Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sewing Skivvies Update: No Swimsuit Yet. Womp, womp.

Ahem, so today is officially the last day of the Show Off Your Skivvies Challenge... and I'm not done with my Ohhh Lulu swimsuit yet, eek!

But look, I'm working on it! And I'm matching stripes! And I don't get along with elastic so I had to re-do a lot of it. (But check out my awesome seams from Ashley's serger. Oh yeah.)

This weekend. This weekend for sure! Hopefully.

In other skivvy news, be sure to check out the guest post Mrs. Depew aka Anna from A Few Threads Loose on vintage underwear. She also gave us a coupon code for 15% off patterns in her store until the end of August!

And also, today's the last day to use Ohhh Lulu's coupon code for her etsy shop. The ginger pattern that I'm working isn't currently available as Sarah's updating it, but she has plenty of other great patterns!

If you're disappointed by the lack of skivvies on this blog today (I know, so am I), check out Ashley's blog. She made the Colette Nutmeg and the Rosy Lady shorts!

In non-skivvy news, I feel like I'm getting swamped with projects. Besides skivvies, I STILL need to finish curtains for the bedroom, make a copycat dress or two (luckily I know exactly what I want to make), make cute things for a friend who just adopted an adorable baby boy, and maybe make a summer dress since I haven't done that yet and summer's almost gone!

Definitely feeling overwhelmed, but the swimsuit comes first. Anyone else still making skivvies?
Ohhh Lulu Ginger Bikini Polka-Dot Bikini Green Bombshell Amerson Undies Giraffe Bikini Classic Bra Jasmine Bra Grace + Jasmine Bikini Bombshell Swimsuit On Vintage Lingerie Colette Nutmeg French Knickers Finding the Right Bra Size Rosy Ladyshorts Bombshell Swimsuit Teal Blue Bikini Image Map

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sewing Skivvies: Mrs. Depew Talks Vintage Lingerie + A Coupon Code for Her Shop!

Today I'm so pleased to introduce the lovely Anna aka Mrs. Depew from A Few Threads Loose, who also runs the etsy shop Mrs. Depew Vintage Patterns & Notions. Anna loves vintage patterns, and recreates and redesigns them in larger sizes, with new instructions, and plenty of online sewing support. 

I'm so happy she agreed to do a guest post today on vintage lingerie, despite just moving halfway across the world, because vintage lingerie is something I've always admired, but wasn't so sure was attainable in every day life. But I was so wrong - in fact, I think it might be a solution to the underwire problem (i.e. never finding the right underwire size!) that seems to plague home-sewers (or maybe just me). Also, Anna was kind of enough to give a coupon code for her etsy shop - read on!

There are so many different reasons that the average home seamstress has for trying her hand at sewing her own lingerie. As someone who blogs abut sewing lingerie quite often, I have heard everything including "Store-bought bras just don's seem to fit me right," and "I'm tired of seeing the same 10 bras in every store I go to," or "I'm too busty for the bras sold in stores," and quite often "I'm allergic to latex and can't seem to find bras without elastic," etc. 
 These are all great reasons to sew one's own lingerie but my reason is a bit different. From some injury I don't remember having years ago, (there have been a few, I'm super accident prone) I have a small knot of scar tissue on two of my ribs, and unfortunately, it just happens to be right where the edge of most bras sit. It's also exactly where an underwire rests and wearing most bras causes me an intolerable amount of pain. I can pull off an underwire for maybe 2 hours before I break down and take it off, and many other bras last me about 4 hours before I give up on them. 
So almost as soon as I learned to sew, I was attempting to make my own bras; looking for the perfect design that would be comfortable enough to pull off. But what led me to using vintage patterns? A lot of it had to do with the fact that my mother (an antique dealer and seamstress of epic talent levels) sent me a box full of patterns and right at the top was a 1940's bra pattern. 
I'm the one in the giant hat.
A lot had to do with the fact that I grew up in an antique shop and have always felt just a little bit more comfortable in vintage, but most of it had to do with the fact that most vintage bras are (in my modest opinion) just so much prettier and more feminine than modern bras. And it doesn't hurt that I have yet to find a vintage lingerie pattern that calls for an underwire! 
It took me several tries to figure out that my particular style (and small bust) were best suited to 1920's - 1930's bras which seemed to have the most natural bust shape for me. I love the clean, basic lines of a 1920's bra, they are so easy to sew and they work under almost any clothing.

1930's bras turned out to be just as great, looking a bit more modern and having a more fitted look. This one came from a 1930's German pattern magazine.
The best discovery I made was a vintage bra back closure made from elastic and hooks that allowed me to make a great fitted bra and still have a little bit of give and stretch to give my ribs a break. (You can see a tutorial for sewing one here.
I enjoyed sewing my own bras and other lingerie so much that I eventually added a few vintage inspired and vintage reproduction patterns to my pattern line over at Mrs. Depew Vintage. I now have different bra patterns (and other lingerie patterns) all from different eras and different sizes to accommodate as many needs as possible. 
1940 French bra
With vintage pin-up looks coming back into vogue (thanks in no small part to the lovely Dita Von Teese) you'd be surprised how many women have decided to add lingerie sewing to their to-do list. If you give it a try, you won't be alone. Blogs and forums are popping up one by one as many of us decide to share our failures and successes with others. The thing that many who are new to lingerie sewing learn is that it's not as hard as it sounds, and many find that some vintage patterns are even easier to sew. 
If you'd like to give sewing a vintage inspired lingerie pattern a try, please feel free to use coupon code "SEWINSKIVVIES" for 15% off any pattern (there's no limit) in my Etsy shop until August 31, 2013. 
And please stop by A Few Threads Loose and share your lingerie sewing experiences with me! 
Best of luck to all of you who decide to give lingerie sewing a go. I hope that you find it to be as enjoyable and rewarding as I have. 
Happy Sewing!
Doesn't she make bra sewing sound so fun and easy? Go check out Anna's blog and shop pronto! She has a resource page for lingerie sewing techniques and she does frequent sew alongs so you always have something to refer to when making her patterns! Also, her shop has some great patterns, and not all of it is lingerie either. Though I think I'm going to start with this 1950s Pin-Up Kit. So fun!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sewing Skivvies: Mary from Young, Broke, and Fabulous on Sewing her Amazing Swimsuit

I am so pleased to announce that Mary from Young, Broke, and Fabulous is doing a guest post today. I haven't been following Mary for very long - her wonderful outfits kept popping up in the MMM flickr group and every day I resisted for some unknown reason, but then it turns out that she went (goes?) to my alma mater so I knew it was meant to be. 

And it was meant to be! She makes the most adorable vintage-inspired clothing, like this sailor skirt and top, this Leanne Marshall dress with trees! and birds!, and this beautiful version of the Colette Licorice. But don't think Mary is all about the vintage inspired dresses. She made a pin-up Robin cosplay outfit, she's making a quilt out of Nightshade fabric, she made a Colette dress out of Victorian gothic fabric, and, in case you haven't recognized her quite yet, she competed in the Super Online Sewing Match. This girl is on fire! Of course, as this is part of the Show Off Your Skivvies Challenge, I asked Mary to talk a bit about her (adorable) swimsuit and how she made it.

Hey there, skivvy folks! A couple of weeks ago, Kristin asked if I would be interested in writing a guest post about my me-made swimsuit, and I heartily agreed. This is actually my first-ever guest blog post, so please bear with any awkwardness. -_- 
So I guess I fall into the "big girl" category of seamstresses, though I don't particularly feel "big". My apparent fatness, however, is part of why swimwear and I have had a rocky relationship over the years. Last month, I made myself my very first me-made swimsuit for a trip to the beach. I was really excited to go about doing this because swimsuit shopping has always been a fairly traumatic experience for me. The last time I went to a store and bought one, I literally ended up crying in the dressing room. It was always an awful scavenger hunt looking for something that was comfortable, well-fitting, supportive, aesthetically pleasing, affordable, and that I didn't feel too self-conscious in. I always, always had to settle. 
If I found something supportive, if was always a halter-top that killed my neck (36G breasts are downright painful when mixed with a halter-top). If I found something in a color and style that I liked, it wasn't available in my size. Everything was at least somewhat uncomfortable given that my thighs chafe horribly and finding a women's swimsuit that covers my thighs and that I actually like is high near impossible. Even if I found something that suited my bare bones necessities in a swimsuit, it always cost me at least $100. Trust me, there was a reason that I very rarely went swimming or to the beach. 
Sewing's changed all that. A while back, a friend of mine had commissioned me to make her a ballroom dress that was basically a leotard with a Grecian style drape over top. I used Ohhh Lulu's Ginger bodysuit pattern for the leotard, and that was essentially my first venture into swimwear-esque apparel. When I decided that I wanted to make my own swimsuit, I chose to use the bra-top separate version of the Ginger pattern for my bikini top. 
Deciding on the bottoms was trickier, but then it occurred to me to use the new Megan Nielsen Tania culottes pattern for the bottoms. I made up a test version in a knit and I was pleased to discover that they actually looked like a circle skirt, rather than "dorky shorts" (as Megan herself said on the subject). 

Last month, I ordered up some nylon spandex from The Fabric Fairy and some swimsuit lining for the the bikini top from Hancock's. The culottes part was an easy sew. 
My main alterations were eliminating the seam allowances of the waistband to account for the knit fabric (the pattern was created with wovens in mind) and created a dart in the back waistband to prevent gaping (I have a small waist in comparison to my large hips). I cut off the inside part of the dart once I sewed it, and then finished the new raw edge, essentially creating a seam in the back waistband. 

The top was a little trickier. I wasn't sure what I was going to do for the cups since premade cups in my size virtually don't exist for home sewists and swimsuit cup foam cost more than I could afford. I ended up harvesting the cups from an old bra that I had that was falling apart. I probably should have done an FBA for the top, but I wasn't entirely sure how to go about it with the Ginger pattern. 
The top ended up fitting well enough, though I'm a little wary of spillage when I wear it near my period (my boobs grow like half a cup size during that time of the month). Like I said earlier, I'm a G cup, so women below that size shouldn't have a problem sewing the Ginger top without an FBA. 

I still need to practice sewing that place where the cups and lower bodice come together because I can never seem to get it right. It's the one place where the fabric stretches to the point of distorting the print a bit. 

I'm also a little iffy about my strap casings, but that's mostly personal laziness. I made the casings before I really knew what I wanted to do with the straps. I found this elastic in my stash that's really strong and seems to be chlorine safe and turned out to be perfect for the straps, though not as wide as my casings. I didn't feel like turning them inside out and re-sewing them again, so... Yeah. I just have to deal with the loose casings twisting a bit over the course of wearing the swimsuit. 

Everything else on the top sewed together well and I didn't have any problems finishing it with the elastic. Fitting in the underbust elastic for extra support was a little tricky, but that had more to do with my stubborn sewing machine giving me grief. I'm glad I put forth the effort to add the elastic because it really does give a nice amount of additional support. 
So now the body issues stuff. Believe me, I am no stranger to body insecurity. I've never been what society would consider to be a "skinny" girl, but I've never been what I consider to be "fat". I've always been at this in between size that caused me lots of frustration before I started sewing. I was too big for stores that sold stuff for my age group (like Forever 21), but plus-size stores carried clothes that were too big for me or I just plain didn't like. 
My upper thighs have always been an area on contention because as I said before, I chafe horribly there. Short shorts and pretty much all commercially available swimsuits are all terribly uncomfortable for me. I have a bunch of biking shorts and whatnot that I wear under my skirts and dresses in my quest to prevent chafing. 
Once I made this swimsuit, I was excited to finally have swimwear that i could wear out and about without having to worry about being in pain the entire time. A bitchy "friend" of mine told me upon seeing it, "You know that your swim bottoms are practically capris, right?" I kind of wanted to smack her. All the other feedback I got regarding my swimsuit was overwhelmingly positive. 
Let's talk about these pictures, shall we? 

I'm continually amazed by what sewing has done for my self-confidence. If someone had told me last year that I would be swing dancing in front of other people in a swimsuit a year later and then posting the pictures on the internet, I would have laughed at them. Because of my ability to make my own clothes, I feel better about my body now as a 190ish pound 22 year old (the "biggest" I've ever been) than I did as a 150 pound 17 year old (the "smallest" I've ever been as an adult-like creature). 
I look into the mirror and I'm happy, and I think a large part of that is because my personal style and image is no longer limited by what the fashion industry deems appropriate for me. I can literally wear whatever the hell I want. If I want purple scalloped shorts and a dinosaur print top, then I can damn well make and have them. Pretty stylish clothes are available to me in ways they weren't back when I could only find them in "small" sizes. It's a lot easier to be body positive in relation to yourself when you're able to dress yourself in a way that makes you happy. 
But yes, back to the pictures. This was at a lindy exchange in South Carolina (kind of like a swing dance convention) and on the last day we had a cook-out and a slip and slide. I didn't actually take part in the slip and slide, but I did wear my swimsuit (like most of the other attendees). After all, it was like 90ºF outside. I admit, I was a little nervous taking off my cover up top, but once I did, I got so, so many compliments. 
The culottes looked kind of awesome dancing, and the top was plenty supportive, despite the bouncy dancing. I got tons of commission inquiries and compliments from attractive members of the opposite sex and for the first time ever, I felt hot in a swimsuit (and I'm not just talking about the weather). 
So I guess the point of what I'm saying is that if you don't like swimwear and don't feel confident wearing it, then make your swimsuit yourself. I was able to show off my favorite parts of my body and hide the parts that I don't particularly like. I was able to address all the issues I have with commercial swimsuits (chafing and neck pain) and actually choose my swimsuit's print and color, rather than settling for what fit. 

Ok, so how do I end this thing? *awkward silence* 
Here, have a bucket of sloths.  
Seriously, go check out Mary's blog already!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Finished: Ruched Eye Mask

I have so much exciting news to share! First and most importantly, the second most terrible heat wave of 2013 has ended, at least for NYC, and at least for a few days. I've heard that the rest of the states and the other countries have been suffering as well so hopefully that's the case everywhere.

On Thursday and a bit on Friday, I changed my website thanks to a friend who redesigned my header. Rachel doesn't just design lovely things on the computer however, she also designs textiles/fabric (!!), and she's the main reason I started sewing and crafting in the first place. Go read and see what this talented and amazing woman creates over at the The Hollywood Sew!

In other very exciting news, Novita from Very Purple Person did a tutorial and finding or making the right bra for you. I linked to a bra calculator when I created the Jasmine bra, and if you're anything like me, your eyes bugged out a little and you laughed and rejected the number. However, it's actually one of the best bra calculators and Novita does an amazing job of explaining how bras should fit and why and I think it should be required reading for every woman who chooses to wear a bra.

And finally, I have no skivvies updates for you because I got lasik surgery over the weekend! 

I've had terrible vision ever since I could remember. I was very near sighted, and I also had an astigmatism that made my near sighted even worse (I could only see things 3 inches in front of my face or closer). Because I had a drastic vision difference in each eye on top of the astigmatism, glasses couldn't fix my prescription. It was either contacts or surgery. I've been waiting for my prescription to settle (i.e. not change every year) and my current stash of contacts to run out before I underwent the procedure.

And now I have 20/20 vision! This is freedom that I've wanted for a long time. I can stay out later at night, sleep over at friend's houses, take naps, open my eyes under water, go camping, survive an apocalypse, get arrested - the sky's the limit!

(Note: I could technically do most of those things before, but I would have to stop and buy contact solution or carry my glasses and then take out my contacts when it came time for bed - and honestly I don't carry my supplies with me because it's a lot and usually it's unnecessary. And as for the doomsday and jail comments, one slip and my glasses fall off and break and I'm doomed. DOOMED!)

So I was trying to make curtains in time to black out the light in my bedroom as I would be getting home from surgery at exactly the same time that the sun blasts in the window. Did I finish in time? Nope.

So my second idea was to make an eye mask.

I've been wanting an eye mask for awhile because the air conditioning blows right on my face at night and dries out my eyes and mouth. Not fun. I did actually start to sew one with jersey, but then i had the bright idea of embroidering it and... let's just say embroidering on jersey was a very bad idea.

The boyfriend told me it looked great, especially for a first try, so I did grab it back from out of the trash can, but I never attempted to finish it. Then sometime last week I realized it would be much easier to just knit something so I found this ruched eye mask pattern on ravelry and there you go.

I have to wear these weird goggle type glasses to bed so I don't rub my eyes in the middle of the night (um, even though I still do - so painful!) and the mask slides right over them. You actually can't even see the goggles!

I think I look a bit like I'm dying in these pictures. I'm under strict orders to wear no make-up for a week, and also I may have panicked a bit right before they started (as you're awake during the surgery) and so I got extra doses of Valium and so I was exhausted the entire weekend.

For the tie, it was suggested that a ribbon be used but I was pretty sure the knot would interfere with my ability to sleep on my back so I did a simple garter stitch across the back and then sewed the edges to the mask.

I used a super bulky yarn on a US size 7 needles to get this effect, which is that it's rather thick and no light comes through. My stitches were a little tight which made the ruching really difficult, but it worked out in the end. Perfect for what I was looking for. The boyfriend thinks it's a little large on my face, but I really like it.

The boyfriend has also decided he needs a sleep mask too, so I am trying to find a "manly" pattern for him.

I hope everyone else had a great weekend as well!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sewing Skivvies: Tutorial from Naomi at One Avian Daemon on Drafting Underwear!

Whenever I see someone take the Seamless Pledge, a pledge where they will only make their own clothing OR buy used from a second hand or vintage store, most people include a clause that they plan on continuing to buy their underwear. I've unofficially taken the pledge and stuck with it for 2.5 years, though mine started because I was poor, and I too had an unwritten clause about buying underwear. But why? Why does underwear seem so mystical to us?

I made my first bra, which was ridiculously easy and still so, so comfortable. For real, I actually wore it all weekend rather than going bra-less, mostly because I forgot I was wearing it. And remember how I was all sad and felt strange about it flattening out my chest? Apparently this is normal, and I had no idea. None. (Too many fake chests on TV maybe?) Your comments and support amaze me, and I am so encouraged to continue making more bras. I may delve into a push-up bra at some point so I can have the stereotypical look for certain occasions, but right now I think I want to continue being comfortable and I'm going to make another Jasmine in skin-tone.

So what about underwear? That seems the next natural progression and it even seems easier than bra making. The underwear I buy doesn't always fit right. It's too loose, too tight, or it rides up so I should definitely make my own, but I've been a bit nervous to try. Ashley experimented with some Amerson undies and found they were too small all-over, including the crotch!

I asked Naomi from One Avian Daemon to do a tutorial about making underwear. If you haven't heard of her, definitely check out her blog. She makes beautiful self-drafted clothing and usually includes tutorials so you can easily achieve the same look!

Naomi in a gorgeous shirt she made from a tablecloth with sentimental value.
Naomi is a self-taught seamstress who sells her clothing on etsy and in boutiques in the San Francisco area. Last week I linked to her 7 part series on how to draft your own swimsuit, and today she's teaching us to draft our underwear! On her blog she's written about using fabric scraps for underwear, but this tutorial has more details on the fabric and finishing technique - perfect!

Making underwear is fun and easy! It doesn't take much fabric, so you can use left over scraps or buy expensive silk you wouldn't be able to afford in larger quantities. Almost any fabric will do: stretchy jersey is easiest, but you can use a woven fabric if you make it a bit bigger than you are and gather it in with elastic at the waist and leg holes. The liner should be cotton or jersey (a stretchy knit fabric), preferably both.  

IMG_5811 (2)
To make underwear in my size (small), I usually use about 1/4 yard of fabric and 2 yards of elastic. Larger sizes will need a little more fabric and a lot more elastic. I've written in the past about the pattern I like to use for underwear, but if you like a different style it's easy to make your own pattern. 
Just pick out some undies you like and trace them onto a piece of newspaper or other large paper. This is easiest if they're worn out and you don't mind cutting them up - then you can just cut along the seams, but even if you don't want to do that you can trace the back easily, and the front by carefully folding and scrunching up the back so you can see the leg holes. Remember to add in seam allowance, particularly along any seams where you're going to use elastic. 
Once you've sewn together your undies you have to finish the edges. The most fun way to do this is with decorative lingerie elastic. To use it, sew the elastic to the fabric with the right sides facing each other (as if you were making an ordinary seam) using a slight zig zag stitch. Then fold the elastic under, and top stitch using a wider zig zag. 
You can also finish the edges using regular 1/8 inch elastic. Sew the elastic to the wrong side of the fabric at the edge of the leg hole, using an 1/8 inch zig zag stitch, beginning at the crotch seam. Hold the elastic tight, but don't stretch it. When you've gone all the way around the leg hole and reach where you started, cut off the extra elastic. Fold the edge of the leg hole over so the fabric warps over the elastic. Fold again. Sew down this folded edge with an 1/8 inch zig zag, stretching the fabric and elastic slightly as you sew. 
A third option is not to use elastic at all. I like this for underwear I'm going to wear with tight jeans, because it doesn't leave any elastic lines. But it also means there's nothing to hold the edges of the underwear in place (besides your pants), so it doesn't work well at all for underwear you're going to wear with dresses. If you have a serger, it looks nice to finish the edges with a lingerie hem stitch. But if you don't you can just fold the edges over like a regular hem.

Naomi makes it look so easy and beautiful! I'm especially intrigued by the lack of elastic - I may have to sew a couple different types of underwear this week! Have you made underwear before?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Patterns: Swimsuit Time!

This weekend was supposed to be a great time of relaxation and sewing because I had a 4 day weekend. Alas, it was not meant to be as my freelancing job called me up and needed gobs of work done. Well, it ended up being gobs of work because I didn't do anything Wednesday or Thursday. It backed up pretty quickly.

Last weekend I started working on the Jasmine bra from Ohhh Lulu (PS- did you read the interview with her? Get the coupon code?), and I'm almost done! I just need to attach the straps and I'll be able to wear my very own handmade bra. That's easier said than done, of course, as I need to find the time. Hopefully I'll have it finished in the next few days. I can't wait to show you because I am so excited about it! Spoiler: It's amazingly comfortable - so far.

Remember my contest? Congrats go out to Cait from Cait {Makes} Things  on winning the contest. Can't wait to see some skivvies!

Over the weekend, Ashley posted Sew Free: Skivvy Edition, a round-up of some free patterns, including undies, swimwear, robes, PJs, and slips. Check it out for some great options if you need more skivvies in your life - and really, who doesn't?

So in addition to the bra I haven't completed, I still haven't started my swimsuit! I wanted it done and on the beach this past weekend, but it was not meant to be. If you've been slacking like I have, here are some of my favorite swimsuits that I've spotted floating around. Some free, some self-drafted, and some that'll cost you.

Ohhh Lulu The Ginger Body Suit and Separates PDF Sewing Pattern
Ginger Bodysuit & Separates
First up is the one I'm making! It's the Ginger bodysuit, and I'm making the 2 piece, probably with more ruffles.

Grace and Jasmine bikini
But really, you can turn any of Ohhh Lulu's patterns into a swimsuit! Check out Sarah's post here on turning the Jasmine Bra and the Grace Panties into a swimsuit. (And, ahem, did I mention 15% off - get the coupon code!)

Alison swimsuit
I'm more than a little in love with the Alison swimsuit, which I thought about making and probably will some day.

Bombshell swimsuit / bathing suit PDF Pattern. Vintage style. 3 variations: halter, maillot, high waist bikini
Bombshell Swimsuit
Of course, there's the Bombshell swimsuit that everyone's making. I love it, but it's almost identical to the one I currently own (that doesn't fit me well, argh) so I'm skipping it this year. Maybe next year!

Bow Tie Bikini
This one's a freebie! I love the bow-ties. I may need to incorporate those into mine. Hm...

Basic Swimsuit
Ralph Pink has some basic swimsuit options - the coolest thing about his website is that you can enter your measurements and the pattern adjusts accordingly. I haven't tried it, but it sounds incredible!

Wednesday Swimsuit
If you want to channel Wednesday Adams, check out this swimsuit I found on Kollabora! Another swimsuit I want to make, Kanin said she based the pattern off a tank top and some bloomers. Amazing!

Naomi from One Avian Daemon has a 7 part series on how to draft your own swimsuit, whether it's a bikini or one piece. Check out the series if you don't like your options!

I hope you're inspired, and I hope to have a swimsuit to show you next week - finally! Let me know if you have any favorites I left off.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sewing Skivvies: An Interview with Sarah from Ohhh Lulu!

Winter Undies
Today I am so pleased to announce that Ashley and I have an interview with Sarah, the mastermind behind Ohhh Lulu. If you're not familiar with Ohhh Lulu, you're in for a real treat!

I started following Ohhh Lulu last year when she hosted a sewalong for the Ginger Bodysuit. I did not partake in it because it has taken me a year and lots of lurking to get comfortable sewing lingerie (and posing in it!) - and now I get to interview Sarah as well! I'm one lucky lady.

The lovely Sarah of Ohhh Lulu
Ohhh Lulu lingerie is a line I've long admired. Her lingerie is delicate, classy with a retro vibe, and also a bit modern. She creates the most beautiful lingerie, but she also sells some of her sewing patterns for those of us who like to attempt it ourselves.

For a bit of background: Sarah focused on Evening Wear and Foundation Garments at George Brown College's Fashion Techniques and Design Program in Toronto. After moving back home for the man of her dreams, she rediscovered her sewing machine and Ohhh Lulu was born. (This sounds a bit like a movie, no?)

In honor of the Show Off Your Skivvies Challenge, Ashley and I asked Sarah all about her process of designing lingerie, tips and tricks for sewing it, and, of course, how she chooses her models.

What made you decide to start designing and sewing lingerie? 
For me, sewing lingerie is a way to incorporate details like ruffles, rosettes, bows, and delicate fabrics onto wearable pieces. I also have always loved having a well-stocked underwear drawer! I started sewing just for myself, then created my line.
Set of Three Nautical Hipster Panties for your Inner Pin-Up Handmade to Order by Ohhh Lulu
Set of 3 Nautical Hipster Panties
Your collections definitely have a distinctive aesthetic. Do you design with a specific fabric in mind or do you design for a certain look and then find fabric to complement that? 
Normally, I will find one fabric that just speaks to me. Then I start pulling other fabrics to complement it. Once I have some fabric combinations that I like and that I am excited about, the garments just come naturally. I have always loved fabric and have been fortunate to work in the textile industry, which has given me a love for fine fabrics and great prints. 
Your designs are accessible and wearable. Is comfort something you think about when designing a new garment? 
Absolutely - when I started Ohhh Lulu, I wanted to provide handmade lingerie that was at a price-point that was accessible to most women. I think great, ethical fashion should be available to everyone! I also like to design pieces that are nice enough to save for a special occasion, but that also can find their way into your every day wardrobe. 
Could you describe the process of designing and releasing new patterns and garments? What’s the best part of the designing and sewing process? 
Preparing a new pattern can be a very long process for me, and one that is ongoing! I consider myself a designer first, seamstress second, and pattern maker third, so patterns tend to take me the longest. I like to keep my pattern styles fairly simple - minimal lines, and easy to sew. 
Once I have the pattern drafted, I test sew the different size grades to check the fit. I then scan my hand drafted patterns into the computer and create a digital version. I then print my digitized copy, and sew each size again, this time photographing as I go so that I can use the images in the instruction. Of course, along the way, I make small revisions and edits to the pattern. 
Designing new garments is my favourite part of what I do. I love fabric shopping, and finding unique colour and print combinations. I am not a skilled illustrator and find that I am better just cutting into my fabric and sewing as the inspiration hits. I like to keep most of the style lines in a collection fairly simple, and add a few specialty pieces, like my new cropped camisoles, or a pair of ornately ruffled panties. 
Once I have sewn samples and chosen the sets that make the cut, I photograph each piece and send samples to photographers. After all of the photos have been edited, I work on writing descriptions - the writing process is actually something I really love! 
What sorts of things do you consider when developing a new pattern? 
Ohhh Lulu 1305 Sophia Ruched Bikini Panties Multi-size Digital PDF Sewing Pattern
Sophia Panties
When I am choosing patterns for release as sew-at-home patterns, I consider the difficulty level. When I am sewing for myself for fun, I generally choose patterns that are relatively quick and easy to sew, but have high impact. 
For me, sewing is something that should be fun, so I like to create patterns that are quick and easy for most sewers. When I am creating patterns for new garments, I also take into account how I will feel sewing that particular style over, and over, and over again! 
What made you decide to release at-home sewing patterns for some of your designs? 
I had been getting a lot of requests from other sewing-enthusiasts through my blog. I really love sewing lingerie, it is something I absolutely enjoy doing, and I wanted to share that with others. My patterns are simple and easy to manipulate, and a great start for anyone who wants to try their hand at lingerie-making.
Ohhh Lulu The Ginger Body Suit and Separates PDF Sewing Pattern
Ginger Bodysuit
How did you come up with the Ginger swimsuit/bodysuit? 
I wanted to make a one piece bodysuit with a really retro vibe. I based it off a basic leotard sloper, and added some bust shaping. It is a pattern that is pretty easy to sew, and looks great as a two piece! 
Any tips or tricks for the beginner who is just learning to sew her own lingerie? 
Start with easy to work with fabrics - that's how I started. Pick up some vintage sewing patterns that will work with cottons and non stretch fabrics. This will let you get a hang of applying elastic, and working with bias cuts... From there, move on to knits and more difficult to work with fabrics. 
Although most of your models are thin, none of them seem to have “unrealistic” bodies, and your photoshoots are never oversexualized or obviously airbrushed (like many commercial lingerie shoots). Is relatability something you look for in a model and a shoot, and how do you choose your models? 
Vintage Style 'Hollyhock' Peach Linen Cropped Camisole with Crocheted Lace
Cropped Camisole with Crocheted Lace
This is something that is really important for me. I have been very fortunate to work with some young, talented photographers who have helped me capture the look I am going for with Ohhh Lulu. I definitely want women to be able to easily envision themselves in the garments. 
Being a petite lady myself, I have focused on smaller sizes as buying off the rack didn't always work for my body, but I also recognize that there is a great demand for more range in sizing at the other end of the spectrum. As my business grows, I hope to offer a larger range in size and reflect that through the models I use as well. 
It always makes me laugh, because when I am designing a garment "sexy" is rarely a word that comes into my mind, which seems counterproductive for a lingerie designer. I think, "beautiful, elegant, feminine, romantic..." I design things that I would like to wear, that I would like to show off, and that I would feel great in. I think that sense of confidence that comes along with that is really what is sexy. 

Isn't she wonderful and so inspiring? After reading her responses, I feel like whipping up a couple of bras will be no problem at all!

I hope you feel the same way because Sarah has generously given all us skivvy sewers 15% off her Etsy shop for the rest of the month! Use coupon code ShowOff2013 and make and show off some more skivvies!

I’m turning the Ginger bodysuit into a bikini - so hopefully I’ll have that done soon! Are you as inspired as I am? Have you made anything from Ohhh Lulu before?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Finished: Pencil Skirt

I joined a newbie sewing group a few months ago called Stitch Once, Rip Twice, created by Diane of VintageZest. It's supposed to be for newbies to work on basics and challenges and encourage each other in our sewing since sewing can be incredibly frustrating at times.

The Black & White Challenge was up first, and I was a terrible member because I didn't have time to complete it. If I remember correctly, I was finishing up my Mad Men dress when my machine broke and so I didn't have time to refashion my old ball gown from 10 years ago.

Now my machine is fixed and I have more free time so I was planning on refashioning it, but then I put it on and decided it was much too fun to wear. So I still haven't finished it. But isn't my ball gown beautiful?

But it doesn't matter because I HAVE completed the second challenge: the pencil skirt.

I had this heavier cotton fabric that I bought to make a lightweight dress out of it, which clearly wouldn't work, so the fabric has been sitting in my bin just waiting for the opportunity to become something beautiful.

I sort of used Butterick B5566 as my guide. I was going to make the skirt on the bottom with the folds, but after I cut it out, I realized that it would create an extra layer of fabric rather than creating folds on just the one layer, and it's so hot here than an extra layer of fabric just won't work.

So I scrapped that idea and just used the basic pattern I had already cut. I also added 4 inches onto the pattern because I wanted a longer skirt, not something above the knees. I debated having a pencil skirt start at the waist due to the belly bump (fat, not baby) but decided I didn't care.

The strange thing about this pattern is that it's not actually a pencil skirt, despite it looking exactly like a pencil skirt in the drawings and on the model. It's an a-line skirt, which looked good on me, if a bit old fashioned, but definitely not the challenge. I took it in an inch on both sides to give it more shape.
Back darts and vent.
Because I made it longer and took it in, I made a back vent to make walking easier. Now, it's only a problem going up stairs (which is a problem - perhaps if I hiked the skirt up first?).
I toyed around with the idea of not having darts and taking the excess material in the waist out at the side seams, but then I realized that the skirts I had seen that done on were jersey and it would probably tug at my material in an undignified manner so I relented and added 2 darts in the front and 2 in the back.

I don't have any up-close pictures of this, but I think you can tell in the pictures (er, you know, the lack of noticing in the pictures, I mean) but I finally mastered the blind hem stitch! I attempted it on my last dress and had problems with it because it still looked like there was a hem. For those who aren't sure, a blind hem stitch is when the fabric appears to just fold under on its own and you can't see any stitching or lines or anything.

The secret, for me at least, was pulling out my manual and the blind hem stitch foot and following instructions. Who knew it would be that easy? It's still a lot of work though. I really prefer doing a baby hem on everything, but it just doesn't always look that great, you know?

My "model" pose.
Generally I really love this skirt. I think it looks pretty good and most importantly, I feel great in it. I need to make a crisp button down shirt, perhaps with a neck tie, to go along with it so I can impress at work. Or I can just keep it super casual. It works with everything!

My next skirt will be jersey though. I hope.

And for those of you doing the Show Off Your Skivvies Challenge, go enter my giveaway! And stay tuned because Ashley and I have some posts coming up that we're really excited about!