Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


A New First – Madalynne x Simplicity 8229 Bra

These days with sewing I don’t often get the opportunity to venture into completely new sewing territory. But lingerie is still a large unknown for me. My Mum bought me a Bra Making Kits from The New Craft House for my birthday last year and I finally got around to sewing it up.

I thought that it would be easier to start with a kit. My reasoning was that it’s difficult enough trying to order fabric on the internet, but trying to order bra-making stuff, when you don’t know what it’s called or what exactly it looks like, would be impossible! Also I liked the idea of having all the individual items tracked down for me, as in the UK bra-making accessories are not that easy to come by.

The kit I have is in white and it includes the following:

  • Madalynne x Simplicity 8229 bra pattern – includes sizes 32A – 42DD
  • French stretch lace
  • White mesh lining
  • Plush backed picot elastic
  • Channelling
  • Narrow elastic
  • White strap elastic
  • Gold rings and sliders
  • Hook and eye

The only thing I had to order and wasn’t included in the kit were the underwires. I ordered these from Elise Patterns. There is a handy guide on the website here for selecting your size.

When it comes to sizing, I measured myself according to the Simplicity pattern instructions. This made me one size bigger (in cup and band size) than I would have bought in the shops. I must admit I queried this and was tempted to disbelieve my measurements. But after looking at a few reviews online, others mentioned that the sizing ran a little small and I went with the suggested size.

The pattern suggests using a spray adhesive to glue the lace to the mesh lining and cutting these two layers together. I went for a cheaper option of a glue pen. I also thought that the pen would be useful for temporarily gluing knicker elastic or lace to fabric, and so get more use. The glue is a neon green when you first apply it, which is pretty alarming, but once it has dried it becomes colourless and doesn’t show at all. It apparently washes out as well.  The glue option probably made the cutting slightly more fiddly, but I succeeded nonetheless.

Glue pen for fabric

The construction wasn’t too difficult, although I wish I’d found this video online before I started, which shows Madalynne making the bra. There were some good tips in the video and it would have made the construction easier. I particularly regret not using the cup construction method which gives a much better finish than the inside of my cups. I have quite a visible seem inside my bra – I followed the instructions in the pattern. Still, this is only my first bra and I need to assure myself that perfection is not necessary!

Cup construction

I am pleased with the fit; in fact, I have been wondering if I have been wearing the wrong size of bra for years. Although, there are two things that bother me. Firstly, I cut the strap elastic as directed and once I’d tightened the elastic the rings were positioned awkwardly on the bony part of my shoulders. I think I will remedy this. On my bought bras, the slider and rings are positioned after adjustment about half-way up my back which is far more comfortable. Secondly, I think I would like the band a little tighter. At present I am using the tightest setting on the hook and eye. Given that it is summer, I suspect this may feel too loose once the colder weather arrives. All in all though, I believe that the fit is pretty much spot – a surprise for my any first make of a completely different garment.

Simplicity Bra 8229

I do have a little problem with the sides of the bra; they seem to wrinkle up when I wear it. I’m not sure if this is a fit problem or whether adding something in the channeling to stiffen this area might help. It doesn’t bother me when I wear it, but I have noticed that all of my shop-bought bras finish just below the cups, but this style is quite a bit longer. I wonder if anyone else has seen this too?

I was surprised how much I enjoyed making the bra as when I try to break new ground with sewing there are usually some tense moments. The rest of the Steely clan are accustomed to tip-toeing around me (and the growing, and potentially spiky mountain of fabric in the middle of the living room). I think it helped that the make was a small project both in terms of the fabric required and the time involved.

Simplicity Bra 8229

Simplicity Bra 8229

There are plans for more bras. I’d like to make some different colours – I’m a great believer in making underwear in just as many colours as outer clothing. I also would like to investigate making a t-shirt bra or a bra that uses foam lining (Need I remind my readers of how a thin t-shirt can look without adequate underwear?) Do you have any suggestions for a good bra that fits this description? Has anyone tried any of the Booby Traps patterns – there are a wide variety of styles and this one looks promising? Or the Boylston pattern from Orange Lingerie?


Me Made May 2017 – Week 4

I’ve finally limped over the line with Me-Made-May 2017. Apologies for the lateness of my final Me Made May post. I’ve been on holiday and then went straight back into a busy week at work, which didn’t give me much opportunity to sort out my photos and do some me-made analysis.

Sadly, I roamed into ready-to-wear territory on the last day with a pair of shorter length trousers (not photographed) – it was hot, I couldn’t face another day in jeans and I’d brought no skirts on holiday! I find that if I pack skirts, they hardly ever get worn, so I didn’t take one and really regretted it. All in all though, the pair of shorts and the bra earlier in the month were my only deviations from me-madeness. I’ll give myself a pat on the back for that!

So here are my photos for the last days of May:

I was surprised by how much wear I got out of my green wrap skirt. I don’t think it even got worn last year. I found that my new lime green t-shirt was the perfect combination with it too!

My other favourite outfit this month has got to be the combination of my blue Wolfie jeans and my burgundy Drape drape 2 top. I wore this combination for 4 days!

Like previous years I made a spreadsheet for a bit of analysis. Here are the headline statistics from the month:

I think this year the weather was much better than last year. Evidence of this can be seen with the number of times I wore short-sleeved tops 45% of the time and even discarded an extra layer (in the form of a cardigan or jumper) on some days. I was quite surprised that I managed to wear a skirt 26% of the time, which may also be weather related. I tend to reach for a pair of jeans in preference if not checked, and wishing to wear a variety of outfits, I’ve probably worn more skirts this month than I would otherwise.

The restriction on the number of layering items – I had only one me-made jumper and one me-made cardigan, meant that some of my favourite outfits from last year didn’t get worn. I just didn’t feel I could team a teal cardigan with a brown paisley top without embarassment (should I worry much about matching garments?) But with my brown cardigan back in use in June, this favourite combination will get worn.

I also decided to keep track this year of when the clothes I most wear were made. I wanted to see whether I was still making use of my older clothes or discarding them in favour of newer items. The oldest items I wore (all from 2014) were my grey wide-legged trousers. These were the first pair of trousers I made and are still very much in use. My Be My Goth shirt and skirt also got worn.

However, I didn’t wear many of my older items, in particular my 2013 items which were my first Butterick B5357 top and my wrap dress. At the time I’d chosen patterns based on their ease of construction and not whether they fit in with my style. For this reason, I’d made a dress and I scarcely ever wear dresses! My Sorbetto tops didn’t get an airing either. However, I think I will wear them before the summer is out. I have given them an harshly critical eye lately and I’ve realized the fit isn’t great. I have adjusted my favourite Sorbetto top, giving a little more ease through the armscye, so I really should start wearing it again. In summary, I did wear a good mixture of old and new – 19% of my clothes were made in 2017, the rest from previous years including a few from 2014.

Me-made-May over for another year, I think it gives me a great record of my wardrobe (even if I’m only grudgingly taking photos by the end of the challenge). I think my me-made gaps are very obvious – cardigans, jumpers and bras, perhaps next year I will finally have a total me-made wardrobe!


Drape Drape 2 No 4 top

Drape drape 2 No 4Following on from my post about the Drape Drape series of books, here’s a post about my first make from the Drape Drape 2 book. I decided to make the No4 One-piece scoop neck asymmetrical top. These tops have such snappy names! I wasn’t sure which size I would be, but taking heed of the advice I’d seen on various blogs I used the size guide in the book and discovered I was an L/XL size, which seems to roughly translate as a size 10 /12 women’s size in the UK. It’s a real pity the sizes don’t go any bigger in these books, clearly they were written with Japanese women in mind.

Usually when I take on a new pattern, I’ll select a size which is roughly right and then use that to make some of my usual adjustments. The Drape drape patterns are bewildering though – I have to look carefully at the pattern to even work out where my right arm-hole should be! Given the unconventional drafting I decided that it was best to put my brain on the back-seat and just run with the size I’d chosen.

The construction of the top is very simple once you get past the idiosyncratic nature of the garment. In fact, it is quite a bit quicker to sew than a conventional t-shirt, requiring only two seams – one side seam and one shoulder seam – how crazy is that! Then there is the neckline to finish, the bottom hem and arm hems and that is it!

I’ve worn the top a few times now and can say I’m please with it. I was initially concerned that the asymmetry would be annoying. I thought I might keep noticing the two different arm hole shapes, but actually that hasn’t been the case, and it feels just like any other t-shirt. I’m particularly contented with how the drapes high my bulging mid-riff too – there’s a bonus I wasn’t expecting!


My only worry is with the fabric. I bought three lengths of this viscose-lycra blend reasonably cheaply.I was really pleased with this purchase at first, because I recognised that the drape was perfect for these drape drape garments. However, the first t-shirt I made has already starting pilling. I’m sure given more wear the same will happen to this one.

I received quite a bit of very useful feedback about that t-shirt (thanks everyone who contributed), and there seem to be ways of avoiding this. Firstly, more expensive fabric is less likely to pill, although that hasn’t always been the case. Secondly, synthetics are more inclined to pill too. I have made a t-shirt with an expensive bamboo viscose and that shows less signs of pilling – perhaps I should invest in more of that. I have bought some more viscose-lycra (but this time something more expensive) that I would like to use for the No 2 One-piece side Drape Top. I’m hoping that spending a bit more money on the fabric will pay off.

Just to finish off, I compiled a list of Drape Drape 2 projects that I could find on the internet. (Let me know if I’ve missed anything off!) There are some wonderful takes on these designs here and they’ve really inspired me, so I thought I share them all in one place:

No 1 Two-piece gather drape cape

No projects found.

No 2 One-piece side Drape Top

Jorth in coral pink

Meggi Peg in stripes

Montana Designs in blue

Nicole at Home in an ditsy print

Sew Busy Lizzy in stripes, in tie-dye print, and another in stripes.

Sew Indigo in a Missoni chevron print

Sew Smitten in animal print

Sew Well in two-tones, with sleeves

Tessuti Blog in a tie-dye print and with stripes.

No 3 Three-piece drape vest with oversized pockets

Duck Bucket in light-weight purple-and-black-striped knit

No 4 One-piece scoop neck asymmetrical top

Dreaming Dashie in neutral stripes, in grey stripes, and in red stripes

Fashion Incubator in violet

Fehr Trade blog in mustard yellow

Lula Louise in navy

Meggi Peg in black and white stripes

Nicole at Home in black and white stripes

Sew Busy Lizzy in grey stripes, in red and white stripes, and in blue and black stripes.

Sew Brunswick in black and white stripes

Sew Smitten in black and white stripes

Tanit Isis in navy and white stripes

The Surly Seamstress in navy and white stripes

This is Moonlight in red wool jersey

No 5 One-piece petal miniskirt

Nicole at Home in black bamboo-lycra

No 6 Three-piece deep cowl neck dress
Ancien Nouveau in stripes

Cyberdaze with sleeves

Sew Busy Lizzy with stripes

No 7 Two-piece open batwing dress

Ancien Nouveau sleeveless version

Cyberdaze in red and grey

Dreaming Dashie in metallic jersey

Only the Small in grey

The Perfect Nose in black and white stripes

Sew Busy Lizzy in blue

Tessuti blog sleeveless version

No 8 Two-piece gather drape blouse

Carat85 on Burda website in white

Needle and Ted in blue and white stripes

No 9 Three-piece shirred-leg tuck drape pants

No projects

No 10 Two-piece knee-length tuck drape pants

No projects

No 11 Four-piece tuck drape belted blouse

No projects

No 12 One-piece open sleeved cowl neck dress

Cyberdaze in green stripes

This is Moonlight in wool, and in blue and white stripes

No 13 Two-piece twist drape miniskirt

No projects

No 14 Four-piece fitted skirt with side gather drape

Ancien Nouveau in plain black


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Me Made May – Week 3

I wasn’t really feeling that it was right to post a frivolous missive about clothes given the shocking events in Manchester today. My thoughts go out to those affected in Manchester at this terrible time.  The news this evening though, reminded me that that’s what the perpetrators want – to disrupt our lives and make us fearful. Carrying on is our best medicine in the face of terrorism and so that is what I’m doing.

I was reminded this week why Me Made May can be such a difficult challenge. It has rained a lot this week and there were three days where the solid rain curtailed my efforts to take decent outside photographs. I know from experience that inside photos just don’t look particularly good, therefore I’ve taken several photos immediately outside my front door in order to avoid the rain, hence the inclusion of cars, litter and puddles. Sadly, I missed Day 16 as I couldn’t be bothered to get wet again, please excuse me!

On the plus side, I’ve now finished my Madalynne bra (yet to be blogged) and I’m back wearing totally me-made underwear –yay!

When the weather permitted though I have finally moved into short sleeved territory and I’m really enjoying wearing some of my creations, that haven’t been worn yet this year. This includes my navy blue cherry t-shirt (Days 22 and 23) and my white Dobby blouse (Day 18 – even if I think this a bit too short in the body).

Another make I haven’t blogged quite yet has also featured, my new Drape drape 2 top (see Days 20 and 21)

Only 8 days to go, which I’m glad about as my enthusiasm for taking photos is really starting to wane. How are you getting on with Me Made May?


Exploring drape in Drape Drape 2

I have been intrigued for a while by the concepts behind the designs in the Drape Drape series of books. Now armed with some fabric with ample drape I thought I’d try out a pattern from the Drape Drape 2 book. Before I delve into details on my make though, I thought I’d give a little background on the author and the books themselves.

The Drape Drape series of books are written by Hisako Sato, who is a graduate of Bunka Fashion College, Japan. She then worked as Head of Garment Design for Muji until 1993 when she left to develop her own independent label. In 2008, she launched a new brand focusing on dress design, and she is still active as a designer today. Drape Drape 2 was released in 2012 in English and there were a flurry of makes on the internet at the time. The One-piece side Drape Top was also featured in the Great British Sewing Bee 2015 followed by an accompanying boost when a new audience found the book.

Drape Drape 2 includes 14 designs for tops, dresses, skirts and trousers. The models sporting the designs look dead miserable and way too skinny, but I have seen the designs on lots of different body shapes on various blogs, so I think they translate well for all. However, it has been noted that the designs are available in only small sizes. If I bought clothes I would buy UK size 10 /12, but looking at the size guide, I’m definitely a size L / XL in the Drape Drape books. I think this is a great shame, as not everyone has the skills to pattern grade to a larger size. In fact, with the unique look of these patterns, it isn’t always obvious how to grade them anyway.

The full-size patterns can be traced from the pattern sheets at the back of the book. Although the pattern lines for several designs overlap on the pattern sheets, this isn’t Burda and they were easy to trace!

As most of the patterns are for knits/stretch materials, there is a section on the basic know-how for sewing knits. The presentation of the sewing instructions is excellent and the easy step-by step diagrams are really helpful, particularly as I felt like I was navigating new territory with these patterns.


The designs

Although Amazon do, kindly enough, have a “Look Inside” feature, it would sometimes be great to be able to view the complete list of designs in the book (after all, it isn’t as if you could easily make the designs without the pattern sheets). So here are the designs:

No 1 Two-piece gather drape cape

This particular design is a little odd. It features some gathers and I’m not entirely sure where I would wear such an item. Oddly, I couldn’t find a single blogger who’d made this particular one so let’s move on.

No 2 One-piece side drape top

This is a simple design in principle. A top (or is it a dress?) with a drape on one side. I think it looks great modelled as a summer dress, or as a tunic over leggings. Clearly this is a popular design as there are quite a number of these on the internet. I particular like the striped examples, this one from Sew Busy Lizzy, as it shows the way that the top / dress is cut on the bias.

No 3 Three-piece drape vest with oversized pockets

This design isn’t particularly popular as I only spotted one, by Tracy at Duck Bucket Sewing, made up on the web. I think it could look good as a winter layer simply because it has those great deep pockets. I’m just not sure about the lack of fabric at the back. I think I would like a proper back on this, perhaps a pattern hack is possible? The photo in the book is a little weird too – what’s so interesting that the floor needs a good look?

No 4 One-piece scoop neck asymmetrical top

This is the classic design that also appeared on the Great British Sewing Bee. There are numerous examples on the internet and I’m really looking forward to finishing mine. So, this is going to be the final garment using the viscose-lycra fabric.

No 5 One-piece petal miniskirt

I can’t imagine that I would wear this design. It’s just a me-thing. I don’t really like designs in general that add bulk to my waist area. I do like Nicola at Home’s version here though, particular the sparkly waistband. It looks so cool.

No 6 Three-piece deep cowl neck dress

This design could be another layering piece. I particular like Catherine’s version of this dress, which has long-sleeves. It just looks like it would be a really warm winter dress option.

No 7 Two-piece open batwing dress

I like the concept of this dress too. I could see this as being a fantastic beach / summer item. I can’t see myself making it though as the weather in this country doesn’t really lend itself to a wardrobe full of cool summer / beach wear or rather it would get worn a couple of times a year, when I go on holiday and that would be it.

No 8 Two-piece gather drape blouse

This design is one of the few in the book which uses a woven fabric, Olu at Needle and Ted mentions that it doesn’t drape or site well on the shoulders unless you stand completely still and never move. That could get really irritating. I have to admit I prefer my clothes to be “run-up-and-down-the-stairs” proof – I can’t bear having to rearrange them all the time. But this blouse does look good, particularly the back view (see the photo above). Actually I prefer the back view to the front. What would happen if it was worn back to front – would that actually be possible?

No 9 Three-piece shirred-leg tuck drape pants and No 10 Two-piece knee-length tuck drape pants

There are two similar drape pants designs in the book. I think they could be very comfortable for practicing yoga in, but I completely failed to find any examples of these on the internet. I did find the similar design from Drape Drape 3 here, by Winnie at Scruffy Badger Time.

No 11 Four-piece tuck drape belted blouse

This pattern is a serious fabric hog, using a whopping 4 m length of fabric. I’m put-off by the photos in the book too. I just don’t like the fabric and it looks a crumpled mess. I suspect it would look quite different in a jersey. I haven’t seen a version of this on the web either – perhaps this one is a miss for everyone.

No 12 One-piece open sleeved cowl neck dress

I’m not sure about this particular design. Firstly it looks like it would be a monster to make as the design lines are so unusual. I could see myself getting quite muddled about whether I’d make it right. I’ve also read the reviews by Nicky and Catherine and there was some debate about the placing of the elastic. I do like the sequin cuffs on the one in the book though.

No 13 Two-piece twist drape miniskirt

This is a very short miniskirt and for me is definitely in the “just-for-the-beach” category…..I really wish I lived somewhere warmer!

No 14 Four-piece fitted skirt with side gather drape

For me, this particular skirt is one of the best designs in the book. Weirdly I only found one blogger, Karin at Ancien-Nouveau, who’d given this pattern a go. I think it is quite an avant-garde piece and I’d probably only make one of these, but with the number of skirts with ruffles I’ve seen in the shops lately, I think it’s quite on trend.

I’ll be writing about my own No 4 top next, but I already have some fabric in my stash for a No 2 One-piece side drape top.


Me Made May 2017 – Week 2

This week the weather has been a bit warmer and I’ve moved into wearing my only cardigan, my Jenna cardigan all the time! Unfortunately, the “petrol” colour is hard to pair with many of my clothes – I’m looking at you day 8 colour disaster here! But I’m particularly pleased with the Day 9 outfit, which teams the cardigan with my cowl-collared t-shirt and beige trousers. It’s a satisfying colour combination and the cardigan, when buttoned up, has the great advantage of keeping that revealing cowl in check!

I also gave in this week on me-made bra wearing. It got a bit too hot for my only piece of me-made underwear, but as I’m making a bra at the moment I hope that the me-made underwear gap won’t be too long-lived. I’m still going strong on the knicker rotation!