Pattern Fitting

Blue Jeans Baby

IMG_5163

Hello, hello! Hello, November and goodbye to my favorite month of the year. Am I in the minority in that I love autumn? I can finally spend blissful hours in my garden without sweating or getting attacked by mosquitoes. But it’s more than the weather; I love the transitions, slowness and more contemplative emotions of fall. It’s also the time of my birthday, so I was born for it.

So this is what became of my jeans project. Since my last post about these, I took a long & scenic route to fitting. I’d take them apart, re-cut and stitch them back together, preen in front of the mirror, pin out here and there, take them apart again, then take a few days off and distract myself with a fun dyeing project so I didn’t get overwhelmed. Wash, rinse, repeat.

self-drafted-jeans

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what’s going on with this outfit. I have had one of those months where I feel like throwing my clothes out and starting all over. It doesn’t help that most of my winter clothes are in our attic, stored from our move this spring. What I really wanted to do was roll up the jeans and wear a long tunic–a favorite style of mine–but then you wouldn’t get the all-important booty shot!

self-drafted-jeans-back

This month I’ve been working on a lot of pattern drafting projects. These kinds of projects are slow and full of learning, and really excite me, because they involve learning the fundamentals of fit and not just fixing symptoms. So while fitting these jeans, I went down some very fascinating rabbit holes reading about pant design. I read online and off, including stuff from arcane men’s drafting journals.

One of my very scenic side roads involved watching the videos in my long-ago purchased Craftsy Jeanius course, and then spending an evening making a pattern from one of my favorite pairs of wide-legged jeans. They are a totally different style than what I’m working on but the resulting pattern was very educational! (The front leg of this pattern was so much narrower than the back, for instance, while almost every draft I’ve seen makes front and back nearly equal.) I still plan to make up the pattern I got from my jeans, but that will have to wait for another rainy day. If you have been frustrated with jeans patterns, but already have a pair that you love, I’d recommend trying this class as one way to start.

So I left this project with a head full of fitting ideas, but for now this is how far I got. I love some things and am bothered by others, which I will fix the next go-around. Because of all my unpicking, recutting and re-stitching until I had just a shred of a seam allowance left in some parts. The waistband and fly are attached by something like 1/8″, and I couldn’t fit a fly that covers the zipper. Don’t tell the jeans that, because they seem to be holding up just fine! Unfortunately, I also had no length left for hemming so had to settle on an odd ankle length.

The scenic route was totally worth it! Drafting my own was worth it. I’m not sure I had a clear idea of the style I was after, hence the scenic route, but the process got me a lot closer to learning about my fit, and I ended up with a couple of potential patterns which won’t require starting a major fit process all over again. Win win!

Alrighty, who hasn’t tried jeans yet?

Details:
Pattern: self-drafted (starting with Bunka Pants & Skirts, with details like the yoke and pockets copied from other jeans)
Stretch denim: Gorgeous Fabrics, but at least five years old!
Pocketing: B. Black & Sons
Rivets & Button: Cast Bullet

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In Process: Jeans Fitting

I spent a good rainy indoorsy Sunday sewing up and fitting my jeans.

Just for a good laugh, here’s version 1.0:

first-jeans-muslin

What is going on with that waistband? you might wonder. It’s a cautionary tale about pattern drafting. I know that I should always measure twice, double-check my calculations. In this case, I drafted the waistline in metric but accidentally added ease in imperial, about three inches too much! Oops. I like to draft in metric as it’s more precise–it’s also what my pattern book used–but I think in imperial. It’s sort of like learning a language; I’m not quite at the point where I dream in metric, so I switch back and forth with my rulers to “translate”.

I took apart my pieces and cut out a version 2.0 with a completely new pattern adjusted to zero ease with a little bit of negative ease in some parts, including the waist. On my first pattern I drafted the hip and thighs with about 2.5cm total ease, which is a really small amount for a non-stretch woven, but this denim has 35% stretch–and it fit like it had almost 10cm of ease. So rather than take in adjustments willy-nilly here and there and everywhere, I figured it was easier to recut.

On version 2.0, some things improved and others seemed to get worse…

2nd-jeans-fitting

There’s some excess here and there, especially around the seat and the front crotch length. Ahh, that dreaded crotch fit. I have fit this area before with success in pants and shorts, but working with stretch fabric is a different beast. And jeans curves are shaped very differently than other pants. If you have ever examined your RTW jeans you might have noticed that the front fork is often much shorter and the curve is flatter than you think it’s going to be. Really slim stretch jeans and pants often have the inseams and outseams closer to the front around the seat/crotch area than trousers. This could have been my first problem–I used a slim trouser draft that wasn’t specifically for jeans.

But thinking about the differences gave me an idea I want to try but it will have to wait until next weekend.

The glorious mess…

jeans-mess

At the bottom is Leo. He snuck in this room overnight and did some kind of happy claw dance on my fabric, which left snags I had to cut around. I think he’s plotting his next move.

So jeans 3.0 will have to wait but at least I got to play with topstitching! (Thanks to readers who suggested that I use regular thread in the bobbin. That really helped.)

topstitching-pockets

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Body Scanning, For the People

measuring from Dress Design, Hillhouse

My measurements change, and frequently. It all depends on chocolate or circuit training. Or the time of the year. I am more athletic in the summer. I’m dormant in the winter. A few years ago I drafted some close-fit slopers, which I’ve occasionally used as a “body map” to correct dart and length placements on patterns, but it was time to do some re-measuring. I really want to try some pattern drafts from a few of my new-er books and every drafting style always has its own specific measurement needs.

And obviously there are some measurements that you can’t do yourself–and some which are very particular to posture. I definitely straighten up for myself. And take little smidgens off here and there. I subconsciously cheat!

So I hopped over to a friend’s house for some help in taking my current measurements. Some of the results surprised me and I wondered if she may have been holding the tape too loose. I wanted backup data. How else could I get measurements? Ooh, perhaps a body scanning? After a bit of googling about fit technology I discovered a startup company from Berlin called UPcload, who designed software that scans your body through a laptop webcam. Web 2.5 plus German technology = now that’s what I’m talkin about!

Like the few 3D scanning technologies that have trickled down to retail, this is aimed at shoppers who want to find better-fitting store clothing and it supports itself through retail partnerships. But I was curious what it could do for me in terms of pattern-drafting measurements.

ETA: And IT’S FREE. (Oopsy, forgot to add that.)

So here’s how it works. After a simple sign-up process the software connects to your webcam and a flash movie begins taking you step by step through a set-up process in front of your laptop. First it has you change into tight-fitting dark clothing, with a helpful guide on what constitutes tight–and pull up your hair if you have long hair. To get an accurate body profile you move the laptop and yourself until you fit into a frame. Then you hold a CD or DVD in front of your stomach as a point of reference.

Then another movie starts taking you through the measuring process. I forgot to take screenshots of the process as I was doing it, but these are the poses…

Upcload poses

It’s all demonstrated by this cute 20-something couple who seem very happy about the whole thing; their apartment is much cleaner and less colorful than my house (no white walls here!).

The whole thing took about 10 minutes with some swishy disco “scan” noises and voila! body measurements.

upcload profile

So you might be wondering, how accurate are they? I was shocked! Most of my width measurements were spot on within .5 cm of what my friend had measured. The lengths were different but those were the ones I suspected my friend had taken too loosely, so I went with UPcload’s. Of course UPcload’s measurements are minimal and I needed several others specific to the draft I am working on, but at least I got the basics!

Anyone ever done a body scanning (outside of the airport, of course!)? I’d love to hear about it. Or have you ever had a tailor or other professional measure you?

Additional notes: If drafting custom-fitting patterns is your thing, I highly recommend European Cut by Elizabeth Allemong. There are some great drafting explanations in that book, but worth the price alone is the extensive chapter on how to measure–where to hold the tape, how tight to hold it, when to use aids, etc. Few patternmaking books go into that much detail. There’s always The Art of Measuring, reprinted by Center for Pattern Design. But then that’s vintage drafting and specific to tailoring, but I’m definitely curious about it!

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Ask the Expert: Questions for Norma!

Orange Lingerie, cream lace bra

Today I’m going to turn the floor over to Norma Loehr, our guest bra-maker. She has been so gracious in joining the sew-along group and offering her expertise in bra fit and construction. I feel like I’m in bra bootcamp, don’t you?

You all had some great (especially fitting) questions for her and it was really hard to boil them down!

Q; The underwire size that fits me comfortably is about 2 sizes bigger than my bra size, and the wires are really high. I can’t find any shorter wires in this size. I’ve been cutting them off on both sides, filing and dipping them in adhesive. Do you have any tips to make this easier?

Yes, I frequently have to cut underwires to get them to fit into the bra. I use a DeWalt wire cutter that which snaps right through the underwire in one clip. To seal the edges, I use Household Goop which you can also find in the hardware store.

For both tasks I put the wire into a table vise so I can have both hands free and also don’t forget to wear eye protection! Those wire ends sort of fly off when you use the wire cutter.

I hope this makes the process simpler and faster for you!

Q: I have a prominent sternum and regularly have issues with the center wires digging in–especially if they are very tall. What sort of changes to my pattern do I need to make to accommodate this?

You should not need to make any pattern adjustments but you will need to reshape the underwire. I had a client with this exact issue and it was solved by bending the underwire in an outward arc, away from the body. The arc to accommodate your body should also help avoid the digging in at the tips of the wire because the wire won’t be tilted back in toward your body. You will need to experiment with the arc that works for you but do so in small increments because once wires are bent then do not go back to their original shape.

Q: I’m a 32A and most of the bra patterns I see seem like overkill for what little I have! I love the 15 minute set on your blog; do you know if there is an available pattern for something like that?

Lucky you! With an A cup you can wear whatever you want! Don’t worry about “overkill”, just make whatever style appeals to you.

If you like the 15 minute set the Kwik Sew 3167 with a band rather than the stretch lace at the bottom would be similar.

Q: I have a bit of a problem with east/west direction in my cups. What sort of seaming and other tricks do I need to do to achieve more front and center lift?

East/west really depends on where the pattern places the apex of the breast. A vertically seamed cup will be best at directing the breast tissue toward the center front.

In terms of lift, start with underwires and a band that fits properly. Look to the fabric and inner support to enhance the effect. In terms of fabric, use no more than 50% stretch for the band and a maximum of 25% stretch the cups. You can add inner cup support in the form of a power bar to also move the breast tissue out from the underarm and direct it forward and up.

Q: Is there anything essentially “wrong” with non-wired bras? My comfiest bras only have single straight bones at the underarm. The centre does not have a bridge and consequently doesn’t fit quite flat to my chest but this style is not particularly unflattering on me and is the only RTW one I can wear.

Underwires are the best way to get lift and support in a bra. Without underwires, both aspects will be decreased. It really is up to you and your preferences which is most comfortable and flattering for your figure. I suspect based on your comment that the wireless does not go back to the chest wall that you may be best off with an underwired bra.

Regarding wire size, I alway fit clients in an underwire separately from the cup sizing by trying the wire on them on its own. Getting the wire diameter correct is key for a comfortable wearing experience. It sounds like you have yet to find the right wire size so I would focus on that first. You can always cut the wire height down to fit into the bra.

Regarding the cup size, you should use the size that fits you best then combine the correct cup size with the correct wire size for your bra. This may require extending the cup at the underarm to fit the frame that corresponds to your underwire size.

——

One helpful thing she shared with many of us while fitting our bands: “I test band size by inserting two fingers perpendicular to the body under the hook and eyes fastened at the loosest setting. If the band will accommodate more than 2 fingers it is too big. Less than two fingers it is too small.”

She has written much more about customizing bra fit on her blog, too!

Thank you so much, Norma!

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Bra-making Sew Along: Cup Adjustments

bra cup adjustments

Continuing on with fitting adjustments, today we’ll talk through some possible alterations to your cups.

Some tips for working with these alterations:

  • Mark in your seamlines on your pattern so that you can measure exactly how much you want to adjust.
  • The best way to determine your alteration is by pinning out excess along the cross-cup seams, neckline or arm edges of the cup to see if that helps things fit. If you need more room you could cut a bit into areas of your tester bra to see what alleviates tightness. Measure how much you needed removed or added and write it down. I keep the pins in the bra so I can measure my little “darts” after I take it off.

Overall volume adjustment

If you simply want to add or remove more overall volume in the cup, pinch out darts along the main seams until the cup feels comfortable. Measure out this amount along the cross cup seamlines. Spread or close the dart and redraw the seams.

cup adjustment #1

I’m just showing one adjustment right at the bust point but if you are adding or removing a lot of volume, you may need to make several little darts or slashes along the seams so that you make an even shape adjustment across the cup.

Adding or Removing Lower cup volume

If you notice excess fabric pooling at the bottom of your cup, you may need to remove some of the volume from the lower cup. Pull up the lower cup and see if you can pin some of it out. This adjustment could also help lift the cups.

cup adjustments #2

You will have to adjust the length of the uppercup seamline to match the new lower cup seamline. The illustration above shows one way to do that, by cutting and overlapping to shorten the seam.

Smoothing the apex

If the cups are just too (yes I’ll say this!) pointy, you can always smooth out the apex curve of the cup. When doing this adjustment, start small so you don’t remove too much of the seam length. This is pretty similar to doing the above adjustment. Maddie of Madalynne has a great post explaining cup alterations, particularly this one!

Adding Lift

Both of the above adjustments will add some lift to the bra in some way. If everything fits and you still want a bit more lift, you can try flattening the seam of the upper cup. The flatter this seam is, the more lift a bra has. (Balconette bras with 3-piece seaming often have a totally flat upper piece.)

cup adjustment #3

To make this adjustment work, you will have to remove some length on the lower cup seam so that it matches the new upper cup.

Gaping at the Side of the cup

cu adjustment #4
Pin out the excess along various points of the cup to determine where the excess is. Transfer this to your pattern by slashing and closing the darts, as in the examples below.

Adding underarm coverage

This is an alteration I did to my bra. It could help if you want some extra coverage or support along the side of your cup, depending on your figure. This alteration requires both your cradle/band and the cup pieces which run along your underarm.

cup adjustment #5

Line up the cup pieces and cradle right along their seamlines.

Draw in the new underarm line starting from the band and going up toward the cup. In this illustration, I’m also making my straps further apart on the top of the cup.

Adding more coverage the top of the cup

If you have more breast tissue at the top of your cup and want more coverage, you can always raise the top seamline. Most of the patterns we are using aren’t entirely a “full cup” bra.

cup adjustment #6

This new line can be either totally straight or just slightly curved–a curved line will add a bit more length.

That’s it–I hope these give y’all some good ideas! Tomorrow I’ll be featuring some of the great fitting questions you had for Norma.

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Bra-making Sew Along: Band & Frame Adjustments

band adjustments

Happy weekend all. Let’s talk fitting alterations! I had planned to do just one post on these Friday, but decided it’d better to divide it into two–one for the band and one for cups.

I know that fitting isn’t always the fun part. And especially on something which we may have had trouble fitting in the past and has so much potential to hold our body image captive! But you can get there. Don’t be afraid to slash into your pattern and make little changes with each new bra, even if it’s something you’ve never seen done before. Your instincts are often better than you think!

In fitting your bra, try to pay attention to the fit of your underwire and band first and the cups second. Many problems can be solved by getting the right “frame”.

Adjusting band length

If you band feels too loose or tight, it’s easy to adjust the length. It should fit well on the loosest or at most 2nd hook. The hooks are there for you to adjust your band as the elastic starts to age. And it will age!

band length adjustment #1

1. Draw a line down the center of the band.

band length adjustment #3

2. Cut the pattern along this line and spread or overlap by the amount you wish to take out. (Remember this amount will be doubled in your bra.)

3. Trace and redraw the new band line making a smooth line connecting the pieces (red).

For a band that hikes up

If your band is hiking up, it may be too long so you can try the above adjustment. But sometimes shortening the band isn’t enough to keep it from hiking up. Perhaps your ribcage is narrower below the bust so you need less length along the bottom hem. And every pattern has a different band angle–experiment to find one that works with your body. This is also called a “downward hike adjustment”.

downward hike adjustment #1

1. If you have a side seam, line up the cradle and the band along the seamline. If your pattern doesn’t have a side seam, draw a line about 2/3 up from the CB to the cup seam.

2. Extend the center back line down by the amount you wish your band to go and place a mark (blue). Extend the side seam line by 1/2 that amount and mark.

downward hike adjustment #2

3. Slide down and rotate the back band to meet these new points. If you did not have a side seam, you’ll have to slash the pattern along the dotted line. Retrace your new band line (in red, along the seamlines). Don’t forget to add back your seam allowances!

Gaping along the underarm

This is almost the opposite of the above alteration. On my bras, I often had gaping running from the underarm of the cup around the side seam, usually right where the channeling was topstitched down to the band. I finally figured out that this had to do with excess length along the top of the band. The band plays a role in giving some tension to the underwire, but since I had too much length, the excess was crowding at the point of least resistance right inside the cup.

gaping band adjustment #1

1. Measure out the amount needed to take out the gaping and draw in dart along the front of the band at the seamlines (blue lines).

gaping band adjustment #2

2. Cut the pattern along the blue lines and close the dart. 2. Re-trace the pattern and draw in a new smooth line (red) connecting the pieces.

Note that if you have a lot of gaping at your underarm, you may need a cup adjustment. Gaping problems won’t be solved by pulling elastic tighter around the cup. I tested out this theory on several bras: the ones in which I pulled elastic tighter actually resulted in more gaping. Pulling elastic tighter while sewing ends up removing more of the elastic tension permanently so it stops behaving as it should.

Bridge adjustments

This little space can take a lot of different shapes! If you find it feels a little tight or loose, but your underwires and cups fit you correctly, try making some adjustments to the bridge. Tiny adjustments, like 1/16″ (1.5mm), can make a difference. Remember that whatever adjustment you make to half the pattern will be doubled.

bridge adjustments

These are just a few alterations I have experience with but hopefully they give you some ideas! Some great fitting questions have come up in the Flickr group. Thank you all, for being brave to share what you’re working on, and please be free help each other out because we all have different experiences. I’ve also posted some pictures of my tester bras so you can see the gory details. I’ve got a few adjustments to make myself!

Further fitting resources:

Bra-makers Manuals, Volumes 1 and 2. Both are available from Bra-makers Supply and Elingeria in book and CD form. These books explore every corner of custom bra fitting and construction. I love collecting bra-making books–particularly drafting books, which help me understand the theory–but these are really the only ones (I know of) that cover fitting to individual shapes.

If you know of other bra-fitting resources, please share in the comments!

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Bra-making Sew Along: A Trial Run

a trial bra

Yay, the light came out today! My friend came over and we squeezed in some good photos and an instructive fitting session.

So these are my super purdy “bra muslins”. Or bra toiles, what have you! Cute, huh? One for my friend and one for myself, since I’m trying out a new cup.

trial bras

If you’d like to try a fitting bra, here’s one way to approach it. I make a very quick bra using some leftover bra materials and scrap. And no elastic. If this is your first bra, you can get some practice on those curvy seams without the pressure!

Some suggestions for the cups: If you can spare some of your cup fabric for a test run, perfect! If not, try using some woven scraps like cotton muslin or quilting cotton. But testing your cups in a stable woven will obviously only work if you’re making your bra from a stable fabric. If your chosen cup fabric stretches–including stretch lace or any type of fabric with spandex/lycra–and you don’t plan on lining the entire cup, the fit will be different. The closer you can get to testing your cups in the same or similar fabric to your actual bra materials, the better. Make sense?

tester cup, band & cradle fabric

For my bras, I cut the cups from leftover Duoplex. I think I have eeked out about eight tester bras from one Bra-makers Supply kit. You may have enough of your cup fabric to do a test run, too! I cut the cradle (or bridge) from muslin scrap, since that needs to be stable. I cut the band from the lycra and powermesh I plan to use. Every band fabric behaves differently and I often need to take in some fabrics depending on stretch. I’ve unbasted the bands and re-used them if they fit!

I won’t get into construction details until we make our bras, but here’s how I put it all together.

Sew the cups together. I added a seam to the center front of the bridge in case I need to adjust the spacing.

sewing cups together & cradle

Then sew the cradle to the band. Some patterns have a side seam, some don’t. And now you get to sew those cups into the cradle. This part is tricksy at first but don’t be shy! I’ll have some tips for you down the road.

cup, cradle & band fabric

And this is the really fun part. To get this to fit, find a way to get the underwire on that cradle seam. It will help pull the cup to the right position. You could baste in some of your channeling to the cup/cradle seam allowance with a long stitch. This is what I do. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you can re-use the channeling later. (Cut it a little bit longer if you want to save it.) Alternatively, you could try sewing a tiny tunnel right on your seam allowance. (Thanks Katherine, for a genius idea!)

tester cup underwires

Baste in the hook and eye. I do this pretty loosely. To simulate straps I baste in ribbon or seam tape in the back.

basting in the strap and hook

That’s it! I took some photos on my friend today and I’ll be posting these by the weekend in the Flickr group. I’ll be brave and post mine, too!

How is everybody doing? Have you sorted out your size and pattern? And don’t forget, Norma is here so if you have a burning bra-making question for her, don’t hesitate to ask! (And you are welcome to email me if it feels hard to ask here.)

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Bra-making Sew Along: Measuring for Fit

measuring for fit

Hello everyone and welcome to the first day of the Bra-making Sew Along!

I am so excited to have such a diverse group of women from all over the world joining along. And I’m glad you all share my enthusiasm for sewing lingerie. New Year, new skills, new bras!

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to sew along with you and share how I like to make my bras. My personal passion is in design and pattern-making, and I hope to impart how easy and fun it is to do some design magic to a bra pattern. For the first week and a half, I’m going to focus on pattern fitting and alterations for style. A friend of mine enlisted as a volunteer to let me fit her a new bra (lucky gal), so you can follow along basic pattern fitting.

Along the way, please feel free to share your own tips and experience with each other, either here in the comments or in the Flickr group. 50 minds are better than one! And don’t forget we also have Norma from Orange Lingerie joining along with us. Norma is a custom bra-maker who has graciously offered to answer some reader questions in an “Ask the Expert” feature which I’ll include in some posts. Let’s pick her brain and experience!

On an organizational note, I’ve updated the schedule on the central Bra-making Sew Along page so you can see where we are at and what’s coming up.

So, let’s get down to business–measuring business! This will be the longest post but I want to get this out of the way right at the beginning in case you are new to bra-fitting.

bra sizing

The patterns I suggested cover everything from 30AAA to 30H and 32I, up to band sizes 48A to H. These are some of the better-graded bra patterns out there as they have some sophisticated differences between sizes. I know these are missing some smaller and larger band sizes. Bands are a relatively easy thing to adjust if you had trouble locating yours.

And few of us will get a perfect fit right out of any pattern. Two women with the exact same measurements may be different cup sizes. We have various breast shapes, muscle development, and bone structure, which affect our fit. This is why a custom bra can be so wonderful–no matter your size.

For an underwired bra pattern, I have found that the best way to find a starting size is by locating an underwire and band size. If I get those two right, the cups will be easier to fit.

find your band size

measuring bust and high bust

To find your band size, measure yourself snugly around your ribcage, right under the breasts. It helps to breathe in and halfway out, then measure. This measurement or closest even band number up is your band measurement.

If this sounds too small to you, try measuring your high bust, just above your breasts and going under your arms. The closest even number to this would be your band. Basically, your band needs to be close to the width of your chest as if your breast tissue weren’t there!

My underbust is 29″/74cm and and my high bust width is 31.5″, and I usually use a 32 band. Sometimes I go down to a 30 in a bra with really stretchy materials. In European sizing, I use a 75.

Note: If your pattern tells you to add four/five inches to get to your band measurement, I recommend that you ignore it! When making a custom bra, you can always adjust the band for comfort by lengthening or shortening later, and most likely you will do this anyway for different stretch fabrics.

underwire fit

Do you know which underwire fits you best? The bra patterns I’ve suggested all use a regular length underwire, but in the future some of you may want to explore using a shorter or longer one, depending on your support or comfort desires. It’s good to experiment!

comparing different wires

I found my best wire size by comparing 3 sizes of wires, going one size up and one size down from my usual size.

The wire should closely hug the natural curve where your breast meets your chest wall. No poking into the underarm, sitting on your breast tissue, or dropping below that crease. Underwires increase in diameter by about 1/4″/8mm per size–that’s a really small difference but it could be a crucial one! If you are having trouble finding your natural curve, you could use a washable marker to draw on your crease and see how the wire fits into it. I know that sounds funny but some of us have probably squeezed our breasts into too-small underwires and seeing that crease helps!

comparing underwires on a chart

For my friend I tried on several European underwires. Her best wire was an 85 and to find the corresponding U.S. wire size, I compared it to the Fabric Depot wire chart. I’ve made a page with links to wire charts, if you need them to compare wires.

find your cup size

For those who want to leave out underwires, one way to find your starting cup size is by subtracting the width of your high bust from your full bust.

I know this doesn’t work for every shape and you need to be wearing a good fitting bra while measuring. If any of you have tips for cup measuring, let us know! If you found an underwire that fits, you can get even closer:

Take your underwire size and compare it to your band size to find a cup size on this chart. My underwire is a 32 wire, so I move over to find my band size and its corresponding cup, a 32B. (In European sizing, a 75B.) My friend’s size is in green.

underwire & band size chart

I know US/UK cup sizing gets a little whacky after D but hopefully the chart makes sense. I don’t think any of the patterns I’ve suggested use the DD/DDD cup sizing anyway.

Some women with very large cup sizes may find that they need a larger cup to go with a smaller wire. Smaller busted women may need a larger wire with a smaller cup. If you have a feeling this might be your case, you can adjust the volume in your fitting.

I hope this information helps! We’ll get to tracing the pattern Wednesday and start in on our tester bras. If you are still having trouble finding your size, please don’t hesitate to ask questions!

56 Comments

Muslins & Yoke Pockets

It has been a wonderfully on-and-off overcast week here in Austin. I’m pretending it’s raining more than it really is and that I should be having an “inside” day. Which means sewing and lots of pattern-cutting. And blogging. And playing with new tech toys…

My silk shorts pattern is finished and I’ve decided to sew a couple of pairs at the same time. I love a little assembly-line sewing! Until I get them done, I thought I’d share a few things I learned along the way… Today is all about yoke pockets. Over the last year I’ve made several patterns that have had some form of hip yoke pocket. The Lonsdale, the Cambie dress and my shorts all have these pockets. And of course you’d be familiar with them from many trouser and most jeans patterns.

The top pocket is a pretty common Burda pocket in anything with a fly. In Burda patterns, there is often just one piece on the pattern sheet. You’d trace off two separate pieces from that–one for the yoke piece and one for the lining that sews into the front skirt or pant piece. (The little extension is sewn into the center front.) The example on the bottom is a folded yoke pocket that includes lining and pocket in one.

It seemed a bit laborious to sew entire pockets into the muslins of these patterns, but I did–four times! Now I’m guessing I may not be as clever as my readers, but I really didn’t think of a way around this till I started making several test runs of my silk shorts. To cut the pocket and front as one for a muslin, I lined up the yoke pocket piece with the side seams, making sure the grain lines of pocket and short fronts were parallel. The patterns with these pockets often have notches near the hipline and along the waistline where the pocket lines up, which helps lining them up.

When cutting them out, I kept weights on them to make sure they didn’t shift.

Once lined up and taped/weighted onto that front piece, I could draw in the hip shape, remove the pocket and then proceed to cut the front as one whole piece.

What I really want is a flexible shorts block that I can use for multiple styles. So after finally getting the fit I wanted, I ended up making two blocks, one for shorts with pockets and one without. Now I have possibilities for side zips!

If you’ve ever made something with these kind of pockets, you have probably noticed they pull and bulge a bit if there is not enough hip room. Sometimes bulging–or a draped pocket–is intentional, but the pocket and short/skirt front have to be cut that way. Once I did a muslin without pockets I got a much more accurate fit without depending on the ease of the pocket “give”.

Hmmm, now I might be playing around some cool draped pockets like these Philip Lim trousers…

p.s. Sorry all if you wanted or tried to comment on my last post. My offline blog writer played a tricksy on me. All should be working now!

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Pen Pals, Peaches and Lace

Did you ever have a pen pal? (Do you remember those?) When I was a kid I always wanted one. Perhaps I’d get letters from France, or Scotland, or Florida, the envelopes decorated with stickers and hand drawings. I don’t know if this counts (because I was 19 not a kid), but I corresponded with a Polish fella for awhile, the summer after the Berlin Wall fell. His English was new and he wanted to practice. I wanted to know all about a place that had seemed behind a wall for most of my childhood. I was thinking about this today because what seemed so romantic then is so commonplace now. Blogging sort of feels like having a bunch of pen pals, and in instant time!

And I was excited to finally meet one in person last week, the beautiful Lavender of Threadsquare. Sadly, I don’t have photo proof of our meet-up but her dapper man was so kind to snap one. She was wearing an enviable fitted modal knit dress of her own making, and I felt a little bit sorry that all my me-made summer clothes were in the wash. (I am a “wait two weeks to do laundry” sort of lady.) Lavender is just as pretty in person as she is online, and gorgeous in the heart, too. After we parted, I realized how much sewing has been such a lone hobby for me, and that needs to change, STAT. I hope she and her husband find a way to move back to Austin, because it was wonderful to geek out about sewing, art, photography and blogging with someone, even just for a brief hour or so.

Maybe I can talk one of you guys into coming for a weekend to make our own dress forms. Or fit those cigarette pants. Hint, hint, hint. Or, or… bra-fitting?

That’s been the obsession du jour. I finally got cracking on my “Peaches & Cream” set, called thus because peaches are in season now, and I keep buying local ones from the market even though I can’t possibly eat them all. (I’m making cobbler today with the quickly turning leftover fruits.)

Ain’t she purty?

The patterns are Pin-up Girls Classic Bra and Merckwaerdigh Mix30 for the panties. The 2nd pair is my own draft. I used the Merck pattern as a starting point and drew out more of a hipster style with a higher waistline just using stretch lace (no elastic).

Over the last month, I’ve been experimenting a lot with my bra pattern, drawing out a few new styles and learning a bit about fabric and fit. My first two versions fit me very well, but only in the fabrics included in the Bra-makers Supply kits. The pattern calls for stable, non-stretch tricot for the cups and bridge area, and a firm stretch powernet for the band. Once you venture out into lightweight or stretchier fabrics like stretch lace and jersey–or anything with spandex–you’ll probably discover as I did that the pattern needs a bit of tweaking. My last version of this bra in my Byzantine set, turned out quite large in the cups and a little big in the band.

By pinching out the excess in the cups of my previous bra, I was able to get a good idea of what to remove and adjust. And it fits perfectly! Hopefully, this illustration will help someone else find a starting point for a similar alteration (say, if you’re changing from a more rigid fabric to cotton jersey that won’t be interfaced or padded). This adjustment removes both depth from the lower cup and length from the upper cup:

In my case, I removed almost 1/2″ in depth from the apex of the lower cup, going to zero at the sides. If you are using jersey or lingerie lycra for the band instead of powernet, you may need to shorten the back band a bit, too.

The fabric and notions are all from a Merckwaerdigh kit. If you’ve been stalking Novita’s bras as I have, you might recognize these fabrics from one of her sets. Peach and grey are one of my favorite color combinations, and I just couldn’t resist snapping up the same kit! The Merck kits are very similar to Elingeria’s, including a meter of stretch lace, and enough lingerie lycra (a nylon/spandex jersey) for one bra and two panties.

I like that Merckwerdigh’s kits also include cotton knit fabric for the panty lining, tiny elastic for the neckline on the cups and a small amount of stable sheer tricot to line and stabilize the lace or bridge, which you can see in the photo above. The tricot feels better against the skin than just lace, and adds a bit of modesty. (While Elingeria offers more variety, you’ll have to add those extras on your own if you want them.)

Happy sewing, y’all!

Back to the peach cobbler…

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