Saturday, 30 July 2016

No patterns needed

Hello hello!

I went to a very special party this week for the launch of Rosie Martins new book 'no patterns needed'. Rosie and I are virtual friends so it was great to actually meet her in real life! The book appealed to me from the very beginning when she was posting progress pics on Instagram last year and I have to say that the finished book is so beautifully done.

I thought I would share some initial thoughts on the book whilst they are whirring in my head. I did buy the book, but I cannot promise that my opinions are unbiased because I really love Rosie and I think she has accomplished a great amount putting this book together whilst holding down a full time job, so natural pride may take over.

First of all the concept is something that I'm all over. Encouraging home sewers to create their own patterns is something I'm all for. It's how I started when I was at school, making all sorts of crazy patterns all put together from old newspapers. I don't think I even bought an actual pattern for a good few years after I started sewing (this now seems mad, but I had no money). Secondly, I feel that there is often a tendency in the online sewing world to overcomplicate a process. If a simple boxy top is what you are after then why not have a go at making a pattern yourself? This may sound a bit strange considering the fact I sell patterns, but I'm really all for encouraging people to discover for themselves what their limitations may be.

By some coincidence I was flicking through a vintage sewing book recently and found some striking similarities to the format and general approach to home sewing when compared with Rosie's book. The vintage book in question is a young girls handbook to enable her to gain the necessary sewing skills to construct garments and useful household items by completing a series of projects.

Both books recommend the most basic tool and equipment to get started, such as a square edge of a book or card to act as a square guide and newspaper for drafting your patterns. Even the sewing machine recommendations are for a basic (old) machine with the necessary basic stitches. I can't tell you how much I enjoy this as someone who is not into gadgets, but am mainly happy with the basic tools for the job! (lets just ignore that I have recently bought a new sewing machine :-P)

The approach to garment pattern making is also alike and are just made from a selection of correct measurements.

Rosie has this brilliant table for you to insert your measurements at the beginning of each project, which is a lovely touch!

It's a really gentle approach into imagining and creating your own garments from the most basic of shapes and I think a lot of people could get some real enjoyment from this. If I was starting out I would snap this up and as it stands I am already planning on making a few garments from the book! This is not really a review of the book as such in terms of the actual garments or the well thought out theme of shapes that continues through out, but once I have made something I shall report back. I just really wanted to highlight what speaks to me about how the book is formed. It is not like that vintage book I have compared it to as it is not building on your embroidery or mending skills, but it is opening a whole new world to you if you want to try out some of your ideas and are intimidated by the whole idea of pattern drafting books. This is fun and should be worked through in a fun way. Try experimenting with old bedsheets or fabric you are less precious about to build your confidence and hopefully you will love this method! I still love cutting clothes in this way from time to time!

Happy weekend! xxx

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Summer of enlightenment!

I have taken a break from pattern stuff over the summer. I consciously want to avoid self imposed deadlines during this kids school break as no matter how I try to switch off, I inevitably get stressed like the pattern I'm working on needs to go out NOW!!! Nobody really cares. I know that, but I get so focused that it all becomes an unnecessarily big deal. To counter act this I am studying all things lingerie like a crazy person and am filling all my evenings with pattern drafting and research. It is such a brilliant summer project and I am learning a tonne already.

I have basically flicked through 'Patternmaking for underwear design' a million times and have read through 'demystifying bra fitting and construction' a few times too. Funnily enough, I came across this post yesterday on Mellissa Fehr's blog and she recommends these two reads exactly! I have also bought 'Pattern cutting for lingerie, beach and leisure wear', but am yet to really get into that. To be honest, I have found Shins method in 'pattern making for underwear design' so successful for the bras I am designing and playing with at the moment that it will probably be a while before I really refer to the latter.

So, as well as drafting I am looking at all sorts of construction by looking mainly at garments and reading through old sewing books. I am interested in modern construction techniques, but also more traditional approaches as a to way inspire designs that rely less on having the perfect shade elastic in 4 different finishes to hand. It is endlessly fascinating!

With regards to drafting, it is so refreshing to return back to paper and pencil and not be stuck with my head down in a computer all day. Since selling patterns I manage the whole process digitally from start to finish. It makes sense to me and means that every seam on the final product gets thoroughly tested in the same format. Digital is a fantastic way to work for many reasons. You can reduce your work space (a really important factor for me), work quicker and more efficiently and also reduce the storage space. I like to retain every stage of a pattern for reference from my original changes to the block, to subsequent adaptions and so on. This is easy on the computer and my files are supremely organised and any changes easily traced. Drafting on paper is so satisfying though and it's great to have the physical pattern pieces in front of me at all times. I have made an envelope for storing my block and have a separate compartment in it to store all redundant iterations of it, plus the master copy. It's brilliant and I have the same feeling looking inside at all the pretty pieces that I used to get when I had new stationary for the new school year. Whichever way I tackle it, I love the process of drafting patterns and it's reviving the fun to be challenging myself in new ways. Everybody should find new ways to challenge themselves, but sometimes it's not that easy to work out how that might happen.

I'm sort of treating this experience as if I were learning in a formal arena and critique as I go, but it's quite hard in reality as I am plagued with self doubt at all stages as to whether or not I am addressing the correct fit or sizing issues. This is good by the way! Self doubt makes you work harder! When you do a degree in fashion, it's pretty common to be told that you haven't quite captured a brief or the balance in a design is not as pleasing as it could be (in your mind they are saying you are shit and everything you do is shit). Luckily I have the inner voice that tells me I'm shit without a lecturer present ;-) Seriously though, it means that I am striving to do the best I can as long as those inner voices are present. When I can't hear them is when I get complacent and find I have to go back and correct a seemingly stupid mistake!

So far then, I have a good solid bra block (made to fit me) and I am toiling lots of different styles to see what I like, what I don't like. There are loads of pattern drafting suggestions in Shins book, but I find the idea of re-creating them too boring, so I am designing my own things and drafting patterns for them in my own way. It's good to have the book to hand for any similarities to my designs, but for the while I find it more useful to my skill development to just go for it with what I want to make.

What a load of waffle! Not sure if this is interesting at all, but I needed to write what's in my head! I'll try and update my progress as I go with what I am making now, next etc... Since making the bra in this post I have come to realise that the fit was not quite spot on. Demistifying bra fitting put me right there and I noticed that the under wire was not in exactly the right spot. Once you notice, you can't un-notice, so that bra has been retired as a development sample that I can refer back to!

Once the summer is over and I can get more time to do stuff I would love to return to the idea of this zero waste dress and mull over what I can do with it. It is not clear to be just yet, but I just need to dedicate some time to the idea. That's it for me for now, so byeee and I'll be back soon! x

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

self drafted basic bra

So I am falling down a deep hole of bra making and I can't get out! I never ever thought I would summon up the energy to make my own lingerie let alone draft some, but I am increasingly getting more drawn into everything there is to know about bras. I find the process very pleasing actually in that a bra is not quick to make and you can become very involved in the fine little details (and pretend you are a couturier).

I am certain one of the reasons that I am enjoying it so much is because even though I am an average size (36B), I have never felt that shop bras fit me particularly well. Actually, the truth is that until I measured myself for my Watson bras I thought I was a 34B or 36A, so that's probably the main reason. Ooops! That explains a lot in terms of why the cups always felt like they were in the wrong place, so there's a tip. Get yourself measured or measure yourself properly!

Armed with my new found bra size and some very specific measurements I used the book I received for my birthday back in April (pattern making for underwear design) to draft a basic bra. This is the first pattern in the book and probably the most useful.

It is definitely a book for someone with prior pattern cutting experience. Even basic knowledge would help, but it might seem a bit technical if you are coming to it with nothing. It provides all the information you need to measure yourself and get started and the drafting seems pretty straight forward. When I first looked at it though, having not made a proper underwired bra before I felt confused about knowing how to pick the correct wire to start drafting (you need the underwire for your size to draft the blocks). Now I have some wires that seem ok, it seems a lot more straight forward, but just this one thing did stop me from getting started straight away. There is also no problem solving in terms of fit issues, so if you run into any problems during the drafting process then you have to figure it out alone. All that said I kind of hate saying that you need to know this or that to get started, because if you are determined enough to figure it out then you probably can!

Note - there are also blocks and for knitwear such as t-shirts, knickers and leggings which seem much more straight forward.

I turned my block into the pattern and made up a quick toile to discover it did not look right. At this point I would have been confused if I hadn't already made the Marlborough bra recently, but when compared I could see that I had pivoted the underwire out too much on the outer side of the front band, so pivoted it back in a bit. One toile later and I was pretty shocked to find the pattern working. Really and truly I was surprised!

After a quick rummage through aaaall of my scraps I settled on some silk satin that had failed to become anything. I bought it with some birthday vouchers from work a long long time ago and started making a dress which didn't work out. I then refashioned it into a top which I also abandoned part way through and was pretty much going to bin it, but it's too lovely so I am happy it now has purpose. I paired it with some cream power net and got thinking.

The construction kind of worked itself out as I went along. When I was cutting the power net I decided the selvedge looked nice along the inner edge of the upper cup which gave a nice clean finish and sort of dictated how the rest came together and I was able to use the remaining selvedge as the elastic trim across the outer cup and back band.

Because I hadn't planned it well enough from the very beginning I failed to resolve the top point of the upper cup where it meets the strap. It would have been so nice to have a mitre there, but I couldn't achieve it with the way it was cut. No matter because it's all part of learning new things, but it does bug me. The style is too minimal for a bow to hide it, but I have sewn a loop of the selvedge to attach the strap and I think it is as good as it's going to get.

Because the look is so fine and delicate I chose to make silk under wire casing that I underlined with nylon to give it a little more durability as it certainly won't be hard wearing (the front bra band is lined with power net for strength). Any elastics or trims I have are just too heavy, so I bound the side seams with the silk and used a doubled power net strip for the bottom band. It works so well and is really firm, stopping it from riding up!

I didn't want to topstitch the silk wire casing down because I didn't want stitching on the front band (fussy). I hand stitched it to the power net lining and topstitched the first 3.5cm only on the top of the inner and outer wire. I felt some machine stitching was necessary to keep the wires in check so this is a compromise. I shall try doing things in a different order next time so I can try and machine the casing to the power net. The bra actually looks just as nice on without under wires, so I could completely change the construction to omit the casing, but I kind of like the detail and the added shape it provides.

I still can't quite believe how well this has come out and the fit is like a dream. The style has morphed into a sleek, very light weight and supportive long line bra with a low scoop back. Totally love it! Need to make some pants next to complete the set!

Here are some pics on my (generic) stand. She's too small for it but trust me, it looks so good on!

I definitely wouldn't have had the confidence to do this if I hadn't tried out the previous patterns from this post, but I am all pumped up to try all sorts of things. Using the selvedge of the power net as a trim has got me all excited about making trims too. The absolute worst thing about bra making is finding trims, so I'm going to dive into making some. I have been flicking back through 'the secrets of sewing lingerie' and am definitely going to tackle making my own hooks and maybe fabric covered elastic as a bottom band?

Never stop learning! ;-)

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Bras, bras, bras and knickers!

Hi all! I have been having a blast these past few weeks discovering all there is to know about sewing and fitting bras. I have reached a point where it's a case of do it or buy it, because my options are running very low indeed. I really, really, really hate underwear shopping, so finally bit the bullet and made some. I have dabbled with lingerie sewing, but never really spent a great deal of time analysing it or me. I asked for and got a book for my birthday called 'pattern making for underwear design' so decided to start there. I like to work backwards! I have studied lingerie a little and taken a lot of notes in the past on construction, but it is still pretty unchartered territory for me. I drafted a pattern using the book, which was ok but I knew it wasn't what I wanted. I then draped a pattern directly on me (as difficult as it sounds) and still I wasn't happy so I bought a pattern to sew. I chose this one and made view A. It did not come out as I'd hoped (a mix of not checking the fit first and choosing too small a size), so I sulked a bit that I'd used a beautiful bra kit on it having not made a toile first and then salvaged as many bits as I could to sew up a Watson.

Is this pattern nice or what??? So slow to catch on and I honestly thought that the triangles would be very unflattering on me, but I loooove it and immediately made another one!

The pants included with the pattern were not quite to my taste, so I made them bigger and more granny like! Only Instagram pics I'm afraid, but the blue cotton jersey and the floral ones complement the bra's I made perfectly I think!

Next on my journey of discovery was the underwired bra! I discovered the free Maya bra pattern here and have seen some lovely versions popping up on Instagram so thought I would try it. I salvaged some underwires from an old bra and have a load of foam from uni, so got to work! I was scared of making underwired bras as I expected it to be deeply uncomfortable, but guess what? It wasn't! This first one got dismantled as did the second one, but it is a brilliant pattern actually. I am just plotting my third 'perfect' attempt and along with the Watson have two great patterns in my bra making repertoire! The only real change to this pattern was to adjust the bridge slightly (slash the centre front and pivot the bottom out by 0.5cm) as well as swap the back wings for the Watson pattern which offers more support in my opinion.

Did I stop there? No I did not! I still hadn't made a bra that I was really, really proud of. Enter the Marlborough bra. This held the biggest promise for me as it is soft (no foam), underwired and also just very pretty. I made the quickest of toiles and decided it was pretty perfect, so jumped straight in with the good stuff! I seem to be the same size on all three patterns shown here and chose this based on the Watson instructions for measuring.

I wanted this one to be special so raided my stash and pulled out a rigid lace trim that I have had for a long time and have no idea where I acquired it. It matched well with some beigey silk crepe scraps I had and was able to use as a lining. I'm not sure if silk crepe is advisable as lining as it may not hold up over time, but it is so lovely. I like neutrals combined with bold accents, so went with bright orange straps and wire casing. The straps weren't quite long enough on their own, so I extended them with some royal blue strap elastic I had in the same width. It is a really pretty, but modern match with the pale blue power net I used for the back band. The only fitting issue I ran into was the back band being a bit snug, so creatively extended it! ;-)

Note - I bought the power net and a lot of bra supplies from this UK company on ebay and they seem pretty good!

I am so extremely happy with how this turned out. There are certainly things I could still improve on, but I have really discovered an aesthetic and fit that I like. Actually the style of  lingerie is not something I have analysed much over the years, but I prefer delicate materials in vintage type colours or with a bold kick from the trims. I probably should have referred to my pinterest board a bit more and saved myself a lot of figuring out on that front!

Oh, I made co-ordinating granny pants so I actually have set!!! The most exciting thing! They do not photograph well, but when on they flatten out and look nice (honest). I chopped up my pattern to make a front panel and altered the top front piece to accommodate a non stretch fabric for the silk and lace. The bottom front is power net lined with cotton jersey.

The front sided panels are just power net.

The back of the pants is just cotton jersey in a matching turquoise that happened to be in my stash, so they are fancy-ish, but comfy.

Here are some more pictures of the bra because I love it so.

It really feels like I've achieved something special and I am so excited to be able to make bras instead of shop for them.

I have some ideas for a future bra too! I made this gaultier bodysuit at uni many moons ago when we were given a project to copy a designer garment. I did not get my hands on the original garment, but instead researched vintage lingerie for construction information. It was a really fascinating project and although the bra cups are awful (totally flat and wrong), there are some interesting details to draw inspiration from.

By the way I have never worn this!!!

I have also got a vintage item that I have in my collection of inspiration garments. I believe this is a cathedral style? It's a bit squished from bad storage at the moment, sorry! It's fabulous though and has lots of stitch detail and velvet lined straps.

This will definitely be a look I will be exploring in the future. I may try again at drafting my own made to measure bra too! I keep getting asked if I will release my own bra pattern when I post things on Instagram and the short answer is not anytime soon! It is not an area I have experience in and is a specialist area in terms of design. I would need to do a lot more work and research before that would be even a remote possibility, so no!

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed reading this lingerie making journey. Have a good weekend! xxx