About 2 months ago I bought the Watson Bra and Undies pattern. I made up a shopping list, cut out my fabric, and sewed the undies pretty quickly (more about that here). And then I stopped. I was terrified of making the bra. What if I didn’t cut it just right? What if after hours and hours of sewing it just fell apart? What if it didn’t fit?
The only way to know what would happen was to actually make the bra. So I did it. It fits! It didn’t fall apart. And now I have a matching set.
My main fabric is a cotton/polyester blend, and I fully lined it with nude power mesh. I really like the fit of this bra. It gives me good coverage without squishing me or making me a shape I’m not. The instructions are pretty easy to follow as well. In the future I think I would go down a band size, but on the whole I have no complaints.
So there you have it. I made a bra by hand, there are no machine stitches on it. So if you are holding back from something like this because you’re scared, just do it. You might surprise yourself. And if it fails somehow or doesn’t fit? It’s just fabric. There is always more.
Sewing was one of the first crafts my mother taught me. I started by making small pillows that were supposed to be square. Soon I graduated to decorating plastic canvas and then to basic embroidery. I don’t live near my mom anymore, so most of the new skills I learn are from the internet or from books. These are the books in my sewing library.
Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: This book changed my life. I had never thought of hand-sewing jersey before or of using applique as an all over technique. I didn’t know there were hand-sewing stitches that were stretchy. I’ve made 3 garments from these patterns so far, and they are great.
Couture Sewing Techniques: If you want to learn everything there is to know about the finer points of hand-sewing garments, this is the book for you. It starts of with a history of couture, and has chapters devoted to different aspects of crafting a garment, such as seams, hems, and finishing techniques.
Fit for Real People: The basic premise of the method presented in this book is that you fit tissue paper patterns to your body. You don’t make a muslin, you don’t have to take a million measurements or learn to draft patterns. Just pin the pattern in place, make adjustments for your body, cut, and sew. Revolutionary!
Doodle Stitching: This book is all about whimsical embroidery. It starts with suggestions of several embroidery stitches to use, and then details projects to be made with these stitches. I keep this book not because I want an apron with a teacup on it, but as a reminder that not everything has to be serious and that a little colour can really spice things up.
McCall’s Easy Sewing, White Sewing Course, and The Home Handicraft Book: These are all basic sewing courses aimed at amateur sewists learning how to sew garments for the first time. They are full of tried and tested techniques, and are a great way to get started sewing.
Do you have a sewing library? What books do you keep coming back to for tried and tested knowledge?
At the end of May, Karen from Fringe Association announced a make-along that she called Summer of Basics. The goal was to use the months of June, July, and August to make wardrobe basics. Sewing and knitting were both allowed, and everyone got to decide what was a basic for their individual wardrobe. Brilliant!
I didn’t seriously consider joining until a reader commented that I should, at which point I realized that I make things all the time and wardrobe basics are super smart things to make since they get used all the time.
First up is my Call Box Hat:
This is a pattern that I wrote (and it will be released September 30 in Knotions Magazine!). I had made a prototype version several years ago, but somehow I lost it and I missed it last winter. I wrote all about it here.
Second is my Alabama Chanin T-shirt tunic:
This tunic was a super easy make. It’s the perfect length, and I love wearing it! You can read more about the details here.
And Third is my Watson Bikini:
I just finished these last night, and they fit well. Part of me can’t believe that I just made my own underwear, but there they are staring me in the face. You can’t get much more basic than underpants (also, I’m planning to make a matching bra. You’ll see that in the next few weeks).
So that’s my Summer of Basics. What counts as a basic in your wardrobe?
A while ago I wrote about how I like to dress down at home, but somewhat nice at work. However, I find it easiest to make clothes that fall in between – too nice to wear at home, but not nice enough for a professional setting. Several months ago I bought some cotton jersey, intending to make ALL THE THINGS, but the colours were not what I expected, so the fabric got set aside. A few days ago I decided that sometimes good enough now is better than perfect someday, and that I should use what I already have rather than buy more stuff.
So I pulled out my Alabama Chanin patterns, and set to work making a tunic to wear at home. I used the basic T-shirt pattern, but lengthened the hem to end mid-thigh and shortened the sleeves to end just above my elbow. I also added a pocket, because POCKETS!
I turned the neckline under to stabilize it. I may turn the other hems under, but then again, I may not. I have also thought about felling the seams, but that just seems like a lot of work for an already functional garment. In my imaginary world I will applique leaf shapes all over the tunic and it will become a work of art that I wear with leggings and a hat as I walk through piles of autumn leaves. But sometimes good enough now is better than perfect someday. And I can always add to my finished tunic.
I live in the South. I didn’t grow up here, so the culture is not my own. That being said, I do appreciate some of the foods and customs here – like grits. For those of you not acquainted with grits, they are composed of coarsely ground corn that you cook in water and eat for breakfast like oatmeal. I like to eat them with butter and salt. My husband and I recently finished a bag of grits, and I was sad to see the muslin bag they came in go to waste, so I decided to re-purpose it.
I sewed the top inch of the bag down and threaded two lengths of cord through to make a drawstring bag.
Voila! Fastest project ever, and it is the perfect size for socks.
I have been wanting to buy some nice fabric, and this week I finally made it happen. I was looking for some black silk to make a Wiksten Tank and a Henrietta Maria top (my favourite black top died a month or 2 ago, and I have missed it terribly). I went to Mary Jo’s cloth store in Gastonia, NC – a little over an hour’s drive from where I live. You walk into the store and realize it is more of a fabric warehouse, and where do you begin?
Unfortunately the store didn’t have any black silk (apparently they are recovering from prom season), so I resorted to Plan B. I bought a black wool crepe to make the Henrietta Maria in,
And this orange beaded silk for the Wiksten tank.
As soon as I saw the silk, my heart belonged to it. I tried to leave it behind, but it wouldn’t let me go.
I have now washed the wool crepe in preparation for cutting and sewing. Has anyone made the Henrietta Maria? The pattern calls for 8″ of positive ease, and that just seems too much to me. I think I’ll make the top a few sizes smaller for 3-4″ of positive ease.
Here you see my lovely cat assisting me in cutting an altered pattern piece for the Wiksten Tank. I love the pattern, but my shoulders are just a wee bit wider than most, so I’m adding a bit of width.
Isn’t he sweet?
This was the first year that I participated in Me Made May. I was really surprised that I was able to wear something I had made every day in May – some days I even wore more than one me-made item. Getting dressed some days was hard, though. I realized that I have a me-made wardrobe gap: I see clothing style in a continuum of how casual or dressy it is. The continuum looks like this: casual, medium casual, business casual, professional, dressy. At home I wear mostly casual clothes – jeans or shorts and a t-shirt, or even pajamas. At work I like to dress on the nicer end of business casual. But most of the clothes that I have made fit in the medium casual range, so I don’t always want to wear them at home or at work. This tells me that I need to make more t-shirts and truly casual wear so I can be comfortable at home. I also need to make more business casual clothes so I can feel comfortable at work. I will still wear my medium-casual clothes (both around the house and on the job), but changing what I make will eliminate the time I spend standing in front of my closet wondering what to wear.
I’d like to build a wardrobe that is truly functional and beautiful. Part of that vision is wearing sleeveless shirts with cardigans to be wearable in all seasons. I see lace cardigans over simple sleeveless tops worn with pants in fun colours. Or coloured tops with black or grey pants. Or black tops with grey or coloured pants. I’m still working toward this, but finding the Wiksten tank pattern is a huge step in the right direction. I like how the pattern can be made with nice fabric to dress it up, or in simple cottons for everyday wear. I also have yarn for 3 cardigans now, so I guess I should get making.