Conifer Coolness

Ok, so I know I said my next post would be about jeans, but, well, I lied :P. With good cause, though – I get to show you a brand new pattern! Seamstress Erin’s Conifer Skirt just hit the blogosphere yesterday, and I got to be part of the pattern testing! (in case you’re curious, she has a pattern testing sign up on her site) I have to admit, when I first got the pattern, I thought it would be one that was fun to sew up but that I probably would never wear it, since it didn’t seem like my style. Boy, was I wrong!! It has actually turned into one of my favorite skirts, so much so that I have fabric set aside for a second one.

For my test version, I used a fabric that was marked at the store as “swimsuit” fabric, but I’m almost positive that it’s actually a polyester Brazil knit, because it doesn’t feel like swimsuit fabric at all. Since I was working off the test version, which only had a raw edge hem option, I decided to walk on the wild side and do a rolled edge hem on my serger for each of the skirt layers. Erin later included a hemmed option in her final version, but I’m actually really happy with how the rolled hem turned out. Depending on your fabric, it might actually turn out better that way!

I constructed a lot of this skirt on my regular machine, and only used the serger for the side seams and a few others. It was a fun adventure to put together, though it did give the slightly dyslexic part of me a workout with the mirrored back and front layers. Just a word of advice – double check before you sew! Erin put in a lot of helpful diagrams (seriously, her instructions are awesome!), but it doesn’t hurt to just take a minute to think about how the finished layer will look before you sew. Ask me how I know :P.

And speaking of diagrams and instructions – I just have to say that I was so impressed with Erin’s response to the testers’ feedback. She clearly took all of my comments seriously, as I saw a lot of them in the final version. I felt like I actually contributed something useful to the process, which made it all the more fulfilling for me.

…oh, did you want to actually see it? Here she is!

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A quick note on sizing – due to the nature of the layers and the shape of the skirt, I would highly recommend not trying to grade between sizes if your waist and hips fall into different sizes on the chart. Just go with your hip size. Since the skirt is intended to sit lower on the waist and the waistband has elastic, it all works out in the end. In the first pattern draft, the only waistband option was the fold-over – here are some pics showing that:

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Again, I didn’t think I would like that type of waistband, since I was afraid it would add unwanted bulk around my middle, but I actually think that I’ll use it again for version 2! Erin did include a regular elastic waistband, though, for those of you who prefer that.

So, all in all, a great pattern! One of the things I really love about Erin’s patterns is that they’re a bit quirky and off-the-beaten-path. This pattern isn’t your typical indie pattern, which, I think, is rather refreshing. It’s a great way to add a splash of fun and pizzazz to your wardrobe without going too crazy (or you could make it totally over-the-top, too!), and perfect for summer. Congratulations, Erin, on a fantastic new pattern!

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Me Made May

Wow, hard to believe Me-Made-May is already here again!! This is just a quick post to share my me-made-May pledge for this year, which is a little more ambitious than last year’s:

“I, Emily of Dressing the Role, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’15. I endeavour to wear at least two pieces of me-made clothing/accessories each day for the duration of May 2015, and entirely me-made outfits (including garments and undergarments, excluding outerwear and footwear/socks) three days a week. In addition, I pledge to share the gift of me-made treasures with those in need through sewing items for Enchanted Makeovers during the month of May.”

So, first of all, those entire outfits WILL include underwear! You bet!

Second, I wanted to share a word about Enchanted Makeovers. I heard about them through the Modern Sewciety Podcast (a sewing podcast oriented towards quilters, but I still love listening!), and immediately knew that this was something I needed to be a part of. I’ve been wondering how to use my sewing to help those in need, and this seemed like the perfect fit. So, I’m hoping to sew up some capes and maybe a few pillowcases for the shelters that this organization helps to transform.

Whew, I’ve bitten off an awful lot – hopefully I’ll make it! I’ll be keeping up via Instagram, if y’all want to follow along :).

Partial Band Bra with Partial Success

I know, I know, it’s been a million years since I last posted. I have no excuse. No, I take that back, I do: America’s Test Kitchen. All 15 seasons of the show. Bam. Hence the lack of blogging :P.

Ok, that’s not completely true; I’m also just not as jazzed about these latest bras as I have been with some of my others. I mentioned in my last post that the Marlborough bra is the best fitting underwire bra I’ve made, and today I have the other underwire bra to show you. I.e., the less successful one.

This is the Linda Bra by Beverly Johnson of Bra Makers Supply, her partial band pattern. Now, I should start out by saying that this bra was not less successful because this is a bad pattern – it’s a great pattern! I just had a harder time with fit because of my particular shape, and haven’t yet created a truly successful version.

I muslined it in two sizes, 32A and 32B, since that can vary from pattern to pattern, and neither fit perfectly. I decided to start with the 32A and alter from there. Initially, I took a bit out of the cup to alleviate the “bullet bra” effect and removed a bit of width from the top of the band. Here she is:

  

Now, I do really love this bra – the contrasting lace is so striking and lovely! But, alas, it’s unwearable. The cups are so tight across the top that they cut into the breast tissue and literally give me an extra set of boobs busting out the top. Not a good look. Sigh…

For version 2, I added about 1/2″ of length to the upper cup and also widened the bridge a bit. The cups fit much better this time, but now the bridge is too wide. Argh! But I’m definitely getting closer with this bra.

  
    

I do love lacey bras – they’re so gratifying to sew!

One thing I’ve realized in my bra making journey so far is that I have fairly wide-set breasts, so patterns with power bars tend to create a more flattering shape than those without. As a result, this bra still allows the breast tissue to “spread” a little more than I would like, while the power bar of the Marlborough gives a really nice shape. So now I’m toying with the idea of converting the Marlborough to a partial band using the method Beverly Johnson discusses in her mind-blowingly awesome second Craftsy class. (Seriously, if you haven’t seen this class and are at all interested in bra making, go watch it now) While I want to nail the fit with this bra, I’m wondering if it would save me some headaches to just alter a bra I already know works.  Any thoughts on that?

So, those are the latest bras! And I’ll give you a teaser about my next post (so you don’t stop reading my blog entirely out of boredom :P) – JEANS. Woot!

Marlborough, My Love

It’s been full-on bra fever in my sewing corner lately – I just can’t seem to stop! One can’t have *too* many bras, right? 😛 At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Anyhow, today I have yet another new bra style to share with you, the fantastic Marlborough Bra by Orange Lingerie. I’ll just go ahead and tell you now – this is my favorite bra pattern so far! It fits me the best of the underwire bras I’ve tried so far (more of those to come in another post), and the powerbar along the outer edges of the cup gives a nice lift and shape to my otherwise itsy bits.

So far I’ve made two, both using kits from Grey’s Fabric. A few people have noted that the Grey’s kits don’t give you real power mesh, but instead give a mid-weight mesh that doubles as the cup lining. For the black and beige kit, I simply swapped out my own black power mesh, but for the blue and white kit, I just doubled the mesh on the back band, and it worked great! So if you use one of their kits, or simply don’t have any power mesh on hand, I highly recommend using a double layer of lighter-weight fabrics for better stability.

Here they are!

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Before making these, I read all of Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction by Norma Loehr, who designed the Marlborough. It was a fairly quick read and gave a lot of great tips, such as how to make a bra muslin – something I will always do from now on with a new pattern! Instead of sewing up a complete bra with all the elastics and finishings, she has you baste together the pieces, using stabilizer where the elastics would go. This way, you have a better chance of salvaging a well-fitting bra even if the initial test doesn’t fit.

Fit-wise, I made a 32B. I started off by doing a “bridge test,” as Norma suggests in the book – you hold up the bridge piece between your breasts to see if it needs to be widened or narrowed. I widened the bottom of mine about 1/4″. I altered the cups by shaving off a tiny bit (1/8″ or less) from the inner cup seam to alleviate the “bullet boob” look and decrease the volume just a bit. I also added about 1/4″ to the bottom edge of the frame where it meets the band. It turns out I have a rather wide lower ribcage, so I need a little more circumference at the bottom.

The underwires were another interesting fitting bit. Since I made a 32B, I should be using a 32 WR size wire. However, since my ribcage is so wide at the bottom, my breast tissue is more spread out at the bottom of the cups, so I actually need a bigger wire – I ended up using a 36 WR for the first one, and a 38 WS for the second. Of course, I had to trim the wire quite a bit, since i don’t need the volume provided by a larger wire, just the shallower cup curve. Bra fitting is such an interesting topic – and not actually that hard, once you get into it!

On the beige bra, I also fully lined the cups with mesh. I skipped this on the white – I honestly kind of hate that step, and feel like it makes the bra take twice as long. Do any of you bra makers line all of your cups? I’m starting to find that I don’t really need to if I’m using duplex, but for lace, it’s usually a must.

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Support-wise, these are definitely beating out my Watsons for everyday use. It’s funny – I never thought I needed underwires until now, but they really do make a difference! For me, they provide shape more than support, since I’m a rather small size.

So, it’s definitely love-at-first-stitch with the Marlborough! There will be many more of these in my future :).

Sewing Meditations, Week 7: Balance

Well, my friends, it’s Holy Week, and that means the end of Lent is near! Which also means the end of my weekly blog series. I first of all just wanted to say thank you to all have you who have read and/or commented on these posts – I know that they probably aren’t as “fun” as finished project posts, but they have really helped me reflect on a lot of important topics for these past several weeks. Many of you posted some extremely thoughtful comments, which I absolutely loved reading – many thanks!

So, for this final post in the series, I wanted to discuss a subject which, I feel, brings all the previous topics together: balance. I’ve talked a lot about the concepts of addiction (to harmless, everyday things!), stewardship, and contentment, and I think balance in the culmination of these three things. Balance occurs when we are free of our addictions and when we use good stewardship with our resources, and eventually brings about contentment.

Balance is something I’ve been more keenly aware of since I got married a year and a half ago. Before I was married, I had a much harder time noticing when my life was crazy or off-kilter, since I was the only one in charge of my daily habits. Having another person to take into account when making basic everyday decisions helps me view my choices more objectively and get my priorities in line. Before I was married, I almost always said “yes!” immediately, without thinking, whenever I was presented with an opportunity or asked to do something. Now I take a moment to think before saying “yes,” and every once in a while, I even manage to say that difficult yet vital word – “no.”

Of course, you don’t have to be married to see your choices and values more objectively. I think just getting older and having more life experience also helps a lot. In fact, just a few years ago, I wasn’t even sure I needed balance. When I was a student in music school, we were encouraged to throw ourselves whole-heartedly into our craft and try to avoid all distractions. I always found this difficult, though, as I was constantly being drawn away from the path of singing by my interest in composition, or piano, or…something! And last year when I spent every spare moment sewing, I believed that that was the only way I wanted to use my free time, and never even thought to explore other hobbies.

Now that I’ve lived life a little longer, I’ve discovered that I am happiest when I am constantly pursuing a little bit of a lot of activities. I actually don’t enjoy spending all day doing nothing but sewing; when I do, I feel exhausted and drained. Instead, I am much happier when I spend several hours sewing, then maybe get up and practice a bit, sew a little more, and then give myself plenty of time to make dinner. Your version of balance probably looks a little different, but I think the most important point is that we experiment, and don’t just stick with the same old pattern if it’s not working for us. Time is too precious to be wasted on a sub-optimal routine!

How about you? How do you work to achieve balance in your life – or do you? What do you consider to be a balanced routine?

So, that pretty much wraps up my Lenten meditations. I hope that you have enjoyed reading these, and that perhaps you have gotten something out of them – I know I have!