Fun with Soft Bras

As promised, here is a post with actual finished projects! Huzzah! Here I have two more soft bras to share with you – another Watson Bra and a new pattern, the Colette Florence from the February edition of Seamwork. Both used fun laces I purchased at Britex, and both were super fun and easy!

First off, the Florence. I think it’s important to note at the outset that this is a lounge bra, not a regular bra, so it’s not really something I would wear out of the house. It’s not designed to provide the support of a normal bra, and is meant to provide comfort with light support rather than a lot of shaping or lift. However, for days when I can prance around my living room in my skivvies, it’s perfect!

I made a straight size XS with basically no fit alterations aside from taking about an inch or so total out at the center back seam. This bra is made with stretch lace and stretch fabrics, so the fit is pretty forgiving. Since this is intended as a quick beginner pattern, it doesn’t take into account varying cup/band sizes, and instead just goes XS, S, M, etc (and not 32A, 32B, etc). Also, it is designed like a typical knit sewing pattern rather than like a bra pattern, meaning that it has 3/8″ seam allowances instead of 1/4″, and uses a different order of construction. I tried to get fancy and use my “special bra making skillz” (such applying the elastic flat, etc), but learned the hard way that you really should just follow the instructions! So, to all you seasoned bra-makers out there, this pattern is sort of a hybrid bra/regular sewing pattern, and not a “true bra.”

Here she is!

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Isn’t she a beauty? I even managed to match up the lace pattern at the center back seam without even trying – I love it when that happens!!

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The one construction change I made was to add clear elastic to stabilize the neck edge of the lace. I also added channeling, but not underwires. The pattern didn’t seem to have enough room at the center front for proper channeling treatment, so be warned. Or maybe I did it wrong – quite possible! I tried adding a mesh lining, but found that it interfered with the lace pattern, and since this isn’t intended to be a supportive bra anyhow, I decided to just leave it out. So, this bra is definitely “skimpier” than I’d normally like, but as I said, for lazy days around the house, it’s quite luxurious!

A few guts shots: IMG_2503 IMG_2505

And now for a bra I am extremely proud of – my padded Watson bra!! Adding padding completely solved the “show-through” issue I had discussed in my last two bra posts, and also provided a nice amount of shaping. I definitely plan on padding all of my Watsons from here on out!

So, how did I accomplish this seemingly mysterious feat? Well, it turns out it’s actually not that difficult! Amy from Cloth Habit and designer of the Watson Bra had actually done a series of posts about a year ago on adding foam cups to a bra, which I found extremely helpful. I also found an intrepid blogger that had already tried adding foam to the Watson, which I found quite helpful.

Basically, what I did was remove the seam allowances from the foam, except for where the cup meets the cradle, zig-zag the pieces of foam, and then make up the bra as usual. There were a few other minor construction details I had to change, but Amy talks in depth about those in her blog series, so I would highly recommend reading her posts if you’re interested in trying this.

I got the foam from Bra Makers Supply, which is definitely a new favorite resource! The current exchange rate with the Canadian dollar means that shopping there from the US is a really good deal!! Good thing a lot of my favorite pattern companies are Canadian :).

Oh, and here’s what it looks like:

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I really love the texture on this stretch lace – it has an almost 3-D effect:

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And since I’m sure you’re dying to see the guts:

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You can see that I added some fold-over elastic to the edge of the foam – I thought it provided a cleaner finish, and hopefully will also elongate the life of the foam cups.

So there you have it! Two new bras! And just wait – there’s more! But I’ll save those for another day :).

Sewing Meditations, Week 6: Time

Before I get started on this week’s meditation I thought I should just mention  – I promise I do still sew!! In fact, I have been in such a sewing frenzy this past week or two that I haven’t wanted to stop to photograph or blog my projects. But, today I did a BIG photoshoot of several finished garments, so be on the lookout for several new project posts in the next few days! So sorry it’s been so long!

And now on to my thoughts for this week. In my previous meditation posts, I’ve talked a lot about different types of resources. Fabric is an obvious resource, and even our bodies can be thought of as another resource – both need good stewardship to be used and enjoyed wisely. Today, I want to focus on a third type of resource – time.

Time is such a funny thing – when we don’t have any to spare, we hoard every unscheduled moment we get, and then when we have ample time to spare, we end up wasting it. The past eight or so months have been especially revealing to me about how I value and use my time, so I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned.

As many of you know, this summer I moved from Boston, where I had a full-time job that kept me intensely busy to San Francisco, where I’ve been piecing together part-time work and generally find myself with a lot of time on my hands. Ever since my senior year of college, I’ve managed to keep myself in an almost constant state of overworked busy-ness – the year after grad school I had seven jobs! – so this sudden shift was quite a shock to my system. I had gotten so used to packing every spare moment with as many activities as possible that this sudden influx of free time left me feeling useless and worthless. The fact that I was no longer running around like crazy doing a zillion things made me feel somehow less important, and I felt horribly guilty about having so much time, especially when I have many close friends who still need several jobs just to get by.

I talked in previous posts about addictions, and I think that I was addicted to being busy and overworked. And I think a lot of us are. We value ourselves by what we produce or how hard we work, forgetting that we have value simply by being us. I have lived a lot of my life with the curious notion that I could somehow “earn” love through what I do, and that people who are extremely proficient at a skill or that possess an unusual amount of natural talented are somehow “worth more” as people. When you put it down on paper like that it sounds crazy, but I have a feeling I’m not the only person who thinks that way. I’ve seen a lot of articles floating around the internet about addictions to being busy or overscheduled, so I must not be the only one!

And this addiction to busy-ness has certainly affected my sewing in a big way. Last year, when I was “addicted to sewing”, I also derived a lot of my feeling of self-worth from the fact that I was over-working myself. I had to keep producing in a feverish frenzy to feel good about myself. This year, my life is much more in balance, and so even though I have the time, I sew fewer things. Now that time is not such a treasured commodity, I’m not desperate for every spare morsel of it. I have finally found time to breathe. I know that this will probably not last forever – I will probably have jobs (or children!) in the future that keep me very busy – but for now, I am learning to enjoy my time, and discover that I can be loved for who I am, and not what I do.

How about you? How do you balance your time? Do you have a demanding full-time job? If so, what do you do to stay mentally and emotionally healthy? Have you ever been addicted to busy-ness?

Sewing Meditations, Week 5: Bodies, Part 2

Ever since my post last week about my relationship with my body, I’ve been thinking a lot about that topic, especially since I felt that I didn’t express myself very well in that post. And then, this week, I had a very interesting experience with my dress form that I wanted to share with you all. That may seem like an odd place to find a body-image epiphany, but really, it makes a lot of sense, since the dress form is supposed to be an extension of your body to use for fitting and draping.

I have a very lovely dress form that I have padded with foam to mimic the curves, lumps, and bumps of my body. I remember when I first got the dress form last year, I thought it looked so gorgeous right out of the box – its slim lines and sleek look seemed to me to be the ideal body. As I padded out her tummy, hips, and bum, I was saddened to see my lovely little model “filling out.” She seemed much less ideal with all those extra inches!

A few weeks ago, I had removed the padding to photograph my bras, since the large body sock holding the foam in place wasn’t very photogenic. Then, earlier this week, I had put a new dress on the form, and since I was just letting the skirt hang before hemming, I didn’t bother re-padding it. That evening, I looked over at the dress form and thought, “huh, the dress looks weird.” I was surprised, because when I had tried the dress on my body, I had loved the result. And then it hit me – the reason I loved the dress on my was because of my larger hips, bum, and yes, even tummy. My curves gave the skirt the fuller shape that I prefer, instead of just falling straight down to the floor as it did on the dress form.

And then it dawned on me – maybe I actually like my body just the way it is. After months of exercise and diet in an effort to change my body, this realization was nothing short of amazing. Maybe I can exercise and eat well to be healthy and to feel good, and simply leave it at that.

The more I thought about it, I started to realize that my whole sense of style has, albeit unwittingly, always been based on my unique body shape. I’ve always loved the “fit and flair” style of more fitted tops and poofy skirts. I’ve always struggled with pencil skirts and trousers. When I wear a top with a full peplum or a dress with a dirndl skirt, I feel like a princess. And it’s not because I’m hiding my tummy or bum; it’s because those outfits reflect my personality. They’re fun, cute, and quirky – just like me. Instead of a stumbling block that needs to be altered or “fixed,” maybe my body shape is actually an integral part of who I am. Maybe I can just be – and here’s that word again – content.

I have since put the padding back on my dress form. Now I look at it with a new sense of appreciation – those curves are part of my personality. They’re part of what makes me me. To hate my body is to hate myself; to appreciate my body is to respect myself.

So, for the remainder of Lent (and beyond!), I’m going to try giving up something far more difficult than peanut butter – I’m going to try to give up making self-debasing comments about my body. I often complain to my husband about “how fat I am,” etc., etc. I know it’s not true, yet somehow I have felt that these comments are necessary to keep me “on track” with diets, goals, etc. No more. As I said last week, our bodies are a gift, and should be treated as something special!

What is your relationship with you body like? Do you struggle with body image issues, or have you worked through them? Or both? I would love to hear about your experiences – we all have a unique story, and we all can learn important lessons from the stories of others.

Sewing Meditations, Week 4: Bodies

I had a very different post planned for today. I was trying to present the history of my relationship with my body and the evolution of my body image. However, when I was about ¾ of the way through, I read what I had written, and was alarmed to see how relentlessly negative I was being. It came off as overwrought and self-indulgent. It wasn’t uplifting to write, and it wasn’t uplifting to read. And no one needs that!

Then, last night, I attended a gorgeous performance by the San Francisco Ballet, and it really helped to put my negative thoughts about my body in perspective. You see, the reason I love ballet is because I consider it to be the ultimate art form – the human body becomes the canvas that expresses both visual and musical ideas in real-time as the dancers sculpt time and space with their movements. Dance is a wonderful celebration of the body as an expressive tool that releases the soul, creating a sense of freedom through the marriage of mind and body instead of their separation. 

 As I watched the dancers moving delicately across the stage, I realized that a lot of my past body image issues can easily be summed up by the concept of dualism: I thought that my mind was trapped by my body, and I wanted an escape. I saw mind and body as two distinct entities, and that one was good and the other bad. You can see how that would create some major issues with body image – if you think of your body as a something bad you want to escape from, you can’t have a healthy relationship with it! 

 However, I remember a distinct turning point in my life, around the end of college/grad school, when I realized that bodies are, in fact, good. They are a gift, not a curse. This put a whole new perspective on things: I should learn to enjoy my body, to celebrate and care for it, and stop trying to punish it. I took up dance as a hobby because of the pure joy it brought to my life. My journey to become a better inhabitant of my own body had just begun. 

 This was now several years ago, and I’m beginning to realize that this is the sort of journey that takes a lifetime. Recently, I’ve started to struggle with the emotional and psychological impact of gaining weight. I understand on an intellectual level that bodies change naturally with age, and that adding a few more pounds doesn’t make me “fat,” but it’s still hard. After putting myself through rigorous exercise regimens and various diet attempts that had no effect on the dreaded “number on the scale,” I have been tempted to give up. However, although exercise and a better diet may not have made me “skinnier,” they have made me much, much healthier than I’ve ever been before – and that is worth so much more than a number or a measurement. It’s just another step on the journey of understanding and celebrating the amazing gift I have been given. 

 And sewing can be a wonderful part of that journey! Sewing clothes is a way to express our individuality through our choices of color, design, and style. It has also given me a much better understanding of how my body is shaped, and why certain styles look better on me than others. And while at the moment I am tempted to focus on those parts of my body that I want to hide (um, HELLO TUMMY), I am also now aware of the parts of my body that I’m proud of and that I want to emphasize. As a pianist, I am proud of my broad shoulders and long arms. I want to make garments that accentuate my strong upper body (which, coincidentally, will also serve to balance out my tummy). Sewing gives us the ability to choose exactly what we put on our bodies, and that is an incredibly powerful and empowering tool. 

 So, in the midst of media that constantly tries to convince us of our need to “fix” our imperfect bodies, let’s aim to find joy in the gift of our bodies rather than despair in our flaws. Let’s boldly inhabit our bodies as proud yet humble recipients of the most amazing opportunity of all: living.

Sewing Meditations, Week 3: Fast Sewing

After last week’s sewing meditation on ethical resourcing, one of my friends pointed me towards the book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.”  While I have yet to read the book (though I know I should!!), I’ve read reviews and discussions of it, so I’m familiar with the basic gist. This book has of course sparked many lively conversations throughout the blogging world, and one that has been of special interest to me is the idea of “fast sewing.” In other words, while we may not be consuming ready-to-wear garments at a high rate, are we just as culpable of this kind of consumption through our rapid sewing output? 

 This is a topic that really hit home for me, because, at least in the past, I have been churning out garments pretty quickly – when I was in Boston, it got to the point where I was making about one garment per week, sometimes more. This meant that I quickly amassed a sizeable wardrobe – much bigger than what I would have accumulated through shopping! At first I saw my high output as commendable – I was being so productive! But after I began reading about Overdressed, I started to wonder if this was actually a bad habit instead. I also began to realize that I was using cheap fabric, which could easily have been produced under the sort of unfair conditions that this book discusses. And that bothered me, too. 

 Maddie suggested in these blog posts that it can be a temptation to replace an addiction to fast fashion with fast sewing,  and that got me thinking – perhaps for me the problem isn’t so much “fast sewing” as it is the concept of addiction. I know that I’m prone to addictive behaviors – many of us are! And I don’t mean in dangerous, substance abusing ways; I simply mean that I can quickly latch onto something and suddenly become so irrationally attached to it that I can’t let go. Peanut butter, for example. I gave this up for Lent because I realized that, when I am presented with a jar of peanut butter, I find an unnaturally intense sense of comfort and pleasure from devouring way more than I should. Screwing the lid back on the jar elicits a surprisingly strong emotional response of near-panic. What if I can’t be happy without this? Can anything else satisfy me in the same way or to the same degree? 

 It may sound laughable when you put it like that – surely you can’t actually be that attached to something as silly as peanut butter – but again and again, I find myself in this position. And I know that last year, I was addicted to sewing. I felt an unnecessarily urgent need to produce as much as possible as quickly as possible. It stressed me out. On the one precious day a week I had to sew, I would often make myself go for 10 or even 12-15 hour stretches of sewing, even when I was exhausted and no longer found any joy in it. Why? Because I was afraid that if I didn’t use all the free time I had right now to sew as much as possible, that it might never come again. And again, this is ridiculous. But this is how I work. 

 Since moving to San Francisco, my schedule has changed from a full-time job that really takes more than 40 hours a week to part-time freelancing, so I find myself having much more time to sew. Interestingly, though, I don’t find myself sewing during every spare minute. In fact, I can go several days without feeling the need to sew, and I’m satisfied sewing for only an hour or two a day when I do. Now that sewing is no longer an addiction, my pace has naturally reset to a more reasonable output, and I find myself being much more thoughtful about what I make. What wardrobe additions do I actually need? Do I love that fabric, or can I go without? I no longer need to hold onto my sewing time for dear life, and I am free to enjoy sewing at my own pace. 

 So, for me, fast sewing was a symptom rather than a cause. Producing items quickly isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when you are working towards an entirely handmade wardrobe. And sometimes I do just need to make things quickly! However, I find that I am much happier when my life is generally in balance – when I don’t pursue one activity to the exclusion of all others – and when I can be more thoughtful in the activities I do choose. And once again, this can help pave the way towards the ever-elusive goal of contentment.

Watson Take Two: Fancy Pants Edition

Oof, I hinted at a second Watson post over two weeks ago – where has the time gone?? Sorry about that, y’all. I’ve been suffering from loss of blogging mojo and a little dip in sewjo. Excuses, I know :P. I have been working on a bit of secret sewing though, as well as a birthday dress, so there will be fun things to look forward to in the future! For now, though, the rest of my Watson bras (and another bikini!).

First off, I wanted to briefly mention fit. I think I said in my last post that I made a 32A for the bras, but for my latest one (the black and red from the previous post), I actually went a size up to 32B. I need to experiment further, but I think I like the bigger size a bit better. This could just be because I tend to have a rather heavy hand when stretching my elastics, though – time and experience will tell! Also, on the subject of fit, I have now actually worn the panties a few times and am happy to report that they are some of the most comfortable undies I’ve ever worn. Win!

So, now for the rest of my makes. First off, I have another set of bra/undies to show off, this time in purple bamboo! I really love working with bamboo, especially for lingerie. It’s just so buttery and soft, yet keeps it’s shape quite nicely. (And a note on the materials for my previous bras – they were all made with man-made fibers, either polyester or nylon/Lycra. Just FYI) This is probably my favorite pair so far!

I chose to line the cups on this one, which I’m liking more and more. I managed to enclose the cup seam by sandwiching it between the mesh lining and the bamboo fabric. I learned the technique from Maddie in the lingerie video she did for The Sewing Party, but now that the event is over I’m not sure how to reference that method. But it’s a great one! Here are some pics of the innards, though it’s almost impossible to see anything from these pics (apologies!).

And of course, I’ve saved the best for last – my longline lace bra! I’m really quite proud of this one, and feel very fancy wearing it.

 

Isn’t she a beauty?? I used Amy’s tutorial on cutting scalloped lace, and it worked beautiful. The only thing I’m a bit unhappy with is that I pulled the clear elastic too right across the top of the cup, as you can see in the photos, so the lace buckles a bit. Oh well, next time maybe I’ll get it right! Still proud of it, though.

So, those are my bras! I’m taking a pause from bra making while I figure out how to deal with the whole wearing-unpadded-bras-to-work thing. I got some thoughtful responses on my last post about that, saying that in certain work environments it’s really not acceptable. I’m wondering about simply adding some light foam padding – one blogger tried that here. Hmmmm…

Hooray for me-made undies!!