Sunday, 9 June 2013

Bra-making experiment

I have been quite frustrated by bras ever since I began to use them. I never feel like I can breathe properly when I have a bra on, in 15 years I have found only two (!) pairs with straps that didn't keep sliding off my shoulders all the time, and the cup sizes confuse me. I have bras with cup sizes ranging from C to E, and they all fit my breasts.

I go to work wearing one I bought after a fitting, and it's probably the best bra I have ever owned. It also cost an arm and a leg. It is highly structured and has underwires and while it doesn't slide around at all or ride up in the back, it does affect my breathing, which I find a bit scary.

At home I like to slip on a bralette which allows me to breathe freely while still giving some support. I used to have three of these, all the same model in different colours, with front closures and so soft and comfortable that I have slept in them without problems. I bought them in the USA many years ago and have never been able to find their equal at home.

But all good things must come to an end. They gave up the ghost one after the other, developing holes under the arms and going grungy on me. So I decided to make me some new ones.

I found some thick, soft stretch jersey at my new favourite fabric shop (which unfortunately is closing at the end of the month) and decided to experiment.

I took apart the less damaged of the two remaining bralettes and used that as a pattern. I also saved the hook- and eye closure to reuse, as the colours were close enough.

I first wrote down a description of the construction and as I took it apart, I noted down in which order things had to be done. I then set to work with scissors, fabric, thread and sewing machine and by the end of about an hour I had a bralette which I think is considerably prettier than the original:

I did change three things about the original design: 
  • I only used a single layer for the cups, instead of two, since the fabric is pretty thick.
  • I made the back in one piece because it was obvious that the centre seam was unnecessary.
  • The third change was unplanned but necessary: The original bralette had become stretched out of shape by heavy wear, which made the pattern unreliable, and to top this I couldn't find the walking foot for the sewing machine (a good thing to have when sewing stretch fabrics), so the edges got a bit stretched when I was doing the hemming. Therefore I found a bit of gaping in places along the upper edges, which I fixed by making dart seams, two in the back and two in the front. 

The new bralette is a pretty good fit, but the cups are a bit small. That's okay though: I have plenty more fabric and plan to make another with bigger cups. I even think that if I make it with a double layer of fabric in the cups, it may have enough hold for me to wear it outside the house.

Now I intend to begin my next experiment: To make my own panties. Just look at that fabric. I even found underwear elastic in matching colours:

Postscript, added June 10:
I wore it to work, and it hardly felt as if I was wearing one at all. However, when I went shopping during my lunch break both breasts popped out from under the bralette when I reached up to get down something I wanted to buy (thank goodness I was wearing a tunic and not a tight sweater). The next one will have a) bigger cups and b) stiffer elastic.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Project: Red Velour Spaghetti Scarf

Click to enlarge

While rummaging in the hat box where I keep my doll-making supplies, I dug up a length of red stretch velour. It was probably a remnant that I bought to make doll clothes out of, but since I was not really in the mood to make doll clothes, I decided to try out a scarf-making method I came across on the web and pinned to my clothes sewing board on Pinterest.

The original is for a spaghetti scarf made out of an old t-shirt, but stretch velour has the same properties as t-shirt jersey, in that it rolls up in exactly the same manner when you cut it into lengths and then pull on it. I started by squaring up the piece and ended up with a length approximately 150 cm long and 45 cm wide. I then sewed the ends together, using a zig-zag stitch to get some give in it. I could actually have stopped there and simply used it as a long cowl scarf. Because the fabric looks quite different in the back and front and would therefore show the seam quite clearly, it isn‘t really suitable for an infinity scarf, but it drapes just like one.

Click to enlarge
 I wanted a solid section that could be drawn over the head and a spaghetti section that would dangle and drape nicely, and so I measured the approximate length from one shoulder to the other, over the head, and marked that with a couple of pins. I then laid out the doubled fabric piece and cut to that mark. I then gently but firmly stretched each length to make the edges roll up and voila: a half-solid, half-spaghetti scarf.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Project: Recycled blue tote bag

(Click any image to enlarge). Here is my latest project.

I didn't have anything specific to do yesterday and started looking for something to occupy my time (unusually for me, I didn't feel like reading). Then I remembered this embroidered blue Indian handbag and decided to make it the focus of a project:

The handbag
 I bought it second hand a couple of years ago, but because parts of it were too tatty and worn for me to want to use it as a handbag, I had the notion of cutting it up and using the least worn parts in a crazy quilt. However, I then forgot about it and it ended up packed away with some fabrics I was saving up to use in quilting.
The curtain
I started rummaging in the old sea-chest I use for storing my fabrics and where I was sure I had put the bag, but first I came across a length of denim café curtain I had bought an even longer time ago, intending to use it to make tote bags and table mats and possibly a denim rag quilt if there was any fabric left. All that got made of that project was a single tote bag that I gave to my mother, that she still uses. It has now, about 6 years after I made it, lost the "brand-new jeans" look and is beginning to look interestingly faded and worn.

The handbag lining turned into an inner pocket
Also in the chest was the handbag. I noticed how the blue of the bag fit nicely with the blue of the denim, with the shiny, patterned and embroidered viscose making a nice contrast with the dull, pristine indigo of the denim.

How the strap is sewn on
I set to work. I cut up the bag, removed the lining and sewed the back to the front. I cut a piece of the curtain to the right size (removing the hanging loops) and sewed it all together, adding some cream trim to lighten it up. The front panel of the handbag became an outside pocket, with the back panel as the pocket lining. The inside lining became an inside pocket for the tote,and the strap became a strap for the tote.

Squaring up the bottom
I used the thick, wide hem of the curtain as the bottom part of the bag and squared it up to form a flat bottom.

The result is somewhere between a handbag and a tote bag, but since it has a shoulder strap and no handles I prefer to call it a tote. I will probably use it as a book bag: