Orange Lingerie’s “Esplanade Bra” wearable muslin.

I’ve always had a love of quality lingerie, however I find shopping for it quite vexing because I am either too large for the range’s largest cup size, or the larger cup size range is bland and boring. Seriously, they usually look like something your grandma would wear, unless you’re willing to fork out up to $100 for the higher end market. When you’re a mum with two kids, the higher end market is not something you can usually afford. I’d recently seen a longline bra for sale at Target through the linr, Lily Loves that I really loved, but they didn’t stock it in my size. So I decided, gosh darn it, I would track down a pattern and make my own. Us mum’s deserve sexy lingerie! In larger cup sizes! We nourished a baby (or several) with our bodies alone so by gum I was going to take sexy back by the horns and wrangle it back into my bedroom.

I’d heard about Orange Lingerie, Norma Loehr’s indie pattern brand through the sewing grapevine, so I decided to check out the patterns for sale there. The range is rather good, and lo and behold, there she was, the esplanade bra, the very long line bra I was looking for, and ranging up to a 40DD(E) cup, which is perfect for me (I’m a 34-36DD-F depending on which boob you ask and how long it’s been between breastfeeds). So naturally I purchased it immediately and waited (im)patiently for the download link. Now a note to Chrome users or anyone with a pop-up blocker, when you click the link, you must make sure that the pop-up blocker is switched off! I didn’t realise this and you only get to try the link 3 times. The download shows as a popup, so from my end it looked like nothing was happening. Switch that blocker off to get to downloady goodness! After contacting Norma, who got back to me very quickly, I was off and downloading again!

Another note: the pattern instructions are at the front and then all the different sizes start after the pattern instructions. Follow the measurement instructions and then print off the section for your pattern size. Don’t be a numpty like me and print the whole thing, as it runs to over 100 pages all up. My kids now have an amazing stack of scrap paper and have fun colouring in the boobies… ahem.

I haven’t talked about it before, but back in the day (late 90’s) I hung out with the goth crowd in Sydney. My tastes have always run between vintage/goth/Harley Quinn. So I saw this as a perfect opportunity to make some lingerie that is completely me. I did have a hard time narrowing down my selection of fabric. The best thing about The Esplanade Bra is that it uses foam cups that you make yourself, so you can use any fabric over the cup and frame, which makes the options endless!

Caption: oh my, so many choices!

I sourced my fabric from both Spotlight and The Remnant Warehouse and the bra findings and laminated foam from Sew Squirrel (the Australian Distributor for Bra Makers Supply).

In the end I decided to go with thr gold metallic skull fabric (a black poplin with a gold foil print).

The instructions are exceptional. With detailed diagrams, step by step instructions and tips on the best way to sew and which feet to use, what stitch length etc. I breezed through this pattern so much faster than I expected.  The cups were so quick to sew.

Caption: assembling the cups

 Caption: assembled cup

I spent the most time on my print layout. A tip for using a print similar to mine, make sure the inner corners of the cup end up in a blank area of the print, otherwise it makes the whole front of the bra too busy.

Assembling the rest of the bra was a breeze, and way less fiddly than I expected.

Caption: progress shot

Another tip, make sure your chosen elastic is not super stretchy. It needs to stretch, but it needs to be supportive and strong. I used the wrong type on the underarm area and it lost a lot of support where I needed it most (up the top!) so just watch for that when selecting the elastic.

As I only really get maybe 1-2 hours sewing time a day, I ended up finishing my bra over two days (that’s from cutting to finished). I was really happy with the result. Instead of powernet, I used a mesh that had a similar stretch to the powernet.

I did end up having to alter the back band, as I found that it wasn’t quite supportive enough, partly because I needed a smaller band, and partly because of the poor elastic choice on the top. But I posted this on Instagram and Norma responded with tips on how to fix it, which is just amazing!

All in all, if you want to make your own lingerie, I cannot recommend this pattern enough, and I cannot wait to make so many more of these. You can get your own copy of the esplanade bra pattern here: Esplanade Bra.

It is a strapless pattern, but Norma has a blog post on how to add straps to it here and here.

Happy sewing!

Meeting Gertie Hirsch

Recently I had the privilege of attending a dressmaking workshop, hosted by Spotlight Bayswater, and taught by international sewing starlet Gretchen “Gertie” Hirsch. It was a two day workshop where we would be fitted by Gertie herself, choose between a few bodice/skirt combinations and end up with a mostly finished dress. Needless to say, since Gertie is based in the US and this was her first trip to Australia, I was thrilled to be able to take part in such a rare opportunity. By “take part” I mean i camped out on my computer during the time that I knew registrations for this were going to open, constantly hitting refresh and typing like a bat out of hell (thank you 20 years in administration for my 80wpm typing speed) once the registration form opened to make sure I had one of the six spots available… and I got in! So back to the workshop.

I was so excited I packed half of my sewing room (I’m not kidding). I also donned my favourite Gertie Pedal Pushers, and a singlet top knowing that we’d need something close fitting for the fitting stage. I also put on my favourite Jubly Umph “Sew Lovely” sewing machine necklace and DC Bombshells Jacket from WB Movie World, and I was ready to go!

Just need the kitchen sink-just need the kitchen sink…

Day 1 we spent drawing up our patterns from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book, and fitting them with the lady herself. After making modifications, we learned/had a refresher on how to draft a facing for our modified pattern.

Drafting a facing– Drafting a facing

Then we had fabric to cut, seams to sew and facings to interface.

We also had a quick lesson on pattern matching:Pattern matching, or fabric tetris

– pattern matching aka fabric tetris

It took me a little longer to finish because my youngest son had kept me awake most of the night before (teething poor mite), I was severely sleep deprived and overly caffenated so I traced off the wrong pattern twice and kept losing things, and was generally a hot mess. I ended up taking a long list of homework home, which I did, plus a fabric belt (easier than it seems, I will post a tutorial later using my own method which I think is slightly easier than some of the ones I found).

Day 2

I wore my version (sleeveless) of the Surplice bodice with all round pleated skirt from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book made with one of her earlier fabric ranges from Spotlight. I was also sporting my Jubly Umph necklace again. Gertie liked my dress so much she put me on her Instagram

There aren't enough squee's in the world for this moment!– There aren’t enough squee’s in the world for this moment!

The day was filled with lots of sewing, shopping, coffee (no sleep again) and more sewing. I was my usual hot mess on no sleep again, like the female Jerry Lewis, but I had such a ball. I learned so much including how to install a lapped zipper properly:

Preparing to install a lapped zipper– installing a lapped zipper

Installing the lapped zipper– installing the lapped zipper

I also used my new pattern placement skills to try to do something unique with the back of my dress:

Back pattern placement– back pattern placement – a trellis of roses.

I, in my sleep deprived foggy state, managed to finish my dress as much as I was able – given I had to let it hang for at least 24 hours to let the bias in the skirt settle down – apparently bias is like toddlers and it gets all riled up when you cut it, so you have to put it in a time out for 24 hours before you can hem the dress, otherwise the hem will look like what toddlers do to your lounge room before their time out…

So here’s me, in my new dress (which I adore) with the lady of the hour (who I also adore and will forever act like an awkward dork around because apparently I can’t act normal around people I admire).

Squeee!!– Squeee!!

So in closing, if you ever get the chance to do a dressmaking workshop with Gertie – do it! You won’t regret it for a second. She knows her stuff, is just lovely, and you will learn tons.

My only regret for the weekend is forgetting to ask Gertie about the band she plays in, as I’m a musician too, and would loved to have had a good old chin wag about it all. Oh well maybe I should save up for one of her dressmaking retreats… in the US. Better start saving now!

Gertie’s B6453 sew-a-long – Narrow Shoulder Adjustment on a princess seamed bodice

If you are forever pulling straps back onto your shoulders, fearful of off-the-shoulder becoming more of a wardrobe malfuction than a fashion statement, and most bodice sewing patterns you try end up with a gaping neckline – then you my friend, like me, have narrow shoulders. This means that you will need to do a narrow shoulder adjustment on your sewing patterns.
Currently I’m participating in a sew-a-long for Gertie Hirsch’s B6453 dress pattern. If you’d like to follow the sew-a-long instructions, visit Gertie’s blog here. This post is just to cover the narrow shoulder adjustment to the pattern.

Back to the adjustment! The best way to check if you need to make the adjustment is to make a muslin, and if the neckline gapes enough for you to be able to pinch out a bit (like I’ve done below), then pin and mark the pinched out portion.  

Measure how much you have pinched out in total across the neckline, halve that amount. Alternatively you can mark out centre front and measure out to one of the marks (pictured below). Or take it too far like I always do, and do both just to be really sure. Either way, that’s the amount you’ll need to make your adjustment by.

1. You will need to make a slash in the neckline of the bodice front towards the armhole. Do not cut all the way through, you want to leave a small amount of paper uncut in the armhole so you can pivot the pattern piece.

2. Pivot the neckline so that it overlaps by the amount that you need to adjust.  On my bodice I pinched in a total of 3/4″ so my adjustment is 3/8″. Tape the paper in place.

3. You will need to redraw the neckline curve. Stick a piece of paper behind the neckline so you have somewhere to draw your changes.

4. Smooth out the neckline where the adjustment was made.

5. Trim the excess paper off and voila you have your new pattern piece!

You can repeat this process for the back as well. Also remember to make the same adjustments to your facing pieces!

A Tale of a Christmas Dress – Part 2

Disaster. That about sums up the fitting from yesterday. I started out all enthusiastic. I prepped the bodice pieces for a test piece:

I then sewed them together:

Pressed the seams and tried it on my dress form, then myself. No matter how I tried it just didn’t fit well. It was gaping under the arms, and the side seams under the arms were off 3/4″ each, which is a lot (3″ or roughly 16cm) around the bust – right where you don’t want extra room especially in a strapless garment!. The neckline was wardrobe malfunctioningly low. In other words, not good.

I took my measurements again and I’d lost 1.5″ off my bust and 1.5″ off my waist in the space of two weeks (don’t underestimate how much you can change post baby). So it meant going back to the drawing board. I redrafted my bodice pieces last night and will trace off the bodice pieces from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book to see which of the two bodices fit better and then work out where I’m going wrong from there…

A Tale of a Christmas Dress – Part 1

Who doesn’t love the Christmas party season? Here in Australia, with Christmas falling at the start of our summer, it’s the time of barbeques, super cold craft beer and ciders, boutique white wines, and of course mozzie repellant.

This year I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to two separate Christmas parties. One is in just over two weeks and the other in a month (on a boat!). Now given that I’ve just had my second (and last) child, I really wanted to make something special to wear to both.
For some time I’ve been eyeing off the “Fringed Cocktail Dress” in Gertie Hersch’s Ultimate Dress Book. So I decided this is the time to make that dress. I brought myself a beautiful cotton sateen red poppy on black fabric:

I also bought a really pretty trim and fringe to go with it. Colour me excited!

I did start off by tracing off Gertie’s pattern from the book, and the fitting went well, but I really wanted to try my hand and making the garment from scratch using a personal bodice sloper. For me, patternmaking is as much about the process as it is the result. I want to understand how to get from A to D.

So for the last week I’ve been finalising my bodice sloper in between looking after two sick kids.

I finished copying the sloper to card today (giving my eldest the offcuts to practice cutting and colouring). I always feel pretty nervous and insecure about what I’m finishing, but I went ahead and drafted the princess seamed sweetheart neck bodice off my sloper.

Tomorrow I’ll start the fitting process and start drafting the pencil line skirt (where to finish? Calf? Knee? Go completely sassy and make it above the knee?). Then once that’s fitted, I’ll put the two together and that’s when the magic begins! But I’ll keep you updated on my progress!