Monday, August 31, 2009

From Unwearable to Wearable In One Easy Snip

This is an excerpt from The Bra Makers Manual by Beverly Johnson, which I bought on CD about 10 days ago. This little gem alone may be worth the cost of the book to me.

(Hopefully you can click this and make it larger to read more easily, but Blogger has been cranky with photos for a while now so who knows!)

Especially note: "the bridge may sit in at the chest wall, but it may tip away from the body at the top."

This is one of the RTW bras I bought in desperation. It fit pretty much everywhere except that the wires at the top center front "tipped away from the body" and poked outward, making an annoying and unattractive lump in the valley. I ordered 3 of these bras and as you can see on this one, the tags are still attached because I was going to return them. Zillie isn't quite filling out this one the way the real girls do.

I read that blurb in The Bra Makers Manual and immediately decided to sacrifice one of the three that I bought, since I had been wearing it and wouldn't be returning it anyway. So, I sliced the bridge upward from the bottom, to apex level. With the slice, the bridge relaxed and spread, making the top of the wires lay flat against my chest wall as they should. Hallelujah!

I only trimmed a little out of the slice to make a more pleasing vee shape. The rest of the spread is happening naturally.

I made a tube from some organza I had on hand and from the right side zigzagged this to the backside of the slit to finish the edges and provide stability. Looking at the photo below, you can also see where I sewed across the channeling at the top to keep the wires from riding up to the top. This bra is a "minimizer" and the style used to spread and flatten the tissue is way too high cut and the wires were riding too high on me without that stitching. It's still too high cut, of course, but at least now across the top it's only stretchy fabric that gives and not wires that don't.

With these small changes, the bra went from pretty much unwearable and uncomfortable to very acceptable. I'm probably going to keep the other bras now too and make these same changes. Until I have time to crank out some more bras from the sewing room, these will fill in nicely. I can also see this easy modification happening on some other RTW bras in the drawer, especially since I've got nothing to lose.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Details and Photos

Last night I showed a preview of my latest bra, but let's go back to the beginning for this pattern (Danglez DB4).

This copper-colored bra is where I had last left the pattern. Looks good, no? Except after wearing it for an extended period of time, it drooped and the girls with it. Not so much from the cups, since they did contain everything within. It was the band that was failing. It just didn't want to stay in position, no matter how tight I made it.

So, back to the drawing board, as they say.

During the interim, I ordered this bra.

It arrived, I tried it on, I hated it. It's the next "model" of the bras I used to wear that fit perfectly. Once I found out that my beloved bra had been discontinued, I bought up every one I could find in my size, which is why I'd been off the bramaking bandwagon for some time. Sadly, even those finally wore out and I was desperate. And at that point, they were so worn out that cloning a pattern from one wasn't going to be a solution either.

So I kept trying on the hated new model wishing for it to fit, because it was so close. But the bridge and center front of the underwires felt like they were about to touch my chin and the straps felt way too short. As I said, I was desperate so I pushed the underwires downward into the channeling as far as they would go and sewed across the top. That solved the feeling that they were about to scrape my chin, but they still stuck out at the center front instead of laying flat. Horrible. I certainly don't need a third bump there. And the straps - they're nice and pretty and all, but the padded area ends right as it gets to my shoulder. Clearly, whoever graded this bra up into the larger sizes did not try it on real humans. If anything, I'm *short* between shoulder and bust point and straps are never too short for me.

The one fantastic thing about this bra, though, was the fit of the band. It was firm and comfortable and didn't ride up even with those short straps. So the brain kicked into gear and I decided to morph the RTW band onto the Danglez pattern and have another go.

This is the original Danglez band.

This is my morph of the RTW band with the Danglez pattern.

And these are the two pattern pieces:

The straight-across pattern is the original Danglez pattern piece. You can see how the RTW shape drastically curves downward in comparison. The reason this downward curve works so well is because that downward curve acts as a counter-balance to the weight of the heavy breast tissue in front. The other difference is that on the Danglez pattern, the greatest stretch is running around the body. This is a no-no for a bra band. You want a firm band, not one that has no resistance at all.

I already knew all this but had a brain spasm or something when I was tracing the original pattern to sew because I didn't even notice the potential problems. (But it was nice to have this confirmed by Beverly Johnson in her Bra Makers Manual, which I ordered a week and a half ago and which arrived yesterday. If you have this book, it shows how to alter a straight pattern into the downward curve. More on this book in a later post.)

While I was tweaking, I also decided to have one more go at the cups since I felt like the upper cup was still too wide and the straps were still not sitting exactly right. So I tried the copper bra on again and pinched and pulled. I took it off and pinned out the amount of the pinches at the center seam …

… and I pinned a "slash/overlap" into the top cup to bring the straps further inward.

These are the old and new pattern pieces. The original is on the top left. Not a huge amount of difference, but 1/4" goes a long way in a bra pattern.

I also decided I wanted a smidge more coverage near my underarm so I extended the sides of the upper and bottom-outer pieces. This is the bottom-outer piece below. The bottom-inner piece remained unchanged from the original.

Then I sewed up a bra with my new pattern changes. And had a meltdown when seeing the results. Arghhh!!

It technically fits fine, but there was just too much bulk at the center cup seam and the cups would not lay smooth no matter what. This is what I saw looking down. Not very pretty, is it? LOL!

And then work and home intervened and I had to stay out of the sewing room for a couple of weeks. But I finally finished this latest bra yesterday and it's a winner. This time, instead of double-layer lower cups, I made them single layer and this solved the bulk problem. But there's not quite as much support so …

… the last tweak I'm going to do is to add a "powerbar" (as Beverly Johnson calls it), which is a side panel on the outside of the cup which forces the girls more inward and center. The powerbar acts like if you took your hands to the sides of your breasts and pushed them together for mega cleavage, but less dramatic. Just a little more needed lifted, not mega cleavage. ;-)

I also traced off a pattern from the RTW bra for the padded straps and lengthened them so the padding actually hits the tops of my shoulders. I improvised with what I had here and used a layer of poly batting for the padding. I'll see how these straps come out of the wash before I decide if this was a good idea. But they look and feel pretty for now.

Mirror bra shots don't always tell the whole story since arms and shoulders are lifted just to take the pic, but this bra is 97% TNT now, and I'll definitely be wearing it until I get the next one made.

Miss Me?

I've been so busy the last couple of weeks and haven't been in the sewing room much until today. But I did get version 3 of the Danglez DB4 bra pattern finished today and here's a preview. It's about 97% perfect - still one tweak left to do - but definitely quite wearable. Don't mind Zillie's lumps. She's got a stuffed bra on under this one and the stuffing has never been smooth.

More details and photos sometime on Sunday, when I'm not too sleepy to write coherently.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

1 Down

Three things are obvious from this photo. One, I actually made it out of my PJs and into the shower today. ;-) Two, I haven't yet learned how to not cut off the top of head in mirror shots. And, three, I paid absolutely no attention to the print when cutting out, darn it.

Oh well, it was destined to be a house-blouse anyway so I'm not heartbroken about it. I just wish I had paid more attention before I sewed it together since I did/do have enough fabric left to cut lower front section. But by the time I noticed the glaring twinsy-ness of the motifs, I had already inserted flat piping in the empire seam, sewed/serged it all together, and topstitched. (Buttonhole courtesy of my vintage Singer attachment on my "Kenmore buttonhole station." Love that!)

As mentioned last post, I left off the collar. I really don't like collars in the summer heat/humidity. My hair gets caught up in them and it's just another layer that I fiddle with and swelter in. This top without the collar feels great on my neck!

I finished the back neckline with a bias self-facing, which is caught on either end under the front-to-shoulder-seam facings.

All in all, though, I'm happy with it. Good quilting cottons always feel so nice as clothing.

Oh, and a note about the sleeves since my first make of this pattern was sleeveless — they fit into the armhole perfectly. No easing required, and remember — this fabric has no stretch. While I'm not complaining, this strikes me as odd since most patterns with set-in sleeves require some easing. I'm going to revisit the pattern before I put it away to see if I caused it by oversight during an alteration or if it's really supposed to be. You can't see in my photo above, but the sleeves fit great. The armhole is where I like it (on the high side), I have perfect arm mobility and the shirt doesn't raise up when I lift my arms. So there's been no sacrifice for an ease-less sleeve cap.

Moving on to the bra now …

Keeping Myself Accountable

I'm just noting all this publicly to keep myself accountable this weekend. The guys are away and I plan to sew, sew, SEW!

First up is to finish the second Petite Plus Shapely Shirt that I cut out last weekend and have worked on here and there since then. This one is from a quilting cotton, no Lycra. It's an Amy Butler print, so it may be a little too cutesy to wear in public. But for hanging around the house and out in the yard with the dogs, it should be very comfortable. I'm leaving off the collar to increase the comfort-in-humidity factor. But I am adding sleeves because my shoulders freeze inside in the A/C as my desk is right under a vent. The only things left to finish are inserting the second sleeve, hemming, and buttonholes/buttons. I plan to finish this in the morning.

After that, I want to work on a new bra. I finally ordered 4 different sets of underwires from which came during the week and I now have 2 keeper sets. They are actually the same basic size, just different lengths for different style bras. The size charts you can print out from the site are extremely helpful. I want to tweak the fit of the last bra, made from the Danglez pattern. I hope to have at least a new "muslin" finished by Saturday evening. If that goes well, then I want to make a final version before the weekend is over.

Somewhere in all of this I do need to spend about 3-4 hours catching up on some work. It's been a frazzled week and I have a graphics project I haven't been able to concentrate on due to all of the other interruptions. I want this off my plate so it stops nagging at me.

I don't think that leaves time for any other projects, but if a miracle occurs, then I'll pull out the J. Stern jeans pattern and work on that again. Actually, I don't need to really pull it out as I've never put it or the non-fitting capris away. Out of sight is out of mind around here and I didn't want to forget about them.

So, what's on your to-do lists for the weekend?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Oops, I Did It Again

So last time I wrote about this pattern, I talked about putting it away. Well, I did. For a while. Until I realized the top I want to live in this summer is the rayon/Lycra knit version I made in May (2nd from right in the photo below). Over the weekend I pulled out the pattern again and cut out another rayon/Lycra knit. Tonight I sewed up the hems to finish it. I do still wear them all, so the new one will be added to the rotation. And if you're wondering, that little flower on the "apex" area of Zillie thankfully does not hit *me* in the same place.

The pattern, in case you don't have it memorized yet, is Simplicity 4122, below (neckline modified):

Saturday, August 1, 2009

More Stars & Stripes

I started and finished the two Yankee Doodle Dandy blocks this week. And, no, I don't name these things. ;-)

They came out OK, not perfect in a couple spots but close enough. These are some of the most fiddly blocks I've done in a long time, or even ever. My personality is much more suited to fast strip quilting blocks, which is what I'll be doing to use up the leftovers if/whenever I finish these two Stars & Stripes projects. I will probably machine-quilt the wall hanging myself, but I'm already giving serious thought to paying for a long-arm quilter to quilt the big one.

So, here's where I am now. Only 2 blocks left for the wall hanging! I'm beginning to think I may get these both done by the end of the year.

I'm "forcing" myself to work on the applique eagle blocks next. The sewing part won't be hard. It's cutting out all those pieces — times two — that is making my eyes cross. For these, I'll be moving from the Featherweight to the D1 so I can use the buttonhole stitch on my D1 like I did for the previous appliqued blocks. I have to say, though, I'm really enjoying the simplicity and sturdiness of the little Featherweight and I'm glad it's part of the herd.

As for the rest of the weekend, my mind is a jumble and I haven't decided what to start. Analysis paralysis. Sigh.