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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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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