The Meet the Maker for July is Bird D who's Instagram feed is a beautifully presented portfolio of her lovingly curated, handmade wardrobe. Seriously, if you haven't browsed her IG then go there now! Well, after reading this interview anyway... Currently working on her outerwear collection for winter, Bird is also churning out some gorgeous me-made lingerie sets and has sewn almost a complete rainbow of bras.
1. Name and a bit about where you live:
I'm from Australia, currently residing in Melbourne. From the age of 8, my friends and family all call me Bird, hence my IG handle Birdy_sew_obsessed.
2. What first sparked your interest in lingerie sewing?
I started sewing clothes in 2014 as a hobby. Lingerie sewing didn't cross my mind until the end of 2018 when I wore out my favourite store bought bra and realised they discontinued stocking them. I went and bought another half dozen new bras after these ones wore out but the new bras were just horrible! They itched, they didn't fit right, the bands were too tight and the straps were too thin and cut into my shoulders. For the cup size that I needed they only came in beige, black or white. All the pretty ones are only available in the smaller sizes. So I gave them away and anything that no one wanted, I dissected for parts.
A friend of mine suggested that I make some after I complained to her. So I searched bra patterns online, bought a pattern and made a toile. It was the best decision! Lingerie sewing started out of desperation but it quickly become part of my hobby and obsession! The fit I get from my own handmade bra is nothing I can or will find in the store, and I can make them out of any colour and fabrics I like.
3. How would you describe your lingerie sewing?
I consider myself a beginner, I have been sewing lingerie for less than a year, so I'm still very new. My favourite part of lingerie sewing is learning a completely different set of terminologies and skills.
I love researching all the different materials that can be used to construct a lingerie set. For my first bra, I bought everything as suggested on the pattern because I have no idea what powermesh or non-stretched nylon are. These days, I just use whatever I think is suitable. I don't necessarily use all the suggested fabrics, notions or elastics.
4. How has it enriched your life?
Sewing in general was a game changer for me. As unskilled immigrants, my parents along with a large percentage of the Vietnamese community in Melbourne took on sweat shop style sewing in the 90s, usually at home and with extremely low pay. The trend of fast fashion means they had to take on producing large amount of clothes in extremely short amount of times, they worked an average of 14-16 hours per day and with some orders, they did overnight sewing to make sure they met deadlines. They also had to accept the job at very low pay. But eventually, the low pay wasn't low enough and they lost the jobs to overseas producers.
I always viewed sewing as a necessity, an obligation, labouring, but not a hobby and definitely not enjoyable. It wasn't until I purchased my first sewing machine for scrapbooking (initially), that everything changed. I had a few immigrant students that was struggling with maths at school and they expressed to me their interest in fashion. So I researched how to make a dress to help teach them geometry. While I was researching online, I came across documentaries on the fast fashion industry and realised just how terrible they really are. The child labour, the work conditions, the environmental impact, it wasn't just my community that was effected.
Sewing for me is now empowering, I realised I am not sewing the way my parents and relatives used to sew. I sew for my own mental health, for the relaxation it brings. I do it so I don't have to rely on the fast fashion industries, I also use it as a mean to engage small groups of students. Lastly, and selfishly, I sew because I can get amazing fit and I'm not restricted to what is available at the store.
5. Please describe your best 'Ah-hah! Wahoo! Ye-haw! Tah-dah' moment.
6. How do you deal with sewing setbacks?
I'm not one to let a hurdle stop me. I have had many challenges in the last 5 years but nothing a deep breath, a Google search, a YouTube video or a book can't explain. I teach my students to never stop moving forward just because they find something challenging; I am also a believer in practice what you preach. So whatever challenges I faced, I just researched my way through it.
7. What is your top tip to share with other lingerie sewists?
Pull apart an old bra you have laying around, look at the construction, it's the best free sewing lesson you can give yourself ☺️.
Bonus Random question - Netflix series - are you a binge watcher or do you like savouring an episode at a time?
I am a binge watcher that is trying to slow down and savour each episode of my favourite show.
Thanks Bird! I love how everyone answers the same questions in such different ways and it was a privilege to get such an insight to the changing relationship that Bird has had with sewing - from her childhood perspective to the current day and all the things sewing now means to her.
As I mentioned in the opener - get thee to Bird D's IG!! It's eye-candy to the max!