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.


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.





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.



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



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

1930s Fashions: Mode Illustree and Vionnet Designs


Anyone ever sewn from a Mode Illustree pattern sheet? Wowza. This has got to be a great brain-aging preventative if ever there was one.

Mode Illustree was a French fashion/home magazine published weekly from the 1859 until at least the 1930s–I haven’t seen any later examples, but they may very well be out there. I was lucky enough to find a few with the original pattern sheets, which are a large sheet with all the pattern pieces traced on top of one another with different lines. A bit of a tangle to wrap the head around. I guess the idea is to trace them onto paper and voila, you have your pattern.

It has taken me roughly three days, but I have finally gotten it drafted (digitally!) to the point of being ready to print it out and test it. The patterns for Mode Illustree are all listed as size 44, which at least in this 1930 version is for a 70cm waist, 94cm bust and 100cm hip (27.5in waist, 37in bust, 39.4ish waist). That waistline is *not* gonna fly, but we’ll see how it goes.

My other current perseverations: pondering the mysteries of the math behind radial grading systems (how does Lutterloh do it??! and how does one create a pattern that can be drafted in this way? *and* how does one blend sizing in this system?) There is a little bit about this in the book The Victorian Tailor but I have been too scattered to really focus on that book like it deserves. And ever since witness2fashion’s wonderful posts on Vionnet, I’m planning on trying a Vionnet (for a Halloween costume wedding reception dress!):


I love so much about this dress. I love it’s Cersei-esque I-will-cut-you style feminity. It’s flowing and feminine without being revealing. Which means a) I won’t be bitterly cold and b) may not even have to worry about shaving my legs and c) I run zero risk of wardrobe malfunction. For a form fitting flowing dress like this, though, some homemade Spanx might be a necessity. But I digress.

This is from The Bunka Fashion College’s book on Vionnet, which gives diagrams that can be enlarged to draft patterns for 20+ designs based off of actual garments. I have vain aspirations of working my way through it to learn everything I can from hands-on practice with her technique, but given my sewing ADD in this post alone, it’s unlikely that will ever happen. (I go from obsessing on 1860s sleeves to 1930s cowls to 1970s tunics over the course of a day. Is there a name for this obsessive interest roulette wheel my consciousness turns on?) But the book is amazing. It’s in Japanese only, but the illustrations are remarkably clear.

The pattern pieces for this one are mindboggling:


I’m looking forward to trying it. Has anyone tried any Vionnet type designs? I’d love to hear about your experiences!