Underwire Woes

When we last saw my bra muslin, I had it in a good place – or so I thought. I played with the cups to get them to fit a bit better but I had a recurring problem: the underwire was poking me in the area right between the side of my breast and my armpit. Plus it was higher than the actual cup. I tried to ignore it, but I knew in the pit of my stomach that I’d have to find different underwires to make this bra work.

Now to backtrack a bit, I’ve been putting this bra project off for well over a year. But once I got started, I really thought I had everything I needed to turn my fabric and findings into a gloriously beautiful, well fitting bra. So instead of continuing down the wrong road (which I do often: see Miette fiasco), I printed out the underwire guide from my bra-making class to confirm my suspicions. When I checked my underwires against it, they were much too long: size WL-40(!), when I needed a 32 or 34.  In my defense, I bought those underwires on Etsy some time ago and I never questioned if they would fit. Honestly, I never thought much about underwires and I definitely didn’t know that they came in so many different shapes.

Next I read this article on Emerald Erin (her blog is a a must-read for any bra fanatic) and learned so much more about choosing underwires that are not only the right length, but also relate to the actual shape of my breasts.

Regardless, I couldn’t use the yellow tipped ones for my bra. I thought about cutting them and resealing the edge, but it seemed like too much work for too little payoff.  So off to Etsy I went – again –  to order more underwires. Common bra-making wisdom is that you order the size you think you want, one size up and one size down. I was unwilling to buy 3 sets so I bought 32C (WL 32) (which I think will fit) and 32D (WL 34) just in case I’m wrong. But because the bra-making gods seem to have turned against me, the 32C are out of stock (I should be getting them soon though.)

Anyway, here’s a comparison pic of my two underwires. (The one with the yellow tip is the original underwire and the blue tipped wire is the new one).


I put the new wire on my sheet and it’s a perfect 34 (it’s not exactly on the top of the 34 line because it has a little bit of tension so it holds the cups in shape.)


So I’m onto the next muslin while I wait for the 32s.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on color/pattern combinations for my future bra projects. I haven’t found the suggested cup fabrics (duoplex/supplex) locally so I bought 40 denier nylon fabric online as an alternative. I’m not crazy about it because it’s shiny – I mean Vegas shiny – so I’m probably going to put a layer of lace (or another less gaudy fabric) on top of it. I might also use it to make some cute high waisted panties. IDK. Everytime I take it out of the bag it hurts my eyes, so it’s difficult to make long term plans with it.

I’m also on the hunt for some nice lace to make a pretty black bra with matching French Knickers from this Vera Venus pattern. My stretch goal is to make this Cut Out & Keep garter belt pattern for those days when I’m feeling saucy.

Overall, I’m still excited about making my first bra and if my next muslin fits with the new underwires, it’ll finally be a reality.


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The Unmentionables

Like most women, I wore the wrong bra size for much of my life. I was never taught how they were supposed to fit so if I could get my girls in and the band wasn’t too tight, then I thought everything was fine. I finally got a professional fitting and it made such a difference that I decided that I would never again wear a “close enough” bra. Still, I had to try on 15-20 bras whenever I went shopping; if I was lucky, 3 of them would fit.

Like most RTW clothing, different companies have different slopers and they’re based on an idealized breast shape. But breasts come in many different shapes and that made bra shopping just plain unpleasant for me.

Enter my boundless curiosity.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and make my own bras. This idea has been floating around the blogosphere for a while, so there are now LOTS of resources to help with fitting and construction – not to mention inspiration. Some of my favorites are Cloth Habit’s Bra Making Sewalong, Emerald Erin (I joined her Bra A Week Challenge to keep me motivated), Miss Maddy Sews, Sigrid Sewing Projects and Very Purple Person.

Armed with Beverly Johnson’s Craftsy Class and my copy of Demystifying Bra Construction, I set out to make a well fitting bra that I’ll be able to replicate in infinite fabric combinations. Ambition can be a double-edged sword. Seriously.

So here’s my bra toile so far. I used the Pinup Girls Classic Bra pattern because it’s a basic, full coverage bra. It also helps that Beverly uses this pattern in the Craftsy class. The frame is muslin, the cups are a mystery knit material from my stash that has very little stretch and the back band is powernet. It looks a mess here (I’m a D or DD; my form is a B cup and I didn’t pad her out), but the fit was so close to perfect that I almost wept.



The cups need some fine tuning but the band and the underwires fit perfectly.

Once I get my cups to fit properly, I’ll start working on the actual bra. I forgot to take pictures of my fabric and findings, but they’ll be in a future post.


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New Obsession – Alabama Chanin

During my break, I wondered how I could get back into sewing without getting burned out again in the future. Then it hit me: I don’t need to sew more, but I need to care more about the things I sew.

Now I’m by no means a speedy seamstress. I love doing detailed work. Let’s face it, a regular buttonhole functions just as well as a bound buttonhole;.it just doesn’t look as elegant as I’d like.  I don’t plan to give those things up, but right now I need clothes that are comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and, most of all, practical. I love pretty much everything I’ve made, but I still don’t have many pieces that I can just put on without having to consider the overall look. Sometimes I just want to grab a shirt and jeans and get out the door, but I don’t have that type of wardrobe.

Enter Natalie Chanin.

I was vaguely familiar with her clothing line, but I never stopped to REALLY look at it. I was in the local bookshop when I picked up Alabama Studio Sewing + Design and started flipping through the pages. I have no idea what happened, but suddenly I was obsessed. I Googled her and found a wealth of information about the company. Her business philosophy and business model are absolute genius and she’s a strong (and early) proponent of sustainable fashion.  Some of her pieces sell for thousands of dollars, but each one can take weeks to complete because every.single.stitch is made by hand and, more importantly, the artisans are paid a fair wage. Each piece is a work of art so when you put it into perspective, they’re worth every penny. I also love that you have to slow down to create each piece. I’ve been practicing on scrap fabric and not only is it very relaxing, I feel more invested in my garment. I’ve never done applique or embroidery before, but so far, I’m happy with the results.

Stitch Book


Alabama Chanin book

Pictures courtesy of Alabama Chanin’s website, alabamachanin.com


Which brings me to fast fashion. I noticed in my Facebook sewing groups that there’s a lot of pressure to keep churning out garments at hyperspeed. I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was bothering me about it until I realized that it replicated the whole industry of quick, disposable clothes that I’ve been trying to avoid. There’s nothing wrong with following trends, but I’m at the point where I want my clothes to be quality pieces that will a) last; and b) be wearable for many seasons. On Artisan Square, they do a yearly SWAP (Sew With A Plan). Going forward, I’m going to create a plan and use it as a guide to create the backbone of my wardrobe. I need to think about it a lot more, but I so far I know I’ll need a tailored blazer, a couple of skirts and a classic white shirt. Outside the SWAP clothes, I’ll need some casual items for the weekends. like this corset top and this skirt.

I purchased the Alabama Stitch Book which contains patterns and all the techniques. (Btw, can I tell you how much I love that she’s so generous with her information? Stencil templates are FREE on her website.) And I bought her Craftsy class (even though I’m not sure about that jacket. I think it might look better in another colorway).

I also picked up some t-shirts at the local thrift shop and found felt at my favorite fabric store: PS Textiles. They don’t have a website but they’re at 359 Broadway and their phone number is (212) 226-1534.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing pics of my process (and of course all my new tools and supplies).


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Done! (And What’s Next)

Here are the final pics of my bralette.


More of the cups

Cup Closeup

The back

Inside Cups Closure


Closeup of the back. There’s a tiny gap between the sides, but I can live with it.

Back closure closeup

After wearing it around the house for a bit, I decided on some other structural changes for the next one. I want to add boning and an underwire. I realize that that makes it much more like a real bra and adds a lot more sewing time, but it’s the only way I’d feel completely secure. The straps are great (although I’ll make them wider next time), but I think they’re doing too much work supporting the bodice.

Now I have to figure out which project to do next.

I’m torn between 1. my newest obsession, swimwear; 2.  the often-mentioned, but never completed French Jacket; or 3. my Retro Bombshell Dress from Craftsy.

Candidate #1: I found this fabulous blog, Kitschy Coo and her amazing four part swimsuit tutorial. She covers everything from measuring yourself to constructing the swimsuit. Right after I finished reading it, I measured myself and starting dreaming of all the swimsuits I’ll be able to make. I haven’t settled on a single idea yet, but I’m definitely sticking to my retro theme. For those of you looking for a readymade retro swimsuit pattern, definitely check out Closet Case Files’ retro swimsuit. It’s a stunner and she did a sewalong on her blog to walk you through the tricky steps.

Candidate #2: I’m thinking a lot about (actually more like feeling guilty about) my French Jacket. I see the muslin every.single.day and still manage to avoid working on it. I lost about 10 lbs since I’ve been working on it, so basically I need to do a good bit of alterations on it and it might just be easier to make a new one.

Candidate #3: I just found some really cute (and inexpensive) cotton fabric that I can use for the Bombshell dress. As usual, I’m going to have to do an FBA and I’d rather use this fabric before I use the black stretch cotton I bought. I figure you can never have too many Bombshell dresses. I already taped together and cut out the PDF pattern and prewashed the fabric so I’m ready to get to work.

So there it is. I’m still thinking, but I’ll be cutting into something within the next 48 hours.


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Decisions, Decisions

Did you ever have so many projects in your head that you were paralyzed by indecision? Yeah, that’s where I’ve been for a couple of weeks.

My French Jacket is still in the works, but it’s such a big project that I got somewhat intimidated. I’m still fine tuning the muslin with the help of a bunch of books and online videos.

While procrastinating, I started looking at Craftsy’s Sew Retro Perfect Bombshell Dress class that I bought well over a year ago. The class comes with a PDF pattern (my first large one) so I kept putting it aside because of all the taping involved. Anyway, I finally put it together and traced my size. I just need to add seam allowances. Why, oh why didn’t I remember I had this:


I usually use my other tracing wheel and my trusty ruler for everything because I’ve never had to add seam allowances to a lot of pattern pieces. However, while still procrastinating organizing my patterns, I found this old gem and was grateful that I found Ms. Clover:


Now that spring is allegedly getting closer, I’m starting to work on my warm weather wardrobe and one thing I definitely want is a cropped bustier top. I’m not one to show a lot of skin, so I’m going to use it as a layering piece unless it gets really hot and then all bets are off.) This is be the first Burda pattern I’ve ever used (and I love the 80’s styling on that envelope) so I spent the better part of the morning tracing the pieces for view A, minus that pointy peplum. I just realized I cropped out View B’s top, but rest assured , she is in fact dressed. Burda is just not that racy. Her top is pretty much view A, but with a 4 part cup. I heard that Burda’s fit is pretty good, so I hope I don’t have to fiddle with the cups too much.

Finally, I’m trying to use some of my stash material. I have few yards of a nice white cotton pique that I think I bought for a dress, but it’s way too heavy for what I wanted to do. Now that I’m in spring/summer mode, I was trying to figure out what to do with it and then it came to me: a capelet and pencil skirt! So I went back into my pattern bin to find this:


Now she is cute, but I wanted something slightly different so I added 4 inches to the length and I’m changing the front to have 3 bound buttonholes with 1″ buttons. So back to the drafting table for me.

I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to avoid the French Jacket. I haven’t put it away, but I feel unmotivated to work on it. Maybe I just need a simpler project for now.


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