure the lace in place. Then I baste the edges that I’ll be adding elastic to or setting cups into, because it’s easier than dealing with multiple translucent layers slipping around.

For the cups, I didn’t want to split the lace in two and then have to match up the patterns in the lace, so the lace is a darted single piece cup over a two piece tulle cup, and the lace has stretch that the tulle doesn’t. So I treat each separately, join at the top edge, and then pull and stretch the lace just slightly over the rigid tulle to align the shapes and seams as much as possible, pinning it like something from a Hellraiser movie, and basting. A lot. 🙂 From that point, setting the cups in and everything is pretty typical.

these complicated tulle/lace underwired pieces have been a great distraction. i’ve spent a few days working at being mellow. I’m in my third trimester now, which is both good and bad. i will be happy to have my body back as a sole proprietorship, and yet am keenly aware of creeping ever closer to delivery, which sucks any way you slice it, especially for a doctor/hospital/needle/invasive body procedure-phobe. not helping that my first birth experience was so terrible I swore I’d never do it again (pre-eclampsia, induced labor for 53 hours before giving up and having a c-section, endless throngs of well intentioned visitors in my room while i had no pants and no sleep, and a kiddo who refused to nurse or take a bottle and had jaundice, etc). but as al swearengen says, announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh. (I may soon be the first person in human history to whip out her phone and loop Deadwood clips on YouTube to get through labor.)

this time around, i have a doctor i have more confidence in, and she’s been monitoring things pretty closely. my labs in earlier months have been good, except protein in the urine, which means i won’t be surprised if another bout of pre-eclampsia is in store for me a bit further down the road. this week’s labs also showed low platelets, which is a horrifying thing to google. If it continues to trend downward it probably means no epidural because of the risk of spinal hematoma and an elevated risk of bleeding problems with delivery that make a c-section less ideal. (but really, the epidural was useless the first time anyway.) it can also be a symptom of a particularly dangerous variety of pre-eclampsia called HELLP syndrome. UGH.  So I’m trying to balance wanting to be an educated patient aware of symptoms and things to act on if they happen, and trying to stay the f**k off of google because, ummm, holy hell, I don’t need to raise my blood pressure worrying about all that. my doctor plans on watching all the physical stuff closely, and I see her in a few days, so there will be quite a barrage of questions for her. my nesting instinct is shit, but it’s kicked in a bit now that I know induction is a distinct possibility if my health gets wonky over the next 12 weeks.

on a happier note, Fetus is bouncy and seems to be coming along contentedly in there. she kicks extremely hard for 28 weeks, which I’m choosing to take as an early indicator that she is a strong, fierce little critter. she reacts to music and seems especially responsive when her brother talks to my belly, which is the most heart melting sweetness. I couldn’t ask for a more loving, gentle spirited son, and he’s so happy about it all.

so today is for researching how to make newborn onesies (i have dreams of mother/daughter ziggy stardust bodysuits, not gonna lie) and mellow, soothing tunes and playing with watercolors and trying to distance myself from stressing about things out of my control. i’ve been trying to enjoy the small moments this summer, and playing with a camera a bit more to capture them.

 

 

happy saturday, everybody. I hope it’s been a relaxing one all around.

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All About Bra Fitting: Bust Position and Torso Shape

For part three of my informal exploration into the elements of bra fit, I want to look at bust position and torso shape. A lot of bra advice focuses on the breast itself, and while that is hugely important, the torso that provides the base for the breast can have a dramatic effect on fit and comfort, too.

Since bra manufacturers are attempting to sell their design bra to as many people as possible, they have to settle on one averaged sizing standard that hopefully (sort of) fits as many of their customers as possible as a basis for their bra designs. As anyone who sews knows, it’s hard to fit a wide range of bodies with a specific sizing standard without the fit being off somewhere for most people, which is why patterns rarely fit perfectly right out of the envelope. The proportions of certain body measurements like back torso width to front torso width, breast diameter, and breast spacing can vary widely between women, but for production purposes for any given bra brand, there are only a single, averaged set of measures being used, unless the brand specializes in a particular subset of body types (petite, curvy, tall, plus sizes).

What this means is that if you have body proportions that differ dramatically from that standard, you may have certain fit problems. A simple, very common fit issue happens when bust spacing is different than the assumed standard, which is one to two finger widths apart. If your breasts have less space than this or are touching in the center, underwires in a standard bra don’t rest against the sternum, but instead sit painfully on top of or jab into the breast tissue, and there may be some gaping at the outer side of the cup. (A possible solution to this is a plunge style bra or a bra with a very low, narrow gore.) If your breasts are more widely spaced than the assumed standard, this will usually mean that the cup gapes in the center front near the gore while wires jab or rest on top of the breast tissue on the outer edge of the breast. (Bras with a wider center gore can help with this, and shorter wired styles like demi bras can help with wire issues on the outside of the breast.) Some other common bust position issues arise if your breasts have a wide or narrow root (more on this in a hugely-relevant-to-this-stuff future in-depth look at breast shape), or if your back is particularly broad or narrow. Both of these may throw off the proportions of the bra wings to the cup placement, landing underwires in the wrong place relative to the breast.

But there are also other, less obvious factors of body anatomy that complicate bra fit. Overall ribcage shape, both vertically and horizontally speaking, can dramatically affect how a bra rests against the body and whether the breast tissue can then fully supported by the cups. Since the majority of a bra’s support is provided by the bra band and the cups, if these aren’t positioned in a way to effectively hold and distribute the weight of breast tissue, the bra is unlikely to offer much support or comfort. Most mass bra production uses a horizontally oval shaped, vertically gradually tapered to the waistline type of rib cage shape as their baseline for shaping the bra band and positioning bra cups within it. But, of course, not all rib cages are shaped this way.

Here’s a great illustration of rib shapes viewed from the side that comes from a site (Butterfly Collection Blog) that seems down at the moment. (I don’t agree with the shape terminology used here, because I’ve seen rib flare describe something else in other contexts, curved vs. rounded is confusing, etc, but the visual is great).

Torso and Bra Fit

Vertically speaking, rib cages can be very straight, and barely taper to the waist at all, especially in more rectangular torso shapes without a very defined waistline. Rib cages can also be rounded or what might be called barrel chested, which means the ribs don’t taper inward toward the waistline as much as the standard but are more curved outward. Rib cages can be very dramatically tapered inward toward the waistline, especially in dramatic hourglass type shapes with a very small waist. Each of these variations will change the ratio of band to cup, and can require different adjustments to the vertical shape of the band to help it fit more closely to the body as it must in order to give adequate support..

Horizontally speaking, rib cages can have a variety of shapes other than oval that can mean the way breast tissue fills cups is different than with the standard oval shape. Here is an illustration of rib cage shapes in cross section that might help explain. It happens to be male, but you can get an idea of how breast tissue stacked on these shapes would cause breasts to project differently:

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The “standard” chest has an oval shaped front and relatively flat chest wall on which the typical bra can rest evenly against the body. On a more barrel shaped chest, the chest wall is more rounded, and when a standard bra is positioned on this shape, bra cups may point outward in what is often called an east/west position. I’m not an expert on anatomy and my knowledge here is limited, but I’d expect that bodies exist in a continuum of shapes, and that the projecting rib cage (pectus carinatum) and inwardly curved rib cage (pectus excavatum) pictured here are probably extreme examples of shapes that occur to a lesser degree in plenty of people.

From what I’ve been able to find about these variations, a convex, outwardly curving front rib cage shape causes a range of fit problems because of how a bra rests against this shape and where the breast tissue is distributed relative to the resulting angle of the bra cups. Bra cups may be too far apart, with gaping at the sides and not enough fullness in the center front of the cup. Fashion Incubator has a great in depth write up on this particular shape with some illustrative pictures here.

My intuition is that with a chest wall that curves in a more concave way in front, the fit problems in a standard bra might be similar but reversed. My guess is that a standard bra would be tilted inward in a way that it would smoosh the cups together. The problem then is that the cups will be positioned differently than the breast tissue is actually distributed on the body, so there may be some gapping in the center front of the cups, and they might not be full enough to contain all the breast tissue at the sides. I suspect underwires might be especially uncomfortable in the center for this body type.

This is a lot of information and it seems a bit overwhelming, but my belief is that better fit begins with a better understanding of one’s own body shape. Knowing the physical factors that affect bra fit can help you know where to begin to look for answers. The internet has some amazing resources that deal with issues like these in depth, like Her Room, which links to recommended bra brands known to work well for specific fit issues, or Bratabase, which is a community dedicated to finding good fit and reviewing bra brands by actual wearers. There’s even a reddit community dedicated to A Bra That Fits.

I also feel like there is a huge amount of psychological baggage that comes along with bra fitting. A bra that flatters us can make us feel not only comfortable but attractive and confident. Trying on 37 bras and not ever being able to feel good about the results has this nasty way of eating away at your confidence. Never being able to find a standard bra that fit well or looked good on me for at least a decade of adulthood (along with a ton of jokes about being small chested in the era of cleavage and push up bra fashion) gave me a lot of negative feels about my appearance. Sadly, I know my experience is very, very, very common, and that no matter what shape or size they are, it’s all too easy for women (and men) to feel that there is something inferior or inadequate about their bodies. I’d like to yell it from the rooftops now that just because a person’s body doesn’t fit the “standard” doesn’t mean it’s somehow lesser or there’s something “wrong.” All fit standards are abstractions, not ideals. And even the fit “problems” I describe above aren’t “problems” so much as merely shape differences that just require style tweaks or certain adjustments in order to achieve support and comfort.

I think that’s it for today (*climbs down from favored soapbox*), but my next deep dive in bra fitting will explore the very related issue of breast shape and underwire types. (For quick reference, here are part one, Anatomy of a Bra and How to Know if a Bra Fits and part two, All About the Bra Band: It’s Cantilevered!).

 

All About the Bra Band: It’s Cantilevered!

For part two of my exploration of the bra, an in depth look at the bra band, its relationship to cup size, and its role in complicating everything about finding a bra that fits. 

The bra band is really the base of the bra. It’s where the vast majority of the support comes from, and the support it provides is cantilevered horizontally from the close fitted band and the cups holding the weight of the bust up, rather than support by suspending weight from the shoulders, which hurts and doesn’t work very well. 

vertigo cantilevered bra
Oh, yes, Jimmy, it is a veritable marvel of modern engineering.

The bra band also establishes circumference of the torso at the underbust (for simplicity, I’m disregarding for a moment the way that the old plus four inches issue muddies the waters for certain sizing systems). Bra band size is the starting point for how we describe bra sizes. Cup sizes are relative, and the letters actually have no meaning without a bra band to give them context. Even though we talk about double Ds or B cups as if they describe an objective size, they actually don’t mean anything, because they are relative to the band size that defines them. Here’s a better visual explanation of how cup size relates to torso/band size:

The way that we write bra sizes as a numerical value and a letter is kind of like a little math equation where the bra band is the base circumference of the body at the underbust, and each letter increase adds an inch to this to end up with enough room for the circumference of the bust at the fullest point:

AA = .5 inch

A = 1 inch

B = 2 inch

C = 3 inch

D = 4 inch

DD or E = 5 inch

And upward, though the specific letters used sometimes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer or European system versus American sizing system, etc. If you wrote it as a math problem, it would be something like this: 

Numerical band size/underbust circumference + letter to specify extra cup inches = full bust circumference

So for a 36B, it’s basically an equation that says: 36″ rib cage + 2″ total added in the cups = 38″ full bust measurement. This is why sister sizing works, where you can go down a band size but a cup letter, or up a band size and down a cup letter, to approximate a fit like your exact size (more on this another day).  

This sounds simple enough, but then everything gets complicated, because A) different fabrics are reduced by different amounts depending on stretch and recovery properties, so a band designed for a 36″ rib cage probably will measure smaller than that, B) all bodies are not the same and the broad backed and non-standard torso-ed among us (*raises both hands*) are statistical outliers who can’t find an appropriate size this way, and C) the plus 4 phenomenon.

The plus four thing is an often repeated piece of advice bra fitting – take your actual rib cage measurement, if it’s even, add four inches, and if it’s odd, add five inches to get your band size. To me, this seems illogical and stupidly complicated, and it seems more intuitive to just use your actual rib cage measurement. There are interesting historical reasons that this developed that I’m reading up on and will write about, but it seems to have been a vanity sizing tick that happened around the ‘50s or ‘60s when bra sizing as we now know it began to emerge as an industry standard. Things get really, really complicated these days, because sizing standards vary by market (American, UK, EU, Japanese, Australian, to name a few), and because in the US market, some companies no longer add these inches into the band sizes, and some companies do. This means a 36 band brand A might not be drafted for the same rib circumference as brand B, so your 36B is not the same size across brands. For those of us who don’t want to try on 37 bras at the mall to find one with a good fit, this is exasperating.

This isn’t exactly the bra manufacturer’s fault, since it is very hard to accommodate the wide range of bust shapes, sizes, and body proportions that exist in the real world into a single approximation. It’s a complicated supply/demand and consumer knowledge problem. Even if there were more variations available, most of us (my pre-lingerie-addiction self included) would not know where to begin to understand our particular shape and support needs. That being said, some kind of standardization on band measurement seems to me like it would make it much easier for all of us. (In my own drafting and bra sizing, I use an exact rib cage measurement as a starting point, since the plus four model assumes a certain standard tapered rib cage typical of more of an hourglass shape than the vast majority of women have. Statistically most of us are much more rectangular.)

I’ll be rambling about bust position next in my sprawling Ted talk on the mechanics of the bra. 🙂 I’d love to hear any thoughts, and if anyone knows more about the weird history of bra size standards, I’d love to hear more on this.

Finished Object: Champagne and Black Demi Bra

champagne and black lace underwire bra blue hours atelier

Pregnancy is rapidly rendering my once favorite bras uncomfortable, so now that the second trimester is upon me and I’m actually able to make it through my day without three naps and seven meals, I’ve had more waking hours and energy with which to put them to use.

So this weekend I dug out my tried and true bra band and adapted it for a demi wire and a three piece, very round cup shape. I chose to make the cups out of a gorgeous beige stretch lace I’ve got in my stash and lined it with stretch mesh in a blushy skin tone, so that the cup could conform to variations in my shape depending upon planetary alignment, tidal schedules, water retention, engorgement, etc, lol. I used a slightly lighter, stretchier power net for the back band that I usually do to build in some extra give in the band, too. Thank goodness for spandex.

Now that I have a pretty solid understanding of materials and construction methods in bra making, I like to challenge myself on the finishing details, so I went all out on the interior on this one.

champagne and black lace underwire bra back blue hours atelier

I used a gothic arch on the elastic, since I’ve found that especially as my tummy expands, the elastic on the bridge rolls in a weird, uncomfortable, and unflattering way and it seems like that can cause it to look worn out over time in some of my older bras. The gothic arch is trickier to construct than an unbroken piece of elastic but I think it sits much better against the body, especially over the life of the bra. I enclosed all the seams using the mesh lining, which I think gives a great feel against the skin and a good look, too. The strap elastic is enclosed where it joins with the bra as well.

I’ll be adding this to my Etsy shop after a few more iterations and a few more tweaks on a bra size / style guide I’ve been working on, along with a few other full cradle and partial band bras. More soon. 🙂

 

Achievement Unlocked: New Etsy Shop

I’m excited (and a bit jittery) to say that my Etsy lingerie shop is finally open. I’ve been setting it up for a few weeks and still have *so many things* I want to add to it, but it’s a start that I feel proud of. Also excited to say I’m testing sizing and writing up directions for a sewing pattern I hope to release soon. The crafter life goals of sewing for others and pattern drafting do work well together.

So far, no full cradle bras because I’m writing up my 95 theses of how to fit a bra. Not really 95, but a few pages for sure. I’ve been reading a lot on sizing standards and the history of different measurement practices and vanity sizing, and now I see why most of us are totally confused by manufacturer sizing. More on this later when I get my fitting guide all hammered out, but the issue of adding four or five inches to your underbust measurement really throws a wrench in everything. What’s even more frustrating is that just using your raw underbust measure seems like it would clear up everything, but then you have to grapple with figuring out which manufacturers add inches to the underbust measure for their bands and which don’t, and with how individual brands approach sizing, because a 36B in one brand might be another brand’s 32DD. (I intend to use the raw underbust measure, myself, though I’ve found the high bust to be a better place to measure – right under the armpits, over the bonier part of the upper chest, since the underbust measure can vary so dramatically with breathing, sitting vs. standing, bloating, etc. It tends to be slightly larger than the underbust measure by an inch or two, which works out perfectly for me with my broad back and unusual proportions, but may not for everyone.)

For now, I’ve focused on lacy bralettes, underwear and garter belts in the shop, and I’m still learning the ins and outs of SEO and writing copy and it’s been actually kind of amazing in researching all of that to realize how much snake oil marketing stuff floating around out there is promising starry-eyed budding entrepreneurial dreamer types like myself that a fortune is there for the taking if we just fork out 2k for whatever guru’s online course! Ugh, gross. (They tell me that if I don’t set up a mailing list, the howling abyss demon of failure and loneliness and bad skin will come for me, so if you’d like to join the mailing list, it’s (here), and I did set up a 10% off code that will be sent to your email, and I promise I won’t spam you. Especially not with false scarcity marketing or canned enthusiasm adspeak crap, because the world has more than enough of that.)

Learning photography is infinitely more fun, though I think I lost at least a week to cussing my camera controls and my cat for jumping in the shot when I finally got all the elastics to lie flat for two seconds. You can really see the eternal conflict between my antique feminine, Marie Antoinette delicate aesthetic and my Morticia Addams for life/what would Cersei wear sensibilities:

And now I’m off to bed to listen to the rain. Mmm, gothic novel spring weather.

Happy almost 4th of July. We’re making a stay-cation of it, which means lots of sewing time. Lots of makes I’m proud of lately–larger bras sewn for my grandma, since being a 40E doesn’t afford her the luxury of choosing from all the lacey whispy nothings we 36b-ish-es have to peruse. I’m trying to stretch my abilities so that I can sew well for a wider range of sizes than just my own.

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satin covered foam cup, lace and tulle upper cup. lace + tulle cradle.
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strap detail.
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It looks a bit lumpy on my 36b dressform, and I had to stuff it to fill it out. this picture doesn’t quite do it justice, alas, but it gives an idea.

I’ve also been somewhat doggedly trying to work on my finishing methods like attaching fold over elastic. So convenient and shiny and pretty, and yet, such an enormous pain in the butt. The first few sets of underwear I made were a huge disappointment, since the waving of the elastic distorted the lines of the fabric and made my makes scream homemade. But I sewed about twelve pairs in a week and I think I’ve got it now. The tricks seem to be actually measuring elastic into quadrants and evenly distributing the reduction (I mark quadrants on the garment and FOE with pins, then match the pins as I go, so that the stretch is distributed evenly over the FOE) and sewing along the open edge of the FOE as accurately as possible. And also steaming/pressing when it’s all done to help pull the elastic back into shape and make it lie flat on curves (thanks to tailormadeblog.com/Ying of Tailor Made Shoppe for that tip!).

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early FOE + mesh struggles.
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and here is where it all started to really come together for me, in my brain and in the muscles of my hands. 🙂

I made these to match the bra above. The pink lace is one of my absolute favorites.

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And then finally there’s this, a bralette pattern I’m working on. It’s not a terribily original design; it’s a pretty commonly seen basic bralette style with a lot of coverage. Stylistically it’s not very different from Cloth Habit’s Watson pattern, and the cups have a very similar seaming arrangement. But there are definite differences in the cradle/wings; hers brings things to a definite V point in the center and that’s a challenge I don’t want to deal with if I can help it. I’m not sure but I think the underarm side might be higher on this because I am anti side boob escape-age, and for wider set breasts, the struggle is real. Most bralettes without a higher side band leave me feeling exposed and at the mercy of the elements/gravity/sudden movements. So far I’m pretty happy with it!

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I even dyed this fabric and strap elastic! stretch lace over mesh.
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first attempt at enclosing the band seams with the lining. it was tricky and slow going but maybe practice will help.
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outer view of the finished bra. I made this one in scuba, a thicker double knit (I think), which works great for balancing stretch with structure. Seems a perfect fabric for bra cups.

I’m making up some samples of lots of these pieces in a range of sizes to test the fit and refine my details these days. Slowly lurching ever closer to actually offering custom made lingerie… 🙂

Happy 4th!

Honing my bra making process.

I’ve been working this week on refining my bra making process. I like to experiment with the steps in garment making and trying to arrange them for efficiency and speed. #nerdlife So this week I cut out four bras at once:

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I’ve been experimenting with foam cups and how to finish and join them:

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So far, I’ve finished one 40E sized bra using the Maya pattern, available for free here, which has as great round shape. It doesn’t work so well for me personally (shallow broad shape), and for the person I’m making the large bras for, it required some adjustments to the upper cup, but the resulting shape works really well.

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And here’s the first one I’ve finished of this round. I’m really happy with the way it turned out, and the person I sewed it for was really happy. It’s kind of amazing how many women haven’t had the experience of wearing a bra that actually fits, and it makes me happy to be able to help with that. It’s a small thing, but I know how that having a bra that fits right and flatters makes me feel a little bit happier with my body and a little bit more confident, and I love that I’m getting almost to the point that I can do that in some small way for other people. It’s also fun to sew these for the older women I know who are more endowed and haven’t ever had a really lacy lavish bra because they are so hard to find in larger sizes. 🙂

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The full on view shows some issues I had with getting the elastic aligned with the bottom of the cup; in the future, I’ll probably widen the cradle so that when I use wide elastic for larger sizes, it doesn’t come so close to the channeling line. Something to add to my bra making lab notebook 🙂

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Happy Friday!

excuse me while I talk about my underwear.

I’ve been sewing a lot of lingerie lately. My life is kind of a series of small possessions–I play host to a revolving door of obsessive interests, immersing in one after another, always centered on an axis of making *something* with a nostalgic eye cast backward in history. My hoarding of pattern catalogs and sewing ephemera *may* be giving way to hoarding of lingerie materials, which in my mind, marks some kind of progress because it’s more about the action of the crafting and the enjoyment of the moment while creating the thing than it is about possession of a thing. We’ll see.

I’m trying to move more into making than owning, more about enjoyment of the process than collecting (but I still love you, bookshelf!). I find trying to sew beautiful things to be a therapeutic exertion of will over a sometimes ugly reality. Politics has me hand-wringing? Grab my lace. Worried about antartic ice sheets? Turn off a few more light bulbs and grab my lace. Focus on the lace. The Western world seems to be both far better than it has been in the last few millenia, in terms of civil rights, gay rights, the standing of women and children, literacy, information access, medicine. Yet in terms of scaled economic injustice and systems of exploitation of labor, climate change, pollution, the island of plastic in the pacific, mercury in and acidification and warming of the oceans, species extinctions, the disappearance of the middle class, the disappearance of privacy, the uncertain future of jobs in a time of automation, it is arguably worse and far more complex than I think most human brains are evolved to be able to grapple with. I don’t know any answers. But in an often ugly, screaming world, I am trying to quietly make what beauty I can. I make lace things. I make lunches. I make babies and make love and make breakfast magic out of 3oz of leftover steak, three eggs and last night’s soggy skinned baked potato. I make scribbles. I make crude jokes. I make my grandma laugh. (Since she watched Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones, there’s not much that phases her. <3) That’s often all I feel I have the efficacy in this world to do.

Anyway…I’ve sewn Cloth Habit’s wonderful Harriet pattern at least 10x since I bought it.

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As it was, without modification, the cup placement was slightly narrow for my rather broad boob placement, as to be expected with any pattern I sew. Yet because my shape is shallow up top, the upper cup was sagging sad and empty, as most bras have for me forever. Not the fault of the pattern, just natural variation in human anatomy. (It is a peeve of mine when people complain about patterns not fitting their bodies precisely, especially when it comes to breast shape, when it would be so utterly and obviously impossible for any pattern maker to account for the bajillion types of bodies and mass distribution in existence.) So I tried tweaking the pieces by taking the C cup as a baseline / wireline / cup to cradle joining point and overlaying the B and A size pieces as guides to taper down to the projection of a B cup at the apex and the A cup at the top. Not sure if this was the most efficient way to do this. In fact, it surely wasn’t. But it gave me something that works. I’ve struggled for a few months with the relationship of the wire to the pattern and cup shape, but I think it’s starting to make more sense and really come together for me now. There are a few great blog entries on this topic on bramakingblog.com that were helpful for me.

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After about 10 iterations, I wanted to try something else–specifically, something less pokey in the side boob. Since I need a wire for a bigger cup size than my actual projection, and I have wide boobs on a short torso, I often feel like the wires that fit me are way too long. Demi wires are a great answer to this problem, so I worked some more on a self drafted bra pattern with a different shape. I’ve been trying to up my technical game by working on enclosing all the seams in my bras (there’s a post on doing just that on the Watson pattern on the TailorMadeBlog that got me started on this). So I tried one attempt with a full band.

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Then I reworked my pattern as a partial band bra for shallow demi wires and ended up with this.

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Considering some minor tweaks and fabric variations for this. Happy Sunday!

Finished Object: Black Velvet Bra. And, also, on failure.

I have been sewing bras off and on for the last three months. I blame a Craftsy sale for ensnaring me, yet again, in my usual cycle of: oooh, this looks interesting, this class is on sale–I’ll buy it to watch later after I finish what I’m working on now–I’m bored or stalled with current project–I watch just enough Craftsy course to get obsessed with new subject but not enough to actually know how to do it– I try project in creative-lust-fueled mad rush–I fail–watch more class–try again–fail–I repeat again until too bored to continue with original subject or my project is, almost despite my inefficient learning methodology, successful. This may be the only time I’ve ever come close to completing a successful project based on Craftsy viewing.

So please excuse me while I revel in this bra:

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This is a self drafted, full band, underwired bra with pretty much full coverage. This bra is the first and only bra I have ever worn that ACTUALLY FITS ME. I understand now why women wear these things, because it actually does lift and support my breast tissue instead of smashing it down under too-small underwires and too narrow cups.

In this project, as in most of my sewing projects, at least half of the issue has been coming to a better understanding of my actual body mass as it relates to the ideal of a sewing pattern or the median compromise of ready to wear sizing. Bras have never fit me because my body does not fit either the standard of sewing patterns or the fit standards of bra manufacturers, and to be fair, neither industry could possibly be expected to accommodate every shape. But I wish I had understood decades ago how to deal with my body type.

As bras go, no matter the manufacturer or the size I tried, I have always been plagued by one of three problems: sad, empty bra cups; underwires stabbing into my actual breast tissue or preformed cups that don’t conform to anything like my breast shape; too narrowly spaced cups. These issues were also part of my problem trying to sew my first few bras using something like standard pattern sizing as well. It turns out that while, yeah, my breasts are on the smaller side, they aren’t quite as small as I thought. What they are is shallow with a broad root, and the tissue has a sort of tear drop distribution. So for my sewing adventures, once I had the band size right, I adjusted the bridge at center front to get the spacing of the cup bottom/cradle from breast to breast. Then I adjusted the width of the cup bottom/cradle to fit my exact breast width and the placement of that on the band. Finally, I adjusted the cups for the fullness on bottom with much less fullness on top. (This involved a lot of cardboard cutouts, smooshing my boobs around and marking on them with eyeliner, some plastic wrap and tape, and about a billion iterations.)

Long story short, for anyone with a broad rib cage and similar fit issues, I’d suggest experimenting with underwires; I had been wearing ones that were at least three sizes too small for my entire adult life. Also consider the shape of your breast tissue, because if it’s non-typical, no pattern will fit without adjustment to fit that.

But back to my glorious triumph:

This bra has a milliskin band, fold over elastic binding, powernet for the back band, and glorious, glorious stretch velvet for the cup fabric outside *and* the cup lining. (I cut it with the direction of stretch differently for the lining and the outer fabric so that the fabric would be stable and supportive enough–if the stretch is in opposing directions theoretically it will work, and it did work beautifully here.) It’s my way of saying sorry to my boobs for mistreating them with horrible fitting bras for all these years. It feels amazing. It feels so amazing it’s like my boobs are being held aloft by the careful hands of Eric from True Blood all day long. Since it actually holds all of my breast tissue, instead of underwires or cups smooshing some of it down and sitting on top of my actual boobs, this bra looks much better under clothes, makes my bust look larger and is more flattering.

What I also love about this bra is that except for the elastic it is made from the carnage of past sewing failures, painstakingly picked apart and repurposed for this fit experiment. The hook and eye tape was once a failed moulage closure. The velvet was a failed bodysuit. The powernet was scavenged from an earlier bra attempt that fit terribly. The channeling and underwires were stolen from my second-most-recent finished object that didn’t fit–my satin covered foam cup red lace bra:

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This bra turned out great, but the cups were a bit too full when it was entirely done, and there was no way to correct that without ruining the seamless look I was going for. So I deconstructed it and will reuse the band and the lace on a future attempt.

I don’t throw my failures away, because usually I can find some way to reuse odds and ends, and also because it’s a great way to track how far I’ve come. When I get frustrated that I can’t seem to get a certain project right, seeing how terrible I did when I started and how much I’ve learned along the way, even if I’m not getting wearable garments yet, is a great motivator. I have had a LOT of bras not work out:

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This is just a sampling of the many many attempts I went through learning how to work with spandex and mesh and powernet, playing with foam shapes, trying to get the band right, then not realizing the flat, unflattering look was because my cups were too small and were actually minimizing my tissue, then realizing that my breast tissue was even wider than I originally thought. Even though the Craftsy courses with Beverly Johnson are fantastic, there’s a certain real world comprehension of body shapes and how to deal with that geometry that requires experimentation, I think, or at least for me. I’m excited to see how my next one turns out.