Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Rub Off Bra

I've made myself a number of bras now, about 5 or so in total - plus swimwear made from my Bravo Bella bra pattern, but with every bra I've made I find I have one big problem. The underwire keeps poking out.

I originally thought it was just the makeshift underwire casing that I was making myself, but then I bought some proper casing and it still kept happening.  So I had a good hard look at my bras and compared them to the couple of ready to wear ones that I still have.  What I realised is that my new bras are still not sitting perfectly against my breast bone and I think that that warping is making the underwire poke through.

So what I did is take my Bravo Bella Bravo Bra #2 bridge pattern, and the one bra that I have that sits perfectly against my breast bone and compared the two - yep there is a lot of difference between the shape of the bridges.  The Bravo Bra is much more angled.

So whats a girl to do - make myself a new pattern based on the bra that fits like I want.  Now that I understand how these things go together it was really quite easy.  I traced each of the pieces of the bra onto a piece of paper and added seam allowances and then just used the same instructions for the Bravo Bra to put together my new bra.

The only difference was that my RTW bra didn't have elastic along the top of the cup, but that was easy enough to finish off.

I still had some underwire casing from my last bra notions order, the underwires I stole out of my orange paisley bra - its just about had it any way. I used a piece of boning at the side seams and covered it with some underwire casing taken off a $3 store bought bra and the pink elastic is the straps off that same $3 bra.

The band is your basic 5/8" no roll elastic as I've found that that gives the best support.  The straps and were taken off an old maternity bra that's got chucked once I was finished breast feeding.  I kept the straps because they're good 3/4" wide straps.  The hook and eye at the back is from an old bra in the discard pile (I would have used the one of, but as this was a trial I wasn't going to worry about that.

The fabric for the bra was all from stash.  Peacock feather black poly lycra for the outside and purple nylon tricot inside.  A small bit of left over power mesh is inside the band back.

This bra doesn't have the best finish.  I just wanted to try it out before I spent too much time and effort.

So the verdict:  I've been wearing the bra for a couple of months now.  The first time I wore it the underwires poked out, but I  reinforced the ends of the underwire casing and I haven't had any problems since. The cups are maybe a smidge too big.  I think next time I'd like to try the cup shape from the Bravo Bra inside this bridge and see how that works.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Snuggly Blue

Here are another two of those simple garments that I made to take a break from my coat of suits.

I started with the skirt.  I've been craving a swishy skirt to wear lately so when I found this blue knit rayon at Walmart I knew what it was going to be.  I contemplated making a dress, but decided in the end that if I made a skirt and top each piece would get more wear.

I knew I wanted lot of volume in the skirt so I cut a full circle.  The only problem was that, with the width of the fabric, if I cut the waist big enough I lost too much in length and midi skirts really don't work on me (too short) so I cut another two half circles and sewed them all together.  Now I had lots of volume and lots of length.  I then serged on a very wide (5 or 6 inches) waistband of grey jersey.

As it turns out I kept too much length and made it a bit too voluminous.  After washing it once and wearing it once or twice I kept tripping over it - it grew quite a bit! I also didn't really like the grey waistband after all so I ended up cutting the grey off, took in the three seams about 2" tapering to nothing about halfway down the skirt and added a 1.5" waistband of the same blue material.  Much better.

I didn't bother finishing the bottom of the skirt, all seams on the inside were done on the serger.

I then wanted to make a top to go with it.  As its getting into fall I wanted it long sleeve so I pulled out the pattern I used to make my slit sleeve black top and made it up exactly as I did last time.

I finished the neckline with a facing that was top stitched using a stretchy stitch on my machine, hem and sleeve edges were turned under twice and top stitched as well for a clean finish.

The problem I have is the neckline tends to stretch out a bit with wear - I should have used some stabiliser in the neckline.

I'm not in love with the top, The material was a bit too thin for this pattern, but it's comfortable so it will probably get plenty of wear this fall.  The skirt has already had plenty of outings and will get many more so that's a win in my book.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Is it a Coat or a Bathrobe?

For the last month now I've been working on my entry into the Refashioners Contest.  This year the theme was suits and I decided that I was going to make a new winter coat.  Man that thing is a beast  I've been working on it on and off for weeks but never seem to get anywhere so every now and then I  stop and do a smaller project just to keep me going.

One such shorter project was this one - a  simple coat.  I've noticed in the last couple of years that during winter I am always wearing one of my ubiquitous fleeces.  They provide the warmth I need (yes I am a major frog - I hate being cold) whilst still being really comfortable.  But I hate always wearing the fleeces - its boring. And so last year I decided to try a few new coats that I could use instead that are a bit less boring than the fleeces.   My first attempt was my purple funnel neck coat.  I really like it, but I still want more options.

Then I was at the fabric store the other day and found this beautiful fabric.  I really love the way the wool is sewn onto the black background in patterns.  So pretty.

I have no idea what sort of fabric the backing is - I can't decide if it's a thick cotton or if its actually wool - but it doesn't really matter.  Whatever it is with all the thread from the embellishment it's seriously scratchy so I knew I was going to have to line it.

Now I just had to figure out what pattern to make.  I wanted a really basic shape that would let the fabric shine.

I trawled through my stash and found my print out of the Burda Style Bomber Jacket that I used to make my reversible satin bomber jacket.  When I looked at the pattern closely I realised that it had the raglan sleeves and simple neckline that I wanted and it had appropriate ease for a jacket so with a few minor modifications it would be perfect. 

I know - it looks nothing like a bomber jacket does it?

But it is - the changes I made were not really that significant.

I left off the bands at neckline, hem and cuff.
I extended the bottom of the coat 6 inches - flaring the pattern pieces out slightly at the bottom.. 
I extended the length of the arms by a couple of inches to account for the removed cuffs.
I made one slight adjustment to the pattern at the front neckline to make it a gentle curve into the front edge.
I left off the welt pockets (no way was I trying to do welts in that fabric) and sewed on patch pockets instead.

Fully lined the pattern in fleece, top stitching around the neckline and front edges.  I made the lining 1" shorter than the coat and then bagged the lining.

The fleece I used inside is just something I had in stock - green paisley, I figured it's not likely to be seen too much so it didn't really matter what I used.

I added a tie to keep it closed rather than the zipper.

Am still debating removing the tie and adding a couple of snaps instead. I'm not sure if the tie makes it look too much like a bathrobe.   I'll see how it goes once I get a chance to wear it.  As it is we've had a very warm October so far - well obviously I have two new coats I want to wear now and another on the way - now it will never get cold again!

But seriously I really like this coat - its so simple, yet so warm and snuggly - it really does feel like I'm wearing my bathrobe.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Pattern Review Sewing Bee - Round 2

Well my Axel Rose Skirt made it through Round 1 of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee - so onto round 2 we go.  When the subject for round 2 was released I was quite apprehensive.  The brief was to make something with Fabulous Sleeves.

When I think sleeves I think of two things.  

1. Anne of Green Gables puffed sleeves (If you've ever read the book you'll know what I'm talking about). 

As much as I love the flowing bell sleeves I’ve made them before and they are totally impractical in everyday life, they drag in your food, you can’t wash your hands properly, you can’t wear a jacket over the top of them… with my preference for making something that I would actually wear I ruled out bell sleeves.  

The Anne of Green Gables puffed sleeves were also ruled out – whilst I love a puffed sleeve I use a subdued version of them all the time, and if I were to go any bigger I would be pushing costume.  

So what does that leave me with?  To the internet!

I spent some time browsing the internet and found a number of different sleeve styles that I could see myself wearing everyday but that were still spectacular.  I ended up deciding on an origami pleated spiral sleeve.

The next question was how to make the spiral - there was no pattern for this sleeve - just the picture above.

I started by finding a good sleeve pattern.  I went with Burda Styles Asymmetrical Paneled Funnel-Neck Jacket 01/2015 #104A.  I liked this pattern because 1.  I know it fits, and 2 its a two piece sleeve pattern so I can use the outside piece to put the spiral and the inner piece will just stay the same.

I traced off a copy of the outer sleeve pattern piece, chose the spot on my upper arm where I wanted the center of the spiral to go and drew lines radiating out from this point where I wanted my pleats to go.  

My first attempt at making the spiral out of paper failed miserably.

Too many pleats, and when I opened it it was still a spiral, not possible to cut it out.  Back to the internet I went and this time I found a video of someone putting the spiral together - it was just a minute long video, no details but it was just enough to give me a basic idea of how it worked.  and I came up with a pattern.

Which when I opened it out looks like this.

OK so I now had a sleeve pattern, what was I going to put it on?   Because the sleeve I chose was quite structured I wanted a structured garment on which to mount it.  For me that means coat/jacket. 

I decided that since I was using the burda jacket sleeve pattern I may as well use the rest of the pattern too.  However  I didn’t want all the other seaming detail or the asymmetrical front,  as I thought this might detract from my sleeve detailing, so I spent quite some time manipulating the pattern.

I  took all the small pieces of pattern that make up the Burda jacket and joined them together to create a couple of larger pattern pieces.  I joined all the back pieces together to make a single on the fold pattern piece.  That meant I lost a little bit of shaping around the neckline but it wasn't as bad as I feared.   In the front I was able to cut it straight down the center line, and then extended that line out 5 cm to create a button band.  I combined the rest of the front pattern pieces creating a princess seam down the front for shaping.  During later fittings I found that I needed a couple of darts in the back so I decided to continue the  theme and turned the darts into a princess seam on the back as well.

I then extended all the pattern pieces to ankle length to create a long coat.

After so much pattern manipulation  the final product does not look very much like the original pattern, the only feature that remains is the Funnel-Neck.

Now that I had a pattern I had to find the fabric.

When I first started planning the project I envisioned it in an ombre fabric that I could used to show off the spiral detail in my sleeve, however  do you think I could find any ombre fabric in the stores?  of course not -You can never find something when you specifically go looking for it - or is that just me?

I tried taking a piece of cotton material from my stash and bleaching some of the colour out of one end, but that didn't work at all.  So then I thought about dying my own.   In my search for fabirc I had found a cotton shower curtain in Target that faded from white to teal so I grabbed a couple of those and a bottle of purple dye and dip dyed the white end of the fabric purple.  So now I had fabric that faded from purple to Teal.

It wasn't quite what I envisioned - it was a bit flat looking, but I cut out my sleeves,

and made up the coat - and hated it!  I asked my husband what he thought and he said it reminded him of a monks robes - yeah not really the look I was going for.

So back to the drawing board - and so plan B came into effect.  Same pattern different fabric.  

I went through my fabric stash to see what I could find and came up with a piece of old purple upholstery velvet.  I have no idea of the content of this material, though I’m pretty sure that it’s a polyester of some sort.  It has a short purple pile with a definite nap which I think works really well in the pleated spiral creating colour variations as the material changes direction.

I cut out my fabric for my spiral and then basted all the pleats in place joining the two ends to make a continuous circle of pleats.

I then went back and hand sewed each of the back side pleats to each other so that the whole thing would stay together when I took out the basting threads on the front.

Once I had my spiral I placed the original sleeve pattern over the top and cut it down to the size required.  Because the spiral did not reach the end of the sleeve I cut another piece of fabric to finish off the sleeve and pieced it onto the bottom of the spiral.

When I was sure I liked the spiral in the new fabric I went back to cut out the rest of the jacket.  The only problem was I only had a small amount of this fabric, 2 yards at the most, so I cut all my pattern pieces off at hip length again to allow me to get the rest of the jacket cut out.

The actual sewing was pretty straight forward.  Because I didn't want to press the fabric too much each seam was sewed and the seams hand pressed opened and then I top stitched each side of the seam catching the seam allowance in place. on each side of the seam.

The pattern that I created didn't have any pockets, but I knew that I was going to need pockets in any coat I made so I added a welt pocket angled between the front princess seam and the side seam.  The pocket bags were made from some purple satin from my stash.

To support the sleeve/shoulder area  I added a sleeve head made from two layers of warm and natural batting to both the lower and upper edges of the sleeve seam.

Once the outer shell was done I had to figure out how to line the jacket.  I knew that I wanted a contrast fabric that I could show off when the neckline is turned back and after searching through my stash found a beautiful piece of teal satin. It has a beautiful luster that matches the sheen on the velvet creating a very luxurious look.  Unfortunately there was not quite enough for the entire lining so the sleeves were lined using a plain black satin.

I used the same basic pattern pieces to create a lining for the jacket.  I created facings using the outer material along the front edges and the neck edge and understitched them in place.  The lining was then sewn to the facing easing the extra width across the back into the facing seam.

I hemmed the outer fabric of the jacket using bias hem tape and hand stitching. 

The lining was turned under twice and machine hemmed in place. 

At the cuff of the sleeve I turned under both the outer and lining fabrics and hand stitched them in place with the lining about 3/8” inside the sleeve.

I added 6 buttons and button holes down the front of the jacket. (I was worried about my machine handling button holes through two thick layers of fabric but it turns out I had no problems).

Finally I used a teal embroidery thread and a basic back stitch to stitch along the edges of each of the pleats in the sleeve.  As well as adding visual interest this also helps the sleeve keeps it’s shape.

My only real issue with the garment is the pocket placement.  When I created my pattern my jacket was a good 8cm longer than it finished up and the pockets were in a good place.  During construction I decided that the jacket looked better in a shorter length and so I cut about 5 cm off the bottom of the jacket before turning the hem up 3 cm.   Unfortunately this meant sacrificing pocket depth.  In order to keep as much usable pocket as possible I’ve tucked the pockets into the hem of the coat and sewn the hem to the inner layer of the pocket bag rather than to the coat itself, not a perfect solution, but better than no pocket.

I absolutely love these sleeves.  However I’m not sure how much use this jacket will get.  The fabric that I used for it is very thick and this means the jacket is heavy and feels a bit bulky to wear.   I tend to like my jackets to be interlined to make them warm enough for a New England winter or even fall (which is still winter according on my Australian blood), but due to the weight of the fabric I couldn’t do it for this jacket – we shall see how it stands up once the temperature drops.

It was really hard to get good photos of this jacket due to the dark colour - I've had to overexpose everything to show any details.  I knew when I chose this material that it that this would be a problem but I decided to go for it anyway.  It didn't help that the one day I had to take these photos was a dark rainy day either  I did the best I could.

So the bad news is this jacket did not get me through to round 3 of the Sewing Bee.  Oh well - onto the next contest - keep an eye out for my entry into the suit refashioners challenge!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Pattern Review Sewing Bee 2017 - Round 1

Well August turned out to be a very slow sewing month for me.  After July where I sewed up a storm I felt like my kids and I didn't really need any more summer clothes and I wasn't ready to start sewing fall stuff yet, so I just took some time off from sewing.  By the end of the month I was starting to get a little antsy though, but I didn't want to start anything knowing that the Pattern Review sewing bee was just around the corner.  I didn't want to use up any of my fabric stash and then find out,  I could have used that for the Bee etc...I know I know...I'm just a little obsessed.

But anyway on Friday September 1st Pattern Review finally announced the challenge for round 1 of the sewing bee.  It was to make a pencil skirt inspired by a piece of music or a musician.

Of course my first thoughts were of the metal/grunge music that I got into as a teenager.  And with that thought came the memory of the flanno shirt tied around the waist - it was pretty much my uniform for a number of years inspired by many of my favourite band members.  In order to narrow down my inspiration I went looking through photos on the internet - strangely enough the only photos that I could find of my favourite band members wearing this style was Axl Rose.  Well considering that Gun 'N Roses were probably the first band that I really fell in love with I figured that the following photos was going to be my inspiration for this competition.

I did have a second thought and contemplated creating a brown corduroy skirt  based on Eddie Vedder's brown corduroy jacket, but decided when I was looking at the brown corduroy that I was less likely to wear that skirt so went back to my original idea.

Once I had my idea down I headed for the fabric store, thankfully my husband had taken the day off work so he stayed home with the kids so I was able to browse for as long as I wanted.  I stopped first at my favourite discount fabric store Sewfisticated, but they didn't have anything close to what I was looking for so I headed down to Fabric Place Basement instead.

I had a piece of red flannel in mind that I was looking for, but unfortunately I couldn't find it - well not in flannel anyway.  I did find something that I really liked in a chiffon type fabric, but the right plaid flannel eluded me. I found another red plaid flannel that wasn't the perfect colour scheme, but was close enough to my vision and bought both that and the plaid chiffon. I also found some really nice looking and feeling black faux leather and since I knew I wanted some contrast on my skirt I bought that as well.

I spent the entire trip home trying to decide which piece of fabric to use and finally decided that I wanted to go with the flannel - that was the inspiration after all - and I'm really glad I did because I love the way it turned out.

Whilst I put my fabric through the washer and dryer I grabbed the computer and started searching for patterns. I found a number of patterns that were ok, especially on the Lekala website, but there was nothing that was perfect, so in the end I decided I would make the pattern from scratch and that way I could get all the details in that I wanted.

Specifically I wanted a V shaped waistband.  I like this style on me because it can make me look a little less short waisted, but also I wanted the V shape to copy the shape of the shirt tied around the waist look.

For anyone not interested in all the nitty gritty details skip to the photos at the end of the post now - I wanted to document this in case I want to try it again another day!

In order to create the pattern I grabbed some old bottom weight cotton that I bought cheaply to use as muslin material and set to work with my dress form.  I cut a strip the width that I wanted the waistband and then draped it on the dress form, sewed a seam up the front to create the V and seams down the sides contouring around my waist.  I then cut 4 panels a bit bigger than each section of the waist band and sewed them to the bottom edges of the waistband allowing for plenty of overlap at each join.  Because of the angle of the waistband in the front this left a large gap in the center of the skirt so I cut another triangular piece of fabric that I sewed between the two front pieces to fill in the gap.  When I saw the way that looked I knew I had to keep that feature.  I was like that's the gap between the edge of the flanno shirt.

So then I started sewing up all the vertical seams.  This took a few tries to get the balance right taking some width out at the side seams, some out at the triangle at the front and some out along the back seam. till I finally got it to a place that I was happy with.

I then trimmed all the seams to 1/2" wide and took the whole thing apart and traced around them to create an actual pattern, this allowed me to account for any slight differences between the two sides to make it symmetrical etc - especially on that front triangle.

I could then start cutting out my actual fabric. I aligned the stripe in the fabric with the angle of the waistband so that plaid was on an angle rather than straight up and down.

Not bad work for one day.

Day 2 I started putting the final skirt together.  First I took each piece of the plaid flannel material and serged around all the edges to stop any fraying.

I started with the back pieces first sewing the lower flannel pieces to the leather waistband.
Each seam was pressed and then top stitched at both 1/8" and 1/4" to strengthen the seam.

Next step was to put the front section together, the two side front pieces were sewed onto the faux leather center triangle, and finally the two side seams were sewn up.

To allow me to get the skirt on and off I went with an exposed metal teeth zipper right down the back.  I originally planned to just put in a 9" long zipper, but I really struggled to get the seam below the zipper to sit nicely so in the end I changed to a full length separating zipper.

I used an iron on interfacing along the length of the back seam before sewing on the zipper.

I then had to think about the lining.  I knew I wanted to line the skirt as I assume I'll probably wear it most in winter with leggings underneath so I didn't want flannel inside.  I picked up some polyester fabric from the discount table at Fabric Place Basement.  It has a really nice feel to it, soft and slippery, but not satiny like normal lining material.

I taped all my pattern pieces together so I just had a front and back and cut those pieces out of the poly material.  I sewed the pieces together at the side seam and then serged all free edges.

 I then sewed it to the main skirt along the top edge and the down the back seams encasing the zipper.

To finish the lining I turned the bottom up twice and hand stitched the hem.  The main fabric I sewed some black 2" bias hem binding to the bottom, turned it up and again hand stitched it.

I hand stitched the hem and lining down the back seam below the zipper to neatly finish all edges.

Once the skirt was finished I decided that it might be a bit too plain for a contest, it didn't really show too many sewing techniques so I decided to go back and add some pockets.  I found a scrap of leather on the floor cut at an angle and decided that it actually looked pretty good so that gave me the idea of making flap pockets.

I did a some research on how to make flap pockets, having never done one before and made a few practice pockets on scrap fabric.

Then I had to figure out where I wanted them front or back.

I decided on back so that they weren't competing with the triangular insert.

It wasn't easy trying to install the pockets when I already had the lining in place, and actually managed to make a tiny cut in the lining at one point, but I got them done.

I left off the welt under the flap just because I wanted to keep the pockets as minimal as possible as I didn't want an lot of extra bulk on my bum.

Then I just needed a few embellishments - I mean since when was Axl Rose ever seen without a  bling all over.

I took myself to the local Michaels craft store and found some charms with musical notes on them which I thought would fit the theme nicely.

They were a silver colour however and I thought that might look a bit weird with the gold zipper so I bought some gold metallic paint and gave them a thin coat.  They were then hand stitched on above the sewn on snaps that I used to hold the flap closed.

When I was at the craft store I also found some stickers that look like gold studs.  I stuck a few along the bottom edge of the leather waistband to make a real "Metal" statement.

I love the skirt and will probably wear it with a black t shirt if I ever wear it, but I wanted to really make it pop for the contest, so I decided to make a shirt to go with it.

After sketching out a few ideas one kept popping up that looked best. I used the leather again to make another angled band around the bottom, then draped the plaid fabric around, added a few bust darts and a couple of leather straps and it was done well enough for what I needed.  I used my other gold zipper to do up the top, but didn't bother with any real finishing techniques.  I doubt I'll ever wear the top outside of these photos as it requires a strapless bra and they are so uncomfortable!

Final verdict - I love my new skirt, but I don't know how much I'll wear it.  Whilst it's comfortable to wear, its not exactly practical - even getting up and down stairs is hard work in a pencil skirt, getting into the car even harder.  And it's really not good for lounging around in.  That said I do think I'll actually wear the skirt on occasion, just cause it's so cool.