A Silk Watson Bra

You may have noticed that I’m not big into bandwagons, and if I am going to jump on one, I like to wait until it’s safely parked back in the barn and everyone else has left first … I actually bought a copy of this pattern right when it came out and it seemed like everyone in my sewing-internet-world was talking about it, but then in more my typical style, I decided to think about it for quite a while before actually making it.

 

silk watson bra 1

 

What was/is really exciting to me about the Watson Bra pattern is that someone else already did all the hard work of figuring out the exact curves of each piece to make a smooth cup shape, make it fit into the band, etc. (thanks Amy!), and that it’s specifically designed to be made without underwires, which is exactly what I wanted.

What I was less excited about is the fact that it called for mainly synthetic stretchy stuff; lots of kinds of elastic and power mesh, etc. As you may also have noticed, I’m so over it with all of that, and I’m trying to use all natural materials whenever it’s even remotely feasible. And one of the things that kept popping into my head whenever I looked at all this cashmere felt I have around* was, “this would really be perfect in a bra!” Since you know, it’s substantial but flexible, and insanely soft on the skin. But could I really make a bra using all natural fabrics? Maybe without even elastic?

It turns out the answer is a resounding yes! Not only can it work, but it did work beautifully on the very first try (some luck involved). Using my measurements of approximately 31 ½” underbust and a 1” difference between full and upper bust, I decided to make a size 34A, erring on the side of a slightly smaller size since my materials weren’t super stretchy and I didn’t want it to come out too loose. I made a couple of alterations to the pattern; adding ½” to center front since I knew that would fit my frame better, and straitening out the bottom line of the band to allow for the possibility of using an existing hem when upcycling garments for fabric (although I didn’t do that this time). I also added to the seam allowance in the center of the outer cup pieces, so I could grade it with the inner seam allowance to avoid a noticeable ridge there.

 

silk watson bra 2

 

The grey fabric is from a silk knit top that had worn out around the underarms and cuffs but still had plenty of life in the body. The pink binding is leftover fabric from making these camis (very thin silk knit), cut 1 ½” wide, sewed ¼” from the edges, and turned under. And the inner cups are indeed felted cashmere scraps*—oh yeah! I sewed it all together with a simple zigzag stitch, and sewed the straps on by hand.

According to my notes I made this back in February, which means I can now safely report that it works as well in real life as I’d hoped. The only alterations I’ve made since then are to move the back attachment point of the straps closer to center back (typical for me if the straps are slipping off my shoulders at all), and to tack down the bindings at center front with some tiny hand stitches, since the edges pulled up a bit after a few wears and washings, revealing the cup layers.

 

silk watson bra 3

 

I thought this might be a wearable muslin version, but instead it came out near perfection in fit and function. It does everything a want a “real bra” to do: provide a smooth and socially acceptable silhouette under a single other layer of clothing, and add a little bit of support. It’s also so comfortable I forget I’m wearing it, which is key for me. I thought about making another one (I even have another old silk top or two with some features that might be really fun to incorporate) but the truth is I don’t need it right now. This one, plus my more bralette-type past attempts at upper-body lingerie, are covering all my wardrobe needs. So, I’m officially checking “make real bra” off of my bucket list goals, and moving on!

I’ve been thinking a whole lot about what it means to have “enough” as I get closer to actually filling the gaps in my wardrobe. This post by Felicia has only broadened my sense that this is a really important thing for us all to be thinking about. A whole post about it here is likely coming … I’d love to know your thoughts at any time.

 

Previous makes

 

*Thanks to all the Fiddleheads hats I’ve made over years now, I have an entire giant plastic bin of small bits of luscious felted cashmere knits, which I could never throw out despite the fact that there’s way more than I’ll use in one lifetime (unless maybe, a giant intricate patchwork cashmere blanket—don’t even think about that, self!). Which is why I’ve started sorting them into groups of pleasing colors and offering them to fellow makers in my Etsy shop. I’ll continue to sort and list more batches as they sell. If you’d like some and you have color requests, just give me holler, here or there!

Cheers!

 

Advertisements

A New Slow Sweater, What it Says, and the Idea of Knitting “And”

  

MMHenley 3

  

You know how sometimes you see someone, a stranger, and without meaning to, you imagine that whatever they’re wearing and whatever car they drive are the things they have chosen out of all possible options, that these things say something meaningful about their personality and their life? And then you look at yourself, your car, and maybe your clothes, and realize how many other circumstances played a part? I feel like we who make our own wardrobes move slowly (slowly, please cut yourself some slack, it’s going to be a process) towards the point where at least for what we wear it’s true: our clothes say exactly what we want them too. (My car is another story, I don’t know about yours. It does say that I would rather duct tape the mirror back on and buy better food than other possible options …)

This sweater feels like a step towards what I want to say with my knitting. It’s made with Mountain Meadow Wool (they’re a woman-owned company using US wool from the West, committed to eco-friendly practices) in a sheep-grown color (“natural dark gray”) which I love. I feel like the message that real wool is beautiful and good comes through, even if you saw me and assumed I bought this sweater (although if you saw my car you’d know I couldn’t afford it). You can also see that I love texture and value detail, and hate being cold.

  

MMHenley 1

  

I’m pretty sure this was supposed to be my One Year, One Outfit project for 2016. I started planning it in late 2015, started knitting as spring came around, and brought it with me on the road last summer, but it took until this spring to finish. This was a long knit for a whole lot of reasons. The textured stitch patterns just take longer; there was more stopping and checking and thinking than with plain stockinette or one pattern all over. Sweaters are big, and pretty soon I wouldn’t necessarily take this one everywhere I went. Making something only loosely “inspired by” a pattern (the Cotswold Henley by Meghan Babin) takes a lot of thinking, and measuring, and planning, and sometimes ripping out and knitting again. All totally worth it, but time consuming, and sometimes I ended up not knitting because planning the knitting was daunting and I was too tired or overwhelmed.

When we got home in the fall, I really wanted to keep making progress on it, so at first I decided I would work on the sweater before bed, instead of spinning, until the sweater was done. I love spinning before bed, and it has to be said that I did not love knitting the sweater during that time as much. Sometimes I would just skip it. After a while I realized that, although I’m not the kind who likes having a bunch of projects in progress, this was a false choice—it’s actually healthy for me to have a little knitting and a little spinning going on at the same time. I also realized something about how I like to work that I kind of already knew; knitting is an “and” activity for me. I love knitting while traveling, knitting while hanging out with friends, and knitting at meetings, but I really don’t love sitting quietly by myself and knitting. I’d rather do something else with that time. So I went the other way; I started spinning at night again, and hauling an extra tote bag full of sweater-in-progress with me to social events and anywhere else I could see that I might have some down time. That worked much better, and before long the sweater was actually done!

  

MMHenley 2

  

I believe that it’s done and that I knit it, but I’m having trouble believing that I get to keep it, if that makes any sense. In other words, I got pretty much exactly what I wanted. Of course there are a few things I’ll change in the next version, but there always are. I’ve decided that just shows that I’m still on a journey.

I started wearing it as soon as the last seam was sewn, and it went on quite a few outings this May, and into June in our variable mountain weather. The yarn has pilled some, but I’m hoping that how brilliantly it held up to being ripped out and re-knit (ahem) multiple times in certain sections means that the pills will be temporary and not terminal. I drafted Bryan to take the photos of it on me on the last cool day we’re likely to have until fall, and then carefully packed it away. Getting it out when the weather turns again is going to be such a treat!

  

MMHenley 4

There are two different stitch patterns, but they’re hard to see unless you’re really looking. I possibly should have gone with something bolder/more contrast, but then again subtle is my jam …

  

A few knitting notes: I wanted this to fit over my thickest winter shirt/sub-sweater (I hate being cold). I used Karen Templer’s idea of in-the-round “seams”. This is seriously brilliant as far as I’m concerned. Knitting seems so perfectly adapted to be made in the round, to be shaped organically, to be seamless, and I’ve never been willing to give all that up for the structure that seams can add. Now I just might get both! I made a pretty detailed/extensive chart of measurements for various sections of the sweater when I was planning where the “seams” would go and how big the whole thing should be, based on trying on an old sweater and marking it with pins. I’m really looking forward to having that chart and this sweater for planning future sweaters. I’ll be able to look at them and compare pattern measurements and know how big I want the sleeves, or how wide across the shoulders, etc.

  

MMHenley 5

Guts: Picked up stitches around the neck/placket, and where the sleeve joins the body. “Seams” closed with mattress stitch between the two stitch patterns vertically in the body, and horizontally near the bottom of the sleeves.

  

For now, I’m enjoying knitting socks in spare moments. Compared to this sweater, they seem to appear instantaneously! I have a pair almost done already. I think the speed is mostly due to the “and” factor; socks are really suited to occupying my hands while other things are going on. They’re small enough for me to keep the whole project in the bag I usually carry, and I purposefully kept the stitch patterns simple enough that I can keep track without needing to refer to a pattern most of the time—which also means I don’t have to stop much for deep thinking. I could really use some new socks, so I may just make a few pairs before settling down to anything big and complicated again.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you want to share about big versus small projects, or crafts you like to do on your own in a quiet space versus things that are good for groups and busy times, or where you are in your journey of what you’d like your wardrobe to say …

  

MMHenley 6

 

News April 2016: Flag Wool and Me-Made-May

Hi everyone!  Just a couple of quick things today.

First off, I’m teaching at my hometown wool festival Flag Wool and Fiber again this year, and it’s coming up: June 4 & 5.  I’ll have a brand new class on modern free-form embroidery, and I’ve really been enjoying researching and brushing up my stitching skills for that. I’m also doing a “Knitter’s Toolbox” class that’s intended to take your knitting to the next level. Click through to the festival’s site to read more about both classes.

 

knitter's toolbox

 

Second, it’s almost Me-Made-May!  After some debate I’ve decided to pledge to wear only me-made (not just -altered or -repaired) garments this year, with a few exceptions: raincoat (not about to try making one when I have an almost-new one), socks (not enough me-knit ones yet), and then there’s a jacket which I would love to finish by May … but it might very well not happen, so I left myself a little wiggle room (if it’s cold enough for a jacket I’m wearing one, me-made or not).

We’ll see how this goes.  I’m not sure that I’ll feel more self-sufficient wearing only things I cut from scratch rather than things I altered or fixed so I could wear them, and I’m pretty sure there are a couple of garments I’ll miss wearing.  But this pledge seemed like the next logical step in the wardrobe direction I’ve been headed, and I’m curious to see how I end up feeling about it and what I’ll discover.  I’d also like to share (most likely on Instagram) a little more of my MMM than I have in the past couple of years.  Even though that can be hard on the road, I’m going to try.

And launching soon, a project which is actually a fusion of the two items above—I hope you’ll stay tuned!

Me-Made-May and Putting My Best Self Forward

 

mmm15 sleep top 2

Hi guys!  This year I’ve decided to give myself a harder challenge for Me-Made-May, and it’s definitely leading to some good thoughts about how dressing handmade pushes me towards making and wearing more of what really reflects me and how I’d like to be seen, rather than just wearing what I happen to have.

I wrote a piece about all this for Zoe, the lovely host of mmmay, and it’s on her blog today, so do head over there if you’d like to read more about what I’ve been thinking and making (the top at left) in preparation for May.  Here’s my pledge for this year:

“I, Tasha of Stale Bread into French Toast, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’15. I endeavour to wear only garments I have made, altered, or repaired, for the duration of May 2015. The only purposeful exception will be my raincoat, which isn’t any of the above, but I will definitely wear if the need arises. Everything else is included!”  Gulp!

There’s still time to sign up and participate yourself, I highly recommend it, and you can make a pledge no matter how many or few handmade things you have to wear … I hope you’ll do it with me!

 

Me-Made-May, My Wardrobe, and Drawing

Plus, I pledge to knit a sweater!

 

mmm14 logo drawing

 

So, you guys know I love Me-Made-May, right?  This challenge was a major motivator for me to start really building a handmade wardrobe, especially two years ago, the first year I had this blog and the first year I took part.  Last year, I upped my challenge to wearing two me-made garments every day through May, which was great and gave me a kick in the bum to make at least one thing I had been thinking about for quite a while, but it didn’t have quite the feeling of realizing new things about what I make and wear, and opening up new horizons, which the first year did.

This time, I’d like to bring back a bit of the self-discovery element.  Also, documenting my MMM has been a challenge, we’re usually on the road during much of the month, and it can be hard to find a time when Bryan and I are both not busy to take a picture.  Plus, I am always looking for ways to bully myself into doing more drawing, just practicing drawing … so I’m going to keep a mini visual journal (pictured above) for May.  I’m leaving the exact format of what I’ll put in it purposefully vague, to see how it works out, but it will definitely include drawings of clothing, words about what I wore and thought, etc.  I’ll photograph and post at least some of what I put in it on Flickr and/or here.

 

mmm'13 day 11-1And, about the sweater.  I’ve had this particular soft blue silk and cashmere cardigan since I started traveling with Bryan.  I got it at a clothing exchange/naked lady party right before we left that first summer, so really, it’s held up amazingly well, that was 10 years ago (egad—really?) and it’s been an indispensable summer wardrobe item that whole time.  I’m wearing it at left, in a pic from MMM last year.  It doesn’t have another summer in it though, the fabric under the arms and around the cuffs is totally shot.

I do have some light blue yarn, which has been in my stash longer than I care to remember, and it occurred to me that, in the spirit of making my own, I could knit a replacement sweater.  It won’t be exactly the same, in fact I would like the style of it to be a little more interesting, but it must have the following characteristics, which I figure are key to indispensable-ness: soft, lightweight, cardigan (easy to layer), washable (at least by hand), go with most of my wardrobe.  I’m thinking of starting with the Talamh pattern (links to Ravelry).

Here is my official pledge for Me-Made-May ’14:

‘I, Tasha of Stale Bread into French Toast, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear as many me-made and handmade items each day as possible, minimum of two, for the duration of May 2014.  In addition, I pledge to keep a wardrobe journal for May, and to share it via flickr/blog.  And finally, I will knit on, and attempt to finish, a much-needed sweater during this month!’

If you’re thinking about taking part, I definitely encourage you to do it!

 

Half My Wardrobe in Detroit, and What I Did About It

Not as much as I would have liked.  But, contrary to the impression you may have gotten from this space, I did squeeze in a little sewing for myself the last time we were home.  When we leave the truck somewhere in art show land (otherwise known as the Midwest) and fly back home to get some r&r (or maybe embark on some crazy giant new project) I leave a bunch of my summer wardrobe out there.  This last time, I kind of did it to myself on purpose, packing even fewer of my summer tops than I reasonably could have fit in my luggage, hoping that it would motivate me to sew some new ones.

First, I finished a top I had been working on during the visit home before this one.  I wear a lot of tank tops in the summer, and I have been thinking about how to make some woven ones as well as the usual knits.  This one is a copy of a silk top, the cups of which I found flattering and comfortable.  During Me Made May, I fell in love with linen all over again, specifically this one mm green linen skirt, which is getting to the super soft and drapey stage of life.  I had this natural linen leftover from a long-ago project and thought I would try it out.

 

 

I lined only the cups, with thin soft cotton, catching them in the midriff seam and folding under and hand sewing the other sides, I like how it came out.  The original top has a scalloped satin stitch on the edges, and I decided to try something similar.  I also had some thick linen thread which I loved with the fabric, but no amount of coaxing and bigger needles would convince my machine this was a reasonable thing to work with, so I ended up using a narrow zigzag to hold in on the surface.  Both of the edge treatments are softer and more subtle after a few washings.  I made the straps using a thin piece of fabric from the selvage edge, wrapping it around a thin ribbon.

 

 

I wanted to make sure it came out long enough, and I may have overdone it, but the tunic length is working alright so far.  Funny how I don’t notice things in the original (like the back riding up) until I copy it.  Sigh.  I’ll also check out the front wrinkles before I make another one.

Next, I pulled out some pink knit leftover from another top to make a tank for yoga, of which I desperately needed more.  I had some narrow fold over elastic in my stash which should have been perfect, but for some reason every step of this project fought me tooth and nail and used up WAY more of my precious sewing time than was reasonable for something so simple and small!  I ripped a lot of seams.  I tried adding a self-fabric section for the hem which absolutely refused to look decent with any type of stitching.  Plus, when I tried the top on it seemed too tight and clingy, and I already have one round of tops made from this pattern (a heavily modified Kwik Sew 3524) which are NOT too tight and clingy!  Finally I realized that if I ripped the stitching from the little bit of elastic I had used as a test, I would have just enough to put around the bottom as well.  Which I did, and without even trying it on again, put it in my closet and wore it to yoga the next day (keep reading for a picture).  The top stitching on the elastic is beyond wonky.  But I needed it, I made it, and I was wearing it, and some days that just has to be enough.

After that, I made a pair of dainties, partly because I didn’t have much time left and they were cut out already, and partly to prove that my beloved Bernina and I do actually have a good relationship with knits.  Which in fact we do.

 

 

On our “real” return home for the fall a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make one more tank top before moving on to fall/winter sewing. I had a tee shirt with a hole in it that I had been meaning to convert into a wearable top for ages.  Unfortunately, it was cut so far off the grain of the knit that I couldn’t just use the the original hem, as Zoe suggests, and I had to cut the back and front shelf liner in two pieces each to get them to fit.  But I did use white top stitching, which I liked on the original shirt.

 

 

I liked this picot edge elastic, but it was not exactly soft, so I sandwiched it between the layers, sewing it to the liner first with a zigzag, and then the top layer with a twin needle.  For the straps I used a similar idea to the ribbon wrapping, but using plain elastic, zigzag, and the twin needle again.  This time everything went smoother, and start to finish, including experiments, took less than three hours.  That’s more like it!

 

 

See me being all zen about the pink top.  See how much clingier AND drapier it is than the blue one?  Crazy fabric difference.  I checked and the previous versions have stretched out with wear as well.  I might make the next one just slightly wider to start with.

Next up for my sewing, pants!  What are you making for the coming season? How do you figure out what fabric will do before you sew it?  I’m, um, still figuring that part out apparently. . .

 

A New Month, A New Challenge – Spark Your Summer

The thing I love about setting a particular goal or participating in a challenge is that it can push me to take something I am vaguely thinking about doing and make it something I am actually doing and concretely thinking about.

I loved participating in Me Made May’12 this last month.  I was surprised by how much pride and self-sufficiency I felt wearing at least one me-made garment every day, even though I didn’t make anything new for the challenge!  It also got me thinking about what I really wear and how I want my style to evolve.  Although I’m not sure I would want to spend as much time thinking about my wardrobe all the time as I did in May, it really pushed me to better define my style (see this post), to figure out what I really need to make (pants!), and to meet some other sewers/thinkers/bloggers, all of which has been wonderful.  In another unexpected spillover, after MMM ended I found myself coming up with new combinations of my not-self-made clothes to better fit my style – bonus!

 

 

So when my new friend Alessa, along with Ali and Sarah, announced a new challenge for June, I was pretty much in at the word go.  Plus, this one is a little less involved, you just sew one special garment in June, something you’d like to wear all summer.  It’s good timing for me, since I have fabric I batik dyed last summer that’s supposed to become a dress in time for a special event which starts June 20!  I’ll be making my self-drafted sundress, with a few modifications from the first one.  And, I’ll be home late tonight!!  One thing I have really missed during MMM is my studio – sewing starts tomorrow!

 

 

Again, it seems to me that there’s no reason you have to sew to set yourself a helpful challenge for this month.  What about a cooking one?  An art one?  What are your broader goals and how can you set a specific goal to help you get there?  What would you like to do more of?  Why not set aside a specific amount of time for that every week?  Whatever you decide to do, I’d be willing to bet you’ll get some unexpected lovely side effects.