Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Little Craft Update (Culminating in Masses of Info about Making Bras)

It occurs to me that, as a crafter, this blog keeps me sane.

At this moment, almost holidayed out, I find myself at a weird impasse. To wit:

The Summer Series: Boucle Jacket: Well, I finished every freakin' last piece, blocked them all to perfect specifications, purchased all of the buttons and petersham and started seaming. Fucking hell. The shoulders are marginally too wide. (In case you sense a rant coming, you're right...) I didn't mention - as I might have had a nervous breakdown discussing it - that I had to reknit the sleeves above the inflection point (the place where they join to form the underarm) because somehow my 2 weeks of math yielded a sleeve cap that was too long and wide. Fuck math.

On the second pass I just eyeballed it and I got a much better result. Alas, the excess width, I sense, is more about the shoulder width than how it abuts to the sleeve cap when seamed. Now, I'm not going to panic. That's so last month. I'm no idiot and I'm fairly certain I can resolve this issue if I sit back and think. And wait. And process some options rather than reaching for the first one. For what it's worth, the first one is to re-seam with a greater seam allowance which will probably do the trick. But I don't want to rush this out of anxiety and irritation. It is what it is now. That's all I have to bring to the rest of the project. So I'm going to sit here until the answer finds me. And then I'll be all ready to go.

Of course, it doesn't give me any activity or a finished product to show. I'm not much of a watch-and-wait-er.

No prob, you might say, what about that second Summer Series: Guernsey Shawl? Well, I was good to my word and only knitted on the train. Of course, I was on the train for 18 hours overall. And still this thing is less than half finished. Why? See, it's more interesting to drink and look at scenery on the train that to work on a shawl, the pattern of which is frankly, fussy. Not to mention the veritable sisyphean quality of increasing stitches row after freakin row. I'm at the point where each row takes many minutes and it's boring. I'm not motivated enough by the finished project to wreck my shoulders and risk headache at the moment. (Interesting side-note overshare: I find knitting works much better in the first half of my menstrual cycle for a variety of really interesting reasons I'll find a way to discuss eventually.)

It doesn't help that I'm knitting the same garment in practically the same colour. This time it's "Barn Owl" as opposed to "Woodsmoke". Trust me, they're mildly different shades of neutral and knitting with neutrals is not so fun, it seems. Anyway, not that there will be much new to show when it is finished, but I can't really show you anything right now.

Interesting deet: This batch of yarn is MUCH stronger than the first one. Not sure if it's a fluke (either way) or if the woodsmoke dye might be harder on the wool, but I am much happier with the knitting process this time, if only for that reason.

Finally, I can tell you relatively little about the Summer Series: Cherry Bomb. Unless spending hours adjusting a pre-existing pattern ineffectually (complete with little shavings of tracing paper sticking to my eyelashes as I sat there in a greasy haze) counts.

Trust me, this is as neat as it got - and I'm starting from scratch... This is a pre-rub-off shot of the Empreinte Lola (confetti colourway) and the Cleo Melissa. Read on to find out some amazing things about them!
I have a lot to say about this and this is the post wherein I set the stage so that, next time, I can mega-rant on your asses like the banshee I am. I am compelled to give you a few high-level gems right now though.
  • While comparing a commercial pattern bra against my Empreinte Lola, a lot of half-baked, new pattern alterations ensued. I tell myself I must be getting closer to a successful outcome, because time brings that in the absence of everything else, right? I honestly had NO idea of what I was trying to accomplish or how I was trying to accomplish it, by the time I finished yesterday's "session". However, I have wrecked the last-version modified pattern pieces beyond repair.
  • Somehow, I sense that's ok cuz the one thing that really hit me is that the commercial pattern is IN NO WAY like my Empreinte (or any of my Cleos or any other bra that fits me). My last round of pattern alterations yielded a bra that has the right cup volume but not the right shape. The cups are too wide. They're not adequately deep. It has two lower pieces that are largely the same size and height. My bras (oh, trust me, you're gonna get a lot of info about this!) show lower outer cups at 4 times the size of the inner cup - and a completely different shape to each piece. And extra height. I am now able to confirm that every bra that fits me has essentially the same shape in the lower cups - and essentially the same proportion of inner-to-outer cup size differential. 
  • You should know that I also had to make smaller every other element of the commercial pattern - narrowing the gore, making the upper cup smaller, adjusting the band height and width. If sewing has taught me one thing, it's this: No one is proportionately big everywhere. I may have to deepen the cups on a pattern substantially to get them to fit. But I've also got to remove fabric from every other conceivable location.
  • It appears that my boobs are insanely projectile. I'd feel vaguely freakish if I didn't find it more interesting than anything else. That means I'm going to have to find very narrow channeling (it looks like channeling on all of my RTW bras) to line the cup seams as I top stitch those seams down on either side. I sense that's going to be pivotal in getting my bras to lift and support. I've never before considered that all of my bras contain this feature - in addition to cups with no stretch! I sense it's making much more of a difference to lift than I ever realized. 
  • Now to source it - and I'm looking for your help. Pls. if you know where I can find reasonably flat, 6-8mm channeling (or whatever it is that manufacturers of large cup bra sizes use to vastly increase the stabilization of the seams), do tell. I need a source! It looks like I can find something at Bra-Maker's Supply but I don't love that place, it only comes in white and black, and the shipping is absurd. Lord help me if I end up learning how to dye shit.
  • Something you MUST know if you have large breasts on a narrow frame and you don't have the budget for Empreinte: I've closely - like, mathematically - reviewed my Cleo bras against my Empreinte's and the differences are VERY subtle. 
    • Empreinte has a more refined product because it changes wire dimensions with every cup and back size. That means every bra size has a customized wire. In Cleo (and all other RTW lingerie brands) the wires used for, say, a 32F are of the same dimensions as those which are used for a 34E. It can make a substantial difference on a narrow frame. However, on most shapes, the width of the Cleo wires isn't too different and it begins at the upper cup, not in the lower cup. 
    • The gores are slightly narrower and lower on Empreinte bras producing a more delicate shape and one which, once again, suits the narrow frame. 
    • Empreinte also uses side-boning on the band, which is optimal for pushing things forward and minimizing the appearance of lumps. 
    • What amazes me is that the cup shapes are largely identical in both brands - as is construction - and the result is a very similar shape on the body.
    • Empreinte uses very luxe and sheer materials and, what's so impressive, is that its bras are as strong as the more substantial (but totally lovely and high-quality) ones produced by Cleo. 
    • Both have gores that are angled up (slightly concave) at the centre to provide extra lift.
    • Now this surprises me: Both use the exact same band construction to maximize stability and comfort. The lower band is angled up. 
    • Seriously, it almost seems like Cleo has copied Empreinte to produce this new wave of bras that is going through the stratosphere with popularity because they fit so well. And are affordable. I wonder if I'm the first person to think this.
  • Gotta say, I sure am glad to have an Empreinte bra to rub off. You should know I've employed this method before to copy an RTW bra, but not with any success. I still made a bra that didn't fit on the basis of copying one I already owned that did fit. Mind you, I think my materials and knowledge of bra construction were the obstacles in that instance, not the sizing of the pieces specifically.
The good news is that, if there's a way in this universe that a home-sewist can make a bra of the large-cup dimensions with appropriate support and lift, I'm going to do it. And then I'm going to tell you about it. Win-win.


  1. Interesting that there is a marked difference in your new colourway on the Brooklyn Tweed. Wonder if it is the way dye takes, or whether it is due to quality control issues. hmmmm....

    1. I know. Or if the new yarn is extra sturdy? (I was warned you can break the yarn easily with a quick tug. I could not centre-pull from the first batch. The second one is no prob. Maybe, though, I learned about how to use the yarn last time and I did roll the new stuff so loosely it's ridiculous.

  2. I'm on the edge of my chair waiting for the next installment in the bra construction. Although I have different issues with bras, I always find your commentaries insightful and full of useful information. Unfortunately, I have no wisdom on sourcing.

    1. Oh, me too! I wonder what I'm going to say! :-)

  3. As a grade 7 Math teacher, I heartily endorse your 'Fuck Math' statement.

    Can't wait to see your boucle jacket!!!

    1. Lara: Where were you when I was in grade 7?! :-) Thanks for keeping some excitement for the jacket. I appear to have lost it slightly.

  4. I am also eagerly awaiting the continuing bra construction saga. All my attempts have ended up in bras that didn't provide enough support. Some of them just didn't fit at all, but some of them seemed to fit pretty well but the fabric or support system just wasn't up to the task at hand.

    Years ago I bought supplies from Needle Nook Fabrics in Wichita, KS - I don't see an online shop. It was pretty basic stuff and may not have what you are looking for.

    Lois K

    1. The support issue is big. I've been doing some new research and I hope to figure out some stuff that may help you and others. I've heard of Needle Nook. I don't believe they have an online system though you can call to order. I think there are other options that work better under the circumstances...

  5. I shall eagerly await what you have to say and share about bra sewing! I am starting to work on creating my own TNT bra pattern, by, perhaps insanely, trying to somehow Frankenpattern the bra cups for a bra that otherwise sort of fits me. (I have never had a constructed bra that fit me well, as my cup size is not proportional to my underwire size; breast is larger than attachment point to chest wall, so wires that match my cup size are far too large and poke most painfully into my underarm) I fully expect to spend months on this project of pattern development, but that will mean in the end that I can have "pretty" bras in addition to the very utilitarian "sport-bra" style that I have been making and wearing for the last twenty years