Thursday, February 28, 2013

Elite Bra Pattern

We've talked about the Pin Up Girls Classic Pattern. As much as I loved the well put together instructions, I did have a couple reasons to 'feel out' other patterns.

The cups of the Classic bra are made of Duoplex. Typically, seamed bras are made using one of 3 fabrics (from what I can tell). Dupolex, Simplex, or Tricot.  Duoplex had no stretch, but just a smidge of "give". Simplex & tricot are both stretch fabrics. While this means that Duoplex would offer the most support, I...well, I'm not sure I like it.

Second, I wasn't a big fan of the sihloette that the Classic bra left me with. Initailly, I thought this was due to my having left out underwires, but I later added underwires and found the same thing to be true. I still felt like my breast tissue spread out in this bra. I'm sure that can be fixed...but I don't know how. Maybe more underarm coverage?? Anyway, I definitely feel I could make this pattern work for me, with a bit of tweaking, but at the same time I was eager to get to a better jumping off point.  Baby steps.
I just sewed ribbons on as straps for a quick fit check :) And I stuffed the cups with newspaper for the pictures.
That's what brought me to the Elite bra pattern.  I had initlly emailed Anne from NeedleNook Fabrics (the creator of the pattern) to inquire about her bra kits. Somehow I ended up rambling on about the fit issues I had. Imagine my surprise when she wrote me back asking if she could see pictures so she could better analyze the fit.  As awkward as it was to take photos of myself in just my bra (let alone send them to a complete stranger) I was very excited to have some hand holding.  Once I got the kids down for naps that day, I gave Anne a call, and we chatted for over a half hour.  In the end, I ordered the Elite pattern as well as 2 bra kits. Since I kind of fell between pattern sizes, Anne was kind enough to draft me a somewhat 'custom' size. She used an E cup with a 32 band minus a half inch. This would have been very easy for me to do myself, but I found this was just 1 example of how she goes above & beyond for customer service.

Note to self: white on white does not a good photograph make. Sorry readers!
The Elite bra is drafted using tricot for the cups; each lower cup is constructed using a lining & an outer fabric, the stretch going in opposite directions, for better support. I really liked this. Also, the whole band is made from Powernet, with a stabalized center front seam.  Also an interesting tidbit, is that as drafted the straps are not adjustable.  I found this very odd, but have since 'heard' that RTW bras are made this way in order to fit a wider range. When you have a custom made bra, adjustable straps are less necessary.

I'm thrilled with the results.  I had no gaping at the side, the bridge fit well against my rib cage. I initially tried my bra on after nursing my son on my left side and that cup fit perfectly! However, my more "full" breast did not fit quite as well. My next test will be to sew a larger cup size and see how that fits.  That being said, I am confident that my first bra will fit after I'm done breastfeeding.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pin Up Girls Classic Pattern

Pin Up Girls Classic Full Band

Since we talked last, I've finished another bra, using a different pattern. It, too, will need some adjusting. But for right now let's just focus on the Pin Up Girls Classic pattern, ok?

Size: I ended up sewing a 30E. Just for reference, my measurements are as follows:
High Bust: 32"
Full Bust: 36"
Underbust: 28"

These patterns have you deduct your high bust measurement from your full bust measurement. According to that, I am a 32 D.  The problem with that (for me) is that there is a 4" difference between my underbust (where the band will go) and my high bust. Had I sewn this size, my band would have been much too big (bra bands are meant to do the bulk of the 'supporting' and should therefore be quite snug. Most women are wearing a bra band much too big for htem) I went with my instincts (and underbust measurement) and sewed a 30E (30 is the smallest band size the pattern offers, but it is very simple to size down).

That said, the band could stand to be smaller. This pattern uses Duoplex for the cup fabric, which is a non stretch fabric, but it does offer a bit of give.  The turned out just a smidge too small, and I'd like to sew it using a fabric with a bit of stretch.

As to the instructions themselves....excellent. I would not hesitate to recommend this pattern at all. Here is my review over on PR. It's a bit more thorough, I think.

I talked about the fit in my last post, but for my own info, I thought I'd write up a quick "to do" summary for my next muslin. 

Future alterations:
Move straps closer to neck
Narrow shoulder straps
Take in the bridge at CF 1/4"
Take in band 1" ??
Sew larger cup
Take in a dart at the underarm (upper cup) due to bulging

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Finished: My first self stitched bra!

For this post I'm going to ramble about the fit. I'll do another post to review the pattern :)

So here it is.  I have to admit, I'm surprised by how easy this was to construct. It turned out quite well, definitely wearable...for someone else.  When I showed the hubs, he said "Well, looks like a real bra to me!" Honey, it is a real bra.  LOL,
I apologize for the boring photos. 
Naturally, I didn't expect it to fit. I hoped it would, of course, but I knew that was unlikely. Whenever I go bra shopping I always end up trying on 10+ bras...just to bring home 0-2.  And spend $50-100. It's insane. I probably spend more money on bras than the majority of the rest of my wardrobe. And I don't even have enough bras. 

Here's what's going on
  • No underwires. I didn't want to mess with underwires the first go around; I just thought it'd be too much of  a hassle to figure out the fitting. This was a mistake. I should have ordered a few pairs from the get go. I'll wait until I have some before I make my next bra.  
  • Gaping at the side cups. This is incredibly common for me. It is tricky to find a RTW bra that doesn't do this.
  • The bridge doesn't sit flat against my "chest cavity".  This is partially because there is no underwire & partially because I think the bridge is a touch wide. Again, this is very common for me to come across in RTW. 
  • I think the cups fit ok. I think they're a little "pointy", but I can smooth that out in the flat pattern stage. It's so hard to tell without the underwires.  I'm really kicking myself for that.
  • Also, I think the straps need to be moved closer to the center. With my sloping shoulders, they do feel like they're slipping off.   Again, this is something I come across quite often in RTW.

All in all, I can't say that I'm disappointed. As much as we all would like everything to fit us straight from the pattern (or even of the rack in RTW), it just isn't the case.  Going into this I kept in mind that it would likely take 3 bras before I had a good fit.  This is a marathon, not a sprint. Giving a man a fish vs teaching him to fish.  If I can nail the fit...the possibilities are endless. The payoff would be huge. In many ways. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bra Making: Here We GO!!

I was pleasantly surprised when DH brought home my order from Bra Maker's Supply. I ordered it on the 5th and received it on the 11th...less than a week later. That's CRAZY fast.  Especially considering that it was from Canada...the OTHER side of Canada. Needless to say, I'm thrilled.

The kit includes everything you need to make your first bra.  My favorite part of the kit was that little pink piece of paper.  On one side is a "general" supply list. On the other is a little "worksheet" where you fill in your pattern name, size, and the findings that you'll need. You just fill in the amounts & widths. It's very neat. 

First I had to figure out my size. I had ordered the yellow size range (30 E and up) but when I measured myself according to their directions, I came out to a 32D. My 32 size band bras are actually a little loose (and the pattern doesn't include D cups) so I cut a 30E (the cups of a 32D & a 30E are the same)

I cut largest size of my pattern pieces & photocopied them onto the thickest paper I had on hand.  Then I cut out my size of the pattern pieces from that. My plan was to actually trace around the pattern ONTO the fabric and then cut it out. I really wanted to make sure it was precise; that way it was for sure that any quirks were from something other than less-than-accurate cutting. Because, let's face it, in the past I have been a little...wild when it comes to cutting. I just kind of wing it some times. And then when there's something "off" I'm never sure if it was due to the pattern or me. LOL.

"DOGS" stands for "Direction of Greatest Stretch"
 Then I traced the pattern pieces using my chalk pen.  I made sure to keep it nice and sharp. I also used this for the markings; and I labeled the markings using Washi tape (Painter's tape or Masking tape would work well, too).  I've never been this fastidious in my cutting/marking phase, but this was brand new territory, and by golly, I wasn't going to blow it this early in the game. 


Then I pinned the fabric pieces together. Generously. Using more pins than I have on anything ever.I also used my fabric shears over my rotary cutter this time.  If I keep sewing lingerie, I will probably invest in the 18mm rotary cutter.

I laid all the pieces out as recommended in the Make & Fit book from my kit.  I "labeled" all the pieces on the left using  my blue stripe Washi tape and everything on the right using my green polka dot Washi tape so that I wouldn't mix everything up. This was brilliant (if I may say so myself) until the actual sewing. Then it was a pain. But I just removed most of the Washi tape once I had it at the machine. 

As for the construction itself, it has went pretty well so far. My biggest (only?) problem was topstitching the cups.  The instructions did not specify to press--and I KNEW I should. But I doubted myself. So the topstitching is a hot mess & I have some rippleing from our wrestling match; trying to keep the itty bitty seam allowances open WHILE sewing. 

Setting the cups into the band went beautifully. Adding the channelling had me stumped for a minute or two but I got it. :) And this is what it looks like so far: 

All that's left is the elastic on the upper band & straps, adding the neckline trim, finishing the straps & adding the hook & eyes.  Then we'll try her on & see how she fits. I'm not really planning on this one being wearable (for one it isn't a nursing bra...though I could alter that after the fact) but I do have high hopes for my red version. :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Finished Renfrew!

Turquoise jeans!
As much as I love my TNT S4076, it just doesn't offer the same variety that the Renfrew does.  Starting out, I really hoped that the Renfrew will be my new TNT for knit tops.

The fabric is a stable purple baby rib knit, ordered from High End Fabrics on Ebay. I've ordered from them a number of times & have yet to be disappointed.

Fabric ordered, I then had to decide what size to trace.  My thought process went like this:
"According to the Sewaholic size chart, I'm a 10 in the bust (size 2 if we go by high bust...there's no way I'm going to do a FBA though...I've gotten along this long without one), an 8 in the waist and a 6 in the hips. Hm. I prefer my tops to be more on the fitted side, but since I'm using a stable knit I don't want it to be too tight. I think the safest bet would be to go with a 10. I can always take the seams in, but I can't necessarily let them back out...actually I could since the pattern uses a 5/8" seam allowance and I won't be serging....ack.  I'm going to go with a size 8. Yes. 8." I also lengthened it 1.5". I like my casual tops on the long side, but in hindsight it was unnecessary.

Another initial concern that I had was the symmetrical sleeve.  In my experience, a symmetrical sleeve just does not lend itself to a good fit. It just isn't anatomically correct.I anticipate that I'm going to have to get out my TNT S4037 & redraw the sleeve cap for future Renfrews.  But I decided to do without first and see.

 And onto the actual sewing. The cowl got me. And not because of a pattern error. Oh no. I completely missed the whole "cut two on fold" memo. That was writtin on the pattern piece.  I cut one on fold. And when the pttern said, "sew pieces (with an 's'--plural) I read 'piece' so I sew up my little cowl I cant unfold it. Mmm. Realized my mistake, ripped my seam & cut out a second cowl piece. With that, I was back on track.

After I attached the sleeves & sewed the front & back together I tried it on.  It was a bit baggy, but nothing that taking in the side seams wouldn't fix.  What really troubled me was the shoulder seam.  It looked like a dropped sleeve. The seam was a half inch down my arm. I tried to take in the shoulder seam itself, but for some reason that wasn't giving me the results I wanted. While I was trying it on, I was just pinching random fabric, trying to figure out what to do next.  I really, really didn't want this to be a wadder.  I pinched the cowl/neck seam and that raised the shoulder seam up where I needed it to be.  I KNOW I have small shoulders (probably narrow, too..or is that the same thing??) But I never take that into consideration when I'm tracing/cutting my pattern.  Lesson learned.

The back is still pretty big and if I had to guess, that looks like a tell tale sway back.

So there I was.  Not loving my fabric choice. Not loving the fit. Mostly due to not sewing the right size in the first place.  And not choosing a knit with spandex. I love me some cotton spandex knits.  But I was determined to finish it.  At the very lest I'll give it to my mom.  She'll love it.

But I saved it; pinching an inch of the neck/cowl seam & taking the sides seams in a half inch on each side. It's still plenty roomy; I'd want it a bit more fitted if it was a t shirt.But as it is, it's as comfy as a sweatshirt but much more put together. 

All in all, I'm so glad I saw it through. 

Next time:
  • Smaller size, probably a 4...maybe with an FBA
  • Stick to the original length 
  • Try it with a slinkier with lycra for optimal recovery.  
  • I'll keep the sleeves/armholes the same just to see how it goes. I do have some wrinkles as is, but it's hard to tell how much of that is plain ol' sewing too big of a size. Down the road I might use the sleeves/armholes from my TNT S4076.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Next Big Thing (in my Sewing Adventures)

Well, my Renfrew is stitched up; I just need to get pictures & the Hollyburn is *thisclose* to being finished; so naturally I'm onto planning my next sewing adventure.

Are you ready for this??

Bras. Maybe even with matching undies.  Someday.  Anyway, it was kind of an unexpected idea I had. I had seen Nolita's most recent set & thought 'wow'. I did some looking & rumor has it that bra making isn't that hard. A little more looking & I discovered Cloth Habit's Bra Sewalong, which JUST ended. But it was this post that pushed me over the edge. 'Ten Reasons to Sew Your Own Bras" written by Norma Loehr, custom bra maker. 

I ended up ordering the "Make & Fit" kit from Bra Maker's Supply that includes  a pattern, fitting book & supplies to make 2 bras (I requested red & black. I've never had a red bra before)! They're located in Canada so I imagine the wait time will be on the other side of two weeks, and the shipping costs were...well, prohibitive. I won't be able to order from them all the time.  But I've got a couple pretty good leads on US suppliers, so I'm excited to look into that. 

So that's it. Just wanted to 'record' this journey from the very beginning. If you're interested, this is my "Bra Making" pinterest board.

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