Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Elegant Problem

Does the vintage excitement here never end??

As it happens, a little while ago, I read Casey's post on some family-heirloom vintage patterns she recently received. This was one of the many gems:

Simplicity 4538, image courtesy of Casey's Elegant Musings

I was immediately enthralled. How chic, how body con, how (um) boxy in the construction. Those mid-century sewists really had it going on!

I searched online. I didn't find it. I even spoke with friends about this fascinating pattern I came across that's basically a square with holes for your head and arms. Just 2 seams! It went over well...

To compound the matter, Casey actually posted a photo of the finished garment today, and I almost climbed through the computer screen to snatch it from her then and there. (That sounds violent, I realize. I mean it only in the most pacific way.)

Oh, how I LOVE it!

It looks old fashioned, but not costume-y. It's got a great line. As a person of narrowish shoulders, it's just the kind of line that flatters me.

Fortunately, one of the commenters on Casey's latest post included a link to a similar vintage pattern: the Vintage Magic Blouse. I decided to spring for the pdf ($3.99 USD) and a minute later I had a new item for the metaphoric Sew List. Note that the pdf is just 2 pages of instruction. It doesn't include a bunch of 8.5x11 pages to tape together. It just tells you how to make the top, which includes some tubular knit having 54"circumference. (Note: Tubular knit is simply a width of fabric that's attached in a tube. That means it doesn't have any side seams. It's like a big cowl, if that makes any sense. Or a tube that a knitter would knit in the round.)

OK, I thought. I can get with this. I called a few of my usual stores in the garment district to ask about the availability of fabric that fits that description. Apparently, there's no challenge finding tube knits in that size range, but they're all variations on cotton aka t shirt knit aka not chic for a vintage garment!

Finally I asked the guy at King Textiles why I couldn't find myself a nice cashmere or merino. (I've noticed, in the past, the dearth of fine textiles in tube format.) And here's what he told me: You can't find tube fabric in luxe knits in Canada because, by and large, Canada doesn't mill fabric. It imports fabric.

Can you believe that cashmere tube knit is mega expensive to import and the demand just isn't that high? Honestly, the worst thing about living in Canada is trying to get stuff. You'd think we were in Australia. (Note to Australians: No offense! You're just kind of far away, and we're right here! All 12 of us.)

So, now my immediate life goal is to source some luxurious fabric having the kind of drape that will lend itself to constructing the Magic Blouse.

Please help.

If you live in Europe or if you know of some Euro based online vendor - or even an US one that sells tube knit in high-end textiles - pls. advise. I'd love to know how to source this stuff.

The more I sew, the more I learn that I am only limited by the textiles available to me. And, being in the middle of a distribution wasteland, I have to expand my horizons.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Culottes, Then and Now: The Experiment Begins

I've got so many things to say about the culottes experiment, I barely know where to start.

I suppose it would be useful to remind you all now:
  • I'm no expert at either a) sewing or b) culottes. Follow along at your own risk. I recommend waiting to see how it all goes before using any of the info I opine about at length.
  • I'm totally enlisting your feedback. You who are sewing experts, you who have made many vintage patterns - those of you who've made culottes (specifically) - we need your help! I'm going to say a bunch of things based on what I've read, or what I've surmised, but if you know better (or different), do tell.
  • I'm showing a lot of photos of the versions of Culottes (M9805 aka vintage and B5681 aka modern) and, at least for the next couple of posts, they're all displayed with the inner leg pleats folded closed. That's the only way I could reasonably compare the crotch curves. You'll see what I mean as I go on.
  • My Vogue TNT is a modern Big 4 size 14 pattern. The Butterick modern pattern is a size 16. Hmmm. Wonder why I didn't consider cutting the Butterick in a size 14 given that modern sizing is standardized. Size 14 correlates to waist 28", hip 38". Size 16, as I've mentioned, is a 30" waist and 40" hip. I'm somewhere, size-wise, between the two but by using slimmer seam allowances and in light of pattern and fabric ease, I tend towards 14. Interesting that I forgot this... And to complicate matters, the vintage culottes are a (vintage standard) size 18. That correlates to a 30" waist and 39" hip. But vintage patterns are sometimes said to fit small. No doubt, fabric and pattern ease are really going to factor in. I only wish, at this point, I could predict how.

So, to get started, here are a few intro photos of side-by-side views of my now-traced TNT (V1166), M9805 and B5681. I urge you to notice on the "non-crotch" sides of the pattern pieces, specifically:

  • How utterly straight to the waist the TNT is. (Left piece)
  • How relatively curvy the vintage pattern is. (Right piece)
  • How the Butterick is more like the TNT. (Middle piece)
  • How much longer in the crotch both culottes pieces are in comparison with the mid-rise TNT pants pattern.
Back pieces, side-by-side

Front Pieces, side-by-side

Even accounting for my generally necessary, short crotch adjustment (about 1.25 inches on both front and back pieces - which you'll observe has already been done on the TNT), the culottes are way longer in the rise. I think that's partly cuz they're meant to be higher waisted than the pants. And I've read, in Pants for Real People, that culottes are meant to hang away from the body at the crotch by a much further distance than pants. How much farther, alas, they didn't say. We're merging the skirt with pants, peeps. Currently, it's a mystery.

First thing first, I removed some length in the crotch on both culottes pieces - approximately 1.25 inches. I don't know if it's the right course of action, but I have to start somewhere:

Back pieces, adjusted for crotch length

Front pieces, adjusted for crotch length

I think that's enough info for this post. My eyes are starting to cross...

Any thoughts about the experiment at this point? Please weigh in!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ladies Wear

As I continue to work my way through the pieces, envelopes and instructions sheets of my new old patterns, I am blown away. What beautiful antiques.

But they're so clear. Seriously, peeps, if you can understand the arcane instructions of a modern pattern, you'll have no problems working with those of ye olde ones. They haven't really updated the technical language in about a hundred years, from what I can tell.


From 1965, Butterick 2674 is a ubiquitous sheath with a gored skirt. The jacket is optional! (I imagine that piece of marketing is somewhere in the instructions, complete with the exclamation mark.) This pattern is a size 16 1/2 (original pattern sizing), which means the envelope measurements show the bust is 37", waist 31" and hips 41". Unless the thing is small i.e. no pattern or fabric ease allowed, I'll probably have to do a bit of amending of the hips at least. But gotta love a bust measurement on a close fitting garment that will, theoretically, fit right out of the packet.

Awesome update: The woman who owned this pattern previously, put tons of notes all over the place, including one, faintly, on the front of the envelope which - if I'm interpreting it correctly - indicates that the finished garment measurements are: bust 37.5" to 38" (perfect for me!), waist 33.25" (gonna have to grade down) and hips 40" (also need to take a little bit away, but not as much as the envelope measurements would have me believe). Ya'll know how relatively easy it is to alter a waist and hip width vs. fixing a bodice for a full bust. I'll take that trade off.

OMG - other awesome update!!! - the woman left a remnant of the fabric she used to make her garment. It's a blue and brown geometric floral!!! And she either updated her facing pieces to suit herself, or she lost them and recut them - OUT OF NEWSPAPER PIECES. The journal used was "The Rural Lifeline". There's a small add that talks about the Dayton Power and Light Company, so this woman must have lived in Ohio! Oh, other update: She was from Fletcher, Ohio.

Let's reflect on this. Another real person with a real life expressed her sartorial perspectives with this dress, a good 5 years before I was born. We will wear it as relevantly as one another.

I feel overwhelmed. I want to make all of these gorgeous garments so much but I don't know where to start.

Have you ever had this sense when working with vintage patterns? Have you ever felt sublimely connected to another person on the basis of finished garment measurements and her lady-like script from another era?

I have to reflect and recuperate. More patterns tomorrow.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Culottes, Then and Now

Let's go on an adventure, shall we?

In full disclosure, it's a sewing adventure, so you might already be bored. But I'm going to try to make it fascinating, like that subtype of documentary on PBS about physics (let's say) which, on the surface, is miserably dull but, despite yourself, by the end you are sad not to hear at least another hour's worth of info about the Law of Gravity. Note to reader: Once you get down to it, everything is somehow about the Law of Gravity. And is narrated by Martin Sheen.

OK, here's what I'm gonna do. Ya'll know about this pattern:

And you know this is the culottes pattern I have chosen to make as part of my Spring Basics Palette.

Wouldn't it be entrancing to see how they differ a) from each other - one vintage and one modern pattern and b) how the crotch curves of the original patterns differ from my own prior to alteration?

I know, you're drooling with anticipation.

But let me tell you a few other things before we get started on this path that's probably gonna take a few posts (and days of work, for that matter).

Sewist from way back, Lana, advised that:
  • Culottes date back to the 30's and were a kind of upgraded riding gear for women of that era.
  • Vintage versions tend to be made for those of extremely minimal derriere.
The new culottes (B5681) are a size 16 and the vintage ones (M9805) are an 18. These correlate with envelope sizing - waist 30" / hips 40" and waist 30" / hips 39". Standardized sizing has changed over the years, just to make things challenging.

I very gently opened the vintage pattern - still in factory folds - and carefully ironed it. You might as well tell me if this is a terrible crime to vintage. On the plus side, it made it possible for me to trace.

I also traced the modern pattern, though it was a total pain in the ass for something I could buy again tomorrow.

As yet untraced, boring, modern pattern...

Sassy, as yet untraced pocket of the vintage pattern.

How adorable that you get the WHOLE waistband when you sew vintage! (In truth, you get the whole waistband with the modern pattern too...)

More modern... Note that step action where the pleat meets the crotch. That doesn't happen in the vintage version (see below)...

More vintage... See how much more A line the vintage version appears to be? The modern one looks positively straight.

I love the way vintage patterns look. This one provides an ingenious double line to cut between in order to ensure you don't slice any of the seam allowance off when cutting into your fabric. This pattern also includes stitching lines in addition to cutting lines, so you can actually see the pattern sloper (aka block). Of course, modern patterns do not.

Intriguingly, the vintage pattern tissue was in very good shape, but the instructions (on construction paper) are definitely suffering the ravages of time. Weird since I don't think the pattern was ever used.

So, whatcha think? Are you game to compare vintage and modern garments? I'm going to muslin each of these (the top parts, any way) and which ever fits better will end up being the pattern I use to make my Spring Basics Palette culottes.

Time Traveling

I received my Blue Gardenia package of vintage patterns, which I bought recently during the 30% off sale. Wow.

Those of you who know me well, know that I am endlessly fascinated by things of other eras. I love shopping for vintage clothes because I believe the pieces are invested with the experience of another time. Don't get me wrong. I'm not particularly nostalgic. I don't think that time is better than this time. But it was and there's an energetic current between then and now and I love the idea that those two times can merge in modernity.

Let's face it: modernity is just another word for tomorrow's olden days.

As I was filtering through the 8 zillion pattern's on Denise's site, I narrowed my search to those with a 36 or 37 inch bust; they had half size patterns back then, for petites, which is how one finds sizing in the odd sized bust measurement.

In truth, I'm not much into the 30s and 40s patterns. I do find some of them spectacular - and time was, the best vintage clothing you could find (and it was plentiful in the shops) was from the 40s. But I always feel I'm playing to type in the 40s silhouette.

I kept it to the 50s, 60s and 70s, searching for wearable items. Nothing frothy and delicious, but with limited application. I intend to bring these garments to life on a regular basis.

So, let's get started on the tour, yes? Today we'll focus on the earliest patterns I purchased.

The Fifties:

McCall's 9805, from 1954, will assist me in my very firm intention to resuscitate the culotte. Not as silly as a skirt, not as intense as a pair of pants, culottes are the perfect solution for a day on the town! They look great with boots, in a winter fabric. Cute with a short heel sandal or ballerina flats in spring and summer. They have not gone out of fashion. They've just been sleeping in the recesses of our collective memory. Admit it: you want some!

Intriguingly, this pattern is from the first wave of those made with printed pieces (see The First Printed Pattern imprint). Before this, pieces were made with perforations to delineate instructions. As I am, frankly, afraid of those, this is my kind of 50's pattern.

It's starting to occur to me that I was so fixated on getting the right bust size, that I didn't pay any attention to the corollary waist and hip sizes. Fortunately in this pattern, the waist is 30" and the hips are 39". Alas, for the dress below, the waist is 28". Gonna have to work on that.

Butterick 8628, also from the 50s though the precise year is not identified, is another printed pattern, a whimsical "quick 'n easy" day dress. Oh, look, it's got a cowl neck. What a surprise! While "quick 'n easy" - it's not "light on fabric". This thing takes 6 yards of 35" width. (There's no mention of 60" width fabric on the envelope. Did it even exist, back then?) The dress has a waist stay, which seems very authentic.

The bodice is cut on the bias, the way many cowl neck bodices are. Intriguingly, the construction of this bodice is exactly the same as that on Vogue 8413, the dress I intend to make from the Spring Basics Palette.

Do you suppose one has to wear a crinoline (or some kind of voluminous slip) to get the skirt to fall that way?

What do you think of these? Which do you prefer? Do you have anything to add about the pedigree of these? Have you had the pleasure to sew with vintage?

Next up, the 60s!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Sewing Continues Apace...

Somehow, though it's hard to say why - see, I've really have been trying to stay low key - I've been oddly productive on the sewing front.

I'm two (or three) garments down on the six I've committed to making for the Spring Basics Palette, now that I've completed the Kwik Sew yoga pants and another version of the Jalie top. The second top isn't technically in the plan, but I had my reasons.

Yesterday I spent an hour altering the yoga pants to match my TNT crotch depth and length and I'm shocked to tell you that it took a mere 15 minutes to cut the 3 pieces and then 2 hours to put the garment together. It's a really clear design. If you've ever sewn with knits before, or sewn pants before - and you know your way around a zig zag stitch and some elastic - it's quick. With a serger, it's delightful. Of course, getting to this stage takes some time. But once you're there, it's lovely.

I regret to say that photos make this (somewhat pedestrian, let's face it) garment look utterly shapeless. It's not. In fact, it fits well. Much better than my previous versions wherein I had not yet taken an 2 inches out of the back crotch length (I took the same 2 inches out of the front piece at the lengthen/shorten line to even the hems) and altered both front and back for crotch depth:

Oooh, pretty "faux coverstitch", accomplished with a twin needle.

These cost $12.00 to make. Not bad, given that ones you find in the store often cost 4 times that amount and, often, they don't fit well.

I'm thrilled to tell you that my serger completely cooperated on the pants project and on the second Jalie top:

This is one of the ways, other than a bow, in which you can wear the ties. They're threaded through an inch wide hole that begins an inch below the apex of the V. I've top stitched the seam allowances above the hole (to the apex) to keep that area clean and stable. The pattern doesn't actually instruct this, but I think it's wise the long run. However, it does mean that you can see the stitches.

I know that this looks weird at the front arm hole. Again, my dress form is wider than me and sometimes garments pull on it, though they do not pull on me. This is one of those instances.

You're right in wondering: Wait, a second. Didn't she say that the pants were gonna be grey? And that a second Jalie isn't a part of the Spring Basics palette.

Here's the thing. I realized a few days ago that I didn't have enough of the grey cotton jersey to make the yoga pants. I had 1 yard, 60" wide. It looked like enough when I turned it against the direction of greatest stretch, but when I realized what I was working with, it just wasn't going to fly.

At the same time, I found the remainder of the orange knit I used to make this wrap dress.

(On a total tangent: I did what someone recommended (can't remember who, right now!) and just cut the facings off that dress, right close to the top stitch line that I added in an effort to keep everything lying flat. You may remember that the facings kept flipping up. Nothing worked but cutting them off - and now the dress fits fantastically, even if it does look horrendous on the inside. I will likely not make it again, too much effort, but if I were to, I would totally finish the edges with self bias tape.)

Back to the Jalie: I had just enough of the orange knit to make the sleeveless version of the Scarf Collar Top. But I did have to shorten the tie by about 3 inches on each side. That's why the pull through version works better than a bow, though a compact bow is achievable.

This knit is more stable than the floral I used for the last version. I actually prefer the heavy drape of the floral bamboo jersey. This orange jersey is rayon, I think. It's got nice drape too, but it's not quite the same. So my vote is to use very drapey fabric. Almost as drapey as it gets.

I will use the grey jersey to make the T shirt for which I was intending to use the aubergine rayon knit. One must be flexible.

Note that I finished the sleeves before serging the sides together. And I finished the hem before serging the final side seam. I much prefer to finish flat garments, when possible.

Alas, I had just enough orange thread to do the top stitching - that was even using a different colour thread in the bobbin! - and my hem top stitching is woefully terrible. I had the machine tension set too high. Oh well, there's no fixing it now. So I'm just going to ignore that aspect of things and enjoy the rest of the work.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Wow, yesterday's bra post topic is all top of mind this week... Here's some interesting additional reading on the topic. I can't tell you how fascinating this subject is to me. I really value everyone's comments on my last post about this. Discussion (and your own valuable experiences) is the spice of life!

To those of you (and you know who you are) who threaten/promise to one day get fitted, though you haven't yet had the opportunity, let me say this: It will change your life. Don't take my word for it. Everyone I've ever bossed coerced into doing it has utterly concurred with my perspective. Numerous bloggers have written the same thing. I only wish I had some juicy testimonials, below to add to the conviction. (I'm half inclined to make some up and pretend my friends wrote them!)

If I could, I would invite you for a fantastic shopping day, complete with an excellent lunch and cocktails. It would start in the morning with a bra fitting (btw, I'm veritably an expert - trust me!) and then move on to shopping for clothes. Regardless of your breast size and shape, once wearing the right size bra, you would be amazed by how much more gorgeously all of your new clothes fit - how, maybe even, your clothing size would change. And, when you took off those clothes, and looked perfect in a bra that hugs to your shape in the most beautiful way - and matches with some terrific undies, natch - you would be transformed.

This experience is not shallow. It goes to the core of identity. And it changes the outside from the inside.

Admittedly, I'm religious about this. When people have the bra experience with me it is perhaps, in part, affecting because I'm a cult of one :-) Also, there's booze and dessert! But it's an awesome thing to watch someone uncover a new sense of herself.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Relatively Speaking

OK, back to scheduled programming - let's talk about the arcane bra-fitting rule that seems to be alive and well (and continually promoted) by a large subset of the industry.

That rule is: to fit a bra back, measure your under bust, add 4 inches (or 5 - if your under bust is an odd number of inches) and that's your back size. Associated with this is the cup size rule that states the difference in inches between under bust and bra-covered full bust measurement determines what letter you wear. One inch different is an A cup, and every additional inch equals an additional cup.

This might have been a prudent guideline in 1940, when bra materials were much less forgiving than they are now i.e. before Lycra and numerous other textile advances, but these days, bra bands are designed to stretch to the actual under bust measurement enumerated on the tag. Additionally, modern multiple-piece cup construction in malleable fabric makes this element of the fitting that much easier.

A snug band, as I've said so many times (as have many others), is the key to structural integrity. Those straps aren't holding up your boobs. It's the confluence of under wire and band (or just band, when there's no under wire). Natch, you want to have the ultimate snugness, within reason, on the loosest hooks when you buy, because that band is going to stretch over time and you don't want to waste your money on a bra back that will be too loose in 2 months.

Let's consider the terrible disservice that the antiquated bra-back rule does, when added to the cup size rule. If one's back size is a 32 and she adds 4 inches, that would put her in a 36 band. If the difference between her under bust and her full bust measurement is 5.5 inches, that posits she'd be an E cup (btw, the inches rule is a guideline, breast density and volume have a notable impact on how the inches correlate to numbers, I'm just using some basic assumptions here.)

We know from previous posts that there's an inverse relationship between back size and cup size. Remember: 30F=32E=34D=36C in terms of cup volume. So, a 36E bra has the same cup volume as a 34F or a 32G. If one's actual band size - which bands actually correlate to these days - is 32 and yet she wears a 36 band, the volume associated with that band size is going to be about 3 sizes larger than her own. And yet, the band is going to be loose and unsupportive and the whole thing's going to be a disaster.

To recap, the woman who should be in a 32E (or thereabouts, depending on brand and a few other nuances) will be wearing a bra cup having the same volume as a 32G cup (way too big) and the band will do fuck all to keep anything in check. The horror!

How is this bra going to look? Well, it really depends a lot on the actual woman wearing it, but the likelihood is that the centre gore (where the cups meet at the chest front) will pull away from the body (there's nothing to hold it in position with a loose band) and the cups will hang away from the breasts (the volume isn't there). Additionally, the straps will likely be too wide set for the 32 back frame. The under wires will be too wide for the breasts and the wings (side band) will pucker. The impact on fit under clothing will be lumps and sag.

You don't need to be this woman.

One of my self-professed "small breasted" blog friends asked whether, by this logic, she would be a size 30D. As I understand it, her under bust is a 29, her full bust is 33. According to this logic, she would probably be a 30D. Pls. note - a 30D bra is a bra for a woman of very modest endowment. It's much smaller than, for example a 36D, which is still fairly small on the modern bust scale. Now, were she to get fitted (which I strongly advise) she'd probably try on a range of sizes - 30D, 32C, 30C. She might be pretty shocked by the snugness of fit in a 30 band, since she's been wearing a 34 her whole life. It might really bother her, or it might appeal. I love the feel of a tight band. It doesn't irritate me at all. But many other women are sensitive to the wires and hooks - particularly as they adjust, having never worn anything adequately supportive in the past.

This isn't fully science. It's not all art. Those of us who sew understand how shockingly nuanced fit is - and we're generally not fitting anywhere near ultra-close. There is no room for error here. Happily, there is no need for it either.

Do share your experiences, please! Having been fitted, did you learn your back size was way off? Did you used to hate tight bands, but now you've adjusted? Do you have a bra fitting issue you want to share (who knows, we might be able to offer up some advice)?

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Frontier

I have a sense this post is going to be all over the map. In theory, it's about bra-sizing and about how it's changed substantially since the 1940s, and why. But I know it's going to get somewhat mired in my complicated feelings about a particular style of lingerie blog - I'll call it the modern lingerie blog, not to imply that if one's lingerie blog doesn't conform to the model it isn't modern.

Let's kick off with that topic, shall we?

I love the UK and its lingerie market so much I can't stand it. First nation to recognize that many women have large breasts, and small frames, and good taste, and sex appeal, I really think the British are pioneers. Not to mention that they're the only ones who seem to make great-looking things that are also affordable. And that they have awesome online resources. You can't get me off my soap box on this one.

It shouldn't be a surprise, given this British facility and the culture that supports it and has sprung up as a result of it, that bloggers would seize on the opportunity to speak about their experiences and to share what they have learned.

That's what we style and fashion bloggers do. We put on great clothing and talk about why it's great and what makes us feel good. We deconstruct the intimacy and semiotics of garments. Body language, indeed.

But to reinsert the personal into the political: No question, I'm an exhibitionist. A remarkably vain one. Hopefully, a chic one. Most definitely, a communicative one :-) Under the right circumstances, I'm also a pretty apt voyeur. I do not believe in censorship. I routinely swear like a sailor in front of my kid (who doesn't ever swear as a result, weirdly, not that I'd care). She can watch and read pretty much what she likes, as long as she asks for clarification if she has any questions. I know my way around some fairly gritty areas of the web.

My point is that I'm not opposed to sharing my image and I'm not opposed to seeing the unvarnished images of others. Be who you want to be with me.

At the same time, I'm a professional. I'm a private person. I have a career and a community and I regularly censor my content within my own parameters because I don't want to be entirely knowable to, potentially, every human being on the planet at any time between now and the end of days. At this point, I'm sure some of you are laughing. What about that post you did on childbirth?, you're thinking. In the words of one of my friends: No one on the planet talks more about her boobs than you.

I have my parameters for privacy, as does every other blogger in the land.

Why then am I somewhat conflicted about the modern lingerie blog, that which profiles its writer modeling the latest lingerie and speaking about its relative merits and detractions? This blog-type is reinforced by contests hosted in the UK such as Star in a Bra (I'll let you link to it.) These blogs are legitimately about the undergarments and how they fit. They're also about body image. Many of the modern lingerie bloggers are rather curvy. They speak about the challenges of finding good, and gorgeous, support garments in sizes upwards of 30H. Many are rather sexy. They're young (early 20s); they're sassy. They have large breasts on small frames.

I'm sorry to be the one pointing at the obvious which we may not want to consider as it moves in the direction of infringement on modernity and personal freedom, but there seems no way to show oneself feeling confident and lovely wearing merely a bra and knickers when one is young and one's chest is, relatively speaking, ultra-voluptuous without bordering on a very different genre.

I don't mean to sound like someone's mother but, what about when these women decide to work at a bank or a law firm? It's statistically improbable that every one of them is going to continue in a life of non-conformism. What about when they meet a new guy and they just want to go out on a dinner date? The ubiquitous Google search is really gonna get in the way of that.

On the other hand, it is a kind of public service they're performing (and, arguably, a new kind of performance art form). Imagine being a young woman with large breasts and a small frame and not knowing how the fuck to wear anything and to feel good about how everything goes together given that all images of sexy women, heretofore, have been either in porn (mimicking her body shape) or in fashion modeling (the world of curve artifice, having no bearing on her shape in the least). I have been that woman and it isn't nice. I have also been my own lingerie pioneer lo the last 25 years and it would have been far less lonely to have some sistahs.

Things don't change without invested parties changing them. Many bloggers, such as myself, routinely proclaim the value of well-fitting lingerie and give advice on how to find and wear it. Why shouldn't the next-wave of this information-sharing be more, um, visual? Perhaps I'm responding more to the style of photography than the photography itself? Maybe I'm having my own "When I was a girl, we walked 5 miles in the snow to school..." moment?

I'm choosing not to link to these blogs because I don't want to associate my ambivalence with what they're doing. I know they blog with integrity and in the spirit of promoting good body image. If you're unfamiliar with this style of blog you can check out Fuller Figure Fuller Bust or Invest in Your Chest. There are quite a few of these blogs around right now.

I really would love to engage in debate here. What do you think? Is what you think so clouded by your age and stage that you wonder if it's relevant :-) Would you blog in this way? Do you value the information you can gain from these sites - I sure do.

(Oh, and I guess multiple topics notwithstanding, bra-size is going to have to be the topic of another post...)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Measure of a Woman

True story: Yesterday, I wore the Spring Basics Palette spring top which I'm not supposed to wear till spring. And I don't even care. I am such a badass! I was so bright. So cheerful. So popular (as I paired it with yellow tights and a lavender mini skirt). I was the most colourful thing you've ever seen. Also, it's really attractive and it makes my boobs look fantastic! Seriously, run out and buy this thing and then give me the credit when you look so gorgeous you can't stand yourself. OK, give the Jalie people a little bit of credit too.

At any rate, as an update to my update in my last post (about why all my patterns seem to be fitting large lately), I'm regrettably wrong in my initial assessment.

That assessment was that I must be getting leaner as a) everything seems to be fitting more loosely and b) all my new clothes (of TNT patterns) are particularly roomy.

As soon as I got home I took out my handy tape measure and took some notes. Alas, the numbers are almost identical to those of 2 years ago (and then of 3 months ago) - though somewhat smaller than those of 6 months ago (when I was on the eating binge). In fact, my bust and hip measurements are identical to those of January 2009 and April 2010. Those numbers don't seem to change. My waist - it's about 3/4 of an inch larger. Whatevs. I'm working on it. And it's January. And I like wine. Leave me alone.

There are some theories:
  • I'm 41 years old. My body is changing in shape.
  • I haven't been doing as much weight-bearing exercise lately. My muscle mass may be down, affecting fit.
These are supported by the fact that my RTW clothing seems to be fitting more loosely, in addition to my new handmade wares.

However, I think the likeliest reason for looseness of TNT (and even new, handmade) garments is that I'm sewing with smaller seam allowances. I never seam anything wider than 1/2 inch allowances these days. Often, I use a scant 1/2 inch or a generous 1/4 inch. I don't see any benefit in cutting too much fabric, only to let it languish in a seam allowance which, let's face it, is generally serged away. I guess I've just got to start cutting one size down given this predilection.

I don't know why this kind of thing fascinates me no end. Point is, though, the tape measure doesn't lie. And don't sew with 5/8" seam allowances. That's crazy wasteful.

Monday, January 16, 2012


What can I say? Jalie 2921 is all that - just as every sewist on the planet has agreed.

This is the first of my six spring basics from the palette. Strange how I made the (arguably) springiest in deep January.

I've shown the ties in a bow, but you can string them through a small hole at the front to make a very chic scarf-front. Should have shown that version in pics too...

Trust me, the dress form doesn't do this garment justice. It fits beautifully. The drape of the rayon jersey is perfect. I'm sure the pattern was constructed with rayon or bamboo jersey in mind.

About the Pattern:
  • I cut the 8 though technically I'm between an 8 and 9.
  • I also carved out some additional curves at the waist of the pattern. I felt it was too straight.
  • Despite making something between a 7 and 8, Jalie-sizing, it fits well - maybe even a bit large. (Remember, my dress form has slightly wider shoulders than I do.)
  • I'm not saying the pattern categorically fits large. There's not a lot of ease built into the 1/4" seam-allowanced pattern. But rayon jersey has a lot of drape.
  • The burrito construction of the collar is as genius as everybody says. Just make sure, if you're using a serger - or even if you're not - to avoid catching the sandwiched front and back pieces when sewing closed the collar/ties.
  • I would not want to make this without a serger. It would be much more challenging to get the stitches to hold with such a stretchy fabric. And it's the drape of rayon jersey that really makes this pattern work.
  • I twin stitched the sleeve hem and bodice hem before closing the seams. It's easier to sew those things flat.
  • Now that I've made this, I can say that (once alteration have been accounted for and paper pattern traced and cut) it's a 4 hr from start to finish project. Which is entirely awesome, IMO. That's about as quick as it gets in my universe.
  • I did shorten the waist and arm length using the lengthen/shorten lines provided by the pattern. As per usual, I had to remove an inch from the waist. Then I hemmed at 1/2". The length of the piece is perfect.
  • I will make all 3 sleeve versions of this garment. Each will have numerous uses.
  • Way to take a T shirt and turn it into an elegant garment! Can't wait to wear it.
About the Croquis: It was my great goal to show you a mocked up version of this using my croquis. Alas, my ability to use the computer to "paint" is woefully inadequate. The dress form version is kind of like a 3-dimensional croquis.

This piece has taught me that I really need to sew with patterned-fabric more often. I've been intimidated by the urge to match at the seams. I'm almost over it. And this is so cheerful!

Whatcha think?

Update based on some thoughts I had while dressing: It seems that every time I review a pattern lately, I'm saying it fits large. Perhaps I have to rethink the sizes I'm making? I'll write about this in more detail later, but maybe my dimensions have changed more than I imagine. Hmmm, maybe I should pull out the tape measure??

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Size Matters

In my continuing quest to put all breasts in the right sized bras, please read this.

Pay careful attention to the part where it's explained that the volume of 34A-sized breasts is exactly the same as that of 28D-sized breasts. You can't judge the size of a breast by its cup size. You MUST consider the relationship between cup and band size.

That is all.

Tools of the Trade

Today I realized I bought something totally useful, 2 years ago - before I really had a use for it:

Fashionary Sketch Book

It was a great idea then. It's a great idea now and it's much more popular (also somewhat more pricey than it used to be). Note: You don't buy it on Etsy anymore.

The croquis template provided on each page is terrific - not to mention the reference materials sections (which are increasingly useful as I try my hand at art as well as craft). The template shape, however, is incredibly long and slim. Happily, the page is dotted so lightly with the trace lines that I can use them simply as a guide.

To complement the sewing cache, earlier this week my latest gift to me arrived by post:

Jordana Paige Crafter's Tool Butler - I bought the aubergine colour.

Let's just say, this thing was a stupid splurge as - by the time I added the unreasonably-inflated shipping - the price went up 30%. American businesses need to stop charging this way. I'll go to any lengths, at this point, to get an item elsewhere because I feel RIPPED OFF. If you're an American vendor, take heed: We Canadians actually still spend money. Don't make it hard for us.

Alas, the needle holder not stocked anywhere in TO and I wanted it, so Ms. Paige wins this round.

It's quite nice. Not sure if I'll love it in the course of time, but I needed a solution and I don't tend to like most of the knitting accoutrements out there. They always seem to scream homespun. At least this one is taking a stab at modern. Vegans rejoice: It's fake leather.

You'll note I haven't been knitting. It's weird, but I don't seem to function in the knitting and sewing head spaces simultaneously. They both take so much focus and they're very different activities. No doubt, knitting is much harder on the body. So while I've got some sewing enthusiasm going, and while I can still stand to recuperate from the physical toll of last fall's knitting, I will make sewing my primary craft for the next little while.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Weekend Update

A couple of notes as I head into a day of tracing, cutting and prepping (maybe even sewing?)...

Blue Ruby Slip Update: I wore it last week and I was amazed by how terrifically it stood up to a day at work. The silk completely kept static at bay - despite my wearing it with tights! The lace was much stronger than I imagined it would be. A part of me thought this thing was going to fall apart on first wearing but it went back on the hanger at the end of the day, barely even creased. This is the only bias cut thing I've ever worn, as far as I can remember. It's certainly the only silk, bias cut thing I've worn and it does feel strange to move in it. One feels the angle of the fabric - not off-puttingly, but it's unusual. At any rate, don't be scared of delicate looking lace. Chances are, if you pay enough money for it :-), it'll hold up to its function.

Croquis: I'm having some technical difficulties with digitally drawing outfits onto my croquis (aka I totally suck at it in a serious, disturbing way) and haven't yet cracked the code. I've had a really busy time at work which is mentally tiring in the off hours, so I don't know how and when you will be seeing the version of the palette that shows P.Cro. wearing the items I intend to make. I may have made some of those garments by the time I figure out the digital drawing!? I don't see that as a problem. These are separate skill sets and I'm not going to put unnecessary time constraints on myself. For now, the sewing gerbils have moved into the domain of sketching.

Tailoring: It seems, in my work role, I have a new need for jackets. I suspect that my next project, after completing the Spring Basics Wardrobe, will be to find and make some suit jackets. I don't want entire old-school suits. I'm looking at separates - even if they're constructed in the same fabrics i.e. pants and jacket or skirt and jacket - because I was there in the 90s and I'm not prepared to go back. I don't care if you're an investment banker - times have changed and one can be as creative with professional-wear as she chooses to be (IMO). Edgy creativity and elegance/formality need not be mutually exclusive. I can't wait to see how I pull this one off :-)

Update on the update: No sooner do I decide to delve into the suit jacket that I read about Craftsy's new Sew Retro course (taught by everybody's favourite sew-alonger Gertie). Here's the promo of the soon-to-be-released tutorial:

Sew Retro: The Starlet Suit Jacket:
Gretchen Hirsch is back with another Craftsy Sew Retro class! This time she’s going to show you how to make a suit jacket to knock ‘em dead!

Um, who loves starlets?! Who loves retro? Who needs suit jackets? (I have no idea, but something tells me this will be 40s-inspired. Wonder if I'm right...) Let's just say I've already signed up in my mind.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Love This

Type is one of the few bookstores left for lazy afternoon browsing. And I have to appreciate this marketing tour de force. Books need all the help they can get, peeps. (I should know - I barely ever read them anymore - unless they have the words "sew" or "knit" or "fit" or "fabric" in the title.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

True Blue

OK, peeps, this is yet another post which capitalizes on everything blue - for starters a great sale that Ms. Denise of Blue Gardenia is hosting - but only from Jan. 15 - 17. If you are even thinking about buying a vintage pattern in the next few months, don't be crazy. Buy it then and save a lot! (Note: you do have to buy 3 patterns to get the discount but, trust me, it will take about 4 minutes to find the perfect 3. Her inventory is extensive!) I've got my eye on a slip pattern from the 70s- like I need another?! - and a 50s dress that happens to be petite (and it has a 37.5" bust). Um, that's just like me!

But let's focus on today's slip: the Blue Ruby:

Very Elizabeth Taylor, no?

You can just vaguely see the asymmetry in the lace on either side of the centre bust. Do you see how one side (right as you look at it) has embroidered leaves and the other side has star-shaped flowers?

I'd have modeled this on the dress form but its shoulders are too wide. I can get it over my head and boobs (just), but I've already damaged the silk (ugh) by trying to get it to conform to the shape of an inanimate form.

At any rate, here's what I can tell you about this version:
  • The lace cost a lot of money. Probably too much.
  • And I don't love it. It's too mesh-y, which means a) it's effectively weak and b) very starkly shows a bra underneath it. And you know I'm not wearing this without a bra.
  • The pattern, asymmetry is almost indiscernible, however.
  • I've decided that I'll only sew with denser lace in the future.
  • Oh, apropos of stitching down the lace seams: this time I did press both seam allowances to one side before top stitching at 1/8". The lace was too transparent to do it differently. And this didn't add any bulk.
  • The bra straps were actually pre-made. I got them from Bra-Makers Supply last year and what good fortune. I hate assembling hoops and sliders. Hurts my brain. Also, these straps are 1/2 inch, not 5/8 inch wide - which makes the slip look more delicate. I mean, they're not holding up any weight to speak of so that width is just fine. That the straps are black is actually handy. Since I'll likely wear the slip with a black bra underneath, I'd prefer not to have 2 diff shades of straps to contend with.
  • The silk skirt is beautiful and fits perfectly. Alas, the handkerchief hem didn't go so well. It looks great from the right side (see photo above), but the inside looks a bit gerbil-sewn.
  • Once again, I top stitched (under stitched) the bodice seam allowance to the slip. But this time I didn't first serge that seam. It was too narrow.
  • Here's something I didn't mention the last time, but it's germane: Because I increased the length of the bodice, the scalloped lace is now too high under my arm pit. I'm going to have to shape the pieces that abut under the arm so that they don't do this again. Not exactly sure how I'm going to accomplish this.
All this being said, I think it's a pretty good second effort. I'm glad I didn't use cheap materials. You can really feel the luxury of these fabrics.

I really do think that, for a woman of ample bust, the Ruby Slip gather bodice will be easier to fit. Silk charmeuse has a lot of natural give and I have a intuition that an underbust gather will "hug" the breasts (depending on their shape, and the gathers, natch). Silk is also stronger around the upper back and over the chest. Finally, it's easier to work a garment in one fabric, than in 2 disparate fabrics which meet a stress-bearing join. A decorative edge of lace is pretty, but not structurally integral.

As always, I welcome comments. Which of the 2 slips do you prefer? The shorter pink one? Or this one? I only wish I could present them in the same way for better comparison...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Palettable: Spring Basics

Your looking at the culmination of a lot of work. A freakin' lot of work. And my husband would like you to know he did half of it.

(BTW, don't bother clicking on it unless you're only interested in a larger view of the colour swatches. However, if you right click the image and open it in another tab, you will be treated to the loveliest digital artwork!)

As you can see, my spring colour-scheme is decidedly northern. Partly, this is because I live, uh, in the North. Partly it's because I just can't do the springy pastel palette. Oh, I like it. It's lovely and sunny. It just doesn't reflect the shades and tones I wear.

I've planned six garments over 12 weeks:
I've made the dress, the T shirt, the yoga pants and the skirt at least once before. The yoga pants need some pattern alteration. When first I made them, I didn't understand crotch depth and length. Of course, on reconstruction, what can't be improved?

This project is about making things pretty. Making things well. It's also about making things I know I'll wear.

Let's deconstruct the value of each piece, shall we?
  • V8413 dress is flattering. Every time I wear my wearable muslin, so many people comment on how elegant it is. But, secretly, it's comfortable and easy! I'm going to make it in bright orange doubleknit, a colour and fabric I do not shy away from.
  • Y'all know I worked that T shirt pattern hard. Just check out the 8 zillion posts :-). A T shirt is endlessly useful. Esp. one in a cheery jewel tone rayon jersey.
  • The grey, cotton jersey yoga pants are practical writ large. They're not exciting, but they'll probably get more use than any of the other items. If I sort out the pattern to reflect my crotch depth and length, I'll really have done myself a good turn for the future.
  • The culottes are the outlier. I haven't seen the pattern pieces yet (though it's on order). I considered altering the Clovers into culottes, but I don't know if it will work with my current level of experience. I would love for these to work so I can make them for all seasons. For these, I've reserved the darkest fabric - a brown-burgundy wool blend suiting. I just can't see them in a bright colour, though I will wear them with bright colours (acid yellow, anyone?). I imagine these will be an early spring garment.
  • The Ginger, well, this skirt is a joy. And I've reserved for the bias cut version of it the most spectacular of colours - a cerise wool-blend twill of such depth that I am overjoyed just to look at it.
  • The final top, with a scarf tie, walks the line between euro chic and American classic. I'm going to throw in a little bit of gamine by using a lovely rayon jersey floral that combines all of the colours in my palette.
Can you believe that I had 3 of these fabrics in my stash already? And that I still spent $150 bucks on fabric?? (That does include some stupidly expensive lace I bought for the current and future Ruby's .) I mention this a) because it horrifies me that I'm spending triple digits on clothing that isn't actually made yet and b) because I feel compelled to remind us all that sewing is freakin' expensive. But not as expensive as gorgeous RTW or designer clothing.

One other note, the croquis is much cuter than the last one, no? It's cuz I drew it from a posey photo, not from a dour posture appropriate for charting measurements. I heartily suggest you do this. I feel much more like Posey Croquis (P.Cro?) than that last drawing.

Any thoughts about all of this? I'd love to hear from those of you who have already undertaken one of these palette projects. Or from those of you who might do one soon. (I have to imagine that Colette Patterns will reintroduce its Spring Palette Challenge, as I know it was very popular.)

The Slip Saga Continues...

Brief update on the blue Ruby Slip. She is now cut out, skirt hanging on the dress form.

Some things of interest:
  • Silk charmeuse is not as delicate as it looks. I have washed it, hung it to dry and steam pressed it (yes, with actual water) and it actually looks glossy and hangs nicely. It's not the same as its prewashed self, but growth is good, yes?
  • Bias cut silk charmeuse is its own animal, people. OMG, what a princess! I can tell there's going to be some finagling with the hang.
  • OK, this one is baffling - turns out my new blue lace, scalloped on both edges of the 60" width fabric (also 30 bucks a yard, fyi, and I used almost a yard), has a different motif on one scalloped side than the other?!?!? How can this be. Admittedly, I didn't look at it closely as it was being cut - I never in a million years imagined this might occur. The motifs are complementary (as they would have to be) but the flower pattern is obvs deliberately different. One half of the front of my slip is going to have one motif. The other half will have the other. I'm going to call it an interesting design feature.
  • One other thing about cutting the lace. By the time you get to the lace, the cutting part of this project can be overwhelming. It really is the most tedious element. (I find cutting tedious at the best of times.) This time I decided not to be so matchy-matchy hardcore (obviously). The motif on this lace is airy. I just lay the pieces right next to each other as I cut them. That has to work, by logic, right? Even when you take seam allowances into consideration, there will be alignment. Or not. But it didn't torment me for 90 minutes this time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Spring into Action

Oh, I am somewhat overwhelmed by my imagination. So many ideas - not so much digital illustrating experience. And yet I want to show you what's in my mind the way that many other sewing bloggers do.

I also have this schizophrenic, if creative, perspective on my reasons for wanting to story board. That's the subject of another post. A really long post.

However, this post is to tell you that I intend to do a Spring Basics Palette over the next 12 weeks and here's what it will entail:
  • 6 garments - 4 of which have been sewn with success before. This isn't about reinventing the wheel. It's about nicely finishing and newly interpreting some standards for a new season. The garments will include a dress, a skirt, a pair of pants, a t shirt, a top and a pair of lounge (aka yoga) pants. Pattern names and numbers will follow...
  • A fun, digital, fashion story board to show colour schemes and renderings of those garments on my croquis - likely not the one I've shown you already, but a new one (traced from another photo) which is more sassy. Having never yet tried to paint clothes on top of my croquis, I have no idea of how this is actually going to work. Palette experts, you may be getting some emails.
I'm going to give more details as soon as I can pull them together but I'll leave you with a few thoughts:
  • My colour choices are really whacky. I don't know if they'll cohere in a palette, though I'm not concerned that they won't cohere in my wardrobe.
  • I've already bought the fabric for 3 of the pieces and I have the fabric for 2 others in my stash. That leaves one garment to purchase for, unless I have some changes of heart.
  • I've spent about $150.00 on the fabric and notions for 3 of the 6 garments. The fabric I already purchased for the other 2 probably cost me $30.00. I speculate I will spend $200.00 and 6 weekends over the next 12 weeks to produce my spring wardrobe.
  • I estimate I would have to spend upwards of $600.00 to purchase these items RTW. Of course, that would take about 2 hours.
  • Recently, Peter wrote asked the interesting question "Are you a practical or fantasy sewer?" This didn't take more than a moment of consideration for me. I am practical. Of course, who can say if my version of practical is someone else's whimsical, but no mind. The Spring Basics Palette is so named because I anticipate the pieces to work interdependently - and day-to-day.
And to close the loop on the topic of the next version of the Ruby Slip and the fabric I've treated:
  • I heard you all re: concerns about the properties of guipure. I went out today and bought 2 new types of mesh-based lace - one piece in a light navy and another in black. I will make the next slip using one of these. (And for the one after that - the gathered bodice version - I'll use the other piece.)
  • In the end, neither the guipure nor silk swatches I hand-washed yesterday either a) bled colour or b) shrank in the least. Intriguing. The silk did change texture somewhat (not that I've ironed the swatch as yet, so the change may not be as pronounced as I'm currently imagining). Even with texture change, and slight loss of sheen, I opted to wash the rest of it by hand because I'm really not prepared to dry-clean. If fading or mega-shrinkage were in the cards, or if the fabric were to be fundamentally destroyed by water, I'd go that route. But it's just not the case. Will the silk look unaltered by this treatment? No. But you've all given me the confidence to try this method - and to recognize that there's not just one way to view silk.
So, if anyone has words of encouragement or advice (anything technical is welcome :-)) please chime in. If you've done the Colette Palette Challenges or a similar version, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Interim Update: Prepping Delicate Fabrics

Thank you so much, everyone, for taking the time to share your experience and expertise re: caring for delicate fabrics.

Here's what I can tell you so far:
  • Marina, I take your point about the challenging quality of guipure. The key (or so I think at this point) is to make sure that one cuts to the outside of the stabilizing grid that contains the lace, otherwise it really starts to fall apart.
  • My goal is to use those grids as the anchor for sewing it some stabilizing underlining. My current options are some black power net with stretch 2-way stretch, some navy bra "wing" fabric (the stuff that makes the sides of your bra that attach to the cups on one side and the closure on the other) and some black mesh with no stretch.
  • The best drape is in the power net with a firm, 2-way stretch (but I'm not sure if I should be aiming to use a stable fabric with no stretch). I just don't want the underlayer to make the very drapey lace fall stiffly. Thoughts?
  • There's another alternative - that I might use the guipure to make the lace border for the gathered bodice version of the slip. This would minimize its structural element, while retaining the beautiful border.
  • I have hand-washed 2 swatches: one of the silk and one of the lace; both are currently air drying.
  • Neither appears to have bled much colour at all into the soapy water - maybe the guipure released a bit of dye.
  • Both seem as dark as they were, but they're wet.
  • I'll let you know about shrinkage/hand/sheen etc. when they dry.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Shout Out to the Experts: Prepping Delicate Fabrics

I'm mentally (and technically) preparing myself for the next iteration of the Ruby Slip. This is the one that will use guipure lace and the most lovely, navy, silk charmeuse I've ever seen. Really, the hand on this stuff is awesome.

(Brief aside, for those who are unfamiliar with guipure - count me amongst yourselves: It's a rather sassy lace - it's not backed with netting in the way of "regular" lace. The stuff I bought is quite robust. I am concerned about the volume, but I love it so much, I'm going to throw caution to the wind.)

Here is my question with rationale (broken up into numerous sections?!):
  • I've looked through Claire Schaeffer's book to determine the best way to treat these fabrics. My hope was to wash them by hand before sewing as they both tend to shrink quite a bit. Alas, Ms. Schaeffer advises that dark-coloured silk tends to fade when hand-washed, and the satin shine dulls. Deal is, it will likely wreck that extremely luxe thing it's got going on.
  • I don't like dry-cleaning. I used to dry-clean everything until I realized it was poison and it doesn't so much clean your clothes as toxify them. I also don't like paying for the pleasure. And really, I've had some clothing ruined due to harsh handling when dry-cleaned, though not recently.
  • But I don't want to mess with the fabulous sheen and fall of the silk, the drape of the lace.
  • How would y'all procede: suck it up and dry clean (infrequently)? Or hand wash and risk disaster?
Side question:
  • Any of you who've sewn with guipure, please provide your insights. I believe it's popular in bridal tailoring (which is likely why Sherry, formerly a creator of wedding wear, was able to enlighten me about it's pedigree). What are your feelings about it? Is it a challenge, a pleasure - or something in between.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Slip Half Full

If you can make heads or tails of the meaning of this post's title then I salute you!

But never mind you, friends. This is all about a little lady named Ruby... (Grab a drink, this is going to take a while):

I understitched the bodice to the skirt to give it a bit more structure, and to help to stabilize the lace.

See how much longer my bodice is than the original version? That's what happens when you add a bunch of inches to accommodate a full bust.

(All the best slips have mood lighting.)

I actually think the dress form looks a little sexy here. Is that possible??

Can you say gratuitous self indulgence??

The Good:
  • It's a wearable muslin, which is more than I can say about any other lingerie garment I've made before.
  • It's really pretty.
  • It's not hideously made - but I used cheap materials and you should never do that if you want something to turn out well. Note: If I'd used expensive materials and this thing fucked up, I'd want to kill myself, so it was a calculated trade off.
  • The thread could not have been a better-matched shade if I tried (it was in my stash?!). It means some of the dubious bodice seam sewing looks just fine when it really should not.
  • My franken-version of an FBA didn't work out half bad!
The Bad:
  • It really needs a bit more length in the bodice to actually seam at the narrowest part of my underbust. I have already cut the next version of the pattern, adding 0.5" to the bodice pieces. I hope that will work. It doesn't look that way on the dress form because the boobs on the form are slightly smaller than mine (and the ass is slightly larger, while we're clarifying).
  • I used cheap material and I'm sure it will impair the longevity of this wearable muslin. People, cheap lace is not strong. Keep this in mind. If I were able to make this slip without modification, I would only use the best lace. Hell, next time I make it I'm using the best lace.
Additional Info:
  • The short version is too short, IMO - and you know I'm not tall. I'm going to need to recut the skirt for the long version. (Note to self: Don't forget to recut the skirt for the longer size.
  • The bra straps work really well, as long as the lace to which you affix them has substance.
  • Handkerchief hems on bias skirts, using fabric that doesn't like to press are rather labour-intensive. Nonetheless, I like the finished effect.
  • I've adjusted the body so tremendously that I can't figure out exactly where the centre front notches should go anymore. I have tried to reason it out but my brain is tired.
  • I used a bra-making method to sew the bodice seams, which I think is slightly different from the many good seam-finishing methods that Sherry suggests. Because I didn't want any bulk at all, and because I know from past experience that closely top stitched seams on lace don't fray, I pressed open the seams (after checking fit 8 zillion times), topstitched about 1/8" from the seam and then used applique scissors to cut the seam allowance very close to the top stitched seam on the wrong side of the garment. I didn't overlock those seams.
  • It wouldn't have been a bad idea to underline the weak lace with power net (which I have) but I didn't know what I was doing and I didn't want to deviate too much from the plan.
  • I only increased the circumference of the skirt by about an inch on the front (divided over the 2 side seams). I did this to accommodate the reasonably small amount of extra width of the bodice (the result of the FBA). In a perfect world there would be no increase of underbust measurement but it's pretty tricky to make something this fitted with vastly divergent needs at underbust vs full bust. Remember, I've got almost a 5" difference in those measurements as a result of large breasts and a narrow frame. It's a challenging alteration.
  • I actually unstitched the seam of the skirt to the bodice after serging the seam, to get back about 1/4 of an inch of length. This is one of the reasons that I understitched. I felt it really needed some reinforcement.
Man, I'm tired.

Please write me a comment and tell me that you love this - or say anything else you'd like. Let's talk!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In the Navy

Meet my New Year's eve outfit:

Oooh, navy on navy. How do they look so different? These are the Clover pants and V8323.

This completely poseur-y shot was actually taken while I was adjusting my hair (all 1 inch of it). But it shows the lines of the outfit well, I think.

This equally poseur-y shot is for y'all cuz I think you all deserve a kiss!

This nice-girl photo is for my mother, cuz she loves shots like this...

I can't tell you how it thrills me to wear an outfit entirely of my own construction!

Now, you may know that I was taking some big time chances on the centre back (my alteration) invisible zipper holding up. I figured, in a worst case scenario it could be a fun "OMG, 2011 totally sucked" story: There I was, raising a glass of bubbly and my freakin' pants fell apart. At a party?!? I am SO ready for 2012...

I definitely need to slender out a smidge before wearing them again. But I do think they're going to be go-to pants when I lose a bit of volume in my derriere, post-Xmas.

The Good:
  • I'm super pleased by the pants crotch length and depth, which I altered to suit my shape.
  • I did really nice work on the facing at the back zip by morphing up the instructions for the Clovers and the Ginger skirt (which has a back zipper). I'm starting to get with that insertion technique Sarai espouses, which I didn't like at first. It really is freakin' clean, if you can get it to work.
  • I finally realized that, when you alter the waistline of your pants, you will absolutely need to alter the waistband and facing: where they sit, where they seam, maybe even how they're curved (slightly). It's not rocket science but it is finicky and time-consuming.
  • And let's give me a pat on the back for moving the zipper in the first place. Of course, it was probably harder than just figuring out how to get the zipper to insert nicely at the curved side seam, but you live, you learn.
  • I think that the adjustments I made on the second version of V8323 really do improve the proportions on me. The neck is notably less chokey.
  • I also like the peplum bestowed on the design by virtue of the drape of the fabric. It's nice and flowy.
  • I LOVE both fabrics - colour (obvs, if I had to choose 1 colour to wear for the rest of my life it would easily be navy) and hand/drape of each. Both sewed very evenly.
The Less Good:
  • I really don't love invisible zippers on stress points. I can see how they're a smarter zip for a side opening, than a centre-back opening.
  • The pants are too tight right now, but it's not a critical issue. I can tell that they're tight where I've gained a bit of mass over the hols.
What I have observed about my wardrobe is that I wear my own handiwork most days - sometimes one piece, sometimes an entire outfit including scarf and coat?! Also, can we chat about the hand-made coat for a second? I cannot believe I made it. I must have been high on drugs to undertake hand tailoring when sewing for less than a year. And, sadly, I can't wrap my brain around ever wanting to do something so complex again. But look, it's NAVY!

What's your default sewing colour?