Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Heart Versus Head

Ah, where to begin. There was a fire in my office building last night which is the only reason I have time to write at the moment. (Note: My understanding is that no one was hurt; it occurred in the middle of the night.) Working from home has its advantages.

Here's the thing, I'm struggling a little bit. Don't misunderstand - I have a fantastic life and I'm not depressed (like I was in the dark-night Prednisone-moment of last winter), but I would definitely say that this has been a year of suboptimal health.

I'm motivated to ensure that this blog doesn't become Kristin's Litany of Endless Complaints, not to mention that one's health is a delicate matter from the perspective of public discourse. But I'm all about telling it like it is, and it is somewhat tricky right now.

To dispel any erroneous speculation, I am largely in perfect health. The lingering symptoms of pertussis are all but gone - fatigue being the main hold-out. Of course, modern life is an adequate cause of mega-fatigue, I'm well aware. But this is above and beyond.

Never mind exhaustion (though it is germane and I'll return to it), I've been managing some pretty whack headaches for the last couple of years, as some of you know. I first got migraines in puberty. Yoga resolved them. My next bout was around the time I had my daughter. I assumed they were a symptom of tension at that time (though I do realize that migraines are not caused by tension). Eventually they went away. Then, at about the age of 41, they returned anew with gusto. And let me tell you, they've been a motherfucking bitch.

My "original" migraines present with prodrome - namely ocular hallucinations - and I am often able to stave off serious pain because I take Advil and go to sleep immediately. Note that this sort of migraine produces a variety of responses. For me, my brain gets scrambled and the only thing I can do is go to sleep immediately. It's a reboot response. Fortunately, these do not occur often but they do leave me with a high degree of light and noise sensitivity.

In addition to these headaches, I often get what I have assumed to be very bad, days-long tension headaches. What I've recently learned - having gone to see a specialist about this - is that those headaches are migraines too. I didn't realize that because I assumed that, as a migraineur who experiences prodrome, all of my migraines would follow that pattern of symptomology. Apparently, one can experience classic (with prodrome) and common (without prodrome) migraines. Lucky me.

Why did I go to see a specialist? Well, recently, I got a migraine that presented differently than the usual. It affected my speech centre and my doc wanted to rule out anything serious. (Of course, there's a point to be made that, when you're dealing with life-altering pain on a semi-regular basis, you should probably see a specialist.)

We all sense that my latest bout of misery is being steered by the hormonal changes of peri-menopause, something that I started to experience in a variety of ways at the age of 40. Yeah, I know it's really early. Whatevs.

Anyway, the specialist sent me for an MRI (results will be back in a while and then the doc's on vacation till the end of July), something I wouldn't recommend for fun, but a very useful and necessary experience which docs expect will yield a normal, happy brain.

Now, here's where it gets fun...

There is a class of drugs for migraines called triptans. They're little miracle pills, from what I understand, and - while I've never considered them as a treatment option in the past, times call for measures, you know. These drugs aren't silly. One must not abuse them.

For better or worse, I won't have a chance to even try to abuse them, however, because I have a long-standing heart arrhythmia that contraindicates my being able to take them. So... My neurologist sent me for a consult with my cardiologist to discuss the matter. He concurred that the triptans are not in my future - but also scheduled a new battery of tests as part of my regular maintenance regime.

I had this really weird moment (while at the Cardiology wing at TGH on my 43rd birthday) when it occurred to me that, at the age of 43, I should not have a freakin' cardiologist - much less a neurologist?!?!

Needless to say, I've been called to meditate on this matter. Both doctors are against my managing my pain with ibuprofen because it doesn't target the right receptors and it's very bad for one's stomach lining. They both suggest the same treatment cocktail, however, quite progressively, IMO, for allopathic doctors: 600 mg of magnesium and 400 mg of B2 over 4 times throughout the day. It's prophylactic. One must do this every day and will not know if it works for 3 months. It does tend to produce response from hormonally-induced migraines, apparently. NOTE: Do not try this at home. These dosages are high and must be monitored.

Of course, while my stomach has never had the slightest bit of trouble with lots of ibuprofen, it can't handle the high dose of magnesium, so I'm struggling with this remedy. I'm like my own Alanis Morissette motif.

So, if you're still following this maze of ideas, I've got really bad, semi-regular headaches (they tend to come right after ovulation, in case you're interested, and can last a week in a bad cycle) and no option of pain medication. What's a girl to do?

Well, my friends, I think this is my friendly call to attention. You may know that I am a fairly compulsive person. I rarely stop moving and planning and working. I NEVER stop thinking and, you know, my brain is so tired. So, so tired. In any given week I work full-time, deal with a teenager who is truly pressing every button I have (that's a whole other story I don't intend to indulge in this blog), manage a household, blog @5 times, knit and sew and plan complex projects for both of these plus I document the activities.

I have woefully little time, between all of this, to do the amount of serious and restorative yoga I sense I need to do to get a grip on a health concern that, while it won't kill me, is making my life intermittently miserable. If the headaches are being caused by hormones, I could be in for 7 more years of this. That's not gonna fly. As it is, pain makes me mean because it comes between me and everything else. It's a hazy filter that complicates everything.

I've decided to make some lifestyle changes, not ones that I look forward to, in an effort to restore some much needed equilibrium. The first of these is to take a break from blogging for a couple of weeks. I truly don't know how I'm going to do this. I love you all, no word of a lie, and communicating with you is my joy. But writing takes lots of thinking and, you may recall, I've got to rev down where I can.

I've also got to stop sewing and knitting like a nut. I know I can make 5 garments in 5 weeks, and a suit in 7 weeks. I know I can adhere to any schedule I set because that's who I am. Maybe you know this about me now too. I've got to stop competing with myself to construct and to meet the obligations of the next cool series I fabricate on a whim. Many blogs we read and love are written by people with more time and energy than currently I have. While I might say I wish I had more time, I also have a rich, full life and I do not want to overthrow work or family and friends. With only so much energy, I must prioritize.

Prioritization sucks.

So, I have decided, as of this time, a) not to make a suit in the fall b) only to knit on the train to and from Quebec - all other holiday time is reserved for other activities and c) to make the Cherry Bomb lingerie set, the Guernsey shawl and to complete the Boucle Jacket in whatever time it takes me over the next 8 weeks. (Lord, this time management shit - it's like a sickness...)

I don't know how all of this is going to work. I'm not exactly looking forward to these lifestyle adjustments but I'm at an impasse. So please, bear with me. I'll be back - hopefully with a considered plan of action - in mid-July.

Or, maybe the point is, this time the plan has to find me for a change.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Summer Series: Fitted Boucle Jacket (aka Is Time Standing Still?)

I feel like this Boucle Jacket is never going to end. It's not that I don't enjoy making it; all in all it's pretty easy to construct... But my gauge has been so fucking all over the map that I've had to rescale the pattern numerous times since I first undertook the pattern alteration project of the year.

Right now I'm knitting both sleeves (flat), simultaneously from one ball. What that means is that I'm knitting one sleeve from the inside string and one from the outside string. (When the skein finishes, one side will be attached to the other so I'll have to cut the yarn to liberate each string.)

This method has its pluses:
  • there's only one ball of yarn to worry about at any given time
  • both sleeves will be identical (as they're knit from the same needles, one row of one sleeve followed by the same row of the other)
  • I won't have to knit the second sleeve independently of the first - which can be a slog 
It's also got some detractors:
  • OMG, till I figured out a system (which takes constant vigilence), my two strings were interminably tangled - this adds time to the project and it's obnoxious
  • If you ever thought knitting a sleeve takes forever, try knitting 2 at the same time...
I don't know if I'll do this in the future, but I'm glad to be giving it a go and, really, ask me how I feel when I don't have to knit another sleeve in 80 more rows.

My needle (cheap brand - never to be bought again - it was from my experimentation with cheap brands phase) started to detach from the cable, making things ever more tenuous but, I'm thrilled to advise, I've become that crafter with all the crap at her access to fix things.

The Krissie of yore would have thrown up her hands and bought a new set. Crafty-Krissie took her fabric plus glue and put it all back together. So far so good!

Perhaps the most surprising element of this project is that I've used up almost 1600 yards of yarn - so far - to knit what is effectively a size small garment. By the time I'm done, I sense I'll have gone through 1800 yards (all the bits and pieces like cuffs, pockets and collar considered). I wondered how I'd ever make it through this much yarn when I originally bought 2000 yards to make the Late Day Abbreviated Coat (which was not destined to be). The Boucle jacket instructions didn't indicate how much yarn I'd need but it didn't matter cuz I assumed it would never be more than the amount I'd already bought.

My modern sweaters (and I do like them fitted) come in at between 850 and 1000 yards. Really, I have no idea how the Boucle Jacket has taken so much freakin yarn. Note: I have measured everything and blocked the completed pieces exactly to my desired dimensions (which seem right). I guess that jackets go through lots of wool. They are longer. They tend to have bits like pockets and cuffs and collars. But seriously, how on earth does that amount to 2.5 times more yarn?? Hmm... Maybe it's the diff between knitting with 1 inch of positive ease vs. 4 inches of negative ease.

So, today's questions: Have you ever knitted a tailored garment like a jacket? If yes, how much yarn did you go through? Could you ever bring yourself to buy 2000 yards of the same yarn? (I found it HARD. I assumed I'd never get through it all and I wouldn't want 2 garments made of the same stuff.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In Which I Rant Maximally About Minimizers

Sandy left a really interesting comment on yesterday's post, and I feel compelled to address it.

For starters, here's what she said about the Wacoal Retro Chic Full Cup Bra:

Ugly? It's not real pretty, but it's better (IMHO) than some of the two-tone and animal-print things I've seen. (I buy beige so it doesn't show through my clothes, anyway.) Does it fit, is an infinitely more important question. It looks like it would fit me the way a "minimizer" does, which would be good.

It goes without saying that I respect every woman's choice to wear whatever style of bra she prefers and it's not for me to judge that preference. No doubt Sandy is a gorgeous woman and I totally appreciate her feedback.

Nonetheless, the part about this comment that calls to me is that wherein she speculates, with optimism, that the bra might fit as a minimizer does. "Minimizer" bras are divisive. Some women seek them out. Others - like me - have a different perspective.

To clarify, minimizer bras are those marketed to minimize the shape of one's breasts. They are often one-piece cups made of satiny, very firm material (no stretch) and have wide wires, wide straps and wide bands. They're pretty-well always ugly, as far as I'm concerned. But never mind my aesthetic perspective, they're also bad for breast tissue and they often fit badly too. Why?
  • Minimizer bras are designed to flatten breasts, as the (erroneous) mechanism by which they are meant to provide the illusion of smaller breasts - hence the firm fabric and lack of seams.
  • Minimizer bras generally have wide wires because their aim is compression. If you have a narrow root, this isn't going to be comfortable. 
  • They're also designed with wider back sizes in mind, on the basis that big boobs are the result of a big frame.
  • The manufacturers seem to have a mega-hate on for women, cuz every one of these bras (I've ever seen) is matronly, high cut and cheap-looking.
Furthermore, given that most women who wear them wear their bras too small vis a vis cup volume (much as most women wearing any bra are wearing the wrong size, not to put to fine a point on it),  flattened breast tissue is pushed towards a midline wherein the gore doesn't have a chance of tacking. So the bra ends up hovering over flattened breasts. Egad.

I completely understand how Sandy might assume that the Retro Chic is a minimizer because it's a) beige and b) ugly! But allow me to clarify: the bra is NOT a minimizer. Yeah, it's high cut with a wide band. But the wires aren't overly wide and the lower bust is actually enhanced by the cut of the cup. It does, however, control movement, cleavage and that omnipresent modern, spherical-look in the upper bust.

The truth is that a wide variety of bras - sporting a wide variety of constructions - "minimize" the appearance of breasts because they lift, support and sheath them optimally.

The word minimize in that last sentence is in quotes because, in fact, these bras aren't minimizing by flattening. They're actually maximizing the lovely shape of a woman's breasts with good construction and fit.

No question, a good bra that doesn't fit is going to look bad - if not at first, definitely by the end of the day. If it's too small in the cups, it's going to look that much worse. But let's assume the wearer of the minimizer is wearing the correct size. IMO, flattened breasts don't flatter anyone. They simply look really wide - which may minimize the projection of the boobs but also maximizes the apparent width of the torso. So, your boobs may not project as much but you'll look kind of fat. The theory is that on a fleshy torso, this may not be tremendously observable (although I dispute this). On a narrow torso it's super observable. Way to add 10 lbs.

Y'all know I go shopping for bras with lots of peeps. Many of those with breasts on the large end of the spectrum are looking for bras to curtail their size. Invariably, when they find a bra in the right size, with a firm band that actually lifts the weight of their breasts, they are delighted by a projectile shape. To a one, each of these women has uttered - with delight - that her breasts look fantastic and  "so much less big". I've never found anyone who wants to make her breasts look smaller when they look terrific (in a great-fitting, gorgeous bra) at whatever size they happen to be.

I'm truly sorry if this post comes across as strident. I loathe the minimizer bra - the only thing I felt I could wear back in the day when first I had breasts and this golden age of bras was decades away.

I want every woman to feel gorgeous - and if you like the look of a minimizer (presuming that said minimizer actually fits in both the back and cup) then more power to you. But bras start at very small band sizes these days - and go to very high cup sizes. The chances are likely that you'll be able to find a bra (that doesn't purport to minimize) which "makes your breasts look smaller" aka the net outcome of a bra that actually fits.

At any rate, I'd love to hear your perspective: Do you think I'm off the mark? (Please don't hesitate to share your views if you do!) Do you wear or have you worn minimizers? Let's talk.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Bra Adventures: I'll Be The Judge of That

So, for the past 10 days I was at jury duty - 6 of those days were spent participating in an actual criminal trial and, let me tell you, it was fascinating. No, Law and Order it is not. But I have so much respect for this democratic convention. My fellow jurors were intelligent, caring, thoughtful and they approached the process with fairness and an open mind. I highly encourage everyone to embrace jury duty (as long as it does not put you in a position of financial hardship, of course)...

On other matters, my spirit of judgement is alive and well - when it comes to lingerie! (How's that for a dicey segue?)

To wit, my latest - the Retro Chic Full Cup Bra from Wacoal - which comes, of course, with a story:

Photo from here (not where I bought it) - this is the "cappuccino" colourway cuz I couldn't find a decent shot of the beige. I do like the fact that this small woman has an actual, ample bust.
I know - right now you're thinking one or all of the following things:
  • That bra is splendidly ugly.
  • Doesn't Kristin constantly go on about her hatred of the Wacoal brand (despite knowing that Wacoal purchased Eveden - the parent of numerous other brands she's liked)?
  • That's a 2-piece cup. I thought three-piece cups were better from a fit perspective.
  • How much money did she spend on that thing?
Allow me to address each of these.

I am diligently on the hunt for a new "nude" bra. I have one left and it's on its last legs. I'm actually about a week away from panicking over its demise, and the impending hole in my wardrobe, so keep your fingers crossed. And, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Now, having conceded that, I'm not insane. I did go to the store to try this thing on. It's one of those bras, like the Triumph Doreen, that you must wear lest it wear you. And, my friends, if it wears you it's a bad scene.

Here's what I can say: The versions of this bra in contrast colours (black/white, rose/white etc.) are potentially very unflattering to a large bust, given the two piece construction. This bra provides a pointy shape. Often, pointy bras are seemed horizontally over the midline of the bust with the larger cup being on the bottom (naturally) and the top cup pushing breast tissue down (delicately, of course), towards the centre seam. This is a common way that seaming is used to achieve a retro shape. In women of larger breasts, the downward-pull pushes a lot of volume into the lower cup, enhancing its appearance (particularly when clothes are not on). When the lower cup is in a darker contrast colour, that appearance is magnified still further. 

I think the beige colour is very flattering against my skin-tone. It's also very easy to match with numerous undies I already own. Furthermore, the straps are fairly delicate (maybe in contrast to the tank-quality of the rest of the bra). Because the beige version is more or less monotone, it doesn't over-emphasize the lower cup. But don't be mistaken, it's definitely a bra that goes in that direction. Like I said, you have to work your 1950s sexy when you wear this. You can only wear it in that spirit and to project that attitude.

Now, if your breasts are large, heavy, dense and very full on the bottom - this bra can look bad. (It can also look good - fit is very personal - but be advised, it has a lot of matronly potential.) Further in response to the claim that it is ugly, this bra is SO high in the upper cup that you cannot wear a scoopy shirt. I'm cool with that. I have lots of tops that it will work very well underneath (namely zillions of sweaters and crew tops I own). The gore is very high (but so are the cups, so the proportion isn't odd like it can be with certain Panache styles, for example). You could wear it with a blouse, just nothing that goes much below the breastbone. This bra is meant to repress cleavage, not to encourage it.

I sense I'm not helping to dispel the idea that this bra is ugly.

So let's move on to the topic of my omnipresent displeasure with Wacoal. A while ago, I took a friend for bra-fitting and we purchased this style for her in the black and white colourway. It looks surprisingly elegant on breasts in the 34C-36DD range, fyi. I observed, at that time, that the bra is very stable with a fantastic, firm (and wide) band. It is well-constructed from good materials. It's old-school and, in that respect, of good quality. The matching undies complete the retro look. BTW, it's not insanely pointy by any stretch. I've seen way pointier in my time.  What I also appreciate about this bra, my feelings about the brand notwithstanding, is that it comes in a wide range of sizes, and it's available at most department stores. Sure, Wacoal does ridiculous sizing - A-D, DD, DDD and then F and G (I think it stops there and, what's bizarre is that the seems to be half US and half UK) - but it's readily available and affordable. 

I'm a bit anxious about my recent purchase (story will follow) because Veronica purchased one about a year ago and she said it doesn't lift well and that one's breasts tend to descend in the course of the day. Needless to say, that's a deal breaker, but neither of us can say, at this point, if she got a bad bra or if it's bad design. I guess I'll be the guinea pig.

Getting back to the two- vs three- (or more) piece cup debate, three-piece cups (depending on a variety of factors) will fit a wider range of breast shapes with a more natural silhouette. They also tend to provide more projection. So yeah, I almost NEVER opt for a 2-piece cup (given my size and shape), but it has its place. It really does provide that lovely ski-slope silhouette.

Finally, do not imagine that I spent the standard retail price on this bra. In Canada, it goes for $75 at the big box stores. That's a fair price for the quality, I think (if it actually keeps gravity at bay). I found a NWT one on eBay for 30 bucks all in. That's my kind of experiment. 

So, today's questions: Have you tried this bra, owned this bra, thought of burning this bra? Are you aware that Butterfly Collection is selling it online in a beautiful colourway (though, again, mind if you're above a DD cuz the contrast may emphasize lower bust volume). Do you think it's hideous, jolie-laide or kind of cool (in a retro way)? Let's talk!

PS: Totally off topic - Figleaves is having a very good sale on the Panache Jasmine (in the floral colourway). The set is 30% off! Do let me know if you opt to get it. You can refer to my review of the bra (in the bird pattern) here.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Summer Series: Reflection

You know that I'm not the most patient person. I come up with an idea and then my entire being is propelled in the direction of its completion. Sure, I think a lot about it. I try to resolve issues. I read and ask questions. But in my house we have a saying (as we wake in the mornings): What are you still doing in bed?? That crafting isn't going to do itself.

Whenever I'm forced by circumstances to wait, I'm ALWAYS amazed by how useful it is. Had I cut my bra fabric yesterday, when first I wrote my post, I would have missed out on two additional paper alterations that may really improve the fit, the absence of which might have had negative fit repercussions. (See yesterday's post for the updates - they're marked as such.)

This doesn't mean I'm likely to change my ways. I'm bullish by nature, when you get right down to it. Though I do like to flirt with consideration on occasion.

The truth is that I've been working for the last couple of weeks in a very focused fashion on the Fitted Boucle Jacket (remember this?). Clarification: When my head has allowed for it, I've worked on this. There was a period of a few days where it wasn't possible to do much more than get myself from A to B.  Furthermore, I have been working on the project, in one capacity or another, since the beginning of April if you include all of the fitting math I had to sort out - and I most definitely DO.

Here's a rather meh shot of the back piece blocking:

It actually blocked to proportions perfectly and became super soft, but not loose. I highly recommend Finch yarn (by Quince). I think it will provide this jacket with optimal structure and the right amount of give.

I think you'll agree, unflattering shot aside that, after washing, you cannot see where I changed needle size. (Note that the fabric looks a bit mottled because it's still wet in this pic.)

I actually blocked this over a week ago. Since then I've made 2 pockets, the left front and (hopefully today - the most miserable, wet day yet again) I'll finish the right front. I'm going to machine the buttonholes so I haven't been working those into the fabric, fyi.

You may think: Hey Kristin, you're doing really well. It's almost done!

I urge you to consider what remains:
  • The sleeves
  • The collar
  • The cuffs
  • Seaming the entire thing together - peeps, on fingering yarn, mattress stitch is a production
  • Hand sewing petersham to the hem (wonder how this is going to work, in truth)
  • Hand sewing petersham to the button band areas
  • Practicing hand sewing petersham onto the gauge swatch and then practicing making the buttonholes using my new machine.
  • Actually inserting the buttonholes
  • Sewing on the buttons
Fuck. This thing is really endless. If I don't complete it before I go on hols at the beginning of July (and finishing the pieces is the only part I can take with me on vacation - much of the work that remains is actually sewing), then I'm not likely to finish it before the end of July.

Peeps, that'll be 4 months of regular activity (albeit done in waves) on the same garment. We know I'm not a procrastinator when it comes to knitting. My point is, this project is huge.

So, today's questions are: What's the most complex knitting or sewing project you've undertaken? How long did it last and are you happy with the results? Are you a reflective person when it comes to your crafts? Do you wait and think after making alterations, before you cut your fabric? Let's chat!

PS: I'm likely to be MIA again for some of next week. Without getting into it, I'm in the midst of performing a civic obligation and it requires all of my attention.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Updated (Again): The Summer Series: Yeah, I'm Gonna Make Another Bra

Since I seem to be all on about bras, let me tell you how I'm approaching the Cherry Bomb (bra and undies set), the second sewing bracket of the Summer Series. (The first bracket, The Five in Five, is now complete.)

You may recall that this is the kit I'll use to make the set - or just the bra if I cannot perfect the fit. I don't wear unmatched undies:

I intend to make a modified version (info to follow) of this pattern. Interestingly, it's from the same vendor from whom I purchased the kit (though I've had the bra pattern for a long while).

I've made the bra before. It was a fit failure. Every bra I've ever made has been a fit failure for the following reasons (women of fuller bust, who want to make their own lingerie, take heed):
  • The materials were inferior - specifically the wires but really many of the materials are not up to the same standards as high-quality RTW bra materials. Materials available for home use tend to have too much stretch and are not designed, necessarily, to work together in the same bra.
  • My sewing skills may have been lacking - I say "may" because I've made many bras at many stages of sewing ability and I don't think that this is the case in recent bra-making. Sewing bras is not difficult, but it's finicky. It requires patience and a steady stitch. The ability of one's machine to sew through many layers equally well is pivotal.
  • I've been making bras designed for a bust of a different shape than the one I have. Sure, in the time of my pattern purchasing, I've moved more towards bras that work on a larger, deeper bust, but Ladies, they are far and few between at a certain cup size. Add in the variables provided by material ease and it's a very tricky proposition. There's a good argument to be made that I should draft bras from my own stash (I've actually done this before, and it wasn't successful - not that it wouldn't be in the future). I'd say, till you've made a few bras from a pattern, and you learn the steps / how the seam allowances must be added, it's tricky to make your own pattern. It's very easy to miss a step.
Now, the fact that I've spent the last two years intently interested in a) fit and b) RTW bras in general and c) fit of RTW bras puts me in a very good position to try again. Not that I'm getting hopeful. The variables are endless and there is NOTHING one can ever make that requires perfect fit as much as a bra. Except shoes, maybe.

For purposes of being able to picture this, here's a nice 3-piece, seamed bra:

Y'all know this is my fave bra, the Empreinte Roxane. Honestly, the curve of the side cup where it meets the strap is JUST gorgeous on this style - I may adapt my pattern further if I can ever get it to fit.
Note how the 3 pieces all converge at the nipple height. Specifically the two bottom pieces seam together at a point. The top piece floats above that seam but, of course is seamed at an alternate angle to the under-pieces, connecting on the one side at the band or side cup where it moves up towards the strap, and on the other side at the centre gore. The reason the Roxane is so supportive and able to lift (different than support, peeps) is because the strap attaches to the under cup, which also goes up the side of the breast. It's not merely attaching to the floating top piece.

Alas, on the CUPL16, the strap attaches to the floating upper cup, which will diminish the lift it's able to provide... I will aim to fix this if I ever work out cup depth. One thing at a time... Updated: I couldn't resist making this change in this version - see bullet below ** for more info.

Depending on the construction of a bra and, presumably many other features - some of which I may not be aware of - the best way to add depth is by increasing the amount of fabric where the 2 lower cups adjoin at the centre of the cup unit (aka the full bra cup). If you add the extra fabric to the outer lower cups, where they join the band, you'll just screw with band dimensions and actually find yourself making a shallower bra than that defined by the pattern you started out with. Ask me how I know.

If you increase the length of the top cup - and you're not also aiming to widen the bra / you do not have full on top breasts - you'll get gaping.

With this in mind, here are the many adjustments I've made to this version of CUPL16, may the lingerie goddess be with me:
  • I shortened the gore by 1/2 inch. Now it's at 3.5 inches in height - at the upper limit of height on my frame and given my preferences.
  • I narrowed the gore at the band base by 1 inch and tapered to nothing at the top of the gore. This is a risk, but the original version was so unnaturally wide at the base. It didn't suit my shape and it was clumsy looking. I also sense it leads to a shallower cup shape, though I can't describe how.
  • I stayed with the original back size pattern piece I'd cut for a previous version (80) because the side cup height is good with that band size and I didn't want to have to redraft every piece. Instead, I chopped 2 inches off the back band (1 inch which will apply to each side) and graded the curve towards the closure areas. Depending on how firm I'm able to make the band - Seraphinalina gave me some great Powernet that's very firm so I'm hopeful - I may have to cut more.
  • *I cut half an inch off of the top cup piece at the centre front (to match the amount I shortened the gore) and tapered to 1 inch at the side cup because, really, the top cup was too much bra for me. (See below for an update on this - turns out I didn't stop here...)
You'll note, so far, every adjustment has been to diminish the dimensions of the bra, the original version of which I've already mentioned was too small. Hmmm... To increase the size of this bra to fit me - a woman of very deep breasts that are not wide on a narrow frame aka projectile boobs - adjustment of the lower pieces is necessary.
  • Keeping in mind what I said, above, I increased 1/2 inch on each lower piece where it joins at the centre of the cup - that is to say I increased an inch in total at the vertical seam that runs towards the nipple. I presume this will increase the cup depth by an inch, without widening the cup, so the extra fabric can be taken up by the volume of my centre and lower bust.
  • Updated: OK, it has occurred to me, while all of these alterations swirl in my mind, that by deepening the centre of the cup as per the bullet point above, I will also need to increase the length of the part of the cup that attaches to the upper sides of the lower cups aka the part where the upper cup is seamed to the lower pieces. I did a little bit of seam checking by 1. pinning the 1" deepened lower cup pieces together and then 2. walking the upper cup seam (that attaches to the lower pieces) along the length of the pinned lower cup pieces - effectively I pinned it together as I'll sew it. And, as I suspected, the upper cup piece was about an inch too short. It makes sense. However, I don't want to increase the upper cup at the top of that cup (the part that supports the upper breast in the cup) because, as stated above*, I don't want too much fullness there, or any additional height. The solution I've come up with is to vertically slash the upper cup piece where it meets the vertical seam of the lower pieces (about half way along its length) all the way up to the top, leaving a little hinge (you know, like you do with an FBA). I'll spread the slash by 1" and tape some paper behind that wedge. Then, I'll tape some more paper to the top of the pattern piece (which will be distorted by the creation of the wedge on the lower side) so that it regains the original shape. This alteration, added to the initial upper piece alteration*, will give me the depth in the centre of the cup, without adding any fabric or additional volume to the top of it. At least that's my theory right now. 
  • Updated: I decided to take the plunge (no pun intended!) and to adjust the side lower piece so that the strap will affix to it, and not to the floating upper piece. I looked at my Roxane and tried to approximate the lines. Then I added .25" seam allowances to the new cut line (cuz I will have to attach the side lower piece to the upper cup piece, albeit in a new place. I really hope I did this right.
Of course, I could be wrong about this. It wouldn't be the first ninth time.

Additionally, I intend to make the band as firm as I can (with new materials) and I'm going to use wires reclaimed from an RTW bra. I've got stretch-free underlining I could use for all cups, including the upper cup I'll make from stretch lace. It's really not a problem for me to have stretch in the upper cup, as long as the lower cups fit perfectly and the strap attaches to the outer, lower cup. In this instance, depending on how I attach the strap, I may need to reduce the stretchability of the upper cup.

So, there you go. I haven't cut anything (but the new pattern pieces). I'm hoping that, if any of you have thoughts or advice about what I've written, that you might provide some useful additional info I can take into the process.

Today's questions: Bra-makers - have you ever successfully added depth to a 3-piece cup (not width) and, if yes, how did you accomplish it? Everyone: Given that bras like the Roxane already exist in the world, and the manufacturers of said bras have access to all the best materials and machines, do you think I'm insane to pursue bra-making, yet again? Feel free to be honest!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ask The Bra Fitter: Some More Great Answers to Some More Great Questions

Thanks, everyone, for your comments and emails this week. My headache is much better, if lingering, and I think that life may resume with some degree of normalcy by the middle of next week. 

In the meanwhile - and I so appreciate your patience - here are a couple of additional bra-fitter answers. 

Gillian asks:

Yay! I love this series!  I've always worn 36 or 38 bands, but then my sis mentioned she wears a 34 and when I looked up my under-bust measurements, I'm 34 inches too. For years I think I wore 38s because I didn't want a tight band to give me horrible back fat bumps! These days I'm wearing 36s... but should I try a smaller band? How tight is right? And is there any way to avoid the back fat issue? Help! 

Hi Gillian, I'm so pleased you like the series! You want the band of your bra to be snug enough to secure the bra to your body. This gives optimal support, better lift and takes pressure off your shoulders. The back of your bra should sit parallel to the ground, anchored under your shoulder blades. Symptoms of a too lose band include heavy pressure on the shoulders (the band should be taking most of the weight of your bust), the need to constantly re-adjust the bra by pulling the band down, and the scenario in which the band arcs up rather than sitting straight across your back. 
There are competing methods of measuring band size. The department store/big brand method is to take your raw under bust measurement and add a whopping 4 to 6 inches. This will likely result in a band that's too big (this measurement system is encouraged as it puts most women within the standard A-DD bra sizes that department stores / Victoria's Secret churn out). The current wave of bra fitters encourage you to add zero inches to your under bust measurement. Personally I vacillate between adding zero and adding about 2 inches. I'd suggest trying on a 34 band (remembering that as you go down in the band you will have to go up in the cup in order to get the same cup volume) to see how it feels. You should be able to breathe comfortably and should not feel any pain, but it should feel snug!

I'm going to interrupt my answer to go on a small rant: Many bra bands are getting stretchier and are being cut looser! I have been fitting for over 10 years (eek!) and I have noticed this change both personally and when fitting clients. When I started bra fitting I wore a 32 band (and was often chided by my co-workers for my love of super snug bands). These days I am 20 lbs heavier and usually need a 30 band to feel secure. In the olden days I would add 2 to 4 inches to a snug under bust measurement to get a starting size for my customer. These days I add 0 to 2. I don't think that this is vanity sizing (see the Linda The Bra Lady snafu) as most women I fit are initially shocked and/or appalled when they hear they fit a 34F instead of a 38C. I would love to find out why bands have changed, as it's "outsizing" many women (i.e. 28 bands now find they need 26) and divorcing many women from their formerly favourite bra styles and companies!
Ed. note: I couldn't agree with this more! Bands are going super stretchy - even in the pricey brands...

Bra fitting is not exact, and I believe personal comfort should play a role. I prefer my bands quite snug, while others may want a slightly easier fit. The level of snugness depends on breast size, personal preference/experience and "squishability."  Often a full-busted  woman will want a tight band due to the weight of her breasts, whereas a smaller busted woman may feel better in a slightly easier band. A woman who's just been resized from wearing a 40 band to a 30 band may feel more comfortable compromising with a 32 if she's having trouble adjusting to her new size. Finally, many women with more padding around their ribs can easily wear a very snug band, whereas a woman with a very bony ribcage may feel discomfort in something very tight. 
Other ed. note: I LOVE a tighter band, as y'all know.  I think I may have gained my original perspective on this from Veronica, though it's definitely my natural preference. I do think that some people are acclimators and others are (no offense) "fussy". Some peeps grow to love a snug band - esp. when the boobs are large and projectile on a proportionately small frame. Others are just never gonna get with it. Chalk it up to basic sensitivity.

Now for the dreaded "back fat!" First off, this is the least favourite phrase of many a bra-fitter. I don't mean to scold or to go on a hippy-dippy, kumbaya, you-are-beautiful-no-matter-what-they-say trip, but all women indent where there bra wraps around their bodies. Our skin isn't rigid and rock-solid, otherwise we wouldn't be able to move. This means the bra band will press into skin of even the slenderest supermodel. Also, today's fashion is not very forgiving. It's all drapey jersey and tissue thin t shirts. 
But... back fat can be mitigated. First off, wearing a too-loose band will actually exacerbate the problem. A too-loose band will ride up to the place where we tend to carry more padding, and as the band creeps up throughout the day, it will push this padding up with it. A snugger band will sit at the place where we have less softness and it will stay there. Next, a broader band - or a band made of stretch lace - will usually cut in less. Finally, in a good bra you'll look so good from the front that no one will pay much attention to the back!

Other, other Ed. note: OMG - I totally agree with that final sentence!!
Anonymous asks:

I'm intrigued to know a bit more about being a bra-fitter. Did you always want to become one? Are there special perks? (No pun intended!) And since you fit people over multiple occasions, do you find that you see changes in the size and shape of their breasts over various fittings? So many blogs talk about how breast-shape changes over time. I'm curious to know if you observe this in your work?

Ahoy Anon, I'm flattered by your intrigue! I kind of fell into bra fitting. I became enamored of lingerie as soon as I was able to wear bras, however I soon blossomed to a size that was very hard to find and that was usually restricted to boring beige monstrosities.The place I work was actually the first store I shopped in where I could not only find bras in my size, but could find bras that fit me! I applied for a job soon after my first purchase. 
While I was excited to work with all the beautiful things I was actually very nervous to work with all the lovely people because I tend to be quite shy. After a little time I became more confident and grew to love the fact that being smushed in a little change room with a stranger could give me the opportunity to help someone (in a small way) and sometimes even have a interesting encounter (bonding over a favourite tv show, ranting about what bras are missing or even discussing personal philosophies). Most of the fitters I know have both a keen sense of aesthetics and a strong desire to help women. Also, many fitters are multi-talented and are working on small businesses, PhDs, bands or books when they are not fitting. 

Like any job, bra fitting is not always hunky dory. Many women carry a lot of self-hate about their bodies, which can make a fitter feel helpless and drained (I understand and sympathize with this self hate, I just wish there was some way to ease this). Some women have unrealistic expectations (i.e. they need a low back, strapless, plunging bra... and they wear a H cup) and some refuse to consider  advice and expertise (a woman with sloping shoulders is going to have trouble keeping the straps up on a demi bra, that's just how it is...). 
There are the typical customer service complaints from those who feel they can insult or mistreat service workers. Finally, it's frustrating not being able to control the size ranges and style offerings available. Although fitters and store owners can (and do!) complain to bra manufacturers, those manufacturers don't usually listen!  
As to perks, I'm sure they depend on the particular store. Most stores will give fitters some sort of discount. Fitters often get a sneak peek at upcoming styles when sales reps visit. Personally, I have had the chance to travel on buying trips, wear-test bras (so we know whether to bring them in to the store) and have received gift bras from companies hoping to promote their brand. 

I don't feel that breast shape drastically changes over time. Some women will loose a bit of top fullness over time (I've noticed this with age and weight fluctuations), but most changes are in size and firmness. Generally a customer with close-set, full-on-top breasts will retain roughly the same shape. With age her breasts may sit a little lower, and may be a bit softer, but they will generally stay the same. Size and firmness changes through weight loss, weight gain, nursing and menopause. It also can change with hormonal fluctuations (birth control pills), breast tissue migration (pockets of "armpit fat" are often breast tissue that has been rearranged due to ill-fitting wires), and relationship status (this sounds screwy, but many women have noticed their breasts are a bit fuller when they are receiving more amorous attention).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Brief Update

Hey peeps: Things here are remarkably busy these days and I have a few exceptional things on the go (which I must prioritize). By the time I have 2 minutes to write, I'm too tired to do anything other than lie on the couch - and my headache has been acting up (for want of a better way to refer to one's semi-regular migraine). Please bear with me. I'll write when I can (really, I have lots to say) but posts may be sporadic for the next week or so.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Summer Series: Five in Five, Take Five

OK, brief intro on other matters - the next in the Ask The Bra Fitter series will be up tomorrow. Veronica just moved house and she's been getting settled...

But back to the Five in Five. It's done. It's over. I've met the terms of the challenge I set for myself (five garments in five weeks). Can't say I had much fun, all things considered, but I learned a LOT.

Here's Vogue 1287, a dress that does not photograph well on a mannequin (alas):

I swear I steamed the shit out of this thing and it still looks like a pile of wrinkles
Oooh, pretty pleats (and a little shot of the coverstitched sleeve hem). Man, I love that coverstitch machine.

The piece de resistance is the back - particularly the pocket construction:

I'm about to say a lot about this thing, so apologies in advance.

For starters - as you can probably tell, this is a wearable muslin. One might argue barely wearable.

My new Viking is not handling knits well at all. I believe I'm going to have to take it for a tune-up because all of the top stitching (not done by coverstitch) looks like the work of drunk mice. It's very distressing to spend 20 hrs making a fucking knit dress only to find the final seam makes it look like crap.

But never mind the mea culpas, let's get down to the crux of the matter. This is most definitely an advanced project, amongst the most advanced I've ever tried. It's as close to tailoring as you can get with a knit dress. The instructions, as always with Vogue knit patterns, are horrible, and given the complexity of construction, I would have been lost without this video tutorial that shows, very clearly, how to insert the pockets. I am so grateful for these resources...

On the body it is a Grecian delight. This thing is so, so gorgeous. I will most definitely make it again, now that I've ironed out the kinks. It's elegant. Sophisticated. Intricate. Interesting. And it fits me like a glove.

You'll recall, most of the (few) reviews of this pattern are not complimentary. I sense that's because the minuses of construction far outweigh the pluses of the finished product for most wearers. While I cut anywhere from a 10 to a 14 in Vogue patterns, this one does fit large. Mind you, I made my standard Vogue knit size - a 10 - and with very few alterations this fits me very well. Honestly, I shortened the skirt by 3 inches (I could have stopped at 2 or 2.5 inches, in truth) and I shortened the bodice by 1.5 inches. That's it. There's no other project I've made in the last year that required so little fit fussing.

Why? Well, my friends, this is a dress for a true hourglass with a substantial rack. I mean, seriously, if you're not in an E cup or higher, just give it a miss. In light of the pleating complexity, and the way the shoulder and neck unit is constructed, it would be painful to alter it to fit a smaller bust. Furthermore, if your hips are on the wide side, stay away. It gives a lot of profile to the derriere, in light of the volume of the pockets. There is no hiding from your curves in this dress. If you don't want to show them off - or if you don't have them - just walk away.

I'm not going to talk about the many issues I had - namely on the neck/shoulder unit construction, the pocket construction and the waistband construction but said issues were numerous - and I made much of it up on the fly, given that the instructions are just short of useless. When I said my spatial reasoning is alright, I overstated the case. Apparently, it sucks. In the end I had to remove (by a tuck on either side of the back seams) 4 inches of fabric from the skirt. I must have missed something because it was a very specific sort of excess. As a result of the drape, you can't really tell, but I mean - I worked hard and I still don't understand how this thing turned into a dress.

I'll also admit that this garment reflects some of the poorest sewing I've done in a long time - from the serging to the regular seams, it's a dog's breakfast. I'm actually embarrassed by the workmanship and, at a certain moment, I just had to give into the idea that what I've made is a legitimate muslin and the interior shows that. The fact that I may wear it a couple of times (just to test it out in the real world) is beside the point.

Here's who should NOT make it (like I'm the arbiter of who should make what?!):
  • If you're small of boob - or really, even if you're on the small end of moderate of boob, just say no. Gotta say, it's nice to find a pattern that's only for the ladies with the sizeable rack.
  • Those having a wide derriere or bulky hips.
  • Those who don't wear bras that fit properly. This dress requires breasts that defy gravity.
  • Those without all of the knit-sewing gizmos - serger and coverstitch. Sure, you could make this but it's going to look homemade on the inside and, given how complex and professional a pattern it is, it's unfortunate that the inside will not reflect the outside.
  • Those who don't love working with knits. I mean it, you've gotta have the love cuz this is TRICKY.
  • Those who love knits but haven't made numerous varieties of knit garments in the past. This is not like making a t-shirt or a pair of leggings. This is tailoring that requires a real sense of how to drape and how to apply a variety of techniques. You don't want to try to learn any basics on this one. All of the other shit you have to learn will keep you adequately busy.
  • Those who don't have access to the appropriate fabric. Don't try this with an ITY knit. You need something like a silk jersey or a firm rayon. Even a ponte would work (if it weren't too thick and spongy). I used Tencel and it was perfect - though the fabric was on the cheap side for Tencel and it is, alas, vaguely see-through.
Everyone else, I urge you to try it! :-)

Final Thoughts on The Summer Series first bracket - The Five in Five:

I'm happy that I set and achieved this goal. In the end (btw, use the search feature with the search term "Five in Five" for more info), I made:
  • a denim skirt
  • a surplice sleeveless top and 
  • three dresses: one with a cowl, one with a mock wrap and the one profiled above
I used only stash fabric and I've decided that, from now on, I'm buying 3 yards, as a standard, especially when working with knit fabric. I had to recut many pieces because I "muslined" as I went (as one "optimally should" with stretch garments). Not having to worry about how much fabric I had to use really helped to calm me down. The only garment I made, working on fabric fumes, was the simple denim skirt and it was stressful!

I learned, in this process, to keep my cool. I encountered numerous issues which would have, even a year ago, derailed an entire project. Sure, I have more skill now than I did then. But my greatest resource was my ability to stay calm when things went wrong. It's pretty rare to be completely unable to find some way to fix a problem. Even the mystery extra 4 inches of skirt width in the dress you see above, was easily managed with a clear head. Is it perfect? No. Is it a solution that worked? Yup.

With the exception of the mock wrap dress (the weather has been hideous, rainy and cold this spring/summer), I've worn every garment at least once - and some of them on a few occasions.

This palette is sensible (weather notwithstanding) and suitable for my lifestyle and my sartorial tastes. I like things that are stylish, basic (which is to say a well-fitted, elegant back-drop for accessories and my natural personality :-)), made of good material (I'm getting better at sourcing these) and easy-to-wear. All of these items fit the bill.

My biggest disappointment in the process is that I didn't have as much fun as I would have liked. I encountered a lot of set-backs and they undercut the pleasurable aspects of sewing. I also feel that much of my construction (esp. given how my new machine handles knits) could have been better.

Another lesson I can take from this experience is that, as long as the fabric is good, the style is attractive and the fit is excellent, the quality of sewing doesn't really matter (she says, trying to make herself feel better). Even I don't care as much about imperfect seams as I did when first I completed these garments (and I care about these kinds of things). What I notice most is the drape and hand. Of course, here's hoping I can pull it all together in the long run!

Next up, some knitting. And the Cherry Bomb bra and undies set. But I need to chill on the sewing for a couple of weeks. I'm spent.

So, today's questions: Which is your fave of the five? Do you have any interest in making V1287? What are the elements of your handmade clothes that you appreciate the most (and therefore wear the most)? Let's talk!

Friday, June 7, 2013


I'm home today, working on V1287. Sure, it took me an hour to consider alterations and to cut the pieces. Then it took an hour to cut. Then an hour to mark. Then an hour to baste in the pleats. But I think my low fun-expectations are standing me in good stead.

There really are a LOT of pleats:

This is the actual colour of the fabric...

This is the weirdness that happened as my flash died (following which, my camera wouldn't take any non-blurry photos)
In the end, I cut the size 10 and I don't think it's going to be too large. I altered it minimally, by shortening the skirt 3 inches and the bodice by 1.5 inches on the front and back pieces. There are lengthen-shorten lines on all of the relevant pieces, which is the only way I could figure out where exactly to make these alterations. The pieces are very tricky to interpret before the pleats go in.

So, whatcha you think of pleat insertion on knits? Do you hate it? Do you find it kind of fun in an "it never ends" way?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

In Good Standing

One of the great things about having a blog is that I'm able to share info about resources that will undoubtedly and totally rock your world I consider to be life-improving. (One of the great things about reading blogs is that so many bloggers do the same.)

At any rate, if you don't know about Sunni's blog, you should. She posts terrific tutorials. She makes lovely clothes. She's looks adorable wearing them. What's not to love? Moreover, Sunni runs an online sewing shop that's really fantastic. I know this cuz I've purchased from it on a variety of occasions and have always been pleased with my loot. (It goes without saying, no one's paying me to write this.)

A while ago she revamped the store and I actually think it's better than ever. As y'all know, I live in a metropolis with a reasonable number of sewing resources closely available (for example, there's a Mokuba a short bike ride from my house) but many of you may not be in the same boat. For access to petersham ribbon alone, Sunni's store is a find. But add to it the fusible webbing, fusible stay tape (like a tape version of fusible interfacing in a variety of widths), 3-ply shoulder pads, a really cool pleater (and by the way, I have NO urge to pleat, but if I did I'd be all over that thing), belt supplies and so much more - though I hate the term, I've got to say the shop is well-curated. I can see myself using just about all of the offerings - in fact, I've bought many of them! What's better still, Sunni often highlights one of her latest finds in a tutorial or post to show you easy, real-world application. It's cross-marketing at its best.

The shipping charges to Canada are reasonable to competitive. As you know, shipping to Canada is expensive, so I do appreciate that the charges are aligned with larger vendors. It makes it feasible for me to support a small business. And I do love that I'm supporting small-business. 

Today's questions: Do you read A Fashionable Stitch? Have you bought from the store and, if yes, what was your experience? If you're a home-sewist, only just hearing about it now, does the stock appeal to you? Do you use the products you see listed in the shop (regardless of where you purchase them from)? (I believe the petersham might be from Mokuba, though it's available in a much more limited scope of colours and widths than are sold at Mokuba, but the price is better at Sunni's. Seriously, unless I need ribbon immediately, or in a very specific colour, I don't even bother going to Mokuba. I'd rather buy it from the luxury of my home...

PS: While I'm on about shopping and how you can buy life-enriching things, Butterfly Collection is having a 15% off sale on one of my fave bras evah - the Cleo Melissa. Since this vendor charges no shipping in US or Canada, that's a very good deal for North Americans. (UK and Euro peeps, you've got it made on the online bra shopping scene so I don't feel too bad for you.) Since it is my birthday tomorrow, why not buy yourself a gift? :-)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Summer Series: Five in Five, Take 4 (Finished)

I'm really glad this is over:

 Vogue 1027

Bizarrely, as I was finally finishing it off (trying it on), Scott saw it and freaked out (in a good way). He was all like: That's really nice! Apparently he thinks very highly of this colour. I don't, so much, but I have to admit it complements my blond fairness.

A few things:
  • Roni - sorry but I had a lot of trouble with this pattern and I didn't have the wherewithal to take pics of all the places on this dress I interfaced with knit fusible: the entire neckline/surplice, the armholes, the sides of the dress where I attached the pockets and the pocket bag fabric (where it attaches to the side), maybe I'll interface the hem (it's hanging right now to allow the bias drape to settle before I hem it, if I hem it). It's very easy to do and Sunni has a few great tutorials on it (go through the Sewing School link). 
  • In the end, I didn't use either the serger or coverstitch to work the armholes because my fabric was really unhappy in that area and I didn't want to tax it with anything I might have to rip out. I opted for finished garment rather than perfectly finish. Can't tell you how that irks me.
  • If everyone but me finds this pattern easy, then it must be me. Am I off my game? I feel so wretchedly bad at sewing right now. I end up having to redo everything (despite the fact that I'm paying attention). A bobbin runs out. Or I sew something together inside out. Or the shoulder seam elastic decides to eat the fabric (almost) where its seamed in. It's really no fun.
  • Mind you, recent end products are turning out to be very wearable. Is it much harder because I'm working that much more consciously (while yet I still lack experience and many skills)? I have to admit, my fit is really improving lately, especially with knits (which are so forgiving).
  • My alterations in this pattern were pretty on, gotta say. I managed to give more ballast to this dress by adding an inch to the neckline and the bottom of the front and back bodices. It works very well. Next time (and I will do this again, despite the challenges I've had - because I think those challenges were circumstantial more than anything), I will add another half an inch to the front (tapering at the sides). The front on this garment pulls up very slightly. It's wearable though.
  • Keep in mind that, even if I'd cut a size 16 in the bodice, it still would have been too small (except in the sides). And the skirt is marginally too big. So, what, I'm like an 8 in the skirt and an 18 in the bodice? (Even though I'm not entirely of one Big 4 size, unaltered, I'm not a range of 6 sizes between bust and hips.) This thing was cut for a body very different than mine. I managed to make it work and I'm proud of that.
  • One of the Pattern Review reviews I read showed a great pic of how the waistband affixes at the back waist. It's actually only attached on the topside. The back band (a double layer of fabric with wrong sides together) floats on the back body between the side seams. You can actually lift it up from the bottom. I would not have been able to figure out, from the instructions, how this works so I'm grateful to the writer for the photograph. I really find Vogue patterns (especially the knit ones) to be INCOMPREHENSIBLE. And I'm not horrid at reading and interpreting instructions. I mean, I'm not great at it, but I'm fine. All the independents write totally clear instructions that I have no issue with. It's a combo of Vogue's horrid technical drawings and its mediocre descriptions that throw me off. They seem to contradict each other.
  • In the end, as mentioned, I interfaced with fusible interfacing. (It's the kind that's cut on the bias and rolled into a tape). It was better than the fusible web I used which competed with the fabric for drape.
  • Oh, I should mention that I cut 6.5 inches out of the bottom of the skirt (on the paper pattern, prior to cutting fabric). It's still long on me and, though I'm short, my legs are not. Don't waste the fabric unnecessarily. You may end up cutting the bodice 3 times. :-) Mid-calf is almost universally dowdy (whether it works with your proportions or not). If you are over the age of 40, do not make it much than an inch shorter than the knee or it will likely age you.
The final garment for Summer Series: Five in Five is this one:

Vogue 1287 (Photo from the website)
I'll write more about this soon but, I have to say, I'm a bit concerned. This dress has relatively few proponents. I can't find many reviews and those which I have found are not overly complimentary.

Of course, everyone's problem is that the bodice is swimmingly huge. Hmmm, I wonder about that.

In truth, I can't see how my next project will be any easier than the last. And this pattern is Average (aka Vogue-speak for Advanced).

The only settling influence is my belief that my mind doesn't see "easy" and "hard". It's all a bunch of instructions to me. If I can figure out what they're saying, generally I can do it. Sure, not necessarily so well (the first few times), but with increasing skill.

Today's questions: What do you think of V1027? If you've made it, do you wear it? And V1287... Do you think I'm crazy for taking on something potentially tricky at this juncture?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Summer Series: Five in Five, Take 4

I've got to let go of the idea that it is going to be easy on the sewing front in the next while. Apparently, reality is curing me of the illusion (albeit slowly).

So, as you might imagine, sewing after having been up all night is not likely to result in the smoothest path. Add to this that I was learning all about a new piece of machinery (still very much in play), and you can up the challenge factor. What I didn't count on, with V1027, is that it would be too small in the bodice.

Don't get me wrong. I suspected, even as I looked at the pattern and cut out a size 10 (my standard size in big 4 knits). I suspected, even as I read 80-odd reviews on Pattern Review (90 per cent of them urging one to size down drastically and shouting from the rooftops that alterations or FBAs are unwarranted because the pattern is magic.) I suspected, even as I was sewing it up for the second time (having fucked up the coverstitching the first time).

I compared the flat front pattern piece against my altered Tiramisu front piece and the Vogue one looked bigger. (Intriguingly, for all of their similarities, these surplice bodices fit totally differently IMO.) I thought about it a lot and opted to cut the straight 10 with no alterations.

What I figured out, second time out (I've just cut out an altered bodice unit, maybe third time's a charm?) is that it's cut for a shallow bust. Look at the model in the cover art. Her breasts are shallow and that neckline is very low (front and back). On me, a combo of the bodice being slightly too short (it comes fully under the bust but it's just shy of being too short)  and too open around the neckline left me in danger of utter immodesty. My bust is very deep, even as my torso is narrow. I know that the skirt (which is heavy) will give ballast to the fall of the bodice, but I've worn a lot of bodices like this. I sense the unaltered version ain't gonna work.

I should also mention that I'm using a 2-way stretch knit, not 4-way (which limits the drape). Interestingly, I think this is a small size 10 for Vogue. I make their 10s all the time. They're good because they tend to fit in the shoulders (or to be just slightly too big but alterable). This one's snug. I'm sure that the fabric is contributing to the issue, but how is it that I'm so against the pack with this experience? And I think it's actually verging on too small in the shoulders??

So here's what I've done (and I don't know if it's going to work, but let's hope so) to the front and back pieces:
  • Front: added 1 inch of width to the front neckline, added one inch of length to the bottom
  • Back: added 1 inch of width to the back neckline, added one inch of length to the bottom
I hope that this will give more coverage at the back as well as at the front neck - both of which seem flimsy and overly open to me. The inch of length may be overkill, but I figure I can always serge off any excess when I attach the skirt, as necessary.

On the plus side, I think that Heat n Bond iron-on adhesive is very good (maybe a bit too firm but easy to apply and strong). I can't believe I've never before tried it. I will be using it again! It seems to work well on neck-stabilizing this fabric. It's neat and it's no trouble for the coverstitch machine.

The machine, well, that warrants its own post. It's coming along, in brief, but I'm no savant. I sense it's a trickier machine to get to know than my serger was, but maybe I'm being revisionist. Once you've had a Babylock, everything else seems a bit more complicated at the get-go. I've not worked on a coverstitch or a Janome before (except briefly on a regular machine) and stands to reason that it may take a few projects before I really understand the tension. I did have tunneling, which improved with tension changes, but didn't go away (even after steaming), probably because the raw edge of the underturned hem kept getting almost sucked into that area between the two rows of stitches (hard to explain).

One things for sure, I'm getting a 1/2 inch feller foot so that I don't have to "cheat" the hem. I sense that this will align my fabric to discourage that raw edge from moving which will improve my tension in its own way. I should say, that a truly lovely element of this experience is that the topstitching is beautiful and straight, and the underside of the fabric is strong, flexible and tidy. So I'm very optimistic.

Anyway, everything is still very in process. I hope I might finish this dress tomorrow but I'd settle for a slow completion if I only knew it was going to fit.

Today's questions: Do you know what I mean about the raw edge of the hem getting sucked between the two rows of top stitching? How do you find the tension on the Janome CoverPro 1000CPX? Are you one of the 3 people who ended up needing an FBA of some sort on V1027? Let's talk!

Urban Scourge

Where do I start. I'm going to make this brief because I've been up since, well, yesterday. If you ever think to yourself: I so wish I lived in a bohemian urban neighbourhood in a large city, let me disabuse you of the glamour.

These fuckwit morons, living across the street, (and I know this sounds incredibly prejudiced but I'm SURE they're renters) have been hosting parties (should we call them live-music concerts?) that start at exactly 2 am.

You read that right. I now go to bed at 9pm on Friday nights, in the event that I'll be woken on the nose of 2. Cuz you never know when it's going to happen.

I've got the police on fucking speed dial. Alas, last night they were too busy with actual emergencies to get here before daylight. The party was still happening at 5:30 am.

And the worst of it: They blare fucking House. OMG, I've hated House since I've had words to describe that droning, misery of a torture they try to call music.

You'll have to forgive me. I'm mentally screaming right now.

But wait, it gets better.

I decided, like the increasingly old-person that I am, to get my ass up and actually do some work. And by work I mean sewing. I mean, what's the point of lying in bed, freaking out about how I won't have any energy to craft tomorrow, when I can just get started.

All was well - I'm bizarrely focused at 3 am, apparently, after 5 hours of sleep that ends at 2 am - until the hugest fucking scary insane monster of a centipede came out of nowhere and started 30 minutes of active terror-warfare.

You should know that I am legitimately phobic about insects. I have been since early childhood. I've even had behaviour therapy to help me with the issue cuz, bugs, they tend to be everywhere and I find it hard to function knowing that. I can tell you about numerous experiences (some closer to now than I'd like to admit) where I was traumatized by discovering a particular insect. I check my sheets before I go to sleep and I live in freakin' Canada.  (Side bar: Parenting has done more to help me with this phobia than anything else because my urge to ensure that my kid doesn't feel afraid has insprired me to keep it together in the presence of crawlies. Over time, I've been able to model her calmness.)

Hilariously, my husband is all hippie about killing insects. And by hilarious, I mean WTF?!? We have this gizmo that traps them and then he releases them back into the garden. Great.

Anyway, last night, well, at 3:30 in the morning, as I was listening to a house-thumping litany of stupid dance music, I was also trapped in the sewing room with the biggest fucking prehistoric-seeming bug of all time. And I was trying to throw things at it so that I could either kill it, or just move it out of the sight-line of the door. Those things are particularly good at avoiding rulers and boots.

Eventually I trapped it by the ironing board and ran to get Scott (praying that it wouldn't scurry somewhere else in the meanwhile). To say that Scott (who could, himself, barely sleep through the music but is very live and let live - apparently) was not impressed at being compelled to deal with a centipede in the middle of the night, is a small understatement. To his credit, he didn't much argue. He knew it was pointless. Somehow, he managed to catch the lightening-fast bug in the re-release gizmo, on the first try (even he was amazed by this) and that story, she was done.

I have no energy right now to tell you about V1027. Do wish me luck.