Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sewing Skivvies: Time for a Giveaway!

Are you guys still looking for ideas on what to make for the challenge? I'm going to post some more links to patterns this week for various other types of underthings (my french knickers link is up), but first I wanted to bust out a vintage pattern from my stash to give away to someone.

Vintage 70s Sewing Pattern Lingerie Half Slip Full Slip Bra Panties Size 12 Bust 34 Simplicity 8750

It's Simplicity 8750 and it's got a lot! Bra, undies, half slip, full slip, and I'm sure you could turn the bra and undies into a bikini with the right fabric. The pattern is cut, but all the pieces and instructions are there. It's a size 12, bust 34, hip 36 though I'm sure it could be easily graded up or down as the pieces look fairly basic.

To enter, leave a comment letting me know what item you're sewing for the challenge. If you're new to the challenge, check out links and buttons and things here. The contest ends July 6th which means you have a whole day to get me your address because I'm going to ship this on Monday the 8th. I'll ship worldwide.

Congrats to Cait!

In other news, I'm trying to find a more diversity in sizes for sewing patterns - but no where around me sells patterns. NYC ladies, where do you get your sewing patterns? I can't find any in the thrift shops or craft stores. Bonus points if it's in Astoria.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sew Your Own French Knickers (and other underthings!)

Is anyone else planning to make some French Knickers? I highly recommend them! They're very cute and simple to sew up. They look adorable. And they're perfect to wear under dresses and skirts - even if the wind blows!

I did a quick search and below are some patterns I found, some free, some not. Let me know if you have any favorites that I left out!

Check out Vera Venus for free pattern  of the knickers I made in US sizes 6 and 10.

Circular knickers.
Vera Venus also has circular knickers, if you'd prefer that.

French knickers 2
Mrs. Depew Vintage - Ma Cherie French Knickers.
Mrs. Depew Vintage has a great looking pattern for French knickers.

Day and Evening Knickers 1933 French Knickers to your own Measurements Sewing Pattern PDF INSTANT Download

If you're looking for a pattern from 1933, look no further!


Burdastyle is even getting on board with an adorable bra and knicker set!

And of course there's the Colette Nutmeg!

If you're more into traditional undies, there's an easy tutorial over at One Avian Daemon that I want to try out that shows you how to turn your leftover fabric scraps into undies, another one from Come and See the Seitz, and an undie pattern from So, Zoe..." - Do you have a favorite you've used?

Also, have you seen Ashley's Anderson undies make? So cute!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sewing Skivvies: I Made Some French Knickers!

Have you entered Ashley's pattern giveaway yet? She has 3 patterns to give away so head over to her site and enter!

And have you been doing your power poses? I swear, I'm feeling, well, maybe not quite like a million bucks yet, but I'm on my way. And I swear, I don't know HOW this is possible, but when I do my power poses in the morning, I don't have problems with my morning commute, i.e. people running into me or hitting me with their bags, briefcases, umbrellas, etc.

So this weekend, for the first time ever, I was able to knock out an outfit in a few hours, and it felt amazing. I did not feel so amazing about trying to figure out where to pose in my ugly apartment, but I came up with a brilliant plan. If you're feeling anxious about posing in your skivvies, stand in front of a bright window and a light curtain. It makes you glow and you look amazing.

So now for my make!

You guys, I had no idea that French Knickers were a legit form of underwear.

I knew about the sewalong from Sew Vera Venus last year and I had bookmarked the links on pinterest because I knew I wanted to come back to it. They seem so comfortable, so soft, and fun to lounge about it. But I guess because they are soft and comfortable, you can wear them under clothing as well!

French knickers were popular in the 1920s and 1930s - here in the states they were called tap pants because dancers wore them - but they fell out of popularity until the 1970s and 80s when they had a brief revival, but the ladies of the 1990s killed them (again) because they preferred thongs, the better to go under pants.

Isn't the perfume container the bf bought me perfect for this shoot?!
However as I only wear pants when I'm doing laundry (and even then I try to avoid it), I'm thinking of bringing these babies back!

I made mine with leftover satin and lace from my Pushing Daisies dress, and I also made a top to go along with it - did I mention that I thought it was lounge wear?

The knickers are so comfortable. I love wearing them and the length is somehow just perfect.

I used the 1940s French Knicker pattern and the 1930s pajama top pattern, both from Vera Venus and generally I loved it. But I had lots of issues, all of them user error.

When will I ever learn to read everything BEFORE cutting? Sigh...
The measurements are provided on the front, as are the finished measurements. I glanced over the measurements and thought, "Meh, I'm close enough and both of these items are baggy. It's fine," before cutting into my fabric. It was not close enough.

Just a bit tight.
I was only planning to do lace overlay on the knickers, but I had to add lace inserts to make it go over my hips. Plus, the lace meant I could skip a closing since I didn't want to use elastic or insert a placket. (I was feeling a little lazy this weekend...)

As for the top, I didn't have large enough pieces of satin so I had to use lace for the back and shoulders. I actually rather like the look, and for this top, I did actually try to plan ahead and, you know, look at the measurements first. I even tried on the pinned top, but somehow I was not as careful when I was sewing because the top ended up being ridiculously tight.

Except in the part covering the ladies, which needs to be taken in a bit.

Not sure if you can tell, but the mid-waist has these little tucks that I just LOVE.
For wearing this around the house, it works just fine, but I think I want to try again and make it in silk (and maybe jersey - ha!) and actually try to wear these out and about. I think they would go great under some of my fuller dresses and I don't need to worry about flashing everyone when the wind blows.

Anyone else love their French knickers? Looking to make your own? I'll link to a few other patterns that I've found shortly so others can revel with me in my new found love.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Show Off Your Skivvies: Gaining Confidence and Power

So after I posted my long rant, I was feeling pretty confident about everything. I already have a few things in mind that I want to make (and I'll post soon about where you can find great patterns and ideas), but after a few hours, I was like, "UNDERWEAR??? I can't post pictures of myself in my underwear! What was I thinking?"

Another swimsuit picture - just to get
me more comfortable with posting them.
But then after a bit of panic, reason came back and reminded me that if I'm willing to pose in a bikini, I should be just fine in underwear. Also, if I do get terribly nervous for some reason, I can still post them to the flickr group since it's strictly just us lovely sewers in there.

We shall see!

However, when you've grown up with body issues like I have, thinking about stripping down for essentially the first time may make you a little light headed and somewhat nauseous and want to back out. (I mean, gosh, that just happens when I go to the beach - let alone post photos for people to see!) The whole point of this is to make us feel more confident and more powerful, but to be honest, thinking about doing something like this can also have the exact opposite effect.

Friends, I understand.

Do you watch Ted Talks? I really enjoy what is essentially a series of lectures. But because that's what it is, I always put off watching them. But bookmark this page right now because you NEED to watch this 21 minute Ted Talk.

Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist who studies prejudice and stereotyping and in this specific Ted Talk, she tells us about an experiment she did with "power posing." Common psychology knowledge (I think?) is that women tend to shrink themselves up and make themselves small whereas men, especially "alpha males," take up a lot of space.

The result is that men get more attention, are usually more liked, have better grades/salaries/positions in life, and annoyingly get to take up 2 seats on the train (and a 3rd if they have a briefcase!).

We know all this, or at least scientists and psychologists do, as well as people like me who dream of going to grad school for psychology. But what does that mean for the rest of us who feel powerless and increasingly resentful and angry?

Okay, so Amy Cuddy explains in the video that holding one of the power poses for 2 minutes (say, in the bathroom or elevator or wherever you feel comfortable) can not only make you feel more powerful but it actually changes your hormones:

It increases your testosterone (so you feel more powerful and capable) and it lowers your cortisol levels (so there's less stress and anxiety).

This is a huge breakthrough, especially for someone like me who is trying to take control of my life and not just be lost and confused and end up a casualty of a bustling NYC. I was actually watching this and I thought, "This is a great idea. I don't think I'm going to do it."

Then Amy casually let it slide that one of the weakest things a person can do is hold their neck, especially as they're collapsing into themselves. I DO THAT ALL THE TIME! And I'm always stressed out and upset and, you guys, I fake confidence a lot, but mostly I just want to run and hide. And what Amy was suggesting was also faking confidence, but her way had real results! Eventually I can become more confident and powerful like I used to be.

So I've been doing the power poses every day this week in the shower. And I don't know if it's actually working or if it's a placebo effect (does it matter?), but I feel so much better. In fact, yesterday was the day I forgot to do them, and it was by far the worst day I've had in awhile. Coincidence? I think not.

So I want to share this with you. Already feeling confident and powerful? Do it anyway - the world needs more badass women. I don't want to hear any excuses. Do it every day, and do it right before your photoshoot in your underthings if you need to.

I can't wait to see everyone's creations! I'm hoping to bust out some French Knickers this weekend, and if I'm lucky, I'll start a swimsuit or two. I found an awesome tutorial about making undies from your fabric scraps too - so maybe that'll become another project? I'm going to put together a resource list soon if you are looking for ideas.

And be on the lookout for a swimsuit pattern giveaway from Ashley tomorrow! It will be posted on Craft Sanctuary so check back!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Body Image Issues and a Challenge: Show Off Your Skivvies!

Settle in, this is a long one.

Disclaimer: I can't speak for anyone but me so my apologies if I come off that way. I am a young, white woman living in America so I'm not sure if this is relevant to everyone who reads this, but maybe? There is also some language ahead, but please stick with me because I eventually come back around to sewing, I promise!

I never had a serious weight problem. I was a healthy child and mostly a healthy adult. I did gain about 35 pounds after college, but most people don't really consider that overweight, and if I show them pictures, I look almost exactly the same as I did now. Luckily, kind of, I'm a pear shape, so I can hide all of my weight in my hips.

One of the few swimsuit pictures I have of myself (from 3 years ago) because I don't normally take off my cover/dress.
I'm sharing this because even though I looked adorable as any child does and like any normal person as an adult, I still have scores of problems with my weight. I tried to go on a diet when I was 6. I told my dad I needed stomach surgery when I was 9 or 10. (My poor dad.) I rarely dated in high school because I didn't think I was skinny enough for anyone to even consider dating. My mother is very much overweight (though incredibly gorgeous - I get my looks from her) and yet I heard for many years that "no one would love [her] because [she's] fat."

This is an absurd statement and I refuse to address how ridiculous it is, but hearing that and internalizing that for years, among other equally ridiculous statements, while I was growing up did not help my love life or really, my life and body image in general.

Me after college. 

And after college when I gained those 35 pounds? I tried losing it by going to the gym every day while restricting myself to just 1000-1500 calories/day. I did not lose weight. But after about a year or two of crazy dieting ideas and lots of exercise, I did get food poisoning and I lost 20 pounds in 2 days.

I was so excited because I looked amazing skinny. Plus, everyone wanted to know my secret because I looked good thin. After explaining about the food poisoning and how I wanted to wait before resuming dieting and exercising so I could recover and be healthy, no one could understand why.

No, this isn't a healthy way to live. But worse than that: I know I'm not the only one who experiences this because I have talked about this with other women. Lots of them.


Now I'm at the lowest weight I've ever been at, I'm happier with how I look, and you know what? My cellulite hasn't gone anywhere. My thighs still touch. I have a belly pouch that swells several inches for a few hours after each meal. I'm completely disproportionate. And yet I feel amazingly confident in clothing. But not without clothing. I hate undressing. I hate going to the beach. I still have a lot of body issues even though I've gotten a lot better.

However, today, at this point in my life, I am fed up with it and want to stop. And I want everyone else around me and in the media to stop.

Of course it's not that simple, especially living in this culture. Why do we sexualize women, starting with when they hit puberty? Why does our worth always seem to tie into our looks? Why does the media, and to a larger extent men and even other women attempt to police our looks and wardrobe? Why do we listen to them?? (Seriously, I understand having beauty icons, but how did we take it so far?)

Another disclaimer: I do not claim to be above any of this. As I stated before, I am a woman living in America so I am in this just as much as everyone. But my point is that women should do what they want, look how they want, be how they want, and they should be free from criticism in as far as looks are concerned. (Criticize my seams all you want...)

I know that the world will never be perfect, but why shouldn't we continually strive for a better world?

I'm a pear shape. Describing my body as a piece of fruit that has no arms or legs or even a head has always seemed strange to me, but I definitely fall into the pear category. As a pear, I have heard my entire life about how I need to camouflage my hips and thighs. I can wear swimsuits, as long as I wear a skirt or sarong to cover up my "problem areas." A-line dresses generally are the best thing for me to wear because they emphasize my little waist and flare out so people don't have to take notice of my "unsightly" hips.

I should also stay away from anything loose because it will make me look "fat" and I should stay away from anything tight because it will also make me look "fat."

I understand that most women trying to come to grips with her fruit partner has her own set of rules she must abide by. I'm sure they're all equally ridiculous.

Sexy pears breaking the rules and looking hot.

When the Mad Men challenge comes up every year, I look through all the dresses before I resign myself to doing a Betty dress. I don't have a body like the other women on the show so I don't think I can pull off something tight and formfitting so something that flares out would be perfect for me. This is usually the point where everyone yells, "What about Joan?!" But Joan, in all of her gloriousness, does not have a body that represent me.

So when I chose this year's pencil dress, I figured it would be another disaster. I was planning to go ahead and make it A-line to "fit me better," but then something strange happened.

I spoke about this briefly before but Romola Garai influenced me a lot. She's a beautiful and somewhat larger actress. She's by no means overweight, but at least in America, if she worked in our modeling world, she'd be considered plus-size.

So anyway, she has a set of hips of her, which I love, and she rocks the pencil dress in The Hour.

Interestingly, all the pictures on google are either of her waist up, sitting down, or standing at an angle so you can't see her hips. This is the closest I could find and does not do her justice.

After watching both seasons of The Hour, I hesitantly decided to go forward with my own pencil dress. And it was perfect, at least in the way all perfection is when you stand 5-10 feet away. (Pay no attention to my seams!)

A similar type of terror went through me when I signed up for the 1920s Great Gatsby sewing challenge for the exact opposite reason. Instead of showing off my curves, I'd be covering them up with bagging clothing. What would I look like when the smallest part of me wasn't highlighted?

I was not one to back away from a challenge so easily so I researched tons of patterns and photos and drawings from and inspired by the era. How would pleats make my hips look? Should I nip in the waist and top? Would ruffles emphasize my hips? I even had my brother photoshop a bunch of different designs for me so I could get an idea if I would hate it or not.

Really what stopped the craziness for the Great Gatsby challenge was the fact that the fabric store only had 1.25 yards of fabric left for the material I wanted. Since I was too lazy to go back and get contrasting or complementary fabric, my mind had to stop with all the what-ifs and figure out how to make it work.

Then I came across an article for plus sized clothing in the 1920s and how flattering it could be, and as I looked at the women (and they did look great), I just realized how ridiculous I was being. I just seemed to be hearing over and over in my mind: Just do it. Who cares? None of these women cared. They look great.

And so I went for it. I found a pattern that had minimal cuts (so I could make something else out of it if it was a disaster) and I love the result.

The point is this: We women are taught that we have to look a certain way, we have to act a certain way, and we have to make sure other women look and act a certain way so we don't feel as bad about ourselves. We call each other names and put each other down, and for what? Why? We don't feel better about ourselves.

Why do we constantly compare our bodies to each other when we don't compare anything else in our lives? (And if you do, you should stop doing that too.) But even more importantly, why do we allow ourselves to be treated this way?

I've been there, really, I have. I still struggle with it, and I probably always will. But just because someone's smaller than you, doesn't mean that they don't have body issues themselves. Just because someone is larger than you doesn't mean they have a problem.

I write about my own struggles with accepting my body because I want to acknowledge the problem that's there and overcome it.

But I'm also writing about it because sewing (especially sewing my last two dresses) has helped me overcome so many of my body issues.

Sewing has helped tremendously because for so long I thought many fashions were just not accessible. And honestly, they aren't if I choose to buy my own clothing. In being able to craft and sew and make things work with my body shape, I've really come to love and appreciate everything I have going on.

And as well, it makes me want to speak out to encourage more self-love and remind everyone that we shouldn't be competing with each other, especially over something as fleeting as our looks. We're all in this together.

I really don't want my weight to be an issue, but it's not something I can easily ignore. No matter where I go, I see someone exercising, someone on a diet, someone complaining about their body, someone else getting called fat, someone asking me how much weight I'm trying to lose, and I've even had a stranger tell me not to buy a cookie with my lunch because it has too many calories. (I bought it anyway.)

Look, beautiful women of every size!
Ladies, we're not only making ourselves miserable, but we're making everyone around us miserable. You want to be healthy? Fantastic. I'll support you 100%. But crash dieting and crazy exercising and obsessing over weight isn't going to achieve that.

Furthermore, I'm tired of being policed on what I wear. Fuck these rules and A-line dresses. I want to wear what I feel good in, which is anything I damn well please. I'm sure there are things that make me look awful, but you know what? It's not my job to look good for you.

This is something I've internalized and struggled with and it seems like more people are talking about it now, especially with the Bombshell swimsuit challenge. And even with Gertie's post about people complaining about arm flaps. For real! Arm flaps, like, where your arm connects to your shoulder - something everyone has if they have arms.

I know I look lean, but I don't have the perfect body by any means. And that's okay because I'm human. I don't want to compare my body to anyone else's because there's no one exactly like me. I like my stretch marks, thighs, and a belly pouch. I'm still learning to love my cellulite, and hopefully one day it will come. I'm starting to get wrinkles, and I know I'm weird, but that excites me.

Okay so after all that, I have a point! An experiment! A challenge!

If sewing something as simple as a pencil skirt or a 1920s dress can change my mind so radically, what would sewing a bra or a swimsuit or a pair of underwear do?

I don't know about you guys, but almost nothing I have going on underneath my clothing is comfortable. I'm constantly adjusting straps (in all places) and checking to make sure nothing's sticking out. And in almost every post I make I mention how much I hate strapless bras. And I hate swimsuits! They bunch up. They're flimsy. There's usually no support. And they're usually way too sexy for me to rock! I bought a one piece (see photo above) and it doesn't fit either! My torso is way too long so the top stretches out and the back droops.

I want to start making ALL of my clothes, including bras and underwear and swimsuits and lingerie and maybe even some bloomers just for fun. And if all goes according to plan (and even if it doesn't), I'm going to model them here.

And I want you to join me!

I've been discussing this with Ashley over at Craft Sanctuary and she agrees - it's time we make our underthings and it's time we showed them off - for the same reason we show off everything we make, success or not.

How are we supposed to know how to adjust a pattern or if something is supportive or whatever if we don't have anything to compare it to? Let's create something comfortable and beautiful for us - just like our fabulous wardrobes.

We're challenging everyone to Show Off Your Skivvies! We have a flickr group* and a button and a twitter hashtag (#sewingskivvies) and we're challenging you to make something that goes underneath your clothing by July 31st and show it off! We'll have a big reveal on our blogs on August 1st and we'll be featuring people from the flickr group each week. We'll also have ideas, interviews, and a giveaway or two so stay tuned!

We're not looking for you to make a corset and thong and pose spread eagle on your bedspread a la Victoria's Secret - we're just looking to take back control of our bodies and make some comfortable items for our closet.

I have a few things I want to make - maybe a lacy slip or some french knickers... and a swimsuit or two from this awesome fabric I found this weekend. Eventually I'd love to make a bra, but I'm not sure I can do all of these things by August!

Future swimsuit - that fits!
At the risk of sounding corny, we are beautiful because of our curves (or lack thereof) and our wrinkles and our moles and our stretch marks. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, they're not worth having in your lives.

So what do you think? Are you in? Have something you want to make? And go check out Ashley's post to get her take on body image - we clearly grew up in 2 different places!

Show Off Your Skivvies

And I know you want the button! Just copy and paste the text to add it to your blog.

*One last note: in the interest of personal privacy, the flickr group is set to private.  You must be a member of the group to post photos and to see photos of others!  When you join the group, make sure there is some way for us to figure out who you are (tell us the name of your blog, say hi, link to your flickr profile, etc.).  We're looking for friendly sewists who want to help each other learn, not creepers who want to look at construction photos of undies.  If you DO NOT want your photos to be a part of the "big reveal" on our blogs for any reason, please let either Ashley or myself know by sending us an e-mail!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Finished: 1924 Draped Flapper Dress

Flapper Time!

I signed up for the Great Gatsby Challenge and it certainly was quite a challenge for me! I was terribly confused about what to wear. The dropped waists, the weird ruffles, the pleating, the beading! I hated it all! (Seriously, beading is gorgeous, but how are you expected to sit in those dresses?!)

Traditionally I've shied away from flapper apparel because the costumes have too much fringe and the actual 1920s outfits tend to favor those without curves. Or so they say. As someone with curves, I need structure. Or so I've always been told.

I made a 1920s inspired dress last year that was more fitted before the dropped waist, and then flaring out in a circle skirt. It was also yellow and made out of jersey. Don't get me wrong, I love it. But this was the Great Gatsby Challenge, and I knew I needed to step it up.

I was planning on doing a general solid color, as that is what I do best. Plus, it's pretty safe in regards to patterns and whatnot, but then I thought: Screw it! I want art deco! The strong lines and the bright colors have always done something for me so I headed to my fabric shop to see what they had.

Nothing EXACTLY like what I wanted, but one fabric did speak to me. If you follow me on facebook, you've already seen what I picked out.

And yes, those are silk chickens.
1924 Dress made from two straight pieces
The downside to the silk chickens is that the fabric store only had 1.25 yards left. An easy fix for most people, and normally for me: buy more silk in black or white and continue making the dress.

But, you see, I'm terribly lazy. So while that WAS an option, it wasn't a very good one. So I had to make it work.

And luckily, I found this amazing draped dress pattern from 1924 from Emily's Vintage Visions. It required 3.5 yards, but I got around it.

Best of all, using this cool pattern meant that I qualified for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge! (I've been wanting to enter for a long time but never had the time! - Details for that challenge at the bottom.)

Okay so! Following the draping directions, I put the two rectangular shapes together/on me. I didn't have enough fabric for the back cape or the long sleeves, but I made it work. The instructions also tell you to shir the back which I was planning on doing with elastic, but then decided I didn't need it. Or at least, I could add it in later.

I didn't really encounter many problems with this. This is the simplest dress I've ever made, and it came together in a few hours. I french seamed the sides, and I faced the neck and bottom hem. The sleeves I just folded over and top stitched out of the french seams on the side.

Oh, and I made a hat from Simplicity 1736!

Franklin approves.
 It didn't turn out exactly as planned. I attempted to get black silk, but I was distracted by the sale going on. Then when I remembered black fabric, I just grabbed some, but it's a bit shiny and hard. I might have grabbed some cheap pleather, but I'm not sure. I also grabbed red piping, hoping it would match the red in my dress, but it didn't.

Why, no, these are NOT all of my pearls. Why do you ask?

So I made a brooch to tie everything together! I used the left over piping to make a flower, then used a scrap of black pleather/whatever for the center. 

Also, the hat is crooked and slightly small. I was going to toss the whole thing, or give it to a small child, but then I thought, "That's not flapper mentality! Screw society!" 

So I tilted it sideways and brought it closer to my face and suddenly it works!

The weird black material, in addition to being a hat, is also the ribbon I tied around my waist. I really (kind of) tried to make it into a fancy ribbon, but it didn't work very well. It works well enough for this because it's underneath a flowy top, but really, I don't think I'll ever be able to use it for anything else.

 Also because I didn't have buttons for the hat, I used the piping as faux buttons on the sides. I think I like it better than buttons!

So there you have it! I can't wait to see whatever everyone else came up with for the challenge!

Historical Fortnightly Challenge Information:

The Challenge: #11 Squares, Rectangles, and Triangles
The only curve is in the neckline - otherwise it's just 2 rectangles put together.

Fabric: silk

Pattern: Draping with 2 Straight Lengths from the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences

Year: 1924

Notions: none with the dress

How historically accurate is it? The dress is very accurate as I only left out the shirring in the back. I wish I could have made the longer sleeves as in the pattern, but I didn't have enough fabric.

Hours to complete: about 6

First worn: today!

Total cost: $10

UPDATE: If you want to see this lovely dress in action, check it out at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor's Island.