November's interviewee Kat, has been hard at work creating a beaded wedding dress and accessories - from scratch! She kindly diverted some time to chat about her approach to lingerie sewing, a mixture of planning and experimentation.
1.Name and Location:
My name is Kat, and I live in Auckland, New Zealand.
2. What first sparked your interest in lingerie sewing?
When I moved to New Zealand, I didn't exactly do the most amazing job of packing. I was limited in my suitcases and infinitely more concerned with making sure I brought along my favorite sewing supplies than I was with making thoughtful clothing choices. It was easy enough to start replacing my clothes with handmade items as they wore out, but it hadn't occurred to me that making a bra would even be possible.
When my bras started wearing out, I went to the mall in search of more. After a combination of pushy sales ladies, ill-fitting bras, and not understanding the sizing differences between the US and NZ left me feeling thoroughly dejected, I decided that if someone out there was making bras to sell in department stores then surely I could manage one well enough for my own uses. I went straight home and I think the first thing I googled was something like 'how to make a bra with a home sewing machine' - fortunately that search query yielded some pretty good results. I fell down the rabbit hole and I haven't looked back!
3. How would you describe your lingerie sewing?
I started out with no knowledge whatsoever, but I'm very much into researching things so there was a lot of that before I started. I suppose all the foundation knowledge was there - I could sew, I could draft patterns, I'd just never applied those things to bras specifically. Bras are a unique type of garment in that they can change the shape of what's inside them - unlike, say, a t-shirt or a dress, and I did a lot of research and testing on how to control that. There's a lot of engineering involved in bras! I suppose all that's to say that my approach is very planned, but also some of the things I tried were very much haphazard! I also definitely think my skills have developed as I've continued to make lingerie. The first bra I ever made was pretty hilariously bad, both in terms of support and also prettiness levels, but I was so proud of it at the time! Practice is important - there's only ever room for improvement, and there's really only so far you can get with research before the best way to improve becomes testing a practical application.
4. How has it enriched your life?
I love being in control of that aspect of my wardrobe! I think that's the biggest thing. I like to dye my own supplies so I can create any color, any shape, any style I want. The lingerie I make is full of my own decisions, not what some shop has decided is 'in style', or what was available in my size. That's very empowering. I also have a couple of fitting peculiarities that I've been able to solve with my handmade lingerie, which was a complete revelation - and sewing my own lingerie led me to being able to wear a one-piece swimsuit for the first time in my life!
5. Please describe your best 'Ah-hah! Wahoo! Ye-haw! Tah-dah' moment.
I still remember it exactly! It was one of those 'bra engineering' things I mentioned earlier, the first time I 'achieved lift' with a self drafted pattern. All my drafts up until that point were just kind of sitting on my chest, but that one was the first one that ended up a really great shape. I was so happy! I felt like a magician.
6. How do you deal with sewing set-backs?
I have a time-out basket. I used to try to plow forward in the face of difficulty, but I learned quickly that I tend to make mistakes in those situations. Now, I'll be the first person to put something down if it doesn't seem like it's working, but I don't think I've ever not come back to a project. If I encounter a problem, my solution is usually to put it down and think about it or research it until I can solve it, or in a worst case scenario to come up with a way to salvage it and turn it into something else.
7. What is your top tip to share with other lingerie sewists?
I know I said I'm a heavy researcher, but I think the best thing you can do when you're trying something new - either your first piece of lingerie or just a new type of skill, is to get into it with some scrap fabric. One of the things I love about lingerie is how much you can do with a relatively small piece of fabric, so there's no reason not to experiment! Another, slightly more practical tip - I use three different needles when I make a bra because the cup fabric, elastic, and underwire casings are all very different to sew. If you're struggling with your machine, the first thing to try is swapping needles.
8. Random question - mismatched socks - are they ok or heck, no don't go there!?
What a delightful question! I used to be very much team mismatched socks, but I've started knitting all my own socks now and different pairs feel different - so handknit socks definitely need to match, but the rest don't matter so much, at least in my opinion.
I love the phrase Kat used, 'The lingerie I make is full of my own decisions' what a lovely way to sum it up.
You can catch more of Kat's work (and seriously, you need to see her amazing beading efforts):