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Copying a favourite bra

You may have noticed that one of the items on my Spring Sewing Ideas list was a “self-drafted/copied from RTW” bra. I’ve sewn countless bras before, but really only been happy with the fit and look of one (a foam cup muslin, of all things!). I really want to try and get away from moulded foam cups for a number of reasons (which Orange Lingerie discusses here), so my dream bra drawer would be entirely lacey, gorgeous, self-made, frameless, underwired bras, with one nude moulded foam cup bra for when I really need a seamless look.

The problem is, I’d been buying foam cup bras for so long that I didn’t really have any non-padded ones I could clone, and on a whim last year, I bought a few M&S bras and was amazed to find that two (identical, apart from colour) all-lace, single-darted, frameless, underwire bras, fit me perfectly and gave me a great shape.

So in the back of my mind I’ve been wanting to clone these, since my last bra using the Elan pattern ended up fitting well (at first I thought I’d cracked it finally!!), but the cup shape looked B-A-D. Boobs like duck-bills, oh god no!

Anyway, so I started the process of cloning the white version of the M&S bra last night, by using my method of tracing patterns – placing the bra down on top of paper and running my serrated tracing wheel around it. This worked well for the band, but I wasn’t convinced I got an accurate trace for the cup, so I looked up an old Threads article, “Clone Your Favorite Bra” (Issue 99, Feb/March 2002 if you’ve got the archive DVDs), which suggested stabbing lots of pins around the bra edge until you got to a point where it would no longer lie flat. Then you unpin the first pins you put down, and re-shift everything using the latter pins (in my case, along the dart) as an anchor so it lies flat and you get all the edges pinned.

Then, in my case, because the dart stayed in place and everything shifted around it, I had to cut through the dart and open it back up. Because the top edge of mine was the lace edge, I knew this had to be straight, so it made it easy to re-adjust.

Book Review: Patternmaking for Underwear Design, by Kristina Shin PhD

You’ve heard me mention this book a few times as I’ve been experimenting with various drafts, but I felt it deserved a full review because, frankly, I’m a little obsessed with it right now. My mom surprised me with this when I was ill with shingles and the subsequent nerve damage pain, and it gave me something to focus on right as I was in the midst of my last bout of lingerie sewing.

It’s “Patternmaking for Underwear Design”, by Kristina Shin, PhD, and here’s a (pretty bad) shot I took of it’s cover:

It’s primarily a book for drafting your own bras and lingerie (but much more, too), and the biggest difference I’ve seen here in that these bra drafts all start with the underwire shape, and build from there. Every other bra draft I’ve seen starts with a bodice sloper, which is then adapted into a bra shape. The approach taken here makes a lot more sense to me for getting an accurate fit, since there’s so much variation in breast shape and distribution for women who even wear the same size bodice. As anyone knows who’s ever sewn a bra, finding the right size underwire is absolutely key, so it really seems right here to use that as a starting point. And it helps that most women can make a small incision in a well-fitting bra and just trace off one they know fits them!

There’s not really any construction or sewing instructions included in this book, but there are a few pages at the beginning with stuff like tips on cutting lace…

…and the wide variety of bra backs you can use once you’ve got your basic draft sorted out…

…plus several pages of various tables of measurements for different sizes, and exactly what to measure, both for the breasts and the rest of the body.

Here’s an example page from the leggings draft so you can see the style of instructions and diagrams. I personally found these easier to follow than Metric Pattern Cutting and WAY easier than any of the Pattern Magic books!

Check out your Lacey Thongs!

Wow, the response to my free Lacey Thong pattern I released last month has been immense! Since the beginning of February, it’s been downloaded a staggering 1400 times! That’s a LOT of potential underwear, my friends!

You all have been sewing like gangbusters, too, so I thought it was time to share all the gorgeous versions you all have made – it’s only fair since I showed you mine!

So in no particular order, let’s have a fumble through your underwear drawers…

Kathhhhhy’s liked the pattern so much she finished off her first pair with a pretty bow in the back, and then went and made a second pair to match her lacey bra!

Lauriana’s pale green/blue pair kickstarted a month-long lingerie sewing binge, with more panties, and bras galore!

Frances Hall sent me photos of her gorgeous red & white pair:

Catching up…

A month on, and I’m still ravaged by the shingles attack that hit me in mid-January. Absolutely everyone who saw my torso said it was the worst case they’ve ever seen (doctors included), and lucky, lucky me, the little bugger caused nerve damage, which means the pain in my side could continue on for months or possibly a year (again, lucky, lucky me). I’m on four different prescription painkillers until the neural-specific one hopefully starts working soon, so I’ve been stuck at home Resting (I hate resting.). The good news is that the doctor says I can now go do the odd half day at work and very easy run here and there as it’s driving me crazy not to, but I’m not to overdo things. But even that’s better than being chained to a couch!

Anyway, I’ve done as much resting as it’s humanly possible for Melissa to do, which means I’ve been lying flat on my back and sleeping for most of the days, but I managed to squeeze in some sewing, almost entirely in 5 minute segments, followed by 20 minutes of rest. Rinse & repeat… These will have photoshoots and proper posts coming hopefully next week!

The amazingly simple-to-sew Style Arc Marita dress:

A grey wool “chic sweatshirt”:

A pair of pleated, My Image denim-look leggings:

A quick, gathered raglan merino wool sweater from the February BurdaStyle magazine:

Free online lingerie sewing resources

So, how much fun was Lingerie Week last week, eh?? It may be Monday, but I thought I’d finish with a big list of free online patterns and tutorials for lingerie sewing, so you can carry on and make a bunch of pretty matching sets for yourself without breaking the bank!

Win a Lacey Thong kit!

Have you been inspired by all the activity this week during Lingerie Week and fancy sewing your own Lacey Thong now?

Would you like to win a kit with all the bits you need to make your very own? (Of course you do!)

In the spirit of lingerie and bra kits you can buy from stores online, I shopped my (cough, rather extensive) lingerie sewing stash to put together all the bits you’ll need to make a Lacey Thong pattern (suitable for any of the sizes).

Lacey Thong panty – construction tips & photos

Continuing on with Lingerie Week, I wanted to give you some extra construction tips on my Lacey Thong pattern that wouldn’t quite fit in the pattern itself (if you start adding in large photos, the Pdf filesize goes up really quickly!).

First of all, I wanted to start with two areas I’ve had some questions on:

“The 4cm ruler isn’t 4cm when I print it”. If the ruler on page 3 isn’t measuring exactly 4cm when you print it, then the print software you’re using is scaling the pattern! I use Preview on OSX, and I know it’s got its quirks – on this particular programme, if you enter in 100% and just click Print, it’ll still print at whatever the settings were before you changed them. You need to enter 100%, tap elsewhere in the print preview to watch the thumbnail resize, and then click Print. I’m sure other programmes have their quirks, too, but the bottom line is, if your ruler doesn’t measure 4cm, the pattern is not at the proper scale!

“Which size should I choose?” Sizing if difficult from a pattern creator’s perspective, because so many bodies wear a full range of sizes. I’m most confident of the Burda sizes recommended (much less so for the Big Four), so if you know your Burda size, go with that. The finished half-hip measurement is probably less helpful, but it’ll save some of you measuring it yourself.

If you’re unsure of your size, another approach to take it to “try on” the elastic before you start. Measure the waist elastic for the different sizes (pin or mark it, don’t cut!) and try it out by checking the feel around your half hip area (these panties sit over your hip bones, well below your belly button). The elastic should be snug and partially stretched, but not tight or loose.

During the construction of my black pair I took some photos of the trickier construction tips so those of you who prefer photos to diagrams can have a better look (though perhaps choosing a black fabric with similar-looking right and wrong sides wasn’t the best idea, sorry!).

I’ll use the numbers from the steps in the Pdf pattern’s Sewing Instructions below so you can easily refer back. As usual, click any of these to view the larger versions.

1. Join the Crotch to the Front

2. Join the Crotch to the Back

Purple lingerie set – camisole & lacey thong

Here’s the second of my recent lingerie sets I sewed while I’ve been ill, which I hope will inspire you! This purple set is again comprised of my (free!) Lacey Thong pattern and the (also free!) Ruby Slip pattern, shortened to camisole length.

I’m so pleased to finally break into the lace and materials I bought at Kantje Boord in Amsterdam when I was there running the marathon in October! I was very restrained in the shop, buying only this lace, the purple lycra remnant, and coordinating lime elastic and motif with this exact camisole in mind!

I’ve definitely got enough materials left (okay, I had to hit up Danglez.nl* for some more coordinating bra supplies!) to make a matching bra in the next week or two, so I might whip up another pair of panties to make this set a foursome like the black lingerie set too.

The only real difference between this set and the black one you saw earlier this week is that the body fabric used here is a lycra rather than a woven. The lace bodices are strikingly similar, even though the laces themselves are so different!

Black lingerie set – camisole & lacey thong

Wow, thank you so much for all your enthusiasm on the Lacey Thong pattern! It was downloaded nearly 200 times in the first 24 hours, and that’s without any promotion beyond your word of mouth!

I’m wondering who’s going to be the first to send me their finished panty photos, but in the meantime, I thought it might be inspiring to show you all two more lingerie sets I’ve made while I’ve been ill with shingles (and likely to continue to be ill for several more weeks, ugh).

First up is a black and champagne set comprised of my Lacey Thong pattern and the (also free!) Ruby Slip pattern, shortened to camisole length.

You may think this lace looks familiar, and that’s because it’s the same lace I used a few weeks ago to make a bra and another thong panty, so now I’ve got a set of four to wear together (and have finally used up all 2 metres of the Gabi lace I’d bought!). This time I used a thin poly(?) black satin for the body of the cami and panties, and used a beige picot elastic on the panties instead of black, like I had in my earlier set.

Free Lacey Thong Panty pattern!

I’m very excited to announce a special week here on FehrTrade – for the benefit of those of you reading this from RSS subscriptions and can’t see the site header…

It's Lingerie Week on FehrTrade

Yes, an entire week devoted to sewing lingerie, and we’re going to start the week off with something very special indeed – a free downloadable sewing pattern for a pair of thong-style panties, with lace over the hips and a special diamond-inset at the front and back.

The pattern is for sizes S-XL with seam allowances included, and for those of you who hate downloadable patterns – there’s only 4 pages of pattern to print, and only one join to tape together! I’ve written out step-by-step directions with a few diagrams, but there will also be some construction photos later this week to help out those of you who prefer them.


(If you’d like to spread the word about this pattern, please link to this post and not directly to the pdf file! thanks!)