Today seems to be all about circling back to my early days of bra-making (okay, that was only three years ago). I’m wearing the very first bra I ever made, the hot summer weather has made me nostalgic for distant memories of wearing refreshingly cool linen, before it became adulterated with polyester and other mysterious substances that for some reason render it wrinkle-free, and nostalgia has also led me back down memory lane to the Marlborough bra pattern— the first one I ever used, and still one of my very favorites; my second-ever bra was also a Marlborough, made with silk scraps from other sewing projects, and I literally wore it until it was in shreds.
And therein, dear readers, lies the origin of The Great Linen Experiment. Read on.
With insights from UK pattern designer Zoe Edwards, Amy Chapman (of Cloth Habit fame), and me, writer Jessica Yen focuses on making lingerie from scraps of fabric— something I love to do!* Included are tips on everything from choosing patterns strategically to make the most of irregularly-shaped scraps to my own ideas for working with color palettes.
I’d love it if you would visit Seamwork Magazine and read this article, along with the rest of February’s issue, which focuses entirely on intimates. And tell me what you think! Oh, and I’d be interested to hear about your own experiences with sewing lingerie from fabric scraps.
The blatant self-promotional part: Want to see my own DIY lingerie sewing kits? I design and produce them for Colormusing, and many feature materials and trims I’ve dyed myself; all include links to blog posts I’ve written with details and tutorials specific to each kit.
And while you’re visiting Colormusing, be sure to sign up to receive Hue News, CM’s free monthly e-mail newsletter, including discount coupon codes you’ll only find in Hue News!
Okay, okay, I know I said the Little White projects were all done. And technically, they are: this project is the Little Black & White Bra!
And it’s also my first front-closing bra; I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, mostly because I wanted to try making a bra with something beautiful on the back, a very popular lingerie look right now. So even though I’m starting with Elan’s B510 pattern, it won’t look much like that by the time I’m done! Or at least not in the back. Fair warning.
In a recent post, I asked the question uppermost in my mind at the time: Underwear… Or Not to Wear? In which I confessed my hesitations about actually wearing my beautiful new hand-made lingerie. And your responses (thank you!) were overwhelmingly in favor of a laundry compromise: Wash in the machine, but protect my delicate pieces in a mesh laundry bag.
If you’ve been following my first Little White Bra project, you’re probably waiting in breathless anticipation for the dyed version I promised you— and now it’s here! I’ll show you my process for ombré-dyeing this bra, and I’ll even clue you in to how I dealt with that pesky non-dyeing white sewing thread!
But first, here’s the Before version, a.k.a. The Little White Bra:
My last post was an introduction of sorts to my current project: The Little White Bra, a.k.a. The Bra Before Dyeing (or just “Before”). Now, since this was the first time I’ve used this bra pattern, I’ll show you how I made it, including a few changes I made.
My pattern is Kwik-Sew 3300— I’m being adventurous and trying my first partial-band bra! For those of you who might not know the difference (and I’m not sure I noticed it myself before I started making bras), partial-band just means that, rather than a continuous band running all the way around the bra, including under the cups, the band comes around from the back to attach to the sides of the cups only, with a small bridge piece connecting the cups in the middle, like so:
So there I was, debating over new bra patterns/fabrics/colors to try, and I had this idea…
What if I made an all-white bra that was meant to be dyed? That is, rather than dyeing the materials first, then cutting and sewing, maybe I could make the bra, then dye it. Ultimately, I want to be applying my original color palettes (and their corresponding dye recipes) to my lingerie pieces, just as I’m already doing with my yarns, so this seems like a good plan.
Advantages to this approach:
It’s fairly easy to find all necessary bra-making materials in white.
I wouldn’t waste dye on materials that would end up in the scrap heap after cutting my bra pieces out.
I could take my time deciding what color I wanted my bra to be.
Or heck, I could just decide to leave it white! I was severely tempted by this thought when I was finished making this bra. And I’m pretty sure Vogue advises every woman to own at least one Little White Bra, right?
I have to think and plan very carefully about the materials I use; everything from the lace and elastic trims to the strap rings and sliders needs to be compatible with the type of dye I want to use. And speaking of which…
As a wise person on the Facebook Bra Making Forum* pointed out, don’t forget about the thread! If I’m going to use the usual polyester sewing thread, it won’t be dyeable with either the acid or RIT types of dyes. Meaning my bra will be dyed, but the thread will stay white. Probably not the look I’m going for.
It can be a little tricky maneuvering the bra around while dyeing, especially with the underwired parts being stiff and generally getting in the way. (This was mainly a problem for me because I decided to ombré-dye my bra, so it had to be dipped repeatedly into various dye baths; it shouldn’t be an issue if you’re dunking the whole bra into the dye at once. Just make sure the container you’re dyeing in is large enough.)
Unless you’re extremely lucky, it’s unlikely that all materials will dye evenly to the exact same shade, even if they’re all the same fiber. I happen to like that, but you may not.
Tip: Crash course in dye types and what they’re used for: Acid dyes (the kind I use most frequently for my yarns) work on animal fibers like wool, mohair, and silk, and also on nylon (very important to lingerie makers). Fiber-reactive dyes are used for plant fibers, such as cotton, linen, and rayon. RIT dyes are what’s known as the union-type dye, meaning they’re a combination of acid and fiber-reactive dyes, so they can be used on any natural fiber, including combinations of animal and plant fibers. I use RIT dyes most frequently for panties, since I usually make them with cotton crotch linings.
Next up: I’ll show you the making of this Little White Bra, including some minor pattern changes I made along the way. And it’ll have a link to kits to make your very own LWB!
And coming soon after that: I’ll take you through my process for ombré-dyeing this bra, including how I got around the non-dyeing-white-thread thing, plus posts on making (and dyeing) a Little White Panty!
*This is a closed group on Facebook, so if you’d like to join it (and it’s fabulous), please contact me (Lindy Thibodaux on FB) with your FB name, and I’ll send you an invitation to the group.
Resources for this post:
The bra pattern I used is Kwik-Sew 3300; right now, this page says it’s “temporarily out of stock”. Let’s hope they bring it back soon!
(Illustration/design courtesy of Orange Lingerie. Click on the image to go straight to this pattern listing in the Orange Lingerie Etsy shop!)
In case this illustration isn’t enough inspiration, in the Etsy listing for this new pattern, you’ll also find a photo of a beautiful bra made from this pattern, in a lovely floral print; this photo makes it clear that this is a balconette style. And the description says (in part) that the Boylston Bra can be lined with cut-and-sew foam, among several possibilities. It really does sound versatile!
As you know, I’ve already made my first and second bras with Orange Lingerie’s Marlborough Bra pattern, so I can say with confidence that the pattern and instructions are professionally designed and executed— not to mention that the style and cut are just beautiful, and I already know the sizing works for me (I’m usually a 36DD, but according to this pattern’s sizing, I used the 40DD pattern, which is virtually perfect). And I love the new balconette style of the Boylston, so I’ll be showing you what I make with this pattern very soon!
ArteCrafts, one of my very first suppliers of bra-making goodies, has just launched their brand-new website: bramaking.supplies. To celebrate, ArteCrafts’ owner, Natasha, is offering free (yes, FREE) shipping on all U.S. orders placed on her website* until May 15, 2015! Simply use the discount code FREESHIP when you place your order.
In my very short time making my own lingerie, the beautiful and high-quality materials I’ve already used from ArteCrafts include wide stretch lace (for my first thong), continuous hook-and-eye bra back closure tape (on all of my 4 bras, including dyeing the tape for 2 of them), and super-soft bra strap elastic, which I’ve dyed to use on my second and fourth bras.
Natasha also sells fabrics, specialty elastics, underwires, kits, and much more. I highly recommend her shop for carefully curated bra-making supplies!
*IMPORTANT: This special offer applies to orders placed on bramaking.supplies only— not the ArteCrafts Etsy store or any prior orders.
As you know, I made my first and second bras using the same pattern, the Marlborough Bra. Considering my lack of experience, I think they both turned out surprisingly well. But here’s a funny thing. Even though I used the same pattern, and the same type of fabrics (silk for the main parts, powernet for the back bands, as specified by the pattern), they somehow turned out different in size— different enough that, although I’ve worn the second bra several times, I can’t wear the first one at all. It’s just too tight around the band.