Tuesday, June 19, 2018

And the bad news is now I have to order all my bras from India

NOTE: This might especially be of interest to vintage and retro fashion enthusiasts.

It was sometime in the mid 1970s, when I was a teenager, that I first saw an ad for a modern "natural" shape bra. My mom and I both agreed that we hated it. Before long though that became the normal bra shape and in one sense, I got used to it but in another sense I never did. It came to be what I expected to find and I practically forgot that bras had ever been designed any other way but I have always had a lot of trouble finding the right bra and I was always a little dissatisfied with what I ended up with, without really knowing what I wanted.

By the early 90s I had gained two dress sizes and gained one more before I settled into what seems to be my permanent size 14. (16 in pants) I went through a phase of thinking I had to wear shapeless clothes so the shape of my bra really didn't matter a whole lot. But then I discovered sewing blogs on which beautiful women of all sizes proudly show off their creations. I was inspired to find my own style.

It turns out my style is sort of a hybrid of retro and timeless. I don't go full on retro with the hair and makeup and shoes and all but I like the basic 40s - 50s style with close fitting bodices and full(ish) skirts that fall at mid-calf or a little below. Suddenly, finding the right bra was a problem again. A close fitting bodice requires just the right bra or it will never fit correctly. And so the search began.

"Retro" shaped bras do exist but my search was complicated by the fact that I was used to seamless cups and for a while was not willing to give up that feature. But I did find two seamless cup bras that were acceptable, though far from ideal.

The first one I found was a Playtex 18 Hour. That's an Amazon link but I actually bought my first one of these at Walmart. When I first tried it on I actually freaked out a little, like OMG it makes the girls look so pointy! But wait, I told myself, isn't this what you wanted? So I put clothes on over it and it made the clothes look fabulous. Best fit ever. However, there are problems with it. The pictures are not at all accurate. It comes up freakishly high in front and the back is about twice as wide as shown in the picture. I later ordered a couple of these from Amazon, thinking I was getting something different based on the pictures, and got the exact same bra I had previously purchased at Walmart. I really wish I could find that bra - the one in the pictures. Being too high in front and too thick in back is a problem for summer dresses but it also just feels weird and wrong.

Next I discovered the Playtex foam lined Cross Your Heart Bra. I knew I would not like the foam lining but I tried it anyway and it's actually almost perfect. It works under all my summer dresses, It's low enough for V-neck fronts and low scoop backs. The cup shape is something in between retro cone shaped and modern rounded. It's a shape that works well enough with all my dresses but there's that foam lining. I'm all for modesty but who wants to trap the girls in foam when it's 100F outside? Of course, like most people I'm in air conditioned spaces most of the time but three minutes outside and the bra has soaked up twice its own weight in sweat. Still, this has been my bra of choice for several years.

Finally though, a couple of months ago I decided to start the search again. And to learn to live with seams. I searched all the bras at Amazon, not just the prime eligible ones, and discovered Sona bras. Yes, that is spelled correctly - Sona with an N. The first was this Delicate Super Everyday. I was skeptical but decided to take a chance anyway because in one of the pictures it looked like it might be the right shape. And my size was available in pink!

Well, I like it and I don't. The lace is very rough and bumpy and tends to show through and it doesn't really support all that well. It's especially lacking in side support so if you have a problem with underarm boob this is not the bra for you. But it is amazingly comfortable so I decided to search for other styles in the same brand. That's when I discovered that Amazon does not want you to find Sona bras. You search for Sona and it gives you Soma. But fortunately there is a "Dammit I said SONA, show me what I asked for!" link. It doesn't really say that but it should. And I found two more that I wanted to try and ordered two of each.

The appropriately named Perfecto turned out to be The One! Ahhhhhh! [Choir of angels, ray light from Heaven] It has that perfect retro shape (I like to call it classic) excellent support even on the sides and it's cool and comfortable unlined cotton. Sadly, my size is only available in white and beige right now but it also comes in black, red, and pink in some sizes.

Finally, there is the Bee-Heart which is the weirdest bra I have ever seen. To start with, it is 100% non-stretch cotton except for short pieces of elastic in the back on each side of the fasteners. The band, the straps, everything, is non-stretch cotton. When I took it out of the package I immediately thought, "There is no way this is going to work," but it's actually more comfortable than I expected and stays in place and keeps the girls in place very well. I wore it all day yesterday and never once had the urge to rip it off and burn it. But the downside? The cups are a very weird shape even if you're looking for pointy, which they definitely are. The center (the in between cups area) forms kind of a concave curve. Like I said, weird. It doesn't look too terrible under clothes though as long as it's not something clingy.

The weird bra has inspired me though. One of the things (not the only thing) that has kept me from trying to make my own bras is the difficulty in finding the right materials. I have found online retailers that sell a limited selection of bra supplies but I've been procrastinating because, even though I buy fabric online all the time, in this case I want to be able to handle it first, especially the elastic. Bra elastic is not like other elastic. Anyway, handling and wearing that last bra, I realized I can just make one out of cotton! So my plan is to take apart one of the second Platex bras mentioned above. Although the outer cups are seamless the innermost lining has a seam so it should work as a pattern. And of course I will try other patterns.

Oh, almost forgot! Sona bras are made in and ship from India. I have to wait a little longer to get them but both times I ordered they shipped in less that 48 hours and it didn't take a terribly long time to get all the way here to Oklahoma - about two and a half weeks total. I will definitely order again.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Must Have Ladybugs!

You might remember late last summer I accidentally destroyed my old ladybug dress and used the remains to make a dress for the granddaughter. (It was big on her then but she has grown into it and it's still one of her favorites.) I immediately started looking for ladybug fabric to make a new and better ladybug dress for myself and I eventually found this:

And made this:

It's a Vogue 8789 but without the extra full skirt (as usual) and with pockets. (of course) I could point out about half a dozen things wrong with it but I'm not going to because I actually love it. It's imperfectly perfect.

As I have discovered only fairly recently* rick-rack is somewhat controversial but I like it and I'm not ashamed to use it. This is actually not what I started out to do though. I was going to wind two colors, yellow and white, together like this...

... but the rick-rack was not cooperating. It got extremely twisty. Funny, I don't remember it being that difficult before when I did it. It was a little twisty but not so bad. Anyway, after several inches I decided this wasn't going to work and gave up and used just yellow. As I was sewing it I questioned my decision: "Should I have kept trying? Should I have used white instead? Wait! I could have used white eyelet instead of rick-rack!" But as soon as it was done I was completely satisfied with it just the way it is.

I finished it a little over a week ago and today I'm wearing it for the second time. It's a cool, fun everyday dress and I am going to love it to death.

(*When you're my age anything up to 10 years ago is "fairly recent".)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Another One For the Granddaughter

Meet my friend Jacqueline - Jacqueline the Ripper.

An evil looking thing isn't she? But I couldn't get much sewing done without her. Most recently she helped me finish this adorable little dress.

It's another McCall's 9227, view B this time. It's not that it was a difficult pattern; I just kept making stupid mistakes - really hair-brained. But we got through it and in the end it turned out great. The only changes I made this time were leaving off the tie belt and adding elastic at the back waistline and adding side seam pockets. Granddaughter is just like her Nana when comes to pockets. They are a must.

I haven't had the chance to give it to her yet but I know she will love it. It's a style of dress she really likes and this is such a fun colorful print. Click on the pic to make it larger and have a better look at all the crazy stuff going on - little deer, birds, giant butterflies and I'm not even sure what some of this stuff is. So much fun.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Dinosaur Story

My grandson was about 6 or 7, I think, and in the middle of a serious dinosaur obsession. (Also a shark obsession and an alligator and crocodile obsession; pretty much anything that can kill you horribly he loved) He's a teenager now so this was a while back. I was looking around the fabric department at Walmart, because fabric, and I found a dinosaur print flannel. The background was different size rectangles in red, blue and, if I remember correctly, tan or brown and the dinosaurs were green and brown. Now a normal grandmother would have bought some and made her grandson some pajamas but I'm not normal. My first thought was to make a shirt for myself so I could be the cool grandmother who's not too grown up to wear dinosaurs.

The lady working in the fabric department that day appeared to be about ten or more years older than I was at the time. As she was measuring out the fabric she commented about what a cute fabric it was "for a little boy." I suppose the smart thing to do would have been to just agree with her and leave it at that but I admitted that I was planning to make a shirt for myself. She laughed like that was the craziest thing she had ever heard and said something like, "You must really like dinosaurs." I told her that I like a lot of different kinds of prints and she said, "Well, I guess so," in that tone that suggested there was something definitely off about liking anything other than subdued, tasteful little florals and such.

I made the shirt and wore it for several winters but for the last three or four years I hardly wore it at all and although I still liked it I decided I needed to make some sacrifices to make room in the closet for some new things.

The point of my telling you this story is to observe that for each of us there are things we do not wear not because we ever consciously think, "I do not wear stuff like that," but because it just never occurred to us to choose it even if, in a way, we like it. But once we wear one of those things we do not wear it becomes something we do wear and the next time we come across a cool dinosaur fabric, or whatever, it's a perfectly natural thing to buy it and wear it.

So I found this really cool dinosaur fabric at eQuilter and, naturally, I bought it. It's one of the lighter weight quilting cottons, nice, light and breezy, perfect for summer.

I used McCall's 9065 again. This time, as you can see, I left off the sleeves. I only had to raise the openings about half an inch for modesty. I also made it with an unbanded collar. I had to make a back facing and change the front facing a little bit. The original only goes to the front yoke. For this version I had to make it go all the way to the shoulder seam.

I also made side vents.

You can't really see it in the photos but I used gold color thread, exactly the color of the gold dinosaurs, for the topstitching around the collar, neckline, arm holes, and hem.

I love it. I think this might be my favorite made from this pattern so far. Maybe. It's hard to say. I love them all.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Birthday Dress

It's been nearly a week since my birthday and I'm finally getting around to showing off the birthday dress, which I mentioned in the previous post.

The pattern... well, I did use the bodice from a retro Vogue pattern because I'm too cowardly to draft my own patterns but I changed it so much it's not really that anymore. The original had center front and back seams and a back V-neck. I made it without the front and back seams because I wanted as few seams as possible so as not to break up this big, fun paisley print more than necessary. And I changed the back neckline, just because. The skirt is a half circle, with pockets of course. Here's that back neckline.

It has a side zipper and it's one of the best I've ever sewed.

See the zipper? No, you don't! Sorry, anytime I manage to not mess up the zipper I'm ridiculously proud of myself for it.

The fabric has a nice stiffness, which I like. It feels sturdy so even though I sewed it as a "birthday dress" it feels like an everyday dress and that's good because I have a lot more every days than I have special occasions.

* * * * *

The birthday was one of those big, round scary ones - 60! - which doesn't seem right at all. I haven't even gotten over being freaked out about turning 50 yet. One of the things I hate about it is that when you get past a certain age people start judging you by your age. Everyone thinks they know what 60 is but they don't, but they will continue to be absolutely sure they do know no matter what you say to them.

On the other hand, when you reach 60 you suddenly have an automatic excuse for, well, senior moments. I have a good memory. Really! Unfortunately most of what I can remember is useless stuff like Kochel numbers, dialog from Star Trek, Firefly, and The Big Bang Theory, and the names and faces of actors that I haven't seen in anything for over 30 years, and if it's not completely useless it's mainly good for pissing people off, like which one of "there, they're," or "their" to use. But you know... it's always been that way. Everyone of every age is occasionally absent minded, but the older you get the more important it is to remember the right things and not screw up so people won't think you're losing your mind.

Well, anyway, the day of my birthday was nice. Nobody made a big deal out of it, which was okay. I got to eat out for both lunch and dinner and I got a small birthday cake. Small is good. And the weather was perfect and I wore the birthday dress all day. Other than being 30 again I couldn't wish for anything more.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

It's Finally Spring! (I think...)

I first bragged about this fabric here. Aaaand it's another McCall's 9065, with butterfly sleeves this time.

I think I might have overdone it a bit with the sleeves - like they're too big, too... out there? I'm not sure they're a good look for me anyway. In a way they are. They draw attention away from the hip area, which is always a good thing. But on the other hand, I worry that they might look ridiculous. They are comfortable though. I hate sleeves in the summer but these let the breeze in so I can wear them even when it's "too hot for sleeves." And I don't worry a great deal about looking ridiculous, obviously.

I am very pleased with it. Green and pink is an exciting color combination and I love the big flowers. I have plans to use this pattern with at least two more pieces of fabric but I am also interested in moving on to sewing dresses.

Tasha got me interested in the idea of sewing a birthday dress but I'm having the devil of a time deciding which piece of fabric would make the perfect birthday dress. Even if I were not thinking in terms of a "birthday dress" I would still have a tough time deciding. It makes me a little antsy being between projects and I tell myself, don't think too much, just start something but all the fabric in my stash keeps saying, "Sew me next! Sew me next!"

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Pink Cotton Cardi

Two or three years ago (I can't remember exactly when it was) I bought 3 pieces of lovely cotton interlock knit at Hancock Fabric's going out of business sale. I liked what I did with the green piece (Butterick 3345) so much that I decided to do the same thing with the pink. Except, I lengthened the sleeves just a little bit on the green one but I didn't this time.

It's not hanging quite right in the photo. I assure you both sides are even. It has kimono sleeves so it was very fast and easy to make. There are only two pattern pieces. It has darts in both the front and back.

I faced the edges with wide bias tape. It was actually double fold bias tape that I pressed open. I'm not sure if wide single fold bias tape is even a thing. I have never seen any.

This is going to be very useful. I love the color and it's the perfect weight for slightly cool mornings and over-air-conditioned stores and restaurants.

Goal: Sew fabric that I have had for 2+ years at least once a month (or 12 times this year) 6/12

Monday, April 16, 2018

Tunics, Old and New

Before I show you something new I have to show you something old.

I made this tunic over 10 years ago, maybe over 15. I like it but I haven't worn it a lot. A couple of things bother me about it. I'm not really comfortable with the baby doll style because it makes me think of a maternity top. What bothers me more though, is that the neckline feels too wide. I can do something about that and I'm old enough now that nobody is going to mistake me for being preggo so I decided to try it again with a piece of fabric that's been in my stash for several years without any kind of plan or ambition.

I added an inch to the inside edge of the yoke. I also lengthened it a little. I don't know why I did that. It was long enough to start with. Just an idea that popped into my head for no reason. I don't know if you can see them in the photo but there are butterflies, dragonflies, and bees flitting around among the flowers.

I like it. The neckline feels much better now and the length is fine even though it's almost what many would consider dress length. For me it's still a tunic. It's a comfortable, loungey kind of tunic and I think it will mostly be hanging out at home reading, watching TV, and puttering around the house doing housewifey things. We also need pretty things for days when we have nowhere to go.

Goal: Sew fabric that I have had for 2+ years at least once a month (or 12 times this year) 5/12

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Just Some New Shoes

This seems a little odd to me but I have never owned a pair of pink shoes before. Most of my shoes are brown, black, or tan. I guess that's because growing up I only had one pair of "good" shoes at a time and maybe a pair of sneakers for summer so I got used to picking shoes that "go with everything". But I was looking at these shoes, which come in more than a dozen colors, and decided I have enough pink clothes for a pair of pink shoes to make sense.

It's surprisingly tricky to take photos of one's own feet.

The color in these photos is just a bit washed out. They are a slightly brighter pink in reality. Today I'm wearing them with jeans and this blouse.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Call of the New

Since I'm doing really good with my goal of sewing from the older stash I felt like I could afford to give in to some of the more recently purchased fabrics that have been calling to me so strongly. I have so much that I want to sew right now and most of it is fabric I have purchased in the past 6 - 8 months.

You know fabric is like potato chips. You can't go into a fabric store and leave with only a half yard of fabric. When I went to the little local quilt shop to buy the blue pin dot I needed for the last project this fabric spoke to me and I could not ignore it.

And I knew right away it had to be another New Look 6963. ("Hey Lynn, how are you doing with that goal of using some of your unused patterns?" - "Shut up. I'll get to it eventually.")

This year I've been feeling a need for more tunics and long shirts so I'll have more choices of things to wear with comfy stretch pants and leggings. (In this pic I'm wearing it with loose fitting jeans.)

This is another one of those garments that I like way better when I'm just wearing than when I'm looking at pictures of myself wearing it. Which means, I like it. No, I love it. Very comfy and colorful like all my favorite clothes.