Thursday, May 23, 2013

DIY Maddness

So remember when I said I'd gotten my annual spring DIY bug? Well, it's taken a sort of odd turn. I was originally looking at modifying/upcycling some clothing, but when I was wandering around Instructables, I started to notice some pretty cool stuff. Specifically I started to see some people making their own lingerie that actually looked totally professional (e.g. 1, 2, 3). And so I started wondering if I could do it.

For reference, I did take some sewing classes when I was about 8 years old, but I don't think I've touched a sweing machine since then. I mend things a lot by hand, and I've basted the odd thing onto clothing I already have for costumes, but lingerie construction is on a totally different level.

As I've said before, these days, you can learn anything on the internet. Seriously. I learned how to make bread on the internet. The wonderful thing about the global community is that people want to share knowledge-- often for free-- and help each other with projects. And it's just so cool. There is a certain part of me that wishes that I had been in high school or elementary school right now so that I could have soaked in all the new skills when the brain is most rapidly expanding and learning things most quickly. However, I still can (and do) learn a lot.

One of the reasons that learning this particular skill intrigued me is that I find it difficult to find comfortable lingerie even the expensive stuff is not consistently perfect. The reason, of course, is because women are all different shapes and there are a certain set of standard sizes. However, the problems with modern lingerie go far beyond that. At Victoria's secret, for example, both the band and the cup sizes vary between lines-- so PINK bras have smaller cups and a smaller with of the centerpiece between cups, although the same band size as what is supposedly the exact sames size in the Body collection. Also, the band size of the Incredible collection seems to be larger than that in the Body collection for a bra that's supposed to be the same size. This makes no sense. Furthermore, I have issues finding lingerie of the right size because my rib cage in the front is wider than the back so the centerpiece is often too small. As such, I decided to strike out on my own and see if I could make some.

I used Jenna's Instructable for pattern making and graded the size down. Grading, as I found out yesterday, is the term used for changing the size of a pattern piece to fit a different size person. According to a blog I read, grading has to be done proportionally, so I sketched a version of the pattern that was proportionally smaller than the one she had.

I also decided to follow her (and the other lingerie-makers') advice and deconstruct one of my own bras. I had one which I had stretched out back when I was heavier, but the cup size was still right. I used one of my other bras as a pattern to dart the sides so that it fit before I took the bra apart. However, the patterning was too complicated for a beginner like me. Instead, I borrowed the underwire, underwire casings, straps and fastenings from the bra and used Jenna's pattern to cut up an old t-shirt (I added approximated 1/4 inch seam allowances because her pattern doesn't seem to account for seam allowances).
Front of my prototype (basted together by hand)

Close up of back
Unfortunately, you cannot tell whether lingerie fits until you put it together. I haven't hauled out my mother's old sewing machine yet (and honestly, I don't even remember how to thread a sewing machine, so I decided I would baste it together by hand and see if I were on the right track.

I realized a couple of things basting it together. First, it fit, and actually looked kind of decent, which was amazing. Second, I definitely need some kind of liner for the cups. The seams, even when ironed down, would be uncomfortable after a long day. Jenna doesn't provide for this in her pattern, so I'm going to have to figure out how to do it on my own. Third, as usual, to make it fit optimally, I'm going to have to increase the width of the center piece. But honestly, having even moderate success in the first attempt is an incredible achievement for someone who doesn't sew.


  1. This is awesome! I came across these: a while ago and thought they were so cool. I haven't gotten around to trying to make any yet, but I'd like to...

    1. Those panties at One Avian Daemon are super cute! Maybe I'll try those at some point. But for that I'll need to learn how to use my mom's old surger (you can see she uses surger stitching around the leg holes of the panties). It's cool that there are a ton of patterns and sets of instructions out online to make this suff.

      Honestly, the bra is pretty easy, too. If one just scales Jenna's pattern up or down to the proper size, one can make any size from it. For scaling, the wings and center piece up and down, just scale by band size. She has a 34 and a 36 (and I will post my 32), plus it's pretty easy to scale up to a 38 from her 36. For the cup, she has a 36B (which is the same size as a 34C, 32D, 30DD or 38A) as well as a 34B (which is a 32C, 30D or 36A) and I have a 32B (which is a 30C or 34A). If you were to scale up the cup, it would be a 38B, 36C, 34D, 32DD, 30F or a 40A). So, even by scaling it up or down 1 size, it makes a huge variety of sizes.