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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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… ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy 4th!

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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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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Happy Friday!

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 attemptsย 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.