The Marlborough Bra - Round Two

In 2014 I attempted to make my first underwire bra - the Marlborough bra.

Fast forward over a year later and I've attempted to make my second one.  I think I needed all that time to build up my patience and courage to attempt a project that can call for such finicky fitting alterations.  I'm not sure that it was such a great idea to wait that long though, because this time around pretty much felt like I was sewing it for the very first time again.

I can barely remember what I did yesterday.  Don't ask me to remember what I did over a year ago.

Fortunately, my blog post had some notes about what I wanted to do differently this time around.  I sewed a 32C once again, but I made a couple of modifications.  First I widened the bridge by about 1/8th of an inch and lengthened the band by about a 1/4 of an inch on each side because it was too tight last time.  It turns out that I didn't lengthen the band enough because it's still a bit tighter than I would like.  I also followed Kathy's tutorial on changing the shaping of the cups for a shallow bust.  This resulted in a perfect fitting cup...on my left breast.  It turns out that my right breast is smaller so I'm still getting a bit of puckering on that side.  Ah, the things that sewing teaches you about your body.

I've been wearing this bra around for the past week and have figured out some additional changes that will need to be made in future bras.

1) The underwire ends a little too low on my armpit side so I think I'll raise that side of the bra a bit to allow for a slightly taller underwire (as it was, I had to snip off part of my underwire to make it fit this pattern).  Just a side note about snipping off parts of your underwire.  I just cut it using wire cutters and then dipped the edges in Plasti-Dip, as recommended by Amy.  Just a word of caution - Plasti-Dip is addictive and you'll leave the process wanted to dip everything in your house in this mixture.  We may or may not have dipped a Strawberry Shortcake doll in Plasti-Dip.  Consider yourself warned.

2) I'll add some additional length to the band so that it fits better around my ribcage.

3) I'm debating reconfiguring the cups and bridge to allow for more of a plunge style  Part of me feels that I should wait until I have the basic bra perfected before I start messing with bigger elements and part of me says "just go for it."  We'll see which part wins.

As for the sewing, I used the Marlborough instructions, but I also relied heavily on Cloth Habit's bra sew-a-long.  I can not say enough good things about all the work that she put into putting that sew-a-long together.  Thank you!

I used fabric from a kit from Sweet Cups Bra Supply, although I used bra strapping from my stash since the bra strapping in the kit was too short.  Plus, I wanted my strapping to match my lace.  Speaking of which, both were dyed using Jacquard acid dye in the chartreuse color way.  The lace is from Tailor Made, which also seems to sell beautiful bra making kits.

Alright, folks, that's a wrap.  Now excuse me while I go put my shirt back on.


A Nettie Tee

You know how half the sewing community is out sewing jeans right now?  Well, I chose the lazy man's route and just bought myself some new ones (thank you, awesome after-Christmas sales).

They're one size larger (thank you, awesome Christmas food).

High-waisted (thank you, two pregnancies).

And flared (thank you, 1990's).

Of course, these jeans needed a new t-shirt because while long, flowy tees may work great with skinny jeans, they don't work all that great with these.  In an attempt to use what I had on hand, I turned to the Nettie Bodysuit pattern.  Bet you didn't know that I had that pattern?  That's probably because I never blogged about the one bodysuit that I ended up making because

1) bodysuits look pretty terrible on me and

2) I opted for the high front neck, medium back version and that also was not a good look for me.

I didn't want to totally scrap the pattern though, because I figured that the regular scoop neck version would work better on my silhouette and I saw that some other talented folks had good results in turning the bodysuit into a regular fitted tee.  That said, I knew that I wanted a fitted tee but not a skin-tight tee so I went up 2 sizes from my recommended size (I traced the top to the bust at a size 8 and then graded out to a size 10).  The result, thanks to the use of a cotton-lycra fabric, is more body-hugging than I intended, but it works seems to work well when I bunch it up slightly as it's worn (I like to refer to it as natural ruching).

As for making the bodysuit into a tee, I followed the footsteps of others and traced the body suit to around the hip level.  I then added 2.75 inches to the length at the lengthen/shorten line.  In sewing it all together, I started to worry that the neckline would be a little low so I sewed the neckband on with a smaller seam allowance (1/4 inch) resulting in a  thicker neckband.  In the end, it probably wasn't necessary but I really like the look of the thicker band and will probably opt to do it this way again.

And if the fabric looks familiar, it's left over from this little dress that I made for C.  I've kept it all this time with the intention of making myself a t-shirt (because someone my age totally needs a t-shirt covered with little cat heads).  I figured that I would end up making a Plantain Tee since I've had good luck with it in the past, but something about it just didn't seem right in my mind.  Personally, I think the universe was just telling me to hold on to it to make a Nettie Tee.



A Brief History of My Relationship with Knits

We met for the first time circa 2011,  when I first attempted to sew a t-shirt for teeny-tiny O (no seriously, look how little she is in these pictures).  It was a quasi-successful attempt.  The actual sewing was fairly easy, but man, did I have to struggle to get that sucker over her big toddler head.

At that time I was really only familiar with jersey knits, but I was soon introduced to interlock and cotton-lycra blends thanks to my first attempt at making undies for O (okay, this picture is actually from my second attempt).  At that time, good quality, cute knits were few and far between and the best options were usually only available on interlock fabric.  Unfortunately, I really didn't like working with interlock because of its tendency to get stretched out.  I was a much bigger fan of cotton-lycra blends and thankfully cute cotton-lycra options have become more available over the past couple of years thanks to companies like Art Gallery.  It's definitely been my knit fabric of choice.   I've used cotton-lycra blends to make tees, and dresses, and pjs, and everything in between.

But now I've branched out once again - only this time to ponte knits.  To be honest, I've avoided ponte knits in the past, thinking that the polyester fiber content would make them feel, well, kind of yucky.  It turns out that I was wrong because not only does this polyester/lycra blend ponte feel lovely, but ponte is the perfect fabric for certain projects.

Example number one would be this little Cocoon Dress that calls for a nice stable knit fabric (like ponte!).

The pattern is simple, but sweet.  It sews together incredibly easily and is right up O's alley when it comes to what she likes to wear nowadays.  I cut out a size five based on her chest measurement but added some length since she's about average size for a six year old.  Because of the high-low hem, it's a tad bit shorter than I would like in the front for a dress, but she'll probably be wearing it with tights or leggings for the time being so I'm not too concerned.

Also noteworthy - we took O to get her first ever professional haircut.  Up until now she's been suffering through my feeble attempts at cutting her hair.  It's been looking pretty ragged lately and she's been talking about wanting it shorter, so I figured that it was time to bring in some folks who actually know what they're doing.  Based on the smile on her face, I'd say that it was a pretty good decision.


The Sewing of Seasonably Inappropriate Clothes

I don't know what it is about the winter, but for some reason it always inspires me to sew swimsuits.  Although, in my defense the kids have been in swim lessons all fall and winter so they're actually in need of new swimsuits.  Well, at least the little one is.  The big one is the lucky recipient of many, many hand-me-down swimsuits from her older cousins.  Plus, the little one is growing like a crazy and it was about time that we stopped trying to stuff our 3 1/2 year old into bathing suits for a 2 year old (hangs head in shame).

Once again I broke out the Peekaboo Patterns Waikiki swimsuit to make a new one for C.  Having made this same swimsuit five (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) other times, there's really nothing new to say about it.  It a great simple swimsuit with a little bit of fun added in the ruffle and the ability to add contrast fabric for the binding and straps.  For this go around, I used some swimsuit fabric that I bought on sale at Mill End Store outside Portland at the end of summer.  I wasn't necessarily looking for swimsuit fabric but I couldn't pass this fabric up when I saw it.  You understand, right?  I knew you would.

I cut out a size three for C, knowing that the sizing has been pretty right on in the past but I'd forgotten that C is a much bigger kid than her older sister and now I'm concerned that she might outgrow this swimsuit before summer gets here.

Oh well.  Maybe that'll inspire me to sew a swimsuit when it's actually warm outside.


2015 Superlatives

It's that time of the year again.  Time to look through all that I've made and decide which were winners and which were, well, not winners.  First up:


For me, definitely the culotte jumpsuit.  There are no words to tell you how much I love this outfit.  It's a little bit different without being totally out there.  It's fun to wear.  It's easy to dress up or dress down.  It's really just fantastic.  And all of its awesomeness makes up for the fact that it's a tad bit of a pain to go to the bathroom in.

And for the little ones, I'd say that this little dress was a hit.  Knit dresses with long sleeves are few and far between at times, so having this one around is fantastic.


Well, I'm sure that I have some failed items for me somewhere around my house from this year, but I never got around to blogging about them, so we'll just pretend that they  don't exist.

As for the kids, this little sweatshirt is sadly neglected since I miscalculated some measurements when turning the Joey Dress into a sweatshirt.  I've tried to make C wear it but she's a stubborn little thing, so in the mean time it just sits in her drawer waiting for a little love.


The Alder Dress!  I made two this year and I love each of them, although this one is definitely my favorite because it's longer and, therefore, easier to wear.  Plus, it's made out of some really awesome fabric.

And for the little ones, I'm going to stick with my pick from last year - the Hanami - since I made it 4 more times this year!   I still think it's a fantastic pattern and I now love it even more since adopting the modification to shorten the bodice ever so slightly.  What can I say, when I find something I like, I stick with it.  My husband should be very happy to hear that.


Remember way back in the day when I said that I wanted to make a bed?  Well, I made one (with the assistance of my dad)!  When he asked me what I wanted for my birthday last year I told him that all I wanted was to have him help me build a bed and being the kind man that he is, he agreed.  We built it all in one exhausting day but it took me about 9 months to get around to finishing it.  It is solid and ridiculously heavy and I love everything about it.  Oh, and it's the Farmhouse Bed from Ana White's book.

And for the itty bitty kids, I choose the itty bitty kitty dress.  It's so ridiculous, yet so fabulous.  And it suits her perfectly (even if she is doing some major mean-mugging in these pictures).


And as for the coming year, my only resolution is to honor where I am.  I've had a bit of a difficult time transitioning from a competent professional to a complete newbie and more than once (okay, many, many times) I've found myself frustrated at my performance, my lack of progress, and where I'm at in the learning process.  But when I look at it objectively, I know that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be - at the beginning of a life-long process of learning a new profession.  And so in the coming year I hope to stop fighting the process and instead, honor where I am.


Superlatives from years past.





Watson Bras Galore

I've been a bit of a lingerie making machine around here lately, thanks to a series of fortunate events.

1.  After several months of being put off of dying lingerie supplies because I didn't have the "right" dye, I said screw it and decided to give it a go using regular old Dylon dye that's available at just about every big box craft store.  It's probably not the cheapest option for someone trying to dye a lot of fabric, but for a newbie like me, it worked perfectly.  As an aside, from my extensive (read: five minute) internet research, apparently the secret to dying nylon is using acid, so I added a cup of vinegar to my dye bath to make it acidic.  It seemed to work just fine although some elastics did take up the dye more than others - most likely due to their different fabric contents.

2. After fretting about not being able to find any lingerie supplies locally, I found that the Pacific Fabrics in Bellevue offers several fabrics that can be used for bra making.  In fact, they have quite a large supply of miliskin and stretch mesh that works perfectly for bra making.  The stretch mesh has reduced stretch in one direction so I used that direction to support the cradle and I used the other direction to make the bands.  I did, however, have to purchase notions off of the internet (I purchased a bunch of them in bulk about a year ago).  The elastics, bra strapping, and hook and eye fabric are all from Sew Sassy while the metal rings and slides are from Bra Essentials (I bought them all in gold so I wouldn't have to worry about matching them to certain fabrics and I'm really happy with this decision).

3. After spending the last several months in scrubs for school, I realized that I didn't need a structured bra and a soft, comfy one is an awesome choice for everyday wear.

I should note that since my last bra making bonanza, I've had some failed attempts and I've learned a couple things from them.  Like the fact that using a super stretchy spandex (like miliskin) for the entire bra is a bad idea (it ended up huge and with no structure).  I then tried to make an entire bra out of power mesh and that ended up on the opposite end of the spectrum (like a bullet-proof bra).  Trial and error, people.

Okay, now on to the bras (all of them Watson bras)!  I made the same size as last time with no modifications.  Instead, this time I tried to focus on using the right fabrics and improving my lingerie sewing skills.  They're definitely getting better, but to be honest, they leave a lot to be desired.  Oddly enough, the part that I have the hardest time with is sewing the tops of the cups to the rings.  On almost every bra I made it looks like a severely inebriated person completed this step.  And there's no picking those stitches out once you double stitch them in!  I know that because I tried and I ended up ripping a small hole in the fabric.  You can just imagine the sounds that came out of my mouth as I did that.

As for the undies, I used the free So Zo undies pattern that I've used for years.  I altered the pattern to use with lingerie fabric rather than fold over elastic.  I've heard good things about the Watson undies pattern and someday I may get around to trying them out, but for the time being I'm really happy with the So Zo pattern.  The undies are made with either all miliskin (with some cotton for the crotch lining) or miliskin for the front with mesh on the back (you know, for all those times I really want people to be able to see my butt).


What To Sew When Your Fabric Goes MIA

The other day I woke up in a house with no children and a fabulous idea of what I wanted to sew.  Unfortunately, I also woke up with a killer cold and, despite searching high and low, I couldn't find the fabric that I was looking for (it remains MIA).  In the end, though, the missing fabric ended up being fortuitous because it led me back to this beautiful cotton lawn that my sister brought back from Pakistan a couple years ago.  It was a little over two yards of fabric but it was also on the narrow side so there were some definite limitations as to what I could make with it.  Also, it had a really beautiful border print so I wanted to make sure that it was incorporated in some way.  In the end I decided to go back to the Scout Tee pattern with some minor modifications.  I started by lengthening the sleeves to around 3/4 length and I cut the sleeves against the grain to incorporate the border pattern into the sleeve ends.  I also lengthened the body considerably (maybe four inches?  I'm terrible about keeping track of these things).  I attempted to make more of a shirt tail hem on the sides but I didn't do a drastic enough modification so it's barely noticeable.

Most of the seams are French seamed since the fabric is ever so slightly sheer but my sleeves are just serged in.  A couple  years ago I followed Jen's tutorial on French seaming sleeves, but honestly, I found it to be a major pain in the butt.

And that's it, although I'm debating whether I should have made a size four instead of a size two (like I have in the past).  My body has definitely changed over the last couple years and I feel like I'm still figuring out what sizes to sew and what modifications to make.  I'd like to thank growing older and having two kids for these fitting issues.

On a slightly more humorous note, I had Ben retake a couple of these pictures because my posture was so bad in them.  He told me, "That should be your New Year's resolution.  Better posture."
I told him, "It was.  Last year."
To which he replied, "How's that working for you?"

Not so good, I guess.


Navy and Gold

If you were worried that C's holiday dress was going to be yet another Hanami, let me assure you that I did the unthinkable and actually tried a new pattern.  Crazy, I know.  Well, not that crazy, because it's another Straight Grain pattern - the Jaanu Dress - which I can now declare is as lovely as the Hanami.  When thinking about making a dress for C, I knew that I wanted it to coordinate with her sister's, but I also didn't want them to be too matchy-matchy.  After digging through my stash I settled on using some gorgeous navy blue silk-cotton fabric for the main fabric and then making some gold and cream piping out of scraps left over from O's dress.

Two things about this plan:

1) I had to go through a mourning process in using this fabric for the dress because I so wanted to use it on something for myself.

2) I was really worried that C would not be into such an "understated" dress.  I mean, she's the kid who wants gold and silver and pink and glitter on everything.   Would she absolutely refuse to wear a navy blue dress?

Well, I'm happy to report that that wasn't not the case, but mostly because I sewed some little gold buttons at the end of each pleat and I think that the added sparkle helped her fall in love with the dress.  It was touch and go there for a little while though.

As for the pattern, I cut out a size three based on the size recommendations and the fit appears to be right on.  The pattern comes with two dress versions and after much hemming and hawing I chose to make the Norah version because of those awesome pleats.  I'm excited to try the pattern in the future with fabric that has even more body to see just how big and beautiful those pleats can be.

Now If you'll allow me a moment of indulgence, here are the two little ones together in all their glory.  Let's pretend that they're this sweet to each other all the time.  Also, let's pretend that O doesn't make this face at us at least once a day.


Striking Gold

Sewing has definitely taken a backseat lately to school work, family obligations, and basically just keeping my children alive and fed.  Despite the craziness around here though, I did manage to dust off my sewing machine (in the most literal sense) in order to sew up a dress for each girl for some family pictures that we had taken last weekend.

For O's dress I was definitely inspired by this simple quilting cotton that I bought over the summer during my Portland fabric-shopping extravaganza.  It's a cream and gold quilting cotton and as soon as I saw it, I knew that the girls would love it.  It turns out that I was right.  My only regret is not buying a tad bit more.  I was hoping to be able to make something for C out of it too, but because I cut out the bodice on the bias it used up more fabric than I had planned for.

And speaking of the bias-cut top, that was my other inspiration for the dress.  I really wanted to make a Hanami with a chevron on the front.  Yeah, yeah, I've made a million Hanami's before but I thought that this would be a great modification to the pattern.  Super simple and really cute.  I also played around with the stripes by making the back of the bodice vertical and the skirt horizontal.  It also eliminated any problems that I may have had trying to match up a chevron on the back while inserting a zipper.  I'm all about taking the path of least resistance.

O's a huge fan of her new dress and was made an even bigger fan when we went out to buy her some gold shoes to complete the outfit.  And I'm a big fan of the fact that I already have her holiday dress made.  Big high five for both of us!


A Hero Vest

I'm afraid that things have been a bit, well, boring on this old blog lately - mostly due to the massive amount of repeats that I've been sewing.  Now don't get me wrong, I love reusing patterns for many reasons.  You get to try them out in different fabrics and compare results.  You get to the master the techniques used in the pattern.  You can tweak the fit until it's juuuuust right.

But let's be honest, it doesn't make for the most exciting blog content.

So with that I'm excited to announce - "Hey, look I made something new!"  And with fall just around the corner in the northern hemisphere, it's actually seasonally appropriate!

The vest is the Women's Hero Vest pattern by Make It Perfect.  I wasn't quite sure when I was going to get around to making the pattern but then I fell in love with this super-soft flannel on an in impulse fabric shopping trip to Fabric Depot and with that the vest moved to the top of my list.  I also purchased the cotton/lycra ribbing at Fabric Depot but I didn't find out until I got home that the tubular ribbing wasn't quite as wide as I needed it to be so the bottom ribbing is actually made from two pieces of ribbing sewn together, rather than one continuous piece.  And while I'm confessing things I should also confess that I cut the bottom ribbing shorter than it was supposed to be only to realize that I couldn't rectify the mistake because I ran out of the ribbing that I just so happened to buy in another state.  Doh!  Fortunately, the ribbing seems to be high quality and I was able to stretch it enough to accommodate the missing length but I will say that this experience definitely taught me the importance of the saying "measure twice, cut once."

The inner fabric is a polar fleece from Seattle Outdoor Fabrics.  I looked at buying some fleece in other, closer fabric stores but nothing comes close to the quality of fleece that they sell there so I held out until I could make a trek up there to get some. The only other notion that I needed to buy was a separating zipper and I was able to find that at a regular big-box sewing store.

I was a bit worried about the sizing since I'm much smaller in the chest area than in the hip area so I decided to grade out around the hips from a size extra small to a size small and I'm happy to say that it seems to have worked.  As for the actual sewing process, it was lovely.  It was the perfect combo of interesting and not overly complicated.  My one recommendation would be to follow the zipper instructions that Toni has on her blog rather than the ones on the pattern.  The ones on the blog are for a fully enclosed zipper that really makes the vest look nice, tidy, and finished.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to cuddle up in the most cozy vest you ever did see.
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