Saturday, 28 February 2015

Finished: Linda Bra and Watson Set

I finally got stuff done!!  Oh good grief, it's been such an unproductive last couple of weeks that it felt like I would never finish a project again.  But then I churned out 3 finished and 1 nearly finished item and now my brain is soothed. I'll share the finished projects with you and save the nearly finished one for next week when it'll be totally finished.  Just needs a hem and the top stitching done.

So, first up, another Pin-up Girls Linda bra.  This time in 34F and a very nice pink and black kit from Bra-Maker's Supply.
Camera didn't quite focus where I wanted it to.  Close up of the lace detailing.
The pattern suggested just putting lace on the top of the cups like above, but I also put it on the bridge because I think it looks nicer that way.

The 34F is a nearly perfect fit.
If you don't want to be an underwear model then don't make custom bra sewing part of your business.
See the slightly flat part under the cups? That means there is just a touch too much fabric in the lower cup that can be pinched out.  I can take 1/4" off the bust apex and it'll be just right next time.  But still, this is one of the first bras I've worn where the centre front actually touches my skin. Super comfortable and I feel glamourous in this bra.

This pattern is a bit pointy.  Thankfully, it's not as dramatic in this size as it was in the one cup too small, but it's certainly pointer than I am used to.  Nearing the bullet bra end of the spectrum.  I think it's due to the two part cup and diagonal seam.  On my body, that probably turns out a pointier bra cup.  So, I'll try the Pin-up Girls Shelly bra next time as it's a four part cup (two lower, one upper and a power bar).

The next thing I sewed up was a Watson Bra and Pantie set from Cloth Habit.  I wasn't sure how this would look on me due to it's unstructured nature and my need for structure.  I saw it sewn up and paraded about all over the net, so I thought it was worth at least trying and getting a lounge set out of.  The knickers are a wonderful fit for me.  I may use them as my go-to pattern.  The bra was meh.  I chose the 36D based on the size chart even though I knew that wasn't going to work out.  But since the fabric I used was a really stretchy mesh I figured it would be wearable no matter what.
Watson Bra, Long line version
Wearable, but not a great fit.  I think I would need to do up the 34F or 34G in a high stretch fabric, and a 36E or F in a low stretch fabric.

It sewed up really quickly and without any problems.  It really is a great little pattern, I plan on sewing up a few more as time permits.

Excellent pattern placement.
I have to say, these knicker really make my bum look good.  I sewed up the size large and they fit really well.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Thrift Score

I love Thrift Store shopping.  I love the thrill of the hunt and the joy of finding something amazing. I look for a few things usually:

  • Girl Guide items
  • Vintage sewing patterns / notions
  • Fabrics
  • Designer or Quality garments
The Girl Guide items are because I'm a lifetime member.  Guiding is a huge part of my life even if I'm not currently active as a leader.  The Vintage sewing items are because the packaging is often wonderful to use as decoration and/or the item is actually usable and useful to me. Fabrics are only based on their usefulness.  The Designer garments can be sold to a Vintage shop downtown for extra cash, and quality garments can be deconstructed and upcycled.  I have no qualms about buying a silk dress that doesn't fit and turning it into undies.

So, today, I think I made my best Thrift Score since I bought my 1950's Singer Slant-o-matic two years ago.  Please meet Sally Stitch:




She's in my size too!  Looking a little rough, but I think a little bath will do wonders.  I'll need to pad her out and make a slipcover eventually to make her my double, but EEEEE!!  A dressform!  A vintage one!!  The stand is cast iron, the adjustment system is all metal bars and wingnuts.




Paper maiche on the inside.  So glorious!  If anyone knows much about Sally Stitch please tell me, I'm curious about the company.  They seem to be the ones behind the Home Sewing is Easy manuals that was famously made into a Quilting cotton by Alexander Henry.

I also found a brand new sleeve board just in time for March and the month of back to work sewing.


And I rescued this adorable Sparks mug to gift to my fellow Guiding friend for her new camp mug.


It makes me happy to know someone will now use it until it's faded beyond recognition. I sent my friend photos and she said she squealed so hard her husband thought she was looking at photos of kittens.  He doesn't understand why she's so happy about it, but he's not a Guide.  It's the sort of happiness only someone who's been part of something for nearly their whole life can understand.

Excellent day to stop at the thrift store!  It was beside the post office I went into to mail a letter and some photos to my Grandma, so I had to go in.

Anyone have a super Thrift Score of their own to tell me about?

Monday, 23 February 2015

Bra making cheat sheet

I've dedicated February to sewing bras.  And knickers because they naturally follow bras, but they're less exciting.

I have only sewn a couple bras (ahem... none that are quite ready to be wearable yet...) but, with my signature over-confidence I've decided to start offering custom bra making!

Email me for information and quotes: mandykatts@gmail.com

Prices begin at $50 for a very basic bra.  No foam, optional underwires.  Prices increase up to $100 for a bra with all the bells and whistles.  For $300 it'll serve you drinks. :D

Seriously though, I know so many ladies who are either above a D cup, or under a 34 band.  It's terrible to try to find a bra like that!  So, I decided what my friends and family needed was custom sewn bras.  My cousin Gail is my first client, and she's happy to have me sew her all the styles I want so I can test them all out.  Hoorah!  Her two adult daughters are also of the narrow rib cage, larger bust variety, so they have a tough time finding bras as well.

I find the hardest part of starting with bra making is keeping all the different elastics and trims straight.  So I made up a cheat sheet for shopping.

Straight Forward
My findings and elastics kits I bought from Bra Maker's Supply came with this card to help me figure out what trim went where.  So I snipped bits of leftovers off and stapled them to it to help me out.  I can just keep this in my purse and whenever I go to the fabric store I can look for these trims and fabrics.  I know that Fabricana has a small selection of elastics and they carry powernet, Fabricland has the elastics and closures, but not the fabric, and Dressew has the fabrics, but I always get confused over the trims.  I think they have them all, but I have never been able to tell. Now I can just compare to my sheet. Such a simple thing, but I feel so cleaver for having thought of it.

I'll be making a trip downtown to Dressew later this week.  In their bargain section they have the powernet and I think some simplex.  So I can buy a couple metres of each to sew up muslins for my clients to tweak the fit before committing my pretty fabrics and laces.  It'll take longer for the client to get the finished bra that way, but it'll fit perfectly.

Can you tell I'm a little excited about this new venture of mine?  I hope to gain enough clients to one day be able to spend my days happily sewing away.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

TBT: Wedding sewing

Well, no new sewing on the Mandykatt front. I came down with Norovirus on Monday, so spent Tuesday and Wednesday recovering.

So here's a little throw-back Thursday for you.  

Spartacus and I married in January 2008.  I was young, idealistic, and crafty.  I was also supposed to be planning a Greek wedding without any direction on what that meant, but that's a different story. This was a low budget, heavily DIY event.

Two of my bridesmaids were flying to Vancouver from back east for me.  One from Ontario and the other from Quebec.  Two of my bridesmaids were still in school, and the other two were working too hard for too little money.  So, I thought I'd do everyone a small favour and sew their bridesmaid dresses myself.  I had toyed with sewing up my wedding gown from a Vintage Vogue pattern:

Just Dreamy.  How could you not love it?

But then I decided there was too much structure involved for my sewing skills at that time, and it would be best if I bought a bridal gown and made the bridesmaid dresses instead. My ladies were great and really easy going on the whole thing.  Since two were thin and two were larger, I needed a dress that would look good on everyone.  I settled on view C of McCalls 5319:


I thought the rouching at the waist and the halter neckline would be flattering for all.

I bought a crazy amount of taffeta from Dressew.  Four dresses and four wraps worth of fabric, so (2.5 x 4 = 10m + [1.5 x 4 = 6 m]) 16m of burgundy polyester taffeta and another 10 of lining.  And lots of thread as well as 4 zippers.  All in all, it came to about $40 per dress, so not bad.

I spent about 6 months working on the dresses.  I had a shoebox for each person so I could keep everything separated and organised. I'm proud of myself for having everything except the final fit adjustments done a week early.  I did ask one of the Greek ladies to do the hems for me.  I wanted invisible hems and wasn't up for fighting with my invisible hemming foot at that time.  She is a wonderful seamstress who does amazing work and was so proud of me for sewing the four dresses that she was happy to hem for me.  The final fitting was done the night before the wedding.  Oops.

I did end up doing a cheap fix for extra bust coverage on two of the dresses.  I just added a front wedge and called it a day.  Not my proudest sewing moment, but it worked well.




And they were able to wear the dresses again.  Which made it that much better.

The whole year I was planning my wedding, my friend back home was planning her's.  We had worked together at Fabricland in Brampton and kept in touch after I moved out West (She's too awesome of a person to let a little thing like geography get in the way of friendship).  Her name is Tara, and she decided to sew her gown.  Complete with over 100 handmade daisies on the train.  Out of Silk Duppioni.  We phoned each other every week to call the other one crazy.  It's fun to have a friend tackle a major project like this at the same time as you.  Her argument was that I was sewing four dresses, and mine was that she was sewing a silk gown.  Obviously, both are kind of huge things to do when you're also planning a wedding and working full time to pay for said wedding, as well as buying a house and planning a life with someone else.  So we were both kind of crazy, but I think the sewing also kept us sane.

Love ya Tara!
I think it's a good thing I had my wedding a) before I learned to knit, and b) before Pinterest.  I'd need a four year engagement just to plan a wedding now!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

(Nearly) Finished: Pin-up Girls Linda Bra

This is going to get a little personal.  I'm not at all sorry.  There will be talk of boobs. And common issues with having larger-than-average ones.

There may also be some ranting.

See, until after Aki was born, I never gave too much thought to my boobs.  They were there, they were kind of inconvenient most of the time, and kind of very convenient at other times.  But I would go to La Senza, dutifully be measured by the ladies there, and walk out with uncomfortable bras.  I didn't realise it didn't have to be like that.  My mother had a hate on for bras, so I thought they were just something ladies wore because they counteracted gravity but that they were always uncomfortable.

As I was trying to buy nursing bras with my first baby I became aware that my ribcage is very narrow and my bust is very not.  This is a problem when trying to buy a bra. So I wandered into Motherhood Maternity and asked the salesclerk for a bra with "the smallest band and the largest cup".  She looked at me, sighed, and told me I wouldn't find anything comfortable in there.  She then directed me to a specialty shop in Langley that stocks a lot of sizes.  I thanked her and went there right away.

I wish I could send her chocolates because that woman changed my life.

I went to Forever Yours Lingerie and must have looked a bit nervous.  A wonderful lady took charge of me and ushered me into a fitting room.  I was measured, she declared "30I! Close cleavage, broad shoulders, narrow back, nursing bra... wait right here." She wisked out of the change room, reappeared 5 minutes later with 6 bras for me to try on.  They were all brands I've never heard of before, with tags in seven different languages.  I tried them all on and couldn't believe how good my boobs looked in them!  No bulging! No pinching!  Support! The band stayed down!  The straps had padding!  This was a revolution. I bought 3 bras, with each one more expensive than any bra I've ever bought before.

I wore those three bras during my entire two years of nursing and then tossed them out as the elastic was shot in them. I went to Change to buy bras for my next pregnancy since they were less expensive, but still had the size range I needed.  After Itsa was born I went back and bought more nursing bras, this time in a 32H.

This started my obsession with properly fitting bras and a distrust for any bra shop that thinks DD is the largest size.  Pro Tip: If the shop only carries 25 sizes, they will be trained to measure you to those sizes.  Many of the salesclerks don't even know that they were trained wrong.

Fast forward to 2 years of nursing Itsa and I finally get her weaned.  She was resistant, and is a stubborn, stubborn child, so it took a lot of effort on my part.  I have three nursing bras, and no baby to nurse anymore.  I measure myself to a 33" underbust and 41" full bust.  34I-ish.  Well crap, this is going to get expensive.  Then I see Tasia of Sewaholic and Anne of Clothing Engineer sewing their own bras.  I'm inspired to look at patterns, but they're both more hippy than busty, so maybe it's not such an important garment for them.  Then Carolyn of Sewaholic and Heather of Closet Case Files post bras they made.  Those are ladies with a bit more bust.  The final push was the Sew Obsessed group on Ravelry having a bra-making sew-along last November.

I bought four kits from Bra-makers supply, whining to myself that if I had decided to take up bra sewing in high school I could have taken a class at that shop, and dove into my first attempt. I chose the Pin-up Girls Linda Bra:


Utter failure.  I don't know how, but I didn't realise I had sewn the band to the armhole until I was all done.  I might have also sewn the lower cups upside down.  I don't even know.  I'm embarrassed looking at this.  I harvested the wires and straps, and put the rest into the pile of failed projects I may harvest fabric from. Lesson learned to not cut out a pattern and leave it for 3 weeks before sewing it.

Moving on.

I was a bit discouraged, and decided to make a couple other things before trying again.  Bra sewing isn't difficult, but it's fiddly.  So I made a couple dresses, a bunch of underwear, a pair of jeans, and did some of the mending from my hamper of mendables that I am good at ignoring.

I go back to the bra, this time doing up the white kit.


Success!  I totally went to town with my water soluble marker and wrote everything on this bra.  Upper, Lower, Sew Band Here!  I hate that it comes to that, but my brain likes shortcuts too much  for me to leave anything to it.



If you can so kindly ignore the chub I have going on we'll all be happier.  I'm 30, I have two small children, I eat too much cereal and not enough balanced meals, and I can't find time to go to the gym, even though I can see the front door from my bedroom window.  I accept the chub at this point in my life and know that once I address it and have more independent children then those love handles are history.

As you can see, this bra pretty amazing.  What you can't see is that the cup is just a touch too small and I have a slight quadboob happening.  No matter, I can just slit the cup seams and add fabric in the middle.  Not the most elegant solution, but it makes it wearable and that's considered a win for me.

I had hoped to sew another in the next size up this week, but MIL is sick and had to stay in bed all week.  No sewing time for me, so it'll have to wait for next week.  She's feeling better now and will be able to resume her childcare duties on Monday, so it's all good.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Finished Project: Tiramisu

I finally finished the dress my mother-in-law asked me to sew for her in December.  She was hoping to wear it for Christmas, but I just hated the fabric so much that I kept putting it off.

She likes to buy fabric at thrift shops and often finds some super pretty things.  But, she doesn't care much about fibre content, so she usually buys polyester.  I fully admit to being a fibre snob.  Sewing, knitting, whatever.  I love natural fibres.  They have the properties I want my garments to have, and just feel nicer.  The fabric MIL had asked me to make her a dress from is most likely a nylon tricot.  It had the fuzzy wrong side that 70's slips have.  Nylon is better behaved when sewing than polyester is, so that was a plus, but the dress she wanted me to make her was designed for a fabric with more stretch in it, and that was the main holdback for me.  I had bought Cake Pattern's Tiramisu dress as a PDF pattern, so when I made it for myself a couple months ago I cut it out in my size and hacked the bodice pieces to bits adding in extra length.  MIL and I have very similar torsos, but she has short legs that makes her 5 or 6 inches shorter than I am.  The last dress I made her was in the same size I made for myself, but I couldn't do that with this one because of the lower stretch in her fabric.  So, instead of printing off a new pattern and getting on with it, I sewed up 6 other things and let it just sit on my sewing table, fueling a guilty conscience.

I finally sewed it up last week and it turned out nicely.

Hanging out waiting for a hem.
After it was sewn, I asked Spart if his mum purposely liked looking like the Greek flag.  She probably does.  I can totally see her wearing this to the Greek Festival this summer. She'll be the envy of all her friends.

I took my time to line up all the lines, and I'm so pleased with myself on that.  I tend to be... impatient... and don't take the time to do my best work on projects.  But I've really been trying to overcome that and DO IT RIGHT so I can be proud of the items my hands produce.  It really is a great feeling to know that I took the time to make something turn out really well rather than to just get it done.


As an aside, this pattern is actually almost identical to a RTW dress I had bought 10 years ago and loved to bits.  It was the dress I'd throw on in the summer when I didn't really feel like getting dressed.  I loved the dress, but wished it was a bit longer in the torso, and was in cotton.  I wore it to work one day and thought of that when I was suddenly inspired to look for a pattern.  I googled "mock wrap neckline knit dress sewing pattern" in images and it was one of the first ones.  Seriously, the sleeves are the only thing different.  My RTW dress had cap sleeves and this is kimono.  After sewing a beautiful cotton version for myself I donated my polyester one.

So, MIL has a new dress she's pleased with and she hasn't given me more fabric to sew another one yet, so it's back to selfish sewing.  I have my first beginner lesson to teach on Saturday, so I'll be spending most of this week getting my curriculum in order before then.  My student chose the optional field trip to the fabric store as well, so I'll happily lead her around Fabricana gathering supplies.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Solution for preschooler shoes with laces

Sometimes you come across a product that really doesn't fit the age group it's marketed toward.  I usually don't bother with such things, but when Zellers liquidated 2 years ago I went to town buying shoes for Aki.  The one certainty in parenthood is that your children will grow, so buying too big of shoes is always safe.  The price was good enough that I ignored the laces on these shoes and decided that if he didn't know how to tie his shoes by the time they fit I'd "think of something".

He is now on the verge of fitting into these new shoes and does not know how to tie a bow yet.  He's still trying to master a knot, so I'm not going to push him about it.  My solution?  Elastic. I went to Fabricland and bought some elastic cord to thread his shoes with.  This stretches enough to allow him to get the shoes on easily, but relaxes firmly enough to keep the shoes on his feet without being too tight.

Step 1:



Remove the laces from the shoes.

Step 2:



Put Fray Stop or something similar on at least one elastic end.  I was a little too heavy handed with mine, so I just rubbed the excess on the second end.  This will make it easier to thread the elastic in the eyelets. Wait for it to dry.

Step 3:



Lace those babies up!  You can do whatever lacing technique you like best.  I think the look of a straight line lacing looks the nicest.


Step 4:


Tie a double knot and douse it with more Fray Stop.  Cut off the excess.  I like the knot to be nearest the toe of the shoe.

Step 5:

Repeat for other shoe.





Ta-da!  Shoes a preschooler can put on himself.  This allows Aki to have the independence he needs to dress himself, and we can work on shoe tying later on.  I remember learning to tie my shoes when I was in grade 1.  We moved every other year when I was a kid, so I associate events with where we lived at the time and it makes it easier to keep a timeline of my childhood.