Monthly Archives: July, 2013

Let’s Get Started!

And that ends the “best-of” retrospective posts.

Whew! It takes a lot of time and effort to re-make oneself in a new image!

Purchased a domain name and web hosting package today, so this little project is getting underway!

Lots of exclamation points to convey my joy that at last I will own a little piece of the web that is ALL MINE! Mine to chronicle, inspire, learn and grow as the seasons and whims take me.

A favorite quote:

Life is rough. I recommend getting a manicure and a really cute helmet – Leigh Standley

Buckle up – we’re off!


An oldie but goodie –

Once upon a time in a village, perhaps in India, a man announced to the locals that he would buy monkeys for $10. The villagers, seeing there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 but, as the supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their efforts.

The man then announced that he would now pay $20 each. The villagers renewed their efforts and they started catching monkeys again. Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer rate was increased again to $25 but the supply of monkeys became so depleted that monkeys were rarely seen, let alone caught.

Now pay attention, for this is where is gets interesting. The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50, however, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now act as buyer, on his behalf.

In the absence of the big man, the assistant told the villagers: “Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and, when he returns from the city, you can sell them back to him for $50.” The villagers gathered together all their savings and bought all the monkeys for $35 each.

They never saw the man, his assistant, or their money ever again … only monkeys. Everywhere. Welcome to capitalism!

Copied from Permaculture in Brittany, Who had it from someone else. Discuss…

A Sunbrella Tote

From February 2010 –

You don’t have to use Sunbrella for this tote, of course, but it is a very strong, water proof, UV resistant fabric that will stand up to years of wear. It will probably be around after the Apocalypse – this stuff is that tough! Any heavy canvas, cordura or denim fabric will work almost as well.

Chief Inspector Pookie approves of this tote which is based on a paper grocery sack. The bottom folds out when it’s in use to create a really strong bag.

On to the tutorial!

Materials –

One piece of Sunbrella or similar fairly stiff fabric measuring 24″ x 39″ or thereabouts. You can make the bag any size you want. Measurements are given for a finished bag 18″ tall (when loaded) x 13 1/2″ wide x 6 1/2″ deep.

One scrap of canvas or similar measuring 1 1/2″ x 26″ for the bottom trim.

2 pieces of nylon webbing 1 1/2″ wide x 16″ long for handles.

Thread, etc. I used a heavy duty polyester thread in black – pardon the waves on the photos – trying to get the camera to focus on the thread and not the weave of the Sunbrella proved a bit problematic. Remember that the bag will only be as strong as the thread you use – regular home sewing thread will not give you long-lasting results. My old Singer 403 sews just fine with this heavy thread after a few tension adjustments. If you have trouble getting a nice, regular stitch (you will do a bit of sewing on a swatch of fabric, right?) try a narrow zig-zag to see if that solves the problem. Use a size 18 needle for the best results.

1. Sew a 1″ hem along one long side of the fabric with a double row of zig-zag stitching –

2. Sew two of the short sides together with a French Seam to enclose the raw edges, topstitching with a narrow zig-zag stitch.
3. Fold up the side with the seam like so –
Creating the tuck on one side. Pin or mark where the second side seam will go and sew it up with a narrow zig-zag –
Do the same for the other side and you will have a boxy rectangle.
5. Fold the sides in and sew across the bottom of the bag, lining up the tucks so it lays flat –
Sew over this seam a couple of times for added strength.
6. Sew the handles on with a X in box pattern in the desired position. Use longer web if you want to sling the bag over your shoulder –

7. Hand sew the canvas over the seam on the bottom to enclose the raw edges (Sunbrella ravels like crazy!) for a nice, neat finish –
Fold and iron the canvas like bias tape and neatly tuck the ends under as you go.
Done! Here’s the bag in action –

This tote will hold a lot of groceries and is convenient for carrying the assorted things that need to go from car to house to car again. The handles ensure it can be slung over a hook or cleat for easy stowage. It will fold flat for storage –

Or roll it up and secure with a small cord or velcro strap or somesuch.
You can just as easily piece this bag if you don’t have scraps large enough to make it in one. Vary the size, add a closure at the top, or make it roll over like a lunch sack. The uses are endless. And there’s no need to worry if you carry a bunch of heavy tools in it – this tote can handle the weight!

Guard Dog

Nothing gets by Sabu when she’s in Guard Dog Mode.

The First Sign of Spring

Before –

Too busy to face the camera – there might be a cat or squirrel to chase!

Just as fuzzy on the underside!

It’s never a fun task to Shave the Dog, but it must be done three or four times a year or the matts and tangles become too much. The shedding is a PITA, too.

After –

A very unhappy dog!

It’s not easy – Sabu the Crazy Helper Dog just can’t sit still, especially if grooming is involved. She would much rather be covered in mud and pine needles, a wild creature on her own. The trim always looks a bit hacked for a week or so, but it’s so worth it!

Bra Making Part Five – The first Success!

From January 2010


As I wrote earlier, Elan #511 didn’t fit right out of the envelope and I decided to copy a RTW that fit well.

I assembled the new bra following the general directions of the Elan pattern with occasional deviations that seemed logical based on my observations of the RTW bra.

And here it is –

The fabrics are all scraps and leftovers (hence the clear straps – the nude strapping I ordered hadn’t arrived yet) and the colors don’t quite match, but this is a muslin and I don’t expect it to be wearable.One thing that really bugs me is the channeling. I ordered some channeling from Sew Sassy that was rather like satin bias binding, nice and soft, it wanted to take on the curved shape of the lower cup with no fighting or bunching up.
Then I placed another order (wanting to be all matchy-matchy with the nude fabric) and I received something else entirely. It’s not at all the same stuff – stiff, wrinkly and not at all fun to work with. I suspect it will be a bit uncomfortable to wear, too. I hope they get the good stuff back in stock!

The fit is pretty good. I really need a piece of clear elastic or twill tape at the top of the lace on the upper cup to prevent over-spillage – the next muslin will not have any lace on the upper cup to test the fit with no give up there. The fit of the cups is almost perfect – just need to take 1/4″ off the very bottom seam and it will be Just Right.

All in all I’m quite happy with the progress this project is making. A couple more muslins and I’ll be ready to cut one of the kits I bought from Summerset!

Bramaking Part Four – Copying something that works

From January 2010

It seems fairly obvious that Elan #511 isn’t going to work for me right out of the envelope. Adjustments will have to be made, but what exactly is wrong?

Sounds kinda lame, eh? Not knowing where to modify a pattern (that’s obviously too small) to make it fit. I like to think my brain is as good as anybody’s, but the answer had me stumped for awhile.The only solution seemed to be to take my RTW bra apart and compare it to the pattern. Not wanting to destroy a perfectly good (and well fitting, if a bit worn) bra, I did what I thought was a clever thing using my ironing board and a bunch of pins.
First, I made a small slit in the channeling at the side of one cup to remove the underwire. Surprise! The shape of the RTW wire and the new wire is quite a bit different (RTW wire above) –
I have no idea if the RTW wire was perfectly round when I bought it and the wire has changed shape to fit my body or if it started out that way. Time will tell because I can’t get the new wire to bend into the same shape – those little buggers are tough!
Once the wire was removed I laid a piece of pattern tracing paper on the ironing board and got to work with the pins –


I applied pins until the piece laid flat (lower cup shown here) and then traced as best I could. I didn’t worry about making perfectly smooth lines – a French curve evened things out after the main shapes were done.

I traced each part of the bra in this way and ended up with the following pieces (new pattern in green, Elan #511 in white, 1/4″ seam allowances added on all around) –

Quite a difference on the band (upper left.) It seems made to the shape of The Famous Downward Hike.

The lower cup is larger on my RTW bra (upper middle) and the upper cup is shaped totally differently than the pattern (lower middle.) Upon close inspection the RTW model has an extra piece (far right) that goes here –

which totally changes the angle of the strap.
All in all a very interesting comparison exercise. Update to follow when the new model is complete!

Bra Making Part Three – the First Attempt

From January 2010

Or, Elan #511 Right Out of the Envelope.

Elan #511 is a partial band bra, meaning that the band connects to the cups on either side and does not go all the way around. The center front connects with a “bridge” of fabric and it hooks in the back.

As I mentioned before, I had high hopes for this pattern. I traced the pieces onto pattern paper and then laid them against a well-fitting RTW bra of the same style and the match seemed to be pretty good. I would later learn that “pretty close” is miles off when speaking about bra fitting.

Now, what fabric to use? The kit from Sew Sassy has everything necessary (except the pattern) but looking through my Unmentionables Stash I discovered that I had some nicer, thicker stretch lace, and the tricot seemed a bit thin and flimsy so I decided to try some of this recycled vintage kimono silk that has been in the stash for a couple of years –

So many options!
::No, I am not capable of sewing or knitting anything straight from a pattern, no matter how well written or reviewed – I’m just not wired that way and while it does cause some sewing/knitting failures, in general I’m usually quite pleased with the changes I make::
::Also, there’s nothing wrong with the fabrics in Sew Sassy’s bra kits. In fact, if you compare the fabrics to your high-end RTW bra, they are exactly the same. I just have this notion that thicker fabrics will wear better and last longer and if they’re already in the stash anyway, why not use them?::
It actually took longer to decide how to cut the silk than it took to sew the entire bra together! The fabric has no repeat and in the end I settled for “sim-to” cutting both lower cups more or less on the bias and more or less matching in color if not pattern because, really, how hard am I making this little project?
The lace, tricot (for lining the silk) powernet, etc. cut out quickly and I went to work. The pattern is well written, with lots of pictures. The bridge is confusing and I knew it wouldn’t work for me so I copied the basic size and shape of the bridge of my RTW model and winged it. It turned out perfect.

:Sommerset has a very detailed tutorial so I didn’t bother with pictures, just got to the sewing::

The Critical Moment arrived and I tried my new creation on. Sigh. The fit is Not Quite Right. The band is too short and narrow, the straps are in slightly the wrong place. The whole thing feels rather flimsy for a woman of my, er, maturity. A younger, firmer woman would find this bra fit just fine, I suspect, but I need a bit more support and this leads me off into uncharted territory.
Here’s the finished article –
Please pardon the lackluster staging – it’s too small to fit my dress form without a bunch of adjustments and there’s no way I’ll pose for this project!

I didn’t bother to do the final hand finishing once it was obvious that it wasn’t going to work. It was a great lesson in bra construction and the differences between fabrics and very basic shapes. While it is very similar to my RTW bra, there are a few key differences which I’ll detail in my next Bra making post. I will not be defeated by such a simple little bit of fabric!

Bra Making Part Two – Materials

From January 2010.

First on the Materials List for making a bra is the pattern. There aren’t all that many to choose from, as a Google search will tell you. I chose to go to Sew Sassy Fabrics since they came up in the most searches and I chose Elan #511 as my first test pattern. The pattern comes in many sizes and my copy is printed on thick paper (newer patterns are on the usual thin paper,) making it necessary to trace out your size – a good practice to use for any pattern that you may use again. The instructions are pretty well written, but they do assume that you know a bit about sewing and that you’ve worked with stretch materials.

Being unfamiliar with lingerie fabrics in general I also ordered a bra kit so that I could get a good idea of quantities of fabric and notions as well as exactly what kind of fabrics would work best. Small amounts of scalloped stretch lace, tricot, spandex, and channeling make up the fabric parts of the bra, while plush elastic is needed to go all around and elastic straps which you can buy assembled or as parts (elastic, slider and rings.) Also needed is a back closure and underwires. $10.00 for a kit is a very reasonable price to pay, IMHO, for this little experiment.

After cutting out the bra in my size it became clear that the kit came with enough fabric to make several bras. Obviously there was only one set of notions (channeling, hook closures, strap assemblies, elastic, wires) so I ordered enough additional notions to make a few more bras. In for a penny, in for a pound. Problem was, I ordered a kit with black fabric, so I had to round out my order with an equal amount of fittings/fabric/elastic in white and nude to balance out what I picture as my perfect bra wardrobe. I may have lost my mind just a little. For a brief moment. I might also have picked up some dye, but that’s another post.

There are a few reviews of Elan 511 on PatternReview but they vary so widely that I felt I couldn’t trust them and went looking elsewhere for info. Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a tutorial for this very pattern at Hooks and Wires, a blog written by the very popular Sommerset of Pins and Needles. Step by step instructions along with a couple of warnings about the pattern. What could be better?

:: Sommerset also offers hand dyed bra kits for sale in her Etsy store :: 

I also found this page with links to lingerie tutorials by some big internet blogging talent. All of my questions were answered and the only thing that remained was to get cutting and sewing up a prototype to see just how close the pattern would come to fitting ME right out of the envelope. I had high hopes, I tell ya, high hopes.

Bra Making Part One – Why Bother?

From January 2010. I plan to get this project back on track in the very near future.

A few years ago, at my Sis’s urging, I had a bra fitting at Nordstrom’s where she works. It changed my life. Really. No, seriously! If you haven’t, you should, I’m telling you. (The girl was really nice and it wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be.)

Spend the big money to buy a really nice bra that fits Just Right. Make sure it has a seam on the cup. Take it home and wear it until you realize that cheap, ill fitting bras are just not worth it – they pinch and wear out after only a few washings and the fabrics are nasty, etc. etc. etc.

After a certain amount of time, even with loving care, your bra will start to look a bit worn and you’ll begin to think about replacing it. Then you’ll remember just how much you paid for what is essentially 2 flat wires and about 3 ounces of thin, stretchy fabric.

If you sew, take a good look at your bra. The construction doesn’t look complicated, does it? If you’re like me, you will start thinking about how little fabric it would take to make one yourself, and about the stash of silks you’ve hidden away for Something Special, and how it can’t possibly be that hard and before you know it you’ve started spending money to gather the supplies to make your own bra. Remember how much you paid for that perfect bra? You’ll save a bundle making  your own! Or is that just me?

I found a pattern at Sew Sassy Fabrics. They sell kits, patterns and all the fabrics and findings you need to make your own bra (and other lingerie, too,) all very nicely priced – a fraction of what you’ll pay for a new bra, I assure you. Shipping is reasonable and fast, too. NAYY, I just really like the service.

Gather your materials and follow along on my quest for the Perfect Bra. Or just sit back and watch what might turn out to be an interesting train wreck. Whatever.