I am sure there comes a time in most sewist’s lives where they think about the long-term sustainability of their hobby. We do not relentlessly need new clothes, indeed it is this consumerist society that has gotten society into hot water (environmental impacts of throw-away fashion), and although those of us making our own clothes reduce the inequalities of many producers by cutting out the need for factory production (Fashion Revolution Manifesto)*, we still make and thus have an impact upon the earth via our hobby. But that’s a key word, and as this is a hobby as well as a need, sometimes we make things that are unnecessary, out of fabric that isn’t ethically sourced and so our efforts weigh heavy in environmental impact.
Now I am at the stage where, barring a few gaps, I have a pretty versatile wardrobe. I have a couple of things on my list – jeans, in particular – that I am severely in need of, and will be sewing in the next while, but I do not need the same output of items that I have been achieving in the past few years.
This means several things: I’ll be sewing more as gifts for other people, something I always enjoy. I will be mending and repairing clothes and exploring that as are art form. And I will be looking at more sustainable ways of creating because at the end of the day I love my hobby: it makes me feel good, I enjoy using my hands and I love clothes! Which brings me on to the actual subject of today’s post: I’ve found a way of creating and exploring and making that will push my boundaries and allow new clothes to enter my wardrobe but which are actually needed.
I am starting to sew UNDERWEAR!!
This is very exciting, and something that I have longed to do for years but the problems seemed insurmountable:
- I didn’t know where to start
- Most (nice) lingerie supply shops are US or Canada-based (with prohibitive postage)
- There are so many different types of elastic and fabric that many of the patterns call for that I just didn’t know where to start.
- It is scary…
But really, once you break these down it’s precisely the same as when I started sewing. I didn’t know immediately what I was doing when I started making clothes, but the only way to learn is to *try (and fail), repeating from the * until before long you start to succeed.
One lingerie designer that I have followed via her blog for many years was Karu of Studio Costura. She’s based in Estonia, and designs some of the most beautiful lingerie I’ve seen. She’s very inspiring, and every time a post from her popped up in my reader, I would just long to have a go: her ‘can-do’ attitude seemed to take the fear out of lingerie-sewing. In the end, I decided that wishing had gone on for long enough, and I had better do something about it. So I added her Mara bra to my ‘Make 9 2020’ and committed to this year being the year I finally start sewing lingerie.
My sister, very kindly, gave me a beautiful kit + pattern for the Hanna bralette (in hindsight, this style is more me), for my birthday in February, purchasing it from Studio Costura on Etsy. She said that the whole process went perfectly, and included a very nice email from Karu offering any assistance required. But then I stalled again. It still seemed too scary, especially now that I had the fabrics in hand, but becoming furloughed has been a great time for me to push my boundaries with my hobbies: I have had more time to dedicate to making and crafting and although a lot of my time was spent outside in the garden, I did eventually sit down in front of my machine and get started on a pair of Vera Panties.
My stash is not large. It’s perfectly sized for me but there’s not a huge amount in there. Also living life on a bit of a budget means that I tend not to buy for the sake of buying – most things are purchased with a plan in mind. This means that I do not have lingerie materials just waiting to be used (apart from the aforementioned kit) and so I needed to seek elastics etc., elsewhere. Enter my underwear drawer. I tidied it out a couple of weeks ago, removing anything that was never worn – generally due to not fitting well and I then cut it all up, keeping the elastic and stretch lace where possible. I also had some bras that were past it, and did the same with them, saving all the hooks & eyes, straps and the metal paraphernalia. I ended up with a pile of salvageable scraps – perfect for my first pair of knickers.
I chose some gorgeous eyelet cotton from myfabrics.co.uk that’s been waiting in my stash (destined to become a vest top) and cut the teeny tiny pattern pieces out (size 38). Sewing up was easy, including using the very well-explained burrito method for attaching the lining so that all seams are contained. When it came to putting the elastic on the waistband and leg openings, I had to stretch my elastic rather vigorously as I had so little, but it worked and I love the pants that were the result! The minty green is so pretty with the coral elastic and although the leg elastic doesn’t match, does that really matter?
To wear, they are very, very comfy although they have a rather full coverage over my derrier. I do realise that this is probably due to my elastic and not turning over the fabric properly, so I am not overly concerned. They fit and that is the main thing – that and they are really, really pretty (they spark joy, see my ‘Me Made May’ pledge below).
The next day I decided to make a Hanna bralette with similar-ish materials in order to try out the pattern prior to using the lovely kit. I started in the morning while still in my dressing gown, and cut out a size small, my full bust (93cm) put me bang in the middle of this size. I cut out the ‘lace’ pieces from the same mint green eyelet cotton, and the lining pieces from some light pink cotton that I have already used some of to make a top. It’s slippy, but really soft.
The bralette came together amazingly quickly. I think I spent about 3 hours on it that morning, and then a half hour in the afternoon finished it off. Surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult! Apart from the fact that my machine didn’t like starting on the fabric (I fixed this by having a pin at the very start to enable traction with the feed dogs), everything went smoothly. Again, I used recycled elastic and fixings from old underwear, but didn’t have any clear elastic or enough elastic for the side seams, so I zig-zagged them and left them alone. Through the course of the day these seams relaxed and stretched, so if I do want to make this into a wearable item I will need to tighten those up with some elastic. I’ve put in a wee pleat in the side seam at the moment, but it’s not a proper fix. None of this is surprising at all, and is absolutely not due to the pattern, it’s more about me being a skinflint 😉
Compared to the pants, the bralette has not turned out so pretty. The combination of the red straps with the pink elsewhere is rather glaring. However, once it’s on, the ‘lace’ goes over my shoulders so from the front you just get an impression of the minty green and the pink elastic around the bottom. It’s only from the back that the red is a bit jarring. This is the downside of using scraps, but although it’s not pretty, it is a good practise and I am much happier at the thought of cutting into the special lace after having this trial run.
Now, I was planning on saving this post until I made my ‘proper’ set of underwear using the actual kit I was given, but we’re already over a thousand words so I think I’ll save that for a separate post. Before I leave, however, I want to state my 2020 Me Made May pledge.
Me Made May is the brainchild of Zoe from So, Zo, What do you Know? and has been running for a very long time. Basically it’s a month where makers dedicate themselves to personal challenges regarding their Me Made clothing. For me, that’s about 70% of my wardrobe at the moment and this will be my second year of properly taking part in the challenge. My pledge is as follows:
I, Heather of Heatherymakes, promise that for the month of May, I will make a concentrated effort to wear only those clothes that bring me joy. I will wear my handmades (and non-handmade items) as I see fit, but I want the items to spark something within when I put them on in the morning.
Through this I hope to find out what I wear and what I want to wear. I will also be taking the time to clean out my drawers and hope to end the month with a wardrobe consisting of a cohesive style that sparks happiness (and is also functional!).
I will update photos via Instagram and hopefully document it in some way here on the blog. Are you participating? Let me know where I can follow your journey! Now, excuse me, but I need to go and make some more pants.