by Amber H

Star Trek Cosplay

October 6, 2013 in Cosplay, Finished Project by Amber H

So, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m a HUGE fan of Star Trek. Sometime ago.. I can’t remember how long ago I found out that for the first time ever, we were going to have a Comic Con here in Salt Lake, I KNEW I had to go, and I KNEW exactly who I was going to go as; my character from Star Trek Online. I did this because most of the time, a Trek Cosplay is usually from one of the series or the movies.. I wanted to do something different! There was quite a bit of research and time and money that went into the components of my costume, but I’ll just focus on the jacket bit for this post.

So the first step was to take screenshots of my character in the game to get as many angles of her jacket as possible.

Back, Front, Left-ish and Right-ish angles of my jacket.

Back, Front, Left-ish and Right-ish angles of my jacket.

A bit of background for those who are less than familiar with the Star Trek Universe. My character is not full blooded anything; in fact she’s half Vulcan and half Trill. I’ve incorporated the Trill spots for my character, and she’s got the pointed ears and eyebrows seen with Vulcans. I ended up getting a lot of weird looks from people and had to resist quite a few times from saying “What are you staring at?” but those who took the time to ask were pretty impressed with the concept of a Vulcan/Trill hyrid. One guy told me “That’s pretty creative, most of the time when someone’s half something, they are always half human.” And he made a valid point there. The reason why my character ended up being Vulcan/Trill is because when I was creating my character in the game, I couldn’t decide which of the two species to do, so I figured, “Why not both?” and went with it. I even came up with a bit of a Biography for ingame as well.

Name and Rank: Wam Tas; Captain

Current Post: USS Kir’Shara, registry number NCC-93763 Hermes Class Fleet Patrol Escort

Biography:

She was born of a Vulcan father and a Trill mother. Due to the extenuating circumstances about her heritage, special permission by the Vulcan Science Academy and the Trill Symbiosis Commission had to be given before she was joined with a symbiont.

As a result of the joining, many members of the Trill planet became angry that a half-Trill was given a symbiont. As a result, Wam came to the logical conclusion that her presence on her home world was causing friction and decided the best course of action would be to go into self-imposed exile, which led to her eventually join Startfleet.

Yeah I’m a nerd :P I left out explaining to people that my character in game was joined with a symbiont. But anyway, back to the matter at hand. Once I got the screenshots, the next bit was to find a jacket pattern that had the proper seaming and whatnot. I initally found and planned on using a Kwik Sew pattern, but when I went to Joann’s to buy the pattern and fabrics, they didn’t have the pattern I had selected, so I had to sit down with the pattern books and find one. Luckily though, I quickly found a pattern by Burda, style B7140, View A. I got incredibly lucky with my shopping trip and was able to buy everything on sale; I think my total cost ended up being around $49; had it not been for the sale I would have ended up paying over $100. Armed with my Nook HD and a closed door I set to work. I spent probably the first 2-5 hours of the project measuring myself and tracing pattern pieces. Rather than cut out the tissue paper, I used Freezer paper to trace out my pieces, and I traced and made each individual piece; rather than using the ‘mirror’ copy of some of the pieces like the sleeves and whatnot. I think between the lining and the outer jacket, there was something like 31 or 33 pieces. And because the original pattern called for a peplum design, I ended up having to tape and reconfigure the jacket pattern to eliminate the peplum parts. The red outer part of the jacket was made with a woven Wool/Polyester blend specifically for suiting, while the lining was a thicker red jersey, and the white outer part of my jacket was made with a ribbed jersey knit.

After all That was done, I had to iron the freezer paper bits down and then kind of did a rough cut out of the pieces. This was immensely helpful, because I was able to write on the freezer paper to keep track of what pieces were what, and ironing the freezer paper to my fabric enabled me to cut it out with precision and not having to worry about the fabric slipping around. I didn’t do this in one fell swoop since I quickly found out that the suiting I had picked really liked to fray, so I also had to serge every. single. piece. of. fabric I had cut out. Which is what I was planning to do in the first place, because I had the foresight to realize I was going to end up having to take apart my seams quite a bit. I absolutely love my serger! And then after all of that, I finally started sewing! I took a number of progress pics to share on Facebook.

The body of the jacket all serged and sewn together.

The body of the jacket all serged and sewn together.

I ended up doing a ton of hand basting which is what the white threads are. I wanted to mimic my jacket in game as much as possible, so when I did the parallel stitching -not really sure what else to call it?- I kind of tucked the seam allowances like this:

Facsimile of my stitches.

Facsimile of my stitches.

The blue and purple is basically the fabric and the red just represents how I sewed it together. The white stitches are kind of going up and down between the two red lines just to give you an idea of what I was doing. While it’s more time consuming, hand basting in my opinion is easier and in the long run faster than machine basting, since you do have to take them out. It was just a matter of clipping off the knots and pulling on the threads.. with machine basting you have to kind of sit there with a seam ripper and it takes about 3x longer.

Front of the jacket after the inital sewing together.

Front of the jacket, stitching complete.

Back of the jacket with seaming done.

Back of the jacket with seaming done. I actually didn’t realize some of the stitching wasn’t very flat so after this picture was taken I undid some stitches and resewed the stitches; in particular the shoulder area.

With this portion complete, It was on to the bottom white trim. I had some concerns on how I was going to execute this, because appliqueing it was going to be bulky and thick, and I had realized at this point I had taken the jacket up too much which resulted in it being kind of short -which truth be told was a first-, so I knew I was going to have to add some length to it. But how? and then it struck me; look at quilting methods! I ended up using a slight variation of a quilting block called Drunkard’s Path (no affiliation with that website, by the way) which came out much better than I expected. Again, freezer paper came to my rescue for sure!

White hem added, tada!

White hem added, tada!

The next portion of the jacket that needed to be done was the white epaulets -the bits that go on the shoulders- and the white trim that goes down next to the zipper. I went and took a bunch of measurements and then utilized my compass and more freezer paper and traced and cut out and sewed the white bits. I sewed the knit onto a lightweight sew in stabilizer so I could do the ‘flip it inside out’ thing to get a nicely finished seam to not worry about unwanted seam allowances hanging out or undoing themselves later. I had initially planned just to sew it down by hand, but the result was less than pretty, so I ended up slowly sewing them down with a 1/8″ seam allowance. I did stitch the panels by sewing machine first; the epaulettes were sewn down on the flat seam, and then I machine stitched the front panels down after I did the top stitching after sewing in the facing for the neckline and behind the zipper; once I had installed the zipper I sewed down the front panels parallel to the zipper.

Speaking of the zipper, that was a pain in the butt. I had bought a 22″ zipper during my initial trip, but when I got ready to get the zipper on, I realized I had not purchased a separating zipper, and had to go back to Joann’s to buy a separating zipper. And of course, there was an issue with the not finding the right shade of red in a 22″ zipper, so I ended up buying a 16″ zipper instead. I had already planned on reshaping the neckline which went really well; I just free-handed one side and then traced it and did it to the other side. in this situation, I’m really glad I have a short torso, because it worked wonderfully. You’ll notice the jacket length goes past the end of the zipper, but since the jacket has a lining, it has to be tucked up and sewn to the lining.

ccjacket08

White trim in progress; the left white frontal trim was completely hand stitched down, and I had started on the right side. The epaulettes had only been sewn down at the flat seam and were just hanging free at this point. Note the rippling in the hand sewn front panel.

At this point after everything was sewn down, I decided I was getting burned out on the outside of the jacket and work on the lining. I was having issues with the sleeves; they weren’t fitted enough, but I was not going to be able to make any adjustments unless I had the lining put together. I ended up just serging the lining pieces together, rather than serge and sew it; it went together fairly quickly. Once it was done I was able to figure out how much to take out of the seams on the sleeves.

Seams touch seams! The 'right' side of the lining goes against your body, while the 'wrong' side goes against the inside of the jacket.

Seams touch seams! The ‘right’ side of the lining goes against your body, while the ‘wrong’ side goes against the inside of the jacket.

The last bit on the outside of the jacket was to add the cuffs, and figure out the sleeve lengths, which was mostly fairly straightforward, although I had to be careful with the cuffs so they didn’t end up wavy and rippled.

Cuffs added!

Cuffs added!

The next part was sewing the outer jacket and lining together! I did this all by hand. I started by taking the jacket, flipping it inside out and zipping it closed on the dress form. Then I flipped the lining so it was wrong side to wrong side and slipped it on over the jacket, and then used a ton of pins to keep the layers of fabric together. I started in the middle of the back of the neck and worked my way down one side, and then started at the middle of the neck and worked my way back down again.

ccjacket11

Hand stitching had begun!

After that, I worked on the bottom hem, and then lastly did the sleeves; and I went over the ends of the cuffs of the sleeves with white thread to prevent the sleeves from going inside out a bit everytime I put it on and took it off.

And here it is completed!

FINALLY FINISHED!

FINALLY FINISHED!

 

Of course, there was more to my costume than just the jacket. I’ll quickly go down the list of the rest of my costume and how I sourced the pieces:

Boots: I already had a pair of boots that I bought last year. They aren’t exactly ‘Starfleet issued standard’ but they were good enough.

Pants: I found a pair of high waist skinny pants at Forever 21 for about $22. I had initially bought a pair of high waisted leggings from ebay for $6, but as you can expect, they were cheap and started splitting in the crotch seam. No thanks! I realize my character has white pants on, but I’m not that brave :P I wanted these gorgeous high waist trousers from Asos, that had a tuxedo strip down the side, but by the time I realized I needed to replace my crappy ebay pants, they had sold out of my size.

Undershirt: As you can see in the screenshot, my uniform has a turtleneck neckline. I ended up buying a cropped sleeveless mock turtleneck from Amazon. I did this because it’s blazing hot in Utah during the first few weeks of September, and I was already wearing a wool blend jacket with a heavy jersey lining; I figured it would be best to go with something lightweight as possible to not be uncomfortably hot. I was tolerably hot instead!

Combadge with the pips before I painted it.

Combadge with the pips before I painted them.

Communicator badge: I got INCREDIBLY lucky with this. Over the course of the Star Trek series across all of them; the design of the communicator badges have changed quite a bit. In The Original Series of Star Trek, they had these flip phone looking communicators and the badges were just embroidered/sewn on patches. It wasn’t until The Next Generation and after (Deep Space Nine and Voyager) that they had combined the communicators and badges into the combadge. Interestingly enough in the prequel series Enterprise, their uniforms looked more like jumpsuits used today, and so the Starfleet insignia really wasn’t on the uniforms at all; they instead had shoulder patches. Anyway, the events of Star Trek Online actually takes place in the year 2409 and beyond; and of course, there’s a new combadge design! I wasn’t going to settle for a combadge from one of the TV series; so I ended up doing a google search, hoping to find a combadge replica from in the game; and I quickly found out that the Collector’s Edition of the game actually came with a combadge pin. I was BEYOND STOKED, and started hunting down a Collector’s Edition of the game which was tricky because the game was released in February 2010. I was worried I was going to have to pay out of the teeth for it, but luckily I was able to find a copy on Amazon for $21. Sweet.

Rank Pips: Again, this was a bit of a challenge because the pips are different in game than in any of the series; they are Rhomboids, so I needed to come up with a way to get the right shape; so I looked no further than Shapeways, which is a 3D printing service. They have this thing where you can upload a 2D image in black and white and they will basically transform it into a 3D image for you. I had it printed up in polished Aluminide, which resulted in a silvery plastic finish, and I went to Hobby Lobby and bought model paint with bitty little Q-tip looking brushes and painted the base of the combadge in a red that matched my jacket and the top raised part of the pips were painted in a gold. It wasn’t a perfect match, but it looked close enough since they were pinned on opposite sides of my jacket.

Pip Pin has been painted!

Pips Pin has been painted!

The Ears: Oh man.. this was probably the most difficult part of my costume. I did a ton of research and went with the second most expensive option; I ordered them custom painted from a company that specializes in special effects prosthesis as well as medical prosthesis. Between the ear tips themselves, the custom realistic painting job that they did -and included my ear freckle that’s present on my left ear- the adhesive and remover and shipping, the cost came close to $100. But they were totally worth it. I got so many compliments on the quality and how realistic they were. It helped that I had gotten my hair cut the week before Comic con and got bangs, which I was able to use to disguise th seaming between my real ears and the tips. I ended up having to spend close to 3 hours trimming the ears for them to sit right with my hearing aids, but the end result ended up looking awesome. I did chat with someone there who told us that she and her husband actually make prosthetics as well, and so if I decide I want to be hardcore, I can probably contact her and her husband to have them cast and make a pair based on my own ears and not someone else’s.

Phaser: I just found a seller on ebay that was selling phasers as a costume prop; it’s from the TNG era. I had grand visions of repainting and modding a nerf gun to make a phaser rifle, but I ended up running out of time -and truthfully motivation- to do so. Luckily, since The Next Generation takes place only.. 30-40 years previous to the game, the design hadn’t changed too much.

Here are some pictures of me in costume.

Closeup of my makeup and top part of the costume. Notice I got bangs, and how I'm using them to strategically cover the seaming on my ears.

Closeup of my makeup and top part of the costume. Notice I got bangs, and how I’m using them to strategically cover the seaming on my ears.

And a picture of me standing in full costume.

"Live Long and Prosper." Notice how I can do this with both hands?

“Live Long and Prosper.” Notice how I can do this with both hands?

I forgot to mention but the thing hanging off my waist is a holster/cellphone holder I made to be able to carry around my phone and phaser, since my costume does not have any pockets.

by Amber H

Spring Top Sew along top: Japanese Field Study

April 7, 2013 in Clothing, Finished Project, Selfish Sewing, Sewing by Amber H

Rae announced her annual spring top sew along, and I excitedly once again participated this year.

Last Christmas, I got a surprise Christmas present by winning a giveaway that Chie was hosting on her blog, Vivat Veritas. I was super thrilled because it had been a goal of mine to own a Japanese pattern book, and I got one! So it’s been sitting in my craft room since I received it after Christmas. So, when Rae announced the sew along, I decided to pull my book out and I settled on Pattern V. I was attracted to the flowy look of the top, although I wasn’t a huge fan of the sleeves. After digging around in my sewing room, I determined that I didn’t have any fabric that A) I didn’t have enough of, and B) wouldn’t make me look like I belonged in a Peruvian Flute Band. (Thanks, Southpark for giving my husband that idea and term) so I browsed around online and settled on some Anna Maria Horner voile that I purchased from Hawthorne Threads; they’re kind of my go to for AMH fabric and overall favorite online fabric store. The fabric I picked is from her latest collection, Field Study, Coordinates in Midnight. I determined that I needed a yard of it. I bought it last Sunday, and then I got it in the mail on Wednesday, took it with me to Joann’s to purchase some matching thread.

Supplies Gathered

Supplies Gathered

There was a bit of a challenge with the pattern. In US sizing, I need around a medium due to my relative bustiness. I was concerned about the size of the pattern pieces. I looked at the sizing requirements and while I was quickly able to determine that the numbers were in cms, It was all well.. Japanese to me! I could tell that I needed 4 measurements, but I wasn’t sure what was what, so I took a picture and posted it to reddit in the proper subreddit asking for a translation. I was able to get one quickly and at that point I was on my merry way after determining that I would need a small. I actually traced and got my pattern pieces ready sometime on Monday. I almost ran into another problem with the determining the back and front pieces, but by looking in the book at the other patterns, I was able to figure out which characters were for the front and back so that was at least a personal victory without having to ask anyone for help again.

Top Left: bust; Top Right: hip; Bottom Left: sleeve length; Bottom Right: garment length

I prewashed the fabric and dried it on Thursday and spent a total of 3 or so hours on Friday finishing it. I ended up bringing my serger out for this project.. something that makes it go much quicker. Rather than fold, press and fold press the seams in for neat finishes, I was able use the serger to create neatly finished edges. I also think this was the first project that I didn’t have to pick out my serged stitches either.. so that was a victory unto itself!

I didn’t take pictures of the process, but I started out by serging the right shoulder seam together. I didn’t  buy serger thread, but I did have some brown serger thread that I decided would work best versus black or white. I lost one of my black cones anyway… Next, I ran a long basting stitch across the entire neckline to create a gather for the neckline to close it a bit. It was a bit tricky because I need a hole large enough to fit my head through. Afterwards, I created a small length of bias tape and finished the neckline by serging the bias tape to the neckline, and then top stitched it under.

Next, for the ruched neckline part I cut a strip of fabric that was about 2.75″ wide by 40 inches long, serged the long edges, and then folded and pressed a 1.5cm seam allowance and then I took a needle and a VERY long piece of thread and hand basted the the edges down with a running stitch. Then I hand based the short ends to the left shoulder seam, and then using a TON of pins, I pulled on the running stitch near the opening of the top to gather the fabric, arranged and evened out the gathering, and then topstitched that down. I then decided I wanted to make a tag, so I cut out “Free Spirit” from the selvage and used that as a tag; folding and sewing the raw edges under. Luckily because of the ruched collar, the stitches on the back of my top are hidden! I then placed it back onto the dressform, and repeated the process again. After that, I serged the left shoulder seam. I debated on spending the time to using hand basting, but I’m pleased with the end result since it came out so nicely without having to undo machine stitching.

The pattern did call for sleeves, which I didn’t do since I didn’t purchase enough fabric to create them. I decided instead of using bias tape to finish the armholes, I decided to serge the raw edges and then fold them under and topstitched the sleeves in. I serged the bottom hem on the back and front, and then serged the sides, and folded the hem up and did two rows of top stitching. I used the dark blue-ish color for the stitching that was hidden, and for the exposed top stitching I used the pink/purple. I think it was a great choice for detailing.

And now, the obligatory pictures of me wearing the top:

Looks great with a sweater!

Looks great with a sweater!

fieldstudy_04

Without the sweater

Shot of the back. Excuse the wrinkles; the pictures were taken in the evening and I have been wearing the top all day.

Shot of the back. Excuse the wrinkles; the pictures were taken in the evening and I have been wearing the top all day.

I was surprised at how wide the top ended up being… I’m used to wearing my clothes a bit more fitted. But there’s a trend with Japanese clothing -in the sewing books anyway- of having flowing, drapey loose clothing. I had debated on bringing the sides in at the top a bit, but ultimately I decided to leave it alone. The armholes do come down a little lower and you can see the wing of my bra, so if I sew the top again -and I can see myself doing so!- I may end up increasing the seam allowance on the shoulders a bit from 1.5cm to 2cm.

by Amber H

Bra Making Complete!

January 30, 2013 in Clothing, Finished Project, Selfish Sewing, Sewing by Amber H

Well, it’s done! I’m excited and feeling rather accomplished that my first completed sewing project of the year is a BRA!

And of course, here it is on a hanger.

Here it is!

Here it is! My own bra; thinking of starting my own line of lingerie and calling it Wamber’s Whispers. Or maybe not.

It’s not perfect; I’ve noticed that my projects for the first time typically aren’t. I’ve also learned quite a bit about my breasts as well, so I guess that’s always a bonus. But it’s wearable, and I think that was a big accomplishment in itself!

Now onto my thoughts about the process.

Bra making threw me for a CRAZY curve. I am not really fond of sewing curves, and that’s probably what makes up about 70% to 80% of this process. I had to use a TON of pins, and had to really take my time, and I unfortunately messed up quite a bit; the process probably took me a total of 6 hours between reading, and testing and sewing and undoing stitches and redoing them. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the challenge! Hopefully next time though, it’ll take me less time.

This is one of those things that I am not really comfortable recommending to beginning sewists unless they have a ton of patience, a very clear understanding about alterations because let’s face it… this pattern calls for a very pointy cup, and not all of us can A) fit into a pointy shaped bra and B) would WANT to wear a pointy bra even if we did. I actually made a video on how to make this alteration; it’s pretty quick once you have it figured out.


Now, to be honest, while the bra looks pretty and whatnot, I actually made a ton of mistakes; thankfully, it’s one of those situations where it really doesn’t matter because it gets worn under my clothes. The biggest thing for me was underestimating my cup size, and ordering wires that ended up being too narrow. I won’t show the pictures here, but the wires are actually somewhere between 1/4″ and 1/2″ too narrow; they need to go further back on my side to properly encase my breast tissue. The band is also a bit loose too, and I think I would probably end up being rather uncomfortable with the wires if the band was any tighter. Not a big deal for me since it’s my first one and it’s bound to have fitting errors. I also did not realize since I was using lace for the top, I didn’t realize I would need to offset the patter piece to allow for not needing a seam allowance for the top part of the cup; so it’s kind of too full of a coverage. No biggie, it works great under crew neck tshirts! But for something with a lower neckline; even a modest scoopneck, the lace will be peeking up over the neckline of tops. And I think the biggest mistake is that I probably sewed the wires in backwards.. but it’s entirely possible that the wires were sewn in properly; I’m having a really difficult time telling. I think I would prefer wires that were more for a plunge style bra, and therefore make a plunge style bra; but of course it’s all relative. I may also do a partial adjustment band to save on the strap elastic; and Amy on her blog posted how to convert a pattern from horizontal seamed cups to vertical seamed cups… and this is something I’m actually interested in since I prefer that look anyway.

I’m really grateful for the sew a long, and I’m looking forward to taking what I learned and making more bras.. and I may even explore the possibility of making my own matching knickers too!

by Amber H

Bra Making: Altering the cup for a good fit.

January 15, 2013 in Clothing, Selfish Sewing by Amber H

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently participating in a bra sew a long. As nice as it would have been to get a pattern that has my size, I had to make a choice between getting a pattern that has my exact size, or spend half the money and get a pattern that I can make alterations to have it fit me; I think its pretty obvious I went with the cheaper option here…

The pattern I purchased comes in the following size range: 32A-D; 34A-D; 36A-DD; 38B-DD; 40B-DD; 42B-DD. I also mentioned in my last post that I’m a 30E. The cup is ultimately easier to alter than the band so the first part of alteration process, I focused on the cups.. because after all the cups are what encapsulate the breast, and that’s really what a bra is about.

So, there’s something to know about bra sizing here. Cups are relative to the band. Just because you change the band and keep the same letter, it does not mean that the cups are going to fit the same way. The larger the band the larger the cup will be unless you go down a letter size. Here’s a section of a sister sizing chart to explain this:

comparing cup sizes

I’m using this particular section just based on the relevancy to my own size. As you can see, the cup volume of a 30E bra is 590cc, or 2.49 cups, and then the cup volume of a bra that’s 32D is 480cc, or 2.02 cups. That’s nearly a 1/2 cup difference! The pattern unfortunately did not go to a 32DD (which would have made my life easier) so I move up a band on the 590cc line; the next cup size is a 34D; great! I found a sister size that will work! I could have cut the pieces I need from the 34D sizes, but then I would have had to make even MORE adjustments; I felt that it would be easier to alter the cup to fit in the band, and then alter the band just one size down, versus leaving the cups alone and trying to alter the band two sizes down; that creates a greater margin of error.

I feel that it’s important to note that if you’re purchasing a bra off the rack, it’s important to try and find your actual size, versus settling for a sister size. If you have to settle, then by all means; it’s not the end of the world but you may find you need to make adjustments! I would also recommend only going up a band size; going down may not work due to the band being so tight that you may not be able to close it; and if you manage to close it you may end up in pain. However, this is not true if you go into the larger band range; bands around and above 38 tend to be stretchier, and you may be able to go down a sister size if that’s the case.

Here are the bottom cup pieces for the 32D, 34C and 34D bras.

Here are the bottom cup pieces for the 32D, 34C and 34D bras. And the black in the upper left corner is part of my cat Vos.

I cut out three pieces for the purpose of this post; I’ll get to the alterations in a second. In the chart above you’ll note that 32D and 34C sit on the same line on the sister sizing chart. It’s easy to assume they are cut the exact same way; when in reality they are not.

32D versus 34C

32D versus 34C. I did my best to line the cups up on the line but was a bit off. one large square is an inch.

Anyway, while I didn’t line the pieces up perfectly; let’s take a look at their differences. First off, the length from left to right in the picture isn’t exactly the same. I wish I had lined it up more accurately but I didn’t. The next thing to note is the difference in height. From the bottom to the top, the 34C cup is almost, if not exactly 4″. the 32D on the other hand is about a quarter of an inch taller. You can also sort of see that the left seam that’s flat is wider on the 34C than it is on the 32D. Additionally the angles on the right half up the cups are different as well. I won’t get into the geometry too deeply because I know math makes most people go cross-eyed, but the pointy tip is just a hair over 2″ taller than the bottom most part of the pattern piece of the 34C, and on the 32D cup; the point is nearly 2.5″ above the bottom of the cup. This is a clear indication that the angle is different in a 34 band versus a 32 band; the difference in the slope and angles is a means to allow a shift in distribution while maintaining the needed consistency of the volume. This is why when you measure at a specific size, and the wires are too narrow, it’s important to stay in your volumetric range in order to get more comfortable wires you may need to move over on the sister size chart. In my opinion, if you have to move over more than one cup/band size, you may need to consider buying another brand of bras altogether; bra companies typically do not all use the same style/sized wires for the same size.

So on to the alterations!

32D piece on top of 34D.

32D piece on top of 34D.

As you can see, the 34D is larger than the 32D, in both volume and length. I needed a way to shorten the bottom seam to match the 32D since I was putting a 34D cup into a bra cradle meant for a 32D; and I needed a way to shorten the seam while maintaining volume.

cupalt_04

A) I drew a line from the arrow on top of the piece to the bottom using a ruler; I figured this was a good point of reference. Then I used my cutting mat, rotary blade and ruler and carefully cut across the line.
B) I then took the 32D piece, and taped it down, and then I took the 34D cup pieces and carefully lined them up on the bottom seam as closely as I could; I then marked it on the left cup to indicate where the pieces overlapped. You would assume that I would stop here and tape the pieces down and go from there.. but there’s a loss of volume which is kind of not what I need to do; and it rather defeats the purpose of this alteration in the first place.
C) I removed the 32D piece and then I carefully drew another line from the mark I made to the arrow where I did the first line, and again used my tools to cut a straight line. I don’t think it really matters if you do this with the left or right portion of the cup; since I’m left handed, I found doing this on the left side was easier.

cupalt_05

D) Here are all three pieces; I just lined them up and took a picture to show you what it looks like after cutting.
E) I may have used excessive pieces of tape here, but I turned the triangular piece at 180 degrees, and then carefully lined it up to the left piece and taped it down. Then, I took the right portion of the cup and carefully lined that up and then taped it down. After it was taped together, I used my ruler and lined it up with the grainline, and extended the line just to extend across the adjusted cup.

Altered 34D compared to the 32D; flipped over the piece to mirror the pieces

Altered 34D compared to the 32D; flipped over the piece to mirror the pieces.

Here it is compared to the 32D cup! The bottom seam is much closer in length when viewed like this. It looks a little off due to slope of the bottom of the pattern piece. I was concerned about it not being right, so I took a piece of string and carefully traced around the cup and measured the string, and guess what? It was the exact same length! Success!

I wanted to make sure it was going to work, so I also cut additional pieces -the bra pattern has a total of 4 pieces (cut two of 3 of the pieces just to get two of each as needed) and so I used scrap cotton fabric, and cut the cradle/band pieces out sewed those together to complete the band, and then sewed this test cup into the band and then hand basted the underwire into it.

Center, side and front snapshot of the cup.

Center, side and front snapshot of the cup.

As it is, I need to make some minor adjustments; I offset the cups by accident which is causing a bit of the cup on the side to be slightly taller in the band, and it’s slightly lower in the front. Overall though it fits perfectly which is what I’m the most excited about. Despite the fact this is not a wearable muslin (since it’s entirely made out of quilting fabric and not the stretch fabric it needs to be for the bra and the fact that I did not alter the top piece of the cup and it still matched perfectly) I think it came out pretty well! The excessive wrinkling in the cup is due to the fact that Greta is not quite as well endowed as I am, and I had to empty out the left cup to get the bra to lay relatively flat for pictures. I think by altering the pattern before sewing the cup together allows me to have a much smoother and pretty looking bra, versus sewing the darts into the cups after cutting and sewing the pieces together. I don’t go around in public flashing my bra at people, but I think knowing that I’m wearing a pretty piece of lingerie that I made gives me that boost confidence and pep that a well fitting pretty bra can give a woman.

I want to make note that I will probably have to bring in the curve of the cup; I actually fall between cup sizes. (although much closer to the 590cc end of the fit) If I size down I end up overflowing the cup a bit. It’s always best to have a little too much room in the cup, versus not enough; and especially if you still get that fantastic monthly visitor; you may find that the little extra room gets filled during that particular time of the month. But because of this my commercially purchased bras DO gape just a bit, but not so much they aren’t supportive. It’s not even noticeable when I wear tight clothing, but the fact they do that does bug me a bit.

So yeah, there’s that! Hopefully this tutorial gives some readers some insight on bra construction, and maybe you’ll find yourself needing to do the same kind of alterations that I did; and I hope that the steps were detailed enough! Feel free to let me know if you need any more details on a specific step or if you just have questions.

by Amber H

Hello 2013!

January 9, 2013 in Clothing, Personal, Selfish Sewing by Amber H

New year, new start, right? Not really one for resolutions here, but it’ll be nice to get some more stuff done this year for sure though. Anyway, I am excited to share that I’m participating in a sew a long.. but it’s a different sew a long of sorts.. it’s one for BRAS! It’s being hosted by Amy who blogs at Cloth Habit. If you browse through her blog, you can tell she really has a passion for sewing, and she’s made some VERY pretty things, both lingerie as well as other pieces of clothing.

So, the next obvious question is.. “Why try to sew bras? Why not just buy them?”

To put it plainly; like 9 out of 10 women I’ve been apparently wearing the wrong size bra until I came across an online community that’s dedicated to bras, how they are supposed to fit, helping other women find the right sized bra for themselves; it’s a wonderful and supportive community, and it’s been a blast participating in it. When I first discovered the community, I actually got super excited and did a series of three blog posts about it on my other personal blog. (Mythbusting the Bust, Today’s Bra Adventure, and CeleBRAtion Time!) Since blogging those posts, I’ve learned more about fit and shape and style.. so the information regarding my bra size as well as bras that fit me is slightly outdated and in the case of some bras I’ve purchased they are ill fitting. I recently participated in a Q & A session with one of the ladies that contributes to the same online community, where I go more into detail about my current size and more informed experiences.

Back to why make my own bras.. here it is. I have a very difficult time buying bras. I’m petite with a 29.5″ underbust, and my breasts are well.. rather predominant on my chest. With a 29.5″ underbust, I have to find 30 band which is difficult enough, but throw in the fact that I’m a 30E (30DDD in the US sizing system) makes it even more difficult. Very few brands in the US make a 30 band and typically if they do, they don’t go up to my cupsize in that band, or even worse, they are the wrong shape for my breasts. I’ve been able to succesfully fit into one American made bra, and I have to literally import bras from the UK to find a bra that fits my shape and supports me properly. I can find the same brand in the US, but they are typically more money than what you can get in say.. Victoria Secret; which does NOT carry my size.

I love sewing, and I love trying new things that also challenge me. And I need more bras!

So onto the materials. I don’t actually have them yet; I purchased a kit yesterday from an etsy store called Hooks and Wires, which includes everything I need to make a bra, except for the pattern. I decided to go with a black bra kit; but she offers all sorts of colors and actually and dyes all of them (except for black, she gets those as they are since black is a very difficult color to achieve in the dyeing process) and she’s made some BEAUTIFUL kits and colors! She’s also extremely knowledgeable about bra sizing and was able to help me determine the wire size I need and to confirm that I will be able to use a pattern that will work for me once I do some adjustments and alterations to the pattern.  If you check out her blog, you can see the colors she’s done in the past.. all sorts of pretty and fun colors! I purchased my pattern from a seller on ebay. Once I have both in my hands I will share pictures and hopefully get started on it! I should probably have both of them early next week sometime.

by Amber H

A Quilt for a Little Princess

October 20, 2012 in Finished Project, Gift by Amber H

So, this one time, back in July of 2010, I bought this fabric and started a quilt. I worked on it in spurts, and it just sort of languished around in my sewing room. Well, earlier this year, my cousin announced that she and her family that consisted of her, her husband and two boys were expecting a little girl! I wanted to make something for her, but I wasn’t sure what at first. Then I thought back to my WIP pile and thought, “I should totally finish that quilt and send it to Linda for her baby girl!” So I did.

Sofie’s quilt top.

The fabrics in the quilt were from a custom hand cut charm square pack that I purchased from one of my favorite etsy sellers, Monica; all the fabrics are by Kaffe Fassett. I purchased the pale blue solid fabric from a local shop.. unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you who made it. Admittedly, I was actually surprised at the fact that I purchased the charm pack.. it’s typically not really something I’d go for, and this quilt was the only time that I ever purchased fabrics that don’t fall under the ‘modern’ category. I think I was just drawn to the rich variety of prints and color, and how well they go together. I arranged the fabrics by value.. that is to say lightest to darkest. I then cut the squares in half, and then sewed them in strips. I eventually settled on putting the two light strips in the middle with the darker ones on the outside.

A side shot of the quilt.

I did the quilting with a variegated thread in tones of orange and yellows by Gutermann. I picked the color since I wanted something that would pop on the front, but blend in the back.

The back of the quilt.

The back and the binding are also Kaffe prints. I mailed it off at the end of September, and then the quilt arrived on October 3rd. Good timing too, because the little princess this belongs to arrived just 4 days later! Hopefully this quilt will get worn with lots of love and snuggles over the next years.

by Amber H

Washi, Washi!

September 24, 2012 in Clothing, Sewing by Amber H

Like the rest of the universe when Rae made and posted the first washi dress, I fell in love. And then when she FINALLY released, there was a collective Kermit arm waving moment all over. I of course bought the pattern, and then started it, waited for a few weeks to finish it and I finally finished it last week. We’ve had a bit of sunny weather, and so that would just cast weird and funky shadows; today’s overcast weather was perfect to take pictures! Oddly enough.

Workin’ the Washi top! And yes, those are my prescription glasses. Aren’t they DARLING?

Here it is! I used Voile in Sky by Anna Maria Horner, and the fabric around the neckline is none other than Liberty of London. I FINALLY splurged and bought just 1/2 yard.. I was too chicken to buy any more than that for now. I ADORE feathers, and i thought these were perfect together.

So, onto the informal pattern review.

The pattern is pretty straightforward. three main pieces, optional sleeves and a facing for the neckline, which is in two pieces (one for the front one for the back). So that’s a total of seven pieces, not including bias tape to finish the sleeves. And the hemline if you’re into that, I just did the fold twice and sew once method.

One reason why it took Rae nearly 3 months to put the pattern out is because of the sizing. She was SUPER meticulous about it, and her sizing was pretty spot on! I already know due to my stature (4’11″) I would need a x-small top, but my bustline is not exactly xsmall. I took my measurements, and I measured at a Medium. I was rather skeptical, since the sizing always seems to be off in patterns I purchase, BUT NOT THIS ONE. I did a quick muslin after grading my pattern from an x-small shoulder and armhole, and then just extended the side seams to medium. And guess what, it was PERFECT! I was SHOCKED. Unfortunately, I did have the gaping at the back of the neckline, so when doing my freezer paper cut out, I simply shifted the pattern so it came in an extra 1/2″ and that fixed the problem.

Closeup of neckline. And I’m a 26 year old braceface, 27 tomorrow.

But because it was my first time making the top, I was wading and there were a few hiccups. The biggest one was the neckline. I didn’t interface it due to the fact that I didn’t have any fusing that was light weight enough to use with the voile and the lawn. I don’t regret this by any means, but due to the fact that the neckline area was a press and pin process, I kind of fubared the right side of the neckline.. it goes straight up instead of curving like the left. This is easily fixable however; I just need to pick out that section of the neckline and carefully repin and stitch it. And of course, nobody’s really noticed but me.. so I’ll take that as a good thing :P

What I did differently from the directions:

The pattern suggests to sew the the shoulders of the main top together, and then sew the facing pieces together and then attach it to the top. Like the sewing rule breaker that I am, I sewed the facings to the neckline on the back and front pieces, did the fold under press and sew down the facings and THEN sewed the shoulder seams together. It makes for a much nicer finish and I don’t have to worry about weird poofing up of the facing.

The pattern also suggests to sew the side seams together, and then sew in the bias tape to finish the armholes. I really dislike trying to match it up and make sure there’s no extra bulk, so I sewed on the bias tape and then sewed the side seams. I did french seams, so it’s all hidden and finished perfectly inside.

Those were pretty much the only way I deviated from the pattern. I did decide for next time if I sew a contrasting facing, I’m going to cut TWO of each facing pieces, and then sew the facings facing together, clip the curves and then continue onto the sewing the facing down. This will allow me to have a less lopsided neckline, and it saves me from having to use interfacing!

I can’t wait to make the top again! I’ll most likely create my own sleeves for it since the weather is getting cooler, and I’ll probably add pockets this time. I didn’t have enough of the blue voile to make pockets. It’s a really cute and versatile pattern, and I’d recommend it to any sewist who’s looking for a flattering and easy top to sew!

Back of the Washi

And before I forget, here’s the back of the washi. The facing isn’t 100% perfect back here either, and I’m with it. THe shirring wasn’t perfectly straight either, but due to the nature of the shirring it’s not noticeable at all. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.

 

by Amber H

Changing Directions

June 27, 2012 in Personal, Thoughts by Amber H

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about changing directions on the blog! I’m talking about life, that’s somewhat related to the blog.

See, it had been a goal of mine since I was 13 to go to Veterinarian school. When I graduated High School, that was a BIG THING. Both of my parents had dropped out, and they both regret that decision. It was impressed very early in my life to graduate High School so I could have a better life than they had. And I’ve succeeded in that. However, I’ve still fallen short on the next part.. going to college. I met Jeff online in November of 2002, and it wasn’t until September 2003 after I broke up with my ex-boyfriend that we kind of realized that things could get you know.. serious between us. We were planning on me coming to visit him after my birthday.. and well that’s where we are now. I don’t sit and wonder about what my life would be like had I not done that, but for the sake of this post, I’d imagine my life would have looked something like this:

  • I would have gone to a community college in Virginia. I slacked off and my grades tanked in my senior year of High School, a few semesters in Community College would have redeemed me.
  • I would have most likely attended Texas A&M in College Station, or lived my big ultimate dream and gone to the University of Glasgow to get my degree in Veterinarian Medicine.
  • At which point would have lead me to either being in practice somewhere in the US, or if I had attended UoG in Scotland, there’s a strong possibility I would have renounced my US citizenship and become one of the UK.
  • The final conclusion: I would have been a Vet at this point or doing an internship or something.. and probably very happy; albeit childless and in massive amounts of debt.

Needless to say, I’m grateful how my life’s turned out! But there’s always been that voice in the back of my head -well two that sound very much like my parents- saying I should have gone to school. Which still makes sense, but my passions have changed. No, I’m not saying I don’t like animals anymore, but nowadays, my passion lies within sewing, and since I’ve recently acquired Greta, pattern making and to a lesser extent fashion designing. I was thinking about a friend who’s currently in school for fashion design, and so on a whim I went to the school’s website and looked at what they had to offer in that field. They offer 3 different Associate Degrees; Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising and Technical Apparel Design. The first one has some appeal, the second one has no appeal, but the last one has a TON of appeal. There’s Digital Pattern Design, and Draping Fundamentals to name a few. Here’s the program description:

This program will give the students the necessary skills to compete in the rapidly changing apparel industry. Technology has been infused into the curriculum with computer-aided design & Gerber software. This training can lead to jobs as designers, assistant designers, pattern makers, production managers, graders and other related positions.

Where do I sign up? Okay, I realize where I’d sign up but still. Unfortunately this isn’t going to happen this year because I have Oscar who’s still heavily dependent on me as well as the girls but to a lesser degree, but I can see myself starting school next year. Maybe. Hopefully.

Either way, I’m thrilled with the possibilities.

by Amber H

I Must Be Nuts.

May 26, 2012 in Selfish Sewing by Amber H

So, I’m going to make a major confession here.

I AM A COMPLETE TOOL WHEN IT COMES TO SEWING PATTERNS.

That’s right. I’m freely admitting to this. As we were driving to lunch I informed my husband I wanted to make this bag, and he said “Why?” to which I replied, “Other people on the internet are doing it.” which is probably the most honest answer I’ve ever given him… and I’m pretty sure he was pretty surprised I gave him that honest of an answer!

Anyway, after seeing my good friend Christine‘s Weekender Travel Bag by Amy Butler in progress on Flickr, I was hooked. Even though I realize it’s not an easy pattern to tackle, she made it look fun to make with the multitude of pictures she provided, even though I realized she had to fight with it.. basically blood sweat and tears were poured into it! So here’s the first of many pics..

The start of a journey...

And because I like to make things complicated, I’m changing the bag up a bit.

  • As you can see, the exterior is supposed to be all one fabric. I do not plan on doing this. Instead the main large pockets are going to be the Anna Maria Horner fabric that’s pictured in the bag (Queen of Hearts in Steel if anyone was wondering) That I picked up on clearance from one of my local fabric stores, The Material Girls Quilts (yay for Memorial Day weekend Sales!) where I also picked up the pattern. The rest of the exterior is going to be made out of Essex Linen by Robert Kaufman in natural. I’ve got 1.5 yards of that, and since the pattern calls for 1 5/8 yards, I’m set there. I think instead of using either of the fabrics for the bottom, I’ve got a small piece of black Essex I can use for the bottom to show less dirt. Or, I may even buy some pleather/vinyl for the bottom, I’m not sure yet.
  • The Materials list calls for 2.5 yards of fabric for the interior, the handles and the piping. I’m not doing this. Instead, I’m going to use one fabric for the interior -not picked yet-, and then the piping and the the handles in different fabrics. I may chose the same fabric for those, I may chose different fabrics. I haven’t gotten that far yet in planning. I need to check my stash to see if I’ve got enough yardage to do the interior one color, otherwise, I may have to go to Hobby Lobby or another LQS and purchase some.. I will most likely end up using Kona Cotton in a coordinating color. I almost bought some solids at Material Girls, but I didn’t know how much I would need so I ended up just buying the pattern and the AMH.
  • The instructions call to cut two strips of heavy duty Peltex for the straps. Instead of doing that, I’ve got cotton webbing that I will be wrapping fabric around and then sewing the fabric to that. I absolutely detest cutting super long pieces of stuff -it’s asking for 48″ inch long strips- so I figured I can save myself the hassle by cutting just the fabric to wrap around the webbing and call it good.. less long cuts for me. Some folks were mentioning they were cutting the straps at 52″ but due to my tiny size, I think I can get away with the 48″ long handles, and be able to comfortably put it over my shoulder.
  • I’m going to eliminate the exterior side pockets, and the interior large pockets. I think the two pockets on the outside and two pockets on the inside will be enough. This will also cut down on some of the bulk of the seams. In addition, I am probably going to add magnetic snaps on the two exterior pockets for extra security. The interior pockets will most likely be worked to be elasticized.. so I can stuff larger things inside of them. The method for doing that will be pretty simple; just a matter of adding a few extra inches to the pocket pattern.

Anyways, that’s as far as I can think of in terms of things to change on the bag. I will of course, mention more as they come up, not really as a how to, since the pattern is pretty coherent, but I’m quite nervous about the whole thing.. I’ve read sewing up the layers is quite a workout for both the sewist and the machine. Luckily, Olga was made to sew through leather to make shoes, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’ll be able to go through the fabric for this. Anyway, wish me luck!

by Amber H

Meet Greta

May 6, 2012 in Uncategorized by Amber H

I have added another member to my sewing family, and it’s a dress form!

Say Hello to Greta!

As you can see, Greta’s been enhanced! See, there’s this awesome company that makes these special padding systems to make the dress form more.. you; the company is called Fabulous Fit! They sell dress forms, as well as the padding system (which can work with ANY dress form, not just the ones they make) Because let’s face it.. we’re not shaped like a flat chested and rear-end dress form.  This is in my opinion, a better alternative than doing the duct tape dress form method or any others out there.. because I do plan on losing that baby belly that’s in the front. And putting this together, I realized a few things about myself:

I’m BUSTY. My bustline measured something like 36 or 37 inches. That doesn’t seem like a lot for some of you ladies, but consider I’m only 4’11″. And part of it’s due to the fact that I’m still nursing, but once I wean Oscar, I truthfully won’t be losing that much more around the bust. It comes with 4 filler pads, and I had to use all 4 under the bust pads.

I’m not as chubby as I thought I was. I had my husband help measure me, and I adjusted the padding accordingly. When you look at yourself in the mirror or look down, you have this perception of bits of you sticking out further than they should, but when it’s brought to life on the dress form, the realization of “I don’t look as bad as I thought I did!” hits, and then you instantly feel better about yourself.. well I did anyway. Which is all that matters I suppose.

Here’s a picture of Greta’s profile:

Us from the side.

 Anyway, I’m quite excited about the possibilities and opportunities that this will bring me. I started out with sewing clothes initially, and I’ve been quilting for a while, and now I’m going back to garment making. This is presenting me with the ability to really get a proper fit on my clothes instead of having to guesstimate. In fact, I’ve already got the waistband of a skirt that I’m making taped off (more on that later when I blog the process of making the skirt) and I’m looking forward to many more projects we’re gonna make together!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsered post by any means; I just simply bought the product and I’m sharing my thoughts about it! In case you want to buy some of your own, I found that allbrands had the best prices in terms of the cost of the fabulous fit kit, both in product and shipping. Shipping was fast and speedy, and I even bought my dress form from them as well. The total cost for me including shipping was just under $200.