Boylston Bra in Liberty Print

I made another Boylston Bra; this time in a very special Liberty tana lawn that was gifted to me by a close friend.

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There isn’t much to say about this one since I just finished my previous version. Though, I will say that somehow, the top of the upper cup is almost a teeny tiny bit too snug on this one.  This could normally be attributed to simply using a different fabric, but given that there is foam underneath, that shouldn’t be the case here.  My best guess is that I did not accurately document the changes I’d made to the cup the first time around and the pattern for this version is just a tad different.  C’est la vie.

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In addition to the gorgeous Liberty fabric, I used black lining and power net that were left over from my bra-making class at Camp Workroom Social, plus hooks, eyes, sliders, rings, and elastics from a “Small Findings Kit” and foam from Bra Makers Supply.

My one peeve with the two Boylstons I’ve made so far, is that they are not invisible under clothing.  The seam lines across the cups and top edge are not smooth. I know this should not bother me – everybody knows I am wearing a bra under my tops – but I do not like visible seam lines from underpinnings.  My next bras will have lace along the top of the cups to try to minimize this.

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The strap elastic in the Bra Maker’s Supply Small Finding Kits is wider than I was expecting. I don’t love the way it looks, but by golly it is stable.

I haven’t attempted to cover the seam lines between the three pieces of the foam cup with tricot strips yet (despite the fact that Amy from Cloth Habit has a superb video all about it).  It seems (ha!) to me like that would just add bulk, potentially making them even more visible from the outside. But I have not ruled out trying it on a future version.

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That wraps up my Boylstons for now.  But don’t fret, I finished a new-to-me bra pattern over the weekend that I’ll be sharing soon.

PatternOrange Lingerie Boylston Bra
Fabrics: Liberty of London tana lawn, plus leftovers from Camp Workroom Social and additional supplies from Bra Maker’s Supply
Modifications: I took the changes I made on my first version and attempted to make them to my pattern pieces with moderate success.
Photo Location: Visual Arts Center of Richmond Fibre Studio

Boylston Bra in crepe

Whenever I tell people I make my clothes they seem surprised at first, then nod their head, and say something about how their grandmother or mother used to sew.  But there are a few items, that non-sewing people almost always struggle to believe I made myself – bathing suits, jeans and bras.  Do they think they are traditionally made by machines?  They’re also three things that many women hate shopping for, myself included, largely because finding the right fit is incredibly difficult due to the wide variety of lovely shapes women’s bodies come in.

I tackled bathing suits back in 2013 and have a Sophie Bikini on my short list for this year; jeans were the scariest of the lot to me, but now, six months and three pairs later, I almost take for granted that I can make a new pair anytime I want; but bras, well, those took me a little extra nudging.

I made my first bra at Camp Workroom Social last October:

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Two Harriet bras, designed by Cloth Habit. The top one is a muslin used to test the fit.

I came back from camp excited and determined to replace every single ready-to-wear bra in my drawer.  I ordered fabrics and supplies. And then the doubt crept in.  You see, at camp, I had the bra’s designer and two ridiculously capable seamstresses helping me every step of the way, explaining which fabric to use where, what stitch length and width was best, reminding me to sew the elastic with the plush side up on the good side of the fabric first… Now I was on my own (well, as on my own as one can be with Google).  Every time I glanced in the direction of my box of supplies I got overwhelmed.  Plus, there was the added issue of the fact that my camp bras did not fit me in a way that I was completely comfortable.  Not only was the band far too tight, IMHO, causing back and under arm fat rolls that I simply could not tolerate, but the shape just didn’t do my girls any justice.  So this time around, I wanted to use a thin foam lining.  That was just another hurdle my brain struggled to get over.

Then, Closet Case Files posted a link to this post on Instagram. What a beautiful bra.  And it was very similar to what I wanted to make – an Orange Lingerie Boylston bra in woven fabric.  A fellow camper and I both commented that we hadn’t made a bra since camp and Heather nudged us on, reminding us that we had done it once and could do it again.  So I did.  I’m telling you, that woman could tell me to sew all my clothing inside out and I’d probably do it.

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Just look at that beauty!

I printed my pattern, cut out my fabric, and got started on assembly on Sunday afternoon.  I then worked on it for about an hour on Monday, and by the end of my class Tuesday night it was complete.  And it is pretty much perfect. Even the fit.

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You can almost see the crepe texture of the fabric in this shot

The fabric is a crepe that has been languishing in my stash for years (another piece from the estate of two deceased seamstresses that I purchased for <$2/yard).  The pattern on it reminds me of the 80’s and I always assumed I’d use it for a small inside pocket or facing  or a lining.  But then when it came time to make my first Boylston, which is designed for light woven fabrics, it seemed like a good choice since I had no idea if the size I chose would fit and I wouldn’t be too distressed if it went into the donation bin.

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The foam, elastics, hardware, underwires, bow, and secondary fabrics came from Bra Maker’s Supply plus a couple leftovers from camp.

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Nice and neat on the inside

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Close up of the front of strap where it meets the cup

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Close up of the back of the strap

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I found this bra went together very smoothly, but I will say I found the directions a bit sparse, at least as a newbie.  And the instructions include no information on adjustments you ought to make when using foam.  So, if you decide you want to try this pattern out, I found Lauren’s two posts on foam cup Boylston bra assembly indispensable and basically just followed along with those (here and here). Lauren references a trio of posts from Cloth Habit on making a foam bra that I highly recommend following as well, especially Part II.

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I had hoped to start my second Boylston bra this afternoon – I do have a drawer of ready to wears that clearly need replacing! – but got a bit sidetracked by life today. But I already have a special Liberty fabric, plus all the other materials I need, set aside and hope to have it done by the end of the weekend.

If you’ve been thinking about making a bra I highly recommend the Boylston.  If you are feeling intimidated, give it a go with the help of the links above.  And if I can be of any assistance, please let me know.

Pattern: Orange Lingerie Boylston Bra
Fabrics: Vintage crepe plus bra making supplies from Bra Maker’s Supply
Modifications: I slimmed the back band to fit into the two-hook closure and adjusted the foam cup seam allowances before butting them together under a zigzag stitch – that’s it!
Photo Location: Visual Arts Center of Richmond Fibre Studio

 

Planning can make all the difference

I sewed quite a bit last year.  36 pieces, in fact.  Many of those get worn and I’m proud of having made them (Jeans! I made my own jeans! This still amazes me).  However, toward the end of the year, in early November actually, I became listless. I stopped picking projects because they were something I really wanted to make or wear, and started making projects simply to keep making and stay busy.  I started choosing patterns I thought would be quick and easy and rarely spent enough time making necessary adjustments or pairing those patterns with the right fabric, instead just pulling a decent option from my fabric stash. I cut corners and got sloppy, two things I rarely do in any facet of my life.  As a result, and not surprisingly, many of those projects ended up in the donation box.  So my wardrobe was no more interesting than before and my fabric stash, while a bit smaller, is still embarrassingly large.

I’m approaching this year differently. Rather than focusing on volume and decreasing my fabric “collection”, I made a list of clothing items I actually want to add to my wardrobe. It all started with my #2017makenine list on Instagram:

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StyleArc Lorie jacket | Closet Case Ginger jeans (pairs 4&5) | Vogue 8633 in navy wool | Closet Case Kelly Anorak – hopefully in red | Gertie’s Butterick 6413 | Megan Nielsen Dove Blouse to Dress hack | Vogue 1316 – in old denim just like Handmade by Carolyn’s | Closet Case Sophie bikini | more bras

That list has already changed a wee bit…  I’ve added a few pieces:

  • A Mondrian dress to wear to the ‘Yves Saint Laurent – The Perfection of Style’ exhibit coming to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond this May.
Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian Dress (1965) in cream & navy

Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian Dress (1965) in cream & navy.  My plan to draft the pattern for this dress involves duct tape.

  • A Grainline Archer to wear out running errands when I am too lazy to change out of my yoga pants but want to cover my behind.
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Grain line Archer shirt – I’m not sure if mine will be plaid

  • And possibly a Chanel-esque suit using a couple Style Arc pieces I just discovered.

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I’ve also removed/substituted an item:

  • After further thought, I think it is unlikely I’ll make the Gertie/Butterick dress.  While I love that dress on Gertie, I highly doubt I’d feel comfortable wearing it out.  Instead I’m going to make a different party-appropriate dress, like the By Hand London Elisalex dress or maybe even my own version of Roland Mouret’s “Galaxy” dress.
Roland Mouret's Galaxy dress

Roland Mouret’s original “Galaxy” dress

If/when I go back to work full time, I may need to adjust my plans further, depending on how much sewing time I have and a possible office dress code.  And let’s be honest, I can pretty much guarantee a new pattern will be released this year that I will need to make immediately (Closet Case has a new pattern coming out next week…). But that is one of the best parts of having a plan: just because you have it, doesn’t mean it is not flexible. It’s just a place to start.

And you want to know the best part?  I own almost all of these patterns and most of the fabrics.

I just recently completed my first item from the list – the Megan Nielsen Dove Blouse hacked into a dress in a beautifully drapey black and grey checked wool blend.  I’ll hopefully get some pics of me wearing that posted here shortly. But here’s a quick snap on Violet.

Megan Nielsen Dove Blouse pattern hacked into a dress with straight hem and shortened sleeves

Megan Nielsen Dove Blouse pattern hacked into a dress with straight hem and shortened sleeves

Given that I am a planner by nature, it’s a bit odd that I’ve never approached my sewing like this before.  Even just three weeks into the year I’m already finding it much more enjoyable and less haphazard.  And having this process in place just may help me cut back on pattern and fabric purchases (well, maybe).

Now to decide which piece I’ll make next…

Asaka Kimono

I don’t wear a robe often, but when I do it’s with heels on a windy day in downtown Richmond in broad daylight.

As soon as I realized I was going to need a robe for Camp Workroom Social this weekend, I knew the Asaka Kimono was the pattern for me. Just. Look. At. Those. Sleeves.

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The sleeve design – two piece and wide cut, with a deep vent from wrist to elbow – is somehow both glamorous (look at them!) and functional (they won’t hang into my cup of tea or ever need to be rolled up).

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Several seamstresses have made this garment to be worn as a dress. You can see my very favorite example here. However, I made mine out of a rather boring but soft and breathable cotton/linen blend, specifically to be worn as a robe. So the thought of going out in public to have my pictures taken was a bit awkward. (And Brian rightfully pointed out the irony when I commented on a passerby wearing his pajamas outside. Touché.) But as soon as the wind hit those sleeves, making them flutter every which way, the awkward feeling passed and I felt a bit like a super hero who happened to also be a movie star. And that led to some twirling. In the empty parking lot. With people walking by and watching.

It is unlikely that I will make this pattern again – how many robes does a girl need? – which is sort of too bad. It was a quick and easy make that really stands out between the sleeves and the nice neat collar finish.

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Pattern: Named Asaka Kimono, size 6
Fabric: Fire engine red linen/cotton blend with red velvet ribbon trim inside the sleeves
Modifications: Shortened the sleeves by 3″ but left the robe length long
Mural: By Gaia, for the 2012 G40 Art Summit in conjunction with the Richmond Mural Project presented by Art Whino. Located at 11 West Grace Street, Richmond, VA.

Ginger Jeans: Mind blown

I dislike trying on clothing in stores. Nine times out of ten, I leave the changing room disappointed. Not in the clothing, but in my body, and the fact that it doesn’t fit into industry standard clothes. I know this is silly. I know that industry standards probably fit less than half of the population, but nevertheless, I usually leave the store vowing to not eat again that day and to workout as soon as I get home. When people ask me why I sew, I’ve normally responded with a quick and easy answer like: (a) I will never show up somewhere wearing the same outfit as somebody else, or (b) that I can make an item *exactly* as I want it (more on this below). Those are two very valid reasons. But the reason I will likely never stop sewing is that it gives me the power to never judge my body against industry standards again.  Nobody (and no body)  deserves that.

This is my second pair of Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Files, a brand that in my opinion, sets itself apart by showing home seamstresses that we can, in fact, make anything we set our mind on.  (Heather is pretty much my hero.) Before I cut into my precious denim for this pair, I altered the pattern so that they would fit my body (no easy task given the 12″ difference between my was it and “full hip”): I took a wedge out of the back yoke and contoured the waistband to hug that lower back curve; since I used the high-rise version of the pattern (view B) this time, I lowered the waistline in front just a bit more than in the back to avoid peek-a-booty; and I straightened the skinny leg and then took it a bit further adding a mild flare to accommodate oxford shoes and fall boots.  And once that was done – and that took maybe an hour or two thanks to loads of useful tips from Heather – I cut and sewed my denim and slid these beauties on. And guess what. They fit like a glove. And more importantly, I even like the way they look on my body. Mind blown.

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You’ll just need to trust me that there is no gaping in the back waist. I completely forgot to get that shot while standing on a rather busy street corner:

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As I mentioned above, a bonus to sewing your own clothes is being able to make them however you’d like. As you may have spotted, for this pair, in addition to the sizing alterations, I skipped the classic gold topstitching and opted for two shades of blue.  I was tentative about this at first but decided if I hated it I could always rip it out and re-do it.  Once I got started – I loved it.  And then I remembered Heather’s flare version here, and this happened…

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And, speaking of customizing, how often do your jeans literally match your top?!?

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I still have enough Cone Mills denim to make two, maybe even three, more pairs of jeans.  Now I just need to decide what each of those pairs will look like and how I’d like them to fit my body.  Imagine, make, wear – repeat. Sew forever.

Pattern: Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans, View B with mods for mid-rise and mild flare legs
Fabric: Cone Mills indigo S-Gene 12oz denim (88% cotton, 10% polyester, 2% lycra)
Worn withSimplicity 1462 in Anna Maria Horner Field Raindrops & Poppies cotton
Mural: “Overthink” by Onur for the Richmond Mural Project 2015 presented  by Art Whino Gallery

This is what happens when a “type A” is also a “collector”

Alternate title, how I organize and catalog my massive fabric stash.

At last count, I had 455 yards of fabric. Granted, that was a month ago – I’ve acquired and sewn quite a bit of fabric since then, but it gives you a sense of what I am up against.  When that number was smaller, in the 150-200 yard range — before I met a man who had purchased the estate of two deceased seamstresses and “needed my help” getting rid of it for $2/yard — it was folded into clear plastic bins and I’d rummage through it all as needed. Even then, there were lots of issues with this lack of a system:

  • I forgot what I had – to the point that I have three different cuts of emerald green stretch cotton sateen,
  • even if I remembered I owned it, I could certainly not recall how much of it I had,
  • I’d often dig through the bins to get a piece of fabric for a project only to realize it was thicker/thinner, drapy-er/stiffer… than what I needed,
  • I could never remember if I had pre-washed and dried it. This is critical, especially with cotton, which makes up a large portion of my “collection”.

When my yardage-on-hand doubled in the matter of a week, I knew I needed a way to catalog it all.  So I googled.

This post got me started. But I wanted more flexibility with what I tracked on each card, so I decided to just use blank index cards. I got my cards, hole puncher, key rings, stapler, scissors and measuring tape and got to work. But the issue with that system for me became apparent almost immediately — volume.  The key rings were difficult to flip through when loaded with cards and fabric swatches and I was going to need 5+ rings. Those rings would not stack neatly and were bulky.  Then it hit me — the rolodex. You know, those hunks of metal that used to sit on the corner of every desk (and if you were super-popular you had multiples); the antiques that you can buy on eBay for $20, or Etsy, for that perfectly curated vintage looking office space, for $100.  It was the perfect solution to my problem. So I bought one, along with the cards, and it all came together over a glorious weekend.

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Now, when I decide on a pattern I want to make, I simply flip through my rolodex and pull out the cards for each of my fabric options.  I then take those cards to my stash and pull the fabrics for review.

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Up next: Another pair of Ginger jeans, this time in view B with a mid-rise waist and slightly widened legs

For now, I’m still using the original rolodex card dividers – C is for cotton, D is for denim, F is for fleece and felt, H is for home decor, K is for knit…

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Not all of the cards have the same categories of information – it depends on how thorough I am feeling when I catalog it – but I always try to include my best guess at fabric content, the width and length of the fabric, and a small swatch. I also like to include when and where I bought it and for how much money, and if I have washed/dried the fabric already.

After I’ve finished a project, if I have fabric left, I update the card with the amount remaining and indicate what the first portion was used to make and when.

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A random sampling

I also have a sticker on the back of each card telling me which tub it is stored in.  I just made this update recently and it has already saved me a lot of time.

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A corner of the guest room

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If I was truly as organized as many people think I am, I’d also keep an Excel spreadsheet tracking my totals (in & out) so I would always know exactly how much fabric I have on hand, and I’d have an app on my phone with all of this information so I could access it when I just happen to accidentally find myself in a fabric store (how in the world did I get here?!?!?), but I’m not there just yet.

I also have a fairly large collection of sewing patterns – both vintage and modern.  This post, also from Colette Patterns, taught me how to best store and organize those.  I still have a bit of fine-tuning to do there, making the my categories more detailed and I do not have an electronic/portable database of those yet, but I’m making progress.