Finished Object: Champagne and Black Demi Bra

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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.

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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. 🙂

 

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Vintage Sewing Library: 1930s-40s Draping

I’m not sure if I have shared this link before or not, but I returned to it recently and thought I should share. These books were linked to on The Vintage Pattern Files blog, which is itself an incredibly generous resource for knitting and vintage fashion too. But the books themselves are great resources on draping, and one of them happens to be a Woman’s Institute booklet produced in the mid 30s. Evie of La Couturiere Dimanche scanned it and made it available on her blog (here). I love all things Woman’s Institute, and their materials from the 30s are especially hard to find. Yay for the internet!

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There’s another by Mary Evans from 1935–Draping and Dress Design.

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It goes into some depth on draping sleeves and shoulders and necklines, which are my current problem areas to get the fit just right. Also interesting historically, since there seems to be an erroneous contemporary idea that toiles or muslins weren’t really used, despite Mary Brooks Picken advocating them in notes in Fashion Service in the 20s and these draping guides. My suspicion is that wartime shortages made fabric more expensive during the 40s, or maybe people had less disposable income for muslin, or the make do and mend mentality changed sewing practices during that time, and maybe that stuck until our contemporary era. If anyone knows more about that, I’d love to hear it!

As far as my own projects go, I have two wearable muslins in progress at the moment–one is a blazer jacket that actually allows some movement and incorporates tailoring techniques (thank you Craftsy courses!) and another is my first decent self drafted corset.  Both started as flat pattern attempts, went wrong multiple times, and gradually morphed via draping and chalking and cutting and cussing into something more like a workable pattern. I think draping is more my style than flat patterning, despite all my attempts to do it the hard way. Sigh.

Wardrobe Curation Inspiration, Tools, and Deep Seated Existential Angst.

This is a process I’ve tried and failed to execute multiple times. Here’s hoping the New Years DO ALL THE THINGS momentum will help me renew this project with a vengeance.

Here’s my shortlist of inspiration and refinement tools:

Into Mind on wardrobe refinement. (http://into-mind.com/)  This site is full of checklists and exercises and even a workbook to help refine one’s personal style into a steamlined, satisfying source of inspiration and pleasure. The author writes from a minimalist perspective, which I love, and even her blog page layouts are enjoyable examples of her aesthetic.

(Coletterie’s Wardrobe Architect.) Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. How to define your style, your colors, etc, and actually plan your sewing in such a way that you create a wardrobe based on those principles. I cannot heap enough praise upon this series. I’m working through it right now to choose my sewing patterns/projects after way too many meh projects that aren’t exactly everyday wear anyway.

This might be weird, but, The Well Dressed Home by Annette Tatum. (It’s on Google books here.) While it’s intended to help you develop a style for your home decor based on your personal style, I find it very inspiring in a broader way. I like the way it establishes general styles and then shows creative ways to combine those styles. There is so much visual interest here that it’s impossible for me not to be inspired when I read this.

Style Statement, a book by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPointe (see it on Google books here) which has a weird cult-ish following online and which is maybe 20% useful/80% too hippy fluffy for me, is nevertheless a useful tool for clarifying one’s own aesthetic. (They also love the Pareto principle.) The Manifesto of Style is fun food for thought. I very much enjoyed the book and the gorgeous visual design, but wasn’t struck by the lightning bolt of clarity when I “discovered” my two-word self descriptor. (Creative nostalgic. Pardon my French, but no shit. I could have identified that without doing all of the touchy feely self explore-y pages.) Mostly I find it interesting as a book full of beautiful things and interesting studies in specific personal styles. There’s also something intellectually important about exposing yourself to other worldviews; sometimes I find happy-hippy-self-fulfillment-actualizey speechifying to be a nice change of pace from my internal McConaulogues.

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I also have a hard time with the concept of identity as anything fixed or as anything so simplistic; I identify more with David Bowie figures who transform themselves repeatedly throughout their lives in accordance with whatever speaks to them best at a given time. So, in a nutshell, I’m thinking my sewing and wardrobe curation for winter/spring can be boiled down to: What would catwoman wear? Vintage style lines and silhouettes in a very simple, monochromatic palette (blacks, creams, a splash of oxblood here and there). Elegant and understated. Form fitting but allowing for movement and not revealing. Subdued feminine. My next move is to select about five patterns to stick with until I get them just right.

Sewing Projects: The Caftan Experiment.

I bought a few yards of black chiffon recently, and wanted to try something relatively simple and low stakes to get a feel for sewing with it. I’m also on the prowl for some kind of fancy-handmade-yet-generic-enough-to-make-en-masse gift for the adult women-folk of the family. A see through caftan might be a bit risque, but it sure beats a generic vanilla bath set. Let’s call it a beachy cover-up, if we must be so prudish.

So this weekend was the trial run.

To sew a caftan, theoretically, you really only need a few measurements: the width (measurement from end of arm to end of opposite arm where you want the garment to end), the length (where you want the garment to end), the desired size of your neck opening, where to put the side seams, and where you want to gather or belt in the garment. My highly sophisticated blueprint:

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When I did this I sewed it in one piece of fabric folded into quarters and a head hole cut from the center, which was, I think, a mistake, because it’s so tricky to hem in this way, and I didn’t want to add a facing to chiffon. Next time I’ll do it in two pieces to make the neckline finish neater, and easier to manage if I try a v-neck. I measured it to end just above the knee but forgot to account for the mathematics of boobies and so it hit a few inches higher on the thigh than I had intended.

Sewing it up was simple enough. I started with hems on the bottom of both sides, sort of out of necessity, because chiffon is a messy beast. It’s also incredibly slidey and I found it tricky to maneuver without seam lines getting all drunk like. Not a big deal on the hems and the neckline but a huge issue when I topstitched down the sides. My moment of genius solution to this was to use tissue paper to draw a stitching pattern and then to pin it to the top of the fabric as a guide and a stabilizer. Then when it’s finished, you just tear it away. Magic!

What I wanted to end up with:

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 What I really felt like:

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I think the long sleeves and excess fabric below them made it feel more flappy than I wanted. More experimentation to come!

Why Sewing Machine Addiction?

Sewing machine addiction is a helluva drug. So far in my life, I’ve been prone to obsessive interests that come and go and almost always involve hoarding and organizing materials as part of the pleasure of the obsession. Sewing machines are no exception. In fact, they’re one of the strongest experience I’ve had with any hobby since my childhood dinosaur phase and young adult survivalist kick that had me, among other things, living in a tent in the yard for a month. Lolz.

I’ve lost count of the actual number, which is blurry anyway because some of my sewing machine projects involve a machine or two that’s pretty much bound to be just a parts machine. I have a few vintage Husqvarnas that don’t run that might end up Frankenstein/Steampunked into some new creature eventually.

young frankensteinBut I really need to stop hoarding, and also to maybe Etsy off some of my least favorite machines to clear out some room. There are *at least* 15 sewing machines crammed in my litle 12″x12″ office (whose closet bottom is the angled ceiling of the staircase, so no storage space there, either) along with two cabinets, a table and chair, coffee table, and two workbenches. Tight and womblike and disheveled is usually what I go for in a workspace, but it’s too much.

And yet I can’t seem to keep from drooling over other machines I’d love to have. Because it isn’t just about the utility. Each machine represents so many things to me: a mechanical puzzlebox to put into working order, a beautiful tool to learn to use, an antique with its own unique history, and a piece of design that speaks volumes about the aesthetic of its time.

If someone dropped a top of the line contemporary Pfaff on my doorstep, I don’t think I’d use it. I don’t find it inspiring. It’s a tool that has all these features and computerized functions, but it’s not a piece of industrial art. It hasn’t got the history and the charm of wear. It doesn’t make me dream about the previous owners and previous designs it might have created toward the enrichment of the lives of its owners. It’s plastic, without a personality. Give me a pin-rashed, silvered decal-ed old Singer handcrank any day so I can marvel at the simple elegance of the mechanics and turn the well-worn wood of the handle and more deeply enjoy the tactile nature of the experience. Give me the spaceship knobs and funktastic designs of the late 50s and early 60s and let me consider the way the space race changed everything, even sewing, as I stitch away. And I also kind of feel like it builds character to learn to sew a proper buttonhole without the one push button function, but I’m a Luddite like that.

That being said, it’s a pretty shitty would-be-minimalist who is scouring ebay daily for old 50s Kenmores. It has to stop somewhere. So I think I need to start collecting images instead, see if I can put together a design timeline for machines, enjoy pondering the visuals rather than possessing the actual machine. I also need to keep focused on how I really want to spend my time: making, crafting things, not just owning them. All of these machines work better with regular oiling and use, so I need to pick my favorites and rotate them, instead of having machines that sit unused.

Because if I collect many more, my family is going to commit me.

Style Inspiration: Catwoman of The Dark Knight Rises

Full disclosure: I had a major goth girl phases in my misguided early twenties. My aesthetic has changed immensely over the years–no more black pleather with chainey things, no more piercings jutting out of my face, no more Black No. 1 hairdye. But I still adore wearing black; it makes me feel self-possessed, crisp, and it has the potential for unrivaled elegant minimalism.

Cut to my in my PJs, working and zoning on some fluff tv in the background. The Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy as “fluff” reveals much about my dark broody nature but I digress. The trilogy is okay, I don’t feel particularly strongly about it, except for Selina Kyle’s character. The first watch, her semi-snarkiness seemed a bit over the top for me; the second watch, I was in love with her I’m-a-hardass-but-really-not vibe, her complicated morality, her color scheme choices. Something about the dark elegant costume pieces with retro inspired lines and feminine but not overtly sexual styling just mesmerized me. Which is to say: there shall be costume design emulation in my future.

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The catsuit is functional and gorgeous as superhero costumes go. I love the curves of the waist and the almost corseted look of the curves there, as well as the raglan sleeve and the almost Mandarin stand collar. There is a curve hugging dress she wears in another scene which appears to have kimono sleeves and a 50s era waistline, but the styling is so perfect it doesn’t look like a period piece. In her airport scene, the suitjacket and skirt ensemble are pure 50s glamour. I haven’t been able to find much about the inspiration for the wardrobe, since most costume discussion of the film focuses mostly on the action hero suits and more obvious costume choices. But if I had to wager money on it, I’m betting there’s something interesting happening with femininity and contemporary womanhood driving those concepts.

And during my obsessive internet scouring for future sewing and styling inspiration, I found a few images from shooting of scenes that apparently never made it in the film. Imagine, Gentle Reader, my squeals of girlish glee and the jazz hands that ensued.

catwoman not in filmA capelet AND a coat dress. Maybe a little too glaringly vintage for the film, but really cool to see given a Hollywood treatment. Definitely trying to sew the capelet soon. There’s something about the aesthetic of the whole world that I deeply enjoy. Contemporary but with these nostalgic overtones in everything from the design elements and architecture to the story itself.

Advance 7833: Vintage Raglan Blouse with Collar and Sleeve Variations

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This, friends, is my weekend sewing project. Having wonky shoulders (broadish, forward) and an utter hatred of garments restrictive of my arm movements, here’s hoping the raglan sleeve will prove to be my friend. So much to love in this design–simple but fitted, with the optional elegant touches of the French cuffs and scarf collar, versatile in terms of wardrobe. I’m hopeful.
For any pattern drafters on the hunt for inspiration, a look at the actual pieces:
image(1)I’ve also been wanting to make a pair of pants. I think this blouse, in a light blue broadcloth to start, and maybe in some ivory satin should it go well enough to dip into the higher end of the fabric stash, would look amazing with some high waisted Katherine Hepburn style pants or closer fitted cigarette pants. My pants making has been dreadfully limited, though, and I’m highly perturbed by the problem of the prominent camel toe I see sometimes on sewing blogs. Being an extremely self conscious type mocked for odd things in grade school I simply cannot deal with the camel toe. Not at all. So I fell down a rabbit hole tonight reading all about adjustment possibilities to avoid the dreaded thing. More on that when I get some practice in. Also, discovered the possibility that I might have a swayfront issue (like a swayback, I suppose, but a pelvic tilt in the opposite direction that might make an excess of fabric in the front). It seems to be an elusive adjustment to track down a tutorial for, so one of my goals for the weekend is to dig around some of my vintage pattern drafting books for more information.

Necchi BU restoration.

Today, this came, in all its musty, dusty, crusty glory.

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A Necchi BU in who-knows-what-kind-of-condition, via Ebay. Oh, Ebay, you minx. I was given no promises that it ran; I was warned it “could use a new cord,” which in Ebay sewing machine sales speak usually means certain death if you plug in the current one. I knew what I was getting into. I welcomed it, even, because there is a weird brain buzzy joy I get from taking something that is a mess and watching my tinkering transform it into something smoothly functioning. It’s a compulsion now.

So I pulled it out of the box and surveyed the damage. There was so much crud inside of it that I didn’t even try to run it until I cleaned out everything I could reach with makeup brushes and old toothbrushes. I oiled the BEJEEZUS out of it. The handwheel/balance wheel turned very freely but did not move the needle up and down except a tiny bit at random so I thought something important was broken that was out of my league to fix. But I’m stubborn, and a little demented, so I oiled it and oiled it and it improved slightly but was still impossible to run. It was still too bound up.

My kitty supervised.

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Then, with maniacal abandon, decide to bust out the WD40. I removed everything electrical, which for this model, meant unscrewing three screws (motor mount and light/back access panel screws). Having read that some people submerge frozen up machine heads in kerosene to loosen them up, I went hog wild with the WD40 (though I got smart and put a puppy pad beneath the machine to save myself a big mess). To my wonderment, it worked!

So a ton of WD40 and about a quarter of a bottle of sewing machine oil later, I have a functional Necchi BU! I also replaced a bobbin tire and the v-belt, which I feel like I should get a Boyscout badge for doing successfully.

Behold, this glorious wedding of form and function. Bask in the glorious design lines.

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