Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Completed: My First Homemade Bra

I've decided that this is the summer to conquer many of my sewing fears. Knits? Check. Bras? Check. Pants? Up next!


I've been curious about bra-making for a while now. It's always been really difficult to find bras that fit me well, since I have such a small ribcage.

I've been following Tasia and Caroline's posts about bra-making for a while, and finally, I decided that it was time to jump in and give it a go!


This is the Classic Bra from Pin-Up Girls, a basic and beginner-friendly bra pattern. I used a bra kit from Bra-Makers Supply, in beige. The kit comes with duoplex for the cups, bridge, and straps; power net for the back; and all the elastic, strapping, and other notions you need, except for wires. At $28, that's a pretty good deal for a bra, considering I usually pay $100 or more for one in my size!


I used the wire charts on Bra-Makers Supply's website to figure out what size wires to order. I printed out the chart and cut out along a couple different sizes, then held them up to see what size and shape seemed to fit. I ended up ordering a size 34, which fit perfectly!

I also ordered one of the books available from Bra-Makers Supply called Make & Fit Your Own Bra. I figured that it would be a useful resource for fitting problems and other patterns that don't have instructions as detailed as the Pin-Up Girls patterns. It was somewhat helpful, but I probably could have managed without. The order of construction in the book was a little different, but a lot of the instructions were exactly the same. The book does have more tips along the way and information on fitting, but I'm not entirely sure it was worth the extra $30. 

Once I had bought the pattern, the book, the kit, the wires, and some lace, it ended up not being cheaper than buying a bra - my total was about $130, including shipping, which was $15. However, I'll be able to use the pattern and the book again, and I have enough fabric left over for at least one more bra, if I buy the elastics and whatnot that I need. Now that I've bought the basics, it will be much cheaper to make more.

I found it a little funny that in both the pattern and the book, the method of choosing your size is the standard one where you measure your ribcage and your bust, which is apparently only accurate about half the time. (Come to think of it though, I've never heard of another way.) In my case, it's definitely not accurate. According to my measurements, I should be wearing a size 30B, when the bras I'm currently wearing are 28E, and they're a little too big in the band.

The smallest band size in this pattern is 30, so I cut a 30D and shortened the band by 2" to make it a 28E. I wasn't sure that this would be the right size, because my current bras are a little big in the cup, but I figured that it would be a good starting point.

I opted not to make any sort of muslin, and instead made the first bra expecting it not to be perfect, but a starting point. 

Cutting out this fabric is hard! It's super slippery, and the blade in my rotary cutter was pretty dull so I had a hard time cutting it. After cutting the first piece, I stopped cutting the pieces on the fold to stop them slipping around. It's the kind of fabric that I would usually avoid at all costs (100% polyester, slippery, and tough to sew through), but it does make a really nice bra.

It only took me an afternoon to put the bra together! I didn't have the right colour thread, so used an off-white for the seams and a slightly darker beige topstitching thread for the topstitching. It has a bit of a shine, which looks really nice, although it was a pain to keep switching thread all the time.

For the most part, I followed the instructions that came with the pattern, and used the tips from the book, but when it came to putting the wires in, I used the method in the book. The pattern says to leave the casing open at the underarm, insert them right at the end, and then close it with a bar tack, but the book says to leave it open at the centre. The method in the book encloses the edge of the wire casing in the elastic for a smoother finish, so I did that instead. I sewed the bar tack at the underarm through the outer fabric by accident, though, rather than just through the casing. Oops! It doesn't look too bad, though, and if I had followed the pattern instructions, there would have been a bar tack there anyways.


I'm not sure if this was because I strayed from the instructions or not, but I had trouble sewing the elastic at the centre where the wire casings are closed. I made this so long ago that I can't quite remember what happened, but I fixed it with some hand sewing. Next time, I might follow the pattern's instructions and see if I have the same problem.


I also found that the bottom bridge wasn't quite long enough, so the stitching was a little strained when I flipped the elastic to the wrong side. I think my stitching may have been not quite at the 1/4" seam allowance, but I might add a little next time anyways.


I used just over half of the strapping, since I find that straps are always too long on me. I really should have used lighter thread while sewing on the strap, but I don't feel like changing it.


Other than that, this went together really smoothly! I'm quite impressed with how professional it looks, aside from the rather dodgy stitching at the hook. I added the lace by zigzagging the edges on the cup pieces before I sewed the cups. Next time, I might add it after the cups have been sewn and cover a bit more of the cups with it, but that will be a little harder to sew. I wanted to keep it simple this time, but I love how the lace looks.




Enough about construction... does it fit?

Yes, but not perfectly. The usual fitting issue with me is that the cup is just a teeny bit too deep in the cup, but too low cut, making it look a little small. It's perfectly wearable though, and very comfortable! I'll try to fix the fitting issues in my next version, but this is a great starting point.

For my next version, I'll use the same fabric because I have lots left over, and I'll just order some more notions to match. I might try lining it in foam, because I'm not super fond of the fabric-only cups. I've never (except for once when I was 14) worn bras with lots of padding or push-up bras, but I like to have a little bit more coverage than just fabric. 


I think I'm hooked on bra-making, though. It's great to be able to make something so practical in an afternoon! I only wish that I could buy the supplies without ordering them online. I tried Dressew, but it was really hard to get all the notions to coordinate, and I don't know enough about bra-making (yet) to pick fabrics that will work.

What about you? Have you ever made a bra? Would you?

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Grad Dress, Part IV: the Finished Dress!

It's finally starting to sink in that I graduated! I'm still by no means finished with school, but finishing high school is still a big change. And finally, here are the finished photos of my grad dress!



If you don't want all the construction details, feel free to skip ahead to where the photos start again, where I talk about the event itself.

(If I can find where I saved the photos that I took along the way, I may do a separate post for construction. For now, I'm lumping it in with this post.)



The pattern is Vogue S-4727 from 1956, and the fabric is turquoise silk dupioni from Fabricana. I'd never sewn with silk before, and it really wasn't as challenging as I thought it would be! I did cheat and use steam on certain parts of it, but only after testing several times to make sure that it wouldn't leave water spots.

The only tricky part of sewing with this silk was finishing the seams. I sewed some samples, and every single seam finish that I tried showed through to the right side, except for pinking. So, although it really wasn't the ideal seam finish, I just pinked everything. It frayed a little bit, but not too badly.

I underlined parts of it (the upper back, the underarm gusset, the midsection) with silk organza for stability. It especially made a difference with the darts! The darts pulled apart badly in a sample that I sewed without underlining.

The pattern has underarm gussets, which I'd never sewn before. These ones are actually part of the upper back bodice, and they curve around to the underarm. I was a little terrified to sew them in silk, but with lots of hand basting, they turned out quite well. I feel pretty confident sewing gussets now, after sewing eight of them (two each in my first two muslins, two in my wearable muslin, two in the real thing)!

The hardest part about this dress was the zipper. I asked for your advice on what kind of zipper to use, and the votes where pretty much split evenly between a lapped zipper and an invisible zipper. I've never particularly liked invisible zippers, but after this dress, I learned to avoid them at all costs. On the other hand, the lapped zipper in my wearable muslin really didn't look as nice as I would have liked. In the end, I decided on an invisible one.

I can't remember exactly how I put the zipper in. Whatever I did, though it worked, except that it still didn't want to go around the curve. My solution? I cut two notches in the zipper tape, one on either side, right where the godet starts and the zipper has to curve. It probably wasn't good for the integrity of the zipper, but it worked! 

Because I was still worried about the strength of the invisible zipper, I put in a waist stay. There's no waist seam, so I just tacked it to the seam allowances and the underlining, but it worked just fine.

For the hem, I used 2" horsehair braid, and I'm really happy with how it turned out! I was expecting to have to shorten the skirt before hemming, but I tried it on and found that I liked the longer length! I then went ahead and inserted the horsehair braid using Gertie's tutorial, and catchstitched it by hand.

I love the horsehair braid! I wore this with two crinolines (a bigger, itchier one with a subtler, softer one underneath), and the horsehair braid gives it even more volume and weight at the bottom.



That's it for construction details!



As I said, I wore it with two crinolines, both of which were vintage from my aunt. She wore one of them to her high school graduation in 1960! 

My shoes are vintage that I bought at a thrift store. I love them! They're all leather, made in Italy, and have a really gorgeous cutout detail on them. 



I borrowed the purse from my mom (the same one I used for my grad boat cruise), and the pearl earrings and necklace once belonged to my grandma.



I did my own makeup, although I didn't do much. I did a bit of a cat-eye and wore some super subtle false eyelashes and my favourite lipstick.

My hairdresser did my hair and nails - hair is one thing that I can't do myself! I loved my hairdo, so it was worth it to get it done (although it was quite a challenge to get my dress over my head without wrecking it!). You can't see them in any of these photos, but my nails were dark red.



I really enjoyed the day! Everyone takes the day off school to get ready, and then there's a "red carpet event" in the school gym. Family and non-graduating friends aren't allowed to the banquet, so it's a chance for everyone to see you all dressed up before leaving. All the photos of me walking down the red carpet are super blurry, but you can kind of see it behind me in this photo.



After the red carpet, everyone leaves for the banquet in limos. I didn't particularly want a limo, but they aren't actually that expensive if a bunch of people pitch in, so my friends and I rented one. Here I am in front of it - we were super surprised when it pulled up and it was a Rolls Royce! 



We had several other people ask to take a photo with our limo! 

Once it cooled off in the evening, I spent some time goofing off in the photo booth with my friends.







After the banquet, there's dry grad, which is put on by the parents at a local recreation centre. It went until 5 in the morning, and there was lots to do - a casino, bouncy castles, another photo booth, entertainers, dancing, food, and lots of prizes. When you enter, you have to check everything (phone, camera, bags) before they let you in, so I don't have any photos from it, but I was too busy to take photos, anyways!

I won a door prize and a raffle basket, too! The door prize was a $50 gift card for a spa and a coupon for a free makeup application, and the raffle basket was full of nail polishes, a gel nail polish starter kit (worth about $100!), and a really nice pearl necklace. I won't use all of it (I don't do my nails much), so I plan on donating most of it to a charity that donates gifts at Christmas. I already gave the makeup coupon to my friend whose grad was after mine.

Overall, it was such a fun day (and night)! I got home and slept for a couple hours, and wasn't even too tired the next day. I'm so glad that I made my dress, and so happy with how it turned out. It was definitely different than anything anyone else had, which was great! 



Our valedictory ceremony was about a month later, and that was when I actually felt like I graduated. I'm glad we still had the ceremony, because the end of the year was very abrupt! In BC, the teachers are on strike, so a few days of school were cancelled in the last couple weeks, and all my exams were cancelled, except for my two government exams (not that I'm complaining about that...)



You can't see it under the gown, but I wore my floral Moneta dress to the ceremony! They collect the gowns as you leave the stage, so people usually dress nicely underneath. 


Next up, is university! In mid-August, I'll be moving to Montreal - I'm going to McGill and studying science. I'm really excited (and a little nervous) for such a big change!

Unfortunately, I'm leaving my sewing machine behind. It was a second-hand machine and owes me nothing, so it wouldn't be worth it to get it to Montreal. At some point, I think I'll look into buying a second-hand machine there, but in a dorm room, there really isn't enough space. I would love to find a sewing lounge if there is one, similar to Spool of Thread here in Vancouver. Anyone know of something along those lines in Montreal?

If not, well, I guess I'll be knitting lots next year, and going fabric shopping before heading home for Christmas. I'm just getting back into knitting now, after avoiding it for so long because of tendinitis.

Anyway, this post has dragged on way longer than I intended. My grad dress was perfect - not from a sewing perspective (nothing I sew ever is!) - but it was exactly what I wanted. I'm finally done high school, and my life is going to change a lot over the next few months. Be prepared to see some winter sewing pretty soon, as I prepare for life in Montreal!

Oh, and I almost forgot - this dress is the first (or second, if you count my wearable muslin) completed project as part of my vintage pattern pledge! My pledge is to sew at least three garments from vintage or vintage repro patterns before the end of the year. I didn't go for five because my sewing time is so limited during school, and I possibly won't have access to a sewing machine at all after August. But I'm off to a good start!



Other posts about my grad dress:


Part I: Choosing a Pattern
Part II: Muslins 1 and 2
Part III: The Wearable Muslin

Dress: Me-made (Vogue S-4727)
Shoes: Vintage/thrifted
Crinolines: Vintage
Purse: Consignment, borrowed from my mom
Necklace and earrings: Family heirlooms

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Completed: Colette Moneta Dress, 60's Style

It's pretty safe to say that the Moneta dress has shunted every other dress pattern I own out of the top spot as my favourite pattern. After finishing my first Moneta, I started right away on this one!


I bought this fabric from Fabricana - I loved it too much to pass up. I'm consistently wary of the quality of their fabric, but this was supposedly made in France and more expensive than you'd expect a viscose knit to be, so I hoped that it would be decent. I managed to get this dress out of less than 1.4 metres, which means that I have enough for a second Bronte Top! (I promise that I will blog about my first soon...)

I also bought some cream-coloured bamboo jersey, which I intended to make into a collar, but I decided that it would be too much. I wanted the focus to be on the gorgeous fabric!


I decided on version 1, the sleeveless, lined version, and used the bamboo jersey as lining instead. I lengthened it 2", because I wanted this version to be more elegant and classic, something that could work as a casual summer dress, but still be dressed up. With this 60's vintage dress in mind, I also raised the neckline 1 1/2" to a boatneck, which you can't actually see that well in any of these photos because my hair is in the way. Oops!


After the bodice of my first version was too long, I shortened it by 1 1/4", although for my third version (yes, I made a third...), I shortened it another 1/4", and will probably do the same if when I make a fourth. It looks fine in the front, even though the waistline is slightly below my natural waist, but in the back, the waistline rides up. It's actually not nearly as bad as these photos make it look, though! I think it was the way I was standing that made it bunch up that much.


This dress came together so quickly - most of it was done in an afternoon. The method of finishing the lined armholes took me a few minutes to wrap my head around, but once I figured it out, it was quite straightforward (and rather ingenious, actually).

At this stage, I realized that the armholes were too big. I didn't notice in my first version, because it had sleeves, but they gape just slightly, and show a bit of the side of my bra. I tried a couple ways of fixing it, including taking in the side seams, and sewing in some slightly gathered elastic, but nothing seemed to work, so I decided that I would live with it. I just have to make sure I wear a bra that is close in colour with it.


Once I got to the gathering the skirt, I copied my 60's dress once again, and gathered the skirt only at the sides. 

To do this, I measured the elastic the same as usual (although I made it a little smaller - I find that even after stretching it before using it, it stretches a little as you use it to gather the skirt). I then pinned the elastic for 3 inches on either side of the centre, both front and back, without stretching it. I stretched the rest evenly as I sewed, and then it just so happened that where the gathering started matched exactly with the notches on the bodice. I really like how it looks! It's more noticeable in real life than in these photos, and it would stand out even more in a solid colour.


The last thing that I changed for this version was that I hemmed using a stretch blind hem, rather than a twin needle. I usually prefer to hem by hand than use a machine blind hem, but I needed the stretch in this one so I thought that I would try it. It worked beautifully! I has a decent amount of stretch (although the stretch is limited by my serging, not the blind stitch, oddly enough), and is nearly invisible. My stitching is far from perfect (in fact, I had to go back and re-do a few sections), but the stitches where I caught too much of the fabric get lost in the print anyways. 


This dress has turned out to be really versatile. I've worn it lots as a casual dress, and dressed it up with heels to wear to my gradtuation ceremony (under that ridiculous gown you have to wear).

Only minutes before heading out the door for the ceremony, I decided that I really didn't like the pockets. In such a drapey fabric, they really bunched up and added bulk at the hips. As a quick fix, I tacked the pockets by hand to the front of the skirt. It doesn't show, and I keep meaning to go back and do a neater job, but it did the trick!


I'm still not entirely sure that pockets in knit dress work all that well, but I'll wear this one a few more times before I make up my mind.


I'm so happy with how this dress turned out! As much as I love full-on vintage dresses, I find that what I wear most of the time is classic, comfortable, feminine styles with a vintage vibe - and this fits the bill perfectly! 


Thanks for reading!

Dress: Me-made (Colette Moneta)
Shoes: Vintage

Friday, 27 June 2014

Completed: a Muumuu Refashioned into a Sewaholic Pendrell Blouse

I have a confession to make: I love muumuus.



Especially muumuus made out of lovely drapey rayon that are on sale for $5 at thrift stores, like this one, because they are so easy to refashion.



Flattering, no?



It was a homemade muumuu, so I almost felt guity unpicking it! After a while, though, I figured that whoever made it would probably be happier to see it unpicked and made into something else than thrown away. After I unpicked it, it was basically two big rectangles and the yoke. I straightened the edges, and then just used it like any other fabric, and cut Sewaholic's Pendrell Blouse from it.

Side note: I only just learned that muumuu is spelled that way... I always thought that it was spelled mumu. 



I've made this blouse a few times before, and I love it! It's quick to put together and fits me very well, so I figured that it would be a great blouse to compliment my denim Hollyburn skirt as my entry for the Monthly Stitch's Indie Fan-Girl contest.



As much as I love the sleeve options that come with the blouse, they're not very easy to layer over, so instead, I borrowed the cap sleeves from view A of the Alma Blouse. I'm really happy with how they turned out! It was a very easy switch, since the armhole of that view of the Alma is finished with bias binding, exactly like the Pendrell. I've done this before, when I made my knit Pendrell top.



I ended up doing a lot more hand sewing on this blouse than I anticipated, since I decided to slipstitch all the bias binding at the neck and armholes, rather than stitching it by machine. It took more time, but I'm glad I did - it gives such a clean look to the edges.



I also catchstitched the hem, after turning it up 3/4" twice (rather than 1 1/2" once). I think this is a neater finish than serging the edge, and the fabric is thin enough that it doesn't show through.



I love how neat the insides look with the bias binding! I usually prefer facings (yes, I'm one of few), but when done by hand, finishing with bias binding that matches looks really nice too. I only wish that I had also finished the seam allowances of the princess seams with bias binding! I'll make a note to do that next time - it would make the insides look so nice.



I really love this blouse! It pairs very nicely with this skirt, but it will be very versatile over the summer and into the fall with a cardigan over top, and it's flattering untucked with jeans as well, although I prefer it tucked in.



If you like this outfit as much as I do, I'd love it if you'd vote for me on the Monthly Stitch! Thanks!



Blouse: Me-made (Sewaholic Pendrell)
Skirt: Me-made (Sewaholic Hollyburn)
Belt: RTW (can't remember the brand)
Shoes: Vintage

Completed: Denim Hollyburn Skirt

What's a girl to do when she finds a cute blouse at a thrift store, but doesn't have anything to wear it with?



Make a skirt to match, of course!



Only joking. Sort of. I did come up with the idea to make this skirt because of this blouse, but mostly because I needed a casual summery skirt that I could wear with everything.

I don't usually buy tops at thrift stores unless they're silk or really well made, but I fell in love with this print - it's teacups! It feels like a cotton blend, and it was a few sizes too big, but I took in the sides, the darts and the straps quite easily, and it fits me pretty well now, considering that it's only a semi-fitted blouse. It'll be a nice casual piece for summer, and great for layering! Not bad for $2.50 and an hour's work.

Right after that trip to the thrift store, I went fabric shopping, and while I was there, I realized that I didn't have anything except jeans to wear it with, since all my skirts are either black (which I don't like wearing with navy, or with bare legs in the summer) or printed. I happened to be standing near the denim section at the time, and I had the idea - why not make a denim skirt? It would be casual but still my style, and it would go with just about everything.



That's how this skirt started, and it later turned into an idea for an outfit for The Monthly Stitch's Indie Fangirl Contest (I will post about the blouse that I made to go with it tomorrow).

The denim that I bought is a lightweight (I believe it was 5 oz) denim from Fabricana, which probably wasn't the best choice. It wasn't expensive, and I soon discovered why! It gives off a funny smell when it's ironed (even though it's 100% cotton), and it's quite loosely woven, so pulls a little at the seams. In retrospect, I could have chosen a slightly heavier weight denim, but I do love the drape of this one.



The pattern is the Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt, which is a great simple skirt. I've made it once before (before this blog, but you can see it in my Me-Made-May posts and my 2013 Round-Up post), and I've worn it out completely. I made view C in size 0 since I had already traced that view, but lengthened it an inch, and added the belt loops from view A. 




I love how quick this skirt is to make! Even with all the hand sewing (which is optional), I finished this in probably about five hours? I didn't really keep track! 




Rather than the centered, machine-sewn zipper called for, I put in a hand-picked lapped zipper - my favourite kind!




I hand stitched the waistband down rather than topstitching it, which takes more time but looks really clean and polished. 

The hem was probably the hardest part - I still struggle with curved hems! I took a really narrow hem, but decided to use contrasting rayon seam binding, for fun. Next time, I'll try hemming it with bias binding, because I found the seam binding difficult to ease in. I catchstitched the hem, and I'm happy with how it looks from the outside, anyways! I really love the looks of hand-sewn hems.



I'm really happy with this skirt! It came together quickly, and I think it will get a lot of wear. I'm glad I tried out this pattern again, because I love it! I can see myself making many more this summer. 



Blouse: Thrifted and taken in (brand unknown)
Skirt: Me-made (Sewaholic Hollyburn)
Belt: Thrifted (brand unknown)
Shoes: Thrifted (Arnold Churgin)