Monday, July 31, 2017

Sewing Bras - Another crack at the Merckwaerdigh Mix 30 bra!

Its done!  The (heavily modified) Merckewaerdigh Mix 30 bra in gorgeous black lace and blue lycra.

Pulled out my old dress form to model my new creation - with the help of some, ahem, enhancements to fill out the bra.

My first attempt using this pattern out of the package didn't go to well and that bra has since been elevated to tester band status. Subsequent attempts to correct said issues yielded much headache due to lack of drafting experience.  See in action below:

Not wanting to just toss it aside, I decided to try to salvage it by redrafting the cups.  It took 5 attempts in muslin before the cups remotely looked like they fit properly. Unfortunately, something was lost in translation when I moved from the muslin to the stretchy cup lining fabric and it became too big. Of course, I didn't discover this until the bra was 90% complete.  After dragging my feet on it for a week or two (and trying a few other small adjustments in hope I didn't have to take the cups apart completely) I finally gave in and redid the cups.

I determined that the outer cups can remain (and should remain) unchanged but the inner cups was drafted in a way where the top of the cups were TOO open (complete opposite of the problem I had the first time!).  So after taking apart the seams, I went ahead and reduced the curvature of the inner cup piece from the apex up.  For the most part, it worked.  Just still a tad too projected for me at the moment (post weaning).  Also the back band is tighter than usual - likely because the blue lycra doesn't have quite as much stretch as the powernet.  It will likely just sit in the drawer.  What does one do with {perfectly good, new} me-made bras that don't fit?  Anyone interested in a giveaway? Approximately 30FF - great for someone who's narrow set, with lots of projection.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sewing Bras - Troubleshooting the Merckwaerdigh Mix 30 Bra

So a while back, I tried sewing the Merckwaerdigh Mix 30 bra and while the bra came together relatively easily, it didn't fit.  I have since dismantled that bra and turned it into a fitting band.  Its such a cute design - I really want to make it work.  So I went back to made a bra to
ile of the cups to see if I could find out what the problem was.  The 32F (sister sized down from 36D!) toile cup was obviously too small so I tried the 32FF (sister sized from 38D) and its still not quite right.

Anyone else have this problem with the Mix 30 pattern?  I don't really want to try the next cup size up (and last cup!) as that would require even more redrafting since the base of the cup would be too big for the cradle.  I'm now on toile #4...

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sewing Bras - Adjusting Your Custom Bra to Your Liking

 Custom Bra attempt #3 (or bra #5 in the grand scheme of things)!

After my last round of attempting to copy and merge various elements from two RTW bras with some minor adjustments, I (surprise, surprise) discovered I needed more adjustments!  

Adjustment #1 - My bright idea of moving in the straps 2 cm seemed to flatten me out.  I believe it has to do with the combination of the style and possibly the materials. The material I used for the foam lining is notably "softer" than the original thus slightly less structure?  In a different style that is more "natural" and/or unlined, moving the straps 2 cm shouldn't make that much of a difference.  Oh well.  Lesson learned.

Adjustment #2 - In order to better mimic the RTW bra, I decided to try an "external" power bar.  Incidentally, the RTW bra had both padded "internal" (inside the cups) and "external" (outside the cups) power bar!  I had assumed the exterior power bar was for visual appeal only.  How wrong I was! The power bar helps brings the girls up and center better than the bra alone.  Even with higher side wings (more on that below).  I lined up two of the outer cup pattern pieces to draft the power bar pattern as a starting point.  Since the power bar was going to be made of stretchy material, it didn't have to be exact.  I took my lightweight powernet (only type of powernet I had at the time) and folded it over so it was double layered and cut while lining up the fold on the straight edge.  Then I cut a matching set in the last bit of matching lace I had.  Zigzagged the three layers together with a bit of lingerie elastic and it was ready to attach to the main bra.  The main portion of the bra was already complete at the point and I was feeling lazy, sooo... I just sewed it on to the cradle of the bra following the stitches from the wire casing.   Same with the portion of the cups to the straps.  It made it kinda bulky but did the job!

Adjustment #3 - By far the easiest adjustment with minimal issues, I went ahead and raised the height of the side wings a full inch.  Its still not quite as high as the RTW bra I have, but a bit more comfortable while still keeping a smooth silhouette.  [If you're wondering why in the world I would want to raise the side wings, check out my review on Satami bras!]

Adjustment #4 - I decided to try my hand and adding lace detail that didn't have finished edges.  It requires lots of zig zaging in different angles but thankfully, I have some free hand embroidery experience.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the end result!  The bra lifts and "shapes" as I had hoped.  It creates a rounder profile, which I prefer, and brings the girls closer together.  My boobs have never felt better.  No more settling for ill fitting RTW bras where the center gore is too wide [so its sitting on breast tissue], too tall [so its jabbing me in the chest], narrow back bands [causing back rolls, ugh], and my arms rubbing against my boobs when driving [I'm narrow set but they point wide].  I felt good enough about the bra to make a pair of matching panties late into the night.  The pattern is based off the highly rated Merckenwaerdigh Mix 30.

I highly recommend trying to sew your own bra if you tend to have issues with most RTW bras.  You can purchase bra making kits for less than cost of a full price bra at Nordstroms.  Try out the FREE Maya Bra pattern from AFI Atelier (check out my review on them here) and/or take a look at the instructions.  If you have ANY experience sewing, try it out.  If you have zero experience with sewing but NEED pricey bras (cuz small band + large cups = $$$$), it may be worth your time and effort to learn to sew!  With bra making kits at the same price as a new bra, what do you have to lose?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sewing Bras - Copying your favorite/best fitting RTW bra!

As a newbie making their way in the lingerie sewing realm [after sewing a whopping 3 bras], I've decided to try my luck with combining my favorite aspects of 2 different bras info one custom design. The cups on the Comexim (my first Polish bra!) are awesome - they push the girls up and together while still looking "dainty". The extra wide band on the Satami is pretty fabulous as well - providing a smooth silhouette in my back and underarms.  This, endeavor, however will require significant time pattern making.

Although I've been sewing for over 20 years (remember when Home Economics was a class in Junior High?), I've had no formal training in pattern drafting. Most of the pattern drafting I've done is largely with the help of Pinterest and Googling how-to's in Eggs middle of the night. I bring this up because I KNOW you absolutely need a pattern to sew bras AND that pattern HAS. TO. BE. ACCURATE.

I essentially copied the seam lines of the existing bra(s) using pattern paper, smoothed out the lines with a ruler and ensured all the seams lined up correctly and sewed up a bra muslin.  Try on, more adjustments based on bra muslin, rinse and repeat.  My first try sewing up this chimera of a bra was more or less an exact replica of the cups [barring correcting a few mistakes like the cups being too open, not pulling the plush elastic hard enough/evenly enough on the cups, etc] and fit pretty well otherwise.  On my second attempt, I decided to move the apex of the cups to more closely align with mine AS WELL AS moving in the straps 2 cm. This opened up a whole new can of worms requiring more bra toiles.  Nevertheless, take a gander at my newest creation - mistakes and all!

The end result of Round 2!:

One of the best pieces of advice I read about sewing bras is to create a bra toile, however, I recently came across a bit of related advice that I find equally helpful.  Create a bra toile of ONLY the band.  In most cases - especially true if you're fitting yourself - the band will fit fine and/or remain the same.  Its the cup shape/design/size that differs that will require multiple adjustments.  The fitting band should be complete - with elastic, hooks and straps.  That way, you only need to make a toile of the bra cups!  Easier to sew, try on, take apart and repeat as necessary.

Here's a pic from the Merckewaerdigh site:

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Long Awaited Satami Bra Review!

Its here!  Its finally here!  Satami has graciously sent me a few bras to review after I inquired about their bras availability here in the US.

The long awaited bras from Satami and my accompanying review.

Aren't they gorgeous?  We have the Lace Minimizer Soft Cup Bra (2180) in Smoky Black on the left and Non-Wired Sports Bra (2198) in Blue on the right.  

Lace Minimizer Soft Cup Bra (2180)
The Lace Minimizer Soft Cup Bra (2180) has a few misnomers.  First of all, its not a "minimizer" in the traditional (American) sense.   This bra DOES NOT minimize the size or look of breasts in ANY way shape or form.  Its called a Minimizer because of the the overall slimming effect it has on the body (think silhouette) by smoothing out back and/or underarm fat.  More details on that below.  The second misnomer is the "soft cup" - make no mistake, this is an UNDERWIRED bra with lightly lined fabric cups (ie. soft).

Typical to Asian style bras, this plunge bra pushes the girls up and together (even with the padding removed).  One feels supported and *shock* slimmer!  Thanks to the extra wide band, there is ZERO and I mean ZERO back fat, or underarm fat.  The sleek silhouette is addicting.  Its akin to wearing shapewear that also happens to be a bra.  To help keep everything in place is a 4 row, 4 column hook and eye in the back.  The bra also features an ultra low center gores so common in Asian bras (low when compared to Panach or Freya, only 'medium' low within the Satami line) - a haven for us narrow set ladies - and 3/4 cup (aka demi?).  [Need a primer on Asian bras? Check out my first Satami post here.] The straps are fixed and NOT fully adjustable.  For this reason, it may not work for those with tall roots.  [Need a primer on the vocab? Try the ABTF Glossary]  True to design, the 2-ply "Wincool" powernet seems to do the job.  I wore this bra (padding removed) to an Amusement Park on a 90+ degree day and did not feel like the girls were suffocating.  Speaking of which, the padding feels pretty great too - a bit like memory foam but I have not tried wearing them.  The side wings have 2 pieces of boning on each side for extra support - not uncomfortable - they contribute significantly to the support of the band (I learned of their importance first hand during my foray in to sewing my first bra).  Lastly, I do want to mention that while there was no chafing after a full day of wearing this bra (12+ hours) there was a bit of irritation under the arms due to the high side wings.  This is likely due to my higher levels of activity and extra long hours of wearing - it is unlikely for someone to experience this during a typical day at the office.

My normal size in European brands like Panache or Freya is 32F (sometimes 32E as I'm loosing weight).  In Satami, I wear a 34G.  Per the Satami website, you can go up a cup size for more coverage.  After a few 12+ hour days of wearing this bra, I can say with some confidence that if you are accustomed to wearing Polish bras like Comexim IN YOUR NORMAL BAND SIZE, order your normal band size.  For example, I wear a 70H (equivalent to 32 band) in Comexim but it IS a bit tight and great for days when I'm feeling thin and not bloated.  Basically, first thing in the morning before any type of meal.  I do feel like a 32 band would have sufficed for me BUT I am accustomed to wearing tighter bands and wear tightlacing corsets occasionally.  For most of us though, going up a band size is going to be more comfortable.  The wires are comfortably in my IMF, although pretty high on the sides due to the higher side wings.  Thankfully, the wires are also pretty soft so not uncomfortable.  Center gore tacks nicely and the wide set straps stay put on my sloped shoulders.  As I briefly mentioned before, the straps are NOT fully adjustable and fill likely suffice for those with Short Roots.  Those with tall roots may need to replace the plush elastic portion with a longer section - not a difficult fix if you're handy with needle and thread.  I have short roots and had to "let out" the elastic practically to the max...

I really like this bra!  Its pretty comfy despite the higher wires, extra boning and extra wide band.  There was very little (if any) fidgeting while wearing and my silhouette looked awesome.  Girls were up front and center while being supported.  Its the Asian equivalent of the holy grail Polish bras - from the tighter bands, overall shape the cups provide and needing to size up in the cups.  Oh, and it passed the chasing after toddlers, walking up and down the stairs test. =)  Full disclosure though, I'm FoB, not center-full and my breast tissue is still pretty firm. I think these style of bras - low center gore, plunge, shallow-ish cups work REALLY WELL with those whose shape is more shallow or FoB.

Non-Wired Sports Bra (2198)
The Non-Wired Sports Bra is as beautiful as any of their regular bras.  Gorgeous detailing and a 4 hook clasp in the back for ease.  However, the most SURPRISING aspect of this Sports Bra is how pushed up and forward the girls are - all without the help of any boning or wires.  Unlike most wireless bras that are compression based, this bra by some miracle, supports without smooshing the girls against your chest. Like their regular bra line, this sports bra also features a plunge - although not as deep - just enough to glimpse a bit of cleavage. Add this to your rotation for those days at barre class, yoga, power walking or other light exercise.  Its comfortable to wear lounging around the house and the saleswoman at the Personal Touch Store also mentioned its a great sleep bra!

Like Satami's regular bras, the Wireless Sport Bra also features extra wide bands and plunge center.  The bra looks deceivingly shallow until you put it on.  Materials are light and airy but substantial enough to be supportive.  The cup portion of the bra comes up pretty high (as in elastic straps start 1 inch before my shoulder) but not uncomfortable. Unlike the typical wireless sports bras we find in the US, the cups are NOT made of stretchy material designed to compress the girls against your chest.  The cups are made of the same material as their regular bras - thus the feeling of structured support without wires or boning.  Like Satami's other bras, the back features a 4 row - 4 column clasp for ease.  The band is a single layer of powernet to guarantee breathability during those workouts!  

As mentioned above, my usual size in UK brands is 32F.  Satami sent me a 34E in this style and it still fits comfortably as its sister size to my usual - no need to size up here!  This makes complete sense as Satami uses UK sizing [bit of history here - HK was once a part of the British Empire for those that remember]. 

Great bra for lounging around the house, sleeping and light physical activity.  Although I have not worn this one yet, I can easily foresee wearing this around the house, sleeping and/or while pregnant!

Sewing Bras - Lace Shelley Bra - aka Bra Seam Manipulation

Its been a while since I've sewn up a regular underwire bra (2+ months!) while I've been focusing on the Strapless d...