From The Sea {Megan Nielsen Cottesloe}

I was given this pattern in exchange for a review. Just in case that’s not clear below.

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You lot know how I am about swimmers, right? The same way I am about sewing underwear. I love it. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something very satisfying about those little seam allowances and stretching that elastic so it’s juuuuust right. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have to try them on my size 14  dimpled and pale body in little change rooms under fluro lights anymore. Or maybe it’s because they are not traditionally ‘home-sewn’ things and when people ask where you got your rad swimmers and you say you made them, their minds get a little bit blown. Plus they are fast to sew.

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Now, for the most part my swimmers are based on underwear patterns because there aren’t a heap around that tickled my fancy. In fact, some of my faves are based on Megan Nielsen’s Rowan bodysuit pattern. So when lovely Anita from Megan Nielsen got in contact and asked if I’d like to review one of the new patterns, I was keen. Super keen. But I had a lot on my plate, so I tried to be a responsible adult and decline the offer. Anita told me that was totally cool, gave me a later deadline and flicked me the Cottesloe pattern anyway, just in case I could make it work.

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WELL. Curiosity got the better of me and I opened the files to have a look. One thing lead to another and here we are. I couldn’t resist. It was the simple swimwear pattern I’d been looking for. I knew it wouldn’t take long to make and I was super keen to give it ago. In fact, I managed to bash out two pairs in one afternoon.

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This floral version was my toile. I made the straight size 14, from the standard 0-20 pattern (my measurements put me in between the 14-16). The fabric was given to me quite some time ago, but is quite possibly from Boo Spandex and I’ve lined it with lightweight black swim spandex (as opposed to lining, it’s nicer to work with and a bit more supportive). That’s it. No changes, all very simple and the fit is pretty close to spot on. It’s got a surprising amount of support (no foam cups in this version) and the fit is better than I expected – especially since there are no bust seams for shape. For reference, I’m somewhere in the vicinity of a 38DD.

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With my very wearable toile complete, I moved on to my good fabric. Spoonflower sport lycra in a Beetlejuice themed print I designed. I’d been holding out for the right project and this was it – no seams to cut into those sandworms. Here I’ve got my lining (again, lightweight swim fabric) underneath and my fabric on top so I can cut them out together. Did I mention I love that nothing is cut on the fold? More accurate when working with knits like this, for sure. Plus, you can check how the print is placed.

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One slight change I wanted to make was to move the back straps more toward the centre back. This is a common adjustment for me. I literally chopped the straps off the pattern piece just above the armpit curve, moved them about 2cms in towards the centre back and then redrew the curves. I’m not sure if that’s technically correct, but it worked well. You can barely see a difference in the images above, but I can definitely feel the difference when they are on.

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I added foam cups to my second version to see if there was much of a difference in support. There is a  little bit of a difference, but not a huge amount. I didn’t find my first version unsupportive though. The foam does give you slightly less stretch across the front too. Not enough for it to be a problem for me, but maybe something to keep in mind.

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I ran out of wider swim elastic for my second version, so lined the band with powermesh instead. It worked very well.

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You can see the scoop of the back is more pronounced since I moved the straps across.

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This is a simple, fast sew and a great introduction to sewing swimwear. As always, Megan Nielsen’s patterns are well drafted with excellent instructions. She’s recently extended her sizing, so these go up to a size 30, which is bloody brilliant.

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I love the high waisted bottoms and am impressed with the amount of support I get from the top. A top in this style is always going to provide more compression than shape, but I think it’s one that will suit a variety of sizes. When summer comes around again, I’ll definitely give the one piece a go too.

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Fries Before Guys {Sewing Swimwear + Megan Nielsen Tania Culottes}

webDSCF1193Look, I’m a bit of a fraud because my body tends to reject chips (fries, chips to us here in Australia), even though I love their crispy, carby, salty goodness. Most of the time my skin is like ‘nah, we aren’t about those anymore. Have some acne for your attempt, though’. Who could resist this print though? It’s a bloody winner.

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I know you want to know where the fabric is from and what the pattern is, but you’re going to hate me for it. The fabric (which is swim) was a pre order from Indie Skye fabrics and I don’t tend to go for pre orders because I’m damn impatient and hate waiting longer for my fabric than is entirely necessary. But I decided this fabric was worth waiting for. The lining is lightweight swim spandex from The Remnant Warehouse because it has a bit more body than regular old swim lining. And it’s nicer to sew.

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What else? Well there’s some foam (complete with my markings still, please ignore. But it is good to mark all the points on your cups so you don’t sew them around the wrong way, they look very similar) from Sew Squirrel, underwire casing, underwires, swim elastic (all from The Remnant Warehouse also, from memory) and some sheer cup lining for the upper cups and bridge (pretty much because I wanted those pieces to stay stable and maintain their shape). Also there’s some boning in the side seams of the bra portion, which is just cable ties cut down.

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Pattern, well bear with me for that one. The lower portion is Megan Nielsen’s Rowan bodysuit. If you’ve read posts on my one pieces before, you’ll know I’ve used this many, many times. I like the fit. Obviously I line it, eliminate the crotch snap part of it and bind or band the legs, but you could use swim elastic and fold over too. I have big legs, I don’t really need the elastic to pull everything in. I just use good old zig zag because I don’t have a coverstitch machine, I hate twin needling and even though it’s very Becky Home Ecky, if someone on the beach is judging my zig zag, that’s their problem. Because they’d have to be in my lap to see it and that would be weird. You know they aren’t though, just as they aren’t judging my body. But more on that later.

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So, the bra part. I know, it’s a bit of sorcery and I wasn’t even sure that it would work. In fact, I was almost positive that it wouldn’t and I’d try it on and have cups folding over and boobs heading towards their old friend, my belly button. I figured I could add straps at the end if I wanted to, but I also wanted to just see if it would work. FOR SCIENCE. You know I love bra sewing though. I love the challenge of it, I love the precision, I’ve even grown to love the little 1/4″ seams. I love watching cups go from flat to boob shaped with foam and wire, I love making the finish really lovely and enclosing the seams. It’s just my happy place. You know?

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If you’ve been following along lately, you’ll recall my strapless bra journey. The new guy is the same pattern, shortened, with a bit taken off the upper cup (because it was too high and also to compensate for not folding over with the picot) and boning left out of everywhere except the side seams. On that note, I think the boning is part of the engineering magic. It stops it from wanting to roll down with the weight of my bust. Also, those extra long wires help for the same reason. The keep it tacked to my chest and in place under the arms.

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Here are some technical construction and fit notes you can scroll past if you want:

– Stabilising the bridge with bra lining (which is strong but super light) stops it from stretching out and distorting the cups shape. But it also makes the whole thing a bit harder to get into. Next time it might be wiser to add some sort of closure – either a zipper down the front or some kind of clip at the back. I do like the comfort of not having any closures though.

– To make sure the bra part would fit on the body part, I just lined up the pattern pieces. They were super close and I didn’t need to change a thing. I cut the back band piece of the fold and there’s no hook and eye like on the bra versions. This made it a bit smaller across the back, but the fabric has a bit more stretch than the traditional power mesh band of the bra version, so they sort of cancelled each other out.

– I was very close to cutting the upper cup pieces out of swim lining, but realised my bra versions have no stretch there, which is really important – it needs to hug in close. If it stretched out, there might be some gaping and more risk of a wardrobe malfunction. So I used the very stable bra lining there too.

– Contrary to popular opinion (I see this all the time in sewing groups!), the foam is for support, not to enhance bust size. If the foam wasn’t there, the whole cup portion would drop. Same for sports bras, especially if there’s no wire. I often see people request sports bra patterns without wire OR foam, stating that they are already big and don’t need extra padding. But foam is great for support and is often necessary for bigger bust especially. Don’t fear the foam. I’ve used straight stitch to top stitch the cups (instead of zig zag) because they don’t really stretch and I don’t want them to. The foam has a tiny bit of give, but not much else. But you can totally use zig zag if you prefer the look.

– The only other part that made me stop and think was how to finish the top of the cups. In my bra versions, I’ve used picot because I like the look and the finish. It’s a bit too ‘I’m a bra’ for swimmers for me though and using binding in matching fabric is usually the way I finish raw edges. Obviously in strapless swimmers, the top part really needs to stay put, so rather than just using strips of fabric as binding (which doesn’t need to be cut on the bias like woven, FYI), I used swim elastic in there too. Same method as usual, which is putting a bit of tension on it all the way around so it hugs towards the body. There’s a little mention of that method in my video here, but in relation to finishing the leg openings.

– I decided to run the binding all the way around the top edge, as opposed to finishing the bridge first without binding (ie sewing lining and outer fabric right sides together and flipping, which is how I generally do my bras) and finishing the upper cups before adding them into the frame for a couple of reasons. Firstly to minimise bulk. The binding plus elastic adds a fair bit of bulk, which in turn makes it harder to sew down the underwire casing at the underarm and bridge. Much easier to sew over everything at the end. Plus, I would have had to fiddle around with seam allowances at the upper cup – cut them down to counteract the fabric lost when folding over picot to make sure it lines up with the finished bridge. God I hope that makes sense. It’s really hard to explain. Anyway, much easier to cut the upper cups down as needed to line up with the bridge once they’re already sewn into the frame. Then bind the whole thing in one hit.

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As usual, I’ve used far more words than I had planned. If you have any technical questions, just comment and I’ll try to answer. I’ve never had any proper bra training, but have learned so much from trial and error. And what is that sensible black skirt I’m wearing? Is it a skirt?

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No! It’s the Tania culottes in linen from Potter and Co! Trickery! This is the updated version, which Megan so kindly sent me. Its now got pockets and extended sizes. Truly one of the most wearable things I own, especially for work. Photography work, that is. I’m often getting down on the floor and these make it much easier. The only change here is that I’ve used my own curved waistband, because as I’ve mentioned many times in the past – rectangle waistbands don’t work on this short waisted, curvy body. There’s too much of a difference between my hip and waist measurement and I get gaping in the front and back. Imagine pinching a dart out of the top of the front and back waistband pieces – that’s the shape I need.

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So, back to the swimmers. I’ve tested these babies in the pool and they passed with flying colours. The real test will be in the surf. But I can still add straps if required, probably removable ones so I have options. I really like how these have turned out.

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If you’re anything like me, you might have some of those pesky voices in your head – you know the ones, they like to say mean things and make you feel crappy about putting on your swimmers and enjoying yourself at the beach or the pool. Mostly I can shut them up, but there were a couple of persistent ones when making these. The first being that strapless things are for smaller bodies, particularly slender arms and backs. The other one was the fabric. Weirdly, I have had issues about wearing food prints before. I know it’s ridiculous, but I felt like I was saying ‘hey! look at me wearing food that contributes to this fat body!’. So with this fabric screaming its fries-positive message, all I could think of was people would look at me and think, ‘well, obviously true for her’. I know how crazy that sounds. And I’m wearing them anyway, because I made them and I’m proud and I love how fun the print is. So there, voices. You can shut up now.

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She Wants To Move {that mesh dress with all the other stuff}

Warning: This is a very long post with lots of sewing talk. Which, you know, you’d kind of expect from a sewing blog. But consider yourself warned.

webDSCF8905My little brother was getting married. Obviously I was making a dress. Obviously it had to be awesome. Obviously I was also shooting the wedding (I do this for all my siblings and my husband’s siblings), so I had to be able to move around also.

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I found these Alice McCall embroidered mesh panels at The Remnant Warehouse months and months ago. Oh yes, they were going to be awesome. The toughest decision was picking which colour to go with. At the same time, I ordered some nude coloured peach skin fabric to make the layers underneath.

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As soon as I saw the panels, I knew that I didn’t want a standard lining, I wanted some skin to show through. But I also knew that straps wouldn’t be quite right either, so had visions of making a strapless dress to go underneath. Now, October in QLD can be quite warm, so I wasn’t too keen on wearing a heap of layers underneath (nor do I have a strapless bra that fits). In a confident leap, I decided to make my own strapless bra/skirt combo to go under the dress.

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Construction of the actual dress wasn’t difficult. I used my own self drafted pattern because I knew it fitted me well, I’ve sewn it a lot and the mesh needed a relatively simple silhouette. Sorted. I used French seams where possible and then bound the seams at the waist and armholes with scraps of the mesh. I attached that by hand to keep it as invisible as possible.

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It worked well and was quite pain free. I moved the zip placement from the back of the dress to the side seam, so I wouldn’t be cutting through the beautiful embroidery. I added strips of the mesh either side of the seam with the zip to give it a bit of extra strength. I didn’t hem the sleeves or skirt, but cut the mesh back close to the embroidery.

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Honestly, the hardest part of the dress construction was the neckline. Originally I wanted to fold it over twice and hand sew it down invisibly, but I just couldn’t get it to sit flat, so ended up doing a rolled hem on my overlocker. Disaster struck when I lightly pressed that with the iron (the iron I’d been using on the same setting THE WHOLE TIME) and the neckline melted. I wanted to cry. So I had to cut the neckline down a bit more, which meant that the rolled hem now sits on the embroidery instead of just above. Not a big deal, but it annoys me. Turns out the thermostat (or whatever controls the temperature) in the iron had died and I had to bin the iron and buy a new one.

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In an additional dick move, I didn’t think and hung the dress on a hanger between sewing sessions. Of course, the weight of the skirt stretched out the neckline and it no longer sat on my shoulders properly. I (CAREFULLY) tried to steam it back into place, which worked a little bit but didn’t fix it entirely. Google wasn’t much help either, so in the end I very carefully ran a thread through the back of the rolled hem at the front and back necklines, ever so slightly gathering them and tied them off at the shoulders. It worked and you can’t see it at all! Probably a very unconventional fix, but it worked.

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Dress complete. Skirt and top to go. One of the things that gave me a bit of a shock about the nude mesh of the dress is exactly how nude it looks. Which I realise is a completely ridiculous statement, but I felt so exposed! Too exposed to go with the original nude fabric I had planned to go underneath. In the end I decided on silver instead, which is a sateen with a slight stretch I also bought from The Remnant Warehouse. Skirt was easy, so I started there. I went with a half circle because I didn’t want anymore bulk at the waist and used horsehair braid in the hem for a bit of kick (again, didn’t want to add anymore layers in the form of a petticoat).

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Which left the bra. OMG. Now, I’m no stranger to bra sewing, but strapless bras are an entirely different beast. They defy gravity. The experts will tell you that the support of a bra doesn’t come from the straps, it actually comes from the band, but holy hell, they help. I’ve never had a RTW strapless bra fit me or stay put. And I think a lot of people are in the same boat. The cup and wire shape on a strapless bra is much more of a U than a C. Boning and a longer band helps a lot. Right. How hard could it be?

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LOL. I started with Orange Lingerie’s Esplanade because I already owned it, I’d already sewn it (although not entirely successfully managed to fit it) and there aren’t many strapless patterns out there! I looked over my old blog post on the Esplanade (hooray for good record keeping) and made a few changes (sized down, took some volume out of the upper cup) and it was… fine. It pretty much fit, it tacked to my chest but if I moved, it would slide. It felt like the whole thing had to come up about 2 inches, while I needed to lose about the same from the bottom. It was pretty much decoration – it fit me, but gave me absolutely no support. Which is a shame, because the Marlborough bra from OL is my absolute favourite. Ah well, not to worry, there’s still options, right?

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How about cloning my What Katie Did Merry Widow

? Just the top part. Even though it’s not a perfect fit on me, I could adjust it.  I’d seen it done by bloggers before and it really was much simpler that I expected. Basically you use pins to mark all the seam lines and then join the dots. Then add seam allowance of course. There’s a few tutorials getting around for it, like this one.

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The result was ok, better than the Esplanade, but room for improvement. It’s not the black one pictured above, BTW. I didn’t take proper photos of the first one. Just phone ones so I could get some feedback from the ladies a FB bra making group (yes, they exist. Shut up). Anyway, the bra ladies suggested I straighten out the upper cup piece, rather than have it curved as I’d traced. Which makes so much sense, because all the upper cup pattern pieces in my bra patterns have a straight upper cup. OK. YES. Let’s go again.

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Which brings me to the black beauty. Holy heck. I did it. I DID IT. A strapless bra that fits. I ran downstairs to show my husband, who is pretty good at making all the right noises when I succeed (or fail) with sewing stuff. I could jump and that sucker won’t move. All is right with the world. I decided I wanted it a wee bit narrower in the bridge plus a touch higher in the upper cup, just for a smidge more coverage.  A wardrobe malfunction after leaning down in a mesh dress wouldn’t be ideal.

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Onto the final version! With bra sewing, a tiny adjustment really does make a bit difference, as does a change in fabric and definitely in power mesh. So, my final version ended up a bit different to the black version. But the wedding was looming and I was ready to put this thing to bed. It had been going on for a very long time.

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It ended up a bit too high in the cups and bigger in general all over, with some wrinkling due to the pretty unforgivable nature of the fabric. Not ideal, but I could live with it. In my head, I’d dreamed of matching my power mesh to the fabric, but finding it in silver proved very difficult. And the black mesh I’d used for the earlier version was much firmer than the nude, so I probably should have used two layer of the nude for extra strength. We live and learn.

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The wedding was awesome, everything I was wearing stayed put, was comfortable and I didn’t think about it all day. I took these images a few days before, because I knew there wouldn’t be many of me on the day (part of being the photographer). I was right too, these are the only ones that exist and that’s only because my brother (the groom!) offered to take them, bless him.

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The newlyweds ❤ I love them very much.

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You’re So Last Summer {Ohhh Lulu Cindy Bra}

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There’s a little fabric shop about half an hour from here called Johno’s. Now Johno’s has been around for quite some time, but I’d never manged to get to it until recently. I mean, I could have – but to be honest it’s not that appealing from the street. I know. I really should know better than to judge a book by its cover. I’ve since been there twice in the last month. It’s only a small shop, but packed to the ceiling with bolts of fabric in that organised chaos kind of way that old school fabric shops are. Plus the staff are lovely.

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Anyway, the second time I was there, this spandex jumped out at me from its spot (LOL) on the bottom shelf. Something about it pinged in my lizard brain, but I couldn’t quite place it. I loved the colour and those uneven splotches, so I grabbed a metre for future swimwear plans. As I was scrolling through instagram later that week, I spotted (LOL) my fabric. A local swimwear company had been using it for their previous season. Oh well, now I was going to use it too.

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I decided to revisit Ohhh Lulu’s Cindy bra, which I hadn’t made in ages. It was actually the first wired bra I ever sewn, but the cup shape wasn’t quite right on me, so it was pushed aside in favour of other patterns as my bra making skills improved. My body has changed a bit since my first Cindy attempts (as they do, those non static little vessels), so I checked my measurements against the pattern and cut another size. I am so used to making bras now with stable bridges and cups, that making one from stretch threw me a little. Would it be stable enough? Would I wiggle and jiggle like jelly on a plate? Would the cups stretch out beyond all repair and leave me with belly button boobs?

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Not really, as it turns out. I mean, I wouldn’t go jogging in it but if you ever see me jogging, there’s something terribly wrong and you should probably run too. I lined the cups and side band in lightish white swim spandex (could have used lining also, but this provides a bit more support), with powernet for the back band and stable bra lining for the bridge. The pattern calls for powernet at the bridge, but past bra making experience made me decide that I wanted a more stable bridge. Well, as always, I probably should have followed directions, because now I’ve got a bit of excess spandex at the bridge forming a bit of wrinkling. Not a big deal, but I know for next time.

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The width of these cups is spot on for me, although they do flatten me out so I need a tiny bit more projection. Next time I might narrow the bridge slightly too. If you are a bra sewer, try and forget your sizing in other patterns. I’m mostly a 40D in bra patterns, but this one is a 36DD and I could even go down another band size (I ended up taking a bit out of this one). That’s unusual for me because I am pretty broad across the back.

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As always, I made a few changes to take this from bra to bikini:

  • I eliminated the back clasp by cutting the back piece on the fold. I like a firm band and am much more comfortable without a closure digging into my back. You could change it for a strappy back with hooks or a couple of those swimwear clasps. the width makes it a bit more challenging though.
  • The bottom of the band has regular swim elastic instead of picot.
  • The top edges have binding (instead of fold over elastic) created from the spandex, as well as narrow swim elastic enclosed within the binding. I think it creates a nice clean finish, while also keeping everything hugged against my chest and back. I’ve used zig zag because I don’t mind it, but if you want a more professional looking finish, you could use a twin needle.
  • I made fabric straps, again with elastic in them for extra support, instead of using normal bra straps.

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A couple of people have asked why I didn’t add foam. I have used it in swimmers before, but I don’t mind either way. I was keen to see how this would look without and also, I was being lazy and didn’t want to have to cut down pattern pieces for foam (otherwise, I’d have foam in seam allowances, which would be quite bulky). We all have nipples, so I’m not really concerned about concealing mine with foam, but I know some people prefer to. I also don’t mind boob shaped boobs, even though the modern trend is toward foam domes. Foam has the added advantage of providing a bit of extra support too, but honestly – it’s really not a problem for me with this one.

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I forgot to mention the bottoms are my same old self drafted ones I wear constantly. I just sized down for these so they don’t fall off in the surf. I might have sized down a touch too much, but at least they aren’t going anywhere.

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Gotta admit, the whole time I was taking these photos, I was slightly concerned about being joined by this not so little friend who has been hanging around recently. The shrub behind me is its hideout.

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Lucky for me it remained tucked away wherever it is. I definitely would have ended up in the pool if it decided to make itself known. And that water is still really cold.

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Bra Restock {Orange Lingerie Marlborough Bra}

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There is really very little reason to blog these bras. I’ve made them and talked about them many, many times before. The Marlborough pattern is my favourite. It fit me almost straight out of the envelope (or off the PDF) and gives me the most lift and projection than any other bra I’ve ever worn. Including RTW.

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I automatically sift through my drawer for the Marlboroughs before anything else. It feels kind of like cheating to make the same pattern over and over, but hey – I love them, so why not?

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Actually the nude coloured one was sewn out of necessity. I have so many black and bright prints, but was seriously lacking anything to wear under semi sheer clothes. I found the peachy coloured lace in Spotlight and the matte spandex was from The Remnant Warehouse.

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The other two were sewn because I like sewing in threes.

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Matching knickers, because of course. All my supplies are from all over the place, so if you want to know something specific, just ask. As always, pretty much all of it comes from The Remnant Warehouse, Pitt Trading and Booby Traps.

webDSC_2740 You know what though? I still learn little tips and tricks every time I sew. This time I learned that you can put two wires in one casing. I know. Why? I bought some wires on sale and when they arrived, they were a bit flimsy for me. But I bought a pile of them because they were such a bargain. So two in each cup for extra support.

webDSC_2776 Look at those enclosed seams. They fill me with a ridiculous amount of satisfaction. All of my bras are lined with sheer cup lining. It’s light, but strong.

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I can’t decide which one is my new favourite child. That peacock lace or the printed silk gifted to me by a friend. The nude one is nanna-functional, but the other two are a bit more special.

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Welcome to the lingerie drawer, new friends….

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Battle of the Bras {Orange Lingerie Marlborough, Pin Up Girls Classic and Pin Up Girls Shelley}

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Is the world of bra sewing confusing and daunting? Yes. Does it require a bit of engineering, guesswork and prayer? Yes. Is it worth doing anyway? Hell yes.

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I’ve been sewing bras for a couple of years now and I’m at the point where there are no longer any store bought bras in my drawer and there hasn’t been for a while. Why sew bras? Well, considering you can grab one at Kmart for the princely sum of $10, it’s not cost.  Why then? Fit, baby. And if you can get store bought bras to fit you like a glove, then you’re probably scoffing at me right now. That’s ok, I can take it. I didn’t really realise how badly my bras were fitting until I starting making my own and actually researching what a well fitting bra looks like. I no longer want to burn them by the end of the day. Plus they can be sewn in a rainbow of colours and prints.

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Wanna know? Here’s some general fit guidelines (for wired bras):

– The bridge (that bit in the middle) should sit flush against your chest

– The straps shouldn’t dig in or slide off your shoulders

– The back band should sit parallel to the floor and not ride up

– The wire should encase all of the breast tissue, not cut through it or dig under your arms

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Now, we are all different and unique individuals with different and unique boobs. Different shapes require different bra designs, who knew?! Here are my quirks:

– Close set

– Side boob that wants to head, well, sideways

– Underarm flab

– Broad back

– Very little upper cup fullness

Being close set means I need a narrow bridge, my wires need to kiss in the centre to fit flat to my chest. The broad back and underarm flab means that I have a preference for nice wide bands, at least 3 hooks in the back but 4 is better. My lack of upper cup fullness (this could be pregnancy/breastfeeding, age or even genetics-related) means I gravitate towards full cups – I basically ‘fall out’ of demi cups. A power bar is ideal to direct that side boob back to front and centre. Isn’t it funny that it’s taken me about a year to realise all this stuff?

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Let’s talk wire because omg, that confused the hell out of me for a long time. When I first started sewing bras I would just shove any old wires (from old rtw bras) that would fit into my new bras. Wires that probably never fit me in the first place. When I decided to refine my fit a bit more, I did a lot of reading and found out you can find out your wire size first and then basically reverse engineer a bra to fit. Order a few different wire sizes, stand topless in front of a mirror and measure those babies against your breast root to find the Cinderella wire. Turns out mine is a 44, which corresponded with the bra sizes I was already making, but good to know, right? Here’s a helpful post about wires.

Of course, within those wire sizes are variations on length and style. But cross that bridge when you come to it.

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The two bras I make the most are the Pin Up Girls Classic (shown above in the gold lace and leopard satin) and Orange Lingerie’s Marlborough Bra (the blue lace). The Classic has a full band and full two piece cup, while the Marlborough has a full band and 3 piece cup (with a power bar). Here’s how they fit:

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The Marlborough is my favourite, but only by a tiny bit. The combination of slight plunge in the front with the power bar pushing everything front and centre makes it a winner. I still get a good amount of lift from the Classic too.

There’s another Pin Up Girls pattern which I’ve only ever made once, the Shelley bra. It’s similar to the Marlborough in that it has a power bar and a full band, but has four pieces in the cup. The one I made was a bit small in the cup (going by the designers directions for measuring, bras always end up too small in the cup for me). So I decided today was the day for a bit of a scientific comparison, because I am nerdy like that. I traced off my new upsized Shelley and sewed it up to see if I liked it as much as the Marlborough, after all – how different could they be?

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That’s the Shelley in the red satin and lace on top and the Marlborough on the bottom in the red and black. I did raise the underarm on the power bar and band of the Marlborough so the wire sizes could be exactly the same in both. I mean, for proper science they would both have to be created from the same fabric, but I was hoping to get two wearable bras out of this and who wants two exactly the same? Variety for me, please.

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As you can see, they ended up quite different! While the Shelley feels supportive, it gives me no where near the same amount of lift (look at that bottom cup in the side on view) and it feels like it actually flattens out my upper bust. Plus there is a heap of breast tissue bulging out at the sides, which has all been pushed forward in the Marlborough.

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I’ll just keep sewing all the Marlboroughs then, ok? Ok.

PS Most of my supplies for bras come from Booby Traps and Sew Squirrel. All of the bras pictured are lined with bra lining to keep everything from stretching out. That’s really important.

 

 

Bra-Bra-Bra, Bra-Bra-Bra-Anne {Orange Lingerie Marlborough Bra}

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Over the weekend I had a craving for some rock solid bra sewing. Can you have sewing cravings? I do. I love bra sewing for the same reason I love swimwear sewing. It’s very different to sewing a dress, it’s a bit challenging and it’s one of those things that really throws people when you tell them you made it. I always feel very accomplished when I have a bra that fits.

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Of course, the extra level in bras is the fit. Especially wired bras. I always say that sewing them isn’t the hard part – it’s the fit that can drive you nuts. Once you have that down though, you’re golden.

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Even though these aren’t my first Marlborough bras, I went the extra fitting mile this time and compared wire sizes to my breast root. This basically involves standing topless in front of a mirror and holding up a variety of wire sizes along the underside of your breast to check which size fits best. Then you make the bra to fit the wire, rather than buying wire to fit the bra you made. The theory is the fit is more accurate and I totally agree.

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So, turns out I had been making the correct Marlborough size all along (a 40D, although my measurements put me in a 40B according to the pattern), but using a slightly different wire size has really elevated the fit. They are so comfortable. I used to scoff when people would say that you don’t feel the wires in a correctly fitting bra, but it’s definitely true in this case.

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The floral print in the first bra is Cotton and Steel cotton spandex jersey. Not recommended for this particular pattern because it stretches, but I’ve lined it with bra lining to counteract that. The fabric for the second is a rigid lace from The Remnant Warehouse and the fabric for the third is some sort of mesh with velvety stripes (also from The Remnant Warehouse). I wasn’t even sure that fabric would work for a bra because it’s quite heavy, but it turned out really well. All are lined with bra lining and the seams are enclosed.

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All the side panels in the knickers are non stretch, which meant I compensated by cutting the front and back panels a bit bigger. The top pair use that lovely cotton lycra for the main part and I’ve used nice stretchy black spandex for the other two pairs. Bra hardware, strapping and elastic is all from Booby Traps.

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Is there anything that boosts your self esteem like well-fitting, comfortable lingerie?

 

 

The Great Finishing {Tilly and the Buttons Rosa Dress}

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This weekend was spent finishing off a pile of UFOs I had languishing in a basket, mocking me for too long. Most of it was really boring and involved unpicking and sewing on buttons, but this Rosa was pick of the litter.

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I wasn’t sure why I had ignored it for so long. I cut it out just after making my last one and I adore the fabric, so it’s not that I was feeling particularly uninspired. Then when I was getting towards the end, it hit me. Buttons. Twelve of them. It always feels like a huge task, but when I get into the swing of it, it’s fine. And yeah, my machine has a one step buttonhole function. If I had to do those suckers manually it would be a different story. There’s also a lot of top stitching, which I have done in grey thread because my top stitching isn’t something that I want to draw attention to.

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I would also like to point out that I’ve made everything I’m wearing except my shoes and tights. And I hear you say ‘Yeah? So you made a dress? That’s nothing new, Katie.’ That’s true, but think about what you can’t see. Yep, bra and knickers are made by me also. And since I’m bragging, would you take a look at the projection and shape of that right boob? God I love this bra. It’s Kwik Sew 3594. I have four of them now. A lot of women prefer a rounded shape to the well, boob shape. But I personally do like a boob-shaped boob. Yeah, we went there. I just wanted to highlight it because a lot of people seem to think handmade bras are unsupported-wrestling-puppies-in-a-sack kind of situations, but I assure you they aren’t.

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Onward. You want to know where everything is from:

Pattern: Tilly and the Buttons Rosa Dress

Fabric: Robert Kaufman Chambray

Buttons: thrifted. Got a bag of about 200 wooden buttons for $2. Do recommend.

Shoes: Vintage Dr Martens scored on ebay. Not sewn obviously, but lots of people ask me about them.

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Ignore the orange ear. Apparently he’s been wandering through the garden, helping the bees pollinate. Still tilted to the left, as you can see. Bloody dog and his bloody ears.

I haven’t shared much about the construction of this Rosa as I covered it in my last one. I didn’t make any changes except the placement of the sleeve tabs – I just rolled them to where I wanted and put them in the right spot. Easy. Now excuse me as I swan off to the yacht club in my nautical dress.

Kidding. I’m going to reheat leftover Thai and do some work.

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